A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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The parish of Wollaston lies on the Bedfordshire border and is separated from Doddington on the northwest by the River Nene, whose marshy banks supply rushes for the mat-making which still holds its own as a means of employment in the neighbourhood, though the place of chief industry has been taken by bootmaking. The village stands about 2¼ miles south from Wellingborough station on the Northampton and Peterborough section of the L.M.S. railway; it is lighted with gas from its own works, built in 1872, and supplied with water by the Higham Ferrers and Rushden joint water board from their works at Sywell. A fair number of good 17th-century stone houses remain in the village, some of them modernized, but others preserving their original architectural features. On the west side of the church is an undated two-story house of this period with gabled dormer windows and thatched roof, and on the south side another thatched house with a panel in the gable inscribed 'i.d., mdclxxix'. (fn. 1) A large house at the Strixton end of the village dated 1657 (fn. 2) has a good contemporary oak staircase to the top floor with turned balusters and newels with ball tops. Opposite this, at the corner of Long Lane, is a house with a panel inscribed 'n. k. 1678' (for Nicholas Keystian), which is said to have been the Manor Farm. A much-modernized house known as 'The Priory', south-west of the church, incorporates part of what appears to be the oldest building in the village, probably of 16th-century date, with low mullioned windows and some internal features the identification of which has been rendered uncertain by successive alterations. A good stone house near the church, occupied by Miss Keep, was erected about 1770 by Ambrose Dickins. (fn. 3) Wollaston Hall, a stone house now occupied by Mr. H. A. Hall, stands a little to the east of the church, and to the south-west of it is Beacon Hill, a high conical mound planted with trees and shrubs.
In 1672 Thomas Brett obtained a licence to hold Presbyterian services in the house of John Morrice in Wollaston. (fn. 4) The Congregational chapel was founded in 1775, reopened in 1900; the Methodist chapel was built in 1840 and the Baptist chapel in 1867.
The population, which was 2,345 in 1931, has increased during the last 20 years, owing to the introduction of boot-making; but some of the inhabitants are still engaged in agriculture. The soil varies considerably within the parish, the subsoil being alluvium in the valley, Great Oolite, limestone, and Upper and Middle Lias clay. The chief crops are cereals and turnips, but much of the land is pasture, and there is a poultry farm belonging to Wollaston Hall.
The common lands were inclosed, under a Private Act, in 1788. (fn. 5)
There were, in 1086, two manors in WOLLASTON: one assessed at 5 hides, which was included in the land of Gunfrey of Chocques under Spelhoe Hundred and had been held by the four thegns who preceded him, with sac and soc; (fn. 6) and another, assessed at 2 hides, which Corbelin held of the Countess Judith. The larger manor formed part of the honor of Chokes, of which the descent was complicated by temporary escheats, due to its holders' connexions with France. (fn. 7) During the 12th century Wollaston seems to have been granted to Robert de Newburgh (or Neufbourg, Normandy). The Advocate of Béthune obtained seisin of it with the rest of his inheritance in England in 1200, (fn. 8) and in 1208 sued Robert de Newburgh for the manor, on the plea that it had only been mortgaged to him for a loan of £40, which he was now willing to repay. (fn. 9) Evidently the Advocate recovered the overlordship and Robert then held of him the manor, which he granted to the abbey of Bindon (Dorset). (fn. 10) Subsequently, in 1223, Robert de Newburgh commuted this grant for a money payment, as he enfeoffed Robert the son of Ralf of the manor, retaining 1 virgate with the service of Saer de Wollaston and his heirs, (fn. 11) and stipulating that Robert should pay 210 marks to the abbey. Robert son of Ralf appears to have granted a third part of his manor to John de Newburgh for life in 1225, (fn. 12) but is described as holding two fees in Wollaston in 1236 of Robert de Newburgh, and in 1242 of 'the Honor of Chokes, which Robert de Gynes holds'. (fn. 13) Robert the son of Ralf seems to be Robert le Waleys who died before 1246, when Robert de Guisnes successfully claimed the custody of the manor during the nonage of his heir. (fn. 14) This heir was presumably William de Bray, who obtained from Henry III a grant of a weekly market on Tuesday at Wollaston and a yearly fair there on the vigil, feast, and morrow of the Invention of the Cross. (fn. 15) A further grant was made on 4 March 1263 to the men of Wollaston that they should be quit of the lawing of their dogs and of giving ransom for them, as it had appeared by inquest that they were outside the metes and regard of the forest of Salcey. (fn. 16)
In 1276 William de Bray granted 2 virgates of land in Wollaston with a messuage to Thomas, son of William and grandson of Gilbert de Wollaston, and Beatrice the wife of Thomas for their lives. (fn. 17) In 1280 he, with Helwis, Agnes, and Maud (fn. 18) the daughters of William son of Roger de Newburgh, registered a claim to a messuage and 10 virgates in Strixton and Wollaston, which Richard de Newburgh was granting to Roger de Newburgh and his wife Agatha for their lives. (fn. 19) In 1286 Edmund the king's brother obtained from William de Cogenho, presumably representing the Newburgh mesne lordship, a quitclaim of the homage and service of William de Bray, who, being present, acknowledged that he held his land of Edmund and did him homage in the same court. (fn. 20)
William de Bray died before 1305; in which year Robert de Bray, his son and heir, settled the manor of Wollaston on himself and his wife Mary with remainder to Thomas the son of Thomas de Berkeley, and Margery his wife, (fn. 21) who was the daughter and heir of Robert de Bray; she died before her husband, who granted the manor in 1340 for the term of his own life to Maurice de Berkeley, with remainder to Katharine his daughter and the heirs of her body. (fn. 22)
Thomas de Berkeley died on Wednesday before the Feast of St. Peter in Cathedra 1346, his daughter Katharine de la Dale being then 36. The manor of Wollaston at this time was said to be held of the fee of Chokes by service of a knight's fee and 20s. yearly to be paid at the king's castle of Northampton for castle ward, and 30s. yearly to the sheriff of Northampton for assessed fines. Richard Chamberleyn, who had married Katharine, petitioned that the king would release the manor, as it was not held in chief, and it was found that the manor was held immediately of the Earl of Lancaster as two knights' fees, by rent of 1d. yearly and suit at Higham Ferrers Court, and that the earl held the manor of the king, as of the honor of Chokes; though this honor had been described in the previous March as pertaining to Sir John de Moleyns 'by the king's charter granted to him'. (fn. 23)
In 1356 Henry Earl of Lancaster granted the manor to the Dean and Canons of the College of St. Mary at Leicester, (fn. 24) and it was probably after this date that it became known as BURIE MANOR, a name which seems to have been given locally to ecclesiastical property. The college obtained a grant of free warren there as soon as they were in possession. (fn. 25) The holding was described in 1428 as one fee only, the other fee being said to have remained in the hands of Richard Chamberleyn and ultimately to have become divided between John Neubon and Thomas Walton of Strixton, St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London (fn. 26) and the abbeys of Lavendon and St. Mary Delapré by Northampton. (fn. 27)
It is probable that the possessions of the abbeys of Lavendon and Delapré in Wollaston were attached to the lands of St. Mary's after the Dissolution, as they are not mentioned in any grant of the lands formerly belonging to these houses.
The manor, formerly belonging to the College of St. Mary at Leicester, was retained by the Crown until 1606, (fn. 28) when James I granted 'the site of two manors in Wollaston' to Thomas Marbury and Richard Cartwright in fee-farm, (fn. 29) but it had passed before 1635 to John Earl of Bridgwater. (fn. 30) His descendants remained in possession until 1709, when Jane, Dowager Countess, and Scroope Earl of Bridgwater, sold the estate to Thomas Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse. (fn. 31) His son Thomas, who was created Earl of Malton in 1728, was co-vouchee with Mary his wife in a recovery concerning the manor and the advowson of the vicarage in 1738, (fn. 32) but the whole property seems to have passed to Ambrose Dickins, who presented to the church in 1765. (fn. 33) Watson William Dickins, with Francis Dickins and Diana his wife, dealt with the manor, rectory, and advowson by fine in 1828, (fn. 34) but in 1844 the Dickins estate was sold, Mr. Samuel Soames purchasing the manor-house and farm, which he sold in 1852 to Mr. Charles Hall, (fn. 35) from whom it has descended to the present owner, Mr. H. A. Hall, but all manorial rights have lapsed.
The manor belonging to the Countess Judith in 1086 contained land for 3½ ploughs, and had previously been held by Stric freely. Winemar de Hanslope claimed it, but it was held by Corbelin of the Countess (fn. 36) and afterwards of King David, (fn. 37) being included in the honor of Huntingdon. During the 16th century it was distinguished from Burie by the name of the HALL MANOR.
At the end of the 12th century it was in the possession of a family who took their name from the place; they held also 1 virgate of Robert de Newburgh. In 1199 Richard the son of Thomas, and Christian his wife quitclaimed half a virgate of land to Roland de Wollaston; (fn. 38) and Simon de Wollaston is mentioned as holding in the township in the following year. (fn. 39) Sir Saer de Wollaston, who occurs in 1218, (fn. 40) had two sons, Simon and William, both of whom were witnesses to grants made to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in Smithfield. Simon had a son Robert, (fn. 41) whose son Reynald granted land in Wollaston to his son John in 1269, paying rent of 100s. to Reynald and his wife Maud during their lives, with contingent remainders to John's brother Thomas and his issue, and their sister Maud and her issue. (fn. 42) In 1284 another Saer de Wollaston was lord of the manor, which was then described as held as of the honor of Huntingdon, but after this date the descent of the manor is obscure, though it seems to have remained in the possession of Saer's descendants.
William de Wollaston had view of frankpledge here in 1330, (fn. 43) and in 1335 William de Wollaston 'the elder' was in possession of the manor of Wollaston, of which he was said to have disseised William de Brampton, parson of Easton, and Reynald de Eston, vicar of Wollaston. This was probably a fictitious suit, as William de Brampton and Reynald released their damages to William de Wollaston in the same court; (fn. 44) but the nature of the settlement does not appear. In 1428 another William de Wollaston held land described as having belonged formerly to John Wollaston, but it is said to have been a quarter of a fee only, the other three-quarters having been divided into six equal portions between William Branspath of Irthlingburgh, William de Haldenby of Isham, William Kyngsman, John and Thomas Bedell of Wollaston, and John Herriot. (fn. 45) In 1442 John Rous, of Little Dorrington in Warwickshire, quitclaimed his right in the manor to William Wolston and John his son, (fn. 46) but which of the portions had come into his hands does not appear. Elizabeth, the widow of William Kyngsman, died seised of his portion in 1449, but her heir is not named; (fn. 47) and Audrey, the daughter of Sir Guy Wolston and wife of Thomas Empson, is said to have released the manor in 1515 to Richard Fitzwilliam of Milton, who presumably conveyed it to the canons of St. Mary at Leicester almost on the eve of the Dissolution. They had received a licence to acquire fresh lands in mortmain on 6 February 1480, and had obtained 6 messuages, 7 virgates of land, 12 acres of meadow, and 8 acres of pasture, in Wollaston, in part satisfaction of this grant, as late as 12 February 1506. (fn. 48) By 1533 they were in possession of 'the scite of the two Manors in Wollaston, Burie manor and the Hall Manor with all houses and demeasne lands to them belonging'. (fn. 49) Both manors were apparently included in the grant to John Earl of Bridgwater and became amalgamated.
BARTHILMEW'S FEE. Robert de Newburgh granted 7½ virgates of land in Wollaston to the Hospital of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield, (fn. 50) Hugh, the Master of the hospital, obtaining warranty of charter from him in 1218. (fn. 51) He also granted the grazing of 14 oxen wherever his own oxen should feed in Wollaston; (fn. 52) and some years later William de Bray added two roods of arable land. (fn. 53) The holding, which was known as Barthilmew's Fee, remained in the possession of the hospital until the Dissolution, and was in the tenure of John Coke on 13 January 1547, when it was included in the grant to the mayor and citizens of London as trustees of the new foundation. (fn. 54)
During the early part of the 13 th century the Abbey of Delapré by Northampton received several small grants of land in Wollaston. These included a confirmation from Hugh de Newburgh of the grant of the 'minster' at Wollaston, given by Robert de Chocques with the land behind the court; from Robert de Newburgh 1 virgate and the land called Northyme; from Roger de Newburgh the land behind the Abbey's houses, between the two roads; from Samson the son of Samson, Gerscroft, Brintyngesholm meadow, and common of pasture; from William de Bray rent in Nedham in Wollaston, and from William son of Simon de Wollaston two messuages in Nedham Street. (fn. 55) This property and that belonging to Lavendon were probably retained by the Crown and became amalgamated with the manor, as the advowson, part of the property of Delapré, was afterwards in the possession of John Earl of Bridgwater.
Each of the manors in Wollaston had a mill mentioned in 1086. (fn. 56) That belonging to the larger manor was granted by William de Betun to Peter son of Adam about the end of the 12th century, (fn. 57) and was afterwards bestowed by Robert son of Roger de Newburgh on the Hospital of the Holy Trinity by Northampton. (fn. 58) In 1218 the master of the hospital obtained a quitclaim of a mill in Wollaston from Philip the son of Robert and Basile the daughter of Stephen. (fn. 59) John, master of the hospital (c. 1233), granted their mill to Robert son of Ralf de Wolaston. (fn. 60) Subsequently the hospital granted it with the adjacent land to the College of St. Mary at Leicester in 1376. (fn. 61) The Dean and Chapter of the College at first paid a yearly rent of 40s. for the land, but 20s. of this was released to Dean Peter de Kellesey, by Richard Bollesore, master of St. Davids, as the water-mill was found to be 'entirely decayed'. (fn. 62) It seems afterwards to have been rebuilt, as there were two mills belonging to the manor in 1590. (fn. 63)
The church of ST. MART THE VIRGIN consists of chancel, 35 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 6 in.; central tower and broach spire, north transept, 20 ft. by 14 ft. 9 in. wide; nave, 54 ft. 8 in. by 18 ft. 3 in., and north and south aisles 14 ft. wide, all these measurements being internal. The tower is 13 ft. square at the crossing and the width across nave and aisles 51 ft. 3 in. A former vestry at the east end of the south aisle now serves as an organ-chamber.
Before 1735 the church was an early-14th-century building with aisled nave of four bays, 'a cross aisle from north to south covered with lead and a chancel tiled', (fn. 64) but on 13 November of that year 'the body of the church, supported by six pillars, suddenly and unexpectedly fell down', (fn. 65) and in the rebuilding which followed in 1737 (fn. 66) the chancel was reconstructed and the south transept removed. The new nave was built in the classic style of the day, with the vestry covering the south side of the tower, the tower arches were filled in with rubble and plastered over, leaving two low openings from the nave to the chancel, (fn. 67) and a gallery erected at the west end. Of the 14th-century structure only the tower and spire and north transept remained; subsequent changes have respected the 18th-century building, which externally remains unaltered. In 1824 the north transept was fitted up as a Sunday school, (fn. 68) and in 1841 north and south galleries were erected. (fn. 69) In the course of an extensive restoration in 1885 the tower arches were opened out, the side galleries removed, the north transept rebuilt, and the organ removed from the west gallery to the south of the tower.
The chancel is faced with coursed freestone, but is without buttresses and its red-tiled eaved roof is modern. The east wall was rebuilt in 1902 and the three-light traceried window is of that date, as are also the tracery and mullions of the three round-headed 18th-century windows in the south wall. The north wall is blank. Two lead spout-heads bear the date 1772. (fn. 70) Internally the walls of the chancel, as elsewhere, are plastered.
The beautiful 14th-century tower is open to the church in the lower stage through four sharply pointed arches of three chamfered orders, the innermost springing from half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases, the others continued below moulded imposts and stopped at the bottom with notch-heads. All the arches are alike and have hood-moulds on each side. Bands of ironstone in the masonry below the arches afford variety and contrast in colour. The vice is in the south-east angle of the tower, and externally takes the form of a hexagonal turret, sloped back with stone roof at the height of the top of the bell-chamber windows. The windows are double on each side, and of two trefoiled lights, with simple tracery in the head; (fn. 71) the lower part of the lights is blocked. The angles of the tower are strengthened by small triple shafts stopping beneath a richly sculptured corbel table of heads and flowers connected by tendrils, from which the spire rises, and above the bell-chamber windows on each side is a slightly ogee niche with moulded jambs and label. The spire has ribbed angles and tall pinnacles standing on the broaches, with three tiers of gabled lights, faced alternately, all of two trefoiled openings. The top of the spire, for a length of about 11 ft., was rebuilt in 1892.
The north transept was good work of the same period as the tower, and as rebuilt retains all its original features though windows and other of the architectural details are new. It is faced with coursed stone and covered with a red-tiled gabled roof, and is now enclosed by modern gothic screens to form a vestry. The 14th-century arch opening to the north aisle remains and is of two orders, the inner order springing on the wall side from a half-octagonal respond with moulded capital and base. The windows in the north and east walls are of three lights with modern Decorated tracery, and there is a doorway in the west wall. In the north wall, below the window, are two 14th-century arched recesses with hood-moulds, one of which now contains a stone coffin found during the rebuilding, the lid of which has a beautiful floriated cross with ornamented stem.
The 18th-century nave is of three bays, divided from the aisles by tall Tuscan columns on high plinths and with pilasters at either end, supporting a single span roof, with separate plaster ceilings. (fn. 72) The west elevation is of much dignity, the nave projecting slightly in front of the aisles, with wide pediment, and square-headed doorway within a semicircular arch. The whole of the elevation is faced with alternate courses of ironstone and freestone, the contrast of colour being very effective. Above the doorway is a circular window. The side elevations are of plainer character, with plinth, cornice, and parapet, and three large round-headed windows with moulded sills, divided into three lights by flat intersecting mullions. On the north side a considerable amount of irregularly coursed ironstone is used, but on the south there is little or none. The date 1737 occurs on the keystone of the west doorway, and on the spoutheads. Below the west gallery is a good 18th-century screen with fluted pilasters.
The font dates from 1737 and is of stone, with circular gadrooned bowl and swelled base. The panelled pulpit is of the same date. (fn. 73)
The 15th-century brasses recorded by Bridges have disappeared. (fn. 74) In the chancel are armorial slabs and a mural tablet (fn. 75) to Edmund Neale (d. 1671) and his son Thomas (d. 1675), and memorials of Sir Charles Neale, Kt. (d. 1719), and Dr. John Shipton (d. 1748).
There are six bells, the first a recasting by Taylor & Co. in 1910, the second without date or inscription, the third by Taylor 1868, and the fourth, fifth, and tenor by R. Taylor, of St. Neots, 1806. (fn. 76)
The plate consists of a silver cup and paten, flagon, and alms basin of 1773, each inscribed 'The gift of Ambrose Dickins Esqre to the Church of Wollaston, Northamptonshire 1774'. (fn. 77)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (1) baptisms and burials 1663–96 and 1698–1781, marriages 1667– 96 and 1698–1753; (ii) marriages 1754–71; (iii) marriages 1772–1812; (iv) baptisms and burials 1782–1812.
The church of Wollaston was granted by Robert de Chocques to the abbey of St. Mary Delapré by Northampton during the reign of Stephen, (fn. 78) and remained in their possession until the Dissolution, (fn. 79) after which it became attached to the manor, then in the king's hands. The right of presentation to the living was granted to John Earl of Bridgwater before 1634, (fn. 80) and subsequently followed the descent of the manor, Francis Dickins being the patron in 1847. (fn. 81) The vicarage was annexed to Irchester before 1854, and so continued until 21 June 1880, when it was again separated. It is now in the gift of the Bishop of Peterborough.
In 1533 Thomas Leson obtained from Thomas Cromwell a 'letter directed to the abbess of Delapra for his brother Mohoon the King's servant for the lease of the parsonage at Wollaston', but apparently failed to obtain it, (fn. 82) and the rectory was granted for life to Sir William Parr of Horton after the Dissolution. (fn. 83) In 1564 it was bestowed by Queen Elizabeth on George Carleton, (fn. 84) who sold it in 1581 to John Neale. (fn. 85) In 1594 Neale, as proprietary rector of the church, reported that the chancel was very ruinous and almost falling, so that it was 'of no use either to the church or the inhabitants, and moreover cannot be repaired except at great cost, therefore he desires to be relieved of the obligation'. (fn. 86) John Neale's descendants remained in possession for over a hundred years. He with his wife Elizabeth and Edmund Neale, who was perhaps their son, dealt with the rectory by fine in 1623 and again in 1633. (fn. 87) Edmund Neale died in 1671, and his son Thomas, who died in 1675, was succeeded by Charles Neale. Charles Neale, with Edmund and James Neale, John Horton and Lucretia his wife, and Elizabeth and Ann Neale, levied a fine concerning the rectory in 1723. (fn. 88)
Thomas Neale by his will dated 5 September 1674 charged a piece of land at Wollaston with 2s. weekly to be laid out in bread for the poor by the churchwardens and overseers. A sum of £5 4s. is received annually in respect of this charity from the owner of Wollaston Hall.
By his will dated 16 July 1730 Charles Neale gave £120 to be laid out in lands the rents thereof to be applied by the churchwardens and overseers in the distribution of bread to the poor. In 1820, in satisfaction of this charity a sum of £173 6s. 8d. Consols was transferred to trustees. The stock produces £4 6s. 8d. yearly in dividends.
John Hazeldine, who died in 1732, gave 3 threepenny loaves a week to 3 of the poorest people of Wollaston. The sum of £1 19s. per annum is received out of land in Wollaston belonging to several owners.
By codicil to his will dated 14 July 1800, Jonathan Bettle gave to the vicar and churchwardens money to be laid out in the public funds as would be sufficient to produce £5 4s. annually to be distributed in bread to poor widows, and £4 annually to be laid out in books for the choir or in such other manner as the choir may direct. The endowment consists of £306 13s. 4d. Consols producing £7 13s. 4d. yearly in dividends. Of this £3 18s. is applied in bread and the remainder is paid to the choir.
The Charity of David Hennell for the minister of the chapel was founded by will proved on 14 September 1830. The endowment consists of a sum of £109 17s. 11d. Consols producing £2 14s. 8d. yearly in dividends.
The Charity for the minister of the chapel founded by indentures of lease and release dated respectively 11 and 12 April 1837 and 2 and 3 January 1840 consists of a house in Wollaston let on a monthly tenancy and producing £10 per annum.
The Charity of John Ward for repair of the chapel founded by indenture dated 28 October 1853 consists of 3 messuages in Wollaston with gardens (formerly Guillons) let on monthly tenancies and producing £19 10s. yearly.
The trustees also hold certain sums representing accumulations of income. The above-mentioned charities in connexion with the Congregational Chapel are regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 21 June 1894. The income is applied in the upkeep of the property and in the maintenance of the chapel. The several sums of Consols are held by the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds.