A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
This agricultural parish on the hills west of Basildon, rising to a height of 497 ft. at Hartridge, contains 2,082 acres, 870 being arable, 282 grass and 386 woodland. (fn. 1) The soil is clay and chalk, the subsoil chiefly chalk. One chalk-pit is in use. The crops are cereals and roots. The village stands at cross-roads, one leading northward through Aldworth and southward through Stanford Dingley, the other westward to Hampstead Norris and eastward to Basildon. It consists of a few cottages grouped together along the road running north from the church, which is situated at the southern extremity of the settlement. Some of the cottages show signs of age, and are of brick or half-timber construction with tiled roofs, but the majority are comparatively modern.
A road diverges south-west towards Yattendon; another, connecting Aldworth with Bradfield, traverses the eastern part of the parish; another, ascending from Tidmarsh to Yattendon, forms the southern boundary. The parish touches westward the Roman road from Streatley to Speen. (fn. 2) Outlying groups of dwellings are at Ashampstead Green, north of the village, also at Stubbles and Quicks Green at the south-east. Burnt Hill is at the south-west angle of the parish. Ashampstead Common, now planted with conifers, is at the south-east. Childs Court is west of this; Hartridge is north of Ashampstead, both being now farm-houses. Near Stubbles are Leysfield House, the residence of Col. A. T. Norton, R.A.M.C. (formerly the property of Palmer's charity in London, and known as Palmer's Farm), and Pyt House, which is partly of Tudor date.
There is a Baptist chapel at Ashampstead Green, built in 1840, and a Primitive Methodist chapel at Quicks Green, rebuilt in 1872. The school is of the Church of England, built about 1875 and enlarged in 1905.
The following place-names are found: La Doune, Le Acrehey, Cokkenhead, Menecroft, Brakenhalecroft, Micheloomerssh, Lutloomerssh, all in 1355, (fn. 3) and Billardis land or Bilbardeslond in 1390. (fn. 4)
It is probable that ASHAMPSTEAD may have formed part of the estate in 'Bestlesford' (Basildon) granted by King lni to Hæha and Ceolswyth for the foundation of Abingdon Abbey late in the 7th century. (fn. 5) The Domesday Survey includes it in Basildon, except Hartridge, which is given a separate entry. A moiety of 'Æshamestede,' together with a moiety of Basildon (q.v.), passed about 1180 by exchange from Henry of Newburgh to Richard de Vernon, Richard having the messuage of Ashampstead. (fn. 6) The overlordship, belonging at first to the earldom of Warwick, was afterwards in the Crown. (fn. 7)
This moiety of Ashampstead descended with that of Basildon until 1542, when Richard Bridges and Joan his wife conveyed the manor of Ashampstead to William Fettiplace and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 8) Nicholas Fettiplace, their son and heir, (fn. 9) held the manor at his death in 1572, leaving a daughter Anne under age, (fn. 10) who married Edmund Dunch (fn. 11) and died in 1627. (fn. 12) The manor is next found in possession of Dr. William Twisse, Prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, who in 1646 devised it to be sold for his children. (fn. 13) In 1657 Thomas Parsons and others conveyed it to Sir William Playtors and his heirs and Sir Robert Pye. (fn. 14) The Sayer family held it afterwards, probably when Robert Sayer acquired the rectory and part of the advowson in 1667. (fn. 15) Susan Sayer, widow, and Elizabeth Sayer, spinster, were joint owners in 1747, when they conveyed by fine the 'manor of Pyt House Farm in Ashampstead,' (fn. 16) with the rectory, to Peter Birt, (fn. 17) this being apparently a moiety of the manor of Ashampstead. From the Sayers the manor and the rectory passed by a female heir to the Gills. (fn. 18) Thomas Gill and Elizabeth his wife (fn. 19) were part owners with Susan Sayer in 1755, when they conveyed Pyt House to William Billinghurst. (fn. 20) A subdivision followed, and in 1788 Peter Gill purchased one-fifth of the manor and rectory from Weston Helyar and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 21) In 1796 a 'moiety of the manor of Ashampstead' (presumably as distinct from Pyt House) was conveyed by Sir William Henry Clerke, bart., and Byzantia his wife to Francis Pym and others. (fn. 22) The Gills held the manor about forty years. (fn. 23) They lived at Pyt House, (fn. 24) which appears to have been the manorhouse of the northern moiety. At the close of the 18th century they sold it to John Hopkins of Tidmarsh (fn. 25) (q.v.), who acquired the whole manor. After the death of his grandson Robert John Hopkins, in 1899, Ashampstead Common, with the manorial rights, was sold, without Pyt House (q.v.), to Herbert Watney, M.D., of Buckhold in Bradfield (fn. 26) (q.v.). Childs Court, sold in 1893 to the late Alfred Waterhouse of Yattendon Court, and given by him to his younger son Amyas Theodore Waterhouse, (fn. 27) was probably the manor-house of the southern moiety.
The origin of PYT HOUSE probably appears in the 'land of William de Puteo in Æshamstede,' which Richard de Vernon acquired of Henry of Newburgh circa 1180. (fn. 28) Alexander son of William de Peteo received certain land in Basildon at fee farm from William de Vernon early in the 13th century. (fn. 29) William atte Putte was a juror of Basildon in 1341. (fn. 30) The Wyle in Hampstead Norris is probably the 'puteus' or 'putte' from which they are named. Walter de la Wyle sold a messuage and land in Basildon with 'la Wyle' to Richard de Coleshill in 1270, (fn. 31) and Ellis de Coleshill had in 1311 a grant of free warren in his lands in Basildon, Ashampstead, Hampstead (Norris) and 'Wile.' (fn. 32) In 1356 3 carucates of land in these places were settled on Isabel de Brompton for life with remainder to Thomas de Coleshill and Lucy his wife and their children Richard, Thomas and Isabel. The lastmentioned Isabel married Hugh Crane and succeeded on the death of her brothers to the estate, of which she died seised in 1410. Her heir was her grandson Richard son of Robert Inkpen. (fn. 33) The Pitt family were living here in the 16th century, (fn. 34) and in 1588 Richard Pitt leased a messuage called Porters in Ashampstead for eleven years to Edward Ruffyn. (fn. 35) Possibly this messuage was the 'manor of Pitthouse Farm' which was conveyed by the Sayers in 1747 and 1755. (fn. 36) It was purchased with the principal manor by Mr. Hopkins, and sold after 1899 to Major Robert Mercer Barry, the present owner. (fn. 37)
The second of the two moieties of Ashampstead followed the same descent as that of Basildon (q.v.) until 1650, when the latter was sold by Edward Stafford. He retained the 'manor' of Ashampstead, (fn. 38) which passed with the manor of Bradfield (q.v.) from the Staffords to the Thomsons, (fn. 39) being mentioned for the last time in 1716.
HARTRIDGE (Hurterige, xi cent.; Hertrug, Hertrigge, xiii–xv cent.; Hartryge, xv–xvi cent.), consisting of 1 hide worth 60s., held of Edward the Confessor by Alured, was granted before the Survey to William Fitz Ansculf, of whom Alured still held it. (fn. 40) It was then and afterwards (fn. 41) in the hundred of Reading. It was held in chief with Titcombe in Kintbury by serjeanty of keeping a goshawk for the king. (fn. 42) Philip de Hartridge held it in 1210–12, (fn. 43) and it followed the descent of Titcombe (q.v.) until 1516, when both were sold to Christopher Grantham. (fn. 44)
Thomas Englefield is the next owner that appears. He died in 1538, leaving Hartridge to his son Francis (fn. 45); but Francis was attainted in 1586 and the manor passed to the Crown. (fn. 46) It seems to have been leased before this time to the Buckeridge family. Thomas Buckeridge of 'Harteredge' had died in 1549, leaving sons William, John and Thomas. (fn. 47) John Buckeridge of Hartridge died in 1560. (fn. 48) Afterwards Francis Fiton was lessee, and in 1586 the Crown granted a lease for forty years to Humphrey Foster and George Fiton. (fn. 49) Another lease for twenty years was granted to Francis Fiton in 1591. (fn. 50)
The manor afterwards passed to the Neales of Warnford (co. Hants), being conveyed in 1635–6 by Mary, widow of Sir Thomas Neale, then wife of Sir William Lewis, and Thomas Neale to William Neale. (fn. 51) In 1676 Thomas Neale and his wife Lady Elizabeth Gould sold the manor and farm called Hartridge Farm to Isaac Foxcroft. (fn. 52) The manor was sold in 1769 by William Foxcroft to George Deacon, (fn. 53) but must shortly afterwards have passed to Wilmot Baker of Moulsford. It descended to his son Robert, who in 1812 was succeeded by his nephew Baker Morrell, son of his sister Anne, who married James Morrell of Oxford, from whom it has descended to the widow of Mr. George Herbert Morrell. (fn. 54)
The church of ST. CLEMENT consists of a chancel measuring internally 28 ft. 9 in. by 14 ft. 9 in. and an aisleless nave 48 ft. 8 in. by 20 ft. 8 in., with a bell-turret at the west end and a modern south porch and north vestry.
The church was built early in the 13th century, and, but for the erection of the bell-turret, appears to have remained practically untouched until the 19th century. Restorations were undertaken in 1849 and 1894, while in more recent years the north vestry was added and much of the east wall rebuilt.
The chancel is lighted by three modern lancets in the east wall and two in each side wall. The latter are original, though restored externally; to the west of the second south window the pointed head of a priest's doorway is visible on the outside. In place of a chancel arch, the gable wall between the chancel and nave is carried by large beams now plastered over. The walls are plastered on both faces and there are modern brick buttresses on the east and south.
At the north-east of the nave is a restored lancet with original internal jambs and head, to the west of which, now opening into the vestry, is a pointed doorway with a segmental rear arch and chamfered external jambs, the head being inclosed by a label with rudely carved head-stops. In the south wall are three restored square-headed windows of the 16th century, the first and third of two cinquefoiled lights, and the remaining window of three lights, while in the west wall is a large lancet with a low segmental rear arch. The inner splays and many of the stones in the outer jambs are original, but the head and sill have been much restored. Between the second and third windows in the south wall is a modern pointed doorway. Below the level of the sill of the west window is a chamfered external stringcourse. As with the chancel, the walls are plastered inside and out, and there are modern brick buttresses on the south. At the west end of the nave is the timber framing carrying the bell-turret, which consists of two rows of four uprights connected by curved braces, the four inner uprights only rising through the roof and forming the angle posts of the turret, which is covered with weather-boarding and lighted by two trefoiled openings in each face. The outer parts of the framing within the nave are moulded and the turret is surmounted by a shingled spire.
The roof of the chancel is of the 14th century, and is divided into three bays by four trusses with tie-beams and braced collars; the roof is further stiffened by curved wind-braces and is plastered between the rafters. The nave roof is of the same type, but on a larger scale. All the roofs are tiled. The font is modern, but the pulpit is the upper part of an 18th-century 'three decker' which has been cut down.
In 1895, during the bringing to light of several 18th-century texts that had been painted on the north wall of the nave, some remarkable 13th-century paintings were discovered under the plaster. These were found to extend along the north walls of the nave and chancel, and also filled the tympanum between the rafters of the nave roof and the chancel beam. The most complete and interesting of the paintings are those on the north wall of the nave. The subjects comprise the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, and the Angelic Message to the Shepherds. Above and below the subjects are borders of a conventional design—though these are by no means complete—while the scenes are divided by painted trefoiled arches supported by columns. Very little of the Annunciation remains, but the upper part of the figure of the Virgin can be discerned in a standing position, facing the west, with her head slightly inclined towards the spectator and her right hand extended. Over her shoulders hangs a cloak, on which falls her flaxen-coloured hair. In the sky are faint traces of what might be an angel. In the painting of the Visitation the figures of the Virgin and St. Elizabeth are represented standing in the centre of a curtained doorway. The Virgin wears a robe of yellow and stands on the east with her left arm extended to hold the cloak of St. Elizabeth, which she has let fall. St. Elizabeth has her left arm over the Virgin's shoulder, while with her right hand she is reverently touching the Virgin's cheek. The under-robe of St. Elizabeth is of an Indian red colour and her cloak is of a pale yellow with a bluish-grey border. The background is of a golden ochre. The most complete of the paintings is that of the Nativity. In the foreground, facing the east, is the Virgin lying on a couch with her head resting on a cushion and her arms extended. Her dress is yellow and her cloak a pale purple. Above her, at the foot of the couch, is the figure of St. Joseph in an attitude of supplication and devotion. The Child, represented as a diminutive man, lies on a table immediately over the Virgin, and is reverently guarded by an ox and an ass, while at the foot of the table is an angel in adoration. The background is of a red ochre. Unfortunately much of the picture of the Angelic Message to the Shepherds is mutilated, though the figure of the herald angel is almost complete, and is, perhaps, the most beautiful piece of drawing in the church. The angel stands on the extreme left of the panel; the right arm is extended with the hand pointing eastwards, and in the other hand is a scroll. The left wing of the angel is upraised and reaches to the middle of the arch; the feet are missing, but immediately in front of the figure is a conventional flower. The figures of the shepherds are very imperfect; one holds his right hand over his eyes, as if to shield them from the dazzling light, the second, only the upper portion of whose figure remains, has his right hand over his mouth, while the third is apparently sitting with his right arm resting on a staff, which he supports with his left hand. The head and body are entirely lost, only the arms and part of the right leg remaining. In front of the seated figure is part of what appears to be a lamb. This picture is painted on a yellow background. The angel's robes are of red and purple, while the shepherds are in red. The painting over the chancel beam is very much mutilated and hard to see, but appears to be in several compartments; it depicts the Crucifixion, with the figures of the Virgin and St. John to the right and left of the cross respectively. There is also represented a large sunflower, or an aureole, on which appear indistinctly the words 'Jesus God.' On the north wall of the chancel are considerable fragments of an ornamental border, but no figures.
The churchwardens' accounts for A.D. 1725 contain the following entry (fn. 55): 'Pd the paynter for drawing the sentences in the Church £2 10s.' This entry, no doubt, refers to the texts, the uncovering of which led to the discovery of the 13th-century paintings just described. On the north wall of the nave are inscribed Eccl. v. 2, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and on the south wall Gen. xxviii. 17.
The plate consists of a silver chalice and paten of 1850 and 1851 respectively, and a pewter flagon now electro-plated. (fn. 56)
One of the two churches of Basildon (q.v.) at the Survey was doubtless at Ashampstead. (fn. 57) It is described as a chapel of Basildon in the time of Henry VIII, (fn. 58) though it is more frequently called a church from the earliest times, (fn. 59) and the 'parish' of Ashampstead is occasionally mentioned from 1377. (fn. 60) Its history is given with that of Basildon (fn. 61) to 1847, when Ashampstead became a separate benefice, of which the patronage was vested alternately in the Simeon Trustees and the Rev. Edward John Sykes. (fn. 62) The latter share was purchased of Mr. Sykes's representatives in 1898 by Miss Ellen Morrison and passed on her death to the trustees of her will. It was bought in 1911 by Major Morrison, and passed by exchange to the Simeon Trustees.
In 1827 Robert Hopkins by his will bequeathed £400 consols, now held by the official trustees, the income to be applied in the distribution of blankets, warm clothing and fuel. The income of £10 a year is still administered in accordance with the terms of the will by a descendant of the donor; failing such, the administration will devolve on the rector and churchwardens.