St John the Evangelist, Pauntley, Gloucestershire


Some 200 years before 'Dick', or rather Richard Whittington was born, Norman craftsmen built the Nave and Sanctuary of what is now Pauntley Church, painstakingly chiselling out the stone for the walls and the fine Chancel arch and South doorway.

Walter de Laci, one of William the Conqueror’s leading soldiers, was honoured by William for his support by the grant of some 120 manors,  about 20 of which were in the present shire of Gloucester and included Pauntley and the adjoining area then known as ‘Ledene’.  Walter's niece married Ansfrid of Cormeilles who thus came to own Pauntley, Ketford and other places near Newent, which were part of her dowry.


Domesday records ‘ Ansfrid de Cormeilles holds one hide and a half in Pantelie and one hide in Chilcot ( Kilcot) and one hide in Chitiford ( Ketford) and one in Hege; in the whole four hides and a half.  Ulfel and Wiga held them for four manors.  One hide and a
half is free from tax.  There are two plowtillages in desmesne, and seven villains, and three bordars, with seven plowtillages.  There are two servi, and a mill of 7s 6d.  It was worth £3.10s now £4.  They who held these lands could go where they would.  Ansfrid had the above written estates and Winestan and Tanteborne, of Walter de Lace, when he married his niece.  But he holds other lands of the King’.

A further link with Cormeilles, in Normandy, is that Earl William founded a Benedictine Abbey there which was granted ‘the impropriation and avowdson (profits and right of appointment of the priest) appertaining to the newly built little chapel at Pauntley.  It was probably built by Walter de Cormeilles of Pauntley, grandson or great-grandson of Ansfrid, about 1170.

 
The Conqueror’s son gave the manor of Newent to the Abbey of Cormeilles and the Abbot there sent a Prior and a number of Benedictine monks to Newent to build a Priory and establish it as a cell of their Mother Abbey.  Most likely, then, it was masons from Cormeilles who built Pauntley Church, and a priest from the Benedictine Order at Cormeilles and Newent who led the worship there in its early years. 
Rudge appears to have traced evidence that the Abbey held the avowdson in 1272 and that in 1292 it was a Chapel attached to Newent Priory.
 
Walter de Pauntleye died in 1248 and the estate passed to the Pauntley heiress Mergery.  Her daughter, Isobel, by her
marriage to Simon de Solers, carried it into the Solers family of Hope Solers, Herefordshire.  It continued in the Solers family until 1311 when Sir John de Solers died and it then passed to his grandson, William Whittington, eldest son of William Whittington of Upton, Warwickshire, and Maud Solers, Sir John’s daughter.


In 1322 the Manor and estate was inherited by Sir William de Whittington, father of Richard. 

William de Whittington died in outlawry in 1358 (as mentioned in the section on Dick Whittington ). The estate then passed to Richard’s older brother, William, and on his death it passed to the second son, Robert, another of Richard’s brothers.  Pauntley continued in Whittington ownership until 1546 when the estate was divided amongst the six daughters of Thomas Whittington, whose burial is recorded in the earliest parish register of Pauntley. 
The manor was conveyed to Sir Giles Poole of Sapperton, husband of Elizabeth, one of those six daughters.
 
The Whittington family produced some noteworthy descendants: between 1327 and 1455, six of them represented Gloucester in Parliament. Robert, Richard’s brother, was Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1402, and 1407; Guy, his son, held the same
position in 1426 and again in 1432, followed by Thomas in 1473.  Guy, Richard’s nephew, commanded a company at Agincourt, and directed in his will that he be buried ‘ in the new chapel of St George at Pauntley.’ This is now the side chapel of the present Church, and dates it to around 1430.
 
A Chantry Priest was attached to this Chapel, whose task was to sing at the altar and
pray for the founder’s sowlez and all Christian sowlez’. 
 
When Edward III deprived the Abbey of Cormeilles of it’s English possessions, Pauntley ( and other rights owned by Newent Priory ) was granted to the College at Fotheringhay, Northants, but when Henry VIII ‘ suppressed’ such religious Houses, it passed to Sir Richard Lee.
Charles Lee became the impropriator and paid the curate his annual stipend of £ 13 6s 8d.
 
In 1660, the year of the Restoration of the Monarchy, Pauntley Manor was sold by Henry Poole to Henry Somerset, of the Beaufort family.  His family’s marble memorial can be found in the chapel of St George, and on his tomb in St Gummarish Church. Lier, he is described as ‘ the very noble lord of Pauntley Court and Count of the Holy Roman Emperor’. 
His son, Edward, Duke of Beaufort, retained an interest in Pauntley Court until 1773.
 
A survey of 1776 showed 4 freeholders had voted. In 1700 the population numbered 115, in 1770 it was 87, and in 1801 it
had grown to 215, with 41 inhabited houses. By 1971 the population was down to 135. 
In the 18th century it appears that no presentation had been made to the Benefice for several years ‘ on account of the smallness of the income’.

  
The Church needed considerable restoration work during the 1950’s, culminating in major repairs to the roof in 1979, but it’s simple beauty and tranquility remain untouched.
 

Seeing this small country Church in it’s perfect rustic setting, the casual visitor might be surprised to learn of it’s more recent links with the City of London.  The connection made when Dick Whittington left the parish of his birth and took the road to the capital, remains even today…..
 
In 1959 when Pauntley celebrated the (approximate) 600th anniversary of
Richard Whittington’s birth, the Lord Mayor of London and representatives of the present day Mercer’s Company took part, along with representatives of the Whittington family. The City of London presented a silver Alms Dish to the Church (now on display in Gloucester Cathedral).

In 1989 the Lord Mayor and the City Marshall, members of the Mercer’s Company and of the Whittington family, attended a

service here to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the office of Lord Mayor of London and of the Mayoralty of Dick Whittington, and the City of London presented a second Priest’s Stall and a new carpet for the nave, chancel and sanctuary.


                                                                       













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