Huw Edwards backs cash grant for historic church in Old Warden to help pay for urgent repairs

Old Warden St LeonardOld Warden St Leonard
Old Warden St Leonard
The church is on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register

A much-loved Bedfordshire church is to share in a £351,500 urgent funding pay-out from the National Churches Trust.

A £15,000 National Churches Trust Grant will help to pay for urgent roof and tower repairs to St Leonard’s church in Old Warden ensuring the church can continue to thrive.

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The church also received a £10,000 Wolfson Fabric Repair Grant from the Wolfson Foundation, on the recommendation of the National Churches Trust.

The Grade I Listed St Leonard’s church is on the English Heritage at risk register.

Broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, vice president of the National Churches Trust, said: "I’m delighted that St Leonard’s church is receiving funding for urgent roof and tower repairs. This will safeguard the unique heritage of this ancient and historic church and keep it open and in use for the benefit of local people. The funding will also help to remove the church from the at risk register.”

Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation added: "As well as being places of worship and buildings of beauty, churches sit at the heart of the community. In many ways they stand between the past and present. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the National Churches Trust to support the preservation of these significant, much-loved historic buildings across the UK.”

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The earliest part of St Leonard’s church is the Norman tower which dates from the 12th Century, while the nave dates from the 13th Century.

The church’s medieval interior is filled with an amazing collection of carved oak pews and panels dating from the 16th Century onwards, collected by Lord Ongley in the early 19th Century.

Among Ongley’s furnishings is a rare Tudor survival of national importance – a set of 22 finely carved oak panels depicting the personal emblems of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

With the help of forensics, dendrology and the fortuitous discovery of another panel at an auction, it was established that the panels were commissioned by Anne of Cleves herself in the 1540s. These panels would have been among her prized personal possessions, embellishing her private chambers in one of the houses given to her by Henry as part of her divorce settlement.

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These precious panels, located throughout the church, are now at risk from damp, water ingress and crumbling masonry.

Another rare treasure is found in the north wall of the nave. The Cistercian Warden Abbey medieval stained-glass window was gifted to the church by Abbot Walter Clifton in 1380/81, around the time of the church’s appropriation by Warden Abbey. The window contains the only surviving representation of a Cistercian Abbot so far recorded in English medieval glass.

Warden Abbey (dissolved 1537) was a major Cistercian monastery and was the first daughter house of Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.

The grant from the National Churches Trust will facilitate roof and tower repairs.

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Churchwardens John Scott and Robert Diggle said: “All of us in the community are delighted to receive the awards from the National Churches Trust and the Wolfson Foundation. It will enable us to proceed with the important works required to save St Leonard’s and its historic treasures and preserve them for future generations.”

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