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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There was a priest at Cranford in 1086, when he held 1 virgate of land, (fn. 1) and presumably there was a church there also. The benefice is a rectory, and though the advowson was held by two religious orders, the Knights Templars and the Hospitallers, it was never appropriated. The advowson seems to have followed almost the same descent as the manor of Cranford St. John. The first patron of whom there is any record is Roger of Cranford, who presented his brother Gilbert, some time before 1217. In 1217 John de Mascy and Aveline his wife recovered the advowson against Robert of St. John, as Aveline's grandfather, Roger of Cranford, had made the last presentation. (fn. 2) Later, in 1247, it was stated that John and Aveline had presented a clerk called Robert of St. John 'in the time of King Richard', (fn. 3) but this presentation was probably in fact made after they had recovered the advowson. John and Aveline kept the advowson in 1231, although they disposed of a moiety of the manor. (fn. 4) In 1287 the Knights Templars acquired the presentation, with some land, from Simon and Euphemia Weyf of Acton, (fn. 5) although they seem to have had some interest in it as early as 1247. (fn. 6)
When the lands of the Templars were confiscated in 1308 the advowson passed to the king, as he presented a parson in 1311. (fn. 7) In 1328 the patron was Robert de Swalclyve, and in 1333 Roger Northburgh, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. (fn. 8) For how long the bishop held it is not known, (fn. 9) but by 1363 the advowson had come into the hands of the Prior of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, (fn. 10) and it remained their property until the Dissolution, except when their Cranford manor was leased for a life. (fn. 11) The reason for the Crown presentation in 1393 (fn. 12) while their lessee held the advowson is not certain, but in the late 15th and early 16th centuries the advowson was expressly reserved from the leases of the manor. (fn. 13) It continued to descend with the manor after the Dissolution until 1932, and is still retained by the trustees of the Berkeley estate. (fn. 14) In practice the right of presentation was not always exercised by the lords of the manor. Sometimes a single presentation was granted out or sold, and between 1533 and 1661 this happened at least five times. (fn. 15)
The benefice of Cranford was valued at £4 in 1254 (fn. 16) and at £5 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 17) In 1535 it was worth £16, (fn. 18) and the value rose slowly until it reached £200 about 1830. (fn. 19) In 1838 the tithes were commuted for a rent-charge of £250. (fn. 20) During the mid-19th century this and the glebe were mortgaged to Queen Anne's Bounty for £446, (fn. 21) but by 1917 the value of the living had fallen again to £200. (fn. 22) In 1957-8 the net income of the benefice was £670, of which £631 came from endowment, (fn. 23) but part of this was the proceeds of sale of the old rectory house and was intended for the building of a new one. (fn. 24)
It is not certain when the Old Rectory, which lies about a quarter of a mile east of the church, was first used. There was a parsonage-house in 1628 (fn. 25) and 1650, (fn. 26) and a barn and other outbuildings belonging to it are mentioned in 1628, but there are no further references to a glebe-house before the late 1820's, (fn. 27) and according to tradition the Old Rectory was once a farm-house. This may have been so in the later 17th century, for one rector then is known to have lived in the Moat House. It is said that the Moat House continued to be used by the rectors until 1771: it was demolished in 1780. (fn. 28) The Old Rectory has a timber-framed east wing, and the building was extended and faced with brick in the 18th century, probably in 1774. (fn. 29) It has since been further enlarged. In 1610 the glebe was reckoned at 14½ acres, scattered in small plots through the fields. (fn. 30) In 1926 it was still estimated at 14 acres, which were valued at £50. (fn. 31) In 1939 the Air Ministry bought the Old Rectory and 11 acres of the glebe for the projected extension (which never took place) of Heston airport. After litigation the ministry provided 3 acres north of the church for a new rectory house, but in 1958 this land was to be acquired by the Ministry of Transport for the proposed South Wales motorway. In the meantime two semi-detached houses in Roseville Road were acquired as a temporary rectory. (fn. 32)
Little is known of the pre-Reformation clergy. The theory that the church was a chapel of the Templars dedicated to St. John the Baptist and only became a parish church in 1310 (fn. 33) with a presentation by the king does not appear to have any factual foundation. Many of the post-Reformation clergy were non-resident, (fn. 34) in which case there was a curate to serve the parish. (fn. 35) Between c. 1771 and 1814 the curate's salary rose from £25 a year to £40. (fn. 36) Very few prominent clergy have held the benefice, but among them is Thomas Fuller, D.D., the author of The History of the Worthies of England and The Church History of Britain. He was at Cranford from 1658 to his death in 1661, when he was buried there. (fn. 37) His successor, John Wilkins (rector 1661-2), later Bishop of Chester, probably never resided at Cranford. Both Fuller and Wilkins were appointed by George Berkeley (later Earl of Berkeley), a fellow member, with Wilkins, of the Royal Society. Another contemporary fellow was Sir Charles Scarburgh, F.R.C.P., who retired to Cranford and died there. (fn. 38)
According to an agreement of 1639 the men of the congregation sat in 6 rows on the north side and the women in 5 rows on the south side. (fn. 39) Here the seats were allotted by name to 38 people. In 1778 the pews and seats were allotted to houses. (fn. 40) During the 18th and early 19th centuries there were generally two Sunday and two weekday services, with four communion services each year. The children were catechized in Lent. In 1790 there were only 15 communicants and in 1810 there were 14. (fn. 41) This small proportion may have been due to the growth of nonconformity in the village, or perhaps was because the incumbent was sometimes more the domestic chaplain of the Berkeleys than the parish priest, as was certainly the case in 1814. (fn. 42) As late as 1876 no one was allowed into the park to visit the church except by special permission or to attend services, (fn. 43) and the keys of the church were kept at Cranford House. (fn. 44) Daily services in Lent were started during the later 19th century and various institutions, both religious and social, were sponsored by the rector. (fn. 45) During the incumbency of the Revd. Maurice Child (1935-50) the livery of St. Dunstan was instituted, membership being limited to altar servers. (fn. 46) In 1959 the main Sunday service was sung mass at 9.15. There were then 114 persons on the electoral roll. (fn. 47)
The parish church of ST. DUNSTAN is very small and consists of a chancel, nave, vestry, and west tower. (fn. 48) The present chancel and tower, built of flint and rubble, date from the 15th century.
Brick buttresses were added to the former, probably before the 18th century. The belfry, also in brick, was added in 1716, The nave, also perhaps of the 15th century, was destroyed by fire in 1710, which also damaged the tower and the chancel arch. The nave was rebuilt in brick by Elizabeth, Countess Dowager of Berkeley, in 1716. It is of two bays and has round-headed windows and a south doorway with stone quoins, voussoirs, and cornice. The marble font was given to the church in 1716, also by Lady Berkeley. In 1895 the church was extensively restored: the tie-beam roof on the nave was renewed, the gallery was removed, and the vestry was added against the north wall of the tower, (fn. 49) which was rebuilt in 1940. (fn. 50) The glass in the east window, by Kempe, was also inserted in 1895. (fn. 51) In 1936-7 there were again extensive restorations during which the church was entirely closed. The present gallery was erected, the chancel was restored, and the remains of a 15th-century fresco was discovered over the east window. A priest's doorway of 16th-or 17th-century brickwork in the north-east corner of the chancel was unblocked and made into a window. (fn. 52) The church was still lit by gaslight in 1958.
The church is chiefly notable for the monuments in the chancel. In the south-east corner is the marble monument of Elizabeth, Lady Berkeley (d. 1636). The white marble effigy is attributed to Nicholas Stone. (fn. 53) On the north wall is the Aston monument, which was moved back slightly in 1936-7 to give more light to the chancel. This monument, by William Cure, was erected by 1613, (fn. 54) and shows the figures of Sir Roger Aston, his two wives, four daughters, and infant son. The whole is in three bays of alabaster and black marble, divided by pilasters, and with an arched canopy above the central bay. Also in the chancel are tablets to Thomas Fuller (d. 1661) and Sir Charles Scarburgh (d. 1693). On the south wall are two large matching tablets erected c. 1700 to the 8th Lord Berkeley (d. 1658) and the 1st earl (d. 1698). In the nave are two large wall monuments: on the south wall to Pelsant Reeves and his two wives (d. 1727 and 1729), and on the north wall to William Smythe (c. 1720). A palimpsest brass, mounted on the wall by the west door, commemorates Nicholas Bownell (d. 1581). On the reverse is part of an earlier inscription of which the first and fourth lines are mutilated. It is not known to whom it refers. (fn. 55)
There are four vaults under the church. The Berkeley vault in the chancel was probably built in the early 17th century. (fn. 56) The Gregory vault in the nave was 'new-built' in 1780 when the fee charged for each opening was agreed at £1 11s. 6d. (fn. 57) There are two other vaults near the church doors. (fn. 58) In 1936-7 the vaults were opened and the bodies reburied in the churchyard as the floor of the church required strengthening. (fn. 59) The Sanctuary lamp hanging beside the altar was made by Omar Ramsden (fn. 60) in 1937 from the coronet of Frederick, Earl of Berkeley (d. 1810), which was found in the Berkeley vault. The baptism and marriage registers date from 1564, but a number of years are missing in the latter. The burial register dates from 1566. The ancient plate consists of a chalice and paten (1639), a flagon (1649), and two patens (1650 and 1698) (fn. 61) all of which are now kept in a Hounslow bank. The plate used normally is modern. (fn. 62) The church owns a good collection of vestments, among them a late 17th-century red velvet cope and a cloth of gold chasuble. There is a peal of six bells. The tenor bell was cast at Aldgate in 1338 by William Burford and is inscribed 'Xte pie flos Marie'. The next bell is of the 17th century, and the other four are all modern. (fn. 63)
The church of the HOLY ANGELS in the Bath Road originated as a chapel of ease which was housed in the Church of England school during the later 19th century. (fn. 64) In 1935 a corrugated-iron mission church was erected, with a green cement floor, and concrete altar and font, (fn. 65) the 'White Hart', 'Queen's Head', and 'Berkeley Arms' giving some of the furnishings. (fn. 66) In 1940 it was taken over by the London Diocesan Home Mission (fn. 67) who appointed a separate priest. In 1941 it was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt immediately and reopened in the same year, also as a Rodney hut construction. It has some 18th-century vestments and plate. (fn. 68) In 1959 there were 256 persons on the electoral roll. (fn. 69) The main Sunday service was sung mass at 9.30, preceded by matins.