A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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The parish of Pitsford has an area of 1,413 acres. The soil is marl and clay with a subsoil of stone, producing crops of wheat and barley, and the parish is well watered, for there are innumerable little springs scattered over the fields, while a branch of the River Nene forms the western boundary. The village lies to the north of the parish and on the east of the high road from Northampton to Market Harborough and has a fairly elevated position, the church standing at a height of 317 ft. Several roads pass through the village which lies for the most part round their juncture and has a neat and compact appearance, Pitsford Hall standing in its own grounds to the south. The Northampton and Market Harborough branch of the L.M.S. railway passes through the parish, following the course of the river, and there is a station 2 miles south-west of Pitsford with which it is connected by a long lane which crosses the Market Harborough road and rises from 229 ft. to 371. On different sides of the road leading out of the Market Harborough road into the village are two small earth-works, known as Layman's Hill and Barrow Dyke. In Morton's time, the former was about 10 yards wide and of an oblong shape, but it has since been planted. Barrow Dyke is described by Morton as a square figure, with 'two of the sides still remaining; one of them above 80 yards in length', (fn. 1) but by 1820 nearly all trace of the original form had been destroyed by repeated ploughing. (fn. 2)
The parish has been inclosed under an Act passed in 1756. (fn. 3)
In 1086 the overlord of the principal manor of PITSFORD was Simon the Fleming, (fn. 4) the ancestor of the Barons of Wahull, in whom the overlordship remained vested. (fn. 5) The chief seat of the Wahull barony in this county was at Pattishall (q.v.). As intermediaries between the overlord and the lord of the fee stood the family of Walgrave. (fn. 6)
The manor at Domesday was in the possession of Fulcher, (fn. 7) the ancestor of the Malsors, Henry Malsors being lord of Pitsford in the 12th century. (fn. 8) Geoffrey Malsors, his successor, rebelled against King John, who confiscated his estates in 1215 and bestowed them upon Godescall de Maghelines, but Henry III restored them to Geoffrey, on the latter returning to his fealty in the following year. (fn. 9) In 1227 Geoffrey enfeoffed Robert de Leicester and Lettice his wife, who was probably the daughter of William Malsors, senior, of Milton Malzor, of 2 fees in Pitsford, of which they were to hold one in demesne and one in service, (fn. 10) and the next year Walter Malsors gave up to Geoffrey all his right in a fee in Walgrave and Pitsford. (fn. 11) Robert Leicester and Lettice appear to have been followed by Robert de Hauton who was holding a fee in Pitsford in 1316 (fn. 12) and 1346. (fn. 13) By 1428 it was in the hands of Nicholas Horncastle, (fn. 14) possibly tenant only for a term of years, as it descended to John Hauton who died somewhere about the end of the 15th century, leaving 3 daughters and co-heirs, of whom the second died without issue. (fn. 15) In 1552 William Chauncey, a descendant of the eldest daughter, and Joan his wife gave up their right in the manor to John Shuckburgh, the son of the youngest daughter. (fn. 16) John's son George died in 1572 leaving a son John aged 3 whom he entrusted to the care of his brother John, (fn. 17) and a widow Cassandra who married as her second husband Richard Wightman. John who came of age in 1589 (fn. 18) married Anne, with whom he was holding the estate in 1593, (fn. 19) but after this date it was apparently alienated in portions and all manorial rights lost. (fn. 20)
Holding jointly with Henry Malsors in the 12th century was Philip de Pitsford (fn. 21) and in 1242 Robert le Jeofne and William de Insula with Mabel his wife are mentioned as holding the 2 fees in Pitsford, (fn. 22) perhaps through marriage with widows of a Malsors and Pitsford respectively. By 1227, however, the Malsors had subinfeudated the Pitsfords, the heirs of Ascelin son of Philip holding of them at that date, (fn. 23) and the Pitsfords continued to hold of the Malsors, Thomas son of Philip being in possession of the manor in 1284. (fn. 24) He was followed by Laurence de Pitsford who was holding the fee in 1346 (fn. 25), but by 1362 it was in the possession of John Laurence and Joan his wife, who conveyed it in that year to Richard de Bollesore, parson of Boughton church, (fn. 26) probably as a preliminary to its alienation to Sir Henry Green of Boughton who died seised of 2 messuages and 2 virgates in Pitsford in 1369, (fn. 27) which by 1392 had increased to 6 messuages and 2 carucates. (fn. 28) The manor acquired by Sir Henry Green remained in the Green family and has had a descent analogous to that of Boughton (q.v.), Maj.-Gen. Sir R. G. H. Howard-Vyse being the present lord of the manor.
Another estate in Pitsford was held in 1086 of Robert Count of Mortain, (fn. 29) but the Mortain fee escheated to the Crown in 1106, (fn. 30) and the greater part of the lands and honors became incorporated with the Earldom of Leicester, bestowed upon Robert Count of Meulan in 1107. (fn. 31) A division afterwards took place, one of the two parts becoming known as the honor of Winchester, of which Pitsford was a fee, and passing through the families of la Zouche, Holand, and Lovell, (fn. 32) of Brackley (q.v.).
Holding under the Count of Mortain in 1086 was Humphrey, the successor of Osmund who held it freely in the time of King Edward. (fn. 33) In the 12th century the Earl of Leicester held this estate, then estimated at 6 small virgates although in Domesday only 1 virgate is mentioned. (fn. 34) After this date there were two mesne lords between the overlord and the tenant of the land, for in 1271 Richard de Hanrede, Humphrey's successor, held it of William Maufe of Sussex, who held of Philip de Nevill, the latter holding of Roger de Quincy, Earl of Winchester. (fn. 35) The place of one of the mesne lords was taken by Hugh de Scales who was holding lands in Haslebeach and Pitsford in 1314, (fn. 36) and by his descendants holding in 1423 and 1454. (fn. 37) Richard de Hanrede, lord of the estate in 1271 (fn. 38) and 1316, (fn. 39) was succeeded by his son another Richard, who in 1330 brought an action against Henry de Wilby and William Francis to recover 3 messuages and 3 virgates of land in Pitsford. (fn. 40) He was holding in 1346, (fn. 41) but by 1428 the estate was divided between his heirs and Thomas Green, (fn. 42) the latter's share probably becoming absorbed in the chief manor held by him. After 1455 there is no further mention of the estate (fn. 43) which doubtless was separated into many small portions among which all manorial rights were lost.
The Brotherhood of St. Catherine, Northampton, held lands in Pitsford, which were granted in 1551 to Sir Thomas Tresham, (fn. 44) and mentioned in a survey of Northampton Town Lands, taken in 1586. (fn. 45)
There were two mills mentioned in 1086, one on the manor held of Walter the Fleming, worth 12d., (fn. 46) and the other on the Count of Mortain's estate, worth 2s. (fn. 47) The latter was probably the one acquired by Hugh Dyne, who granted it to Robert the miller in 1202. (fn. 48) There is no further mention of the mills until 1586, when they are mentioned in the Survey of Northampton Town lands as standing on the brook separating Pitsford from Brixworth, one being known as Watkins Mill and the other as Gyhles' Mill, (fn. 49) but there is no further trace of them.
According to an Exchequer deposition taken in 1674, the customary way of tithing wool in Pitsford was to lay 10 fleeces together in a row, out of which the owner took two, the rector afterwards choosing one. If there were only seven, the rector was to take one in the same manner and pay the owner ½d. a fleece for the three wanting. Whatever the size of the fleece, it was to be reckoned in tithing, and if the odd fleeces were under seven, they were to be the worst ones, the owner paying ½d. for the tithe of each of them. The customary way of tithing barley was for the owner first to 'cocke' and rake his lands and then to give notice to the tithing-man to take the tithes before the corn was carried. The lambs were tithed on 3 May. (fn. 50)
The church of ALL SAINTS stands on the north-west side of the village and consists of chancel, 22 ft. by 16 ft.; nave of five bays, 53 ft. by 17 ft. 6 in.; north and south aisles, 12 ft. 6 in. wide; south porch, and west tower, 9 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft. 6 in., all these measurements being internal.
The south doorway is of 12th-century date, and some fragments of the same period are built into the tower arch and the east end of the north aisle. (fn. 51) The tower belongs to the later part of the 13th century, but the rest of the building, where not modern, is of 14th-century date. In the middle of the 19th century it was said to be 'a mere decorated shell, having suffered almost every mutilation, tracery of windows cut out, strings cut away, doorway blocked, roof lowered, lean-to vestry against tower, piers between nave and aisles removed and a flat ceiling thrown over both, west gallery, and high irregular close pews'. (fn. 52) In 1867 the chancel, south aisle, and porch were rebuilt, new nave arcades erected, and the whole building re-roofed. The interior was at the same time remodelled, the pews and gallery being done away with and new windows inserted in the north aisle. The new work is in the style of the 14th century, and is faced with local ironstone. The roof of chancel and nave are covered with Colleyweston slates, and the aisle roofs are leaded, behind plain parapets.
The only original windows now remaining, other than those in the tower, are the east and west windows of the north aisle, the former of three trefoiled lights with reticulated tracery, and the latter ogee-headed of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil above. This window has been shortened at the bottom by raising the sill. An original moulded string course runs round the north aisle, and there is a pointed north doorway of two continous chamfered orders with hood-mould.
The chancel, being modern, has no features of interest, but in the east wall of the north aisle, at its south end, is a trefoil-headed piscina recess, the bowl of which has gone, and in the north wall a moulded recess at floor level, now empty, the hood-mould of which is cut away.
The 12th-century south doorway has a semicircular arch of two orders inclosing a sculptured tympanum. The inner chevron-moulded order is continued to the ground below the imposts, but the outer order, composed of beak-heads, rests on shafts with sculptured capitals and moulded bases. The tympanum has already been described. (fn. 53) The oak door and its iron hinges are ancient: the ends of the hinges are split and curved back to form foliations.
The tower has a plain parapet with angle pinnacles and retains all its architectural features. It has a moulded plinth and double buttresses of four stages, with a banded circular shaft running up the contained angle. Below the bell-chamber story the walls are blank except on the west, where there is a single trefoilheaded window. The pointed bell-chamber windows are of two trefoiled lights, with hood-moulds terminating in heads, and double chamfered jambs. The windows are placed in the usual position in the middle of the wall on all four sides, but on the north and south a second opening of slightly less height, and consisting of a single cinquefoiled light, occurs farther east. (fn. 54) The tower arch is of three continuous chamfered orders. There is no vice.
The lower part of a 15th-century chancel screen, which seems to have been in position before the rebuilding of the church, (fn. 55) is now at the west end of the north aisle, where it makes part of an enclosure forming the vestry. The moulded uprights have been cut away 30 in. above the lower solid-panelled portion.
The font is of 14th-century date and consists of an octagonal bowl, with canopied niches, on a panelled and buttressed stem. On the west side of the bowl is a projection from the rim forming a ledge, in which are four small holes, probably intended for the fixing of a desk. (fn. 56)
There are five bells, the treble by Henry Bagley of Ecton, 1698, the second by James Keene of Woodstock, undated, and the others dated 1632, also by Keene. (fn. 57) They were rehung and tuned in 1893.
The plate consists of a silver cup and paten of 1560, a paten of 1635 given by Elizabeth and Deborah Stephens in 1685, a paten and flagon of 1870 given by the Rev. Granville Sykes Howard-Vyse, rector, (fn. 58) and a breadbox given in 1919 in memory of Lieut. Nightingale.
The registers begin in 1560. The first volume contains all entries, with certain omissions, until 1723; the next covers the period 1714 to 1746 and is followed by 'volume four', containing entries of baptisms from 1748 to 1812, marriages 1747 to 1771 and burials 1751 to 1812.
The right of presentation to the church of Pitsford was appurtenant to the fees held of the Wahull Barony and was exercised alternately by the two feudatories, one of the moieties being granted with the manor to Godescall de Maghelines in 1215. (fn. 59) This part of the advowson passed through Robert Leicester and Lettice to Robert de Hauton and his wife Agnes of whom it was purchased in 1354 by Sir Henry Green. (fn. 60)
The other moiety was alienated by the Pitsfords to the Boughtons of Boughton, (fn. 61) of whom it was probably acquired by Sir Henry Green with Boughton manor and advowson in 1340. (fn. 62) The advowson remained attached to the manor, although it was leased out during the 17th century, (fn. 63) and is at present in the gift of Maj.Gen. Sir R. G. H. Howard-Vyse.
The rectory of Pitsford was valued at 8 marks c. 1254, (fn. 64) and at £5 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 65) In 1535 it was worth £18 10s. (fn. 66) and in 1544, Thomas Saxby, the rector and incumbent, compounded for the rectory, stated to be worth £17 19s. 5d. (fn. 67)
One of the rectors of Pitsford was Robert Skinner, the second son of Edmund Skinner who was rector there before him. He succeeded his father at Pitsford in 1628, but in 1636 was appointed Bishop of Bristol and rector of Green's Norton. In 1641 he was translated to the see of Oxford, but imprisoned in the Tower the same year and deprived of Green's Norton in 1643 for his malignity against the government. At the Restoration he became one of the King's Commissioners of Oxford University, and was appointed Bishop of Worcester in 1663 where he died in 1670. (fn. 68)
Earl of Strafford's Charity. A yearly sum of £5 is paid for the use of the poor by Mr. J. H. Marlow out of lands formerly belonging to the Earls of Strafford. The money is distributed by the Parish Council in cash to about 60 recipients.
Lieut.-Col. John Vesey Nugent by Indenture dated 26 January 1910 gave a sum of £600 Consols for the general benefit of the poor, and appointed the rector, churchwardens, and chairman of the Parish Council to be the trustees. The Stock is with the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds, and the dividends are applied in subscriptions to the Hospital, in the distribution of coal to the poor, and in grants to the sick.