Old St Leonard


The parish of St Leonard was formed in 1873.

The church was built in Northgate. The architects were Evans and Jolly, Nottingham, and the building cost £4,000. The competition for the building design was judged by Sir G.G. Scott.

It had free seats for 600 people.

A Lady Chapel was proposed in 1904 but not built until 1921 when a Memorial Chapel was erected at a cost of £250 in memory of those who died in the First World War.

The red tiled floors in the aisles were removed in 1963 and replaced by faced concrete. In 1963 the chancel floor was renewed in memory of E.E. Connolly, a former churchwarden, Mrs Connolly and Grace Kathleen Robinson, and the chancel was re-decorated in 1963.

By the early 20th century St Leonards had become High Church under the Rev E.F. Spanton (1901-7). He preferred to be known as ‘Father’ and introduced Anglo-Catholic forms of service, to the annoyance of some parishioners.

A subsequent vicar, the Rev A. Parkinson, attracted the attention of the Kensitites, followers of Jen Kensit who were anti-Pope, anti-ritual and anti-all embellishments. In 1920 the Kensitites removed some of the altar brasses and crucifixes and only returned them when the vicar and some of the congregation declared publicly in the Market Place that they were loyal Anglicans. The Rev A. Parkinson had previously been curate of St Mary’s, and was a popular figure in Newark.

In 1966, the vicar, the Rev R. Lacey, suggested that a new church was needed ‘over the bridge’ to serve the expanding housing estates on the northern side of the town. Additional factors which weighted in favour of the re-location were the problem of heating the old church (the Memorial Chapel had been closed off with polythene sheets so that two electric wall heaters could be used in winter), and the problem of heating the vicarage.

Subsequently, Canon E. Kingsnorth, while acting as Priest-in-Charge, and his successor the Rev B.H. Lewers, Team Rector, carried the project through. Newark and District Council purchased St Leonard’s vicarage and garden, the church and church and church hall, and agreed to provide a new site for a vicarage and church/community centre adjacent to Yorke Drive. The Rev A Read was appointed in 1976 as priest-in-charge of St Leonard’s and lived in a temporary vicarage in Winthorpe Road.

The furniture and fittings of the Victorian church were purchased by many denominations across the country when they went on sale in 1978. Few items were retained for the new church.

Newark and Sherwood Council purchased the Victorian building for demolition. During the closing service on 5 November 1978 some 300 people processed for a mile from ‘the Victorian splendour of the Northgate church’, past two previous sites of St Leonard's Hospital to the ‘modern simplicity’ of the present church. The new church was then dedicated by the Bishop of Southwell.

St Leonard's church was finally demolished in 1979.