The earliest history of the site documents that Hugh de Hatton, son of Richard, Lord of Hatton, was fighting in the Crusades. He was captured in Jerusalem and chained to a wall, where he remained for seven years. Hugh reported that one night, in a dream, he was visited by St Leonard, patron saint of captives, and, when he awoke, his shackles had fallen from him. He hastened back to Warwick, in the early 12th Century, and upon his return dedicated 3000 acres to the building of a priory, dedicated to St Leonard. St Leonard’s is now the only existing part of that priory.
The story of Hugh de Hatton and the Crusades is documented in a magnificent stained glass window, placed within Wroxall Abbey. Visitors to the site can view the stained glass window, situated within the stairwell of the mansion house.
The Priory of St Leonard also known as the Monastery of St. Leonard at Wroxall was founded in 1141 AD according to the rules of St. Benedict; the first Prioress’s name being either Ernborow or Erneburga. Walter de Maydenflon Bishop of Worcester dedicated the high altar of the Priory Church in 1141 AD. Twenty-two years later in 1163 a charter was granted to Wroxall Priory by Pope Alexander III giving the Prioress, Sabina, wide powers over the whole of the Wroxall Estates and parts of Hatton. King John also granted Wroxall a charter in 1199 AD.
In 1501 Isabella Shakespeare a great aunt to William Shakespeare was Prioress. Shakespeare’s grandfather, Richard and his family were members here (1500’s) and Richard was bailiff to the Church in 1534.
Erneburga, occurs 1141
Sabina, occurs 1163
Avice or Amice, occurs 1270-2
Agnes de Kynewarton, occurs 1284
Sibilla D’Abetot, elected 1285, resigned 1311
Agnes de Alesbury, elected 1311
Isabel de Clinton, died 1325
Agnes de Broy, elected 1325, resigned 1339
Isabel de Fokerham, elected 1339, resigned 1351
Alice de Clinton, elected 1351, resigned 1356
Joan Russell, elected 1356
Horabile de Aylesbury, appointed 1361
Alice de Aylesbury, resigned 1425
Isolda Walshe, 1425-31
Isabel Astley, elected 1431
Isolda, occurs 1489
Isabel, occurs 1501
Jocosa Brome, resigned 1525
Agnes Little, 1525-36
Church of St. Leonard, Wroxall Abbey
With the separation of the Church from Rome, Henry VIII sold the lands to Robert Burgoyne and John Scudamore after they had destroyed the Priory and Church adjacent to the present Church of St Leonard. The Lady Chapel was preserved as the Parish Church of Wroxall and is now the church you see today. An Elizabethan house was built mainly from the accumulated rubble. Some of the ruins of the larger Church can be seen across the present driveway. Chaplains (ministers) were appointed from about 1538. The Estate took the title of Abbey (meaning Church of the House) i.e. Wroxall Abbey. The three bells in the Church date from 1663-1664. One bell remains in operation. In 1713, Sir Christopher Wren the famous Architect purchased the estate for his son. While Wren is buried at St Paul’s Cathedral, his wife and family are buried in the graveyard at the Church of St Leonard. His coat of arms is displayed on the south wall of the church. It is believed that Sir Christopher Wren constructed the red brick bell tower during the same time as his construction of the Crinkly Crankly Walled Garden that still stands next to the Church. The last historic family to own the estate were the Dugdales who purchased the estate in 1861.
Their successors still own the farms and buildings in the village of Wroxall. They demolished the Elizabethan house and built the present Mansion House in 1865.
In 1936 the Mansion House became the Wroxall Abbey Girls School – with facilities for boarding and day pupils, with around 150 pupils aged between 9 and 18 years, together with 12 full time and 15 part time staff. The proprietors leased 27 acres of the property, including the Church. Ministers continued to be appointed during this period. The school (and the church) closed in 1995.
2001 – Hotel
The Estate was under new management as a hotel, and permitted worship to be re-established in the Church in 2001. The hotel management renamed it Wren’s Chapel in memory of its former illustrious owner. A large Free Methodist Church in Solihull, agreed to provide ordained ministers to continue the Christian witness in Warwickshire. The ministers appointed at that time belonged to the Free Methodist Church denomination, but Wren’s Chapel was registered as an independent congregation. In 2009, its ministers were re-ordained, under the Order of St Leonard (OSL) and no longer connected with the Free Methodists. The Church separately became the seat of the Bishop of OSL, Bishop David. In 2011 it became known as Wren’s Cathedral.
In August 2019, after nearly 20 years’ trading, the hotel sadly fell into unexpected administration and, overnight, the private estate was secured and the Church was locked. The Church ministers were permitted access for the purposes of retrieving ministry property, but the congregation became without a home.
7 months later, and with lockdown announced, attempts to renegotiate access to the Church ceased, as the world closed its doors. During 2020, various new opportunities presented - and our Ministers maintained contact as soon as restrictions allowed.
With new estate management firmly established, our Ministers were delighted to establish contact, which led to a wonderful accord with the hotel’s team. Part of the discussions reflected the unanimous desire of the Estate operators for the Church to return to its original name – The Church of St Leonard – and welcome back the community. We are grateful for their hospitality and vision for the local community.
By early 2023, the ministry team had made all necessary arrangements to commence worship and reopened as an independent Christian congregation in March 2023.
STAINED CLASS WINDOWS
The description of the windows was compiled by Colin Smith, a member of the original Wren’s Cathedral congregation.
Stained glass has been used in church windows for many hundreds of years and the method of its production can be traced back even further. The earliest that stained glass is known to have been used in England is the seventh century although there is none now in existence from before the twelfth century. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the use of stained glass had become widespread in England, with much of it being imported from France and Germany. In the mid sixteenth century, however, the Reformation which was begun by King Henry VIII and continued by his successors led to the removal and destruction of a great deal of stained glass with religious subject matter. It was replaced with either plain glass or glass with relatively uncontroversial subjects such as heraldry.
The stained glass that we now see in the Church of St Leonard dates mainly from the refurbishment of the church by the Dugdale family in the mid nineteenth century, who aimed to restore the chapel to how it might have appeared prior to the Reformation. Some restored fragments of much earlier glass, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, have been used in some of the windows, particularly the figures of the saints and the Virgin Mary which are prominent features of the East window. The artwork includes scenes and characters from the New Testament (although only one from the Old Testament).
Some of the early Christian saints worshipped by the medieval Church and various heraldic and other designs are associated with the previous owners of the Wroxall estate.
EAST WINDOW (ALTAR)
The main figures from left to right, who are illustrated in red, blue and gold and all of whom are identified in Latin in Gothic lettering, are:
· St Leonard (466-559 AD), who was born a Frankish nobleman and who later became a monk. A large number of English churches are dedicated to him, as are also many continental European churches. Traditionally, he is the patron saint of prisoners and the sick. Wroxall Priory was dedicated to St Leonard by its founder, Sir Hugh de Hatton, who had himself been taken prisoner in the Crusades and had miraculously been released by the intervention of the saint. In accordance with tradition, St Leonard is shown with chains in his right hand.
· St Benedict (480-547 AD). The Italian abbot who founded the Benedictine order of monks to which Wroxall Priory originally belonged. He is shown dressed as a bishop and carrying a crosier, the symbol of a bishop’s authority.
· The Virgin Mary and Child.
· St Scholastica (died c.543 AD), the twin sister of St Benedict, who is shown dressed in a nun’s blue habit. Little is known of her life.
· St Edmund (840-870 AD). The ruler from 855 AD of the old English kingdom of East Anglia, he was killed by Danish invaders in the major wave of Viking invasions on the East coast of England, which began around 865 AD. According to tradition, he was martyred tor his refusal to renounce Christianity. The arrow in his right hand is a symbol of his martyrdom. St Edmund was for a time the patron saint of England until the adoption of St George in the fourteenth century.
· The lights immediately below the main figures illustrate, in scenes drawn mainly from St Luke’s Gospel, events associated with the birth of Jesus. From left to right:
· The Annunciation by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. The Latin inscription of the angel’s greeting reads ave Maria gratia plena (“Hail Mary, you have found favour with God”).
· The Virgin Mary together with her relative Elizabeth. In the background is a scroll inscribed magnificat anima (the song of praise to God by Mary recorded in Luke’s Gospel).
· The Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph, kneeling before the newly born infant Jesus in the manger. The heads of two oxen are also visible.
· The dedication of the infant Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and the Virgin Mary; and six unidentified figures, looking towards the centre of the windows with raised hands.
· The eight small lights at the top of the window above portray angels and scenes from Christ’s Passion.
· On the far left stands an armoured St Michael and, on the far right, St Thomas, both looking towards the centre of the window.
· The five small lights at the bottom are hidden from view, but also portray symbols of Christ’s Passion.
The North Wall has five windows, all in decorated fifteenth century style. Starting from the window closest to the East window (Altar) these are:
In the chancel. a window of three main lights. This window shows three early Christian martyrs from the late third and early fourth centuries, who became popular in the Middle Ages although the historical basis for the legends associated with them remains uncertain.
Whilst they are not named, the symbols with which they are portrayed enable them to be identified as:
· on the left, St Margaret of Antioch (died c. 304 AD) one of the most popular saints of Anglo-Saxon England. According to legend, she was swallowed by the Devil in the form of a dragon, but he was choked by the cross she was carrying and he spat her out unharmed. The saint is shown rising from the belly of a dragon, which she is attacking with the cross held in her right hand.
· in the centre, St Barbara (died c. 303 AD), who was according to legend, imprisoned as a young woman by her heathen father who feared that her beauty might attract a marriage suitor and that he would lose her. Whilst imprisoned, she converted to the Christian faith and was put to death by her father as a result. The tower which is shown in her hand is a traditional symbol of her imprisonment.
· on the right, St Catherine of Alexandria (died c. 310 AD). Condemned by the Romans to die for her faith on the spiked wheel portrayed, the wheel is said to have been destroyed by a miracle at her touch. She was subsequently beheaded.
· The remaining figures in this window have not been identified.
· To the left, and immediately above the choir stalls is a further window of three lights, decorated with patterns. It is not known to what these designs relate.
On the other side of the screen and adjacent to the pulpit is a window dominated by the figure of St David (542-601 AD), abbot and patron saint of Wales; he is shown holding a book in his right hand and a bishop’s crosier in his left. He is flanked on his left and right by two kneeling figures facing inwards. Immediately underneath is the coat of arms of the Dugdale family, also shown in the west window.
On its left, a further window of three lights is dominated by the figures of three of the Apostles, these being (left to right):
· St Bartholomew, shown traditionally holding a knife in his left hand.
· St James the Great (also shown in the west window), here shown with his left hand raised in blessing and his right holding a staff on which hangs a pouch with a shell
· St John, to whom authorship of St John’s Gospel, the letters of John and the Book of Revelation is sometimes attributed.
· The Virgin Mary and Child are shown immediately beneath St James.
· The coats of arms at the base of the window are, on the left and the right, those of the de Montfort family. The coat of arms in the centre is that of an unknown family.
The main lights of the window nearest to the main door show, from left to right:
· St Peter, carrying the keys of the Kingdom in his left hand and with his right arm raised in blessing.
· John the Baptist carrying a staff with a banner inscribed agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”).
· St Paul, shown with a Gospel in his left hand and a sword in his right hand.
Immediately underneath, again from left to right, can be seen:
· The Annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. The prophecy by Isaiah in the Old Testament of the Virgin birth
· The Virgin Mary
· At the foot of this window are coats of arms of, from left to right, the Zouch family, the Dugdale family and the Hugh de Hatton Emblem
The west window, in 15th century decorated style, is dominated by the three figures, from left to right, of:
· King Edward the Confessor (1003-1066 AD, King of England 10421066 AD), famous for his religious devotion and canonized as a saint in AD 1161. He is shown wearing a crown and carrying a royal banner in his left hand;
· James the Apostle, also known as St James the Great. The Gospels record his calling by Jesus as one of the first disciples and the Book of Acts records his death as one of the first Christian martyrs on the orders of’ Herod Agrippa (in around 44 AD).
· Wulfstan (10081095 AD), who was born near Leamington Spa, was Bishop of Worcester from 1062 AD, and the founder of the present day Worcester Cathedral illustrated by the model church he is shown holding. Wroxall Priory was until 1913 part of the diocese of Worcester.
· Underneath are scenes of the kneeling figure of St Peter and Christ, the Transfiguration of Christ on the mountain as recorded in the Gospels, and the Crusades.
At the bottom of the west window are,
· from left to right, the coats of arms of Edward the Confessor, the Dugdale family and St Wulfstan.
· The inscription in English is dedicated to James Dugdale (18131876 AD) who acquired the Wroxall estate in 1861 and oversaw much of the restoration of the Church. He is also commemorated in a tablet on the south wall (see below).
The single window in the nave is in Early English style and portrays:
· St Thomas, one of the Apostles, who is mentioned several times in the Gospels, most famously for his doubts on the Resurrection.
· St Martha (died c. 80 AD) is believed to have been the sister of Mary Magdalene and the brother of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus as told in John’s Gospel.
· St Anne is by tradition the mother of the Virgin Mary, and she is shown standing next to the Virgin Mary as a young girl.
The dedication reads “To the glory of God and in loving memory of Thomas and Martha Anne Crowe” (who appear to have been connected with the Dugdale family).
· Finally, in the chancel (left of the organ) is a 19th century window with three main lights. The Latin word perserverando (“by persevering”), the motto of the Dugdale family, can be seen within the ribbon scrolls.
WALL FIXTURES IN THE CHURCH OF ST LEONARD
Below, in abbreviated form, are the inscriptions of the installed plaques on the walls of the Cathedral. These notes show the fixtures starting from the left hand side of the church looking at the Altar window.
It should be noted that it was the tradition of the Wren family at that time for the first born male of each generation to be named, Christopher.
Immediately below the Altar window
· A series of the four Apostles, in carved stone, with two guardian angels in between representing Matthew, Mark Luke and John. In the centre depicts the crucified Christ with a woman either side.
Immediately to the left of the Altar window.
Rev Philip Wren MA
To the memory of Rev Philip Wren MA Rector of Ipsley & vicar of Tanworth
Between first and second windows
Christopher and Mary Wren
also Thomas and Matthew sons
A nearby vault lye the bodies of Christopher Wren and Mary his wife. He died 21st July 1771 aged 60. Mary died 12th March 1773 aged 59. Near the place also interned the bodies of two sons Thomas died 22nd January 1762 age 25 years. Matthew died 13th February 1770 in his 22nd year.
Between second and third windows.
Christopher and Anne Wren
Memory of Christopher Robert Wren DCL died March 4th 1828 aged 52. Also Anne his fourth wife died 4th December 1852 aged 73 years.
.Between third and fourth windows
Miss K H Carter
A Tapestry in memory of Miss K H Carter Headmistress Wroxall Abbey Girls School 1971-1980. Created by the Girls of the Wroxall Abbey School
Between the fourth and fifth windows
Major Herbert Crowe & Emmeline Dugdale
Major Herbert Crowe Dugdale 13th Lancers, born April 3rd 1860. Died March 15th 1909. Emmeline his wife born May 14th 1859 died March 20th March 1909.
Bell Tower Wall
Joanna Maria Wren
Sacred to the memory of Joanna Maria daughter and coheiress of Christopher Robert Wren. Died 30th May 1830
Tapestry below the South Window. Created by the girls of Wroxall Abbey School to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Wall of vestry adjacent to the side door
Christopher & Martha Wren
Near this place lie the remains of Christopher Wren. Died 10th December 1797 aged 52. Also his wife Martha. Died in August 1779
In memory of Christopher Wren of Perry Barr. Died 1st May 1842 aged 81 years.
Coat of Arms of Sir Christopher Wren Architect and owner of Wroxall Abbey 1713
Immediately behind the screen in the sanctuary
James Broughton & Laura Dugdale
Beloved memory of James Broughton Dugdale. Born 19th September 1855. Died 14th January 1927. Also his wife Laura Jane. Born 9th March 1857. Died 11th September 1934.
Right to the organ
Large tablet in Latin dedicated to Anne Burgoyne daughter of John Robinson. Died February 1693 aged 51.
Right side of altar in small chapel area.
James & Mary Louisa Dugdale
In memory of James Dugdale eldest son of John Dugdale. Born 20th March 1813. Died 24th April 1876 and Mary Louisa
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