St Clement’s is very much of the Anglo-Catholic tradition in the Church of England. The Sacraments are very much at the heart of what we do – and indeed who we are.
Our Patron Saint: St Clement I, Pope and Martyr St Clement, to whom our church is dedicated, was a Roman citizen of noble birth. Whilst in Jerusalem, he was baptized by St Peter, and is mentioned by St Paul as one of his “fellow labourers” (Philippians 4:3). Ultimately, he became Bishop of Rome, the third after St Peter. His distinguishing emblem refers to the manner of his martyrdom under the Roman Emperor Trajan (c.100AD): For his faith in Jesus Christ, St Clement was bound to a heavy anchor and thrown into the sea. Saint Clement is one of the patron saints of fishermen, so it is appropriate that he should be Patron Saint of Leigh, with the town’s long seafaring tradition and cockling industry.
A Brief History
Canon John Bundock writes rather romantically, “The crowning glory of Old Leigh is St Clement’s Church standing on its incomparable position with its massive tall tower overlooking the estuary, a beacon for those at sea and a sentinel over the village community.” There may well have been an earlier place of worship on the present site (we note that the register of Rectors recalls the first as in post from 1248), although nothing is now known of it.
The oldest part of the building comprises the present north aisle, dating from c.1400. Legend has it that the stones from which the church is built were taken from the ruins of Hadleigh Castle some way to the west, but this is wholly apocryphalInto the north wall of the present building are set some stone steps leading up to the long since removed Rood Screen. The ceiling of the north aisle seems to resemble the inverted hull of a ship, and it is thought that the boat builders of medieval Leigh may have constructed it.
RectorsIt is remarkable that in the whole of the 20th Century, only four Rectors served the parish. Canon Robert Stuart King succeeded his father in 1892 and served until his death in 1950. He was followed by Father John Head, Rector until 1973. Father Raymond Smith then served until 1986, and was succeeded by Father Stephen Jones who served until 2001. The present Rector is Fr Kenneth Havey.
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