Middleton Parish Church of St Leonard is said to date from around 1100 but is believed to be on the site of a much earlier anglo-saxon version or possibly even a castle of sorts that may have existed way before records began after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It was re-built in 1412 by Thomas Langley, Bishop of Durham and Chancellor of England who was born in Middleton, and again partially re-built in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton, Lord of the Manor of Middleton who was knighted by Henry VIII for his part in The Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 where he led the Middleton Archers to defeat the Scottish invasion of England. This is how we largely see it today with a later addition of an unusual wooden steeple on top of the tower, one of only three of its kind existing in the UK today.
The Church is dedicated to Saint Leonard who was a French nobleman who gave up his wealth, instead devoting his time to charitable concerns in the 500's. Sir Richard hung his battle armour and standard in the church along with a trophy of the battle, a sword of a prominent Scottish Knight he had captured. He also commissioned the stained glass window depicting himself, his wife and the Middleton Archers praying before setting off to the battle, which is said to be the oldest known war memorial in the world.
In later times from 1812 until 1939, a curfew bell, the 'Nowster' was rung from the church. The local folk were expected to be indoors by 10pm and were considered to be 'up to no good' if found loitering the streets after this time without good reason. The bell would ring at 9.50 to remind folk to "Now Stir" and be on their way. It would not be practical in today's society but it's a shame some similar system couldn't be brought back in place to help to bring some control in the fight against youth nuisance and crime.
The church has a collection of commemorative brasses and artifacts on display. The clock was installed in the 1500's and replaced in 1807 by clockmaker William Platt. This clock is still hand-wound on a weekly basis.
Written by the editor, July 2008