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Church of St. Leonard, Minety

Church of St. Leonard, Minety Date Photo Taken 2008
Uploaded 11/11/2008 16:57:45
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Map Latitude 51.619415452388814 : Longitude -1.9877099990844727
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

An Anglo-Saxon Church stood on the site of St. Leonard's; fragments of an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft and a coffin made from an Anglo-Saxon oak tree give clues to the origins of the church.

In 1270 the Abbot gave patronage of the church to the Bishop of Salisbury and the Archdeaconry of Wilts who retained it until the 19th century. Minety was in the Malmesbury Rural Deanery until 1866 when it became the Malmesbury South Rural Deanery. In 1887 it became part of the Chippenham Rural Deanery. In 1956 the Rectory of Oaksey and the Vicarage of Minety amalgamated. They parted in 1987 and the Benefice of Ashton Keynes, Leigh and Minety were created in 2007. From 1987 the vicar of the amalgamated benefice lived in Ashton Keynes. In 2004 the trainee Curate lived in Minety which is now part of the Deanery of North Wilts.

From 1276 the vicar performed services. In 1304 a group of local men took over the church and rectory from Peter of Savoy during a dispute and were excommunicated. Later the church was placed under interdict and parishioners were forced to go to Oaksey church until the matter was settled.

The present St. Leonard's Church is 15th century but was restored in 1896. The fabric is of squared and coursed rubble with stone dressings, ashlar copings, battlements and lead roofs. The Perpendicular tower, battlements and pinnacles are 15th century. The straight headed windows and battlements on the nave are also of that date. The chancel has a consecration scratched in stone by the porch. There are also scratch dials on the wall near the priest's door showing the times of services. Inside the four-bay north arcade has Tudor arches and there are 15th century tie beam roofs to the nave and aisle. The 15th century octagonal font is purported to have come from the old parsonage house. A 15th century rood screen and wooden screens enclose the east bay of the north aisle as a private chapel.

Only fragments remain of the 15th century stained glass windows. In the 1660s Aubrey reported that remains of the three Kings of Cologne in the South window and armorial bearings of the Chick and Cley families survived. In the north window was Thomas Hungerford and his wife. The interlaced sickles in the west window and other heraldic devices suggest that the family may have instigated the rebuilding and redecoration of the church in the 15th century. In the south window was a knight in armour with the arms of Hungerford. The east window contained memorials to the Perry-Keene's. All the south windows were renewed in the 1980s.

By 1517 there were high and side altars. In 1553 the Crown confiscated 2oz of the church plate, leaving 8oz. The present chalice is dated 1663. In 1891 there were two pewter patens and a pewter flagon and alms bowl. There are Jacobean pews and a three decker pulpit of 1627 whose lower deck was removed and turned into a choir stall for the chancel in the late 19th century. A Flemish brass chandelier is dated 1748. In the 16th century there were four bells; an extra one was added during the 1720s. They were re-hung in 1892 and 1958.

T. Head, the Rector of Minety in 1614 and Archdeacon of Wilts was one of those listed and sequestered or silenced in 1643. Bernard Wayter, Vicar in 1627, apparently lost his living. After the Restoration parishioners were reluctant to send their children to church. Religious observance also declined in 1783 for a time.

In the 17th century the north aisle was re-roofed. In 1840 the unfitness of the Vicar's glebe house meant that he moved to Ashton Keynes. In 1884 the nave was re-roofed and the tower was restored in 1892 and the early 20th century. An oak floor was laid in 1894 and as part of the 1960s restoration a chamber was built on to the north aisle and modern heating was fitted.

The Reverend T.A. Ludlow Hewitt, vicar from 1901-1936 formed the church choir and added the choir vestry. He also organised repairs and improvements to the church fabric. The owners of Minety House gave money for repairs and also fund-raised for this purpose in the early 20th century. A 20th century organ can be found in the former private chapel east of the nave.

Sir William Penn who founded Pennsylvania was descended from the Walter Penn of Minety who is buried in the chancel.

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