A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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The parish of Clapton lies on the eastern side of the county, the Huntingdonshire county boundary marking its eastern limits. It covers 1,952 acres of land of which over half is laid down in grass. A stream crosses its western side and here the land is only some 100 ft. above the ordnance datum, but eastward near the church it rises to about 250 ft. (fn. 1) The subsoil is mainly Oxford clay, with some stone marls. (fn. 2) No railway crosses the parish and the nearest station is at Thorpe, on the London Midland and Scottish Railway. The village lies to the east of the main road from Kimbolton to Oundle, with the church and rectory a little to the south. There is a homestead moat in Ringsdale's wood, (fn. 3) and Skulking Dudley Coppice presumably gained its name from one of the former lords of the manor. A water-mill at Clapton is mentioned in 1397. (fn. 4) There were formerly brick-works in the parish.
The manorial history of CLAPTON or CLOPTON in the years succeeding the compilation of Domesday Book is difficult to unravel, the confusion arising from the fact that Eustace the Sheriff of Huntingdonshire held part of Clapton in chief of the King and part as a tenant of the Abbey of Peterborough. The manor of Clapton, later held in demesne of the Abbey, developed from land forming part of the Abbey holding, but the manor of Clapton Hotots or Hotofts was formed from land belonging to both of the Domesday holdings.
In 1086, Eustace held 3 hides, 3 virgates and ⅓ part of ½ hide of land, of the Abbey of Peterborough. (fn. 5) No tenant is named in the 12th century Survey of the county, (fn. 6) but in 1125 Eustace had been succeeded by Roger de Lovetot, who held 2 knights' fees of the Abbey, (fn. 7) containing as appears later land in Clapton, Polebrook, Catworth, Winwick and Hemington. (fn. 8) In 1146 William de Lovetot his son was the Peterborough tenant. (fn. 9) William had two sons, Richard and Nigel, the Hallamshire (co. York) fees passing to Richard and the Southoe (co. Hunts) and Peterborough fees, including Clapton, going to Nigel. There is some uncertainty about the family of Nigel, who is said to have had five sons, namely, Richard, Roger, Nigel, Robert and William. The identity of Richard and Roger has been confused, but it appears that Richard died childless before 1192. Roger seems to have had six children, namely, William, who died childless, (fn. 10) Nigel, a clerk, who before 1201 held Clapton and later gave it to his brother Geoffrey for life. Geoffrey refused to pay the relief and the Abbot of Peterborough seized his land. Both Nigel and Geoffrey died without direct heirs, and their property passed to their three sisters or their heirs, whose homage and relief was refused by the Abbot because the earlier relief was still unpaid. (fn. 11) The matter was apparently settled and Clapton passed to Elias de Mundeville or Amundeville, the son of the eldest sister, Amice or Avice, wife of Ralph de Amundeville, and to William Patrick, the son of the youngest sister Alice, who had married William Patrick. (fn. 12) Rose, the second sister, was still living at the time of Nigel's death in 1219, (fn. 13) but no part of Clapton was assigned to her. (fn. 14) Before 1234, William Patrick granted his moiety to his sister Margery, the wife, first of William de Vernon and secondly of John de Littebury. (fn. 15) After the death of her first husband, both she and her cousin, Nigel de Mundeville, the brother and heir of Elias, granted their moieties in Clapton, consisting of the homage and service of their sub-tenants, to John de Caux, abbot of Peterborough (1250–1262). (fn. 16) Before 1259, however, Margery and John de Littebury, her second husband, sold to Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, (fn. 17) the services of Thomas de Hotot, a subtenant in Clapton, and other properties. This sale led to a claim being made in 1347 by Hugh Audley, Earl of Gloucester (whose wife had inherited part of the Honour of Clare), to the overlordship of land in Clapton held by the Abbot. A lawsuit ensued (fn. 18) and the case is interesting as showing the care with which the Abbot's defence was prepared from researches among public records. The abbot was able to prove that the Earl could have no claim in the land since Margery and John de Littebury had no right to it at the time of the sale to Richard, Earl of Gloucester. Although in 1372 the land in Clapton was returned amongst the fees held by the Earl of Stafford, (fn. 19) the Abbey was apparently left in undisputed possession of the Lovetot rights there.
The history of the sub-tenants of the Lovetot's lands is confused. In 1086 a nameless knight appears as the tenant under Eustace the Sheriff, (fn. 20) who may perhaps be identified with Alured, Eustace's tenant in the other holding in Clapton. (fn. 21) In c. 1125, Walter son of Alured, or Walter de Clapton, was the sub-tenant of the Abbey fee. He held one hide and one virgate of Roger de Lovetot and 3½ hides of the abbey. (fn. 22) Walter was succeeded by his son William, who alienated a great deal of his land in Clapton. His only child was his daughter Emma, (fn. 23) but she died without descendants (fn. 24) as his heirs were Alice the wife of Robert de Hotot, Denise, the wife of Robert de Hofford, and Rohesia or Royce, probably the daughters of his brother Robert. (fn. 25)
The manor of CLAPTON HOTOTS may be traced to the grant of lands partly in demesne and partly in villeinage made before 1190 (fn. 26) by William de Clapton to Thomas, the son of Alice de Hotot. (fn. 27) The manor was originally held of the Lovetots and the homage and service of a later Hotot was granted by Margery de Vernon and Nigel de Mundeville to the Abbey of Peterborough, (fn. 28) but when the latter claimed, in 1288, (fn. 29) the homage of the sub-tenant, it appeared that between the death of Nigel de Lovetot and the grant to the Abbey, (fn. 30) the homage and service due had already been granted to a mesne lord, an ancestor of David de Fletewik, lord of Ringsdon. (fn. 31) The latter, however, granted his rights in Clapton to the Abbot, (fn. 32) who from that time was the immediate lord of the manor. (fn. 33)
Thomas de Hotot, the original grantee, who was living in 1190, was succeeded by his son Richard, the tenant in 1243. (fn. 34) Richard is said to have bought back part of the land given by William de Clapton to the nuns of Chicksand, as well as the share of William's lands which passed to his sister Denise and to her granddaughter Isabella, the wife of Hugh de Ringsdon. (fn. 35) Before 1254 another Thomas appears, (fn. 36) and in 1272 he made a settlement of the manor, with remainder to his son William, (fn. 37) who succeeded him in 1288. (fn. 38) William's son Robert did homage to the Abbot in 1311, (fn. 39) and his grandson, another Robert, in 1322. (fn. 40) The latter was presumably the tenant in 1346. (fn. 41) He seems to have been succeeded by another Robert, at whose dwelling in Clapton there was a chapel which, with other chapels and oratories in the parish drew the parishioners from the parish church, and was interdicted in 1369. (fn. 42) His daughter and heir married Richard Dudley of Barnwell. (fn. 43) In 1412 and 1428 John Scot held the manor presumably as a trustee, (fn. 44) since Dudley afterwards enfeoffed other trustees, from whom his son and heir William, between 1467 and 1472 had difficulty in obtaining livery on coming of age. (fn. 45) William died seised of the manor in 1505, when his heir was his grandson William, then a minor. (fn. 46) The manor was held by the Dudleys, passing from father to son, with one temporary break, until the 18th century. Their names were Thomas, (fn. 47) Edward who succeeded before 1588 (fn. 48) and died in 1608, (fn. 49) Edward, who died in 1632, (fn. 50) and a third Edward, who died in 1641, leaving four daughters and heirs, all under age. (fn. 51) The manor, however, was settled on their uncle William, to enable him after their father's death to pay the portions left to them. (fn. 52) William Dudley was created a baronet in 1660. (fn. 53) His son Matthew and grandson William succeeded him, but the latter, who had no children, (fn. 54) sold the manor in 1724 to William Peere Williams. (fn. 55) His son Hutchins Williams was created a baronet in 1747. On the death of the third and last baronet, Sir Booth Williams, in 1784, (fn. 56) it passed to the nephew of the first baronet, Admiral Peere Williams, who assumed the name of Freeman in 1822. (fn. 57) His descendants held it till 1906, when Augustus Freeman died unmarried. It was then sold to Sir John Brunner, who settled it upon his son in law, the Hon. Audley Blyth, in March 1906. He died 21 March 1908, and was succeeded by his widow, from whose trustees it was purchased in 1910 by Thomas William Buckley, M.D., J.P., the present owner.
The third heir of William de Clapton may be identified with Rohesia, lady of Polebrook, who renounced her claim in the advowson of the church of Clapton in 1219. (fn. 58) Her son Robert ratified her quitclaim. (fn. 59) It seems probable that she was the wife of Hugh le Fleming who held land in Clapton of the Lovetots. (fn. 60) Her lands in Clapton presumably followed the history of the manor of Polebrook (q.v.), which was bought by Abbot John de Cauz from Robert son of Hugh le Fleming. (fn. 61) They were assigned to the Almoner and were held, possibly with other lands in Clapton, as one tenth of a knight's fee. (fn. 62)
The manor of CLAPTON, held by the Abbey of Peterborough, may be traced in origin to various benefactions made by the Clapton family, which were assigned by Abbot Benedict (1177–1194) to the Almoner of the abbey. (fn. 63) William, son of Walter de Clapton, granted in frankalmoin one messuage and one virgate of land and a meadow called Sume's yard or Mawnesyerd to Peterborough (fn. 64) and this land is specially mentioned in the charter of Richard I of 1189. (fn. 65) In the following year William and his wife Emma seem to have given a further release of it to Abbot Benedict. (fn. 66) The latter recovered a carucate of land from William Dacus and Thomas de Hotot (fn. 67) as well as 6 acres of the land of the nuns of Chicksand. (fn. 68) Richard de Clapton and Geoffrey son of Ralph de Clapton, a military subtenant of William de Clapton, made various gifts of land to the Prior of St. Neots, Huntingdon, (fn. 69) and Abbot Martin of Peterborough (1226– 1233) bought the rent of 2s. a year arising from these tenements from the Prior, and assigned it to the Almoner. (fn. 70) In 1347 the latter held in frankalmoin in chief of the king 249½ acres of land. (fn. 71) In 1300 the manor of Clapton was valued at 56s. 4d. a year, (fn. 72) and at the dissolution of the abbey it was worth £3 8s. 5½d. (fn. 73) In 1542, Henry VIII sold it to Roger Tyrwhitt, who in the same year resold it to William Dudley, the lord of the manor of Clapton Hotot (q.v.). (fn. 74)
In 1086, Eustace the Sheriff held one hide and one virgate of land in chief of the King. (fn. 75) This land also passed to the Lovetots, but was held of their Huntingdonshire Honour of Southo. (fn. 76) In 1236, William Patrick held a third of a knight's fee in Clapton, Polebrook and Thurning as part of the Honour, so that he had not by then granted his rights in this land to his sister. (fn. 77) It seems probable, however, that she obtained them later, and that it was the homage and service of their tenants in this holding that she and John de Littebury granted to Richard de Clare in 1259. (fn. 78) If so, Hugh Audley had presumably some right in his claim against the Abbot of Peterborough, but put himself in the wrong first by claiming too much and secondly by distraining the lands which were held in frankalmoin in the almoner's manor of Clapton (q.v.).
The mesne tenants in the early 13th century were Hugh le Fleming and his son Robert, (fn. 79) and the homage and service which Robert le Fleming and Thomas Smert held in this part of Clapton probably passed with their other holding which the Almoner held by military service. (fn. 80) The holding, however, had been again sub-infeudated. The hide of land was held by Walter le Stiward, apparently in the middle of the 13th century, and was sold to Thomas, son of Richard de Hotot, (fn. 81) so that it presumably was incorporated with the manor of Clapton Hotots (q.v.), the Abbey of Peterborough being the overlord of both holdings. The virgate of land was held by Hugh de Chastillon, who was living in 1240, (fn. 82) and it seems to have passed to the Abbey of Thorney, (fn. 83) which held one-tenth of a knight's fee of the Abbey of Peterborough as of the fee of Lovetot. (fn. 84)
Another reputed manor of CLAPTON may be traced to half a hide of land, held in 1086 of the Abbey of Peterborough, by Elmar. (fn. 85) In the early part of the 12th century he had been succeeded by Ascelin, who may be identified with Ascelin de Waterville, (fn. 86) the lord of Thorpe Waterville and Achurch, and his successors held the overlordship of this land until the middle of the 14th century, but it is not mentioned after the time of Robert de Holand. (fn. 87) The half hide seems to have been granted before 1185 to Osbert le Bret, (fn. 88) but in 1243 it was held as one-seventh of a knight's fee by William Hay, (fn. 89) who had obtained it from Ralph de Cestreton. (fn. 90) Hugh de Chastillon also claimed some right in it at this time, but William Hay retained possession. (fn. 91) Between 1261 and 1274 Sir William Hay granted his manor in Clapton in exchange to William Jakeley, Abbot of Thorney (fn. 92) to be held in frankalmoin and in 1286 the Abbot obtained a quitclaim of the half hide of land from John le Bret and his wife Sarah. (fn. 93) In 1450 the Abbey of Thorney was said to hold a manor in Clapton, (fn. 94) and at the Dissolution of the Abbey, the rent was returned at £6 13s. 4d. a year, but the issues of the court were of no value. (fn. 95) In 1542, Henry VIII granted all the lands formerly belonging to the Abbey of Thorney to Robert Tyrwhitt, who sold them with the Peterborough manor of Clapton to William Dudley. (fn. 96)
The Church of ST. PETER stands at the extreme south end of the village and is a structure in the style of the late 13th century, erected in 1862–3 at the charges of William Peere Williams-Freeman, (fn. 97) on, or near, the site of an older building then pulled down. The former church consisted of chancel, clearstoried nave of four bays, north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower and spire, and appears to have been mainly of late 13th or early 14th century date, though one of the stones in the hoodmould of the chancel arch was a re-used fragment of the pre-Conquest period. (fn. 98) The tower and spire having been struck by lightning at the end of the 18th century, were allowed to fall in order, it is said, to save the expense of repair. A wall enclosing the nave at its west end was built, but the base of the tower remained standing to the top of the plinth until 1862. (fn. 99)
The present building, which was consecrated 23 July, 1863, consists of chancel 21 ft. 8 in. by 17 ft. 10in., with north vestry and organ chamber, nave of three bays 38 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., north aisle 10 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower 9 ft. 6 in. square, all these measurements being internal. The building is faced with coursed dressed stone and has red-tiled eaved roofs. The tower is of three stages with diagonal buttresses and saddle-backed roof. The aisle is under a separate gabled roof.
The font consists of a plain octagonal bowl, apparently ancient, on a modern pedestal. The pulpit and all the fittings are modern. A 13th century sepulchral slab with dog-tooth ornament and elaborately carved top, is preserved under the tower, and in the vestry is a marble tablet to William Breton, D.D., rector (d. 1658).
The tower contains one bell, by Thomas Mears of London, 1800. (fn. 100)
The plate consists of a silver-gilt cup and cover paten of 1548, a silver-gilt paten of 1740 given by the Rev. Claudius Founereau, rector, in 1749, and a plated cup with two handles. (fn. 101)
The advowson was granted either by one of the Lovetots or their sub-tenants, the Claptons, before 1183 to the Priory of St. Neots, Huntingdon, the gift being confirmed by Richard, son of Walter de Clapton in that year. (fn. 102) In 1219 Abbot Robert de Lindesey of Peterborough obtained the advowson from the Prior of St. Neots in exchange for that of Hemington, (fn. 103) but the Abbey was apparently disturbed in possession by the claims of various tenants of lands in Clapton, who had succeeded William de Clapton. The archdeacon of Northampton held an inquiry into the matter in 1220 and the patronage was confirmed to Peterborough. (fn. 104) Renunciations of their claims were made by Ralph de Clapton, possibly the heir of Geoffrey, son of Ralph de Clapton, a sub-tenant of William de Clapton, by Sir William Dacus, husband of Emma, niece or great-niece of William (fn. 105) and by Rohesia, the lady of Polebrook and her son Robert. (fn. 106) In 1282, John Faunel obtained the next presentation to the living, (fn. 107) but from that time it passed with the manor of Clapton. (fn. 108)
In 1274–5 Hugh de Colingham, as rector of Clapton, had for three years withdrawn the suit of his tenants there at the Hundred Court as well as the payment of 2s. a year for sheriff's aid. He also claimed to have view of frank-pledge and the assizes of bread and ale. (fn. 109)
William de Clapton granted the third sheath of the tithes of his demesne to the Prior of Huntingdon and this was reserved to the Priory, when the advowson of the church was assigned to the Abbey of Peterborough. (fn. 110) In 1291 the Priory received an annual pension of £2. (fn. 111) A further sheath of the tithes of his demesne was granted by William to the Sacrist of Peterborough, (fn. 112) whose pension in 1291 was worth £1 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 113) A pension 25s. 8d. a year was reserved to the Priory of St. Neots, when the advowson was exchanged, (fn. 114) but in 1291 the value was returned as £1. (fn. 115)
In 1250, a chapel is said to have been built in honour of the Holy Trinity, in the churchyard of Clapton, but no mention of it appears in later documents. (fn. 116) In 1306–7 Sir William Hotot gave a pension of £4 to Ralph de Clapton to celebrate daily at the altar of St. Mary Magdalen in Clapton church, but presumably it was merely a grant for life. (fn. 117)
The Rev. William Breton who died in 1658, by his will directed his executors to purchase land of the yearly value of £5 for the benefit of the poor. The land is situated in the adjoining parish of Winwick and contains about 15 acres, producing £16 10s. yearly, which is distributed in coal to about 30 householders.