A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.
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BOROUGH OF HIGHAM FERRERS
Hecham (xi cent.); Hehham, Heicham, Hekham (xii cent.); Hegham, Heigham, Hetham, Hecham Fereres, Hegham Ferrers, Hegham Ferrars (xiii cent.); Hecham Ferres, Higham Ferres, Hegham Ferers, Higham Ferrers (xiv cent.).
The parish of Higham Ferrers lies between Stanwick on the north, Chelveston cum Caldecote on the east, and Rushden on the south, the river Nene separating it from the parish of Irthlingborough on the west. It has an area of 1,945 acres, 696 of which are arable land, wheat, barley, beans being the chief crops, 810 acres of permanent grass and 13 acres of woods and plantations. The soil is mixed, the subsoil for the most part Great Oolite with streaks of Cornbrash on the east and Upper Lias on the west.
The parish is generally 200 ft. above the ordnance datum, rising in the south-east to 300 ft. Open fields called 'The Buscotts' and 'No Man's Leys' were inclosed in 1800 and other waste lands in 1838. (fn. 1) In 1921 the population was 2,850.
The town stands on rising ground on the main road from Bedford to Kettering; the road from Wellingborough to Kimbolton crosses it here, entering at the south end of the town and leaving at the north end, in order to bring all the traffic through the market place to pay toll. The southern part of the main road is called the High Street, the middle part College Street and northward Station Road. Running parallel to this road on the west side is a lane called Back Lane. The church is in the middle of the town on the east side. South-west of it is the Market Place or Market Stead, around which and northward of it are the more important buildings.
The late 13th-century market cross in the Market Place consists of a stone shaft with foliated capital surmounted by a modern square abacus and iron weather vane. The shaft is octagonal for the greater part of its height, but becomes circular near the top; it is now stayed up by three iron struts, which also serve as supports for lamps, and the base consists of a conical pile of masonry, probably formed by casing round the original steps. The total height of the cross is 14 ft. In Bridges' time the shaft terminated in a small stone cube carved with a Crucifixion. (fn. 2)
The cross in the churchyard, known in 1463 as 'the Wardeyn Cross,' was restored in 1919 as a war memorial. The Stump Cross and Spittle Cross, which once marked the northern and southern boundaries of the borough, have now long disappeared.
The town hall, a small plain detached building of two stories in the Market Square, was erected in 1808, probably on the site of the Hall of the Burgesses repaired in 1395. (fn. 3)
On the south of the town hall and adjoining it, there stood in the 17th century the town bakehouse where leaseholders of the manor of Higham Ferrers were bound to bake all their bread, the custom of the house being to 'backe ye bread well for Twoe pence the bushell.' (fn. 4) The old manor house on the east of the market, rebuilt before 1838, is supposed to have been the dwelling place of the Rudd family. (fn. 5)
A few old stone houses remain in the town: No. 5 Market Square, with two-story mullioned bay windows and four-centred middle doorway, is probably of late 16th-century date, but has a modern eaved roof in the place of former gables. Nos. 3 and 4 Wood Street, south of the church, now occupied by the Post Office and a coffee tavern, is a building apparently of 17th-century date, on the front of which is a long strapwork plaster panel; at the north end of the town is a modernised block of cottages with a panel inscribed 'N.K. Ano 1603,' and another building at North End is dated 1728. On the east side of College Street is a house with panel inscribed T F E 1709,' and Nos. 7 and 8 Market Square is a well-designed 18th-century stone building of two stories with drafted quoins, cornice and slightly advanced pedimented centre.
The Bedehouse, standing on the south side of and parallel with the church, at a distance of about 28 yds., is a 15th-century structure consisting of a hall 65 ft. 9 in. long by 24 ft. wide internally, with a chapel 18 ft. 6 in. square at its east end. The building, which was restored in 1923, is faced on the north and west sides with alternate courses of light freestone and red ironstone, but on the south and east with rubble, and the hall is divided into six bays by buttresses of two stages. There is a bell-cote over the west gable and the eaved roof is covered with modern tiles. The hall has a large projecting stone fireplace in the middle of the south wall, with moulded four-centred arch, and a pointed doorway with crocketed hood at the west end; there are also doorways at each end of the south wall, and one on the north side in the third bay from the west. Above the west doorway is a large window (fn. 6) of five cinquefoiled lights with slightly ogee head, crocketed label with finial and headstops, and modern vertical tracery, and in the north and south walls two square-headed windows of two cinquefoiled lights with transoms and pointed rear arches. The hall was formerly divided by screens and no doubt had a western vestibule and space round the fire; it contained thirteen cubicles arranged round the walls, the positions of which are indicated by lockers, five of which in the north wall east of the doorway, long filled up and plastered over, have been opened out and restored. (fn. 7) The fine open timbered roof is of six bays and has curved moulded principals carried down as wall pieces and resting on moulded and battlemented corbels; the wall plate is also battlemented. The bell-cote has a trefoiled opening, and canopied niches facing north and south; it contains a bell by Thomas Eayre, of Kettering, 1737. (fn. 8) The chapel is divided from the hall by a pointed arch of two moulded orders, the inner on half-round responds with battlemented capitals, and by a modern wooden screen. The floor of the chapel is raised 2 ft. 10 in. above that of the hall, to allow for a vaulted crypt or bone-house, access to which was by an external doorway on the north side. The chapel was for long in a ruinous condition, (fn. 9) and in its present state is largely a restoration. The east window is of three lights with moulded jambs and elaborate modern tracery; the north and south windows (fn. 10) are of two lights with vertical tracery and ogee crocketed hoodmoulds. The piscina has a square bowl and trefoiled head with crocketed hoodmould.
The vicarage house, which adjoins the Bedehouse on the south-west, (fn. 11) seems to be in part contemporary with it, and although large alterations obscure any real evidence of date, the thick walls point to a corroboration of this idea. A room at the north end, now the study, has a ceiling with good moulded oak beams and cornice together with indications of a large open fireplace.
About 18 ft. west of the north-west angle of the church tower stands the School House, a beautiful 15th-century structure. It is of three bays divided by buttresses, with a window of three lights in each bay and one of five lights at the east and west ends. The east window and those on the north side have long been blocked. The building, which measures internally 36 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 6 in., is faced with ashlar, and has a moulded plinth, string at sill level, and pierced battlemented parapet above a cornice ornamented with roses and other flowers. The buttresses, which at the angles are set diagonally, are of three stages and are carried up above the flatpitched leaded roof as crocketed pinnacles. The windows are all four-centred, with hoodmoulds and cinquefoiled lights, those at the east and west having vertical tracery. The sills are about 8 ft. above the floor, allowing room beneath for a doorway in each of the end bays on the south side. The easternmost doorway has a continuous moulded four-centred head, but the other is set within a rectangular frame with carved spandrels. Below the west window, which is more elaborate than that at the east, are four small cinquefoiled openings, (fn. 12) originally lighting a vestibule formed by a screen which may have had a gallery above. In the south wall, about 10 ft. from the east end, is a newel stair leading to the rood-loft, the lower and upper doorways of which remain. (fn. 13) The original flat-pitched roof is of three bays with moulded principals, each bay divided into eight compartments by moulded ribs. There are remains of colour in the eastern bay. Covering the south-west doorway inside is a small oak screen dated 1636. The floor is boarded and the walls plastered. The building was restored in 1914–15 and is now used as a choir vestry and practice room.
The remains of the College buildings, which have long been in a ruinous condition, (fn. 14) stand in the main street, now called College Street, some little distance northwest of the church. The buildings formed a closed quadrangle of the usual collegiate type, but little remains beyond the front of the gatehouse in the east range facing the street, and a portion of the south range, still roofed, in which the chapel was situated; the other ranges have disappeared. (fn. 15) The buildings were of two stories, faced with rubble, and what remains is of 15th-century date. The south range, which faces on to a narrow lane, is in use as a farm house, but it has been much altered from time to time and many of its architectural features destroyed. (fn. 16) It has an eaved roof with coped end gables, the original one at the east end forming part of the main elevation of the college towards the street, in the same plane with the gatehouse. In Bridges' time the ruins of the north range were still visible, (fn. 17) and Buck's view (1729) shows the walls standing to a height of some 6 ft. or 7 ft.; (fn. 18) it also shows the east front extending its full length and considerable remains of the west range, which appears to have contained the hall. (fn. 19) The quadrangle was about 15 yds. square, (fn. 20) and was entered from the east through a moulded four-centred archway still standing, with square label and quatrefoiled circles containing blank shields in the spandrels. Above the arch are three tall canopied niches, now empty, but which probably contained statues of the three patron saints of the college, and a square-headed window of three cinquefoiled lights with moulded jambs and label. The canopies of the niches break through a string at sill-level, now carried along the whole elevation, but originally stopping at the junction of the east and south ranges. The outer wall of the east range stands its full height and contains also a two-light square-headed window (fn. 21) in the upper story, and a single-light window in the ground floor. (fn. 22) The extent of the existing east wall north of the south range is 36 ft., and the whole length of the elevation to College Street 59 ft. The chapel was in the eastern portion of the south range and was probably about 46 ft. long, with a width of 17 ft. 6 in., entered from the quadrangle at the north-west through a pointed doorway with square label, which still exists. It was lighted at the east end by a large five-light window now blocked, part of the crocketed hoodmould of which, with its finial, still remains above a reconstructed two-light window afterwards inserted in the gable. Two large heads, or corbels, which flanked the window outside are still in their original positions, as are also two carved image-brackets inside. The window appears to have been about 12 ft. wide and its sill about 7 ft. above the floor, but it had been blocked before Bridges' time and a large fireplace and chimney built in front of it, the chapel having been converted into a kitchen. (fn. 23) At the time this was done the east end of the south range assumed its present aspect, the gatehouse stringcourse being continued to the angle of the building. The north wall of the chapel has been so much repaired that the positions of any windows or other features which it may have contained cannot now be traced. High in the south wall is a reconstructed two-light window, and another at the west end of the north wall beyond the chapel, with two single-light windows below on the ground floor. The position of the eastern wall of the west range can be traced, but no portion of the structure itself remains. (fn. 24) A fragment of walling containing a 15th-century doorway forms the inner dividing wall of a cow-shed to the north-west of the college buildings. (fn. 25)
The names of Newland, St. Botolph's Street and Botolph End survived from the 14th and 15th centuries (fn. 26) to the 18th, (fn. 27) and the town records of 1488 mention 'Le Shoprowe,' (fn. 28) where more than 160 years earlier the eight butchers' stalls, valued at 100s. and the eight shops leased to the linen merchants for 48s., probably stood. (fn. 29) Shops and stalls situated in the market place of Higham Ferrers were leased to the mayor by Richard III in 1485, when the King undertook to provide flags or sedges for their roofing from his meadow called 'le Middell Wroo.' (fn. 30) The appointment of an examiner of leather about seventy years later (fn. 31) shows the burgesses already engaged in one of their two chief trades of the present day, (fn. 32) the other the manufacture of boots and shoes, well established by the middle of the last century (fn. 33) and now employing a still larger proportion of the working population. (fn. 34) In the reign of Elizabeth a meadow, known as the Tradesmen's or Craftsmen's meadow, was let by the reeve of the manor to the poor craftsmen of Higham Ferrers for £7 8s. 6d. a year, (fn. 35) a rent which before the middle of the following century had been increased to £22. (fn. 36)
The London Midland and Scottish Railway has two stations in the parish, one in the town, the terminus of the Higham Ferrers branch, the other, called Irthlingborough, a mile to the north on the Northampton and Peterborough branch.
Amongst the many other place names of the town and parish which have vanished from present-day maps are Britwinescote of the 13th, the 'litill,' 'mydill' and 'grete Wroo,' 'Chapellhyll, 'Thwertlond' of the 15th, the 'neastes pasture,' 'St. Edeseswaie,' 'Northbury close' of the 16th, 'Every yeares land,' 'Gunsticks,' 'Hancrosse field,' 'Burie close,' 'le Gore' by 'Skinners close,' 'Buscot,' (fn. 37) 'Flexland' of the 17th century, whilst 'Warmanshill' survives from 1649 as Warmonds Hill in the south-west of the town.
In 1556 the men of Higham Ferrers were especially commended for their loyalty displayed in the late rebellion. (fn. 38)
Higham Ferrers has gained renown as the birthplace of Henry Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1414 to 1443, who was born about the year 1362 (fn. 39) and probably educated at the grammar school under Henry Barton. Of his benefactions to his native town a full account has been given in an earlier volume with details of his family (fn. 40) which was of considerable importance in the parish from the 14th to the 17th century. (fn. 41)
Less general but perhaps more personal interest is attached to the best known member of another old and well-reputed family of this town, Captain Thomas Rudd, a distinguished engineer and mathematician, whose memorial tablet in the parish church describes him as the sixth of that name by descent since his ancestors came to Higham Ferrers to dwell. (fn. 42) It was perhaps on account of his loyalty to Charles I, whose chief engineer he became in 1640, (fn. 43) that his election as mayor that year was strongly opposed by some of his fellow burgesses (fn. 44) and in the days of the Commonwealth he was sequestered and heavily fined. (fn. 45) Later in the 17th century Bunyan is said to have been accustomed to preach in a small Baptist chapel afterwards used as a coal house. (fn. 46) The town has now both Baptist and Wesleyan chapels.
Higham Ferrers Castle was one of the baronial castles built shortly after the Conquest, probably by one of the two Peverels. Little is known of its history apart from its connexion with a series of distinguished owners whose succession followed that of the manor (q.v.). It is referred to in 1298 and 1327 (fn. 47) as the capital messuage and passed as the castle in the grant to Aylmer de Valence in 1322. (fn. 48) Payments for castle guard were made as late as 1694. (fn. 49) It stood north of the parish church. Leland describes it as 'now of late clene fallen and taken down,' (fn. 50) and in 1610 John Norden found it 'altogether ruinate.' (fn. 51) The three wards covered practically the whole of the area lying between the church and the Kimbolton road, (fn. 52) the site measuring about 380 yards from north to south, and in breadth varying from 180 yards at the north end to 140 yards near the church. On the east it was bounded by the Bury Close. The early castle stood at the north end of this area, but no trace of a motte or its defending ditch having been found, it has been surmised that the 11th century stronghold was of the 'keep-and-bailey' type. (fn. 53) Two arms of the ditch and the corresponding ramparts still remain, the eastern arm in its entirety, about 485 feet long, and the southern arm in part, (fn. 54) but of the keep or other buildings nothing has survived. There is reason to believe that the buildings mentioned in the bailiff's account of 1313–14 and in later manorial accounts of the same century, were at the south end of the site, (fn. 55) but the location of the various places named cannot be determined. There is occasional mention of the drawbridge, and the House of the Drawbridge is also referred to. (fn. 56) There were two outer gates, that on the west known also as the Town gate, and that on the east as the Field gate. There is also mention of the Middle gate, the Great gate under the Lord's Chamber, and the small postern gate near the churchyard. The chapel is referred to in 1375, (fn. 57) and early in the next century its roof was releaded and the floor repaired. Extensive repairs of the buildings were going on from 1429 to 1432, when the 'turret at the north end of the chapel' is mentioned. (fn. 58) One of the chapel windows contained the king's and queen's arms and an image of St. Edmund. (fn. 59) The Great Hall was destroyed by fire in 1409–10, but was rebuilt a year or two later. (fn. 60) In 1431 the stairs from the door of the Hall to the chapel were repaired, and in 1433 the Town gate was partly rebuilt. The Lord's Chamber, 'Lady Philippa's Chamber,' the Young Lord's Chamber, (fn. 61) and several other places are named in 1376, and in a later account 'Lord Derby's Chamber.' (fn. 62) There are also frequent references to the knights' chamber, the friars' chamber, the steward's, receiver's, and auditor's chambers, the treasury chamber, (fn. 63) and the kitchen, larder, buttery, pantry and other offices. (fn. 64) In 1462–3 the kitchen was re-roofed and partly rebuilt. Other references are to the stables, (fn. 65) the great barn, the granary, the hay-house, ox-house, cattle-sheds, sheep-house, and kiln-house. (fn. 66) During the last decade of the 15th century and the early years of the 16th, the castle buildings suffered from neglect and were described as 'all rased and in great ruin and decay' in 1523, when Sir Richard Wingfield was licensed by the King to take down and carry away as much stone from the site as he thought sufficient for the rebuilding of the castle of Kimbolton. (fn. 67) In 1591 it was reported that the manor-house, long since in decay, had been in ancient times a castle standing in a place called the Castle Yard. (fn. 68) This appears to have been the capital messuage or manor place commonly called the Castle Yard which the Parliamentary Commissioners found in the tenure of Thomas Rudd in 1649. (fn. 69)
In the garden of the Green Dragon Inn, formerly within the area of the outer ward of the castle, are the remains of a rectangular dove-house. (fn. 70)
The Lordship of Higham existed as a territorial entity before the Conquest. We learn from the Domesday Survey (1086) that Gitda had held the manor and its appendages in 1066. Possibly at one time the whole hundred belonged to Gitda's predecessors in title, but in 1086 William Peverel held in Higham Ferrers 6 hides and as members of the manor he had in Rushden 6 hides, in Chelveston and Caldecote 1 hide and 3 virgates, in Knuston 1 hide and 1½ virgate, in Irchester 1 hide and 3 virgates of soke [land], in Farndish 3 virgates of soke [land], in Poddington (co. Beds.) ½ hide of soke [land], in Easton Mauduit 1½ virgate and in Raunds 7½ hides and ½ virgate of soke [land]. (fn. 71) There were also in Bozeat 1½ virgate and in Hargrave ½ hide, the soke of which belonged to Higham Ferrers. (fn. 72) Fractions of knights' fees were held of the manor of Higham Ferrers in the following places: Bozeat, Irchester, Raunds, Blisworth, Rushden, Quinton, Denton, Ditchford, Caldecote and Chelveston, Ringstead, Stanwick, Chester near Irchester, Hargrave, and Farndish. (fn. 73)
Higham Ferrers was held in the time of Edward the Confessor by Gitda or Githa, whom Mr. Round has identified as the wife of Earl Ralf of Hereford, a nephew of Edward the Confessor. It passed after the Conquest to William Peverel, (fn. 74) said, but with little authority, to have been an illegitimate son of the Conqueror. He was a baron of the Côtentin and a famous general and trusted minister of King William. In 1086 Peverel had in Higham Ferrers 6 hides, whereof two were in demesne, a market, a mill and a considerable quantity of woodland. There was then a priest, indicative of a church. (fn. 75) William Peverel died in 1114 (fn. 76) and was succeeded by his son William, who was a strong supporter of King Stephen. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, when his lands were forfeited but were restored to him in 1143. In 1153 Henry Fitz Empress granted to Ranulf Earl of Chester, on condition of his support, great possessions, including all the fee of William Peverel, except Higham. (fn. 77) The grant never took effect, but some nine months later Ranulf Earl of Chester died, poisoned, it is said, by William Peverel. On the accession of Henry to the throne as Henry II, Peverel, to avoid punishment, became a monk, probably at Lenton (co. Notts.). His lands were seized by Henry II in 1155 (fn. 78) and Higham Ferrers was for a year and a half farmed by Froger, archdeacon of Derby. (fn. 79) In 1157 it was granted, probably for life, to Robert de Ferrers, second Earl of Derby, who had married Margaret, daughter and heir of William Peverel, her brother Henry being then apparently dead. (fn. 80) After the death of Robert in or about 1159, Higham Ferrers was granted in 1161 to William, the King's brother, who died in 1164. (fn. 81) The manor remained in the King's hands until 1189, when King Richard I granted it to his brother, John Count of Mortain. (fn. 82) John farmed it to William de Sancte Marie Ecclesia, (fn. 83) later Bishop of London, (fn. 84) and afterwards to William Briwerre. (fn. 85) In 1199 William de Ferrers, fourth Earl of Derby, son of William and grandson of Robert, second Earl of Derby, purchased for 2,000 marks from King John the manor, hundred and park of Higham Ferrers and certain other lands, at the same time relinquishing what claim he had through his grandmother, Margaret Peverel, to the other lands of William Peverel. (fn. 86) William de Ferrers died in 1247 and was succeeded by his son William fifth Earl of Derby. As a favourite at the Court of Henry III he received many grants of privileges, including the right to free warren in Higham Ferrers in 1248, a yearly fair in 1250 and the erection of a borough in 1251. (fn. 87)
He died in 1254 and was succeeded by his son Robert sixth Earl of Derby, then under age and in the custody of Edward, the King's son. He came of age in 1260, when he joined the Baronial party. In 1264 he was sent to the Tower and his lands were seized by the King, but in the following year he was pardoned on paying a heavy fine. A few months later, however, he again joined the rebel forces and was taken prisoner at Chesterfield in 1266 and his lands were a second time taken into the King's hands. (fn. 88) In the same year Henry III granted all the Earl's possessions to his son, Edmund Earl of Chester, who was created Earl of Lancaster in the following year. (fn. 89) Under the Dictum of Kenilworth Robert de Ferrers could redeem his lands on payment of seven years' purchase, and he evidently made an attempt to regain them, for in 1269 Edmund was ordered to restore them. (fn. 90) An agreement was reached whereby Edmund and his heirs were to hold the estates until Robert should pay the sum of £50,000 for their redemption. (fn. 91) Although Robert and his son John de Ferrers made several attempts to obtain possession of their patrimony they never succeeded.
Edmund Earl of Lancaster died seised of Higham Ferrers in 1296. (fn. 92) His son and heir Thomas Earl of Lancaster, being taken prisoner at the Battle of Boroughbridge, was beheaded in 1322 when his lands were seized by the Crown. (fn. 93) Higham Ferrers was then granted to Aylmer de Valence Earl of Pembroke (fn. 94) who died in 1324 (fn. 95) and his widow, Mary de St. Pol, exchanged her rights here for other lands. (fn. 96) On the accession of Edward III in 1327 Henry, brother and heir of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, was restored and was succeeded in 1345 by his son Henry who was created Duke of Lancaster in 1351. He died on 24 March, 1360–1, leaving two daughters, Maud, the elder, who married firstly, Ralf Earl of Stafford, and secondly, William Duke of Bavaria, but died childless in 1362; Blanche, the younger daughter, at the age of eleven became the first wife of John of Gaunt son of Edward III. The manor of Higham Ferrers seems to have been settled on Blanche, (fn. 97) who at her sister's death became sole heir to her father's great estates. In 1362 John of Gaunt was created Duke of Lancaster. Blanche died in 1369 and John in 1399 when he was succeeded by their son Henry of Bolingbroke who later in that year ascended the throne as Henry IV when the lands of the Duchy of Lancaster, including Higham Ferrers, merged in the Crown. Higham Ferrers is still part of the Duchy of Lancaster, (fn. 98) although it was included in the jointures of the Queens Consort of Edward IV, Charles I, Charles II and James II. (fn. 99)
Lands in Higham Ferrers forfeited to the Crown on the attainder of Francis Lord Lovel of Tichmersh, after the battle of Bosworth were granted by Henry VII to Sir Charles Somerset, afterwards Lord Herbert and Earl of Worcester, (fn. 100) in 1486, (fn. 101) and included by him in a settlement of 1514. (fn. 102) Ten years later he left them to his son George (fn. 103) who in 1553 joined his grandson William third Earl of Worcester in obtaining licence to alienate them to Gilbert Pykering and others. (fn. 104)
A payment of one mark to Elias the doorkeeper for the carriage of summonses in the years 1166–67 and 1169–70 (fn. 105) had developed at the close of the century into the serjeanty of Ascelin and Andrew of Higham who then held three virgates of land, valued at 12s., for the service of carrying the writs of the honour of Higham. In 1235–36 their successor Nicholas the serjeant collected scutage from the fee of Earl Ferrers in Northamptonshire. (fn. 106) Four acres 'in every yeareland called Serjeants peece,' which belonged to the manor of Higham in 1691 were probably once part of this fee. (fn. 107)
The land in Higham Ferrers which formed part of the endowment of the college (fn. 108) was included in the grant of the advowson (q.v.) to Robert Dacres but the college house itself remained in the Crown until 1564 when Elizabeth granted to John Smith and Richard Duffield the site of the college with all buildings, etc., within the site and the orchard or close called Saffron Yard containing 2½ acres. The bells and all lead of the gutters and windows were reserved to the Queen. (fn. 109)
A mill, rendering 20s. on William Peverel's manor in 1086, (fn. 110) was possibly the mill of Dichford, for which as the third of a knight's fee scutage was paid in 1235–36 (fn. 111) and was on the site of the mill in which Simon de Cotes held the twenty-fifth part of a knight's fee of Prince Edmund, (fn. 112) who at his death in 1298 was seised of three watermills in Higham Ferrers. (fn. 113) The mill or mills of Dichford and the 'mill by Higham' of the 14th and 15th centuries (fn. 114) had been replaced before 1505 by three watermills under one roof called Dichford mills and three others also under one roof called Higham mills. (fn. 115) The 'Higham and Dichford mills' were an appurtenance of the royal manor of Higham Ferrers when it was settled in trust for the Queen in 1672. (fn. 116)
A fishery which belonged to the three watermills of 1298 was called thirty years later a fishery in the Nene. In the reign of Charles I the fishing of Stanwick Meer in the Nene was one of the appurtenances of the manor. (fn. 117) Free warren, granted to William de Ferrers in 1248 (fn. 118) and enjoyed by his successors, (fn. 119) was amongst the liberties for which Henry Earl of Lancaster was called upon to produce his warrant in 1329. At the same time he had to make good his claim to use gallows, pillory and tumbrel and hold the assize of bread and ale as his predecessors had done. (fn. 120)
Courts, leet and baron, pleas and perquisites of court and view of frank-pledge are amongst the appurtenances of the manor of Higham Ferrers recorded from the 13th to the latter part of the 17th century. (fn. 121)
As early as 1086 Higham was an important town with its market valued at 20s. a year. (fn. 122) It thus remained until the middle of the 13th century, when William de Ferrers fifth Earl of Derby took an interest in developing its prosperity. We are told that when crossing St. Neots Bridge he had a fall from his litter in which he usually travelled, being a sufferer from gout. (fn. 123) It may be possible that he was on his way to or from Higham Ferrers, where he seems to have resided occasionally, and in which he had a special interest. In 1248 he acquired the right of free warren over his lands there, and in 1250 he obtained a grant of a fair there on the vigil, day and morrow of the feast of St. Botolph (17 June). (fn. 124) On the feast of St. Gregory (12 March) 1251 the earl manumitted 92 of his villein tenants of Higham Ferrers (fn. 125) and enfranchised their offspring (sequeles) lands, tenements and chattels, granting that their lands in future should be held in free burgage. (fn. 126) Thus Higham became a free borough. This charter, which was confirmed by Henry III in the same year, is interesting and unusual in giving the names of those who became the first burgesses and were promoted from a servile status to the freedom of burgesses.
This charter had disappeared from the borough archives when in 1556 Philip and Mary bestowed another on the town, and in their preamble spoke of its loss through lack of safe custody or by ill chance. All former liberties were confirmed and Higham Ferrers was declared a free borough which with mayor, seven aldermen and thirteen chief burgesses was to form a body corporate and politic for ever. The corporation thus constituted was empowered to plead and be impleaded, make statutes and ordinances, use their own seal and make perambulations in the borough of which the boundaries already existing were confirmed. Regulations for the election of the mayor and his associates were followed by nomination of the first body of these officers under this charter. By the grant of markets and fairs with their profits and court of pie-powder, the sovereigns relinquished ancient appurtenances of the manor, as probably they also did by the establishment of a court of record for pleas within the borough not exceeding £5, to be held every Monday in a common hall, and by giving 'lawedaies' and view of frankpledge. The nomination of the chaplain, schoolmaster and beadsmen of the college of Higham Ferrers was now transferred from the Crown to the corporation. (fn. 127)
A fresh charter granted by James I in 1604 empowered every mayor of Higham Ferrers for the time being to be justice of the peace and also justice for the preservation of the statutes of artificers and labourers, and weights and measures, and freed mayor, aldermen and burgesses from service on assize, jury or inquisition whilst resident in the borough. They were besides to have return of assizes and all other royal writs and no sheriff, bailiff or other foreign minister of the Crown was allowed to enter the borough for the return or execution of writs. A general confirmation of all privileges, liberties and franchises accorded by former incorporations followed. (fn. 128)
In 1664 the mayor and corporation of Higham Ferrers petitioned the king for the renewal of their charter with certain alterations of which the most important was the extension of the money limit of their power to hold pleas from £5 to £40. (fn. 129) This and other proposed changes which concerned the fairs and markets were embodied in the new charter of August 1664 after a confirmation in general terms of the ancient liberties of the borough. It was also provided that the court of record should be held before the mayor, two aldermen, two chief burgesses and the steward of the borough and parish of Higham Ferrers. (fn. 130)
Within twenty years Higham Ferrers had followed the example of other boroughs by surrendering its charters to the Crown, and obtained their renewal in letters patent issued in February 1684. This charter also was confirmatory, embodying the early clauses of the charter of 1556, and in it too the mayor, aldermen and burgesses were nominated. Henceforth the corporation was to have its own recorder, the Earl of Peterborough being appointed to this new office for life. Another change was the nomination, also for life, of Goddard Pemberton, who headed the list of aldermen, as justice of the peace. The election of the successors of both these officers was vested in the mayor and corporation, and the number of fairs was reduced to one. (fn. 131)
The old corporation of Higham Ferrers was extinguished by the Municipal Corporation Act of 1882 which at the same time provided for the grant of new charters of incorporation. Accordingly, on the petition of certain inhabitant householders of the parish of Higham Ferrers, the Committee of the Privy Council formulated a scheme called 'The Borough of Higham Ferrers Scheme' by which a municipal borough was created in place of the old corporation. All property which had been vested in the mayor and his fellow burgesses by right of their office was now transferred to the new governing body, which became the sanitary authority in place of the Wellingborough Union, with charge of the town well, town pump and sewers. The new charter was granted on 16 July 1887. (fn. 132)
The burgesses held Higham Ferrers of the Crown as of the Duchy of Lancaster at a fee-farm rent, which between 1504 and 1515 amounted to £18 12s. 1d., (fn. 133) in the reign of Queen Elizabeth to £15 19s. 5½d., (fn. 134) and in 1649 to £16 a year. (fn. 135) 'Borough rents' of the annual value of £19 8s. 2½d. were referred to in the settlement of the manor on Queen Catherine wife of Charles II. (fn. 136) From a suit brought early in the 16th century by one Thomas Giles of Higham Ferrers against Robert Pypwell, then mayor, it appears that this tax was collected from the king's tenants of the Duchy of Lancaster in the town who were responsible for the good repair of their tenements. (fn. 137) Any man failing in this duty after due warning by the mayor was liable to ejection by his successor should twelve lawful burgesses of the town testify that his tenement was still in decay. The descendants of William de Ferrers' enfranchised tenants enjoyed free burgage as an hereditary right, and the earliest record preserved in the Town Hall of Higham Ferrers, the roll of the borough court, 'Curia Burgi' or 'Halmote' for 4 Edward I [1275–6] shows that their survivors and heirs were already occupied with the admission of new burgesses. At the same time they were dealing with surrender of and admission to property and pleas of debt and trespass, and issuing licences to brew. (fn. 138) Jurisdiction in cases of breach of the king's standard of weights and measures was exercised here by the king's chief steward of the Duchy of Lancaster in northern parts, by whom in 1426 certain offenders were fined 'for the abuse of their bushels,' the mayor being merely entrusted with the custody of the faulty vessels until they were rectified. (fn. 139)
In 1591 commissioners of the Duchy of Lancaster found that the mayor and corporation of Higham Ferrers had felons' goods and toll of passengers through the town and other places in the Hundred, (fn. 140) liberties presumably of earlier date than 1556. (fn. 141) A minor privilege which the mayor and his associates claimed to enjoy by charter in 1618 was that of having two persons in the town to draw wine. (fn. 142)
Higham Ferrers had a mayor as early as 1377, from which year a fairly complete list of these officers might be drawn up from the borough rolls. (fn. 143) The 15th century records of the Duchy of Lancaster show the king and his servants dealing with the mayor alone as the representative of the corporation, (fn. 144) and in the early years of the next century Robert Pypwell, mayor, described the town as incorporated 'by the name of Mayre and Commonalty' time out of mind. (fn. 145) The charter of 1556 fixed the Monday following St. Luke's day for the annual election by the aldermen and chief burgesses of an alderman as mayor, and entrusted the choice of the thirteen chief burgesses to the seven aldermen. It empowered the mayor to appoint a serjeant-at-mace for the execution of processes, mandates and other business of the borough, and, together with the aldermen, to elect from year to year a serjeant of the borough, a bailiff, two constables and all other servants necessary to the corporation. (fn. 146) There was already a steward of the borough, before whom a new mayor was sworn upon his entrance into office. (fn. 147) To this body of officers, as has been stated above, a recorder was added in 1684. (fn. 148) In 1591, the mayor was also serving as clerk of the market, coroner and escheator. (fn. 149)
The incorporation of the borough in 1556 was followed within two years by its representation in the House of Commons, and from 1557–8 until its disfranchisement in 1832 Higham Ferrers sent one member to Parliament. (fn. 150) The right of election belonged to all inhabitants of the town who were not receiving alms. (fn. 151)
From time to time Higham Ferrers, doubtless on account of its connexion with the royal household and the Duchy of Lancaster, was represented in Parliament by men of rank and of importance in political life. Such were Sir Christopher Hatton, member in 1571, through whose influence when Lord Chancellor, Richard, afterwards Sir Richard Swale, president of Caius and a master in chancery, was returned for Higham Ferrers to the Parliament of 1589. A later Sir Christopher, afterwards Baron, Hatton, (fn. 152) steward of the manor of Higham Ferrers in 1636, was representative of the borough in the Long Parliament. He was one of those who were returned in consequence of the exertions of Queen Henrietta Maria to bring in her nominees as the burgesses of the towns of her jointure. (fn. 153) Other members of parliament for this town distinguished as statesmen and lawyers were, in 1601, Henry Montagu, afterwards Earl of Manchester, who succeeded Coke as Chief Justice of the King's Bench and later became Lord High Treasurer. In 1741 Henry Seymour Conway was returned as member at the beginning of a long career as soldier and politician; Frederick Montagu, member from 1768 to 1790, became lord of the treasury under the Marquis of Rockingham in 1782. (fn. 154) He was succeeded by John Lee, solicitorgeneral in the same ministry. (fn. 155) Windham, secretary of state and afterwards secretary for war under Pitt, was returned for Higham Ferrers in 1807, and held the seat until his death three years later. Names of more local interest are those of Sir Thomas Dacres, member in the parliament of 1625–26, and Sir Rice Rudd, who represented Higham Ferrers from 1678 to 1681, and again in 1688–89. He was the grandson, through his mother Judith, of Captain Thomas Rudd and a native of Higham Ferrers. (fn. 156)
A manor called 'BOROUGH-HOLD' in the 18th century (fn. 157) was still in the possession of the mayor and corporation in 1838, when its boundaries were determined by Act of Parliament. (fn. 158) In 1874 this property, which was vested in the new corporation by the Act of 1886, was said to consist of 53 acres, 3 roods and 27 poles of land. (fn. 159)
In 1485, Richard III leased the issues of the tolls of the market and fairs of Higham Ferrers with all shops and stalls situated in the market place, (fn. 163) to the Mayor and his successors for twenty years. (fn. 164) The fair on the vigil, day and morrow of St. Botulph (17 June) granted to William de Ferrers at his manor of Higham Ferrers in 1250 (fn. 165) and an appurtenance in 1298, (fn. 166) continued to be held in the following century after Thomas Earl of Lancaster had received the grant of asecond at Michaelmas. (fn. 167) Both were claimed by his brother in 1327 (fn. 168) and their issues included in the lease of Richard III. The markets granted by Philip and Mary were held weekly on Monday and Saturday. (fn. 169) In 1664 the Monday market, which had fallen into disuse before 1649, (fn. 170) was transferred to Thursday and the Saturday market appropriated to the sale of horses and cattle. (fn. 171) In the latter part of the 18th century, the county historian wrote that there were three weekly markets, on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the two former disused and the third much decayed. (fn. 172)
Four fairs granted in 1556 included the old-established fairs of St. Michael and St. Botolph and two newly appointed for the feasts of St. Katherine and St. Matthias. (fn. 173) By the first charter of Charles II, these were reduced to two, held on the Thursdays next before the feasts of St. Philip and St. James and of St. James the Apostle; (fn. 174) by the second to one, for the sale of cattle and merchandise on the Thursday before the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. (fn. 175) It is likely, however, that other fairs, not authorised by this charter, continued to be held in the town. In the 18th century there were seven, described by the historian of Northamptonshire as 'all well accustomed,' on the Thursdays before the feasts of the conversion of St. Paul, of St. Matthias, of St. Philip and St. James, and of St. James the Apostle, on the 17 June, at Michaelmas and on the feast of St. Catherine. (fn. 176) Five were held in 1838, on the Thursdays before 12 May and 5 August, on 7 March, 28 June and 6 December, (fn. 177) and also in 1874, when the dates in March, August and December remained unaltered, but the other two fairs had been transferred to the Wednesday before 5 February and the Thursday before 11 October. (fn. 178)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of chancel, 46 ft. by 20 ft., clearstoried nave of four bays, 72 ft. by 19 ft. 6 in., north and south aisles, the former terminating in a Lady Chapel and vestry on the north side of the chancel, an additional north aisle, 10 ft. 6 in. wide, south porch, and west tower, 15 ft. square, with lofty spire. The width of the north aisle is the same as that of the nave, and the chapel and vestry being equal in size to the chancel, the plan of the building is somewhat unusual, the internal effect being that of two naves of equal size with corresponding chancels. The south aisle is 10 ft. 6 in. wide and the total width across nave and aisles 69 ft. 3 in. All these measurements are internal.
The existing chancel, nave, south aisle and tower are substantially those of the 13th century fabric, the aisles of which were equal in width, and though later windows have been inserted and the aisle wall rebuilt, the doorways, south nave arcade and other architectural features remain unaltered. All this work belongs to the first half of the 13th century and was probably begun at the east end about 1220–25, the tower being completed about 1250. The first change in the plan was about 1325–30, when the north aisle was widened and the Lady chapel built in its present form, the north nave arcade being then taken down and the present one erected. The chapel was probably built first and the aisle afterwards made of the same width. The two arches which divide the chapel from the chancel were cut through the 13thcentury wall, and at the same time new windows were inserted in the chancel and south aisle and other alterations made. With the exception of the priests' doorway, the south nave arcade and the south doorway, there is thus little original architectural work recognisable east of the tower, though the plan of the nave and chancel remains unchanged. The alterations in the chancel were probably due to Lawrence St. Maur, canon of Hereford (d. 1338), whose brass is now on the table tomb between the chancel and chapel, but the tomb was constructed for a member of the House of Lancaster as indicated by the heraldry on the lower part; a powdering of bees is painted upon the canopy. Whether it was ever used for its intended purpose is doubtful, as the actual table tomb is of later date, but it is not unlikely that the monument was erected by Henry, Earl of Lancaster (d. 1345) for himself, and that the Lady chapel was added and the north aisle reconstructed at his charges, he being the lord of the manor. (fn. 179)
There is little difference in date between the north arcade of the nave and that of the outer aisle: the latter may be an addition a few years after the work of reconstruction was completed, or it may have merely been left until the end of the enlargement, while the arcade may belong to its beginning. The whole of the north side of the church, however, appears to have been completed in its present form by about 1340, and may be considered as of one build, the same plinth and stringcourse and the same kind of dressed masonry being used both in the Lady Chapel and the north aisle. The spire, as originally built, was added about the same time, but the clearstory belongs to the first half of the 15th century, when low-pitched roofs behind parapets were erected and two windows were inserted, one at the east end of the south aisle, and the other at the west end of the outer north aisle. In the 15th century, also, Archbishop Chicheley no doubt erected the rood screen and stalls, one of which bears his arms and another those of the see of Canterbury. Other screen work is of the same period.
In 1631–32 the spire and part of the tower were rebuilt, following a collapse of the former, which did great damage to the tower, since which time, apart from restoration, the fabric has remained un- changed. A partial restoration in 1829 was followed in 1857 by one of more general character, extending over a period of years, during which time the south arcade, porch and south aisle walls were rebuilt and the roofs renewed. (fn. 180) The rood loft and rood were added to the screen in 1920 and an organ loft erected in the Lady chapel. (fn. 181)
The church, which is justly claimed as one of the finest in the county, is set in very picturesque surroundings, forming with the schoolhouse on the west, churchyard cross, and vicarage and bedehouse on the south side, an architectural group of more than usual interest. The older walling is of rubble, the later in coursed dressed stone, and all the roofs are of low pitch, leaded, behind battlemented (fn. 182) parapets. Internally all the wall surfaces, except those of the tower, are plastered. The roofs are modern.
The chancel has a 14th-century east window of five trefoiled lights with reticulated tracery set within 13th-century shafted jambs, the greater part of the original masonry remaining in the east wall. The mullions (fn. 183) and tracery are moulded and the arch has a slight ogee with elaborate canopied niche above breaking the battlemented parapet of the gable. In the south wall are three tall ogee-headed windows of three trefoiled lights with reticulated tracery, moulded jambs, and labels with headstops, the chancel being divided into three bays by two-stage 14th-century buttresses added when the windows were inserted. The 13th-century priests' doorway has a chamfered trefoiled head beneath a pointed hoodmould, the spandrels filled with a six-leaf flower, and moulded rear arch. There is a rounded stringcourse at sill level inside, and in the usual position in the south wall a double piscina consisting of two fluted bowls in plain rectangular recesses, the heads of which are formed by the string. A projecting stone bench 6 ft. long, with shaped arms, at the west end takes the place of the more usual individual sedilia, and in the north wall is a plain triangular-headed aumbry. The sanctuary floor, which had been unduly raised in 1880, was lowered to its original level in 1923: (fn. 184) the space immediately east of the altar rail is paved with medieval encaustic tiles of various patterns. (fn. 185) The western portion of the chancel is occupied by the stalls and its floor is level with that of the nave. Of the two 14th-century arches in the north wall, the wider one at the west end is of two chamfered orders and springs from half-octagonal responds with moulded capitals; the other, which is only about 8 ft. wide, forms the canopy of the tomb already mentioned and is of three elaborately moulded orders and embattled label on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The short length of masonry between the arches is part of the original work and retains the rounded string corresponding with that opposite, but it is pierced by a small doorway to the chapel. (fn. 186) Further east is a second 14th-century doorway opening to the vestry. There is no chancel arch, nor arch between the north aisle and chapel, both roofs being continuous.
The 13th-century south nave arcade is mostly of dark ironstone, the arches of two chamfered orders with labels on both sides, springing from piers composed of four clustered shafts with moulded capitals and bases, (fn. 187) and from half-octagonal responds. The 14th-century north arcade is of freestone with ironstone intermingled, and has octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases: the bases stand on big square plinths and the capitals differ only slightly in detail. The loftier outer arcade (fn. 188) is also of four bays, with octagonal piers (fn. 189) whose capitals exhibit considerable variety of moulding: in that of the westernmost pier the nail-head ornament occurs, but it is probably old work re-used. The arches of both the north arcades are of two chamfered orders. The clearstory over the outer arcades has squareheaded windows of two trefoiled lights, four on the north side and five on the south. (fn. 190)
The south aisle wall, though rebuilt, retains its 13th-century doorway, much restored, with arch of three orders, the innermost moulded, and the others with hollow chamfers stopped above quirked imposts. The jambs below the two outer orders have shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases, with smaller attached shafts between, the inner jambs being simply rounded. The 15th-century east window of the aisle is of three cinquefoiled lights, with vertical tracery, and the 14th-century easternmost window of the south wall of four trefoiled lights and geometrical tracery; three other windows in this wall are of three lights with ogee heads and reticulated tracery; but the two-light west window of the aisle appears to be of late 13th-century date, with forked mullion and quatrefoil in the head. The porch has been entirely rebuilt, but retains a restored 13thcentury outer doorway of two chamfered orders, the inner on half-round responds with moulded capitals and label terminating in pretty carved stops. The porch has side windows of two lights and battlemented parapets.
The 15th-century west window of the outer north aisle is of three cinquefoiled lights with four-centred head and vertical tracery; it is flanked externally by niches, that on the south with cusping and finial, the other with a plain pointed head. The other windows of the aisle are square-headed, of three trefoiled lights, with double chamfered jambs and rounded rear arches. The pointed north doorway has continuous hollow and sunk chamfers divided by a casement.
The eastern bays of the outer aisles have been restored as chapels, that on the north, known as the Chapel of Remembrance, contains memorials of the war of 1914–18, while the Chapel of the Kingdom, in the south aisle, is set apart for intercession for work overseas. (fn. 191) In the latter is a trefoil-headed piscina with beautiful foliated cusping and label terminations and fluted bowl. Below the eastern portion of the aisle is a small 13th-century crypt, or bone-hole, 10 ft. 10 in. square, originally vaulted in four compartments, but now covered with a modern brick barrel roof, access to which is by a doorway and stair in the south wall. (fn. 192)
The Lady chapel has a tall ogee-headed east window of five trefoiled lights, with reticulated tracery and canopied niche over, similar in type to the east window of the chancel, but less elaborate in character. (fn. 193) The two contemporary north windows are respectively of three and five lights, the larger one, towards the east, being similar to that at the west end of the inner north aisle, and the other like those in the south aisle. The east wall of the chapel is flush with that of the chancel, with a buttress of two stages between the windows, the eastern end of the church thus consisting of two equal low-pitched gables. The chapel retains at its east end the original sacristry, formed by screening off a portion, 8 ft. wide, with a solid wall against which the chapel altar was placed. A trefoil-headed ogee piscina, with plain bowl, remains in the usual position immediately west of the screen wall. The organ loft is over the west portion of the chapel.
The tower is of three main stages, with moulded plinth, pierced parapet and angle pinnacles. The whole of the south side, the south-west and southeast buttresses and the upper stage were rebuilt in 1631–32, (fn. 194) and though much of the old masonry was re-used and the chief architectural features retained, the work shows unmistakable signs of its late origin. The south buttresses, which were rebuilt on a larger scale and carried up four stages to the spring of the arches of the bell-chamber windows, are æsthetically detrimental to the otherwise graceful lines of the tower, the appearance of which, as left by the 13thcentury builders, must have been of exceptional beauty. The original work, however, survives uninjured in the lower stages on the west and north sides.
The double west doorway is covered by a shallow recessed porch (11 ft. 6 in. by 4 ft. 6 in.), with pointed outer arch of two richly moulded orders on shafts with foliated capitals. The heads of the two inner doorways are low segmental arches, the moulding of which is continued down the jambs, and round each opening are carved the foliage and half-figures of a Tree of Jesse, the main stem of which, rising between them, blossoms into a rich foliated capital, supporting an ornamental bracket and housing for a lost image of Our Lady and Child. The sides of the porch, which is recessed in the thickness of the wall, have arcades of two trefoiled arches on shafts with moulded capitals and bases, above which a chamfered mid-arch springs from moulded corbels supported by heads. The surface of the pointed barrel vault on either side of the mid-arch is completely covered with a rich diaper, except at the bottom of the outer compartment on the north side, where there is a sculptured figure of a man in the stocks playing a musical instrument. Above the heads of the inner doorways is a moulded stringcourse, which, breaking round the bracket, forms the base of a pointed tympanum, the middle part of which was occupied by the Virgin's statue. The space behind the statue is plain for about two-thirds of its height, above which the surface is diapered, the trefoiled head inclosing a sun and moon. The remainder of the tympanum on either side of the central figure is carved in low relief, with a series of roundels, or medallions, five on each side, in which the following subjects are represented: North side (a) the Visitation, (b) the Annunciation, (c) the Adoration of the Three Kings, (d) our Lord among the Doctors, (e) our Lord's baptism; South side (a) the Adoration of the Shepherds, (b) the Crucifixion, (c) the Vision of Zacharias, (d) the three Marys at the Tomb, (e) the harrowing of Hell. (fn. 195)
The 13th-century window above the porch is of two trefoiled lights within an arch of two chamfered orders on shafted jambs; in the spandrel is a seated figure of our Lord in glory. The window may have been originally higher in the wall, and the porch probably had a gable over it.
Between the porch and the north-west buttress are two trefoiled wall arches on banded shafts, one over the other, but the corresponding treatment on the south side was destroyed in the 17th century, though an image bracket, together with one on the north side, remains. The original coupled northwest buttresses are of two stages with gabled heads terminating in grotesque figures. In the lower stage of the tower on the north side is a 13th-century trefoiled wall arcade and a window of two plain lancet lights within a containing arch, the spandrel carved with the figure of a man playing on a pipe and tabor. The shafts of the arcade and window are banded and have moulded capitals and bases. Remains of a similar arcading survive in the reconstructed lower stage on the south side. In the middle stage facing north is a 13th-century window of two plain lancets within a trefoiled chamfered arch on shafts with foliated capitals, but on the south side the wall is blank.
The bell-chamber windows are the old ones reused: they consist of two lancet lights with transoms, set within a pointed arch of two moulded orders on shafts with carved capitals and moulded bases. The lancets have shafted jambs and a triple mid-shaft, and from the hoodmould a string runs round the tower. The 14th-century parapet rests on an older corbel table and consists of a series of pierced quatrefoils. From the pinnacles pierced flying buttresses are carried to the spire, the angles of which are ribbed and crocketed. There are three sets of gabled spire lights on the cardinal faces, the bottom one transomed and of two lights with 14th-century tracery: on the east side is an ogee-headed doorway behind the parapet. The whole of this work, in its present form, dates from 1632, though the old wrought stones have been re-used.
The 13th-century tower arch to the nave is of four chamfered orders springing from attached shafts on each side with moulded capitals and bases, the larger of the shafts having a fillet at the apex. Above the arch is a shouldered opening, and the line of the original high-pitched roof remains on the east side. Between the tower arch and the north arcade, at ground level, is a 13th-century wall arch on shafts with moulded bases and capitals, in one of which the nail-head ornament occurs. (fn. 196) The vice was originally in the south-west angle of the tower, with communication over the west doorway to another in the northwest angle, but access to this is now obtained by a modern stairway (fn. 197) with external doorway in the angle of the north aisle.
The fine early 15th-century rood screen has four traceried openings on each side of the entrance, with solid lower panels, battlemented cornice and moulded stiles and rails. The modern cove, traceried loft and the rood with attendant figures were designed by Mr. J. N. Comper. There is no original rood-loft stair or doorway. In the west bay of the chancel are seven stalls on each side and three return stalls. The return stalls and three on the south side have original traceried fronts, but the other fronts are modern. There are also four original standards with moulded and carved tops. All the stalls retain their misericords, the centrepieces and supporters of which are carved in a variety of subjects; among these are an angel holding a shield with the arms of Archbishop Chicheley, a pelican, the heads of a king, a bishop and others, a lion, pelican, phœnix-winged serpent, foliage, etc. The arms of the see of Canterbury are on one of the supporters.
Behind the north range of stalls a 15th-century traceried screen of seven openings fills the arch to the Lady chapel, but the enclosing screen at the west end of the chapel is modern. There are also parclose screens round the chapels at the east end of the outer aisles: that to the north chapel is modern (fn. 198) at the west end, but its south side is of 15th-century date, with doorway and traceried openings, carved cornice and solid lower panels. The south chapel screen is rather later, with two tiers of panels below the traceried openings, the bottom tier having linen pattern ornament. Both these screens have been restored to their places after having been mutilated and converted into pews. (fn. 199)
The pulpit and seating are modern. (fn. 200) The 15thcentury font has an octagonal bowl with carving on the four major faces, on attached shafts with moulded bases, and chamfered plinth.
The monument on the north side of the chancel mentioned as probably having been erected by Henry Earl of Lancaster includes the battlemented arch already described as forming the canopy of the tomb, its end buttresses being taken up as pinnacles. The canopy preserves a considerable amount of its original colour, (fn. 201) but the tomb itself was altered in the 17th century, probably when Lawrence St. Maur's brass was placed there. Two of the four shields of arms (fn. 202) on each side may be reproductions in stone of the four brass shields now missing from the slab, and the pilasters between are clearly of the 17th century. The stone containing St. Maur's brass was no doubt originally in the chancel floor but was placed in its present position in 1633. (fn. 203) The brass is that of a priest in mass vestments below a canopy, but the border is imperfect: above the figure is our Lord and four Apostles, and the inscription below reads: 'Hic jacet Lawren' de S[anct]o Mauro quondā rector istius ec[clesi]e cui' an' p[ro]picietr dñs'. (fn. 204)
In the chancel, north of the altar, is the brass of Richard Wylleys (1523?), warden of the college, in cope, and south of the altar that of another ecclesiastic the inscription of which is lost. There are several brasses in the Lady chapel: the oldest commemorates Thomas Chicheley (d. 1400) and Agnes his wife, parents of the Archbishop, on which is a floriated Latin cross with the figure of our Lord in the centre and the emblems of the four Evangelists at the extremities of the arms. Another, with double canopy, represents the archbishop's brother, William Chicheley (d. 1425) and Beatrice his wife, the man in civilian dress: it has a long border inscription in English and the emblems of the Evangelists at the corners. (fn. 205) Near to it is the brass of William Thorpe, merchant (d. 1504) and Marion his wife, two small figures, the man in civilian dress, with scrolls, groups of six sons and six daughters and the Evangelists' symbols. Other brasses in the Lady chapel without date or inscription comprise a civilian, a woman (imperfect) and a child: there is also the indent of a female figure. In the south aisle chapel, near the altar, is the brass of Henry Denton, chaplain of Chelveston (d. 1498), who is represented in mass vestments.
At the west end of the north aisle are two suits of 17th-century town armour suspended from iron stanchions fixed to the wall. Each suit consists of breast and back plates, to which are attached a pair of broad taces. There is also a pikeman's steel cap, with low comb and broad flat brim. (fn. 206)
In the chapel at the east end of the outer north aisle is a 16th-century iron chest with an elaborate lock and two large shields of arms painted on the front, one with the double-headed eagle of the Empire. (fn. 207)
There are eight bells, two trebles by Taylor of Loughborough having been added in 1892 to a former ring of six. The third is by Robert Taylor & Co., of St. Neots, 1820, the fourth and sixth recastings by Taylor in 1892, the fifth an alphabet bell dated 1611, the seventh dated 1636, and the tenor 1633. (fn. 208)
The plate consists of two silver cups and cover patens of 1653 given to the church in that year by John Boughton; there is also a pewter flagon, and brass alms dish. (fn. 209)
To the west of the tower is a 14th-century churchyard cross 11 ft. high on a Calvary of four circular steps; the shaft, square below and above, is splayed for the greater part of its length so as to form an irregular octagon, with slightly hollowed sides, ornamented on the broader faces with oak-leaf foliage and on the narrower with ball flowers, leaves, and crockets. The head was restored in 1919, and a Calvary group (west) and figure of our Lady and Child (east) added to the capital. (fn. 210)
The church of Higham Ferrers is dedicated to the honour of St. Mary the Virgin. (fn. 211) It may be assumed that there was a church here in 1086, when there was a priest in the manor of William Peverel. (fn. 212) He gave the church to the priory of his own foundation at Lenton (fn. 213) before 1113, (fn. 214) but though this grant was confirmed by Henry I and later kings, (fn. 215) as also by Innocent III, (fn. 216) the church formed part of the forfeited possessions of the younger William Peverel. Richard I presented to it, and when in 1237 William de Ferrers claimed the advowson as an appurtenance of his manor of Higham Ferrers he won his suit. (fn. 217)
The plea and judgment in the suit are interesting. The earl pleaded that King John had given to William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, Higham with the hundred and a half and other their appurtenances, and the earl quitclaimed the rest of the lands formerly of William Peverel to the king. The judgment in the earl's favour was based on the points that the manor was in the hands of King Richard when he presented, and King John afterwards gave the manor to the earl with all its appurtenances and the advowson was an appurtenance of the manor. The church descended with the manor (q.v.) until in 1354 Henry Duke of Lancaster obtained licence to make it part of the endowment of and appropriate it to the Hospital of the Annunciation which his father had founded at Leicester, (fn. 218) and he was about to convert into a college. (fn. 219) It belonged to that house when in 1422 Archbishop Chicheley obtained licence to found his college at Higham Ferrers, (fn. 220) which he described nine years later as established on condition that for all future times its master or warden should be presented to the perpetual vicarage of the parish church of Higham Ferrers by the dean and chapter of the Newark college and bound to continual residence and the cure of souls there. (fn. 221) In 1535 the church of Higham Ferrers was amongst the spiritualities of the College of Newark, Leicester, (fn. 222) and eight years later Henry VIII granted it to Robert Dacres, of Cheshunt, (fn. 223) Master of the Requests and one of his Privy Councillors.
From Robert, who died that year, the advowson of Higham Ferrers descended through his son George, and grandson, Sir Thomas Dacres, of Cheshunt, to his great-grandson Thomas, (fn. 224) whose right of presenta- tion was usurped, in 1631 by Archbishop Abbot and in 1635 by Laud. (fn. 225) In 1662, however, this second Sir Thomas Dacres had recovered the patronage, (fn. 226) and two years later, with his son Thomas and grandson Robert, made a settlement in which the church of Higham Ferrers was included. (fn. 227) Robert was seised of it in 1670, (fn. 228) 1676 and 1691. (fn. 229) A petition dated 12 February 1725–6, was presented to his son and heir Thomas, then patron, by the townsfolk of Higham Ferrers, in which they claimed fulfilment of his promise to allow them the choice of the next vicar, (fn. 230) which he did by presenting the candidate of their recommendation. (fn. 231) Within the next ten years he seems to have sold the advowson to the Earl of Malton, afterwards Marquis of Rockingham, (fn. 232) patron in 1735 and 1745. (fn. 233) From his son and heir, Charles Marquis of Rockingham, Prime Minister of England, who died without issue in 1782, the advowson came to the grandson of the first Marquis, William Wentworth, fourth Earl Fitzwilliam, (fn. 234) patron in 1800. His son, Charles William, Earl Fitzwilliam, patron in 1838, (fn. 235) was succeeded by his third son, the Honourable George Wentworth Fitzwilliam of Milton, Peterborough, since whose death in 1874 his son, George Charles Wentworth Fitzwilliam, of Milton, has been patron. (fn. 236)
The rectory of Higham Ferrers followed the descent of the advowson (q.v.) down to the dissolution of the college of Newark. It had been leased with a burgage lying to the south of the rectory house and also the rectories of Caldecote and Chelveston by the dean of the college in 1530 for 40 years to Laurence Washington and Elizabeth his wife. In 1567 Queen Elizabeth granted a lease to John Jones for a term of 21 years from the expiration of the lease to Washington. Further leases in reversion were granted by the Crown in 1570 to Nicholas Stere for 31 years, and in 1574 to John Jones for 21 years. The interests under these leases seem to have been acquired by Christopher Freeman, who in 1602 obtained a lease for his life and the lives of Martha his wife and his sons Ralph and George. (fn. 237) In 1606 he had a grant of the chapels, messuages, mills, glebe lands, tithes, etc., in the parishes of Higham Ferrers, Chelveston and Caldecote, parcel of the said rectory. (fn. 238) An action was brought in the Court of Chancery by Henry, son of Christopher Freeman, regarding the liability to repair the chancel of Higham Ferrers church. The plaintiff, Henry Freeman, admitted his liability as owner of the rectory, but claimed that Christopher Rudd and Martin Creake as lessees had allowed the chancel to fall into decay and ruin. It appears that Christopher Freeman, by his will dated in 1610, left the parsonage house, tithes, etc., to his wife Martha, for life, with remainder to Ralph his son and heir. Martha afterwards married Anthony Herenden, and then neglected to repair the chancel, but being threatened with proceedings in the Ecclesiastical Court, leased the tithes to Christopher Rudd and Martin Creake. The lessees held them for some ten years before the death of Martha in 1621. Ralph Freeman having predeceased Martha without issue, he was succeeded by his brother Henry, the plaintiff, who had to disburse 200 marks on repairs to the chancel, for which he sued the lessees Rudd and Creake. (fn. 239) Another Henry Freeman owned the rectory in 1681. (fn. 240) In 1696 one moiety belonged to James Johnson and his wife Judith, and this or the other moiety was held by Susan Wickham, widow, in 1714. (fn. 241) Both belonged to Thomas Dacres in 1731, and have since descended with the advowson (q.v.).
The following charities are administered by the Mayor of Higham Ferrers and 11 other trustees in conformity with a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 3 April 1914, under the title of the United Charities:—
Charity of Archbishop Henry Chicheley for Bedesmen founded under a licence from the Crown in 1422, originally consisted of the Bedehouse and Garden Ground and an annual charge of £24 10s. out of land belonging to Robert Dacres. The endowment is now represented by £890 8s. 8d. New Zealand 4 per cent. Inscribed Stock, £239 2s. 1d. India 3 per cent. Stock and a yearly payment of £4 by the Corporation of Higham Ferrers.
Richard Wagstaff, who died in August 1747, by his will gave 20s. a year to the poor and 10s. yearly to the minister for a sermon. The endowments of the three last mentioned charities consist of 2 acres of land known as Thorp End Close, which produced £7 16s. 6d. in 1924.
John Dewberry's charity originally consisted of a yearly sum of £1 which had long been paid as a rentcharge issuing out of land belonging to Earl Fitzwilliam. This charge was redeemed in 1914 by the transfer of £40 Consols to the Official Trustees.
George Newman, by his will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 3 November 1855, gave such part of his personal estate as he could lawfully bequeath for charitable purposes for the support of six poor almswomen. The legacy, together with accumulations, was invested in £5,834 12s. 9d. India 3 per cent. Stock.
Archbishop Chicheley before-mentioned also provided for the maintenance of two chaplains. In respect of this a sum of £15 a year is paid to the vicar in augmentation of the vicarage out of the estates of Earl Fitzwilliam.
By her will Mrs. Wilde, who died about 1814, gave £30 to the poor. A sum of £27 was received by the vicar in respect of this legacy and the interest amounting to £1 7s. was distributed in bread during winter. Owing to the insolvency of the holder this charity has been lost.
By an award, dated 27 December 1839, of the Inclosure Commissioners 9 a. 1 r. 31 p. of land situate in the beast pasture was allotted to six trustees for the use of the inhabitants as a recreation ground.
The Church Land. By the award above-mentioned 6 a. 1 r. 11 p. of land in the beast pasture was allotted to the churchwardens for the benefit of the church. The land is let in allotments to about 50 tenants and produced £16 6s. 8d. in rent in 1924. The income is applied to church maintenance.
By declaration of trust dated 13 July 1910 a sum of £200 India 2½ per cent. Stock was transferred to the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds by John Crew, of the Manor House, upon trust that the dividends should be applied by the vicar and churchwardens towards the repair of the church. The dividends amount to £5 per annum.
By an indenture dated 20 March 1866 it was declared that the interest to arise from a sum of £100 given by Mrs. Ann Burgess should be applied in providing clothing for one or more needy local preacher or preachers of the Wesleyan Society in Higham Ferrers Circuit. The gift was invested in £88 9s. 11d. Consols and the income amounting to £2 4s. is applied in the purchase of suits of clothes every few years. The last distribution took place in 1893, when three suits costing £10 10s. were distributed to three recipients.