Englefield History

The Englefield Chapel


The Englefield Chapel dates from 1514, the year of of Sir Thomas Englefield’s death, for when Ashmole described the church in 1666 the north window in the chapel had an inscription in black letters “This chapel was builded in the year of our Lord MVCXIIII”. On the east window at that time was a shield of arms, being those of Englefield quartered with Russal and alongside it a double-headed eagle, the Englefield crest. Charles Keyser in 1911 describes the chapel as having one window in the east wall and one in the north wall, although Ashmole in 1666 talks about a "north east window" and there are two windows in the north wall today.


In a letter to Richard Fellowes Benyon in 1855, Sir George Gilbert Scott defends the decision to leave the Chapel in the style in which it was originally built, saying "it would be like falsifying history to change the style to that of the church to which it was added" and "I thought it would be a pity to destroy the authenticity of a monument, locally historical, unless its taste was so outrageous as to demand it." Consequently that it would be best to "repair rather than rebuild it, and in putting a good face on the exterior to presence the style at least which after all is in the style of many of the finest remains we have (though this is certainly not one of them)."


Amongst the many memorials in the Chapel the principal one is the large coloured alabaster one on the north wall, shown on the left. This monument, as seen today, presents something of an enigma. Ashmole describes it as a "faire monument, having thereon the Portraitures of a Knight in Armour, and his Lady, both kneeling at a deske; behind him, kneeles foure Sons, and behind her one daughter". On the side of the desk are the arms of Englefield and Browne empaled and Ashmole also describes a brass plate fixed to a marble stone under the monument with an inscription to Sir Francis Englefield (died 1631) and his wife Jane Browne. This plate is no longer present.


Separately on the north wall Ashmole describes a brass plate with, engraved on it, a portrait of a man in armour with his wife lying by him. At the top of the plate are the Englefield arms and crest and at the bottom an inscription to John Englefield (died 1567) and his wife Margaret Fitton by whom he had one child, Francis. The inscription goes on to say that Francis married Jane Browne who had four sons and one daughter by him and that the monument was erected by Margaret in 1605. On the floor under the brass Ashmole describes a white marble set in a black grave stone inscribed to John Englefield and Margaret his wife who died in 1612. This stone still exists but the brasses have gone.


As can be seen, the monument on the wall today has the original two kneeling figures of Francis and Jane described by Ashmole but above them are the two recumbent figures of John and Margaret and the arms described as being on a brass plate. There is also a black marble plaque at the bottom carrying the same inscription to John Englefield and Margaret that Ashmole says was on the brass plate as above. It looks, therefore, as if the monument was reworked to be a composite of the two separate memorials, marble and brass, at some time after 1666.


Even more confusingly, Ashmole's account of the inscription to Sir Francis Englefield on the brass plate fixed to the marble stone (no longer there) under the monument says that Sir Francis and Jane Browne had ten children, not five. That this differs from the tablet on the monument is probably accounted for by the fact that the brass to John Englefield dates from 1605 at which time Francis and Jane did have five children but by the time Francis died in 1631, five more had been born. Then later still when the two memorials were combined the inscription was just copied across.


What this doesn't account for, though, is, if the alabaster monument was (presumably) not erected until 1631 when Francis died, why does it show only five children? A book of 1730 describes these monuments in exactly the same way as Ashmole so the composite may have been created when the church was restored in the 1850s and this may be the monument that Scott refers to in his letter to Richard Benyon rather than the one to Benyon de Beauvoir.


Ashmole also described a blue marble stone on the floor inscribed in Latin to the memory of William Englefield, fourth son of Sir Francis, who died in 1662 aged 53 and this is still in place. A marble and alabaster tablet on the west wall today carries an inscription to Anthony Englefield, fifth son of Sir Francis Englefield, who died in 1667 aged 61. If these dates and ages for Anthony and William are correct it appears that the fifth son was born three years before the fourth.


On the west wall is also a memorial to Joshua Loring, an American who supported the British in the War of Independence and lived in Englefield for six years after being forced to flee America at the end of the war. It is not apparent why his memorial should be in the chapel supposedly devoted to the Englefield family.


No longer present but described by Ashmole is a monument to Sir Thomas Englefield, the Justice of the Common Pleas who died in 1537, and his wife Dame Elizabeth. As described by Ashmole this consisted of a number of brass plates on the wall to the right of the east window depicting the figure of a judge in his robes, kneeling at a faldstool with three sons behind him. Opposite to him is his wife (with a surcoat of her arms over her habit) also kneeling with nine daughters behind her. Above the figures was a coat of arms consisting of dexter the arms of Englefield quartered with Russal impaling sinister another set of quartered arms, all four quarters different, the fourth quarter being that of Paulet indicating a Paulet connection to Englefield 100 years before John Paulet. Above the arms was the Englefield crest and below the figures was an epitaph.


This area on the east wall is now occupied by two black and white tablets from the 19th century: one to the memory of Ann, wife of the Reverend Thomas Knapp and one to two of their daughters, Ann and Charlotte. A similar tablet to the memory of Thomas Knapp himself is below the window to the left. On the opposite wall is a monument erected by this Thomas Knapp and his brother William to their father (also Thomas) who died in 1791 and his wife Amey, who died in 1793. The younger Thomas Knapp was Rector of Englefield for nearly 47 years until his death in 1817 but it is again not clear why he and his family should occupy such a unique and privileged position. Curiously, Fletcher in 1841 appears to describe these tablets as being on the "north wall" of the aisle; clearly a mistake since there is no north wall to the aisle.


There are now many more ledger stones on the floor over the resting place of Englefields from the later 17th and the 18th centuries, placed since the visit of Ashmole.


In the southeast corner is the Norman pillar piscina found in the south wall of the chancel during the rebuilding and against the west wall is the old wooden parish chest acquired (perhaps made in Englefield) after the ordinance issued in 1536 by Thomas Cromwell that required the parish to maintain a register of baptisms, marriages and burials, which was to be kept in a locked chest. This chest has the normal three locks, the keys to which were held by the Rector and the two churchwardens so that the chest could only be opened in  the presence of all three, but, less usually, also has a separate small compartment at one end with a single lock.


The organ was originally installed in the Englefield Chapel with the pipes above it in the chancel and access to the keyboard from the chancel via the door in the screen under the arcade.


The nave

© 2019 Richard J Smith

Englefield History

Englefield History

Englefield History

Englefield History