A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Thorpe is a small parish on the banks of the Thames. The village is 2 miles north-west of Chertsey, and nearly 2 miles south-east of Egham. The soil is river gravel, sand, and alluvium. The Chertsey extension branch of the London and South Western Railway from Chertsey to Egham cuts the extremity of the parish on the south-west. It measures about 2 miles from north-east to southwest, about 2¼ miles from north-west to south-east, and contains 1,545 acres of land and 15 of water.
The village is picturesque, and consists of a group of houses at the cross-roads, with others scattered along a winding road to the east. Several of these are of 17th-century date, of red brick with central chimneys. Close to the church on the north, one of these houses has two upper-floor rooms completely panelled with 17th-century oak panelling and a carved overmantel.
Of modern houses Thorpe Place, in a well-timbered park, is the seat of Mr. H. C. Leigh-Bennett. It is on the site of the old manor-house. Thorpe Lea is the residence of Lady Milford; Thorpe House of Mr. W. C. Scott; The Grange of Mr. E. H. Holden.
There were lands called Redwynde in Thorpe which were granted for life to John the Parker in 1377 for keeping the king's deer. (fn. 1) The Water of Redwynde is the old name of the stream which skirts the parish and joins the Bourne Brook in Chertsey.
William Denham, citizen and goldsmith of London, father to Sir John Denham the judge, and grandfather to the poet, was buried at Thorpe in 1583, (fn. 2) and probably resided there. In the early 19th century Captain Hardy, Nelson's friend, resided in Thorpe.
Nearly half the parish lay formerly in common fields. The Inclosure Act (fn. 3) inclosed 700 acres of common fields, marked as 'Thorpe Field' on the 1-in. Ordnance map, to the north of the village.
Land at THORPE, '5 mansas in loco qui dicitur Thorp,' was given to the abbey of Chertsey by Frithwald before 675, (fn. 4) in which charter the boundaries of Thorpe are given. The manor of Thorpe is included with those of Chertsey, Egham, and Chobham in all subsequent confirmations of this grant made to the abbey. In 1086 it was held by the abbey as 7 hides, having been assessed in King Edward's time for 10, its value at both periods being £12. (fn. 5) It remained with the abbey until the Dissolution (fn. 6); in 1537 the abbot surrendered it with his other lands to the king. (fn. 7) A thirty-years' lease of the manor had been granted by the abbot to Richard Wykes in 1509, and in 1530 Maud Broke also received a grant for the same number of years, to date from the expiration of Richard Wykes's tenancy. She afterwards married Thomas Ford, and they entered into possession in 1539, when they sold their lease to John Balnet. A dispute concerning the stock, cattle, and stable implements, &c., which belonged to the manor, but which Wykes refused to hand over to the new tenants, terminated in favour of Wykes. (fn. 8) In 1550 the manor was leased for thirty years to William Fitz William, (fn. 9) who was afterwards knighted. In 1569 his widow Joan received a twenty-one years' lease of the lands. (fn. 10) She died in 1574. (fn. 11) In 1587 James Bond, described as queen's tenant of the manor of Thorpe, received an order to alter a dove-house there. (fn. 12) A grant of the site of the manor for thirty years had been made in 1571 to Henry Radecliffe, but in 1596 a further grant for twenty-one years was made to John Hibberd. (fn. 13) In 1610 William Minterne received a grant of it. (fn. 14) James I granted the manor itself to Henry, Prince of Wales, and after his death to Sir Francis Bacon and others, in trust for Prince Charles for a term of ninety-nine years. (fn. 15) In May 1627 the trustees granted the manor to William Minterne and his heirs for the remainder of the term, and in the following month the king granted the reversion of the manor to Minterne and his heirs for ever. (fn. 16) In 1628 the annual rent of £89 18s. 5¼d due from the manor was apportioned to George Evelyn and others. (fn. 17) William Minterne died in 1627, shortly after the above grant had been made to him. He was also seised of the other manor in Thorpe, known as the manor of Hall Place (q.v.), and the two manors, thus united, became the property of Wolley Leigh, grandson and heir of William Minterne, by his daughter Elizabeth, who had married Sir Francis Leigh. (fn. 18) Both manors have remained in this family since that time. (fn. 19) The manor descended from father to son until 1737, when Sir John Leigh died, and his children having predeceased him, Mary and Anne, his cousins, became his heiresses. The estates were held by them jointly until the passing of an Act of Parliament, 7 Geo. III, cap. 7, when a partition was effected, and Thorpe and Hall Place went to the heirs of Mary, who had taken the name of Leigh-Bennett, and who died in 1746. Her second son, the Rev. Wolley Leigh-Bennett, succeeded in 1772. (fn. 20) Mr. Henry Currie LeighBennett is the present lord of the manor.
A fishery in water called Le Flete in Thorpe, which had belonged to the abbey, was in the tenure of Henry Polsted after the Dissolution. It was granted with the manor to Sir William Fitz William and afterwards to his widow Joan. (fn. 21)
In 1303 the Abbot of Chertsey granted to Richard de Graveney of Thorpe and his heirs land in Thorpe described as 'a certain place in Lupinbrok lying between the land of Henry de Middleton called Renebrug and the pasture of Thomas de Sodyngton,' for which an annual rent of 2s. 8d. was to be paid to the monastery, (fn. 22) and in 1339 Alice wife of Richard de Graveney held land in Thorpe, including a mill, for her lifetime, with remainder to her children Reginald and Alice and the heirs of Reginald. (fn. 23) This may have been the land which was later known as the manor of GRAVENEY, but further trace of this family in Thorpe does not appear, and the manor passed to the family of Thorpe, who were lords of Graveney during the 15th century. John Thorpe, son of John Thorpe, left the manor to his daughter Alice, who married Robert Osberne, from whom she was divorced. She afterwards married — Flemyng, probably between 1442 and 1456. (fn. 24) A lawsuit concerning various feoffments of the manor made by Alice Flemyng lasted for many years. (fn. 25) The heiresses of Alice Flemyng were her cousins Maud wife of William Revell, and Ela wife of Robert Blount. They were certainly living as late as 1471, and presumably held the manor after Alice's death. (fn. 26) It appears probable that the manor passed from these families, by marriage of female heirs, to the families of Wykes and Aughton, as in 1526–7 the manor, then referred to for the first time by the alternative name of HALL PLACE, was conveyed to John Chambers, clerk, and others, by Robert and Margaret Wykes; a quitclaim being made from Robert and Margaret and the heirs of Margaret, from Joan Aughton, a widow, and the heirs of Joan, and from Henry Wykes. (fn. 27) John Chambers appears to have purchased the claims of his co-grantees, as a settlement on himself and his heirs was made in 1541. (fn. 28) This Dr. John Chambers, who was the king's physician, was also the Warden of Merton College, Oxford, and the Dean of St. Stephen's College, Westminster. In 1543 Sir Anthony Browne and Richard Millis received licence to alienate the manor to the Dean and College of St. Stephen's, Westminster. (fn. 29) The document giving the licence also states that Richard Millis held other lands in Surrey of the Warden and scholars of Merton College as of their manor of Malden. Probably Browne and Millis were acting merely as trustees. Chambers had originally bought the manor as his personal property; the licence to alienate to him, as Dean of St. Stephen's, was apparently granted that he might endow the college, which he enriched in other ways out of his private means, with this manor. The college was dissolved in 1547 and the manor became Crown property. In 1548 Hall Place, described as a capital messuage and tenement, and the land at High Graveney, was granted to Henry Polsted and William More and the heirs of Henry. (fn. 30) The latter died in 1555, leaving the manor as dower to his wife and after her death to his son Richard. (fn. 31) It was afterwards stated that Polsted had purchased the manor from John Avingdon for the sum of £17 14s. It is probable that Avingdon had merely acted as trustee for the purposes of a settlement. (fn. 32) Richard Polsted settled the manor on his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William More, in 1569, and afterwards died there leaving no issue. (fn. 33) His widow married Sir John Wolley, and in 1584 Brian Annesley, Richard Polsted's rightful heir, remitted to them and their heirs all his claim in half the said manor. On the death of Elizabeth, who married, as her third husband, Sir Thomas Egerton, the manor was therefore divided, one half going to Brian Annesley, the other half, in which he had remitted his claim, to Francis Wolley, son and heir of Elizabeth by her second husband. (fn. 34) Sir Francis Wolley died in 1609, and left his share of the manor to William Minterne his cousin, with remainder to Elizabeth, daughter of William. (fn. 35) She married Sir Francis Leigh, and their son Wolley Leigh inherited the whole of the manor of Hall Place in 1627, his grandfather, William Minterne, having acquired to himself and his heirs the moiety of the manor left to Brian Annesley. (fn. 36) Wolley Leigh inherited also the principal manor of Thorpe (q.v.) from his grandfather. Hall Place was henceforth held with the manor of Thorpe; it apparently ceased to be regarded as a separate manor, and the whole was called Thorpe and Hall Place in the division of 1768. (fn. 37) Hall Place was the manor-house. It was pulled down by the Rev. John Leigh-Bennett, owner between 1806 and 1835, and the present house, called Thorpe Place, built.
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel 27 ft. by 17 ft. 6 in. with a small north vestry, a nave 35 ft. 4 in. by 21 ft. 3 in., north transept 11 ft. 2 in. deep, north aisle 8 ft. 3 in. wide, south transept 13 ft. 10 in. deep; south aisle 8 ft. 3 in. wide, and a west tower 11 ft. 8 in. by 11 ft. 3 in., all measurements being internal. The early history of the church has been greatly obscured by drastic restorations of a fairly recent date, and it is evident that at various late, though not modern, dates the fabric has been allowed to fall into disrepair and has then been clumsily restored. The chancel arch is in part of 12th-century date though much repaired. The aisles and transepts seem to have been added in the 13th century, and about the middle of the 14th century the chancel was rebuilt to its present dimensions. The tower is of 17th-century date, and the north vestry modern. The old walls are of chalk and flint, most of the new facings being in Heath stone.
The east window of the chancel is modern and of three lights with geometrical tracery of 14th-century design. On the north is a modern door to the vestry with a hood-mould formed by breaking over it a stringcourse which, passing round three sides of the chancel, is in part of 14th-century date. West of this is a much restored 14th-century two-light window with flowing tracery, containing in the head some original 14th-century glass, and following on this is a single cinquefoiled light of which the internal splay is old. The window itself is in two stages, both having cinquefoiled heads and the upper one simple cusped tracery. At the south-east are a trefoiled piscina and double sedilia of one design and mid-14th-century date. The piscina has a double basin and the sedilia are separated by a shaft with moulded capital and base, and their heads, of ogee form, are moulded. At the west, a modern niche has been placed in exact imitation of the piscina, but lacking the drain. The string-course noted above is broken square over the piscina and sedilia, and above it, over the sedilia, is an old moulded bracket. Slightly west of this, and partly broken into by the modern niche, is a window of the same date and detail as that opposite to it on the north. The westernmost window on this side also corresponds exactly to that on the north, and between this and the window last described is a small 14th-century door in which, externally, a badly fitting 15th-century head has been inserted. The chancel arch, of distorted semicircular form, is of two square orders to the west and one to the east. The jambs are slightly chamfered and have hollow-chamfered abaci. On either side of it are two openings with segmental heads and sills at breast height, and on their eastern faces tracery of 15th-century date in two cinquefoiled lights under square heads; they have served the double purpose of squints and light for the nave altars. The nave is of three bays, the two arcades being of similar detail with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders towards the nave and a single order towards the aisles. These look like scraped-down 13thcentury work, the second column on the north being octagonal instead of round. All the windows in aisles and transepts have modern tracery of 14th-century style, but in the south transept is a 14th-century piscina. The nave roof is old, but hidden by plaster; at the east end it is panelled in two bays and has formed the ceiling over the rood.
The tower is built of red brick in old English bond, and has round-headed pairs of belfry windows in brick, with a modern Gothic west window and door on the ground stage. It is embattled and much overgrown with ivy.
On the south wall of the chancel is a brass to William Denham, his wife, five sons and ten daughters. He was a citizen and goldsmith of London, and died in 1583. Above are three shields; the first has the arms of Denham; the second, the arms of the Company of Goldsmiths: the third Denham impaling a cross paty with a bend over all and a ring for difference.
The plate comprises a fine silver cup with the Copenhagen hall-marks for 1704, and the arms of Vernon impaling Buck; a large silver flagon given in 1739 and made in the preceding year; a paten which has lost its foot, has only the maker's mark repeated four times, it is of late 17th-century date; and two silver almsdishes of 1839 and 1869.
The church is not mentioned in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas, 1291, but was probably included with Egham, the vicar of Egham appointing a chaplain. This duty was neglected before 1401, as appears by a dispute between the abbey and vicar concerning the finding of a chaplain for the 'chapel of Thorpe in the parish of Egham.' (fn. 38) In 1428 a further dispute arose between the Abbot of Chertsey and the inhabitants of Thorpe concerning the finding and supporting of this chaplain. Finally the bishop arbitrated, and certain of the inhabitants were given the custody of the goods of the chapel, together with the duty of providing the chaplain. The rights of sepulchre were granted to Thorpe parish, an annual fixed payment of 6s. 8d., collected from the inhabitants, being allotted to the abbot as his portion of the burial dues. An annual rent of 4d. for the chaplain's house was to be paid to the abbot by the inhabitants. The abbot on his part was to induct the chaplain, to undertake the repair of the chancel, and to provide bread and wine for one mass daily, two candles for processions, and sufficient straw to strew the chapel twice a year. To the chaplain was allotted a cottage and garden, and some land, tithes of wool and lambs and other tithes in Thorpe, mortuaries, four loads of firewood annually and certain other rights. (fn. 39) This composition, by which the inhabitants were made responsible for the chaplain's stipend, appears to have held good, in theory at least, until the 17th century, as in 1637 Henry Duncomb the chaplain petitioned the king stating that this ancient composition 'hath been for a long time concealed and the tithes, with the piece of land, unjustly detained by the parishioners, and only 20 marks paid yearly by them, to the great prejudice of the petitioner and the church.' (fn. 40)
The rectory and advowson were surrendered in 1537, (fn. 41) with the other possessions of the abbey of Chertsey, and the rectory was granted to Bisham monastery in the same year, (fn. 42) to return once more to the Crown in 1538. A twenty-one years' lease of the rectory was granted to Thomas Stydolf by the Abbot of Bisham in March 1538; the reversion for another term of twenty-one years was granted to Thomas Shelton in 1566, a further lease to Sir Francis Grey being made in 1581. (fn. 43) In 1590, however, the rectory of Thorpe was granted to Sir John Wolley and his heirs. (fn. 44) Francis Wolley, his son, inherited the property on his father's death in 1596. (fn. 45) He himself died in 1609, bequeathing the rectory of Thorpe to William Minterne, his cousin, whose grandson, Wolley Leigh, inherited this property, together with both the manors in Thorpe, in 1627, (fn. 46) and the rectory was held afterwards by the lord of the manor of Thorpe (q.v.).
The advowson—surrendered, as has been said, in 1537—remained in the Crown from that time until after 1860, the Lord Chancellor presenting during the last thirty years or so of this period. (fn. 47) It was bought by a Miss Fergusson, who presented Mr. Martin as vicar in 1874, and afterwards gave him the advowson. He sold it to his next successor, who also sold to the next incumbent, Mr. Morgan. Mrs. Morgan, his widow, afterwards presented. It was then sold to Mr. LeighBennett, father of the present patron, and the money invested for the benefit of the vicarage. (fn. 48)