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

The South Aisle The south aisle is rich in monuments. A number of these are to another member of the Cust family,  Robert Needham Cust, and his wives and family; there is a particularly impressive memorial to his wife  Maria Adelaide. Other monuments represent more recent owners of the estate: F G Lomax, squire in  the early part of this century; and the son of J A Whitehead, whose remarkable COPO enterprise filled  the parish with the orchards for which it was once famous. The most striking monument is the one opposite the north door. Sir Patrick Hume was Master of  Hounds to James VI of Scotland and followed him into England when he became James I of England.  He died in 1621 and his wife, formerly Elizabeth Cockayne, erected the monument. It comprises two  kneeling figures with armorial decorations. The monument now blocks the south doorway; prior to the restoration, the monument was in the north aisle. On the west wall of the south aisle is a monument to Judith Porteous. She was the daughter of Thomas  Cockayne, of the Soham branch of the family, and was married to Robert Porteous, rector of Cockayne  Hatley 1735-1754. A remarkable family tree links Robert and Judith with George Washington and the  present Queen!

On the east wall of the south aisle is a painting presented to the Church in 1978 by Miss Rosemarie  Cockayne, a painter who belongs to another branch of the family who once owned the estate, and who  presented it as a tribute from the present to the past. The east window of the south aisle is blocked  up but may be seen from the outside to be a good fifteenth-century window of three lights with tracery.

The Churchyard The churchyard lies to the south of the Church building. The majority of the larger headstones date  from the nineteenth century and mark the graves of families who held the tenancies of farms on the  estate: the names of Tongue, Hart and Folbigg among others mark uniform headstones, as many as  six in a row. Two monuments are particularly striking. Near the Church stands a stone in the shape of a Celtic cross  to the memory of Henry Francis Cockayne Cust, eldest son of Henry Cockayne Cust. Further off is the  monument of the nineteenth-century poet and man of letters, W E Henley. The monument had begun  to lean dangerously and was re-set in 1993. Also commemorated is Henley's daughter Margaret who, being able to describe her father's friend J M  Barrie only as his "fwendy", is said to have inspired the character of Wendy in Barrie's Peter Pan.  Margaret died in 1894, aged only five. Henley himself, a giant of a man who had the misfortune to  have a leg amputated, was the model for Long John Silver in Treasure Island, written by his friend R  L Stevenson. However, the village has only a slight claim to fame, as neither Henley nor his daughter  lived here. It was at the suggestion of Harry Cust, a great friend of Henley's that Margaret was buried  at Cockayne Hatley. Henley himself died in 1903, aged 54, and was buried with his daughter.



There are no History Pages for Sutton Church but here are some notes explaining the


  1. Symcotts Memorial Tablet: This commemorates John and Elizabeth Symcotts who were married for 55 years.     Elizabeth died in 1646 aged 88 and John in 1649 aged 84.
  2. Hat rests: Under the pew seats towards the rear of the church will be found hat rests for the men to use.
  3. List of Rectors and Patrons: This starts in 1215 and is complete to 1983 when the Parish became part of the Benefice of Potton with Sutton and Cockayne Hatley. Patrons have included the Bishop of Lincoln and six Kings of England, in their capacity as head of the Duchy of Lancaster, of which Sutton became a part in 1398. Probably the most notorious of the Rectors was Edward Drax Free, Rector from 1808 until 1830 when he was displaced. His crimes included lewdness, indecency, fighting in church, keeping pigs in the churchyard and fodder in the porch, and selling lead off the chancel roof. In direct contrast were Edward Stillingfleet, Rector from 1658-64 who later became Dean of St Paul's and Bishop of Worcester; and George Herbert Box, Rector from 1909 to 1930 and Professor of Hebrew and the Exegesis of the Old Testament of King's College, London.
  4. Bates Sacred Barrel Organ (on balcony): This is the only working organ of its kind in Bedfordshire and on of a very small number in the whole country. It has three barrels with 10 tunes each. Five stops allow considerable tonal variation.
  5. Flag from HMS Captain: This flag came from HMS Captain commanded by Hugh Talbot Burgoyne, which sank on its third  voyage. Voyages lasted weeks and the flag probably needed regularly replacing. You can find out more at
  6. Brass plates and cross (in floor): Inscribed in memory of Thomas Burgoyne and his wife Elizabeth.
  7. Corbels supporting roof trusses: Careful examination will show the corbel by the north door to be decorated with a cat playing a harp. To the right of Sir John's monument is another corbel, decorated with a winged dragon. Both are 14th Century.
  8. Memorial to Sir John Burgoyne 1604: This is carved stone and is in urgent need of repair. Sir John was member of Parliament from 1562-3 and died an old, blind man in 1604, one year after the death of Queen Elizabeth I. The life-sized effigy in armour is flanked by columns carrying a pediment with heraldic decoration.
  9. Memorial to Sir Roger Burgoyne 1618-77: Sir Roger was member of Parliament for Bedfordshire in the Short and Long Parliaments. The memorial was carved by the great Grinling Gibbons and is technically described as "containing urns on strigillated sarcophagus with putti left and right". (Close by is the 1709 reredos type of monument to Sir John Burgoyne with mourning cherubs carved by E Stanton.)
  10. Chancel Screen: Carved in the 14th or 15th Century, the screen is believed to have come from another church in Bedfordshire, possibly St John the Baptist's Church, Cockayne Hatley. It has a modern cornice or projecting upper part.
  11. Mediaeval chest: This fine, 17th Century chest with ornamental lock plate held registers for many years.
  12. Piscina: Two stone basins originally used to receive water with which the priest washed the Communion vessels.
  13. Sedilia: These are seats for the priest, cut into the chancel wall. The have ogee heads, ie a double curve, are crocketed - decorated in the arch - and have carved finials (above the arch).
  14. Pulpit: Jacobean, dated 1628 and reputed to have been carved by a former Rector - presumably Oliver Bowles, Rector from 1606 to 1645.
  15. Cremation Area: (Outside) Set aside for the burial of cremated remains.