A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.
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The area of this parish is 2,081 acres, and in 1921 its population was 158. The parish covers a portion of the high land running east and west (rising to 588 ft.) between the valley of the river Chater on the north and that of the Eye Brook on the south, where it falls to about 300 ft. Its subsoil is Inferior Oolite and Upper Lias. The land is now chiefly pasture.
It is evident the parish was at one time part of the forest which later went by the name of Leighfield Forest. The woodland in 1086 measured 2 leagues by 8 furlongs, (fn. 1) and in a perambulation of 1227 the jury stated that Henry I afforested all the lands he held in the county belonging to the demesne woods of the manors of Oakham and Ridlington, which he had taken into his own hands ex voluntate sua. (fn. 2) King John's demesne wood is mentioned, (fn. 3) and in 1338 it was called the 'forest of Ridlington.' (fn. 4) The royal park here is mentioned from 1238 until 1623, (fn. 5) when it descended with Leighfield Forest. In 1253 Peter de Montfort, lord of the manor, claimed this park, (fn. 6) for which he received land in exchange in 1264. (fn. 7) Parkers and keepers (fn. 8) were appointed, and in 1415 William Parker of Ridlington was granted for life the office of ranger of Rutland Forest. (fn. 9) In the 13th century there was a prison for forest offenders. (fn. 10) The King's Lodge in the park is mentioned in 1609, (fn. 11) and the still surviving names of Pateman's Lodge, Jubilee Lodge, Park Lodge, Rowell's Lodge and Bancroft Lodge indicate the forest area.
The village stands on high land overlooking the valleys of Catmose, Gwash and Chater. It stretches along a street running parallel to and on the north side of the by-road from Preston to Leighfield. The cottages are mostly of stone with thatched roofs. In the middle of the village is the church, and near it to the north-east is the Manor House, formerly a place of importance and the residence of Sir Edward Harington, sheriff in 1637, who directed from it the levying of ship-money. (fn. 12) Edward, Viscount Campden, took the title of Lord Noel of Ridlington in 1617. (fn. 13) The 'placea de Halh' in 1249 belonged to the freemen of Ridlington. (fn. 14) The 'hundred of Rillyngton' is mentioned in February 1445. (fn. 15) Some 17th-century field-names are: Little and Great Tutshill; le Great, Middle and Little Hearne; Lescotts. (fn. 16)
The manor of RIDLINGTON was dower of the West Saxon queens from the 10th century, and in 1066 Edith, the Confessor's widow, held 4 carucates of land here. Like Hambleton (q.v.), it was granted to Westminster Abbey and resumed by the Crown. In 1086 it was one of the three manors round which the wapentake of Martinsley was grouped, and it and its 7 berewicks were still called 'church sokeland.' William I held 4 ploughs in demesne, and there were 170 villeins, 26 bordars, 2 priests, 3 churches, 2 sites of mills; while Albert of Lorraine, a personal favourite of the Conqueror, (fn. 17) had part of Hambleton (q.v.) and a bovate and a mill at Ridlington. (fn. 18) The berewicks attached to it may have been Ayston, Belton, Leighfield, Preston, Uppingham, Wardley and Wing.
It seems that the manor was granted by William I to Henry de Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, and that he subinfeoffed the Montforts; for the 5 or 6 knights' fees of the Montforts in this county all belonged to the Honour of Warwick. Reference to this overlordship in Ridlington is found in 1264, 1315 and 1401. (fn. 19)
By 1167 Thurstan de Montfort was lord of Ridlington, (fn. 20) and the manor descended with the Montfort manor of Uppingham (q.v.) (fn. 21) until the end of the 13th century. In 1305 Jacomin de St. Martin was returned as tenant of half a fee, (fn. 22) but he was probably a trustee or mortgagee, as Peter, third Baron Montfort, was holding in 1315. (fn. 23) By 1316 Robert, Lord Holand, and John de Wyvill had acquired the manor. (fn. 24) Robert, Lord Holand of Upholland, Lancashire, was a partisan of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, to whom the manor or its mesne lordship must have come. (fn. 25) The Earl was executed in 1322, and in 1326 the custody of the manor was granted to his brother and heir Henry during pleasure. (fn. 26) In 1328 Lord Holand and Maud his wife, having made peace with Edward III, petitioned for the restoration of this manor. (fn. 27) Robert was murdered in the same year by the Lancastrian faction for his desertion. (fn. 28) He left a son Robert, aged 16, but the manor was held by his widow Maud, (fn. 29) who died in 1349. (fn. 30) Robert, second Lord Holand, made a settlement in 1333, (fn. 31) and died in March 1373. He was succeeded by his granddaughter Maud, aged 17, Baroness Holand in her own right, who married John, Lord Lovel of Titchmarsh. She died a widow in 1423, when her grandson William, Lord Lovel, became also Lord Holand. He died in 1455, (fn. 32) and the 'John Holand, kt.,' returned in 1428 (fn. 33) as tenant of the Ridlington half-fee held in 1305 by Jacomin de St. Martin must have been his grandfather returned by the commissioners in error. William's son and heir John was followed in Jan. 1465 by his son and heir Francis, who fought for Richard III at Bosworth, was attainted and forfeited his honours and estates in 1485. (fn. 34) The manor of Ridlington was granted to Sir Richard Edgecombe, who assisted Henry VII and also fought at Bosworth. (fn. 35) Before his death in 1489 the manor reverted to the Crown and was granted for life to Margaret, Countess of Richmond in 1487. (fn. 36) On her death in 1509 it was again in the king's hands and leased in 1516 to Robert Symmys, (fn. 37) son of John Symmys of Ridlington. (fn. 38) It was granted in 1525 to Henry, Duke of Richmond, and he apparently conveyed it to the Harington family, as Sir John Harington died seised in 1553. (fn. 39) From this time it descended with the manor of Exton (q.v.) (fn. 40) to Edward, Earl of Bedford, husband of Lucy, sister and co-heir of the last Lord Harington of Exton, (fn. 41) who conveyed the manor in 1614 to Sir Edward Noel, (fn. 42) afterwards Viscount Campden. From him it again descended with Exton, (fn. 43) and is now held by the trustees of the Earl of Gainsborough.
A second manor, now extinct, descended from the Wyvills to a younger branch of the Harington family. The John de Wyvill returned as joint lord in 1316 was apparently descended from the rebel John de Wyvill (Wayvil) of 1265 whose land in Ridlington was worth 100s. (fn. 44) A John de Wyvill appears in 1327 as farmer of the manor under the Earls of Lancaster. (fn. 45) In 1331 it was stated to have escheated to the king through the rebellion of Simon de Bereford, who held it at farm of Maud, widow of Lord Holand. (fn. 46) Next year it was leased by the king for 9 years; (fn. 47) and the next reference is in 1461, when it was in the king's hands by the forfeiture of James Butler, late Earl of Wilts. (fn. 48) At the request of his sister Anne, Edward IV then granted it (fn. 49) to her and her heirs by Henry Holand, late Duke of Exeter. (fn. 50)
Further settlements were made in 1467 and 1469, by which on the death of Anne's daughter Anne the manor was to revert to the king's wife Elizabeth. (fn. 51) Anne died seised in 1476, leaving an infant daughter Anne, by her second husband Thomas St. Leger; (fn. 52) but the manor seems to have been forfeited, like much other Yorkist land, in 1485. Soon after his accession Henry VII granted the manor to his mother Margaret, Countess of Richmond, for life. (fn. 53) On her death in 1509 it reverted to the Crown, (fn. 54) and was granted in 1525 to Henry VIII's son Henry, Duke of Richmond, (fn. 55) who remained in possession until his death in 1536. (fn. 56) In 1555 Christopher Smith obtained licence to alienate the manor, late parcel of the possessions of the Duke of Richmond, to Sir John Harington, kt., (fn. 57) who seems to have been already in possession of the other manor. From this time it passed with the chief manor of Ridlington until in 1596 Sir John (afterwards Lord) Harington of Exton conveyed it to his younger brother Sir James Harington, bart. (1611), who died seised in Feb. 1614 leaving a son and heir Edward. (fn. 58) Sir Edward, who was sheriff of Rutland, died in 1653. His son and heir James, one of the Commissioners for trying Charles I, lost his estates and honours at the Restoration. (fn. 59) His Ridlington estate was granted to the Duke of York, (fn. 60) but on his death in 1680 his son Edmund Harington succeeded to the baronetcy, (fn. 61) and his successors as far as the 8th baronet were called 'of Ridlington.' (fn. 62) The family estates have long been alienated, (fn. 63) though the baronetage is still extant.
Pipewell Abbey, Northants, had tenements here in the 13th century. (fn. 66)
The church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE AND ST. ANDREW (fn. 67) consists of chancel 27 ft. by 13 ft. 9 in., clearstoried nave of three bays 37 ft. 9 in. by 13 ft. 9 in., north aisle 6 ft. 6 in. wide, south aisle 9 ft. wide, south porch, and engaged west tower 5 ft. 6 in. square, all these measurements being internal. The width across nave and aisles is 33 ft. 6 in.
An extensive restoration in 1860 left little ancient work remaining save the chancel arch, nave arcades, clearstory and tower, and the history of the building is thus difficult to follow. The chancel arch and the south arcade belong to the first half of the 13th century, and the north arcade is later in the same period. The church may therefore be said to be in the main a 13th-century building, the chancel of which was enlarged or entirely rebuilt in the 14th century, the tower and clearstory being added a century later. During the restoration there was found in the south wall of the chancel a tympanum (fn. 68) from a doorway of the earlier 12th-century building, and this is now inside the church over the doorway of the vestry at the west end of the south aisle. The tympanum has a border of guilloche ornament and is rudely sculptured with a lion and griffin in combat, and below them a small eight-spoked wheel within a circle. Above the lion are the letters 'IO." (fn. 69)
The restoration of 1860 included the rebuilding of the chancel and aisles, and the erection of new roofs throughout. (fn. 70) In 1887 a new porch (fn. 71) was erected, and in 1903 the upper part of the tower was rebuilt.
The building is faced with local ironstone, which in the chancel and south aisle is interspersed with freestone bands, and all the windows are modern. The roofs are eaved and covered with stone slates. Internally the walls are plastered.
The chancel is of two bays and has a pointed east window of five lights, which reproduces in some measure the former 14th-century window, but not with entire accuracy, (fn. 72) the outer lights, which are much lower than the others, having originally been without tracery. The window has a transom at the height of the springing of the arch, and the three middle lights are trefoiled. The lateral windows, one on the north and two on the south side, have no relation to the windows of the old chancel; like those elsewhere in the church, they are in the style of the 14th century, those in the eastern bay being single lights. (fn. 73) No ancient ritual arrangements have been preserved. The 13th-century chancel arch is of two orders, the outer order square, the inner chamfered, springing from large half-round responds with moulded octagonal capitals, and circular bases on octagonal plinths. The rood-loft doorway and the upper part of the stair remain on the north side in a short length of wall at the east end of the arcade.
The south arcade is contemporary with the chancel arch and similar in character, consisting of three pointed arches of two orders on cylindrical pillars and half-round responds. In the north arcade the arches are of two chamfered orders on octagonal pillars and responds, with moulded capitals and plain bell-shaped bases. (fn. 74) At the east end of the north aisle, on the north side of the respond wall, is a small trefoil-headed recess, with flat modern sill, which was apparently the piscina of the aisle altar. (fn. 75) The south doorway (fn. 76) is modern, and the square-headed two-light clearstory windows are very much restored, or inexact copies of the old ones. (fn. 77)
The tower stands almost completely within the nave, its west wall alone being in front of the west end of the aisles. It is of three stages, with chamfered plinth and a large four-stage buttress to about half height in the middle of the west wall. The middle stage is very short and the upper stage is slightly recessed, its angles forming broad pilasters, with a band of quatrefoil and other ornament below the plain parapet. The pointed bell-chamber windows are of two trefoiled lights with elongated quatrefoil in the head. A tablet on the west side records the rebuilding of the upper stage in 1903. There is no vice. A bell-ringers' doorway pierced through the west wall is now blocked. Internally the tower opens into the nave by a pointed arch of two chamfered orders dying into the wall, and above the arch the east wall of the tower appears to embody a large portion of the old west wall of the church and contains openings which were originally parts of windows, whose masonry seems to have been adapted to the tower with some freedom. (fn. 78)
The font is modern, replacing one which was described in 1860 as 'so much mutilated as to be useless.' (fn. 79) The new font has a bowl of triangular shape, with curved sides, supported on marble shafts with moulded capitals and bases.
There was formerly a painting of St. Christopher on the nave wall. (fn. 80)
On the north wall of the chancel is a small alabaster monument with entablature and kneeling figures of Sir James Harington, bt. (d. Feb. 1613–14), and Frances his first wife (d. 1599), daughter and co-heiress of Robert Sapcote of Elton, Hunts. (fn. 81) There are also memorials to Edward Chesilden (d. 1688) and other members of the Chesilden family (1725–1815), and to eight men of the parish who fell in the War of 1914–19.
There are four bells, a treble by Taylor of Loughborough having been added in 1911 to a former ring of three, which had been recast by the same founders in 1903. (fn. 82)
The plate consists of a cup and cover paten of 1571; (fn. 83) a paten and flagon of 1709–10 given by Richard Watts; and a fluted paten or small almsdish of 1637–8, originally having two handles, but one is now missing. (fn. 84)
The first mention found of the church after the Domesday Survey is in the opening of the 13th century, when William de Cantelupe presented, as guardian of the heir of Thurstan de Montfort. (fn. 85) The advowson then descended with the manor to about 1316, when the manor was acquired by Lord Holand, and the advowson passed to the Earls of Warwick until the attainder of George, Duke of Clarence and Earl of Warwick, in 1477. The Crown were patrons apparently until the manor and advowson were granted to Sir James Harington. The advowson then followed the descent of the manor, and the Earl of Gainsborough is now patron. (fn. 86)
The portion of Ridlington was appurtenant to the church of Uppingham in 1296, (fn. 87) and the church is referred to as a chapelry of Uppingham in 1366. (fn. 88) The living is now a discharged rectory.
The parish and church, like others in the county, were not in a satisfactory state in the 17th century. Thomas Gibson, the rector, was deprived in 1604 for nonconformity; he refused to conduct the services in accordance with the Prayer Book and seldom wore a surplice. In 1605 the windows in the chancel were daubed up with mortar and stone. In 1618 the clock and chimes were out of repair and would not go. In 1619 a yew and ivy growing at the east end of the chancel 'doth annoy the same very much.' In 1634 Margaret Vines received the Communion with her glove on. In 1640 the stairs that go up into the loft 'are very undecent' and the paten 'is thin and of an undecente fashion.' In 1681 the churchwardens were ordered to repair the service and other books, amend the dial in the churchyard and provide 'a new carpet' for the communion table. (fn. 91)
Richard Watts, by his will proved at London on 18 March 1707, as appears from an entry in the parish register book, gave a sum of £50 for plate and utensils for administration of the sacrament in the parish church. From a further entry in the same book it appears that the legacy was invested in the purchase of £53 10s. 3 per cent. reduced annuities and the dividends distributed among the industrious poor of the parish in small sums. The endowment, owing to accumulations, now consists of a sum of £92 18s. 5d. 2½ per cent. Consols, producing in dividends £2 6s. 4d. per annum. The income is distributed by the rector and churchwardens among twelve poor people.
Edward Chesilden's Charity.—A rent-charge of £2 12s. per annum, in respect of 11 acres of land at South Croxton, is stated in a memorandum in the parish book of accounts dated February 1802 to have been left by Edward Chesilden. The endowment now consists of a sum of £87 2½ per cent. Consols, producing in dividends £2 3s. 4d. per annum. The income is distributed by the rector and churchwardens among four poor women in accordance with ancient custom.
Needham Chesilden, by his will dated 9 April 1818, gave a sum of £130 to the minister and churchwardens to be invested, the dividends to be expended in purchasing twelve twopenny loaves to be disposed of every week to twelve poor children. The endowment now consists of a sum of £130 2½ per cent. Consols, producing in dividends £3 5s. per annum, which is distributed by the trustees in accordance with the trusts, but only for a period of 33 to 34 weeks in the year.