The Friends of St Leonard’s
A Brief introduction to the History of St Leonard’
St Leonard's is still the Parish Church of Deal, despite now lying on the outskirts of the town and there being several other churches within the town. It gains its name from the Saint to whom it is dedicated -
Today, St Leonard's serves the local community as the mother church of a Benefice (group of churches) which includes three other local churches; St Richards, Mill Hill; St Nicholas, Sholden; and St Martins, Great Mongham. Services are held several times a week in all four churches, with each church having its own unique look and feel.
Although some sources give credence to a place of worship having been on the site since Saxon times, no evidence of this building exists now, however parts of the current Church of St Leonard's certainly date to approximately 1100 although over the centuries since, it has seen many alterations. This leaves the building now standing, as a confusion of architectural styles.
The Nave and chancel contain the earliest remaining architecture, with the original tower being added some 80 to 100 years later. The chancel was remodelled in the 13th century, and during this period the narrow north and south aisles were enlarged and doors added to each. (These doors are both now gone, although the southern can be detected in the outside wall and parts of the northern doorway were reused in the current north door) In the early 19th Century a large extension was made to the North aisle which led to the current lopsided appearance of the church.
The current tower is of 17th century construction (completed in 1686) having been built to replace the 12th century one which had collapsed due to the church falling in to ill repair prior to the reformation. It contains a clock and a ring of six bells.
The interior of the church has also seen many changes during the years, fortunately each successive generation, while adding its own touch has also retained much of the previous, so leading to an extremely interesting amalgam of architectural styles well worth investigating, where the bulk of the congregation sits facing south (and hence side on to the altar) rather than the traditional east.
While this amalgam of architectural styles has led to what some would call an aesthetically unattractive building, certainly from the outside, as evidenced in the picture above, it has along with various changes in fashion and the foibles of its congregations over the ages, led to an intriguing, if no less confusing, interior. This is very lopsided and results in the bulk of the congregation facing south, rather than the traditional east and therefore sitting side on to the Altar.