Bengeo, Hertford, Hertfordshire

St. Leonard's Church, Bengeo, Hertford, Hertfordshire

The oldest building to survive in Hertford, St. Leonard’s Church is also one of the oldest surviving churches in the whole county. It stands on high ground in the formerly separate village of Bengeo overlooking the Lea and Beane Valley. The church dates almost entirely to 1120 with the bellcote dating to around 1636 (when the bell it holds is dated). The church has an anchorite cell attached, unusual in Hertfordshire.

It served as the parish church of Bengeo until 1855 when the larger church of Holy Trinity was built nearer the main road into Hertford town. At that time St. Leonard’s was stripped of its fittings and stood empty for around 30 years until the Gosselin family who lived at nearby Bengeo Hall took it upon themselves to restore and refit the church, which took them around 10 years between 1884 and 1894. They were responsible for adding the brick porch and also rebuilt the bellcote. During restoration work in 1938 remains were found of medieval wall paintings.

Today the church is one of the best preserved in the county and a surprise in otherwise modern Bengeo. Like most things in Hertford town, the history is there but hidden amidst the modern.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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