Lord Stafford brings a history lesson to Costessey

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Lord Stafford brings a history lesson to Costessey

Francis Fitzherbert, Lord Stafford, paid a visit to Our Lady and St Walstan’s church in Costessey, which is built on land donated by his ancestors.

The Stafford-Jerningham family used to live at Costessey Hall until it was taken over by the army in the First World War and later demolished. It is now the site of Costessey Golf Club with only a small part of one tower remaining of the Hall.

Lord Stafford, who lives in Swynnerton Park near Stone in Staffordshire, had never visited the church before, the land for which was donated by his ancestors in the 19th century.  He attended the morning Mass on Monday February 21 then stayed to talk with Fr David Ward, the parish priest. He also met Deacon Bill Dimelow and other members of the congregation, including Pauline Stephenson, chair of the parish council, and Nick Walmsley, director of music. 

He brought with him a fascinating scrapbook full of drawings of Costessey Hall, some of its architectural features, and details of other stately homes. His visit coincided with one of the regular meetings of the Costessey Christian clergy, so he was also able to meet the ministers of the Anglican, Baptist and Methodist churches.

In 1953 the bodies of several Stafford-Jerningham family members were taken from the cemetery and chapel at the former Costessey Hall and re-interred in the cemetery at Our Lady and St Walstan’s. Lord Stafford paid a brief visit to their gravesite, despite the tail-end of one of the recent storms. The site is currently being renovated with new engraved gravestones due to be put in place later this year. Lord Stafford hopes to return for the dedication of these stones.

The Jerningham family had, and to an extent still have, a great effect on the town of Costessey. They retained their Catholic faith throughout the difficult centuries following the Reformation. The attic of Costessey Hall contained a chapel which could be very quickly re-arranged to look like a normal room should there be any threat of danger. Queen Elizabeth I stayed at Costessey Hall and went riding on the hills of the estate. That area became known as Queen’s Hills and is now the site of an extensive housing development. The Jerningham family married into the Stafford family in the 19th century.

Pictured above are Lord Stafford and Fr David Ward in the porch of the church, standing in front of the list of those members of the Stafford-Jerningham family who are buried in the church cemetery. Below is a picture of Costessey Hall from the scrapbook which Lord Stafford brought.