STOKE-BY-CLARE, SUFFOLK

Grid Ref: TL 741 433
Date: 19 May 2010

 

church   Elwes chapel
St. John the Baptist   Elwes Chapel
Parker window   north arcade
Part of the South Window commemorating Matthew Parker   North Arcade
village scene   pargetting
Half-timbered houses in the village   Elaborate pargetting
Suffolk pink cottages   Georgian House
Cottages in Suffolk pink under a festoon of wires   Georgian House

 

It is always fascinating to visit a small town or village and to discover that it has links with national events. Stoke-by-Clare is such a place with more than one claim to fame. Originally there was a Benedictine Priory at nearby Clare. It was a daughter house to the parent Abbey of Bec in Normandy. Richard de Clare, the 1st Earl of Hertford moved the priory a few miles to Stoke-by-Clare in 1124. The link to Normandy was broken in the late 14th century, during the Hundred Years War. In 1415, the year of Agincourt, the Priory was superseded by Stoke College for the education of priests. Its patron was Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March. The college was suppressed in 1548 during the reign of Queen Mary and the site abandoned. The Elwes family bought the estate in 1660 and they were responsible for the current main house. A wing was added by Edward Lutyens in the Arts and Crafts style in the early 20th century. The house was abandoned in 1950 but four years later it became an independent school and the name of Stoke College was reborn.

Dr. Matthew Parker (1504-1575) was the priest at the church of St. John the Baptist from 1535 to 1538. He became Master of Corpus Christi College in Cambridge from 1544 to 1553. As a married priest he had to give up this post in the reign of Queen Mary. He had been chaplain to Henry VIII's queen Anne Boleyn and then guardian of the Princess Elizabeth. As Queen, Elizabeth appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559, an appointment he held until his death on 17 May 1575. He was the last Dean of the College of St. John the Baptist at Stoke-by-Clare. Parker's curiosity and his physiognomy has been said to have earned him the title "nosey Parker". However, there is no evidence of the term being used before 1907. He was also involved in the translation of the Bible into English, for helping in the preparation of Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer and as one of the co-authors of the Thirty Nine Articles.

Robert Beckinshaw, who was priest in 1516 at Stoke-by-Clare went on to be the chaplain of Henry VIII's queen, Catherine of Aragon.

The church of St. John the Baptist was originally the priory church. The current chancel is from the 15th century. The nave was rebuilt and enlarged in the 16th century but not quite on the alignment of the chancel. The tower base is from the 1200s but above the clock the work is 15th century.

The Elwes Chapel, shown above was formerly a chantry chapel in the days of the college. When the Elwes family acquired the college buildings in 1660 they took control of the chapel and several members of the family are buried beneath. There is medieval glass at the top of the window. The plaque on the right of the window is to Lieutenant General John Timms Elwes, who as a Colonel was at the Battle of Waterloo. He died in 1824 aged 54. His wife Fanny is also commemorated. Two members of the Elwes family were celebrated misers - Sir Hervey (1683-1763) and his nephew John Meggott (1714-1789) who changed his name to Elwes. Sir Hervey was an MP for Sudbury and he left his nephew £250,000. John Meggott Elwes was M.P. for Berkshire and at his death left £500,000. He is believed to have been the model for Charles Dicken's Scrooge.

Sources:

Suffolk Churches website
Pamphlet available in the church
Wikipedia articles on Stoke College and on Matthew Parker

 

 

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