A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.
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Pickworth is a parish on the Lincolnshire border of the county, containing 2,486 acres. The land on the northern border is well wooded, Newell Wood being partly in Aunby (co. Linc). There is another smaller wood called Turnpole Wood to the south-east of the village. The parish, however, is mainly arable land, only a small part being laid down to grass. The south-western part of the parish is known as Pickworth Plain.
The village is situated in the middle of the parish, at the intersection of a road from Holywell to Great Casterton and another road called the Drift running east and west through the parish and joining the Great North Road at Losecoat Field.
The somewhat scattered village is an interesting example of the changes which took place in the 19th century. It now consists of the rebuilt church and remains of the old church, two farm houses, one of which, near the church, has been converted into three cottages, and the new Manor Farm House built to take its place. The Blue Bell Inn some sixty years ago was of stone with a thatched roof, but it has now been given a yellow brick front and modern roof; inside, however, there are evidences of the original structure in the old beams and wide chimneys. The cottages to the east of the inn were built by the Marquess of Exeter early in Queen Victoria's reign and took the place of cottages, now demolished, on the south side of the road.
The site of the ancient manor house is still indicated by some well-defined ridges in a grass field about 400 yds. north-west of the church. Blore in 1811 states that the site was traceable near the centre of the parish eastward from the site of the church, in two fields, one of which was called the Foundations and the other the Back close. (fn. 1) In Wright's time the only part of the church of Pickworth which remained standing was the steeple then called Mockbegger. (fn. 2)
It is supposed that the parish was devastated by the rebels before the battle of Losecoat Field in 1470, and in 1491 Pickworth was described as having no parishioners. (fn. 3) Traces of the old floors and fireplaces, remains of the former village, have been found in excavations.
About a quarter of a mile south-west of the village on the Casterton road is Top Pickworth, where formerly there was a hamlet of some eight cottages, which have now disappeared or been converted into outhouses.
Tycho Wing, the astrologer, of the family of Vincent Wing of North Luffenham, taught the arts and sciences at Pickworth in 1727. Vincent Wing's almanac was edited by Tycho from 1739 onwards. He was coroner of Rutland 1727–1742, and died at Pickworth in 1750. His portrait is in the Hall of the Stationers' Company in London. (fn. 4)
John Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant poet, at one time worked as a limeburner at Pickworth. The ruins of the church at Pickworth inspired one of his poems, which was written on a Sunday morning after the poet had been helping to dig the hole for a lime kiln. Clare died in 1864. (fn. 5)
PICKWORTH is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey. It may possibly have formed part of Oakham at that time, as it was subsequently held of Oakham Castle. (fn. 6) Thomas de Gyney (Gisneto, Gisnay) and Engelram, his son, paid a fine for an offence in the forest of Rutland in 1176, (fn. 7) and William de Gyney was apparently holding Pickworth in 1203. (fn. 8) He evidently joined in the rebellion against King John, for in 1216 his land in Pickworth was granted to Robert de Peverell. (fn. 9) At the same time his lands in Norfolk and Lincoln were granted to Robert de Albeni. (fn. 10) William de Gyney returned to the allegiance of Henry III and his lands were restored in October 1217. (fn. 11) William was probably brother of Roger de Gyney of Norfolk who, with his son Walter, occurs in 1197 and in the reign of King John, in pleas relating to land in Norfolk. (fn. 12)
William himself, with Maud de Gyney his mother, widow of Baldwin de Gyney, (fn. 13) was concerned in a plea as to a mill in Whitwell (co. Norf.) in 1205, and in the same year he paid a fine to be excused from supplying wood for repairs at Norwich Castle. (fn. 14) William made several presentations to the church of Pickworth in the early years of the reign of Henry III. (fn. 15) He served as collector of a fifteenth in Norfolk and Suffolk in 1225, and as a Justice of Assize in 1226. (fn. 16) His son (fn. 17) and successor, William, was co-heir in 1254 of his uncle Peter de Pelevill, lord of the manors of Bilney and Bodeney (co. Norf.), William then being about 30 years of age. (fn. 18)
In 1234 William de Gyney presented Thomas, son of Thomas de Beggeville, to the church, and he or another of the same name made other presentations in 1268 and 1277. In 1284, however, Thomas de Beggeville presented William de Beggeville, but it was probably only for that turn. (fn. 19) Four years later a charter was enrolled recording a grant by Richard, son of Richard de Pickworth, to Master Henry de Massington of his manor of Pickworth in Rutland, to be held of the grantor at a rent of 1d. (fn. 20) In the previous year Richard had granted to Walter de Windsor, and his wife Sabina, a mill and a virgate and a half of land in Pickworth to hold at a rent of 1d. (fn. 21) This estate Walter and Sabina granted in 1291 to Master Henry de Nassington. (fn. 22)
In that same year Roger de Gyney, son and heir of the above-mentioned William de Gyney, who died about that time, (fn. 23) presented to Pickworth church, (fn. 24) and it seems possible that Master Henry de Nassington was acting for him in purchasing Richard de Pickworth's interest in the manor. Roger held one knight's fee in Pickworth in 1299. (fn. 25) He was knighted before 1309 when he witnessed a deed relating to Hambleton. (fn. 26) He was summoned to attend the king at Berwick, to march against the Scots in 1301. (fn. 27) He was still alive in 1329, when he tried to establish his claim to the advowson of the church of Botone (co. Norf.), (fn. 28) but by 1340 had been succeeded as lord and patron of Pickworth by his son William. (fn. 29)
Roger Gyney (Geney), son of William, succeeded him before 1358, when he granted the manor of Pickworth to trustees, Sir John le Groos and Hugh Fastolf. (fn. 30) Roger, who served as sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk in 1365, (fn. 31) died in 1376 leaving a son John aged 18 years as his heir, (fn. 32) to whom be left Pickworth. Sir John, by his will dated 1422, directed that he should be buried near his son Roger at the Augustine Friary, Norwich. The manor of Pickworth was sold to Sir Henry Inglose, who had married Anne, niece and heir of Sir John Gyney, daughter and heir of his brother Robert by Margaret, daughter of John Fastolf. (fn. 33) Sir Henry Inglose, who was in possession of the manor in 1428, (fn. 34) represented Suffolk in several Parliaments. He died in 1451, his wife Anne having predeceased him. By his will he left the manor of Pickworth to trustees to be sold for the payment of his debts. (fn. 35) It was sold with the advowson in 1456 to Robert Danvers. (fn. 36) A conveyance of the manor made in 1462 by John Ashefeld and Thomas, son and heir of John Fastolf, to Simon Byrington, Danvers's trustee, (fn. 37) was perhaps made for security of title to the Danvers.
Not long after his purchase of the manor Robert Danvers was disturbed in his possession by John Browe, who 'imagining as well by great mayntenance and champertie as by great routes and riots to resist the said Robert and put him in such drede that he should not be so hardy as to occupy nor approche the said manor, . . . assembled with 300 persons armed and arrayed in manner of war and rioutously at the said maner lay in a wayte of the said Robert to have distroyed him . . . and then gaf him that he durst not for drede of his lyfe ther abyde nor occupie the fruytes.' (fn. 38) Robert, however, retained his possession and died about 1472 as Sir Robert, leaving no son. Of his three daughters Alice the eldest married George Burneby, Anneys or Agnes married Walter Denys, and another daughter married Hugh Unton or Umpton. She was represented at Sir Robert's death by her son Thomas Unton. The shares of the co-heirs were purchased in 1472 by Richard Danvers, who was probably brother of Sir Robert. (fn. 39)
David Malpas presented to the church in 1491, and in 1495 Sir William Hussey, Chief Justice of the King's Bench (1481–95), died seised of an interest in the manor. (fn. 40) Guy Fairfax, one of the justices of the King's Bench, and others were holding the manor as trustees for David Malpas, for his life, with remainder to Hussey and his heirs. (fn. 41) David died two years later, (fn. 42) and the manor passed to Sir John Hussey, eldest son of Sir William. Sir John, who became Lord Hussey in 1529, served the king in many capacities until 1536, when he fell under the king's suspicion and was imprisoned in the Tower. In 1537 he was convicted of treason and executed, when Pickworth manor came to the Crown. In 1541 Lawrence Lee, one of Queen Katherine's footmen, was appointed keeper of the seven woods in Rutland, including Pickworth wood which had belonged to Lord Hussey. (fn. 43) Three years later a lease for 21 years was made to Richard Greneway, of certain closes and a warren of coneys in Pickworth Infield and of the pastures in Pickworth Outfield, then held by Robert Harington. (fn. 44)
Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burghley, presented to the church in 1560 and 1563 and had probably by that time acquired the manor. In 1594 Queen Elizabeth granted a rabbit warren and woods in Pickworth, late parcel of the possessions of Sir John Hussey, to Sir Thomas Cecil with remainder to his son William Cecil for life, with remainder to William Cecil, Lord Roos, son of William. James I made a further grant of the same premises to Thomas, then Lord Burghley. (fn. 45) In neither grant is any reference made to the manor, but in 1612 Thomas, then Earl of Exeter, settled the manor of Pickworth on himself for life with various remainders. (fn. 46) He died seised of the manor in 1623, (fn. 47) and it has since remained in the possession of the Earls and later of the Marquesses of Exeter, following the same descent as Barrowden (q.v.). (fn. 48)
The priory of Oulston (co. Leic.) held property in Pickworth at least as early as 1358, (fn. 49) though it is not known how they acquired it. In the valuation of the priory's property taken at the Dissolution it is returned as the farm of a pasture at Pickworth valued at 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 50) In 1537 the King's Receiver accounted for the farm of a pasture called Abbots Stocking in Pickworth and land called Withawe Pitts, which had been leased in 1524 under the conventual seal to Sir John Hussey for 50 years. (fn. 51) This land, which afterwards became known as the manor of PICKWORTH STOCKING, was granted in 1539 to John Harington, esquire of the Royal Body. (fn. 52) John was afterwards knighted, (fn. 53) and his grandson, John, Lord Harington of Exton, died seised of the manor of Pickworth Stocking in 1613, at Worms, (fn. 54) being then on his return from attending the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth to Frederick, Prince Palatine, at Heidelberg. His son John died shortly afterwards, (fn. 55) and the manor passed to his sister Lucy, wife of Edward, Earl of Bedford. Lucy and her husband sold it in 1616 to Francis Stacy of Clipsham, who sold it in 1623 to George Boteler of Lye Lodge and Harington Boteler of Cambridge. (fn. 56) From this date the descent followed that of Clipsham (q.v.).
The church of ALL SAINTS, built in 1821, stands a short distance to the south-east of the site of the medieval church, which is said to have been partially destroyed at the time of the battle of Losecoat Field, and was so much decayed in the latter part of the 17th century that nothing but the steeple was then standing. (fn. 57) This appears to have consisted of a tower and spire and was described by Stukeley as 'a very fine steeple, seen all round the country,' but the spire was taken down about 1728, and the tower in 1731, to build or repair bridges at Wakerley and Casterton. (fn. 58) The only existing remains of the old church (fn. 59) consist of the 14th-century pointed arch of the porch doorway, which is of two chamfered orders, the outer continuous and the inner on jambs consisting of three clustered columns with moulded bases and capitals carved with beautiful natural foliage: in one case the leaves issue from the mouth of a human face, and in the other there is a face in the middle of the foliage. (fn. 60) The arch stands isolated on open grassland adjoining a farm.
The new church consists of chancel 16 ft. square, aisleless nave 40 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft., and south porch 7 ft. 3 in. by 7 ft. 9 in., all these measurements being internal. The porch is at the east end of the south wall of the nave, to the full height of which it is carried as a quasi-tower. The building, which is of rubble with ashlar dressings and has slated eaved roofs, is of a very plain character. (fn. 61) It was erected by the Rev. Richard Lucas, rector of Great Casterton, 'at his own desire and expense,' on land given by the Earl of Exeter, (fn. 62) but was not consecrated until 1824. The windows are large round-headed openings with jambshafts, and a heavy round moulding carried round the head, (fn. 63) and the outer doorway of the porch is of similar character, but has double jambshafts and a double line of moulding in the head; the tympanum is quite plain. The chancel has windows in the east and south walls, and in the nave there are two windows on each side and one at the west end. The 'tower' finishes with a cornice and plain parapet and is without windows, but in the wall above the doorway are two blind circular panels. Internally the walls are plastered and the floor flagged. The chancel is divided from the nave by a semicircular arch, and both nave and chancel have plaster ceilings of segmental form. The inner doorway of the porch is square headed. The threedecker deal pulpit was originally at the west end of the nave and all the pews faced in that direction. It is now in the north-east corner of the nave (fn. 64) and the box-pews (fn. 65) face eastward; the lower part of the nave walls is panelled in deal.
The square block font has bevelled edges and may be old; its flat oak cover dates from 1905. The 18th-century communion table has curved legs and claw feet. The Royal Arms, dated 1839, are over the west window.
There is one modern bell, rung from the porch. (fn. 66)
In the chancel is a marble tablet to Joseph Armitage, of Wakefield, Yorks (d. 1820), 'gratefully placed by the Rev. Rd. Lucas, rector of Casterton Magna cum Pickworth, who, by property derived from him in the year 1822, was enabled to erect and endow this church.' There is a memorial in the nave to three men of the parish who fell in the war of 1914–19.
The plate consists of a cup, paten and a plate all inscribed 'Pickworth, Rutland. The gift of Richard Lucas, Rector.' (fn. 67)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and burials 1660–1789, marriages 1660–1753; (ii) baptisms and burials 1790–1812. (fn. 68)
The advowson of the church of Pickworth belonged in early times to the lords of the manor. (fn. 69) It is not mentioned in the conveyance of 1472 by which the co-heirs of Sir Robert Danvers sold the manor to Richard Danvers, possibly because the church was then destroyed, nor is it mentioned in the inquisitions taken on the deaths of Sir William Hussey and David Malpas. It is said there were no churchwardens in 1546 and no church in 1598. (fn. 70) In 1650 at an inquisition held at Uppingham it was found that in Pickworth 'there is noe incumbent or church or hath beene tyme out of my mynd.' (fn. 71) The advowson of the sinecure, which seems to have passed, on Lord Hussey's attainder, to the Crown, was granted in 1588 to Edward Downing and Miles Dodding, who thereupon conveyed it to William, Lord Burghley. (fn. 72) After the acquisition of the manor by Thomas, Lord Burghley, manor and advowson once more followed the same descent, though presentations were made by the Crown in 1636 and 1734. (fn. 73) In the latter year, the church having long since been destroyed and the profits being too small to support a rector had the church been rebuilt, Pickworth was, at the petition of the parishioners of both parishes, united with Great Casterton, (fn. 74) the advowson of the latter parish being also vested in the Earls of Exeter.