The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury

with some Account of the Priory Church of Deerhurst

By H.J.L.J Masse

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013


Deerhurst Priory Church, from the South
Photo. ][ R.W. Dugdale.

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DEERHURST, or Deorhurst - the wood or grove of wild beasts, as its etymology implies - lies close to Tewkesbury, and the visitor to the latter must on no account omit to pay a visit to the older building. It may be reached by a pleasant walk through meadows on the left bank of the Severn, by the road or by a path across the fields.

The Priory church of Deerhurst is one of the oldest buildings of any importance that yet remain in use in England. Its exact date is more or less a matter of conjecture, but it seems certain from documentary evidence, which is still accessible, that in the ninth century the Abbey or Priory was in a prosperous condition - the document referred to above being a grant of lands in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire to the Abbey in 804. No earlier authentic evidence than this exists, though a lapsus calami of Leland (who credits the Venerable Bede with an acquaintance with Deerhurst about the year 700) would seem to give it an earlier date. From the earliest time Deerhurst - situated where it is, so near that great highway the Severn, and occupying a position on the direct line of traffic by road between Worcester and Gloucester, must have had an important part to play. Legend has it that Edmund Ironside and Canute, intent on fighting a duel after Essendune, met at Olney in 1016, but settled matters without coming to blows, and later tradition affirms that this meeting took place in the meadow - once an island or eyot, hence its present name - called the Naight.

Tradition, again, has it that the Abbey suffered from the Danes, and this seems likely enough, seeing that they were encamped at Cirencester for fully a year. Werstan, one of

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the monks who escaped from the Danes, is said by Leland to have founded a cell at Malvern, and was later murdered by the Danes in his own chapel there. In the windows of Malvern Priory he is described as “Sanctus Werstanus Martir”, but little else is known about him.

The Abbey, though small, was richly endowed with land, and is said to have been possessed of nearly forty thousand acres. Its wealth in landed property was the cause of its being transferred by Edward the Confessor in 1054-56 to the great French Abbey of St. Denis; and what was not so transferred was mostly given by the King, together with the Manor of Pershore and other possessions, to his Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster, which was then building.

The Abbey lost its importance when it became an alien priory, and its landed possessions, which had once surpassed those of the abbeys at Gloucester and at Winchcombe, were dwarfed to very scanty dimensions. It suffered, too, in prestige, having become a priory, and was constantly being harried by successive monarchs.

We find that the Conqueror confirmed the grant of the Abbey of Deerhurst to St. Denis, but that King John confiscated its revenues. In 1225 Pope Honorius III. by a Bull approved that the Priory should be perpetual and conventual. In virtue of this the Prior could claim not to come into the King's hands, but it was many years before this claim was barely recognised. In this same year the Prior was again in possession of the Priory and its lands; but in 1250 (temp. Henry II.), the Priory was sold to Richard, Duke of Cornwall, who seems to have driven out the monks and destroyed the greater part of their buildings. Later in the same reign, 1260, the Abbot of St. Denis again got possession of the Priory. In 1295 Edward I. took possession of all the existing alien priories for the sake of the revenue they would bring into his exchequer. Edward III.[1] again despoiled the monks of what was theirs, and his grandson, Richard II., followed in his steps.

The Priory had a respite from such continued harryings with the accession of Henry IV. (1399). This king took

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possession of it as an alien Priory, but immediately handed it over to William Forester, the then Prior, with the stipulation that in the event of a war with France the King should receive a sum of money equal to that which in time of peace would be paid to the Abbey of St. Denis. With halcyon days like these the Priory set about rebuilding what had been destroyed, and works were undertaken-much of which is standing at the present time.

Henry V. by charter in 1419 confirmed the policy of Henry IV. in giving the Prior all the rights and privileges enjoyed by William Forester, and Henry V. acknowledged the claim of the Priory to be conventual and perpetual, and as such, not to come into the King's hands. However, one king proposes, another disposes. Henry VI. in 1463, while confirming all existing rights, made the Priory a denizen priory with the same status as all other similar English foundations. But this change was followed by yet another in four years' time. Henry VI. being the founder of Eton College, and King's College, Cambridge, was in want of funds, and he relieved the pressure on his exchequer by appropriating the possessions of the Priory, and handing part of them to his royal College at Eton, and part (in 1422) to the already rich Abbey at Tewkesbury. Much litigation followed with Eton, and in 1469 the Priory was united and annexed by Carpenter, Bishop of Worcester, to the monastery at Tewkesbury, with the stipulation that the “Abbot of Tewkesbury was to find and maintain there one monk in priest's orders, to be called Prior or Warden, four other monks, and one secular priest daily to perform divine service in that priory”.

The independence of Deerhurst was now at an end, and little is heard of it again. At the Dissolution, like many of the Tewkesbury possessions, it became private property, the site, the buildings and the tithes being conveyed to George Throgmorton, a local personage, who became the lay impropriator. The tithes passed later into the hands of the family of Cassey, of Wightfield Court; but the lands became the property of the Coventry family, and at the end of the seventeenth century gave the title to Viscount Deerhurst, the fifth Baron. At the Dissolution Deerhurst became a curacy, and remained so till 1682, the advowson then being transferred from lay hands to those of the Bishop of Worcester.

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Of the exterior of the church there is not much to be said. The chief feature is the Tower. It has been reduced in height, probably at the time that the steeple was blown down in 1666, but no churchwardens' accounts of that date remain. It is 70 feet high, 21 feet 8 inches from east to west, and 14 feet 4 inches from north to south, with a slight batter to the walls, which at the base are 32 inches in thickness. For about 35 feet or so the masonry is Saxon work, but has been subsequently severely handled, especially on the west side. The east side contains a wall-plate of early date, and more of the interesting early work. The upper part is later work, having ashlar quoins at the four angles.

The entrance door is a Pointed arch of the fourteenth century date inserted within the earlier round-headed arch, of which the outer edges have considerably crumbled away. Above the arch is a piece of stonework, similar to one above the long, narrow window, considered by some to be a mutilated carved head, but with more real likeness to a broken mechanical contrivance for hoisting up weighty goods into the upper part of the tower. On the right of the entrance door is the door which now gives entrance to the belfry. In many parts of the exterior there are traces of the coarse herring-bone work so prevalent in Saxon masonry. At the north-west and south-west angles of the aisles are gargoyles, that at the north-west corner being the better preserved.

The church was rough-cast all over in the early part of this century, but was restored in 1861-62 to practically its present appearance. Part of the tower, that to the west, has a battlement, while the rest has a low gabled roof. The windows in the belfry are decorated in character, but much of the masonry near them seems to be re-used stone from other parts. By obtaining entrance to the farmyard upon which the east end abuts, traces of the original apsidal termination may be seen. It is much to be regretted that the church precincts are so built upon that examination is difficult.


The western entrance is situate in the tower front, and by three doorways gives access to the nave.

The Nave.- The nave of the present church measures

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60 feet by 21 feet, including what was the original choir, which was under the central tower, and which, from the plan, must have been 20 feet in length. The nave proper would be 38 feet by 21 feet, making allowance for the thickness of the choir arch wall. It is more than probable that the wall which separated the choir from the nave was in character like the present eastern wall, with a spacious and lofty arch spanning the opening, which gave access to the apsidal eastern end. Traces of such an arch were found at the restoration of the church in 1861-62. As was the case at Tewkesbury, Gloucester, and elsewhere, the nave was the parish church, and the choir and the rest of the building eastwards the private chapel of the Priory. Small though the original nave was-for the present aisles are later additions-it was, if the walls are of the original height, unusually lofty for a church of its date. The original nave had transepts, as shown in plan on page 118, with a room, probably a sacristy, to the east of the north transept and a similar room or a chapel at the east of the south transept.

On either side of the nave the original walls have been pierced, and an arcade of three good Early English arches was inserted in the thirteenth century. It will be noted that the easternmost of the three arches on each side is slightly wider in span than the other two. All the capitals differ in their details. Over these arches on either side is a triangular opening about 18 feet from the floor level, similar to the opening in the west end of the nave. The edges of these openings are left quite square, i.e., there is no splaying.

The clerestory windows are, for the most part, early fifteenth century, and replaced the early windows, which may have been of circular form.

At the west end of the nave there are several very curious features. The arch of the doorway is a plain, round-headed arch with its edges left quite square, and the impost is plain with the exception of a hollow immediately below the abacus. In height the doorway is 10 feet, and in width 52 feet, and it leans slightly to the north. Above this doorway, in the corners of the west wall, are two impost members or brackets, similar to those in the chancel, which may have been intended to support the floor joists of a chamber or gallery at this end of the nave. Not far above these brackets is a triangular opening similar to those in the north and south walls of the nave, and

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Deerhurst Priory Church Interior, looking West
Photo. ][ R.W. Dugdale.

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through which, from the room in the tower, a view is obtained of the nave generally. It is on the same level as those in the nave. To the right of this is a blocked-up round-headed doorway, which once gave access from the room in the tower on this level to a gallery at the east end of the nave. The jambs are each of two similar blocks of stone.

Above this, in the centre of the upper part of the west wall of the nave, is perhaps the most curious architectural feature of the church. It is a two-light window, each light having a head formed of an isosceles triangle. The outer jambs, as also the broad central massive pier, are slightly fluted, and in some of these flutings is a bar in relief. On the church side the bars are inserted in the upper part of the hollow; on the tower side they are in some cases at the top, in others in the lower half.

The following dimensions show how massive is this piece of primitive work. The sill on which the window is built is of stone concealed by plaster. Each light in its widest part is 18 inches, 13 inches between the plinths on the sill. The plinths are 14 inches in thickness, and that of the central pier is 21 inches. The central pier itself is a trifle shorter than the jambs, 1 foot 8 inches, but this difference is made up by a much more massive impost, the central impost being 9 inches thick as compared with 8 inches in the case of the others. Each impost is, as it were, in square-edged layers, each layer overhanging the one below it. The head of each opening is formed of two single stones so cut that they meet at an angle of about 30 degrees. These stones are 11¼ inches in thickness, and 3 feet 6 inches long on the outside edges. In the angle between the two portions of the window they measure 3 feet 1½ inches. They are carried right through the wall, with a plain label almost square in section.

Above the window, resting on the label points is an oblong block of stone which is thought at one time to have been painted, as no inscription can be traced. Near the tower end is a portion of the Perpendicular timbered roof, and the rest of the roofing of the nave and chancel is modern work designed upon the basis of the older example.

The South Aisle was added in the twelfth century. The south wall of the south transept was continued to the west, the greater part of the west wall of this transept being removed,

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a segmental arch being inserted exactly where the oak-screen is now. The wall from the original south-east corner of the tower was carried southwards to meet the new wall mentioned above. Next, the solid walls of the nave were pierced with three unequal openings, and, from the piers thus left, arches were carried across the new south aisle to the new south wall of the church, and the walls of the inner porch seem to have been pierced with arches about the same time, one being also made to span the space from the extreme end of the original wall of the nave to the new south-east corner of the tower. A turret and staircase seem next to have been made outside the church in the angle thus made by the new works, but the plan seems to have been soon altered by the carrying out of the west wall of the aisle till it was flush with the west front. The then external doorway into the turret became an internal one, but has been blocked up, access to the tower staircase being obtained by the narrow door in the west front. The remains of Transitional Norman work in the south aisle are scanty, but of extreme interest.

In the thirteenth century the North Aisle was constructed, and made to correspond with the south aisle, though it is slightly narrower. Its beautiful capitals inspired the workers to do their best and harmonise those in the south aisle arcade with those in the other aisle.

The walls of the nave were carried up to receive the clerestory windows about the year 1400, but as to their original height it is only possible to conjecture.

The Decorated windows of the north aisle all differ in style and date, that in the north transept being the earliest. The westernmost window in the south aisle is approximately of the same date, and contains the only glass in the church that is of any interest. The other windows in this south aisle are Perpendicular, and are high in the wall owing to the existence of the cloister, a blocked-up door into which can be seen under the westernmost window. Some fifteenth century oak seats in this aisle are worth notice.

In the north aisle the north-west window of four lights (by Wailes) is a memorial to Hugh Edwin Strickland (1853). The head of the window contains the fanciful device relating to the Persons of the Trinity,[2] and below are Noah, Aaron, David, and St. John the Baptist.

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Pater - non est - Filius

In the lowest tier are Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, the Annunciation, the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan.

The next window (by Clayton and Bell) is a memorial window erected Pater - non est - Filius by the Rev. G. Butterworth, till lately Vicar of Deerhurst.

In the north wall near the font is a blocked-up doorway, containing another memorial to a member of the Strickland family. Spirttus Both the aisles of the nave had Sanctus undoubtedly at one time altars at their eastern ends. The north aisle contains three aumbries and the south aisle has one, probably removed from elsewhere in the church. It contains a piscina and a small circular recess or reliquary in its eastern side.

The north aisle contains a very fine specimen of a brass dated 1400, which records the death of Sir John Cassy, Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the reign of Edward III., and his wife Alicia. The inscription runs (in finely cut black letters, with beautiful ornaments between each word), “Hic jacet Johes Cassy miles quondam Capitalis Baro Sccii (i.e. Scaccarii) Regis qui obiit xxiii° die Maii Anno Dni MCCCC, et Alicia uxor ejus. quor aiabus pper deus”. The Chief Baron is represented in his robes, with a lion at his feet; his wife in a long loose flowing dress, fastened at the wrists and round the neck. She has her dog at her feet, with his name “Tirri” engraved upon his side. Only one other instance exists of a pet's name being thus handed down.[3] Above the figures is a rich canopy, and a figure of the Virgin and St. Anne, a figure of St. John the Baptist being unfortunately missing.

Close to this are one or two other brasses. One of Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Bruges, Esq., of Coverle, and wife of William Cassey, Esq., of Whyghtfylde, and then of Walter Nowden, Esq., 1525. Another small brass in the floor of the doorway to the choir records that “Here lyeth the body of Edward Guy, gent., who married Francis the eldest daughter of John Gotheridge, Esq., and had by her six sonnes and one daughter, and was here buried the sixt day of Dec. Ao. 1612”.

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Near to the Cassy brass is an old chest, and a stone coffin with a foliated cross upon its lid. This had been under the pavement till the 1861-62 restoration - hence its excellent state of preservation.

The blocked door in the east wall of this north transept once gave access to the sacristy.

Deerhurst Priory Church, Font
Photo. ][ R.W. Dugdale

The Font.- The font, one of the most interesting points in this interesting church, has had a curious history. A lady in the neighbourhood (Miss Strickland, of Apperley Court) found in a garden close to the river, in 1870, an upright carved stone. It occurred to this lady that the stone was in reality the stem or lower part of the font then in Longdon church, in Worcestershire, as the ornament seemed to be similar. The Vicar of Longdon was then asked to give up the bowl portion which had been conveyed in 1845 from a Deerhurst farmyard to Longdon church. The request was graciously entertained, and Longdon church received in exchange a new font. The two portions - probably long separated - were then replaced as they are now to be seen in Deerhurst, and the font previously in use there was given to Castle Morton church.

The bowl is, like other early fonts, rather tub-shaped, made of coarse-grained oolite, a Cotswold district stone, covered with uncommon ornamentation. It measures externally 28½ inches in diameter, internally 24 inches, and 21 inches in height. The ornamentation consists of eight panels, each containing spirals which form an endless pattern, as they conjoin with other similar lines. Mr. Westwood in the Arch. Soc. Journal said of the ornament that it is “especially Irish, and is found in the finest of the most ancient illuminated Irish

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copies of the Gospels, and in those which were executed in England under the influence of the Irish missionaries. Thus it is found in all the illuminated Gospels of St. Chad and Mac Regol (which is in the Bodleian Library and ascribed to 820 A.D.), and in the Gospels of Lindisfarne or Durham Book, but I do not recollect having seen it in manuscripts known to be more recent than the ninth century”. The ornament of the running border was thought by the same writer to be a later addition; others deem it contemporary with the scroll work, and think the design may have been obtained from some Saxon goldsmith's work.

Whether the stem belongs to the bowl, or whether the stem ought not to be inverted, are perhaps questions of minor importance. The spiral ornament in both parts is exactly the same, an interlaced strap ornament occupying three out of the seven panels in the stem. The effect of a heptagonal stem on an octagonal base or plinth is certainly odd. The base, or step, is probably of the late fourteenth, or of the fifteenth century. Originally there was not a hole in the bottom to let the water drain away, but one in the side. There is no trace of any leaden lining to the font-bowl.

The Choir, with the destroyed sanctuary, had a total length of 38 feet, a breadth of 20 feet. The actual height of the choir cannot now be accurately estimated, though it seems to have been higher than that of the nave. The interior at present is all of the same height. The walls were apparently quite plain, and not pierced for any windows.

There were in the actual choir space four doorways, i.e., a pair on the north and another pair on the south side. Of each pair one doorway gave access to the transept, and the other, in the earliest history of the church, to the open air. These doorways are quite plain, and are cut straight through the wall. Those on the south side and one on the north have lintels or level tops; the other has a straight lined arch composed of two long pieces of stone.

In each side wall of the choir, above these doorways, is an open arch, cut through the wall with a slightly projecting border at the sill, which is 10 feet or so above the level of the present pavement. The jambs are quite plain, with heavy impost members, slightly hollowed, and a square label, much damaged and defaced. These two archways were no doubt

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made to admit a modicum of light to what must always have been a dimly lighted choir.

The eastern wall of the present chancel contains the arch (now blocked up) which formed the entrance to the apsidal sanctuary. This arch is very spacious, being 12 feet 3 inches wide between the capitals, and 20 feet high. It is composed of a single broad, flat-faced member, with well carved but primitive caps, supported by a semi-cylindrical shaft on either side. The plinth, or base, is but slightly moulded, and is 23 inches in height. The label is square and exceptionally prominent, springing from carved heads representing tusked animals (probably boars) of considerable size.

Above the arch is a Perpendicular window, which was probably inserted after the sanctuary had been removed, though it may have replaced an earlier opening. Between the sill of the window and the blocked-up arch there are impost members or brackets fixed in the wall, and abutting against the side walls, the mouldings which return being different in each. There were probably similar brackets in the western wall of the choir which has been removed, and they may have been supports for the floor of the central tower. On this same wall are two stone slabs about 4 feet by 3 feet, with pointed tops flanking the window, which look as if they were intended to block up the splayed openings of former and possibly still existing window openings, though they have been internally and externally blocked.

There is no trace in any account of the church as to how or when the eastern tower was removed or destroyed. Lyson's two drawings of the church show the choir portion considerably higher than the rest of the building, with a roof quite different in pitch. This might be due to the fact that the choir had been loftier than the nave, or to the partial removal of the masonry of this tower. It seems just a probable explanation that this tower fell towards the end of the fifteenth century-perhaps after a fire of which there are traces in the south-east corner of the building - and in its fall did such damage to the sacristy, the apsidal sanctuary, and the chapel at the east of the south transept, that the brethren of Tewkesbury, of which abbey Deerhurst had become a cell in 1469, felt it to be beyond their means to restore the fabric. This, of course, is merely a theory, but it would account

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satisfactorily for the structural alterations carried out about that time. The forced disuse of the old sanctuary would involve the blocking up of the choir arch which gave access to it, and also the making of an additional window in the then east wall of the chancel. As there was no tower to support, the west wall of the choir may have been removed and the rood-screen erected, the door of entrance to which still exists in the south aisle, unblocked. It is an open question when this west wall of the choir was removed. If it were done, as some have thought, in the twelfth or the thirteenth century, the removal may have been a predisposing cause of the fall of the tower.

The chancel contains some good oak seats and panelling which run all round the three available sides of the square. These were the seats for communicants, and the communion table until about sixteen years ago stood in the middle of the chancel. This Puritan arrangement was formerly not uncommon, but is now probably unique, seeing that Winchcombe church, where it once existed, has lately been “ restored”. Some of the panelling was part of a Jacobean pulpit, one panel of which, with the date 1604, is to be seen. The chancel rail is of carved wood, in keeping with the rest of the chancel furniture.

Mr. Micklethwaite in his Paper on Saxon Churches (Arch. Journ. vol. lxiii.) refers to Deerhurst specially, and his remarks are, by his permission, here quoted, with one or two slight verbal alterations

"The Plan shows that in its last Saxon form it was a two-towered church of like plan to the church at Dover, on the Castle Hill. The central tower has gone, but the western one remains, and is a very remarkable building. The plan of the church shows the side walls of the nave black as still existing, which in fact they do, but only the upper parts of them. They are carried by arcades of thirteenth century work. These may take the place of earlier ones, and the church may have had aisles at its first building. If it had, I suspect that it lost them as Brixworth did, and was without when the east part of the church was put into the form shown on the plan. That seems to have been about the beginning of the eleventh century, but it is certain that there is earlier work in the west end and in the tower, and probable that there also is

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in the side walls of the nave. The presbytery was round-ended and wide-arched, as at Worth, and there is an arch in the east wall of the south transept leading to an altar place beyond. In the corresponding position on the other side (i.e., in the north transept) is a doorway which has led to some chamber outside.

The openings from the tower to the transepts on the floor lines are very small doorways, but there is an arch higher up on each side which looks as if it might have opened from an upper floor or gallery.[4]

"To the end of the Saxon time it was usual to make living-rooms in the towers and roofs of the churches, but the

Plan of Deerhurst Priory Church before the Conquest
By J.T. Micklethwaite, F.S.A., from “The Archæological Journal”.

evidence of it is clearest in the fore-buildings of the early monastic churches. That at Deerhurst gives more points than are found together in any other single monument, but the parallels of all, except the division of the two lower stories of the tower, may be found elsewhere, and nearly all at Wearmouth and Brixworth.

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"Here is a section of the tower of Deerhurst looking north, with later mediæval work left out, and indications given of missing parts, of which those that remain supply the evidence.

The Tower, from "The Archeological Journal"
From “The Archæological Journal”.

"The tower is considerably larger from east to west than from north to south, and on the ground and second stories is divided into two unequal parts, the eastern being the larger. The eastern division has formed the usual porch of entrance from the fore-court, with an arch eastwards towards the church, and two small doorways north and south from the covered walks of the fore - court. These doorways were destroyed in the thirteenth century, or later, when the walls were cut away and pointed arches as wide as the chamber itself inserted.

On the west, an arch rather lower than that towards the church leads to the western division, which was not the baptistery, but a sort of vestibule to it. The baptistery itself stood, in the usual way, west of the tower and in the midst of the fore-court.

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A doorway of the thirteenth century now fills up the arch between it and the tower, which gives us the latest date up to which it can have stood.

"Ascent to the upper part of the tower must have been by wooden stairs or ladders in the western division. The western room on the second story probably had no use except as a landing. It received only a borrowed light from the baptistery, which equalled in height two stories of the tower. The eastern room was entered by a door from the other. It has windows on the north and south sides, and a triangular opening towards the church on the east. In the same wall, towards the north side, is the doorway which led to the gallery in the church, and which, I think, is an insertion of the tenth century or later.

"The third stage is now divided, but was originally one room, and that, as appears by the treatment of its details, an important one. I have suggested that it may have been used as a night quire. On the east is the very remarkable two-light window towards the church. There are windows in the middle. of the north and south walls, and close by each is a round-headed recess very like those on the walls of the crypt at Ripon, and, I believe, like them, intended to hold lights.

"In the west wall is a doorway now towards space, but originally leading to an attic in the gable above the baptistery. This room cannot have been very convenient, but the treatment of its door-case marks it as one of some importance. Perhaps it was the abbot's room.

"Only part of the fourth stage remains, but enough to show that it was a single room like the one below; and on the east side, where the wall remains higher than elsewhere, is a doorway which led up one or two steps into the space between the ceiling and the roof of the nave. This seems to point to that loft having been used as the general dormitory.

"The tower must have gone up at least one more story, where the bells would hang, but that has all been replaced by later work.

"One reason for believing that the church at Deerhurst had aisles and lost them is that on each side of the nave in the Saxon wall, above the thirteenth century arches, is a three-cornered window like that from the second stage of the tower to the church, and looking as if it had served as a sort of

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squint from some chamber outside, which chamber is more likely to have been an attic in the roof of an aisle than any thing else. If any such others existed at Deerhurst, there must have been separate access to them from the church or from outside, as they could not be reached from the tower"


The chief remaining portion of the domestic buildings runs parallel with the wall on the right hand of the path leading from the gate in the churchyard to the west entrance of the church, and must have formed the east side of the larger cloister, as the corbels for the penthouse roof still exist in the walls, as they also do on the south wall of the church. Two doors into the cloister from the church, one at either end of the south aisle, have been blocked up.

The other sides of the cloister, which have entirely disappeared, probably comprised on the south side a refectory, and on the west side perhaps the Prior's apartments and a dormitory or infirmary. The humbler domestic buildings were probably to the east of the block composed of the church; and a smaller cloister, or at any rate a smaller quadrangle of buildings may have existed to the east of the present block now inhabited as a farm.

These farm buildings, which measure 68 feet 9 inches by 26 feet, with walls 30 inches in thickness, are probably late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, but contain many later modifications. There is a large upper room near the church with certainly a fifteenth century panelled ceiling, added to the existing open roof. This roof has a quatrefoil opening, through which it was possible to see what was taking place in the hall below.

Below this room (used as a granary) is a cellar three steps below the ground-floor level, with a Norman shaft, introduced from some other part of the buildings, to strengthen the floor above.

The present parlour, when in use as a hall, seems to have had two entrances on the south side, one of which, now blocked, serves as a small pantry.

The north wall of these buildings contains an early fifteenth century two-light window, upon which the other windows seem

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to have been modelled. The south wall contains two windows, one of two lights, the lower one four. The east side is the most interesting from the presence of a reticulated window, similar to one at Clevedon Court, Somerset. This one originally measured 7 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 9 inches, but has been carried up 3 feet higher.

Near to this window, on the east, a wing has been rebuilt on the site of older buildings, with old materials re-used.

Fourteenth Century Window
Photo. ][ Dr. Oscar Clark.

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About eighty yards or so from the Church of St. Mary at Deerhurst was discovered in 1885 in property known as

The Saxon Chapel
Photo. ][ R.W. Dugdale

Abbot's Court, a second Saxon building. It was proved, after careful examination, that this was a chapel, and the discovery of this fact threw considerable light upon the inscribed stone in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, which had been removed thither in 1675, bearing the inscription -

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Dedication Stone


I.e. to say in English: “+ Duke Odda ordered this Royal Hall to be built and dedicated to the honour of the Holy Trinity for the soul of his brother Ælfric which was taken up from this place. Bishop Ealdred it was who dedicated the same on the 12th April in the 14th year of the reign of Edward, King of the English”.

Plan of Saxon Chapel
Plan of Saxon Chapel.
From “The Archæological Journal”.

This stone, of which a facsimile has been erected in this Saxon chapel, was for many years assumed to refer to the larger church at Deerhurst, but as soon as the smaller chapel was discovered, it was seen that the inscription could only refer to that building. The finding of a second stone, the dedication slab of an altar, in a chimney-stack, also seemed to confirm the idea that the building, with its nave, its chancel arch, and its chancel, was the chapel dedicated in 1056 by Earl Odda.

Dedication Slab of an Altar
Dedication Slab of an Altar

The dedication stone has been mutilated by being converted into the topmost portion of a window, and the inscription admits of two interpretations. What remains is here shown.

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This may mean “In honorem sanctæ Trinitatis hoc altare dedicatum est”, or, as Mr. Micklethwaite suggests, “In honorem Sancti Petri[5] apli (apostoli) hoc altare dedicatum est”.

The chapel consists of a nave as feet 6 inches in length by 15 feet 10 inches in breadth, and a chancel 14 feet by 11 feet 3 inches, entered by a round-headed arch 6 feet 6 inches in width and 10 feet in height.[6]

Chancel Arch in the Saxon Chapel
Photo. ][ R.W. Dugdale.

The jambs of this curious arch are nearly 28 inches and the imposts nearly 10 inches in thickness. The latter are chamfered and moulded rudely with two hollows. The arch is distinctly horseshoe-shaped, and on the nave side has a square label merging into the abacus, while the chancel side has none. The doorways were two in number, opposite to each other, in the north and south walls. Of the latter only traces remain. The north door was blocked when the chapel was discovered, but is now opened to give means of access to the building. Only half the doorway is original.

It is a doubtful point how the chancel was lighted, as there is no trace of a window in the old portion of the east wall, while the rest of this wall and the south wall were Tudor alterations. The north wall contains a sixteenth century window.

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In the north-east corner of the chancel is an Early English bracket of beautiful work, for the presence of which it is difficult to account, unless the chapel were in use in the thirteenth century.

The walls of the nave were originally 17 feet high, as compared with 15 feet for the chancel portion. There were also two windows in the nave opposite to each other. That in the north wall has been altered; that in the south wall is very curious and interesting. It is splayed both inside and out, from an opening 3½ x 2½ feet, with a sill 10 feet 6 inches above the level of the ground. The arch is of long, thin slabs of stone, inserted in mortar with wide joints, in some cases two inches in thickness.

A ladder gives access to what was the floor above, when the chapel was divided into two floors for domestic occupation.

Externally the chapel measures 46 feet by 21 feet, the walls being on an average 30 inches thick.

[1] In 1339 the Priory had license given to it to hold two fairs annually, each to last three days, outside the precincts. They were to be held “in inventione et in exaltatione Crucis”.
[2] Editor's Note: the “Trinity triangle” - Reading from the centre to the vertices:
Deus est Pater, God is the Father.
Deus est Filius, God is the Son.
Deus est Sanctus Spiritus, God is the Holy Ghost.
Reading clockwise:
Pater non est Filius, the Father is not the Son.
Filius non est Sanctus Spiritus non est Filius, the Son is not the Holy Ghost
Pater non est Sanctus Spiritus, the Father is not the Holy Ghost.
[3] The tomb of Sir Bryan de Stapleton and Cecilia Bardolph at Ingham (1438) has a dog upon it. His name is “Jakke”.
[4] The plan shows parts which now exist only in the form of foundations below ground. They are taken from a plan made in 1860 under the direction of Mr. Slater the architect, who was then carrying out considerable alterations in the church. It is now in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries. The southern apse was not found by Mr. Slater, but is put in on the authority of Dr. J.H. Middleton, who found evidence of it.
[5] The property even then belonged to the Abbey of St. Peter at Westminster.
[6] “Most small English churches were built on a plan which is purely 'Scottish', all through the Saxon time and beyond it. There are scores of them all over the country. The smaller church at Deerhurst, built in the middle of the eleventh century, will serve for an example. Note its small square presbytery and narrow arch. The church at Kirkdale, near Kirby Moorside, is a contemporary dated building of like form, but rather larger size” (J.T. Micklethwaite in Arch. Journal, vol. liii.).

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in June 2013.

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