The Hoo itself is a large outcrop of rock which dominates the ridge on the east side of Polesworth and is best viewed from the Warton Road. It is likely that it was the site of an iron age Hill Fort as the ridge overlooks the river valley and slopes sharply away in other directions. This is similar to other such Hill Forts across the country. It was the name given to this area of the village although some of it was renamed St. Helena in the 19th century.
The chapel of Hoo stood close to this outcrop of rock and was dedicated to St. Leonard. The site of the Chapel is not where the obelisk now stands; you have to travel further up the road, until just before the railway bridge.
The chapel was founded by Roger de Grendon although the exact date of foundation is unknown it took place during the reign of King Henry I or King Stephen (1100-1154). Roger endowed it with a large amount of land, which was presumably worked as a farm for the upkeep of the priests who lived in the Chapel House, and was most likely used for sheep farming as this area was noted for its quality wool in the medieval period. Roger’s successors had the patronage of the chapel and in King John’s time a young son of the family bearing the same name as the founder, was ‘admitted thereto’ by G. Muschamp, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry on the presentation of Sir Robert de Grendon, Knight. This could mean he was made a priest of the Chapel or ordained into the priesthood in that chapel (He later served in Rome).
Another son of this Sir Robert, of the name Robert, by Avicia, daughter of William de Bray, granted the Chapel to the Nuns of Polesworth. In compliance of the grant the nuns were to maintain two priests to celebrate Divine Service daily therein for ‘the soul of the said Robert, and of William Bay (sometime Lord of Shenton), his grandfather and all the faithful deceased’ This service was performed until the dissolution of the Abbey in AD 1534, the two priests so employed had a stipend of ten pounds per year. This amount, although seemingly large, would serve to help with the upkeep of the Chapel House and Chapel buildings and any ancillary buildings on the site. The land immediately around the Chapel would have been the burial ground for estate parishioners and the priests themselves, the inside of the Chapel being reserved for members of the de Grendon family and their successors.
Looking at the site from the road, nothing can be seen to give a clue to the actual plan of the area, but if you follow the Grendon Road, from the top of Hoo hill you will notice the road bends round to the right and then straightens out past the railway bridge. In this bend there is an area of flat ground, with the railway cutting in the middle and the spur of rock on the far side, this area of land is where the Chapel and auxiliary buildings stood.
In making the cutting of the London and N.W. Railway – later L.M.S. – in the year 1846, the site of the Chapel was accidentally discovered, because the cutting went straight through the graveyard, and some gravestones and skeletons were discovered there.
The obelisk in the field has this inscription:-
Site of the Chapel of St. Leonard at Hoo. Demolished 1538. 30th Henry VIII.
It originally stood in the field between the railway cutting and the road. It was erected by Sir George Chetwynd, Baronet of Grendon Hall after the chance find by the railway workmen but was moved to its present position some years later, when it was decided it was in a dangerous place being so near to the railway cutting.
By Margaret Henley
Chair, Polesworth History Project Group