A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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Since 1900 the civil parish of Abington has ceased to exist, a portion having been included in the municipal borough of Northampton, while the rest has been amalgamated with Weston Favell. For ecclesiastical purposes, however, it still forms a parish. In 1902 certain adjustments of boundaries were made between Abington and St. Giles, Northampton. (fn. 1)
The ancient civil parish of Abington had an area of 357 acres, mostly under permanent grass. The soil is loamy and marl, and the subsoil consists of sandstone and clay; the chief crops were wheat and barley. The population in 1891 was only 121 and had risen by 1901 to 553, the town of Northampton having grown to the east by the erection of new factories; as a result of further building it had increased to 8,958 in 1931.
The parish ran north and south and was long and narrow, widening out towards the centre where Abington Abbey and the park are situated. It was bisected by the road leading to Wellingborough which runs north from Northampton and then takes an easterly bend, thus inclosing two sides of the park. The south boundary was formed by the Billing road, while the east boundary skirted the rectory, which was included in the parish of Weston Favell. The level of the ground rises slightly from south to north, where the highest point of 335 ft. is found: the lowest ground, about 268 ft., lies where the Wellingborough road takes a slight descent towards the centre of the parish.
Abington Hall, known as Abington Abbey, (fn. 2) the seat of the Bernards and Thursbys, was instituted as a private asylum in 1845 and was used for that purpose until Lady Wantage presented it with about 20 acres of land to the Northampton Corporation, who afterwards purchased an additional 4 acres comprising the park and threw it open to the public in 1897; further land was acquired in 1903, making the total area about 116 acres, and the manor-house was converted into a museum. It is a quadrangular building originally of early-16th-century date, but altered and largely rebuilt about 1675–8, and refronted on the south and east sides more than half a century later. As first built the house was apparently one room thick on all four sides of the courtyard, (fn. 3) with the great hall in the south and the offices in the east wing. From the evidence of the great hall, the only part now remaining, it was a building of two stories with gables and mullioned windows, but after his acquisition of the property in 1669 William Thursby seems to have pulled down the greater part of the house and rebuilt it on a larger scale, adding in front of the old one a new south wing containing two large rooms, staircase, and entrance. (fn. 4) The water-tower in the park bears W. Thursby's initials and the date 1678, (fn. 5) and this may be assumed to be approximately the time when the rebuilding of the house was completed. Some time in the 18th century the south and east wings were refronted in the plain classic style of the day, most likely by John Harvey Thursby after his succession to the estate in 1736. (fn. 6) A few changes were made in the buildings subsequently, (fn. 7) and after its acquisition by the Corporation of Northampton it was restored and in parts altered to adapt it to the purposes of a museum. (fn. 8) The north and part of the west wing have been reduced to one story, and all the roofs are now covered with red tiles in place of the old Colleyweston slates.
The south and east wings are of two stories with a string at first-floor level, cornice and plain parapets, the walling being of coursed undressed stone with ashlar quoins and dressings. On the south side the ends and middle slightly project and in each front is a good pedimented doorway. The windows have moulded architraves and barred sashes, and the Thursby crest occurs on the lead rain-water heads. The great hall, which is the height of both stories, (fn. 9) is 38 ft. 9 in. long by 21 ft. wide, with a projecting gabled bay at the northwest corner overlooking the courtyard. The bay has a mullioned window of four lights and in the wall adjoining is a similar window, both square-headed and without transoms. The doorway at the north end of the screens is now blocked and all traces of the screen itself have disappeared, probably in the 18th century, to which period the fire-place at the west end belongs. The roof is divided into four bays by plain hammer-beam principals, the beams terminating in figures of angels holding blank shields. The roof is apparently of 16thcentury date, but with the exception of the windows there are no other architectural features of this period in the apartment. The bay window contains some heraldic glass removed from the old manor-house of Great Billing in about 1776, with the achievement of O'Brien, Earl of Thomond, and other arms.
At the west end of the south wing is a fine panelled room the wainscoting of which belongs to the early16th-century house. It is chiefly of the conventional linen-fold pattern but includes some panels carved with the emblems of the Passion, the heraldic devices of the Lillings (three pikes) and the Bernards (fn. 10) (a muzzled bear), rural scenes and subjects from Æsop's fables. The cornice has a running vine pattern and the frieze includes subjects illustrating the months and seasons. An Elizabethan table in this room was formerly in the old Town Hall, Northampton. No other panelling remains in the house, but the oak staircase in the south wing is of good design with turned balusters and moulded handrail.
Only one holder of land in ABINGTON was recorded in the Domesday Book: this was Richard Engaine who accounted for 4 hides. (fn. 11) This estate was held of the Crown in chief for the fourth part of a knight's fee until 1509, after which date the overlordship lapsed. The manor evidently passed to Richard's grandson Richard, whose son and heir Vital married Alice de Lisors. (fn. 12) After his death she married as her second husband Humphrey Bassingburn; (fn. 13) the latter held the 4 hides in the reign of Henry II, in right of his wife. (fn. 14) The estate was probably settled on Fulk, second son of Vital Engaine and Alice, who took his mother's maiden name, for in 1191 William de Lisors, Fulk's son, alienated the mill appurtenant to the manor with the consent of his mother Alice, or Adeline, d'Auberville, who confirmed the grant in the same year. (fn. 15) William died before 1199, his brother Hugh being his heir, (fn. 16) but Abington was settled on Isabel, William's widow, who married as her second husband Ralph Berners, (fn. 17) with reversion probably to Alice, William's mother, who had married as her second husband Nicholas Bassingburn son of Humphrey beforementioned. (fn. 18) Isabel Berners, a widow again by 1227, (fn. 19) was in 1242 holding Abington of Nicholas Bassingburn, (fn. 20) and in 1253 Humphrey Bassingburn, Nicholas's son, was in possession of the manor. (fn. 21) Humphrey joined Simon de Montfort against Henry III, and after Evesham in 1266 his manor of Abington was forfeited to the Crown and granted to Robert de Turbeville. (fn. 22) In 1268, however, Humphrey came to an agreement with Robert and regained possession of the manor. (fn. 23) He afterwards became entangled in financial difficulties from which he was relieved by the Dowager Queen Eleanor, who in 1273 paid his debts to Elias son of Moses, a Jew of London, taking in exchange certain of his manors. Abington Manor, however, in the hands then of Philip de Horton, a burgess of Northampton, was delivered to Humphrey, who received from the queen 20 pounds besides. (fn. 24) In 1277 Humphrey settled the manor on his son Humphrey and the latter's wife Mary, (fn. 25) and, dying shortly afterwards in 1280, was succeeded by his son, (fn. 26) who followed him to the grave in 1298. (fn. 27) The manor then became the right of Mary his widow and was held by John de Lisle, her second husband, in 1316. (fn. 28) After Mary's death in 1325 it passed to her son Humphrey Bassingburn, who at the date of his mother's death was in Gascony on the king's service. (fn. 29) This Humphrey confirmed to the nuns of St. Mary Delapré in 1328 an annual pension of half a mark which had been granted to them out of the manor of Abington by William son of Fulk de Lisors and confirmed earlier by Humphrey's father. (fn. 30) In 1330 he settled the manor on himself and his wife Alice for their lives, with reversion to Giles their eldestson and his issue and with contingent remainder to Hugh and Humphrey their younger sons. (fn. 31) Giles died during his father's lifetime and a new settlement was made in 1344; after the death of Humphrey and Alice the manor was to pass to Alice, Giles's widow, and then to Walter son of Robert de Colevile and to Margaret his wife, daughter of Giles, in tail with contingent remainder to Robert de Colevile and his heirs, thus barring the Bassingburn line out of the entail. (fn. 32) On Humphrey's death in 1348 Alice his widow continued to hold the manor (fn. 33) until she died in 1357, (fn. 34) when it passed to Alice, her daughter-in-law, then the wife of John de Fauconberg. Alice outlived not only her second husband but her daughter Margaret and the latter's husband Walter de Colevile, so that on her death in 1368 she was succeeded by her grandchild Robert de Colevile, then only 3 years old. (fn. 35) Robert died the following year and the manor passed to Ralph Basset and John Gernoun, descendants of Elizabeth and Alice, sisters of Edmund, Robert's greatgrandfather. (fn. 36) Before, however, Ralph and John could acquire possession, Richard Bassingburn, a cousin of Giles, entered into the premises and brought an action against John Gernoun for disseisin, basing his claim to the manor on the settlement made in 1330, by which if Walter de Colevile and Margaret should die without heirs, the manor was to revert to the right heirs of Giles. The second settlement, however, of 1344 was produced and John Gernoun was confirmed in his possession. (fn. 37) Ralph Basset must have released his right in the manor to John Gernoun, for the latter held it in entirety and alienated it in 1386 to Sir Nicholas Lilling and Isabel his wife and their heirs. (fn. 38) A renewal of the Bassingburn claim was guarded against by a release made by Robert Bassingburn, probably a son of Richard, in 1389, (fn. 39) and in 1424 a further renunciation of all right was made by Maud wife of Richard Creek and daughter and heir of Richard Bassingburn. (fn. 40) Sir Nicholas Lilling died in 1419 and the manor, according to the terms of a settlement made in 1415, was then held by his widow Mary. (fn. 41) After Mary's death the manor passed into the Bernard family; Nicholas and Mary's daughter and heir Elizabeth having married Robert Bernard. Their second son Thomas succeeded his grandmother, the reversion of the manor having been settled on him by Sir Nicholas Lilling in 1415. (fn. 42) The manor remained in the Bernard family for nearly 250 years, passing from father to son in the direct line. (fn. 43) Baldwin Bernard, who was lord of the manor from 1601 to 1610, married Elizabeth daughter of John Fullwood, (fn. 44) and after his death she married Sir Edmund Hampden, one of the five knights imprisoned for having refused the loan in 1627, who died from the effects of his imprisonment and was buried at Abington. (fn. 45) Baldwin's son John married as his second wife, in 1649, Elizabeth widow of Thomas Nash and daughter of William Shakespeare's favourite daughter Susannah Hall. (fn. 46) After her death in 1669 the manor was sold to William Thursby of the Middle Temple, London, for £13,750. (fn. 47) The manor remained the property of the Thursby family for nearly 200 years: (fn. 48) for when in 1736 Richard Thursby, a nephew of the original purchaser, died without issue, and the direct line of the Thursby family had become extinct, the next of kin, John Harvey, son of Robert Harvey and Mary, a niece of William Thursby, upon whom the estate devolved according to the terms of William Thursby's will made in 1700, took the name and arms of Thursby by royal licence. (fn. 49) The manor was purchased of the Thursby family in 1841 by Mr. Lewis Loyd. His son, Samuel Jones Loyd, who was head of the bank of Jones, Loyd & Co. and was a prominent financial authority, was created Baron Overstone in 1850. On the death of Lord Overstone in 1883 (fn. 50) this manor, with his other wide estates, was inherited by his only daughter, Harriet Sarah, whose husband, Robert James Lindsay, was created Baron Wantage of Lockinge in 1885. On the death of Lady Wantage in 1920 her estate was dispersed and sold piecemeal.
There was a mill attached to the manor at Domesday which was worth 20s.: (fn. 51) it was alienated in 1191 by William de Lisors to Peter son of Adam of Northampton, with licence for Peter to convey it to a religious house; (fn. 52) Peter presented it to the Hospital of the Holy Trinity or St. David at Kingsthorpe (fn. 53) and it was confirmed to the hospital by Ralph Berners and Isabel his wife in 1200. (fn. 54) Hugh de Lisors, at the request of Henry son of Peter, also confirmed the grant in the reign of Henry III (fn. 55) and so did Humphrey Bassingburn in 1253, subject to the payment of 40s. and an annual rent of 1 pound of pepper. (fn. 56) The mill-pond adjoined the manor of Great Houghton, and was confirmed to the hospital by Geoffrey de Pavilly in 1206. (fn. 57) Two mills, both known as Abington Mills, were leased by the hospital in 1423 to John Man, John Egle, and John Hamme, all bakers of Northampton, for an annual rent of 12 quarters of wheat and 6s. 8d.: the grantees were not to cut any willows, but might cut off 'stoccynges and shredynges' as often as they pleased. (fn. 58) In 1535 these mills were valued at 66s. 8d. and an annual rent of 2s. was paid to John Bernard and 3s. to John Robins. (fn. 59) At the Dissolution the mills became the property of the Crown, but a lease bearing date 1534 by which the hospital granted them to Henry Freeman and Henry Nevill for 32 years was allowed to run on, and in 1558 the reversion was granted to the hospital of the Savoy, (fn. 60) who entered into possession after the expiration of the lease at Michaelmas 1566. Nevertheless, William Freeman and John Nevill, descendants of the original grantees, acquired possession of some deeds relating to the mills and refused to give them up. (fn. 61) The mill came into the possession of the Thursbys, who held it at the beginning of the 18th century under the Duchy of Cornwall at a rent of £4. (fn. 62) At the present day it is included in the parish of Weston Favell.
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL stands within Abington Park immediately to the south-east of the hall and consists of chancel 38 ft. 2 in. by 16 ft. 2 in., with north and south chapels covering it for about half its length (the former used as an organ-chamber and vestry), nave 36 ft. 3 in. long by 44 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower ro ft. 6 in. square: all these measurements being internal. The chapels represent extensions eastward of former aisles, and the great width of the nave is due to the removal of the arcades and the covering of the whole space west of the chancel by a single-span roof.
Bridges, c. 1720, described the church as consisting of a 'body, north and south ile and chancel leaded', (fn. 63) and old illustrations show three clerestory windows on the south side and low-pitched leaded roofs to both nave and aisle. The building fell into decay, and in 1823, when a start was made to repair it, the fabric suffered so severely in a storm that the whole of the nave and portions of the east end were taken down and rebuilt in the style of the day, the arcades being then removed.
The earliest parts of the building are the lower part of the tower and the south doorway, which are of late12th-century date. But with the exception of the tower so little ancient work remains in situ that it is difficult to trace the development of the plan with certainty. It seems likely, however, that the late-12th-century church consisted of an aisleless nave, west tower, and short rectangular chancel. The chancel seems to have been rebuilt and extended in the 13th century, a single lancet, now blocked and covered by the eastern end of the chapel, remaining in the north wall. Aisles may have first been added at the same time, but the evidence as to the destroyed arcades is conflicting. (fn. 64) A good deal of alteration was done in the 15th century, the tower being heightened, a clerestory added, and new windows inserted. The aisles may have been rebuilt at the same time, but the fact that the south chapel is 2 ft. narrower than that on the north would seem to indicate that when in the 15th-century reconstruction the south aisle was rebuilt on the old foundation the north aisle was widened. The altar of St. Mary is thought to have been in the north chapel, (fn. 65) which appears to have been extended about 9 ft. eastward. The south doorway, which is of Transitional Norman character, with a pointed arch of three square orders on moulded imposts, was moved outward to its present position when the aisle was added. A double lancet window in the north wall of the north chapel was probably moved from the chancel, or may have been in the original aisle.
The east wall of the chancel has been rebuilt above the plinth and has a stepped gable and modern pointed window of three lights with mullions crossing in the head. In the north wall is a square-headed 14thcentury window of two trefoiled lights and west of it the blocked lancet already mentioned. West of this a modern arch opens to the organ-chamber. (fn. 66) On the south side is a square-headed window similar to that on the north, the jambs of which are modern. Farther west is another window now blocked. The piscina and sedilia (fn. 67) are of 15th-century date, the former with plain pointed head and the latter, three in number, with trefoiled heads and detached moulded shafts. An aumbry in the north wall has been plastered over. An old altar slab is kept in the chancel. The communion rails are of 18th-century date.
The north chapel has a pointed east window of three cinquefoiled lights and quatrefoil in the head and on the north side a three-light window without tracery, west of which is the double lancet already referred to. The walls at the east end of the chapel are old, but farther west the north wall has been rebuilt above the plinth. In the east wall, north of the window, is a stone bracket or corbel for an image.
The walls of the south chapel have been entirely rebuilt, but the four-centred window of three lights on the south side is an old one re-used. The east wall is blank. Allthewindowsofthenave have wooden frames, and both nave and chancel have flat plaster ceilings and plastered walls. The chancel arch and those between the chapels and the nave are plastered, and there is a west gallery the full width of the building.
The tower is of four stages without buttresses, and, like the rest of the building, of rubble with dressed quoins. The original lower stages are marked by strings, but the upper story is distinguished only by the change in the character of the masonry and of its architectural features. It has an embattled parapet and bell-chamber windows of two trefoiled lights with a sexfoil in the head and transom at midheight. The two-light west window and four-centred doorway are 15th-century insertions, but an original window, modernized externally, remains in the lower story on the south side, and in the third stage on three sides are the now blocked upper windows of the old tower. (fn. 68) On the west face of the third stage is a large sun-dial in a square stone panel, probably placed in this position so that it could be seen from the Hall. (fn. 69) The tower arch is pointed and of two square orders on hollow-chamfered imposts. Above it are the royal arms of the Stuart sovereigns.
The font is of 15th-century date, with octagonal panelled bowl and stem: it has a pyramidal oak cover. The oak pulpit was presented by Thomas Rocke (fn. 70) in the latter part of the 17th century, and is hexagonal in shape with panelled sides and tester, richly carved.
In the south chapel is an elaborate marble monument to William Thursby (d. 1700), with statue by Samuel Cox, and tablets to J. Harvey Thursby (d. 1798) and his wife (name not stated), and in the north chapel monuments to Downhall Thursby (d. 1706) and Richard Thursby (d. 1736). The table tomb of Sir Edmund Hampden (d. 1627) in this chapel (vestry) is now boarded over. On the south of the chancel is a floor-slab, removed in 1918 from the north side, with the remains of a fine brass in memory of William Mayle (d. 1536) and Margaret his wife (d. 1567), which formerly had figures of husband and wife, ten sons, and three daughters. The daughters alone are left, the rest of the figures having been stripped from the matrices. (fn. 71) There are mural monuments in the chancel to Sir Robert Bernard, Kt. (d. 1666), Baldwin Bernard (d. 1610), J. H.Thursby (d. 1764), and Henry Lowth.
There are three bells in the tower, all by John Briant of Hertford: the treble dated 1809, the second 1811, and the tenor 1810. There is also a priest's bell dated 1764. (fn. 72)
The plate consists of a silver cup of 1805, and a silver-plated paten and bread-holder. The old plate was stolen early in the 19th century. It included a chalice, paten, and two flagons, all silver gilt, presented by William Thursby about 1685. (fn. 73)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and burials 1637–1763, marriages 1637–1757; (ii) baptisms and burials 1764–1812; (iii) marriages June 1754 to October 1811. (fn. 74) The volume mentioned by Bridges, beginning in 1558, has been lost.
Abington Church is not mentioned in Domesday and the earliest record of it occurs in 1224 when Isabel de Lisors, lady of the manor, presented Peter of Irchester. (fn. 75) The advowson remained appendant to the manor. In 1380 Richard II presented to the church as the custody of the land and one of the heirs of Ralph Basset was in his hand, (fn. 76) but in 1386 Bromhall Priory received from the king a grant of the advowson of Abington Church, then worth £10, with licence for the Prioress and nuns to appropriate it. (fn. 77) This grant apparently did not take effect, for in the same year the advowson was transferred with the manor to Sir Nicholas Lilling (fn. 78) and its history since then has been identical with that of the manor until 1921, when it was devised to the Bishop of Peterborough by the will of Lady Wantage.
Church Land. On the inclosure of the parish 8 acres of land were allotted to the churchwardens in lieu of open fields appropriated to the repairs of the church. The land was sold in 1895 and the proceeds invested, producing £136 9s. yearly in dividends.