A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Ashford derives its name from the River Ash, which runs through the western corner of the parish, and from a ford over the river on the road which enters the parish from Staines and Laleham. A stone bridge was built over the ford in 1789 by the Hampton and Staines Turnpike Trust, and is still known as Ford Bridge. (fn. 1) The parish lies to the east of Staines, between the main road from London and the Staines and Kingston road, which form respectively the northern and southern boundaries. The country is low, lying only from 45 ft. to 50 ft. above Ordnance datum, and is nearly level throughout. (fn. 2)
The aspect of the whole parish is rapidly changing. Until a few years ago it was almost completely rural. Now, what was formerly the village street is being transformed by the erection of modern shops, and an entirely new town has arisen about the station to accommodate a population of the artisan class. To the east of the older part of the town is a group of private houses, standing in their own gardens. To the south, fields still alternate with woodland, stretching over what used to be Ashford Common. Before the inclosure of the parish in 1809 this was a favourite ground with George III for military displays. (fn. 3)
The hamlet of Ashford Common is composed of an inn, a smithy, and a few cottages, which cluster about the cross-roads from Staines, Kingston, Littleton, and Feltham. Here, again, building operations are in progress, and a few hundred yards to the west there are already several streets laid out on which workmen's houses are being built.
The parish church of St. Matthew stands by the side of the main street of the old village, and there is a mission room belonging to the Church of England at Ashford Common. A Congregational chapel was built in 1891, and there is also a Wesleyan Methodist mission hall in the parish. The West London District School, opened in 1872, lies near the western boundary towards Staines.
The land is the property of many small owners. There are 1,401½ acres in the parish, and of these 495¼ acres are arable, and 398¼ acres are grass. (fn. 4) The principal crops are oats, wheat, barley, turnips, and peas. The soil is gravelly, and the subsoil gravel.
The following place-names occur in mediaeval documents:-Chikethorn, Hedenerworth, Longehedes, Shorechecleosworth, Rapelties, Scharpeland, Littlemede in Jordansheigh, Hightacres or Eytacres, Haymondsham, Gretechene, Sturfurlong, Markynger, and Warecroft, which was named after William de Ware, who held a croft in Ashford until about 1308. (fn. 5)
ASHFORD belonged from early times to Westminster Abbey, and has always been held in chief. It is said to have been given to the monastery by Offa, King of Mercia, (fn. 6) but the gift is mentioned only in a confirmatory charter of King Edgar, which is itself of doubtful origin. (fn. 7) It is at any rate certain that it belonged to Westminster in the time of Edward the Confessor, (fn. 8) and it may possibly have been held by the abbey at an earlier date. In the reign of Edward it was one of four appurtenances of Staines, (fn. 9) the most important manor held by Westminster in Spelthorne Hundred. Ashford is not mentioned as a manor in the Domesday Survey, but four berewicks are ascribed to Staines, (fn. 10) and as both before and after the Conquest Ashford was linked with that manor, it is more than probable that it was included as one of the berewicks.
In 1225 part of the monastery's estates were allotted by Abbot Richard de Berking to the support of the convent. (fn. 11) At first Ashford remained with the abbot, but in 1227 the monks complained that their share was insufficient, and by a composition made in that year, the manor of Ashford was ceded to the convent, with all the lands that had been brought into cultivation and other appurtenances. (fn. 12) The only exception made was in the case of a wood, which the abbot retained for himself and his successors in order that it might supply timber for the construction and repair of the ploughs on the manor. (fn. 13)
Ashford remained with the convent of Westminster until the dissolution of that house in January 1539-40, (fn. 14) when it was ceded to the Crown. (fn. 15) It was annexed by Henry VIII to the honour of Hampton Court in 1540, (fn. 16) and was leased in 1542 for twenty-one years to Richard Ellis, a member of the royal household. (fn. 17) In 1602 it was granted to Guy Godolphin and John Smythe. (fn. 18) Godolphin is said to have sold his interest in the grant to Smythe in the following year. (fn. 19) It is probable that the latter conveyed Ashford Manor, as he did the rectory of Staines which he received in the same way, to Urias Babington, (fn. 20) who died seised of the manor in February 1605-6. (fn. 21) He left it to his younger son, William, (fn. 22) who still held it in 1630. (fn. 23) The latter is said to have conveyed it in that year to Henry Field, whose widow continued to hold it after his death. (fn. 24) She was married a second time, to Edward Forset, and died in 1689. (fn. 25) It is said that by a deed executed in her first widowhood, the manor passed to her brother, Abraham Nelson, and that his widow Susanna, a daughter of Sir Brocket Spencer, (fn. 26) held it after his death. (fn. 27) She died in 1712, when, according to the same deed, the manor went to Richard grandson of Abraham Nelson. (fn. 28) Richard Nelson certainly held it in 1719. (fn. 29) He is said to have died intestate, and to have been succeeded by his sisters and co-heirs, Frances and Mary, who also died intestate and unmarried. (fn. 30) The manor then passed to Sir John Austen, son of Thomas Austen and Arabella, daughter and heiress of Edward Forset by the widow of Henry Field. (fn. 31) In 1741 Sir John sold the reversion of the manor after his death and after that of Mary Wright, spinster (who was residuary legatee under his will), (fn. 32) to Peter Storer. (fn. 33) Sir John died in March 1741-2, (fn. 34) and Mary Wright in 1753, and Peter Storer, son of the original purchaser, then came into possession. (fn. 35) He died in 1760, having left the manor to his sister Martha, the wife of William Baker. (fn. 36) It was inherited by their son Peter William Baker, (fn. 37) who held it in 1777 (fn. 38) and as late as 1800. (fn. 39) There is little further record of the manor. It was held by Solomon Abraham Hart from 1870 to 1882, but the estate is now broken up among many small owners, and all trace of the manor lost. A grange belonging to the abbey of Westminster is mentioned as early as 1278. (fn. 40) It was apparently rebuilt some ten years later, (fn. 41) about which time a considerable amount of building was in progress on the manor, including a house, a dairy, and piggeries. (fn. 42) A mill is mentioned in 1277 and the succeeding years, but seems to have been disused after 1309. (fn. 43) There was also a dovecot which was built about 1369, and which was kept up until the end of the century. (fn. 44) An extent of the manor taken in 1312 shows that the capital messuage was then held by William le Palmer, (fn. 45) whose family held land for a considerable period in Ashford.
The estate was at first generally managed by a reeve, (fn. 46) who appears to have been elected in the manor court by the homage. (fn. 47) During the 14th century it was more often under a serjeant (serviens) appointed by the monastery. (fn. 48) The demesne lands were farmed from 1379 to 1387 by Ambrose de Feltham, (fn. 49) who had already acted as serjeant from 1372, (fn. 50) and who continued in that capacity until 1392. (fn. 51) After twenty years of his administration, the tenants sent a written complaint (in French) to Westminster. (fn. 52) They represented to the abbot that not only did his 'poor tenants' suffer great wrongs and evil impositions at the hands of his bailiff, but that they were called 'thieves, dogs and other villainous and horrible names.' Further, they declared that Ambrose had falsified the accounts of his stewardship, and that he kept back the best animals for his own use, so that his sheep and lambs were finer and better (plus nobles et bones) than the lord's. It was probably in consequence of their complaint that his term of office came to an end, and that he appears no more among the bailiffs of Ashford. His place was taken by Richard atte Crouch, who acted as serjeant till 1402, (fn. 53) after which the demesne lands were again farmed, the tenant acting also as collector of rents. (fn. 54)
Until the middle of the 14th century the manor court was generally held three times a year, at intervals of about four months. (fn. 55) After that time it was more frequently held twice a year, one court, at which the view of frankpledge was taken, always falling within the octave of Trinity, while the second was held in the late autumn. (fn. 56) The values of the courts appear to have varied from about 4s. to 16s.
The only court roll extant for this period is dated 1368, (fn. 57) and is preserved by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey. A roll of courts held in 1542 and 1545 is at the Public Record Office. (fn. 58)
The right to hold court leet, court baron, and view of frankpledge, is mentioned in a grant of the manor in 1777. (fn. 59)
Free fishery in the Rivers Brent and Thames was also among the appurtenances of the manor at that date. (fn. 60)
Ford Farm, which is near the old ford on the road to Staines and Laleham, belonged in the reign of William III to Ann Batkins of Ashford, and was held of her by John Bett and William Ellary, husbandmen, on lease, touching which they brought an action against Ann Batkins in 1700. (fn. 61)
In 1086 the Count of Mortain held 1 hide in Ashford. It had been held formerly by Alvric, a vassal of the Abbot of Chertsey, and had lain within the jurisdiction of Staines. (fn. 62) It was now attached to the count's manor of Kempton, in which it probably became merged. A piece of land known as Ashford Marsh was part of Kempton Manor in the reign of Elizabeth. (fn. 63)
The parish church of ST. MATTHEW, built in 1858, is at least the third church built on the site, the previous one being built of brick in 1796, and replacing an older building of brick and stone, dedicated in honour of St. Michael, with a 12thcentury south doorway; it consists of chancel 28 ft. by 19 ft. wide, north vestry and south chapel forming transepts, a nave 60 ft. by 20 ft. with aisles 11 ft. wide, and a small tower built over the porch on the south-west. It is built of stone with red-tiled roofs. The tower is in three stages, with a red-tiled pyramidal roof.
The nave has north and south arcades of five bays, and at the west end a large four-light tracery window. In the nave is a coffin-plate of the Hon. George Hay, Earl of Kinnoull (died 1758), and near the door a brass to Edward Wooden and his wife, 1525, with effigies of them and their eight children.
The communion plate consists of a chalice 'the gift of Mr. Wm. Munden 1716,' the hall-marks being illegible; a standing paten, inscribed 'the gift of Wm. Munden in memory of the fire at the ford, Jan. 1716,' date letter 1715; a large chalice with date mark 1812; and a standing paten of the same year, given by R. Govett, vicar.
There are two books of registers previous to 1812, the first, evidently a copy of others made when Ashford was a chapelry of Staines, contains the baptisms, burials, and marriages of Staines from 1696 to 1710, 1706, and 1707 respectively; the baptisms and burials of Laleham from 1696 to 1704 and 1708; and the baptisms and burials of Ashford between 1699 and 1708, 1709; this book is bound in an old, almost illegible indenture. The other book contains printed marriages from 1754 to 1812 inclusive.
Until comparatively recent times Ashford Church was a chapel dependent upon the church of Staines. It belonged until the Dissolution to Westminster Abbey. (fn. 64) It is first mentioned in 1293, when the rector of Staines and of the chapels of Ashford and Laleham was acquitted of the sum of 3½ marks which he owed for the tenth granted to Edward I for the relief of the Holy Land. (fn. 65) Ashford is enumerated among the chapels of Staines in the institution of that vicarage by William, Bishop of London, about 1426, and the vicar of the mother church was bound to appoint suitable curates to officiate at each of the chapels. (fn. 66)
After the suppression of the monasteries, the advowson of Ashford was separated from that of Staines, which remained with the Crown, and was granted in 1542 to the newly-founded cathedral church of Westminster. (fn. 67) The dean and chapter apparently presented Roger Gryffyn, who was vicar of Ashford in 1548. (fn. 68) On the foundation of the collegiate church of St. Peter, Elizabeth granted the advowson of Ashford to the dean and chapter. (fn. 69) It was then called a free chapel, but there is no mention of any presentation being made by St. Peter's. (fn. 70) Under the Commonwealth the benefice is described as a vicarage, and the 'minister' George Bonieman was 'brought in by consent and presentation of the parish,' being supported by the small tithes and glebeland. (fn. 71) There is apparently no further record of the church until 1760, when it appears as a chapel of Staines in the presentation to that vicarage by the Crown. (fn. 72) From that time it seems to have been served by a curate of Staines. During the early part of the 19th century the same priest officiated both at Laleham and at Ashford, and consequently service was held only on alternate Sundays at either church. The living is described as a perpetual curacy from 1860 to 1865, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, (fn. 73) since which date it has been a vicarage under the same patronage.
The rectory belonged with the church and manor to Westminster Abbey (fn. 74) until it was ceded to the Crown at the Dissolution, after which it was separated from the advowson, (fn. 75) and has since followed the descent of the manor (q.v.).
In 1610 the chapel was endowed with a house, and a 'backside' containing 28½ acres 2 yds. of glebe land. (fn. 76) In 1650 the parsonage or great tithes were valued at £60 per annum, and the vicarage with glebe and small tithes at £24. (fn. 77) In the survey of 1548 it was found that an acre of land had been given for the maintenance of a lamp in the church at Ashford. (fn. 78) The land was in Stanwell parish, and was then in tenure of John Beauchamp at a rent of 16s. yearly. He held also another acre of land worth 12s. per annum which had been given to the same church. (fn. 79)
It appears from the benefaction table that Mrs. Mary Reeve, by her will dated in 1679, devised land in the common field of Laleham and of Feltham, the rents to be applied in the distribution of bread to the poor of Ashford attending church in the proportion of 12d. per week, and the residue in bread to the poor of Laleham. Upon the inclosures in the respective parishes about 3½ acres in Laleham and 2 acres in Feltham were allotted in respect of the lands so demised, which are let at £14 a year. In 1906 bread was given to four recipients in Ashford and twenty-two in Laleham. There was also a sum of £36 13s. 7d. in hand, derived from sale of gravel.
The Poor Allotment or Coal Charity consists of 17 acres in Ashford, let at £8 10s. a year, and four cottages let on weekly rents producing about £22 a year, which were acquired under the Ashford Inclosure Act. (fn. 80) The trust is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 24 August 1877.
In 1723 Jerrard Tomlin, by will, devised an annuity of £1 3s. for the payment of 10s. 6d. to the parson for preaching a sermon on the anniversary of his death, 2s. 6d. for the clerk, and 10s. to be distributed in twopenny loaves to the poor attending to hear the said sermon. The charge was redeemed in 1902 by the transfer to the official trustees of £46 2½ per cent. annuities.
The Sunday School Fund.-In 1817, as appeared from the vestry book, a sum of £250 was subscribed by the principal inhabitants towards defraying the expenses of a Sunday school, which, with a legacy bequeathed by Zacharias Foxall for the same purpose, was invested in Government stock.
In 1866 a sum of £200, and subsequently a further sum of £100, were authorized by the Charity Commissioners to be expended in the building of a schoolhouse, thereby reducing the trust fund to £100 consols, which is held by the official trustees, and the dividends are remitted to the national school fund.
The charity of Anne Webb, locally known as the 'Dog' Charity.-The donor, by her will dated in 1801, and by the codicil thereto dated in 1807, proved in the P.C.C., bequeathed several charitable legacies to take effect after the death of her little dog Don, which event-as appears from the Chancery proceedings in the matter-happened on 27 October 1808!
The trust fund for this parish consists of a sum of consols in the name of the Paymaster-General to the credit of the suit 'Attorney-General v. Smith, the Ashford Charity.' In 1906 the sum of £5 14s. 8d. was received in dividends, and distributed in accordance with the trusts between the three oldest men and the three oldest women in the parish. The vicar is entitled to deduct one guinea on filling up a vacancy.