A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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The parish of Thurning was formerly partly in Northamptonshire and partly in Huntingdonshire (Leightonstone Hundred), the church being in the latter county. The boundary went north and south through the main street. In 1888, however, the whole was included in Northamptonshire. (fn. 1) The area is 1,016 acres, of which about two-thirds are under permanent grass. The soil is clay, upon which wheat and barley, beans and peas are grown. The land rises gradually from north to south, from about 150 ft. to 240 ft. above sea level. The population was 133 in 1921.
The village lies about 5½ miles south-east of Oundle at the crossing of the roads from Barnwell St. Andrew to Alconbury, and from Clapton to Luddington in the Brook. The church stands to the south of the village. The rectory house, which is to the east of the church, is a two story building of timber and plaster, with reed-thatched roof, probably of the late 15th century date, but partly refaced in yellow brick with single story brick additions. The interior has been modernised, but the original timber construction is everywhere visible. It has been the rectory since the 17th century, to which period the stone tithe barn on the north side of the house apparently belongs.
In 1263 Berengar le Moyne obtained a charter for a weekly market on Wednesday at his manor of Thurning, and a three days' fair at Michaelmas. (fn. 2) The grant may not have become effective, for Thurning does not seem later to have been reckoned as a market town.
Sir William Thirning, a prominent lawyer and judge of the Common Pleas in the time of Richard II and Henry IV is supposed to have belonged to this place, but nothing is definitely known. He took a prominent part in the deposition of Richard II in 1399, and died in 1413. (fn. 3)
In Domesday Book (1086) the greater part of the land is recorded under Huntingdonshire. The abbot of Croyland held 1½ hide, with land for a plough and a half; the soke was in the King's manor of Alconbury. Eustace (the sheriff) held it of the abbot. In 1066 the value was 20s., and in 1086 the same. Eustace held 5 hides in chief, there being land for 5 ploughs; the soke, as in the last case, was in Alconbury. The value alike in 1066 and 1086 was 60s. Alured and Gozelin held the land of Eustace, and Robert the Dispenser claimed 1 virgate and 1 hide. (fn. 4) In Northamptonshire there was only ½ hide, with land for half a plough; it belonged to the abbot of Peterborough and was appurtenant to Oundle. The value, 20d. in 1066, had doubled by 1086, being then 3s. 4d. (fn. 5)
It is impossible to trace these various estates clearly. The chief tenant in 1086 was Eustace, the sheriff, whose fee passed to the Lovetots and followed the descent of Clapton (fn. 6) (q.v.). Alured's holding went to the Cloptons of Clapton (q.v.). The holding of Robert the Dispenser may be represented by the Marmion fee, as Roger Marmion, according to the survey of c. 1125, held 3 small virgates of the fee of Peterborough. (fn. 7) By the end of the 13th century these mesne tenancies had all been surrendered to Peterborough Abbey.
The sub-tenants of the Lovetot's fee in the 13th century were Robert, son of Walter de Polebrook, Berengar le Moyne, Thomas de Hotot, Roger Beaumes (de Bello Mesuagio) (fn. 8) and Ralph de Grendon. Of these the holding of Robert, son of Walter de Polebrook (living in 1260–2) (fn. 9) appears to have passed to his son Walter, son of Robert de Polebrook. (fn. 10) The later descent, however, of this holding has not been ascertained. The holding of Berengar le Moyne seems to have been acquired by his ancestor Reginald, who in the time of Henry II exchanged lands in Woodwalton (Co. Hunts.) for lands in Thurning, Thorp and Graffham. (fn. 11) From this date the descent followed that of Barnwell St. Andrew (q.v.) until the holding was acquired by the abbot of Peterborough. The Hotot holding of the Lovetot fee probably followed that of Clapton (q.v.). The descent of Ralph de Grendon's holding doubtless followed that of his property in Polebrook (q.v.). His descendant William Carlyll was in 1428 holding half a fee in Polebrook and Thurning, formerly held by William Carleton and others of the Peterborough Fee. (fn. 12)
In 1316 Thurning was recorded as making one vill with Winwick, the holders being Walter de Molesworth, Geoffrey de Beaumes, John de Holme and John Cardon. (fn. 13) The estate of the first of these, which probably represents one of the above holdings, was, on the death of Walter de Molesworth in 1318, divided between his daughters Katherine and Margaret. (fn. 14) A small part of the estate in Molesworth was settled on Margaret and the rest in Thurning and Wold Weston, including the advowson of two parts of the church of Thurning, was settled on Katherine and Richard de Bayeux, her husband, and their issue, with reversion to Margaret. (fn. 15) The other third part would be held by Walter's widow Katherine. The later descent is not known, but Sir Henry Colet, of London, purchased from Thomas Molesworth, probably about 1470, the manor called Mullysworth's and the advowson of the church of Thurning. This is recorded in the inquisition after his death in 1505; the heir was his son, the famous John Colet, Dean of St. Paul's. (fn. 16) It became part of the Knyvet estate in Thurning.
The Beaumes were holding in 1236 when Reginald de Beaumes was a tenant in Thurning, (fn. 17) and in 1263 another Reginald, son and heir of Robert de Beaumes, paid relief, his lands being in the King's hands by reason of the custody of the heir of Richard, Earl of Gloucester. (fn. 18) The Beaumes estate appears to have descended to Thomas Beaumes, who, in 1373, in conjunction with Katherine his wife, sold to Sir John Knyvet seven messuages 3½ virgates of land, rents of 2s. 6d. and a pair of gloves and five villein tenants. Thomas and Katherine were, however, to retain it for life. (fn. 19)
Sir John Knyvet acquired much of the Peterborough property in Thurning, and his family seem eventually to have obtained all of it. (fn. 20) In 1380 Sir John held the manor of Winwick and also held a messuage and land in Thurning of the abbot of Peterborough by suit of court. (fn. 21) Joan (? Knyvet) in 1428 held the third part of a fee in Thurning. (fn. 22) She seems to have been the widow of John Knyvet the elder, on whom (in conjunction with his wife) the estate had been settled for life in 1411, should Sir Robert Ty and Margaret, his wife, die without issue, with remainders to Catherine and Elizabeth, daughters of another John Knyvet. Margaret Ty was no doubt a sister. (fn. 23) By 1456 it had come to Edmund Radcliffe, as son and heir of Elizabeth, wife of Sir John Radcliffe of Chadderton, in Lancashire, (fn. 24) but twenty years later had reverted to the heir-at-law, Sir William Knyvet, who mortgaged and sold various estates, including his lands in Thurning, to Sir Henry Colet, of London, in 1472–7. (fn. 25) The sale was confirmed by fine in 1478, the estate being described as the manor of Thurning, etc. (fn. 26) Sir Henry had married Christian Knyvet, a kinswoman of the vendor. He purchased other estates in Thurning, as will be seen below.
On Sir Henry's death in 1505, the manors and estates descended to his son and heir Dean Colet, who died in 1519, and by his will left his estate to his mother for her life, for division after her death. The manor of Thurning, with other manors and lands purchased from Sir William Knyvet, was to pass to his mother's kinsman Edmund Knyvet, of Ashwellthorpe (Norf.), serjeant porter to Henry VIII, while Molesworth's manor and the advowson of the church, purchased from Thomas Molesworth, 2 messuages, etc., in Thurning purchased by Sir Henry from Thomas Henson, and another messuage purchased from Thomas Newman were to go to Christopher Knyvet, brother of Edmund; another brother, Anthony, being in the remainders. (fn. 27)
Christopher's estate seems to have reverted to his elder brother Edmund, whose son John and grandson Thomas inherited Thurning. The lastnamed in 1577 sold the manor of Thurning and lands appurtenant in Thurning, Hemington and Luddington to four of the tenants—Robert Byworth, Robert Smyth, Nicholas Smyth, and Silvester Collyn, (fn. 28) who seem to have divided it among themselves. Thus the manor seems to have ceased.
From the inquisition after the death of Robert Smith in 1622 it appears that his estate in the three places named had been parcel of the manor called Mullesworth's and afterwards Collet's manor, and had been purchased by the deceased from Thomas Knyvet. The heir was his son Henry Smith, aged 44. The lands were held of the king by fealty only. (fn. 29)
Silvester Collyn, another purchaser, died in 1589 holding his lands in Thurning, etc., of the queen in chief; the lands lay in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire, but the capital messuage was in the latter county. His heir was a son Silvester, only 4 years of age. (fn. 30)
Margery Sturrapp, widow of Thomas Sturrapp, and daughter and heir of Robert Byworth (another purchaser), died in 1624 holding her land of the king. (fn. 31) Her son and heir Thomas, then 26 years of age, died in 1631, leaving a son Thomas, aged 12. The land was now stated to be held of the king by knight's service. (fn. 32)
Various religious houses had estates in the parish. The earliest reference to Thurning is in a charter by Burgred, king of Mercia (852–74) confirming a grant of a hide and a half in Thurning made by Grimketel to Croyland. (fn. 33) The estate is recorded in Domesday Book, the land being held by Eustace in 1086. In 1303 only one hide was reckoned; the services were unknown. (fn. 34) The abbey had a rent of 56s. 8d. from it in 1538; the pittancier used it. (fn. 35) In 1546 it was leased to John Streme. (fn. 36)
The Hospitallers had some estate in Thurning, (fn. 39) held as of the preceptory of Temple Bruer. In 1540 they had a free rent of 13d. from Thomas Henston for a cottage and lands called Sessikke. (fn. 40) This tenement was with others sold in 1546 to William Ramsden and Richard Vavasor, (fn. 41) who quickly resold it to George Smyth, of Sibston. (fn. 42)
According to the Parliamentary Survey of 1650, the Crown had had rents of 7s. from the freeholders of Thurning, in lease to the Earl of Manchester. (fn. 43)
In 1874 the chief landowners were Borrett Bletsoe, who lived at Barnwell All Saints, and John and James Fortescue. (fn. 44)
There were 60 a. common in 1840. (fn. 45)
The church of ST. JAMES consists of chancel, 25 ft. by 15 ft. 6 in., with north vestry, clearstoried nave 33 ft. by 16 ft., north aisle 7 ft. 6 in. wide, south aisle 9 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower, or turret, containing two bells. All the above measurements are internal.
In 1880–81 a great part of the structure was taken down and rebuilt as nearly as possible in accordance with the previous design, only the chancel, nave arcades, south aisle wall, and the porch being left standing; the chancel was restored in 1902. Externally therefore the whole of the north and west sides of the building, as well as the tower and clearstory, is modern, but it appears to have replaced work of the 15th century. The walls are of rubble, and the roofs are modern and covered with lead.
The earliest church of which there is evidence was built in the first half of the 12th century, and consisted of a small square-ended chancel and an aisleless nave which probably covered the area of the present nave. The semi-circular chancel arch belongs to this church. It is 9 ft. wide, of two square orders, and has moulded imposts and half round responds with scalloped capitals and chamfered bases. The north aisle was thrown out and the north arcade nserted about 1180–90. The nave was at the same time lengthened westward by a bay, and the former north-west angle of the nave now forms the square part of the masonry pier at the west end of the existing north arcade. The arcade as built was of three round arches, now reduced to two, of two orders, the inner chamfered on both sides and the outer moulded. It has a circular pillar and half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases. The east respond of the destroyed western arch now stands within a recess in the modern wall and has the nail-head ornament in its capital; otherwise it is similar to the others. The south aisle with its arcade was erected in the 13th century, and is probably the first aisle on this side, as there is no evidence of an earlier one. The arcade was of three pointed arches, of which two only remain, of two hollow chamfered orders resting on a pillar composed of four shafts with fillet on face and hollows between. The springing of the third arch still remains, but the westernmost pillar is octagonal and appears to be of later date; it may indicate a proposed rebuilding of the arcade from this end. The east window of this aisle is of two trefoiled lights, with a trefoil opening over each, and in the south wall is a piscina with a cinquefoiled head. The three-light square headed window in the same wall is apparently a 14th century insertion, and the south doorway is of this period. The south wall may have been rebuilt at this time.
The chancel was rebuilt in the 14th century and probably took the place of one which replaced the 12th century chancel referred to above. The windows are contemporary with the rebuilding, the east window of four trefoiled lights, and two south windows, one with three and the other with two lights; below the western of these is a pointed low-side window with traceried cinquefoiled head, the sill of which is 4 ft. above the ground. There is also a priest's doorway on this side. On the north side is a modern window of three lights similar in design to the others, and further west is a doorway to the vestry, and two arches, one (modern) open to the vestry itself and the other to a small chapel on the east end of the north aisle. The vestry appears to have been originally a priest's room, or sacristy, from which a circular stone stair gave access to the chancel roof; the upper part of this stair and the turret surmounting it still remain. Above the arch opening to the chapel the rood loft doorway remains in the wall, and from the chapel a squint is directed to the high altar. There are two plain sedilia and a trefoil-headed piscina in the usual position in the chancel, and on the north side an aumbry.
Towards the end of the 15th century, or early in the 16th, if the evidence of the rebuilding of 1881 is to be trusted, the clearstory was added and the porch and vestry built. The nave was at the same time reduced in length by one bay, a new west wall being erected in front of the two westernmost piers. This wall carries the east side of the tower, the west front of which is set upon a lofty external arch enclosing a two-light transomed window. The south porch has a four-centred moulded outer arch on attached shafts, and there is an octagonal stoup in its north-east angle.
The oak pulpit, lectern, litany desk, and a seat in the chancel are all of 16th century date, and are said to have come from Barnwell All Saints. (fn. 46) The other fittings are modern. There is a mural tablet in the north aisle to Robert Negus, gent., d. 1657. The chancel arch is filled by a modern rood-screen and the organ is placed above the arch.
The smaller of the two bells is a recasting by Taylor of Loughborough in 1899 of a medieval bell which bore the inscription: 'Dei genetrix, Virgo Maria, ora pro [nobis].' The larger bell has four pairs of letters, perhaps part of an alphabet, and appears to be of pre-Reformation date from a Leicester foundry. (fn. 47)
The plate consists of a cup and cover paten, the latter dated 1569 and the cup inscribed 'For the towne of Thorneing'; an early 15th century Florentine chalice, silver gilt, with enamels on the knop and foot, given in 1924 by the parishioners as a thankoffering for the rector's (Rev. H. B. Gottwaltz) twenty-five years' service; a jewelled silver-gilt ciborium given in 1900; a silver ciborium of 1908–9; and a flagon of 1870–1, given in 1872. There is also a pewter flagon and a plated almsdish.
The advowson was in 1318 held with the Molesworth manor, for in that year the king presented to the church, because he had the custody of the heirs of Walter de Molesworth. (fn. 48) In 1403 Thomas Hethe, clerk, transferred to his brother Henry all the estate he and another brother Richard had in half an acre in Thurning (John Mabbot had been tenant), with the advowson of the church. (fn. 49) As shown above, Sir Henry Colet purchased the advowson from Thomas Molesworth about 1470, and it came to Christopher Knyvett after the death of Dr. John Colet in 1519. (fn. 50)
One Richard Routhall acquired it with certain tenements in Thurning, and these passed to his widow Agnes and her second husband Robert Charnock. (fn. 51) Her son Thomas Routhal made a feoffment, in 1529, a few months before his mother's death, in which the advowson was included. (fn. 52) The advowson, however, came back to Thomas Knyvet, for it was excepted when he sold the manor in 1577; (fn. 53) he transferred a moiety to trustees in 1580. (fn. 54) In 1617 the advowson was acquired by Thomas Wells, clerk, (fn. 55) and John Wells, rector of Thurning from 1627, and probably son of Thomas, bequeathed it in 1656 to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. (fn. 56) The master and fellows have since presented to the rectory.
In 1291 the church of Thurning was taxed at £8. (fn. 57) By 1535 the value had increased to £12, (fn. 58) but in the time of Elizabeth the rector leased the rectory for £20, out of which a pension of 6s. 8d. was paid to Huntingdon priory. (fn. 59) The tithes were commuted for £180. There are 60 acres glebe. The rectory house is near the church.
The Rev. John Wells, by his Will in 1640, gave a rentcharge of £1 to the poor vested in the Minister and Overseers. In respect of this an annual sum of £1 was paid out of lands in the parish and distributed equally among 20 poor families.