A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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The parish of Easthampstead, which lies within the royal forest of Windsor, covers an area of 5,295 acres. Nearly one-fifth is heath land covered with fir trees, 500 acres are arable land, the crops raised being wheat and oats, and 1,236 acres are permanent pasture. (fn. 1) The soil is gravel with a subsoil of London Clay and Bagshot Beds.
The most populous part of the parish is in the Priestwood Common district, near the boundary of the parish of Bracknell. There are also small settlements at Old Bracknell and along the Bagshot road. The London and South Western railway passes through the north of the parish. Bracknell station, built in 1856, is just within the parish boundary. Near the railway are some brick-fields, which employ a large number of workpeople.
The church stands on rising ground in the northern portion of the village on the Sandhurst road. In the churchyard, near the south porch, is a yew tree, which is said to be the oldest and largest (fn. 2) in Berkshire.
Easthampstead Park, in the north-west corner of the parish, is the seat of the Marquess of Downshire, lord of the manor and the principal landowner. The house itself, a large modern structure of brick and stone in the Elizabethan style, was built by the fourth marquess about 1860 and stands in a park of 650 acres. The former house stood on the site of the old royal residence near the present stables. The library contains several rare books and MSS. including the letters and papers of Sir William Trumbull.
South Hill Park, the property of Lord Haversham, was owned at the commencement of the 19th century by George Canning, the celebrated statesman, (fn. 3) and later by the Earls of Limerick and Sir James Matheson, (fn. 4) who in 1853 sold the estate to the late Sir William Hayter, whose son Sir Arthur Divett Hayter, created Lord Haversham in 1906, is the present owner. Since the estate was acquired by Sir William Hayter it has been much enlarged; the former house of stucco (fn. 5) in the Italian style has been replaced by the present handsome one of brick and Bath stone built by Lord Haversham.
The parish was inclosed in 1813 by an Act of Parliament, (fn. 6) under which certain allotments of land, in lieu of forest rights, were granted to the Crown. The Marquess of Downshire, however, disputed the right of the Crown to any allotments within the park and manor of Easthampstead, which, he claimed, was exempt from the laws of Windsor Forest. The case was tried at Berkshire assizes in 1814, when it was decided that the manor and parish had from time immemorial been parcel of the forest, but that the park of Easthampstead was not included within the forest (though it had been within the forest bounds until 2 June 1636), and therefore his Majesty was not entitled to any forest rights within the park. Whether the Crown was entitled to an allotment within the manor and parish the court refused to decide, but referred the case to the Court of Exchequer at Westminster, who decided that the Crown had forest rights within the manor and parish, but not within the park of Easthampstead. This decision was confirmed by Act of Parliament. (fn. 7) Under an award of 23 January 1817 the Crown received 981 a. 2 r. 22 p. This allotment, with various smaller pieces of land purchased from private owners, forms part of the Windsor Castle plantations. The rector was given an allotment in lieu of his right of herbage on the common by a further Act of 1821. (fn. 8) After the inclosure various roads and footpaths were closed. (fn. 9)
The manor of EASTHAMPSTEAD was held in 1086 by Westminster Abbey. It was then assessed at 5 hides, formerly at 10 hides, and was worth 50s., but in the Confessor's time 100s. (fn. 10) In the 13th century Richard Abbot of Westminster (1223–36) granted the manor at farm to the Prior of Hurley (a cell to Westminster) at a yearly rent of 100s. (fn. 11) In 1276 it was returned that the Abbot of Westminster had gallows and assize of bread and ale and pleas of namio vetito at Easthampstead, (fn. 12) and in 1285 the Prior of Hurley claimed pleas of namio vetito under a charter of Henry III. (fn. 13) In the 14th century differences arose between the prior and the inhabitants of Easthampstead regarding the rights of herbage, pannage and turbary, when the prior allowed the claim of the inhabitants. (fn. 14)
After the dissolution of Hurley Priory in 1536 the manor followed the descent of Hurley Manor (q.v.). In 1561 William brother of John Lovelace (fn. 15) alienated a purparty of the manor to William Gretam, (fn. 16) who a few months later transferred it to Sir Richard Rede. (fn. 17) In 1583 Innocent and Elizabeth Rede, with Alexander and Ann Wildgoose, alienated it to John Wildgoose the younger. (fn. 18) In 1591 John Wildgoose, sen., and John Wildgoose, jun., conveyed the manor to John Rotheram, a clerk of the Chancery Court, (fn. 19) probably in trust for Sir William Willoughby, who in 1614 conveyed it to Sir Richard Lovelace of Hurley. (fn. 20) It descended to John third Lord Lovelace, (fn. 21) who had to part with the manor in 1673 to Richard Johnson of Reading, (fn. 22) who in 1682 conveyed it to William Stephens and John Oldbury, (fn. 23) possibly in trust for John Doncastle, who sold it in 1696 to Sir William Trumbull, (fn. 24) already owner of Easthampstead Park, from which date it follows the descent of that manor (q.v.).
The royal park or manor of EASTHAMPSTEAD does not seem to have formed an estate separate from the neighbouring royal lands until the beginning of the 14th century. (fn. 25) In 1329 Gilbert de Ellesfield, the keeper, (fn. 26) exchanged his estates in Wiltshire with the king for the manor of Easthampstead (fn. 27); but in 1332 he was removed by Sir William Trussell, the escheator, from the manor, (fn. 28) which reverted to the Crown and remained in the king's hands. (fn. 29)
Both Edward III and Richard II spent some time at Easthampstead and many public documents were signed there. (fn. 30) Henry VIII visited it and Catherine of Aragon was there in the summer of 1531 when she received messengers from the king, who requested her to consent to the divorce. (fn. 31) James I was a frequent visitor for the purpose of hunting and enlarged the park at a cost of £250. (fn. 32)
From Norden's survey of 1607 it appears that Easthampstead was one of the walks of the forest. (fn. 33) Easthampstead Walk included not only the park and the whole of the parish, but extended into neighbouring parishes. (fn. 34) It was 5 miles in circumference, much of the land being barren soil covered with heather. The area of the park at this time was 265 acres of 'very mean land well timbered, stocked with between 200 and 300 fallow deer; in the walk were about 60 red deer.' (fn. 35)
In 1629 Charles I granted William Trumbull, then keeper of Easthampstead Walk, (fn. 36) Easthampstead Park, with Cunworth and Queen's Meadows, Barres Coppice, with free chase and warren within the park. (fn. 37) He was to preserve 200 head of deer for the king and all future sovereigns to hunt. (fn. 38) William Trumbull died in 1635. (fn. 39) His son and successor William obtained from the king a renewal of the grant on the same terms, with the privilege of felling timber and freedom from forest laws. No more than 50 acres were to be ploughed in any one year. (fn. 40) After the Restoration William Trumbull petitioned the king to abolish the order to preserve the deer. As these had been destroyed during the Civil War, it was almost impossible to replace them. His petition was granted, but the rent was increased from 40s. to £10. (fn. 41) William Trumbull died in 1678. (fn. 42) His son William, born in 1639, was Secretary of State in 1694, and in 1695 was elected member for Oxford University. (fn. 43) He died in 1716 at Easthampstead. (fn. 44)
William Trumbull, fourth of the name, who died in 1760, left a daughter and heir Mary, who married Colonel the Hon. Martin Sandys. (fn. 45) Colonel Sandys died in 1768 and his widow in the following year, when Easthampstead passed under a family settlement to their daughter Mary, (fn. 46) who married Arthur Hill, second Marquess of Downshire. (fn. 47) The Marchioness of Downshire was in 1802 created in her own right Baroness Sandys of Ombersley, and on her death in 1836 was succeeded by her eldest son Arthur third Marquess of Downshire. (fn. 48) The present owner is Arthur seventh Marquess of Downshire, great-grandson of the above-mentioned Arthur second Marquess and Mary his wife.
The church of ST. MICHAEL AND ST. MARY MAGDALENE is a large building of ashlar stone erected, with the exception of the lower part of the tower, which is that of the old church, in 1866–7 in late 13th-century style. It consists of a chancel, south-east vestry and organ chamber, nave, south transept, north aisle, south porch, south-west baptistery and north-west tower, the last of red brick with stone dressings.
The font, which is that of the former church, has a plain octagonal bowl on a modern base. The screen below the organ, facing the transept, appears to have been made up from the former rood screen, with 15th-century tracery below and 14th-century tracery above. There are also two shortened buttressed muntins and four pieces of 17th-century pierced ornament are placed above the screen. On the north side towards the chancel are four similar traceried heads. The pulpit is made up of 17th-century woodwork; a panel on the north face incloses the following inscription:—
Many slabs and monuments have been preserved from the former church; the oldest slab is to Edmund Thorold, who died in 1646. On the north wall is a marble slab to Elijah Fenton, the poet, of Shelton, Staffordshire, who died in 1730; on it is the following epitaph composed by Alexander Pope:—
'This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
May truly say, Here lies an honest man,
A poet, blessed beyond the poet's fate,
Whom Heaven kept sacred from the proud and great,
Foe to loud praise and friend to learned ease,
Content with Science in the Vale of Peace,
Calmly he looked on either life, and here
Saw nothing to regret or there to fear;
From Nature's temp' rate feast rose satisfied,
Thanked Heaven that he had lived, and that he died.'
On the east wall of the nave is a small brass with the half-length figure of a man in a loose cloak belted at the waist, to Thomas Berwyk, who died in 1443. In the tower walling is reset a small stone inscribed 'Henry Boyer 1664.'
There are six bells: the treble and tenor by Mears & Stainbank, 1872; the second, third, fourth and fifth by William Eldridge, 1699, but with the initials T. E. (for Thomas Eldridge) on each bell following the inscription.
The communion plate comprises a cup with the hall mark of 1569 inscribed, 'The Parishe of Esthamsteid 1570,' a cover paten of the same date, a large basin or almsdish of 1659, engraved with the arms of the Trumbull family and inscribed, 'Cum aqua conspergebantur lustrali Juditha 18° Julii 1707, Gulielmus 13° Julii 1708, proles D. Gulielmi Trumbull Eq. aur. et honoratissimae D. Judithæ, Filiæ Comitis de Sterlinga natu minimae. Hoc vas baptisterii vice fungebatur, quod Deo et Ecclesiae eadem, D. Juditha Trumbull, D.D.D.Q. 1727,' a paten, the gift of Mary Trumbull, 1670, a flagon of 1687 and another of 1690, the gift of Mr. Matthew Gunnell, with the arms of the Cooks Company.
Lawrence Abbot of Westminster (1159–75) granted the church of Easthampstead to William the prior and the brothers of Hurley, (fn. 49) and the descent of the advowson followed that of the manor (q.v.) until the second half of the 17th century, when Thomas Power obtained the advowson and in 1698 presented the Rev. John Power of Pembroke College, Oxford. (fn. 50) In 1701 Thomas and John Power sold the advowson to Christ Church College, Oxford, (fn. 51) who purchased it out of 'Fell's bequest for the purchase of advowsons.' From this date it has remained with the college. (fn. 52)
Shortly after Hurley Priory had obtained the church, Ralph de Arundel, the prior, granted a pension of 4s. from the church to the sacristan of Hurley 'to provide tapers' at the mass of St. Mary, which he, Ralph, had appointed to be sung in the church of Hurley. (fn. 53)
In 1723 one Power, curate to his father, John Power, then rector, incurred the suspicion of having been an accomplice of the 'Waltham Blacks,' and on account of his behaviour Lady Trumbull requested the bishop to remove him. (fn. 54) He was apparently tried at the assizes at Reading for high treason and acquitted. (fn. 55)
By an order of the Charity Commissioners dated 25 June 1907 a scheme was established for the administration of the following charities, under the title of the United Charities, namely, the charity of Richard Cottrell, by will proved 1575, annuity of 8s., and Richard Libb, 1612, annuity of 4s., issuing out of lands known as Blackhouse.
Edmund Brough, founded by will proved in the P.C.C. 23 November 1672, whereby £200 was left to be laid out in land, the rents and profits to be distributed in bread. The trust estate consists of 6 acres of land or thereabouts, let at £9 a year, and £1,363 16s. 7d. consols, producing £34 1s. 8d. a year.
Sir William Trumbull, founded by codicil to will proved in the P.C.C. 18 December 1716. The trust estate consists of 6 acres on Priestwood Common in this parish, let at £8 a year, and 3 a. or. 15 p. of meadow land, known as Pead's Copse, in the parish of Warfield, let at £7 10s. a year, and £310 consols, producing £7 15s. a year.
Fuel allotment, which consisted of 65 acres acquired by an award, dated 1 August 1827, under Inclosure Act, (fn. 56) was sold in 1863–4, and the proceeds invested in £2,105 14s. 4d. consols, producing £52 12s. 8d. a year.
By the scheme a sum of £700 consols, part of the sum of £2,105 14s. 4d. like stock, belonging to the fuel allotment (see above), is made applicable under the title of the Fuel Allotment Educational Foundation for the benefit of poor children of poor persons, bona fide resident in the parish, in such manner as may be prescribed by a scheme of the Board of Education.
The yearly income of £1,405 14s. 4d. consols, the residue of the stock belonging to the fuel allotment non-educational charity, is directed to be applied by the body of trustees thereby constituted for the benefit of such poor inhabitants of the parish legally settled therein as should not respectively occupy houses, lands and tenements of more than the yearly value of £12.
The yearly income of the charity of Sir William Trumbull, including Pead's Copse (see above), is made applicable in apprenticing boys or girls to some useful trade or occupation, or in providing the cost of outfit on entering a trade or occupation or into service of any deserving poor person resident in the parish under the age of twenty-one years.
The net residue of the yearly income of the charities is directed to be applied, under one or more of the heads therein mentioned, for the general benefit of the poor in such way as the trustees should consider most advantageous to the recipients and most conducive to the formation of provident habits.
In 1893 George Samuel, by will proved 17 October in that year, bequeathed to the rector a legacy represented by the sum of £250 6s. 3d. consols, one moiety of the dividends to be applied for the purposes of the school under the management of the rector and the other moiety for the poor of the parish. The stock is held by the official trustees. The sum of £125 3s. 1d. consols, being a moiety thereof, has been separated to form the Samuel Educational Foundation.
In 1883 the Rev. Osborne Gordon, by will proved at Oxford 7 August, bequeathed to the rector and churchwardens a legacy of £100, the income to be divided among the children for the time being members of the choir of the parish church. The legacy is represented by a sum of £97 13s. 7d. consols, in the name of the official trustees.