St. Leonard’s Church – 1412

St Leonard's ChurchSt. Leonard’s or Middleton Parish Church on its hill above the town is by far the oldest building in the area and arguably the oldest in Greater Manchester. It was first established in Saxon times and was a safe haven for the Holy Island monks carrying Lindisfarne Gospels and the coffin of Saint Cuthbert escaping from the marauding Vikings around 880 A.D. The church was rebuilt in Norman times and then again in 1412 by Middleton’s Thomas Langley, Prince Bishop of Durham and Chancellor to Kings Henry IV, V and VI. Bishop Langley somewhat sentimentally retained some of the Norman detailing, notably in the tower arch.  In the early 1500s a clerestory was added which lightened the interior. The Reformation shortly afterwards destroyed much of the interior but several medival features survived, including Langley’s rood and parclose screens, misericords and the famous medieval ‘Flodden Window’. After the turmoil of the 1600s, the Geogians added a series of classical monuments in the 1700s but their balconies were all taken out by the Victorians who undertook sensitive alterations. Finally in the twentieth century, Edgar Wood restored the roof, added a boiler house and set the church on a route of sensitive change which involved installing beautiful stained glass and a choir practice room designed by the Arts & Crafts modernist architect George Pace. St. Leonard’s Church is listed Outstanding Grade I by English Heritage

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