A chantry is a monetary trust fund established to provide for a dedicated priest to sing Mass for its founder’s soul in purgatory after death. Chantries also often provided a separate altar, shrine or a chapel, within an existing church or cathedral, where the chantry priest sang the Mass. The origin of chantries is nowadays traced to the 11th and 12th centuries, and particularly the 13th century following the expression of the doctrine of purgatory by St Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) and others. Separate chantry chapels also came into being at this time and were even included in the plans for new cathedrals in the fourteenth century, as well as in monasteries, hospitals and schools following the Black Death. The priest whose sole duty was to sing the Masses for the donor would also usually assist the parish priest at normal services.
A chantry of St Mary is recorded as founded some time before 1386, for in April that year John Englefield made a formal quitclaim of the manor, advowson and chantry of Englefield to William Fauconer prior to leaving for Spain in the army of John of Gaunt. In September 1393 he made a will providing for his burial in the chapel of St Mary at Englefield if he died in England. Sir Robert de Fayreford is mentioned in 1280-1 as chaplain of the chapel of Englefield, though that might refer to the church itself. The chantry was dissolved by Sir Thomas Englefield in about 1535. In 1802 Charles Coates in The History and Antiquities of Reading, noted the existence of “one chantry, called Englefield chantry, founder unknown, dissolved by one of the same family in the 27th year of the reign of King Henry VIII”. This would have been 1535/6. The image bracket and squint in the aisle of the church probably denote that the chantry chapel was sited there and the dates of the two recumbent figures in niches in the south wall, believed to be those of Sir Roger Englefield and his wife, may well mean that it was Sir Roger (died about 1317) who founded the original chantry.
Shortly after the dissolution of the original chantry, in about 1543, the wife of Sir Thomas Englefield left £6 13s 6d in her will for a priest to sing Masses for her soul for twenty years. However, all chantries were dissolved only four years later in 1547 when King Edward VI came to the throne. The incumbent at Englefield at that time was Nicholas Hyonson.
One means of endowing chantries was the rent or tithes from land and Professor John Field in his History of English Field Names mentions Chauntry Field as the land supporting the Chantry of St Mary in the parish church. This field is marked on several maps and was in 1779 part of Chantry Farm, owned by William Toovey and Richard Carter. This probably explains how Chantry Lane got its name, rather than by any connection with a supposed pre-Conquest religious building assumed by some to be implied by an unreliable source from 1720.
In 1667-8 a portion of the original Chantry House lands was purchased for £48, part of a total of £100 belonging to the poor of the parish. This land was settled by deed of 20 February 1668 for use by the poor. Although various exchanges and consolidations took place there was still land allocated to the poor in the Enclosure Act of 1829 when it was some 5½ acres in the Englefield Meadow.
In 1731, it is said, an anonymous donor gave a sum of money to provide funds for the Englefield Apprentice Fund, though this probably incorrect. A board in the church dating from that year (right) mentions "An Antient Gift of 100 pounds: 50 of it being in Land and the other 50 in Money: the Interest and income to Apprentice poor Children". Exactly the same apprentice fund is mentioned in a parish document dated 21 December 1750 where it is also noted that "four acres more or less" was in the possession of Richard Pain. So probably this supposed 1731 gift was actually the 1678 one and certainly by 1889 the funds for apprenticing were being provided in part by the rent paid by Mr Benyon for the use of the land in the Englefield Meadow allocated to the poor. (The same thing happened at Ufton where the rent paid for the piece of land known as Poor's Allotments was used to buy coal for the villagers). In 1895 the trustees also held £650 in consols, providing an income from both sources of £24 17s 4d. There was also a deposit of £100 in the Reading Savings Bank which earned interest of £2 10s 3d. £65 had been spent apprenticing 3 boys in that year. In 1898 the rent from the land was £7 10s a year and by 1924 the Savings Bank deposit had risen to £150 from accumulation of income, though the rent was still £7 10s. The Fund was later used to make grants to young people from the parish when changing schools or moving into academic or vocational further education.
St Mark's Church
© 2021 Richard J Smith