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The Abbey and the Anon from the South-Cast.
STONELEIGH AND ITS MEMORIES.
ancient days, when the great forest of Arden extended
over Warwickshire, one of the few early Saxon settle-
ments in the vale of Avon was Stoneleigh, Stonele,
or " Stanlei," as it is called in Domesday Book.
Till the reign of Henry II. Stanlei was in the hands
of the king, who, as Sir William Dugdale tells us, " had
feeding for 2000 Hogs " in its woods. Each of the king's
tenants, or sokemen, held " i yd. land," paying a yearly
rent of a penny an acre, and " doing his suit at the King's
Court," held every three weeks on a little hill near the
village of Stoneleigh, which to this day is called Motstow
Hill, from the word mote = pleadings.
The " customs " concerning these sokemen were varied
and quaint. On a sokeman's death, his horse, harness
and arms, and his best beast were to be given up to the
king. Sokemen were allowed " estovers," i.e., the privilege
of taking wood in the outwoods, by the oversight of the foresters, for " house-
bote, heybote and firebote," i.e., the repair of houses and hedges, and the keeping
up of the hearth fire; and "freedom of pannage " (viz., pasture) "for their own
Hogs ; but for such Hogs as they did buy after the Nativity of St. John Baptist, to
The lord's inferior tenants were ordered to "come with there sykeles to the
Bedrepe of the lorde and reype hys corne " ; and amongst other directions (including
orders to the sokemen to " ryde with their rodds or wands " to oversee the reapers)
it is further commanded, " That they should be in the field at Sunrising, and work
till Sunset, not sitting down to breakfast, but each of them eating what he brought
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The Old Gatehouse.
with him, as they went up and down the lands to their work ; and after breakfast
to sit down once before dinner, the lord finding them drink ; but at Noon, both
they and the sokemen to have meat and drink provided by the lord."
".That the Reapers should eat by themselves, every one having a lyttell wheyton
loofe, iiij egges, and pottage : viz., grewell, without flesh boyled in it, except the
lord would afford them other, with Cheese and Beer sufficient ; and after dinner
one sitting down with bread and beer, but the sokemen themselves to be served
with better dyet, according to their degrees."
Some of the " liberties " of the lord of the manor were as follows :
" The lorde of the man r of Stoneley hath thrs libties that is to wytte Waren "
(viz., the right of hunting rabbits and hares and catching pheasants, partridges, etc.)
" infange ne thef outfange ne thef weyved strayed" (viz., taking or catching thieves
within his own fee and judging them in his own court, and seizing goods stolen
and waved or left by the felon on being pursued), " the catall of fugitive felons the
coke stole : pyllery psecabor soks saks Toll Tern " (viz., power of administering
justice, exemption from paying dues, the right to judge bondmen and villeins with
their children and goods in his court), " Amerciamets of murdres and emendyg of
Bred and Ale frayes and of marketts and the fayres in Stonley."
Henry II., in the first year of his reign, granted Stonele to a body of Cistercian
monks, in exchange for Radmore in " the forest of Canock " or Cannock Chase,
Staffordshire which they had found an unpleasant place of residence owing to the
troublesome visits of the thieving foresters. These monks first settled at a house
in the neighbourhood of Stonele called " Crulefield," now Cryfield, a name ascribed
by local tradition to the cries of the children slain by a "foreign Earl," who was
a great robber, and infested the country, and who lived here till removed by
the king's orders to make room for the more peaceable monks. But the monks,
STONELEIGH AND ITS MEMORIES.
suffering in their turn from
the close proximity of the
highways, removed from Crule-
field, and built their abbey at
Stonele. In the reign of
Edward I., it was certified
that the village of Crulefield
"paid a stone of wax yearly
for the maintenance of the
lights in Stoneley Abbey
burning before the image of
the blessed Virgin."
Some local names carry us
back to the days of the
monks : e.g., a group of neigh-
bouring cottages, known as*
" Pipe's Mill," remind us of
Thomas de Pipe, abbot in the
time of Edward III., who
compiled a valuable " Leiger
Book," containing information
relating, not only to the abbey
itself, but also to various histori-
cal events of general interest.
Gables of the Old Abbey.
Ancient Doorway and Staircase in the
Among the other inhabit-
ants of Stonele at the time
the monastery was founded
were four "Bondslaves,"
each of whom in return for
" i mess, and i quatrone of
land " made gallows and
hanged thieves, though how
often these hangmen's services
were called into requisition
is not recorded ; apparently
the management of the gal-
lows did not take up all their
time, as they were also ex-
pected to plough and reap
twice a year, make the lord's
malt, and do other servile
work. Each wore a " red
clout," as a badge, between
The monks of Stonele
did not always lead lives of
uninterrupted peace. The
ninth abbot, William de
Gyldeford, was a man of
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the church of the
"the Gate- r "
house, a fair
and strong j
building, and j
also one of
his works, h\
still stand- '
eth " ; and '&?
over the gate-
way we notice
the arms of
by Robert in
such great learning that he
was made penitentiary to
Pandulph, the Pope's legate,
and afterwards was sent as
legate himself to Wales. A
shepherd of the monastery
having fought a duel and
hanged a thief who had
stolen the monks' cattle, was
supported by the superior,
whereupon some influential
abbots and others, who
through jealousy had become
William's enemies, caused
him to be deposed.
Not long afterwards many
of the monks grew unruly
and took to a wandering life ;
whereupon King Henry III.,
by letter, directed all sheriffs
and other officers to appre-
hend and deliver them up
to the abbot for chastisement,
A very young, but " sage
and prudent " abbot, Robert
de Hockele, who died in
1349, repaired and beautified
abbey, of which very few traces are now to be found ; but, as
Abbey from the Garden.
The Abbey and the River Avon.
STONELEIGH AND ITS MEMORIES.
Old Abbey north-west corner- seen from the Courtyard.
This gatehouse may have been intended as a place of reception for guests, and
an eleemosynary for distribution of alms. In an ancient wooden bench within the
gateway are ten curious circular holes, the original use of which is uncertain ;
but they were possibly destined in later warlike days to hold lances or other
The church, as already stated, is no more ; though some encaustic tiles, which
probably came from the church, form part of an old pavement in the abbey. A
room thought to be the ancient chapter-house still exists, with a massive pillar
in the centre. A long chamber with a groined roof, which has for many years
been used as a brewhouse, is supposed to have been a crypt under the abbot's
lodging. This brewhouse, by the way, is introduced into a picture at Stoneleigh,
in which a Royalist butler and brewer are represented endeavouring to persuade a
Roundhead baker to drink to the Pretender's health.
Beautiful specimens of Norman arches and pillars still remain, both in the
abbey, and in the parish church of Stoneleigh, where may be seen a very fine
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Stars Bridge, Stoneleigh Deer Park.
chancel arch of 1160 and a late Norman door. Various parts of the existing
abbey date from the reigns of Henry II., Edward III., James I. and Charles II.
An inner courtyard, situated between the ancient abbey and the more modern
building, appears to have formed part of the burying-ground of the monks. A few
years ago three skeletons were unearthed here ; as there were no traces of coffins,
and no chalice or paten was found buried with them, it is supposed that they were
the remains of lay or serving brothers, and not of priests or actual monks. They
were reinterred in the same place, and it is to be hoped that their ghosts will
never disturb the slumbers of the abbey's present inhabitants.
Every Maundy Thursday, " at the washing of the feet " of the poor, the
monks distributed in charity ' 8 quarters of Rye made in bread at $s. the
quarter, 3 quarters of Malt in beer at 4$. the quarter, and 200 Herings at 2od.
Amongst other curious concessions to the monks, it is recorded that in the
reign of Edward IV. two owners of land in the neighbouring village of Ashow had
licence to grant, inter alia, "XXs., a pound of Pepper, and a red ros.e yearly rent,
with half the fishing in Avon, to the monks of Stoneley, for ever." It is interesting
to note that the little village, now hardly boasting more than a hundred and fifty
inhabitants, which was thus called upon for its yearly rose, is in these days, in
summer, a real garden of flowers. Another curious though more modern custom
is registered in the parish accounts here: from 1825 to 1856 the rector and
churchwardens were in the habit of paying fourpence for every dozen of sparrows
brought to them by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
At the time when the lesser monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII., the
clenr yearly value of Stonele being less than ^200, this monastery was suppressed,
STONELEIGH AND ITS MEMORIES.
" Stoneleigh Abbey," from an old Picture.
and the monks were sent away to the larger undissolved religious houses, the abbot,
Thomas Tutbury, receiving a pension of ^23 a year.
Henry granted the abbey to his brother-in-law Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk,
whose sons dying childless, it passed to their cousin, William Cavendish, who sold
it to Sir Thomas Leigh. Thomas Leigh, the younger son of an old Cheshire family,
having been the clever and diligent apprentice of a rich merchant and knight-
alderman of London, Sir Rowland Hill, was employed as his " Factor beyond sea,"
and pleased him so well that Sir Rowland bestowed on him the hand of his niece
Alice Barker, for whom the merchant had a great affection. Sir Thomas Leigh,
having thus become a rich man, bought the old abbey and lands of Stoneley, which
remained in the possession of his descendants, and gradually acquired the name of
Stoneleigh. He was Lord Mayor of London at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth,
and rode before Her Majesty at her entry into the city to be proclaimed at St. Paul's.
His wife, Dame Alice, lived to see her children's children to the fourth generation,
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and founded a " hospital," or almshouses for five poor men and five poor women,
which exists to this day in the village of Stoneleigh.
The great-grandson of Sir Thomas, another Sir Thomas Leigh, was reputed a
giant ; and it is told of him, though with what truth we know not, that on one
occasion, finding a man riding a donkey trespassing within his park, he lifted up
man and beast and threw them over the gates.
This giant was created a baron by Charles I. That ill-fated monarch, on his
way to Nottingham, attended by six thousand horse, found the gates of Coventry
closed, and was received at Stoneleigh by his loyal subject Sir Thomas, where he
met with " right plenteous and hospitable entertainment, while the Cavaleers made
the poore Country mens houses their Innes, and there they made their own welcome
taking what they pleased."
A bronze medal with a head of Charles I. is preserved at Stoneleigh, doubtless
'North Lodge," Stoneleigh Deer Park,
presented to his host by the King. And a portrait of King Charles, attributed by
experts to Vandyck, concealed beneath a painting of flowers, was discovered in
recent times by Sir George Beaumont, who noticed the outline of an eye peering
through the leaves and petals, and suggested that the outer covering of flowers
should be cleaned away.
Over two hundred years later than this visit of King Charles, Stoneleigh opened
wide its portals, under far different conditions, to another royal visitor; but no
soldiers in their buff jerkins and armed with pikes and swords were needed then
to guard their monarch's person with jealous care. On the evening of June i4th,
1858, a vast concourse of people, who had assembled from every side, broke out
spontaneously and with one voice into " God save the Queen," when our beloved
sovereign, accompanied by the Prince Consort, and leaning on the arm of Lord
STONELEIGH AND ITS MEMORIES.
Leigh, came out on to the
garden terrace and appeared in
their midst to acknowledge
with grace and dignity the
greetings of her loyal subjects.
In the same year (1643)
that Sir Thomas Leigh was
created a baron, the vicar of
Stoneleigh was one Sunday
preaching on the duty of re-
lieving the poor, especially as
they could not " in those days
goe abroad to beg of others,"
when a trooper of Serjeant
Fonts with two other young
men came to the church door
and discharged a pistol. They
then went in and listened to
a portion of the sermon, by
which, however, they did not
appear to be much edified, as
the trooper interrupted the
preacher by telling him that
he " lyed," and he and his two
friends proceeded to enforce
the remark by going outside
and firing their pistol against
the window near the pulpit, " to the great affryhtment of all the people."
On an outer wall of this church is the following curious inscription to one who
seems to have been very liberal at another's expense :
TO THE MEMORY OF HUMPHREY HOW,
Porter to the R< Hon blc The Ld. Leigh.
Obiit 6 Febr. An Dni 1688. ^.tat 63.
Here Lyes a faithfull Friend unto the Poore,
Who dealt large Alms out of his Lord ps Store.
Weepe not Poor People, Tho' the Servant's Dead,
The Lord himselfe will give you Daily Breade.
If Markets rise, Raile Not against their Rates,
The Price is stil the same at StoneLeigh Gates.
A granddaughter of the first Sir Thomas Leigh, Alice by name, was married to
Sir Robert Dudley, son of the famous Leicester who entertained Queen Elizabeth
right royally at his princely Castle of Kenilworth. It is curious to note in passing
that, before the Conquest, Kenilworth "was a member of Stoneley, being ancient
demesn of the Crown ; and had, within the precincts thereof, a Castle situat upon
the banks of Avon, in the woods opposite to Stoneley Abbey. Which Castle was
demolished in those turbulent times of warr betwixt King Edmund and Canutus
Sir Robert Dudley, a few years after his marriage, left England for Italy,
accompanied, not by his wife, but by a less estimable if more enterprising lady
in the very beautiful person of Elizabeth Southwell, " who went with him into
Italy in the habit of a Page and there married him " ! He himself was strong
Old and New Abbey.
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A show Church.
and handsome, skilled in mathe-
matics, and especially in navi-
gation, on which subject he
wrote a learned book entitled
Arcano del Mare, profusely
illustrated with plans and charts
which are still to be seen in
fresco on the walls of a room
in the Palazzo Vecchio at
Florence. He had also a great
knowledge of chemistry, and
invented some deadly poisons.
His talents won him the friend-
ship of the Duke of Tuscany,
who allowed him a yearly stipend
of about a thousand pounds ;
and also of the Emperor Ferdi-
nand of Austria, who bestowed
on him the title of Duke of
Northumberland. He built him-
self a palace at Florence, and
died in 1649.
Meanwhile Alice, whom he
had deserted, remained at home, devoting herself to charity and widely spread good
deeds ; and being created by Charles I. duchess in her own right, was known as
Alice Duchess Dudley. She survived her affliction well, for she lived to the age of
ninety. Her portrait, taken when she was an old lady, is preserved at Stoneleigh,
her little thin, sharp-featured countenance appearing out of the midst of the enormous
ruff of the period, and surrounded by a white fluted cap under a black hood. She
died in her house near St. Giles's Church in London, to which, amongst many other
churches, she left large sums of money and various gifts, including " a neat pair
of organs, with a case richly gilded," and " the great bell in the steeple, which, as
oft as it ringeth, soundeth her praise." She also left a sum of money to t'le sexton
of St. Giles's to " toll the Great Bell, when the prisoners condemned to die shall be
passing by, and to ring out after they shall "be executed." These gifts to various
churches Duchess Dudley left on condition that her name should be mentioned in
the sermon preached on Whit Sunday, a custom which to this day is faithfully observed
by the vicar of Stoneleigh. This good old lady's funeral must have given universal
satisfaction, for she directed that her body should be taken from London to Stoneleigh
for burial, and bequeathed " to fourscore and ten Widows (according to -the Number
of the Years she lived) to each one a Gown and fair white Kerchief to attend the
Hearse wherein her Body was carried, and one shilling a piece for their Dinner after
that Solemnity was performed, which was on the sixteenth day of March, 1668. She
appointed five pounds to be given to every Place or Town where her Corps should
rest. She ordered that sixpence should be given to every poor body that should
meet her Corps on the road."
Dr. Boreham, the rector of St. Giles's, published a list of her charities in a
little panegyric entitled, " A Mirrour of Christianity and a Miracle of Charity, or a
true and exact Narrative of the Life and Death of the most virtuous Lady Alice
Dutchess Duddeley." A marble monument in Stoneleigh Church to Duchess
Dudley and her unmarried daughter Alice was the work of Nicholas Stone, master-
STONELEIGH AND ITS MEMORIES.
mason to Charles I., who engaged him for
the building and reparation of Windsor
Castle, at the fee of twelve pence a day.
A few of the largest rooms in the old
abbey have little inner chambers, supposed
to have been used as " powdering closets,"
when the monks of Stoneleigh gave place to
" fair women and brave men." The visitor's
interest is also aroused by a curious figure
painted on a wooden panel. It is known
as " the pretty housemaid." The legend tells
how a beautiful housemaid of long ago had
clad herself in fair array, in a pale plum-
coloured laced bodice, blue skirt, lace cap
and ruffles, bracelets and ring, in preparation
for the Coventry fair, when the housekeeper
indignantly commanded her to don her long
apron, take her broom and sweep the floor ;
the Lord Leigh of the time, beholding her
thus, was so struck by her beauty that he
ordered that she should be painted. Chan-
cellor Ferguson of Carlisle, who has published
a pamphlet on Picture-Board Dummies, in
which he describes this figure and others
like it, conjectures that it is really that of
a Flemish gentlewoman masquerading as a
housemaid, of the date l6lO to 1620. "The Pretty Housemaid."
The visitor who, on antiquarian researches intent, approaches Stoneleigh Abbey
from its west side, is surprised to find himself confronted by a comparatively modern
house, with its Italian gardens sloping down on the south side to the banks of
Shakespeare's Avon. But having passed through Robert de Hockele's Gateway,
already mentioned, he soon discovers the old abbey concealed behind the new
building erected in Italian style and attached to the ancient house by Edward
Lord Leigh in 1720.
It has been told how Sir Thomas Leigh as Lord Mayor of London attended
the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. In 1702 the Lord Leigh of that date went up
from Stoneleigh to London to be present at the coronation of Queen Anne ; his
journey (now accomplished by train in two hours and a half) occupied eight days ;
prayers were offered up in Stoneleigh Church for his safety ; and a bill for " lifting
his lordship's carriage out of the ruts " is preserved among the family archives.
Another journey of a somewhat different nature, taken by one of the family, has
not been forgotten. The grandmother of the present owner of Stoneleigh was
enjoying a country drive on a winter day, the ground being many feet thick in
snow, when she felt the carriage give an alarming jerk ; and upon her anxiously
inquiring the cause, " Don't be alarmed, ma'am," the coachman answered reassuringly ;
" it is only a wall we have driven over ! "
One of the beauties of Stoneleigh is its Deer Park, situated at' a short distance
from the house. Had we, like Shakespeare's exiles of the Forest of Arden, the
power of finding " tongues in trees," we might gather from Stoneleigh's famous
oaks many other memories worth recording. What tales might they not whisper
to us of the jovial monks, and gallant knights, of the merry retainers of the barons
354 THE PALL MALL MAGAZINE.
of Stoneleigh who chased the deer beneath their branches, or even, it may be, of
the " bard of Avon " himself, who, tradition has it, composed some of his immortal
plays in the vicinity of what is still known as " Shakespeare's Oak " ! What changes
have these veteran oaks seen, from the time when some of their forest companions
were felled to make room for the monastery then building in Echels Wood, to the
days of the Georges, when, as represented in a quaint old painting still preserved
in the deer-keeper's lodge, Lord Leigh in mulberry-coloured coat and perruke and
three-cornered hat drove through his domain in a coach-and-six ! But here we close
the record in which we have endeavoured to bring together, though we fear very
imperfectly, a few of the most memorable events in the history of Stoneleigh.
MARY CORDELIA LEIGH.
THE children played, in the cool morn air,
At what they would like to be :
They posed as lords and as ladies fair,
And folks of a high degree.
For life looks fair at the break of day,
With little of work and much of play,
And all is possible so they say,
When the heart, when the heart is young.
The morning changed to the heat of noon.
And then to the twilight chill ;
The children wearied of high life soon,
And quarrelled, as children will.
But they ran away home in the fading light,
To sob out their wrongs ere they said good-night,
And the mother, the mother made all things right,
For their hearts, oh, their hearts were young.
And we need not sorrow, as years roll on,
If the hopes that have ceased to be
But bring us, when passion and youth are gone,
To the truth at the Father's knee ;
Who husheth us up, when our prayers are said,
Forgetful of sorrow, in restful bed,
To awaken again when the night has fled,
Where the heart will be always young.
BX 2596 .873 L42 1896 IMST
Lei gh, M. Corde 1 i a.
Stoneleigh Abbey 47228586
S QUEEN'S P*KK