A Brief History of the Church
- The Church of Saint Nicholas at Leeds was already well-established in
Anglo-Saxon times, the current nave being just a little larger than the
entire Saxon church. When the Normans arrived they made major
changes, including the massive twelfth century tower, one of the
county's best half-dozen examples. The Normans' Doomsday Survey of
1086 recorded nearby one of only three vineyards then in the whole of
In 1492 John Brandon bequeathed money for reparation of the church
steeple and 260 years later Edward Harrison the Curate wrote peevishly
that -the steeple was till'd, the church adorned, the chancel enriched
and the curate impoverish't.
Inside the tower the ringing chamber has seen regular strenuous
activity for centuries. The ten bells are housed in an ancient oak
frame, one of the earliest surviving ten-bell frames in the UK.
The youngest six bells are 256 years old; three are dated 1751; the
biggest and oldest, the tenor, was made in 1617 by Joseph Hatch, a local
bellfounder of great fame. The tower houses a 277 year-old clock, also
made locally. The church organ is a young instrument by comparison,
built and installed in 1833 and paid for by public subscription at £399.
The nave's crown-post roof dates from the fifteenth century; let into
the nave's floor are two brasses, one commemorating William Merden who
died in 1509, the other Katherine Lambe who died in 1514. The
chandelier was donated by John Saxby, who died in 1778.
Saint Nicholas boasts a most impressive rood screen. This is a finely
carved wooden wall, separating nave from chancel and extending across
the entire width of the church. It contains eleven bays and three
Some of the church's silver plate is on display in the chapel
at Leeds Castle, one flagon weighing 1340 grams and dated 1750. The
ancient registers and other records can be seen at the
Kentish Studies in Maidstone.
The churchyard is extensive, running to four acres. Its natural
meadow grasses are attractive at any time but excel in spring when
naturalised bulbs of snowdrop and narcissus produce spectacular,
successive swathes of colour.