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St Leonard’s Priory was originally a flourishing Benedictine nunnery dating back to 1122, mentioned in The Canterbury Tales. When the church standing on the site received a direct hit from a bomb in 1941, the only part to have survived the explosion was the How Memorial Gateway, erected in honour of  the local vicar. 


The site has had a dramatic past, once full of fishponds and orchards, its buildings and land were sold to Sir Ralph Sadler who served as a Privy Councillor for King Henry VIII. Attempts were made to repair the church in 1842 but the medieval walls collapsed. A new Victorian parish church was built in 1893. The church remained standing until a WWII bomb hit in 1941, and the churchyard was then cleared.  


The gateway has been restored during summer 2024 and Proud Places has been involved in landscape design workshops, stonemasonry, creating their own archways, visiting the conservators and climbing the scaffold. Some young people helped add mortar to the wall with the help of the conservators. 

“It was such a once-in-a-lifetime experience… really exciting, the architecture was really nice.”

– Humayrah Miah, aged 14, Student at Bow School

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“I thought it was really cool to see all the intricate details upfront. You also learned how to differentiate the different types of stuff they used to build it”

– Elisha Anglin, aged 15


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