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St. Edmunds Church, June 1934

Mr. F. Rowley, F.R.M.S, gave the following lecture at a meeting of the Isle of Wight, Natural History & Archaeological Society

“Whether this church was ever dedicated or whether it took its title from the family chapel of St Edmunds, must remain a moot question. The manor in the Domesday Book is called “Odetone” and is entered under the Kings lands. Before the Conquest it was held by the Confessor’s Queen Editha. Wootton, or Wodditon, was the seat of a branch of that ancient island family of De Insula, who, taking their name from their estate, were known as ‘De Bosco’ [i.e. from the wood], and are so called in the roll of Isabella de Fortibus 1270. A Nicholas de Bosco was warden of the island in 1307.

In the Dean’s return of the island livings, in 1305, we find an entry which clearly establishes the fact that St. Edmunds Chapel was a separate chantry served by its own priest. Wootton chapel is entered in the Roll of Arms, temp. Edward III, as returning one archer, and in Cardinal Beauforts book is valued at 12 marks. In the Episcopal Registers of William of Wykeham the presentation appears in the hands of Sir Ralph de George, probably by marriage, or more probably by wardship of the heir of John Lisle, as in the new register the presentation is in the Lisle family again. According to Sir John Oglander, whose testimony is not always, I am afraid, to be depended upon, the church was built by Walter de Insula in the reign of William Rufus as a private chapel for the ease of himself and his tenants, and was endowed with land in Chillerton, near Gatcombe. Sir John says he saw this deed with his own eyes, and the Romanesque south door can certainly be put down to the period mentioned, though it is somewhat elaborate for so early an example.

Another account gives the date of its origin as the beginning of the 13th century, temp Henry III, and the eastern. north, and south windows are of that date. The solution of this discrepancy of dates may be that the church was built at the beginning of the 12th century, and was separated from the mother church of Whippingham in Henry III reign, being enlarged eastwards to meet additional requirements. About the end of the 12th century or beginning of the 13th century a chantry was erected by the De Insula family on the north side, the entrance to which can still be seen. The first mention of a chantry occurs in the register of Bishop Woodstock, 1305-16.

This chantry was evidently but a small building as its limits are clearly defined east and west by the small single lancet window and blocked up door. In the reign of Edward III both church and the adjoining manor house are said to have been destroyed by fire. This necessitated a rebuilding or rather reconstruction, as the fire would have done little damage to the thick early walls. It was at this period that the ogee-headed double lights were inserted in the south and west walls, the rest of the structure remaining much as it was before, though it may have been lengthened a few feet westwards.

Towards the end of the 15th century or beginning of the 16th century the square headed windows were opened in the south wall, and a rood-loft erected in St Edmunds Chapel, the opening to which is still visible. At the beginning of the 16th century it seems to have fallen on evil times, judging by the entry in Bishop Fox’s register. The chantry was probably suppressed with the rest, in the reign of Edward VI, and falling into decay, was pulled down, and the open bay blocked up The church is said to have been originally attached to Whippingham, acknowledging it was the ‘mother’ but it must early have acquired independence, as it is mentioned in the ‘Pontissara’ register 1282-1304 as ‘Ecclesia sen Capellia de Wodyton’ while in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas 1291, it is not only called ‘Ecclesia de Woditone’ but it also had a pensionary, probably, the chantry of St Edmunds at 6s 9d, so had evidently become parochial at this time”.

Source: Isle of Wight County Press 9th June 1934

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:48

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