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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 3, Issue 6, October 1980



I should like to elaborate on Mr Newport's article on Stoke in Vol. 3 No. 4. He is perfectly correct in what he says. I visited the Stoke in question in August 1978. There are, in fact, 15 different Stokes in England, but each has a separate suffix. (There are others whose suffix is attached). The most well known, because of its size, is Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire (I believe a local sports club has, in error, taken its coat of arms as its badge). The most universally known is Stokes Poges in Buckinghamshire, beloved because it was here that Gray wrote his famous "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." Another, which has become famous in recent years, is Stoke Mandeville, also in Bucks, where such great results in the treatment of paraplegics are achieved.

The word "Stoke" is probably derived from a Teutonic word meaning stock, in the sense of a tree stump; alternatively it is a holy site. Probably the place would have been the site of either a wood or a religious tree stump, similar to the Asherah or grove or wooden image as mentioned in the Old Testament.

Our Nelson Stoke was named after Stoke-by-Nayland. Nayland itself is one of the loveliest villages in England. They are both just inside the Suffolk border, over the river Stour from Essex. They are also in "Constable Country." John Constable, the great landscape painter, was born at East Bergholt and educated at Derham, whose church tower figures in several of page 38his paintings. On the path between his home and school he painted the famous "Cornfield." Near by is Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's cottage, depicted in the "Hay Wain." There is one by him of the Stoke church in the booklet 1 gave to the library at Isel, as well as a modern photograph which shows its large proportions.

St Mary's Stoke-by-Nayland is one of the wool churches; that is it was built because of the prosperity of the wool industry in those parts between the 13th and 16th centuries. This particular church was erected in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is 168ft long 58ft wide and 37ft high. It is, however, not the first on that site, as the Domesday Book mentions a church and Christian burial ground there in Anglo-Saxon days. Even fragments of Roman tiles have been discovered under the floor. Amongst the tombs inside the church is that of Sir William Tendring, who fought at Agincourt in 1415.

It can be fairly stated that our St Barnabas' church here in Stoke, Nelson, can carry back its history over 1,000 years, through its connection with St Mary's, Stoke-by-Nayland.