A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.
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Empingham is a large parish comprising 4,875 acres of a loamy soil. The greater part of the area is arable land, with about 400 acres of woodland. It was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1794. (fn. 1) Early in the 19th century about 60 acres had been planted with young forest trees. There are numerous spinneys, and a considerable part of Normanton Park is in the parish.
The village lies at the intersection of the road from Exton to Ketton and the road from Oakham to Stamford, but a great part is built along both sides of the road from Empingham to the Great North Road. The River Gwash runs from west to east through the middle of the parish and passes to the south of the village, Empingham Mill, now disused, being about half a mile to the east. The North Brook marks the end of the village to the east. It is traditionally supposed that the village extended southward as far as the river and eastward as far as Chapel Hill, where in Chapel Spinney, on the north side, Blore states that by tradition there was a chapel of St. Botolph or Botleys. The ruins are marked on some old maps, and there are here many suggestive irregularities in the ground, which is much overgrown. It is conjectured that this may have been the site of the fairs held for three days at the feast of St. Botolph, under grant dated 1318. There was also a weekly market held under the same grant, (fn. 2) indicating that Empingham was a place of more importance than it subsequently became. In 1445 the hamlet of Hardwick was said to be devastated and uninhabitable; possibly Empingham was also then declining in importance. (fn. 3)
The church stands in the south part of the village, with the Rectory to the south-west of it. West of the Rectory are some old thatched cottages, while other groups of old cottages stand a little to the east of the fine Tithe Barn and in the neighbourhood of the North Brook. In the middle of the village are some well-built modern cottages bearing the arms of the Earl of Gainsborough. The moat in Hall Close, to the south-west of the village, marks the site of the ancient manor house, no doubt the hall (aula) which Ralph de Normanville was building in 1221 and where in 1272 Sir Thomas de Normanville had licence to found a chapel. (fn. 4)
Hardwick, which comprises the part of the parish lying north of Ermine Street, was at one time a hamlet of importance, but now survives only in the names of Hardwick Wood, Hardwick Farm and cottages. Here, where the Great North Road crosses the parish, was fought the battle of Loosecoat Field on 12 March 1470, when the Lancastrian forces, led by Sir Robert Welles, were routed by Edward IV; Lord Willoughby, the father of Sir Robert, who had been brought by the king as a hostage for the doings of his son, was beheaded in front of his son's army before the battle. (fn. 5) The battle was fought in 'Hornefeld' in Empingham, (fn. 6) and the name of a small wood beside the road at this point, Bloody Oaks, probably has reference to this occurrence.
The five mills in 1086 on the Gand fee, and the mill and a half in the Peverel fee, which must have been on the River Gwash and its tributary the North Brook, were reduced to two mills in 1557, (fn. 7) and Empingham Mill, the sole survivor, is now disused.
A tenement in Empingham held by Francis Mackworth was given for finding a torch at the second mass on Christmas Day. (fn. 8) This was converted into a yearly rent of 6s. 8d. This rent and 2 acres of meadow called Coblers Croft in 'le Southfeld' or 'le Capell Fielde' given for finding a lamp in the church, were granted in 1550 to Thomas Reve, John Johnson and Henry Herdson. (fn. 9)
At the time of the Domesday Survey, Empingham was held as two manors by Gilbert de Gand. One contained 4 hides, with 5 mills rendering 42s. 8d., and the other 7½ hides and I bovate of the king's sokeland of Rutland, and 'he says that the king is his patron.' On the latter estate there were also 5 mills. (fn. 10)
By the time of Henry II or earlier (fn. 11) Roger Mowbray had acquired the overlordship, possibly by marriage with Alice or Adeliza de Gand, who was probably related to Gilbert de Gand, Earl of Lincoln, grandson of Gilbert de Gand the Domesday holder of Empingham. (fn. 12) Sir Roger de Mowbray, great-grandson of the above Roger, was holding in 1259, (fn. 13) and the overlordship descended with the title of Lord Mowbray. Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (d. 1400), held two fees in Empingham, (fn. 14) which in 1432 were said to be held of the manor of Melton Mowbray (co. Leics.), (fn. 15) and in 1445 of the manor of Hameldon. (fn. 16) John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, the last of the line, died without male issue in 1476. His widow Elizabeth held Empingham in 1487 (fn. 17) and died in 1507. After her death the overlordship passed to the Lords Berkeley, to whom half the estates of the Duke of Norfolk had passed. (fn. 18)
The manor of Empingham was given by Roger de Mowbray to Ralph de Normanville (fn. 19) for his services. Ralph seems to have forfeited it, for Roger later restored it to Gerold de Normanville, possibly Ralph's son, to whom it was confirmed by King Henry II. (fn. 20) Gerold was living in 1164–5. By an undated charter, he granted to Geoffrey de la Mare in frank marriage with Mary, his daughter, at the door of the church of St. Peter in Stamford, lands and rent in Empingham. (fn. 21)
Ralph, said to be son of Gerold de Normanville, paid 40s. for a writ of right in 1170 (fn. 22) and was in possession of Empingham in 1205, when he obtained a grant of free warren there. (fn. 23) King John by the same charter granted him the county of Rutland at farm, for which grants Ralph agreed to pay 60 marks, a destrier or war horse, and a palfrey. (fn. 24) At about the same time Ralph inherited from his uncle, Reginald de Normanville, land in Rouceby and Rokesham (co. Linc.). (fn. 25)
In the early years of the reign of King John, Ralph de Normanville was apparently in the king's favour, and in 1213 served with Ralph de Bray as Marshal of the king's army in England. (fn. 26) In the same year he was appointed to make inquiry as to damage done to churches in the diocese of Lincoln, during the late disturbances in the kingdom. (fn. 27) Later he joined the rebellion against King John, and though he was pardoned, (fn. 28) severe conditions were imposed upon him. Gerold his son, and one of his knights, William de Badlesmere, had been taken prisoner, and for their release and his own pardon, Ralph was required to pay 500 marks and 5 palfreys of 25 marks. Of this, 250 marks and 25 marks for the palfreys was to be paid before the release of Gerold and William de Badlesmere, and two other of Ralph's sons, Geoffrey and Thomas, were to be delivered to the king to be held as hostages until Ralph made two further payments of £100 at Easter and 100 marks at Whitsun. After payment of these sums, Ralph was further required to give the king his charter of faithful service, when one of his two sons should be released, the other being retained as a hostage for the faithful service of Ralph and his son Gerold. (fn. 29)
After the death of King John, Ralph made an agreement with King Henry III whereby his two sons, Sir Gerold and Sir Ralph, should be pledged to the king's service while the war lasted, and the king should remit 200 marks of Ralph's fine. Thomas, younger son of Ralph, then a valet, who was still held as a hostage, was to be released and to serve the king with his two brothers. Geoffrey (fn. 30) apparently had been already released, as his name is not mentioned in the agreement. Ralph himself was going on a pilgrimage to Santiago, but was pledged to go direct, and return that he might enter the king's service with his sons. (fn. 31) By February 1217 he had paid his fine and his son Thomas had been released and his lands restored. (fn. 32) In 1221 the king gave him six oaks from the Forest of Clive for beams to be used in building his hall at Empingham. (fn. 33) He was constable of Stamford in 1221, (fn. 34) and it was he, probably, who served in 1225 as a justice of the forest for the perambulation of the Forest of Rutland. (fn. 35) The date of his death is not known, but an incomplete entry on the Pipe Roll of 1230 suggests that his son Ralph had then succeeded him. (fn. 36)
The younger Ralph and Thomas his brother were pledges in 1222 for the payment of William Mauduit's relief. (fn. 37) Both of them forfeited their lands in Kent in 1223. (fn. 38) Ralph's offence, and probably that of Thomas, was that he took part in a tournament at Blythe notwithstanding the king's prohibition. (fn. 39) The tournament was the cause of a quarrel between nobles and led to great disorders. (fn. 40)
It was probably the younger Ralph who, with A[gatha] his wife, founded a chapel at Catesby (co. Northant.) in 1228, (fn. 41) had a gift of 2 does from the forest of Clive for the use of his wife in 1230, (fn. 42) and who served on an assize of arms in Rutland in the same year. (fn. 43) He was keeper of escheats in Rutland in 1232 and collector of an aid 3 years later. (fn. 44) It was probably this same Ralph who, with Agatha his wife, was involved in a suit in 1240 as to land in Lubbethorp (co. Leic.). (fn. 45) In 1241 he was one of the surveyors of the king's castles in Northamptonshire. (fn. 46) Ralph de Normanville seems to have died shortly after this date and to have been succeeded by his brother Thomas, or possibly a son of that name. Thomas de Normanville died seised of the family estate at Kenardington (co. Kent) in 1245 and was succeeded by his heir, Ralph, probably his son. (fn. 47) Ralph de Normanville set out on a pilgrimage to Santiago in April 1259 (fn. 48) and died before May following, probably on the journey. He died seised of the manor of Empingham, (fn. 49) and his widow Galiena had dower there. (fn. 50) Galiena paid 300 marks for the wardship of Ralph's lands and heir and for her own marriage, (fn. 51) and in 1261, at the instance of her kinsman Geoffrey Rawe, a Knight Templar, she was exempted from suits of county, hundred and other courts for three years. (fn. 52) Thomas, her eldest son, was only two and a half years old at his father's death. (fn. 53) He inherited the manor of Empingham, but Kenardington (co. Kent) was divided between him and his brother Ralph, according to the law of gavelkind. (fn. 54) Thomas died in 1282, leaving Ralph, his brother, heir to his Kent property, (fn. 55) but Margaret, his daughter, a minor, seems to have been heir to his Rutland estates. His widow, Denise or Dionisia, was assigned dower from the Kent estates, and the wardship of his lands was granted to John de Lovetot, (fn. 56) who sold it and the marriage of Margaret in 1294 to Robert de Basing, citizen of London. (fn. 57) Margaret was destined to marry Robert's son Reginald when she came of age, if she would consent, but in 1297 Reginald was taken prisoner in Gascony while in the king's service. His father therefore obtained leave to marry Margaret to another son, William, if she consented on coming of age. (fn. 58)
Much of the Rutland property had been subinfeudated to a Thomas de Normanville, possibly a brother of Ralph who married Galiena and died in 1259. Thomas held a knight's fee in Empingham of Ralph by the rent of a sparrow-hawk at the time of Ralph's death. (fn. 59) He, or perhaps a son of the same name, was a minister of considerable importance under Edward I, being constable of Bamburgh Castle, steward of the king's castles beyond the Trent, justice of assize, justice of the forest and escheator north of the Trent. (fn. 60) Like other successful ministers of the Crown at this date, he probably amassed a fortune and invested it in property in the counties of Nottingham and Rutland. He died in 1295, seised of a capital messuage and 4 bovates of land in Empingham held of Margery or Margaret de Normanville by the rent of a sparrowhawk, another capital messuage and 10 bovates of land in Empingham and Hardwick held of William le Waleys, together with other lands in Empingham held of Margaret de Normanville and others, and lands in Horn (q.v.) and Normanton (q.v.). His son and heir Edmund was aged four years. Edmund died before 1316, and Margaret and her husband William de Basing succeeded to his property. (fn. 61)
Margaret de Normanville married William de Basing shortly after 1297. In 1313 her mother Denise claimed the whole manor of Empingham as a gift from Thomas her husband before their marriage, but Margaret and William contended that she was only entitled to a third as dower. (fn. 62) A verdict was given in Denise's favour, but it was later reversed, (fn. 63) and in 1317 Margaret settled two-thirds of the manor on herself and her children, (fn. 64) and in 1321 she and her second husband confirmed one-third to Denise for life. (fn. 65)
William de Basing died in 1316, leaving a son Thomas aged 15 years. (fn. 66) Margaret afterwards married Edmund de Passelew, and in 1318 they received a grant of a weekly market on Thursdays at Empingham and a yearly fair on the vigil, day and morrow of St. Botolph. (fn. 67) Margaret died about 1341 (fn. 68) and her son Sir Thomas de Basing in 1349. (fn. 69) His son and heir John, aged eight at the death of his father, died in 1384, leaving a widow Elizabeth and a son Thomas. (fn. 70) In 1400 Thomas died without issue and was succeeded by Sir John, his brother. (fn. 71) Sir John had no legitimate children, and in 1439 granted the manors of Empingham and Normanton and the advowson of Normanton to trustees. In the same year these trustees conveyed the property to Agnes Brounfield, servant of Sir John de Basing, for life and in 1445 granted the reversion after Agnes's death to John de Basing, Sir John's illegitimate son. Sir John died in 1445, his lawful heir being his sister Alice, widow of Thomas Mackworth of Mackworth (co. Derby), then aged 50 years and more. (fn. 72) Agnes Brounfield probably died shortly after Sir John, for John, his illegitimate son, presented to the church of Normanton in 1447. John appears to have died in the following year, as Alice Mackworth then presented to Normanton and again in 1452 and 1457. (fn. 73) Alice apparently died before 1484 and was succeeded by her son Henry, who died in 1487 and was followed by his grandson George, his son John having predeceased him. (fn. 74) George in 1501 obtained confirmation of the grant by Henry II to Gerold de Normanville. (fn. 75) George Mackworth died in 1535, leaving a son Francis, (fn. 76) who died in 1557. (fn. 77) His son George died in 1594, leaving a son Thomas by his first wife, Grace Rokeby, (fn. 78) and a widow Anne. Thomas was sheriff of Rutland in 1599 and 1609 (fn. 79) and created a baronet in 1619. (fn. 80) He settled the estates in 1622, (fn. 81) probably on the marriage of his son Henry to Mary, widow of Sir Thomas Hartopp, sister and co-heir of Ralph, Lord Hopton of Stratton. (fn. 82) Sir Henry Mackworth, who succeeded to the title in 1626, rebuilt the manor house at Normanton, where he resided, and died there in 1640. (fn. 83) His son Sir Thomas, also of Normanton, took the oath of allegiance in 1641, probably on coming of age. (fn. 84) He espoused the Royalist cause before he was of age and lived in the Low Countries until 1646, when he and his uncle, Neale Mackworth, were fined for delinquency. (fn. 85) Neale compounded on the Truro Articles, being present with his relation Lord Hopton on the surrender of Truro to Sir Thomas Fairfax. (fn. 86) Sir Thomas Mackworth was sheriff for Rutland in 1666 and member for the county in several parliaments. He was succeeded in 1694 by Sir Thomas Mackworth his son, who (fn. 87) contested the election for the county in 1722 with Lord Finch and Mr. Sherard, and, though he was returned, the expenses of the election are said by Blore to have ruined the family. (fn. 88) Sir Thomas Mackworth sold Empingham manor in 1723 to Charles Tryon, who conveyed it in 1729 to Gilbert Heathcote, (fn. 89) merchant, eldest of the eight sons of Gilbert Heathcote of Chesterfield (co. Derby). All Gilbert's brothers were Merchant Adventurers, he himself being a member of the Vintners' Company of London, trading in Spanish wine to Jamaica and the East Indies. In 1693 he disputed the monopoly claimed by the East India Company to trade with India, at the bar of the House of Commons, and the House upheld his claim to trade where he pleased. Heathcote served as a Director of the new East India Company and was one of the founders of the Bank of England, of which he was Governor in 1708. He was President of St. Thomas's Hospital, and a portrait of him is still preserved in the court room there. He was Lord Mayor of London in 1710–11, being the last who rode on horseback on Lord Mayor's day. (fn. 90) He rebuilt the manor house at Normanton, and was buried at Normanton in January 1733, only eight days after he had been created a baronet. He was reputed to be the richest commoner in England, being worth at his death £700,000, besides having large estates in Lincolnshire and elsewhere in Rutland. (fn. 91)
His son, Sir John Heathcote, was also a director of the East India Company and President in 1722 of St. Thomas's Hospital, a trustee of the British Museum and Vice-President of the Foundling Hospital. He was succeeded in 1759 by his son, Sir Gilbert Heathcote, who was sheriff of Rutland 1771–2, and M.P. for Shaftesbury 1761–68. He in turn was succeeded in 1785 by his son Gilbert, M.P. for Rutland in nine Parliaments, 1812–41, who died in 1851. His eldest son, Gilbert John, married the Hon. Clementina Elizabeth Burrell-Drummond, who became in 1871 Baroness Willoughby de Eresby in her own right. Gilbert, a distinguished Whig politician, who was created Baron Aveland of Aveland (co. Linc.) in 1856, was buried at Normanton 13 Sept. 1867. His widow died in 1888 and was buried with him. She took for herself and her issue the surname Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby and her son Gilbert Henry, who had succeeded his father at Normanton in 1867, became Lord Willoughby de Eresby, and joint Hereditary Great Chamberlain on her death. He was created Earl of Ancaster in 1892 (fn. 92) and was succeeded in 1910 by his son Gilbert, who had been baptised at Normanton in 1867, and who is the present owner.
The hamlet of HARDWICK and part of Empingham were held in the time of Edward the Confessor by Edward and Fredgis, but they were given by William the Conqueror to William Peverel of Nottingham, (fn. 93) said, with little authority, to have been his illegitimate son.
William Peverel was holding the overlordship in 1086 and died in 1114. He was succeeded by his son William, a strong supporter of King Stephen. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, when his lands were seized, but returned in 1143. Henry Fitz Empress in 1153 promised Ranulf, Earl of Chester, Peverel's lands, on condition of his support, whereupon Peverel, it is said, poisoned the Earl of Chester a few months later. William became a monk and his lands were seized by Henry II in 1155. The manor continued to be held of the Peverel fee. (fn. 94)
The subtenant of the manor in 1086 was Sasfrid, who held 2½ hides with a mill and a half rendering 12s. (fn. 95) He endowed Lenton Priory, founded by William Peverel, with two-thirds of the tithes of his demesne in Empingham, about 1103–8. (fn. 96) Sasfrid is said to have had a son Philip whose son, Richard son of Philip, joined with Richard L'Abbe (Abbas) in giving a carucate of land in Empingham to the Abbey of St. Mary de Pré (co. Leic.) by a grant confirmed by Henry II in 1156. (fn. 97) Geoffrey L'Abbé was pardoned 10s. 10d. of the common assize of Rutland in 1158 and died in 1164 or 1165. Richard son of Geoffrey paid relief in Nottinghamshire in 1166, and in the following year Richard L'Abbe, we find, was tenant of land in Empingham. (fn. 98) He seems to have died in 1167 or 1168, as Empingham was in the king's hands in the latter year, probably on account of the heir being a minor. It was still in the king's hands in 1174. A Geoffrey L'Abbe occurs in 1177 and 1183, but in 1187 Empingham was again in the king's hands. Richard L'Abbé, however, paid scutage on a fee in Rutland in 1196. (fn. 99) He was dead in 1205, when the custody of his lands and marriage of his son were granted to Ralph de Normanville. (fn. 100) The heir of Richard L'Abbe was holding in 1211–12. (fn. 101) Nicholas L'Abbe, holding one fee in Empingham in 1235, was probably son of Richard, and in 1248 Peter son of Roger obtained the wardship of the land of the heir of Agnes, daughter of Nicholas L'Abbé, in Empingham, held of the honour of Peverel. (fn. 102) This holding seems to have got into the hands of Ralph de Normanville (d. 1259), who, as stated above, subinfeudated Thomas de Normanville. In 1275 it is stated that Thomas held a tenement in Empingham of the fee of Peverel which used to do suit at Nottingham Castle 40 years before, but then did suit at the county court. Thomas at the same time claimed view of frankpledge, gallows, assize of bread and ale, pillory and tumbril, (fn. 103) in Empingham, no doubt in respect of the manor of Empingham, which he held of the elder branch of the Normanville family.
He died about June 1295, holding at Hardwick a capital messuage with pond and dovecot, worth only half a mark because of great deductions for the houses, ten bovates of land in villeinage and a wood, held of William le Waleys in exchange for lands in Thorpe, by the service of a pair of gilt spurs. (fn. 104) On the death of his son Edmund the estate passed to Margaret de Basing, and is described in 1316 as a 'manerettum' of Thomas de Normanville. (fn. 105) It subsequently passed with Empingham manor to the Heathcotes.
In Blore's time the manor of Hardwick contained 358 acres. (fn. 106)
William le Daneys was holding land of the manor of Empingham in 1259. (fn. 107) The land afterwards passed to Brice Daneys, and in 1344 it was conveyed with the manor of Tickencote by Oger Daneys to his brother Roland. (fn. 108) Roland and his wife Elizabeth obtained a further grant of land in Empingham in 1361 from Thomas son and heir of Roger de Denford. (fn. 109) This land passed with Tickencote to the families of Dale, Lynne, Campinet, Gresham and Wingfield, and was in 1811 the property of John Wingfield of Tickencote. (fn. 110)
Another estate in Empingham was held by a family taking the name of Empingham. Philip son of Richard de Empingham granted to Hugh de Bokeland, by deed said to be of the time of Henry III, five bovates of land in Empingham, and in 1288 Ralph son of John de Empingham confirmed a charter by which John, son of Ralph de Empingham, his father, had granted to Thomas, son of Hugh de Bokeland, a bovate of land in Empingham. (fn. 111) Philip de Empingham was a witness to the charter, and in 1291 Richard son of Philip de Empingham had a suit regarding his pasture in Empingham. (fn. 112) In 1312 Geoffrey son of Henry de Empingham recovered his seisin of land in Empingham against William de Basing and Margaret his wife. (fn. 113) This land afterwards passed to the Whittlebury family. Seven messuages and 10 bovates of land in Empingham, including the reversion of land which Henry Stacy and Cecily his wife held for life, were granted in 1346 by William de Thorp and Beatrice his wife to Aubrey (Albredus) de Whittlebury (Wytlesbury) and Joan his wife in fee tail. (fn. 114) Joan outlived Aubrey and died in 1368 holding 5 messuages and 10 bovates of land in Empingham. Her eldest son Thomas had predeceased her, and she was succeeded by John, her second son. (fn. 115) John Whittlebury, in 1369, leased the property to Richard Dawe of Empingham and Sarah his wife for their lives (fn. 116) and died in 1400, when his son Aubrey Whittlebury succeeded. (fn. 117) Aubrey died seven years later (fn. 118) holding this land jointly with Margery his wife. His infant daughter and heiress, Isabella, afterwards became the second wife of Sir Henry Plessington, whose first wife was Agnes, daughter of Roger Flore or Flower of Oakham. In 1457 Isabella conveyed to Richard Galway her servant all the lands which had belonged to her father in Empingham, including 7 messuages and 140 acres of land. (fn. 119)
The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem at an early date held land in Empingham, forming part of the Preceptory of Dingley. Twelve bovates there had been granted to them before 1185 by Alice de Condi, and of these Wlwiet held two bovates and Odo the Deacon held one. (fn. 120) In 1382 Sir Thomas de Burton, lord of Whitwell, held this land of the prior, jointly with Margery his wife, who obtained livery of it in November of that year. (fn. 121) From this date the property followed the descent of the adjoining manor of Whitwell until 1572, when it passed by exchange from Sir John Harington of Exton to George Mackworth. (fn. 122) From that date it became part of the manor of Empingham.
Sir John Harington's tenants in Empingham were sued by Francis Mackworth, lord of Empingham manor, for taking wood and fuel on Empingham Common. They stated that the tenants of Whitwell manor in Empingham had always had common of estovers in the waste and common of Empingham with the other freeholders of Empingham. Mackworth denied that any part of Whitwell (fn. 123) manor lay in Empingham. Apparently he claimed under a lease from Dingley Preceptory, for in a further action in 1545 it is stated that he had caused a mere or division to be made between his land and that of Sir John, but the latter caused the quicksetts to be pulled down, as they encroached on his land. Mackworth further complained that a great bank, which carried the water to the mills from time immemorial, was broken down at the command of Sir John, so that the mills could no longer grind. Sir John pleaded that long before the mills were built there was a water-course on the west part above the mills, which ran through Sir John's ground, and an ancestor of Mackworth built the bank on Sir John's land, causing the stream to be turned from its old course and conveyed another way to the mills. Mackworth had recently had the bank remade much higher, and for this purpose he had taken turves and wood on Sir John's ground, and therefore Sir John gave orders for it to be pulled down. (fn. 124)
An estate in Empingham comprising a capital messuage and land was held of the lords of Empingham by the Edmunds family. Guy Edmunds was succeeded in 1521 by a son Bartholomew. (fn. 125) James Edmunds died seised of the estate in 1626, when his son Bartholomew succeeded. (fn. 126) Bartholomew settled this estate in May 1628 on his marriage with Alice Austin, but he died childless in August of that year, leaving as his heir his nephew Robert, son of Geoffrey Edmunds. (fn. 127)
The church of Empingham and three bovates of land, later known as the PREBENDAL MANOR, were given to the Bishop of Lincoln by Gilbert de Gand and confirmed by Henry I, who also gave to the church of Lincoln 6 bovates in Willingham (co. Linc.) which became annexed to the Prebendal manor of Empingham. (fn. 128) The king in his confirmation commanded that if the Count of Eu had disseised the bishop, Aubrey the Chamberlain should forthwith reseise him. (fn. 129)
This manor was leased from time to time by the prebendaries. Nicholas Bullingham, the prebendary, in 1552 stipulated with his lessee that he should have house-room whenever he came to visit his prebend. (fn. 130) In 1554 the bishop annexed the prebend of Empingham to the precentorship of the cathedral. (fn. 131)
In 1649 the trustees for the sale of Dean and Chapter lands sold to Charles Skipwith, of Staple Inn, the manor, the capital messuage and a close of pasture on the south side of the messuage abutting on Sir Thomas Mackworth's land on the east and the river on the south, with the fishing in Cherry Willingham. (fn. 132) Later the Mackworths of Empingham obtained leases of the Prebendal manor. (fn. 133) In 1723 Sir Thomas Mackworth transferred his lease to Charles Tryon, and the lords of the manor afterwards leased the Prebendal manor on terms of three lives from the prebendary. The ancient prebendal house was on the south-east side of the church, but at the time of the inclosure in 1794 the house was exchanged with Sir Gilbert Heathcote for the present prebendal house, which is in the village. (fn. 134)
The church of ST. PETER consists of chancel 35 ft. by 19 ft. 6 in., north and south transeptal chapels each 23 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft. 6 in., clearstoried nave 54 ft. by 23 ft., north and south aisles 10 ft. 6 in. wide, south porch 13 ft. by 10 ft. 6 in., and west tower 12 ft. square, all these measurements being internal. The toweris surmounted by a short spire. The width across nave and aisles is 49 ft. and across nave and transepts 75 ft. 6 in., the total internal length of the church being 109 ft. 6 in. There is a modern vestry on the north side of the chancel.
The tower is faced with ashlar, but elsewhere the walling is of rubble, plastered internally. The chancel has a stone-slated eaved roof, the other roofs being of low pitch and leaded, behind battlemented parapets. There was a general restoration of the fabric in 1894–5, when the roofs were renewed on the old lines and the floors relaid. (fn. 135)
The church is mainly of 13th-century date, with additions and alterations in the 14th and 15th centuries, but has developed from an aisleless 12thcentury building the nave of which covered the same area as the present nave and of which the angles remain. To this building a south aisle was added c. 1200–10, the existing south arcade being of that period, and shortly after (c. 1225) a north aisle was built. The transepts, which cover the eastern bays, were perhaps contemporary with the aisles, or were added shortly after, but the rebuilding of the chancel on its present plan does not appear to have been finished till late in the century. The tower and porch are 14th-century additions, and in the 15th century the north transept was remodelled and its walls heightened, new windows were inserted in the aisles, the present clearstory (replacing an older one) erected, the nave, aisles and transepts newly roofed, and the battlemented parapets added.
Remains of medieval arrangements are plentiful. In the chancel are a triple sedile and a double piscina, and the piscinae of two altars in each transept remain; there is also a piscina belonging to a former chapel at the west end of the south aisle. Traces of a rood-loft are to be seen, but not of a staircase to the loft.
The chancel is divided externally into three unequal bays by buttresses, with pairs of buttresses at its eastern angles, the north wall, however, being covered at its east end by the vestry. The pointed east window is of three uncusped lights with intersecting mullions and hood-mould with head-stops. (fn. 136) In the north wall is a single blocked lancet, but the other windows are grouped lancets of three and two lights. On the south side the easternmost window is of three lights placed high in the wall, and in the middle and west bays are tall two-light windows the sills of which are about 4 ft. above the ground. In the west bay of the north wall is a three-light window similar to that on the south side. In all these windows the hood-moulds follow the individual openings, but the character of the stops varies: all the chancel windows have rear arches with hoodmoulds. Externally a string, chamfered on the underside, follows the sill levels; the internal string is rounded on the upper edge, and on the north wall it occurs only at the west end. There is a continuous moulded doorway in the middle bay on the south side. In the east wall south of the altar is a moulded ogee-headed niche for the image of the patron saint. The beautiful 13th-century piscina and sedilia, though distinct in design, form approximately a single architectural composition. The two fluted bowls of the piscina are under trefoiled arches on jambshafts with moulded capitals and bases, the hood-mould stop over the dividing shaft consisting of a boldly carved eight-leaf flower. The triple sedilia have trefoiled rounded arches on detached shafts and shafted jambs, with moulded capitals and bases; the seats are on the same level and the hoods have foliated stops, the arches ranging with those of the piscina. The chancel arch is of two chamfered orders (fn. 137) springing from clustered responds with moulded capitals and water-holding bases on high plinths. Both bases and plinths have been mutilated for the rood-screen, of which there remains only a piece of wood (fn. 138) on the north side of the arch, at the east end of the nave arcade.
The nave arcades are of four bays, that on the south side having semicircular arches of two cham fered orders, on cylindrical pillars and half-round responds, with plain octagonal capitals and circular water-holding bases on tall octagonal plinths. The later north arcade has pointed arches of two chamfered orders, on more slender (fn. 139) cylindrical pillars and half-round responds, with circular moulded capitals and bases on high square plinths. In both arcades the arches have hood-moulds on each side, with large head-stops over the pillars on the south, and two very small stops only on the north. The easternmost arches open into the transepts, and the two eastern pillars receive the spring of transverse arches which divide the transepts from the aisles. These arches are of two chamfered orders, and spring on the wall side from corbels, that on the north carved, the other plain.
The transepts project 13 ft. beyond the aisles and are of two bays, each of which contained an altar, with pairs of buttresses at the angles, and are lighted by two windows in the east wall and one in the west and end walls. The south transept is without plinth or string, and retains most of its original architectural features; the windows are all grouped lancets like those in the chancel, that in the end wall being of three graded lights, the others of two lights. Internally the splayed jambs of the east windows are cut away at the bottom in order to admit the altar reredoses, and the two piscinae, one in the east and the other in the south wall, are trefoil-headed, but only one of the bowls remains. (fn. 140) Below the end window is an empty square-headed chamfered tomb recess. (fn. 141) The transept now contains the organ, its south end being used as a choir vestry.
All the windows of the north transept are of the 15th century, and the gable has a large curved crocketed finial similar to those at Langham and Oakham, flanked by large pinnacles. The end window is of five cinquefoiled lights with Perpendicular tracery and hood with flower-stops, the two east windows of four lights and that on the west of three, all different in design. The northern of the two east windows has a rounded head and vertical tracery; the others are pointed. The two piscinae are in the east wall, one with a low ogee-headed recess, and the other, at the south end, much larger, with cinquefoiled head; in each the bowl is fluted. There is a plain chamfered tomb recess in the end wall beneath the window, with low two-centred arch, containing a 13th-century coffin lid. (fn. 142)
The north and south doorways are in the middle bay of the aisles; they are of the 13th century and of two chamfered orders, the north doorway nearly round-headed with quirked imposts and hood-mould chamfered on each edge. The south door has a pointed arch on moulded imposts. The 15th-century windows of the aisles are of three trefoiled lights with four-centred heads, without tracery, and there is an internal string, rounded on the upper edge, below sill level along the whole of the north and part of the south aisle. The aisle piscina, already alluded to, is about 4 ft. west of the south doorway; it has a pointed moulded recess with orifice at the back.
The 14th-century porch is without buttresses, and the later battlemented parapet takes the place of the original gable. The pointed doorway is of two chamfered orders, the inner on half-round filleted responds with moulded capitals and bases, the outer continuous. (fn. 143)
The 15th-century clearstory windows are similar to those of the aisles, but have cinquefoiled cusping. There are four windows on the south side (fn. 144) and three on the north, the easternmost bay on that side retaining a circular window (fn. 145) belonging to the 13th-century clearstory, which was covered by the heightened roof of the reconstructed transept, into which it now opens.
The tower is of four stages marked by strings, with moulded plinth and pairs of buttresses at the angles to the top of the third stage. There is a vice in the south-west angle. Between the buttresses the face of each side of the tower is slightly recessed, and above the buttresses the angles of the bellchamber stage thus form broad pilasters. The two lower stages are blank on the north and south, except for a trefoiled loop in the upper part. The pointed west doorway is of two moulded orders enriched with ball-flower, on banded jambshafts with moulded capitals and bases, set within a tall moulded arch of three orders on twice-banded shafts, the whole forming a somewhat elaborate composition, both arches having deeply moulded hoods with finials and head-stops. (fn. 146) The space between the two arches was restored some years before 1895, and is filled with plain masonry, but originally it appears to have been of carved stones set in a sort of diagonal pattern. (fn. 147) Above the doorway, in the second stage, are three niches with ogee canopies and engaged jambshafts, and the third stage on three sides is occupied by blind arcading in three bays, with small crocketed ogee arches, two to each bay; on the east side is the line of the old high-pitched roof. The pointed bellchamber windows are of two trefoiled lights with curvilinear tracery and hood-moulds, and the tower finishes with an enriched cornice and high battlemented parapet the angles of which have massive octagonal pinnacles with crocketed terminations. The spire is very short in proportion to the height of the tower and has crocketed angles, and two tiers of gabled lights on its cardinal faces. Internally the tower opens into the nave by a pointed arch of two moulded orders, the inner order springing from clustered and filleted responds, the outer dying into the walls: the hood-mould has large headstops.
The font dates from 1895, and is in the style of the 14th century. (fn. 148) The late 17th-century hexagonal oak pulpit has plain panelled sides and fluted angle pilasters: it was refixed on a stone base at the restoration, to which period also the fittings of the quire belong. The nave and aisles are seated with chairs.
There are considerable remains of coloured decoration on the end wall of the south transept in the form of masonry lines and red five-lobed flowers. Traces of similar decoration occur also over the south doorway and on the east wall of the north transept.
In the north transept, in addition to the slab within the recess, are two coped coffin lids (fn. 149) with foliated crosses, another mutilated, and fragments of a fourth of plain character. There is also a slab with incised cross, probably of early 13th-century date, built into the north wall of the tower.
In the tracery of the two east windows of the north transept are some fragments of 15th-century glass and ten shields of arms, eight shields and two heads in the northernmost window and two shields and two imperfect figures in the other. (fn. 150) In the same transept is an 18th-century communion table with curved legs, and in the floor a number of 17th and 18th century slabs, and two brass plates to members of the Mackworth family and others. (fn. 151) The royal arms of the Hanoverian sovereigns (before 1801) are under the tower. (fn. 152)
There is a ring of six bells cast by Taylor and Co. of Loughborough in 1895. (fn. 153)
The plate consists of a paten of 1714–15, a cup of 1722–3, a flagon of 1721–2, and two plates of 1722–3. (fn. 154)
South of the porch is the lower portion of the shaft of a churchyard cross, set in an octagonal socket stone. (fn. 155)
A vicarage was first ordained in Empingham in 1263 by Richard Gravesend, (fn. 156) and the advowson was attached to the prebend. (fn. 157) Empingham was declared a rectory in 1867 and was endowed out of the Common Fund with £100 a year in lieu of £5 charge on the prebend. The interest of Sir Gilbert Heath cote in the prebend and chancel of the church was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in exchange for certain lands in the parish in 1845, (fn. 158) and the patronage was transferred before 1892 to the Bishop of Peterborough, the present holder.
In 1272 a chapel in Sir Thomas de Normanville's manor of Empingham was licensed for divine service. (fn. 159) Sir Thomas's capital messuage appears to have been on the east side of the village on a hill, but no ruins of the chapel remain.
The Poor's money consisted of a sum of £60 given for the poor and payable on St. Thomas's Day. The charity by tradition was formerly called Sir Thomas Mackworth's dole. The fund remained at interest in the hands of Sir John Heathcote and his successors from 1745 till October 1794, at which time, as appears from an entry in the overseers' book and a receipt for the money, it was paid to the minister, churchwardens and overseers, and was applied in supplying the workhouse with bedsteads and other furniture. No interest has been paid since 1794.
Jane Forsyth, by her will proved at Canterbury 18 December 1835, bequeathed a sum of £105 to the minister and churchwardens upon trust to apply the income in the purchase of bread for the industrious poor. The endowment consists of a sum of £102 11s. 7d. 2½ per cent. Consols held by the Official Trustees and producing in dividends £2 11s. per annum. The income is distributed in bread by the rector and two trustees appointed by the parish council.