A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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Population: 1911, 131; 1921, 119; 1931, 103.
Until 1840, when this parish was transferred to Warwickshire, by which county it was entirely surrounded, it formed a detached island of Gloucestershire, owing to its having been originally part of the possessions of the early Saxon monastery of Deerhurst. The main portion of the parish lies on the right bank of the River Stour, which forms its southern boundary for some 2 miles. At the south-west angle, near where the Brailes Brook, running south-westwards through the parish, enters the Stour, on the left bank of the river extensive remains of a moat mark the site of the manor-house. Just across the river lies the village, its stone-built houses and cottages, few of which appear to be earlier than the 17th century, grouped round the Green and surrounded by trees. One of the thatched cottages on the west, now tenements, is ancient and retains inside the southern half (No. 17) a pair of medieval crucks. The lower room has an inserted 16thcentury ceiling with a heavy stop-chamfered beam and joists. It has a wide fire-place with an oven that projects in front of the house. North-west of the churchyard is a stone-built 17th-century house of two stories and attics. It has mullioned windows; a wing at the east end was pulled down in recent years. The church is at the north-west angle of the village, and from this point a narrow limb of the parish extends northwards for a mile, with a breadth of about 200 yds., between Brailes and Cherington. The country is hilly, rising sharply from 300 ft. at Sutton Mill (fn. 1) on the Stour to 620 ft. at the northern boundary with the parish of Brailes.
At the time of the Domesday Survey SUTTON was a 5-hide berewick of the manor of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire (fn. 2) which had been given to Westminster Abbey at its foundation by Edward the Confessor. (fn. 3) It had therefore once belonged to the Saxon Priory of Deerhurst, whose possessions were shared between Westminster and the Abbey of S. Denis near Paris. (fn. 4) It remained in the hands of the monks of Westminster, who in 1291 had 1 carucate of land in Sutton worth 20s., rents to the amount of 30s., and farm-stock worth 20s. (fn. 5) The manor is said to have been held of the Honor of Gloucester as 1/5 knight's fee in 1386. (fn. 6) By 1535 the abbey's estate was yielding rather over £22 yearly. (fn. 7) After the Dissolution the manor, with a water-mill, a tenement called Smith's Place, and a rabbit warren, was granted to Sir William Petre, the King's Secretary, and Anne his wife in 1545, (fn. 8) to whom it was confirmed, quit of the rents which had been reserved, in 1553. (fn. 9) It descended with the Lords Petre for over 300 years, (fn. 10) being sold by Robert Edward, 9th Baron, in 1784 to Charles van Notten, (fn. 11) who took the name of Pole in 1787 and was created a baronet in 1791. In this family it has remained.
The parish church of ST. THOMAS BECKET consists of a chancel, nave, and south porch-tower.
The nave dates from the 12th century, but the only remaining architectural feature is the north doorway, which was re-discovered and opened out in the 19th century. The east halves of the side walls are probably original: on the north side this half leans outwards, but the west half has been rebuilt plumb vertical, probably when the clearstory was added in the 15th century, the 12th-century doorway being reset, so that although the eaves line is flush throughout there is a difference of 10 in. inside (at floor-level) and outside at the base.
The chancel was rebuilt in the 13th century and seems to have been lengthened eastwards at the end of the same century and larger windows than the original lancets provided. The south tower was an addition of c. 1340 but it was probably later in the century that the top was completed.
There was a large restoration of the building in 1879 at a cost of £2,000, when the walls were stripped of plaster and external cement, the west and the southwest walls of the nave rebuilt and new roofs provided.
The chancel (about 28 ft. by 16½ ft.) has a fine late13th-century east window of three plain pointed lights and tracery including three circles, now provided with modern foils, all in a two-centred head. The jambs and head are of two orders with edge-roll moulds: the very obtuse splays inside are of rubble with angle dressings that also have edge-rolls. The head inside has an extra moulding against the tracery, stopping at springing-level. The rear-vault of ashlar is splayed and the rear-arch has an edge-roll. The edge-rolls of the tracery-circles are distinct from those of the pointed heads of the main lights, conforming more to the platetracery motif than to the later forms. There are hoodmoulds inside and out with human-head stops. The middle light is wider than the others and the mullions are moulded like the jambs.
In the north wall are three windows: the easternmost, of the same date as the east window, is of two plain pointed lights and plain tracery in a two-centred head with an external hood-mould with men's-head stops, the eastern bearded. The jambs are of two hollowchamfered orders, and the rubble splays have dressings with an angle-roll, and a hood-mould with head-stops, the eastern a man and the western a pretty lady with a caul or crispine, fillet and barbette of the 13th century. The middle and western windows are 12 in. lancets of the early 13th century which were partly remodelled later in the century. The middle window has hood-moulds, that inside with carved stops, a fox's head, and a bat or monster. The western has no hood-moulds.
The middle window in the south wall is a lancet like that opposite: the hood-moulds have human-head stops, one of those inside is a woman's head with a square coif. The eastern window has mouldings like that opposite, but its elevation approximates more to the east window: it is of two pointed lights with a trefoil in a two-centred head. The trefoil was in a circle but it is now distorted as though the tracery had collapsed or been reset badly. The tracery inside has a roll-mould that stops at the springing line of the jambs on little grotesque heads but is continued down the mullion. The rear-arch is segmental-pointed and the hood-mould has stops carved as foliage, the western having also a small ape's head in the foliage.
The westernmost window is a late-15th-century insertion of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and plain circular tracery lights in a square head with an external label having return stops: the jambs, of dark brown stone, are of two chamfered orders: the splays are obtuse and have yellow angle-dressings. This window is set low and its masonry is plumb vertical while the wall itself leans outwards so that it has an oversailing course above the label and the wall-face sets back inside above the rear-arch. East of the window is a priest's doorway of the late-13th-century period with a pointed head and jambs of two hollow-chamfered orders with broach base-stops, and an external hood-mould of plain round section like the internal string-course. The latter runs round the chancel at window-ledge level, lifted over the priest's doorway as a hood-mould, and stops at the south-west window.
Below the north-east window is a square locker with rebated stonework for the door, and under the southeast window a 13th-century piscina with a trefoiled head below a round hood-mould, also an outer square hood-mould, both of the same section as the stringcourse, with which the latter is conjoined. The basin is circular and partly in a projecting moulded sill which has a defaced head-corbel. On either side of the east window is an image bracket. The northern is a 13th-century moulded round capital re-used, the southern is a late-13th-century bracket, of which the upper part is square in plan and the lower part of circular plan with a trefoiled rosette carved in the soffit. Near the east end of the north wall is also a human-head corbel, perhaps also for the same purpose.
The east wall is mostly of uncoursed yellow rubble up to the base of the gable, with a chamfered plinth. The gable-head is of later coursed squared stones and has a modern coping. At each angle is a pair of ashlarfaced square buttresses, of the late 13th century, with the same plinth. The north and south walls are of roughly coursed rubble below the windows, without a plinth, probably early-13th-century work, but each wall shows a slight change of texture where the walls have been lengthened. These walls have late-14thcentury hollow-chamfered eaves-courses, decorated with carvings of grotesques and beast-heads, &c. On a stone of the south doorway is scratched a sundial, and there is another on the east buttress of the same wall. There is also a peculiar scratching, probably random, on the north buttress on the east wall, a device with a pair of scrolls at the top and over it a carved riband on which is some lettering.
The internal faces are of uncoursed rubble, with return dressings in the east angles, except below the string-course in the north wall, where there is an attempt at coursing in largish stones (perhaps re-used 12th-century stones). In the east wall and the east half of the north wall above the string-course the masonry is neatly coursed, suggesting modern treatment. This is less noticeable on the south wall.
The roof is modern: it is of three bays with arched trusses and exposed framing, and is covered with tiles.
The chancel arch is of the 13th century, in deep yellow and brown stone, but may have been reconstructed in 1879. It is of two chamfered orders with small courses and voussoirs: the inner order has re-cut capitals. The two-centred head has plain hood-moulds.
The nave (about 51½ ft. by 22½ ft.) has only one lower window in the north wall, near the east end. It is an insertion of c. 1500 set in a segmental-headed recess (11 ft. wide inside and 3½ ft. deep) and projecting outside about 21 in. The window is of three trefoiled depressed ogee-headed lights and late foiled tracery piercings in a square head with an external label. Against each splay is a stone seat. The feature was probably provided for the reception of an altar tomb that may not have materialized.
Farther west is the break outwards, already mentioned, of c. 10 in. at floor-level, with modern angledressings, and next west of it in the vertical part of the wall is the plain 12th-century doorway with chamfered jambs and round head.
There are two south windows. The tall eastern has a head of the same type and date as the east window of the chancel, being of two trefoiled lights and a quatrefoiled circle in a two-centred head which is all of one piece of stone. The inner order is chamfered, the outer has an edge-roll with a plain hood-mould. The lights were made wider at a later date by the insertion of shoulder-corbels immediately below the head: the jambs are of a similar section. All the stonework is of a like dark brown. The splays are of rubble with dressings, and high up in the east splay is a reset carved corbel, perhaps to do with a former rood-loft. Below the window is a 14th-century piscina with a shouldered lintel and round basin. The western window is a single trefoiled ogee-headed light with a modern square head and label. The jambs, of one chamfered order, are of old stone partly retooled and the wide splays are of rubble with partly old dressings. The south doorway opening from the tower-porch has wave-moulded jambs and pointed head with a hoodmould: a few stones in the west jamb may be of c. 1340 but otherwise the doorway has been restored. The inner square reveals are of old brown stone but the segmental-pointed rear-arch is modern.
The clearstory has three 15th-century windows on each side. The northern and the south-western are each of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights under a square head with a label, all of deep-yellow stone: the wide inner splays are of rubble with rough-tooled dressings. The two south windows east of the tower are each of two cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights and tracery in a square head with a label. The window on the west wall is of three cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights with trefoiled piercings in a square head: the jambs of two chamfered orders are old (15th-century), of grey stone: the mullions and head are modern.
The masonry on the north wall east of the break is of irregular rubble with a change to generally larger stones in the clearstory. West of the break the masonry is more regular, being approximately coursed, and there is no change between that of the lower part and that of the clearstory. With the fact that apart from the doorway there is no piercing in this half it is probable that it was rebuilt when the clearstory was added. At the east angle is an ancient square buttress. The buttress and the projecting window-bay have chamfered plinths on rough footings but the remainder of the wall has only rough footings. The south wall, east of the tower, is of irregular rubble, with a low buttress of old ashlar at the angle. West of the tower the wall is modern or rebuilt. Internally the whole wall is of approximately coursed rubble and there are relieving arches over the south doorway and south-west window. At the top, from a level about 2 yds. below the wall-plate, are the straight joints and quoin-stones of the tower with the later clearstory wall built against it. The walling between the quoins is of small streaky stones. The east wall is of approximately squared and coursed rubble: above the apex of the chancel-arch are reset two human-head corbels. The west wall is modern.
The embattled side-parapets and the low-pitched gabled roof are modern. The roof is divided into five bays by trusses that have cambered tie-beams with curved braces with traceried spandrels. Above are middle arches with king-and queen-posts and tracery.
The south tower (about 9 ft. square) is divided into two stages by a plain string-course which is level with the top of the nave-parapet: the lower stage is therefore of two stories, the lower being the porch. The walls are of grey and yellow ashlar in small courses and finejointed up to the string-course: at the south angles are diagonal buttresses of the same stone. These, with the south and east walls, have plinths of two courses, the upper moulded, but the west wall has only the lower chamfered course.
The upper stage is of less finely jointed ashlar and in its upper part of browner stone. The parapet is plain and there are gargoyles on the string-course and stumps of former angle-pinnacles.
In the north-west angle is a stair-vice entered by a plain doorway in the south wall of the nave. It projects slightly on the west face as two sides of a hexagon above the nave and there was originally a superstructure, of which fragments remain.
The two-centred south entrance, of the 14th century, has moulded jambs and head of two orders in one splayed line with an external hood-mould: this has defaced stops and is turned up at the apex with an ogee curve with a small trefoiled roundel carved on the face. In the west wall of the porch is a trefoiled ogee-headed window with small foiled piercings in a square head with a moulded label.
In the east wall at floor-level is a recess with a cinquefoiled ogee-head and perhaps remains of a crocketed hood. It has a narrow stone bench in it provided for, or at least used by, a bell-ringer, as the head is much scored by the friction of bell ropes. The chamfered jambs are of modern grey and brown stone, the old head of a lighter yellow stone. The upper story has a 14th-century south window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and tracery in a square head with a label; and in the east wall is a small trefoiled ogeeheaded light. The bell-chamber has windows of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and varying tracery in a square head with a label.
The font and other furniture are modern.
A table-tomb in the churchyard south-west of the tower, dated 1675, is that of John Thornitt, who left £10 to the poor of the parish. (fn. 12) It has elaborately carved sides with oval frames flanked by scrolls and cornucopiae. There are other 17th- and 18th-century headstones.
The five bells (fn. 13) are of 1701, but only three bear the date with the initials or names of the founders, Will. Cor and Rob. Cor.
The registers begin in 1577, but the volume containing most of the 17th century is missing.
The church was valued in 1291 at £5 6s. 8d., in addition to 20s. payable for tithes to the Priory of Deerhurst (fn. 14) (reconstituted as a cell of St. Denis). The rectory and advowson belonged to Westminster Abbey and in January 1541 were granted to the newly formed bishopric of Westminster. (fn. 15) After the suppression of that see the rectory was granted in 1550 to the Bishop of London, with whom it remained until about 1823, when the Bishop of Bristol was patron. (fn. 16) In 1919 the patronage was conveyed to the Bishop of Coventry, who, since the union of the benefice with that of Cherington with Stourton in 1929, presents to alternate vacancies.