A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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THE LIBERTY OF CLAPCOT
The liberty of Clapcot, in the parish of All Hallows, Wallingford, was constituted a separate parish by order of the Local Government Board in 1894. It extends 1¼ miles north-west from Wallingford, and is bounded on the north and east by the Thames, except that it includes the western part of Benson Lock Island, while a narrow strip on the western bank of the river, extending northward from the lock and bounded by a ditch, is in the parish of Benson and the county of Oxford. The area is 876 acres, of which 688 acres are arable land, 185 acres are permanent grass and 2 acres are plantations. (fn. 1) There are 20 acres covered by water. The ground rises gradually northward towards Sotwell Hill. The soil is Greensand, the subsoil chiefly clay, and produces wheat, barley and roots. A high road repaired and improved under an Act of Parliament in 1827 (fn. 2) passes northward from Wallingford, along Clapcot Fields, to cross the river by Shillingford Bridge into Oxfordshire.
A palaeolithic implement has been found in a sand-pit near Rush Court, and several neolithic flints have been found in Clapcot Fields. (fn. 3) A primitive iron axe was found at Shillingford Bridge about 1848, (fn. 4) and another more recently near Benson Lock, (fn. 5) also a bronze bell, believed to be Roman, in Clapcot Fields. (fn. 6) Romano-British remains have been found here. (fn. 7) A very rare gold coin of Eppillus, the son of Comius, was found near the cemetery in 1886, (fn. 8) also a gold coin of Philip of Macedon, (fn. 9) and a silver penny of Ethelred II, coined at Wallingford, was found near the Severals about the same period. (fn. 10) The line of a ditch extends from Benson Lock to the angle of the moat at Wallingford Castle. (fn. 11)
Gallows Tree Acre is west of the high road in Clapcot Fields. A field west of the road, known as Pond Piece, and others abutting eastward on the meadows known as Maum (? Malm) Piece and Kilncloss (? Kiln-close) are charged with a charity to the parish of Basildon. (fn. 12) Meadows called 'Portires Eytes' in Clapcot are mentioned in 1280 (fn. 13) and others called 'le Northe Eightes' about 1555. (fn. 14) Considerable eyots along the river-bank near the town were added to the meadows by filling in the ditches about 1890. Blundeleswater, named at the end of the 14th century, (fn. 15) may possibly be called from Ranulph de Blondeville Earl of Chester, who held Wallingford Castle during the minority of Henry III, but is more probably connected with Robert Blundel and Joan his wife, who held a fishery of the gift of Joan's mother Alice Wavyn in 1310. (fn. 16) Park Farm, known as 'Clopcote Ferme' in 1550, (fn. 17) is immediately outside the north gate of Wallingford, Rush Court and the Severals are 1 mile north of this. The northern part of Clapcot, known in whole or in part as Hungerhill in the 16th century, (fn. 18) is now known as Shillingford Hill, being approached by the bridge from the hamlet of Shillingford (fn. 19) in Oxfordshire. The Swan Hotel, a popular river-side resort, existed in 1608, when the 'tenement called the Swanne near Shillingford Bridge' was among the possessions of the dissolved college of St. Nicholas at Wallingford. (fn. 20) Some houses of good size were built on the adjacent hill at the close of the 19th century.
The manor of CLAPCOT, which before the Conquest had consisted of two estates, held by Olnod and Safford, was held in 1086 by Miles Crispin. (fn. 21) It descended like the castle and honour of Wallingford (q.v.) to Edmund Earl of Cornwall, during whose tenure part of the estate was alienated, different portions of it being granted out to separate owners, who held under the earl's overlordship. Thus, at his death in 1300, the hamlet of Clapcot is returned among his possessions, and fees in Clapcot, belonging to Wallingford Honour, were held under him by William de Bereford and Philip de Hoyvil, Ralph Cheynduit being apparently the mesne lord of the former. (fn. 22) These fees formed the origin of the manors later known as Rush Court or Rush and Clapcot, and it may be that the estate belonging to Ulnod, which had a mill in 1086, is to be identified with Bereford's later holding of Rush. (fn. 23)
The manor of RUSH, or RUSH COURT (Russhe, Resshe, xiv cent.; Rysh Court, xv cent.). In 1280 John de la Russe obtained from the Earl of Cornwall a grant of meadow land near the Thames, called Portires Eytes, in exchange for land lying near the high road from Wallingford to the North Mill. (fn. 24) If this property were already part of the manor of Rush it was probably bought before 1291 by John de Franketon or by Sir William de Bereford, afterwards chief justice of the Common Pleas, who is first mentioned as a judge about this time, (fn. 25) and is said later to have held the manor jointly with Franketon. (fn. 26) Franketon died before November 1291, at which time his widow Emma sold part of his share to John de Bernewall, from whom it passed to Robert de Hemelhamsted, apparently the owner of other lands in Rush of the gift of Emma. (fn. 27) Robert afterwards sold all this property to Sir William de Bereford, who also acquired other lands in the neighbourhood from John de Basing and his wife Laurentia, a local heiress, in 1294. (fn. 28) In 1300 the Earl of Cornwall granted to Sir William de Bereford and Margaret his wife a fishery extending from Shillingford Bridge to the stream running from 'Yeldene Brigg,' now Elm Birch Bridge, and falling into the Thames between Bensington and Shillingford. (fn. 29) In the years that followed Bereford added to his estate at Rush by acquiring lands in the neighbourhood from Ralph Restwald and Richard de Louches. (fn. 30) He died in the summer of 1326 seised of a quarter of a knight's fee in Clapcot, including a capital messuage and a fishery with a ferry over the Thames held of Ralph Cheynduit, as well as a number of small holdings, varying from 24 acres to half an acre, held of different lords in the same vill. His heir was his son Edmund, (fn. 31) who in 1335 obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands at Rush and elsewhere. (fn. 32) On Edmund's death in 1355, his property in Clapcot and Rush passed under a family settlement to his bastard son John, (fn. 33) who, dying in the following year, was succeeded by his brother Baldwin. (fn. 34) The property was held of the Prince of Wales as of his honour of Wallingford. In 1373 Sir Baldwin de Bereford granted the manor of La Russhe to John James of Wallingford in exchange for the latter's manor of Brightwell (co. Oxon.). (fn. 35) In 1362 John James, who had married Christine, the daughter of John Anesty, a Clapcot landowner, acquired from her brother, Robert de Anesty, all his lands in Clapcot and Wallingford. (fn. 36) In the following years he increased his holding by acquisitions from Edward the Black Prince, the Prior of Wallingford, Roger de Preston, John de Louches, Roger Arnyat, William son of William de Cornwall, and others, (fn. 37) and he was thus in possession of a considerable estate at Clapcot when he exchanged his Oxfordshire manor for the manor of Rush. (fn. 38) John James represented Wallingford in Parliament between 1364 and 1371. In 1378 he settled his property on himself, his wife Christine, and his son Robert, (fn. 39) and obtained a grant of free warren in 1394. (fn. 40) Two years before, 'owing to his great age and weakness,' he had been exempted from service on juries and other offices. (fn. 41) He died in October 1396, when the manor of Rush passed to his son Robert. (fn. 42) The latter married Katherine daughter of Edmund de la Pole, upon whom he settled half the manor of Rush in 1397. (fn. 43) Other settlements and re-settlements followed in 1409 and 1410, (fn. 44) and in 1423 Robert James acquired 108 acres in Clapcot from the Prior of Wallingford in exchange for other lands. (fn. 45) He was returned as holding half a knight's fee in Clapcot in 1428 (fn. 46) and died in February 1431–2, the manors of Clapcot and Rush passing under a settlement of 1428 (fn. 47) to his daughter Christine, the widow of Edmund Rede, (fn. 48) who had died in 1430. (fn. 49) She was followed by her son, another Edmund Rede, who formed the collection of deeds relating to his property in Clapcot constantly referred to as the Boarstall charters.
This Edmund Rede was making settlements of the manor of Rush Court in 1448 and 1451, and had to bring an action against Walter Mountell, a trustee to his use who refused to reconvey the property. (fn. 50) Mountell apparently claimed that he held the estate by grant of Thomas Rothwell, who had been enfeoffed by Robert James, (fn. 51) but he evidently failed to prove his claim, as Edmund Rede recovered possession. On the death of Edmund in June 1489 the manor of Rush was valued at £10. (fn. 52) His property in Clapcot included the manor-house, known as Anastyes, evidently from the name of its 14th-century owner. (fn. 53) This property passed to Edmund Rede's grandson William, the son of William Rede. In 1490 Edmund's widow Katherine was assigned dower from her late husband's lands. (fn. 54) Sir William Rede died in 1527, (fn. 55) the manor of Rush then being in the hands of trustees, who were to raise from it £600 due to John Heron. Sir William's son and heir Leonard Rede made various settlements of the manor of Rush and his lands in Clapcot in 1531, (fn. 56) and soon afterwards leased them to Thomas Bennett for a term of years which expired at Lady Day, 1550. (fn. 57) In May 1547, however, Rede leased the property, after the expiration of Bennett's term, to Thomas Dynham for fifty years. (fn. 58) Thomas Dynham shortly afterwards, in 1550, demised his interest to Agnes Bennett (widow of Thomas Bennett, who died in 1547) (fn. 59) for forty-one years with remainder to Oliver Dynham, the brother of Thomas. (fn. 60) Agnes then conveyed her interest to her son Richard Bennett, and owing to these complications of interest Oliver Dynham applied to the Court of Chancery for an order that Richard Bennett should put the deeds in safe keeping. (fn. 61) In all these proceedings the property is described as the manors of Clapcot and Rush Court, though it does not appear that any considerable addition had been made to the estate formerly known as 'the manor of Rushcourt with lands in Clapcot,' and henceforward the names of both manors are always used to denote the property. (fn. 62) Thomas Dynham was described as tenant for life in 1550, and Oliver Dynham seems to have been acknowledged as owner of the reversion after the expiration of Bennett's lease, at his death before 1563, but the title of his nephew John Dynham, to whom the reversion apparently descended, and the title of the lessee Richard Bennett, were disputed by George Rede, son and heir of Leonard Rede. (fn. 63) The proceedings evidently resulted in favour of the Dynham family, and in 1571 John Dynham conveyed the property to Thomas Bromley, then solicitor-general, (fn. 64) by whom it was sold five years later to Michael Moleyns. (fn. 65) He represented the borough of Wallingford in Parliament in 1558–9, was sheriff of the county in 1583 and knighted in 1592. (fn. 66) He died on 14 May 1615, the manors of Clapcot and Rush Court passing to his son Sir Barentine Moleyns, (fn. 67) who was dealing with them by fine in 1617 and 1627. (fn. 68) Before 1631 he had been followed by his son Michael Moleyns, (fn. 69) who took the king's side in the Civil War, and suffered severely in fortune, his house at Wallingford being burnt down. (fn. 70) In addition he had to mortgage the manors of Clapcot and Rush in 1635 to Sir Nathaniel Brent, as security for a loan of £2,000, but when the mortgagee attempted to foreclose in 1640 Michael Moleyns refused to give up the property, and an action in Chancery followed. (fn. 71) Brent was successful, but Moleyns refused to obey the Chancery decree, and, protected by the governor of the castle, for a time defied the law. (fn. 72) At the Restoration a payment of £4,000 was ordered to be made to Michael Moleyns in part compensation for his losses during the Civil War, (fn. 73) but he was unable to clear off the mortgage on his manors of Clapcot and Rush, which passed to Basil Brent. Brent was holding in 1660, (fn. 74) in which year he conveyed the manors to Edward Sedgwick. The latter's son or successor Thomas Sedgwick was holding in 1666, (fn. 75) when he seems to have alienated them to Sir John Lockhart. (fn. 76) Basil Brent seems still to have retaine some interest in the property, for, when the manors were sold to Henry Barker in 1675, Basil Brent was one of the parties to the conveyance. (fn. 77) The manors remained in the Barker family for nearly 150 years. In 1749 they were held by Henry Barker, (fn. 78) and from him they passed to Henry Thomas Barker, who held the estate in 1813. (fn. 79) It was purchased soon afterwards from 'the Rev. Mr. Barker' by Mr. Charles Greenwood, (fn. 80) who left it to his nephew Mr. William Reginald Lybbe Powys-Lybbe. The last-named sold the property in 1886 to Mr. Charles Fuller, of whom it was purchased in 1900 by Mr. George Denison Faber, C.B., M.P.
Of the two manor-houses on this property Clapcot House had been pulled down before the end of the 18th century, (fn. 81) but the site, now occupied by cottages, can still be identified. Rush Court manor-house, near the river, half a mile to the north and surrounded by a square moat, (fn. 82) has been converted into cottages. Moat House, a modern house, has been built by the late Mr. C. Fuller on higher ground.
The manor of CLAPCOT held by Edmund Earl of Cornwall at his death in 1300 may perhaps be identified with the manor held in the reign of Edward the Confessor by Safford. In 1300 Clapcot contained 40 acres of meadow, a water-mill with an island close to it, and a free fishery extending from the Bishop of Winchester's weir to the stream coming from Elm Bridge. (fn. 83) From this date onwards two estates, each known as the manor of Clapcot, can be distinguished, while the overlordship remained with the lords of the honour of Wallingford (q.v.). One so-called manor of Clapcot was acquired by the priory of Holy Trinity, Wallingford, land in Clapcot being bestowed upon the priory by Richard de Louches in 1322–3 (fn. 84) and by John Touke in 1337. (fn. 85) This manor remained with the priory until its dissolution by authority of Pope Clement VII in 1526. (fn. 86) It was then granted by Henry VIII to Thomas Wolsey, who conveyed it to the Dean and Chapter of Cardinal's College, Oxford, in 1528. (fn. 87) On Wolsey's attainder the property reverted to the Crown. (fn. 88)
Another estate in Clapcot was held in the 14th century by William de Cornwall. (fn. 89) His son of the same name held lands and tenements in Clapcot in 1361–2, when his arrest was ordered for nonpayment of a debt of £30 to John James of Wallingford and Rush, (fn. 90) and he soon afterwards conveyed most of his estate at Clapcot to John James, (fn. 91) whose descendants were lords of the manors of Clapcot and Rush.