Here is my church guide to St Denys together with a 'potted' version of the full excavation report which will follow

ST. DENYS CHURCH, EATON, LEICESTERSHIRE

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

THE EARLY DOCUMENTS

THE CHURCH Nave
Clerestory
North and south aisles
Dedications
St Guthlac’ Window
Organ
Vestry
Font
Rood loft
Carvings
Alms chest and Coffin stools
Family arms
The tower
Clock
Bells
Chancel
Hatchment
Chancel screen
South porch
Scratch dial
Roof construction
Churchyard
Vicars
The Vicarage
Inventory
Church Finances
Repairs and alterations
Friends of St Denys
Church register

NUN OF EATON Incised stone
Search for a religious foundation
Evermue donation?
Guidelines for architectural dating
Glossary
References

EXCAVATIONS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

POEM BY FRANCIS PECK









INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the medieval parish church of St. Denys, Eaton.
This church has undergone many changes throughout the centuries, but its evolution can be mapped by observing the change of architectural detail. The analysis here suggests that the present building is based upon a simple transitional design dating to the latter half of the twelfth-century. The church exhibits major rebuilding phases throughout the medieval period and major restoration during the nineteenth-century.

THE EARLY DOCUMENTS
Historical research into the origins of Eaton village and its church proves difficult before the Norman Conquest, this is because the area once formed part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia which succumbed to invading Danish forces in 874. This period saw the wholesale destruction of documents leaving only rare survivals such as The Tribal Hidage that relates to the kingdoms surrounding Mercia. The areas dominated by Scandinavian communities known collectively as Danelaw, encompassed Eaton which now as then lies within ‘Framland Wapentake’; an ancient tribal district of these early settlers.
The earliest oblique reference to Eaton occurs in the foundation charter for Belvoir Priory (c. 1076) to which 'Reginaldus de Aitona ' is co-signatory. Although we know nothing of the status of Reginaldus, he may have been one of Eaton’s first clergymen; for only clerics and nobles were called upon to sign foundation charters.

Domesday Book
There is confusion in this major document, with an entry where Eaton should logically be (Morris 1979, 0.10) 236 b):

‘Land of Countess Judith (In Guthlaxton Wapentake) Hugh (de Grentemaisnil) also holds 2c. of land in ELVELEGE. There were 2 ploughs, now in lordship he has 1 plough, with 2 slaves, 2 villagers. Woodland, 4 furlongs long and 2 furlongs wide. The value was 2s; now 10s.’

(Ibid. 40.10); ELVELEGE The place is lost; the name form either Old English (personal name) Aelfa, leah 'The wood of Aelfa', or Old English elf, leah 'The wood of the elves'.

With the simple fact that Eaton lies within the heart of Framland Wapentake or Hundred, and not Guthlaxton, suggests that Elvelege was an 'island' village in the manner of nearby Chadwell and Wycomb - entered under the collective lands of Hugh de Grentemaisnil elsewhere in the county.
The village is however, is recorded in The Leicestershire Survey 1124 -1129 (Slade 1956, p51) under the Hundred of Eastwell:

‘Aitona, land is held by three lordships;
Robert de Insula (Albemarle),8 carucates, 3 bovates.
Robert de Ferrers, 3 carucates, 2 bovates.
Belvoir, ? carucate, ? bovate.’

The largest landowner in the twelfth century is Robert Albemarle or Aumale who held land not only in Eaton, but also in nearby Eastwell, Branston and Hoby. Robert was grandson of Adela (sister of William the Conqueror) and is recorded as owning vast areas of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.
William de Evermue is the earliest known demesne tenants of the village, and is recorded by royal charter (Henry II (r.1154-89) as donating 'the church of Eaton (Eitona) to the Abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester (Hamilton Thompson 1949,p7). This confirmation is more precisely dated by being granted under the chancellorship of Thomas Becket which provides us with the earliest time bracket of 1154-62) (ibid. 5) within which the church existed.
The gift is examined in the sixteenth-century document (Charyte, fo. 61) compiled by canon William Charyte of Leicester Abbey. In a set of folios known as Charyte's Rental (Bodley MS., Laud 625). The entry for Eaton reads thus:
'The church of St. Denis [sic], Eaton, in the hundred and deanery of Framland, was given by William Envermeu to the abbot and convent and was appropriated to their use. The vicarage consisted of all the altarage, the vicar paying a pension of 13s.4d. to the abbot and convent and answering for synodals'.
Charyte proceeds to list all the vicars presented by Leicester Abbey, the first being Richard who was instituted by Hugh of Welles c. 1225 (Rot. Welles, I, 271). Nichols (1795.172) cites a document (Galba, Edward III. p103 r. 1326-77) in which William de Evermo or Evermue donates;

'The Church of Eyton, the rectorial manse with a toft and croft, a fountain and other appurtenances to the Abbot and convent of St. Mary de Pratis, Leicester’.
Nichols also declares that William is dead before 1218.

Willelmo, the priest of Eaton is a co-signatory to the earliest of the Eastwell charters now kept in the Belvoir muniments. In this document drawn up by Ralf Pincerne (Butler), son of William of Eaton, The charter has a regnal date of 16 Henry II (19 December 1169 - 18 December 1170) (Round 1905, p3); which reinforces the fact that a church existed in Eaton earlier than commonly thought.

In addition to the monastic documents relating to the gift of the church and associated property, we also have an undated record of a rector from the same source (Hamilton Thompson 1949, p7):
‘William Reyde of Eaton holds the rectory there with three and a half virgates of land comprising of 48 headlands with tithes (of hay?)’

Nichols (1795 a. xcix) drew together a list of instituted vicarages in Leicestershire from the surviving medieval records of Lincoln Cathedral. Eaton is entered simply as ‘Vicarae ordinatio’.(ordinary vicarage)

The saint and the church dedication
St. Denys, otherwise known as Denis or Dionysius was once the Bishop of Paris and has since been adopted as the patron saint of France. Thought to have died in 258 AD, the saint is known to have been an Italian who together with two other missionaries, Rustics and Eleutherius. Were sent to Gaul in 250 AD to convert the pagan population to Christianity. Following a vigorous campaign. All three men were beheaded by those unwilling to take the faith. Their remains thrown into the River Seine and Dionysius was reputedly led from the river and helped by an angel to walk two miles to Montmartre whilst carrying his head in his arms. The site at Montmartre eventually saw the building of a monastery by King Dagobert I in honour of the saint.
St. Denis was always a popular choice for dedications in France, but he also saw a following in England although the cult was extremely short-lived (1260-70). There are however, a few churches in Leicestershire other than that at Eaton carrying the name, namely Market Harborough, Ibstock, Stonton Wyville. Evington and Goadby Marwood. Commemorated on October 9th, he is generally represented resting his head in one or both hands with reference to his martyrdom.
There is record of an early stained glass window featuring the saint at the East End of the chancel but this has long since been destroyed. There is however, a modern window illustrating St. Denys at the East End of the north aisle.

THE CHURCH
The church consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles and a tower surmounted by a stone spire. The building stands prominently upon a knoll of Ironstone and is marked at 120.49 m (395 ft) above sea level by a benchmark on NW corner of tower.
Architecturally, the core of St Denys can be attributed to the building style known as of Transitional 1145-89 and Early English 1170-1300 (Friar 1996.p24). The church displays many thirteenth-century features throughout, with evidence of two early individual side chapels occupying the north and south aisles. These aisles each have a piscina or washing bowl built into the fabric of the church and indicates the former existence of altars.

Nave
The term nave is derived from the Latin navis meaning ship, with reference to its similarity to a vessel designed to carry people. The nave comprises of a three bay arcade supported by cylindrical piers set upon waterhold bases. Many of the piers have carved graffito and several masons marks can be found if a torch is shone obliquely. There are fourteenth-century polygonal capitals to the north of the nave and Early English circular ones with nailhead decoration to the south. There is Late Norman (c.1150-89) nailhead ornamentation on the capitals of the two centre pillars in the south aisle, and also on those of the south doorway. A fossilised roofline can be seen on the internal tower wall, which reveals the original height of the nave.

Clerestory
The clerestory or clearstory is a fifteenth-century construction pierced by three two-light perpendicular windows on both sides, those on the south side having triangular hood mouldings, whereas those to the north are square. The addition of a clerestory was a common addition to medieval churches during this period, and was an attempt to lighten an otherwise gloomy interior.

North and south aisles
The north aisle has a door, which has badly eroded dogtooth ornamentation decorating the external arch. Fragments of medieval stained glass have survived in two late fourteenth-century ogee aisle windows. The glass is in situ and appears to represent a running oakleaf motif. The various wainscot panels covering the lower half of both aisles derives from the old box pews which once segregated the church-goers up to the early twentieth century. Further evidence of this can be seen as slots gouged-out on several of the piers.

Dedications

St. Guthlac's window
The Anglo-Saxon saint ‘Guthlac’ was once commemorated within the church in the form of a stained glass window located in the east window of the north aisle. Our source once again is Nichols who describes the artwork surviving in the late eighteenth-century.
'In the middle of the said right hand light was the picture of St. Guthlac, in blue vestment, holding in his left hand a book, in his right a whip of knotted cords; under which the entire figure of the fiend, his face like a lion's head, his wings blue, extended and prickly like a bat's; his posture sitting, like a monkey, on his breech, which is hairy; his feet like a satyr's; his right paw under his chin; and his eyes looking up to the whip, as if receiving discipline'. This answers exactly to the statue of St. Guthlac on the West front of Croyland Abbey.
It is interesting that this charismatic Anglo-Saxon saint is acknowledged at Eaton, as his name is chosen for both the parish churches of Stathern and Branston which lie within three miles of St. Denys. It is tempting to think that this side chapel was once dedicated to St. Guthlac.

Organ.

Vestry

Font
The lead-lined octagonal bowl is finely carved from a single piece of limestone; this surmounts a chamfered pedestal, which in turn stands upon a three-stage square plinth.
Although the font is essentially octagonal and therefore assignable to the Decorated period, tooling is recognisably pre-thirteenth-century.
On April 21st 1906, Mrs Goodacre of Melton Mowbray donated a new font cover to the church. The cover is constructed of oak and is shaped to fit the top of the font. The piece is decorated with carved Tudor roses and other flowers and a wrought iron cross, with scroll ends, is fixed to it by cushion headed nails; the centre part of the cross being beaten up to form a handle

Rood loft
The archway on the north wall of the nave shows where the stone steps now removed originally approached the entrance to the rood loft.

Carvings
There is a circular stone shelf at the chancel end of the south aisle which may have once supported a figure, the base is carved into a comical impish face and is only visible if viewed from below. The stone corbels supporting roof timbers in both aisles and the nave are carved as grotesque figureheads. These are typical of the medieval period and frequently represent the masons and their patrons

Alms chest and coffin stools
The old oak chest for alms, with double locks and mounted with iron bounds is in good condition. It is mentioned in the canons of the church, as one of the necessary legal ornaments of the church: 'to be used by the churchwardens'. The contents of the chest were deposited with Leicestershire Records Office in the 1970’s (acquisition ref. ? ). There are also two black oak stools, which possibly date back to the 17th century; these are used as coffin rests during burial services.

Family Arms
Unfortunately, none of the medieval plaques commonly found in churches of this date no longer survive. However, the eighteenth-century antiquarian Burton recorded three arms, and John Nichols recounts their content in his work:
1. Gules, three lions passant gardant Or. (Disappeared by June 1st 1724, Mr Peck reported). Location unknown.

2. Azure, three crowns Or. Peck found this at the bottom of the left hand of the north aisle east window.

3. Azure, a cross (patience), between four martlets Or. Peck thought the arms to that of Plessington. Found to the right of the north aisle east window.

The Tower
The massive tower is typically Early English in style being of three stage construction divided by string-coursed (check type) mouldings and reinforced by clasping buttresses at each external corner. The upper part of the belfry stage is decorated with a corbel table composed of small heads, above which is a crenellated parapet with a spout and crocketed pinnacle at each corner. The spouts are all decorative mythical beasts apart from the one on the south- west corner, which is simply formed from a roughly fashioned slab. This apparently originated from the crossroads at nearby Eastwell and probably stood upright as a monolith in prehistoric times.
Large, louvered two-light plate traceried windows pierce each face of the belfry. These are headed with rounded Romanesque arches north and south, and pointed Gothic arches east and west. The primitive plate tracery features either diamond or trefoil apertures.
The spire is an octagonal structure with single tier, gabled, two-light lucarnes placed on alternating facets. There are small Early English lancet windows serving the ringing chamber to the north and south, and there is a larger lancet window set into the west wall. Internally, the ringing chamber is open to the nave via a triple chamfered Gothic arch set upon polygonal responds. Above this is a rectangular opening and evidence of a former gallery, a feature often thought to have been used by musicians. However, this opening is an architectural feature more commonly associated with Saxon churches, the purpose of which is obscure (cite J.A.).

Clock
The clock was manufactured by John Smith & Son of Derby and is..(movement etc).
It also functions as the village memorial to those who lost their lives of the 1914-18 war. Subscription?

The bells
Access to the belfry is via an internal Gothic arched doorway and a narrow stone stairway.
BELL DATE WEIGHT* SIZE KEY FOUNDER INSCRIPTION
Treble 1946 2.2.23 1’ 11” G Taylor GIFT OF THOMAS EDGAR PEARSON
Second 1884 2.3.19 2’ F Taylor LAUS DEO
Third 1618 3.2.20 2’3” Eb Oldfield ALL GLORY BEE TO GOD MOST HIGH
Fourth 1628 4.0.4 2’ 4 ¼” D Oldfield GOD SAVE HIS CHURCH
Fifth 1858 4.3.23 2’ 7 ¾” B Taylor S. THOROLD
Tenor 1589 7.1.9 2’ 10 ½” Bb Taylor IHESUS BE OUR SPEED (Recast 1902)

*Bell weights expressed in cwts. qrs and lbs

Query?
The fifth bell, which is much smaller than the others, was purchased by subscription by the inhabitants of Eaton, from Messrs Taylor of Loughborough. The cost was about £45. (What about S.Thorold?)
Around the end of the 18th century, remains of a turret were were still visible at the East End of the nave roof; this housed the Sanctus bell which was always rung when the priest performed Holy Communion. A stone cross now stands on the roof of the Nave were the Sanctus bell formerly hung. (The cross at the East End of the Chancel has now disappeared).

In the 6th year of King Edward VI (1553-4), there were three bells
The fifth bell, which is much smaller than the others, was purchased by subscription by the inhabitants of Eaton, from Messrs Taylor of Loughborough. The cost was about £45. Around the end of the 18th century, remains of a turret were still visible at the East End of the nave roof; this housed the Sanctus bell that was always rung when the priest performed Holy Communion. A stone cross now stands on the roof of the Nave were the Sanctus bell formerly hung. In the 6th year of King Edward VI (1553-4), there were three bells with a small one in the steeple.
The bells hung silent from June 1940 to Easter Day 1943 due to the war. During these three years, the bells were only allowed to be rung, in the event of enemy invasion.

Pancake Bell
There was once old custom of ringing the church bell at 11a.m. on Shrove Tuesday. Known as the Pancake Bell, the custom probably originated from the practice of bell ringing to herald the approach of Lent. This was also a time when shops traditionally closed on Shrove Tuesday, after which a carnival ensued. The old agricultural custom of soliciting a contribution of a penny for every plough to be paid between Easter and Whitsuntide was still observed well into the twentieth-century.

Chancel
The Priest's door visible only from within the boiler house on the north side of the chancel has a (pointed) or Gothic arch, and is of Early English design. This feature must be earlier than the north aisle as it has been blocked-up and part of the archway has become embedded in the stonework. The masonry into which the Priest’s door is set is very crude and suggests a survival of the earliest building phase.

The floor of the chancel being on the same level as the nave shows that this is the work of Puritan times in 1642. The Puritans when they destroyed the carved figures in the churches levelled the floors so that the Nave and the Chancel were at the same height. They also moved the altars from the East End of the Nave and placed 'Tablewise', but steps (or a step) of course originally raised the chancel up from the nave, and the altar would be higher still. The floor of the Chancel would also sink below the level as it was formerly used for the interment of the medieval patrons. There is a sealed vault beneath the chancel floor on the north side for the burial of the Rodgers family.
Evidence of a higher chancel roofline is preserved in the fabric of the adjoining nave wall

There is a three-light east window, which replaces a different design seen in photographs dating to 1905. A single thirteenth-century lancet window is set into the north chancel wall, which is probably the earliest surviving medieval construction. There is also a pair of two-light 'Y' traceried gothic windows on the south wall.

Hatchment
A hatchment is a diamond-shaped panel or stretched canvas decorated with heraldic designs, inscriptions and a date. These artworks were produced on the death of a local dignitary and carried in procession into the church, where it remained following the deceased interment.
The earliest hatchments or ‘achievements’ date to 1627, although the practice only became popular during the eighteenth-century.

The Royal Arms on the Hatchment was formerly set up over the chancel arch. The diamond-shaped area on the arch shows its original position. The custom of placing the Royal Arms in churches first appeared in the sixteenth-century to show that they were in the patronage of the Crown. The practice of displaying a royal hatchment fell in and out of fashion until finally ceasing. (Where is the hatchment now?)

Chancel Screen
The chancel is accessed via double chamfered Gothic archway, beneath which, is a fine, old oak chancel screen. This screen has been dated to the late fifteenth-century using dendrochronology or tree ring dating (Laxton et al 1991, 22-3). The screen comprises of four cusped ogee lights to the left and right of a wavy central opening. There is a moulded cornice above, with traceried dado below. The iron bracket on this screen may have held an hourglass dating to the seventeenth-century; the timer was used when the sermons often lasted an hour.

South porch
The stone niche or bracket over the south doorway would have once housed a figure of St. Denys that probably disappeared during the reformation. The two stone heads on either side of the doorway have for many years been misinterpreted. Poor observation of these figures has resulted in the belief that they represent the tonsured (shaven) head of a monk and the wimple clad head of a nun. A casual examination of these carvings will reveal that each head forms an integral part of a capital from which the door arch springs. It is therefore impossible to determine any headdress or detail for either of these figures.

The three-fold clustered columns are Early English and the 'Dogooth' ornament on the door arch is Transitional.

Scratch dial
There is a faint scratch dial visible to the left of the doorway a feature
Which is very common to the region (contact Alan Thompson via CBA)

Roof construction
Nave. Canted tie beams dropping on solid arched braces to wall posts and corbel scanted = flat and at an angle.
Chancel. Sixteenth-century canted tie beams with king post spur to ridge piece (Mention Roof gilded roof bosses)

Before the reign of King Henry VIII, the see of Lincoln, extended from the Humber to the Thames; Eaton was therefore formerly in the diocese of Lincoln. It was not until 1539 that a law was made to establish Bishoprics for Peterborough, Oxford and other places out of the spoils of the suppressed monasteries and it was at this time Leicestershire was included in the diocese of Peterborough.

Churchyard
Thomas Wright etc. Explain how Wright was a charlatan and that Old Moore’s Cottage is nothing of the sort!

Vicars of St Denys
DATE YRS NAME PATRON
c.1076 ? Reginaldus de Aitona? ?
1169/70 ? Willelmo William de Evermue?
c.1225 ? Richard Leicester Abbey
1235/6 ? Hugh de Croxton Leicester Abbey
? ? Alexander* Leicester Abbey
1276 14 Gilbert de Beresford Reference in Nichols
1290 2 William Fretheby (Freeby) Leicester Abbey
1292 11 David Stretton Leicester Abbey
1303 10 Robert Braundeston Leicester Abbey
1313 35 Roger Rerisby Leicester Abbey
1348 THE BLACK DEATH
1348 1 William Braundeston Leicester Abbey
1349 9 Symon Gilbert de Walton Leicester Abbey
1358 ? Roger Judde of Rakendale Leicester Abbey
? ? Richard Walker* Leicester Abbey
1398 23 John Smyth of Gouteby Leicester Abbey
1421 4 John Colynson Leicester Abbey
1425 ? Richard Stryngsale Leicester Abbey
? ? John Spyceringe* Leicester Abbey
1338/9 19? John Spicer Leicester Abbey
1457 12 John Palmer Leicester Abbey
1469/70 1? John Wylton Leicester Abbey
1470 ? Thomas Gowrton Leicester Abbey
? ? Thomas Trewluff* Leicester Abbey
1510 30 John Burton Leicester Abbey
1534 DISSOLUTION OF THE MONASTERIES
1540 22 Thomas Walker Last vicar presented
1562 33 William Squier
1595 5 Marmaduke Sirebarme
1600 2 George Brian
1602 1 John Treves
1603 2 Thomas Caunt
1642-49 THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR
1649-60 THE COMMONWEALTH PERIOD
1605 ? John Burton Ralph Jackson
d.1701 ? John Holden The Crown
1703 42 William Houlden The Crown
1745 14 Benjemin Holwell The Crown
1759 9 Philip Hackett The Crown
1768 25 Richard Hardy B.A. The Crown
1793 21 William Peters L.L.B The Crown
1818 27 R. Walker (Curate) The Crown
1845 15 William L. Fowke M.A. Lord Chancellor
1860 27 John Haddersley Williams M.A Lord Chancellor
1887 7 Francis George Lys M.A. Lord Chancellor
1894 3 Thomas Glyn Ridley M.A. B.C.L. Lord Chancellor
1897 7 Theodore Rivington M.A Lord Chancellor
1904 2 John Standbridge Lord Chancellor
1906 9 Harold James Blathwyt Lord Chancellor
1915-28 13 James Harry Moore M.A. Lord Chancellor
1915-28 13 George A.Tolhurst Priest in charge Lord Chancellor
1930 2 James Aldred Cutten M.A. Lord Chancellor
1932 7 Godfrey Harold Salamon Lord Chancellor
1939-44 5 Philip Calvert Lindsay F.R.G.S Lord Chancellor
1945 6 Arthur E.Bass Lord Chancellor
1951 4 Arthur G. Dallimore Lord Chancellor
1955 5 George D.D.Turner Lord Chancellor
1960 4 George Shipman-Fox Lord Chancellor
1964 4 J.G.Russell Lord Chancellor
1968 7 John G. Hodgins Lord Chancellor
1975 5 W.H.R. Mathews Priest in charge Lord Chancellor
1980 3 Anthony Clayton Priest in charge Lord Chancellor
1983-88 5 Barry Irons Priest in charge Lord Chancellor
1989-99 10 Lawrence King Lord Chancellor
1999-2000 1 Robert Rollet Lord Chancellor
*Institution date not recorded



John Holden
Was vicar of Eaton at the end of the 17th century when he also held the post at Croxton Kerrial where he was buried. Holden retains the record of forty-two years service; seconded only by Roger Rerisby served thirty-five years between 1330 and the outbreak of Black Death in 1348.

Richard Hardy
Although instituted to the vicarage of Eaton, Richard Hardy resided at nearby Harby, and had as curate Rev. William Orme M.A. who is stated to have resided at Oakham. Archdeaconry records reveal that Hardy served Eastwell as rector for two years before taking up the post at Eaton in 1768.

M. W. Peters R.A. (The painting vicar)
Was chaplain to George Frederick, Prince of Wales, this required his frequent attendance at court. He was also Rector of Woolsthorpe and Knipton, and Vicar of Scalford. He held all these livings by dispensation from King George III (Owing to the prevalent custom in the 18th century for the Vicars of small parishes to hold more than one living, it was necessary to have a resident curate. This accounts for so many curates of Eaton during this period.) . He left the neighbourhood after he resigned the Rectory of Woolsthorpe in the year 1808. One of his children died there and was buried in the old churchyard.
Reverend Peters was also a recognised artist of historic subjects from the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries during which time he exhibited many times. From the first exhibition in 1766 to the last in 1807, Peters displayed his work a total of forty-two times;
Royal Aademy 25
Society of Artists 14
Free society opf Artists 2
British Institution 1

Recent sales of the artist’s work realised widely differing prices which suggests that subject matter was the prime consideration when bids were offered. For instance, on January 30th 1997, the New York auction house of Sotheby’s sold ‘Portrait of a lady as a Baechanate’ for the sum of £23,306. Whereas, 'Portrait of a Lady’, sold later that year by Phillips of London, only raised £300.

R. Walker
Was curate of Woolsthorpe after Peters’ death and was later instituted to the Vicarage of Eaton. Rev. Walker continued to reside at Woolsthorpe as there was at that time no suitable house available at Eaton. Walker was granted a special licence for non-residence by the Bishop of Peterborough, in view of the fact that during the early 1800’s, the vicarage house was a 'poor little cottage' (Glebe Farm, Waltham Lane) occupied by a person named Harding who farmed glebe land in the vicinity.

William L. Fowke
Was vicar of Eaton from 1845 to 186060. of Barkestone 1860 to 1872, and afterwards vicar of Bisbrooke, Leicestershire 1872 to 1887. Fowke resided in a house called 'Eaton Cottage' near Branston, and it is unclear when 'Vicarage Farm' served as residence Eaton’s clergy.

John H. Williams
Remained vicar of Eaton until his death there in 1887. He was buried within St. Denys his tomb located beneath the east window of the chancel.

Francis George Lys was vicar for seven years, when upon his death in 1894, his remains were buried in the cemetery. He is recorded as once being Chaplain to Queen Victoria in India.

THE VICARAGE
Between 1850 and 1851, the purpose built Vicarage was built on land given by John Henry (Duke of Rutland). The building costs were met by a fund specifically established for the purpose, of which had accumulated a substantial sum of money. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners gave a grant for the work and both the Duke and Rev. Fowke contributed finance. The house was later enlarged and improved by Rev. Lys. and is presently used as a private dwelling having served as a ‘Residential Retirement Home’ for some years



INVENTORY
In the inventory of Framland Deanery transcribed by the late Prebendary Walcott F.S.A. from the undated MSS in the Public Records Office, and printed in the Associated Architectural Societies Reports (Vol XII .pp133.), the Eyton (Eaton) inventory includes;
2 Crosses of Brass
1 Vestment of green
1 couple of Damdamaske
This was the inventory of such goods as were left behind by the commissioners in the churches of Framland and were drawn-up with a view to stopping any further sale of goods by the parishioners during the reign of Edward VI (c.1552).

CHURCH FINANCES
In the year 1650, a Parliamentary survey of the parishes and ministers was made and included that of Eaton; and which the minister is simply noted as 'sufficient' which meant that the clergy abstained from using the prayer book in public services; thus encouraging the Puritans. During the survey, most of the church clergy who had succeeded in retaining their benefices were 'dispossessed'. Until the time of King Edward VI (1547-1553), the Tithes of Eaton land belonged to the church, but afterwards they passed into the hands of laymen and became alienated from the church.

The governers of Queen Anne's ‘Bounty’ gave £200 by lot, for the augmentation of the living.

For instance, the living recorded in1897, a discharged 'Vicarage', had a nett yearly value £120 together with a residence as gift of the Lord Chancellor.

The income of the living is derived from rent of ‘glebe’ or church land. In the case of Eaton, 55 acres of land (situated to the west of Waltham lane, either side of Green lane), and12 acres of land held at Sewstern and Buckminster.

The church commissioners paid a small endowment quarterly each year. A 'discharged' Vicarage is also one which has been released from the ancient payment of 'First Fruits'. Under the act of Queen Anne, the first fruits represented the profits of one year of every living; except vicarages under £10 a year in the 'King's Book'

Repairs and alterations
The roof of the church was thoroughly repaired and rebuilt for the most part in 1892 at a cost of £200. This expense was met partly by local subscription and substantial donations from the Duke of Rutland and Major Paynter of (Eaton Grange). In Spring 1897, new altar furniture, choir seats, an oak lantern and chancel lamps were placed in the church. Also, a wooden partition concealing the bell tower arch was dismantled, and the belfry was enlarged at a cost of about £60.
The new choir seats and lantern were dedicated by the Archdeacon of Leicester, Bishop Mitchinson, (when?). At this time, repairs to the roof of the north aisle were carried out at a cost of £25 in 1898. In July 1899, the Lord Bishop of the Diocese, The Rev. the hon. G. Carr Glyn D.D. paid his first visit to Eaton and was apparently very interested in the ancient church. He expressed a hope that before long, the parishioners would;
"see their way to replace the unsightly high pews in the nave which hid the proportions of the fine Norman [sic] pillars, for modern seats or chairs”. Six years later, on Monday 20th March 1905, builders, Messrs Rudd & Son of Grantham commenced repair work to the nave which included the entire removal of 'deal' box pews.
It is recorded that Mr. Samuel Rodgers removed his box pew from the north side of the church at 2.30pm on Wednesday 22nd March 1905.
1940 saw £35 being spent on the porch and the south aisle. On 31st January 1943, the lead work on the roof of the chancel was badly damaged by a gale-force wind. £131 was raised by local subscriptions from the Ironstone companies (which?) and from the efforts of various organisations such as Mothers Union and the young people of the village. Herbert and Son of Leicester carried out repairs to the tower and steeple in 1963. at a cost of £75

Friends of St Denys
Foundation and fund-raising
Current restoration programme

Church register
John Nichols refers to the register for St. Denys beginning in 1591 and being; 'very incomplete'. He adds, 'In the twenty years that appear tolerably perfect, near the beginning, are 126 baptisms, 46 burials, and 24 marriages. In the last twenty years, ending in 1788, are 108 baptisms, 72 burials, and 35 marriages'.
Robert Simpson is the only freeholder mentioned in the list of 1630.
The surviving register dates from 1724 and relates to John Holden's term as vicar. At the general election in 1722, 7 freeholders polled from this parish; and the like in 1778. The number of families in the parish are 41, and inhabitants 208; all of the Church of England, except one family, Roman Catholic. The nett expence of the poor 1776 was £29 ls.3d Medium of three years, 1783-1785, £59.14s.2d.

THE NUN OF EATON
There is a tantalising paragraph included in the Eaton section of the eighteenth-century work; 'The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester’ by John Nichols;

'The parishioners have a tradition, that there was once a nunnery in the parish; and Mr. Peck, in 1724, saw a stone, at the upper end of the North aile (sic), inscribed '.bethe Dymmok, priorisse..' the rest wherof, then lately defaced by a chisel, would have been otherwise perfectly legible.' (Nichols 1795, p174).

Extensive work has been done by this writer to establish if a religious house ever existed within the village, its order, a possible foundation date and who was the likely patron. In short, did the village contain archaeological evidence of a nunnery, substantiated by documents?
A study of the inscribed stone situated in the north aisle was conducted in order to learn more about the occupant of the tomb.

The incised stone
Reverend Francis Peck of Goadby Marwood, was Nichols' primary source of memorials recorded within the church of St. Denys in the early eighteenth-century. Peck may have tried to interpret the damaged inscribed stone handicapped by the suggestion that a religious house once existed in the village, and this may have coloured his reading of the faint legend, which in turn immortalised the belief once it appeared in Nichols’ publication.

Nichols (1795, p174) refers to wanton damage inflicted upon the stone which probably occurred originally during the time of Henry VIII. In 1534, Henry usurped the Pope as the head of the English church and ordered Thomas Cromwell to dissolve 800 religious houses. Many icons, decorative stones and memorials were either defaced or destroyed in the anti-Catholic zeal to rid churches of monuments of idolatry. Almost a century later saw a second wave of destruction when Parliament ordered Oliver Cromwell's men to destroy all blasphemous images in order to meet a Puritan ideal. With this in mind, it is amazing that any inscription survives at all, although the precise wording is a matter of debate.

Greenhill (1958. pp69-70) describes the stone thus;
'Slab of Ancaster stone, 56? in. by 34 in., with marginal inscription in black-letter, now almost effaced along dexter and top sides and wholly at bottom; all now legible with reasonable certainty is "Dymmok quonda[m]?ux......iDym[m]ok? que obiit" along the sinister edge. At end of the top strip the letter "t" can be made out, with some vague remains of letters which might possibly give "a[b]eta. There are slight remains of other letters, but quite illegible. At upper sinister corner is a small foliated ornament and at lower sinister corner a cross patee set traversely; the corresponding devices at the other two corners are entirely worn off'.

The author is very cautious when translating the inscription which, he simply gives us as;
' ELIZABETH, wife of ...DYMMOK', dating to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth-century.
If the issue of the inscription is set aside, what can be gained from a physical analysis of the stone itself? The slab being Ancaster oolitic limestone classifies it as a locally sourced material from about 15 miles away. Ancaster stone and alabaster were both materials which became popular amongst the makers of tomb lids around the mid-fourteenth century (ibid p6). The shape being simply rectangular disqualifies it from being pre-1350 as many of the stones prior to this date are of a tapered 'coffin' form (ibid p3).

The black-letter inscription is also diagnostic in the process of dating as the earlier inscriptions were carved in a Lombardic (or uncial) style. After c.1360, black-letter became the norm down to c.1580 when it was superseded by Roman capitals (ibid p5). So from this, we must acknowledge that the memorial is no earlier than mid-fourteenth century. However, the skeletal remains may belong to an earlier period having been transferred to a new tomb when the north aisle was added.

A close examination of the stone today, reveals a badly worn and chisel-damage surface which challenges even the keenest eye. The vestiges of the name 'DYMMOK' can be determined and is preceded by an unrecognisable motif and the lower part of an initial capital 'L' or 'E'. If as Greenhill suggests, 'quonda[m]' follows DYMMOK, the first letter 'q' has evidently been reworked at a later date and with an unskilled hand. Various letters can be seen dispersed along the top margin but none form a complete word. Again, Greenhill's observation of a letter 't' at the end of the top margin is unrecognisable but there is an apparent incised tilted cross in the upper right-hand corner. There is no surviving evidence of an inscription in the left-hand (sinister) margin, nor of a 'cross patee' in the lower left-hand corner. Whilst the stone refers to Elizabeth as 'wife' of ...Dymmok, this does not preclude her from becoming a nun later in life, as was common practice during the medieval period. The name 'Dymmok' does not appear in either the work of Nichols or Farnham but is claimed by Rev. J.E.H. Wood, (former rector of Knipton) to be that of occupants of Eaton manor during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (pers. comm. Laurence Darby). Wood refers to an inventory post-mortem on 18 September 1540:
‘William Dymmok, gent of Eyton co. Leic., who died on 10 June 1509, was seised of lands in South Clifton and Spalford (10 miles north of Newark on Trent)’ (Trans. Thoroton Soc.1790 p?).

THE SEARCH FOR A RELIGIOUS HOUSE
The story begins with a 'tradition' that a nunnery once existed at Eaton. Where did this notion come from? Neither the observations of Greenhill or those of Mr. Peck in 1724 support this. The incised stone located in the north aisle of St. Denys is stylistically dated to between 1350 and 1580 (see appendix 1) which is outside the period of wide spread religious foundation which occurred during the twelfth and thirteenth-centuries.

Evermue donation?
Thompson (1991, p210) refers to the 'ephemeral convent of Spinney' located in north east Leicestershire. This convent is recorded only by an episcopal confirmation charter (Acta I Lincoln 1067 -1185, 160, no, 256). This house is thought to been founded by Gundreda de Gournay and existed between 1148 and c.1154 (ibid 229). Susanna is not referred to as prioress but the charter suggests she is the head of the community (ibid 253):

'We Robert*, by the grace of God, bishop of Lincoln, send greetings to all the faithful of the holy mother church. in assenting to the respectful request of our beloved daughter Susanna for herself and her monastic sisters of the blessed Mary of Spinney and grant the place which is called Spinney together with one carucate of land from the lordship of Melton next to Spinney. and one mill house in Buceby with the meadow which is called Esselouenga and ten promonteries/headlands around the monastery together with the island next to the mill as a permanent grant by the gift of Gundred, mother of Roger de Mowbray and by grant of Roger de Mowbray himself. We confirm what they declare in the charter and ratify it by witness of our own seal with the full power of the church of Lincoln'.


'We *Robert (de Chesney; cons. 19 Dec. 1148) (Owen1981, p154) expresses his importance in the manner of a ‘royal’ WE. Buceby may translate as Bescaby which lies three miles to the south of Eaton.
Esselouenga could be a lost place-name or refers either to a ploughed 'headland' or to 'acres'
(Translation by Margaret Henry 26th July 1998)

The exact location of this short-lived order at Spinney is not stated but Thompson places the site in the vacinity of Eaton. If the word 'Spinney' is examined, it appears to be derived from Old French ‘espinei’, from ‘espine’, which in turn is from Latin ‘spina’. Is it possible that the order took its name from the nearby wood mentioned in Domesday; if it is accepted that Elvelege was an 'island' village attached to Guthlaxton Wapentake.

There is another possibility; the lost nunnery may be associated with the duel order of founded by St. Gilbert in Sempringham, Lincolnshire in c.1131. Gilbert was a member of the house of Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and may have been instrumental in gaining an episcopal endowment to the Spinney community. Sempringham lies twenty miles to the east of Eaton and would have been in easy reach via; Branston, Croxton Kerrial, Three Queens, Great Ponton, Boothby Pagnell, Ingoldsby, Lenton and Folkingham. Eaton has a very tenuous link with the Gilbertine order, in that Matilda Shot [Stirt] held one free cottage for which she paid 18d to the Prior of Haverholm (Nichols 1795, pp172, 92 appendix XI); Haverholm priory once stood near Alnwick, Lincolnshire, being one of several Gilbertine houses founded in the county.

GUIDELINES FOR ARCHITECTURAL DATING
Dating churches using architectural styles is an imperfect science due to the regional trends. However, the form of windows, doors and supporting arches can give a general feel for the age of a building. Here are the general divisions of architectural development (please note, these date vary from author to author.

Saxon 600 -1066
Norman 1066 -1190
Transitional 1150 -1200
Early English 1200 -1280
Decorated 1280 -1380
Perpendicular 1380 -1550
Early Tudor 1500 –1550

(After Friar 1996)

GLOSSARY
Aisle Extension of main nave
Aumbry Small secure cupboard
Ball Flower 13th century ornamentation
Capital Upper most part of a pier
Chancel Eastern half of a church and loccation of high altar
Chantry Chapel dedicated to a single family (usually patrons).
Clerestory/Clearstory Additional storey of windows
Corbel table String-course with equally spaced carved heads etc.
Crenellated Battlements
Gothic arch Curved pointed arch
Lancet Long, narrow window headed by Gothic arch
Light Early definition of window
Nave Public part of a church
Nail head Late Norman design
Ogee Flowing inverted arch popular during the Decorated Period
Pier Supporting column
Piscina Recess for washing
Respond Half-pier against wall
Reticulated Web-like tracery. Ornamental stonework of a window or panel
Waterhold Deeply carved moulding
Wainscot Timber panelling

REFERENCES
Brown, R.J.,1998. The English Village Church. Robert Hale, London.

Chapman, L., 1987. Church Memorial Brasses and Brass Rubbing.
Shire Books. Shire Album 206

Child, M., 1996. Discovering Church Architecture. Shire Books.

Farnham, G.F.,1930. Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes. Vol.II. Privately Printed. Leicester.

Friar, S.,1996. A Companion to the English Parish Church. Alan Sutton Publishing Gloucestershire.

Greenhill, F.A., 1958. The incised slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland. Leics. Archeaol. and Hist. Soc. Leicester.

Hamilton Thompson, A., 1949. The Abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester. Leics. Archaeol. Soc. Backus. Leicester.

Laxton, R., Litton, C. and Simpson, W., 1991. Tree-rings and Baltic oak boards.
Nottinghamshire Heritage. Cromwell Press. Vol. 2. Issue 1.

Nichols, J., 1795. The history and antiquities of the County of Leicester. London. Vol. 2 part 1.

Round, J.H. (ed.), 1905. The Manuscripts of His Grace The Duke of Rutland K.G. preserved at Belvoir Castle. Historical Manuscripts Commission. HMSO, London.

Rudkin, D.J., 1972. ‘The Excavation of an Early Medieval Site at Buckminster, Leicestershire’. Trans. Leics. Archaeol. Hist. Soc. Leicester. Vol. XLVII.pp1-13.

Slade, C.F., 1956. The Leicestershire Survey. c. A.D. 1150 . University College Leicester. Occasional Paper No. 7.

Thompson, S., 1991. Women Religious: The founding of English nunneries after the Norman Conquest. Clarendon Press. Oxford.


Excavations in nearby allotment gardens
(To follow)

Acknowledgments
Particular thanks must go to Mary Hatton for her tenacity in tracing documentary evidence from a wide variety of sources, and to Dr Margaret Henry for translating the Medieval Latin into Modern English.
Thanks also Dr Jenny Alexander, Dr David Parsons, Laurence Darby, Geoffrey Knight and the Allotment digging team. Best wishes to all Friends of St Denys, Eaton.


Copyright N.M. FAHY 08/09/2000










Poem extract
BELVOIR CASTLE by Francis Peck 1727
(Nichols 1795, p62, appendix VII)
'There EATON church where Lucifer's portray'd
In glass, as if he sitting knelt and pray'd;
On whom a saint, drawn by him, doth dispense
Of lashes such a smart benevolence,
He looks, from what appears so well laid on,
As if much discipline he'd undergone;
And still, oh dreadful flogging! as much more
Expected yet to feel, ere all was o'er;
Seeming, in that his odd, untoward scrape,
For fear, to beg and chatter like an ape.
They say, that, when a lady's form he chose,

With red-hot tongs St. Dunstan pinched his nose.
But there goats' feet, bats' wings, a satyr's shag,
And features grim, are all he has to brag.
Beneath, the coat which Plessington once bore,
And, in one by it, Azure, three crowns, Or.
Below, an old inscription, but defac'd;
Whereof no more than Dymmoc to be traced;
The rest of purpose with a chisel ras'd.
Tradition is, there buried lay a dame,
Whom they say the mistress of a nunnery name.
Yet of a nunnery there no author speaks,
Save one, who Waltham just by, their gift makes,
Which yet another for Nuneaton takes.
That matter I pretend not to decide,
but leave it to be farther search'd and tried;
Yet think, whoe'er that picture might erect,
He did it to demonstrate respect
For Guthlac, or some yet more rigid saint,
Whose rebel flesh they like a devil paint,
Till, well subdued by penance and the whip,
He got o'th' carnal fiend the mastership.

Peck d.1763
## Your picture: 'Church's future boosted.jpg' has been inserted here ##

ALLOTMENT GARDENS, EATON, LEICESTERSHIRE.

Norman Michael Fahy

FOREWORD



INTRODUCTION
The writer's attention was drawn to the site on Church Lane by allotment garden holder Mr.Laurence Darby who had knowledge of structural remains existing in several cultivation plots used today.
The decision to investigate the site seriously was prompted by the presentation of an architectural fragment by Mr. Darby, which apparently came to the ground surface during ploughing. This fragment is dressed to ashlar on two faces and features a purposeful cavity on one of these. The dressing is typical of pre-thirteenth-century masonry, which is determined by diagonal striated tooling produced by an axe (Stocker 1993, p23). Another architectural fragment known to have originated from the allotment site was shown to the writer (Fig. ), This once formed the hood moulding of a mullioned window and dated no earlier than the sixteenth-century (pers.comm Richard Pollard L.C.C) Further to this, the location of a very deep well was re-established and the relevant S.M.R. details were retrieved from Leicestershire Museums Service.
The research was fuelled by a tantalising paragraph included in the Eaton section of the eighteenth-century work; 'The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester’ by John Nichols;
'The parishioners have a tradition, that there was once a nunnery in the parish; and Mr. Peck, in 1724, saw a stone, at the upper end of the North aile (sic), inscribed '.bethe Dymmok, priorisse..' the rest wherof, then lately defaced by a chisel, would have been otherwise perfectly legible.' (Nichols 1795, p174).
Extensive work has been done to establish the nature of a religious house in the village, a possible foundation date and the likely patron. In short, did the allotment garden site contain archaeological evidence of a nunnery? A study of the inscribed stone was conducted in order to learn more about the occupant of the tomb and a concerted effort was made to secure an establishment date for the medieval parish church of St.Denys at SK798 290.

THE HISTORICAL RECORD
Historical research into the origins of Eaton village and its church proves difficult before the Norman Conquest. Dumville (in Bassett 1998, p125) highlights the problem concerning the early Anglo-Saxon period; 'The history of England between the Thames-Severn and Humber-Mersey lines therefore begins in the seventh century. Before that, for two centuries, we are dealing with an effectively prehistoric situation'. Documentation of the later period is virtually non-existent because the area once formed part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia succumbed to invading Danish Vikings in 874 (Owen 1981, p168) This period saw the wholesale destruction of documents leaving only rare survivals such as The Tribal Hidage (Dumville, D in Bassett 1989. appendix), which relates to land allocation of Mercia and its surrounding kingdoms. Brooks (in Bassett 1989, p159) states; 'our knowledge of the Mercians certainly depends to an astonishing degree upon information preserved by their neighbours, their enemies and those whom they conquered.'

The earliest reference to Eaton (Aitona) occurs in the foundation charter for Belvoir Priory (c. 1076) in which Reginaldus de Aitona is co-signatory (Nichols 1795 b., p2 appendix). There is confusion in the Domesday Book with an entry where Eaton should be (Morris 1979, 0.10) 236 b):

Land of Countess Judith (In Guthlaxton Wapentake) Hugh (de Grentemaisnil) also holds 2c. of land in ELVELEGE. There were 2 ploughs, now in lordship he has 1 plough, with 2 slaves, 2 villagers. Woodland, 4 furlongs long and 2 furlongs wide. The value was 2s.; now 10s.

(Ibid. 40.10); ELVELEGE The place is lost; the name form either Old English (personal name) Aelfa, leah 'The wood of Aelfa', or Old English elf, leah 'The wood of the elves'.
With the simple fact that Eaton lies within the heart of Framland Wapentake and not Guthlaxton suggests that Elvelege was an 'island' village in the manner of nearby Chadwell and Wycomb - entered under the collective lands of Hugh de Grentemaisnil elsewhere in the county.
The village is however recorded in The Leicestershire Survey 1124 -1129 (Slade 1956, p51) under the Hundred of Eastwell:

Aitona, land is held by three lordships;
Robert de Insula (Albemarle),8 carucates, 3 bovates.
Robert de Ferrers, 3 carucates, 2 bovates.
Belvoir, ? carucate, ? bovate.
The largest landowner in the twelfth century is Robert Albemarle or Aumale who held land also in nearby Eastwell, Branston and Hoby. Robert was grandson of Adela (sister of William the Conqueror) and is recorded as owning large areas of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

William de Evermue is the earliest known demesne tenants of the village, and is recorded by royal charter (Henry II (r.1154-89) as donating 'the church of Eaton (Eitona)' to the Abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester (Hamilton Thompson 1949, p7):

Ex Registro abbatie Sancte Marie de Pratis apud Leycestriam
Item habemus ibidem, ex dono predicti Willielmi Euermi, mansum rectorie, toftum & croftum, cum fonte & omnibus pertinentiis suis, juxta toftum ecclesie usque Aquilonarem partem, in liberam and perpetuam eleemosinam ut in carta secunda.

From the register of the Abbey of St Mary in the Field, Leicester.
Furthermore we also hold by the gift of the aforementioned William Euermus, the home/lodging of the rector, its toft and croft together with its spring and all that belongs to it, next to the church land as far as the North part, as free and perpetual gift as in the second charter.

The confirmation is more precisely dated by being granted under the chancellorship of Thomas Becket (1154-62) (ibid. 5). The gift is examined in the sixteenth-century document (Charyte, fo. 61) compiled by canon William Charyte in a set of folios known as ‘Charyte's Rental’ (Bodley MS., Laud 625). The entry for Eaton reads thus:

The church of St. Denis [sic], Eaton, in the hundred and deanery of Framland, was given by William Envermeu to the abbot and convent and was appropriated to their use. The vicarage consisted of all the altarage, the vicar paying a pension of 13s.4d. to the abbot and convent and answering for synodals'.

Charyte proceeds to list all the vicars presented by Leicester Abbey, the first being Richard who was instituted by Hugh of Welles c.1225 (Rot. Welles, I271).

In the Assize Roll 457. Mich., 12 Edward I, 1284, m. 18, Leye: (Farnham1930, p195), John le Bottiler claims ownership of the church against the abbot of Leicester. Upon this challenge, the abbot then presented a charter recording the gift of the church and lands by William de Evermue which was re-confirmed by Henry III (1216-1272). Nichols (1795, p174) refers to a document dated 5th of Henry III (28 Oct 1220 -27 Oct 1221) which states that:

'the abbot of Leicester was patron of the church here, having it to his proper use from old. The then vicar was Richard, instituted by the then bishop Hugh'.

Hugh being Hugh of Welles was consecrated 20 December 1209 (Owen 1981.154).

In addition to the monastic documents relating to the gift of the church and associated property, we also have an undated record of a rector from the same source (Hamilton Thompson 1949, p7):

Willielmus Reyde de Eyton tenet ibi mansum rectorie, cum tofto & crofto, cumtribus virgatis terre & dimid, continentÕ 48 aras, cum decimis garbarum. Et pro decima feni require in decima feni.

William Reyde of Eaton holds the rectory there with three and a half virgates of land comprising of 48 headlands with tithes (of hay?)

Nichols (1795 a. xcix) drew together a list of instituted vicarages in Leicestershire from the surviving medieval records of Lincoln Cathedral. Eaton is entered simply as Vicarae ordinatio .(ordinary vicarage?)

Willelmo, the priest of Eaton is a co-signatory to the earliest of the Eastwell charters now kept in the Belvoir muniments. In this document drawn up by Ralf Pincerne (Butler), son of William of Eaton, The charter has a reginal date of 16 Henry II (19 December 1169 - 18 December 1170) (Round 1905, p3); which reinforces the fact that a church existed in Eaton earlier than commonly thought.

Jocelin, the male heir to the Evermue inheritance died young, his body was interred at Leicester Abbey and further lands were donated by William de Evermue in return for prayers to be said for his son’s soul. The premature death of Jocelyn left two sisters Amabilia and Isolda brought the Evermue line to an end as (Nichols 1795, p172)

The earliest reference to a defined manor in Eaton does not occur until 1448 (Farnham 1930.p198). This document describes a dispute of ownership between Peter Ardern and Richard Waller esquires, Thomas Palmer, Stephen Marchaund and John Wilton (plaintiffs) against Robert Bertyn and his wife Katherine who was heir of John Botiler. Robert and Katherine are defendants of the manor at Eaton which comprised of 12 messuages, 700 acres of land, 100 of pasture, 801/2 of meadow, 16 tofts, a cottage, 6 acres of wood and 12s. 6d. rent in Scalford, Estwell, Eyton and Kirkeby Bellers. The judgment came down in favour of Richard Waller, thus ending almost four centuries of dominance of the Botiler line. However, upon the death of Katherine without issue, the matter was raised in court once more by her nephews Richard Glyn and Richard Fetyplace. A document dated1455 taken from Chancery Proceedings (ibid), pleads with the chancellor to reverse the decision in favour of John Botiler’s grandchildren. The judgement was withheld and Richard Waller and his co-plaintiffs


THE SEARCH FOR A RELIGIOUS HOUSE
The story begins with a 'tradition' that a nunnery once existed at Eaton. Where did this notion come from? Neither the observations of Greenhill or those of Mr. Peck in 1724 support this. The incised stone located in the north aisle of St. Denys is stylistically dated to between 1350 and 1580 (see appendix 1) which is outside the period of wide spread religious foundation which occurred during the twelfth and thirteenth-centuries.

Evermue donation?

Thompson (1991, p210) refers to the 'ephemeral convent of Spinney' located in north-east Leicestershire. This convent is recorded only by an episcopal confirmation charter (Acta I Lincoln 1067 -1185, 160, no, 256). This house is thought to been founded by Gundreda de Gournay and existed between 1148 and c.1154 (ibid 229). Susanna is not referred to as prioress but the charter suggests she is the head of the community (ibid 253):

'We Robert*, by the grace of God, bishop of Lincoln, send greetings to all the faithful of the holy mother church. in assenting to the respectful request of our beloved daughter Susanna for herself and her monastic sisters of the blessed Mary of Spinney and grant the place which is called Spinney together with one carucate of land from the lordship of Melton next to Spinney. and one mill house in Buceby with the meadow which is called Esselouenga and ten promonteries/headlands around the monastery together with the island next to the mill as a permanent grant by the gift of Gundred, mother of Roger de Mowbray and by grant of Roger de Mowbray himself. We confirm what they declare in the charter and ratify it by witness of our own seal with the full power of the church of Lincoln'.
Translation by Margaret Henry 26th July 1998

'We *Robert (de Chesney; cons. 19 Dec. 1148) (Owen1981, p154) expresses his importance in the manner of a ‘royal’ WE. Buceby may translate as Bescaby which lies three miles to the south of Eaton.
Esselouenga could be a lost place-name or refers either to a ploughed 'headland' or to 'acres'

The exact location of this short-lived order at Spinney is not stated but Thompson places the site in the vacinity of Eaton. If the word 'Spinney' is examined, it appears to be derived from Old French ‘espinei’, from ‘espine’, which in turn is from Latin ‘spina’. Is it possible that the order took its name from the nearby wood mentioned in Domesday; if it is accepted that Elvelege was an 'island' village attached to Guthlaxton Wapentake.

There is another possibilty that this lost nunnery may be associated with the duel order of founded by St. Gilbert in Sempringham, Lincolnshire in c.1131. Gilbert was a member of the house of Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and may have been instrumental in gaining an episcopal endowment to the Spinney community. Sempringham lies twenty miles to the east of Eaton and would have been in easy reach via; Branston, Croxton Kerrial, Three Queens, Great Ponton, Boothby Pagnell, Ingoldsby, Lenton and Folkingham. Eaton has a very tenuous link with the Gilbertine order, in that Matilda Shot [Stirt] held one free cottage for which she paid 18d to the Prior of Haverholm (Nichols 1795, pp172, 92 appendix XI); Haverholm priory once stood near Alnwick, Lincolnshire, being one of several Gilbertine houses founded in the county.

THE SITE
The village of Eaton lies approximately eight miles north-east of the Leicestershire market town of Melton Mowbray. The local geology is ironstone and the topography is rolling wold country forming part of the ‘Belvoir Ridge’ ; this ridge ends with the castle site four miles to the north. The site is centred at SK 7972 2915 and lies to the north-west of the parish church of St Denys. The location of the church is not on the summit of the hill, instead, the suspected medieval foundations occupy that point at of approximately 120.50m O.D.

INVESTIGATION STRATEGY
The facility of a resistivity survey was kindly offered by Leicestershire County Council employee Patrick Roberts and was conducted on the 19th September 1998. This survey encompassed the larger area to the west of the footpath where stone foundations had been encountered. The resulting digital plots indicated the highest incidence of buried walls and influenced the location of Trench 1. The technique apparently showed two parallel wall lines (30m) apart which enclosed an area containing high resistance features. Trench 1. was designed to expose both elements and restrict excavation to cultivated areas. It seemed unlikely any archaeology would survive in the topsoil (in situ) as this had been intensively cultivated for at least a hundred years. The superficial layer was therefore sifted for residual pottery and checked with metal detection for coins etc.


FIELDWALKING
This process proved to be awkward due to the confined and restricted areas of access. However, an interesting collection of medieval pottery was collected which indicated a date range of between the tenth and the sixteenth-centuries (cite pottery)

TRENCH 1.
The removal of topsoil (c.001) immediately revealed ironstone masonry (c.003) at a depth of 20-30cms. This massive wall composed of three courses was abutted on the southern face by two crudely constructed buttresses. These buttresses strongly resembled those of a Roman granary as discussed in Gentry (1976, 15-16,) and typified in design by the example at Newstead (ibid. 86, fig.12). Between the buttresses lay an ironstone slab (006) which, was inclined by two stones placed beneath. Another wall line (c.015) appeared to abut (c.003) and extended in a northerly direction and was of a noticably cruder construction and may represent a phase of infill building.
Areas to the north and south of (c.003) were stripped simultaneously revealing that the wall was constructed upon an old ground surface (O.G.S.) without any substantial foundation trench. Topsoil represented by (c.001) to the south of the main wall line was removed until it exposed the O.G.S. (002 describe). This produced (finds...).
Context (001) removed from the north of the wall line produced;
Rubble layer/ (007), compacted layer (011), scaffolding holes (012/13/14) and a stone slab (021)
One scaffolding hole was excavated by half section, whilst the remaining two were cast in plaster (see section No.)
Excavation revealed the interesting fact that internal space of the structure had been lowered below the O.G.S. in the manner of an Anglo-Saxon sunken-feature building.


THE WELL (TRENCH 2)
(S.M.R. 72 NE.H) The well site was reported by Laurence Darby and a field report filed by J.E. Mellor of Leicestershire Museums Service on 9th October 1972. The S.M.R. grid reference was wrongly entered onto the computer database and the structure given a conjectural Romano-British date.

'Well uncovered on allotments opposite church and school. Covered by large ironstone block and then c.9" topsoil. Built of small blocks of ironstone, neatly dressed 18'6" to bottom of stone lining. 41' to water level. Perhaps widens below stone lining. 80cms diameter. No finds in surrounding area though large amounts of stone sometimes from the allotments - not dressed though. No record of building in living memory in this area, though the existence of the well - more or less the right place was remembered. Well back filled with building rubble after photographs were taken'.

An ironstone slab was saved from being smashed and transferred to Mr Darby's home (Rose Cottage, Church Lane, Eaton). R.A. Rutland reported no photograph in the file on 5th February 1975 and P. Liddle reviewed the report on 19th May 1985.
The strategy for excavating the well was simply to remove top soil and expose sufficient masonry to be located, photographed and drawn. The archaeology was preserved by plastic sheeting for a future project aimed at excavating a large area round the structure (c 020). The work produced one find of interest; a base sherd (find No.) .

TRENCH 3
This area was investigated in the hope of discovering a continuation of wall (c.015). An initial 2m x 2m test pit was dug which exposed an interesting architectural feature which formed a quadrant within the excavated area. The work was expanded to the south and west to reveal finely dressed masonry which included the quadrant as a curious internal buttress which appeared to have originally been conical in construction. The batter of the cone was estimated to be ( ?degrees) with an apex rising to ( cms). The buttress provided strength to a precarious step in the wall line, the purpose of which proved illusive. The baulk dividing trenches 1 and 3 was removed to establish a possible continuation of (c.015). This proved to be the case but highlighted a marked difference in the quality of stonework.

TRENCH 4
This test pit was included to follow the natural line of (c.003)to the east.

TRENCH 5.
An initial 2m x 2m test pit was emptied of topsoil to reveal a return angle of the wall (c.015) in an easterly direction running parallel to (c.003) thus giving an internal room dimension of 8.4m (27.5ft)
Again, this trench was expanded to the south and west to establish a wall width, continuity of (c.015) and expose any wall line projecting westwards.

A section through wall line c.015 was executed on 26th October and produced some interesting evidence; no datable finds were recovered from contexts (010 & 034) to the east of the wall line, in contrast to a variety of ceramics and animal bones to the west. The section revealed that bedrock exists closer to the surface (85cms) west of the wall line than to the east (1m +), which supports the theory that the structure was excavated internally. Two sherds of Stamford Type Ware (finds Nos) were recovered from within the wall itself, together with a single base sherd of coarse grey ware (identify); these may either represent early residual pottery being drawn into the masonry during construction or deliberately included as in (027.094). The removal of the surviving foundations of context (015) revealed an O.G.S. containing several naturally occurring flints but also fragments of bone of an indeterminate species. Below this layer was a clearly defined ‘natural’ section of stoney clay, which offered no finds. The area to the east of the wall line produced a limited, though interesting range of finds; the upper contexts (009 & 033) produced a broken fragment of ESTW (find ) and a tortoise flint core (find). The lower contexts (016 & 033) produced two fragment of STW and a sherd of Saxo-Norman shelly ware (find )

TRENCH 6
In the search for a continuation of wall line (c.015), this trench was placed along a conjectural alignment and produced foundation stones displaying two distinct alignments. As the wall could not be conclusively linked with the structure to the west, a new context number was allocated with a view to amendment if further work was carried out. Apart from a variety of ceramics (dates) recovered from contexts (024 and 026), an iron doornail find (094) was retrieved from within the wall and had evidently been inserted during construction.

TRENCH 7
This trench produced negative evidence of any construction and produced only one ceramic find (no . ). The excavation was concluded in mid November and when the process of back filling began.
Before the ground reverted to cultivation, heavy gauge polythene sheeting was used to wrap and cover the surviving masonry in each trench. Soils removed were replaced in reverse order and restored the cultivation plots.

ANALYSIS OF THE FINDS
Architectural fragments
Pottery
Metalwork
Vertebrate remains
Molusc?
Miscellaneous
Casts taken from the scaffolding holes.
Casts were taken of two holes on the advice of Dr. David Parsons (University of Leicester) who visited the site in its latter stages. The casts display remarkable detail including facetted adzed working at the ends and evidence of wood-grain. The voids created once the timber had rotted away, saw the ingress of earthworms which manifests as nodules on the casts.

CONCLUSION

The allotment garden site at Eaton is a curiously open area of ground at the centre of such an ancient village. This enquiry has produced documentation relating to the church of St. Denys and by inference, the existence of a rectory in the twelfth-century. Attempts to link the site with a religious foundation have so far been unrewarded. However, a steady stream of documents derived from a variety of sources continue to come to light and may one day prove the point. The incised stone in the church appears to be mis-interpreted and so should be discounted from future research.
Scaffolding
The formation of the small holes in (c. ) is conjectural but the hypothesis is thus; once the building had reached a certain height in construction, the internal space was excavated down to bedrock. Two timber scaffolding poles were erected upon the exposed surface and the process of building ensued, masonry debris accumulated on the floor and compacted by the builders feet, together with discarded remains of mutton which must represent on-site meals. The rubble deposit reached a depth of approximately 10cms and an additional pole was erected, the deposition of stone chippings ended at a uniform depth of 20cms. A slab of ironstone (021) appeared to be placed as reinforcement to pole 013
Following this, the poles appear to have been sawn-off at ground level, thus leaving vertical putlogs, which eventually became sealed below a trampled surface.

Archaeologically, the project has been highly successful, producing evidence of a substantial building at the heart of the site and assemblages of ceramics dating from the tenth to the fifteenth-centuries. Quantities of vertebrate remains allow a study of medieval diet apparently based around sheep/goat and pig meat. Valuable discoveries such a door-nail (Find 094) and scaffolding holes (contexts 012, 013 & 014) offer glimpses into a building which evidently evolved over several centuries but seems to have failed around the fifteenth-century.
Many parallels can be drawn with a site at Buckminster, Leicestershire, which also had a local tradition of being monastic, but had no supporting documentary evidence. The site known as ‘The Grange’, excavated by Rudkin (1972, pp1-13) produced substantial wall lines, a well and assemblages of pottery relating to a similar time-span and type to those found at Eaton.
The most exciting aspect of the excavations must be the irregular and massively built wall lines apparently in context with Anglo-Saxon ceramics. This may contribute to the debate regarding the construction of secular buildings during the Anglo-Saxon period.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bassett, S. (ed), 1989. The Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. Leicester University Press.

Farnham, G.F.,1930. Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes. Vol.II. Privately Printed. Leicester.

Gentry, A.P., 1976. ‘Roman military stone-built granaries in Britain’. British Archaeological Reports, Vol.32. Oxford.

Greenhill, F.A., 1958. The incised slabs of Leicestershire and Rutland. Leics. Archeaol. and Hist. Soc. Leicester.

Hamilton Thompson, A., 1949. The Abbey of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester. Leics. Archaeol. Soc. Backus. Leicester.

McCarthy, M.R. & Brooks, C.M., 1988. Medieval Pottery in Britain AD 900-1600. Leicester University Press.

Nichols, J., 1795. The history and antiquities of the County of Leicester. London.
a. Vol. 1 part 1
a. Vol. 2 part 1.

Owen, D.M., 1981. Church and society in medieval Lincolnshire. Soc. for Lincolnshire Hist. and Archaeol. Lincoln.

Round, J.H. (ed.), 1905. The Manuscripts of His Grace The Duke of Rutland K.G. preserved at Belvoir Castle. Historical Manuscripts Commission. HMSO, London.

Rudkin, D.J., 1972. ‘The Excavation of an Early Medieval Site at Buckminster, Leicestershire’. Trans. Leics. Archaeol. Hist. Soc. Leicester. Vol. XLVII.pp1-13.

Slade, C.F., 1956. The Leicestershire Survey. c. A.D. 1150 . University College Leicester. Occasional Paper No. 7.

Smith, D., 1980. English Episcopal Acta I, Lincoln 1067-1185. London. (see 160, No 256)

Stocker, D., 1993. 'Recording worked stone' Advances in Monastic Archaeology. Gilchrist, R. and Mytum, H. (eds). BAR British Series Vol.227. Oxford.

Thompson, S., 1991. Women Religious: The founding of English nunneries after the Norman Conquest. Clarendon Press. Oxford.

Thoroton Soc. Nottinghamshire 2nd ed. 1790. I. 380.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Once again, I am endebted to a core team of excavators who have already proved their worth and continue to produce a high standard of archaeology. However, excavation is only part of the story and that without the co-operation of Eaton Parish Council and the tenants of the allotments, none of this project would have been possible.
The following people have each brought with them elements of expertise which when combined have produced a coherent fascinating study of a medieval site. Many thanks to;
Laurence Darby, Dr Alastair Strang, Pat Roberts, Dr Richard Pollard, David Stanley, Michael Stanley, Mary Hatton, Gerry Beever, Suzanne Elliot, Dr Margaret Henry, John Hayes, Dr David Parsons, Dr Jenny Alexander, Dr Sally Thompson, Dennis Hurton, Martin Renshaw, Lis Loveland, Sue Bradley, Pip Trnobranski, Paul and Kate Jewell and Robin Borrett. My particular thanks go to Mary Hatton for her tenacity in tracing documentary evidence and to Dr Margaret Henry for translating the Medieval Latin texts.


APPENDIX 1.

THE INCISED STONE - TOMB OF A NUN?
Mr. Peck being Nichols' local expert was entrusted to record any memorials found in the church of St. Denys. Peck may have tried to interpret the damaged inscribed stone handicapped by the suggestion that a religious house once existed in the village, and this may have coloured his reading of the faint legend and thus immortalising the belief in the Leicestershire history source book.

Nichols (1795, 174) refers to wanton damage inflicted upon the stone which probably occurred originally during the time of Henry VIII. In 1534, Henry usurped the Pope as the head of the English church and ordered Thomas Cromwell to dissolve 800 religious houses. Many icons, decorative stones and memorials were either defaced or destroyed in the anti-papist zeal to rid churches of monuments of idolatry .Almost a century later saw a second wave of destruction when Parliament ordered Oliver Cromwell's men to destroy all blasphemous images in order to meet a Puritan ideal. With this in mind, it is amazing that any inscription survives at all, although the precise wording is a matter of debate.

Greenhill (1958. 69-70) describes the stone thus;
'Slab of Ancaster stone, 56? in. by 34 in., with marginal inscription in black-letter, now almost effaced along dexter and top sides and wholly at bottom; all now legible with reasonable certainty is "Dymmok quonda[m]?ux......iDym[m]ok? que obiit" along the sinister edge. At end of the top strip the letter "t" can be made out, with some vague remains of letters which might possibly give "a[b]eta. There are slight remains of other letters, but quite illegible. At upper sinister corner is a small foliated ornament and at lower sinister corner a cross patee set traversely; the corresponding devices at the other two corners are entirely worn off'.

If the issue of the inscription is set aside, what can be gained from a physical analysis of the stone itself?. The slab being Ancaster oolitic limestone classifies it as a locally sourced material from about 15 miles away. Ancaster stone and alabaster were both materials which became popular amongst the makers of tomb lids around the mid-fourteenth century (ibid 6). The shape being simply rectangular disqualifies it from being pre-1350 as many of the stones prior to this date are of a tapered 'coffin' form (ibid 3).

The black-letter inscription is also diagnostic in the process of dating as the earlier inscriptions were carved in a Lombardic (or uncial) style. After c.1360, black-letter became the norm down to c.1580 when it was superseded by Roman capitals (ibid 5). So from this, we must acknowledge that the memorial is no earlier than mid-fourteenth century. However, the skeletal remains may belong to an earlier period having been transferred to a new tomb when the north aisle was added.

Greenhill is very cautious when translating the inscription which he simply gives us as;
' ELIZABETH, wife of ...DYMMOK'. which he dates to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The name 'Dymmok' does not appear in either the work of Nichols or Farnham but is claimed by Rev. J.E.H. Wood, (former rector of Knipton) to be that of occupants of Eaton manor during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (pers. comm. Laurence Darby). Wood refers to an inventory post-mortem on 18 September 1540:
‘William Dymmok, gent of Eyton co. Leic., who died on 10 June 1509, was seised of lands in South Clifton and Spalford (10 miles north of Newark on Trent)’ (Trans. Thoroton Soc.1790 p?).

Examination of the stone today reveals a badly worn and chisel-damage surface which challenges even the keenest eye. The vestiges of the name 'DYMMOK' can be determined and is preceded by an unrecognisable motif and and the lower part of an initial capital 'L' or 'E'. If as Greenhill suggests, 'quonda[m]' follows DYMMOK, the first letter 'q' has evidently been reworked at a later date and with an unskilled hand. Various letters can be seen dispersed along the top margin but none form a complete word. Again, Greenhill's observation of a letter 't' at the end of the top margin is unrecognisable but there is an apparent tilted cross incised in the upper right-hand corner. There is no surviving evidence of an inscription in the left-hand (sinister) margin, nor of a 'cross patee' in the lower left-hand corner. Whilst the stone refers to Elizabeth as 'wife' of ...Dymmok, this does not preclude her from becoming a nun later in life, as was common during the medieval period.

Copyright NMF 10/02/00