St. Mary The Virgin Church, Leake

This church is the one that you pass at high speed when travelling south on the A19. It stands majestically on its own within its graveyard whilst you go sailing passed, too fast to stop!

This we had done several times before when returning from other trips ‘up north’, but not this time. I planned this stop without telling the rest of my travelling companions so there was some surprised mutterings of ‘where’s he going’ from the back of the mini bus when I turned off the road, but they all though it was worth it when they saw the church.

Although not mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, there could have been a church standing on or near this site as a recognisable piece of Saxon cross, possibly from the original church yard cross, can be seen built into the square and squat Norman tower.

Inside the church is a wonderful pair of bench ends for the choir stalls in the chancel. These are thought to have come from Bridlington Priory during the Dissolution and bear the rebus form of names of the Prior and Sub-Prior of Bridlington in the year 1519. The Prior’s name was John Hampton. ‘John” was easy to convey in picture-form by the statue of St. John the Evangelist with his Gospel. The ‘Hamp’ part was not so easy, so the letters had to be carved. But the “ton” could be reproduced in a form dear to the medieval mind-a fat barrel known as “tun”. So we have John standing on a scroll reading HAMP, and below that a tun-total, John Hampton. The Sub-Prior’s name was Peter Hardy and again “Peter” was easy! – the crossed keys of St. Peter – but no symbol could be found for “Hardy’, so it had to be carved in letters, HARDE. Bridlington Priory Church has copies of these wonderful bench-ends, carved by Thompson, “the Mouse Man” of Kilburn, but still sighs for the originals.

The village of Leake eventually shrunk to nothing, possibly due to the Black Death taking its toll on the inhabitants, or the working people left in search of work. What ever happened here, we will possibly never know, but the church is a legacy from that time that is well worth a visit.