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The Abbey at Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), England

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    Traditionally seen as son of Renauld de Courtenay, Seigneur de Courtenay . However, it seems more likely he was the son of Renauld ‘Reynold l’ de Courtenay Reynold de Courtenay AKA Reginald, R...
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    : (1079-1 Jun 1118). Orderic Vitalis records that their mother sent Eadgyth and her sister Mary to be brought up by their maternal aunt Christina, nun at Romsey Abbey[330]. Florence of Worcester record...
  • Henry I "Beauclerc", King of England (1068 - 1135)
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The Abbey at Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), England

Imahge Geograph © Copyright David Howard and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence.

Written records of Sutton’s history began in AD 688 when Ine, King of Wessex, endowed the new monastery at Abingdon with the manor of Sutton. In AD 801 Sutton became a royal vill, with the monastery at Abingdon retaining the church and priest’s house. It’s is believed that that this was on the site of the Abbey in Sutton Courtenay. Thus the two increasingly powerful institutions of church and Crown were both represented in the village from the beginning of the ninth century. George Orwell (aka Eric Auther Blair) Writer/Auhtor (1903-1950) and Herbert Henry Asquith Prime Minister of the UK (1908-1916), are buried in the Village Churchyard.

Medieval Sutton Courtenay

The focus of the village at the time of the Norman Conquest was the village Green, with the royal manor alongside the River Thames on one side, and a church and planned settlement defining the triangular form as much as at present.
The Doomsday Book of 1086, compiled to inform the Norman conquerors of the extent and economy of their newly acquired lands, showed that the manor of ‘Sudtone’ was helf by the king and farmed mainly by tenants who owed him tribute. There were three mills, 300 acres of river meadow (probably used for dairy farming) and extensive woodlands where pigs were kept.
That the royal link with the village was far more than nominal is shown by the fact that Henry I' in 1101 chose to send his new wife Queen Matilda to Sutton for her first pregnancy and childbirth, and very possibly also for her second confinement a year later. This second infant was the future Empress Matilda whose son, Henry Plantagenet, granted lordship of the Manor of Sutton to his close companion and henchman Reginald de Courtenay. Reginald was a French ex-Crusader and warrior who helped the exiled Henry gain the English throne as Henry II. Thus the village became even more closely linked with the royal court, and subsequently became known as Sutton Courtenay.
Within the first century of the Courtenay’s lordship, the simpler Saxon triangular village was transformed by the construction of large parts of the four grand stone buildings which surround the Village Green today. Each of the four early stone buildings has its own story: the Manor House, the earlier part of which may have served as the haven where Henry I sent his pregnant wise; Norman Hall, very possibly built as a chapel for the Manor House; All Saints’ Parish Church, which spans the greatest periods of medieval church building, from Norman to Perpendicular; and the Abbey, whose north wing facing the Village Green was built by the monastery at Abingdon in the early to mid-1200s probably as a rectory house and grange from which monks administered the monastery’s wealthy holdings in the area. In 1284, after years of dispute, Hugh de Courtenay successfully fought the Abbot of Abingdon and won the right to appoint the Sutton Rector and control the valuable Rectory House (now called the Abbey), lands and tithes. Among the important men the Courtenays later appointed rector were the chaplain to John of Gaunt, the executor for the Black Prince, Thomas Bekynton who influenced Henry VI to found Eton College, and Nicholas Colnet, doctor to Henry V at home and at Agincourt.

What of village life in this period? Contemporary records of local disputes give the impression of a lively if quarrelsome community, including not only peasant agricultural workers but also a substantial number of craftsmen and tradesmen. For example, in a 1212 murder tial, 40 Sutton villagers were accused of causing deaths in skimishes with Culham men. The accused including a doctor, a cordwainer, two smiths, two tailors, two hatters and a herringmonger. The Courtenay power in the village was ended during the Wars of the Roses in 1462 when the Lacastrian Thomas Courtenay was accused of treason, beheaded and his lands and possession forfeited the the Crown. Finally in 1485 Henry VII’s parliament granted the Rectory House and its glebe lands and rectoral rights to the Dean and Chapter of St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The right to appoint the Vicar of Sutton Courtenay is still held by St George’s.


// this project is in History Link