A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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Cerdeslai, Cerleslai (xi cent.); Chaddesle (xiv cent.); Chardesle Velence, Chardislee Molyns (xv cent.); Cheardesley, Chersley (xvii—xix cent.).
Chearsley covers 942 acres, 322 of these being arable land, 476 permanent grass, and 18 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is clay and loam, with a subsoil of clay and limestone; the chief crops are wheat, barley and turnips. The southern boundary of the parish is the River Thame. Here and in the west the land is low-lying, averaging about 250 ft. above the ordnance datum. Towards the north-east, however, the ground reaches a height of 407 ft. The small and somewhat scattered village lies at the foot and on the slope of this hill, the church of St. Nicholas being at the southeren end.
The village contains a good number of 17th-century timber-framed houses, most of which have been altered and added to in later times. Remains of a moat exist near the church.
An Inclosure Act for Chearsley was passed in 1805. (fn. 2) There is a small Baptist chapel in the village, built in 1854.
Chearsley has been thought to be identical with 'Cerdicesleah,' at which Cerdic and Cynric fought with the Britons in 527. (fn. 3)
There is a tradition that the lord's gallows formerly stood on the hill near the cross-roads; the discovery of several skeletons close by tends to bear out the story. (fn. 4)
A few details concerning the land of the parish, given during legal proceedings in the 17th century, help us to form some idea of the local conditions at that date. (fn. 5) It appears that the meadows lying near the river and other brooks being frequently 'flotten and utterly spoiled' by floods, and 'being exceeding fruitful, mellow and tender,' were often so overstocked with cattle that many rotted. The manor lay in open fields and was 'a champion place' with a very fertile and fruitful soil which was 'oftentimes hurtful and very casual' for sheep but excellent for other animals, although there was no convenient cow pasture save among the corn and grain which 'by reason thereof is much spoiled.'
Six thegns held a manor in Chearsley before the Conquest, and in 1086 it formed part of Walter Giffard's lands. (fn. 6) Since the manor was parcel of the honour of Giffard, (fn. 7) the overlordship passed to the Earls of Pembroke (fn. 8) and descended with the manor of Pollicott in Ashendon (fn. 9) (q.v.), the lords of this manor retaining rights in Chearsley as late as 1739. (fn. 10)
The tenants at the time of the Survey were Ernulf and Geoffrey. (fn. 11) In 1166 Hugh de Cressy held a fee in this county of the Giffard Honour. (fn. 12) His son Roger (fn. 13) died in 1246, leaving a son and heir Hugh, (fn. 14) who in 1255 held Chearsley in demesne. (fn. 15) Stephen de Cressy, brother of this Hugh, inherited about 1263, (fn. 16) and in 1268 Richard de St. Denis, Stephen's heir, sued for his right in the manor against William de Valence, who was at that time overlord (see Pollicott), and who claimed the manorial rights by a grant from his brother, the king. (fn. 17) As a result of the suit Richard quitclaimed all right, and for some time after this the chief lord appears to have held the manor in demesne. (fn. 18) Aymer de Valence, son of William, succeeding in 1296, (fn. 19) made a life grant of Chearsley to Peter de Carbonel, Isabel his wife, and John their son in survivorship, for an annual rent of £4. (fn. 20) After the death of Aymer in 1324, (fn. 21) the partition of his inheritance gave rise to disputes, but eventually the annual rent and the reversion of the manor were assigned to David de Strabolgi, Earl of Athole, and John his wife, (fn. 22) niece and co-heir of Aymer. (fn. 23)
Their son David, a rebel, forfeited his lands to the king, who made a grant in fee of the manor, (fn. 24) after the Carbonels should die, to Sir Walter Mauny, kt., in 1335. (fn. 25) Sir Walter granted the reversion to Sir John de Moleyns, kt., in 1339. (fn. 26) Peter de Carbonel died about 1328, (fn. 27) and Isabel de Carbonel, who obtained a confirmation of her right in 1329, (fn. 28) still held in 1346. (fn. 29) Both she and her son John were dead by 1353, (fn. 30) when Sir John de Moleyns obtained full possession, and from this date Chearsley descended with the manor held by this family in Stoke Poges (fn. 31) until 1537, when George son of Edward Lord Hastings and Mary Baroness de Moleyns (fn. 32) joined with his son Sir Francis Hastings in conveying the manor to Sir John Baldwin, kt. (fn. 33) He was lord of Danvers in Little Marlow (q.v.), with which Chearsley descended until 1594–5, when William Borlase alienated it to John Dormer. (fn. 34) He already held Long Crendon Manor (q.v.), with which Chearsley descended, until the Cottrell-Dormers alienated the former about the middle of the 18th century. (fn. 35) Sir Charles Cottrell-Dormer made a settlement of Chearsley in 1745, (fn. 36) and by his will, proved in October 1779, left it to his son Clement, (fn. 37) lord of the manor in 1805. (fn. 38) On his death three years later (fn. 39) his son Charles succeeded him and was dealing with Chearsley in 1822. (fn. 40) From him the manor appears to have passed between 1844 and 1854 to Captain Wyndham, (fn. 41) who was still lord in 1864. By the following year the property had come to Richard Roadnight. (fn. 42) The trustees of Mr. Richard Roadnight are now among the principal landowners in the parish and his executors hold the Manor Farm.
The lord of the manor held view of frankpledge in Chearsley in 1254–5, (fn. 43) and it was still among his rights in 1594–5, when he was also stated to hold free warren, return of writs, goods and chattels of felons and fugitives and other privileges, (fn. 44) which had been granted in extenso to John de Moleyns in 1339. (fn. 45) A windmill is mentioned among the appurtenances of the manor in 1296 (fn. 46) and in later inquisitions. (fn. 47) A deed of 1822 mentions two windmills and two water corn-mills here. (fn. 48)
In 1254–5 Hugh de Cressy claimed a common fishery in the waters of Chearsley against John de Columbars; the latter gave up all his claim, receiving in return from Hugh certain fishery rights. (fn. 49) Free fishery was held by subsequent lords until 1627 or later. (fn. 50)
In 1356–9 the Prior of Rochester, holding the manor of Haddenham, adjacent to Chearsley, complained that his free fishery in the Thame was greatly interfered with by five weirs which Sir John de Moleyns had raised; the sheriff, having made a survey, caused the weirs to be thrown down. (fn. 51) In 1363 Sir William de Moleyns brought a suit for trespass in his fishery against the Abbot of Nutley. (fn. 52)
The manor afterwards known as BUCKTOFTS probably originated in the half-fee held here of the honour of Giffard in 1254–5 by John de Columbars. (fn. 53) It was held by William de Columbars in 1284–6, (fn. 54) and in 1294–5 Joan daughter of William conveyed a messuage, land and rent in Chearsley to Michael de Drokensford. (fn. 55) John de Drokensford, probably the son of Michael, (fn. 56) held part of a fee here in 1302. (fn. 57) In 1325 Ellen de Boketot or Bucktoft, widow of Thomas de Bucktoft, (fn. 58) held a tenement consisting of a messuage, garden, land, rents of free and customary tenants and works. (fn. 59) Philip de Bucktoft her son (fn. 60) held in 1346 (fn. 61) a part of Chearsley which had formerly belonged to the Drokensfords. (fn. 62) The manor seems to have passed to Sir Edmund Hampden, kt., before 1465, (fn. 63) and was granted, after his attainder, to Richard Croft and Thomas Croft for life, (fn. 64) but there is no further record of it.
The Domesday Survey shows that 1½ hides of land which Alden, a man of Earl Harold, had held belonged in 1086 to Miles Crispin. (fn. 65) It afterwards belonged to the honour of Wallingford, passing with it to the Earls of Cornwall, (fn. 66) the last mention of this overlordship occurring in 1469. (fn. 67) The sub-tenant in 1086 was Richard, (fn. 68) who also held 4 hides in Ickford (fn. 69) (q.v.), and these two holdings were assessed together in the 13th century as a fee in Ickford and Chearsley. (fn. 70) In the early part of that century Walter son of John held the Chearsley portion for half a fee, and the Ickford portion, also accounted half a fee, was held by Thomas de Appleton. (fn. 71) He was in possession of the whole fee in 1235, (fn. 72) but subinfeudated half a fee consisting of the Chearsley portion and 2 virgates in Ickford, (fn. 73) and later, in 1270, alienated the overlordship rights in this part to Denise de Stokes. (fn. 74) There was some doubt as to the validity of the conveyance, for in 1284 the heir of Thomas de Appleton was said to be overlord of this half-fee, (fn. 75) and an inquisition was held in 1292 as to alienation of lands in Chearsley and Ickford, at that time held by Denise de Stokes and her son Robert. (fn. 76) The Stokes's claims were evidently overruled, as Walter son of Thomas de Appleton was stated to be overlord of this half-fee in 1302. (fn. 77)
The subinfeudation had taken place before 1254, when Walter Knight was holding. (fn. 78) In 1284 (fn. 79) and 1292 John Knight was in possession. (fn. 80) This estate had passed by 1302 to Thomas de Zouche, (fn. 81) who was probably a relative of the Knights, as it was held in 1346 by a member of this family, Walter, (fn. 82) whose name occurs in connexion with Chearsley in 1324 (fn. 83) and in 1342. (fn. 84) The property seems to have come into possession of the Brightwell family by the 15th century. William Brightwell of Chearsley is mentioned in 1434, (fn. 85) and Walter Brightwell, who died before 1468, was seised of six messuages and about 250 acres of land in Chearsley, Warmeston and Quainton, which he had granted to feoffees with intent to defraud the king of the custody and marriage of the heir, Walter's son Nicholas. (fn. 86) The king granted the custody to Richard Fowler in 1469. (fn. 87) In 1616 John Brightwell made a settlement of this land on the marriage of his son Thomas with Ann Lamborne. (fn. 88) Thomas died in 1633, the property being called by the name of BRIGHTWELL'S FEE in his inquisition. (fn. 89) His heir was his son John, a minor, (fn. 90) who in 1666 was complainant in a dispute over the conversion of arable land into pasture for his cattle. (fn. 91) No later reference to this estate has been found.
The church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of a chancel measuring internally 20 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft., north vestry, nave 44 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., west tower 12 ft. by 11 ft., and south porch, the last being built of brick, while the other parts are of stone rubble roofed with tiles.
The nave dates from about 1300, the tower from the early part of the 15th century, and the chancel, which was probably erected at the same time as the nave, was rebuilt about 1480, when it seems to have been widened towards the north. The porch and vestry are modern.
The chancel is lighted from the south by two late 15th-century windows of two lights under square heads, and on the north are two similar windows, but the westernmost has been blocked. The east window is modern. A pointed doorway with moulded jambs, in the north wall, and a similar one in the south wall, both probably dating from the end of the 13th cen tury, have been reset in the walls, and the chancel arch, which is of the same period, has also been rebuilt, and now centres neither with the chancel nor the nave. In the south wall is a piscina with a sexfoil bowl. The timber roof dates from the late 15th century, but has been restored.
The north and south doorways of the nave, which have pointed heads and moulded jambs, and a lancet window in each of the north and south walls, are all probably original; in each side wall there are also a modern window and a 15th-century window of three lights under a square head, while at the south-east is a two-light window of about 1600, near the square head of which a head corbel has been reset in the wall. The north doorway has been partly blocked and the upper part glazed. The pointed tower arch on the west appears to have been rebuilt about 1480. The nave has a fine timber roof, with curved braces and foliated struts, which probably dates from the late 14th century; it appears to have been somewhat altered about 1500, and has been repaired at a modern period. The original pitch can be traced on the tower wall.
The tower is of two stages with a stair turret at the south-east rising above the embattled parapet. The west window, of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a pointed head, is original, and retains in its head some fragments of painted glass. In each wall of the bell-chamber is a window of similar character, also original.
In the chancel is a brass with the inscription, 'Her lyth John Frankeleyn & Margarete hys wyff which ordeyned [ ]stowe to this chirch & divine service to be doone every day in the [ye]r. A°.M.CCCC.LXII. on whos soules god have mercy Amen.' Above the inscription are their figures, and below are groups of three sons and four daughters.
The font has an early 13th-century circular bowl, with a cable mould round the rim and a band of foliated ornament; it stands upon a later octagonal stem and moulded base.
In the churchyard is the octagonal base and part of the stem of a mediaeval churchyard cross.
There is a ring of three bells in the tower: the first, inscribed 'Sancte Paule Ora Pro Nobis. W.H.,' (fn. 92) is of about 1500; the second is by Thomas Lester of London, 1741, and the third by Henry Knight, 1616. There is also a sanctus, with no inscription.
The communion plate consists of a silver cup of 1569, with a cover; a modern silver paten; and a modern plated flagon.
The registers begin in 1570.
The church of Chearsley, anciently a chapel to Crendon, formed part of the original endowment of the abbey of Nutley, founded in the early 12th century by Walter Giffard. (fn. 93) The grant was confirmed by later deeds, (fn. 94) and the abbey continued to hold until the Dissolution. (fn. 95) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £10 10s. annually, from which sum an annual pension of 22s. was paid to the rector of Ickford. (fn. 96) Henry VIII granted the rectory and advowson of the vicarage to the Dean and Canons of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1542. (fn. 97) In 1579 both were granted to Nicholas Clerke, Helen Towers, widow, and William Fitz William, jun., to be held in turn by each. (fn. 98) The Fitz Williams held in 1595 (fn. 99) and conveyed to Sir Robert Dormer in 1598, (fn. 100) and the property then followed the descent of the manor until after 1864. (fn. 101) Since that date the right of presentation has several times changed hands. It was held by J. Oades in 1870 and by D. Bradley in 1877. It is now in the hands of Col. F. T. H. Bernard.
In the Chantry Returns made in the reign of Edward VI it was found that the annual rent of 12d. from a rood of meadow in Chearsley was given for the maintenance of a lamp within the church. (fn. 102) This rood, lying in the west of the parish, was granted to John Howe and John Broxholme in 1549. (fn. 103)
John Hart, by his will proved in the P.C.C. 15 May 1665, devised (inter alia) an annual rent-charge of £2 issuing out of Easington Manor, Oxfordshire. A sum of £97 0s. 3d. consols, arising from accumulations, is also held by the official trustees in trust for this charity. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 14 April 1905 the annuity of £2 (less land tax) and the annual dividends, amounting to £2 8s. 4d., are made applicable for apprenticing a boy or girl, or in defraying the cost of an outfit of an apprentice.
Church Land.—There are in the parish 5 acres of land so called, the rents of which are applied for purposes connected with the church.