A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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The parish of Polebrook covers 1,836¾ acres, its hamlet of Armston, 852½ acres, on a subsoil chiefly of Oxford clay, but of cornbrash in the north-west, the upper soil being clay. There are here 681 acres of arable land, 1,037¾ of permanent grass, and 13 of woods and plantations. The chief crops are hay, barley and wheat. In the north-west of the parish where the River Nene separates it from Oundle, and about the village, the land is 100 ft. above the ordnance datum, but rises towards the south and east to 200 ft.
The road from Peterborough enters the parish through Ashton on the north and runs south-eastwards through the village. A branch road bears east to Lutton, Washingley and Norman Cross, with a small Wesleyan chapel, built in 1863, on its north, and the rectory, Polebrook Hall, the school and Manor House on its south. The main road continues in a southerly direction to the Giddings, passing the church of All Saints on the one side and on the other the post office, noteworthy for two 16th-century chimneypieces. In the centre of the village a stone column commemorates the fallen in the war of 1914–18. The Northamptonshire historian in the early part of the 18th century describes the village as standing low on a rocky ground, with two bridges, one 'Pottock bridge,' outside, the other, a small horse bridge of two arches, within, its area. (fn. 1) At Armston are woods called New Fox Covert, Horse Close Spinney, Burray Spinney, and Cow Shackle Coppice, a name which recalls the Cowshakell bushes and Cowshakell slade of 1602. (fn. 2) There are two moats here and the site of a chapel, possibly that of St. John Baptist. In or before 1791 there remained in a building here four large windows resembling 'chapel windows,' and a high arched roof within and two columns without. (fn. 3) The remains of the chapel of St. Leonard at Armston were also found at the end of the 19th century in a farmhouse to the east of the Green, and near to them were some evidences of a moat and fishponds. (fn. 4) This chapel was founded apparently by Ralph de Trubleville and Alice his wife early in the 13th century, who gave it to Royse lady of Polbrook and patron of the church, together with six acres of land. Whereupon Royse gave to the chapel a font for the baptism of infants and provided a chaplain to say services daily excepting burial of the dead. (fn. 5) There was an altar of St. Mary in the chapel. (fn. 6) The abbot of Peterborough was bound to find a chaplain to say divine service daily for the soul of Robert le Fleming. (fn. 7) To the east of Polebrook stands the rectory farm, now the property of Brig.Gen. A. Ferguson, and Polebrook Lodge, with New Lodge, near the borders of Hemington. Three Acre Spinney, with Kingsthorpe Lodge and Kingsthorpe Coppice, with a moat adjacent and other woods, are all in this direction.
Armston is said to have been inclosed in 1683. Long before that time, however, other parts of the parish had been inclosed by tenants. In 1602, at the instance of Edward Batley, farmer of the Queen's manor of Polebrook, it was found on inquiry that 30 acres of arable land and pasture had been inclosed by the first Sir Edward Montagu and his son, besides various other lands in the hamlet of Kingsthorpe. (fn. 8) An Act was passed in 1790 for inclosing the common fields of Polebrook, then reported to contain about 1,400 acres. (fn. 9) Armston was finally inclosed by an Act of 1807. (fn. 10)
Among place names which occur are Le Lynchfurlong, Cookesgreene, Haselbrooke, Cuttstones Crosse (Le Cutcrosse in Kingsthorp), Hensons Closse, Saltersmeare, the Queenes Closse, Hartmere Furlong, Splint Close, the stone bridge called Brokforde Brigge, (fn. 11) (13th century), le Kirkegrene and Copthornhill at Armston. (fn. 12)
In 1086 3¾ hides in POLEBROOK belonged to Peterborough Abbey, which were held by Eustace the Sheriff. (fn. 13) The overlordship was claimed by the heirs of the Earl Gilbert of Gloucester (d. 1314), (fn. 14) but it was retained by the Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 15)
In the reign of Henry I 2½ hides of the Peterborough fee in Polebrook had passed from Eustace the Sheriff to Walter de Clopton. (fn. 16) A mesne lordship over this fee or some part of it was afterwards held by the Lovetot lords, as at Clapton (q.v.), until Margery de Vernon and Nigel de Amundeville surrendered their rights in it to the Abbey. (fn. 17) It is probable that the manor of Polebrook descended with that of Clapton (q.v.) until the close of the 12th century when it fell to the share of Rose or Rohesia, probably sister of William de Clopton, Lady of Polebrook, (fn. 18) who apparently married Hugh le Fleming. Hugh held the Peterborough manor in Polebrook, (fn. 19) and presented to the church there. (fn. 20) He was succeeded by his son Robert le Fleming, (fn. 21) possibly before 1219 when Rose by her son Robert granted the advowson of Clapton to the Abbot of Peterborough. (fn. 22) Robert le Fleming was patron and parson of Polebrook in 1232 (fn. 23) and in 1243 held a quarter of a knight's fee of the old feoffment of the Honour of Lovetot in Polebrook. (fn. 24) This seems to be the Polebrook fraction of the Fleming's third of a knight's fee which they held together with a knight's fee and a half de sancta terra in Polebrook, Kingsthorpe and Clapton. (fn. 25) These tenements went to make up the manor which in 1252 Robert granted in frankalmoigne to Abbot John de Cauz. (fn. 26) Out of the revenues of the manor the abbot assigned £10 a year for wine for the monks. (fn. 27) The manor continued in the hands of the abbey until its dissolution in 1529. (fn. 28)
Another Peterborough tenant, Thomas Smert, held land in Polebrook in demesne in the early years of the 13th century. (fn. 29) He or his heir of the same name and others paid scutage for their fees in Polebrook, Kingsthorp and Armston before 1252. (fn. 30) In 1299 Thomas Ellger did homage to the Abbot for a tenement of the fee of Smert, (fn. 31) but in 1314 the name of Thomas Smert appears again as one of four tenants who held of the Abbot in Polebrook. (fn. 32) A holding in Polebrook belonged to the family of Porthors. A Reginald Porthors paid scutage in Warmington in 1253, (fn. 33) and William Porthors is described as of Polebrook in 1260, (fn. 34) and held lands there about 1279. (fn. 35) He had a son Ralph who did homage to the abbot in 1289, (fn. 36) and a daughter Sarah who married Geoffrey le Dispenser. (fn. 37) Ralph apparently mortgaged the so-called manor of Polebrook to John son of Thomas de Oundle at the end of the 13th century. (fn. 38) Robert Porthors, presumably his heir, was holding here in 1315, (fn. 39) and was living in 1326–30. (fn. 40) Richard Porthors of Polebrook and Agnes his wife were dealing with lands in Polebrook in 1326, (fn. 41) and William Porthors of Polebrook in 1356 to 1373. (fn. 42) The last of the family at Polebrook to which reference has been found is Hugh Porthors of Polebrook, who witnessed a charter in 1404. (fn. 43)
Another hide and a virgate of the Peterborough lands in Polebrook had come into the possession of Roger Marmion in the reign of Henry I. (fn. 44) This land, as part of the fee of Robert Marmion in Langton and Polebrook was confirmed to the Abbey in 1146 by Pope Eugenius III, and in 1189 by Richard I. (fn. 45)
The mesne lordship of the Marmions passed from Roger to his son Robert who was slain in 1143. He was succeeded by another Robert who was living in 1155, and had a son Robert who died in 1218. He had by his first wife, Maud de Beauchamp, a son, 'Robert Marmion, senior,' and by his second wife, Philippa, two sons, 'Robert Marmion, junior,' and William Marmion, a clerk. Robert, senior, died about 1242, and was succeeded by his son Philip, a minor, (fn. 46) who died without issue about 1292. (fn. 47) On his death the mesne lordship appears to have reverted to the abbot of Peterborough.
The holders of this fee under the Marmions were the Grendons. Herlwin de Grendon held ½ knight's fee of the Marmion Fee in Polebrook in the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 48) He was succeeded by Ralph de Grendon, who paid scutage for ½ fee in 1253, (fn. 49) and was living in 1262 to 1272. (fn. 50) His son John was living 1270 to 1315. (fn. 51) Ralph son of John de Grendon did homage to the abbot of Peterborough in 1318, (fn. 52) and was apparently succeeded by two sisters. (fn. 53) From these sisters it passed to William de Carlton, (fn. 54) possibly a husband or son of one of them, who was holding in 1346. (fn. 55) William Carlyll was described as of Polebrook in 1361 (fn. 56) and 1367, (fn. 57) and he and his wife Margaret were dealing with land there in 1397. (fn. 58) Possibly it was his son, William Carlyll, who did homage to the abbot for lands in Polebrook in 1401, (fn. 59) and was in possession of lands there, held by knight service, in 1428. (fn. 60) William Carlyll of Polebrook son of William Carlyll conveyed lands in Polebrook to William son of William Armston. (fn. 61)
The descent of this holding after this date is uncertain, it seems to have been acquired by the overlords the abbots of Peterborough, and came to the Crown at the Dissolution of that monastery in 1539. It was granted together with the holdings of Robert le Fleming, Thomas Smert, the Porthors and the Grendons as the manor of Polebrook late of Peterborough monastery in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough, (fn. 62) but was afterwards resumed and leased to Sir Edward Montagu. (fn. 63) Another grant was made in 1548 to Sir William Sharington, (fn. 64) who within a few days obtained licence to alienate the property to Sir Edward Montagu. (fn. 65) From that time until 1910 Polebrook manor has followed the descent of Barnwell St. Andrew (q.v.), but was not sold with that manor in 1913 and still belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch.
In 1086 Eustace the Sheriff was tenant in chief in Polebrook of a hide and a virgate which had formerly been held freely by Ormar. (fn. 66) This fee, which had come into the possession of Robert de Cauz in the 12th century, (fn. 67) seems to be the manor of Polebrook which in 1455 was declared to be held of Walter Norton in socage. (fn. 68) It was parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1610, (fn. 69) and parts of it were held of the King in 1615 and 1623. (fn. 70)
In 1236, three parts of a knight's fee in Polebrook, Thurning and Clapton, were held by Robert le Fleming of William Patrick, tenant of part of the Lovetot fee. (fn. 71) This part of the King's fee in Polebrook may have come into the possession of Peterborough Abbey with the rest of the Fleming manor.
In 1207 Ralph son of Reginald de Polebrook acquired a virgate in Polebrook from Walter son of Agnes, widow of Robert. (fn. 72) In 1229 Ralph petitioned for leave to divert a way in Polebrook. (fn. 73) Three years later the Bishop of Lincoln granted him permission to have a chapel with a chantry in his court of Polebrook. (fn. 74) William son of Ralph de Polebrook witnessed the deeds relating to Hemington of the middle of the 13th century, (fn. 75) but no later record of his tenement seems to be extant.
Certain messuages and lands in Polebrook of which the reversion was granted to the Abbot of Peterborough by Richard de Outheby in 1339, (fn. 76) must be assumed to have been part of the King's fee. The rest, as the manor of Polebrook, had come into the possession of the Lovels of Tichmarsh before 1455, when William Lovel 'chivaler,' Lord Lovel of Tichmarsh, died seised of the reversion of the manor, John Greyby being life tenant. (fn. 77) Lord Lovel settled Polebrook on his younger son, Robert, (fn. 78) whose widow, Eleanor, was accused of illegal treatment of his former tenants here. (fn. 79) In 1466, Eleanor, with her second husband, Thomas Prount, claimed Polebrook and other manors as jointure. (fn. 80) John, Lord Lovel, her first husband's elder brother, had died in 1465, leaving a son, Francis, who was attainted, and died without issue in 1487. (fn. 81) His manor of Polebrook was granted in 1491 to John Moton, (fn. 82) after whose death in 1492 it was acquired by George Kirkham, who left it by will, dated March, 1527–28, to his son Sir Robert Kirkham, and his wife Sibill. (fn. 83) Messuages and lands in Polebrook were in the possession of Sir Robert and his wife, Richard and Katherine Pallady, and Thomas Henson in 1547, (fn. 84) but at the beginning of the next century the manor belonged to the Crown as parcel of the possessions of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 85) Messuages and lands which seem to have formed part of it were held of the King in chief in 1615, 1623 and 1634, (fn. 86) but about the middle of the 17th century it was conveyed by William Raby and his wife, Katherine, Thomas Roborne, and Richard Goodman and his wife, Joan, to Thomas Andrew, (fn. 87) possibly the Thomas Andrew, senior, who held it with Thomas Andrew, junior, in 1681. (fn. 88) Later owners were John Buxton and his wife, Elizabeth, and Lawford Watts and his wife, Sara, from whom a moiety of the manor passed to Thomas Goodfellow in 1694. (fn. 89) Both moieties were in 1774 the property of Mary Goodfellow, widow, and Catherine Goodfellow, (fn. 90) the latter of whom was presumably the spinster of that name who owned land in Polebrook in 1790. (fn. 91)
Domesday Book accounts for 5 hides of land in ARMSTON (Mermeston xi cent., Armeston xii cent., Ermeston, Armston xiii cent., Armenston, Armistorem, Armyston xiv cent.) and Kingsthorpe belonging to the Abbey of Peterborough. (fn. 92) In the reign of Henry I, however, Armston alone is described as extending over more than 5 hides, the whole still forming part of the Peterborough fee, (fn. 93) and this overlordship continued until the 15th century.
The five knights, tenants of Peterborough Abbey in 1086, (fn. 94) were followed by five others in the next century. (fn. 95) One of these knights was probably Geoffrey of Winchester, who held 3 virgates in Burghley of the Abbot. (fn. 96) Geoffrey's fees went to William de Burghley, who claimed to be hereditary reeve of the abbot's liberty of Stamford, and is mentioned in 1116 and 1118. (fn. 97) He was succeeded by Roger de Burghley, who surrendered the office of reeve of Stamford, and was living in 1143–4. (fn. 98) The next holder apparently was William de Burghley, who was holding in 1189 and by 1212 had been succeeded by a third William, who was holding two fees in Burghley and Armston in 1227. (fn. 99) Probably a fourth William was holding in 1254 and 1260, (fn. 100) and was succeeded by his son, Roger, who died in 1280. (fn. 101) Roger was followed by Thomas de Burghley, (fn. 102) and he by Geoffrey de Burghley, who did homage to the abbot in 1322 and 1327 for his fee in Armston. (fn. 103) Geoffrey, by his wife Mariota, had a son Peter. (fn. 104) In 1346, Mariota, widow of Geoffrey, is mentioned as holding a fee in Burghley, (fn. 105) and in 1428 she is named as a former tenant of the fee of the abbot of Peterborough in Armston, then held by Gerveys Wykes. (fn. 106)
Another mesne lordship here, possibly over the same lands, belonged to Reginald de Grey in 1256, who settled on John de Grey a knight's fee in Armston inherited from his mother, Emma. (fn. 107) His successor, Reginald de Grey, in 1295 held of the Burghley heirs, (fn. 108) and Richard de Syward was his sub-tenant. (fn. 109) Below Syward again came James Byron. Richard Byron, probably James's great nephew and heir, (fn. 110) complained in 1308 that the prior of the Hospital of Armston and others had besieged him in his manor house for two days and assaulted him in the High Street of Armston. (fn. 111) Sir James Byron was dealing with lands in Kingsthorp and Armston in the middle of the 14th century, (fn. 112) and John Byron was holding lands there in 1364. (fn. 113) A small property in Armston, held of John Byron by Sir John Knyvet of Winwick, Hunts, who died in 1381, (fn. 114) seems to have been part of this Byron manor which was included in a settlement made in 1441 on Sir Robert Booth and others by Sir John Byron of Clayton and his wife Margery, (fn. 115) daughter of John Booth of Barton, Lancashire. (fn. 116) Bridges identifies the carucate possessed by James Byron in 1295 with lands called from their owner 'Buren's thing.' These lands were settled in 1463 by William Aldwincle, lord of Tichmarsh manor in Aldwincle, on his wife, Elizabeth, who, with her second husband, William Chamber, granted them in 1489 to the chantry they had founded in the church of Aldwincle. (fn. 117) The manor of Armston belonging to this chantry was sold to Sir Edward Montagu in 1547, (fn. 118) and descended from that time with Barnwell St. Andrew (q.v.), but was not sold in 1913 and is still in the possession of the Duke of Buccleuch.
Another of the five Peterborough tenants in Armston, in the reign of Henry I, was Guy Maufé, who held a hide of the Abbey land. (fn. 119) Some part of his fee seems to have been included in Hervey de Borham's grant to Thorney Abbey, of the manor of Kingsthorpe (q.v.), and was held by this house in 1291. (fn. 120) As lands in Armston of the late Abbey of Thorney, then occupied by John Robery, they were acquired by Sir Edward Montagu, with the manor of Luddington (q.v.), in 1544.
From the first half of the 12th century the history of the rest of the Peterborough lands in Armston, held by Turkil, by Geoffrey de Gunthorpe, and by Tedrick, (fn. 121) is obscure. Geoffrey may have been ancestor of the Geoffrey of Southorpe who did homage to the Abbot for lands in Armston in 1275, (fn. 122) but no later mention of the tenure of this family occurs, and it can only be supposed that all three holdings were eventually united in the manor of Armston, in Armston, and that the nucleus of it may have been the lands held by a family who bore the name of the hamlet.
These lands were originally held apparently by Gudold the Beadle, whose lands were confirmed to Peterborough Abbey by Henry I. (fn. 123) Philip de Armston paid 12d. towards an aid at the close of the 12th century, and held land in Armston by the service of 1/13 of a knight's fee payable to the chamber of the Abbot. (fn. 124) It was probably the same Philip who was holding of the Honour of Peterborough in 1211–12, (fn. 125) and with his son Reginald witnessed a charter of Abbot Robert de Lindsey (1214–22). (fn. 126) Philip also had a son Bartholomew, whose son Geoffrey, (fn. 127) with Stephen de Winwick, held ⅓ of a fee in 1254. (fn. 128) The descent at this date becomes uncertain. A John de Armston, probably a brother or son of Geoffrey, had a son Robert, who took the name of Bernewell, (fn. 129) and a daughter Isabel, who had a son John. (fn. 130) John de Armston seems also to have had a son 'John de Armston, called Despenser,' (fn. 131) whose name frequently occurs in the Buccleuch Deeds of the last quarter of the 13th century as John le Despenser, or Spenser, of Armston. (fn. 132) He had by his wife Mabel three sons, John le Despencer, Geoffrey, and Walter. (fn. 133) Of these, John had three sons, Philip le Spenser, by whom he was succeeded in 1314, (fn. 134) David le Spenser, (fn. 135) and John le Spenser, chaplain, (fn. 136) who together held a part of Philip de Armston's 1/13 of a knight's fee in Armston (fn. 137); Geoffrey had by his wife Sarah (fn. 138) a son, John le Spenser, who was holding in the middle of the 14th century.
Another tenement in Armston was held by Ralph de Trublevill, sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1223, whose name appears here as early as 1202. (fn. 139) His wife was Alice, who seems to have been an heiress. (fn. 140) In 1224 he received timber from the King's wood of Wrikes towards the repair of his house at Armston, (fn. 141) and in 1232 he and his wife built the Hospital of St. John the Baptist of Armston on their land, (fn. 142) and Alice presented the first master. (fn. 143) The fee later went to Geoffrey, brother of Berengar le Moyne of Barnwell St. Andrew, and he presented a master to the hospital in 1274. (fn. 144) Two years later Geoffrey claimed view of frankpledge and assize of bread and ale. (fn. 145) He was succeeded by his son Reginald, (fn. 146) who presented a master in 1298 (fn. 147) and in 1302. His wife's name was Divorgilla. (fn. 148) John Moyne presented in 1353, (fn. 149) and with his wife Cecily settled the manor and advowson of the Hospital possibly in favour of William Peytevyn of Armston, who had letters of protection for the King's service in Ireland in 1363. (fn. 150) In 1381 he presented to the Hospital, (fn. 151) and in 1393–4 William with his wife Joan conveyed lands in Armston and Kingsthorpe and the advowson of the Hospital, all of Joan's inheritance, to William Armston, (fn. 152) whose wife Joan was possibly the daughter of William Peytevyn. William Armston claimed to be patron when a new constitution was given to the Hospital in 1397, (fn. 153) and he and his wife were alive in 1428. (fn. 154) He was succeeded by his son William, who married Maud and presented to the Hospital in 1430. (fn. 155) He was succeeded by another William Armston, whose widow Ellen was in 1500 the wife of Robert Halley. (fn. 156) Thomas, son of the last-named William Armston, inherited his father's estate and was living in 1535. (fn. 157) A petition was presented by Thomas Armston against Richard Compton, master of the Hospital, for neglect of his duties in not praying for the souls of the founders nor saying divine service in the chapel of the Hospital for the benefit of the inhabitants living at a distance from the parish church. (fn. 158)
Thomas was succeeded by his half-brother, William Armston, who was dead by 1540, (fn. 159) when the inheritance was disputed under various settlements. The claimants were Thomas Henson, son of Elizabeth, sister of the last-named William Armston, who is said to have married John Henson; Katherine, daughter of Guy, son of the elder William Armston by his third wife, which Katherine was then the wife of Richard Pallady, and was said to be illegitimate; and Sir Robert Kirkham, son of Anne, sister of Guy, who had married George Kirkham. (fn. 160) The matter was compromised, and the disputants joined, about 1545, in conveying the estate to John Lane, (fn. 161) by whom it was sold in 1548 to Sir Edward Montagu. (fn. 162) The Hospital was dissolved by Sir Robert Kirkham in 1536, and sold to Sir Edward Montagu. (fn. 163) The Crown, however, granted it in 1548 to Sir William Sharington, who conveyed his title to Sir Edward Montagu. Probably on account of Sharington's attainder it was granted by the Crown in 1588 to Edward Wymark. (fn. 164) The Montagus seem to have come to terms with Wymark and retained possession, and the lands of the Hospital remained part of the Manor of Armston, which descended with Barnwell St. Andrew (fn. 165) until 1913, when it continued in the possession of the Duke of Buccleuch.
A family of Porthors of Armston held lands there in the 13th century. (fn. 166) Andrew Porthors had a son John, who with his wife Rose was living about 1270. (fn. 167) They had a son John and a daughter Alice, who married John de Milton, (fn. 168) living in 1305. (fn. 169)
One hide and a virgate of land in Kingsthorpe (Chingestorp, xi cent.; Kyngesthorp, xii cent.; Kynestorp, xiii cent.) belonged to the fee of Peterborough (fn. 170) from the 12th to the 15th century. (fn. 171) The Abbot of Peterborough's lands here were partly of the fee of Maufé and partly of the fee of Lovetot. (fn. 172) The mesne lordships followed the descents of Woodford and Clapton respectively (q.v.). Walter de Lodinton, the abbot's immediate tenant in the reign of Henry I, (fn. 173) may have been the predecessor of the one or other, or of both. Robert Maufé gave lands here to the abbot of Thorney, (fn. 174) and in 1346 the abbot of Thorney and Roger Hurst held half a knight's fee in Kingsthorpe and Hemington of the two fees which William Maufé formerly held of Peterborough. (fn. 175) In 1270 probably the Lovetots' manor of Kingsthorpe was held by Alan de Chartres in right of his wife Joan. They granted it to Hervey de Borham, Archdeacon of Salop, (fn. 176) who in 1256 conveyed it with lands in Hemington and Armston to the abbot of Thorney. (fn. 177) It seems that Thorney Abbey acquired the lands of both fees which it held through several mesne lords of the abbot of Peterborough.
In 1540 messuages and over 100 acres in Kingsthorpe with land in Hemington and Luddington, and in 1544 a small property in Armston and Kingsthorpe, all belonging to the late monastery of Thorney, were granted to Sir Edward Montagu. (fn. 178) Together they seem to have made up the Montagu manor of Kingsthorpe which followed the descent of Barnwell St. Andrew.
The Church of ALL SAINTS consists of chancel 29 ft. 8 in. by 15 ft., clearstoried nave 45 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft., with north and south aisles and porches, north and south transeptal chapels, and tower 9 ft. 8 in. square, surmounted by a spire at the west end of the south aisle. All the above measurements are internal. The whole of the building is faced with rubble, and has plain parapets throughout. The roofs of the aisles and chapels are leaded, while the nave is covered with small grey slates and the chancel with blue slates. All the walls are plastered internally.
The church seems to have consisted at first of a chancel and nave with an 'axial' tower between them, as at Barton Seagrave. Late in the 12th century the north aisle was added to the nave, and a transeptal chapel constructed on this side, for which an arch was made in the north wall of the tower. The chancel arch, if not the whole chancel, was also rebuilt. The present aisle and chapel, however, belong to the next century, and are part of a general reconstruction and enlargement, possibly when the church was granted in 1232 by Robert le Fleming to Peterborough Abbey. This reconstruction included a lengthened chancel and the entire rebuilding of the west wall of the church, which was continued southward as the base of a tower which was now added. East of the tower a south aisle was built, opening into the nave by an arcade of two bays. During the 14th century a small transeptal chapel was added on the south side. The nave clearstory was added later, when the roof was flattened. The church was restored in 1843.
The chancel retains in the south wall, towards the west end, a plain priest's doorway with a round arch, now blocked externally, which seems to belong to the earlier and shorter chancel. The south wall is lighted by three lancets with internal splays. These break the external string-course, and appear to have been altered after their first making. The westernmost was lengthened downwards into a low-side opening, partly blocked, the lower part of which, beneath a transom, was rebated for a shutter opening outwards. In the east wall is a group of three lancets, the middle one being higher than the others, and all being treated very plainly on the outside, with separate labels. The east part of the north wall was covered by a vestry, some traces of which remain in the walls of the modern vestry on the site. West of this are two lancets. That on the east is shorter than those in the opposite wall, and was left unaltered when they were lengthened. The western has a low-side extension like that of the window opposite, also partly blocked. The chancel is without buttresses and the parapets are carried on 13th century corbel tables with grotesque heads. At the south-east angle are three scratch dials. (fn. 179)
The north chapel, which measures internally 32 ft. by 17 ft. 6 in., is a remarkable feature in the plan, being actually longer and wider than the chancel. It has a plain string-course carried round it, which is lowered on the north wall. In the east wall there are two two-light openings with flowing tracery, inserted in the 14th century. There is a modern four-light window, with a four-centred head, in the north wall. An original lancet remains in the west wall. The gable cross is of the 13th century, (fn. 180) to which date also the cross above the east window of the church seems to belong. The parapets of the chapel are on corbel tables, with masks which, except five, are plain.
There are no windows in the wall of the north aisle, which is of one build with the adjoining wall of the transept. Towards the east end there is a plain pointed doorway with plain hood. This is covered by a large porch with a fine outer archway of two orders with shafted jambs. The arch is elaborately moulded with deep hollows between the rolls, the shafts have capitals with conventional foliage, dog-tooth is freely used, and grotesque figure-sculpture is introduced into the ornament. At the north-west corner of the aisle is a diagonal buttress, and the west window is of two lights, inserted about 1300.
There is a 13th-century buttress at the junction of the aisle with the west wall of the nave, which is of the same build. There is no west doorway, and the four-light west window has been much modernised, the mullions and tracery being new. The gable has been rebuilt. As already noted, the west wall is continued southward, with a slight thickening, as the base of the tower, the point of departure being concealed by a buttress set diagonally. This, with the corresponding buttresses at the south-west and south-east angles of the tower, are apparently part of the original design, and if so, are a very early and unusual example of the use of this plan of buttress. The tower has a round-headed west window with a wide internal splay, and a small blocked window in the south wall. In each face of the belfry stage is a two-light window with mid-shaft and double-shafted jambs, and the whole is finished with a broach-spire. The spire has plain angles and three sets of spire lights.
The short length of aisle wall between the tower and south chapel is almost covered by an early 13th-century porch, which has a plain doorway with clustered jamb-shafts, much weathered, and a deep hood-mould with a fleur-de-lys at the apex. On the gable of the porch is a curious coped stone. The doorway inside the porch is round-headed with a roll-moulding, and is probably the south doorway of the earlier church rebuilt in this position.
The south chapel was built in the 14th century, and is narrower and much shorter than the north chapel. There is a three-light window in the south wall with modern tracery, (fn. 181) and a square-headed window of two lights in the east wall. North of this the junction with the 13th-century east wall of the south aisle is clear, but the string-course which is carried round the chapel is continuous with the earlier work, and has evidently been re-used. There is a lancet in the east wall of the aisle.
Internally, the irregularity of design is very noticeable, owing to the want of correspondence between the spacing of the north and south arcades. This is due to the unusual position of the tower, and to the fact that the two bays of the north arcade are west of the piece of wall which marks the north-west angle of the earlier tower between nave and chancel, while on the south the corresponding piece of wall was removed, and the arcade of two bays carried to the east end of the nave. The north arcade, the arch opening from the old tower-space into the north chapel, and the chancel arch are all of one date, about 1180–90. The arches are round-headed, with two chamfers and end-stops. The responds of the chancel and chapel arches and that at the west end of the arcade have capitals of cruciform pattern with broad waterleaf ornament, the tips of the leaves finishing off in crockets. The east respond and the pier of the arcade have handsome voluted capitals with foliated angle-crockets. The pier and responds are circular and slender in diameter. The bases of the pier and the chancel responds have claw-corners, left plain. Some of the foliage of the capitals has been left uncarved.
On the south side of the nave the tower, occupying the western part of the south aisle, was built before the rest of the aisle and was probably begun shortly after the first additions upon the north side. It opens into the nave by an arch with three chamfered orders and half round responds with moulded capitals and bases. A similar low arch communicates in the east wall with the south aisle; above this arch is the line of a former steep pitched aisle roof. As already noted, there is a splayed window with a round-headed arch in the west wall.
The arcade between the nave and the south aisle is of the early part of the 13th century. There are two lofty round-headed arches, (fn. 182) of two chamfered orders and the capitals of the responds and dividing pier are carved with a variety of foliage, that of the pier having very thick stalks, while the foliage of the west respond is arranged in wind-blown fashion. The bases of the piers have thin and rather shallow water-moulds.
The north chapel is entirely of the 13th century, the earlier chapel having probably been much shorter. Below the windows in the east wall runs a roll-and-fillet string-course, which is lifted below the northernmost window to give room for the retable of an altar, but has been broken and badly rejoined at the south end of the heightened piece. It is continued along the north wall, near the east end of which it is again lifted for a large rectangular aumbry with rebated edge. West of this in the north wall are three elaborately moulded pointed arches, set on a bench-table, and springing from slender single shafts. (fn. 183) The heads of the stones which join the capitals to the wall at the back are carved at the ends with dog-tooth pattern, and at the joining of the inner mouldings there are fine sculptured bosses. The bosses at the ends of the hood-moulds are carved with (west) a mitred head, (centre) an elaborate floriated cross, beneath which is a somewhat similar cross, and (east) conventional foliage. Against the west wall of the chapel is a similar arcade of six arches upon a lower bench-table. The two rows of arches seem to have been built independently of one another and then roughly joined. The heads at the ends of the hoods in the western row have gone for the most part, but one remains with stiffly carved hair. At the intersection of the arches is trefoiled foliage of various patterns. The arch between the chapel and the north aisle springs on the north side from a corbel with three detached shafts.
The windows of this chapel have been noted. The lancet in the west wall has a wide splay. Of the two 14th-century windows in the east wall, the northern has been inserted in an arch of the 13th century, which probably marks the inner opening of a splayed lancet. At the back of the respond at the south-east corner of the chapel there is a small rectangular hollow.
The south chapel, as already stated, is much smaller (fn. 184) and is altogether of later work. Internally, however, a large, thick string-course which runs beneath the lancet at the east end of the south aisle is continued along the east wall of the chapel, and evidently, as on the outside, the builders took pains to conceal their additions. The string is not continued along the south wall, in which there is a double piscina with two lancet openings, the heads of which are cut in a lintel, and which are separated by a small sturdy shaft. The bowls are circular, with drain-holes. The tracery of the east window of this chapel is formed of two trefoils with rounded ends, the heads of which are carved out of one stone. A squint is cut through the east respond of the south arcade. At the south-east angle outside is an incised dial.
The chancel, except the arch, is almost entirely of the 13th century, with a string-course similar to that in the north chapel. The three eastern lancets have rich mouldings and clusters of detached shafts in the jambs. North of the altar is a rectangular aumbry (fn. 185) and the adjoining vestry doorway has a head cut in a lintel. In the south wall, in addition to the windows already described, there is a beautiful double piscina with much delicately carved dog-tooth ornament and a hood-moulding stopped by masks and a floral boss similar to those which end the hood of the vestry doorway and are found in the arcading of the north chapel. In the spandrel beneath the arch of the piscina is a sunk quatrefoil. Both bowls are fluted.
The examination of all this work shows that the chancel, the north chapel, and the outer walls of the north aisle with the porch belong to one period of building, which followed the addition of the south aisle. It was probably intended to build a south chapel similar to that on the north, but the work was stopped, and the south chapel, when it was built, had no relation to the former plan.
There is a 15th century traceried rood-screen, with some remains of colour on the panels. Some traces of colour are also left upon the soffit and capitals of the arch which opens into the north chapel. The chancel has a 15th century roof of three bays, with well-moulded tie-beams. The roofs of the nave, aisles and chapels are largely new, but there are some carved bosses in the nave roof, one of which has the shield of the abbey of Peterborough.
The octagonal font is of the later part of the 13th century with trefoiled panels, circular pedestal, and shafts with moulded capitals and bases supporting the bowl. The oak pulpit is plain work of the 17th century, with fluted upper panels, on a modern stone base: attached to the adjoining wall is an hour-glass stand. There is some 17th century seating in the south chapel, and two chairs of the same period in the chancel given by Gen. Ferguson.
The organ, given in 1909 by Sophia Lady PastonCooper, is in a loft over the chancel arch. In the chancel are tablets to Joseph Johnston, rector (d. 1719), and Capt. John Orme (d. 1764), and in the north chapel one to Charles Euseby Isham (d. 1862), who was rector for nearly sixty-two years.
There is a ring of five bells. The treble is dated 1717 and the tenor is by Joseph Eayre, of St. Neots, 1765, who also cast the fourth in 1771. The second is inscribed "†Andrea," and is by Thomas Newcombe, of Leicester (1562–80), while the third, inscribed "S. Maria" bears a stamp used by Francis Watts, of Leicester (1564–1600). (fn. 186)
The plate consists of a silver-plated cup, paten and breadholder, each inscribed 'Parish of Polebrook, anno Dom. 1811'; a plated cup and flagon given by Miss Hames in 1879; a silver chalice and flagon and processional cross were given by Gen. Ferguson; a silver almsdish by Lady Paston-Cooper, and two silver almsbowls by Ivor Ferguson, Esq.
There was a priest on the King's fee in Polebrook in 1086. (fn. 187) The advowson apparently belonged to the Clopton family and at the beginning of the 13th century Rose de Clopton as patron of the church of Polebrook made an agreement regarding St. Leonards Chapel at Armston. (fn. 188) Her husband Hugh le Fleming, presented a clerk in the reign of Henry III. The advowson descended to his son and heir, Robert le Fleming, (fn. 189) who granted the church and manor to the Abbey of Peterborough. (fn. 190) The claim to the advowson made by Hugh's great-great-granddaughters in 1284 was refuted by the production of Robert le Fleming's charter (fn. 191) and the church remained in the possession of the Abbey until its surrender, (fn. 192) when the profits of the rectory with tithes, mansion and glebe amounted to £29 14s. a year. (fn. 193) In 1542 Henry VIII granted the advowson of the rectory of Polebrook to the Bishop of Peterborough (fn. 194) but it was afterwards sold with the manor to Sir William Sharington and alienated by him to Sir Edward Montagu (see above). Sir Edward's heirs, however, did not succeed in establishing their right to the church though they made some attempt to do so in the 17th century, (fn. 195) and it has remained in the gift of the Bishop of Peterborough to the present day. (fn. 196)
In 1291 the Prior of Huntingdon enjoyed a portion of tithes amounting to £1 a year, in the church of Polebrook and portions of equal value from the church also belonged to the sacristans of Peterborough and Croyland and the Prior of St. Neots. (fn. 197) The Huntingdon portion amounted to only 13s. 4d. in 1539, (fn. 198) when the Croyland portion was described as a certain portion of rent issuing from the church of Polebrook. (fn. 199) The Croyland tithes were granted in 1562 to Henry Best and John Holland who conveyed them to Thomas Eastchurch and Robert Hunt who in 1563 sold them to Sir Edward Montagu. (fn. 200) A pension of 20s. a year was due from the rectory of Polebrook to Peterborough Abbey at its dissolution, and was included in the grant of 1548 to Sir William Sharington (q.v.) as was also some land in the parish which had belonged to the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Sir Edward Montagu agreed with the parson of Polebrook in consideration of the inclosure of Polebrook and in order to discharge the manor from all tithes proposed, he would give a portion of the tithes belonging to the parsonage of Hemington, a pension of 20s. and a lease of certain tithes in Polebrook belonging to the late monastery of Croyland. (fn. 201)
A gild of Corpus Christi in the church of Polebrook is mentioned in 1518 and 1524. (fn. 202)
The Rev. Nicholas Latham, founder of the Hospital at Oundle, gave £2 yearly to be distributed equally among four poor people. This sum is regularly paid and applied by the Trustees of Parson Latham's Hospital at Oundle.
The Rev. Charles E. Isham by Declaration of Trust dated 11 February, 1858, declared that the dividends on a sum of £100 Consols should be distributed by the Rector equally among six of the most deserving poor inhabitants who are members and communicants of the Church of England, first consideration to be given to widows. The distribution takes place after divine service on Christmas Day.
The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel comprised in an Indenture dated 25 July, 1863, is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, and is held on trusts as expressed in The Wesleyan Chapel Model Deed.