A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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Ardington is a long and narrow parish extending northward for about 5 miles from the heights of the llsley Downs, which reach 700 ft., to the bottom of the Vale of the White Horse. The total area is 2,693 acres. Of this half is pasture land. (fn. 1) The northern slopes of the downs are used for the feeding of young cattle, which are afterwards fattened on the low ground to the north of the village. The crops raised on the arable land are various cereals and roots. The soil is Chalk and Loam, on a subsoil of Chalk, Greensand and Gault. There are many disused sand and gravelpits and a chalk quarry on the downs. The Ridgeway runs along the whole ridge of downs on the south side of the valley. Another road, which has the ancient name of the Portway, is to the north of the village and connects Wallingford and Wantage. The tithe of an 'acre in the oupersyd of the portwey' was in dispute between the Prior of Bicester and the Abbot of Oseney in the 14th century. (fn. 2)
The village, which is in the centre of the parish, is surrounded by the wooded grounds of Ardington House and Lockinge House. The former is the manor-house and was built in 1721. There was a 'capital messuage' in Ardington in 1235, when the king granted William Longespée twenty oaks to make rafters there (fn. 3); it is mentioned again in 1311, (fn. 4) but for the next two centuries the lords of the manor were not resident, and John Clarke must have built himself a new manor-house when Ardington came into his hands. (fn. 5) The first Clarke mansion is said to have been situated a mile away from the village. The present house was the home, after the Clarkes sold the manor, of Robert Vernon, the owner of the famous Vernon collection of pictures. (fn. 6) Ardington House is now the residence of Lord Charles G. F. Petty-Fitzmaurice, M.V.O. Orpwood House, at the west end of the village, was built by Lord Wantage, and is occupied by the estate agent of Lady Wantage.
The church of the Holy Trinity was restored in 1887, largely at the expense of Lord Wantage. It contains several monuments of the Clarke family, who were lords of the manor here for two centuries, and the last of whom, William Nelson Clarke, was the historian of Wantage Hundred. In the churchyard south of the church is the base and shaft of an old cross. A modern cross has been erected on the north side. The vicarage is a red brick building partly Georgian and partly modern.
An inclosure award for Ardington was made in 1808. (fn. 7)
ARDINGTON in the reign of Edward the Confessor was held by two freemen, Edvin and Sawin. (fn. 8) In 1086 both their estates had passed into the possession of Robert Doyley, of whose honour of Wallingford they were subsequently held as one knight's fee. (fn. 9) In Edvin's holding there was a mill worth 11s. and 26 acres of meadow. The second and larger holding had two mills, one of which was unsuccessfully claimed by Cola, an Englishman. The whole of Robert's estate in Ardington was worth the considerable sum of £20. (fn. 10)
Early in the 12th century the lord of Wallingford enfeoffed Gilbert Basset of seven knights' fees in the honour. (fn. 11) Of these Ardington was one. (fn. 12) Gilbert Basset was succeeded by his son Thomas, (fn. 13) and Thomas by his son another Gilbert, who founded the priory of Bicester. (fn. 14) He had a daughter and heir Eustacia, who with her husband Richard de Camvill was in possession of Ardington in 1208. (fn. 15) The manor subsequently followed the descent of Avington (q.v.) (fn. 16) until 1322, when the inheritance of Alice widow of Thomas Earl of Lancaster was taken into the king's hands on her husband's attainder; she subsequently recovered a portion of it on releasing to the king her claim on the rest, (fn. 17) but it seems that she never recovered Ardington, which must have been granted soon after the forfeiture to Ralph de Cobham. He died in possession in 1325–6, (fn. 18) and it is possible that he had previously held the manor on lease from the Earl of Surrey, to whom the Earl of Lancaster had leased it in 1319, and who granted Cobham lands elsewhere. (fn. 19) The heir of Ralph was his son John de Cobham, (fn. 20) who granted his mother Mary the manor of Ardington for her life in exchange for a manor in Lincolnshire. (fn. 21) She became the wife of Thomas Brotherton Earl of Norfolk and died in possession in 1362. (fn. 22) In the next year her son granted the manor with other estates to the king and his heirs, receiving in return a grant for life. (fn. 23) He demised his interest to Alice Perrers, the king's favourite, (fn. 24) and in 1367 released to her all his claim, (fn. 25) as did also John Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 26)
When Richard II resumed Alice Perrers's estates (fn. 27) he granted Ardington to his half-brother John Earl of Huntingdon, first for life (fn. 28) and later in fee to the earl and his heirs by his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 29) After the death and forfeiture of the earl (fn. 30) Elizabeth and her second husband John Cornwall held the manor. (fn. 31) It was subsequently inherited by her son John Earl of Huntingdon, afterwards Duke of Exeter. (fn. 32) In 1430 he settled it on himself and Anne his wife and their heirs, with remainder to the heirs of his father and mother. (fn. 33) His son Henry succeeded in 1447, (fn. 34) and after Henry's death in 1461 the manor was granted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other feoffees to hold to the use of his widow Anne Duchess of Exeter for her life. (fn. 35) She granted it in 1466 to feoffees, (fn. 36) who conveyed it ten years later to Thomas Marquess of Dorset (fn. 37) in marriage settlement with her daughter Anne. In 1482 he surrendered the grant, (fn. 38) in order that a new one might be made to Sir Richard Grey, his brother. (fn. 39) On the death of the latter the manor was taken by Act of Parliament into the hands of the Crown, (fn. 40) and in 1484 it was granted to Thomas Earl of Derby and his son George Lord Strange. (fn. 41)
The Earls of Derby continued to hold Ardington for six generations, (fn. 42) ending with William Earl of Derby, who was lord of the manor in 1599. (fn. 43) About forty years before that date, however, it had been leased by his father to John Clarke, (fn. 44) who took up his residence here. (fn. 45) His grandson Edward Clarke (fn. 46) purchased the fee of the manor from Sir Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, in 1606, (fn. 47) and ten years later received a grant from the king of the reversion, to which the Crown was entitled in case of the failure of issue to the Earls of Derby. (fn. 48)
Edward Clarke died in 1630, leaving a son and heir John, (fn. 49) whose eldest son John died without issue in 1702, his heir being his brother Richard. (fn. 50) Richard had a son Edward, later married to Mary Wiseman, (fn. 51) who was holding the manor in 1713. (fn. 52) His son William Wiseman Clarke was his heir. (fn. 53) Another William Wiseman Clarke, son of the last, held the manor till 1826, when his son William Nelson Clarke succeeded. (fn. 54) He sold Ardington about 1833 to Robert Vernon, (fn. 55) who left it to his nephew Captain Leicester Viney Vernon. On the death of the latter in 1860 it was purchased by Col. Loyd-Lindsay, afterwards Lord Wantage. Lady Wantage is the present owner.
The right of free warren belonged to the lords of this manor from the time of William Longespée the younger. (fn. 56)
The church of the HOLY TRINITY consists of a chancel 25 ft. 6 in. by 13 ft. 8 in., nave 51 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft. 3 in., with south aisle, making a total width of 28 ft. 8 in., north and south chapels, tower 9 ft. 8 in. square on the north of the nave, and north porch. All the measurements are internal.
The earliest part of the existing structure is the nave with the south arcade and chancel arch, which date from c. 1200. In the 13th century the present chancel was built with its side chapels and the north tower added. In the following century the north porch was built and in the 15th century the two arches were inserted in the west walls of the chancel chapels. The church was extensively restored in the 19th century, when the nave was lengthened by one bay, the south aisle and north chapel were rebuilt and the tower refaced and finished with a spire.
The 13th-century chancel has a 15th-century east window of three lights with restored tracery in a pointed head. In the north wall is a 15th-century window of two round-headed lights in an earlier opening having a segmental rear arch. Further west is an early 13th-century pointed arch of two hollowchamfered orders opening into the north chapel; the inner order rests on side shafts with moulded capitals and bases much restored; to the east of it is a squint with a segmental pointed head. The window in the south wall consists of coupled lancet lights with good mouldings under a segmental pointed and moulded rear arch, all of the 13th century. The sill is carried down to form a sedile, and further east is a trefoilheaded piscina with a moulded hood, shelf and circular drain. The 13th-century arch to the south chapel is of two segmental pointed and chamfered orders dying on to the responds. To the east of it is a squint with a pointed head. The chancel arch of about 1200 is of three acutely pointed and chamfered orders springing from side shafts with recut capitals and bases largely original. The modern decorations of the chancel include a painted stencilled roof, diapered walls, carved and painted oak reredos, painted panels on the side walls, carved rood screen and organ case, and a marble pavement of chequer work. The outer walls of the north chapel are modern 'decorated' of poor design and the roof is vaulted. In the south wall is a trefoil-headed piscina, and the squint on this side has a moulded trefoiled opening, the base of which forms a sedile. This work is of the 13th century considerably restored. In the west wall is a curious segmental pointed arch of three chamfered orders and apparently of 15thcentury date opening into the tower. The south chapel has two pairs of coupled lancets in the south wall and a moulded trefoiled head to the squint in the north wall. The arch opening into the nave aisle is of the 15th century and is four-centred, the inner order resting on carved corbels, the southern being very elaborate with a lion, dragon and trees.
The nave has in the north wall a 13th-century pointed arch of two chamfered orders opening into the tower, but much restored. The north doorway of about 1200 is of two semicircular moulded orders, the inner with a line of dog-tooth ornament and the outer resting on side shafts with mutilated foliage capitals and square abaci. Further west is a deeply splayed lancet window of the same date and set high in the wall and beyond it is a large uncusped window of two lights, restored. The south arcade of four bays has pointed arches of a single chamfered order resting on circular columns with good foliage capitals and restored bases on square plinths; the responds are square with moulded abaci, and in the eastern is a small niche with a projecting bowl. The third pier of the nave with the two half arches springing from it is modern; the rest of the work is of about 1200, the western respond and half arch being reset. The south aisle was rebuilt and perhaps widened at the restoration, but the old windows and door were reset. The first window is of the 16th century and has three square-headed lights with transoms, and the second consists of 13th-century coupled lancets. The restored 14th-century south doorway, further west, is moulded and pointed with ball-flower ornament, and above it is a 16th-century window of two squareheaded lights. The other windows, with the west wall and window of the nave, are modern. The nave roof is ancient and has curved principals with foliage bosses in the centres of the collars; it rests on carved human-head corbels of good design.
The north tower is three stages high and is finished with a modern broach spire of stone rising from a cornice on carved stone corbels. The tower has been refaced, but the diagonal buttresses at the outer angles are partly old. The ground stage has a modern north window, but the first floor has good old carved corbels. The 14th-century north porch has a moulded outer archway with a modern head. In the west wall is a single-light window, and built into the east or tower wall is a late 13th-century gable piece carved with two dragons. Above the outer arch inside is a carved canopy head.
Against the east wall of the south chapel is a handsome painted Jacobean monument to John Clarke and Susannah (Temple) his wife, erected by their son Edward; it has Corinthian side columns, a cleft pediment, angels, cherubs, and a coat of arms. In the north chapel is a large modern kneeling figure of marble with an inscription recording the benefactions of Robert Vernon, 1849. A few old tiles remain in both chapels. In the eastern window of the south aisle is some old grisaille glass with a shield of arms, Barry gules and argent. The 14th-century font has a massive octagonal bowl with a row of ball flowers round its base. The hexagonal pulpit is Jacobean with good carved and arcaded panels and a modern sounding-board. In the south aisle is a fine large panelled chest inscribed 'Richard Freetwell, founder, R.M. + I.B. churchwardens, A.D. 1638.'
The plate includes a cup and cover paten (London, 1573) with chased ornament; a flagon (London, 1633) inscribed, 'For the honour of Christ and pious use of humble Communicants at his table J Robert Batten give this for ever to the Parish Church of Ardington in Com Berkes aetat. meae 57 ano 1633.' 'Quae transferre solent alii post Funera Batten Vivus Dona magis dat sua grata Deo M. B. Vic.'; a paten (London, 1636) given by the same donor in 1636; and a modern cup and paten silver gilt.
The church of Ardington was granted by Gilbert Basset about 1182 to his newly-founded priory of Bicester. (fn. 57) In 1192 Pope Celestine gave licence for the appropriation of the church, (fn. 58) and a vicarage was subsequently ordained. (fn. 59) The priory continued to hold the church till the Dissolution, when it was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 60) They continued to present till the late 19th century, (fn. 61) when the advowson was purchased by Lord Wantage. Lady Wantage is the present patron.
In 1074 Robert Doyley granted certain tithes in the lordship of Ardington to the chapel of St. George within the castle of Oxford. (fn. 62) This chapel and its possessions were subsequently annexed to Oseney Abbey, (fn. 63) and Richard de Camvill confirmed the right of the abbot to collect his tithes here. (fn. 64) The abbey had a portion of £1 in the church in 1291. (fn. 65)
It is stated in the Parliamentary Returns of 1786 that Robert Hibberd gave £24 to the poor, and from a mural tablet in the church, dated 1618, it appeared that Richard Freetwell gave £30 to the church and poor, the interest to be disposed of as follows: 8s. for preaching a sermon on the first Sunday in September, and, after the sermon, 4d. and a penny loaf to everyone living by alms of the parish. These two gifts, with accumulations, are now represented by £67 14s. 3d. India 3½ per cent. stock in the names of Henry Eden Trotter and two other persons.
The income of the charities, amounting to £46 13s. yearly, is applied as follows: two pensions of 1s. weekly are paid to two widows and the remainder of the income is distributed in coal and clothing among about fifty or sixty recipients.