Families Associated with the History of the Church
The De Sudeley's of Gloucestershire
Under Norman rule Harold de Sudeley, whose principal seat was at Sudeley in Gloucestershire, owned most of the land in the parish which at that time consisted of Great Dassett, Little Dassett, Northend, Southend, Knightcote and Hardwick (where the Military Base is now situated). The de Sudeley family prospered and for three centuries their interest in the Church and village continued.
The huge north and south doorways are the oldest parts of Burton Dassett (All-Saints) Church and probably date from Harold de Sudeley’s time. The church’s chancel arch dates from the time of Ralph de Sudeley, the grandson of Harold which is typically transitional Norman and dates from the late 12th Century.
In the 12th and 13th Centuries the centre of the population shifted downhill to the villages of Northend and Southend (also known as Chipping Dassett). In the 13th Century there were further advances in the parish’s prosperity when King Henry III granted permission for a market to be held every Friday and an Annual Fair for three days from the eve of St. James the Apostle.
Burton Dassett continued to prosper and in 1332 paid the King’s Treasury taxes amounting to more than a quarter of those paid by the city of Coventry. At this time John de Sudeley and his nephew and heir, Thomas Boteler, enriched and enlarged the church even more by adding the north transept with its beautiful lancet windows, and then the south transept. A rood loft and screen were built across the chancel arch and part of the stone staircase leading to the now vanished loft can still be seen, but sadly the screen has gone. The additions included the installation of a stained glass window, showing the de Sudeley arms, which survived until the 18th Century. The tomb in the outside wall of the north transept (the oldest tomb in the church) is thought to be Sir John’s.
During the 14th century Thomas Boteler, the nephew and heir of Sir John de Sudeley, enriched the Church once more, adding the north porch, the tower and the chancel. Although the stained glass windows showing the de Sudeley arms have long since vanished, much of the original clear medieval glass still survives.
Thomas Boteler’s grandson, Ralph, died childless, so his property was divided between his two sisters. Burton Dassett came to Hamon Belknap, husband of Joan Sudeley and the manor was owned by three generations of Belknaps. The last of these was Sir Edward, who is universally regarded as the worst owner in Burton Dassett’s history. Sir Edward did not reside in the parish and was only interested in making money from Burton Dassett. The wool trade was thriving and the hills were ideal for rearing sheep. Twelve tenant farmers were evicted and 600 acres enclosed for sheep. The population had already begun to suffer as a result of the black death, but sadly Burton Dassett never recovered from Sir Edward's wicked act of depopulation.
The only beneficial act Belknap is credited with was to build the stone Beacon Tower that is still the focal point of the Burton Dassett Hills. Edward Belknap, also childless, left the land to his four sisters and two of their grandsons sold Burton Dassett to Peter Temple of Leicestershire.
The Temples of Stow in Buckinghamshire
Peter temple died in 1577 and he and his wife are buried in the alabaster tomb in the north transept of Burton Dassett Church. John, son of Peter Temple, acquired the manor of Stowe in Buckinghamshire, which later became the Temple family’s main seat. He died in 1603 and a memorial to him, bordered with the colourful coats of arms of his children, can still be seen in Burton Dassett Church.
The Throckmorton family of Coughton Court
The other branch of the Belknap family lived in Northend Manor and were also significant local landowners through inheritance. Sir Robert Wootton, grandson of Ann Belknap, married Lady Mary Throckmorton of the staunch Catholic family at Coughton Court. She converted the medieval chapel at Little Dassett (now itself a house but, until recently, used as a cattle shelter and known as Chapel Barn) for her own use and had her resident priest accommodated in rooms attached. This was both daring and hazardous in the Cromwellian era and her family was already being heavily fined for being Roman Catholic.
Nathaniel Partridge and Richard Mansell
The Civil War affected this part of Warwickshire in many ways. Burton Dassett folk witnessed the war’s very first battle at neighbouring Edgehill in 1642 and some say the Parliamentarians stabled horses at Burton Dassett Church and that Oliver Cromwell viewed the battle from the Burton Dassett Hills.
In May 1646 Burton Dassett’s vicar, Robert Kenwrick, left the area to join the King’s Horse. Two months later, in 1647 following the surrender of the Royalist Headquarters at Oxford, Nathaniel Partridge was sent to Burton Dassett as Puritan Minister. Partridge received a copy of the "Directory for the Publique Worshippe of God" (1644) and conducted the services accordingly.
Partridge was succeeded by Richard Mansell who was loved and accepted by all and remained until after the restoration of the monarchy when he was ejected from the parish, but continued preaching as a dissenting minister. When in 1662 a new vicar came to the parish the newcomer was not welcome and Thomas Basse, the village blacksmith and parish clerk, refused to hand over the parish registers and hid them under his bed together with the ‘Directory for the Publique Worshippe.’ There they remained until his death. Thomas Basse's tombstone can be found in the churchyard, originally showing the tools of his trade carved with his name, although now somewhat eroded by the passage of time.