Bridgnorth, Shropshire

St. Leonard's Church, Bridgnorth, Shropshire

At the opposite end of Bridgnorth to the Castle and St. Mary Magdalene’s Church stands the ancient parish church of St. Leonard’s which dominates the skyline at this end of town like the tower of St. Mary’s does at the other.

The church is in rather massive proportions, more cathedral-like than a number of British Cathedrals! The width of the church is only slightly less than that of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London! It even has a cathedral close of sorts formed by some of the ancient houses surrounding it.

Although the church looks suitably ancient it is almost entirely from a Victorian rebuild. Like so much in Bridgnorth, the Civil War spelled the end for the original medieval church of St. Leonard’s. Cromwell’s troops, laying siege to the Castle at the other end of town, used St. Leonard’s as an ammunition store – a cannon shot from the Royalist defenders exploded the ammunition, destroying most of the church and setting light to the whole town.

The Church was re-roofed in 1662 to allow services to continue but it remained a remnant of its previous size until 1826 when the Chancel was repaired. The remainder of the church was rebuilt between 1846 and 1873 when the tower was almost entirely rebuilt. Some traces of medieval work survive here and there, but essentially everything you see today is Victorian. The last addition was the octagonal library, added in 1878.

However, 100 years later and the Church tower was declared unsafe, the Parish was moved to St. Mary Magdalene at the Castle end of town and St. Leonard’s was closed. In 1980 the Churches Conservation Trust came to the rescue and work began to make the church safe once more. Today, it is opened by the Trust but no longer has any parochial function.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions and Andrew J. Müller, Roy Barton
and Shaun Runham
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