A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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The parish of Bradfield contains 4,359 acres of land, of which a large proportion, 1,900 acres, is laid down in permanent grass. There are 714 acres of woods and plantations (fn. 1), the largest portion lying near the north-western boundary. The land for the most part lies low, the altitude varying from 100 ft. to 300 ft. above the ordnance datum. The River Pang flows from the south-west, through the village of Bradfield, finally reaching the Thames in the adjoining parish of Pangbourne. The meadows through which the river flows are liable to frequent floods. The Bourne forms the south-eastern boundary of the parish, but joins the Pang beyond the parish of Bradfield. The soil is London Clay, Woolwich and Reading Beds, Chalk and Alluvium. The village with the church of St. Andrew lies in the valley. The churchyard is inclosed partly by an iron railing and partly by a brick wall. On the south-east this wall is of 16th-century date and now forms part of the boundary of the college grounds. Most of the cottages, which are of no great age, are built of brick with roofs of slate or tile. At the north-west corner of the churchyard, however, are two cottages of half-timber construction probably built in the 17th century. Lying back off the main road opposite the way leading to the church is a small 18th-century house of brick. On the river between the church and the bridge is a mill. The village is supplied with water from St. Andrew's well, sunk to obtain water for an ice factory. Roads from Englefield and Wallingford cross one another in the village; there are also various smaller roads such as Back Lane, Cock Lane and Scratchface Lane. The nearest station is at Theale on the Great Western railway, 3 miles away. There are gasworks on the outskirts of the village. Two palaeolithic implements and Roman objects have been found in the parish. (fn. 2) The long and straggling hamlet of Southend lies in the southern part of the parish, the houses being chiefly of the modern suburban type. At the north end of the hamlet the main road is joined by a road running eastward; on the north side is the workhouse of the Bradfield Union with the Union church of St. Simon and St. Jude. At Southend also are almshouses, founded by Stephen Wilson of Bradfield Hall in 1811, and consisting of one block of cottages divided into four tenements. There are a few cottages near Buckhold, and the residence of Dr. Herbert Watney, a red brick house surrounded by fine grounds. Bradfield Hall is the residence of Mr. Arthur Radford.
The college of St. Andrew, Bradfield, which stands near the parish church, was founded by the Rev. Thomas Stevens, the lord of Bradfield Manor in 1850. (fn. 3) The nucleus of the main college buildings is an 18th-century manor-house, since added to, which was first converted into its present use on the foundation of the college. The buildings vary considerably in design, forming an irregular and picturesque but not incongruous whole, and now comprise the schoolhouse—in which is the warden's private house—the chapel, the dining hall, a big school, the library, a physical laboratory, fourteen classrooms, twelve masters' rooms, music cells, studies, dormitories and bedrooms, a matron's room and the usual offices; there is also a swimming bath. Most of these buildings with the chapel—which was opened in 1892—were erected from the designs of the late Sir Gilbert Scott, R.A., though the chapel was enlarged and the tower added by John Oldrid Scott, F.S.A., in 1903, who also made several other additions to this block, which is mainly arranged round a large quadrangle. The principal entrance is from the Southend road through a half-timber archway. With the exception of the chapel and dining hall the buildings are generally three stories high—one being contained in the roof—and are of brick and flint or half-timber construction with stone dressings, while the roofs are tiled.
The modern house, which was opened in 1899 and is situated some 30 yards above the main block of the college, is a brick and stone 'Georgian' building, consisting of house-master's private house, a dining-hall, class-rooms, studios, dormitories and bedrooms. Situated behind the modern house are the engineering shops, which contain, besides the shops, an engine-room, an electrical accumulator, a machine-room and a forge-room. On the opposite side of the Ashampstead Road to the main buildings is the junior school, a three-story red-brick building, completed in 1887.
In the 17th century Bradfield became famous for various manifestations of 'the ill spirit,' who, it was said, 'was never so busy and never made such a harvest or had such a latitude of power given him to ramp up and down in any part of the earth, as he hath had lately in this island.' (fn. 4) The manifestations occurred in 1647 while John Pordage, the astrologer, was rector. While preaching he fell into a trance and rushed out of the church and went to his house, where he found 'his wife Mistress Pordage cloathed all in white lawn with a white rod in her hand. Ten other women came in and all fell to dancing the Hays about the flower pots.' (fn. 5) Pordage (fn. 6) was a follower of the mystic Boehme, and Elias Ashmole thought highly of his astrological skill. His mysticism, however, brought him into trouble during the Common-wealth, when he was twice accused of heresy, and he was deprived of his living in 1655, but was reinstated after the Restoration.
The first mention of BRADFIELD is in the 7th century in the reign of King Ini, the lawgiver of Wessex. (fn. 7) Eadfrith the son of Iddi had given 45 cassati of land in Bradfield and other places on the altar of the church (presumably at Abingdon) for the good of his soul, (fn. 8) and this land King Ini granted to Hean, afterwards Abbot of Abingdon, and to Ceolswith for the building of a monastery. (fn. 9) This charter, which is anterior to the founding of the abbey of Abingdon, may be assigned to the 7th century, and seems to be the only genuine charter of the three attributed to King Ini. (fn. 10) Another alleged charter confirms to Abbot Hean 15 cassati of land in Bradfield. (fn. 11) Still another charter of Ini, given amongst the Abingdon charters, but of very doubtful authenticity, states that a monastery had been built at Bradfield, but of this there is no further evidence. (fn. 12) According to his spurious will, Abbot Hean directed that 48 cassati of land in Bradfield should pass after his death to his sister Cillan, if she were still living, and finally revert to 'that monastery,' presumably meaning the monastery of Abingdon. (fn. 13) No further mention of the abbey holding land in Bradfield has been found. At the end of the 10th century land at Hagbourne (q.v.) and Bradfield was said to have been given by the ealdorman Ælfric to a certain Wynflaed. Later Bradfield was in the hands of Horling, who was the tenant of King Edward the Confessor. (fn. 14) At the time of the Domesday Survey it was held in demesne by William Fitz Ansculf, whose castle was at Dudley. (fn. 15) His lands passed to the Paynells and their successors, the Somerys, (fn. 16) who held the manor of Bradfield in demesne as part of their honour of Dudley of the king in chief, for the service due from one knight's fee. (fn. 17) John de Somery was the last male member of the family to hold the manor, and on his death in 1322 (fn. 18) his honour and lands were divided between his two sisters, Margaret the wife of John de Sutton and Joan the widow of Thomas Botetourt. (fn. 19) Bradfield belonged to the moiety assigned to Margaret, but she and her husband lost the manor in the troubles of the reign of Edward II. John de Sutton was accused by the king's favourites, the Despensers, of being a partisan of Thomas of Lancaster, and in consequence he was seized and imprisoned in 1324–5. To save himself from death he assigned to the younger Hugh le Despenser his wife's inheritance, including the manor of Bradfield, (fn. 20) but after the fall of the Despensers and the accession of Edward III the unfortunate John petitioned the Crown for justice, and his lands were restored to him. (fn. 21) In 1327 John de Sutton and Margaret obtained licence to enfeoff their son and heir, another John de Sutton, and his wife Isabel in fee-tail of Bradfield Manor. (fn. 22) The younger John de Sutton obtained leave in 1338 to approve and cultivate those wastes of the manor which were not within the bounds of the forest, and to build on and make leases of them, saving to the tenants of the manor and others their common rights. (fn. 23) Two years later he granted the manor of Bradfield to Sir Nicholas de la Beche, the latter paying him a rent of 50 marks out of the manor during the lifetime of the grantor. (fn. 24) From this date the manor followed the descent of the manor of La Beche in Aldworth (q.v.). On the death of Sir Reade Stafford in 1605 (fn. 25) the property went to his nephew Sir Edward Stafford, (fn. 26) who in 1614 married Mary the daughter of his powerful neighbour at Aldermaston, Sir William Forster, and the manor was settled on this lady and her husband's heirs. (fn. 27) Sir Edward died in 1623, (fn. 28) leaving his son Edward, a minor, as his heir; his wife became for her lifetime the lady of the manor of Bradfield. She afterwards married Thomas Hamly, and, on his death, Sir Thomas Mainwaring, (fn. 29) the Recorder of Reading. (fn. 30) On becoming a widow a third time she made a match with a famous person, who was very obnoxious to her sons and also to her brother Sir Humphrey Forster of Aldermaston, probably because they considered him beneath her in rank. This was Elias Ashmole, who, if his diary is to be trusted, was so bitterly hated by Lady Mainwaring's second son Humphrey Stafford that the young man attempted to murder him in a base way, 'suspecting he should marry his mother,' (fn. 31) and even went so far as to give information which led to the sequestration of the Bradfield estates. (fn. 32) The marriage, however, took place on 16 November 1649, (fn. 33) and afterwards Ashmole spent a good deal of time quarrelling with his wife's relatives, the Forsters. He had a lawsuit with Sir Humphrey, which he seems to have won, as the former paid him considerable sums of money, and when he presumed to come to the court which Ashmole held in 1653, (fn. 34) as lord of the manor of Bradfield, the antiquary promptly arrested him. (fn. 35) Ashmole's wife died in 1668, but she does not seem to have held the manor at the time of her death, (fn. 36) since her grandson and heir Charles Stafford (fn. 37) was dealing with the property on coming of age in 1667, (fn. 38) and at that time the manor was said to have belonged formerly to his elder brother Edward, who had died in 1661. (fn. 39) In 1676 (fn. 40) Robert Stafford and Edward Stafford dealt with the manor by recovery, and three years later they, together with their father William Stafford, sold the manor to Sir William Thomson of London, (fn. 41) from whom it descended to Samuel Thomson, who was in possession in 1714. (fn. 42) In 1752 Samuel Thomson and his son and heir William settled the manor. (fn. 43) In 1754 William son of William Thomson sold it to Robert Palmer who in 1755 conveyed it to Henry Stevens, (fn. 44) whose grandson, the Rev. Henry Stevens, was lord of the manor in 1802. (fn. 45) It afterwards passed to the Rev. Thomas Stevens, the founder of Bradfield College. Besides endowing the school he also rebuilt the parish church, and this vast expenditure impoverished him. (fn. 46) In 1881 he was declared bankrupt and his estates were sold to different purchasers. The chief landholders in Bradfield at the present time are Mr. Benyon of Englefield, Mr. George Blackall-Simonds, Mrs. Stevens, Mr. Arthur Radford and Dr. Herbert Watney, who is also reputed lord of the manor.
In the 13th and 14th centuries a quarter of a knight's fee in Bradfield was held under the Somerys by a family of the name of Butler. Nicholas Butler was the tenant early in the 13th century. (fn. 47) He was succeeded by William Butler, who granted 46 acres of land, with meadow and wood, to Adam Butler for life. (fn. 48) The last member of the family mentioned is John Butler, who sold the property to Roger de Somery, lord of Bradfield, before 1291. (fn. 49)
A nominal manor of RUSHALL or RUSHALL COURT existed in the parish of Bradfield, owing suit and service to the main manor there. (fn. 50) The name can first be found in the year 1241, (fn. 51) when Richard Rushall appears as a tenant in Bradfield. Christopher and John Jacob were in seisin in the 15th century, (fn. 52) but no further trace of the estate has been found till 1716, (fn. 53) when the manor of Rushall was sold by Richard Bytheway and his wife Elizabeth to John Bowen and John Richards. It appears to have been the inheritance of Elizabeth Bytheway. In 1801 it belonged to the family of Bunny of Newbury. (fn. 54) The name of this quasi-manor is now to be found at Rushall Copse and Rushall's Farm, the property of Mr. George Blackall-Simonds.
Three mills are mentioned at Bradfield in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 55) In an extent of the manor made in the 14th century (fn. 56) only one mill is mentioned. In 1755 there were two water corn-mills. (fn. 57)
The Somerys inclosed a park at Bradfield during their tenancy of the manor. It is mentioned in 1291, (fn. 58) when it was assigned, with the manor and other appurtenances, to Agnes de Somery, the widow of Roger de Somery, as part of her dower. John Langford, who died in 1509, inclosed 4 acres of moor, part of his demesne land, and added them to his park. (fn. 59) In 1253 (fn. 60) Roger de Somery obtained a charter from Henry III granting him free warren in all his demesne lands that were outside the forest boundary, but he had free warren in Bradfield before this date. In 1240 he granted the right of free chase there to William Englefield and his heirs within certain bounds and leave to take pheasants and other birds, in return for the grant of similar rights and licence to inclose a wood, from William Englefield. (fn. 61) In 1271, however, John Englefield renounced his hunting rights in Bradfield in exchange for leave 'to sport on the water called Pangebourn.' (fn. 62) This right of the Somerys brought them into collision with the Abbot of Reading, who claimed the right to hunt in the hundreds of Reading and Theale by ancient custom, but the younger Roger de Somery in 1285 successfully vindicated his rights in Bradfield. (fn. 63)
The Somerys also held the assize of bread and ale and other privileges within the manor. (fn. 64) The lords of the manor held the view of frankpledge in the 17th century, (fn. 65) and presumably it had been amongst the rights attached to the manor throughout its history.
With the exception of the early 14th-century north arcade of the nave, the west, and part of the north wall of the north aisle, and the 16th-century tower, the church was entirely rebuilt in the 'Early English' style in 1847–8 of clunch stone and the external walls faced with split flint.
The chancel is lighted by lancets and opens into the transepts by an arcade of two bays on the north and a single archway on the south. The north arcade of the nave is of three bays with pointed arches of two chamfered orders carried on octagonal piers having original moulded capitals and bases and semi-octagonal responds, the capitals of the responds seem to have been restored. An arcade of the same number of pointed arches opens into the south aisle.
In the east end of the north wall of the north aisle is a modern three-light window, and to the west of it is a pointed doorway the lower part of the jambs of which appear to be original. In the west end of the wall is a lancet window with a two-centred segmental rear-arch and widely splayed inner jambs, and in the west wall is a similar window; the rear-arches and inner jambs of both are original. At the north-west angle is an original two-stage diagonal buttress. The south aisle is lighted from both the south and west walls, and in the middle of the south wall is a doorway.
The tower is in three stages with an embattled parapet, and is built of brick with flint panels and stone dressings. At the western angles are diagonal buttresses in two stages which stop just below the string-course marking the level of the bell-chamber, and in the south-east angle is a stair turret. The much-restored tower arch is pointed and of two chamfered orders, carried on semi-octagonal responds having moulded capitals; the large west window is entirely modern. The ringing stage is lighted by a single pointed window in the west wall, and the bell-chamber on each side by a pointed window of two uncusped lights. Over the chancel is a pointed barrel ceiling; the roofs to the other parts of the church are open and all are tiled. The string-course beneath the parapet has carved on each side three beasts' heads which act as gargoyles.
There is a ring of six bells; the treble by Lester & Pack 1757, is inscribed 'At Proper times my Voice I'll Raise, and Sound to my Subscribers Praise'; the second is by Samuel Knight, 1705; the third is dated '1655,' and is evidently by the same founder as the fifth and the tenor, which have no founder's mark; the fourth is inscribed 'Samuel Knight made mee 1705'; the fifth 'As forth Sound,' and the tenor 'As tenar hum all round 1630.'
The plate consists of a cup and paten of 1674, two cups and cover patens with a flagon of 1800, a flagon of 1847, and five almsdishes of 1843 (2), 1844, 1848 and 1863 respectively. The last is of silvergilt but all the rest are of silver.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1539 to 1688, marriages 1559 to 1685, burials 1540 to 1685; (ii) all entries 1695 to 1754; (iii) burials 1678 to 1685, and 1718 to 1749, with the Act for Burying in Woollen printed in the front of the volume; (iv) baptisms 1734 to 1767, marriages 1745 to 1755, burials 1734 to 1744; (v) baptisms and burials 1755 to 1812; (vi) baptisms 1767 to 1812, burials 1771 to 1812; (vii) marriages 1754 to 1812.
The church of ST. SIMON AND ST. JUDE is a small building of flint consisting of a continuous chancel and nave under one roof, with a south porch and west bellcote containing one bell. It was erected in 1835, and is used by the officials and inmates of the Union workhouse.
There is Primitive Methodist chapel in the parish. The first mention of the church at Bradfield occurs in the foundation charter of Dudley Priory. (fn. 66) In this charter, which is previous to 1161, Gervase Paynell, who at that time was lord of Bradfield Manor, granted the church of Bradfield with its appurtenances to his new foundation. (fn. 67) This grant was confirmed by Pope Lucius III in 1190, (fn. 68) and a few years later William the Prior of Dudley obtained a quitclaim of the advowson from Ralph de Somery. (fn. 69) In 1229 (fn. 70) there was a lawsuit concerning the church between the prior and Maurice de Gaunt and his wife Margaret, who was evidently Ralph de Somery's widow. (fn. 71) Maurice and Margaret were found to have no right in the advowson of the church except by dower, but the prior agreed that if the church was vacant during the lifetime of Margaret, she and her husband might present a clerk to the prior, who would present him in turn to the bishop. (fn. 72) The dispute between the Somerys and the priory as to the advowson was finally settled in 1261, (fn. 73) when the prior quitclaimed all his right in it to Roger de Somery, the son and successor of Ralph. (fn. 74) From that time the advowson belonged to the lords of the manor of Bradfield, descending in the families of Somery, de la Beche, Langford and Stafford. (fn. 75) On the ejection of Dr. Pordage (fn. 76) from the rectory by the County Commissioners in 1654, a dispute arose over the right of presentation, which was claimed by Elias Ashmole, then lord of the manor in right of his wife, and by Sir Humphrey Forster, presumably in right of his nephew Charles Stafford. It was finally settled in favour of Ashmole. (fn. 77) The advowson passed from the Staffords to Samuel Thomson, who presented in 1686. (fn. 78) Francis Springett obtained the advowson shortly afterwards and presented in 1703, (fn. 79) but he, together with Thomas Powell and Richard Hunt, quitclaimed all their right in it to Samuel Thomson eleven years later. (fn. 80) In 1716–17 (fn. 81) Samuel Thomson and his wife Eleanor conveyed the advowson of Bradfield to James Clitherow and George Wanley. It afterwards passed into the possession of Septimus Turton, who sold it in 1750 to Henry Stevens. (fn. 82) His descendants held it with the manor until the bankruptcy of the Rev. Thomas Stevens in 1881. In 1883 the patron of the living was Mr. John Thompson of Broughton Hall, Chester, but it passed shortly after to the Rev. A. Standidge, who in 1898 (fn. 83) was both patron and incumbent of the living. The advowson is now in the gift of Dr. Herbert Watney.
2. James Loveday, by will, 1730, consisting of a cottage and 5a. 2r. 22p., in Goring Heath, Oxfordshire, including 1a. or. 20p., acquired in 1813 (under the Goring Inclosure Award), let at £12 a year.
7. Miss Frances Oliver, founded by will, proved in the P.C.C. 15 October 1857, left a legacy of £200, represented—less duty—by £177 11s. 2d. consols, one moiety of which, £88 15s. 7d., is carried to a separate account under the title of 'Oliver's Educational Foundation.'
The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees, and the dividends are, with the net rents, amounting together to about £34 a year, applicable under the provisions of the scheme for the general benefit of deserving and necessitous persons resident in the parish. A donation of £2 a year is usually made to the parish nurse fund, but the principal expenditure is in aid of the funds of the coal club.
For Bradfield College see article on Berkshire Schools. (fn. 84)