A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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The parish of Sunningwell covers 1,331 acres, of which 415 are under cultivation, (fn. 1) the crops raised being wheat, barley, beans and turnips. The soil is clay, sand and limestone, on a subsoil of Kimmeridge Clay and Corallian Beds. In the north of the parish, where the ground, elsewhere low, rises to a height of more than 400 ft. in Foxcombe Hill, Brumcombe and Yatscombe, there is a good deal of woodland. The name 'Pinnegrave' or 'Pinsgrove' is constantly applied to a wood in this parish from 1248 onwards. (fn. 2)
Other woods and closes mentioned in the 16th and 17th centuries, and not now to be identified, are Woodcroft (fn. 3) and Donynghurst. (fn. 4) 'Berrie closes, 'which are mentioned in Elizabeth's reign, (fn. 5) appear again in the Inclosure Act of 1723. (fn. 6) There were then five common fields in Sunningwell: the Upper Field, the Lower Field, Berrey Close Field, the Hill Field, and Westbrook Field, and three commons: Cowleys, the Heath, and Yatscombe.
The small village of Sunningwell is in the centre of the parish, and is connected with Abingdon, which is about a mile to the south of it, by a lane running into the road from Faringdon. On the south side of the village street is the church of St. Leonard. In the tower of this church was a room known as 'Friar Bacon's Study,' (fn. 7) and it was commonly believed that Roger Bacon used to come there to make observations during his residence in Oxford. Hearne records that in 1714 he saw in the organ loft various cooking implements which had belonged to the church-house and were formerly used for parish dinners. (fn. 8) There is now no trace of the churchhouse. Among the rectors of St. Leonard's was Samuel Fell, Dean of Christ Church, who died at Sunningwell in 1649 of shock caused by the news of the execution of Charles I. (fn. 9) He was the father of the more famous Dr. Fell, who seems to have been born here. (fn. 10)
East of the village is an Elizabethan house called Beaulieu Court Farm, mentioned by Hearne in 1727. (fn. 11) It is three stories high and has a projecting porch on the west of the same height. The house was remodelled in the 18th century. The entrance doorway has a four-centred head, and above it is a segmental pediment with a coat of arms, but the charges are obliterated. Another doorway of the same date remains at the back, but the windows are all modern.
In the 18th century a curious custom was observed
at Sunningwell on Shrove Tuesday. The children
of the village celebrated the approach of Lent by
chanting at each house this verse:—
'Beef and bacon's
Out of season,
I want a pan
To parch my peason,'
finishing the performance by throwing stones at the doors. (fn. 12)
A lane from Beaulieu Court Farm runs north to the hamlet of Bayworth, passing a quarry mentioned in 1436–7. (fn. 13) Bayworth was the residence of the Baskerville family in the 17th and 18th centuries, but their mansion-house is no longer in existence.
The first Baskerville of Bayworth was an Elizabethan general (fn. 14) who served with Drake and Hawkins. He died in Picardy, where he was commanding her Majesty's forces, shortly after he had purchased Bayworth, and probably never lived there. His son Hannibal, who was born in Picardy, and had all the captains under his father's command to be his godfathers, (fn. 15) did, however, reside at Bayworth, especially in the latter part of his life. He was then, as described by Anthony à Wood, a melancholy, retired man and a 'great cherisher of wandring Beggars.'He built for his beggars a large barn, with a bell at his back door to pull if they wanted anything, conduct which several times brought him into trouble at the Abingdon sessions. (fn. 16) The house is described by Wood as 'private and lone in a romancy place.'He mentions the chapel belonging to the mansion, which was at that time furnished with velvet cushions and carpets and an excellent organ. The 'painted windows 'had been defaced by Abingdon soldiers in the Great Rebellion. (fn. 17)
The next Baskerville was a whimsical antiquary, whose volumes of notes and doggerel verse on the various places he had visited are now for the most part in the Bodleian Library. (fn. 18) Hearne states that he 'mightily improved the estate.' (fn. 19) It was lost to the family, however, in the time of his son, a young man of great personal attractiveness, who by his profligacy reduced it to an annuity of £80 a year and died, according to Hearne, of a broken heart. (fn. 20) The house, which in 1720–1, the date of his death, was 'a brave old thing, full of all conveniences, 'had in 1727 almost gone to ruin. (fn. 21)
SUNNINGWELL is said to have been granted to Abingdon Abbey by Caedwalla, the grant being confirmed by Kenulf in 821, but there are no genuine charters in support of the statement. (fn. 22) In 1086 5 hides were held of the abbot by Berner in Sunningwell and Kennington, both being within the abbot's manor of Barton. (fn. 23) Sugworth, Sunningwell and Kennington are grouped together in the Domesday Survey, and were worth £10. (fn. 24) An estate of 2 hides in Sunningwell descended with Kennington (q.v.) in the Sunningwell family, and was bought by the abbey with that manor in the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 25) In the late 12th or early 13th century Walter and Matilda are mentioned as holding half a hide in Sunningwell. (fn. 26) It is uncertain whether this was recovered by the abbey. The manor was kept by the abbots in their own hands from 1256 till the Dissolution. (fn. 27)
In 1538, by the surrender of the abbey and its possessions, Sunningwell came into the hands of the king. (fn. 28) He granted the manor seven years later to Robert Browne, goldsmith, Christopher Edmondes and William Wenlowe. (fn. 29) They had licence in 1546 to alienate Sunningwell and Bayworth to Sir John Williams, afterwards Lord Williams, (fn. 30) who died in possession of these manors in 1559. (fn. 31) He left them to his wife Margery and her heirs male, with contingent remainder to Henry Norreys, the husband of his daughter and co-heir Margery. (fn. 32) Both life interest and reversion were purchased in 1583 by Isabel, the other daughter and co-heir of Lord Williams, and her second husband, Richard Huddleston. (fn. 33) Richard and Isabel (fn. 34) were dead in 1589, when Edmund Huddleston, distant cousin and heir of Richard, (fn. 35) claimed the manors against Elizabeth and Margery Wenman. They were the daughters of Isabel by her first marriage, and made no claim except for the payment of their marriage portions. (fn. 36) The manors had been mortgaged, however, to Richard Martin, who entered on them immediately after Richard's Huddleston's death, and subsequently sold them to Sir Thomas Baskerville. (fn. 37) In writing to his father-in-law in 1597 Sir Thomas mentions his purchase of lands in Sunningwell and Bayworth. (fn. 38) Sir Thomas died in the same year, leaving a son Hannibal, aged two months. (fn. 39) His widow Mary married Sir James Scudamore and received the issues of the manor under a settlement. (fn. 40) Hannibal Baskerville lived till 1668 and left a son Thomas, who was lord of the manor in 1680. (fn. 41) He died in 1700, (fn. 42) and was succeeded by a son Matthew Thomas. (fn. 43) The latter was the last of his family to own Sunningwell. He left no legitimate issue, and when he died in 1720–1 had disposed of the estate to Sir John Stonehouse, who allowed him an annuity of £80 so long as he lived. (fn. 44)
After the death of the last Baskerville Sunningwell followed the descent of the manor of Radley in the Stonehouse and Bowyer families (fn. 45) till about 1884, when Mr. Edgar John Disney of Ingatestone, Essex, foreclosed a mortgage and became lord of the manor. His son Mr. Edgar Norton Disney sold most of the property in 1912. The manorial rights have apparently lapsed. (fn. 46)
In 956 King Edwy granted BAYWORTH (Baegenweorthe, x cent.; Baiorôe, xi cent.; Baiwurde, xii cent.; Beyworth, xiii cent.) to his minister Ælfric, who is said to have given it to the abbey of Abingdon. (fn. 47) As the extent of the area specified in the grant was 25 hides it is clear that more than the later manor of Bayworth was included. In 1086 Bayworth accounted for 10 hides in the abbot's manor of Barton. (fn. 48) It had been held before the Conquest by Ulvric, and was then in the hands of Anskil and Gilbert.
From the time of the Domesday Survey two holdings can be traced in Bayworth. Gueres de Palence, apparently the successor of Gilbert, who held 4 hides here and in Sunningwell, also held 5 hides in Chilton and 7 in Leverton and Sandford on Thames in Oxfordshire, (fn. 49) and his land in Bayworth followed the descent of these manors into the possession of the Sandford family. Robert de Sandford, who founded the priory of Littlemore, was succeeded by his son Jordan, (fn. 50) who had four knights' fees under the Abbot of Abingdon in 1166. (fn. 51) Jordan had a son and heir Thomas, (fn. 52) who had four sons, Richard, Warner, Hugh and Thomas. (fn. 53) Richard, who succeeded his father before 1217, appears as tenant of 4 hides in Bayworth in a list of persons holding knights' fees of Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 54) His brothers succeeded him in turn. The last of them, Thomas, (fn. 55) granted tithes in Bayworth to Littlemore Priory. (fn. 56). His nephew and heir Adam de Periton (fn. 57) was holding a fifth part of a knight's fee in Bayworth and Sunningwell shortly after 1240. (fn. 58) Adam had three daughters and co-heirs, (fn. 59) of whom Katherine the wife of John Paynel inherited Bayworth. (fn. 60) In 1265 Henry de Bayworth accused John Paynel of disseising him of certain rights of common in a close called 'Byricroft' and another called 'Otecros.' (fn. 61) Katherine's elder son John predeceased her, and her second son Philip received seisin of her lands in 1296. (fn. 62) His son John (fn. 63) in 1324 enfeoffed his uncle Hugh, parson of the church of Chilton, of the manor of Bayworth, said to be held of the abbot for a quarter of a knight's fee. (fn. 64) Hugh Paynel in 1329 had licence to grant the manor of Bayworth to the Abbot of Abingdon, (fn. 65) and it appears from the account given of the manor that it was of considerable importance. It owed 27s. 4d. castle guard a term at the castle of Windsor, and the advowson of the church of Chilton and 4 knights' fees belonged to it. (fn. 66) The profits were to be devoted by the abbot to finding a chaplain to celebrate divine service in the chapel of Bayworth for the souls of Hugh and his ancestors. (fn. 67) The grant was made, (fn. 68) and though the abbot brought an action shortly afterwards against Hugh Paynel to cause him to keep the agreement, (fn. 69) there is no doubt that the abbey retained the manor till the Dissolution, (fn. 70) after which it followed the descent of Sunningwell. (fn. 71) The chantry, however, is not afterwards mentioned.
The Anskil who held the rest of Bayworth at the Domesday Survey was Anskil de Seacourt, and the lords of Seacourt retained an interest in Bayworth down to 1392. Anskil held 5 hides here, (fn. 72) which he forfeited with his manor of Seacourt. His wife Ansfrida, however, recovered them as her dower, (fn. 73) and they descended with Seacourt (fn. 74) (q.v.) until in 1313 Walter le Poer granted land in Bayworth, which Richard de Shupene and Mariota his wife held for their lives, to Richard de Polhampton. (fn. 75) Shortly afterwards this manor came into the hands of Alexander le Parker of Radley, who already held land under the owners of Seacourt. (fn. 76) The Parkers were so called because they held the office or 'bailiwick' of keeping the park at Radley.
Alexander le Parker was returned in 1316 as one of the tenants of the vill. (fn. 77) His son Henry paid subsidy in 1327, (fn. 78) and in 1371 William de Radley, who was then holding the office of parker, granted it with the manor of Bayworth to Thomas Golafre and his wife Margaret for the lifetime of the latter. (fn. 79) After the death of Margaret, who was known as Margaret Parker, lady of Radley, (fn. 80) and was probably the widow of a Parker, the manor must have reverted, according to the agreement, to the heirs of William de Radley. In 1390 it was the property of Thomas de Childrey and his wife Elizabeth, apparently in her right. (fn. 81) They conveyed it to feoffees, (fn. 82) who two years later had licence to grant it to the Abbot of Abingdon for the purpose of maintaining a monk to celebrate divine service daily in the chapel of St. Mary in the abbey church for the Abbot Peter, and to keep an obit there after his death. (fn. 83) Half the manor was held directly of the abbot for half a knight's fee, suit at the hundred court, and castle ward at Windsor. The other half, apparently the original holding of the Parkers, was held for the same services of Henry de Beaumont, lord of the manor of Seacourt. (fn. 84)
Thus after 1392 the whole of Bayworth was held by the Abbots of Abingdon. The 'keeper' of Bayworth is mentioned several times in the abbey accounts. (fn. 85) In 1545 it was granted as one manor to Robert Browne, Christopher Edmondes and William Wenlowe, (fn. 86) and from that date it has followed the descent of the manor of Sunningwell. (fn. 87) In 1723 the two were considered a single manor. (fn. 88)
The church of ST. LEONARD is a cruciform building consisting of a chancel 26 ft. by 15 ft., nave 46 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., a north tower forming a transept 11 ft. by 14 ft., south transept 11 ft. by 14 ft. 6 in. and a west porch.
The walls of the nave may be as early as the 13th century, and part of the chancel is probably of the same date. It seems probable that the east end of the chancel was rebuilt early in the 14th century, and the north wall is certainly of two dates. The north tower and south transept appear to have been built late in the 15th century, when several windows and an embattled parapet were added to the nave. The west porch is said to have been built by Bishop Jewell circa 1550–71 and the whole church was restored in 1902.
The chancel has a three-light pointed east window of late 13th or early 14th-century date. The north wall is heavily covered with ivy and contains a two-light square-headed window and a modern piscina and credence table. In the south wall are two two-light square-headed windows of late 14th or early 15th-century date largely restored. The pointed chancel arch and the roof are modern.
The nave is lighted by two three-light squareheaded windows of the 15th century on each side, and between the pair on the south is a blocked double lancet window of the 13th century. The west window is of three lights with a four-centred head, and below it is a doorway with a three-centred head, both being of the 15th century. The roof is of low pitch, with heavy tie-beams supporting two upright posts, with curved braces, all of the 15th century and resting on modern corbels.
The south transept, now used as a vestry, opens from the nave by a four-centred arch with hollowchamfered jambs. It has a three-light square-headed east window and a smaller window on the south wall, both of the 15th century. There is also a modern door in the east wall. In the west wall is a twolight square-headed window, apparently of the 16th century. The transept is covered by an ancient lowpitch tie-beam roof.
The north tower is of four stages internally, but is divided into two stages only outside by a moulded string-course. It is finished with an embattled parapet with crocketed pinnacles and grotesque gargoyles at the angles, the latter also repeated in the centres of each side. At the south-west angle is a square projecting staircase turret rising above the parapet and also embattled. The ground stage forms the north transept and opens from the church by a tower arch similar to that opening into the south transept. In the east and north walls are threelight square-headed windows of the 15th century. The second stage has a two-light window in the north wall and a single-light window on the east and west, all square-headed and of the 15th century. This stage is now fitted with a gallery. The bell-chamber has a small two-light window in each face.
The west porch, built during the latter part of the 16th century, is heptagonal on plan. In five of the outer faces are single-light windows with square cinquefoiled heads of Gothic form. The outer doorway in the north face has a key-stone and is surmounted by a classic cornice, and on each of the external angles is a free Ionic column standing on a panelled pedestal and supporting an entablature, which is carried round the porch as a parapet. The porch has a modern concrete roof, the weight of which is having a serious effect on the stability of the structure.
The communion table is apparently Elizabethan, but the legs and top appear to be modern. The hexagonal pulpit is Jacobean and has arched panels in each face with simple carved panels above them. The benches in the nave have each an old bench end with a very handsome carved poppy head of the 15th or early 16th century; of these there are some two dozen in all. The font has an octagonal stem and a moulded octagonal bowl.
On the floor of the sanctuary are slabs commemorating the members of the Fell family, including Margaret wife of Dr. Fell, Dean of Christ Church (1653), Thomas (1632), Elizabeth (1634), Martha Fell (1637) and Thomas Washbourne (1644), all on one slab incised at the angles with portraits of the deceased. Another slab is to S[amuel] F[ell] (1649) and bears a shield of the arms of Fell, Argent two bars sable charged with three crosses paty fitchy or. On the north wall of the chancel is a plain marble tablet to Mary daughter of Sir Thomas Throgmorton and wife (1) of Sir Thomas Baskerville and (2) of Sir James Scudamore (1632); also to her son Hannibal Baskerville (1668) with a shield of his arms. Below is an early copy of the epitaph of Sir Thomas Baskerville (1597) formerly in old St. Paul's Cathedral.
The church of Sunningwell is first mentioned in 1246, when the rector made an agreement with the priory of Littlemore concerning tithes. (fn. 89) The advowson appears to have belonged till the Dissolution to Abingdon, (fn. 90) but the church was never appropriated to the abbey.
The advowson passed with the manor to the Crown in 1538, and in 1546 was granted to Anthony Butler in fee. (fn. 91) He must have sold it to the lord of the manor, for in 1583 the reversion of it was sold by Henry Norreys with the reversion of the manor to Richard Huddleston. (fn. 92) During the next century, first the Crown and then the bishop of the diocese held the patronage. (fn. 93) There is nothing to explain in what way they came into possession of it, and in 1705 it reappears in the hands of the lord of the manor, (fn. 94) Thomas Baskerville. Since that date it has followed continuously the descent of the manor. (fn. 95)
The chapel of All Saints at Bayworth is mentioned in 1329, when Hugh Paynel devoted his manor of Bayworth to the maintenance of a chaplain there. (fn. 96) It is not mentioned in the Valor of 1535, but was in existence as a domestic chapel in the middle of the 17th century. (fn. 97) It must have fallen into decay with the manor-house after the death of the last Baskerville in 1720–1. (fn. 98)
The tithes of this chapel, according to Leland, belonged to the church of St. Nicholas at Abingdon. (fn. 99) In 1712 the rector of St. Nicholas brought a successful action against the rector of Sunningwell, who was withholding these tithes. (fn. 100)
In 1548 there was a yearly sum of 8s. belonging to the church of Sunningwell for an obit, the repair of the church, and charity to the poor. Another sum of 8d. was for the celebration of an obit. (fn. 101)
The Poor's Land charity, comprised in deeds of 1436 and 1510, consists of 13 acres of land at Sunningwell, let for £20 yearly, a house and bake-house in Broad Street, Abingdon, let for £16 yearly, and £950 7s. 9d. India 3 per cent. stock with the official trustees, producing £28 10s. yearly, arising from the sale in 1860 of a house and other premises in Broad Street, and in 1903 of a piece of land containing 1 a. 2 r. 29 p. called the Poor's Close. There is also a school-house and teacher's house with garden, forming the endowment of the Poor's Land Educational Foundation.
The gross income from these charities amounts to £65 10s. yearly, and is applied in accordance with the scheme, as follows: in subscriptions of £2 2s. each to the Radcliffe Infirmary at Oxford and the cottage hospital at Abingdon; in bonuses to subscribers to the parish coal and clothing club; in the distribution of coal to the poor; and in sums of £1 or 10s. distributed at Christmas to about twenty widows and aged and infirm persons.
The Clerk's Land.—The church terrier of 30 August 1783 contains the following entry: 'The clerk of the parish is appointed by the rector, and has by custom a tenement with a garden and a close to live on, besides his parochial dues.' The land contains 1 a. 2 r. 30 p. The premises are now let by the rector, producing £10 14s. yearly, which is applied for church expenses.