Staines: Churches

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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'Staines: Churches', in 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, (London, 1962) pp. 27-30. British History Online [accessed 11 April 2024]


Staines church is first specifically mentioned in 1179, (fn. 1) but it was probably in existence at least a hundred years earlier. The popular belief (fn. 2) that it was founded in 685 arises from a confusion with Stone (Staffs.), but the forged charter of Edgar to Westminster Abbey, which refers to the cell of Staines (cenobium quod Stana vocatur), possibly bears witness to the existence of a church about 1100, when the charter was made, or to a tradition then current of an earlier foundation. (fn. 3) Lysons mentions 'Saxon' (i.e. probably Norman) work in the old church, which has since been pulled down. (fn. 4) Staines church originally had jurisdiction over a large area, with Teddington, Ashford, Laleham, and possibly Yeoveney as dependent chapelries. Teddington became virtually independent in the 13th century. (fn. 5) Laleham and Ashford were regarded as separate parishes, with fixed boundaries and independent administration, by the 15th century, (fn. 6) but their benefices did not become finally detached from Staines until 1859. (fn. 7) Since then the mother parish has been further divided by the creation of St. Peter's and Christ Church parishes. (fn. 8) The existence of a chapel at Yeoveney is discussed below. (fn. 9)

Nearly all the 12th-century references to Staines church occur in papal bulls confirming it, with other churches, to Westminster Abbey, which also owned the manor. (fn. 10) Although a 'parson' of Staines is mentioned in c. 1189–98, (fn. 11) it seems that at least the greater part of the church's income was appropriated to the abbey's use. In c. 1217–18 a vicarage was ordained, following allegations by the monks of Westminster that the abbot had diverted the church from the uses sanctioned by past popes. (fn. 12) The exact terms of the arrangement are in doubt, (fn. 13) but the great tithes were thereby appropriated to the abbey, while the vicar of Staines was to have the small tithes, altar offerings, and all the demesne lands of the church. The existence of some kind of vicarage before this is implied by the provision that the rights of vicars then serving the chapels were safeguarded, but that their successors were to be chaplains. The abbot was to appoint and pay the chaplain of Teddington, and the vicar of Staines was to provide the others. The vicar owed two candles at Westminster each year, possibly in fulfilment of an obligation acknowledged in the 12th century: (fn. 14) it was still paid at the Dissolution. (fn. 15) In 1222 a settlement was made in disputes about jurisdiction between the Bishop of London and the Chapter of St. Paul's on one hand and Westminster on the other. (fn. 16) One of the chapter's complaints was that it had not been consulted when Staines church was appropriated. The settlement confirmed the ordination in general terms; in so far as these varied from the terms of 1217–18 they do not appear to have taken effect. Three years later the abbot and convent made a further agreement between themselves, by which the abbot received the advowson of Staines and provided a barn wherein the tithes might be collected. (fn. 17) The advowson remained with the abbot until the Dissolution, when it passed to the Crown, to whom it has since belonged. (fn. 18) The rectory, consisting after 1217–18 solely of tithes, was appropriated in 1222 to the guest-house and infirmary of the abbey. (fn. 19) In 1225 and until after 1291 it belonged to the hosteler alone. (fn. 20) Its value, including Ashford and Laleham, was £46 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 21) In 1842, when the tithes of Staines were commuted, the great tithes of Staines alone were worth £365. (fn. 22) After the Dissolution the rectory passed into lay hands, and from 1725 to 1844 belonged to the Coussmaker family of Westwood (Surr.). (fn. 23)

The vicarage, together with its dependent chapels of Ashford and Laleham, was valued at £8 in 1254 and 1291, and at £12 3s. 4d. in 1535. (fn. 24) In 1650 it was worth £80 without the chapelries. (fn. 25) The committee for the maintenance of ministers augmented it by £20 in 1656. (fn. 26) From about £200 in the 18th century, (fn. 27) the income of the three churches had risen by 1835 to £425 net of which £190 were paid to curates. (fn. 28) Staines living dropped to £300 when Ashford and Laleham were detached. (fn. 29) In 1955–6 the net income was £669, including £640 from the endowment. (fn. 30)

Under the ordination of 1217–18 the vicarage glebe comprised not only all the houses and lands of the church, but also 12½ acres of the abbot's demesne —presumably hitherto part of the manor. In the late Middle Ages the glebe apparently constituted a manor, with tenants owing labour services to the vicar. (fn. 31) It is not known whether the medieval glebe included the lands which by the 17th century formed the separate glebes of Ashford and Laleham. (fn. 32) In 1844 the Staines glebe consisted of 55 acres; (fn. 33) it had been estimated at about this amount since 1610. (fn. 34) Sales have been made at various times since 1844 and in 1957 2½ acres remained in the vicar's possession. (fn. 35) When the vicarage was ordained it was decreed that the glebe should be free of tithe to the abbey: in 1842 it was still the only tithe-free land, though 103 acres paid a customary modus. The vicar's tithe was commuted for £210, together with a further sum from any part of the glebe not in his occupation. (fn. 36)

There is no evidence that the medieval vicars were non-resident. (fn. 37) In 1458 there were apparently three priests serving the church in addition to the vicar. (fn. 38) One of these may have been the priest of the chantry which had been founded by the parishioners two years before. (fn. 39) The fraternity of the Nativity of Our Lady, to which the chantry belonged, consisted of two wardens and the brothers and sisters, and held several houses and c. 11 acres of land. (fn. 40) It had an income of £11 17s. 6d. at its dissolution in 1547. (fn. 41) The chantry was in the chapel of Holy Cross in the parish church. There was a light in the church called the High Cross, one in the chancel to St. Mary, and lights to several other saints including St. Anthony, St. Peter, and St. Thomas of Canterbury, and to the Holy Spirit. (fn. 42)

After the Reformation several vicars were pluralists and several non-resident or resident for only part of the year. (fn. 43) Both the resident and absentee vicars generally had one or two curates, and continued to do so in the later 19th century, after Ashford and Laleham had passed from their care. (fn. 44) In 1611 the church possessed two bibles, two service books, a book of canons, and a book of prayers for delivery from the gun-powder plot. (fn. 45) Thomas Soame, vicar since 1616, (fn. 46) was ejected in 1643 for pluralism and for his royalist and 'superstitious' tendencies. He was said to have bowed to the altar at Staines after receiving the sacrament. (fn. 47) He was replaced by a presbyterian, (fn. 48) and in 1650 the font was removed from the church and the royal arms were washed off the wall. (fn. 49) Between 1660 and 1663 the churchwardens replaced the font (fn. 50) and bought a surplice, a 'carpet' for the communion table, and a book of common prayer. (fn. 51) Orders were given in 1685 for the communion table to be railed in and books of canons, articles, and homilies to be bought. (fn. 52) The four communion services hitherto held each year were doubled about 1778 and a third Sunday service was added to the two 18th-century ones about 1809. (fn. 53) C. W. Furse (vicar 1863–73), (fn. 54) later Principal of Cuddesdon, introduced daily services and weekly communion services, and established the mission chapel which became St. Peter's Church. In spite of opposition to some of his innovations church attendance grew while he was incumbent. The moderately high-church tendencies started by Furse were rather increased after his time. Vestments were first used in 1900, and choral eucharist had been introduced by 1911. (fn. 55) In 1957 sung communion was the main service on two Sundays in the month, with matins on the remaining ones. (fn. 56) There were 272 persons on the electoral roll in 1959. (fn. 57)

The church of ST. MARY was built in 1828–9, but incorporates the tower of the former church. The old church comprised chancel, nave, a north chapel under a separate gable, (fn. 58) and a west tower, and was built of stone with brick additions and alterations. The chancel apparently embodied pre-13th-century work, and the font may also have been of the same date. (fn. 59) In the rest of the church, most of the windows, if not the fabric, were a good deal later. (fn. 60) The tower had three stages, with an embattled parapet; (fn. 61) in 1791 an inscribed stone was affixed to it, saying that it was built in 1631 by Inigo Jones. (fn. 62) When the remainder of the church was rebuilt in 1828–9, the tower was raised and its windows were enlarged. (fn. 63) It has since been further restored. The church had a gallery by 1751, and an organ was installed in 1788. (fn. 64) By 1826 the building was considered to be too small for the needs of the town, and it was in very bad repair. Part of the north 'transept' collapsed during a service and other parts of the building fell later. A private Act was therefore obtained under which trustees rebuilt the church with the help of £250 from the Church Building Society, enlarged the burial ground, and reapportioned the church rates. The new church was consecrated in 1829. (fn. 65) It was designed by J. B. Watson in the style of the 15th century and consisted of chancel, north vestry, and a wide nave with a west galley, all built of yellow stock brick and plastered within. There is an embattled parapet around the slate roof. In 1885 the chancel roof was raised and an eastern apse of yellow and red brick was added. (fn. 66)

The church contains some 18th-century wall monuments from the old church. The bells were all recast when the church was built (fn. 67) and except for a paten of 1798 all the plate dates from 1842 or later. (fn. 68) The first volume of the registers begins in 1538 (burials), and 1539 (baptisms and marriages). The churchyard was closed to burials in 1854. A burial ground next to the churchyard was opened in 1855 and enlarged in 1880. (fn. 69)

The tithes of Staines and its members of Laleham, Ashford, and Yeoveney are mentioned in 1342, (fn. 70) and on a few other occasions the tithes of Yeoveney are mentioned separately from those of Staines. (fn. 71) The explanation may be merely that Yeoveney was a separate manor, but between 1436 and 1450 Yeo veney was included in a list of chapels of Staines. (fn. 72) This is not conclusive evidence of the existence of a chapel: Teddington which had long since ceased to be in any real sense a chapelry, was also included, and in the many other more explicit references to Staines and its chapels Ashford and Laleham alone are mentioned. (fn. 73) No topographical references to a chapel have been found in the manorial records, (fn. 74) nor have bequests to the chapel been found among those to other churches in the neighbourhood. (fn. 75) It is not known why the Ordnance Survey maps mark the site of the chapel beside Moor Lane: (fn. 76) no trace of a site is marked in earlier maps. (fn. 77)

The church of ST. PETER, which stands on the river bank by Laleham Road, was built and consecrated in 1894, and replaced a succession of mission chapels. The National school in the London Road seems to have been sometimes used as a chapel, (fn. 78) and in 1873 a brick building called St. Peter's mission chapel was opened on the site of Wyatt Road School. It was sold to the school board in 1895, having been replaced in 1885 by an iron building in Edgell Road, which has continued to be used for general church purposes since the permanent church was built. (fn. 79) Sir Edward Clarke, solicitor-general 1886–92, (fn. 80) built and endowed St. Peter's, which became a separate benefice, with a parish attached, on its opening. (fn. 81) The living was worth £710 in 1955–6. (fn. 82) The church was designed by G. H. Fellowes Prynne in 'a free treatment of the Perpendicular'. (fn. 83) It is of red brick with stone dressings and has an aisled nave of four bays and a projecting south-west baptistry with a short tower and spire above it. Morning prayer at 11 was the main Sunday service in 1959, and there were 386 persons on the electoral roll. (fn. 84)

CHRIST CHURCH, Kenilworth Gardens, was built in 1935. A priest-in-charge was provided by the London Diocesan Home Mission. (fn. 85) In 1951 a benefice was created and a separate district was attached to the church, comprising parts of the parishes of St. Peter's, Staines, Laleham, and Ashford. (fn. 86) The living was worth £635 in 1955–6. (fn. 87) The church is a low red-brick building which also serves as a church hall. The electoral roll contained 314 names in 1959, and matins at 11 was the main Sunday service except once a month when there was a parish communion at 9.30. (fn. 88)


  • 1. W.A.M. 12732.
  • 2. e.g. A. Heales, 'Ch. of Stanwell', T.L.M.A.S. iii. 105, citing Leland, Collectanea, i. 1; but cf. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 225.
  • 3. Crawford Coll. of Charters and Docts. in Bodl. ed. Napier and Stevenson, pp. 15, 90–91.
  • 4. Mdx. Pars. 244.
  • 5. See p. 76.
  • 6. See p. 13 and, e.g. Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 1–5, 196–201.
  • 7. Returns of benefices united and disunited etc. H.C. 227, p. 10 (1872), xlvi (order apparently not gazetted); and see V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 308–9, 400–1, and corrigenda thereto.
  • 8. See p. 30.
  • 9. See pp. 29–30.
  • 10. W.A.M. 12732; Westm. Domesday, f. 9; B.M. Cott. MS. Titus A. viii, f. 45.
  • 11. Westm. Domesday, f. 627.
  • 12. B.M. Cott. MS. Titus A. viii, f. 42b.
  • 13. Two versions exist. The one accepted here is that whose terms correspond to various confirmations by judges delegate, &c. It is not itself dated, but the papal commission to the judges was dated 1217. This version is printed in Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 732 (citing Guildhall MS. 9531/6, f. 177); see also Westm. Domesday, ff. 447ab, 448; W.A.M. 16740; B.M. Cott. MS. Titus A. viii, ff. 40b–41a. The second version, of which one copy is dated 1218, among other variations reserves ⅓ of the great tithes to the vicar: see Westm. Domesday, f. 447a; B.M. Cott. MS. Titus A. viii, f. 41ab.
  • 14. W.A.M. 16738.
  • 15. Valor Eccl. i. 413; S.C. 6/Hen. VIII 2415, m. 28d; see Westm. Liber Niger, f. 143.
  • 16. Acta Stephani Langton (Cant. & York Soc. 1), pp. 69–72.
  • 17. W.A.M. 5669.
  • 18. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 403–4; Crockford (1955–6).
  • 19. Acta Stephani Langton, p. 69.
  • 20. W.A.M. 5669; Westm. Domesday, f. 638; Westm. Liber Niger, f. 141b.
  • 21. Tax Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 17.
  • 22. M.R.O., Staines Tithe Award (tithes commuted 1842; rent charge apportioned 1844).
  • 23. See Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 244–5, and tablet in chancel of ch.
  • 24. Val. of Norw. ed. Lunt, 358; Tax. Eccl. (Rec Com.), 17; Valor Eccl. i. 434.
  • 25. Parl. survey of ch. livings in Home Cties. Mag. ii. 209–10.
  • 26. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1655–6, 261.
  • 27. Guildhall MSS. 9550, 9557.
  • 28. Rep. Com. Eccl. Revenues [67], p. 670, H.C. (1835), xxii.
  • 29. Clergy List (1859, 1860).
  • 30. Crockford (1955–6).
  • 31. See p. 20.
  • 32. Home Cties. Mag. ii. 209.
  • 33. M.R.O., Staines Tithe Award.
  • 34. Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 733; Home Cties. Mag. ii. 210; Guildhall MS. 9628.
  • 35. Ex inf. the vicar.
  • 36. M.R.O., Staines Tithe Award.
  • 37. See list in Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 403.
  • 38. P.C.C. 24 Stokton (Wm. Overton).
  • 39. Cal. Pat. 1452–61, 287.
  • 40. Ibid.; W.A.M. 16807; Cal. Pat. 1548–9, 418–19; and see P.C.C. 6 Dogett (John Ebmede).
  • 41. E 301/34, no. 125.
  • 42. MSS. of St. Geo. Windsor, ed. J. N. Dalton, p. 25; P.C.C. 22 Godyn (Wm. Turneye), 5 Wattys (Wm. atte Lee), 6 Vox (John Clerke), 9 Maynwaryng (Ric. Hurloke).
  • 43. See list in Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 403–4; Hist. MSS. Com. 11th Rep. App. VII, 294; Guildhall MSS. 9550, 9557.
  • 44. Guildhall MSS. 9537/6, 20; ibid. 9550, 9557; Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845 and later edns.).
  • 45. Par. Rec., Vestry Bk. 1611–81 (sub churchwardens' acct. 1611).
  • 46. Walker Revised, ed. Matthews, 261–2.
  • 47. C.J. ii. 913; L.J. vi. 20, 25, 30–31.
  • 48. L.J. vi. 33, 42, 101; see Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 88, 398.
  • 49. Par. Rec., Vestry Bk. 1611–81 (sub churchwardens' acct. 1650).
  • 50. Ibid. (1660): the payment was for 'carriage of the font-stone'.
  • 51. Par. Rec., Vestry Bk. 1611–81 (sub churchwardens' accts. 1662, 1663).
  • 52. Guildhall MS. 9537/20, p. 127.
  • 53. Guildhall MSS. 9550, 9557.
  • 54. See C. W. Furse, Ritualism (1889); Cuddesdon College, 1854–1904; for his work at Staines see his Parish Church and Parish Priest (1870), 24–25 et passim.
  • 55. Par. Rec., Vestry Bk. 1870–1922, ff. 145b, 147; ibid. St. Mary's Ch. Year Bk. 1948.
  • 56. St. Mary's Ch. Year Bk. 1956–7.
  • 57. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 58. Water-colour following p. 244 in interleaved copy of Lysons, Mdx. Pars. in Guildhall Libr. Lysons calls it a north aisle.
  • 59. Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 244. Lysons speaks of 'Saxon' work, and describes the font as square, with plain circular arches in the sides.
  • 60. Water-colour cited in n. 94; for sketches of some of the windows see also B.M. Add. MSS. 6748, ff. 2, 7, 75, 87; 6756, f. 290; 6759, f. 21.
  • 61. See, e.g. Brewer, Beauties of Eng. and Wales (1816), x (5), facing p. 504; M.R.O., P.R. 17/66.
  • 62. Brewer, op. cit. 504; see Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 112.
  • 63. Lewis, Topog. Dict. Eng. (1831), 154; Par. Rec., Ch. Rebuilding Trustees' Min. Bk. 1827–41.
  • 64. Par. Rec., Churchwardens' Acct. Bk. 1750–95, Vestry Bk. 1774–1802.
  • 65. Staines Church, Burial Ground, and Church Rates Act, 7 & 8 Geo. IV, c. 107 (priv. act); Par. Rec., Ch. Rebuilding Trustees' Min. Bks. 1827–50, and Ch. Rebuilding Trustees' Acct. 1833 (among misc. papers).
  • 66. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1886).
  • 67. Par. Rec., Ch. Rebuilding Trustees' Min. Bk.
  • 68. See Freshfield, Communion Plate of Mdx., 46.
  • 69. Lond. Gaz. 1854, p. 1133; see p. 26.
  • 70. W.A.M. 16778.
  • 71. e.g. W.A.M. 16794.
  • 72. Guildhall MS. 9531/6, f. 177 (printed in Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 732).
  • 73. e.g. Val. of Norw. ed. Lunt, 358; Tax Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 17; Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.) i. 434; W.A.M. 16756, 28920.
  • 74. See docts. cited p. 22, n. 23.
  • 75. e.g. P.C.C. 22 Godyn (Wm. Turneye), 5 Wattys (Wm. atte Lee), 6 Vox (John Clark).
  • 76. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xix. 10 (1st and later edns.).
  • 77. e.g. M.R.O., Acc. 325/4 (map of Yeoveney farm, 1775).
  • 78. West Mdx. Dir. (1863).
  • 79. Char. Com. files.
  • 80. D.N.B.
  • 81. Hennessy, Novum Repertorium, 404 (order apparently not gazetted).
  • 82. Crockford (1955–6).
  • 83. Builder, lxiv. 490.
  • 84. Ch. notice board; Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959).
  • 85. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1937).
  • 86. Lond. Gaz. 1951, p. 3624.
  • 87. Crockford (1955–6).
  • 88. Lond. Dioc. Bk. (1959); ch. notice board.