The Mystery of St Botolph’s Chapel

Scarning had a church dedicated to Saint Botolph as is recorded in the Index Monasticus but, the chapel’s last mention was just before the reformation in 1514. There are over 70 such churches in England and so far details of 40 of them have been published in The Botolphian, the monthly newsletter of the Society of Saint Botolph www.Botolph.Info

The Church of England church in Scarning dates from the thirteenth century, but there was also an ancient chapel in the village, known as St Botolph’s. Records show that in 1210, William de Draiton. who lived at Drayton Hall, one of the village’s three manor houses, presented the mediety (or share) of Scarning Church to the Abbey of Waltham Holy Cross in Essex. Shortly afterwards, the Abbey was assigned a piece of land in Scarning known as Sponesbrugge (later Spoon Bridge) and a meadow between the chapel of St Botolph and Sponesbergh.

An extract from the will of Walter Jenyor of Skerninge, (the village has for centuries been known by many different spellings) dated 22 June 1504, in which he left a small legacy toward the repair of ‘Sainte Botulphe’s Chapell’, and a donation from William Pynchebeke ‘to the gilde of our lady in Skernynge,’ confirms the existence of this little known part of the village’s history. There is also reference to an acre of land at ‘Saint Buttolphes lane’ in the Court Books of Scarning Hall (located near Hill Rise), while in his will Thomas Hoo left six shillings to ‘the fratenite or gilde of Saynt Bothulph’.

According to L W Reynolds there is mention of a St Botolphs Chapel (but no evidence of parochial use) in both the History of Norfolk 1805 Francis Blomefield Vol and History and Antiquities of The County of Norfolk 1781 M J Armstrong.

Early St Botolph Churches (i.e. those founded in C7 or C8) tend to have similar characteristics:

1. All are in the eastern half of England
2. Most have Saxon foundations.
3. Many lie with 3 miles of a Roman road or well-used waterway.
4. Most are situated close to the bottom of an escarpment but well clear of water levels.
5. Many are strategically placed in areas which represent the beginnings, middles and ends of long journeys.

But where exactly was the Chapel?

Scarning born Andy Eagle has been researching and writes –

To locate the site of St Botolph’s Chapel we need to know where Spoonbridge is.

Spoonbridge is mentioned in records and some, from the reign of Edward III, 1351 to be exact, make mention of both these mysterious constructions:

“Thomas, son of Baldwin, gave lands at the church, the house called Stubbes, and lands called Sponesbrugge.”

Ralph, son of Peter, gave them his meadow between the chapel of St. Butolph and Sponesbergh.

Later, the chapel appears again in wills of various Scarning worthies during the 16th century:

“Will of Thomas Hoo of Hengham, dated 8 April, 1516. to the fraternite or gilde of Saynt Bothulph in Skernyng6s. 8d. or a cowe at the discretion of his executors. Will of John Sekker of Skernynge, dated 3 July, 1519, contains bequests, with others, to St. Botulphe chapel, to St. Petyrs gilde.”

In the Terrier, or list, of Glebe lands and tithes of 1747, there is reference to Poor Land, which still remains as part of the Scarning charities:

“Lands belonging to the poor of the parish church of Scarning, one piece of Meadow contg about 4 acres abutting upon the Kings Highway leading from Scarning Church to Spoonbridge on the South & upon the Lands of Eliz. Batch towards the North upon a piece of Land called Hollcraft on the East and the Lands of several persons on the West now in the Occupy of Matt*. Sherret at the yearly rent of 50s.”

Finally, an 18th-century record notes “one acre at Spoonbridge” – possibly this is Ralph’s medieval meadow.

Following scrutiny of several maps and using the clues given above, the site of Spoonbridge appears to be found… and it becomes very evident when you visit the area.

The photo shows the bridge over the drain which goes under both the new and old main roads, in the neglected layby to the west of the Oak Grove. In centuries past this must have been a ford before being bridged, and named Spoonbridge. The origins of the name “Spoonbridge” are unknown however.

Having identified the site of Spoonbridge can now move on to suggest the location of the meadow and St Botolph’s Chapel, mentioned in medieval records: “Ralph, son of Peter, gave them his meadow between the chapel of St. Butolph and Sponesbergh

Modern aerial view, showing the site of Spoonbridge 

The purple line indicates the 1989 gas pipe and the discovery of medieval pottery.

1906 OS map, showing the likely site of St Botolph’s chapel

The pond to the west of Oak Grove, and indeed the whole grove, has some interesting raised earthworks and could be medieval, and they merit further investigation by proper archaeologists! It might be notable that groves of oaks were often sacred sites in pre-Christian religions in northern Europe, and later adopted by Christianity.

The location of most chapels dedicated to St Botolph, the patron saint of wayfarers, was close to a main road, near a water source and possibly on high ground; all of these match the proposed site. An 1846 map of farm field names, provided by Chris Farnham, and comparison with other views of this area strongly support the location of St Botolph’s Chapel.

This fits in with the “meadow between the chapel of St. Butolph and Sponesbergh” and a location on rising land, from a water source (Well Meadow and the stream) and close to a highway. Court records of 1570 even mention “in campo vocat Chapell feld als. Buttolfelde” – in a field called Chapel field or also Buttolf field.  So in conclusion, my suggestion is that Scarning’s Chapel of St Butolph was sited either on the land occupied now by the oak grove, or very close by in the field to the south, somewhere close to the acre of land donated by Ralph all those centuries ago.

The 1946 aerial view and LIDAR picture (below) shows this area, and some intriguing land markings which might be relevant, and which merit further investigation.

Andy Eagle

Can you can throw any further light to solve the Mystery of St Botolph’s Chapel?

The administrator of the Society of Saint Botolph would be most grateful. Please contact –

Denis Pepper, 17 Cliffe House, 38 Radnor Cliff, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 2TY
Tel:  01303 221777
Mobile:  07802 646-644
Email:  Botolph@VirginMedia.Com