STOKE-POGES, in the hundred of Stoke and deanery of Burnham, lies nearly two miles north of Slough, and about six miles north-west of Colnbrook. Amicia de Stoke brought the manor of this place in marriage to Robert Poges, who was chosen one of the knights of the shire in the year 1300; his grandaughter and heir Egidia married Sir John Molins knight-banneret, and treasurer of the chamber to King Edward III. In 1331 he had the royal licence for fortifying and embattling his mansion at Stoke, and, in 1346, he procured a charter that Stoke and Ditton, where also he had a seat, should be exempt from the authority of the king's Marshall. From Sir John Molins this manor descended by female heirs to the families of Hungerford and Hastings. Henry Hastings Earl of Huntingdon rebuilt the manor-house in the reign if Queen Elizabeth. The estate was soon afterwards seized by the crown for a debt. King James the First, about the year 1621, granted the manor in fee to Lord Chief Justice Coke, who appears to have held it many years before as lessee under the crown. In 1601, being then Attorney-General, he entertained Queen Elizabeth very sumptuously at this place, and presented her Majesty with jewels to the value of 1000 l. or 1200 l. In 1625 this celebrated lawyer, having quitted his high station, and being out of favour with the court, was obliged, much against his will, to serve the office of sheriff for the county; and it was thought by his friends a great degradation, that he who had filled one of the highest situations on the bench should attend on the judges at the assizes. Sir John Villiers, elder brother of the Duke of Buckingham, married Sir Edward Coke's only daughter; and this manor (then held by lease) having been settled on him at the time of his marriage, he was, in 1619, created a peer by the title of baron Villiers, of Stoke-Poges, and Viscount Purbeck. Lord Purbeck succeeded to this estate after the death of Sir Edward Coke, which happened in 1634, at his seat at Stoke-Poges. The house, it appears, was settled on his lady, who was relict of Sir William Hatton. There appears to have been but little harmony between them; during the latter part of his life they lived separately; and so eager was she to take possession, that, upon a premature report of his death, we are told she hastened down with her brother, Lord Wimbledon, for that purpose; but meeting his physician near Colnbrook, and learning from him tidings of her husband's amendment, she returned disappointed to London. This great man seems to have been peculiarly unfortunate towards the close of his life, and to have suffered much from domestic afflictions: his only daughter, Lady Purbeck, eloped from her husband in 1621, and lived in adultery with Sir Robert Howard [Footnote:- After this elopment she for some time called herself Mrs. Wright, and lay in privately of a son, who bore that name. He afterwards took the name of Danvers by virtue of a patent of Oliver Cromwell, having married the heiress of Sir John Danvers. His son assumed the title of Viscount Purbeck; and after the death of George Duke of Buckingham, in 1688, that of Earl of Buckingham; but his title was not allowed by the House of Lords. He was buried at South-Mims, in 1715.]. She was reconciled to her father before his death, and lived with him at Stoke the two years immediately preceding; but after that event returned to Sir Robert Howard. The proceedings against this lady and her gallant were such, as if they were to be now adopted, would have a greater effect perhaps in checking the crime of adultery, than the heaviest pecuniary fines. Lady Purbeck was sentenced by the High Commission Court to do penance in a white sheet at the Savoy church: she escaped this sentence by flight, but it hung over her for many years. In 1635, the year after her father's death, she and Sir Robert Howard were both taken into custody, and committed to different prisons [Footnote:- Archbishop Laud was fined 500 l. some years afterwards by the parliament for having imprisoned Sir Robert Howard], she to the Gatehouse and Sir Robert to the Fleet, where he suffered a tedious imprisonment! Lady Purbeck escaped from prison disguised in male apparel, and got over to France. The government demanded her from that court; but whether she was given up, or returned and submitted to her sentence is not known, as the communicative Mr. Garrard, Lord Srtafford's intelligent informer, about that time ceases his correspondence with his noble patron. It is certain that some years afterwards she was in England cohabiting with Sir Robert Howard, and being with him in the King's garrison at Oxford, died there in 1645, and was buried in St. Mary's church. In 1647, Stoke-house was for a short time the residence of the unfortunate King Charles, when he was a prisoner in the power of the army. Not long after the death of Lord Purbeck, which happened in 1656, the manor of Stoke was sold by his heirs to John Gayer esq. elder brother of Sir Robert Gayer K.B. who afterwards possessed it. It was purchased of the Gayers about the year 1720, by Edward Halsey esq. one of the representatives of the town of Buckingham, whose daughter Anne married Lord Cobham. Stoke-house and the manor were sold by her heirs to William Penn esq. chief proprietor of Pennsylvania, grandfather of John Penn esq. the present possessor.
The ancient manor-house at Stoke has been celebrated, not only for its eminent inhabitants, but as having furnished the subject of Gray's "long story." The "dim windows that excluded the light" were filled with arms of the family of Hastings and its alliances, those of Sir Edward Coke, and many of his great contemporaries in the law. It was pulled down in 1789 by Mr. Penn, who has built an elegant modern mansion not far from its site from a design of Mr. Wyatt.
The library is a noble room 140 feet in length, extending the whole of the south front. Among other family pictures at Stoke-house are those of the celebrated Admiral Sir William Penn, and his son the still more celebrated founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, painted in armour at the age of 22, before his conversion to the tenets of the Quakers. In the park to the north of the house is a colossal statue of Sir Edward Coke (by Rossi) on a fluted pedestal sixty eight feet in height.
The priory of Burnham had a manor in this parish. Bonyforden in Stoke-Poges was a seat and manor of the Windsor family. We have not been able to gain any information as to the subsequent history or of the present possessors of these estates.
The parish church is a small Gothic structure with a wooden spire. In the north wall of the chancel is an ancient tomb under an arch rudely executed and ornamented with foliage, probably that of Sir John Molins. Near the altar are the tombs (with their effigies engraven on brass) of Sir William Molins, who fell at the siege of Orleans in 1429; Margaret Lady Molins and Eleanor Lady Molins. George Earl of Huntingdon, who died in 1544, lies buried also in the chancel, but has no monument. Sir Edward Hastings, Lord Loughborough, built a chapel adjoining the church as a place of interment for his family, and directed by his will that tombs should be erected for such of his relations as had been buried at this place. On his own tomb he desired that there might be placed his effigies in copper, gilt. Either his directions were not complied with, or the monuments have been removed, for there are now no memorials of any kind for the family of Hastings. There is a monument in this chapel for Dr. Gregory Hascard dean of Windsor, one of the most celebrated preachers of his time, who died in 1708.
The church-yard at Stoke-Poges was the scene of Gray's well known elegy. That celebrated poet spent a great part of his youth in this village, and lies buried here himself under a tomb which he had erected over the remains of his mother and aunt. As there is nothing on the stone that covers his remains to denote it as the place of his burial, Mr. Penn has erected a monument for him in an adjoining field with the following inscription:
" This monument in honour of Thomas Gray, was erected A.D. 1799, among the scenery celebrated by that great lyric and elegiac poet. He died in 1771, and lies unnoticed in the adjoining church-yard, under the tombstone on which he piously and pathetically recorder the interment of his aunt and much lamented mother."
The great tithes of this parish were given by Hugh de Stoke to the priory of St. Mary-Overie in Southwark; after the reformation they were granted to John Dorset: they were purchased about the middle of the 17th century, by Sir Robert Clarges, and having remained some time in his family were afterwards in the Godolphins. It is probable they were purchased by Dr. Godolphin, provost of Eton and afterwards dean of St. Paul's, who was uncle of the last Earl of Godolphin; they are now the property of Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne, younger brother of the Duke of Leeds. The late Lord Godolphin and his lady augmented the vicarage with a rent charge of 48 l. per annum issuing out of the great tithes.
Sir Edward Hastings, Lord Hastings of Loughborough, founded a hospital in the year 1557 near the church-yard, and endowed it with a rent charge of 53 l. 9s. 10 1/4d. issuing out of the manor of Creech St. Michael, in Somersetshire, and six cow-pastures in Stoke park, for the support of a chantry-priest, and four beadsmen: after the reformation this hospital was incorporated by the name of master and brethren. The late Mr. Penn, in lieu of the cow-pastures, gave 30 acres of land to the hospital, free of tithes and taxes: in 1765, he procured an act of parliament for pulling down the old hospital and rebuilding it on its present site, about a quarter of a mile from the church. The new hospital is a handsome brick building with commodious apartments for the poor brethren, a house for the master, and a chapel. Elizabeth Countess of Moira, Baroness Hastings and Hungerford, as representative of the founder, is patroness of the hospital. The present master, Mr. Nettleship, who was appointed in 1795, is vicar of Stoke-Poges, as was his predecessor. The visitors of the hospital are the dean of Windsor and the provost of Eton.
Ditton, a hamlet of this parish, has a chapel of ease, which was formerly a chantry chapel. The manor of Ditton was held with Stoke-Poges by the families of Molins, Hungerford and Hastings. Sir John Molins had the king's licence to fortify and embattle his houses at Stoke and Ditton, in 1331. Ditton park belonged to the crown in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; it was afterwards the property and seat of Sir Ralph Winwood author of the Memorials, and secretary of state to King James I.: after the death of his son Richard, it devolved to Ralph Lord Montagu (afterwards Duke of Montagu), whose father had married the heiress of the Winwoods. Of late years Ditton has been the seat of Earl Beaulieu, who died in 1803. He possessed it in right of his lady, the Duchess-dowager of Manchester, daughter and sole heir of John Duke of Montagu. It is now by bequest the property of the Duchess of Buccleugh; the reversion is vested in her second son Lord Montagu.
Ditton-house is said to have been built by Sir Ralph Winwood: it is at present unoccupied.
Richard Winwood esq. son of the secretary of state, being possessed of the manor of Ditton, purchased the chapel in which divine service had been discontinued for many years, endowed it with 50 l. per annum, and built a house for the minister. The patronage of the donative was by him vested in his heirs, and in default of heirs, in the proprietor of the manor of Ditton for the time being
Baylies, in this parish, the seat of the late Lord Godolphin, was rebuilt by Dr. Gregory Hascard dean of Windsor. The former mansion had been the chief seat of the Duke of Cleveland. This, with many other estates, was bequeathed by the Late Lord Godolphin to Lord Francis Godolphin Osborne, second son of the late Duke of Leeds. The house was lately in the occupation of the Earl of Rosslyn, who died there in the month of January 1805. It is at present unoccupied.
Other principal seats in this parish are Stoke-place, on Stoke-green, lately Sir George Howard's, now General Vyse's. Stoke-farm, the earl of Sefton's; and West-end house, the Rev. Dr. Browning's.
Sir John Molins had a charter for a fair at Stoke-Poges in 1331, to be held on the festival of St. Giles and the six following days. This has been discontinued, but there is a fair for toys upon Stoke-green on Whitsun Tuesday.