A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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Catmore is a very small parish in the southern division of the county. It lies at an average height of 500 ft. above the ordnance datum, the general slope of the land being from north to south. It covers an area of 710 acres, of which more than three-quarters are arable land, 55 acres permanent grass, and 122 acres woods and plantations. (fn. 1) It has a clay soil and a chalk subsoil, and produces the usual cereal crops. There are a few disused stone quarries in the parish. The nearest railway stations are at Hermitage and Shefford, distant 6 miles and 5½ miles respectively. The village is situated near the centre of the parish on the road to West Ilsley, and contains only the church of St. Margaret standing back on the east side of the road, the modernized 16th-century manor-house, which is of red brick with a tiled roof, and is now used as a farm-house, a group of old barns and a cottage. Near the church are some masonry foundations which possibly mark the site of the old manorhouse. The rectory, a chapel, and the greater part of the population are at the hamlet of Lilley. There is no stream in the neighbourhood, and the inhabitants are dependent on wells for their water supply. A meadow here, which appears to have been levelled, may be the site of the ancient fair granted to Rogo de Gacelyn in 1306 (fn. 2); local tradition, however, places it at the Furze Plot in the extreme north of the parish and now included in West Ilsley. (fn. 3) The fair had fallen into abeyance before 1792. (fn. 4) In a field near Whitnam's Copse quantities of charcoal and ashes, which appear to be the relics of an ancient British village, are constantly being ploughed up. (fn. 5)
Under the Confessor CATMORE was held by Ezui, (fn. 6) but at the date of the Domesday Survey it was in the possession of Henry de Ferrers, his under-tenant being one Henry. (fn. 7) It was one of the manors devastated by the Conqueror's army, its value in the time of Edward the Confessor having been £7, then 40s., and at the time of the Sur ey 70s. (fn. 8) The overlordship remained with the Ferrers family until the forfeiture of Robert de Ferrers in 1266, whereupon a great part of the vast lands of the Ferrers including the honour of Tutbury was granted to the Earl of Lancaster, (fn. 9) whose successors retained the overlordship until it became merged in the Crown on the accession of Henry IV. (fn. 10) In 1537 the manor was said to be held of the Earl of Devon as of his manor of Sutton Courtney, (fn. 11) but no explanation of this has been found.
In the 13th century Philip de St. Helens and John de Turbervill are given as holding half a knight's fee in Catmore and Philip de Fifhide one and a half fees in Fifhide and Catmore. (fn. 12) In 1296 the latter was still in possession of the hamlet of Catmore and lands there, (fn. 13) but the descent of his property here is uncertain. John Turbervill was holding Catmore in 1237, (fn. 14) and his wife Meliora is said to have given the manor to Richard de Turbervill and Margaret his wife, whose daughter Amice married first William de Arches (Darches or D'Arques), by whom she had a son William, (fn. 15) and secondly Rogo de Gacelyn. (fn. 16) In 1305 she conveyed the manor to Rogo and his heirs, (fn. 17) and in 1306 a grant was made to him of a market there on Mondays and a yearly fair on the vigil, feast and morrow of St. Margaret. (fn. 18) He appears to have died in 1322. (fn. 19) Owing to his having joined the rebel barons the manor had become forfeited to the Crown, (fn. 20) and was granted by the king in the same year to Edmund Gacelyn for life, Robert Hungerford, the keeper of the lands of the rebels, being ordered to give him the corn from the last autumn harvest and to restore any that might have been taken. (fn. 21) In 1330 the manor was settled on Edmund and Eleanor his wife with remainder to their sons John and Geoffrey successively and then to the heirs of Geoffrey. (fn. 22) In the same year, however, William de Arches, the son of Amice by her first husband, unsuccessfully claimed the manor against Edmund Gacelyn, (fn. 23) who died seised of it in 1337, leaving a son and heir Geoffrey. (fn. 24) A claim by Eleanor de Gacelyn 'alias de Stourton' widow of Edmund that she had held the manor jointly with her late husband led to a Crown prosecution in 1338 (fn. 25) in which it was contended there was collusion with William de Acton alias de Arches. (fn. 26) No judgement can be found, but the manor must have reverted to the Arches, as John de Arches with Ralph Stodeye and Edith his wife dealt with it in 1375. (fn. 27) In 1428 John Stowe, who had married Maud de Arches, daughter and heiress of Rawlin de Arches, (fn. 28) was holding half a fee in Catmore said to have been formerly held by Thomas de Arches. (fn. 29) Possibly this Maud married as her second husband Sir William Crosby (who had a wife of that name), who was holding it in 1439 (fn. 30) and 1442. (fn. 31) Isabel daughter of John Stowe and Maud married John Eyston, (fn. 32) who succeeded to the manor about 1433. (fn. 33) They had a son William, whose son Thomas died seised of the manor in 1531. (fn. 34) From this date the manor follows the descent of East Hendred (q.v.), the chief seat of the Eystons. (fn. 35) Mr. John Joseph Eyston is the present owner of East Hendred and Catmore.
The church of ST. MARGARET consists of a chancel 13 ft. 10 in. by 11 ft. 2 in. with a small modern vestry on the north, a nave 40 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft., the west wall of which is carried up into a small bellcote, and a modern south porch. These measurements are internal.
The building dates from the latter half of the 12th century, but has been much restored. The nave was reroofed in 1607, as is shown by the date carved on some of its timbers. In a 19th-century restoration the chancel arch was rebuilt and the windows throughout redesigned in a rather ornate manner. The present doorway into the vestry was inserted in 1891, when a new roof was put to the chancel.
The east window of the chancel is entirely modern; it is of two round-headed lights separated by a small column. In the north wall a modern doorway opens into the vestry, while in the south is a small four-centred light with sunk spandrels and an external hood mould. The chancel arch is semicircular and of two orders, the outer square, the inner one moulded and carried on a shafted respond.
The nave has two round-headed north windows with wide inner splays and shafted external jambs, the abaci of which support the hood moulds. The openings are no doubt original, but the outer masonry is modern. Between them is a blocked 12th-century doorway with chamfered jambs, abaci, and segmental head. In the south wall are two round-headed windows similar and opposite to those in the north wall, while between them is an original semicircularheaded doorway. Its outer jambs are slightly chamfered and the inner are square, while over the head is a moulded label with a billet ornament which springs from head stops, now much decayed and partly covered by the side walls of the porch. Over the centre is a beak head. In the west wall is a window of the same design as the north and south windows. The church is plastered internally and covered with roughcast externally. All the roofs are tiled. The roof to the nave is divided into five bays by four trusses of the braced collar type, and is ceiled in five cants. The collars are supported by moulded braces curved to the form of an arch, at the springing of which are shaped pendants with wall pieces behind. The trusses support purlins stiffened by wind-braces and resting on the backs of the principal rafters just below the collar. Both wall pieces and pendants are enriched with arabesque carving, and on the wall-pieces of the second truss from the east is the date '1607,' below which, on the north and south respectively, are the initials 'W.E.' and 'I.A.'
The bowl of the font is of 12th-century date. It is circular, but has been cut down, not being more than half its original height; it is ornamented with carving, but this is now too worn to be clearly distinguished.
The plate consists of a silver chalice of 1838 inscribed 'Catmore Church 1840,' a silver almsdish of 1834 and a foot paten probably of 1723, but the date letter is too worn to state this with any certainty.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1724 to 1812, burials 1728 to 1810, marriages 1727 and 1728; (ii) marriages 1764 to 1811. There is also a volume of churchwardens' accounts from 1481 to 1867.
The advowson of the church of Catmore was claimed in the reign of Richard I by the Knights Hospitallers against Peter de Hercel, who stated that the church was founded upon the lands of Maud his wife. (fn. 36) The result of the suit is not known, but the advowson continued with the Hospitallers. Walter Gacelyn is said to have made the presentation to the living in 1312, but was sued for so doing by the Knights Hospitallers, who again established their claim. (fn. 37) The advowson remained in their gift until the Dissolution. (fn. 38) In 1563 Elizabeth granted it, together with a pension of 2s. due from the church, to Thomas and John Lifford and their heirs. (fn. 39) John made a settlement of the advowson in 1599, (fn. 40) and left it at his death in 1610 to his son Richard. (fn. 41) In 1634 (fn. 42) Richard Lifford settled it on his son Richard on the occasion of his marriage with Mary Castell. (fn. 43) Richard the younger died in 1638, leaving a daughter Mary. (fn. 44) In 1661 Charles Evans and Mary his wife and Thomas Edwards and Mary his wife (evidently the widow and daughter with their husbands) were dealing with the advowson by fine, (fn. 45) and Thomas Coward and Mary his wife (daughter of Richard Lifford) were doing the same in 1686. (fn. 46) In 1693 the latter made the presentation. (fn. 47) In the same year a conveyance was made by Thomas Lifford to John Smith, (fn. 48) possibly a quitclaim by the heir male in favour of the heir general. In 1719 Ralph Shirley was the patron, (fn. 49) and was followed in 1726 by Richard Shirley. (fn. 50) He in turn was succeeded in 1740 by another Ralph, (fn. 51) who together with Thomas and John Shirley in 1756 conveyed the advowson to Catherine Ready, John Archer and John Loder, (fn. 52) who presented to the living in 1761. (fn. 53) In 1791 Catherine Ready was again presenting. (fn. 54) After her death the advowson passed into the hands of John Archer Houblon, who was presenting in 1810, (fn. 55) and was followed in 1828 by his son John, (fn. 56) by whom it was settled on his younger son Charles Archer Houblon. (fn. 57) He took the name of Eyre in 1831 and died in 1886, when the advowson passed to his eldest son Col. Geo. Bramston Eyre, who took the name of Archer-Houblon, and is the present patron.