A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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The parish of Pilton contains 1,406 acres of land. (fn. 1) The subsoil is mainly Oxford clay, with some great oolite and cornbrash. (fn. 2) The greater part of the land is laid down in permanent grass. In the north-west, the land near Bearshank Wood rises to 254 ft. above the ordnance datum, but near the River Nene, which forms the eastern boundary, it is low-lying, about 100 ft. above the ordnance datum. (fn. 3) A bridge over the river, which is mentioned in the reign of Edward I, (fn. 4) connects the village of Pilton with Lilford parish. In the early 18th century the bridge was built of stone with ten arches, the three nearest to Pilton being repaired by the lord of the manor. (fn. 5) The name Bearshank, now only given to the wood, may have been used for the north-western portion of the parish, since Robert 'Bareschanke' of Caistor in the 13th century paid separately for his land in Pilton his quota for sheriff's aid and other dues to the Hundred Court. (fn. 6) The wood is mentioned in 1540, (fn. 7) and in 1565 was appurtenant to Aldwinkle manor, but the inhabitants of Pilton had common rights in it. (fn. 8) A homestead moat lies to the north of the wood. (fn. 9) Quarries existed in the 16th century and were used in the building of Lyveden House. (fn. 10) They were worked in the early 18th century, but are now disused.
The village lies near the Nene, with the church and rectory to the east. The rectory house stands immediately to the south-east of the church, and is the old manor house of the Treshams. It is a picturesque 16th century building, with dormered gables and mullioned windows, much restored and with modern additions. Little of the ancient work is left inside except a handsome oak staircase with turned balusters and square newels with shaped tops, which goes the full height of the house, and a large panelled upper room with a segmental ceiling and good four-centered stone fireplace.
PILTON or PILKETON may probably be included amongst the pre-conquest possessions of the Abbey of Peterborough, but the first mention of it seems to be in Domesday Book, when the Abbey held 2½ hides of land of the King in chief. (fn. 11) The whole of this land was subinfeudated, and the Abbey retained the overlordship till its dissolution, the last actual mention of the overlordship of the manor being in 1534. (fn. 12)
The sub-tenant in 1086 was Roger, (fn. 13) ancestor of the Torpel family, who held 12 hides of the Abbey in Northamptonshire, for the service due from 6 knights' fees. (fn. 14) Later documents show that their manor in Pilton was held for the service of 1½ knights' fees, (fn. 15) with castle-guard at Rockingham. It seems possible that these fees also included 1½ virgates of land, which in Domesday Book were held by Roger in Wadenhoe. (fn. 16) In the 12th century Survey of Northamptonshire, Roger Infans, his successor, held 2 small virgates under the heading of Wadenhoe, but the entry is confused, and it seems probable that the land was in Pilton, which with Wadenhoe and Stoke formed one township. (fn. 17) The Torpels held Pilton till the first half of the 13th century. (fn. 18) Robert de Torpel, who succeeded Roger Infans, was tenant in 1130. (fn. 19) He was apparently succeeded by Roger de Torpel, who granted land to St. Michael's of Stamford for the soul of his wife Mary, (fn. 20) and died about 1178. (fn. 21) His son Roger, a minor at his father's death, married Ascelina, daughter of Saher de Quinci. (fn. 22) It was probably their son Roger who in 1225 brought an action against his aunt Maud regarding the lands of his mother. (fn. 23) He died in that year, when the custody of the lands of his heir, held of Peterborough, was granted to the Abbot of Peterborough, (fn. 24) and the lands held in chief, to Ralph Bishop of Chichester. (fn. 25) The last Roger died in 1229, apparently a minor, before having livery of his inheritance. (fn. 26) He had married in his father's lifetime, and was survived by his widow Mabel. (fn. 27) The wardship and marriage of their son Roger was granted in 1229 to L. Dean of St. Martin'sle-Grand, later Archbishop of Dublin. (fn. 28) The lastnamed Roger probably died a minor and unmarried, as Ascelina de Torpel, the wife of Ralph de Camoys, (fn. 29) obtained seisin of his lands between 1242 and 1251. (fn. 30) As the Torpel fees were still apparently held in wardship, at the earlier date, Ascelina must have been the sister of the last Roger de Torpel. Her husband is said to have been that Ralph de Camoys who died in 1259, but none of the Torpel fees is mentioned in the inquisition taken after his death, (fn. 31) and it seems impossible that Ascelina could have been the mother of his son and heir Ralph, who was over 40 years old at his father's death. (fn. 32) It seems clear that she was the wife of the younger Ralph, who died seised of the 6 fees of the Torpel inheritance in 1277. (fn. 33) His son and heir John was then over 25 and of a suitable age to be Ascelina's son. (fn. 34) John was also the heir of Mabel de Torpel, probably the widow of the last Roger de Torpel, who died the same year seised of a Kentish manor. (fn. 35) She also held certain assarts in Pilton, presumably as part of her dower. (fn. 36)
In 1280, John de Camoys released part of the Torpel fees to the King and Queen, but retained Pilton. (fn. 37) It passed after his death in 1298 to his son Ralph (fn. 38) and grandson Thomas. (fn. 39) The latter was granted one fee in Pilton by his father, including all the demesne lands, (fn. 40) and after his father's death in 1336 he obtained the other half fee. (fn. 41) Thomas de Camoys and Robert de Thorpe were holding a fee here in 1346. (fn. 42) In 1369, however, Camoys, whose only son died in his father's lifetime, (fn. 43) released all his right in the manor of Pilton to Sir Robert Thorpe. (fn. 44) The latter was succeeded by Sir William Thorpe, (fn. 45) who died in 1391, and directed in his will that the option of buying certain lands in Pilton should be first offered to John Mulsho. (fn. 46) Presumably John Mulsho obtained the whole manor, since in 1428 the 1½ knights' fees formerly held by Sir Thomas Camoys and Robert de Thorpe had passed to Thomas Mulsho, (fn. 47) probably Sir Thomas Mulsho of Newton, one of whose daughters and co-heirs, Alice, married Henry, second son of Sir William Tresham, (fn. 48) father of Sir Thomas, who founded the Rushton branch of the family. Richard Tresham, said to be her grandson, (fn. 49) died seised of Pilton manor in 1533. (fn. 50) It passed in direct descent to John (d. 1539), (fn. 51) Maurice, (fn. 52) and Sir Thomas Tresham. (fn. 53) The last named was succeeded in 1636 by his son Thomas, whose son Maurice is mentioned in a settlement of 1628. (fn. 54) It would seem possible that he was the Maurice Tresham who held the manor in 1639, (fn. 55) but a Maurice Tresham was apparently the lord of the manor in 1666 and 1671. (fn. 56) It passed to George Tresham, who died before May, 1684, (fn. 57) and to his son Edward Tresham, who only survived him till 1692. (fn. 58) His heir seems to have been Clemencia Tresham, (fn. 59) but in 1714 his mother and others, probably trustees, sold the manor to Sir Thomas Powys, (fn. 60) whose descendant, Lord Lilford, is now lord of the manor. (fn. 61)
The small holding, which the 11th and 12th century tenants of the Abbey of Peterborough held in Wadenhoe or in Pilton, (fn. 62) may perhaps be identified with the land held by a family taking their name from the place. The Piltons were tenants of the Torpels, (fn. 63) and their successors, and held ¼ of a knight's fee of the manor of Pilton, (fn. 64) but they paid sheriff's aid and other dues themselves, (fn. 65) so that it is probable that their holding was originally separate from the main holding in Pilton. William de Pilton (Pilkinton), who was also known as William de Liveden, (fn. 66) was succeeded by his son Robert de Pilton or Robert the knight (le knith or chnit) of Pilton, who lived in the last quarter of the 13th century. (fn. 67) Robert had three sons: Geoffrey, his successor; John, apparently a clerk, and Thomas, and a daughter Cicely. (fn. 68) Geoffrey was succeeded by Thomas. (fn. 69) It seems possible that their quarter fee was bought by Sir Robert de Thorpe, (fn. 70) who evidently held land there by military service as a sub-tenant of Sir Thomas Camoys, (fn. 71) before the latter sold the manor (q.v.) to him.
In 1318, Ralph de Camoys obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands in Pilton, (fn. 72) but in 1329, when summoned as to his claim for free warren, the warren was taken into the king's hands, in spite of the charter, because Ralph had enfeoffed his son Thomas with all the demesne lands of Pilton. (fn. 73) In 1620 Sir Thomas Tresham obtained a new grant of free warren in the manor of Pilton. (fn. 74)
A free fishery at Pilton is mentioned in an extent of 1277. (fn. 75)
The church of ST. MARY and ALL SAINTS (fn. 76) consists of chancel, 24 ft. by 14 ft.; clearstoried nave of three bays, 35 ft. 9 in. by 17 ft. 6 in.; north and south aisles, south porch, and west tower, 6 ft. 6 in. square, surmounted by a broach spire. The width of the north aisle is 10 ft., and that of the south 13 ft. 6 in., the total width across nave and aisles being 45 ft. 8 in. All these measurements are internal. There is also a modern vestry covering the north aisle doorway. The chancel was rebuilt in 1864, and an extensive restoration of the church in 1874–5 involved a large amount of rebuilding, but the reconstruction appears to have followed the lines of a 12th and 13th century church, considerable portions of which remain. The chancel is faced with dressed stone and has a slated eaved roof, but the rest of the building is of rubble, plastered internally, with plain parapets and lowpitched leaded roofs. The tower and spire were restored in 1896.
The chancel is of three bays with windows in the 13th century style, but the arch to the nave is old, of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from halfround responds with restored 13th century capitals and bases. The nave arcades are of two chamfered orders, the outer stopped by a half dog-tooth, on octagonal piers and responds with moulded capitals and bases. The nail-head ornament occurs in the capital of the eastern pier on the south side.
The south doorway (c. 1170–80) has a round arch of two orders. The outer order has a row of cheverons on the wall-plane, and another on the soffit-plane, forming a series of hollow lozenges: the capitals of the jamb-shafts have water-leaf ornaments, and there is a row of dog-tooth in the hood. The south porch is mainly of the 13th century. It has lateral benches and a chamfered arch, with nail-head on the chamfer and in the hood. On either side of the opening, below the springing of the arch, are two shields, set one above the other. The upper shield in each case bears a saltire, while the lower shield, which is larger, bears three trefoils, the arms of the Treshams who were lords of the manor from the 15th century.
Much of the outer walls of nave and aisles is old, as well as of the window-tracery, but all has been patched with new masonry. In the east wall of the south aisle is a very good three-light window with cusped circles in the head, and the neighbouring twolight window in the south wall is of similar character. The east window of the north aisle is composed of three very slender lights with intersecting tracery, and there is a three-light 15th-century window at the east end of the north wall. A two-light square headed window of the late 16th or early 17th century, has been built into the north wall of the vestry.
The tower is tall and slender, of three stages, with moulded plinth and diagonal buttresses. The west doorway, with rather solid 13th century mouldings on jamb-shafts with moulded capitals and bases, has been much restored. The bell-chamber has twolight openings with forked mullions and excellent mouldings, c. 1280–1300. There is no vice. The spire is contemporary, with two rows of spire-lights, above a corbel table of heads and other devices.
These portions of ancient work indicate the rebuilding of a 12th century church towards the end of the 13th century. The clearstory and parapet of the nave were added in the later part of the 14th century; the windows of the clearstory, two on each side, appear to be old, with tracery of quasi-flamboyant character.
The font is octagonal, with a band of carved foliage on the underside of the bowl, on an octagonal pedestal with moulded base and griffes at the angles. The piscina in the south aisle is modern, but is probably imitated from an earlier one. An old scratch dial is built into the east jamb of the western window in the south wall.
There are four bells in the tower, the same number as in 1552. The treble is by Thomas Newcombe, of Leicester (1506–20), with the recurrent letter S alternating with a cross; the second and third are by Tobie Norris, of Stamford, 1610, and the tenor has the inscription 'Nomen Magdalene Campana geret melodie,' with the marks of John Danyell, of London (1450–61). (fn. 77)
The plate consists of a silver cup, paten, and flagon of 1864, given by the Rev. Richard Hodson, rector. (fn. 78)
The advowson of the church was presumably always appurtenant to the manor, the first recorded presentation being in 1221 by Roger de Torpel. (fn. 79) The presentations have been made uninterruptedly by the lords of the manor or their trustees, (fn. 80) with the possible exceptions of Thomas Beofitz in 1472 and 1475, (fn. 81) and James Digby in 1670. (fn. 82) Lord Lilford is the present patron of the living. The benefices of Pilton and Wadenhoe being united in 1925, the presentation is now made alternately by Lord Lilford and the trustees of Capt. Hunt.
The charity of Thomas Thurlby founded by will dated 24 September 1515, and the Inclosure Rent Charge recited in a deed poll dated 30 March 1756, are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 10 July 1900. The property originally consisted of a close of 2 acres called Chambers Close, and about 15 acres of land and a rent charge of £2 out of land in Pilton. The land has been sold and the rent charge redeemed and the endowment now consists of £601 5s. 2d. Consols producing £15 0s. 4d. yearly in dividends. The income is applied by the Churchwardens as to two-thirds in church expenses and as to one-third in the distribution of coal. By his will dated 30th January 1711, Richard Ragsdale gave a sum of 10s. yearly to the poor. This sum is charged upon Lord Lilford's estate, and is applied by the churchwardens in the distribution of clothing.
By his will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 4 May 1863, John Baseley Selby gave a sum of money, now represented by £48 7s. 3d. Consols producing £1 4s. yearly in dividends. The income is distributed by the rector and churchwardens to the poor in coal.