Stoke Doyle Guide




Ours is one of only two churches in Britain dedicated to St Rumbald, a little known Anglo-Saxon saint who may be connected with Rumbald, King of Northumbria, and his Queen, a daughter of Penda, King of Mercia. Rumbald, a pagan, was converted to Christianity by the prayers of his wife, before the marriage was consummated. From this union the infant St Rumbald was born on 1 November 662. Traditionally it is held that as soon as he was born he spoke holy words and, after being christened, immediately expired. The child was buried at King's Sutton in the south-west of Northamptonshire, transferred to Brackley, and afterwards to Buckingham. After his death a cult was formed in his honour in our county. There is still a spring or 'well' named after him at Astrop close to King's Sutton. Astrop was a famous spa in the 17th century and the stone-lined spring still produces water fit for drinking. A village feast used to be held in Stoke Doyle on the Sunday after All Saints Day, 1 November.


Another theory connects the dedication with Rombout, an Irish missionary who became a bishop in Brabant north of Brussels, but was murdered in 775 A.D. near Mechelen [Malines]. He was created a saint and is now the titular head of Mechelen Cathedral. The life of this Rumbald is depicted in the cathedral in stained-glass windows and in a series of 24 wooden panels around the nave.


On the whole the dedication seems more likely to be derived from the unworldly young Northamptonshire saint. The other church dedicated to Rumbald was in Colchester, Essex, there called St Rumwald, but has long since disappeared. There is a Rumbold (sic) Lane in Wainfleet near Skegness.



Early burials in the churchyard suggest there was an Anglo-Saxon church here perhaps contemporaneous with its dedication but there is no doubt that until 1722, when it was pulled down, Stoke Doyle had a 13th century gothic church in the style of those of adjacent parishes.


The drawing made in 1887 by Revd W.D.Sweeting gives the artist's reconstruction of that church. It was larger than the present one - 92ft long and 36ft wide. The north and west walls were on or closely adjoining the walls of our church but there was a chancel to the east which extended some 30ft beyond the present east window whilst the south wall and entrance door were some 5ft further from the churchyard gate.


By the beginning of the 18th century this gothic church had fallen into serious decay. The then Lord of the Manor, Edward Ward, together with the rector, Revd John White, petitioned the Bishop of Peterborough to replace the existing church on the grounds that it was in a ruinous condition, with a steeple in danger of falling, and was too large for the inhabitants of so small a parish. Edward Ward undertook to pay for a new church in which the steeple would be converted into a tower. The petition was successful and permission granted on 14 April 1722 with a proviso that the tower be put in good repair and made ornamental. Building began on 28 May 1722 and the present church was opened on 24 March 1727 with seating for 120 people when the number living in the parish was about 70 - almost the same as it is today. Parishioners continue to be grateful to Edward Ward who gave not only this convenient and beautiful church but provided the clock and had the five bells rehung in the decorative tower.



The simplicity of the single space of nave-cum-sanctuary is a delight especially when sunlight streams through the clear glass of the c. 3,500 panes in the Georgian windows and shadows of the trees outside play on the colour-washed walls. Surrounded by silence or the sound of sheep it can be a profoundly peaceful place.


To the west is a bell-chamber at the base of the tower with stairs and ladders which give access to the roof whilst there is a room north of the sanctuary, through an iron grill, which was formerly a mortuary chapel but now serves as the vestry. The east window is Venetian in style: the outer orange panes seem to be a Victorian alteration of doubtful taste.


Many of the furnishings are contemporary with the new building. These include the four gilded panels which form a kind of reredos behind the altar and carry the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, the communion rail, the font, and the pulpit, though the sounding board which was once above it was used to make a lintel over the door into the bell-chamber. The pews are late 19th century - they certainly do not conform with the layout specified in the petition of 1722 which agreed to the installation of five double seats holding eight people in each seat and 16 single seats holding five in each seat.


The organ in the sanctuary is modem: made by Nigel Church in 1970 it belongs to the Oundle International Festival and is used for concerts and by organ students



during the Festival in July. The previous Victorian organ is in the vestry. It was the gift of Edith Capron and came from Glenn Hall in Leicestershire in 1929.


The five bells range from a treble of 4cwt to a tenor of lOcwt. They were cracked during the demolition of the church and were recast by Thomas Eayre of Kettering and rehung in 1728. He only produced about 200 bells: a complete ring of five is unusual.



Above the east window

The beautifully carved wooden angels came from Italy and were put in place about 1835-40. Until the middle of the last century they held a banner between them with the message 'Glory to God in the highest, Peace on earth, Goodwill to men'. They are associated with John Shillibeer, Rector of Stoke Doyle and headmaster of Oundle School 1829-1841, when he died, who was also an artist and made many sketches of the town which are of great historical importance. He was buried at Stoke Doyle but there is also a very imposing, elaborate gothic monument to him in Oundle Parish Church.


North wall of the sanctuary

A hanging monument to Dame Frances Palmer (d.1628), the wife of Edward Palmer, Lord of the Manor, which antedates the present church and must have been resited. It shows the lady lying stiffly on her deathbed, head on hand and elbow propping up her arm, attended by her kneeling husband and her two surviving children. According to the inscription there was originally a third child 'here pvrtrayed'. Behind the husband were four skulls, two only remain, to show the children who had died before the mother - an unusual composition.


Left of the east window

A marble plaque in half relief to Hannah Roberts, a curate's wife who died in childbirth in 1819, by the fashionable sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey whose bequest to the Royal Academy has secured many British works of art for the nation. It shows a dying woman reclining on a Grecian couch whilst her kneeling husband bends mournfully over her hand. A gravestone commemorating the wife, 6-week old daughter and the husband, Robert Roberts, who died 10 years later after being rector of nearby Barnwell and Wadenhoe, is in the paving immediately below.


In the vestry

The finest monument is here - to Sir Edward Ward, Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and father of the petitioner, who lived in the Manor House across the stream to the south of the church and died in 1714. It was executed by J.M.Rysbrack, the brilliant sculptor from Antwerp, soon after his arrival in England in 1720 when he was 26, and erected in 1725 during the rebuilding financed by Sir Edward's son. The elegant, reclining, robed figure with wig is carved in marble and backed by a reredos with Ionic columns and a pediment. A lengthy inscription recalls his many virtues. The three butterflies in the coat-of-arms above have a punning reference to his wife whose maiden name was Papillon. Another of Rysbrack's major works is the tomb of Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.



On the south side of the sanctuary is a floor-slab to the great-grandson of Sir Edward Ward, Rowland Hunt (d.1785), a Rector of Stoke Doyle, and to his wife Katherine.


On the north and south walls are monuments to families with long connections with the parish. On the north next to the pulpit a simple plaque awakens memories of 19th century troubles in Imperial India - it commemorates the death of their grandson, Edward Hunt, Lieutenant, who died at Sattara in the Mahableshwar Hills in 1851. On the south there are three tablets to successive generations of the Caprons. The first to Thomas Capron (d. 1829), the second to his son George (d.1872), and the third to Revd George Halliley Capron (d.1909) who succeeded Revd Shilibeer and was Rector from 1841 - 1873. Their wives are commemorated with them. The last two were Lords of the manor as was George Herbert Capron who paid for the renovation of the interior of the church in the autumn of 1919 as a thank offering for the safety of his two sons during the First World War. The connection continues with Caprons living in the Rectory further down Church Lane to the east.




The windows

The major work done in the church over the last decade has been the restoration of the windows. One by one they have been removed to have cracked and broken panes repaired at a cost of c. £1000 a piece.


The lighting

A generous legacy from Anne Horsford was used to pay for the recent installation of six new candelabra more in keeping with the Georgian period of the church than the previous wooden ones. Dimmer switches added to these in 2000 helps to reproduce a candlelight effect during services in winter.


General repairs

Although the church generally is in a good state we have just had to spend over £3000 repairing the vestry roof and will be spending a similar sum for the decoration of the interior walls following action for damp. The clock is currently stopped whilst a new gear-box is fitted and then we need £1200 to redecorate the face. Donations towards this and the future maintainence of the building would be most welcome.



The churchyard as a whole represents the best remaining example of limestone grassland in the parish and it is managed by careful mowing to maintain a herb-rich sward which includes mouse-ear hawkweed, lady's bedstraw, field scabious, rough hawkbit, bird's-foot-trefoil, bumet-saxifrage, hoary plantain and cowslip. These efforts are regularly commended by the Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust's Churchyard Conservation Competition. The churchyard also contains a good selection of native trees and shrubs including a yew planted to mark the Millennium. A book about the trees is displayed at the back of the church.


Monument from former church

As the old church was larger than the present one some of the monuments had to be left outside, notably the recumbent figure of a priest which lies just beyond the east window.


The Cross

To the left of the path between the church door and the holly-guarded gates is the base of the old cross. This had been removed to the Rectory where it was used as a mounting block for clergy and others to get into the saddle: one corner was cut off to form a step. The Revd George Edmonds, Rector 1883-1905, returned it to what was probably its original position.


The South Door

This handsome entrance has an open segmental pediment on Doric pilasters and a rusticated surround and has recently been restored. Some stones in the surround are 'defaced' by contemporary graffiti. (Is the earliest 1727, the year the new church was opened?)



There are several 17th and 18th century tombstones. The oldest appears to be one John Rogiars with the inscription:

"Here lyeth the body of John Rogiars grosser of Stoke Doyle

who departed this life the 30th of September in the yeare of ovr Lord 1674"