Leighton Bromswold, St Mary

The first church is thought to date only to around 1250 consisting of an aisled nave and chancel. The surviving north and south doors may have belonged to it. The chancel was rebuilt in 1310 and transepts added in 1350. Two columns of the original arcade remain on either side of the chancel arch. But by the end of the 16th century the church was ruinous, the nave roofless and only the chancel remaining. A magnificent 13th century double piscina survives in the chancel’s south wall and a two shelf aumbry in the opposite north wall.

The church’s salvation came with the appointment of the famed metaphysical poet George Herbert as prebend and his personal efforts to rebuild the church in 1632. He probably enlisted the aid of his friend Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding. The new church dispensed with the aisles completely and enlarged the transepts. Even after Herbert left to become vicar of Bemerton in Wiltshire the rebuilding was completed with the addition of a magnificent west tower in 1642, paid for by the fourth Duke of Lennox. Surrounding the building spectacular lead downpipes with decorative strapwork have survived dating to 1632 and 1634.

But the preservation of much of the original wooden furnishings from the 17th century makes St. Mary’s truly special. The original oak pews and benches fill the nave and transepts while sympathetic Victorian copies survive in the chancel created by the architect Ewan Christian. But the star attractions are the two exceptional Jacobean pulpits on either side of the nave, similar in size emphasising the equal role of preaching and bible reading in the 17th century liturgy.

St Mary

Church Lane
Leighton Bromswold/ Huntingdon
PE28 5AX

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