A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1925.
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Pincenestorne, Pincelestorne (xi cent.); Pichenestorre, Puchelesthorne, Pichelesburne, Pechelestorne, Pichesthorn, Pythelesthorn (xii–xiii cent.); Pikelesthorn, Pynchenestorn (xiii–xviii cent.); Pightlesthorn (xiv–xix cent.); Pittleston, Pitchthorn, Pitstone (xvii– xviii cent.).
The parish of Pitstone consists of 1,644 acres, of which 949 acres are arable land, 229 acres permanent grass, and 218 acres woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is variable, a considerable portion of it is chalky and unfit for tillage; the subsoil is chalk. Pitstone Hill, 714 ft. above the ordnance datum, in the southeast, is the highest point in the parish. The ground sinks gradually towards the north to about 330 ft. Pitstone village, which is very small, lies in about the centre of the parish. North and south of it pass the Upper and Lower Icknield Way.
Pitstone Green, with its cottages, smithy and inn, is to the north of the village, and beyond it again is Yardley Farm. This latter marks the site of Erlai, land which once formed a sub-manor in this parish, and gave its name to an ancient hundred, later to become part of Cottesloe Hundred. Erlai House, a large moated mansion, formerly stood here, but was already in a ruined condition in the 18th century. (fn. 2) The remains of another old house, called Pitstone Place, are now part of the Church Farm, (fn. 3) while a third, pulled down about 1830, but before that time forming the parsonage-house, called Morrants, (fn. 4) probably marked the site of the manor held here by the college of Ashridge (vide infra). At the Church Farm is a homestead moat, inclosing a nearly semicircular island. (fn. 5)
The hamlet of Frithsden or Friesden, now in Great Berkhampstead parish, Hertfordshire, was included in this parish in 1831. (fn. 6) Its manorial history, however, is that of Little Gaddesden, and it belonged, with the latter manor, to the college of Ashridge. (fn. 7) A confirmation of lands to that foundation in 1291 refers to 'a valley called Frithesdene' as a boundary, (fn. 8) and a 'wood in Berkhampstead called le Frith' is mentioned about the same time. (fn. 9)
Nettleden was a chapelry in this parish until 1895, at which date it was formed into a parish and transferred to Hertfordshire, under which county it has been described. (fn. 10)
Ashridge, the college of Bonhommes, which came to the Earls of Bridgewater in the 17th century, and is now the seat of Earl Brownlow, is in the parish of Little Gaddesden, (fn. 11) but was included in Pitstone parish from earliest times until the latter part of the 19th century. (fn. 12) Its manorial history is given under the former parish.
Among place-names occur those of Wessebrok, Bachmundeswelle, Stiwardesponde, Fulk Fidekyn's Land (fn. 13) (xiv cent.); Conyngarthfeld, Turmerfeld, Losefeld, Totehilfeld, Parkefeld (fn. 14) (xvi cent.).
The origin of the manor afterwards known as PITSTONE MORRANTS is probably to be found in that part of the Count of Mortain's land in Pitstone which was held at the Survey by Ralf as a manor of 3 hides and a virgate. (fn. 15) Alveid of Elesberie (Aylesbury) had held before the Conquest. The overlordship, as in the case of the other lands of the count, became part of the honour of Berkhampstead and passed to the Earls of Cornwall. (fn. 16) It was possibly from Ralf, the Domesday tenant, that the Chenduit family was descended. (fn. 17) Ulian Chenduit granted Edmund Earl of Cornwall his 'manor of Ashridge with Pitstone … with the park of the manor in the parish of St. Peter of Berkhampstead and in the parish of the church of Pitstone,' and the earl gave it 'in free alms' to the college of Bonhommes at Ashridge, (fn. 18) which he founded in 1283. This grant was confirmed to the college in 1285–6. (fn. 19) A further confirmation was made to Ashridge in 1291 of Edmund's gift to it of 'all his lands in the town of Pitstone … which the donor had of Ulian Chenduit within the honour of Berkhampstead.' (fn. 20)
The college also received, by the earl's grant, the homage and service of the Neyrnut family (fn. 21) for lands held of them here within the honour of Wallingford. (fn. 22) The rector and his successors continued to hold until the Dissolution, (fn. 23) adding to their estate here, (fn. 24) which was valued at about £36 10s. in 1535. (fn. 25)
In 1546 the Crown granted this manor of Pitstone to Richard Brokilsbye and Nicholas Gyrlyngton with licence to alienate to Richard Snowe and his heirs. (fn. 26) Daniel Snowe, son and heir of Richard, (fn. 27) received licence to alienate the manor to Richard Warde in 1569. (fn. 28) Snowe levied a fine in 1572, (fn. 29) but Warde was evidently in possession of the manor before that time, as in 1570–1 he brought a suit, as lord of the manor, against Sir William Dormer, kt., William Hawtrey, Edmund Lee and others. (fn. 30) The suit concerned Pitstone Wood, which Warde declared to be parcel of his manor, and in which the defendants had no right save as his free tenants. The defendants stated that they were not free tenants, but that there were four separate manors in Pitstone of which they and Warde were lords, keeping their several courts baron, and having a tenancy in common in the wood, which was shown by the Court Rolls, each lord knowing his own special portion therein. Further evidence showed that an 'accustumable common hewthe' was held every other year when, according to the defendants, their portions were appointed by the bailiff of Hawtrey's manor. The judgement in the suit is not given.
In 1574 Warde was called on to prove his right to the manor, as the final conveyance had been made without licence. (fn. 31) He alienated in 1579 to John Webb, (fn. 32) part of the manor being said to be in Hertfordshire. In 1605–6 the manor was conveyed by Sir John Webb, kt., to Lord Ellesmere and his son Sir John Egerton. (fn. 33) The manor descended with the other property of the Egertons in this county to the present Earl Brownlow. (fn. 34)
Ashridge College held this manor with as full rights and franchises as the Earl of Cornwall and his predecessors had formerly had, namely, return of writs, view of frankpledge, pleas of withernam and of the Crown, so far as the sheriff could plead them in his county, saving appeals and outlawries, assize of bread and ale, chattels of felons and fugitives, and pleas of hue and cry and bloodshed and freedom from all suits at the hundred court. (fn. 35) In 1291 it was further stated that all tenants of the Rector and brethren of Ashridge should answer to their officers in all things at Ashridge and Pitstone, and that the king's justices in eyre when in Buckinghamshire should go to Pitstone and there, on the soil of the said rector, hold and determine all pleas touching the rector and brethren. (fn. 36) Free warren was granted to the college in 1309. (fn. 37)
Another manor in Pitstone of 3 hides and a virgate, held before the Conquest by two men of the Abbot of St. Albans, formed the second of the Count of Mortain's manors here in 1086, being held of him by Bernard. (fn. 38) It became part of the fee of Mortain which later passed to the Earls of Cornwall. (fn. 39) A further Domesday holding in Pitstone, consisting of 5 hides held as a manor and 2 other hides, which before the Conquest were held by Lepsic, a man of Brictric, formed part of Miles Crispin's lands, the tenants being Roger and Suerting respectively. (fn. 40) These became attached to the honour of Wallingford, (fn. 41) which was afterwards held by the Earl of Cornwall contemporaneously with the fee of Mortain. It seems probable that these three holdings were united to form the manor of PITSTONE NEYRNUT (Nernettys, Nerint, Narintt, xvi–xvii cent.), and the fact that the Neyrnut family in both cases were the tenants would further tend to obliterate any original distinction. In 1623 the manor was included in the honour of Mortain. (fn. 42)
The Chenduit family appear to have had an interest in this manor as elsewhere in Pitstone, but the rights of the heir of Julian (Ulian ?) Chenduit mentioned in 1379 (fn. 43) can refer to an intermediary lordship only, the ownership in fee having long been in the Neyrnut family. Miles de Neyrnut probably held this land in the time of Henry II. (fn. 44) He married Maud daughter of Geoffrey de Bella Aqua, or Belewe, and their son Miles succeeded to his father's inheritance about 1204. (fn. 45) This Miles, or probably his son, (fn. 46) held three parts of a fee in Pitstone of the honour of Wallingford in 1234 and after. (fn. 47) He or his successor must have subinfeudated to Geoffrey de Neyrnut, probably representing a younger branch of the family, who was alive in 1263 (fn. 48) but died before 1272. His lands in Pitstone, held 'of the heir of Miles Neyrnut,' passed to his son John, (fn. 49) who was doubtless identical with the John Neyrnut holding here in 1284. (fn. 50) In 1285 John received a quitclaim of property in this manor from Reginald de Beauchamp and Isabel his wife, held in the latter's right, (fn. 51) and it seems very probable that she was the widow of Miles de Neyrnut. (fn. 52) The grant to the college of Ashridge by Edmund Earl of Cornwall, before 1291, of the homage and service of the heirs of this Isabel for the lands held by her and her husband within the precincts of the honour of Wallingford (fn. 53) probably refers to lands in Pitstone retained by the elder branch when they subinfeudated the manor to the younger. John held, as 'Sir John de Neyrnut, kt.', until, apparently, the last years of the reign of Edward II. (fn. 54) His son John held in 1346. (fn. 55) He married Margery widow of Thomas de Luton. (fn. 56) Sir John Neyrnut, kt., mentioned in 1379, (fn. 57) was probably his son, (fn. 58) another son being Thomas, (fn. 59) and it was, apparently, Thomas's son John who afterwards held. (fn. 60) John, son of the latter, died without issue, his heirs being his sisters, Margaret wife of John Harvey and Elizabeth wife of John Hartishorn. (fn. 61) In 1477 Thomas Hartishorn, probably the grandson of Elizabeth, died seised of this manor, leaving a daughter and heir Elizabeth. (fn. 62) A moiety was held, apparently, in 1499 by John Drakys. (fn. 63) In 1540 Richard Higham and Mary his wife sold a moiety of the manor to Sir Anthony Lee of Quarrendon. (fn. 64) Mary's heir, Thomas Colt, her son by a former husband, quitclaimed his right. (fn. 65) Sir Anthony Lee died seised in 1549, (fn. 66) but in 1551 Sibyl Hawtrey, widow, daughter of Elizabeth Hartishorn, (fn. 67) held the manor, and at her death in that year it passed to her son William. (fn. 68) From William Hawtrey the manor apparently passed to his cousin John, son of Ralph Hawtrey, who died seised of it in 1594. (fn. 69) John Hawtrey's heir was his nephew Ralph, son of his brother Edward, (fn. 70) and Ralph Hawtrey, with Mary his wife, conveyed the manor to Lord Ellesmere and Sir John Egerton in 1606, (fn. 71) the property then descending with the main manor (q.v.).
Before the Conquest Toroi, a man of Earl Lewin, held and could sell a manor of 5½ hides; this, afterwards called PITSTONE MANOR, was held in 1086 by Ralf of Walter Giffard. (fn. 72) It later became part of the honour of Giffard, (fn. 73) the overlordship, represented by a view of frankpledge held twice a year, (fn. 74) passing as in Fawley (q.v.) through the Earls of Pembroke (fn. 75) to the Talbots, Earls of Shrewsbury (fn. 76); it is last mentioned in 1623. (fn. 77)
The tenant in the early 13th century was Oliver de Aspreville, (fn. 78) whose fee, however, had passed by 1234 to Simon de Baseville. (fn. 79) John de Baseville held in 1284–6, (fn. 80) and Marina de Baseville in 1302 and 1316. (fn. 81) Her portion had passed by 1346 to Nicholas de la Hese, Thomas Paulyn and Joan widow of John de Baseville. (fn. 82) John Baseville of Pitstone is mentioned in 1392–3. (fn. 83) In the early part of the next century this manor was held in fee by Thomas Botiller. (fn. 84) His daughter and heir Alice married Thomas Arblaster, and by the terms of her father's will the manor was to remain to her younger sons Thomas and Edmund respectively, in tail-male, or to any other son she might have, or, in default, to her eldest son William. (fn. 85) She and her husband brought a suit against her trustees about 1450–60, showing that Thomas and Edmund, her sons, had died without issue, and that the heir was her son Richard, born since her father's death, whose claim the trustees, producing another will of Botiller, refused to allow. (fn. 86) The suit was successful, as the trustees quitclaimed the manor to Alice and Richard in 1460. (fn. 87) In 1495 Richard Arblaster granted the manor to trustees, (fn. 88) from whom it eventually passed by 1498 to Thomas Woodmancy. (fn. 89) The latter, who died in 1505, left Pitstone by will to his son Thomas, (fn. 90) but a younger son, Francis, held in 1529, when he conveyed the manor to Roger Lee. (fn. 91) In 1538 John Cheyne and Joan made a quitclaim of the right of the latter, probably the widow of Francis Woodmancy. (fn. 92) Edmund Lee, apparently nephew of Roger, (fn. 93) held in 1589, (fn. 94) when he mortgaged the manor to Edward Alford, (fn. 95) but he appears to have eventually redeemed it. (fn. 96)
In 1603 Robert Atkynson and Joyce his wife conveyed the manor to trustees of the Egerton family, (fn. 97) who were at this time acquiring other lands in this and neighbouring parishes, and it has since been held with the Bridgewater estates, though not as a separate manor.
The origin of the manor of ERLE is uncertain, but in 1284–6 Geoffrey de Erle held a fourth part of a knight's fee in Pitstone of the heir of William de Longespée, Earl of Salisbury, who held of the Earl of Cornwall, and he of the king. (fn. 98) Geoffrey still held in 1302. (fn. 99) In 1305 he settled land and rent in Pitstone on himself and his wife Alice for life, with remainder to John de Erle and his heirs. (fn. 100) John held the quarter of a fee in 1316, (fn. 101) and in 1319 made a settlement of the above property on himself and his wife Isabel with remainder to their children. (fn. 102) By 1346 John de Erle's inheritance had passed to Augustine Waleys. (fn. 103) In 1346 a fine was passed of the reversion of the manor of Erle, after the death of William Pleyer, (fn. 104) to Thomas Knight. Ten years later Thomas son and heir of John de Erle granted to William Fowkes and Maud his wife messuages and lands which came to him by the death of his mother Isabel, and about the same time a deed of conveyance occurs between the same parties for the manor of Erle. In 1379 William Fowkes and Maud granted the manor to trustees. In 1402 other trustees released the manor to Thomas Knight, and he, later, released to William Pleyer, granting the reversion however, to Thomas Cheyne and John Purchas. (fn. 105) The latter appears to have become eventually seised of the manor, (fn. 106) and in 1534 it was held by William Purchas or Purcas, who conveyed it in that year to Edmund Holford and others and the heirs of Edmund. (fn. 107) From Holford the manor passed to Sir Robert Dormer, kt., for whom he was possibly a trustee; he is mentioned in Dormer's will. (fn. 108) Sir Robert died in 1552, (fn. 109) and his son Sir William Dormer, kt., made a settlement of the manor in 1572, dying three years later. (fn. 110) His son Sir Robert conveyed Erle in 1607 to Lord Ellesmere, (fn. 111) and it was afterwards held by the Bridgewater family with the other manors in Pitstone.
Before the Conquest Gladuin, a man of the Abbot of St. Albans, held and could sell a hide and a virgate of land in Pitstone which Fulcold held of the Count of Mortain in 1086. (fn. 112) It seems probable that this holding passed with the count's two manors to the Chenduits. There is no separate trace of it.
Two mills in Pitstone are mentioned in 1231, when Ralph de Bonevill, or Bovevill, quitclaimed them to William son of Herbert in exchange for other land. (fn. 113) In 1306 Henry Spigurnel received pardon for acquiring without licence a water-mill in Pitstone from John de la Bere, yeoman of Master Ralph of Ivinghoe. (fn. 114) Ralph had held it of the king in chief for 20s. yearly. (fn. 115) Thomas Spigurnel succeeded his father Henry in 1328. (fn. 116) In 1427 Anne Kirkham died seised of the site of the water-mill, called Ivinghoe Mill, which she had held as heir of Sir Henry Spigurnel, kt. (fn. 117) In 1520 William Cowper had custody of this mill for twenty years. (fn. 118) A mill was included in the Neyrnut's property in 1346. (fn. 119)
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel measuring internally about 33 ft. 10 in. by 12 ft., north vestry about 9 ft. 8 in. square, north chapel or chancel aisle 21 ft. 4 in. by 9 ft. 3 in., nave 36 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft., north aisle 36 ft. 6 in. by 7 ft. 6 in., south porch, and a west tower 10 ft. square.
The walls of the chancel, vestry and chancel aisle are covered with plaster, the north aisle and tower are rough-casted, and the roofs are covered with lead. The earliest parts of the present church are the chancel and north chapel, which date from about 1250, but the existence of an earlier church is shown by the font and some carved fragments of 12thcentury date. The north and south aisles were added in the last half of the 13th century. In the 15th century the chancel was lengthened and the north vestry added, while the arcades of the nave were taken down, the north arcade alone being rebuilt, and the west tower was erected. The south porch seems to belong to the same period, and at this time a number of windows and other features were inserted throughout the church. The church was restored in 1893.
The chancel, the axis of which inclines considerably to the north, has a 15th-century pointed east window of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery above. Beneath the window is a contemporary stone reredos, consisting of sunk panels flanked by semi-octagonal pilasters with moulded capitals and bases, and surmounted by an embattled cornice. The 13th-century arcade opening to the north chapel is of two bays, with pointed arches of two plain orders springing from an octagonal column and corresponding responds. The capitals are carved with stiff-leaved foliage, and, except for the top member, the moulded bases are now hidden by the floor. East of the arcade is a 15th-century pointed doorway to the vestry, with continuous moulding.
The east wall of the north vestry is pierced by a small 15th-century trefoiled light. The north chapel is lighted from the north by two square-headed windows. The eastern window, which contains a small circle of original glass, is an insertion of the 14th century, and is of two trefoiled lights, while the western window, which is of three cinquefoiled lights, dates from the late 15th century. Between them is a rectangular locker. A 15th-century piscina in the south wall of this aisle, east of the arcade, has a cinquefoiled four-centred head surmounted by a crocketed and finialled gable with head stops and a carved spandrel. The pointed arch to the north aisle of the nave is probably of the same date as the chapel.
There are three 15th-century windows in the south wall of the chancel; the first from the east is of two cinquefoiled lights, and the others of two trefoiled lights; all have tracery in pointed heads. The 13th-century chancel arch has a pointed head of two plain orders springing from semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals. Through the south jamb is a 15th-century squint. The 15th-century north arcade of the nave is of three pointed arches of two hollow-chamfered orders springing from octagonal columns and responds, with moulded capitals and bases; east of the arcade, at some distance from the floor, there is a blocked opening with a four-centred head. In the east wall of the nave on the south side is the opening to the squint, and south of this is a recess with a fourcentred head, possibly a reredos. Painted on the wall above the chancel arch are the royal arms, dated 1733, and flanked by the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, apparently of contemporary date.
The south wall is thickened externally, at the east end, for the stairs to the former rood-loft, which with their upper and lower doorways of 15th-century date still remain. In this wall are two 15th-century windows, each of three cinquefoiled lights in a fourcentred head. The 13th-century south doorway between the two windows is pointed and continuously moulded. To the east of it is a small stoup recess with a four-centred head.
The tower is of three stages with an embattled parapet. There are diagonal west buttresses and a north-east semi-octagonal stair turret carried above the level of the roof. The pointed tower arch is of two hollow-chamfered orders, the inner carried on moulded brackets. The west doorway is pointed under a square head with carved spandrels. The window above it has three trefoiled lights in a four-centred head. On each side of the second stage, except the east, is a loop, and above the loop in the west wall, in the plaster, is the date 1827, probably that of the rough-casting of the tower, with the initials of the churchwardens. The top stage had formerly in each face a window of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a pointed head; three of these remain, but that in the south face has been replaced by two lancets. The stair is lighted by three small traceried lights.
The roof of the chancel has 15th-century moulded ties, plates and ridge, and that of the north vestry old chamfered purlins and square rafters. The roofs of the aisle and the chapel and of the porch have 15thcentury moulded principals, plates and purlins, and chamfered rafters. The nave roof, which is also of the 15th century, is of three bays with moulded main timbers; the tie-beams are supported by curved spandrel pieces resting on moulded stone brackets.
The font, of about 1190, has a circular bowl enriched with flutings, and with a band of crudely carved ornament round the top; it rests on a circular fluted tapering base surmounted by a cable moulding.
The pulpit, probably of early 17th-century date, is hexagonal and has elaborately panelled and carved sides; the sounding-board, which has a panelled soffit and turned drops, is supported by a wall standard flanked by pierced scrolls; the top member of the sounding-board, part of the book-rest and the base and steps are modern. The communion table and rails are of 17th-century date. The greater part of the nave seating appears to be of the 16th century.
In the vestry there is a chest, probably of early mediaeval date, of unusual design, the feet being curiously carved and the front being formed of three wide planks. The chest retains its original ironwork and three old locks.
The church was attached to the manor of Pitstone Neyrnut, and in 1263, when Geoffrey de Neyrnut presented Walter de Neyrnut, the vicar, to the rectory vacant by the death of the rector Henry, the rectory and vicarage were consolidated by the bishop. (fn. 120) The patronage of the church, assessed at £10 13s. 4d. in 1291, (fn. 121) descended in the Neyrnut family, members of which frequently held the living. (fn. 122) In 1288–9 Fulk de Neyrnut, the rector, granted to the rector of Ashridge College the privilege of celebrating divine worship in the college. (fn. 123) In 1379 Henry Fallowell, William Wengrave and John Chambre, probably trustees of the Neyrnuts, alienated the advowson of the church, then valued at 20 marks yearly, (fn. 124) to Ashridge College, (fn. 125) episcopal assent being given in 1381, when a vicarage was ordained. (fn. 126) The property remained with the college until the Dissolution, since which time both rectory and advowson followed the descent of the manor of Pitstone Morrants (q.v.). The living does not seem to have been reckoned as a vicarage after the Dissolution, there being no presentations to it as such. It was held as a perpetual curacy (fn. 127) until 1868–9, (fn. 128) and is now a vicarage in the gift of Earl Brownlow.
The chapel of Nettleden was built before 1285, when it was included in the quitclaim made by Reginald de Beauchamp and Isabel of Pitstone Neyrnut. In 1572 the curate of the chapel, Leonard Stepnethe, brought a suit against Richard Ward, the owner of Pitstone rectory, who refused to pay the stipend. (fn. 129) By 'a 200 year old agreement' between the rectors of Ashridge and the Bishop of Lincoln, the rectors holding Pitstone and Nettleden Churches were to take the tithes and in return find and maintain two 'sufficient and able chaplains,' either brothers of Ashridge or secular priests, to serve the cures. After the Dissolution the king had continued the stipends, paying the curate of Pitstone £6 yearly, and the curate of Nettleden 8 marks. Richard Ward, the owner of the rectory, refused on the ground that the rectory was held by a lease from the college by William Duncombe, who ought to pay the stipend.
The chantry returns in the reign of Edward VI show that lands worth 7s. 8d. yearly had been given for the maintenance of certain obits in the town of Pitstone, and other lands, worth 8d. yearly, maintained a light there. (fn. 130)
The town lands, which have been in the possession of the parish from time immemorial, the earliest known feoffment whereof bore date 14 December 1511, consist of three several closes of land and old cottages, containing together 13 a. 1 r. of the annual rental value of £48, five other cottages let at £18 a year, and £251 15s. 1d. consols, producing £6 5s. 8d. a year. The income is applicable to the common profit and necessary uses of the town.
Countess of Bridgewater's Educational Trust (see under Edlesborough).
Chapelry of Nettleden.
The poor tenements, given, as appears from the Parliamentary Returns in 1786, by a donor unknown, for the benefit of the poor of the chapelry, were sold in 1837 under an order of the Poor Law Board. The endowment now consists of £274 3s. consols, the dividends, amounting to £6 17s., being applied for public uses.