A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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Sywell parish covers about 2,170 acres, largely grass and woodland. Two small streams flow through the parish, one of which, Sywell Bottom, forms the boundary between Sywell and Mears Ashby. The land rises on the north, the highest point, 440 ft., being in Sywell Wood in the north-east corner of the parish. The boundaries on the west, north, and east are all on high ground and inclose a shallow valley in which the village of Sywell is situated. The main road connects the villages of Mears Ashby, Sywell, and Holcot, and joins the road from Northampton to Kettering at the western boundary of the parish. The soil is partly stiff loam and partly red clay; the subsoil is chiefly ironstone. The chief crops are cereals and turnips, and the population, which numbered 185 in 1931, is engaged chiefly in agriculture.
The village is built on both sides of the road from Mears Ashby a little south of the point where it joins a side road from Overstone. At the north end of the village is a market cross, of which the shaft and base are ancient and formerly stood at the south-east end of the village. (fn. 1) The school was built in 1861, in which year the entire village was rebuilt by the late Lady Overstone. Sywell Hall, the residence of Brig.-Gen. H. E. Stockdale, stands on the north side of the village and is a picturesque early-17th-century gabled building of three stories with mullioned windows; the gables are surmounted by pyramidal finials. The walling is local sandstone and there is a porch on the north side the full height of the building in which is a panel with the Wilmer arms and crest. (fn. 2) All the chimneys are modern, and a gable at the east end of the north front has been taken down.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the Count of Mortain held 4 hides in SYWELL formerly belonging to Osmund son of Leuric. Two hides of this land were then in demesne. (fn. 3) The estates of the count were forfeited by his son William in 1106. (fn. 4) They appear to have been granted to Niel de Mundeville, whose daughter Maud wife of Roland of Avranches (fn. 5) in 1141 granted the manor of Sywell and all her land there, except 4½ virgates, (fn. 6) to the Priory of St. Andrew, Northampton. (fn. 7) This deed was confirmed 8 years later by William of Avranches and his son Simon. (fn. 8) Simon, Earl of Northampton, son of the founder of the priory, confirmed the gift, (fn. 9) and when the 12th-century Survey was made the monks of Northampton held these 4 hides in Sywell. (fn. 10) In 1291 the priory property here was worth £11 10s. 6d. (fn. 11) and in 1535 £24. (fn. 12) In 1538 Francis, Prior of St. Andrew's, surrendered the manor to Henry VIII (fn. 13) and in the same year the monastery was dissolved. (fn. 14)
In 1543 the manor of Sywell was granted by Henry VIII to John Mersh, a sewer of the chamber, (fn. 15) from whom it passed in 1578 to Anthony Jenkynson, (fn. 16) the great traveller, who had married his daughter Judith Mersh. (fn. 17) In 1606 the manor was alienated by Anthony Jenkynson to Robert Wilmer, (fn. 18) who was succeeded in 1613 by his son William Wilmer, (fn. 19) afterwards knighted. Sir William, who was a Royalist, had to compound for his estate; he died in 1646 (fn. 20) leaving a grandson William, a minor. (fn. 21) William Wilmer came of age in 1654 (fn. 22) and died six years later. His son William was in 1706 succeeded in turn by his son and namesake. (fn. 23) William Wilmer died in 1744 and his son Bennet died in the same year. Although he was a minor he made a will by which he left to his aunt Dinah Wilmer all his estate. After her death Sywell Manor passed to another branch of the same family who were still holding in 1791. Between this date and 1806 Sywell Manor was alienated to Samuel Pell, (fn. 24) from whose successor Edwin Pell the property was acquired by Lewis Loyd, father of Lord Overstone. (fn. 25) After the death of Lady Wantage, only daughter of Lord Overstone, the estate was sold, and no manorial rights are exercised at the present day.
At the Domesday Survey the Countess Judith claimed the soc of 1½ virgates of land in Sywell; from this probably originated a second SYWELL MANOR. Very little has been found concerning the overlordship. In 1377 the Earl of Pembroke, who held part of the honor of Huntingdon (fn. 26) was overlord in Sywell. (fn. 27) There is no further trace of this honor, and in 1447–8 and again in 1493 this manor was held of the Prior of St. Andrews, (fn. 28) who held the principal manor.
Henry Wardedieu in 1286 held land in the parish, (fn. 29) and in 1347 John Wardedieu the grandson of Henry (fn. 30) enfeoffed his son John, who had married Margaret Latymer, of Sywell Manor. (fn. 31) In 1377 Sir Edward Dalyngrigge and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Wardedieu (fn. 32) held this manor. (fn. 33) John Dalyngrigge (fn. 34) their son held in 1394–5 (fn. 35) but died without issue. (fn. 36)
Between 1394–5 and 1440 this manor passed to the Tresham family though the method of acquisition has not been ascertained; in the latter year William Tresham was granted free warren in his lands and woods in Sywell; (fn. 37) eight years later Henry VI confirmed to him a manor in Sywell with view of frankpledge and other liberties. (fn. 38) In the Wars of the Roses he took the side of the Yorkists and in September 1450 was murdered near Sywell by an armed band which lay in wait for him behind a hedge on the road along which they knew he would pass to fulfil an engagement with the Duke of York. Isabel his widow demanded satisfaction for his murder and the arrest and punishment of the murderers. (fn. 39) William Tresham was succeeded in the manor by his son Sir Thomas (fn. 40) who supported the Lancastrians and at the battle of Towton was taken prisoner. In July 1461 he was attainted and his estates seized, (fn. 41) rents from the manor of Sywell being granted in 1462 by the king to Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers. In 1464 Tresham was pardoned and three years later his attainder was reversed. In 1471 Sir Thomas fought at Tewkesbury; for this he was convicted of treason. King Edward promised to pardon Tresham, but the promise was not kept; he was beheaded in 1471. (fn. 42) Sywell Manor remained in the king's hands, for in 1480 it was granted to Margaret wife of William Sayer the king's servant for her life. (fn. 43) Four years later the manor was again granted to Edward Brampton and his heirs for his good service against the rebels. (fn. 44) On the accession of Henry VII in 1485 John Tresham son of Sir Thomas successfully requested that he might be installed in his father's property. (fn. 45) Isabel Tresham, a sister of John, (fn. 46) married Henry Vere, who in 1493 died seised of this manor. Henry left four daughters all under age. (fn. 47) The eldest daughter Elizabeth married Lord Mordaunt; to her descended most of her father's property but there is no mention of Sywell coming to her, (fn. 48) and its identity probably became lost after its subdivision amongst the four co-heirs of Henry Vere.
Some time before her grant to the Priory of St. Andrew, Maud de Mundeville, on the occasion of her daughter becoming a nun at Elstow, gave to the church there 4½ virgates of land in Sywell. (fn. 49) This land was held by the nuns of Elstow at the time of the 12thcentury Survey. (fn. 50) After the Dissolution this small estate became merged in the main manor (q.v.) with which it was granted by the king in 1545 to John Mersh. (fn. 51)
In 1291 a mill in Sywell was held by the Prior of St. Andrew's. (fn. 52) It presumably followed the descent of the manor. There is still an old mill near the eastern boundary of the parish on a stream now called Sywell Bottom.
Sywell Wood at a very early date belonged to the monastery of St. Andrew's. In 1204 the priory obtained licence to do what they pleased with their wood of Sywell. (fn. 53) It is now a well-known covert of the Pytchley Hunt.
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL consists of chancel 20 ft. 2 in. by 15 ft. 6 in. with small north vestry, nave 35 ft. by 15 ft. 9 in. with north transeptal chapel at its east end, south aisle 12 ft. wide, south porch, and engaged west tower 16 ft. by 14 ft., all the measurements being internal. The chancel was wholly rebuilt in 1862, and in 1870 the north chapel, nave arcade, aisle, clerestory, and porch were almost entirely rebuilt and a new nave roof erected, and how far the new work reproduces the old is now difficult to determine. The tower is open to the nave and aisle on the east and south.
The development of the plan must remain to some extent an open question, but a single pier of late-12thcentury date, incorporated in the modern arcade about 16 ft. from its west end, if in its original position, implies the existence at that period of a church with nave, south aisle, and presumably a square-ended chancel. The south doorway is also 12th-century, but was probably re-erected in its present position on the widening of the aisle. In the 13th century a tower was erected over the west end of the nave, its east wall being carried on an arch springing from a pier built to the north of the then existing arcades and from a respond opposite. About 1300 the chancel was rebuilt. The north chapel may have been added later in the 14th century, but it retains no ancient features except a tomb recess in the end wall. The vestry dates from 1862.
The chancel has a high-pitched tiled roof, but all the windows are modern with the exception of one on the north side now opening into the vestry, which is of two lights with forked mullion. The modern three-light east window is of the same type and probably reproduces the window formerly existing. A piscina and aumbry, the latter in the north wall, have been retained. The chancel arch is modern. From the chapel a squint is directed through the jamb of the north window to the high altar.
The nave is lofty, with leaded roof, and clerestory on the south side only. The arcade consists of four pointed arches on circular pillars, copied from the existing one of the late 12th century. All the arches are modern and there is a third modern pier immediately to the east of the original one, the two western arches being thus widely separated. The 13th-century pier from which the tower arch springs is composed of four half-rounds with slender shafts between and has a moulded capital and base. The respond is of similar type. The arch is semicircular but depressed, of two orders, the inner one moulded.
The tower externally is of two stages, the upper corresponding to two floors within, and has an embattled parapet with angle pinnacles, and buttresses facing west to the lower stage. The north side is almost entirely covered with ivy and only the bell-chamber windows can be seen. These, as on the south, consist of two lancets under a single label, divided by a shaft with moulded capital. On the east a mullion takes the place of the shaft and there is no label, and on the west a later square-headed window has been inserted. Below the bell-chamber windows on the west is another window of the same type, and on the west a modern projecting vice to the ringing chamber.
In the east window is some good Elizabethan glass dated 1580. (fn. 54)
The north chapel contains mural monuments to Robert Wilmer (d. 1612), the Hon. Lady Mary Wilmer, wife of William Wilmer (d. 1729), and tablets (18th century and later) to members of the family of Pell of Sywell Hall.
There are three bells, the treble by Henry Bagley of Ecton 1701, the second dated 1766, and the tenor an alphabet bell by Hugh Watts of Bedford 1611. (fn. 55)
The plate consists of a silver cup and paten of 1706 given by the Rev. H. Cockayne Cust, rector, in 1816, a small paten, Birmingham make 1907–8, and a pewter flagon. (fn. 56)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1571–1677, 1683–7, marriages 1572–1677, burials 1572–1674; (ii) baptisms and marriages 1675–1747, burials 1678–1747; (iii) baptisms and burials 1748–70, marriages 1749–60; (iv) baptisms 1771–1812, burials 1771–83, 1787–1812; (v) marriages 1754–1812.
The advowson of Sywell was included in the grant of Maud de Mundeville to the Priory of St. Andrew; (fn. 57) with that house it remained until the Dissolution. Henry VIII granted the advowson and rectory to John Mersh in 1543. (fn. 58) It follows the same descent as the manor (q.v.) until 1814 when Lord Brownlow obtained it in exchange for the advowson of Overstone. (fn. 59) The Earls Brownlow were patrons until 1872 in which year the right of presentation was transferred to the Duchy of Cornwall. In 1923 the living was united with that of Overstone, and the joint benefice is now in the alternate gift of the Duchy of Cornwall and of Mr. G. E. Stott. (fn. 60)
The Charity of Ambrose Marriott, founded by will proved in 1736, consists of a rentcharge of £2 issuing out of a house and 20 acres of land in the parish of Wellingborough known as Highfield Lodge. The income is distributed in money.
Owen Pell by his will, proved at Birmingham, 3 June 1867, gave £150 to the rector upon trust to apply the income in the distribution of flour to poor widows two days before Christmas and two days before Shrove Tuesday. The legacy less duty was invested in £142 9s. 7d. Consols with the Official Trustees. The dividend amounting to £3 11s. yearly is applied in the distribution of flour as directed by the will to 5 poor widows.