The figure of Sir John St Lo (also possibly known as: de Seintlo, de Sancto Laudo & de St Laud or John Seynlow; Saynctlo, Seyntloo) is somewhat elusive but intriguing. The St Lo’s were a warrior family, first recorded in about 1100 in the court of Henry I and noted on the periphery of Royal Service for several successive generations. They held extensive estates in Somerset, Gloucestershire and the West Country. They were entitled to maintain a hundred mounted soldiers for the service of the crown, so were a very rich and powerful family.
To set the local scene, a little history:
Between 1107 and 1150, Maud of Wallingford granted the lands of Ogbourne St Andrew and St George to the Abbey of Bec in Normandy. After the Hundred Years war the English Crown appropriated all the "alien monastries’" lands and, in 1440, Henry VI granted Sir John St Lo the manors of Ogbourne for his lifetime, with a reversion to King’s College Cambridge on his death. That St Lo was close to the King is evident from the phrasing of the grant in 1441: "John St Lo, beloved of us, one of the armour-bearers for our body….."
In addition, St Lo was made constable of Bristol Castle for life, and was Keeper of the Kingswood and Filwood Forests and was apparently High Sherriff of Wiltshire 1439 – 1440. In 1428 he married Eleanor, the daughter of Sir Thomas Arundell, of Wardour Castle and Shaftesbury. The Manor of Sutton in Somerset belonged to Sir John and in about 1420 he had built the north aisle at St Andrew’s, Chew Magna where he and his wife are commemorated in a large tomb in the Sutton Court chapel. It is surmounted by the gigantic figure of Sir John St Lo, measuring seven feet four inches in length, and two feet four across the shoulders, clothed in armour, cross legged, with his head resting on his head piece, his feet on a lion and wearing the Lancastrian collar. The feet of his lady rest on a dog.
One local reference to Sir John St John Lo appears in 1443 Steward’s account roll: . "John ‘Seynlow’ armiger [arms bearer], farmer of the Rectory of Okebourne [Ogbourne] from Michaelmas 1443 to Michaelmas in account with Nicholas Sturgeon, Canon Steward of the College of St George. The entry [in Latin] lists the arrears due to the College from various tenants in Ogbourne and then has the following entry: £40 [£28K on RPI today] for the farm of the Rectory with appurtenances leased to the said John Seynlow for a term of 5 years."
The local interest in St Lo lies in the possibility that he was the benefactor who financed the building of the tower in St Andrew’s church, which dates from the mid 1400’s. He was obviously closely linked to Ogbourne ( the Stewards’ Roll reference); he was obviously very rich and close to the King; whether it will ever be possible to prove he had the tower built is another matter.