The Church Guide suggests that the chantry chapel on the south side of the chancel is the oldest part of the church. This is supported by the marvellous wall paintings depicting St Christopher with Christ on his shoulders and, better still, poor St Edmund being perforated by Danish archers! These are executed in wonderful naive style: real folk art from all of 800 years ago. Also in the chapel is the monument to Sir Everard Digby (d. 1541).
The chancel has another Digby monument - this time to Sir Kenelme Digby who did in 1590. It is his grandson, another Sir Everard Digby, who provides this church with its best story. That Sir Everard was a prime mover in the Gunpowder Plot and was hanged for it in 1606. He got off lightly compared with the atrocities committed on some of his co-conspirators The North Porch and parvise room in this church were added during the Tudor period. Legend, now generally discredited, had it that the Plot itself was hatched in the parvise room. A good story, but how would anyone know, one way or the other?
Other Digby family effigies can be seen at Coleshill Church, in Warwickshire. This, as you will see if you look at its page, was the town where I went to school. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, one of the “houses” in the school was “Digby”. All the houses were named after great Midlands families. Mine was “Montfort” and like the Digbys the family had its reasons for notoriety. Simon de Montfort, of course, is famous as the “founder” of the English parliament, but his father was another matter. To find about him visit my page on St Mary Bourne in Hampshire and read Footnote 1.
The interest in this church is rounded off by yet more mediaeval paintings: c14 work in the chancel; the twelve tribes of Israel on the clerestory from the c16. In many ways Stoke Dry epitomises the way in which the unassuming English parish church can be packed with historical interest just waiting to enthrall the casual visitor.