A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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Chelveston-cum-Caldecott is a small parish lying on the east bank of the River Nene, which forms its western boundary, the village of Chelveston being about 2¼ miles north-east of Higham Ferrers. The church of St. John the Baptist stands midway between the two villages. Some of the inhabitants are employed in boot-making, but the establishment of this industry has not yet led to an increase of population, the number of inhabitants having declined from 401 in 1891 to 354 in 1931. The chief occupation is still agriculture, and most of the land is now permanent grass. The soil is alluvial along the bank of the river; the subsoils are Oxford Clay, red marls, and Great Oolite. The common fields were inclosed by a private Act in 1801. (fn. 1)
At the time of the Domesday Survey CHELVESTON with CALDECOTT was a member of the manor of Higham Ferrers, which belonged to William Peverel; it was assessed for 1 hide and 3 virgates. (fn. 2) This land subsequently passed, with the rest of the honor of Peverel, to William de Ferrers, who in 1224 granted 2 tofts in Chelveston and 14 virgates and 5 cottages in Caldecott to Hubert de Burgh and Margaret his wife, to hold for one knight's fee. (fn. 3) It was taken into the king's hands at the time of Hubert's disgrace, but was restored to him in November 1232, (fn. 4) and was presumably still in his possession in 1248, when William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, received a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Chelveston only; (fn. 5) but it is not included among the Northamptonshire lands of which John de Burgh, Hubert's son and heir, died seised in 1274. (fn. 6)
In 1242 Payn de St. Philibert held half a fee in Caldecott and Chelveston of William de Ferrers; (fn. 7) this passed on his death to his son Hugh, who in 1269 obtained a quitclaim of the dower of Iseult, formerly the wife of Payn and then the wife of Walter de Nevill, in exchange for a rent of 26½ marks, to be paid during the life of Iseult. (fn. 8) Hugh de St. Philibert lived until 1300, when he left his son Hugh as his heir, (fn. 9) but the freehold in Chelveston had been acquired before 1284 by Richard Siward, who held a tenth of a fee in this parish. (fn. 10) All his lands, here and in Hampshire and Wiltshire, were taken into the king's hand on 15 April 1296 on account of his rebellion. (fn. 11) He was released next year on condition that he should 'forthwith cross with the King to foreign parts and serve faithfully against the King of France, the King's enemy, and others, and that he will deliver John his son as a hostage until he find such security as the King will demand'. (fn. 12) He recovered his lands before the end of the following September, (fn. 13) and his son John, having 'no heir within the realm of England', granted the manor to Thomas Earl of Lancaster and his heirs. Lancaster returned it to him to hold for his life, and afterwards granted the reversion to Robert de Holand and his heirs. When John Siward died in the spring of 1330, Robert, the son and heir of Robert de Holand, was a minor in the king's wardship. (fn. 14) The custody of the manor, which contained 301½ acres of arable (of which half might be sown yearly), 8 acres of meadow along the bank of the Nene, a mill, a dovecote, and a capital messuage, with a garden worth 6s. 8d. yearly in fruit and herbs, was committed on 18 June 1330 to the king's kinsman, Henry Earl of Lancaster, (fn. 15) but on 10 August the issues were granted by Edward III to Robert de Holand for his good service in the war against Scotland. (fn. 16)
This Robert de Holand in 1331 settled Chelveston with other lands on himself for life and after his death on his son Robert and his sons, with contingent remainder to Thomas and Alan, brothers of the younger Robert. (fn. 17) On the death of Sir Robert de Holand in 1373 it was stated that he held the Chelveston and other manors, 'to him and the heirs male of his body, and that John his son is his next heir male and of full age'. (fn. 18) The existing inquest, however, states that the manor was settled on Sir Robert, his wife Maud and son Robert; that Robert Holand the son had died seised on 16 March 1373, and that Maud his daughter, the wife of Sir John Lovel, was his heir. (fn. 19) Maud accordingly obtained seisin of the manor, which followed the descent of the Lovel barony. John Lord Lovel, the great-grandson of Maud de Holand, forfeited the estate for his fidelity to the Lancastrian cause; it was granted to Anne Duchess of Exeter, sister of Edward IV, in 1461, for life. (fn. 20) A further grant was made, on 22 December 1462, to her and the heirs of her body by Henry Duke of Exeter; (fn. 21) but on 16 March 1477 a fresh grant was made to Thdmas Marquess of Dorset, son of the king's consort Elizabeth Woodville, (fn. 22) but the property was afterwards in the hands of Francis Lord Lovel. He had been a child at the time of his father's death in 1465, and having distinguished himself under Richard Duke of Gloucester in the expedition of 1480 against the Scots, was created Viscount Lovel on 4 January 1483. After fighting for Richard III at Bosworth Field he was attainted, whereby his lands and honours became forfeit. (fn. 23)
The manor of Chelveston with Caldecott was granted by Henry VII on 9 March 1486 to Sir Charles Somer- set, afterwards Earl of Worcester. (fn. 24) He settled it on himself and his wife Eleanor, with remainder to his younger son George Somerset for life; and died on 15 April 1526, leaving as his heir his son Henry, (fn. 25) to whose son and heir William Earl of Worcester the grant was confirmed by Edward VI on 27 March 1553. (fn. 26) The property was conveyed by William Earl of Worcester, Dame Christian his wife, and Sir George Somerset to the Pickerings in 1553, (fn. 27) and was shortly afterwards bought by John Ekins. On 9 January 1557 Ekins settled a moiety of it on his younger son John in tail, with contingent remainders to his daughters Eleanor and Elizabeth, one of the trustees for this settlement being his brother Thomas Ekins. (fn. 28) The other moiety passed on the death of the elder John Ekins, in the same month, to his eldest son William, who was 21.
William Ekins died on 14 January 1561, having bequeathed all his lands to his wife Prudence and her expected child, who was born about the 1st of May, and proved to be a girl, and was named Isabel. (fn. 29) After this date the descent of both moieties becomes for a time extremely difficult to trace, but the whole estate seems to have been acquired by Robert, the son of Thomas Ekins, towards the end of the 16th century. (fn. 30)
Alexander Ekins, the son and heir of Robert, was dealing with the manor in 1597, when he received a warranty concerning a moiety from William Ley, John Ekins, William Barton the elder and Elizabeth his wife, and William Barton the younger, Elizabeth Cooper, widow, and James Hopkyns and Eleanor his wife. (fn. 31) The manor was settled by Alexander on 20 September 1623, on the marriage of his son Robert to Mary Smith. (fn. 32) A moiety of the manor and all the premises in Chelveston, except the meadows previously assigned to Alexander, were assigned to the use of Robert and Mary and for Mary's jointure; the other moiety to the use of Alexander and Susan his wife for life; the remainder in both being to the sons of Robert and Mary. Robert, in his turn, settled a portion of his estate in March 1641 to the use of his younger children, Robert, Thomas, Mary, Susan, and Anne; and died a few days later, leaving as his heir his son, another Alexander. (fn. 33) This Alexander Ekins married Jane, the eldest daughter of John Sawyer, and died on 15 January 1656, leaving two sons, John and Alexander. (fn. 34) John Ekins died on 14 July 1688, (fn. 34) and was succeeded by his brother Alexander, (fn. 35) who with his wife Jane conveyed the manor in 1694 to Geoffrey Barton and John Sawyer, (fn. 36) by whom it was sold in 1708 to Thomas Allen. (fn. 37)
After the death of Thomas Allen the succession to the estate was for some years disputed, but the property eventually came into the possession of the Disbrowe family. Edward Disbrowe, who called Edward Cromwell Disbrowe to warrant, was vouchee in a recovery in 1812.
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST stands between the two villages and consists of chancel, 24 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. 6 in.; clerestoried nave, 58 ft. by 19 ft. 6 in.; north and south aisles, south porch, and north-east tower, 11 ft. by 12 ft., all these measurements being internal. The north aisle is 10 ft. 4 in. wide and the south aisle 7 ft. 8 in., the width across nave and aisles being 43 ft. 2 in. The eastern bay of each aisle is separated from the rest by an arch from the outer wall to the nave pier, and to the north-east chapel thus formed the tower is attached on its north side.
Substantially the building dates from c. 1220 to 1250, and the only subsequent alterations to the plan have been the addition of the porch and the shortening of the chancel; the clerestory is part of the 13th-century fabric. About 1290–1300 new windows were inserted in the south aisle and the porch was erected, and further changes took place in the 15th century, when the present west window of the nave was put in and the chancel probably assumed its present appearance. The east window is of this period and, though evidence is wanting, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the chancel was shortened by a bay about this time. The north aisle, with the exception of its east bay, was taken down at some time unknown (fn. 38) and the arcade filled in; it was rebuilt in its present form in 1849, in which year the church was restored and a west gallery pulled down.
The church is built throughout of rubble, and internally the walls are plastered. (fn. 39) The chancel has a tiled eaved roof, but the roofs of the nave and aisles are slated, (fn. 40) behind plain ashlar parapets.
The chancel is divided by buttresses into three short bays and has a pointed east window of three cinquefoiled lights with Perpendicular tracery. On each side of the window within is a blocked and mutilated imagerecess, the canopies and one of the brackets having been destroyed. A lancet window and a double piscina were discovered and opened out in 1909 at the east end of the south wall; the piscina was partly covered by the existing east wall, but is now fully exposed to view by the removal of part of the masonry. The recess has a square chamfered head and octagonal dividing-shaft and one of the bowls is perfect: the projecting front of the second bowl has been cut away. The lancet window, which is above the piscina at the extreme end of this wall, has been restored and the width of its inner splay reduced, but the original jambs remain. (fn. 41) The chancel appears to have been originally about 9 ft. longer than at present. The priest's doorway is of a single chamfered order with label, and in the western bay is a 15th-century square-headed window of three cinquefoiled lights with quatrefoils in the head. There are now no windows in the north wall, but near the east end is a small rectangular aumbry and what appears to be part of a lancet jamb: externally the wall is covered by a thin coat of plaster. The chancel arch is of two chamfered orders, on double chamfered responds with moulded capitals and bases.
The nave arcades are of four bays with arches of two chamfered orders springing from octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases and from responds of the same type; in the eastern bay of the north aisle the pier is a compound one with attached responds carrying the nave and aisle arches, and giving support to the tower. At the west end of the nave are massive buttresses of two stages to take the thrust of the arcades, and between them a four-centred window of four cinquefoiled lights with Perpendicular tracery. This window, which is high in the wall, takes the place of a group of lancets the outer jamb-stones of which are still in position on either side, visible both within and without. Below the window internally is a stone bench. The clerestory has four restored lancet openings on the south side and three on the north, all without hood-moulds.
In the south aisle the west window is a restored trefoiled lancet, but that at the east is of two lights with forked mullion, and those in the south wall of three lights with uncusped intersecting tracery. The piscina of the aisle altar remains in the usual position, with plain projecting bowl and trefoiled head with label terminating in notch-heads. The arch between the eastern bay and the aisle is of two hollow chamfered orders, carried on the wall side by a corbel: it is of the same date as the adjacent windows. The 13th-century south doorway has a sharply pointed arch of two chamfered orders and label, the outer on nook-shafts with moulded capitals and bases, the inner continued to the ground below imposts. The outer doorway of the porch is of two continuous orders, the inner with wavemoulding, the outer hollow-chamfered; built into the gable is a stone dated 1685.
The 13th-century arch between the north aisle and its eastern bay, or chapel, is of two chamfered orders springing from half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases, and the tower arch is of three orders continued to the ground on the south and dying out on the north side. The windows of the modern north aisle are in the style of the 14th century, but the east window is original, of two lancet lights with pierced spandrel.
The tower is 60 ft. in height and of three stages, with pairs of gabled buttresses at the north-west and north-east angles in the lower stage, the height of which is about equal to the other two. The south-east buttress is not gabled. At the second stage the walls set back with a line of nail-head ornament and the bell-chamber windows are of two lancet lights, with shafted jambs, set within a pointed containing arch: the tympanum is unpierced. There are flat buttresses east and west to about half the height of the lower stage, which on the north has a restored window of two trefoiled lights occupying the middle of a 13th-century wall arcade of three arches on shafts with moulded capitals and bases. There is a vice in the north-west corner and adjoining it on the west an external doorway, now blocked, which, though modern, appears to reproduce an original entrance, the bases of the nook shafts and jambs being ancient. The battlemented parapet is a 15thcentury addition: its angle pinnacles are gone.
The 13th-century font has a plain octagonal bowl on a short shaft and two steps. The oak pulpit is modern. (fn. 42) There is a scratch dial on the east jamb of the porch doorway.
Bridges records inscriptions in the floor of the chancel to Alexander Ekins (d. 1655), Ann Sawyer (d. 1682), James Sawyer, junr. (d. 1692), Thomas Sawyer (d. 1694), William Gardner (d. 1705), and Mary Allen (d. 1710). (fn. 43)
There are five bells, the treble by Thomas Eayre of Kettering 1744, the third and fourth by Taylor & Son, St. Neots, 1819, and the second and tenor dated 1727. (fn. 44)
The plate consists of a silver cup and paten of 1851, a paten of 1849, a cup of 1852, and a plated flagon. (fn. 45)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1573–1662, marriages 1573–1651, burials 1573– 1644; (fn. 46) (ii) missing; (iii) baptisms and burials 1723–54, marriages 1723–53; (iv) baptisms and burials 1754– 1812; (v) marriages 1755–1812.
The rectory and advowson of Chelveston followed the descent of Higham Ferrers (q.v.); they remained in the possession of the Crown until 1603, when the rectory was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Christopher Freeman. (fn. 47) Henry Freeman conveyed it in 1615 to Nicholas Atkins, (fn. 48) whose family remained in possession of it for nearly a hundred years. Nicholas Atkins and Elizabeth his wife dealt with it by fine in 1619, and in 1652 Augustine Atkins obtained a quitclaim from John Atkins the younger and Elizabeth his wife and Nicholas Atkins and Mary his wife. (fn. 49) John Atkins was vouchee in a recovery concerning the rectory and tithes in 1688, (fn. 50) and he and his wife Elizabeth conveyed them to Thomas Roberts in 1705. (fn. 51) After this date the property seems once more to have followed the descent of Higham Ferrers, and within the next twenty years the livings were united. The living is still a chapelry attached to the vicarage of Higham Ferrers.
Thomas Neale, by his will dated 5 January 1765, gave £20 to the minister and churchwardens, the income to be applied for the benefit of the poor on Christmas Day. The income, amounting to 12s., is distributed in bread.
James Sawyer and his son Thomas in their lifetime erected almshouses at Chelveston and the former by his will proved at London 30 April 1703 devised property for their upkeep and support of the inmates. The Charity is regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 12 May 1911. The trustees are six in number, two appointed by the Parish Council of Chelveston-cum-Caldecott, two by the Urban District Council of Raunds, and two co-optative trustees. The property consists of two almshouses and a building formerly used as almshouses, 14 a. 1 r. 10 p. of land called 'Hospital Close', and 1 a. 1 r. called 'Captains Close' in Chelveston. The gross income is £24 12s. per annum, which is applied in the upkeep of the property and in grants to the two alms-people, one of whom must have been a resident of Chelveston and the other of the parish of Raunds for not less than three years.
The Sawyer almshouses, on the Stanwick road, have been restored and modernized. The building is of rubble, with tiled roof, and bears a tablet inscribed 'This House was erected by James Sawyer, gent., and Thomas Sawyer his son, and Ten Pounds per annum by them therewith given for the use of four poor widows for ever towards their maintenance, Anno Domini 1708'.