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The History of Your Parish Church
Scan of original cover showing illustration of St.Leonards Church

Sometime before 1600 there was built the 'Mancion House, the Chappelle and the Almshouse' at a cost of about £2,000.
The Manstead Hundred (1912) states 'the tower dates from the end of the l6th Century, and the window of 3 flat pointed lights is probably coeval with the tower. The belfry contains single lights'.
It is considered that the 'Mancion' House is the house opposite the Church known as Heath House or Heath Manor House from 1600 onwards, and at that time occupied by the Welles family whose monuments are in the Chancel of All Saints Parish Church, Leighton Buzzard, the Parish Church of Leighton Buzzard, which then included all the hamlets and chapelries. The Almshouse site is not known, and of the original Chapel only the tower remains.

The Chapel remained private property although it is certain it was used by the inhabitants of Heath and Reach for worship, for on the 12th August 1646 the committee for plundered Ministers confirmed an order of the sequestration committee of 10th May 1644 for £30 out of the tithes Leighton Buzzard "for the maintenance of such a godly and orthodox divine as should by the assembly of divines be approved of to officiate the cure of the Chappell of Heath and Reach aforesaid".

All the property was now owned by Richard Wigg, and the bell which he installed bears the inscription, 'Richard Wigg, Gentman Owner of Me, 1695'. There are also two pewter alms dishes inscribed, 'I do belonge to the Chappelle of Heath and Reach, 1697'.
Upon the death of Richard Wigg all the property passed to his daughter, Elizabeth.

May 31st - First marriage recorded in the Chapel.

The Gift
It was Elizabeth Wigg, now married to John Frank, who in 1705 surrendered by the rod at the court of the Lord of the Manor 'her little Chappell and cell' as a gift to the inhabitants of the hamlets of Heath and Reach, their heirs and successors, together with the land it stands upon, with access through her close, providing that they kept it in good repair for ever and ever.

In the Chapel of Heath and Reach is Divine Service and a sermon once every Lord's Day for which the inhabitants of that hamlet contribute to the payment of a Minister.

A William Hanson was licenced for Heath, Billington and Stanb ridge.

Burial registers commence.

A Chapel and Chancel 72ft. long by 20ft. wide containĀ ing a pulpit, reading desk, one bell and Prayer Book, together with a chest and pulpit cushion, without any rights whatsoever. - Terrier of Chapel of Heath and Reach.

Heath and Reach was made a separate ecclesiastical district and the Rev. Martin Benson became the first perpetual Curate.
On the 30th June the Lord Bishop of Lincoln consecrated the Chapel and the Chapel yard as there was no record of an earlier consecration.
The Rev. Edward Maltby, Prebend of Leighton Buzzard and later Bishop of Durham, 'endowed out of his own proper monies laid out and invested the sum of £50, and the vicar of Leighton Buzzard relinquished to the Curate of the said Chapel the small tithes arising with the Chapelry, that the said Chapelry may be eligible for augmentation by the Governors of Queen Anne's bounty' - Trust Deeds.

At the Easter Vestry the parishioners decided to enlarge the Church. The parishioners subscribed £223-13-6d and borrowed £300 by exchequer loan to meet the cost. The seating capacity was increased from 140 to 250. The work was undertaken by parishoners as the Churchwardens' accounts testify, and the names are still common in the district.

The Workers Mr. CookSandcart with 2 horses
Mr. FranklinStonecart with 5 horses
Mr. BrincklowSandcart with 3 horses
Mr. TompkinsStonecart with 3 horses
Thos. Sayell1 load of poles from Leighton Buzzard
Mr. SwinsteadSandcart with 2 horses 2 carts and 4 horses
Thos. Sayell1 load of wood to sawpits
1 load of planks to sawpits
Mrs Stevens1 day timber cart
Mrs ChamberlainBrick and stone cart
Mr. Goodman2 teames of horses - brick cart
Elizabeth Knight, widow, gave land for a burial place and glebe, on which the 'old vicarage' was built. The parishioners subscribed £81 to enclose and level the burial ground which is the old churchyard, now closed.

The parishoners decided to build the apse by voluntary subscription. The Benefice became a Vicarage - London Gazette, July 24th 1866.

The parishioners built the south porch by voluntary subscription.



I am glad to commend this persuasive appeal for the church of St. Leonard.
When I read of the labours of the parishioners in 1828 I wondered how many days Mr. Cook and Mr. Franklin and Mr. Brincklow worked with their horses.
We can measure our giving in terms of what we earn in a day. We can tithe what we earn in a given period and send one-tenth to the Church. Here are sensible ways of maintaining the standards set by our forefathers. I hope the Appeal will be widely and generously supported and may God bless the work of restoration.
Dear Parishioners,
We hope that you have been interested in the history of your Parish Church, forwe are appealing to the parishioners of Heath and Reach to give generously for the restoration of the 'Little Chappelle' - our Parish Church of St. Leonards. For we are all 'successors' to the inhabitants of 1705 to whom the 'Little Chappelle' was first given by Elizabeth Frank. It is now necessary to raise over £3000 for the restoration of the building and its contents - a large sum, but not so great a task as the people of 1828 faced. In faith that you will respond generously, some work has already been commenced.

Many of you have responsibilities in respect of your own Chapels and Churches and we shall understand if you feel unable to help the cause of St.Leonards. Nevertheless you will remember us in your prayers, and for this we thank you.

Should you wish to make a gift to the restoration fund, we are enclosing an envelope and this may be given to the Church representative who will be visiting you. Alternatively, if you prefer to take a collecting box for your home, this can be provided. May God bless you all.

Yours sincerely,
A. E. SMITH & M. F. KEEF, churchwardens; W. E. BARROW, Vicar; J. McGREGOR, Chairman of the Appeal Committee