Renovation of St Leonard's Church Roof, August 1938

Geoff Cordingley

From Bengeo Parish Church Magazine, August 1938


This ancient church, after considerable restoration, was re-opened on Sunday afternoon, July 3rd, by the Archdeacon of St. Albans.  The building was crowded and a large number, unable to find accommodation within the building, heard the service relayed in the churchyard by means of an amplifier.

The service, attended by the Mayor of Hertford and the members of the Council and officials of the Corporation, was conducted by the Archdeacon of St. Albans assisted by the Rector.

The Lessons were read by the Patron, Mr. T. Abel Smith.

Other clergy present were: Rev. G. F. Baxter, Rural Dean of Hertford and Rector of Essendon; Rev. N. T. Gardner, Rector of St. Andrews, Hertford; and the Rev. J. Laker, Vicar of Christ Church, Bengeo and Chaplain to the Mayor.

During the service the Archdeacon dedicated the font and blessed the alter ornaments and other gifts for the furnishing o the church.

The Archdeacon, in his address, said: “My first word to you this afternoon must be one of real congratulation and thanks on behalf of the whole diocese to you who have made possible the restoration of this beautiful little church.

“I know that some of you dreamed a dream of what this church might be if it could be restored.  I know how you have given of your substance, time and labours to make this possible.

“Thanks to those, and the skill and care of the architect and builder, the dream has come true.  ‘This little gem of a church’ as it has been described, has been restored and furnished for worship to Almighty God.”

The Archdeacon went on to suggest that they ought to be able to find something in the church that they could not find in the other churches in the town.  He meant that sense of unbroken fellowship with bygone scenes of the centuries that have passed.

“There is something almost awe-inspiring  in the fact that this church has stood for 800, may be 900, or even 1,000 years,“ he said.

The Archdeacon pointed out that at the Diocesan Festival, the Archbishop of Canterbury referred to the St. Albans and Canterbury Cathedrals as the mother churches of their respective diocese.  These churches had personalities of their own.

He was sure they would find the same thing here.  They were used to speaking of a church as a mother church.  “I hope you will not think me irreverent in suggesting we might describe St. Leonard’s as a grandmother-a grand old lady, small and dignified,” he said.

“I could not help but feel the presence of the past here,” said the Archdeacon referring to a previous visit he had paid to the church.   “Not the dead past.  I was almost conscious of  the presence of those who had worshipped here in bygone centuries.

“It has been said that the best cure for drooping spirits is to read history, and I am sure that is true.

“When you come here kneel down and say a prayer and think of the history of the church in Hertford,  of those who are not dead, but tremendously alive, who still worship, as we worship, only more worthily in heaven.

“Surely we must believe that not only the great saints-but the men and women unknown to us by name who worshipped here-still remember beyond the veil.”

He urged all present to take heart and “run the path that the ages set before them”- to rally against sin that so easily besets them.  “So I say thank God that we have been able to restore this church.  Learn to love, reverence, and use it, and encourage with the sense of the past go forward in a new chapter of the history of this church to fight the fight for Christianity against secularism and for good against evil.”- With acknowledgements to The Hertfordshire Mercury.

The collection at this service amounted to £8. 15s. 3d.

Ref: D/P17/29/15

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