A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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Brunhelle (xi cent.); Breohilla, Brohill (xii cent.); Bruhulle, Brihull, Brehull (xiii cent.).
This parish, which, like Boarstall, lay within Bernwood Forest, and in the 13th century gave the alternative name of the forest of Brill to part if not the whole of it, (fn. 1) extends over nearly 2,940 acres, of which 307 are arable, 207 woodland, and the rest pasture. (fn. 2) The surface soil varies, but the subsoil is Kimmeridge Clay and Portland Beds. At Muswell Hill, which is partly in Oxfordshire, where there are traces of Roman occupation, (fn. 3) and at the village, the land rises to 600 ft., but elsewhere it rises to 400 ft. At the town of Brill, which was ravaged by the Danes in 914, (fn. 4) Edward the Confessor is said to have had a house. (fn. 5) At least one charter of Henry I is dated from Brill, (fn. 6) and the early Plantagenet sovereigns were not infrequently resident here. (fn. 7) In the 13th century timber from Bernwood Forest was constantly in demand for the repair of the houses of the king's manor of Brill, (fn. 8) and several records survive of the replenishing of the royal cellars before the king's arrival. (fn. 9) The site of the royal palace is thought to have been near the church. (fn. 10)
The village, placed on the summit of a high hill, consists of a long, wide street from which smaller roads diverge. The church of All Saints stands at the south-east end, with the almshouses and the Wesleyan chapel, dating from 1841, close by. The Congregational chapel a little further on was built in 1839. In 1644 Brill was selected as the winter quarters for a thousand Parliamentarian foot-soldiers. (fn. 11) A strong rampart and ditch north of the church and another line of defence further down the hill were probably constructed about this time.
The village contains a number of buildings dating from the 17th century, including Manor Farm, the Swan (fn. 12) and Red Lion Inns, and the windmill, but most of them have been considerably restored and altered in later years.
The manor-house, at the south end of the village, appears to have been developed from a half-timber house of the late 15th century. The structure, as it now stands, is mainly of the late 16th century, and the walls are of brick with stone dressings, the original timber portion having been encased. Although it has been a good deal altered and added to subsequently, much original detail remains, including several panelled rooms.
Coldharbour Farm, about a mile north, and a farm-house about a mile south of the village, are both of 17th-century date; at Little London, a hamlet near the south-west boundary of the parish, are several cottages of the same period, but all have been more or less altered at subsequent dates. There is also a Congregational chapel here, built in 1847.
Pottery and tile-making were mediaeval industries at Brill, (fn. 13) and continued to the latter half of the 19th century. About a mile north of the village, beyond the old brickfields and the common with its old wooden mill, is Brill station, on the Brill and Quainton Road branch of the Metropolitan and Great Central Joint railway. Not far off lies Rushbeds Wood, of which more than 100 acres were inclosed about 1575, (fn. 14) a part, called Upper Rushbeds Coppice, being still Crown land in 1651, when the Parliamentary commissioners reported that a sufficient number of acres from it should have been given to the late Sir John Dynham to compensate him for the office of forester. (fn. 15) Other inclosures, against which the people of Brill petitioned Queen Elizabeth, were made at Clere Fields and Poole Trees, (fn. 16) names still surviving in the north-east of the parish, Hale Hill, Mollens, once probably Moleyns Wood and Godstow or Costow Park. (fn. 17) At Godstow, part of which with Clere Fields and Hale Hill had belonged to the lords of Boarstall Manor since 1305, (fn. 18) it was said that Mr. Dynham had inclosed 140 acres of the queen's ground to make a park. (fn. 19) Another petition was presented in 1610 against the inclosure of Godley Common or Brill Hills. (fn. 20) In 1632 part of Godstow was allotted to the poor of Brill and Oakley in lieu of Cartbridge Waste. (fn. 21) Leap Hill, Hercumdean, Leatherslade, Parkpale Farm and Well House, which lie in the south-east of the parish, are names known there since the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 22) Rid's Hill, north-east of the village, is probably the Red's Hill of 1634, (fn. 23) whilst Chinkwell Wood, to the east of it, dates from 1681 (fn. 24); the Hutwood or Outwood of 1255 and later (fn. 25) does not occur in modern maps.
There seems to be no doubt that a royal borough at one time existed at Brill, but by the mid-13th century it had been merged in the manor. At the eyre of 1241 the borough of Brill came by twelve men, and the town (villata) made fine of 20s. before judgement. (fn. 26) At an eyre of uncertain date, probably not much later, Brill again appeared by twelve men, but they had nothing more to present than had been said elsewhere by the representatives of the hundred. (fn. 27) As late, however, as the year 1316 Brill and Boarstall were returned as royal boroughs. (fn. 28) These indications are strengthened by the 13th-century extents, which show half-acre and acre plots of 'land built upon' (terra edificata), which may represent the early burgages. (fn. 29) The growth of the borough was arrested early, though in the reign of John we hear of the 'legales' or 'probi homines' of Brill. (fn. 30)
BRILL, formerly one of the manors of Edward the Confessor, belonged to the Conqueror in 1086, (fn. 31) and until the 14th century remained in the Crown, (fn. 32) of which it was held in chief as one knight's fee from 1337 to 1634. (fn. 33)
Grants of the whole or part of the manor, generrally during the royal pleasure or for a term of years, were made by Henry II and his successors. (fn. 34) Certain lands here of the king's gift were held by William de Rochelle from 1168 to 1178, (fn. 35) and in 1204 John granted the manor of Brill to Walter Bustard, servant of his chapel, in fee farm. (fn. 36) Many other grants of custody were made during the reign of Henry III. (fn. 37) The Bishop of Bath and Wells was tenant for seven years from 1266, (fn. 38) and in 1275 the manor of Brill was assigned to Queen Eleanor in dower. (fn. 39) Other grants of short duration (fn. 40) were followed by one made in 1317 to Richard Lovel and his wife Muriel, in return for a manor exchanged. (fn. 41) Richard, who petitioned the king, about four years later, against the malicious withholding of his dues in Brill by 'le Mestr' de Smityngfeld, (fn. 42) retained possession until 1337, when, on a grant of the manor in fee by Edward III to John de Moleyns, he released his rights to the new lord. (fn. 43)
The manor of Brill then descended with Stoke Poges (q.v.), with a few divergencies noticed below, until Francis Earl of Huntingdon sold it to Thomas Dynham in 1554. (fn. 44) Since then it has followed the descent of Boarstall Manor, Mr. Henry L. AubreyFletcher being now lord.
The custody of Brill Manor was committed in 1358 to Gilbert Chastellyn, (fn. 45) and the bailiwick in 1384 to Richard Wilcocks, (fn. 46) a John Wilcocks farming the manor in 1397. (fn. 47) A settlement of Brill appears to have been made on Thomas Chaucer, said in 1435 to have been seised of the same. (fn. 48) Mortgages of the manor were made in 1539 and 1549 by the Earl of Huntingdon. (fn. 49) Frideswide daughter of Eleanor de Moleyns by her second husband Sir Oliver de Mannyngham (fn. 50) apparently brought Brill to her husband Sir Thomas Oxenbridge, who held in 1489, (fn. 51) but in 1493 they surrendered all claim, for a life annuity of £10 to Frideswide, to Sir Edward Hastings and Mary his wife, daughter and heir of Thomas Hungerford. (fn. 52) Frideswide's daughter and heir Dorothy, wife of Sir Thomas Digby, afterwards unsuccessfully sued the trustees of Edward and Mary for the recovery of Brill, (fn. 53) and her grandson Everard Digby of Long Stratton revived the claim c. 1565 (fn. 54) against Thomas Dynham's trustees. (fn. 55) In 1592 a grant of Brill Manor was made to the fishing grantees Tipper and Dawe. (fn. 56)
There appears to have been a rectory manor of Brill, the rector holding assize of bread and ale for his tenants in 1276. (fn. 57)
The manor had a mill in 1086. (fn. 58) Two centuries later a windmill was built here of timber from Bernwood Forest, (fn. 59) probably on the site on which John de Moleyns, about 1345, constructed another with oaks felled in his demesne woods. (fn. 60) From that time until 1733 a windmill appears amongst the appurtenances of the manor, (fn. 61) of which the ancient windmill now standing may be the survival. Assize of bread and ale was a liberty granted to John de Moleyns in 1338, when he also received view of frankpledge. (fn. 62) According to a later record, free warren and the right of erecting gallows on his land were included in the grant of the manor to him. (fn. 63) The tolls of a market and fair held at Brill at the beginning of August were accounted for by John Norton about 1317. (fn. 64) In 1347 John de Moleyns was authorised to hold a fair at his manor of Brill on the eve, day and morrow of the Translation of St. Thomas the Martyr (fn. 65) (7 July). One or more dovecotes were amongst the appurtenances of the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 66)
In 1563 there was a capital messuage on the lands called Harehill, (fn. 67) Halehill, (fn. 68) or the Hall Hill. (fn. 69) The site of the manor and lands were sold by John Dynham to William Belson in 1587, (fn. 70) and he and his heirs had a capital messuage here in the 17th century. (fn. 71)
An appurtenance of Brill Manor in the 13th and 14th centuries was a bowl of honey due from the Abbot of Woburn for land in Swanbourne. (fn. 72) Before 1535 this had been commuted for an annual payment of 13s. 4d. (fn. 73)
In 1305 Edward I granted John de Handlo 138 acres in Les Clers, on the borders of if not within the boundaries of Ludgershall parish. (fn. 74) This seems to have been the nucleus of what was known from 1362 to 1527 as the manor of CLERESPLACE or CLEREFIELD, and descended with Boarstall (q.v.), being held in the 16th century of the lord of Brill as of his manor of Brill. (fn. 75)
In the 16th century the Abbot of Nutley, to whose house King Henry II had given two cartloads of fuel a day from Bernwood Forest, (fn. 76) a grant rescinded by Edward III, (fn. 77) held a considerable property in Brill. (fn. 78) The promise of a lease of a valuable part of this, Brill Closes or Wellfields, was obtained from the abbot for Richard Cromwell by Sir Robert Dormer in 1536. (fn. 79) In 1540 they were granted, with other lands formerly of Nutley Abbey, to John Williams, (fn. 80) whose possessions in the parish were augmented by another grant six years later. (fn. 81) All were left under the title of the manor of Brill by John, then Lord Williams, at his death in 1559 to his servant John Place for life, (fn. 82) and at the beginning of the 17th century were held by the heirs of his daughter Margery wife of Henry Lord Norreys. (fn. 83)
The brothers of the hospital of Santingfeld, near Wissant in Picardy, paid 60s. a year into the royal exchequer for lands in Brill from 1154 to 1199. (fn. 84) These were perhaps part of the 3 hides in the neighbouring parish of Ludgershall granted by Henry II to this house, for which the Master of Santingfeld owed suit at the court of Brill. (fn. 85)
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel measuring internally 18 ft. by 15 ft., nave 58 ft. 6 in. by 21 ft. 6 in., north aisle 13 ft. 6 in. wide, south aisle 14 ft. wide, west tower 11 ft. by II ft. 6 in., and a timber south porch. The walling is principally of rubble and the roofs are tiled.
The chancel and nave date from the early 12th century. Beyond the addition of the tower in the early 15th century and the insertion of windows at various dates in the Middle Ages, the plan of the fabric remained practically unchanged till 1839, when the north aisle was added. In 1889 the south aisle and porch were built, and the chancel, which had been reroofed in the early 17th century, was ex tended eastwards about 6 ft.
The east window of the chancel is modern, and has three lights under a traceried head. Above it is a reset and retooled two-light window of about 1400. In the north wall are a late 13th-century trefoiled light and a small blocked window of about 1120, and in the south wall a pointed doorway and a two-light window, both probably of the 13th century, the latter much restored and altered. The fine 17th-century roof is supported by three trusses and plastered below the collar-beams. The middle truss has an elaborate arch above the tie-beam filled with pierced balusters radiating from a central pendant; the eastern truss, which stands away from the wall and marks the position of the original east end, has curved struts, while the tie-beam of the western truss has been cut away and only the ends remain. The pointed chancel arch dates from the 13th century, the label on the east side and the north abacus being re-used from the 12th-century arch. On the north side are notches for the rood screen, and the arch is rebated on the east, doubtless for a wood tympanum; the south jamb has been considerably restored. On the soffit are 14th-century paintings of St. Peter holding a book and a key, and St. Paul holding a book and a sword.
In the west wall of the nave is a 15th-century pointed arch opening to the ground stage of the tower; the inner order rests upon corbels, and above it is a round-headed light of the 12th century. The arcades and the clearstory are modern, but the north and south doorways, though restored, are both of the early 12th century, and, with some windows and fittings taken out of the original side walls of the nave, have been rebuilt in the walls of the modern aisles. The doorways are alike, each having a round head of two orders supported by detached shafts. In the east wall of the north aisle is a late 13th-century window of four uncusped lights with tracery, while the south aisle has an early 16th-century window of two cinquefoiled lights in the east wall, a three-light window, probably of the same period, in the west wall, and in the south wall a two-light traceried window of about 1320, from which many of the modern aisle windows have been copied. A roundarched recess, and a moulded pillar piscina, the shaft of which is modern, have also been re-used. Some old white glass in the head of the 14th-century window is probably original.
The low tower, which hardly rises above the ridge of the nave roof, is of two stages, the upper being slightly diminished in size, and has diagonal buttresses at the western angles. On the south side is a clock dial. The lower stage has a two-light traceried window on the west, and there are traces of a late doorway, now blocked, on the north. The bellchamber is lighted from each side by an original window of two lights, the western one being repaired in oak, and there are original gargoyles on the stringcourse below the parapet.
The font, which dates from the 14th century, has a traceried panel on each of the seven sides of the bowl, and an octagonal stem and base, the base being prolonged to form a step. The communion table dates from the 17th century. In the chancel and nave are six mediaeval oak benches and in the tower is a rail supported by 17th-century balusters. On the south wall of the chancel is an early 16th-century brass inscription to John Hood and his wife Maud.
The tower contains a ring of six bells recast by William & John Taylor of Oxford in 1825, and a sanctus by James Keene, 1624, inscribed round the lip 'Pe Newman Ier Sergeant.'
The communion plate includes a silver cup and cover paten of 1569, the latter inscribed 'B 1570'; a cup and cover paten of 1689 given by Robert Hart; a flagon given by Sir Thomas Snell in 1751; a small modern pewter chalice and paten; and a modern silver-gilt chalice, paten, and pyx.
The registers begin in 1569.
The church of Brill from the 12th to the 16th century was a chapel of Oakley Church (fn. 86) (q.v.), with which it seems always to have descended. According to a charter of Stephen it had belonged to the priory of St. Frideswide, Oxford, since the time of Edward the Confessor. (fn. 87) In the 13th century and the early years of the 14th, presentations, which included Oakley, were made to the church of Brill, (fn. 88) the importance of the latter parish as containing a royal manor and residence and the position of Oakley Church within its boundaries (fn. 89) apparently obscuring the real relationship between the mother church and its chapel.
Brill had two other chapels in the 13th century. For the service of one, 'the chapel of the king's court,' John in 1205 granted Robert the hermit of St. Werburgh and his successors 50s. a year and the site of the hermitage. (fn. 90) A single chaplain seems to have been in charge of the hermitage or 'priory of St. Werburgh' (fn. 91) and the royal chapel (fn. 92) until the annexation of the former to Chetwode Priory in 1251. (fn. 93) The prior was then required to supply two chaplains, one for the chapel of St. Werburgh at the hermitage, the other for the royal chapel, receiving in lieu of the 50s. formerly paid him for the latter 21 acres of the king's assart in Brill. (fn. 94) The service of both had probably been long intermitted before the middle of the 15th century, when it was proposed to resume certain lands in Brill held by the Prior of Chetwode on the unfulfilled condition of maintaining a chaplain to celebrate there on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. (fn. 95) In 1460 the advowsons of the chapels of St. Edmund and St. Werburgh were included in the surrender made by the prior to the Bishop of Lincoln, (fn. 96) which was followed the next year by the annexation of his house and possessions to Nutley Abbey. (fn. 97)
In the 16th century there were lands in Brill devoted to the maintenance of certain lamps in the church, and the rent of a close supported an obit. (fn. 98)
Eleemosynary Charities.— The charity formerly known as the Poor Folks' Pasture, which was founded in or about the year 1623, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 26 April 1912. The trust estate consists of 149 acres, or thereabouts, in Boarstall, known as the Pasture Farm, and 29 acres of allotment land, producing £126 yearly. The income, augmented by the letting of the shooting rights thereon, is applicable under the scheme for the general benefit of the poor in one or more of the modes therein specified. In 1912 the sum of £3 was given to each of thirty-four recipients.
Alice Carter's almshouse charity, stated in the Parliamentary Returns of 1786 to have been founded by deed in 1591 for poor widows, consists of the almshouse, close, cottages and gardens containing about 3 acres, let to various tenants, producing about £30 a year.
John Hart, by his will proved in the P.C.C. 15 May 1665, devised (inter alia) an annual rent-charge of £5 issuing out of Easington Manor, Oxfordshire, for binding one poor boy to some good trade. In 1912 a premium of £10 was paid for apprenticing a boy.
Edward Lewis, by his will proved 26 February 1674, directed a sum of £300 to be laid out in the purchase of a yearly rent for the benefit of the poor. The endowment consists of a yearly rent-charge of £8 issuing out of lands belonging to Mr. Henry L. Aubrey-Fletcher, which is applied in the distribution of coal.
Miss Mary Elliott, by her will 1864, bequeathed £100 consols, the annual dividends of £2 10s. to be applied in the distribution at Christmas of gowns, flannel and calico among three poor women members of the Established Church.
Samuel Turner, by his will proved at London 14 November 1873, bequeathed £400, the income to be distributed annually at Christmas in money, food, fuel, or clothing to the poor. The legacy, less duty, is represented by £360 consols, producing £9 yearly.
The sums of stock are held by the official trustees.
Educational Charities.—In 1637 John Pym by deed gave an annuity of £10 to be paid to a schoolmaster for teaching ten poor children. In 1710 a sum of £300, representing arrears of the annuity, was laid out in the purchase of 12 acres called Spar Closes, which are let at £20 a year. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 1 February 1895 the income is made applicable in the maintenance of evening classes and in prizes and exhibitions.
In 1825 Sir John Aubrey gave £2,200 stock, the dividends, subject to the payment of 20s. to the parish clerk and of £5 yearly for keeping in repair the family monuments in the church, to be applied for educational purposes. In 1904 there was set aside with the official trustees a sum of £240 consols as the ecclesiastical branch, to provide the annual sum of £6 for the clerk and repair of the monuments, and £1,960 consols as the educational branch of the charity. In 1910 the sum of £980 consols, part of the lastmentioned sum of stock, was sold out to provide the cost of altering and improving the Church of England schools, for the replacement of which a sum of £660 consols, further part there of, was set aside and accu mulated, leaving a sum of £320 consols with the official trustees on current account. The dividends of £8 a year are applied towards the upkeep of the school premises. The stock on the investment account amounts to £715 6s. 7d. consols.
Church Acre.—There is in the parish an acre of land, so called, let at £2 5s. a year, which is carried to the churchwardens' account.