Skip Navigation
 
 

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community archives > LeightonBuzzard > Repairs and Additions to All Saints Church

Repairs and Additions to All Saints Church

All Saints gargoyle 1920s
All Saints gargoyle 1920s [P91/2/24]

Some of the following information is taken from former County Archivist Chris Pickford's Bedfordshire Historical Record Society volume Bedfordshire Churches in the 19th Century: Parishes H-R. The first known alteration to the fabric after the Middle Ages was the erection of a west gallery in 1634 (removed in 1840). Four years later a cedar pulpit was given by Edward Wilkes (it was removed in 1842 but restored to its rightful place in 1886). Two bells were either recast or added in 1632 and 1639, the latter date also seeing the addition of the current bellframe. The chancel was repaired in 1657 and a north porch either added or rebuilt in 1670 [P91/5/4]. The following year the spire was repaired by William Whitehead of Bradwell [Warwickshire] [P91/5/4]. A clock was noted in the tower in 1709 which played tunes on chimes and the bells [ABE2 vol.II p.568].

East window October 2008
East window October 2008

A beam in the chancel is dated 1729 showing that it was repaired in that year. Similarly a timber in the roof dated 1781. A new ring of eight bells was provided in 1787 - one of the bells is inscribed: "John Swinstead did through perseverance raise this peal complete. Real merit is his praise".

Interior of All Saints about 1900
Interior of All Saints about 1900 [Z1130/72]

John Wilson became vicar in 1788 and, as his incumbency entered its last phase in 1839, the church was in a poor condition [P91/8/2] (the vicar would remain for a further ten years until he died - a total of 61 years!). Things were not helped by a churchwarden in post from 1810 to 1830 quarrelling with most of the congregation, meaning that collection of the church rate was difficult. The work of restoration began in August 1840 to plans of Thomas Stephens of Turvey. By May 1841 these plans were abandoned and new plans provided by London architect John Livock and the work was completed in 1843, the church being re-opened on 11th January [P91/8/3]. In addition to repairs new galleries, a new pulpit and desk were installed, the ringing room raised above the arches of the crossing and pinnacle added to the tower. The new work was not universally welcomed, one commentator opining that the work on the interior had been: "committed to the hands of those little acquainted with ecclesiastical architecture". On 13th July 1852 the spire was struck by lightning and falling masonry damaged both bells and roofs [P91/1/2] necessitating further repairs.

All Saints about 1900 [Z1130/49]
All Saints about 1900 [Z1130/49]

John Martin was the librarian of Woburn Abbey and wrote a series of scathing articles on Bedfordshire churches for the Northamptonshire Mercury either side of 1850. The All Saints article appeared on 7th March 1846: "The exterior of this noble church called forth the praise of that distinguished architect, Mr Rickman. It has not suffered from injudicious restoration. Not so the interior; which has apparently been committed to the hands of those little acquainted with ecclesiastical architecture"

Nave roof looking west October 2008
The nave roof looking west October 2008

The wooden roof remains, and in good preservation. The church has been recenty re-pewed, an unhappy decision, though the pews are rendered less objectionable than usual by being of uniform height, and not towering above the open sittings. The western window is not blocked out, but the result of closed seats has rendered it necessary to erect a large gallery, disfiguring the building, and giving it a very theatrical appearance".

View from west end of nave towards south transept October 2008
View from the west end of the nave towards the south transept October 2008

"A new pulpit and reading desk have been introduced, and though they are separated, and so far an improvement, it is to be regretted they are placed at the wrong end of the church. Anything is, however, preferable to the "three courses", one over the other, that we have observed in some other churches in this county, the tasteful production of the village carpenter. Why a new pulpit was required we are ignorant, since casting our eye into one of the transepts, a sort of receptacle for lumber of all kinds, we observed the old one, the lectern and other fragments of carved wood, which would have been far better in place of the modern work which has superseded them".

Sedilia October 2008
Sedilia October 2008

"The wooden roof of the chancel remains; there are some stalls greatly disfigured by the restorer. the miserable wash with which the walls are coloured cannot be too much censured. the altar was in respectable condition, but a modern wooden panelling very ugly, coloured in the same bad taste as the walls, concealed the sedilia".

Organ October 2008
Organ October 2008

A new organ was acquired in 1858. New stained glass was installed in 1865 followed by more in 1879 and 1881. The chancel was restored under direction of Ewan Christian between 1878 and 1879. This included a new reredos installed in 1880 but transferred to Saint Andrew's in 1900. The organ was moved around this time from beneath the tower arches to the south transept; it was moved to the choir in 1888 [P91/2/3] and a new one installed in the north transept in 1906, the choir organ being retained. The vestry was repaired in 1882.

View from west end of nave towards south transept October 2008
View from west end of nave towards south transept October 2008

Between 1885 and 1886 a major restoration by Bodley & Garner largely undid the changes of 1842-1843 [P91/2/3], the church being re-opened with new seating on 10th July 1886. More work followed including the north porch in 1888, west porch in 1891 and south porch in 1894, the spire being re-pointed in 1893 [P91/2/11].

North nave west window detail October 2008
North nave west window detail October 2008

Stained glass windows by C.E.Kempe were installed in 1887 [P91/1/2 and P91/0/9]. A new reredos, despite objections to its high church design, was provided in 1900 [P91/2/12] and a triptych in 1906. Also in 1906 were improvements to the choir vestry, a new organ, as noted above [P91/2/3] and two more bells. The roof was repaired by W.B.Stanbridge between 1925 and 1917 [P91/2/4] and the spire in 1952.

Chancel north wall October 2008
Chancel north wall October 2008

On 13th April 1985 the church was badly damaged by a serious fire and underwent a lengthy restoration by Paul Reynolds of H. A. Rolls & Partners of Leighton Buzzard, being finally re-opened on 7th May 1989 [Z889/2/46 and P91/28/71]. During the work an upper storey was added to the vestries and new rooms created in the north transept. A new organ and new bells were provided to replace those destroyed in the fire.