A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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The parish of Sulham covers a long and narrow strip of land to the east of Englefield and Tidmarsh; it contains, according to the agricultural returns of 1905, 583 acres of arable, 252 acres of permanent grass and 254 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The western boundary is entirely formed by a brook which rises in Theale parish near the Kennet and flows into the Thames at the end of Saltney Mead.
The village of Sulham stands on a wooded hill-side near the brook at the place where it crosses the road from Tidmarsh to Tilehurst, about 2 miles south of Pangbourne, the nearest railway station. Sulham House, now known as Sulham Farm, which adjoins the church of St. Nicholas on the east, stands a little to the south of this road, separated by it from the main part of the village which lies along the lane towards Purley Hall, backed by the green slope of Sulham Wood. The houses are few in number and appear to be for the most part contemporary with the present church. The stocks, however, are still preserved on their original site at the west end of the village. Nunhide Farm, which represents the old manor of Nunhide, is rather more than a mile south of the village. There is a dovecot belonging to it, but the present structure is modern. The common lands were inclosed in 1856. (fn. 2) The soil is loam and sand, the subsoil clay and gravel. The chief crops are wheat, barley and roots.
The manor of SULHAM was held of the king by William de Calgi in 1086, and a certain knight held it of him. (fn. 6) It had been held by Godric of King Edward. (fn. 7) The overlordship was afterwards part of the honour of Wallingford. (fn. 8) In 1211 the manor probably belonged to Aimery son of Robert de Sulham, (fn. 9) who held four knights' fees of the honour. He seems to have been succeeded by William de Sulham, possibly his son. (fn. 10) This William recovered certain lands in Tidmarsh against Geoffrey de John, Ralf Englefield and Juliane and Gunnora de Bendenges in 1242. (fn. 11) His widow Sara subsequently appears to have acquired free chase in her lands in Sulham. (fn. 12)
The land afterwards passed to Hugh de St. Philibert, (fn. 13) who inherited it from his mother Euphemia, possibly the daughter of William de Sulham (fn. 14); he died in 1304, leaving as his heir his son John. (fn. 15) Hugh had in his lifetime granted the manor to Benedict de Blakenham (fn. 16) for his life, subject to an agreement that if Benedict alienated the property or committed any waste Hugh should be allowed to re-enter. (fn. 17) Notwithstanding this agreement it was alleged in 1305 that Benedict had sold the estate in fee to Agnes de Somery to the disherison of John de St. Philibert, then under age and in the king's custody, (fn. 18) and an inquisition taken in the same year found that he had sold her one moiety and granted her the other for his life. (fn. 19) Part of the manor seems to have been thereupon taken into the king's hands, but Agnes was left in possession of a moiety, for she died seised of it in 1308–9, (fn. 20) and her son and heir John held land in the manor at the time of his death in 1322. (fn. 21)
In 1317 John de St. Philibert obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands in Sulham, (fn. 22) and in 1329 he settled the manor on himself and Ada his wife and his son Thomas. (fn. 23) He died about 1333 (fn. 24); Ada survived him, but Thomas had apparently died before this date, for John's heir was his son John, (fn. 25) then six years old. This John sold the manor in 1352 to Walter Haywode for 200 marks. (fn. 26)
In 1364 Walter Haywode settled the estate on himself and his wife Joan and their heirs, (fn. 27) but in 1398 it was conveyed by him to Stephen Haym and Nicholas Carew, probably on account of the marriage between Nicholas and Haym's daughter Mercy. (fn. 28) The estate subsequently followed the same descent as the manor of Purley Magna (q.v.) until the death of the last Nicholas Carew, (fn. 29) when it passed to Anne the wife of Christopher Tropnell, (fn. 30) one of his three sisters and co-heirs.
Anne was succeeded by Thomas Tropnell, probably her son, who died at Sulham in 1548, (fn. 31) leaving all his goods to his wife Eleanor for the education of their children. (fn. 32) Apparently Giles Tropnell was the only son, and died childless (fn. 33) in his mother's lifetime, (fn. 34) being succeeded by his sisters, Anne, Elizabeth, Eleanor and Mary, the wives respectively of John Eyre, William Charde, Andrew Blackman and John Yonge. (fn. 35) The various portions of the estate seem to have been subsequently bought up by John Eyre. (fn. 36)
John Eyre died before 1586, in which year his son William sold the manor to Richard Lybbe, (fn. 37) who died seised of it in 1599, leaving as his heir his son Richard. (fn. 38) The estate seems to have been taken into the king's hands by mistake on the death of Sir Humphrey Forster, the owner of Nunhide, but it was restored to Richard in February 1607. (fn. 39)
Richard Lybbe apparently granted his right in Sulham to his brother John, (fn. 40) who died in 1625, leaving as his heir his son, another Richard. (fn. 41) This Richard sold the manor in 1650 to Robert Mason, (fn. 42) whose grandson Robert dealt with it by fine in 1697, (fn. 43) mortgaged it in 1701 to Henry Nelson, and, with Thomas Mason, sold it in 1712 to Henry Wilder, whose descendant, the Rev. Henry Charles Wilder, is the present owner. (fn. 44)
The manor of NUNHIDE (Mymhide, Nonnehide, xvi cent.) was probably represented at the time of the Domesday Survey by the estate of Theodoric the goldsmith, which had been previously held of King Edward by Edward. (fn. 45)
In the time of Henry II Roger de Whitchurch gave 1 hide of land in Sulham to Goring Priory, (fn. 46) in whose possession it remained until the Dissolution. It was then granted by Henry VIII to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberlayne, (fn. 47) who obtained licence to alienate it to Thomas, Robert and Bartholomew Burgoyne, (fn. 48) from whom it subsequently passed to Richard Bartlett. (fn. 49) In 1586 Richard the nephew and heir of Richard Bartlett obtained licence to alienate it to Humphrey Forster. (fn. 50)
Sir Humphrey Forster died seised of the estate in 1602, (fn. 51) leaving as his heir his son William, who leased the estate for their lives to Thomas, Margaret and John Wilder, (fn. 52) members of a family which had been settled in the neighbourhood as early as 1548, (fn. 53) and had already rented the manor of Nunhide for two generations at least. (fn. 54) In 1632 Thomas Wilder and his son John bought the estate, (fn. 55) which has remained in the family ever since. (fn. 56) The present owner is the Rev. Henry Charles Wilder, rector of Sulham.
There was a small estate in Sulham assessed at 1 hide, which was held of King Edward the Confessor by Baldwin. (fn. 57) In 1086 it was held of Miles Crispin by a certain William, the mesne tenant of another estate of 1 hide in Pangbourne, (fn. 58) with which it is possible that it became incorporated. The whole may have formed part of the manor later known as Hyde Hall, situated in Purley, Sulham, Pangbourne and Whitchurch. (fn. 59) This estate followed the descent of the large manor until the death of the last Nicholas Carew, when it passed to his sister Elizabeth the wife of Walter Twynho. (fn. 60)
A water-mill worth half a mark is mentioned in an inquisition of 1322; it was an appurtenance of the manor of Sulham and was held in that year by John de Somery. (fn. 61)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS, rebuilt in the year 1838, consists of a chancel, with north vestry and organ chamber, a nave, and west tower surmounted by a spire. The style is Early English, as at that time understood, but the picturesque nature of the surroundings does much to atone for the shortcomings of the design. Within the last fifty years the chancel has been lengthened by the addition of a straightsided apse. The materials are flint and stone with slated roofs. The church is lighted by lancet windows, and the chancel is divided from the nave by three acutely pointed arches supported by clustered shafts. The west tower contains two stories, the belfry being lighted on all four sides by double lancets, and is surmounted by a stone spire, with pinnacles at the angles. The timber roofs are of low pitch and designed in the style of the 15th century.
There is a ring of six bells: the treble, third and tenor by Mears & Stainbank, 1878; the second inscribed 'Henri Knight made mee 1616'; the fourth inscribed 'Honar God 1631'; the fifth is by Thomas Dicker, 1734.
The plate consists of a paten with foot of 1691, a paten of 1680, a cup of 1729, the gift of the Rev. Septimus Turton, a flagon of 1751, a small flagon of the early 19th century, an elaborate gilt chalice with no marks, a spoon of 1874 and an almsdish of 1732, the gift of the Rev. Septimus Turton.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1730 to 1812, marriages 1732 to 1778, and burials 1730 to 1812; (ii) marriage book of 1754 with entries mainly between 1756 and 1812. There are also two books of churchwardens' accounts: (i) 1781 to 1801; (ii) 1801 to 1811.
There was a church attached to the large manor of Sulham in 1086. (fn. 62) The advowson has followed throughout the descent of the manor, (fn. 63) except in 1638, when John Brooker and William Pococke presented for one turn, (fn. 64) and in 1708–9, when the patrons were the Provost and Fellows of Queen's College, Oxford. (fn. 65) The patronage belongs at the present time to the rector, the Rev. Henry Charles Wilder. (fn. 66)