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Bilston St Leonard

"St Leonard's Church, the original chapel of ease for Bilston township, was rebuilt in 1825, upon a large scale. It has a tower, eight bells and 2200 sittings, of which 750 are free. The interior was repaired, and partly remodelled, in 1846.
The benefit is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Inhabitants of Bilston, and incumbency of the Rev HS Fletcher, BA."
[From History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851]

Bibliography

'The Story of St Leonard's Church, Bilston'
by Roy N Bissell.
Published 1962, by British Publishing Co, Gloucester.

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Church History

The church was originally a building of great antiquity. It is mentioned in letters patent granted in 1445 for a chantry in Bilston to be dedicated to St Leonard, although it was not founded until 1458 when several residents granted large tracts of land for its support. St Leonards was dissolved in 1536 when the King's Commisioners noted: "Examined into the state of the Chantrie of St Leonard's, called Erdington's Chantrie, Bilston. Its income is very small, and the priest guilty of unlawful practices, we have therefore commanded that it be dissolved"
The church was re-opened in 1557, when Clement Perrye, a native of Bilston, was appointed curate. It was rebuilt in 1825 as a plain brick building in the Classic style, consisting of a chancel and nave, western porch and a western tower of stone, surmounted by a cupola and containing a clock and six bells.
In 1882-3 the church was re-cased in cement, the tower rebuilt, and the interior entirely renovated.

The whole of Bilston Township originally formed a chapelry to Wolverhampton, St Peter which retained the right to perform Bilston marriages. There was considerable dispute and litigation between the churches regarding the status of Bilston and as a result, St Leonard's church performed marriages between 1747 and 1754, but between 1755 and 1841 the right to perform marriages was withdrawn and marriages again took place at Wolverhampton.

A view of St Leonard's Church (1).
A view of St Leonard's Church (2).
A view of St Leonard's Church (3).

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Church Records

Church of England Registers
The register of St Leonard, Bilston, commences in 1684. The original registers for the period 1684-1988 (Bapts), 1747-1754 & 1841-1984 (Mar) & 1727-1955 (Bur), and Banns for the period 1935-1949 are deposited at Staffordshire Record Office.
Baptisms for 1694-1746 and Burials for 1727-1740 are recorded in the Churchwardens & Constables Account Books, 1669-1733 which are also deposited at Staffordshire Record Office.
Bilston marriages were performed in the mother church of Wolverhampton, St Peter between 1754-1841 and are recorded in that register.
Bishops Transcripts, 1799-1835 (with gap 1827, Bapts & Bur only) are deposited at Lichfield Record Office. Marriages are included in the Wolverhampton BTs.
A transcript of the St Leonards registers for the period 1684-1746 (Bapts & Bur) was published by the Staffordshire Parish Register Society in 1938 and has been reprinted by the Birmingham & Midland SGH.

Wolverhampton Archives have placed on line indexes of the Bilston St Leonard registers covering Baptisms 1684-1837, Marriages 1687-1754 & Burials 1727-1837.

Nonconformist Church Registers
Records of Nonconformist churches in Bilston can be found on the Bilston page.

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[Last updated: 21st April 2011, Mike Harbach.  © 1999 - 2011]