At the sign of the Barking lion...

St Leonard, Horringer

At the sign of the Barking lion...

home index e-mail what's new? - a journey through the churches of Suffolk


Horringer porch rabbit-eared tower St Leonard across the green

St Etheldreda, St Leonard, Mother of God, St Edmund   Ickworth Park has two churches, but there is no Ickworth village now. Horringer, confusingly referred to as Horningsheath before the 19th century, spreads along the eastern side of the park. Ickworth House itself is in the care of the National Trust, proudly maintained for its original purpose as an art gallery and residence. It is probably the most significant late 18th century building in England, but its church, St Mary, Ickworth, is now redundant, and nearly derelict.

St Leonard sits at the eastern gates, a bold and familiar landmark to travellers on the adjacent main road.

As with 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 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 as well 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 candlebra.

The church is full of light and space, and the restrained east window is excellent. It depicts the East Anglian patron Saints Etheldreda and Edmund flanking St Leonard and the Blessed Virgin, and dates, I think, from the post-WWII period just before we all became infected with Festival of Britain excitement.

 St Etheldreda St Leonard Mother of God St Edmund

I was less enamoured of the 1980s glass in the Horsecroft chapel, but this quiet little space is so lovely that it feels harsh to be critical. The chapel was probably originally intended as the parochial 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. Some better modern glass is in the most westerly window on the south side of the nave.

The medieval font has modern heraldic shields painted on it; repainted, but probably 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, I thought this a splendid church.

The fall from grace of the Herveys today can, perhaps, be best exemplified by the difference between St Leonard, in the care of the local Anglican diocese, and the Ickworth church, purchased by the family as their mausoleum in the 1970s, and now boarded up and falling down.

  cherubs and skull

Simon Knott, May 2008

door to Horsford chapel memorial Horsford chapel looking west font
Charity St Leonard kitsch? 1982 Baptism


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