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1833 00673 9764

The stone shall cry out of the wall,

And the beam out of the timber shall answer it.

Hab. ii. II.

The rich truth of our Lord's catholic manhood has only
been gradually apparent in the history of the world . . . Lest
we should be arrogant, we need to remember that other
ages . . . have caught more readily in Him what we ignore
. . . and that the whole is not yet told.

Bampton Lectures, 1891.

A link among the days, to knit
The generations, each with each.

In Memoriam, .\1.

. . . Where the kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God.

In Memoriam, x.


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^tofte t)':abernon.

TT is no uncommon thing to find the early history of a
■'- place neatly packed into its name ; unpack the name,
and you have the opening chapters of your history.

Stoke d'Abernon belongs to a class of composite
local names of which we have numerous examples, Hurst-
Monceaux, Holme-Pierrepont, and the like.

" Stoke " is as Saxon as Saxon can be. In Domesday
our Manor is known as " Stocke." The name arose
from the stocces or tree trunks forming the stockz.^Q. with
which villages were fortified in days of insecurity and
semi-independence. " Stowe," a village name of frequent
occurrence, is said to be another form of the same word,
which meant simply " village."

D'Abernon is as unmistakably Norman- French. The
present spelling first appears in the parish Registers under
the year 1733. Formerly it was written Dawburnon,
d'Aubernoun, or d'Aubernon ; for some years early in
this century the spelling d'Alborne is found, apparently
without authority. No place bearing the name of Aubernon
has been known ; but there is an Aubervilliers near Paris,
and the river Aube, a tributary of the Upper Seine, gives
its name to a department. That is quite outside the
ancient Duchy of Normandy, yet near enough to make
some connexion possible. Be this as it may, we hear of
one Roger, described as " Dawburnon the Normand," in
the days of the Conqueror, and to him, after the Conquest,
a grant was made of this Manor with the advowson, as
also of the Manors of Fetcham, Aldbury, and Moulsey.
He did not hold from the King direct but from the tenant-
in-chief, Richard Fitz Gilbert, known as de Tonbridge.
The Manor of Stoke would thenceforward bear the name
of its immediate holder, d'Aubernon, and so, like Stoke
Giffard, Stoke Pogis (famed by Gray's Elegy), Stoke
Damerel, and the like, it became distinguished from other
Stokes with or without surname.

First Saxon, then Norman — such is the tale unfolded
from the name. Can we go no further back ? Examine
the wall of the Church and you will find in the masonry


some flue tiles which speak of Roman times. That there
was a Roman villa near at hand is possible ; and, but for
the industry of the earth worm through long centuries, we
might have other evidence. Other remains, if such there
be, are all safely buried for the present.

So we must be content to begin midway between those
days and our own. At the close of that Saxon period
represented to us by the name Stoke, under Edward the
Confessor, we find the Manor held by one Brixi, and
assessed at fifteen hides, i.e., 1,500 acres. No Church is
mentioned ; but the Domesday survey, made within
the twenty years that followed the Conquest, found a
Church already in the parish of " Stocke." We shall
see presently where it is that some part of that building
may possibly still be seen.

The Church and Manor House stand close together on
the banks of the Mole. Originally called " Emlyn Stream,"
that river now runs under a modernized name that lends
itself readily to ex-post-facto derivations. From the Latin
MOLA, say some — doth it not turn a mill or two in its
course ? From the English mole., say others — doth it not
burrow and then reappear once and again ? Let that pass.
Poets have sung of it — Spencer, Milton, Drayton, Pope,
Thomson. Rising among the hills of Northern Sussex,
it passes Box Hill where it runs awhile under ground;
thence, winding through the picturesque vale of Mickleham
by Leatherhead, it slowly glides along past Stoke to Esher
Place ; then, losing spirit and beauty, it creeps sluggishly
on, now and then with divided stream, till at Moulsey
(Mole's ey or islet), opposite Hampton Court, it joins the
Thames and links us to a wider world. Here, beneath
Church and Manor House, it " flows fair and softly by "
(so Cam.den saith, and our eyes see it), making its own
contribution to the quiet loveliness of the spot.

As, however, we are more concerned with the Church than
with the Manor, we pass on to the history of the benefice.
It is a Rectory, in the Deanery of Leatherhead (once Ewell),
Archdeaconry of Surrey. The county of Surrey is, since
1872, shared by no less than three dioceses ; our parish
falls under Winchester. In the taxation of Pope Nicholas,
the benefice was valued at £,% 13s. 4d. ; in the valor of
Edward I. at thirteen marcs, in the " King's Books " at
;^I3 13s. I id. It pays in "tenths" £^\ 7s. i|d. ; "procura-
tions " 6s. 8d. ; "synodals" 2s. id. — interesting survivals of
days gone by. The Advowson has always passed with
the Manor till late in the last century. In 1746 it was


included with certain lands in a term of 500 years, created
by the marriage settlement of Sir Francis Vincent for
raising portions for younger children ; sold under that
authority about thirty years later, it was purchased by one
Paul Vaillant, Sheriff of London, an eminent bookseller
of Huguenot origin ; and in the year 1801 the Rev. Philip
Vaillant was presented by his kinsman in succession to
the Rev. Richard Vincent ; upon the patron's death in
the following year the advowson once more changed

Village Churches have no written history ; but the loss
of an old Parish Church is as grievous as it is irreparable.
Undying associations cling about it : those walls are the
only, the loving, though silent, witnesses of the joys and
sorrows, the faith and worship, the lives and deaths of
generations that have passed to their rest.

Yet there is a history that is writ in stone ; and this
Church, as we have it, represents three main periods : —

I. The Nave is Norman.*
II. The Chancel is Early English.
III. The Chauntry is Tudor.

I. We have seen that there was a Church here in Saxon
times, and, when the building was extended in 1866, some
masonry, which it was found structurally necessary to
remove, was believed by some to be Saxon. If anything
of the kind is left above ground it must be in the wall
at the E. of the porch ; the S.W. corner of the unrestored

We are safer when we follow the ground plan. The
Nave, up to the second column westwards and some two
or three feet beyond, (the third bay and all beyond that
having been added in 1866) is in all probability on the
lines of the old Saxon structure : a piscina at the E. end
of the S. wall remains to shew where the Eastern wall
of the then Church, with its altar, originally was. Within
these modest limits, some thirty by twenty-two feet, the

* In the Manual (1847) of the Ecclesiological Society it is claimed as Saxon,
but the limits of the two styles (if indeed there are two styles) are not every-
where clearly defined. In Parker's Glossary "some portions "arc said to
be named Saxon.


Church remained till the middle of the thirteenth century.
The N. aisle, containing no feature of interest, except a
good square-headed window inserted in Tudor days, is
probably of later date.

II. The earliest undoubted addition to the original
building was the Chancel. This appears to have been
built about the middle of the 13th century by the first
Sir John d'Abcrnoun, a man, as documents shew, of
considerable wealth and influence. His object was no
doubt partly to dignify the plain little building inherited
from Saxon times, partly to provide a nobler resting place
for himself and his successors ; and on the floor of this
Chancel are three memorials — one of the founder himself,
another of his son, the third probably of his grandson — of
which we have more to say anon.

We may place the building of the Chancel in the
middle of the "first-pointed" period, say before 1250.
The founder lived over a quarter of a century to worship
in the Church he had enlarged, his slab being dated 1277.
The roof, as a specimen of Early English work, is hardly
excelled in any small parish Church. It is finely groined :
the ribs are supported by triplets of columns, gracefully
clustered. The Western bay is connected with the Eastern
by a transverse rib with dog-tooth moulding. The former
has a boss at the intersection, the latter has none. The
ribs and the wide splayed lancet windows alike point to
early Early English. The mural painting, which we shall
describe on a later page, may have covered the whole of
the E. wall. This did not suit the sixteenth century with
its cry for "more light" ; so wall and picture were broken
through, and a debased Tudor window inserted, v/hich
lasted until the recent restoration. The present three-
light lancet is quite in harmony with the rest.

The slant of the Chancel towards the N. must not pass
unnoticed. A feature of this kind may sometimes have
been due to accident or to the necessities of the site. But
very seldom. For remember the spirit in which the lines
of an old church were laid down. Men would trace upon
the ground, at least in thought, the blessed form of their
Crucified King, and then work it out in stone, with the
arms outstretched to N. and S. in the transepts, the feet
westward, and the head in the E. Above the head they
would sometimes, as at Canterbury, set a crown : He was
" reigning from the tree " ; or it might become a Lady-
chapel, setting forth a picture dear to the heart of the
thirteenth century — the sacred Body taken down from the



Cross, with the head resting, slightly turned as in sleep,
upon the lap of the Virgin Mother.*

III. The Chauntry is entered from the Chancel through
an iron gate, and from the Nave through a screen of
oak ; the latter is enriched with coats of arms in stained
glass, those of the Diocese and Province being newly
added, those of the d'Abernons and their descend-
ants being remains of the former Eastern window ot
the Chancel.

Dedicated to S. John Baptist and S. James, this
Chauntry was built in the days of Henry VII. by
Sir John Norbury (d. 1521). By his will, dated 1504,
it was endowed for two priests to say masses for the
founder's soul " in perpetuity." The endowment was
liberal; for in 1553 we find John Glover and Thomas
Kynge, late Chauntry priests of this parish, in the en-
joyment of pensions, amounting, the one to £6, the other
to iJ"5 — no small sums in those days. As the founder
died a bachelor, with no brothers and only one sister,
and that sister already well married, the endowment ought
to have been liberal.

There is an opening for a fireplace in the Tudor style ;
a style well represented in the tracery of the windows.
The latter were once fitted with stained glass, some
fragments of which, placed in the Baptistery, we shall
describe on a later page. A bit of some interest is left
in the Chauntry, representing a bray, i.e., an instrument
for crushing flax, the cognizance of the Bray family.

At the S.W. corner of the Chauntry is a Rood
Staircase, which may have been approached by a
separate door from outside and a slip in the Chauntry.
The stairs wind up through a pier till they reach an
aperture, where was the Rood-door opening upon the
Loft. Of Loft and Chancel Screen (if Screen ever
existed) all trace is here lost. In some Churches the
displaced Rood has been succeeded by the Royal Arms,
not a thing of beauty in any situation, albeit rich in
meaning, but here — hideous and monstrous. For such
intrusion we have usually to thank the Stuart period,
Erastian, if ever a period was. Nor does the like appear
to have been wanting to this Church ; for, high up over
the Western side of the Chancel arch, could be seen,

* Or is it the head on the Cross, "bowed" sideways in the act of dying
(S. John xix. 30)? The very nails and wounds of the feet have been traced
in some Western aisle windows, and the jiierced side in the lychnoscope.
Handbook of English Ecclesiology, 1874, p. 211.


within living memory, the traces of a rude heraldic
painting. Peace be to that Lion and Unicorn, whose
age-long contest has now happily faded from the wall !

family f^istory*

Before dealing with the Monuments, which form not the
least interesting feature of the building, it will be well to
give the merest sketch of the families who have successively
held the Manor and left their mark in the Church.

First, we will take the ample pedigrees as given in
the Harleian MSS., and, by lopping off the collaterals,
pare the tree down to the barest outline. It will be seen
that between 1359 and 16 10 there are no less than seven
surnames ; but the line was preserved from the first
d'Abernoun down to the last Vincent; each of the six
changes was due to the failure of an heir male, no steps being
taken, as in other families, to preserve the original name.

Roger d'Abernoun William the Conqueror 1066

I to

John d'Abernoun William de Clare & Tonbridge c 1070

I to

John d'Abernoun Roger d'Abernoun & heirs c 1080

I I i I

John d'Abernoun Crosyer (1359) l^Jorbury (1418)

I Halliwell (1521) .Braye (1505)

William d'Abernoun Lyfield (1559) -Vincent (c. 1610)

Elizabeth d'Abernoun = William Crosyer

Anna Crosyer = Henry Norbury

^Henry Norbury de Stoke

Anna Norbury = Richard Halliwell John Norbury

I (who succeeded but died

Jane Halliwell = Edmund Bray unmarried)

Frances Bray = Thomas Lyfield

Jane Lyfield = Thomas Vincent


Other Vincents.
. *This person is styled John in the minute genealogy given upon the
S. wall of the Chauntry. The compiler of that cither identified the father
with his own son, or, ignoring the latter altogether, gave the former his
son's name— which amounts to pretty much the same thing. We are not
of those "harmonists" who would say that both are right, and would saddle
a man of that period with a double Christian name.

Z'' B 2


Now for our sketch : —

In the county of Surrey there were but forty-one
Norman tenants-in-chief, a small number even for so small
a county : each Knight's share would include, on the
average, a goodly number of manors. And none was
rewarded so liberally as one Richard de Clare, alias (in
regard of his chief grant) dc Tonbridge, alias (in regard
of his many grants but " regardless of grammar ") de
Benefacta. Moreover, the Conqueror made him joint Jus-
ticiary of England, and William II. gave him the Earldom
of Surrey. Though his principal seat was in Kent, he
held manors in Surrey : among these were Moulsey, Aid-
bury, Fetcham, and Stoke, which he granted to Roger
d'Abernoun as mesne tenant. The d'Abernouns made Stoke
their chief residence and gave the place its surname.

The name d'Abernoun frequently appears in Parlia-
ment rolls and other records. Walter bore arms
against King John. In 1264 Sir John the first was
Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex (united counties). In 1278
(6th Edward I.), one John d'Abernoun, succeeding to the
manor, is returned as holding one knight's fee of the
value of £^2.0, and as such is "distrained" to receive
knighthood. This was John the younger. His father,
who built the Chancel, had died in the previous year.

In 1359 died the last male in the d'Abernoun succession.
An inquisition was held, and the jury found his daughter
Elizabeth, aged 18, to be heir; she carried the lands to
her husband, Sir William Crosyer.

The second Sir Wm. Crosyer died without heir male
in 1415; until her death in 1418, his widow held the
manor ; then, through the previous marriage of her
daughter Ann, it passed to one Sir Henry Norbury.

Now this Norbury family represented a great house,
the Sudeleys of Gloster, who were " linially deseeded of
Harold whom William the Conqueror slew in the feild."
And the Lady Ann, as we know, represented " that
Dawburnon the Normand, which cam into England " with
the Conqueror. So we have Saxon and Norman lines
converging four and a half centuries after Senlac, a typical
instance of that process, so well summed up in the com-
posite name. Stoke d'Abernon, by which the English
nation has through long centuries become what it is.
Such is the moral pointed by the genealogy below the
Lyfield brass.

The third Norbury, Sir John, who founded the Chauntry,
died, unmarried, in 1 521, and was succeeded by Richard


Haleighwell or HalHwell, of an honourable Devon family,
husband of his sister Ann.

But the male line of the Haleighwells at Stoke did not
even extend to one generation. One child, Jane, was
left, in whose name centres a curious piece of family-
diplomacy, singularly illustrative of the times. There is
a slight inconsistency between the records and the pedi-
grees which we shall not attempt to reconcile. Broadly,
the matter stands thus: —

Sir John Norbury, foreseeing the extinction of his family
in the male line, entered into a contract with his neigh-
bour. Sir Reginald Bray of Shere. It was this Bray who
had found the crown on Bosworth field, and afterwards
negotiated the state marriage of Henry VII. with Elizabeth
of York.* That must have given him a taste for match-
making; for we find him arranging marriages for no less
than three of his nephews, one of whom he thereby
launched into a sea of litigation. His eldest nephew,
Edmond (afterwards Lord Braye), was about the same
age as Jane Haleighwell, heiress of Stoke d'Abernon.
So, with the head of one family bent on providing for
the succession, and the head of the other with a passion
for arranging affairs matrimonial, naturally enough these
two old gentlemen laid their heads together. The result
was a contract drawn in the most solemn manner with
penalties attached. The young gentleman had reached
the mature age of thirteen, the lady was barely eleven.
But " between the two high contracting parties" it was
" agreed and arranged " that the said Edmond should
marry the said Jane. On the other hand. Sir John was to
settle Stoke and other manors on the lady ; and so anxious
was he for a union between the families that he insisted
upon this proviso, that, should Edmond Bray refuse t,he
lady, his next brother, Edward, was to have both lady
and estates. On the other hand. Sir Reginald settled
Shere and other estates upon Edmond ; and he, too, with
the worldly wisdom that had commended him to a man
like Henry VII., made his stipulation, that, if the lady
should refuse her Bray, a fine was to be levied on the
Haleighwell estates, and paid to him. Sir Reginald. We
are not told whether the young people had this explained

* Moreover, he is said to have been the designer and architect of S. George's
Chapel, Windsor, to the cost of which he also contributed ; in its S. aisle he
built a Chapel which bears his name, and his device is repeated in the ceiling.
Altogether a noteworthy man, this Sir Reginald Bray, with "everything
handsome about him " : his funeral was elaborate to the last degree, and a
sumptuous monument in old Chelsea Church remains to shew what manner
of man he was or was held to be.

Ray.* s I R


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Brass of Sir John d'Aubernoun the First.

A.D. 1277.


to them. But all came off happily : when Edmond came
of age, he duly annexed his heiress with her estates ; and
the old Norbury (unless there is a confusion of names or
dates) not only lived to bless the marriage, but incon-
tinently survived it full sixteen years.

After this delightful bit of family history, all will seem
tame ; and we pass by the subsequent fortunes of Brays,
Lyfields and Vincents. Anything therein of importance
or interest will come up in connection with the monuments
in the Church, to which we now pass on.

Zttonumcntal Brasses on tl}c (Zljanccl ^loov,

most probably the builder of the Chancel.

This is unique : it is the earliest of the early group,
Chartham, Trumpington and Acton giving other examples.
And in monumental brasses, as in some other things, the
earliest are the best. The thirteenth century shews the best
metal and the best workmanship. In design this figure is
ill-proportioned, but, as a production of the burin, this
most ancient of English brasses has never been excelled :
note the execution of each link in the mail. Though
the actual plate is probably Flemish, the design and cutting
are undoubtedly English,

Sir John lies, not cross-legged, in complete mail, i.e.,
flexible, inwoven, armour sometimes called "chain": there
is no admixture of plate armour, unless we count the
poleyns we shall describe below, and they were possibly
made of prepared leather {cuirbonilli). This monument
is quite a study in arms and armour. Let us take the parts
one by one : —

SWORD — long and straight, as brought by the original
Normans from Scandinavia, hanging from a broad belt,
slightly ornamented, with buckle and tongue distinct. The
scabbard is plain, the pummel is curiously worked with a
cross in the centre.

LANCE, passing under the right arm, its pennon
charged with the dAbernon arms " azure, a chevron d'or."

SHIELD, " Heater" shape, emblazoned with bearings,
the blue enamel (" azure ") alone remaining visible. The
metal is copper let into the brass ; brass would not have
stood the heat needed for enamelling.


GUIGE or ornamental strap passing over the right
shoulder to support the shield, enriched with rose and
" fylfot " alternately, the latter a mystic kind of cross, the
former an emblem of the B.V.M., Patroness of the Church.

COIF DE MAI LIES or "chain" hood protecting head
and neck (the crown no doubt having the additional
protection of a flat steel plate inside).

HA UBERK or mail shirt (mostly hidden by the surcoat),
with long sleeves of mail, terminating usually in mufflers
strapped to the wrists.

POLEYNS or knee-caps (genouillicres) of plate or
leather, richly ornamented.

CHA USSES of mail encasing legs and feet.

FliYCK-SPURS, i.e., single points, attached by strap
under foot across instep but apparently fastened in front.*

SURCUAT or BLIAUS with fringed border, loose
without sleeves, tied round the waist with a plaited cord,
below which it opens in front and falls on either side in
ample folds. These " coats " were usually charged with
the knights " arms," being introduced by the Crusaders to
distinguish varieties of nation and lineage serving under
the banner of the Cross.

FOOT-REST: — a lion (emblem of courage and generosity)
couchant, holding the knight's lance, the butt with his paws,
the staff between his teeth.

ARMORIAL BEARINGS :—OYigma.\\y on two small
shields at the head of the stone, one alone remaining,
charged like the large shield.

LEGEND, somewhat defaced, in Longobardic characters
running along the four edges of the slab : —


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Online LibraryJames KirkwoodStoke d'Abernon, its church and manor → online text (page 1 of 3)