St. Leonard’s Parish Church is one of the finest medieval churches in the country. It is highlighted with eight others from the Middle Ages in English Parish Churches and Chapels – Architecture, Art and People written by Matthew Byrne and published by Bloomsbury. You can now buy the hardback at just £12, a discount of £8 off the recommended price. See https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/english-parish-churches-and-chapels-9781784422394/
It is a sensitively observed and written book which discusses twenty-six of the best English churches from Saxon to modern times. The selection is good and allows you to see how the special quality of St. Leonard’s fits into the wider national picture.
Unlike the other medieval churches of urban Lancashire, St. Leonard’s was never rebuilt or restored by the Victorians – a consequence of Arts & Crafts architect, Edgar Wood, keeping it under his wing. Its crumbling ancient stonework and eccentric timber belfry are free from the harmful restoration that affected so many other medieval churches.
Similar churches which escaped Victorian restoration often did so because their areas declined economically. Consequently, they also lack the beauty of nineteenth and early twentieth century craftwork and can look quite bare inside. Not so St. Leonard’s. Freed from the costs of restoration, Middleton parishioners created a wonderful legacy of stained glass and other craftwork. The beauty and craftsmanship of Middleton’s medieval church thus extends into the modern era like few others of its size.