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21 April 2018

St Leonard's Church, Aldrington.

Judy Middleton 2003 (revised 2018)

copyright © J.Middleton
St Leonard's Church, New Church Road, Aldrington in 2009.


It is possible that a church stood on this site in pre-Conquest days, and if that were the case, then it was probably a wooden structure.

In around 1150 a new church was built, which was at around the same time as St Nicolas, Portslade was being built.


An early and intriguing record appears in the Assize Roll (1262) when apparently someone claimed sanctuary inside the church. This meant that for a period of forty days that person was safe from persecution, but afterwards he had to swear to leave England forever.

A Re-Build

copyright © J.Middleton
A 1978 drawing of St Leonard's
For reasons unknown, the church was completely re-built in the 13th century and strangely enough, it was smaller than the previous edifice.

Evidence for this theory came to light in 1878 when the foundations of the old chancel were found to extend 28 feet eastwards. What was the reason for re-building? It could not be because the local population were more affluent, since it was smaller. It may have been damaged by sea or weather, although Aldrington did not lose 40 acres to the sea until later on – sometime between 1292 and 1340. Perhaps the simplest explanation is a hostile raid. The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1792 reported a local tradition of French raids with cottages in Aldrington being burned down. It is well known that the French conducted raids on Brighton and the neighbourhood in 1514, when Brighton was burnt to a cinder, and again in 1545. Perhaps there was trouble from the hostile raiders in earlier times too.

It is interesting to note that the Sussex Daily News (5 October 1906) writing about St Leonard’s stated, ‘At one time, undoubtedly, the building extended further east, for the foundations yet remain of what was probably the chancel. It is believed that during some period earlier in its history this was destroyed as a result of conflagration.’

St Leonard

copyright © D.Sharp
Stained glass window above 
St Leonard's High Altar
In 1402 the church at Aldrington was dedicated to St Leonard, a French hermit of the 6th century. But he was enthusiastically adopted as being almost a Sussex saint and of course there was St Leonard’s Forest, near Horsham, where he had supposedly slain a dragon.

Crusaders returning from wars in the Holy Land, revered St Leonard who they believed had preserved them from captivity. By some sort of twisted logic, St Leonard became the patron saint of prisoners, a pair of heraldic leg-irons or shackles being depicted on the Hove coat-of-arms to represent Aldrington.

An Anchorite

The dedication of the church to St Leonard has an interesting resonance with the church’s rector at the time, Revd William Bolle. St Leonard was a hermit and Bolle also aspired to the solitary life and perhaps he had a special devotion to St Leonard. Bolle wished to become an anchorite, one who lives a secluded life, shuns social interaction, and dedicates his life to prayer and contemplation. First of all, he had to seek permission from his spiritual overlord, the Bishop of Chichester. It seems that the bishop, Robert Rede, was reluctant to grant such an unusual request, and Bolle had to ask him twice before his wish was granted.

Official church records state that on 20 December 1402 ‘the (Lord) Bishop secluded Master William Bolle, his Chaplain, rector of the Parochial church of Aldrington in his diocese into a certain dwelling place in the cemetery to the north of the said church: to exercise and live therein the life of an anchorite to the end of his life.’

The cell was certainly not a crabbed and confined space because it measured 14 ft in width and 29 ft in length. Neither was he sealed in because there was an opening on the south side of his cell into the chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary that he could visit when he liked.

This story of the anchorite has been hotly debated ever since, especially as an anchorite was such a rarity in the Diocese of Chichester. The principal question is, how did he survive? He had left behind all his worldly goods and so who provided him with food? After all, Aldrington was a relatively poor parish and somewhat out-of-the-way. Usually, a man who aspired to be a hermit, would have his cell near a cathedral church or place of pilgrimage, and passing pilgrims would have cheerfully given him food. By this logic, some historians assume that a mistake has been made and that Bolle’s cell was actually next to Chichester Cathedral, whereas church records specifically mention the church at Aldrington. Probably, Bolle could still practise his priestly office and take confessions, or act as a priest when the new rector went on study leave. It must have been most disconcerting for a new rector to find a previous incumbent permanently on the premises. But wherever he was, Bolle managed to survive and he was still alive in 1415.

It is sad to note that it is impossible today to search for the exact spot where Bolle’s cell was because it would be underneath the modern extension.

Early Benefactors

1499/1500 – Richard Scrase of Hangleton left the church 20/- and enough money to purchase a cope for the priest.

1503 – John Strode of Hove bequeathed 6/8d and a ‘torch price’. It would be interesting to know the definition of the latter; presumably, if he meant expensive wax candles, he would have been more specific. Perhaps inexpensive rush-lights were used to illuminate the church.

1516/1517 – There was a bequest of a quarter of barley.

1550 – Richard Bellingham of Newtimber left 10/- towards repairs.

Aldrington as Benefactors to the Poor.

From medieval times until the beginning of the 1700s Aldrington was a rich and prosperous area with its large expanse of flat agricultural land, the Salt Daisy Lake and its harbour at Aldrington Basin where the River Adur used to enter the sea.

In 1402 Brighton was ‘a poore fishing village’ and relied on Aldrington for its welfare.

In 1690 the Quarter Sessions held at Lewes ordered Aldrington, which had no poor of its own, to support the poor of Portslade and Brighthelmstone.

Aldrington was the second highest contributor (Patcham the highest) for the relief of poverty within the present Brighton, Hove, Hangleton and Portslade area, but all this charitable giving came to an abrupt end with the flooding that resulted from the Great Storms of 1703 and 1705. The destruction of properties and the change in the course of the River Adur caused a rapid decline and complete depopulation of Aldrington in the early 1700s.

In modern day Aldrington the local recreation park, is called Wish Park, in the Sussex dialect, ‘wish’ means ‘low lying land liable to be flooded’.

Defence of the Realm

In 1612 the Rector of St Leonard’s Church, Aldrington was obliged by Parliament to contribute towards the defence of the realm. He shared this duty with  Revd John Sysson  of St Peter's West Blatchington, and they provided a ‘musquet furnished’ (musket, shot and gunpowder)

Decay and De-population

Aldrington once had a thriving population or else the church would not have been built. But by the 16th century, the church was already in a poor state of repair. An official report dating from 1586 stated ‘the church is not whited (sic) nor beautified. Or (sic) churchyarde (sic) is not sufficiently fensed (sic). The chancell (sic) is not paved.’ One imagines a neglected, damp church much in need of a coat of whitewash with possibly an ordinary dirt floor strewn with straw in the chancel.
copyright © D.Sharp
  A drawing based on the 1767 James Lambert painting

By Easter 1603 there were only eight or nine parishioners to receive Holy Communion.

It is well known that parts of the ancient town of Brighthelmstone were obliterated by storms and inundation by the sea. It seems there was a similar tragedy at Aldrington where the small community living near the coast saw their small dwellings wrecked during the fierce storms that occurred in 1703 and 1705. Perhaps they moved elsewhere, safely away from the waves.

In 1767 the artist James Lambert depicted the church ruins with a group of five sheep in the foreground. The church had no roof; bushes and creepers grew in the nave and on top of the walls, and the tower was cracked and broken.

 copyright ©  Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove
An etching of the remains of St Leonard's by Copley Fielding (1787-1855)

There are two quotes from the Gentleman’s Magazine that describe the sad state the church was in. The first was written in 1792, ‘Aldrington … is a small parish situated between four or five miles west of Brighthelmstone … its church has long been in the same state it now appears. The living is a rectory; and as the whole parish does not contain a single dwelling, consequently there is no cure of souls.’ The article was accompanied by an engraving of the church ruins.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
The Environs of Brighthemstone by Thomas Yeakell c1800
This map shows Aldrington completely depopulated apart from the turnpyke man and his wife who lived in a Toll House on the coast road, then called Shoreham Road.

The second description was written in 1814, ‘About one mile beyond (Hove) are the ruins of Aldrington Church, the tottering walls of an ancient and not large edifice; now in a field and distant from any habitation. One small window of early erection is the only feature to notice, the rest are but small portions of detached walls and a lofty and narrow fragment of tower.’

Stones Re-cycled

copyright © D.Sharp
Number 26 Church Street, Shoreham, once served as the vicarage
 for St Mary de Hura Church. John Butler stated in 1846 that stone
 was taken from the ruins of Aldrington  Church to build the 
front wall

Good quality stone from a derelict church was an open invitation to anyone who might wish to utilise such material in a new building. Of course it is impossible to say how many times this occurred but there are least two memories of it happening. In January 1846 John Butler, aged 91, said his father and master told him that the stones in the front wall of New Shoreham Vicarage were brought from Aldrington by Captain Arthur, who also built the house.

According to the Sussex County Magazine (March 1953) a Mr Pengelly stated that when Slindon Folly was created in the 1840s, part of the material that formed the arch was taken from the ruins of Aldrington church.

A Sinecure

Although St Leonard’s was in ruins and there were no parishioners, it is fascinating to note that it could still supply a clergyman with a lucrative living, due to previous endowments. The only duty for a new incumbent to be inducted to the living was to balance on top of a heap of stones that denoted the church, and to recite the Thirty-Nine Articles. It was of course a complete sinecure and the new rector often had another parish elsewhere. In 1812 the income from Aldrington was an astonishing £300 a year, while the outgoings were around £6 a year.

Many people thought this was an absolute scandal, and none more so than Henry Martin writing in 1871, ‘Is another clergyman to be appointed to receive £300 a year? Without duties to perform! A pastor without a cure of souls! A shepherd without a flock!’

 copyright © D.Sharp
This drawing based on a late 1850s map shows the Parish of Aldrington virtually depopulated and showing a detached area of the Parish of Portslade in the centre of Aldrington. This ‘landlocked island’ of Portslade including Wish Cottage was bordered by the modern day roads of New Church Road, Portland Villas, Portland Road and Woodhouse Road.
 In 1883 this detached area of Portslade was absorbed into the Parish of Aldrington.
 The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway was built in 1844. Copperas Gap was later renamed Portslade by Sea.


The ancient term ‘advowson’ simply meant the patronage of the church – in other words the person who could nominate the rector. One of the earliest mentions of Aldrington Church occurred in 1246 when the advowson was given to St Radegund at Bradsole. It is interesting to note that our Aldrington anchorite was once associated with this community. Like St Leonard, St Radegund had nothing to do with England; she was in fact a Frankish queen, having married King Clotaire 1. But he was a violent man, and when he murdered her brother, she left him and took the veil. She founded the great nunnery of Holy Cross at Poitiers, spending her last thirty years there.
copyright © D.Sharp
The memorial plaque in St Nicolas Church Portslade
for Revd Ralph Clutton Rector of Aldrington..

John Rowe, steward to Lord Bergavenny from 1597 to 1622, stated that the presentation to the rectory of Aldrington belonged to the Lord of the Manor of Portslade. In 1600 Thomas West, Lord de la Warr and others sold the advowson to Richard Snelling, gentleman.

In 1674 Revd Giles Moore (rector of Horsted Keynes 1655-1679) gave the advowson to Mr Citizen as a marriage settlement for Mat, who lived in his house. She married Mr Citizen in September 1674.

On 6 March 1750 their descendant Revd John Citizen, late of Westham, wrote his will, leaving the advowson and sinecure of East Aldrington to Revd Ralph Clutton, vicar of St Nicolas Portslade, and after his death, to his nephew Ralph Clutton (son of the above) provided that he was in Holy Orders. Revd Ralph Clutton was instituted in 1751.

After the Cluttons, the advowson and sinecure went to the Master and Fellow of St Mary Magdalen College, Cambridge, and the college presented the next four incumbents, namely John Deighton, Thomas Daley, Philip Stanhope Dodd and Edward Waster.

On 26 July 1875 Magdalen College sold the advowson to Revd Henry Manning Ingram of 3 Little Deane Yard, Westminster, for £1,500. In April 1911 Revd H.M. Ingram transferred the advowson to the Bishop of Chichester.


copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
St Leonard's in the 1920s before the north chancel extension was built, note the fields and open downland to the right of the church

The fortunes of Aldrington were changed by the astonishing growth of neighbouring Hove from a tiny village of one street (also with a ruined church) to a flourishing Victorian town. Aldrington was no longer regarded as a backwater but as a marvellous stretch of even ground – just perfect for house building.

Moves to restore St Leonard’s began in 1876, and such fragments of stone as were still on site and usable, were incorporated into the new building that, in acknowledgement of its ancient past, was built in the style of the 13th century; R.A. Carpenter and Mr Ingelow were responsible for the design. The re-building costs came to £6,320, and the Ingram family, landowners and patron of the living, paid the bill.

copyright © Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
A painting of the windmills at Copperas Gap (Portslade by Sea), with Shoreham Harbour in the distant background and storm clouds approaching. This painting attributed to Frederick Ford. This is the view across the southern fields of Aldrington that Charles Stewart Parnell and Katie O'Shea would have seen as the walked west from Walsingham Terrace.

In 1889 Katherine O’Shea, companion and later the wife of Charles Stewart Parnell M.P., the Irish nationalist politician, wrote of their attraction of living in Aldrington and the view from their home at 10 Walsingham Terrace towards St Leonards,’cornfields from one side of the house away up to Shoreham basin’ - 'the whole west was a veritable fairyland of gold and crimson, and the harbour and Shoreham town, with the little country church of Aldrington against the setting of the Downs, were touched with a pearly mist of light.’
Katie O'Shea and Parnell married on the 26 June 1891 at Steyning Registry Office as Aldrington was in the Steyning Union for civil wedding ceremonies.
Charles Stewart Parnell, died at Walsingham Terrace on the 6 October 1891 and his body was returned to Dublin. Although Parnell was an Anglican, his funeral was an Irish National non denomination service to which over 200,000 people attended.

A Fire

On 6 October 1906 the vestry was completely gutted by fire. The vestry was situated on the north side, and a narrow archway (a door was there formerly) led to the organ chamber. Flames swept through the archway and practically destroyed the organ. All the choir’s surplices, music books and everything else in the vestry were destroyed except the safe containing church place and church documents. Both Hove Fire Brigade and Portslade Fire Brigade attended the scene, and prevented the fire from spreading to the rest of the church. As it was, the church was filled with dense smoke, and the chancel was stripped of its hangings and ornaments as a precaution.

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
These men of the Portslade Fire Brigade were involved in putting out the fire in St Leonard's vestry in 1906.
The fireman from Portslade would have been first on the scene as Portslade's Fire Station is only half a mile away from the Church, whereas Hove Fire Station is over a mile and a half away in George Street.

Nobody could pin-point the cause of the fire. The rector had conducted a funeral at mid-day and all was well then. But the church was kept open all day for private worship. The vestry had also contained a gas stove and an electric fan.

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
St Leonard's Churchwarden Herbert Mews was co-owner with his brother of Portslade Brewery,
Herbert lived at Whychcote in Portslade's Old Village

In the First World War, many of the young men of St Leonard's were called up for active service, as was the case for the Rector's Churchwarden Mr J Bishop, Mr Herbert Mews co-owner of Portslade Brewery agreed to stand in for Mr Bishop during the War years.

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
The men of the St Leonard's Church Football Club who played in the Brighton & Hove Football Association League from 1901 to 1914. At the outbreak of the Great War these men were enlisted in the Armed Forces

An Extension

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
St Leonard's in the 1920s before the north chancel extension was built, note the gas street lamp, the white notice board on the right reads 'Service for Men'

Aldrington’s population had grown quickly; whereas in 1841 just one person was recorded as living in the parish, by 1931 there were 12,802 residents. Aldrington even outpaced neighbouring Portslade, for centuries the largest and most populous parish in the immediate area, but in 1931 it only mustered 9,527 souls.

copyright © G.Osborne
With thanks to Mr G. Osborne for granting permission for the reproduction of the above photograph. 
A St Leonard's fund raising carnival for the new north chancel extension in 1921

Thus the confines of a small church were felt to be too restrictive in an era when Sunday church-going was the norm and a new extension was planned. H. Milburn Pett, Diocesan architect, drew up the plans, which were implemented in two separate stages.
copyright © D.Sharp 
The 1936 Masonic stone in the east wall 
of the north chancel extension.

The first provided a new nave in 1930/1931, and the second stage began in 1936 when a new chancel, two vestries, and an organ chamber were built. In effect, it meant that the old church became the south aisle.

It is interesting to note that the foundation stone for the second stage of building was laid with full Masonic honours, which today would not be tolerated. But in the 1930s many influential people were Freemasons, including the clergy and the architect H. Milburn Pett.

The inscription on the stone reads, ‘This stone was laid with full Masonic honours by the R.W. Provincial Grand Master of Freemasons of Sussex Major R. Lawrence Thornton CBE on the 6th day of June 1936.’

The ceremony was performed inside the partly built walls of the chancel; the Freemasons wore their regalia and the bishop wore his cope. The Masonic ritual included the carrying of corn, wine and oil, plus various Masonic emblems including the Corinthian, Doric and Ionic lights.

When the extensions were complete, St Leonard’s could boast of 450 sittings. The roof was open timberwork constructed of English oak, and in 1936 the tower was embellished with a broached, shingle spire. The entire work cost £5,000; the parish had raised £2,400 towards the cost and £1,250 came from the Sussex Church Builders’ Fund. Rather ambitiously, a north aisle was contemplated to balance the design and so the north wall was built as a temporary fixture and finished with red brick. In the event a north aisle was never built.

copyright © D.Sharp 
 The north chancel extension built in 1936 which increased church seating to 450.
Piscina and Sedilia

copyright © D.Sharp
The piicina and sedilia in the north extension's sanctuary

copyright © D.Sharp
The recess in the 1870s built
In the sanctuary of the north extension of St Leonard’s there is a piscina (where the sacred vessels were washed) and three sedilia (seats for priest and servers) This 1930’s feature is a replica of what probably stood in the original mediaeval Aldrington Church.
An almost identical example but of the mediaeval period can be seen just over a mile away in St Nicolas Church Portslade which is of a comparable age to Aldrington’s original medieval church. 
In the recess in the south wall in the oldest section of the Church, is a reminder of the St Leonard’s ancient catholic tradition, there is a piscina, where the sacred vessels were washed.

Endeavouring to Keep Warm in the Winter

The church might have been more spacious and a large congregation had no doubt helped to keep the chill out in winter. But as congregations dwindled, spacious equalled to plain draughty. By 1979 the two parts of the church were separated by hardwood panels that could be removed during the summer. Later on the separation was made more aesthetically pleasing by the use of glass and wood, and the inclusion of doors.

Tower and Spire

In 1987 an appeal was launched for £40,000 to repair the tower and in March 1988 Hove Council made a grant of £4,000 towards the cost.

By August 1988 it was stated that stonemasons and steeplejacks had been hard at work on the church for several months. Some of the stone blocks in the tower were badly eroded, and had to be replaced. John Bayley. the architect in charge of the scheme, said that the French stone originally used was no longer available, and so another type of French quarried stone (of slightly different colour) was used instead. When the spire was re-shingled, the new wood was a pleasing, golden tone, but it soon mellowed into the customary silvery-grey colour.


In February 1994 thieves forced open the vestry door and stole two items of silver, a photocopier, stereo amplifier, telephone answering machine and cash from collection boxes.

In January 1996 a would-be burglar caused up to £500 of damage trying to break in, and during the process damaged a door and smashed two windows.

Porch Repaired
copyright © J.Middleton
A 1978 drawing of the porch

In March 1998 it was stated that the porch was in urgent need of repair. Since the services of specialist wood-carvers would be required, the cost of the work was put at £10,000. But by January 1999 sufficient funds had been raised. Revd John Harrison, Team Rector, said ‘We’re not a wealthy church. It was a good effort to raise the money in a year.’

The re-dedication of the porch took place on 31 January 1999 at a special Candlemas service that also included the baptism of four children.

Millennium Kneeler

copyright © D.Sharp

The Millennium Kneeler of twenty four designs, was the inspiration of Eileen Odom, Just before Christmas 1999, sewing began. The Women’s Fellowship, members of the congregation, men & women, boys & girls, Beavers, Brownies, Cubs, Guides, Scouts, Rangers & their Leaders all sewed some part of the kneeler

copyright © D.Sharp

Stained Glass Windows

 copyright © D.Sharp
The stained glass windows depicting the Virgin Mary and St John above the altar.  When the Sanctuary was rebuilt in the 1870s a section of this eastern wall and one window came from a part of the original mediaeval St Leonard’s Church

The windows in the old part of the church are very fine, being the work of Clayton & Bell. They depict the crucifixion and the resurrection. Above the altar the Virgin Mary and St John are depicted in the two-light window. (These two figures traditionally stood at the foot of the cross). Mary holds a lily to denote purity and beneath is the scene of the annunciation. St John is shown as a young man with a book clasped in his arms. Beneath, he is seen as old man with an angel instructing him to write his Gospel. At his feet, with its own little halo, is his traditional symbol, the eagle. Above the window there is a roundel showing Christ in Majesty.

copyright © D.Sharp
These stained glass windows are spaced equally along the south east wall and
depict Mary Magdalene, St Salome and Joseph of Arimathea

In the south wall there is a magnificent depiction of Mary Magdalene dressed in a rich, red robe with flowing blonde hair; she has a blue halo. Beneath is the Easter garden scene (Noli me tangere – Do not hold me) when she was the first person to witness the risen Christ.

The next window shows St Salome holding a jar of precious spices – she was one of the women who went early on Easter Sunday to anoint the body, and below is the scene when the empty tomb was reached. An angel informs them ‘Non est hic surrexit’ – He is not here – He is risen.’

The next window shows a dignified Joseph of Arimathea and beneath is the scene where he asks Pontius Pilate for the body of Jesus.

copyright © D.Sharp
These stained glass windows are spaced equally along the south west wall and
depict St Andrew, St George and St Patrick

West of the door there are depictions of patron saints. First is St Andrew with his traditional X-shaped cross, and underneath Jesus calls Andrew and his brother Simon away from their nets and fishing – a pleasant touch is that the boat is a typical example of a Sussex vessel. (This window was given in memory of Aaron Withers who died on 4 November 1903).

Next is the figure of St George resplendent in armour, while below he is seen mounted on his charger and lancing the dragon through its mouth. The crimson dragon has red wings, while the gallant St George sports a walrus-style moustache. (This window was given in memory of Lewis Hough born 1829 died 1909).

St Patrick wearing his bishop’s robes occupies the next window, while beneath he is shown as a monk preaching to a disparate group of people. (This window was given in memory of Jane Withers who died 21 April 1911).

copyright © D.Sharp
These stained glass windows are high in the tower
and depict St Leonard dressed in Holy Orders
 and St John the Baptist.

It is a pity there was not enough space for a window depicting St David. All these windows have jewel-like colours. Indeed the two high windows in the bell tower give off such a glow in the dark space that one might suppose there was a light switched on. These two windows celebrate St Leonard dress in Holy Orders and St John the Baptist.

copyright © D.Sharp
These stained glass windows above the Altar in the north extension.
left:- St Richard of Chichester, centre:- Christus Rex – Christ in majesty with St Leonard in the lower window, right:- St Philip

In the new part of the church, the east window above the altar is also full of colour. The central light is devoted to Christus Rex – Christ in majesty – and he wears red robes and a crown studded with green jewels. He has an unusual halo – a golden cross behind his head enclosed in a dark, blue circle with stars, while the interior circle is red.

The windows on either side have angels with eye-catching wings of burgundy, red and blue. In the lower left light St Richard of Chichester wears his bishop’s robes with a chalice at his feet, while below appear the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of Chichester, and Hove’s coat-of-arms.

St Leonard occupies the lower central window wearing armour and a winged helmet. He rests on his sword, and nearby is a large shield with his emblem of shackles and chains.

St Philip is shown in the lower right light as a young man with fair hair and a deep red halo. Underneath, are the coat-of-arms belonging to Canterbury.

copyright © D.Sharp
The stained glass windows above the Altar in the north extension.

War Memorial

 copyright © D.Sharp
The stained glass window on the north wall depicts St Michael which sadly has been vandalised,
this window was used as the focal point for Aldrington's War Memorials, in the form of three
framed parchment sheets commemorating men and women of the Parish who died in both World
Wars, unfortunately because of damp around the vandalised window these parchments have been moved to an opposite wall.

The war memorial is situated against the north wall and there is a fine pre-Raphaelite-style window depicting St Michael wearing a purple singlet over his armour, with his unsheathed sword and a shield bearing the cross of St George. He has wings and a red halo, and his foot rests on the head of a dragon; underneath, there is the Captain of Hosts. The Bishop of Lewes unveiled the window in July 1919.

The above lower photograph is a parchment sheet with a decorative border of deep blue, dark red, green, some tendrils, and small gold flowers, bearing the names of the 24 men from Aldrington who died in the First World War. This differs from most war memorials in that the text includes rank and battle names.

The above top photograph shows framed in oak, parchment sheets decorated with a border of roses, shamrocks, thistles, daffodils and gold embellishments, containing 61 names of those from Aldrington who died in the Second World War, and, unusually, there are four female names.
See also Aldrington-St Leonard's War Memorials page for further details and name listings.

Stained Glass Windows, North Wall

copyright © D.Sharp
These stained glass windows are situated on the north wall,
The pair of windows depict Jesus with children and St Christopher, the separate window on the
 right depicts St James the Greater which sadly has been vandalised.

Other windows are as follows:

Jesus wearing a blue robe is depicted with a group of children, and there is a signature bell with ‘ME 1953’ (Given in memory of Olive Muriel Tomlinson 1907-1954).

St Christopher sporting a purple robe with an orange sash, ploughs his way through multi-coloured waves. The infant Christ on his shoulders wears a crimson robe and has a large halo, in contrast to the saint’s smaller one. (Given in memory of Ernest Henry Tomlinson 1881-1952 and his wife Ellen Susan 1879-1964).

St James the Greater, (rather than St James the Less) is the next figure, and beneath is the scene where Jesus calls the fishermen, which sadly has been vandalised (Given in memory of James Fowler died 6 May 1938 and his daughter Phyllis died on 15 December 1927).

copyright © D.Sharp
The Baptistery stained glass windows depicting the Holy Trinity

In the Baptistery there is a somewhat unusual depiction of the Holy Trinity because it depicts Jesus and God as two separate beings with identical faces seated on thrones, while the Holy Spirit as a dove hovers in the quatrefoil above. (Given in memory of Harold Powell died 15 October 1901 and his wife Ada Louise Finch dies 25 August 1929).

Church Bells

copyright © J.Middleton
St Leonard's in the 1920s before the north chancel extension was built

When St Leonard’s was in a ruinous state, the church bell was disposed of. This came to light some time later when on 28 April 1607 Edward Lay confessed, that around four or five years previously, he helped carry away a bell from Aldrington church, which was given to him by Thomas Barron, churchwarden, Revd Henry English, and Henry Hoden, parishioner. The case against Edward Scrase and Mr Owden was dropped. The bell was taken to Henfield and on 1 December 1607 the authorities admitted receiving 650lbs of bell metal at 50/- the hundred; this together with other metal was made into a bell for Henfield church. Henfield was ordered to pay Aldrington church £16-5s in restitution.

Perhaps the memory of the bell indignity made Aldrington parishioners determined to have more bells than any other church in the locality. Today, the tower houses a ring of no less than six bells.

According to Elphick, the authority on Sussex church bells, Mears & Stainbank were the original makers of the bells of St Leonard’s but in 1891 the celebrated John William Taylor re-cast them – he was famous for creating Great Paul at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and Great Walter at Chichester Cathedral.

St Leonard’s is proud of its bell-ringing tradition. On the west wall a brass plaque reads, ‘This tablet is erected to record a full muffled peal rung in the tower in memory of our late beloved Sovereign Queen Victoria on February 2 1901, a peal of BOB minor, 5,040 changes in 3 hours and 7 minutes, tenor 10¼ cwt.’

There are a further four oak panels, two on either side, recording other bell-ringing feats and include the following:

London surprise minor 5,040 changes.

A peal to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

A tuneful farewell to the rector in 1955 of Grandsire Doubles, 5040 changes. (The rector in question was Revd Henry Theodore Mogridge).

The bells were taken down in 1948 to be re-tuned and restored to the tower shortly afterwards.

‘The Bells of St Leonard’ in a late Victorian poem

Alfred de Kantzow (1827-1919) came from an illustrious aristocratic Swedish family. He was a poet and composed his collective works of Ultima Verba and Noctis Susurri while living in Carlton Terrace, Portslade from 1877 until 1916.
This Portslade poet became great friends with the eminent John Cowper Powys, and indeed was greatly esteemed by him.
Alfred’s wife died in 1901, it would appear that the de Kantzow family, had a connection with St Leonard’s Church rather than their Parish Church of St Nicolas Portslade for Maria to be buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.
One of de Kantzow’s poems was entitled The Bells of St Leonard’ and poignantly records his deep feelings of loss at the death of his wife.
The bells of the church would have been clearly audible at Alfred’s home in Carlton Terrace.

The Font

copyright © D.Sharp
The Baptistery

The present font was made of Derbyshire stone and it is a copy of a mediaeval font with a central column surrounded by four shafts.


The old part of the church has some pleasant Victorian tiles on the floor of the sanctuary in muted tones of ochre but with red and black too.

copyright © D.Sharp
The Victorian tiles on the floor of the 1870's sanctuary.

On the floor of the sanctuary in the new part of the church there are large green and cream tiles, horribly reminiscent of shades produced by Marley Tiles in the 1950s to enhance many a kitchen and bathroom floor.

Hove's Coat of Arms and St Leonard's Aldrington

The former coat of arms of Hove Council granted in 1899 included emblems of Hove, the first quarter shield is dedicated to the original Parish Church of Hove – with the cross of St Andrew, the second quarter shows shackles on a red field denoting the Parish Church of Aldrington - St Leonard the Patron Saint of all prisoners. The lower section of ‘arms’ represent the de Warren family, the Rape of Lewes and six martlets the emblems of Sussex. The ship, which is ashore on a shingle beach, represents a 16th century French galley and commemorates French attacks on the coast of Hove. The inclusion of a knight’s helmet is of unknown origins.

 copyright ©  Brighton & Hove Libraries
Hove's former Coat of Arms
Hove’s motto was 'FLOREAT HOVA' - ‘May Hove flourish’.

In 1997 Brighton & Hove became a unitary authority and a new coat of arms was designed to represent the joining of Brighton and Hove, the new City coat of arms is predominately ‘Brighton’ with only the French galley and helmet included from Hove’s former coat of arms which are not the most logical of emblems to associate with Hove, unlike the more appropriate emblems for the ancient Parishes of Aldrington and Hove that predate the actual town of ‘Brighton’.

It interesting to note that in Brighton & Hove Albion’s 2001-2002 football season, which was the club’s centenary season, the Seagull badge was removed from club shirts and both the separate coats of arms of Brighton Council and Hove Council were worn for one season only. In this season and wearing a badge that included the emblem of St Leonard’s Aldrington the Albion were promoted from Division 2 to Division 1.

In 2002-2003 and the Albion now playing in the Football League Division 1, reverted back to their modern Seagull badge and were relegated at the end of that season to Division 2.

Modern Times

copyright © J.Middleton
The east end of St Leonard's Church in the summer of 2009.

By 2005 the congregation of St Leonard’s was put at fifty. Meanwhile, the Church of England was busily compiling a report on the over-supply of churches in the City of Brighton & Hove and their recommendation was that the number of churches – 54 buildings at the time – ought to be reduced to 44 churches. New Church Road came in for particular scrutiny because there are two churches – St Leonard’s and St Philip’s. The initial report suggested the area did not need two churches and therefore St Philip’s should be placed on the ‘At Risk’ list and St Leonard’s would remain open.

This was not the end of the matter because a second report completely negated the reasoning about the churches in New Church Road, this time stating that St Leonard’s ought to be shut and St Philip’s saved. This came as a complete shock to the parishioners of St Leonard’s who had not even realised their church was under threat of closure. Jenny Campbell, who had been running the uniformed youth groups at St Leonard’s for some 30 years, said she was appalled; there were thriving groups of Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Rangers. The bell-ringers were horrified because St Leonard’s was the last church in Hove to have a team of bell-ringers.

Revd Stephen Terry, team rector, took a somewhat more pragmatic view. As ever, it was a question of money because he said it cost £400 a week to keep St Leonard’s open, and moreover St Leonard’s owed some £67,000 to the Diocese of Chichester in unpaid contributions. Revd Terry thought that the building would not be lost and it would make a wonderful conference centre for the diocese, which was a logical choice seeing as Diocesan Church House was right next door. Moreover, St Philip’s was part of a more thriving community. There was also the matter of the Parochial Church Council who had voted 8 to 3 to close St Leonard’s – Revd Terry had not voted because it would have been inappropriate.

There was such an outcry that St Leonard’s remained open and there were banners proclaiming ‘Save Our Church’.

It is such an ironic situation because the original church fell into ruins due to de-population, while today practically every square inch of Aldrington has been built upon and the population grows but again the church is facing ruin. The question of what will happen to St Leonard’s in the future reared its head again in 2017/2018.

In January 2018 the Deanery put forward a document for discussion of separating St Leonard’s Aldrington from St Phillips Hove, and in effect returning St Leonard’s back to its original ancient Parish status albeit with some boundary changes. The committed congregation of St Leonard’s are working tirelessly to ensure the survival of St Leonard’s Church.

Aldrington with its neighbours Portslade and Hangleton have the oldest Christian presence, dating back to the mid 1100s in the City of Brighton & Hove.

The 100th Anniversary of the Armistice at Aldrington

The people of St Leonard’s Church were able to celebrate the anniversary in a spectacular way by ringing their famous bells. This was done after a well-attended service of remembrance at 6 p.m. Indeed so keen were bell-ringers to get started that they began to ring a peal at 6.55 p.m. instead of waiting for 7.05 p.m. which was supposed to be the time nationally.

The south door was left wide open so that people could come inside even while the service was being held in the newest part of the church. When the bells started their peal, people flocked to see the stalwarts in their bell chamber pulling on the ropes, and watching them snaking upwards, one after the other. Although it was fascinating to see how it was done, the best quality of sound was to be had outside, standing in the dark and listening.

There was also an excellent display of information concerning the men from the parish who had died in the First World War. The display was embellished by photographs of their tombstones, or of the monuments where their names were recorded.


1324 – Revd Henry de Weyvill
1351 – Revd Henry de Bitton
1371/72 – Revd William Cranwell
1371/72 – Revd John Giffard
1399 – Revd William Bolle
1404 – Revd Richard Humbard
1405 – Revd William Yardeburgh
1415/16 – Revd Robert Gilbert
1415/16 – Revd William Broke
1418 – Revd John Young
1426/1427 – Revd Nicholas Flaxested
1426/1427 – Revd Robert Brasse
1483 – Revd John Prestwych
1483 – Revd John Wilson
1491 – Revd William Forde
1534 – Revd John Patsell
1535 – Revd John Wilson
1561 – Revd Thomas English
1584 – Revd Henry English, also Vicar of St Nicolas Church, Portslade
1585 – Revd Henry Dudley
1638 – Revd Walter Dimblely
1647 – Revd John Garrard
1661 – Revd Hillman
1663 – Revd George Hutchinson
1677 – Revd Charles Hutchinson
1718 – Revd John Citizen
1751 – Revd Ralph Clutton, also Vicar of St Nicolas Church, Portslade
1772 – Revd John Deighton
1808 – Revd Thomas Paley
1812 – Revd Philip Stanhope Dodd
1852 – Revd Edward Waster
1879 – Revd Henry Manning Ingram
1893 – Revd Ernest James Morgan
1912 – Revd Arthur Richard Read
1926 – Revd Henry Theodore Mogridge
1956 – Revd Leslie Henry Yorke
1958 – Revd John Douglas Close Fisher
1967 – Revd Eric Robert Gillies
1982 – Revd Timothy M.J. van Carrapiett

1989 – creation of the united benefice of Aldrington comprising the parishes of St Leonard and St Philip.

1989 – Revd Stephen John Terry. team rector (retired 2017)
2017 -

copyright © J.Middleton
The east end of St Leonard's Church in 2009.

Notes on Some Rectors

Citizen – Revd John Citizen BA was educated at Magdalen College, Cambridge. He was ordained a deacon by John Williams, Bishop of Chichester, on 19 June 1698, and made a priest by the same bishop on 5 June 1699. He was instituted as rector of Aldrington on 15 February 1718 on the presentation of John Citizen, senior, and inducted on 11 March 1718.

Deighton – Revd John Deighton was the first priest to be presented as rector by Magdalen College, Cambridge, and was instituted on 5 August 1772.

De Weyvill – He is the first recorded priest at Aldrington. It is claimed that Field Marshal Earl Wavell (1883-1950) was a descendent of this priest. The Field Marshal was as noted for his robustness as he was for the quality of his writing and his love of poetry. Erwin Rommel admired his book Generals and Generalship and included it in his field kit. Wavell also edited a popular poetry anthology called Other Men’s Flowers – the word ‘anthology being derived from the Greek word for flowers. Wavell served in South Africa and India during the early part of his career, and in 1916 he was wounded, losing the sight of one eye. During the Second World War he was appointed to the Middle East command and obliged to fight eight campaigns. He was celebrated for his conquest of Abyssinia, and his capture of 130,000 Italian soldiers. He was Viceroy of India from 1943 to 1947.

Dodd – Revd Philip Stanhope Dodd became rector in 1812 and he was the third priest to be appointed by Magdalen College, Cambridge. In addition, in 1819 he was appointed rector of Penshurst in Kent for which he received £820, this together with £300 from Aldrington, brought his earnings up to a handsome £1,120 a year. From this he only had to pay the curate £100, and there were outgoings of £54.

English – In 1584 Revd Henry English became rector and he was also vicar of Portslade. It was this rector who in 1603 sanctioned the selling of the church bell. In 1612 the clergy of East Sussex were ordered to contribute towards the defence of the realm, and English joined forces with Revd John Sysson, the parson of Blatchington, to provide a ‘musquet furnished’. English must have been something of a character, and in 1614 he was fined for being drunk. Some four years later, it was a parishioner’s turn to be fined – his offence was assaulting the rector and drawing blood.

Gillies – Revd Eric Gillies became rector in 1967. He had an interesting background because he was brought up as a Presbyterian, and he was ordained into the Church of England in 1963. Ten years after his arrival at Hove, he was appointed Rural Dean. He was a founder member of the Brighton & Hove Good Samaritans, and for five years he hosted his own religious programme on Radio Brighton. He was the first clergyman to become president of Hove and Portslade Rotary Club.

Ingram - Revd Henry Manning Ingram was a teacher at Westminster School, was appointed Rector in 1879. The Ingrams also funded the bells. Five were given to the church by Mrs Ingram in 1878 and the sixth by Revd Henry in 1891. The family originally owned much of Aldrington. Ingram Crescent and Ingram Estate are named after the family.

Mogridge - Canon Henry Theodore Mogridge – was born in Loddington, Leicestershire in 1891. He became Rector of Goadby from where he moved to Sussex to become the Rector of St Leonard’s Church in 1926.
Under Revd Mogridge’s stewardship St Leonard’s Church doubled in size with a new north nave, baptistry, lych gate and spire added to the tower. In 1956 he left the Parish to become Rector of Thakeham and died in 1970. Revd Mogridge was St Leonard’s longest serving Rector and because of his love of Aldrington, requested that he be buried in St Leonard’s churchyard.

Morgan - Revd Ernest James Morgan – was the Rector in 1893 and under his stewardship St Phillip's Church was built at the eastern end of the Parish and was consecrated in 1898 as a Chapel of Ease.

Paley – He was the second priest to be presented as rector by Magdalen College, Cambridge, and he was instituted on 20 May 1808.

Read – Revd Arthur Richard Read became rector in 1912. There is a curious note in Hove Council Minutes when in 1919 he asked permission to erect an Army hut in the Rectory gardens because he had to vacate the Rectory; his request was granted.

Waster – Revd Edward Waster was the fourth and last priest to be presented as rector by Magdalen College, Cambridge, and was instituted on 14 July 1852.


Barr-Hamilton, A Parish Church of Aldrington, St Leonard (1957, reprinted 1969)
Argus 30 August 2005 / 5 September 2005
Elphick, G.P. Sussex Bells and Belfries (1970)
Middleton, J Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Forrest, Vera A Century in the Life of St Leonard’s, Aldrington (1978)
Martin, Henry History of Sussex and its Environs (1871)
Middleton, J. A History of Hove (1979)
Royal Pavilion & Museum, Brighton & Hove
Stephens, W.R.W. The South Saxon Diocese 1881)
St Leonard's Church Aldrington
Sussex Archaeological Collections
Sussex County Magazine (March 1953)

Many Thanks to Jenny Watts for access to her Aldrington research material.

See St Leonard's Church website and also St Leonard's Aldrington facebook page

The Keep

SAS/1/200 – St Leonard’s, advowson to Magdalen College, Cambridge
SAS/1/201 – St Leonard’s, Magdalen College sold advowson, 1875
SAS/1/202 = St Leonard’s, abstract of title 1751-1852

Copyright © J.Middleton 2018
page layout and additional research by D. Sharp.