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St Edwin's Chantry
An iron cross and a tablet with this inscription mark where the chantry stood.
… ERECTED BY WILLIAM ARTHUR, SIXTH DUKE OF PORTLAND. K.C. IN 1912.) MARKS THE SITE OF A ROYAL CHAPEL, CHANTRY, AND HERMITAGE DEDICATED TO ST. EDWIN, KING OF NORTHUMBRIA, OF WHICH THE FEW STOMES HERE COLLECTED ARE EVIDENCE. IN 1201, KING JOHN PAID THE HERMIT OF CLIPSTON, WHO SANG IN ST.EDWIN’S CHAPEL IN THE HAY OF BIRCWUDE, THE ANNUAL STIPEND OF 40S TO CELEBRATE SERVICE FOR HIS SOUL AND THOSE OF HIS ANCESTORS: SIMILAR PAYMENTS BY SUCCEEDING KINGS ARE RECORDED TO 1548: SURVEY MAPS SHOW THE CHAPEL HERE IN 1610, AND 1630.
We suspect that the building stood a few metres to the west of the cross at the point where there is a step in the parish boundary. It is of interest that the last payments were made in 1548 because during the Reformation the Abolition of Chantries Acts of 1545 and 1547 suppressed the chantries. It is unlikely that St Edwin’s Chapel survived far into the reign of Edward VI as the rituals of praying for the souls of the dead would be in conflict with his pious views.
It was said that King Edwin was a fair king and during his reign the kingdom was a safe place to live and travel. From around 627 Edwin was the most powerful king amongst the Anglo-Saxons. However in 633 Northumbria was invaded by Penda, the king of Mercia. Edwin went to meet him with a small army and the battle of Heathfield took place at Cuckney. Edwin and his two sons were killed. His supporters did not want his body to fall into the hands of the pagan enemy so they carried him into the forest until they came to a clearing where they buried him.
A few years later Oswald drove Penda out of Northumbria and he sent for Edwin’s body to give it a Christian burial. By this time people were calling Edwin a saint and so the ground where his body had been buried was a holy place. They erected a small wooden chapel on the spot and called the place Edwin-stowe, the Place of Edwin.
Although many accounts assume that the battle of Heathfield took place near Doncaster, the local view is that it occurred at Hatfield between Birklands and Cuckney. During work in 1951 to reinforce the foundations of St Mary’s Church in Cuckney more than 200 skeletons were discovered, all of young men, suggesting that they were the victims of a major battle which had been fought nearby.
For more information see our Research Record