A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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The small parish of Frilsham lies in the valley of the Pang to the east of the Didcot and Newbury railway. The land rises from 248 ft. above the ordnance datum where the Pang leaves the parish to 424 ft. on Frilsham Common towards the east. The parish contains 978 acres, about half of which are arable, three-eighths permanent grass and the remaining eighth woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The chief crops are wheat, barley and oats. The soil is chalk near the river, but there are beds of clay and sand at the eastern side of the parish. No railway or canal passes through the parish, and the only road of importance is that from Hampstead Norris to Bucklebury. Frilsham Common was inclosed in 1857, (fn. 2) and the award is in the custody of the chairman of the parish council. The population is purely agricultural. The village lies round the church at the southern end of the parish, with the rectory east of the church. The churchyard is small, and on the north side is a row of fine chestnuts.
Benjamin Buckler, author, amongst other works, of Stemmata Chichcleana, was rector of Frilsham during the latter part of the 18th century, and John Bradford, afterwards a Nonconformist divine and author of several works on theology, was curate here about the same time. (fn. 3)
Frilsham Manor, close to the church, is a modern building of hard-burnt bricks and stone. Frilsham House, rebuilt in 1896, is the seat of Sir Cameron Gull, bart., purchased by him from Mr. T. F. Floyd.
The manor of FRILSHAM had been held of Edward the Confessor by two free men, and at the time of the Domesday Survey was in the hands of Henry de Ferrers. (fn. 4) It would appear to have passed to his son Robert, who in 1138 was created Earl Ferrers, and the overlordship continued in the hands of his descendants until the 13th century, when we find the manor described as held of the fee of Earl Ferrers. (fn. 5) Robert, the sixth earl, was engaged in a rebellion in 1263 and was three years later deprived of his earldom and estates, which were then granted to Edmund Crouchback, the king's son. (fn. 6) In consequence this overlordship followed the descent of the earldom and duchy of Lancaster. Some court rolls of this manor of the year 1440–1 are to be found among the archives of the duchy. (fn. 7)
Roger was holding the manor of Henry de Ferrers in 1086, (fn. 8) and in 1173–4 it was in the hands of Sir Ralph Peche, (fn. 9) who had married Hawise daughter and heir of Thomas lord of Boyleston in Derbyshire. He was succeeded by his son Sir Nicholas Peche, who married Alice de Syffrewast, and at his death it seems to have passed to his only daughter and heir Maud. (fn. 10) She married as her first husband Walter de Rideware, who is returned as tenant in the 13th century, (fn. 11) and afterwards, as her second husband, Sir Oliver d'Eincourt, who is also mentioned as holding the manor of Frilsham. (fn. 12) Sir Oliver died in 1245–6, and his widow continued to hold the manor as late as 1275–6 (fn. 13) and was living on 25 November 1283. (fn. 14) She was succeeded by the third son of her first marriage, Walter de Rideware, (fn. 15) who married Ellen daughter of William Fitz Herbert of Northbury. He was holding the manor of Frilsham in 1298, and was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Rideware, kt., who by his first wife Margaret had a son Walter, who married Joan daughter of another Walter de Rideware in 1311, and in the following year the manor of Frilsham was settled on Thomas and Margaret for life, with remainder to their son Walter. (fn. 16) In the same year (1312) Thomas obtained a grant of free warren in Frilsham (fn. 17); he was returned as lord of the manor in 1315–16 (fn. 18) and was knighted in 1349–50. He died not long afterwards and was succeeded by his son Sir Walter de Rideware, kt., who married Elizabeth daughter and heir of John Falconer of Thurcaston, and the manor passed at his death to Agnes, his only daughter and heir, who was married to William Cotton. (fn. 19)
In 1372 William Cotton sold the manor and advowson of Frilsham to Hugh de Berwyk, kt., and Adam de Louches, kt., (fn. 20) the latter being apparently a trustee. Hugh died in 1403, leaving a widow, Gille, who died in December 1407, and two sons, the elder of whom, Hugh, died in 1407, while the younger, Thomas, was aged twenty-three in 1410. (fn. 21) Thomas de Berwyk granted the manor in 1409 to trustees, who gave it in 1416 to Margaret wife of Ralph Boteler, sister and heir of Thomas. (fn. 22) It would seem that Margaret afterwards married William Haute, for in 1425 William Haute settled the manor on himself and his wife Margaret, (fn. 23) and is returned as holding it in 1428. (fn. 24) At a court held here in 1441 John Longe is spoken of as the farmer of the manor. (fn. 25) In 1446–7 the manor was sold by John Boteler, who may have been son or grandson of Ralph, (fn. 26) to Sir Edmund Hungerford, kt., and others, (fn. 27) who were purchasing land in this neighbourhood for John Norreys. The same trustees also obtained a release of all her right in the manor of Frilsham from Elizabeth widow of John Cotton of Ridware, who seems to have been either son or grandson of the William Cotton who had sold the manor in 1372–3. (fn. 28)
John Norreys is described in the Herald's Visitation of 1532 (fn. 29) as of Yattendon, and in a later pedigree by Ashmole (fn. 30) as a knight banneret and eldest son of William Norreys of Bray. He seems to be the John Norreys mentioned in a deed of 1476 (fn. 31) who with Sir William Norreys, kt., and others purchased certain tenements in Reading from Edward Clerk of Frilsham. The same Edward Clerk disposed of other property in Reading to Sir William Norreys in 1479, (fn. 32) when no mention of John occurs. According to the pedigree of 1552 this Sir William Norreys would appear to have been the eldest son of John, and so would have inherited this manor. The next reference is to a settlement by Sir John Norreys, grandson of Sir William, in 1542. (fn. 33) Sir John Norreys died in 1564 seised of this manor, which he seems to have attached to his adjoining manor of Yattendon (fn. 34) (q.v.), with which manor it afterwards descended till 1623, when, on the death of the Earl of Berkshire, Frilsham passed to his daughter Elizabeth wife of Edward Wray. Their only daughter and heir Bridget married as her first husband Edward Sackville, second son of Edward fourth Earl of Dorset, and after his death without issue took as her second husband Montagu second Earl of Lindsey. James Bertie, her eldest son by her second husband, was in 1675 created Lord Norreys of Rycote and in 1682 Earl of Abingdon. (fn. 35) The manor descended with the earldom of Abingdon till 1762, when, according to Lysons, the manor of Frilsham was sold to Sir George Cornewall. (fn. 36) He probably refers to Sir George Amyand of London, who was created a baronet in 1764 and died two years later, being succeeded in the baronetcy by his son George, who in 1771 married Catherine only daughter of Velters Cornewall of Moccas Court, Hereford, when he assumed the surname and arms of Cornewall. (fn. 37) Lysons adds that in 1800 Sir George sold this manor to Mr. Hayward, who was the proprietor in 1806. (fn. 38) This Mr. Hayward was the Robert Hayward who died on 21 March 1820, when under his will, dated 21 August 1818, the manor passed to Robert Floyd, the son of his cousin Martha Aldworth, who had married Thomas Floyd.
Robert Floyd died 14 August 1837, leaving the manor to his eldest son Robert Hayward Floyd, who died 24 March 1889, leaving it to his wife Mary Anne Floyd for her life. As tenant for life under the Settled Land Act she sold the manor in December 1903 to Henry Frederick George Weber, then residing at Hawkridge House, Bucklebury, (fn. 39) but it was sold in 1907, (fn. 40) and was acquired by Sir Cameron Gull, bart., of Frilsham House, who is now the principal landowner.
No mill is mentioned in the Domesday Survey, nor does any record of one occur until 1839. It was then stated that in 1838 the springs were so low that no water passed the mill for several months, and mention was made of a tradition that about 100 years earlier the springs were equally low and that a duck had then made her nest under the water-wheel, laid her eggs and hatched a brood before a drop of water had passed. (fn. 41)
The church of ST. FRIDESWIDE is a small building consisting of a chancel 15 ft. 2 in. by 11 ft. 4 in., nave 52 ft. by 13 ft. 6 in. at the east and 18 ft. 3 in. at the west, west tower 7 ft. 6 in. by 6 ft. 8 in. and south porch. These measurements are all internal.
What is now the nave of the church was in the 12th century a complete building, the narrower eastern portion being the chancel and the remainder the nave. No alteration appears to have been made till the 15th century, when the present chancel was added and the old one thrown into the nave, the chancel arch being taken down and re-erected in its present position, the site not admitting of westward extension. The tower and the porch are comparatively modern.
The east window of the chancel is modern, and of three trefoiled lights under a low-arched head, the foils following the line of the arch. The north and south walls each have a 15th-century window of two trefoiled lights under a square head with a moulded label. The chancel arch is semicircular and quite plain, and is partly built of old stones retooled.
The narrow east portion of the nave has one window on each side, that on the north being a small round-headed 12th-century light with a deep splay; the external stonework is modern. The opposite window, which is of the 15th century, has three trefoiled lights, from which the modern east window is copied. In the north wall of the western portion of the nave is a 12th-century window like that in the eastern portion and also modern externally. To the west of this is a 12th-century doorway with shafted jambs, having scalloped capitals and moulded abaci and bases, the latter probably modern like the shafts. The arch is of two plain orders and appears to have been rebuilt. The inner order is segmental and the outer semicircular, the tympanum being filled with flint. In the south wall is a three-centred modern window of three lights, and to the west of it is the south doorway which has old plain jambs and a semicircular arch. In the west wall of the nave is a modern brick doorway to the tower, and over it on the west face only are visible the jamb lines of a blocked window; two carved heads here were probably label stops. On either side of the tower is a modern wide lancet window with plastered jambs.
The tower is of brick in two stages with an embattled parapet. In the top stage are three plain pointed windows. The ground stage has a similar window in the west wall and a south doorway. The south porch is of brick with stone moulded jambs and a four-centred entrance archway. The walls of the rest of the building are of flint with stone dressings and the roofs are tiled.
The plain chancel roof is probably of 17th-century date, and has curved wind braces. The nave roof is apparently older, and has tie-beams, collars with arched supports resting on the tie-beams, and wind braces. The western bay is modern. The font, which is cylindrical and stands on a moulded base, dates from the late 12th century, but it has been much retooled. The pulpit and reading-desk are of 17th-century date. The south door has old ornamental iron hinges.
The plate comprises a chalice with a flat hemispherical bowl and a cover paten. There are no hall marks, but the metal is apparently silver. On the foot of the paten is 'Frilsham 1712.' The foot of the chalice and the edge of the paten have a small band of fluted ornament. There is another chalice, with a paten and flagon to match, all of silver, and made in 1863.
The registers previous to 1812 are in three books, the first containing entries of baptisms and burials from 1711 to 1768 and marriages from the same date to 1753; the second is of the usual printed form for marriages from 1754 to 1812. The third book, which should contain baptisms from 1768 to 1812, is missing.
The advowson seems always to have passed with the manor. It is mentioned in 1291. (fn. 42) In 1297 it belonged to Walter de Rideware, (fn. 43) and is referred to in the majority of the documents cited as relating to the manor. It belonged in the 18th century to Sir George Cornewall, (fn. 44) and according to Lysons the advowson was sold with the manor by him in 1800 to Mr. Hayward. (fn. 45) Robert Hayward presented in 1809. (fn. 46) Since then the advowson continued to pass with the manor. Sir Cameron Gull, bart., of Frilsham, is the present patron.
Charity of James Pocock, founded by will 1610, see Reading Municipal Charities. The sum of £6 4s., being 5 per cent. of the net income of the charity, is divided by the trustees between this parish and Yattendon, which is applied in the distribution of blankets and sheets.
Charities of Robert Hayward, who died in 1820: (1) the educational donation trust fund, £ 200 consols; (2) the eleemosynary donation trust fund, £200 consols; (3) bequest for poor, by will proved in the P.C.C. 13 June 1820, trust fund £ 90 11s. 10d. consols; the sums of stock are held by the official trustees. The income of the two charities for the poor, amounting to £ 7 5s., is applied for the benefit of the poor of sixty years of age and upwards, and the income of the educational charity is being accumulated.