A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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In 1204 the king confirmed a grant of land made by William of Windsor to the parson of Stanwell. (fn. 1) This may have constituted the first endowment of a church there. In Domesday Book no priests at Stanwell or East Bedfont were mentioned, but there was one at Stanwell's hamlet of West Bedfont. Most of East Bedfont had recently ceased to be a berewick of Stanwell, and it seems possible that the separate parochial organization of the two villages was established only after 1086. (fn. 2) East Bedfont had a church by the mid-12th century. (fn. 3) In 1342 a chapel was consecrated across the river in Colnbrook. The inhabitants of the town who lived on the Stanwell side of the river used the chapel, but they continued to owe tithe to the parish church. (fn. 4) In 1853 Colnbrook became a separate parish in the diocese of Oxford, (fn. 5) but the rest of the ancient parish of Stanwell has remained a single ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 6)
By the middle of the 13th century the rectory of Stanwell had become a sinecure. (fn. 7) In 1246 a rector and chaplain are mentioned together, (fn. 8) and by 1254 (fn. 9) there was a vicarage which seems to have remained in permanent existence. (fn. 10) The vicars were presented by the rectors, who were in turn presented by the lord of the manor, or by the Crown during the minority of a lord, until 1415. (fn. 11) In that year Richard Windsor gave the advowson and one acre within Stanwell manor to Chertsey Abbey in exchange for West Bedfont manor. The church was appropriated to the abbey in the same year, the bishop reserving to himself a pension of 20s. which he would otherwise have received from the church and its vicars. (fn. 12) These changes do not appear to have affected the vicarage, presumably because its endowment was already adequate. In 1537 Chertsey surrendered the rectory and advowson to the Crown which granted them to the new royal foundation of Bisham on whose dissolution they again reverted to the Crown. (fn. 13) Mary Tudor gave them to the Bishop of London in 1558 but this grant may never have taken effect. (fn. 14) The advowson has since remained the property of the Crown. (fn. 15) The rectory, however, was leased by the Crown in 1546 to Sir Philip Hobby for 60 years from the expiry of leases granted before the Dissolution which were still running. (fn. 16) It was later leased, like Stanwell manor, to Sir Thomas Paston and then to Edward Fitzgarret, (fn. 17) and was granted with the manor to Lord Knyvett. (fn. 18) At the partition of Knyvett's estates in 1678 the rectory remained in moieties, and the Cary part passed with the manor to Sir John Gibbons who also purchased the remainder, which included the parsonage house, from Francis Leigh in 1767. Sir William Gibbons sold the great tithes to Edmund Hill in 1797, except those from his own property. (fn. 19) He also retained the parsonage house and land, which became merged in his own property, while the tithes passed with the rest of Hill's property to John Hambrough and his successors. (fn. 20) In 1844 (fn. 21) the parsonage house was the 17thcentury house (fn. 22) north-west of the church, which was later known as St. Anne's, and was demolished about 1952.
The rectory was valued at £30 in 1254 and in 1291 at £40. (fn. 23) In 1650 it was worth £260, including great tithes and glebe. (fn. 24) The great tithes were commuted in 1844 for £620 12s. 2d.: this excluded those arising from a large amount of property of which the tithes already belonged to the landowners. (fn. 25) The glebe perhaps originated in William of Windsor's grant to the church which was confirmed in 1204. This comprised a virgate in Stanwell, together with three woods. (fn. 26) It was supplemented by a house and ½-virgate in West Bedfont given by the lord of that manor to the church, apparently before 1238. (fn. 27) The virgate held in 1086 by the priest at West Bedfont may have passed, in whole or in part, to East Bedfont church. The glebe was increased by an acre in 1415. (fn. 28) By 1650 it comprised some 66 acres, of which 60 acres belonged to the rectory. (fn. 29) This later became merged in the impropriator's other lands. (fn. 30)
The vicarage was valued at £5 6s. 8d. in 1254 and 1291, and at £9 in 1535. (fn. 31) By 1650 it was worth £35, while £50 was then allowed to the minister out of the rectory endowment, part at least of which was sequestered. (fn. 32) The bishops' estimates of the value of the benefice rose from £35 15s. in the early 18th century to £100 in the middle of the century, and £301 by c. 1828. (fn. 33) By 1939 £95 was paid by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in augmentation of the benefice. (fn. 34) In 1955 the income from the church's endowment was £328. The total income from all sources was £780. (fn. 35) Until recent times a very large proportion of this vicarial income came from the small tithes, which were commuted for £280 in 1844. (fn. 36) The owner of one at least of the mills paid a customary fixed composition for tithes in 1652, though he apparently paid in kind for his other property. (fn. 37) The vicars before 1415 may have held part of the rectorial glebe, (fn. 38) but by 1650 the vicarial glebe comprised only 6 acres. (fn. 39) Six acres by Town Lane allotted to the vicar at inclosure were sold in 1950. (fn. 40)
Among the medieval rectors were several king's clerks, (fn. 41) as well, possibly, as members of the Windsor family. (fn. 42) It seems unlikely that any of them resided much in the parish after the mid-13th century, but the vicars presumably lived there, and one of the last rectors was sufficiently interested in Stanwell to leave money for the repair of the church. (fn. 43) In 1380 there was also an assistant chaplain, (fn. 44) and the obits founded in the later Middle Ages required the presence of other priests. Masses were endowed by Richard Thorp, rector (d. 1408), (fn. 45) and by Thomas Windsor (d. 1485), (fn. 46) whose son Andrew, Lord Windsor, continued his father's obit. In 1505 he covenanted to provide a mass-book, chalice, and vestments for the priest, (fn. 47) but the permanent establishment of a chantry for the purpose which he made in his will 'if it should be allowed under the laws of the realm', apparently never took effect. (fn. 48) The endowments of another obit and of a lamp before the sacrament were still in existence and were confiscated in Edward VI's reign. (fn. 49) Fifteenth-century bequests show that there were lights in the church to the Trinity, Our Lady of Pity, St. Stephen and St. Katherine, St. Nicholas, St. John, St. Sebastian, and St. Michael, as well as a light to the Virgin in the chancel, the Holy Rood light, a light to the Saviour, and a light of the otherwise unrecorded brotherhood of our Lady. (fn. 50) The tomb of Thomas Windsor (d. 1485) was designed to serve as an Easter sepulchre. (fn. 51)
There was a chapel at the manor in the 15th century, which was still in existence in 1664. (fn. 52) John Boston of Colnbrook was given permission to have a private chapel in 1442. (fn. 53) There was a hermitage in Colnbrook in 1528, (fn. 54) which may, however, have been across the river in Horton, where Colnbrook chapel stood. (fn. 55)
Several of the 16th- and 17th-century vicars may have been non-resident. The most notable of them was Bruno Ryves, the author of the royalist Mercurius Rusticus, who held several benefices including the deanery of Chichester, and, later, that of Windsor. (fn. 56) He became vicar in 1636 and evidently sometimes did duty at Stanwell, since seven parishioners complained in 1642 of the royalist and Anglican doctrines he had preached to them. (fn. 57) The committee for plundered ministers replaced him by Edward Richardson, who was said in 1650 to be a pious minister obeying all the commands of Parliament. (fn. 58) He had great difficulty in collecting his tithes (fn. 59) and was said in 1652 by a recalcitrant tithepayer and by the parish clerk not to have administered the sacrament or visited the sick for several years. (fn. 60) Ryves was reinstated in 1660 but replaced two years later by Samuel Vicars who was also Vicar of East Bedfont, where he resided. Lionel Redman (vicar 1569-87) had also combined Stanwell with Bedfont; apart from Ryves and his immediate predecessor, they seem to have been almost the only pluralist vicars. (fn. 61) In 1664 the vicar and the master of Stanwell school served Bedfont and Stanwell between them, holding two services in each church on Sundays, and preaching at the morning service. The schoolmaster also read prayers on holy-days at the chapel at Stanwell Place, and he or the vicar read the litany there on Wednesday and Friday. (fn. 62) Vicars's successor became insane and was replaced by George Calvert, who was also curate of New Brentford, where he lived. He came over to Stanwell for the two Sunday services which remained the rule under his 18th-century successors who were all resident. Throughout the 18th century the children were catechized in Lent. Communion services were held monthly at the beginning of the century, but less frequently later on. Communicants numbered 20-30 in 1778 and 1810. There was generally a curate at this period. (fn. 63) In 1838 the vicar was apparently non-resident and the curate lived in the vicarage house. (fn. 64) In 1923 there were 42 persons on the electoral roll, (fn. 65) and in 1959 there were 332. (fn. 66) The main service was then 11 o'clock matins except once a month, when it was replaced by parish communion at 9.30.
A corrugated iron mission-room was opened in Hithermoor Road, Stanwellmoor, in 1912 (fn. 67) and another at West Bedfont at about the same time. The Stanwellmoor one had formerly been a Quaker meeting-house. (fn. 68) In 1956 they were still being used, chiefly for Sunday schools and meetings. (fn. 69)
The church of ST. MARY stands on the south side of the old village of Stanwell. It consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower, north porch, and a vestry on the north of the chancel. It is built of flint and stone rubble, with freestone dressings and slate roofs. (fn. 70)
The nave has three bays, the base of the tower forming a fourth bay at the west end. The arcades are of the 13th century, with alternate circular and octagonal piers. The remains of 13th-century piscinas have been found in the chancel and the south aisle, and have been repaired. (fn. 71) The south aisle and chancel are of the 14th century: the north aisle was rebuilt in 1863. The trussed-rafter roof of the chancel and the ogee wall-arcading may be rather later than the chancel itself. The arcading is partly hidden on the north side by the Knyvett monument, but on the south most of it remains undamaged, together with the sedilia which continue it towards the east end. The east wall of the chancel has been completely rebuilt. In the south aisle some figured corbels remain from the original roof. The nave clerestory and roof are of the 15th century but have been partly restored. The roof has tie-beams with wall-posts resting on carved corbels.
The tower is of three stages. The lowest is 13thcentury, the second, which is flint chequework, is 14th-century, and the third, with an embattled parapet, slightly later. The slender shingled spire leans to the south-west. On the south jamb of the tower arch are some 15th-century scratched inscriptions. The clock was erected in 1768. (fn. 72)
The chief alterations made to the church after the 15th century were the rebuilding of the east wall of the chancel in the 18th century and the restoration of 1863. (fn. 73) At that date the north aisle and north porch were rebuilt, the south aisle, like the new north aisle, was extended to the west end of the tower, and the bottom of the tower was opened out to form part of the body of the church. The north vestry was erected at the same time. (fn. 74)
There is a small 17th-century brass behind the pulpit and one in the chancel to a rector, Richard Thorp (d. 1408), with a half-length praying figure. There are also three medieval indents. The monument of Thomas Windsor (d. 1485), which was designed to bear the Easter sepulchre, was removed from the chancel in the 19th century and destroyed when the north aisle was rebuilt. (fn. 75) The marble monument to Lord and Lady Knyvett (both d. 1622) remains in the chancel. It is by Nicholas Stone and has large kneeling figures facing each other, flanked by columns supporting a broken pediment.
There is a charity board, of the late 18th or early 19th century, in the vestry at the west end of the south aisle, and boards with the commandments, &c. in the north aisle. There is also an 18th-century hatchment (Dunmore). There are six bells, the earliest of which is dated 1766. The plate includes a flagon given by John Cary in 1688; other pieces date from 1799-1817, and include gifts from Sir William Gibbons and E. F. Stanhope. (fn. 76) The registers for baptisms, marriages, and burials begin in 1632 in a single volume. (fn. 77)
Some endowments exist for the maintenance of the church fabric. One comprises Windsor Cottage, formerly an inn (fn. 81) and about £5,000 stock, purchased when lands in Stanwell held by the charity were sold in 1920 and 1936. (fn. 82) Since the 17th century it has been believed that this property was given by Lord Windsor for beautifying the church. (fn. 83) By the 19th century the income was being expended on church furnishings (fn. 84) and since 1898 it has been applicable to general repairs and maintenance. In 1955 £147 were spent. A. L. Blow (d. 1921) left £200 in trust for church repairs. (fn. 85) Provision was made in the foundation of Lord Knyvett's School for 6s. 8d. to be spent on cleaning the Knyvett monument: (fn. 86) this was being done as late as 1932. (fn. 87)