As you approach St Leonard’s from the road you are greeted by a mini-me version of the bell-tower at Pembridge, a clump of bamboo alongside the usual yew – and an unusual number of signs on stalks advertising a considerable array of local activity.
It all makes sense when you step inside, and find that all the church to the left of the entrance has been expertly adapted to make a room for the village shop and Post Office, using two-tome pastel paintwork, with the western half of the south aisle also adapted to provide the usual facilities, and the nave cleared, with good loose seating over a heated floor to provide a very welcoming and flexible space. Striking new specially-commissioned chandeliers complete the effect.
Looking east you soon see that the chancel was left “as is” – complete with a very awkward ghost in the painted reredos left when a memorial was moved to the side chapel. I gather plans have been drawn up to move the organ into the same chapel and make the choir stalls movable, continuing the new flooring under them. That sounds right as the tide-line is not an attractive one – and in my opinion the choir furnishings are not of high enough signifiance or quality to retain as set against new furnishing – perhaps benches to match the seats in the nave? What I would keep is the sanctuary, but if funds can be found it does I think need a good decorative refurbishment and renovation as the colours are desperately faded and it justy doesn’t do itself – and therefore the whole church – justice.
I’d normally be rather wary of suggesting work that would involve such expense, but my companions sang the praises of the locals who had ptiched in to some effect both here and at the local, indeed, and I have the sense that they will achieve whatever they put their hands too. And that any qualms abougt further loss of the older look will be best met by a first-class job on the sanctuary.
The new Pevsner tells us that the architect for the works was Robert Chitham, head of the historic buildings division of English Heritage. No vandal he. Well done to him and to Yarpole despite P’s rather glum adjective “drastic”. Sometimes going for it is good.