A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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Population: 1911, 15; 1921, 32; 1931, 41.
This small parish forms a narrow strip, 3½ miles from north-west to south-east with an average breadth of ½ mile, between Tysoe on the east and Whatcote and Brailes on the west. The country is hilly, rising from a little below the 300 ft. contour line in the north of the parish to 450 ft. at the church and then steeply above the hollow in which lies Compton House, reaching 700 ft. in the east at Lady Elizabeth's Hill and 730 ft. in the south at Broom Hill, close to the southern end of the parish where it touches Oxfordshire.
There are many trees in the hedgerows and a few small spinneys, but otherwise the country is open, except for the park surrounding Compton House. Sir William Compton began to form this park in about 1513, when he inclosed 100 acres of arable, destroying two homesteads and putting three ploughs out of use. (fn. 1) It was not, however, until 1519 that he obtained the royal licence to impark his land in Compton. (fn. 2)
Compton House (fn. 3) stands in a dip surrounded by low hills and cannot be seen from the public roadway from Banbury, which passes south-west of it, until one is within 300–400 yds. of it. It is of square courtyard plan, facing nearly west, in which front is the main entrance with a porch. The great hall is in the south half of the east range, with the screens and entrance at its north end, opposite the main gateway, the buttery, great kitchen, &c., being north of this. The other principal rooms, Dining-room (former Parlour), Chapel, &c., are in the south range: the chapel has a projecting sanctuary and west of this is the south-west tower, rising higher than the rest of the house. The north and west ranges, containing the less important rooms, offices, &c., are narrower than the other two: both have a number of turrets, projecting externally, for staircases, garde-robes, &c. All this work is of the early 16th century. At the north-east angle, overlapping both the original ranges, is another tower, probably a later addition; and extending southwards from it flanking the outside of the original east range is an 18th-century range, perhaps incorporating some earlier remains.
For its size the building is a low one. The roofs of the wider east and south ranges rise higher than the others, and the top of the north-east tower is level with the ridge of the east range, but the south-west tower, with its saddle-back roof and turrets, stands up prominently above the remainder, the skyline being further broken by the many picturesque chimney-shafts. The walls are of a warm red brick toned in places by weather and age, with a good deal of diaper patterning in blue brick. The use of stonework is almost at a minimum, serving only for the windows and doorways, the quoins of the west porch and south-west tower, and the copings of the parapets. Although timber-framing was used freely for internal partitions, it is only seen externally in the two gable-heads of the west front. The gabled roofs are covered by silvery-grey stone slabs.
It is suggested by some authorities that the present early-16th-century building incorporates a still earlier Tudor building, but this is not evident in the fabric or from documentary records. What is known is that the house was erected by Sir William Compton about 1520 or a little earlier. Leland states that he brought some of the material from Fulbrook Castle (12 miles distant), where he had been appointed keeper of the King's park and manor. (fn. 4) Leland wrote, apparently from hearsay, some 20 years later, after seeing the castle himself, when, although in ruins, enough was standing for him to describe it as 'a praty castle of stone and brike'. Unfortunately he gave no details of what was removed by Compton. Opinions differ as to how much of the house, if any, came from Fulbrook: the roof of the great hall and its great bay-window may be re-used material, and possibly some of the lesser fittings and minor parts of the fabric, but that any of the ornate chimneys originally belonged to the castle is more than doubtful, especially as the bricks of which they are made appear to be of local origin.
The late Mr. Arthur Bolton's theory (fn. 5) that the original house consisted of a plain quadrangular plan without excrescences is feasible; also that the porch, south-west tower, the extension of the south chapel, and the various turrets were added by Compton himself before 1528 in a modification of his first simple design. In every case their walls abut the main walls of the ranges with straight joints instead of being bonded in, as might have been expected had the whole risen together. Otherwise there is little or no difference in the texture and sizes of the bricks, &c. It is probable that the bricks were made on or near the site, including those of the original chimney-shafts. That some of the shafts were later additions is obvious. The ornate ceilings in the south range may have been put in by William, the first Earl of Northampton (d. 1630), but if so they have had to be much restored in modern times. He probably also effected other minor alterations such as windows and doorways, fire-places and their chimneys.
The house suffered much damage in the Civil War when it was occupied by the Parliamentary party (1643) and an unsuccessful attempt to recapture it was made in 1644 by Sir Charles Compton, brother of Spencer the second Earl, who had been killed at the battle of Hopton Heath in 1643. The building was originally enclosed by a moat, the west arm being close to the front and crossed by a bridge. Outside the moat and lining the approach were ancient buildings, stables, &c.; these were almost entirely ruined in the fight.
The work of repair was carried out by James, the third Earl. Only a meticulous examination of the fabric may decide the full extent of these repairs, but at least the tall transomed windows at the west end of the south range appear to be his work, as well as some of the other windows, and perhaps the 'Barracks', the long chamber in the roof of the south range. The stables, &c., were swept away and probably the material re-used for repairs and also possibly for the north-east tower, which shows signs of having been constructed from re-used material. It has thin walls for such a structure and some of its windows have wooden mullions and frames. Why it was designed as a tower is not apparent. The Earl also rebuilt the church, which had been wantonly destroyed by the Parliamentarians.
The long addition flanking the east range and containing the main staircase is usually allocated to the reign of Queen Anne, but the date 1732 which is seen on several rain-water heads about the house with the initials I N for James, the fifth Earl of Northampton, seems to be a more reliable clue to its age. It was perhaps in part only a remodelling, as there is said to be a date 1640 on the bay window of the stair-hall, (fn. 6) which may indicate that Spencer, the second Earl, had added a larger staircase here, as is likely, considering the small size of the earlier stair-turrets. The end of the range south of the stair-hall with a projecting south-east turret also appears to have been added in the 17th century or earlier. The turret had a stair in the upper part leading to the room east of the 'Barracks' and some of its brick facing appears to be more weatherworn than elsewhere. To the 18th century may be allocated the plain brick parapets towards the quadrangle. Windows in the quadrangle and elsewhere seem to have been altered in the 18th century and to have been 'restored' to their earlier Tudor style in the 19th century.
Late in the 18th century the building was neglected and practically unoccupied, owing to the reduced circumstances of Spencer, the eighth Earl, after the 1768 election at Northampton, when he sold his furniture and lived abroad. He had ordered Compton Wyniates to be pulled down but fortunately his steward, John Berrill, ignored his instructions and managed to keep the fabric in tolerable repair until better days. A great many of the windows were blocked either then or earlier to avoid the tax, some say eight out of nine. In the 19th century the house was deserted except for a small part occupied by a farmer, but in 1867 Charles, the third Marquess, began to recondition it. He called in Sir M. Digby Wyatt, who rebuilt the main staircase and 'Gothicized' the 18th-century windows, &c. Ornamental plaster ceilings were restored and much of the plain plaster on the timber-framed partitions and ceilings was removed and other work done to render the house habitable. During the century the moat was filled in, except for a portion beyond the gardens north of the house, and the gardens, with topiary of 1895, and lawns were laid out. But the reparations were not complete even after this and various Societies that visited the house near or at the end of the century record that the chapel was dismantled and its screens whitewashed; but these were soon afterwards cleaned up and now the building is regarded as one of the most perfect and charming homely mansions in the country.
The principal front, facing a little south of due west, shows the gabled ends of the north and south ranges flush with the main wall, with turrets against their outer angles, the porch and great entrance, to the north of the middle of the length, between two projecting turrets. All the turrets have splayed brick angles. The walling is of thin red bricks—2 to 2½ in.—with wide joints and there is a good deal of blue-brick diaper patterning. The two gable-heads are of timber-framing in herring-bone pattern and have moulded tiebeams, with foiled sunk panels in the faces. Each has an attractive oriel window with massive moulded sill having relief carvings in front, moulded oak mullions and top rail with battlementing. The walls of the front have embattled parapets above a moulded stone stringcourse, enriched with occasional carvings, and moulded stone copings.
The porch is a fairly shallow projection of brick with a moulded stone plinth. The 9 ft.-wide entrance is all of stone with deep moulded jambs including small shafts with capitals and bases, and a wide hollow: the inner order has a four-centred arch and spandrels carved with tracery and shields, the northern with the castle badge for Katherine of Aragon, and the southern the Tudor portcullis: the outer order is square-headed and has a moulded label enriched with carvings of roses, pomegranates, beasts, lizards, &c. Above the middle is an achievement of the arms of Henry VIII with a dragon and greyhound as supporters and a crown in high relief above the shield. It is set in a square panel of brickwork formed by lifting the label to enclose it. Between the archway and the buttresses are set carved stone Tudor roses below crowns.
The upper window is of three cinquefoiled lights in a square head. The parapet string-course, which is plain except for carved beasts at the angles, is lifted up about a foot over the window and is here enriched with carved running foliage. The middle merlon of the parapet, which is taller than the others, seems to have carried another carved panel, perhaps an achievement of arms, now replaced by a 17th-century sundial.
The inner moulded stone archway contains a pair of oak doors with linen-fold panels on the outer face and with a wicket-door in the north leaf. In the side walls between the two archways are doorways which led to the moat; between these and the front arch are stone benches. The plain inner archway, to the quadrangle, is of stone and in the north wall is a doorway to the porter's lodge, which also had a peephole now blocked.
The semi-octagonal turret just north of the porch contains a stair-vice from the porter's lodge. The other turret south of the porch is larger and has small square quatrefoiled openings for garde-robes. Both are of the same height as the main wall and have similar parapets. The windows in the main wall and below the northern gable are of normal height, of two, three, or four plain lights in square heads with labels. But the windows to the ground and first floors below the southern gable are taller and have transoms, and the stories which they light are higher; they are probably 17th-century repairs or alterations. The southern flanking turret rises a story higher and its embattled parapet dies on or abuts the sloping side of the timber south gable.
The south-west tower is of three loftier stories and stands up well above the rest of the building, with similar crenellations. It is of rectangular plan but with a complex of projecting turrets making an attractive irregularity in the whole block. The north-west and south-east turrets, containing stair-vices, rise above the main level of the tower parapet. The main west wall of the tower has a small three-light window to the cellar or 'dungeon' and a very tall three-light window to the first floor, probably a later alteration. The top story has an older and wider four-light window with cinquefoiled lights. In the angle of the above-mentioned turret with the west wall was a kind of lower two-story turret or outbuilding shown on the 19thcentury plans but now removed. A doorway that opened into it is now reduced to a small window. The square west turret projecting south contains a series of small chambers and does not rise above the towerparapet. The south-east turret, although it rises above the main parapet as an individual entity, is absorbed below in the main walls of the tower except in the lowest story, where its western half forms a deep brickarched recess covering a three-light window lighting the cellar: the eastern half is a hollow brick pier.
On the east side of the tower is another shallow projection, its south end flush with the chapel east of it. It rises to the full height of the tower and contains passages leading to the main spiral staircase north-east of the tower. It has a Tudor entrance-doorway at the foot of its south wall, with a window of three lights immediately above. On the east side of its upper part at the north end is an arched stone doorway from the main spiral stair on to the flat roof of the chapel. It has inner and outer doors and above it is a two-light window with a label. Just south of it is a brick recess of door-height with chamfered jambs and four-centred head, its sill being about 2½ ft. above the lead flat. The tower has a saddle-back roof with coped gables to north and south behind the main parapet.
The south wall of the Sanctuary of the chapel although flush with that of the above-mentioned projection does not show a straight joint between the two, but the junction is covered by a rain-water pipe, of which the head is dated 1725. The brick-work is Tudor, but without diaper ornament. The tall south window is of five lights under a four-centred main head with a hood-mould having carved stops; it has a transom, below which the lights are cinquefoiled as they are in the main head. The aisles have groundand first-floor windows of three lights; the lower lights have trefoiled heads and may be earlier than the upper, which have cinquefoiled heads. The upper labels, like that to the west porch, are enriched with a carved running-vine pattern and there are carved stops. The parapet string-course has a mask-carving over the great window. The merlon above has been widened and heightened (probably in the 17th century) to take a sundial, which is flanked by stone scroll-work and fleurs-de-lis in low relief.
East of the chapel the windows to the dining-room (former parlour) and doorway are apparently modern. The drawing-room above has a tall five-light window and, above the doorway, a stone oriel window, both probably Wyatt's work. Beyond this is the south end of the outer east range with a projecting rectangular turret at the angle. This appears to be of ancient brickwork, with diaper ornament; it rises three stories and has the usual embattled parapet.
The rest of the east front, of two stories, said to have had 18th-century sash windows originally, now has mullioned windows by Wyatt and an embattled parapet. The principal stair-hall has a very tall oriel window. This range stops short internally of the north-east tower in order to leave an open yard for windows to the tower and the great kitchen. The tower has a parapet level with the ridge of the great-hall range. The walls are of old brickwork, apparently re-used, and the main angles are splayed. At the south-east angle is a projecting semi-octagonal stair-vice. The tower overlaps the north-east angle of the original eastrange and the existence of the plinth of the range within the tower shows that it was a later addition. A number of the windows are of stone with labels, but in the top story the openings have chamfered brick jambs and flat heads with wooden frames: that on the north side is a wide one with seven very narrow lights formed by wood mullions. The north end of the older east range, half hidden by the tower, is gabled in brick with a chimney at the apex. Its exposed west angle is splayed, stopped square at the top, and it has brick windows with wood mullions and frames.
The north wall of the north range is of brick and has two intermediate low turrets. The windows are of various kinds, probably because of later alterations: most are brick openings with wood frames. Between the north-west angle-turret and the next east intermediate turret is a modern two-storied addition as part of the offices.
The many windows in the four walls of the quadrangle are varied in detail. The most prominent feature is the large three-sided bay-window of the great hall, at the south end of the east range. It is generally agreed that this came from Fulbrook, though it could hardly, from its appearance, be pre-1435. It is of four double lights, two in the front, divided by a master-mullion, and one in each splay, with very depressed four-centred heads and each divided into two lights which also have uncusped four-centred heads. It has a transom at mid-height with similar heads to the lights. The moulded label is carved with a running pattern and human-head stops. Above the label is a tall frieze of panels which are different in style and more ornate than the window, and it also shows signs of having been adapted to the present position. The panels have cinquefoiled ogee heads and crocketed hoods and finials, which are flanked by trefoiled tracery-panels. There are eight of these panels in the middle face of the bay, but the fourth from the south is half as wide again as the others and incloses a raised carving of a kind of fleur-de-lis; the splayed sides of the bay have each five panels. Above this is a moulded string-course with carved stops and a panelled parapet with battlementing at the top.
The variations in detail in the other windows show that they are of different dates. Possibly some came from Fulbrook or elsewhere, but it is hard to say which; others were made when the house was built, and others again are later insertions or restorations, some of them in place of 18th-century sash-windows.
North of the bay-window the great hall is well lighted by four windows, two lower and two upper. The entrance to the screens-passage has moulded jambs and a four-centred arch in a square head with a label having large square volute stops; its details are correct for the early-16th century but its freshness and sharp arrises suggest modern repair. North of the buttery window is an outlet from the buttery through a boss carved as a lion's head and below it a stone basin. All the windows have square main heads with moulded labels. Most of the brickwork in the wall is original, with diaper ornament, but the parapet, from the baywindow northwards, is plain and of 18th-century brickwork; at the north end it rises to a flush gablet and chimney-stack. Two rain-water heads are dated 1732 with the initials I N.
In the south wall is a doorway opening into the west aisle of the chapel; it is like that to the hall but apparently older; immediately above it is a short window of four uncusped four-centred lights. The range of five first-floor windows all have the cinquefoiled heads which, with the greater exuberance of the mouldings of the jambs, &c., suggest that these southern windows are earlier than the others. The eastern, lighting the drawing-room, is of four lights; two to the ante-drawing-room over the chapel are of three and have a wide solid space between them for a fire-place, and two to 'Henry VIII's chamber' west of it are of two and four lights respectively. The brickwork is original but shows no diaper ornament now. In the south-west corner of the quadrangle is another stair-turret with a splayed angle; it has a bottom doorway and its brickwork, excepting the parapet, looks like that of the main walls, which it abuts with straight joints. The windows and doorways on the other two sides of the quadrangle are of much the same type as those described, but many are modern repairs or insertions.
The chimney-shafts, of which there are over forty, form one of the most attractive features in the grouping of the building. They vary somewhat in detail and age. Most depend on their simplicity for their effectiveness and those that are treated with ornament do not vie in richness with those of many other houses of the same period. Most of the shafts are octagonal or round, and nearly all have octagonal moulded bases. Two of these bases have decorative panels in their sides. If any of the chimneys came from Fulbrook Castle they probably included these two. One is a single shaft on the south side of the quadrangle above the antedrawing-room; this has quatrefoiled circular panels in the base and a twisted round shaft. The other is above the east excrescence of the south-west tower; its base has trefoil-headed panels and the round shaft is treated with zigzag ornament formed by a roll-mould. Probably the original caps were more elaborate than they are now.
A row of three shafts near the last, above the east wall of the tower, differ in themselves, the two outer being round and having spiral ornament, each of a different mould, and the middle octagonal with concave sides. Another twisted shaft is north of the tower and paired with it on a common moulded base is a square shaft with pilasters in each face, probably 17th century. Most of the others are plain octagons, but one, north of the porch, has concave sides and is given one slight twist at half height in a rather crude manner. Two to the north-west of the tower are octagonal but were heightened in square form in the 17th century. Near the great bay-window and paired with an octagonal shaft is an Elizabethan star-shaped shaft. Above the west side of the north-east tower are two 17th-century diagonal shafts and on the east side two square shafts, probably later, like those of the 18th-century east range.
The great hall is 23 ft. wide and 38 ft. long, including the northern screens-passage, which has a gallery floor over it. The main north partition, a fine piece of timber construction, divides the hall from the buttery, &c., and great kitchen which, together, are about the same length as the hall. The lower part of it towards the screens is lined with two tiers of linen-fold panelling and has doorways with carved arched and square heads to the middle kitchen-passage, west buttery, and east pantry (now a staircase). The greater part of the middle tier is taken up by three openings. The central has moulded posts and a four-centred arch and looks like the upper half of a doorway but there are no traces of there having ever been a lower half although this is the only means of access from the first floor to the gallery. The two side openings are in the form of unglazed five-light windows with moulded frames and mullions. The tie-beam is moulded and has foiled panels in its face somewhat like those in the external west gables. Above this the timbering is of herring-bone pattern.
The screen is of five bays, two open and three closed. The openings are wide and have four-centred arches, the spandrels of which are richly carved with tracery, foliage, and birds and beasts, and these heads are flanked by running carving in the door-posts. The archways are now closed by pairs of modern panelled and carved doors and carved tympana with the arms and crests of Compton, post-1812. The closed bays are in two tiers of linen-fold panels divided by a broad middle rail, the mitres being masons' joints.
Towards the hall the faces of the rails are carved, in the side-bays with conventional vine and oak-leaf ornament and in the middle bay with a representation of a battle and a central shield carved with the arms of Compton, a leopard between three helmets, quartering a cheveron within a border bezanty with seven rosettes on the border. In the sinister half are the two principal knights, mounted and armoured, engaged face to face, a standing figure behind the outer and four killed or wounded men in the foreground. The dexter half has four horsemen fighting in pairs with three prone figures in the foreground. The rails have linen-fold panels towards the screens-passage. The top-rail is carved with running foliage, with brattishing above. (fn. 7)
The lighting is through the two ranges of windows towards the quadrangle as well as the bay. There were also at least three upper windows in the east wall, now blocked.
The roof is of four bays; they are divided by moulded principal rafters which are supported by curved braces; these spring from short shafts which are attached to wall-posts and have moulded capitals. There are no corbels. The spandrels of the braces are variously carved with conventional patterns and foliage. The principals intersect the purlins and ridge-pole, and form four compartments cross-wise, the upper deflected inwards from the lower: they may have been in one plane at Fulbrook to cover a wider span. The moulded cornice is deep, with a carved concave frieze and embattled top member. The common rafters are also moulded and covered with boarding. The floor is paved with stone slabs set diagonally. In the east wall is an 18th-century stone fire-place with a moulded mantel and plain ogee-curved pilaster-jambs.
The buttery is inclosed by timber-framed partitions which have engaged shafts on the external faces with moulded caps. East of the buttery and passage is now a staircase to the chamber above, which has a slightly cambered, moulded oak open-timbered ceiling. This type of ceiling is seen in other rooms including the kitchen, which has a great west fire-place.
In the south range, next to the hall, is the diningroom, originally the parlour, 36 ft. long, which has an 18th-century north fire-place: its ceiling, now restored, may date from the 17th century and has the Compton arms. Above it is the drawing-room, of the same size. This is lined with early-17th-century panelling brought in the 19th century from Canonbury House, Islington. It is in five tiers of square panels, each with a lozengeshaped centre formed by wide ribs. The chimney-piece in the north wall is also from Canonbury. The stone 'Tudor' fire-place is modern; it is flanked by enriched oak terminal pilasters supporting a carved torusmoulded shelf. The elaborately-carved overmantel is of three bays divided by rather similar pilasters with Corinthian capitals. A doorway in the north wall has pilasters of the same type; another in the east wall has fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals and moulded entablature: the doors are modern.
West of these comes the chapel, with the projecting Sanctuary rising two stories in height and with narrow east and west aisles and galleries. The northern half, forming part of the south range, is of two stories, the upper chamber being the ante-drawing-room. The Sanctuary is divided from its aisles and from the north half by screens of simple type, but the end-screen is supplemented in an unusual manner below the toprail with friezes containing low-relief carvings. These have been differently described by writers as the 'seven deadly sins', 'a combat between monks and Satan', set of 'Twelfth Night mummers', &c. One seems to show a demon at the toothed mouth of hell confronting a crowd of animals, another a line of eight soldiers with halberds and other arms. As there are a number of blanks, some of them having probably had the carvings cut away, it is possible they came from Fulbrook or elsewhere and may represent medieval mystery plays. Above the screen is a closed panelled partition shutting off the ante-drawing-room from the Sanctuary; but eight of the lower panels are hinged to open when desired by the occupants of the chamber.
The chamber next west is known as 'Henry VIIIth's bed-chamber' and has original roundels in the windows with the arms and badges of the King and Katherine of Aragon. The doorways are 18th-century restorations and have bolection-mouldings. This suite of rooms in the range has ornate plastered ribbed ceilings, probably of 17th-century origin but all restored.
West of the chapel, on the lower floor, is the most important of the many spiral staircases; it leads up to the Council Chamber in the tower and has a massive central oak newel and 4 ft. solid oak treads. Light is obtained by openings with solid frames and wooden bars set diagonally.
The bottom chamber of the tower is often called a dungeon or jail but was more probably an ordinary cellar; it is floored with dark stone and has a low barred window. Above the first-floor chamber in the tower is 'the Council Chamber', the reason for the name being now unknown. It is lined with ancient oak vertical boards; at the top and at mid-height are horizontal bands of modern carving that probably replaced ancient work. There are six arched doorways to the chamber, three of them from stair-vices, including the great circular newel-stair, others into closets and a chamber behind the east Tudor fire-place. The ribbed ceiling is either modern or a restoration.
The room above, in the saddle-back roof, has an east fire-place and in the south wall a doorway from the south-east vice; two other doorways from stair-vices are on the north side of the chamber. There are windows in the gable-ends and a south doorway on to the roof of the south-west turret. The roof is ill-fitting and, as suggested by Mr. A. T. Bolton, may have been adapted from elsewhere. It is constructed in a quasi-hammerbeam style of the late 15th century. The east part of the cross-section is buried presumably in the wall but the west part has an inset purlin which carries short upright posts below the common rafters, and also curved braces that form four-centred arches below the collar-beams. The soffit of the slope from the wall up to the purlin is boarded and divided into panels by moulded ribs, the tops of the transverse ribs being curved inwards to meet the side of the purlin. The chamber is known as the Priests' Room, also the 'Upper Chapel', probably comparatively recent appellations, which have given rise to many unauthenticated stories of 'Popish plots', 'hiding-holes', &c.
Other rooms in the west and north ranges have Tudor fire-places and doorways, timber-framed partitions, and exposed ceiling joists.
There are in the Domesday survey of Warwickshire eight entries of estates in 'Contone', and the identification of these with the five Comptons in the county, all in Kington Hundred, is a matter of some difficulty. (fn. 8) Going by its later history it seems most probable that Compton Wyniates is represented by two estates, each held by a subtenant Alwin. One of these, assessed at 3 hides, was held by Turchil, (fn. 9) the other, of 1 hide, was held of Robert de Stafford. (fn. 10)
The greater part of Turchil's estates came to the Earl of Warwick, of whom in 1235 Philip held ½ knight's fee in 'Cumton'. (fn. 11) He is probably the Philip de Cumpton who occurs in Warwickshire in 1205. (fn. 12) By 1242 Thomas de Cumpton was holding the ½ fee in COMPTON WYNIATES of Thomas de Arderne, and he of the earl. (fn. 13) On the death of William Mauduit, Earl of Warwick, in 1268 Thomas de Cumpton is named as tenant of this ½ fee; (fn. 14) but in 1279 Philip de Compton was lord of the manor and held it of Thomas de Arderne, and he of the Earl of Warwick. (fn. 15) No more, however, is heard of the Arderne mesne lordship. Robert de Compton was lord in 1304 (fn. 16) and 1316, (fn. 17) and he, or another Robert, was one of the chief taxpayers in the vill in 1332. (fn. 18) Thomas de Compton (fn. 19) held the ½ fee in 1372, (fn. 20) and Edmund in 1400; (fn. 21) he died c. 1410, leaving a widow, Agnes, and was followed by William and Robert. (fn. 22) Robert died about 1480, having settled the manor on his wife Agnes, who was still living when their son Edmund Compton died in 1493 holding the manor, valued at 100s., as of the manor of Brailes and leaving a son William. (fn. 23) This Sir William built the Manor House, having grown rich in the King's service, and died in 1528, leaving a son Peter, then aged 6, who was subsequently in ward to Cardinal Wolsey. (fn. 24) He was still a minor in the King's ward when he died on 30 January 1544, being succeeded by his posthumous son Henry, born on the following 14 July. (fn. 25) Henry was created Baron Compton in 1572 and died seised of the manor in 1589. (fn. 26) His son William apparently contemplated exchanging Compton Wyniates to the Queen for other property, (fn. 27) but nothing came of the proposal. He was created Earl of Northampton in 1618 and died in 1630, having greatly increased his fortunes by marriage with Elizabeth daughter of Sir John Spencer, Lord Mayor of London. (fn. 28) His son Spencer was a loyal adherent of the king and was killed at Hopton Heath in 1643. (fn. 29) The manor then descended in the family to the ninth Earl, Charles, who in 1812 was raised to the rank of Marquess of Northampton, and has continued so to descend, the present owner being the seventh Marquess of Northampton.
The Domesday estate of Robert de Stafford is presumably represented by the ½ knight's fee held by Hervey de Stafford in 'Cumtona' in 1212. (fn. 30) In 1386 Thomas de Compton held a fee in Compton Wyniates of Hugh, Earl of Stafford; (fn. 31) and this fee was held of Earl Thomas in 1392 by Edmund de Compton, Thomas Hayron, and Thomas Ancton, (fn. 32) the two latter being presumably trustees. This ½ fee is last mentioned in 1460 on the attainder of the Duke of Buckingham, when it was said to be held by the heirs of Thomas de Compton. (fn. 33) It seems to have been held throughout by the same persons who held the Warwick fee.
In 1275 the Knights Templars of Balsall Preceptory held 2 virgates in this vill, of which they had withdrawn the service and suit due to the hundred court. (fn. 34) It is not known from whom this land was acquired; it was represented by a rent of 16s. 6d. paid from the manor of Compton Wyniates to the Knights Hospitallers at the time of the dissolution of the order, and was granted in 1553 to Edward Aglionby and Henry Higford. (fn. 35)
The parish church (fn. 36) consists of two equal aisles about 52½ ft. long and 29½ ft. broad together and a west tower about 10¼ ft. square.
The main body was rebuilt about 1665, (fn. 37) probably on the foundations of the previous church; but the west tower, although altered in appearance, is a survival of the earlier church, at leastin its lower part; it is set exactly in the middle of the west front and the middle arcade abuts its archway in an awkward manner, a contrivance that would certainly not have been the result of an entirely new design by the 17th-century builder. The damaged funeral monuments suggest that the previous church was ruined in the Civil War so badly that little of the fabric could be saved.
The east wall has two gable-ends; in each is a window of three trefoiled lights under a segmental head and with a middle transom below which the lights are also trefoiled. The external hood-moulds have diamond-shaped volute stops with grinning apes' heads carved in the centres. The wall is of coursed ashlar and the coped gables have old bases for crosses and moulded kneelers. At the angles are ancient diagonal buttresses and another midway rebuts the central arcade. There are later buttresses north and south respectively of the two windows. A middle rain-water head is inscribed I N 1665.
In the two middle bays of the side walls are windows, each of four trefoiled lights under a square head with an external label. The south labels have stops carved with human and beast faces: the northern have return stops, perhaps later repairs. The south doorway in the westernmost bay has jambs and round head faced with rusticated masonry, the hood-mould has large diamond volute stops: the wall face below them is carved with a large scrolled pattern in low relief and of the same width as the stop. In it is an original oak-battened door. The south wall, of ashlar, has a moulded plinth and external entablature with an architrave, large frieze and eaves-cornice, and the length is divided into four bays by three shallow square pilasters rising from the plinth. At the tops in the frieze are carved scrolled devices in low relief and on the faces of the pilasters below the architrave are large diamond patterns inclosing human masks. The north wall is of plain ashlar with a similar plinth, and has had to be reinforced by a later larger buttress. At the west angles are diagonal buttresses like the east.
The middle arcade, of four bays, has pointed heads of two hollow-chamfered orders with a hood-mould on each face. The piers are of quatrefoil plan with moulded octagonal bases, and moulded capitals changing to a semi-octagon above each foil or shaft of the pier; they are carved with egg-and-dart ornament. There is no west respond, because of the small archway to the tower, the arch being carried on the corbel-capital, the circular lower half of which forms a pendant below the apex of the tower archway. Its convex soffit is carved with a cross with filling-in of foliage and scalloped ring ornament.
The walls and wagon-head ceilings are covered with plaster and the roofs with stone tiles.
The west tower, midway against the double-gabled main wall, is of three stages with plain weather stringcourses, the walls being of similar ashlar and having diagonal buttresses at the west angles, of three stages with normal tabling. They reach to the top of the second main stage: above this to the top stage they are treated as narrower diagonal pilasters in one vertical face divided into four stages by moulded string-courses. The parapet is embattled, with returned copings to the merlons, and its string-course has large gargoyles at the angles and intermediate grotesque carvings. Below the string-course the wall faces are carved with a band in low relief as a quasi-fringe with a series of pendants.
The small archway from the main body has responds and a pointed head of two chamfered orders with very plain impost projections. The two lower stages have no piercings, but the north, west, and south sides of the bell-chamber have windows of two trefoiled pointed lights and a plain spandrel in a two-centred head: the hood-moulds have round volute stops. The jambs and head are casement-moulded and the lights are filled with pierced stone slabs instead of the usual luffers. On the south wall, about half-way up, is a rain-water head inscribed I N 1665.
The 17th-century oak staircase rises in four flights, one against each wall, from floor to bell-chamber, there being no intermediate floors: the bottom newel is flat with a shaped head.
The communion table is set against the east respond of the arcade.
The font, of the date of the church, is of veined purple-grey marble; the basin is of oval plan.
The pulpit, a high one of the 18th century, at the middle of the south wall between the windows, has a sounding board. The seating is of 'box-pew' type, with a central block and one against each side-wall.
There are several interesting alabaster monuments against the eastern parts of the north and south walls, on low stone tables.
The first on the north side is the damaged recumbent effigy of a lady of late-15th-century date: the head, shoulders and hands (in prayer) are missing. She wears a close gown with pleated tight sleeves, loose girdle, and a mantle. This is probably Dame Werburge, the wife of the next. The second is of a knight of c. 1530 in plate armour except for the skirt of mail: he wears a collar with foliage ornament and a pendant on his breast with a double rose: a misericord (dagger) on his right and a sword (only a scrap of the scabbard left). His head with long hair rests on his helm. Missing are the hands and the lower parts of the legs from the knees. These fragments are said to have belonged to the tomb of Sir William Compton, died 1528.
The next is an armoured knight of late-16th-century date, said to be Sir Henry Compton, first Baron Compton, died 1589. He wears very full trunk hose but the legs below are missing and the head is badly defaced.
The two on the south side are ladies of the same period, both badly mutilated. One is probably the first wife of Sir Henry Compton, Dame Frances. She is dressed in a close bodice with a pleated basque below the belt and a farthingale and, over all, a fur-trimmed mantle. The head and hands are missing. The other wears a small ruff, a gown in one piece with a full pleated skirt and over all a fur-trimmed mantle with loose sleeves. The face is badly damaged, the hands missing and the lower part of the figure broken in two. She is probably Sir Henry's second wife, Dame Anne (Spencer). The heads of the last three rest on embroidered cushions.
On the north wall is a mural tablet to Sir William Compton, third son of Spencer, Earl of Northampton, and Governor of Banbury Castle in 1645. He died 1663. A floor slab with a brass plate marks the place of his burial. There are also some later floor slabs with inscriptions.
On the north wall are suspended a funeral helmet, a doublet, gauntlets, probably from the early-16th-century monument, and several banners. There is also the sword of Lord Spencer Compton of the Royal Horse Guards, killed at Ypres, 13 May 1915, and a marble and alabaster monument to the fifth Marquess of Northampton, Lord Lieutenant of the County, died 1913, the first of the family since 1768 to make Compton Wyniates his home. On the walls are 17 hatchments and other painted achievements of arms, four having late-17th- or early-18th-century frames with pediments.
The single bell is dated 1847.
The communion plate bears the hall-mark for 1719 and was given by James, Lord Compton, in 1720.
The registers begin in 1683.
Philip de Compton was patron of the church in 1279, at which time the rector held 2 virgates. (fn. 38) The church was valued in 1291 at £5 6s. 8d., (fn. 39) and the advowson continued in the hands of the Comptons until 1348; (fn. 40) but in the following year presentation was made by Ralph, Baron of Stafford. (fn. 41) He also presented in 1355 and 1359, in which year he made over his right in the advowson to William Peyto. (fn. 42) William presented in 1370, as did Sir John Peyto in 1390, but by 1395 the patronage had returned to Edmund de Compton and from that time onwards it descended with the manor. (fn. 43) The benefice was valued at £10 in 1535. (fn. 44) Since the beginning of the 19th century the rectory has been united with the vicarage of Tysoe, the combined benefice being in the gift of the Marquess of Northampton.
Sir William Compton, who died in 1528, desired his executors to found two chantries at Compton, (fn. 45) future priests being presented by the Abbot of Winchcombe; there is, however, no evidence that any such chantries were established.