This lovely little church, also part of the LAMP Group, has served the small village of Little Linford for centuries and continues to be a focus of life there. We meet twice a month at 9.30 on Sunday mornings, when the pattern of our services is in traditional Church of England style. We have a membership of 20-25 regulars, coming from both the village and surrounding areas. Much of the life and work of St Leonard’s is shared with St Mary’s, Haversham, as the two churches are run as one parish.
The tiny church of St Leonard’s in Little Linford dates from 13th/14th century – the chancel, nave and bellcote were built early in the 13th century; a north aisle was built at the same time but was subsequently destroyed and the arcade blocked; the south aisle was added early in 14th century.
Early in its existence, before the Reformation, the church became a Chapel of Ease for Tickford Abbey in Newport Pagnell. Somehow it survived when the Abbey was suppressed in 1524.
The Little Linford manor estate was sold to John Knapp of London in 1684 and remained in the family’s ownership until the 1970s. John Knapp repaired the church and in the chancel he made a vault for the interment of himself and his family.
The south aisle was rebuilt in the 18th or 19th century, using the old materials; then the chancel was largely rebuilt late in the 19th Century, and the stained glass window was given by the widow of Moses Margoliouth, a vicar of some repute, who died suddenly in office in 1881. A book on the life of this remarkable man by Peter Jones – Moses: A History of Revd Margoliouth – was published in 1999 by Minerva Press.
In 1900 the population of Little Linford was 76; in 1909 there was a choir of 21 under Revd E R Sill. But when the Little Linford Manor estate fell into disrepair, the church too was in a sad state. By 1968 there were only 5 people living in the village and the congregation was usually only 2. The Knapp family then sold the estate together with the title Lord of the Manor, and by the early 1970s there were plans to declare the church redundant.
A strong fight was mounted by the then Rector of Haversham and Vicar of Little Linford (then two separate parishes), the Revd Bernard Mather, and the remaining villagers. A committee was formed consisting of Revd Mather, Mrs Jesse Cook – Church Warden, Mr Baskerville (a former bank manager of Wolverton Lloyds Bank and treasurer of both churches), and Mrs Collyer who became secretary of the restoration Fund. They applied for donations, grants, etc, after the architect had estimated that it would cost £2,000 just to make it weatherproof, little else. The parishioners were then only 2, but much support was given by locals, including the Geary family, and funds were raised from newspaper collections and clothes sales. Bucks Historic Churches Trust visited on a pouring wet day with the rain dripping in and decided that the church might be made redundant, demolished or used for something else.
The committee decided to fight, foreseeing that there would be new houses eventually and the church would be needed – how right they were! Although the church was declared redundant, it was reprieved on condition that it became a daughter church of Haversham and Bucks Historic Churches Trust gave £100. The most urgent repairs were done little by little and a thanksgiving service for the retention and partial restoration was held in August 1973. By the late 70s the lodges were repaired, new houses built and the Godber family moved in Hall Farm – and Little Linford breathed again after a real struggle to service.
Since then, the sterling efforts of the congregation and local people have seen many ambitious and long-lasting repairs and improvements carried out, including a new roof, windows and repairs to the ancient Bellcote where the small 14th and 15th Century bells still chime. Now the church pays its way and its parish share! The maximum capacity of the church is 92, and today Evensong services and special Harvest and Carol services often see the church close to capacity.
Visitors often remark on this tranquillity, and we are grateful to those before us who saved it from redundancy.