Stanley Pontlarge is a tiny farming hamlet hidden away up a no-through lane in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Gloucestershire. It’s the most easterly of four hamlets which are known today as Stanley Pontlarge, Middle Stanley, Far Stanley and Prescott. For many years there were no names to distinguish between them and the area generally was just known as Stanley, including the reference in The Domesday Book.
The western hamlets lay in the jurisdiction of Winchcome Abbey, and the eastern settlements were part of the estate of Ralph, the Earl of Hereford, whose descendants built Sudeley Castle.
Much of the castle survives today, on the edge of the attractive Saxon market town of Winchcombe, in whose parish St Michael’s now lies. St Michael’s is the oldest church in this ancient parish.
In about 1175 John de Sudeley gave his daughter Margery in marriage to Roger le Petit, also known as Roger Little in English and Roger Parvus in Latin. The bride’s father gave the whole of Stanley as her dowry. Little removed the other tenants and built a family estate on the land, including St Michael’s as the estate chapel. The manor house and chapel were surrounded on two sides by a moat.
Nothing survives of the manor house, though part of the moat has been incorporated into the garden of The Old Vicarage, the house now on the same site.
In the early 1300s the church authorities began to distinguish between the four hamlets so they could levy tithes, taxes paid to the church. In 1386 we see the first named reference to the hamlet as Stanley Pounte Large. Part of the hamlet had come under the jurisdiction of Hailes Abbey, a site of worship for Cistercian Monks about five miles away.
Visitors are often curious about the name. One meaning of Pounte was an area of land or water, so it probably referred to the moat surrounding the manor house. This would have distinguished it from ‘the other Stanleys’. Stan and Leah meant ‘a clearing in the woods’ in Saxon times. Large usually meant broad, wide or abundant.
Putting it together we arrive at something meaning
A clearing in the woods near water with a large enclosure.
I am indebted to the Reverend John Stevinson, retired member of the clergy in Winchcombe, for much historical information. He researched the history in the early 2000s. He still conducted occasional services at St Michael’s in 2020.
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