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Kent Past

The History of Kent

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Leigh (pronounced lie) comes from the Old English ‘lēah’ meaning a ‘forest, wood, clearing’; therefore, a ‘wood/clearing’. The Textus Roffensis chronicles Leigh as Leaga.

Leigh parish church is a Grade: II listed building, dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, and dates to the 13th century, with additions and extensions in the following 100 years. A fire towards the end of the 15th century destroyed much of the church, resulting in a rebuilt tower of only nine feet with a timber belfry. In 1636, John Wilnar cast and hung two bells, with his son Henry adding a tenor four years later. Samuel knight completed the five in 1731 with two trebles. In 1797, Edward Hasted described St Mary’s church as a ‘small mean building without a steeple’. Two architects carried out the restorations of 1860 and 1861. Charles Baily completed the tower and most of the walls while George Devey constructed a turret to the chancel. G F Bodley remodelled the chancel between 1889 and 1892. Mears and Stainbank added a treble in 1931 to make six bells.

The railway did not reach Leigh until ‘Leigh Halt’ – renamed ‘Lyghe Halt’ in 1917 and ‘Leigh’ in 1969 - opened in 1911, on the South Eastern Railway’s, Redhill to Tonbridge Line.

History of Leigh