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Church of St Leonard, Colchester

Description: Church of St Leonard

Grade: II
Date Listed: 19 February 1959
English Heritage Building ID: 117073

OS Grid Reference: TL9714625099
OS Grid Coordinates: 597146, 225099
Latitude/Longitude: 51.8896, 0.8635

Location: 4 Church Lane, Colchester, Essex CO3 3NB

Locality: Colchester
Local Authority: Colchester Borough Council
County: Essex
Country: England
Postcode: CO3 3NB

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Listing Text

584/3/319 LEXDEN ROAD
19-FEB-59 Lexden
(South side)
Church of St Leonard

There was a medieval church at Lexden, but it was rebuilt in 1820-21 to designs by M G Thompson, incorporating monuments from the older church. The chancel was rebuilt and enlarged in 1892-4 to designs by J C Traylen, although the planned south chancel chapel to match that on the north was never completed. A parish room's complex was added in 2008 to designs by Bakers of Danbury.

MATERIALS: The 1820s phase is rendered and blocked out, the chancel is brick faced with knapped flint and rubble on a deep, rusticated freestone plinth. The parish room's complex is rendered. Slate and copper roofs, and Coade stone pinnacles on the north porch.

PLAN: Wide, unaisled nave with west tower flanked by stair turrets, north porch, and south parish rooms extension replacing a former south porch and south-west vestry. Chancel has north chancel chapel, a shallow south organ chamber, part of an unfinished south chapel.

EXTERIOR: The show face is to the north. The Perpendicular-style chancel is higher than the nave and has a deep plinth and diagonal buttresses. Large 5-light east window with Perpendicular style tracery, a low transom and a carved head to the arch. The north chancel chapel has a lean-to roof, diagonal buttresses and 2-light Perpendicular-style windows. There are 2-light traceried windows in the clerestory above the north chapel and brick blocking of the arcade to the intended south chapel.

The tall, boxy nave has a plain parapet, buttresses with offsets and 3-light windows in recessed, splayed openings with Perpendicular-style tracery. The north porch has polygonal buttresses with miniature buttresses and tall pinnacles with crocketted finials. The plainer south porch and adjacent south-west vestry were removed during the construction of the parish rooms in 2008 to create a linking passage to the new building, which is lower than the nave and has gables to east and west with a large dormer on the south.

The tower is square on plan, with splayed corners on the upper stages. Each face terminates in a gabled parapet. There is no west door, but there are two windows on the west face with Y-tracery and splayed, recessed frames. The octagonal spire is copper clad and has a louvered base. The tower is flanked by square stair turrets for the west gallery that end just below the nave parapet and have Y-tracery windows to north and south.

INTERIOR: The walls are plastered and painted. The wide nave has a gallery at the west end with short returns along the north and south wall, supported on slim cast iron columns at the west and on traceried brackets to north and south. Below it there are two west doors to the stair cases and lobby under the west tower. The gallery frontal is decorated with gilded blind tracery and panelling. The nave north and south walls have dado panelling with a dentil cornice. The plaster ceiling of the 1820s nave roof was removed in the 1890s, revealing a queen post, now boarded behind the rafters.

There is no chancel arch, but there are small early C19 arches to the north and south chapels. These are set in square frames and have foliate spandrels and inscriptions, now gilded. There is another plain early C19 arch into the organ chamber above the south arch. There is polychrome alabaster banding on the chancel east wall, and the lower corners of the east window have angels with shields. There are 2-bay arcades to the north and south sides of the chancel, with octagonal piers with moulded arches and hollow-chamfered arches. That to the north opens into the north chapel, while that to the south is largely filled with the organ and opens into the shallow projection of the unfinished south chapel. The chancel roof is a king post design with diagonal braces between the queen struts and tracery infill.

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES: Much of the woodwork was designed and carved by the late C19 rector, J H Lester. The chancel north and south walls have panelling with canopied recesses for the sedilia. The communion rails and altar are also heavily carved timber. The choir stalls have shaped ends and carved arm rests, and there are larger readers' desks at the ends with poppy heads and statue niches towards the nave. Elaborately carved polygonal timber pulpit on a wineglass stem, the sides of the pulpit carved with figures of the evangelists under ogee canopies. Polygonal, wineglass-shaped portable timber font, very plain.

Several good wall monuments, the most elaborate to Richard Hewett, d. 1771: an enormous, half-round white marble plinth holding a large urn with figures in relief, attributed to Richard Hayward; a highly elegant Neo-classical memorial. Good late C19 east window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne, and another by them of 1920 in the east window of the north chapel. The north aisle and nave windows are 1946-67, largely by Whitefrairs.

HISTORY: Lexden gives its name to the local hundred, a medieval administrative division, but it was already within the liberty of the borough of Colchester by the late C13. There was a parish church in Lexden by the early C12, and it eventually had a nave, chancel, north chapel or transept, a timber north porch, a vestry and a boarded bell cot. This church was in poor condition as early as 1600, and although it was repaired, by the early C19 it was too small for the growing population as Lexden changed from a village to a suburb of Colchester. The church was rebuilt in 1820-1 in a style typical of the period applying a lean lancet style of Gothic on to a Georgian preaching-box church. By the late C19, the shallow chancel of the original church was too small for current liturgical fashion and it was rebuilt on a much larger and grander scale. The designer, Mark Graystone Thompson (1783-1852), was a Suffolk-based carpenter responsible for a number of churches and public buildings in Suffolk and Essex; rectories were a particular speciality.

Bettley, J and Pevsner, N, Buildings of England: Essex, (2007) 533-4
VCH Essex IX, (1994) 391-401

The Church of St Leonard, Lexden Road, Lexden, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* A good and interesting 2-phase C19 church, combining an early C19 nave and tower with a late C19 Perpendicular style chancel
* Very good late C19 chancel fittings
* Good late C19 and C20 stained glass
* An interesting monument to Richard Hewett, d. 1771, attributed to Richard Hayward

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.