A History of YALDING, Kent, England

CANON John Rowland LEIGH.


The Canon who was 72, had conducted the morning service in Yalding church , and the evening service in a neighbouring church, when he died the following Tuesday. Although he had been in ill health for about two years, his death still came as a shock, and he was buried at Yalding on 18th of August 1934.

For 38 years Canon Leigh had been Vicar of Yalding, and he not only administered the spiritual needs of his parish, but also looked after its social welfare, doing everything he could to encourage sport in the village.


A native of South Wales, he was educated at Marlborough College and Oriel College, Oxford, where he took his B A degree in 1885. In the same year he was ordained by the Bishop of Llandaff and became a curate at Blaenavon, staying there until 1890. In 1888 he took his M A degree and in 1890 went to Gargrave, Yorkshire where he remained until 1896. The Lord Chancellor in that year offered him the living of Yalding, one of the richest, if not the richest, in the diocese of Rochester, in Kent.

Canon Leigh was appointed Hon Canon of Rochester, and in 1914 Rural Dean of Malling, which he held until 1934 when he resigned this appointment owing to ill-health. The Rev A B Littlewood, vicar of East Farleigh, succeeded him.

The Canon took a special interest in the Church of England Mission for hop-pickers, his parish at Yalding being in the centre of a large hop-growing area.

A member of the Maidstone Rural District Council for about 20 years and chairman of it for a long period, he resigned only because of ill health. He was also a prominent Freemason, being a member of the Douglas Lodge and chaplain to the Grand Lodge.


On the left is the Canon attending the funeral of Lt. Reeves, of the RAF in Sept. 1924. On the right is his wife Margaret Leigh with two of her daughters and a grandchild. She lived at Cleaves House after the Canon died, and then moved to The Cottage after the Blunden’s, until she died in 1960 at the age of 95.

Sport always interested him, especially cricket. He was one of the most active supporters of the Yalding Cricket Club, a founder of the well-known Craven Gentlemen Club in Yorkshire. He was a member of the M C C, who as a young man he frequently played for, and for a while captained an M C C side. The Canon was a familiar figure on county grounds in Kent, and his panama hat, with its Band of Brothers ribbon, had almost historical interest. A few years ago he frequently rode to hounds, played golf and tennis, and enjoyed shooting and salmon fishing.


Edmund Blunden mentioned the Canon in his writing, as his father was headmaster at the village school, when Canon Leigh was chairman of school governors, and he would on several occasions call Charles Blunden out of school mid-week to play cricket for the village first eleven.