A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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The parish of Grafton Underwood contains 1,825 acres. It lies for the most part between 250 ft. and 350 ft. above the ordnance datum. The subsoil is Great Oolite, the upper soil being clay and gravel growing wheat and oats. There is a considerable amount of woodland in the northern part of the parish belonging originally to Rockingham Forest, from which the name of Underwood is derived. The chief woods are Grafton Park Wood, Old Head Wood, Freier Wood, besides Kirtly Coppice.
The village stands on the by-road from Cranford to Brigstock. There still remain a few 17th-century thatched stone houses. The Duke's Arms Inn is dated 1645, and a gabled house in the main street 1653; on a barn adjoining the latter is a panel inscribed 'R.B. 1676.' A stream runs through the village. The nearest railway station is at Cranford on the Kettering and Cambridge branch of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, 2½ miles from the village. The parish was inclosed in 1777, by a private Act of Parliament. (fn. 1)
In the time of Edward the Confessor, Achi held the manor of GRAFTON or GRAFTON UNDERWOOD freely. (fn. 2) After the Norman Conquest it was given to Robert Albus, who was the tenant in 1086, his three hides of land being held by a sub-tenant named Roger. (fn. 3) Another holding of half a hide is mentioned in Domesday Book, when it was held by Agemund of Eustace the sheriff. (fn. 4) Both holdings apparently were granted early in the next reign to Richard de Humez, (fn. 5) who was succeeded by his son William, constable of Normandy. (fn. 6) The latter's lands escheated to the Crown (fn. 7) and in 1205 Grafton was granted to Philip of Worcester. (fn. 8) In 1217 the manor was granted to Ralph de St. Sampson. (fn. 9) At his death about 1248, it passed to his daughters and heirs, Brunna, the wife of Simon Maufé, and Joan, the wife of William de la Bruere. (fn. 10) The manor, which was held of the king by the serjeanty of keeping a white brachet with red ears, (fn. 11) was divided into two moieties at this time. Brunna's moiety passed to her daughter Joan, wife of Alan de Chartres. (fn. 12) Her son Roger and his wife obtained licence in 1335 to grant the manor to his son Peter, (fn. 13) but in 1341 they jointly sold it to Simon Simeon, (fn. 14) who settled it on himself and his wife Elizabeth Neville. (fn. 15) After his death, she married Sir John la Warre and in 1389 it was settled on them and their direct heirs, but both died without children and it presumably passed in 1398 to Thomas la Warre, his brother and heir; (fn. 16) its later history does not appear, but it seems probable that it came into the possession of the tenants of the other moiety of the manor (q.v.).
Joan, the other co-heir of Ralph de St. Sampson, and William de la Bruere sold her moiety to William de Lisle and his wife Mabel in or before 1253. (fn. 17) William subinfeudated the manor and owing to the subtenant William Hanred being convicted of felony, the mesne lordship seems to have been lost, although in 1330 John, the grandson of William de Lisle, tried to recover the moiety of the manor. (fn. 18)
In 1266, William de Lisle granted it to Richard Hanred and his heirs, (fn. 19) but Richard appears to have granted it to Robert le Baud before 1284. (fn. 20) His son William Hanred was hanged for felony in 1295 (fn. 21) and the king entered the moiety of Grafton manor and granted it for life, at a rent of £10 a year, to Thomas Brown, although the Crown should only have held it for a year and a day. (fn. 22) In 1311 Simon le Baud, possibly the successor of Robert le Baud, obtained licence to grant in fee to Thomas Brown, a mill, land and rents in Grafton (fn. 23) and Brown had licence to grant the same premises to John le Bole. (fn. 24) In 1313, the rent of £10 was granted to Jakinet de Mareygny, in reward for his good services (fn. 25) and after the death of Brown, the moiety of the manor was also in 1317 granted for life to Jakinet. (fn. 26) On his death about 1328, the rent of £10 was granted for life to Owen Corder. (fn. 27) In 1316, however, Thomas Brown had obtained leave to grant 7 messuages, a mill, 4 virgates and 8 acres of land and certain rents to John Seymour and his wife Maud. (fn. 28) This probably represented the moiety of the manor. John died seised in 1340 and his widow held the lands for her life. (fn. 29) They passed to their son John Seymour (fn. 30) and their grandson, another John Seymour held the manor in 1362. (fn. 31) He died seised of rents in Grafton in 1363, which passed to his brother and heir Thomas, (fn. 32) who was the tenant of the manor of Grafton in 1397. (fn. 33) In that year, he settled the manor on himself for life with remainder to Thomas Greene, son of Sir Henry Greene, knt. The final remainder was to Sir Henry Greene and his wife Maud and the right heirs of Maud, which suggests that she was the heir of Thomas Seymour. Thomas Greene apparently died without children and the manor passed to his brother John, who was mentioned in the settlement of 1397. (fn. 34)
In 1450, it was held by Henry Greene of Drayton, the son of John. (fn. 35) His daughter and heir Constance, the wife of John Stafford, son of Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, made a settlement of the manor in 1469. (fn. 36) Their son Edward, Earl of Wiltshire, died leaving no children and the Greene property passed to the three surviving daughters and heiresses of Sir Henry Vere, a nephew of Henry Greene. (fn. 37) The eldest daughter Elizabeth married John, first Lord Mordaunt, (fn. 38) and their descendants obtained, as at Great Addington (q.v.), all three parts of the manor of Grafton. (fn. 39) John Mordaunt, the first Earl of Peterborough, died seised of the manor of Grafton Underwood in 1644, (fn. 40) but it was apparently sold to Sir John Robinson in the latter part of the 17th century. Sir John died before 1708, leaving two daughters and heiresses, Mary the wife of the Earl of Wemyss and Anne, afterwards the wife of Lord Gowran; Anne obtained both moieties of the manor. (fn. 41) which descended to her son John Fitz Patrick, who was created Earl of Upper Ossory in 1751. (fn. 42) On 5 April 1748 John Fitz Patrick sold the manor to John second Duke of Montagu. (fn. 43) The Duke died in the following year and the manor descended through his daughter, Mary wife of George Brudenell, Duke of Montagu to the present Duke of Buccleuch, who is now lord of the manor. (fn. 44)
In 1086 woodland was attached to the manor a league in length and four furlongs in breadth. (fn. 45) The manor was within the Forest of Rockingham, but in 1343 Simon Simeon obtained licence to enclose his wood there and five years later to empark it, but he was not allowed to make a deer-leap in it. (fn. 46) In 1450 Henry Greene obtained leave to empark his woods called Grafton Park and Grafton Woods and certain fields and to have free chase in the woods. (fn. 47) The manor was disafforested in 1639. (fn. 48)
A mill is mentioned in 1311, when it was granted in fee with other tenements to Thomas Brown, the tenant for life of a moiety of the manor, (fn. 49) with which it was granted in 1316 to John Seymour. (fn. 50)
The church of ST. JAMES consists of chancel 30 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 9 in. with north chapel, clearstoried nave of three bays 32 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., north and south aisles about 9 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower 8 ft. 6 in. square surmounted by a spire; all these measurements are internal. The north chapel and aisle are continuous without division and there is a small vestry north of the tower. The width across nave and aisles is 42 ft.
The building is of rubble throughout, and the roofs of the nave and aisles are leaded behind plain parapets; the chancel has a high-pitched tiled roof with overhanging eaves, and the porch is also covered with tiles.
The earliest work in the present building is the north arcade of the nave, which is of late 12th century date, at which time an aisle was probably first added to an earlier church. The arches are semi-circular and of two square orders, springing from cylindrical piers with moulded bases and shallow capitals with square abaci, and from half-round responds with outer angle shafts. The capitals are carved with bold scroll foliage and the bases stand on square plinths.
The south arcade and the tower were built early in the 13th century and the chancel arch is of the same period, but there are no architectural features in the chancel itself older than c. 1290. The round arches of the south arcade are of two orders, the outer square and the inner chamfered, springing from cylindrical piers of more slender dimensions (fn. 51) than those opposite with moulded bases and carved capitals with circular abaci: the responds are half-octagonal. The capitals have elementary stiff-stalk trefoils in low relief with nail head up the middle leaves, and nail head also occurs on the west respond. In the east respond the foliage is more fully developed.
About the middle of the 14th century alterations were made to the chancel, and the chapel added. The spire also dates from this period, and the south aisle seems to have been rebuilt. (fn. 52) The aisle has a string course at sill level and retains its west window and south doorway, in front of which the porch was built. New windows were inserted in both aisles in the 15th century and the clearstory was added, or an old one rebuilt.
The chancel has diagonal angle buttresses and an east window of four cinquefoiled lights, with transom and excellent tracery of mixed geometrical and curvilinear character, the date of which may be c. 1340. The two-light window at the east end of the north wall and the three-light window opposite are of the same period, the former with trefoiled lights and quatrefoil in the head, the latter with reticulated tracery. The plain priest's doorway is of the late 13th century and west of it is a contemporary window of two trefoiled lights and plain circle in the head, which seems to have been re-used in the 14th-century alterations, its jambs being of that period. (fn. 53) In the east wall, north and south of the altar, are elaborate 14th-century niches, that on the north (which is the larger) having a smaller trefoiled niche over it. At the extreme east end of the south wall, about 6 ft. from the floor (fn. 54) is a curious squint, or small opening of two trefoiled lights cut out of a single stone, similar in many respects to one at Weekley, the purpose of which cannot be definitely stated. (fn. 55) The 14thcentury triple sedilia have cinquefoiled ogee heads beneath a rectangular traceried canopy and are on the same level: the piscina has a fluted bowl and trefoiled ogee head. In the north wall is a rectangular aumbry with modern door, and further west the wall is pierced by a broad chamfered arch opening to the chapel, the floor of which is raised three steps. The 13th-century chancel arch is of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from corbels with nailhead in the upper mouldings. The lower panels of 15th-century oak screens, with carved rails, remain below the chancel arch and between the north aisle and chapel.
The plain 13th-century north doorway is now blocked, and both windows in the north wall (to aisle and chapel) are three-light 15th-century insertions. The east window of the chapel is square-headed and of three trefoiled lights. The south aisle has a 15thcentury east window and another in the south wall, both of three lights, but the older west window is of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head. The 13th-century piscina of the aisle altar remains; it has a fluted bowl and plain pointed head. The south doorway is of two hollow chamfered orders with stops above the imposts and mask terminations to the hood. The porch is of unusual depth, measuring internally 15 ft. from north to south, by 8 ft. 6 in. wide, and has an outer arch of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The clearstory windows are square-headed and of two trefoiled lights.
The tower is of three stages marked by strings, and has plain parapets with big gargoyles in the middle of each face, but no pinnacles. The lower stage has early lancets, widely splayed inside, on the west and south, the heads in one stone and without hoods. In the second stage there is a tall narrow round-headed opening on the south, (fn. 56) but the north and west sides are blank. The bell chamber windows are of two lights, those on the west and east being unaltered 13th-century openings with solid tympanum and hood; the north and south windows have 14thcentury heads of two trefoiled lights and quatrefoil above. The 13th century tower arch is of two square orders with imposts, the inner order resting on conical corbels. A buttress has been added at the south-west corner of the tower, and a modern doorway in the south wall blocked. The spire is of the 'stone-timber' type, with broaches behind the parapet, like that of Denford: it has plain angles and two sets of lights on the cardinal faces, with a band below the lower lights.
In the chancel is a marble wall monument commemorating Richard Fitzpatrick, Baron Gowran (d. 1727), his wife Ann Robinson (d. 1744), their son John, Earl of Upper Ossory (d. 1758) and his wife Evelyn Leveson-Gower (d. 1763); also John, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory (d. 1818) and his wife Ann Liddell (d. 1804); they are all buried 'in this vault.' Another monument is to the Rev. William Bidwell, rector (d. 1794). In the north chapel is a table tomb with modern-mediæval brass to Lady Gertrude Fitzpatrick, who died 30 September, 1841, and on the wall a monument to Lady Anne Fitzpatrick, who died 14 December in the same year.
There are five bells, the treble, second and tenor by John Taylor & Co., Loughborough, 1923, and the third and fourth by Matthew and Henry Bagley, dated 1682. (fn. 57)
The plate consists of a cup and paten without marks but inscribed '1664,' an almsdish of 1690, a bread-holder of 1704 and a flagon of 1836. (fn. 58)
The advowson of the church of Grafton Underwood was given to the alien priory of St. Fremont in Normandy, probably by Richard or William de Humez. (fn. 59) The temporalities of the priory were seized by the crown during the Hundred Years War and presentations were made by the crown from 1337 to 1413. (fn. 60) In 1389 or 1390, the prior of St. Fremont had granted the advowson to the Carthusian priory of Beauvale, in Nottinghamshire, although the grant could not take practical effect as the king had leased the rectory in 1382 to Walter Malet and again in 1399 to Robert Hastings. (fn. 61) In 1464, however, Edward IV granted the advowson to Beauvale, but it does not appear amongst its possessions at the Dissolution of the monasteries. (fn. 62) It seems to have come into the possession of the heirs of Henry Vere, (fn. 63) between whose heirs the manor (q.v.) was divided and finally passed to the Mordaunts. (fn. 64) It followed the descent of the manor (fn. 65) and in 1874 Lord Lyveden was patron of the church. (fn. 66) About 1918 he sold the advowson with the Fermyn Woods estate, to Mr. Robert Davidson.
The church land consists of 3 a. 3 r. 37 p. at Grafton Underwood let to Mr. W. Palmer at £6 yearly. The income is applied by the rector and churchwardens, agreeably to immemorial usage, to the expenses of the church.
The Poor's Land has been appropriated time out of mind to the use of the poor. It consists of 9 a. 1 r. 17 p. in the parish of Geddington and is let to Henry Smith at £10 yearly. In 1905 a sale of timber took place and the proceeds were invested in £31 14s. 4d. Consols, producing 15s. 8d. yearly in dividends. The income is distributed in bread and meat by the rector and churchwardens to about 5 recipients.
By her will, proved 19 September, 1856, Elizabeth Dopping Arnold gave £100 Consols to the rector and churchwardens for the benefit of 6 poor families. The income amounting to £2 10s. is distributed to 6 families in bread, meat and clothing.