A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1927.
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This parish contains 1,477 acres, of which 122 are arable land and 1,108 permanent grass. (fn. 1) The land, of which the surface is clay on a subsoil of Kimmeridge Clay and Portland Beds, varies from about 250 ft. above the ordnance datum on the eastern boundary to over 450 ft. at Dorton Hill.
In the west of Dorton, on the borders of Brill, is a chalybeate spring, and a pump room and baths, now demolished, were erected here about the middle of the 19th century. (fn. 2) The village, approached by a road from Chilton, is of small size. At its south end, on low ground, are the church of St. John Baptist and the parsonage built in 1849. Near them Dorton House, the seat of Mr. Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, stands surrounded by 18 acres of pleasure grounds in which there is a lake. The house, a brick building of the half-H type with stone quoins and tiled roofs, dates from 1626, though it was much altered in the 18th century and has been restored at a modern period. The screens, placed in the centre of the main block, are entered from the forecourt on the east, through an 18th-century portico which forms the main entrance. To the north of the screens are the original hall, the main staircase opening off the hall and projecting into the forecourt, and the library and Queen Elizabeth's room, the last two being in the north wing. To the south of the screens are the morning room, a corridor leading to a second staircase, the offices and the dining room, the latter, which is in the south wing, being the original kitchen. Above the hall is the drawing room, with two small rooms and an ante-room to the north of it, the latter entered from the main staircase, while the whole of the first floor of the north wing is occupied by the long gallery. The north front, with its three bay windows, has been little altered, and elsewhere many original mullioned windows remain. The hall has a panelled dado and a wide moulded fireplace with an overmantel enriched with strapwork, in the centre of which is a modern shield, incorrectly painted, showing the quartered coat of Sir John Aubrey, sixth baronet (1786–1826), with those of his two wives, Mary Colebrooke and Martha Catherine Carter, in pretence. Above is the eagle's head, the crest of Aubrey. The screen, at the south end of the hall, is an elaborate piece of Jacobean work. It is pierced by two doorways and the panelled bays are divided by fluted Ionic pilasters, the whole being surmounted by an entablature and open-work cresting. Opening into the main staircase is a round-headed stone doorway with a panelled soffit. The principal stairway, which bears the date 1626 on one of the plaster soffit panels and rises by easy flights from an oak screen in the staircase hall, is of the doglegged type, and has chamfered newels with urnshaped finials, moulded handrails and turned balusters; the staircase hall has a plaster frieze with grotesque and foliated ornament in relief and a rich plaster ceiling. The room over the morning room is panelled and has a moulded fireplace with an elaborate overmantel, and both this and the drawing-room have rich coved ceilings, the latter displaying the Dormer badge, an eye with rays issuing from it. The ceiling over the long gallery is plain, but of barrel form. The staircase to the south of the hall rises in easy flights and has square newels with moulded finials and square balusters, the mouldings of which follow the rake of the stairs. The Boarstall horn, a black silver-mounted cow-horn, 1 ft. 10 in. long, dating from the 15th century, is preserved in the house, as well as the private chartulary of the manor of Boarstall and other manors belonging to Edmund Rede. The stables, which are contemporary with the house, were considerably repaired about the end of the 18th century.
Park Farm, in the north-east of the parish, was probably part of the Dorton Woods inclosed by the Dormers in the 16th century. (fn. 3) On the summit of Dorton Hill in the south are traces of an ancient encampment. (fn. 4)
DORTON, held by Alric before the Norman Conquest, and by Walter Giffard in 1086, (fn. 5) came from the Giffards through the Marshals (fn. 6) to the Earls of Gloucester. (fn. 7) After 1284, when the whole fee belonged to Gilbert Earl of Gloucester, (fn. 8) the overlordship seems to have been divided between the descendants of Isabel and Joan, the sisters of Anselm Marshal, (fn. 9) one half-fee being retained by the Earls of Gloucester and their heirs of the house of Stafford until 1459, (fn. 10) the other belonging to Aymer de Valence in 1302 and 1324, (fn. 11) and to Richard and Gilbert Talbot respectively in 1346 and 1419. (fn. 12) Both, however, were held of Thomas Earl of Stafford in 1392, and of his brother and heir Edmund ten years later. (fn. 13) From 1545 to 1627, when the last mention of its overlordship occurs, the manor of Dorton was held of the king as of the honour of Gloucester. (fn. 14)
No certain record of the sub-tenancy of Dorton before the 13th century survives, though possibly the knight's fee which Pain de Dorton held of Walter Giffard in 1166 was in this parish. (fn. 15) By 1255 the manor had been divided into two parts. (fn. 16) One of these, then owned by Sibyl de Birmingham, (fn. 17) came afterwards to William de Birmingham and followed the descent of the manor of Hoggeston (q.v.) until 1383, when the manor was either mortgaged or conveyed in trust by Sir John de Birmingham and his wife Elizabeth to Richard de Piriton, clerk, and others. (fn. 18) Sir John and Elizabeth had no childern. (fn. 19) In 1419 Elizabeth, then widow of another husband, John Lord Clinton, held the manor as half a knight's fee in Dorton, (fn. 20) but it was not accounted for amongst her lands at her death four years later. (fn. 21) Her heirs were the descendants of Thomas de Birmingham, younger brother of John, who had died before him leaving a daughter Elizabeth. She married Thomas Roche and had two daughters and co-heirs, (fn. 22) between whom the manor was divided. Ellen the elder, wife of Edmund Lord Ferrers in 1423, (fn. 23) with her second husband, Sir Philip Chetwynd, granted her moiety of Dorton to her younger son, John Ferrers, who surrendered his right to it in 1443, (fn. 24) probably to the trustees of his elder brother, William Lord Ferrers. (fn. 25) William was seised the following year and at his death in 1450, when he left an only child Anne, then wife of Walter Devereux. (fn. 26) In 1544 their grandson, another Walter Devereux Lord Ferrers, (fn. 27) who had included Dorton in a settlement more than thirty years before, (fn. 28) sold his moiety to Sir Michael Dormer. (fn. 29)
The other moiety of the Birmingham inheritance in this parish came through Elizabeth, younger granddaughter of Thomas de Birmingham and wife of George Longville, (fn. 30) to Richard son of their son Richard, (fn. 31) passing at his death in 1458 to his infant son and heir, John Longville, (fn. 32) lord in 1497. (fn. 33) By the said John, then Sir John Longville, and his son Arthur (fn. 34) it was sold in 1541 to Michael Dormer and his son Geoffrey. (fn. 35) Sir John was dead a year later, when John Cheyne, son and heir of his daughter Anne, wife of Drew Cheyne, renounced all right to his grandfather's estate in Dorton. (fn. 36)
The manor thus united was settled by Sir Michael Dormer in 1545 on his second son William and his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 37) to whom it passed the same year. (fn. 38) In 1552 William Dormer made a life settlement of Dorton on Henry Grey and his wife Anne, who then leased the manor to him for ninety years. The remainder of this lease was granted by William to Hugh Hollingshed in 1561 and his reversion of the manor itself mortgaged to Henry Reynolds shortly after. (fn. 39) William Dormer died two years later, having settled Dorton on his wife Elizabeth, with contingent remainder to Michael son of his brother Ambrose. (fn. 40) In 1565 his son and heir John (fn. 41) agreed that Henry Grey should hold the manor for life with remainder, also for life, to Elizabeth wife of Hugh Hollingshed and remainder to Hugh himself after the death of the longer survivor of these two for seven years. (fn. 42) All these interests had expired or been bought out by 1594, when John Dormer, being sued in Chancery for payment of an old debt of his father's, was able to say that his inheritance in Dorton had come to him 'for great sums of money and for good considerations.' (fn. 43) He was lord in 1616 (fn. 44) and 1617, and settled Dorton in the latter year on the marriage of his son Robert with Mary daughter of Thomas Read. (fn. 45) Dorton henceforward descended with the Dormers' manor of Long Crendon (fn. 46) (q.v.) until the death, probably early in 1694, of Robert Dormer, who by his will left land and rent to the value of £200 a year from his estates in Dorton and Brill to each of his step-brothers, Charles, Robert, William, Philip, James, and Clement Dormer, settling the residue in equal proportions on his three uncles, Peregrine, Charles and Henry Bertie, and Henry Cane. (fn. 47) Peregrine Bertie in 1695 sold his quarter to Richard Harvey and Richard Adams to be disposed of by them according to his directions. (fn. 48) In 1713 a settlement of a quarter and half another quarter of the manor of Dorton on John Burgh was made by Charles Bertie and Henry Bertie and his wife Mary, (fn. 49) but Charles Bertie was still lord of one quarter a year later. (fn. 50) One part of the Bertie property in Dorton is said to have been acquired by the Mitchell family, (fn. 51) whilst another came into the possessions of Sir Clement Cottrell Dormer. (fn. 52) Both were purchased between 1773 and 1783 by John, afterwards Sir John, Aubrey, (fn. 53) who seems to have made Dorton House his seat from 1774. (fn. 54) The manor has followed the descent of Boarstall (q.v.) from that time, the present lord being Mr. Henry Aubrey-Fletcher.
The other part of the original manor of Dorton (fn. 55) belonged to Robert Beauchamp of Hatch in Somerset in 1255. (fn. 56) He was succeeded by his son John, (fn. 57) whose son and heir, another John Beauchamp, (fn. 58) was intrusted to the custody of Peter Corbet, a connexion by marriage of this family, (fn. 59) in 1284. (fn. 60) In 1302, however, and in 1316 the Beauchamp half-fee in Dorton was held by Simon de Aston, (fn. 61) whether by marriage with the elder John's widow or as trustee does not appear. It was again in the hands of the Beauchamps in 1327, when William younger son of the above John Beauchamp was engaged in litigation with his late bailiff here. (fn. 62) John Beauchamp was succeeded in 1336 by his son and heir John Beauchamp, (fn. 63) whose widow Margaret received her dower in Dorton in 1343. (fn. 64) Margaret and her tenants were holding in 1346. (fn. 65) She died fifteen years later, (fn. 66) and in 1362 Dorton passed from her son John Beauchamp, who had survived her only a few months, (fn. 67) to Cecily, one of his sisters and heirs. (fn. 68) In 1392, when Cecily, then widow of Richard Turbeville, was lately dead, (fn. 69) licence was granted for the alienation of the reversion of her moiety of Dorton Manor, which Sir John Clinton and his wife Elizabeth then held for the life of Elizabeth, to the Warden and scholars of St. Mary's College of Winchester in Oxford. (fn. 70) There does not seem to be any evidence for the completion of this alienation and the subsequent history of the Beauchamp fee is obscure.
A manor in Dorton called COTESMORES was settled in 1456 by Matthew Haye and John Cotesmore on Robert Danvers and his wife Katherine with reversion to Matthew and John and the heirs of John on Katherine's death. (fn. 71) Another John Cotesmore was seised of this property in 1490 and 1491, when he claimed as his villein and imprisoned one Simon Mascall, a freeman. (fn. 72)
A windmill was an appurtenance of the manor in the 16th century, one or more dovecotes in the 18th century. (fn. 73) In 1616 Sir John Dormer and his heirs received a grant of park, liberty of park and free warren here, with licence to stock the park with all kinds of game. (fn. 74)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST consists of a chancel measuring internally 16 ft. 6 in. by 15 ft., nave 46 ft. by 18 ft. 6 in. at the east end and 16 ft. 6 in. at the west end, south aisle 17 ft. 6 in. by 7 ft. 6 in., south porch, and timber bell-turret. It is built of stone and roofed with tiles.
The chancel and nave are probably of the 12th century; the south porch was added in the following century, and in the middle of the 14th century a small aisle was thrown out on the south side. The aisle was restored towards the close of the 15th century and the porch was partly rebuilt at the same time. In the 16th century the south wall of the chancel was rebuilt further to the south, and about a century later the bell-turret was erected. In 1904 the north wall of the nave was partially renewed and the whole fabric was restored.
The chancel has a two-light east window, and a wide light in the south wall with a pointed inner and square outer head; both windows are of the 16th century, while the two-light window inserted in the north wall is probably of the same period. The responds and moulded bases of the chancel arch date from the 14th century, but the arch and a portion of the north respond are modern.
On the south side of the nave is a 14th-century arcade of two pointed arches with a restored octagonal pillar and responds. To the west of the arcade, opening to the porch, is a moulded 15th-century doorway, on the east side of which is a stoup with a pointed head and round bowl; near the doorway, which retains the old studded oak door, is a 13th century lancet window. The north wall was partially rebuilt in 1904, and has two modern windows with wood lintels made from old beams. In the west wall is a restored 15th-century window of two lights. The south wall of the aisle is gabled, and is pierced by a square-headed two-light window of about 1480, the label of which forms part of an external string course. In the east wall is a restored 14th-century window of two trefoiled lights, and on the south is a trefoiled piscina of the same period, part of the bowl of which has been cut away. In the east wall of the porch, now looking into the aisle, is a blocked 13th-century window; the entrance archway, which dates from the 15th century, has a pointed head of two orders, and semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals. The bell-turret is supported by three wood arches which project into the nave and spring from moulded corbels and two heavy posts; it is weather-boarded and covered with a pyramidal tiled roof.
The font has a 12th-century circular bowl placed on a 15th-century octagonal base; the cover, which has a finial and scroll-work brackets, bears the inscription, 'A gifte to butyfie the house of God Francis Harryson anno domnie 1631.' Some 17th-century panelling remains at the west end of the nave, and the chancel has a panelled dado of the same period which was brought from Dorton House when the church was restored in 1904. The communion rails also date from the 17th century, as do two legs re-used in the credence table and two panels in the pulpit, while a seat at the west end of the nave may be of the 16th century.
There is a ring of three bells, and a small bell, the latter undated; the treble is by Taylor & Sons, 1828, the second by Robert Atton, 1626, while the tenor, by Bartholomew Atton, is inscribed 'God save King James 1604.'
The church was originally a chapel of Chilton, with which it was given by Walter Giffard to Nutley Abbey. (fn. 75) It belonged to that house until its surrender, (fn. 76) and in 1542 and 1546 was granted by Henry VIII to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, (fn. 77) since which time it has descended with the church of Ashendon (q.v.), Earl Temple being now patron. (fn. 78)
The tithes of the demesne of Dorton, granted by Walter Giffard to Longville Priory, (fn. 79) descended after the suppression of the alien priories with the manor of Little Pollicott in Ashendon (q.v.).
In 1586 two roods in Dorton fields, which had been given for the maintenance of light and lamp in this church, were granted to John Walton and John Cresset. (fn. 80)