History of Stourton Caundle

Sir Ivo FitzWaryn

By Richard Miles

The ‘pestilence’ or plague, a worldwide pandemic, dealt a serious blow to our village back in the 14th/15th Century.
In my first article, I referred to two waves of the Black Death in 1348-49 and in 1361-62; the first killing Ivo’s grandfather Henry de Haddon, and the second killing both his father and his mother. His father had been Member of Parliament and died when Ivo was just 13 years old. Having lost his parents, Ivo led an intrepid early life taking possession of his inheritance in 1369 and by 1371 he had been knighted for his chivalry.

He was married in January 1372 and with no son or heir, it was their daughter, Alice, born in 1378, who would in principle inherit her parents’ wealth. However, by a strange twist of fate, that was not to be, as it was Alice’s husband, Richard Whittington, whom she married in 1402, who would eventually acquire this.

As a child and growing up in her teens, Alice would have spent much of her youth living at the Castle located north of the lakes in what is now Manor Farm ( this manorial building having been subsequently demolished in the 16th Century). The family chapel (dedicated to St. Andrew) was located on the southern side of the lakes, then used to rear fish. Thankfully the chapel has survived, unlike the medieval barn, which burnt down in the 1960’s. Yes – the village has lost much of its heritage over the years!

At the time of her marriage, Richard Whittington had risen from wealthy merchant to become Lord Mayor of London in 1397 and it is this liaison, which centuries later led to the story of “Dick Whittington and his Cat”. Now a children’s story and pantomime, it has its basis in true life and seems to have become well established as a theatrical play by 1604-5. The folklore tells of Dick making his fortune when as a merchant he travels on behalf of his master, Alderman Fitzwarren (i.e. Sir Ivo) to the Barbary Coast, where he sells his cat to the king, his cat rids the land of the rats, and Dick returns with great wealth. Fitzwarren is so impressed that he offers the hand of his lovely daughter, Alice in marriage. Things go from strength to strength with Dick becoming Lord Mayor and he and Alice live happily ever after.

Many stories for children are tales of woe dressed up in a much more palatable form for their entertainment and enlightenment. Dick Whittington appears to be one such tale. Tragically, in reality Alice had no children and she died prematurely in 1411. Her loss left both Richard Whittington and her parents bereft. Then, even more tragically, both her father (Sir Ivo) and her mother contracted the plague and returned to the village where they died in 1414. Whittington inherited their estates but he never remarried and used his money for many good deeds. After he died in 1423, his legacy lives on in the London area even to this today – a consequence of his great wealth and charitable giving.

It was known that the pestilence was spread by rats and any means of eliminating these vermin was their way, in those days, of fighting that particular disease. So, rather like the Pied Piper of Hamelin story, a magical cat that exterminated all rats was one answer to folk’s age-old wish to be saved from the plague.

Now there seems to be one other link with our village in the form of a particular bequest in Sir Ivo’s will: the sum of £2 was left to mend the way between the lordship of Caundle Haddon (our village) and Lydlinch. The present-day route is along Cat Lane, then Waterloo Lane and over Warr Bridge. The latter names and that of The Trooper Inn are generally thought to be associated with the victory over Napolean in 1815. Prior to this date, Cat Lane appears to have been longer and to have followed a more direct route down to Caundle Brook as shown in the 1798 map of the village.

Was the name ‘Cat Lane’ chosen in recognition of the role that cats played in trying to keep our village safe from the pestilence? In Part 3 of this account, I shall explore reasons why Cat Lane may in fact be part of the refurbished route to Lydlinch that was paid for by Sir Ivo Fitzwaryn’s legacy.

Richard Miles