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

Henry Cockayne Cust undertook a major restoration, which was completed by 1830. The roof  of the nave was taken down and repaired and replaced. The east wall of the chancel was taken down  and the chancel shortened and re-roofed. The whole of the south aisle had to be rebuilt, using the old  materials. The south porch was removed, and the entrances on the south side were stopped up. The  present door on the north side was opened for the convenience of the residents of The Hall, and that  under the west window (now disused) for the congregation. The ornamental stonework of the old south  porch was re-used in the north doorway. However, the most remarkable change wrought by Cockayne  Cust was to fill the Church with the beautiful Flemish woodwork; this is described in detail below. The work of restoration continues. Since 1987 we have raised sufficient money to have carried out the  following work: Restoration of the Tower; Restoration of the exterior stonework of the nave and  chancel and north and south aisles; Cleaning and restoration of the fourteenth-century stained glass  window and replacement of the stone mullions and tracery; Restoration and repair of the north aisle  roof; and repair of the junction of the chancel and nave roofs In addition, in recent years many of the  windows, the monumental brasses and the woodwork have been restored; details are given in the text.

The Exterior The walls are made of rubble and sandstone, as is usual in the neighbourhood, and are surmounted  by battlements. The nave is higher than the chancel, and at the point of junction of the two roofs a  stone arch was erected for a sanctus bell at the time of the restoration, though no bell was ever installed. The tower is in four stages and rises to a height of sixty feet. The battlements were restored in the  nineteenth century and enhanced by four handsome stone pinnacles twenty feet in height. The  bell-openings are a pair of very long two-light openings on each side of the tower. There are two bells,  made by Mears of London in 1828. The Nave and Tower The four arches which separate the nave from the aisles differ. The north side, in Early English style,  has round pillars with strong and simple capitals, while the south side has octagonal pillars. The six  windows in the clerestory, each with two cinquefoiled lights, date from the latter part of the fifteenth  century but contain plain nineteenth century glass.

The roof beams are supported,by ten angels holding shields with emblems of the Passion. Four of  these, as well as the carved bosses in the ceiling of the tower, date from the fifteenth century and  were obtained by Henry Cockayne Cust from a church in Biggleswade when a new roof was installed  there; six others of slightly different design were made. In 1974 one of the angels was found to be  riddled with death watch beetle and had to be replaced with a modern replica. In the centre of the oak  beams are the initials of the restorer and the date of the restoration (1820). The very tall Perpendicular arch connecting the tower to the nave is a beautiful specimen of its age.  The large oaken folding doors at the base were obtained by Cockayne Cust from Louvain. The rail of  the organ loft once formed part of the Communion rail at Malines. The organ pipes are painted and  gilded in imitation of pipes once to be found in Kings College, Cambridge; however, they are only mock pipes, and there are no organ works. The west window was constructed in about 1830 but some fifteenth-century glass was re-used. The  centre light is occupied by a full-length figure of St Peter, copied from an ancient original. Beneath it  are the armorial bearings of Cockayne Cust; the side lights are filled with various geometrical patterns.  The window was restored in 1986 following storm damage. At the extreme west of the nave, by the north tower arch, there can be seen the indent of a cross, two  shields and inscription; the brass has long been removed. The inscription refers to a lady of the de  Brien family, lords of the manor in the early fourteenth century. Set in the wall above this is a piscina,  which should properly be sited in the Chance]; it was moved to make room for the woodwork. The font is octagonal. It was originally quite plain, but at the time of the restoration was decorated  with quatrefoils to match the adjacent windows. It was placed in the traditional position close to the  door, but this is less obvious now that the south door has been stopped up. The stalls in the nave are arranged in collegiate style facing each other, except that the two western  ones face the altar. (See description of the Chancel woodwork.)

On the floor of the nave are a number of brasses, monuments to members of the Cockayne family. There is some uncertainty about the identity and positioning of these brasses. At the west end of the nave (near the tower) is a brass to William Cockayne, who died in 1527, with  his first wife Dorothy and his second wife Catherine; there is an inscription recording this. There are  also two sets of children, five sons and five daughters, but it is thought that these may date from about  1430 and belong with the next brass in the nave. This is the brass of a man in armour of about 1430, once supposed to be Sir John Cockayne, Chief  Baron of the Exchequer and the first of the family to own the estate; it is possibly in fact his brother.  The brass of the lady beside him dates from about 1480 and may be that of the wife of a later John Cockayne who died in 1490. There is a Latin inscription which means "Whoever thou art who passeth  over, stand, read carefully, weep". There are also brasses of children in this group. The three boys below the man date from about 1525 and may belong with the brass of William Cockayne; the two  sons and one daughter (the upper part is lost) below the woman date from about 1480 and may have  been her children. The brass to a man and his wife at the chancel end of the nave is to Edmond Cockayne, who died in  1515, and his wife Elizabeth; also represented are their twelve sons and four daughters, and the shield. Nearby, on the south side of the chancel arch, a plaque commemorates two men of the village who  lost their fives in the Great War.


The Chancel The chancel was originally of greater length, with two windows on each side which did not correspond  in design. This was shortened in the nineteenth century restoration, the eastern wall being set on a  new foundation, with an entirely new window. There are eight stalls, ending at the Communion rail, but the carved woodwork extends nearly the  whole length of the chancel, and consists of sixteen carved medaillons in oak, representing the busts  of some of the most distinguished of the later saints and writers of the Roman Catholic Church. Each  bust is surrounded by a wreath of foliage and fruits, in the style of the later renaissance, most  elaborately carved; each compartment has a different design. Between each compartment are angels  holding the instruments of the Passion. The remaining sixteen stalls were placed in the nave. The  backs of the stalls are ornamented by different patterns inlaid in black wood. All the stalls have tip-up  seats with misericords. This woodwork is unique of its kind in this country. It was bought by Cockayne Cust from a dealer in  Charleroi and was long believed to come from the Abbey d'Aulne; it is now known to have come from  the nearby Abbey of Oignies, ruined in the French invasion of Flanders. Its original date, 1689,  together with the arms of the Abbey, is recorded on two of the stalls (the first to the right and left as  you enter the chancel) and on the woodwork connecting the chancel with the nave is recorded the date  of their re-erection in Cockayne Hatley, 1826, together with the arms of Cockayne Cust. The Communion rail was purchased from a church at Malines. It is about two feet high and consists of  four oak compartments with carved representations typical of the Holy Sacrament. Infant forms are  seen (left to right) obtaining water from the rock; harvesting, to symbolise the bread; gathering the  grapes, to symbolise the wine; and gathering manna.

The chairs are facsimiles of the well-known  Glastonbury chair, and were presented to the Church by the brother and sons of Cockayne Cust.  Surrounding the window are woodwork tablets containing, in Old English letters on a gold background,  the text of the ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. Over the table are the words  "The Law was given by Moses ... Grace and Truth come by Jesus Christ". The Communion Table itself  is in carved oak of Renaissance style, but, nothing is known of its history; it was purchased in London  in the nineteenth century. Within the Communion rail are four slabs of blackstone, all.of the eighteenth century, to the memory  of the last four members of the Cockayne family to be buried in the Church. On the north wall is a  memorial to Henry Cockayne Cust, who died in 1861; the text pays tribute to his work in restoring the  Church. The front of the lectern (to the left as you enter the chancel) is made from a panel With a figure of St  Andrew. This was originally part of the sounding board of a pulpit in the Church, which came from the Church of St Andrew in Antwerp. The pulpit itself is no longer in Cockayne Hatley, having been sold to  Carlisle Cathedral for £500 in 1963. At the time of its removal, a large number of Flemish prayer-slips  were discovered inside the pulpit: these were the petitions of the faithful of Antwerp. Facsimiles of  some of these prayerslips are displayed in the Church. The Lectern Bible was presented to the Church  in 1971, having come from the Chapel of Bishop's College, Cheshunt, of which the rector of the day,  Canon P H Cecil, had formerly been the principal.

There are three windows in the chancel. The great east window was made in 1829 using some older  glass. The three lights represent six moments in the life of Christ: the birth; dispute with the doctors;  baptism; agony in the garden; crucifixion; and resurrection. In the upper compartments are allegorical  representations of the four evangelists, and other devices; the highest compartment bears a shield  with the emblems of the passion, and was obtained from a church in Kent. The window was restored  in 1985. The two side windows in the chancel were made in 1839 and represent the armorial bearings of eight  occupants of the estate: the four on the north side are of the Cockayne family and those on the south  side, of the Cust family. These windows were restored in 1978. In the south wall of the chancel there  is another similar window, now blocked up, and to the east of this is a small fourteenth-century priest's  door, also blocked; both are visible from outside.

The North Aisle The woodwork screen separating the family pew from the rest of the Church is from the Church of St  Bavon at Ghent; it is thought that the lattice work was part of a confessional. The Church's greatest treasure in stained glass is the thirteenth-century glass in the finely-detailed  Perpendicular window at the east end of the north aisle. It represents the Saxon kings Oswald of  Northumbria and Edward of East Anglia, and Saints Dunstan and Sebaldus. This glass was saved from  destruction in a small parish in Yorkshire by Cockayne Cust. It was restored in 1968 and again in 1992,  when the stonework was also rebuilt. The other windows in the aisles, with quatrefoil lights, are later  than the clerestory windows, and contain nineteenth-century glass. On the north wall are memorials to two daughters of Henry Cockayne Cust: the wording of the  memorials is typical of Victorian sentiment. There is also in the north aisle a list of the rectors of the parish, which is here given its earlier name  of Hatley Port as well as the modern name. The old name also derived from the family name of the  lords of the manor: the de Port family, who owned the estate in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  The name Hatley Port continued to be used long after the acquisition of the manor by Sir John Cockayne. The north doorway has a pointed arch under a square head with traceried spandrels, and four-leaf  flowers in the arch and jambs. The north aisle roof had to be completely re-built in 1993 following the discovery that the roof timbers  had rotted.