A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Chessington is a very small village about 3 miles south from Surbiton Station, and 2 miles west of Ewell. The parish, which is a chapelry to Malden, measures 3 miles from north-east to south-west, and barely a mile in any part from north-west to south-east, and contains 1,645 acres. This includes a detached part of Malden, round the farm called Rushett, which lies south of Chessington, and was added to the parish in 1884. (fn. 1)
The soil is entirely London Clay, undulating considerably. A brook which flows into the Hoggsmill stream runs through the parish, which is traversed throughout by the road from Kingston to Letherhead. Rushett Common now only exists as roadside waste on each side of this road.
On a little hill covered with wood south-east of the church, and on the other side of the stream, is a small inclosure or camp, about 100 yds. by 30 yds. in extent. Brayley (fn. 2) says that a Roman brass coin was found near it, and that it was known as Castle Hill. If so, the name has been disused, and it is now called Four Acres Wood. The stream has hollowed out a valley in the clay close by, and across the valley there was thrown a very substantial dam, perhaps the site of the mill of which Robert de Watevile held half in 1086. But the dam, now cut through at each end, is more than enough for a milldam, and may have been made a pool for the better protection of this side of the fortification above.
In the 18th century Mr. Samuel Crisp, the friend of Dr. Burney, lived at Chessington Hall, and Miss Burney is said to have written part of Cecilia in a summerhouse in the garden which is still standing. Her father composed the epitaph upon Mr. Crisp which is in the church, and her Diary contains many references to him and to her visits to the house.
The inclosure was made by an award dated 1 August 1825. (fn. 3) A map in possession of Mr. Chancellor of Chessington Hall shows the parish largely cut up into very small holdings of villagers whose names correspond to those in the earlier registers.
A Church of England school was founded by subscription in 1822, and for a time was divided into two parts for primary and more advanced teaching. The latter was discontinued about fifty years ago. The present building was erected in 1863.
The manor of CHESSINGTON was held in the reign of Edward the Confessor by one Erding, and in 1086 by Richard de Tonbridge, ancestor of the Clares, Earls of Gloucester. (fn. 4) In 1439 it was included among the knights' fees held by Isabel Countess of Warwick, through descent from Eleanor wife of Hugh le Despenser and co-heiress of Gilbert de Clare (fn. 5); after the death and attainder of Richard Nevill, husband of Anne daughter and heiress of Isabel, the overlordship apparently escheated to the Crown.
In 1086 Robert de Watevile was holding this manor under Richard de Tonbridge, (fn. 6) and his descendants continued to hold both this manor and Malden until 1240, when a grant of Malden, evidently including Chessington, of which a whole or a part was a member of that manor, was made by William de Watevile and Peter de Malden, his subtenant, to Walter de Merton, (fn. 7) who received a grant of free warren there in 1249. (fn. 8) In 1262 licence was granted by Richard de Clare for the presentation of Malden with its member of Chessington to the 'House of Scholars' which Walter de Merton was founding at Malden, (fn. 9) and in 1264 Walter de Merton assigned them by charter to this house, for the support of 20 scholars at Oxford. (fn. 10) The manors thus became part of the endowment of Merton College, Oxford, the estate at Chessington being subsequently known as CHESSINGTON PARK.
In 1287 Richard de Merplesdon, Warden of the House of the Scholars of Merton, in Oxford, was holding 3 fees in Farley, Malden, and Chessington, of William de Watevile, as mesne lord between the said Richard and Gilbert de Clare. (fn. 11) In 1279 the master and scholars of Merton claimed Chessington as a park pertaining to their manor of Malden, with warren in all their demesne lands there by charter of Henry III. (fn. 12)
Edward I confirmed these estates to the scholars of Merton in 1290, (fn. 13) and they are mentioned among the fees held by Merton College of the descendants of Richard de Clare in 1314, (fn. 14) 1375, (fn. 15) 1428, (fn. 16) and 1439. (fn. 17) In 1578 the college ceded their manors of Malden and Chessington Park for a term of 5,000 years to the Earl of Arundel, from whom they passed to Lord Lumley, and shortly after to the family of Goode. As a result of legal proceedings commenced against Sebastian Goode in 1621, with a view to evading the terms of this lease, the college finally recovered this estate in 1707, and retain it to the present day. (fn. 18)
Another estate in Chessington, probably part of the original manor, was acquired by Merton Priory, (fn. 19) whose lands in the 16th century are entered in the monastic accounts under the name of the manor of CHESSINGTON-AT-HOKE.
In 1521 the manor was leased by the Prior of Merton to Thomas Rogers for a term of 21 years at a rental of £5 0s. 6d., chargeable with 20s. 6d. in fee-farm rent due to the king, (fn. 20) and this lease was renewed to Richard Rogers on the same terms in 1525 (fn. 21) and in 1536. (fn. 22) The manor was surrendered to the Crown with the rest of the possessions of the priory in 1538, and in 1552 was held at farm by Richard Hewer for the sum quoted above. (fn. 23)
Rigges and Gearing may have been trustees for Nicholas Saunders of Ewell, who was holding the manor in 1590, at which date he mortgaged it to Thomas Fletcher of London. (fn. 26) In 1601 Nicholas Saunders conveyed the manor to Benedict Haynes, gentleman, (fn. 27) son of William Haynes and Alice his wife, (fn. 28) and in 1610–11 it was held by William Haynes, brother of Benedict, who settled it upon himself and Anne his wife in that year. (fn. 29) William died in 1611, his son and heir William being then aged 13 years. The latter died two years later, leaving Matthew his brother and heir, aged 12 years. (fn. 30) Matthew died in 1617, and the estate was divided among his four sisters, Alice, Jane, Ann, and Thomasine. (fn. 31) Thomasine married John Evelyn, and in 1622 conveyed her fourth part of the manor to Robert Hatton, (fn. 32) serjeant-at-law, of Thames Ditton, (fn. 33) who had married Alice, and who in 1628 acquired the remaining fourth parts from Ann (wife of Thomas Samwell) and Jane Haynes. (fn. 34) Robert and Alice had a son Sir Richard Hatton, who married Anne daughter of Sir Kenelme Jennour of Great Dunmow, Essex, bart. (fn. 35) Their son Sir Robert Hatton, afterwards Sheriff of Surrey, was holding the manor in 1679, (fn. 36) and, dying without issue, was succeeded by his nephew, Robert Hatton, a serjeant-atlaw. (fn. 37) The latter died in 1701, (fn. 38) and was succeeded by his son Thomas Hatton, (fn. 39) who in 1742 conveyed this manor to Edward Northey of Epsom. (fn. 40) William Northey, son of Edward, sold in 1797 to Joseph Smith Gosse, a distiller of Battersea, (fn. 41) who died in 1812, (fn. 42) and was succeeded by his son Henry Gosse, who held the manor in 1813. (fn. 43) His granddaughter married Mr. John Maude, and they are now lords of the manor.
Appurtenant to the prior's manor were certain woods called Lynell Coppice (18 acres), Fusgrove Coppice (7 acres), Beatrice Hill Coppice (2 acres 7 roods), and 'Le Hedgerowe' in Alderfield (1 acre), which in 1552 were held on a lease granted by the prior to John Garroway; (fn. 44) also a wood called Gosborough Hill Wood, leased in 1537 to William Saunders, with liberty to fell the timber, on condition of leaving thirty 'standers' (trees left for increase) on every acre. (fn. 45) In the accounts of the manor for 1544 there is reckoned £4 13s. 4d. from eighty old oaks called 'Storbedd Okes,' suitable for firewood, situated on that parcel of the manor called Epsom Common. (fn. 46)
In a dispute which arose in the 16th century with regard to certain lands called 'Maulthayes' in Chessington, it was declared to be the custom of this manor that the youngest son should inherit. (fn. 47)
FREAM, formerly FREREN.
—Land in Chessington was held of Edward the Confessor by Magno Suert, and in 1086 (when it was assessed for 1 hide, though in the time of King Edward it had been assessed for 5) was included among the estates of Miles Crispin, who appears to have claimed it without warrant in right of his father-in-law Wigod of Wallingford, as the jurors declared that Wigod was not holding it when William I came into England. (fn. 48)
In 1300 the tenant of the earl in Chessington was Rowland Huscarl, (fn. 49) and later it was held of the honour of Wallingford by Roger Apperle. (fn. 50) Before 1428 it seems to have been granted to the Abbot of Boxley, co. Kent, who in that year was assessed for half a knight's fee formerly held by Roger Apperle. (fn. 51) As early as 1189 the abbot had held land in Chessington granted by Robert de Chessington and confirmed in that year by Richard I (fn. 52) and subsequently by other kings. (fn. 53) In 1291 the possessions of the monastery in Boxley were taxed at £1 4s., and in 1329 the abbot was pardoned for acquiring a rent of 13s. 2d. there from Clement le Taillour and Nicholas son of Osbert atte Wodehall. (fn. 54)
The possessions of Boxley in Chessington are not described as a manor until 1535, when they are included among the monastic lands under the name of the 'Manor of Friern,' and valued at £6. (fn. 55)
In 1538 the manor was surrendered to the king by John Dobbys the abbot, (fn. 56) and in 1547 was granted to John Rychbell, (fn. 57) to hold in chief for a fortieth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 58) John Rychbell died seised of it in 1554, leaving a son and heir William Rychbell, aged six years. (fn. 59) In 1575 William Rychbell alienated to Henry Harvey, (fn. 60) who died seised of the manor in 1589, leaving a son and heir William. (fn. 61) The latter was succeeded in 1590 by his son William Harvey, (fn. 62) who in 1594 conveyed it to William Haynes. (fn. 63) From this date the descent of the manor follows that of Chessington down to the time of Thomas Hatton, who sold Chessington (vide supra) in 1742, but not Fream. He died in 1746. Fream was bought shortly afterwards by Mr. Christopher Hamilton, with whom lived Samuel Crisp, Miss Burney's friend. Mr. Hamilton was succeeded by his sister, who died in 1797. The house was called Chessington Hall by Mr. Hamilton, and the property has since been known by that name. It was used as a farm, and the old house, said to date from 1520, became ruinous and was pulled down in 1833–4. The present house was then built on the old foundations; the old brickwork is visible in the cellars. Mr. Horatio Chancellor bought Fream or Chessington Hall in 1851 and still owns it. (fn. 64)
In 1279 Edmund Earl of Cornwall claimed in Chessington his free monthly court of the honour of Wallingford, return of the king's writs, view of frankpledge, and the right to imprison in his Castle of Wallingford all taken and convicted of felony in Chessington, and was confirmed in all these liberties, save only the free monthly court. (fn. 65) In 1300 the same earl is stated to have 4s. from a certain view taken at Easter in Beddington and Chessington, and pertaining to the honour of Wallingford. (fn. 66)
In 1359 the Abbot of Boxley had a charter for free warren in Chessington, (fn. 67) and the grant to John Rychbell in 1547 included court leet, view of frankpledge, and warren in Fream and Chessington. (fn. 68)
The deed of alienation from William Rychbell to Henry Harvey in 1575 included among the appurtenances to the manor one water-mill, two dovehouses, and twenty fisheries. (fn. 69)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of a chancel 24 ft. 11 in. by 11 ft. 11 in. with a small north vestry, and a nave 42 ft. 3 in. by 15 ft. 2 in. with a south aisle 12 ft. wide, and a south porch. Over the west end of the nave is a wooden bell-turret.
The south aisle was added in 1870, and the north vestry is also modern, but the rest of the building dates from the beginning of the 13th century, with later 13th-century alterations, and a few inserted windows, &c., of more recent date. The nave has been lengthened, but the completeness of the renewal of the external stonework throughout the church has destroyed all evidence. The walls are of flint rubble and the roofs are tiled.
A sketch in the church, c. 1740, shows it with no aisle, but with a west doorway to the nave and a large south porch of wood. Cracklow says that there was a pointed arch like the chancel arch between the nave and the wooden belfry, and the date 1636 on the ceiling, and Manning and Bray note that this date was on the north side of the ceiling.
The east window of the chancel is a 16th or 17th-century insertion, of two plain lights with threecentred heads, and to the north of it is a large semioctagonal moulded image bracket of 15th-century date. There is a narrow lancet with a semicircular rear arch about midway in the north and south walls, of early 13th-century date, these being probably the only side-windows in the chancel as first built. To the east a wider lancet has been inserted in both cases, having a wooden lintel on the inside, and this alteration seems to have taken place about the middle of the 13th century. At the same time two recesses were made in the south wall near the west end, each about 3 ft. 6 in. wide by 1 ft. deep, and each lighted by a small lancet at the back. Their object is clearly to give more room for seats, the chancel being less than 12 ft. wide.
In the north wall part of a similar recess remains, but it has been cut through to make a doorway into the vestry; to the west of it is an original doorway, with plain chamfered jambs and semicircular head, adjoining which is a small square opening, rebated externally, and of the same date as the doorway. Its internal jambs are splayed, and it doubtless belongs to the category of low side-windows, though of unusual character. At the north-east of the chancel is a locker with rebated jambs in which is one of the hanging hooks for the wooden door, and a groove for a wooden shelf. The vestry has small modern single lights in its east and west walls and a two-light window with a wood frame to the north. The chancel arch has old masonry in its jambs, probably re-used from the earlier and narrower opening, and the arch, which is two-centred and of one chamfered order, also has some old stones, but the abaci are entirely modern.
There are four windows in the north wall of the nave, but no traces of a doorway. The western of the four windows is a single light with a semicircular rear arch, probably contemporary with the early windows in the chancel, but that next it to the east has a wooden lintel inside, and is perhaps of the later 13th-century date. The north-east window, of two pointed lights, may be a 15th-century insertion, and the fourth window, a little to the west, is also of two lights, and perhaps late 13th-century work. The complete renewal of all the outer stonework makes any dating doubtful. The west window is a modern triplet of lancets, and there is no trace of a west doorway.
The modern wooden arcade between the nave and the south aisle is of three bays with pairs of posts carrying the plates of the nave and aisle roofs, and the only old feature in the aisle is the south doorway, which has chamfered jambs and a two-centred head, probably of 13th-century date.
Two panels of English alabaster carving are preserved in the church, both of the 15th century, and probably from the Nottingham workshops. One, in the vestry, is part of a representation of the Nativity, and the other, on the south wall of the chancel, very much repaired, shows the Annunciation.
The font has a 13th-century moulded base from which rise a modern circular stem and four small detached shafts supporting a modern square bowl. All the other internal fittings are modern, the lectern being in the form of an angel with the book-rest on its wings. It was presented in 1898 and was carved in London.
The oldest piece of plate is an Elizabethan cup of 1568 which is kept at Malden. It is not quite 3½ in. high, and probably one of the smallest Elizabethan cups in existence. There are also two plated patens, a plated cup, flagon, and salver, two brass almsdishes, and a pewter flagon dated 1635.
Of the four books of registers the first contains baptisms from 1656 to 1754, marriages 1656 to 1756, with a gap between 1749 and 1756, and burials from 1656 to 1751. The second book contains baptisms 1754 to 1791, and burials 1752 to 1812, the third has marriages, not on printed forms, from 1756 to 1811, and the fourth contains baptisms from 1791 to 1812.
The church of Chessington has always been a chapel to Malden, and was confirmed with that church to Merton Priory by Eudo de Malden (fn. 70) (of whom Peter de Malden [see manor] was the cousin and heir).
In 1265 the priory made over the advowson of the church of Malden to Walter de Merton, (fn. 71) who assigned it as part of the endowment of Merton College, which has held the advowson both of Malden and of the annexed chapelry of Chessington ever since. In 1279 a vicarage for Malden and Chessington was ordained by Nicholas of Ely, Bishop of Winchester. (fn. 72) In a survey of church lands taken 1649–58 the chapelry of Chessington is stated to be worth £60 per annum, and the commissioners appointed to make inquiries recommended that the chapelry should be divided from Malden and made a parish by itself. (fn. 73) This suggestion was, however, never complied with.
In 1595 the tithes of sheaves, grain, and hay in Chessington were conveyed by Thomas Vincent to Edward Carleton, together with the manor of Berewell in Kingston, (fn. 74) and a lease was still held by the owners of that manor in 1774. (fn. 75)