At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Leonard, Horringer

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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what's new? - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


Horringer porch rabbit-eared tower St Leonard across the green

Horringer   Horringer, also known as Horningsheath, sits on the eastern side of Ickworth Park, but there is no Ickworth village now. Ickworth House, perhaps the most significant late 18th century building in England, is now owned by the National Trust. Ickworth's redundant medieval church of St Mary sits in the grounds, and although it is not in the ownership of the Trust it is fiercely guarded by them from anyone not willing to pay seven pounds for the privilege of seeing it. But Horringer's church of St Leonard is still in use, and sits at the eastern gates of the Park, a bold and familiar landmark to travellers on the adjacent main road.

As with several other churches around here, St Leonard has suffered the full force of the philanthropy of the Hervey family, the Earls of Bristol. The whole structure was almost entirely rebuilt in 1818 to provide a grand entrance statement to the Park, all except the tower, the top of which had been rebuilt 100 years earlier. During the 19th century, the church was rebuilt and extended several times; the chancel came in 1867, and the furnishings are mostly of the 1880s. The tower was restored again in the 20th century, so there's not much evidence here of the medieval life and liturgy of the place - or so you might think at first.

In fact, the virtually unlimited resources of the Herveys meant that everything was done to as high a standard as possible, and the reputation of the family as art collectors was enhanced by what was preserved. Thus, a holy water stoup in the entrance, and the integrity of the 15th century Horsecroft chapel has survived, even though its fabric is wholly modern. The nave roof is original, and the fixings for the doom tympanum are still in place above the chancel arch. Also, there is a large hook, which Mortlock thinks may have been used to secure the rood, or even the Lenten veil; or about a hundred and one other things I suppose, not least likely of which would have been a candelabra.

The church is full of light and space, and the restrained seriousness of the 1946 east window by Joseph Nuttgens is excellent. It depicts the East Anglian patron Saints Etheldreda and Edmund flanking St Leonard and the Blessed Virgin.

St Etheldreda of Ely (Joseph Nuttgens, 1946) St Leonard of Limoges (Joseph Nuttgens, 1946) The Blessed Mother of God (Joseph Nuttgens, 1946) St Edmund of Bury St Edmunds (Joseph Nuttgens, 1946)

The window replaced 19th Century glass blown out in the War, and is poised in serious expressionism just before we all became infected with Festival of Britain excitement.

The 1980s glass in the Horsecroft chapel is perhaps a little more parochial, but this quiet little space is so intimate that it does not diminish it. The chapel was probably originally intended as the chapel for the hamlet of Horsecroft, after the church there was demolished. There's a splendidly ghoulish skull on a late 17th century memorial reset against the arcade.

The 1870s glass to the west of it is by Clayton & Bell, but rather more interesting is the sequence of panels set in the window to the west of the south doorway, depicting scenes related to St Leonard in a pleasing naive style, perhaps from the first decade of the 20th Century. It would be interesting to know who they are by.

The medieval font has modern heraldic shields painted on it; repainted, but perhaps to the original configuration. They show shields of local pre-Reformation landed families - it is to the credit of the Herveys that it doesn't show theirs (they've only been here since the 17th century). All in all, a splendid church.


Simon Knott, May 2008, updated August 2017

war memorial looking east Horringer with Ickworth M U
Charity Shew thy mercy upon All prisoners & captives Baptism
The Earth is the Lords and the Fullness thereof (Michael WIley, 1991) porch glass Three Marys watch Christ taken down from the cross (Clayton & Bell, 1873) Three Marys at the empty tomb (Clayton & Bell, 1873) font
St Leonard of Limoges four cherubs In memory of British Prisoners of War 1939 - 1945 (Joseph Nuttgens, 1946) St Leonard of Noblac

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