A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The parish of Northington, which was incorporated for ecclesiastical purposes with the neighbouring parish of Swarraton in 1849, has an area of 2,414 acres, which are still distinct from Swarraton for civil purposes. Yet locally, the two villages, separated only by the narrow Candover stream, which forms the eastern boundary line of Northington parish, seem to be one; Northington, with its commanding modern church, its school and scattered cottages, lying on the hill-side sloping down to the river from the west, meeting the cottages and houses of Swarraton, among which is the vicarage for both parishes, as they lie along the opposite bank of the river on a lesser slope. The high down called Northington Down, on the slope of which Northington village lies, is now for the most part inclosed in Lord Ashburton's estate, Grange Park, which includes about 530 acres, covering nearly the whole of the south-east portion of the parish, and extending into Swarraton. Cobbett, in his Rural Rides, speaks of the inclosure and subsequent planting with trees of a 'pretty little down called Northington Down,' by Mr. Alexander Baring (created Lord Ashburton in 1835), as a sort of outwork to his park. 'But Mr. Baring,' he continues, 'not reflecting that woods are not like funds, to be made at a heat, has planted his trees too large, so that they are covered with moss, are dying at the top, and are literally growing downward instead of upward … so that the down … is now a marred, ragged, ugly-looking thing.' Cobbett may have been right in his day, but the sight of the finely-wooded down as the steep road descends into Northington village justifies Lord Ashburton rather than Cobbett. The Grange, the house of the estate, lies almost in the centre of the park, close to the river, which here broadens out into a long narrow lake. The old mansion, the nucleus of the present house, was a seventeenth-century square brick building, the work of Inigo Jones, without any external ornament, but cased in stone, with a magnificent portico and other classic decorations. (fn. 1) Both house and park, according to Duthy, owed their origin to the family of Henley, who resided there for many generations. Carlyle, among other of the great men of the early nineteenth century, was a constant visitor at the Grange. Thus in 1844 he wrote to Lady Ashburton, 'I am in ugly drudgery and sorrow, and shall not see the beautiful face of "The Grange" or any beautiful thing, for I know not what long months or years.' (fn. 2)
Apart from the north-west corner of the parish, which includes a part of Micheldever Wood, and covers the greater part of the 501 acres of woodland, the rest of the parish is mostly composed of arable and pasture land, covering respectively 1,331 and 684¾ acres. When Duthy wrote, early in the nineteenth century, the work of draining the water meadows was being carried on by Lord Ashburton with excellent results. Thus, though, as Duthy stated, the land with its chalk soil and subsoil is 'for the most part thin and weak in quality,' since there are 'tracts of a stronger description on some of the hills, and since the water meadows can now be turned to use as pasture land, farming is in a comparatively flourishing state in the parish, good crops of wheat, oats, and turnips being grown.' Many now disused chalk and gravel-pits are still to be seen in the fields.
Six hides at NORTHINGTON were named in the almost certainly spurious charter of Edward the Elder to the New Minster. (fn. 3) In the Domesday Survey it is difficult to distinguish Northington from the other lands of the abbey in Micheldever Hundred. It may, perhaps, have been identical with the six hides held by Alsi and his father before him. (fn. 4) In the fourteenth century three distinct holdings can be traced in Northington. These were the demesne lands of the abbey, known later as the Grange, and two reputed manors held by under-tenants, and known respectively as Northington and Totford.
The GRANGE, as its name denotes, was kept under the immediate control of the abbey. In 1263 Alice wife of Henry le Frankelyn released all her right in 36 acres of land in Northington to the abbey, (fn. 5) and in 1346 the abbot of Hyde was said to hold there a moiety of a hide which had been in the tenure of Henry le Frankelyn. (fn. 6) It seems, therefore, that this land was part of, or was added to, the Grange. Amongst the lessees of the Grange was Thomas (or William) (fn. 7) Turner, who obtained a thirty years' lease from the abbey, 24 May, 1519. He also farmed the glebe lands and the tithes of Northington chapel, paying for the whole £8 10s. yearly. (fn. 8) After the surrender of the abbey in 1538, the Grange fell to the crown with the rest of the monastic lands, and was leased successively to William Ryth and Richard Pigot. Finally, in January, 1589–90, Queen Elizabeth sold it to Richard Thekeston and Henry Best, (fn. 9) who were probably speculators, for they parted with it almost immediately to James Hunt of Popham, (fn. 10) who died seised of it in 1605. (fn. 11) His grandson of the same name sold Northington Grange and chapel, together with two mills, (fn. 12) 464 acres of land, meadow, wood, and heath in Northington and Kingsclere, and the tithes of Northington, to Sir Benjamin Tichborne in 1641. (fn. 13) Northington Grange was evidently purchased by Sir Robert Henley before 1665, (fn. 14) and added to his estate in Swarraton, which was also known as the Grange. He was buried at Northington in 1692 and was succeeded by his eldest son Anthony, whose grandson Robert was Lord Keeper and was created earl of Northington by George III.
The title became extinct on the death of his son and heir Robert, whose sisters and co-heiresses sold the Grange in 1787 to Henry Drummond, a wealthy banker. (fn. 15) Drummond's grandson and heir, the famous follower of Irving, sold the estate in 1817 to Alexander Baring, a cousin of Sir Thomas Baring of Stratton. He also was a leading banker, and was created Baron Ashburton in 1835. In 1842 he negotiated the settlement of the boundaries between the United States and the British Territory in America, and during his lifetime many distinguished guests visited the Grange. The estate was inherited in 1848 by his son William Bingham, second Lord Ashburton, a noted philanthropist, who was succeeded by his brother in 1864. The latter's son and heir, the fourth Lord Ashburton, greatly improved the Grange estate. (fn. 16) He died in 1889 and was succeeded by the present Francis Denzil, fifth baron.
The tenement known later as NORTHINGTON MANOR (fn. 17) was held of the successive lords of Micheldever, and apparently had no manorial rights attached to it. It evidently included land lying near the site of the present village of Northington, its appurtenances extending into Totford and Swarraton. The tenant in 1167 seems to have been a certain Richard, (fn. 18) and late in the following century Herbert Butler (Pincerna) was holding three hides in Northington of the abbot of Hyde, while Richard son of Ralph also had four and a half virgates there. (fn. 19) In 1346 Henry of Northington was holding with the abbot a part of the land which had been Henry le Frankelyn's. (fn. 20) Northington was a few years later in the possession of Thomas Bifleet and his wife Alice, who were holding in her right two-thirds of a messuage, 2 carucates of land, 2 acres of meadow, 100 acres of wood, besides other land in Totford, Northington, Swarraton, and Burcot. In 1357 they granted these lands to Richard Burton and his wife Alice, together with the remainder of the other third due to Alice Bifleet at the death of John Hungerford, to hold of them and the heirs of Alice Burton for a yearly rent. (fn. 21) The grant stipulated that, failing heirs of the bodies of Richard Burton and his wife Alice, the lands should revert to Thomas and Alice Bifleet, and this seems to have occurred, for in the following century the Bifleets were seised of considerable lands in Northington. (fn. 22) Robert Bifleet held two messuages and certain land called Northington at his death 20 July, 1488. (fn. 23) He left an infant son and heir John, who evidently did not live to inherit the estate, for two years after Robert Bifleet's death a certain Thomas Bifleet died seised of land in Northington, and was succeeded by his brother John Bifleet, then aged thirty. (fn. 24) In May, 1635, Robert Bifleet, perhaps a grandson or greatgrandson of this John, settled the 'manor of Northington,' in Northington, Swarraton, and Totford, on his son Thomas at the time of his marriage with Mary Speake. (fn. 25) In 1707 Francis Dickens and his wife Rachael sold the manor of Northington, with Totford and Swarraton, to Anthony Henley, (fn. 26) with whose estate at the Grange it has since descended.
TOTFORD (Totteford xii cent.) (fn. 27) is not mentioned by name in the Domesday Book, but since it was assessed at five hides in the thirteenth century it may perhaps be identical with the five hides held of the abbey in 1086 by Odo the Steward, which were then worth 50s. (fn. 28) William de Totford witnessed a charter to Hyde Abbey in 1191, (fn. 29) and was probably the William de Totford referred to in an inscription (fn. 30) which has been taken from the north wall of the old church. William was probably succeeded by Robert de Totford, who witnessed a grant to Roger Abbot of Hyde (1248–63), (fn. 31) and who had a son John living in 1262. (fn. 32) These were evidently members of a family which held part of the land now known as Totford. Later in the thirteenth century the whole of Totford, consisting of five hides, was held by Philip de Totford, Philip Butler, Peter de Fraxino and Henry le Frankelyn by service of one knight's fee to the abbot of Hyde. (fn. 33) Of these five hides Philip Butler held one, which was apparently annexed to the Butlers' neighbouring manor of Brown Candover (q.v.); (fn. 34) another, which was held by Peter de Fraxino, was acquired from his descendant John de Fraxino (fn. 35) before 1346 by Philip of Micheldever and Richard de Bordene, the former of whom doubtless added his moiety to his manor of Mottisfont (q.v.); Henry le Frankelyn's hide was afterwards divided between the abbot and Henry of Northington, while the remaining two hides formed the portion of Philip de Totford, and were probably inherited from him by Robert de Totford, who was living in 1272. (fn. 36) In 1314–15 John de Totford paid scutage for two hides in Totford; (fn. 37) he was living in 1341 when his name appears in the list of jurors in an inquisition concerning lands in Brown Candover and Northington. (fn. 38) He was succeeded by his son John de Totford, whose daughter and heir, Christine, was taken into the abbot's custody in 1349 (fn. 39) when she was only four years old. The abbot immediately sold the marriage of Christine, together with the custody of her inheritance, to Thomas Warner of Southampton, then receiver in Winchester Castle, for 20 marks. (fn. 40) She married Richard son of Richard de Candover, clerk, who did homage for her inheritance in February, 1364–5, (fn. 41) and joined with his wife in 1387 in granting 10 marks rent from the manor of Totford to John Maydeford, clerk, and his heirs for ever. (fn. 42) Totford seems to have passed to the Tichborne family, for in 1571 Elizabeth Tichborne, widow, joined with William Rythe and his wife Margery in conveying 'Totford manor,' with its appurtenances, including a dove-cote to Richard Lee and William Sutton, (fn. 43) and in February, 1584–5 Benjamin Tichborne of Tichborne sold the capital messuage called Totford with its appurtenances in Northington and Swarraton, late the inheritance of Ambrose Tichborne of West Tisted to William Waller of Stoke Charity, saving only the estates made for life to Mary Tichborne and to Mary wife of William Rythe. (fn. 44) One-third of this property was apparently retained by the Tichbornes, while probably the other two-thirds were purchased (with the Grange estate) by Sir Robert Henley. In July, 1670, Susan Tichborne of Stoke Charity, with the consent of Sir Robert Henley, knt., of Northington Grange, conveyed to John Henley of Crawley one-third of the manor and demesne lands of Totford, then late in the occupation of Robert Soper, and one-third of Totford Inn in Brown Candover, during the life of Richard Hunt the elder of Popham. (fn. 45) This was probably the same third of Totford that was in the possession of Joseph Tichborne in 1717, (fn. 46) but the main part of the tenement was annexed to the Grange park estate, with which it has since descended.
The priory of Christchurch had two virgates of land in Northington which had been granted to it in 1249 by Matilda Breton, sister and heir of Roger Breton, in exchange for a corrody equal to the allowance of one brother granted to her for life. (fn. 47) These lands were granted after the dissolution of the priory to Sir William Berkeley, 'the king's servant,' and then included a field called 'Northclose,' in the immediate occupation of the prior, together with other lands in Northington in the tenure of John Tucker. (fn. 48)
The church of ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST is a fine modern building by T. G. Jackson, R.A., standing well on a site which has a considerable fall to the east.' It is of flint with stone dressings, and has a chancel with an octagonal east end, a nave with south porch, and a tall western tower with pinnacles and battlements. It is of fifteenth-century style, the treatment of the upper parts of the tower and the parapets in chequer work of flint and stone being very effective. The site of the old church is to the north-east, a little lower on the hill-side, marked by the tombstones of the old churchyard and a cross on the place where the church stood.
The plate of Northington and Swarraton disappeared in 1850 during a fire at the parish clerk's cottage, and the present plate is entirely modern. There are, however, two old pewter flagons with hinged lids which belong to the joint parishes.
For many years Northington was a chapelry attached to Micheldever vicarage. A chapel was in existence at the time of the appropriation of Micheldever to Hyde Abbey, i.e. in 1308, (fn. 51) and was not separated from that church till 1847, when it was annexed to the vicarage of Swarraton. (fn. 52)
George Harding, by will proved 1879, left £200 to be invested and income applied in the distribution of bread among the poor of this parish and Swarraton. The legacy was invested in £205 7s. 10d. consols (with the official trustees). The dividends amounting to £2 5s. 8d. were in 1905 applied in the distribution of 112 half gallons of flour and in 112 half gallons of bread to fifty-six families.