A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.
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The village is situated in the middle of the parish on high land (450 ft. above Ordnance datum), which falls steeply to the north to the River Chater (about 255 ft.), forming the northern boundary of the parish, and to a stream on the south forming the southern boundary (about 330 ft.). It is built mainly along the western limb of a loop in the road from Oakham to Uppingham. The church stands to the southwest of the village and the houses about it are mostly of stone. The picturesque Old Manor House, with its outbuildings, now a farm, lies in the middle of the village. It is a large 17th-century building of two stories and attics, with slightly projecting gabled end wings, four-centred doorway and flanking bay windows carried up above the roof as stone dormers. The walling is of ironstone rubble, with ashlar dressings, and the roofs are covered with stone slates; the mullioned windows are without transoms, the larger ones of six lights. The building is of simple but impressive design, its massive character giving great dignity to the long symmetrical south front, which faces directly on to the road. Adjoining the Manor House is the Congregational church, a plain brick building erected in 1830.
The school-house is a 17th-century ironstone building of two bays, standing north and south, with coped gables, low mullioned windows and stone dormers breaking the roof on either side; the large transomed end windows are modern, and there is an extension on the west side.
The Hall, a small 17th-century building with considerable modern additions, is now the seat of Lieut.-Gen. Sir Alfred Edward Codrington, K.C.B., K.C.V.O., D.L., J.P., and stands to the north-west of the village. A windmill was situated in the extreme west (fn. 1) but is now demolished. King John stayed here 21–22 July 1208. (fn. 2) Preston was the birthplace of Sir Edward Ward (1638–1714), Chief Baron of the Exchequer, who was second son of William Ward of Preston (fn. 3) and was educated at Uppingham School. The nearest railway station is Manton, 1½ miles to the north. By Act of Parliament, 1773, for 1,100 acres here, (fn. 4) an inclosure award was made for the common fields and waste grounds of the manor, parish and liberties of Preston in 1774. (fn. 5)
The king's demesne wood of Preston is mentioned in 1217, (fn. 6) and in 1223 Henry III gave instructions that the parson of the church should have estover in the king's hay of Preston for maintaining his houses and hays as the king's demesne men of that vill had then and before the barons went to war with King John. (fn. 7) In the 18th century an annual rent of £26 1s. 1¾d. from the manor of Preston was descending with Ridlington (q.v.) park and Beaumont Chase. (fn. 8) In a dispute with the lord of Martinsthorpe it was agreed that a river divided that manor from the manor of Preston. (fn. 9)
The manor of PRESTON is not mentioned in Domesday Book, and was probably a berewick of Ridlington (q.v.) at that date. A jury of 1274 returned this manor as demesne of William I which he gave to the Earl of Warwick as 1½ knight's fees, and the Earl gave it to Thurstan de Montfort. (fn. 10)
Hugh de Montfort held Preston in the early part of the reign of Henry I, and in 1130 Robert de Montfort, his son, gave a palfrey that he might hold it as his father had held. (fn. 11)
No specific mention of the Warwick overlordship here has been found before 1296, but Preston would be included in the 5½ fees held by Peter de Montfort of the Earl of Warwick in 1235–6, (fn. 12) and in 1315 this manor appears as head of the group—'Preston with its members,' Uppingham, Wing, Ridlington, Glaston, Martinsthorp and Lyndon—held of the Earl as 6 knights' fees by Peter de Montfort. (fn. 13) Later it followed the descent of Uppingham (q.v.) both as to the overlordship and tenancy in demesne. In 1817 the name is given either as Preston cum Uppingham or Uppingham cum Preston. (fn. 14) The manors, now united, belong to the trustees of the Earl of Gainsborough.
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL consists of chancel 31 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft. 8 in. with vestry on the north side, nave of three bays 39 ft. 2 in. by 14 ft., north and south aisles respectively 6 ft. 8 in. and 7 ft. 8 in. wide, south porch, and west tower 9 ft. 3 in. square, all these measurements being internal. The tower is surmounted by a lofty spire, and there are clearstories to both chancel and nave. The aisles are 52 ft. 3 in. long and cover the chancel for about a third of its length, forming north and south chapels; the north chapel is now used as an organ chamber. The width across nave and aisles is 33 ft. The vestry is modern and extends the full length of the chancel.
The church is built of coursed dressed local ironstone (fn. 17) and has low-pitched leaded roofs, except to the porch, which is covered with stone slates. There are continuous plain parapets to the chancel and nave, and also to the south aisle, but the roofs of the north aisle and porch are eaved. Internally the walls have been stripped of plaster.
The earliest church on the site was probably an aisleless building, but was enlarged c. 1150 by the addition of a north aisle, the arcade of which, of three bays, still remains. The piers and responds are cylindrical and the semicircular arches are of two orders, with chamfered hood-moulds, but both arches and pillars differ in design. From the east, on the side towards the nave, the first arch has both orders plainly chamfered; in the second arch the inner order only is chamfered, the outer having an edge-roll and cheveron ornament on the soffit plane; the inner order of the westernmost arch has an edge-roll on both sides, and towards the nave the outer order is enriched on both wall and soffit planes with cheveron. Towards the aisle the inner order of the first arch is chamfered, while that of the second and the outer order of all three arches is square. The east respond has a half-octagonal scalloped capital and circular moulded base on a chamfered plinth; the capital of the first pillar has a plain circular bell with octagonal abacus and circular moulded base on an octagonal plinth, while the second pillar and west respond have scalloped capitals with square abaci and circular moulded bases with claw corners, or 'spurs,' on square chamfered plinths. The arcade appears to have been begun at the west end, the west respond and pier being earlier in character and of greater diameter than the others, but the whole is probably of one build, though perhaps spread over a number of years.
Early in the 13th century, c. 1200–10, a south aisle was added to the nave and the chancel rebuilt on its present plan, the aisles being extended eastward so as to form chapels open to the chancel at its west end by rounded arches. The south arcade is of uniform character throughout, with semicircular arches of two chamfered orders springing from cylindrical pillars and half-round responds with circular moulded capitals and bases. The arches have hood-moulds on the nave side only.
The chancel arch is sharply pointed and of two orders, (fn. 18) with hood-mould on both sides, the inner order springing from coupled detached shafts on the soffit plane of the wall, with very early leaf capitals and elongated square abaci, the top mouldings of which are of unusual character; the outer order is carried on single angle shafts of similar character, all the shafts having circular moulded bases. The arch is much restored, but with what degree of fidelity is uncertain. The chancel was so much altered in the succeeding period that not very much work of 13th-century date remains. The arches opening to the former chapels are of two chamfered orders with hood-moulds, springing on the west side from moulded corbels and on the east from half-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases, the capitals being enriched with nail-head. The east wall is in the main original with an external stringcourse chamfered on both edges at sill level and returning for about 4 ft. along the south wall, but the insertion of a later window has disturbed the masonry in the upper part, the original walling remaining only for about 3 ft. at each end. Internally, however, the outer jambs of the 13th-century window, which apparently consisted of three lancets, remain in position with the springing of their respective rear arches, and in the north wall is a rectangular aumbry. The line of the former roof remains on the east side of the chancel arch.
In the 14th century, the whole of the fabric was remodelled, the south aisle being entirely rebuilt and the north aisle in part, (fn. 19) new windows inserted in the chancel, the porch and tower erected, and a clearstory added to the nave. The tower and clearstory are late in the century, but the remodelling of the chancel probably began before 1320, a new high altar having been dedicated in the time of Bishop Dalderby, whose episcopate ended in that year. Extensive restoration and alterations have obliterated a good deal of the old work, but the east window is said to be a copy of the old one and is of four cinquefoiled lights with Decorated tracery: externally the sill and the lower part of the jambs are old, and internally the jambs to the spring of the arch. Two squareheaded traceried windows of two trefoiled lights were inserted in the south wall, their sills being lowered to form seats, and in the wall between was set a beautiful canopied seat with trefoiled ogee arch on shafted jambs with foliated capitals and moulded bases; the arch is under a straight-sided crocketed gable enriched with ball-flower and is flanked by crocketed pinnacles. The windows have segmental rear arches, the mouldings of which are taken down the jambs, the whole composition having apparently formed triple sedilia, but at some later period a doorway was made near the west end of the wall and the window considerably shortened. (fn. 20) There is no piscina. (fn. 21) The doorway to the vestry in the north wall is of the 16th century, with moulded fourcentred arch with a square frame, probably brought here from elsewhere, inserted within a former blocked opening, or window recess. The addition of the chancel clearstory by the heightening of the walls appears to have been early in the 15th century, the two windows on the south side being later in character than those to the nave; they are square-headed and of two cinquefoiled lights, but those on the north are trefoiled. In the nave the clearstory windows, three on each side, are all of two trefoiled lights. A partly blocked rood-loft doorway south of the chancel arch, at the east end of the nave wall, is probably contemporary with the clearstory.
The south aisle has a moulded plinth and three windows east of the porch, two of which are 15thcentury insertions, with four-centred heads and respectively of two and three lights. The squareheaded easternmost window is of the 14th century and of three trefoiled lights, and at the west end is a pointed 14th-century window of two lights. The east wall is blank, but internally has a slightly ogee arched recess forming the reredos of the chapel altar; a string with chamfered upper and lower edge forms the sill. The trefoil-headed piscina, with fluted bowl, remains in the south wall. The sharply pointed south doorway is in the western bay of the aisle, and has a continuous chamfer without hoodmould.
In the north aisle are three square-headed 14thcentury windows of two trefoiled lights, with a modern pointed window at the west end, copied from that in the south aisle, and in the western bay a plain chamfered segment-headed doorway, now blocked. At sill level there is a keel-shaped string, which is taken round the buttresses. A pointed window of two cinquefoiled lights in the north wall of the vestry is an old one re-used.
The porch is of the same build as the south aisle. It is very low, without buttresses or bench tables, and its pointed doorway is of two hollow chamfered orders. The side windows are modern. An ogee-shaped stone in the north-east angle may be the head of a former stoup recess.
The tower is of four stages with moulded plinth, diagonal angle buttresses to the top of the third stage, and battlemented parapet. There is a vice in the south-west angle. The pointed west window is of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in the head, and is common to the two lower stages, breaking the string. There are small openings in the third stage on the west and south, and loops to the vice. The pointed bellchamber windows are also of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in the head, but have transoms at half height. There are grotesque gargoyles at the angles, but no pinnacles. The spire has short broaches and plain angles, with two tiers of crocketed gabled lights, above the upper one of which it is banded. Internally the tower opens into the nave by a lofty pointed arch of two chamfered orders, the inner springing from half-round responds with octagonal moulded capitals and bases.
The roof of the south aisle, though much restored, is in the main old, with arched struts and wall pieces on carved stone brackets. The chancel roof is of four bays with moulded principals, apparently of 17thcentury date, with carved bosses.
The 13th-century font has a plain square bowl with bevelled angles, on a circular stem and four cylindrical legs. (fn. 22)
There are wall memorials to John Hill, rector (d. 1690), who by his will gave 'one silver plate to the churchwardens of the parish of Preston for collecting the offertory at the communion table,' (fn. 23) Henry Sheild (d. 1792), Jeremiah Belgrave, rector (d. 1802), and Henry Sheild, rector (d. 1811). In the churchyard is a War Memorial Cross. There was formerly a churchyard cross which in 1640 was said to be 'ruinous.' (fn. 24)
Inserted in the floor at the east end of the nave are several fragments of marble which formed part of the mosaic pavement of the ruined church of St. John the Baptist, in the stadion, at Constantinople, removed in 1923 and placed here in 1924, and in the chancel step a fragment of the pavement of the church of St. Sophia, Nicæa. (fn. 25) There is also a wooden alms box from one of the churches of Smyrna, probably of late 17th-century date, with ikons of the Virgin and Child, St. George of Cappadocia, and St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. (fn. 26)
There are five bells, two new trebles by Taylor of Loughborough having been added in 1909 to a former ring of three. Of the old bells the first is inscribed '+ Gabriel,' the second dated 1717, and the tenor inscribed 'God save our Queene Elizabeth.' (fn. 27)
The plate consists of a pre-Reformation silver-gilt paten, c. 1500, without marks but with the Manus Dei in the centre; a cup of 1610, an almsdish of 1680, a cup and paten of 1863, and a flagon of 1864. (fn. 28)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1560–1734; (ii) baptisms and burials 1735–1812; marriages 1735–54; (iii) marriages 1754–1812. There are churchwardens' accounts 1598–1789 and overseers' accounts 1647–1796.
Mounted in a book kept in the safe in the parish church are two sets of documents: (1) Historical papers found in the parish chest illustrative of the taxation of the parish, 1635–1660; (2) twelve Indemnity Bonds, 1630–1702.
Preston was possibly one of the three churches of Ridlington recorded in Domesday Book, but when first specifically mentioned the advowson belonged to the undertenant of Preston manor. In 1216 Walter de Cantilupe had letters of presentation, the gift belonging to the king because the land of Thurstan de Montfort was in his hand. (fn. 29) The advowson descended with the manors of Preston and Uppingham (q.v.) (fn. 30) through the Montforts and Earls of Warwick, until the death of Richard, sixteenth Earl of Warwick (the King Maker) in 1471, when the Crown presented until the grant to Richard Branthwaite and Roger Bromley in 1588. The patronage then followed the descent of the manor through the Cecils, Fawkeners and Sheilds until Rev. Cornelius Belgrave, rector of Ridlington, married Mary daughter and coheir of William Sheild of Preston, (fn. 31) and presented to the church in 1734. (fn. 32) He died in 1757 and his son and heir Jeremiah, rector of Preston, died in 1802 leaving sons Charles, rector of Ridlington, who died unmarried in 1804; William, of Preston Hall, who died in 1824 leaving daughters; George, of Preston Hall, rector of Cockfield, who died childless 1831. A fourth son Jeremiah, of Stamford, had died in 1819 leaving a son William who succeeded to the estates of his uncle George in 1831. (fn. 33) The patronage has passed from this date in the Belgrave family, the present patron being Mr. William Belgrave of Preston House.
Unknown Donor's Charity No. 1, or Cockayne's Charity.—The origin of this charity is unknown. The endowment consists of a rent-charge of £2 12s. per annum issuing out of land at Preston belonging to Major Henry Noel of Catmore. The income is distributed once a month by the rector in bread to 12 people in accordance with ancient custom.
Unknown Donor's Charity No. 2.—This charity originally consisted of a sum of £2 per annum paid by the overseer of the poor in respect of the poor house in Preston. This payment existed for many years, but its origin is unknown.
Unknown Donor's Charity No. 3.—In respect of this charity a yearly sum of £1 is paid out of a farm at Preston, the property of Mr. William Belgrave. This payment has been made for many years, but the origin is unknown.
The Poor's Money.—The endowment of this charity originally consisted of a sum of £40, but from what source is wholly unknown. This charity and Unknown Donor's Charity No. 2 are now represented by a sum of £97 17s. 3d. 2½ per cent. Consols producing £2 2s. 8d. yearly in dividends, which sum, together with the income derived from the Unknown Donor's Charity No. 3, is distributed in money and bread to about 65 poor persons.
Thomas Green Parker, by his will proved in the P.C.C. 29 March 1858, bequeathed to the poor a yearly donation of forty sixpenny loaves to be distributed on 21 March, the day of his birth, and directed his executor to invest sufficient money in stock to secure the payment. The endowment consists of a sum of £40 2½ per cent. Annuities producing £1 yearly in dividends, which sum is applied in accordance with the trusts.