Located on a vantage point ontop of Leigh Hill, and adjacent to an old wide path for travelling up and down the hill, St. Celement’s Church stands proud on the horizon and can be seen for miles around. The tower is 80ft high and the current church was built around 1500 with Victorian and Edwardian alterations. It is made of ragstone and flint bar the terracota red brick south porch. A church stood on the site 200 years previous to the construction of the one that stands today.
The ‘Cutlass Stone’
Immediately outside the red-brick entrance to the church stands a large tomb which is difficult to miss. Dating back to 1609, this ‘table/altar’ style tomb has a worn concrete top and is dedicated to a woman named Mary Ellis who allegedly died at 119 years of age! Whether this age is entirely accurate will always be a mystery; we will never know exactly how reliable the counting methods used were in this case, during the Tudor era.
Even more intriguing is the story behind the large score marks worn into the surface of the tomb’s concrete top. Clearly a sign of the sharpening of blades, popular rumour has it that these gashes were made by ‘press gangs’ sharpening their swords – hence the name ‘the Cutlass Stone’. Press gangs were groups of men in the 17th-19th Century who would conscript people often against their will into the Royal Navy by force; called ‘impressment’ (pictured below). However it is more widely believed that these cuts were made by peasants sharpening their scythes to cut grass and crops. Both stories are equally fascinating considering these marks are clearly visible today as if they were made yesterday – see them for yourself.