The Benefice of Potton,  Sutton and Cockayne Hatley


Sutton and Cockayne Hatley

About Us

Potton, Sutton and Cockayne Hatley
are three  Church of England Parishes
in east Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
and the Diocese of St Albans.

Our three churches are:

St Mary’s Church, Potton

All Saint’s Church, Sutton

St John the Baptist’s Church, Cockayne Hatley

The Benefice of

d. The North Transept (Lady Chapel)

Part of the walls and a few other features may be dated to the first half of the 13th century. The window in the north wall, of three panels, is relatively modern, its stained glass depicting the Samaritan woman at the well (left), Our Lord seated (centre) and a lady with a pitcher and a boy with a staff and flagon (right). The window in the east wall is 15th century and has clear glass. A stairway closed by a door with 'V.R. 1837' written in studs, on the south east side leads to the ancient rood. Memorials to departed members of the parish are placed on the walls of the transept. A burial vault exists beneath.

e. The North Porch

The porch is of 15th century date and has entrances to the outside on the west and north sides. A lozenge shaped stone panel, with indents for a brass (now lost), is fixed to the east wall. It represents a memorial to a priest. The stairway in the south east corner leads to an upper chamber which may have been used as living quarters by a visiting or assistant priest. The chamber contains square headed windows on two sides.

f. The Tower and Belfry

The tower is 15th century and has four stages and an embattled parapet. The stairway is in the north east comer with access from the bell ringing chamber. On the walls of the chamber are panels; those on the south and west recording benefactors and their benefactions. The earliest benefactions go back to 1558. Other panels on the west and north walls record the provision, in 1838, of increased seating accommodation in the church to 984 persons, various feats of bell ringing, and one recording the re-tuning and re-hanging of the bells in 1982. There are six bells, the two earliest being cast (or recast) in 1706. In 1982 the bells were taken down and re-tuned at the Whitechapel Foundry, London. At the same time the intermediate floor was cleared of rubble, dust and pigeon droppings and rotten timbers replaced.

The Churchyard

The burial ground surrounds the church. It was enlarged in 1842. Some of the grave stones (though not always in their original positions) are those of benefactors to the church and can be seen. The oldest is that of John Snitch who died on 12th June 1687. Many of the older stones, particularly those of the 17th and 18th centuries, have partly sunk into the ground and their inscriptions are thus only partly visible. In 1879 burials were discontinued in the old part of the churchyard, and in May 1882 the whole churchyard was closed to burials except for a few vaults and walled or fenced graves. Thereafter all burials have been made at the town cemetery in Sandy Road which opened in 1882. A record of all known burials in the churchyard has been compiled by the Potton History Society. The Churchyard is the responsibility of the Town Council. They undertook a major restoration of the boundary wall in 2003.

Parish Registers and Records

The church registers begin in 1614 and the bishops' transcripts in 1602. The register books to 1812 are deposited at the County Record Office at Bedford. The registers have been published from, 1602 - 1812 in the Bedfordshire Parish Register Series, Volumes 61 and 62. Many of the old churchwardens' books have not survived the passage of time. The earliest extant records, the Overseers of the Poor Account, start in may 1638 and have been published in Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, Volume III, page 272.

Church Property

The Vicarage was sold in 1983 and a new Rectory has been built on lower ground to the west in 1985. The church hall (originally the church school) was built in 1848 on glebe land on the west of the road that runs past the church near the junction with the causeway. Subsequent renovations and extensions were carried out in 1882, 1897, 1964, and 1972. The hall is used for many activities not only those specifically connected with the church.

A number of other properties that originally belonged to the church, some of them from charitable bequests, have now been sold. The field at the back of the hall is part of the church's property and is used for church fetes and for other activities, especially during the summer months.

The Church of St John the Baptist, Cockayne Hatley


By Dr A Crossley

The Village

Cockayne Hatley is a tiny village of about 140 inhabitants on a by-road linking Potton and  Wrestlingworth and much of its charm is due to its isolated position. (The visitor is warned that  Cockayne Hatley has neither pub nor shop!) To the north, Potton Wood and Cockayne Hatley Wood  provide a beautiful backdrop for the Church, while to the south there is a fine view over rolling  countryside to the hills of north Hertfordshire. The village lies in the extreme east of Bedfordshire and  is separated by the Cambridgeshire border from its neighbours East Hatley and Hatley St George. The  name Hatley suggests that the village was originally a Saxon settlement, and references to it are found  in documents of the tenth century. One explanation of the place-name is that Hatley was the clearing  on the hill (known fancifully as the Hat) while Potton was the town in the hollow (or Pot) and,  descending the steep hill towards Potton, one is aware of how appropriate such names are. Corn, oil-seed rape and, linseed are now the main crops of this exclusively agricultural parish and have  displaced the orchards which, until some twenty years ago, were the dominant feature of the  landscape. Indeed, the sight of the orchards in blossom led some to describe the village as a "land of  Cockaigne". The village name derives, in fact, from the Cockayne family, who acquired the manor in  1417 and held it in unbroken line until 1745 when it passed to the Custs (a family related by marriage)  who sold the estate in the late nineteenth century. At that time it was a fine country mansion  surrounded by parkland studded with noble oaks. A decline set in after the First World War and in 1931  the manor house (known as The Hall) was severely damaged by fire. Meanwhile, a remarkable  enterprise had filled the parkland with old London buses which served as unconventional henhouses.This was succeeded by Coxes Orange Pippins Orchards, under whose auspices the greater part of the  parish was given over to orchards. The land was purchased by the Co-operative Wholesale Society  (CWS) in 1946, since when most of the houses on the estate have been sold to private owners. Most of the houses in the village line a winding road which now peters out into a farm track but which  is a vestige of the former road system joining the village to Tadlow and East Hatley; some of the route  can be followed by taking the Clopton Way footpath. The oldest building in the village is a former farm  house now known as The Well House and believed to date from 1707. The Victorian age is represented  in the solidity of the former Rectory, Village Farm, and some of the outlying houses. The house known  as Orchard View was once a laundry which served The Hall, itself a largely Victorian building, much  altered over the years. The Hall and Church lie in fields somewhat away from the village and are  approached by footpaths. The Church, which is dedicated to St John the Baptist, is the chief glory of  the village and also the focus of the social life of the community: on occasions such as the Patronal  Festival (24 June), the Harvest Festival and the Carol Service, flowers and decorations enhance its  beauty.

The Building & Restoration of the Church of St John the Baptist

The Church is first recorded as one of the fourteen churches that formed part of the original  endowment of Newnham Priory, Bedford, founded in 1166. When Newnham Priory was dissolved the  rectory became crown property but by 1595 had been transferred to the Lord of Cockayne Hatley  manor. The benefice, now in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, was linked with that of Potton in 1931.The Church consists of a chancel 19 ft 6 in by 16 ft 3 in, nave 36 ft by 18 ft, with north aisle 5 ft 9 in  wide and south aisle 6 ft wide, and west tower 12 ft 8 in by 13 ft 4 in (all internal measurements). Owing to successive rebuildings, the plan is rather irregular, the chancel, nave and tower all being set  at different angles, and only the tower being rectangular on plan. The earliest part of the Church now existing is the north arcade of the nave, belonging to the latter  part of' the thirteenth century, and the north aisle probably retains its thirteenth-century width. The  Chancel seems to have been rebuilt in the early part of the fourteenth century. Later in that century  a south aisle was added. The tower was built early in the fifteenth century. Later in the fifteenth  century the south aisle was lengthened eastward, and a south porch was added. After the death of Samuel Cockayne in 1745 there was for many years no squire in residence and it  was not surprising that Henry Cockayne Cust (who became both Squire and Rector in 1806) found that  the Church had fallen into a "most lamentable state of neglect". The stone of the east window had  crumbled away, and on Christmas Day 1806 snow fell through the roof on to the altar during the  service.