Dating from the 12th century, this church sits at the village center
in a small farming community.
Although this piece is labeled Bretforton, Worcestershire on the back, the actual church location is listed as The Village of Bledington, Cotswold, Gloucestershire. Some consider this an error, making the piece more valuable, while others attribute it to regional naming of overlapping areas to their closest recognized village/town/cities.
The Cotswold Saint Leonard’s Church is from the 1995 Cotswold Village Travelers Series, and is a reproduction of an actual building, It is one of the older pieces represented in the series. Since this is a retired piece it is no longer available at the “Official” Cat’s Meow Village website, but it is still available at other web sources. The best value source for this piece is probably ebay, but it can also be found at Appletreedeals or with a google search. Prices range from an ebay auction price starting at .99 to retail sales prices at online sites for around $29.95. It originally retailed at about $17.95
This piece is signed “Faline
The 1995 Cotswold Village Travelers Series was retired in 2000. First year issues generally go for slightly more than later issues, but piece condition is always a major factor. Since these pieces are 12 – 22 years old, and were probably in someone’s collection, it is important to try to get as much condition info as possible. This mean pictures, so you can see for yourself what you are buying.
The production process for this series has the piece info and Faline’s stamped signature on the back left corner of this piece. And as in all authentic CMV pieces, look for Casper the cat somewhere on the piece. On the Saint Leonard’s Church piece, Casper is sitting on the window sill of the main front church window, watching all the arrivals.
Occasionally pieces can be found that were in retail inventory and never collected or displayed by anyone, but even then, due to various storage methods, item condition still needs to be seen. Any good source for CMV pieces should be able to provide good clear front and rear view photos. That was the case with the Appletreedeals.com source, plenty of pictures and a good item description.
The village of Bledington dates back to at least the 9th century, when the manor belonged to the monks of Winchcombe Abbey. But it was not until 1170 that the Abbot of Winchcombe had a church built to serve the village of bledington. The church was complete before 1175. That first building was composed of only a nave and chancel. The only surviving parts of that early church are the current bellcote and font.
St Leonard’s is worth visiting for the series of uniquely carved medieval corbel heads, each showing different headgear.
In the early 13th century the church was enlarged with the addition of a south aisle, and later in that century the building was enlarged with a three-light east window and the south porch. As the wealth of the Cotswolds increased during the late medieval period St Leonards was again expanded with the addition of the tower and the clerestory which gives the interior such a uniquely light and airy feel.
The most striking aspect of the interior of St Leonards is the absence of a north aisle, which means that the Perpendicular Gothic windows of the north wall create a very light and open feel not usually seen in a Cotswold church. The 12th century font is located just inside the south door; its a very simple, uncarved, tub design. On the west wall of the tower arch are remnants of medieval wall paintings. Further wall paintings are located on the wall beside the chancel arch, and in the south chapel is an unused bell dated to the reign of Charles I.
The most interesting feature of Bledington’s church, though, is the series of corbel heads that grace the exterior of the west end of the church. All but one is a woman, and each is unique. Most interesting, though, is the headgear worn by the figures depicted; they are excellent examples of the type of costumes worn during the late medieval period. There are images of each corbel head in our photo gallery of St Leonard’s – they make a fascionating study for what they show about medieval costume.