A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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Contone (xi cent.); Cumtune, Comtone, Cumpton, Comthon (xiii cent.); Compton Parva.
The parish of Compton, which gives its name to the hundred of Compton, covers an area of 3, 863 acres, of which 2,586 acres are arable land, 742 permanent grass and 49 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is chalk and flint, with a subsoil principally of chalk, and the chief crops are wheat, oats, barley and roots. The barley and the red wheat are very good, while the wheat straw is in great demand among the plaiters of Buckingham and Bedford. As at Ilsley, besides agriculture, many of the inhabitants are employed in training stables. The height of the land varies from 500 ft. in the south near Perborough Castle to 320 ft. in the centre near the village. The Icknield Way passes through the parish, and the River Pang rises to the south of East Compton village.
Compton is rich in evidences of British and Roman occupation. The remains of Roman buildings have been found in the Slade. (fn. 2) To the south of Compton on Cow Down is a circular encampment covering an area of 10 acres known as Perborough Castle. (fn. 3) On Roden Down there are a number of small ditches and dykes and other evidences of early occupation. (fn. 4) There are four barrows, called the Cross Barrows, near to Ilsley. (fn. 5) Before the inclosure of East Compton the villagers had right of pasture on Cow Down. (fn. 6)
Near the village the fields called Bishop's Fields formed part of the estate of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. A mediaeval barn known as Bishop's Barn, which was blown down about 1840, is said to have once been used as a chapel. (fn. 7) There are two windmills, one Compton Windmill, near Windmill Farm; the other, north of the church, was brought from Little Hungerford about 1760. Over the door is the date 1742 with the initials 'N. B. Esq.'
There are two villages, the one probably the original settlement, consisting now of only the parish church, in the churchyard of which are the remains of a mediaeval cross, the manor farm adjoining the church to the north, probably near the site of East Compton manor-house, the vicarage and a few other houses. The other, called West Compton, is much larger and lies to the north-west. It contains a Primitive Methodist chapel and a Baptist chapel. The buildings are of brick or brick and half-timber construction, and are generally tiled, but thatch and slate are also employed. A few of the cottages date from the 16th century. On the north side of the main road at the west end of the village are two mediaeval barns, to the east of which stands the manor farm of West Compton Manor. It is apparently a 16th-century building, though much modernized, and is of two stories; the walls are now covered with stucco.
Roden House, formerly called Stokes Manor, (fn. 8) was the scene of the close of a notable run of the Royal Staghounds in the time of George III, when the deer, after a chase of thirty miles from Windsor, took refuge in the hall. The king gave the deer his liberty and called him 'Compton.'
During the civil wars of the 17th century Berkshire suffered considerably, and the high constable of Reading called a meeting on Compton Downs to protest against the 'unsupportable burdens and contrary commands' to which the inhabitants of the county were subjected—an action which led to his imprisonment. (fn. 9) In 1644 Compton Heath was the scene of the encampment of the whole Parliamentary army. (fn. 10)
In 1086 King William held the manor of Nachededorne, assessed at 20 hides, formerly held in alod of King Edward by Edric. No further reference to this manor under its early name has been found, and there seems to be little doubt that it was amalgamated with the manor of COMPTON, formerly held by Edward the Confessor and included in the Terra Regis at the date of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 11) The whole estate apparently remained with the Crown until the reign of Henry II, who made a grant of Compton to Gilbert de Crispin, (fn. 12) whose son Gilbert de Tillers paid a relief of 100s. to Richard I in 1194. (fn. 13)
The manor was held of the king in chief by knight service. (fn. 14) After the death of Gilbert de Tillers the manor or a moiety of it passed to Joan, one of his daughters and wife of Thomas Malesmains. (fn. 15) Apparently Malesmains forfeited as a Norman, and the manor was acquired by Ralph Gernon about 1204. (fn. 16) In 1216 Thomas and Joan obtained possession again, (fn. 17) but in 1219 Joan quitclaimed her right in a moiety of the manor to Ralph Gernon, in confirmation apparently of an earlier grant to Ralph by Thomas and Joan. (fn. 18) Ralph enfeoffed William Gernon, who is returned as sharing 4 librates of land of the inheritance of Gilbert de Tillers with the Prioress of Kington. (fn. 19) A life interest in a part at least seems to have been reserved, and this apparently went to the king on the death of Joan, (fn. 20) who restored it in 1233 to Ralph Gernon. (fn. 21)
In 1276 Thomas de Clare (who had apparently succeeded by grant from the Gernons) exchanged the manor with Robert de Mucegros, for which purpose he surrendered it to the king. (fn. 22) At Robert's death in 1280 it was assigned in dower to his wife Agnes and ultimately passed to Avice daughter and heir of Robert, (fn. 23) who married first John de Ferrers and then John de Bures. (fn. 24) She was sued in 1336 for land in Compton by Margaret de Stoke, the granddaughter and heiress of Arnulph Gernon, (fn. 25) but the result is not known.
At about this date Compton is called a member of the manor of Hampstead Norris, which had also been acquired by Thomas de Clare. (fn. 26) It appears not to be mentioned as a separate manor for two centuries. It is then found as the manor of STOKES COMPTON or STOCKING COMPTON in the hands of William Norreys, who died seised of it in January 1506–7. (fn. 27) It descended in the Norreys family (fn. 28) (see Yattendon in Faircross Hundred) until 1609, when Lord Norreys conveyed Stocking Compton to Richard Bartlett and John Okeley. (fn. 29) This may have been in trust, possibly for one of the Head family. Thomas Head, born in 1667, is called 'of Roden House, formerly Stokes,' by Cherry, and the manor is said by him to have descended through Elizabeth, daughter of Henry and granddaughter of Thomas Head, wife of John Pottinger, to Rev. Head Pottinger. (fn. 30) It was sold by the latter to Edward Lee, whose only daughter married John Browne of Chisledon (co. Wilts.). Mrs. Browne about 1868 sold it to Lord Overstone, (fn. 31) from whom it has descended to Lady Wantage.
When the manor of EAST COMPTON was acquired by the Abbess of Wherwell in Hampshire is not known, but the abbess had an estate there in 1218–19. (fn. 32) There was probably an early grant, for in the Testa de Nevill Wherwell is returned as having held East Compton in almoign of the predecessors of the king, (fn. 33) and in 1228 Pope Gregory confirmed its possession of both the manor and the church. (fn. 34) The abbey continued to hold the manor till the Dissolution, (fn. 35) when it was granted to Richard Andrews and Leonard Chamberlain in 1542 with leave to alienate it. (fn. 36) They seem to have conveyed the manor to Thomas, Robert and Bartholomew Burgoyn, who granted it in 1544 to Richard Bartlett, M.D. (fn. 37) Between 1555, when Richard Bartlett was still in possession, (fn. 38) and 1607, when Thomas and Henry Bartlett held it, (fn. 39) no reference to the manor has been found. Before 1618 it was sold by Richard Bartlett to Sir Peter Vanlore, (fn. 40) a wealthy Dutch merchant, who also purchased West Compton, (fn. 41) and the descent of the two manors is identical from this date. Sir Peter, who was knighted in 1621, died in 1627, leaving a son and four daughters, (fn. 42) among whom he divided this property in equal shares. Peter his son, who died before 1653, divided his fifth share among his three daughters: Jacoba wife of Henry Zinzan alias Alexander, (fn. 43) Mary wife of Henry Alexander Earl of Stirling, (fn. 44) and Susan wife of Sir Robert Croke. (fn. 45) Mary, eldest daughter of Sir Peter and wife of Sir Edward Powell, dealt with her share in 1651. (fn. 46) Thomas Levingston and Anne his wife, daughter of Anne Caesar fourth daughter of Sir Peter, held another fifth and dealt with fractions of it at various times. (fn. 47)
The share of Catherine, second daughter of Sir Peter, wife of Thomas Glemham, was dealt with by Sackville Glemham, (fn. 48) Robert Marriott, (fn. 49) Peter Glemham, (fn. 50) Elizabeth Glemham, (fn. 51) wife of Thomas Cressey, and their daughter Anne wife of Sir Thomas Parkins. (fn. 52) The share of Elizabeth, the third daughter of Sir Peter, wife of John Vandebende, was dealt with by her sons John and Abraham, (fn. 53) who were succeeded in 1709 by John Vandebende and Temperance his wife. (fn. 54)
It would appear from records of 1699 and 1709 that the two manors were divided between Anne wife of Thomas Parkins and John Vandebende, from whom they were acquired by John Head, (fn. 55) who was holding them in 1740. (fn. 56) He was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Head, who died in 1779. He left the manor of Compton in East and West Compton to his son Walter James Head, who took the name of Walter James James, and was created a baronet in 1791. (fn. 57) Sir Walter James James conveyed the manors to John Thomas Wasey, at whose death they passed to his daughters Mrs. Jane Stackpole and Miss Mary Wasey, who on 26 March 1855 sold the manors of East and West Compton for £5,000 to Lewis Loyd, a London banker. His son Samuel Jones Loyd was created Lord Overstone of Overstone and Fotheringay in 1850. His daughter and heir Harriet Sarah married Colonel Lindsay, who assumed by royal licence the name of Loyd and was created Lord Wantage in 1885; on his death in 1891 Lady Wantage became the owner of East and West Compton. (fn. 58)
Another manor known later as KYNTON'S, BISHOP'S COMPTON or COMPTON PARVA was originally part of the manor granted by Henry II to Crispin, the father of Gilbert de Tillers. The Prioress of Kington held it in the 13th century, (fn. 59) possibly by grant from the second co-heir of Gilbert de Tillers, Agnes wife of Philip de Croix. (fn. 60) Service was owed to the prioress by (among others) the Abbot of Abingdon (fn. 61) and John de Turbervill. (fn. 62) In 1291 the prioress made a grant of all her lands in West Compton to Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 63) The manor remained with the successors of the bishop. (fn. 64) In 1648, at the sale of the bishop's lands, the manor designated Compton Parva in the indenture was sold to Thomas Smith, whose father had been granted a lease of it in 1624 for the term of his own life and that of his sons Thomas and Richard. (fn. 65) In the 17th century it was held on lease by the family of Pottinger, who apparently ultimately acquired the fee-simple. Richard Pottinger, son of the Recorder of Reading, (fn. 66) levied a fine of it in 1747, (fn. 67) and it descended to his son Richard Pottinger, (fn. 68) who died without issue. (fn. 69) It came to his nephew the Rev. Richard Pottinger, (fn. 70) whose daughters and coheirs, Mrs. Macbrae and Mrs. Borland, sold their interest in the Manor Farm to Mr. W. G. Stevens. (fn. 71) Since the latter's death it has been held by his trustees.
In the reign of Edward the Confessor Bundi had held ASHDEN (fn. 72) (Assedone, Asschedon, xi cent.; Esseden, xiii cent.), afterwards WEST COMPTON, but at the date of the Domesday Survey it formed part of the estates of Henry de Ferrers, (fn. 73) who held it as parcel of the honour of Tutbury, with Ralph de Bakepuz as sub-tenant. The overlordship passed with the honour of Tutbury to Edmund Crouchback Earl of Lancaster, (fn. 74) whose successors continued to hold it until the 15th century, (fn. 75) when it became merged in the Crown at the accession of Henry IV.
In the 13th century William de Bakepuz, a descendant of the Domesday under-tenant, is given as holding half a fee in 'Kingston, Cumpton and Ashden.' (fn. 76) Before 1296 the lands in Ashden and Compton had been alienated to Nicholas de Kingston and Philip de la Beche. (fn. 77) In 1300 Nicholas de Kingston conveyed his lands in Ashden to William Maunsel, (fn. 78) who sold them in 1321 to John son of Philip de la Beche. (fn. 79) He was holding Ashden at his death in 1328, and also the lands in Compton which he held of his father Philip. (fn. 80) His son Thomas died seised of the same in 1332. (fn. 81) His brother and heir John died unmarried in 1338, (fn. 82) and Ashden passed to his sister Joan wife of Andrew de Sackville, who conveyed it in 1343 to her uncle Nicholas. (fn. 83) From this date the manor of Ashden with Compton followed the descent of the manor of la Beche in Aldworth (q.v.) till it came into the possession of Anne the wife of William Stafford of Bradfield. (fn. 84) In 1522 William Stafford conveyed this manor under the name of the manor of West Compton to Richard Nevill, (fn. 85) whose son Sir John Nevill (fn. 86) left four daughters, who in 1579 joined in vesting it in Katherine the eldest, who married Henry Earl of Northumberland. Richard Nevill, cousin and heir male of Sir John, released his right in the following year. (fn. 87) After the death of the earl, his widow, who married Francis Fitton, continued to hold the manor (fn. 88) until her death in 1592, when it devolved upon her son. (fn. 89) It was purchased by Sir Peter Vanlore of Sir Thomas Crompton and others, (fn. 90) probably the trustees of Henry Earl of Northumberland, and thereafter descended with East Compton (see above).
Another estate also known as the manor of WEST COMPTON is first heard of in 1509, when Edmund Earl of Suffolk forfeited it on his attainder. (fn. 93) It is called the manor of NEW COMPTON in 1511, (fn. 94) and it is probable that it was a part of the manor of Langley in Hampstead Norris and about this date became a separate estate. Anthony Fettiplace, squire of the body to Henry VIII, was appointed steward in 1509, (fn. 95) an office in which he was succeeded on his death two years later by William Compton. (fn. 96) In 1513 the king granted the manor to certain trustees for the use of Margaret de la Pole, widow of the Earl of Suffolk, during her life. (fn. 97) After her death in 1515 (fn. 98) it was probably included in the grant of Langley to Anne wife of Thomas Howard, and in the conveyance by Howard to Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk. (fn. 99) Brandon exchanged it in 1535 with the king, (fn. 100) who in 1545 granted the farms of West Compton and Langley to Edward Fettiplace, (fn. 101) who died seised in 1549. (fn. 102) With Langley West Compton came to Richard More. (fn. 103) From the Mores it passed, probably by sale, to Henry Lord Norreys, who was holding in 1576, (fn. 104) and whose son William died seised of it in 1579. (fn. 105) The son of the latter, Francis Lord Norreys, was in possession in 1602. (fn. 106) The manor is not mentioned in the conveyance made of Stocking Compton by Lord Norreys in 1609, (fn. 107) and may be comprised in the lands in West Compton conveyed by the Earl of Berkshire to Peter Vanlore in 1622. (fn. 108)
The Prior of Poughley had a manor of COMPTON comprising the grants made to him by various persons. (fn. 109) After the suppression of Poughley by Cardinal Wolsey (fn. 110) the manor was given to his college at Oxford. (fn. 111) On Wolsey's attainder the king granted it to the Prior and convent of Westminster. (fn. 112) The estate seems to be comprised by the woods in Compton granted to John Carleton in 1541 after the dissolution of St. Peter, Westminster. (fn. 113)
The church of ST. MARY AND ST. NICHOLAS consists of a chancel 25 ft. 3 in. by 14 ft. 3 in., with vestries and organ chamber on the north, a nave 49 ft. I in. by 23 ft. 9 in., a modern north aisle, a west tower 11 ft. 8 in. by 10 ft. 4 in., and a south porch. These measurements are all internal.
The building was much restored and modernized in 1850, when the chancel was rebuilt and the north aisle and porch were added; new windows were also inserted throughout the nave. It is, therefore, impossible to assign a date to the body of the building, but the Norman font, which is still in use, suggests the existence of a 12th-century structure; the tower is a 15th-century addition. The vestries were built in 1911.
The chancel is built in the Early English style and is of flint with stone dressings. It is lighted by single cusped lights and the walls are buttressed. In the east end of the north wall is a modern window of three trefoiled lights. The jambs are carried down on the inside to the top of a 15th-century altar tomb which has here been preserved, while below the sill, forming a slight recess over the centre part of the tomb, is a four-centred arch. The tomb projects slightly and stands on a base. Along the front are six square panels in which are set quatrefoiled and trefoiled circles. In the west end of the wall is a large modern square-headed recess, at the west end of which stands the organ, while at the east end is the doorway opening into the vestries. At the east end of the south wall is a trefoiled ogee-headed piscina having a small credence shelf above the basin, which is uncusped and a little more than semicircular in plan; it appears to have been reset from the old chancel.
The modern arcade between the nave and the north aisle is of four bays with pointed arches carried on octagonal piers having moulded capitals and bases. In the south wall are three modern lancets and at the west end opening into the porch is a modern pointed doorway. As in the case of the chancel, the nave is built of flint with stone dressings and is internally plastered and painted. The south wall is divided into four bays by modern two-stage buttresses and there are diagonal buttresses at the angles.
The tower stands on a plinth and is divided externally into two stages by a moulded string-course at the level of the ringing chamber; the parapet is embattled and at the western angles are diagonal buttresses (each of three offsets) which stop just above the moulded string; that at the south-east has its upper part built at right angles to the wall, while the lower stages are partly built into the west wall of the nave and partly along the south wall of the tower. On a stone in the north wall is carved the date 1612. This no doubt refers to a restoration. The tower arch is modern and the full width of the tower. Lighting the ground stage is an original window of three cinquefoiled lights under a fourcentred head with an external moulded label. Below the window is a four-centred doorway under a square hood with carved head stops. Lighting the ringing chamber from the south is a pointed window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil over and an external moulded label. Its general appearance is more in character with the work of the 14th than of the 15th century. The bell-chamber is lighted from each side by a square-headed window of two uncusped pointed lights.
All the roofs are modern and are covered with tiles. A circular 12th-century tub font remains, though its base has been partly broken away. The cover, which has been much restored, probably dates from the 15th century. The hexagonal pulpit is of 18th-century date. It is enriched with carving and appears to have been made up out of pieces of a 'three-decker.' Built into the south end of the east wall of the north aisle is a semi-octagonal piscina basin, below which is part of a 14th-century jamb. These are preserved from the older church.
In the floor at the east end of the nave is a brass inscribed to 'Richard Pygott and Alys' his wife. Above the inscription are the figures of Pygott and his wife both dressed in the costume of c. 1500.
There is a peal of six bells by Pack & Chapman of London, 1775, and a small tolling bell by R. Wells of Aldbourne. The treble and second are both inscribed, 'I mean to make it understood That tho I'm Little I'm Good'; the third has only the founder's initials and the date; the fourth, 'Such Wondrous Power to Music's Given It elevates the Soul to Heaven'; the fifth, 'Ye People all who hear us Ring Be Faithful to your God & King'; and the tenor, 'Ye Ringers all that Prize your Health & Happiness Be Sober Merry Wise & you'll the same Possess.
The plate consists of a silver cup probably of 1804, (fn. 116) inscribed 'Given to the Parish of Compton, Berks. 1819 by the Revd. Charles Jesse. B.D. Vicar,' a silver foot paten of 1798 bearing the same inscription, a silver salver of 1754 and a silver jug apparently of the late 18th century, though the date letter and hall marks are quite illegible.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1553 to 1655, burials 1553 to 1679, marriages 1553 to 1682 (this volume is rather fragmentary); (ii) baptisms 1679 to 1715, burials 1680 to 1715, marriages 1684 to 1715; (iii) baptisms and burials 1716 to 1767, marriages 1716 to 1753; (iv) baptisms 1767 to 1803, burials 1768 to 1803; (v) baptisms and burials 1804 to 1812; (vi) marriages 1755 to 1811. There is also a loose sheet containing baptisms 1648 to 1663.
The advowson of the church of Compton, which was originally dedicated in honour of St. Nicholas, but is now the church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, belonged in the 13th century to the Abbess of Wherwell, whose right to it was recited in the bull of Pope Gregory in 1228. (fn. 117) The Prioress of Kington (Wilts.) had a grant of certain tithes in 1230, (fn. 118) which were assessed in 1291 at 3s. (fn. 119) Reading Abbey (fn. 120) also had a pension from the vicarage of 8s. 5½d., (fn. 121) for which in 1328 the prior sued William de Petresfeld, perpetual vicar of Compton, and which was confirmed to him by the Prior of Hurley. (fn. 122) After the Dissolution both the rectory and the advowson of the church were granted to Henry Norreys and Margery his wife (fn. 123) and descended in the Norreys family. (fn. 124) In 1622 Sir Henry Marten presented, (fn. 125) probably pro has vice. (fn. 126) In the autumn of the same year the rectory and advowson were sold by the Earl of Berkshire to Sir Peter Vanlore, (fn. 127) who had purchased the manors of East and West Compton a few years previously, and who died in 1628 seised of the rectory and prebend and the advowson of the vicarage, (fn. 128) which he divided among his son and daughters. In 1638 his son Sir Peter and his daughter Lady Powell were successful in a suit with reference to the tithes of the rectory. (fn. 129) The advowson of the vicarage followed the descent of the manor of East and West Compton (q.v.). In 1683 the living is stated to be in the gift of the Crown, (fn. 130) owing probably to a lapse, and the next record of it occurs in 1703, when John Head was the patron. (fn. 131) In 1731 presentation was made by Richard Head, (fn. 132) possibly in trust, and in 1740 the advowson was held by Thomas son of John Head, (fn. 133) who presented until 1779. (fn. 134) John Dodd appears to have acquired the rectory at about this date, for he was dealing with it in 1763. (fn. 135)
From Sir Thomas Head the advowson passed to his second son Sir Walter James James, (fn. 136) who assumed this name in 1778 (fn. 137) and presented to the living until 1820, when Mr. J. T. Wasey became the patron. The advowson then followed the descent of the manor (q.v.), and Lady Wantage is the present patron.
Lewis Evans, the mathematician and astronomer, was curate here between 1778 and 1788. (fn. 138)
The Parliamentary Returns of 1786 mention that William Allen, by his will dated in 1774, gave an annuity of £5 for the maintenance of children at school; also that Nicholas Pottinger, by his will, gave £10, the interest to be distributed among the poor on every Ash Wednesday.
It further appears from an entry in the parish register under date 1727 that John Cray left £14 to buy a coat of 14s. value for a poor man yearly.
No payments are now made in respect of these charities, which appear to have been lost sight of.
By an award, made under an Inclosure Act, a plot in the Green, containing 33 p., was allotted as a common watering place; also 1 a. 2 r. 23 p. at Chalk Pit Hill and 1 a. 3 r. 31 p. in Thorn Down were allotted for the use of the parishioners. The allotments are unproductive of income.