Fringe Box



Delightful Ceramic Vase Holds a Mystery

Published on: 20 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 19 Feb, 2023

By David Rose

This delightful ceramic vase with the words ‘The Chapel of St Francis Stoughton’ holds a mystery, part of which I can explain, but a crucial piece of evidence has yet to be discovered – who actually commissioned it?

The ceramic vase with the words ‘The Chapel of St Francis Stoughton’ and an image of St Francis of Assisi. Photos of the vase by Louise Boreham.

The vase was offered for sale on the on-line auction site eBay in December 2022. I had thought about bidding for it, but didn’t as I wasn’t sure of its links to Stoughton in Guildford.

However, I was puzzled as Westborough’s parish church is St Francis, that’s in Beckingham Road, with its sister church, St Clare’s in Park Barn, while Emmanuel Church is the parish church of Stoughton.

As far as I know, there are two other Stoughtons in England, one in West Sussex in the South Downs, north-west of Chichester, and the other is in Leicestershire, to the east of Leicester. I don’t think either have a St Francis chapel or church. Neither has Stoughton in Massachusetts, USA.

A few weeks ago an email that had been sent to the office at Westborough’s St Francis church was forwarded to me. It had been sent by Louise Boreham who had  ‘won’ the vase on eBay. She was enquiring if anyone could add any information about it.

I replied to Louise saying that I’d seen the vase on eBay but didn’t bid on it as I was unsure of it’s Guildford connection. I did say that I wondered whether it had been made at Compton Pottery, now the popular Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.

The vase that’s got to have a Guildford connection.

In her reply she wrote: “I do believe it was made at Compton Pottery. I am the joint author of the recent book on Mary Watts and the Compton Pottery. My co-author Hilary Calvert and others familiar with the work agree with me. That is why I bought it.”

I replied back saying “I have the book!”.

It’s excellent and is titlted Mary Seaton Watts and the Compton Pottery.

Louise and I have been exchanging emails, with me suggesting possible avenues of research to reveal when and why this vase was produced, as it’s got to have a Guildford connection!

I explained to Louise that I was on St Francis and St Clare’s churches parochial church council for eight years and served for a while as assistant churchwarden at St Francis.

I know St Francis church well, including its large loft and its cellar, and if the church had one of these vases I would surely have found it in a cupboard somewhere!

The vase presumably dates from about the 1930s, at the same time that Compton Pottery was making many items including those with a religious theme.

Therefore, it ties in with the building and consecration of St Francis church, Beckingham Road, in 1933.

I’ve written a brief history of St Francis church on the Parish of Westborough’s website. Click here for the page.

Newspaper cutting reporting the laying of the foundation stone for St Francis church, Beckingham Road.

In that history I note: “The church cost £2,300 to build and was the last of four daughter churches to be built in the [original] parish of Stoke. It was originally a chapel of ease for Emmanuel Church, Stoughton. Julia Paynter, the widow of Francis Paynter, who was a former rector of Stoke Church [St John’s] , donated £2,000 for its construction.”

I now think it is very likely that Julia Paynter and Mary Watts of the Compton Pottery knew each other.

The reason why St Francis church was built as a chapel of ease for Emmanual Church, Stoughton, was that during the 1920s and 30s that part of Guildford, that includes Westborough (originally called the Aldershot Road Estate), and Woodbridge Hill, were expanding with many houses being built.

Furthermore, St Francis church, when built, was within the parish of Stoughton, and only became an ecclesiastical district of its own (Westborough) in 1947.

Therefore, this is why I now believe the vase has the words ‘St Francis Stoughton’ on it.

However, over the years and having talked to people who recall the church in its early days, no one ever mentioned it as being in Stoughton as such. For Westborough people, “Stoughton is the place on the other side of Aldershot Road,” and vice versa for Stoughtonians!

The questions I would like to know the answers to is who commissioned this vase and how many were produced?

Perhaps it was the good people of Emmanuel Church, proud of their new sister church?

Or were these vases produced and sold to raise funds for the building of St Francis church?

Does anyone else have one?

If anyone can help solve this part of the mystery, please leave a comment in the box below or send an email to

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