Rood screens are common features of churches from the Middle Ages. They separate the choir or chancel (the area around the altar) from the congregation in the nave. In Old English, rood means ‘cross’ or ‘crucifix.’
St Leonard’s rood screen dates from around 1450. Originally it was brightly painted, with a central door and a gallery above it. The gallery was removed in 1880, though the staircase to it remains in the corner between the north aisle and the chancel.
The decoration of the rood screen includes several jesters’ heads. In 1894, the cost of restoring the screen to its current plain oak finish was met by Mrs Cornelia Adair, an American who was living in Beechwood mansion at that time.
In 1909, Sir Edgar Saunders Sebright commissioned and paid for figures to be added above the screen, in honour of his parents. These figures represent the Virgin Mary, Corpus Christi and St John, and were carved in Oberammergau.