Documentary evidence

A report was produced by John Chandler in 1993/4, in connection with the archaeological excavations carried out in the field called "Court Close" next to the Waterworks in Sutton Poyntz, collecting together the documentary evidence relating to the Chapel known to have been in Sutton Poyntz at one time. This report is reproduced in "By a Crystal Brook" by Mick Rawlings, the report on the excavations and findings. The following is a short summary of the documents relating to the Chapel.

  • 1228 - A reference in the Calendar of Patent Rolls refers to a hearing at Sherborne into the presentation of a chaplain to the chapel at Stockwood (Stoke St Edwold) in Dorset, which was part of the Sutton Poyntz liberty. The hearing followed a complaint by a chaplain at Preston. The reference implies the existence of a chapel within the parish of Preston, but is not specific in any way as to location.
  • 1331-3 - A reference in the Calendar of Papal Register to a chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalene in the parish of Preston. Again, there is nothing specific about location.
  • 1405 - A very clear reference on the occasion of a Dean's Visitation to Preston on 18 July 1405, to a chapel at Sutton with altars dedicated to St Giles and St Mary Magdalene. The reference states that for the last 8 years the vicar had failed to provide a chaplain to say mass at the chapel.
  • 1412 - A second Dean's Visitation, in June 1412. It is complained that the vicar had failed to provide a chaplain to say mass at "St Juliana's chapel"; the whereabouts of the chapel is not stated.
  • 1483 - Another Dean's Visitation, and another complaint by the people at Sutton that mass is not said at their chapel. In this case the vicar said he had withdrawn the celebration of mass because tithes were being taken by the rector and prebendary of Preston. The Dean ordered that the celebration of mass three times a week should resume, and ordered an investigation into what tithes were owing to the vicar.

There are no other references to a chapel in the parish of Preston cum Sutton Poyntz. Two 17th Century documents which might have been expected to list the chapel if it existed (a Parliamentary Commission of 1650, which specifically says Sutton Poyntz has no chapel, and a survey of Sutton Poyntz dated 1654) make no reference to a chapel.

It can be inferred that a chapel existed at Sutton Poyntz between the 14th century and some time in the 16th century, which functioned fitfully for much of its existence, and had disappeared completely by the mid-17th century.

The Chapel's location

There is no documentary evidence that allows the site of the chapel to be inferred. There are three possible sites for the chapel:

  • Prospect Cottage, on the west side of Plaisters Lane - Early Ordnance Survey maps show this as the site of the chapel, but it is not obvious what evidence the cartographers thought they had. There used to be a Chapple Close nearby, but this almost certainly refers to a family who tenanted land in Sutton Poyntz in the 18th century, rather than to a memory of a chapel.
  • Laurel Cottage, a cottage at the fork between Plaisters Lane and Silver Street - To modern eyes, this looks like the most sensible spot for a village chapel, but it is not clear that the medieval geography of the village was the same; the 'capital messuage' or main farm may then have been further up the stream. It has been suggested that the stone structure of this cottage has some of the feel of a small church building. It has also been suggested that gravestones were found in the garden - we would welcome information on (a) whether a subordinate chapel like this would have had a burial ground, and (b) whether burials at a rural site like this would have been marked with gravestones.
  • Near the Waterworks site (which was until 1856 the site of the Upper Mill in Sutton, and may much earlier have been the site of the village's 'capital messuage') - Excavations in the early 1990's in the field once called "Court Close", to the west of the Waterworks site, revealed a medieval stone building of the right date, size and alignment to be plausible as the lost chapel. This seems to be the most likely location for the old chapel.


Stockwood - This website is about Sutton Poyntz, rather than about Stockwood, but as Stockwood occurs a number of times in the documentary evidence about Sutton Poyntz, it may be of interest to include a short commentary about it. Stockwood is a tiny hamlet, just to the north of the main road between Dorchester and Yeovil, off the road towards Chetnole. It is little more than a single farm with a 15th Century church which is of interest for two factors: first, it is said to be the second smallest church in England (and certainly the smallest in Dorset); and second it is the only church anywhere dedicated to St Edwold. St Edwold was the brother of Edmund, King of East Anglia, who was murdered in 870 AD. Edwold chose to become a hermit rather than accept what might have been a rather dangerous crown; he ended at Cerne Abbas and it is speculated that he may have spent some time in addition at what later came to be known as Stockwood. Given the very unusual church dedication, it seems quite likely that the existing church is on the site of an earlier chapel.

The reason Stockwood was referred to quite frequently in Sutton Poyntz documents is that Stockwood was one of the places in the "liberty" of Sutton Poyntz, and was therefore administered from Sutton Poyntz. There is some confusion about the name Stockwood. "Stock" is unambiguous, meaning an outlying farmstead. The English Place Names Society concludes that the "wood" part simply means wood, so this is a farmstead in a wood. However, it is acknowledges that there were a number of old references that refer to it as Stock St Edwold. The oldest references date from the 13thC, and as many refer to it as Stock St Edwold as give Stockwood (there are also a few old references that erroneously give St Edward as the dedication). Both seem to have been used interchangeably.