Leigh Village

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All Saints Church

Since circa 1250, there is known to have been religious activity at The Leigh, as this is when the church – now known as The Chancel – was constructed.

Although there is limited evidence, it’s believed the original Leigh settlement was based on land close by this church.

This land may have gradually become sodden over the centuries due to natural changes in the land, or may have always been marshy and prone to high levels of mud and floodwater. Either way, the community was eventually abandoned due to poor ground conditions.

Many years later, the church was still in use, but secluded from the houses of The Leigh. As well as an entrance road which was underwater for most of the winter months, the land on which the original church was built was quite marshy.

Because of this, the building was in constant need of renovation:

Substantial renovations were also carried out in the early 18th century: the church was repaved, plastered and redecorated, a gallery was built in 1717, the chancel was rebuilt in 1720, and in 1726 wooden panels bearing religious quotations were mounted on the chancel walls.

A new bell was cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1729. The tower was repaired in 1736 and again in 1757, and there were more repairs to the church in 1784.

All Saints Church in it’s new location on Swan Lane.


In 1896 it was decided by the local church authority - despite campaigns from various individuals and groups including the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings - to dismantle the religious building, and move it to a more accessible location next to the newly constructed village school on Swan Lane.

This process involved numbering each stone individually, loading them onto carts, taking them on a half mile journey and then reassembling the building on the new site. The name of the church, All Saints, was unchanged.

Reverend Milling is noted as being a key person in the ambitious scheme to move the church from its poor standings to a patch of land next to the new school – a building which he had also contributed to financially.

The old chancel, buttressed by the eastern portions of the nave walls, was left behind to serve as a mortuary chapel for the graveyard. Approached across fields this medieval architectural fragment stands alone in its churchyard, an evocative sight in what is now a nature reserve.

The Chancel site can be accessed by walkers all year round (suitable clothing may be required).

As you can imagine, a decision requiring such man-power over a hundred years ago would not have been taken lightly, and was weighed up as the most practical solution for saving the church, which had fallen into a bad state structurally and was difficult to access in the winter months because it is enclosed by marshy ground.

The surrounding graveyard has been left undisturbed. It is home to an abundance of wild
flowers, shrubs and wildlife. In  the summer you can find orchids and quaking grass with
dozens of varieties of moths and butterflies.














Reference:

Italicised text: ‘A History of Wiltshire XVIII’ used with kind permission © University of London


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The gable end of the Chancel - still in it’s original location.

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