Leighton Bromswold

Pages 177-182

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1926.

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In this section


(O.S. 6 in. XVI N.E.)

Leighton Bromswold is a parish and village 8 m. W.N.W. of Huntingdon. The Church and castle' are the principal monuments. George Herbert, who held the prebend of Leyton Ecclesia, was responsible for the restoration of the church in 1626.

Leighton Bromswold, Parish Church of St Mary.


(1). Parish Church of St. Mary (Plate 100) stands at the E. end of the village. The walls generally are of coursed Weldon rubble with some pebbles; the tower is ashlar-faced; the dressings are of Ketton, Weldon and Barnack stone and the roofs are tiled. The Chancel with an aisled nave was built about the middle of the 13th century. In the 14th century the chancel was largely re-built and probably enlarged, and about the middle of the century the North and South Transepts were added. In 1626 the church was restored by George Herbert, when the Nave was re-built of greater width, the arcades removed and the aisles abolished except for the N. and S. doorways, which were retained as the outer entrances to the new North and South Porches; in 1634 the West Tower was built. The church was restored in 1870.

The church has an interesting architectural history and the 17th-century tower is an unusual feature. Among the fittings, the pulpits, seating, rainwater-heads and monuments are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The Chancel (46¾ ft. by 20¼ ft.) has an early 14th-century E. window with a 15th-century head; it is of four pointed lights with vertical tracery in a flat four-centred head. In the N. wall are three windows, the two eastern of early 14th-century date and each of three pointed lights with intersecting tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label and mask-stops; the westernmost window is of late 15th-century date and of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with moulded external reveals. In the S. wall are three windows generally uniform with the corresponding windows in the N. wall, but the middle window has one foliated stop; the late 15th- or early 16th-century doorway, partly restored, has chamfered jambs and moulded four-centred head; below the westernmost window is a blocked 14th-century doorway, showing internally, with a segmental-pointed rear-arch; W. of it is a blocked 'low-side' window. The 13th-century chancel-arch is two-centred and of two chamfered orders, the outer continued down the responds and the inner springing from triple attached shafts with moulded capitals and now terminating on modern corbels; the labels on both faces are moulded and the E. label has mask-stops. Above the arch, on the E. face, is the weathering of the earlier chancel-roof.

The Nave (55¾ ft. by 24 ft.) has, flanking the chancel-arch, the 13th-century responds of the former N. and S. arcades; they each have a half-round attached shaft with a moulded capital and base. The N. wall, W. of the transept, has a re-set late 15th-century window similar to those in the chancel but with a moulded label and head-stops; the re-set late 15th-century archway to the porch has a head of two chamfered orders, the outer segmental-pointed and continued down the jambs, and the inner two-centred and resting on 17th-century moulded corbels; at the W. end of the wall is a recess, at the level of the windows, which may indicate a first intention to extend the nave further W. and to insert a second window. The S. wall has a window and archway and a recess similar to those in the N. wall, but the corbels of the archway have been partly cut away.

The North Transept (20¼ ft. by 18¼ ft.) is mainly of mid 14th-century date. In the E. wall is a partly restored window of four trefoiled ogee lights with net-tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label and head-stops; in the N. wall is a slightly restored late 15th-century window of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with moulded external reveals and label with scrolled stops; the wall has the marks of the earlier and lower-pitched gable. In the W. wall is a 14th-century doorway, now blocked; it has chamfered jambs, two-centred head and label. On the external face of the wall is the lower end of the stone weathering to the roof of the former aisle.

The South Transept (20¼ ft. by 17½ ft.) is uniform in date and detail with the N. transept except that there is no doorway in the W. wall.

The West Tower (14 ft. square) was built in 1634 and is of three stages (Plate 99), finished with a modillioned cornice between the buttresses, an embattled parapet and angle pedestals, supporting obelisks with ball-terminals. The two-centred tower-arch is of two classically moulded orders springing from square responds with moulded imposts. The W. window is of two coupled lights divided and flanked by plain pilasters and with round heads, moulded archivolts and imposts; the W. doorway is flanked by plain pilasters with moulded capitals and has a half-round moulded arch with a plain key-stone; above the doorway is a plain tablet. The second stage has in the W. wall a square-headed window with a moulded stone architrave. The bell-chamber has in each wall a double window similar to, but larger than, the W. window of the ground-stage; above each pair of windows is a lozenge-shaped panel.

The North Porch has a mid 13th-century N. wall and doorway, once forming part of the outer wall of the N. aisle; the doorway has a two-centred arch of three orders, the two outer chamfered and springing from free shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the inner order is rounded and continuous except for a moulded impost; there is a moulded label.

The South Porch is of similar character and date to the N. porch. The mid 13th-century outer doorway has a two-centred arch of three moulded orders with a moulded label and a line of 'dog-tooth' ornament; the jambs have each four free shafts, mostly modern, with moulded capitals and bases; the mouldings are continued round the rounded inner order. In the E. wall is a 17th-century window of one square-headed light.

The Roof of the chancel is modern, except for five repaired 17th-century trusses, with moulded tie-beams, moulded and panelled braces and moulded wall-posts with shaped and moulded pendants. The 17th-century roof of the nave is similar to that of the chancel and has some modern repair; it is of six bays; the wall-plates are carried across the openings into the transepts. The roofs of the transepts are of similar date and detail to that of the nave; they are each of three unequal bays.

Fittings—Bells: five; 2nd, 3rd and 4th by Thomas Norris, 1641; 5th, by the same founder and bearing the names, "Esme, Catherina," for the parents of James, Duke of Lennox, who built the tower. Brackets: In chancel—in E. wall, in form of moulded capital, late 13th-century, now cut back to wall-face. In S. transept—on E. wall, rectangular shelf with 'ball-flower' ornament and a carved head below, early 14th-century. Brass Indent: In W. tower—of figure of man, with inscription-plate, 15th-century. Chairs (Plate 40): In chancel—two, with moulded and twisted legs, front rail, and back-uprights, c. 1700. Chest: In S. transept, plain chest with coped lid, two locks, iron straps and three strap-hinges, all terminating in fleurs-de-lis, 16th-century. Communion Table: with turned legs, moulded top rails with shaped brackets, plain lower rails, c. 1630–40, top modern. Doors: In nave—in N. and S. doorways, two, each of two leaves with moulded panels and nail-studded framing; both doors set in moulded framing, with panelling above, mid 17th-century, partly repaired. Font: formed of two 13th-century capitals with a shaft between, one capital forming bowl and the other the base. Cover, modern except for mid 17th-century turned capping and terminal. Lockers: In chancel—in N. wall, with rebated jambs and trefoiled head, stone division or shelf, late 13th-century. In S. transept—in S. wall, rectangular, with chamfered and rebated reveals, 14th-century. Monuments and Floor-slab. Monuments: In N. transept—in N.E. angle, (1) of Sir Robert [Tyrwhitt 1572] and Elizabeth [Oxenbridge], his wife [1578], altar-tomb of alabaster, S. side divided into three bays by ornamental pilasters, shield in middle bay with arms three tirwhitts for Tyrwhitt quartering a chief indented, the whole impaling a lion with a forked tail and a border, figures of daughter and two swaddled infants in side bays; similar pilasters at W. end of tomb, forming two bays each with a shield bearing (a) the quarterly coat above and (b) the impaled coat; on tomb, recumbent effigies (Plate 103) of man and wife, man in plate-armour with head on mantled helm and lion at feet, legs of man missing; effigy of wife in French cap, long cloak, etc.; further W. (2) alabaster effigy (Plate 103) of lady similar to (1), said to be of Katherine, daughter of the above and wife of Sir Henry D'Arcy, 1567, head on two cushions, hands broken, modern altar-tomb with old alabaster plinth, mid to late 16th-century. Floor-slab: In tower—to William Chapman, 1687. Piscinae: In chancel—double, with two-centred arches (Plate 140) the moulding continued to form an intersecting arcade, free shaft to each jamb and in middle, with moulded capitals and bases, shelves within the recess, at level of abaci of side-shafts, two multifoiled drains, mid 13th-century, re-set. In S. transept—in S. wall, recess with trefoiled head and round drain, 14th-century. Plate: includes cup (Plate 136) of 1627, with lozenge-of-arms and two crests and a cover-paten of about the same date with a crest. Pulpits (Plate 101): two, of oak and of the same general design, set against the two responds of the chancel-arch, each of pentagonal form with a short flight of steps, base having a series of short turned balusters connected by segmental arches and capped by a cornice, the whole continued outwards as a rail to the stairs; upper part of pulpit, each face divided into two bays by turned columns with moulded bases and capitals from which spring segmental arches and the whole finished with an entablature; door similar but with one half-column only, between the bays and with strap-hinges; sounding-board resting on panelled standard at back with two attached pilasters; board finished with an entablature with segmental arches below and turned pendants, boarded soffit with turned pendant in middle, c. 1630–40. Rainwater-heads: On N. and S. walls of chancel—four, three with embattled tops and painted decoration, curved junction with down-pipes, on one of which is a fleur-de-lis; one head (Plate 59) on S. side elaborately shaped, with enriched cornice and cresting, the date 1632, and strap-work ornament on the flanges, junction with down-pipe enriched with acanthus ornament, down-pipe with strap-work ornament and enriched straps with three crests. On the N. wall of N. transept— two shaped heads with embattled tops, the two heads bearing together the date 1634. On N. wall of nave—head with arabesque ornament and painted decoration; on S. wall, with rounded and moulded head. On S. wall of S. transept—two similar to those on N. transept, but with painted decoration and no date, all 17th-century. Scratchings: On tower—on parapet, R.D. 1641; on doorway of bell-chamber, W.H. R.I. 1666; on wall of second stage, E.S. 1653. Screens: Under chancel-arch (Plate 100)—low screen in two parts with opening in middle, plain lower panels and open upper panels, six on each side, with round arches springing from short turned balusters, moulded top rail and turned knobs over alternate balusters and flanking central opening, c. 1630–40. In S. transept— modern screen to vestry incorporating eleven bays of arcading probably from one of the stalls or seats, c. 1630–40. In W. tower—across N.W. angle, curved screen or partition of moulded panelling, 16th-century, cornice and door modern. Seating (Plate 100): In nave—fourteen benches, upper parts of backs with a series of panels formed by attached half-balusters, with moulded top rail, open ends with turned terminals and curved arm-rests, supported by turned balusters, c. 1630–40, made up with some modern work. In N. transept—six benches generally similar to those in nave but with open arcaded backs formed by segmental arches resting on turned balusters, also one front enclosure (Plate 101) of similar design and two benches at E. end of nave, c. 1630–40. Stalls: In chancel—four stalls similar to the benches in the N. transept, but with half-balusters attached to the lower panelling, made up with modern work. Tiles: In N. transept—some red and yellow glazed tiles, probably 17th-century. Miscellanea: In N. transept—part of large crest carved in stone, perhaps part of a 17th-century monument, also part of a round jamb-shaft. Incorporated in litany-desk and lectern, some 17th-century woodwork. Incorporated in churchyard-wall, various worked stones including large shield.

Condition—Good generally, but one crack in E. wall of chancel.


(2). The Castle, gatehouse, now vicarage, and earthworks, 100 yards S.E. of the church. The Gatehouse was the only building actually executed of a large house projected by Sir Gervaise Clifton in 1616. It is of two storeys to the main block and three storeys to the towers; the walls are of red brick with stone dressings and the roofs are covered with tiles and lead. The house consists of a rectangular block with square towers at the four angles. It has a modern hall on the N. front between the towers and modern additions on the E. side.

The building is interesting as a large Jacobean gatehouse. A plan of the proposed house is preserved in the Soane Museum.

The N. front has the large round arch of the gateway now blocked; it has a moulded archivolt, imposts and faceted key-stone and is flanked by Doric columns, standing on pedestals and supporting an entablature with triglyphs and rosettes on the frieze. Above the entablature the lines of the columns are carried up by enriched pilasters capped by balls; the wall is finished with a balustrade, several of the balusters of which are missing. Between the columns and the towers are two-light windows with moulded jambs and mullions, and a window has been inserted above the arch. The towers have stone quoins and moulded stringcourses between the storeys; the windows of the two lower storeys are each of two transomed lights, with moulded jambs and mullions; the windows of the top storey are similar but without transoms.

The S. Front (Plate 102) is similar to the N. front but the pilasters and balustrade, above the entablature, have been removed and replaced by later work; the arch on this side is filled with a modern bay-window. The side elevations have been much altered except for the towers which have the same treatment as on the two fronts.

The Castle at Leighton Bromswold

Interior—The main room, the former gateway, has an original stone fireplace, with stop-moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head; above it is fixed some original panelling to form an overmantel. The main W. room has a fireplace, similar to that just described and also with some refixed panelling above. The modern bay-window, on the S. front, incorporates an original moulded beam with strap-work enrichment. On the first floor, the room in the S.W. tower has an original stone fireplace with stop-moulded jambs and square head.

The Earthworks consist of two arms of a wet moat formerly surrounding the site of the castle-building and a large rectangular enclosure, adjoining it on the S.E. The enclosure, no doubt a garden, is surrounded by a bank and has circular mounds at the S.E. angles. The southern and much larger of the two mounds is 94 ft. in diameter at the base and 13 ft. high. There are traces of banks and ditches to the S.E. and S.W. of the main enclosure.

Condition—Of gatehouse, good.

Monuments (3–9).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled or thatched. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—Good or fairly good.

(3). Green Man Inn, on the S.W. side of the road, 350 yards W.N.W. of the church, has been much altered.

(4). House, now two tenements, 50 yards S.E. of (3).

(5). Cottage, on the N.E. side of the road, 40 yards E. of (4).

(6). House, two tenements, 60 yards S.E. of (5), was re-built in the 18th century except the cross-wing.

(7). House, two tenements, 80 yards S.E. of (6), and (90) yards W.N.W. of the church.

(8). House, on the W. side of Sheep Street, 130 yards N.N.E. of the church, was built c. 1700.

(9). Cottage, 50 yards S.W. of (2).

Little Catworth, see Catworth.

Little Gidding, see Gidding, Little.

Little Paxton, see Paxton, Little.

Little Raveley, see Raveley, Little.

Little Stukeley, see Stukeley, Little.

Long Stow, see Stow, Long.