An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 6, Architectural Monuments in North Northamptonshire. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1984.
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Blatherwycke is a parish of 815 hectares on either side of Willow Brook. The S.E. part of the parish is on Oxford Clay, partly overlain with Boulder Clay. In the Middle Ages there were two parishes, each with a separate church and village, on opposite banks of the stream. In 1448 the W. parish of St. Mary Magdalene was united with the E. parish of Holy Trinity, the former church to be used only for the patronal festival until it fell down. The surviving church of Holy Trinity is now vested in the Redundant Churches Fund (RCHM, Northants I, Blatherwycke (3)). There are two separate parcels of glebe land, represented by mons. (4) and (8).
In the 16th century the manor passed to Humphrey Stafford, a relative of the Lords Stafford. In 1560 his descendant, also Humphrey, obtained a licence to create a park of 300 acres (125 hectares) (Cal. Put. (1558–60), 354). It was this same Humphrey who began the building of a large new house on his manor of Kirby in 1570, and probably carried out alterations at Blatherwycke as well. Kirby was sold in 1575 and Blatherwycke remained the family seat. In the early 18th century the estate was divided between William Stafford's two daughters, Blatherwycke being the share of Susannah, the elder. She married Henry O'Brien who rebuilt the house on inheriting it in 1720 to designs by Thomas Ripley. The present park and lake were presumably formed subsequently, incorporating the deer park. The village street is carried across the upper part of the lake by a causeway and bridge which must have assumed their present form by 1826.
The Staffords followed a policy of consolidation of their estates in the late 16th century (NRS, 19 (1956), 146 etc.) and it was probably at this time that they bought up the copyholds in Blatherwycke parish. The population seems to have been fairly constant, with about 30 families from the 16th to the early 19th century, illustrating the control over the size of the village exercised by the landowners. The houses are mostly 19th-century estate cottages, the exceptions being the former rectory (8) and the glebe farm house (4).
A brickpit on the Oxford Clay appears to have been worked sporadically from at least 1685, a large triangular pond remaining in the park.
(1) The Church of the Holy Trinity (Fig. 31; Plate 4), formerly the parish church, but now vested in the Redundant Churches Fund, stands in a churchyard near the site of Blatherwycke Hall, about 245 m. N.E. of the village. It comprises a Chancel, North Chapel, Nave and North Aisle, West Tower, and South Porch. The walls are of rubble, some of which is coursed, and the tower is of freestone; the roofs are stone-slated. An early church, perhaps of late 11th-century date, is indicated by the survival of a double-splayed window in the W. wall of the nave. The simple but wide tower arch below it appears to be contemporary with this window. The S. doorway of the nave and reset material forming a belfry window are probably also late 11th-century. These features indicate an early church with an aisleless nave and a W. tower, but nothing of its chancel remains. In the late 12th century a N. aisle was added, the N. wall of the nave being mostly rebuilt in the process; the long E. respond of the arcade may suggest that the N.E. angle of the former nave was allowed to remain. In the early 14th century the church was enlarged when the chancel was rebuilt and a chapel added on the N. side. By the early 17th century the tower was in a poor condition (NRO, Church Survey Book, 1605–6, X622/11; 1619, X622/3), necessitating the rebuilding of all of it except for the E. wall within the church. In 1819 the chancel was again rebuilt, but was shortened by some seven feet (NRO, Faculty Register V, 75, 3 July 1819). The N. chapel was similarly shortened. Flesher's view of c. 1810 (BL. Add. MS 37411, f. 6) shows the S. side of the chancel before its curtailment and with three 14th-century windows, a low-side window and priest's doorway. Clarke's pencil sketch of 1846 indicates that two of the S. chancel windows and the priest's doorway were reset and that the E. windows of the chancel and N. chapel which were replaced later in the 19th-century, were of similar type to those in the S. wall. Probably in the 19th century the N. aisle was widened; Bridges writing in 1719 records that the total width of nave and aisle was then 29 feet (Bridges II, 273). The N. wall of both the N. chapel and N. aisle were rebuilt in the late 19th century.
Although parts of the church have undergone rebuilding the tower arch and the double-splayed window above it are features of archaeological interest.
Architectural Description – The Chancel has reset pinnacles on the gable and on the S. a cornice decorated with animal heads, probably medieval, reset. The two-stage buttresses are of 1819. The E. window with flowing tracery bears the date '1854'. The N. arcade of the early 14th century has quatrefoil piers and arches of two chamfered orders; head stops are variously carved as grotesques. At the E. end of the wall is the jamb and head of a 14th-century doorway curtailed and blocked when the chancel was shortened. In the S. wall are two reset 14th-century windows with reticulated tracery as shown in Clarke's drawing. The priest's door, 14th-century in origin but considerably restored and altered during resetting, now has a distorted head of two moulded orders; the jambs have moulded shafts with capitals and bases, and the label of 1819 has head stops, one a female with a wide head-dress. The chancel arch, symmetrical with the nave but not with the chancel, is 14th-century. The arch has chamfered orders, the inner carried on moulded corbels terminating on female heads.
The North Chapel has an E. wall rebuilt in 1819 in random rubble but the N. wall, rebuilt later, is in coursed rubble. The W. arch, carried on corbels, is 19th-century.
The Nave has a N. arcade of two bays of the 12th century (Plate 4). The round pier has a roll-moulded base with spurs at the angles of a rectangular sub-base; the capital has a plain cove and square chamfered abacus, and the arches have a small chamfer and labels. The half-round E. respond has recut folded-leaf decoration, but the W. respond is coved. The unbuttressed S. wall appears to be of the same date as the S. doorway which is probably late 11th-century, but much of the masonry is doubtless later. The main S. window of the 13th or 14th-century has uncusped intersecting tracery with two male head stops. To the W. is a small rectangular two-light 17th-century window of domestic type. The 11th-century S. doorway has a semi-circular head of two plain orders supported on nook shafts with volute-type decoration (Plate 14). The North Aisle, widened after 1719, retains some early masonry, presumably 12th-century, at the S. end of the W. wall. The roof is slightly lower than that of the N. chapel.
The West Tower, unbuttressed and of three stages with a plain parapet, is a rebuilding of the 17th century except for part of the E. wall (Fig. 32). The wide 11th-century tower arch built of large stones has a round head, square jambs and hollow-chamfered imposts which continue to the side walls of the nave. Above the tower arch, is a round-headed window with a sloping sill and jambs splayed on both the nave and tower sides (Plate 5); the rough stones of the head, visible on the W., are radiating, but on the E. where the opening is blocked, the head appears to have a flat, post-medieval, lintel. The W. doorway has a round head and plain jambs. Belfry windows on the N., S. and W. have two round-headed lights in square openings, but on the E. there is a single-light window with reset late 11th-century nook shafts, moulded bases, capitals carved with volutes and foliage, and a plain round head of the 17th century, of three voussoirs (Plate 5); the 11th-century jambs may originally have belonged to a doorway.
The South Porch, rebuilt in 1868 reproduces that shown by Clarke in 1846. The roofs of the church are of 1855 (Whellan).
Fittings – Bells: three; 1st recast in 1917 when the original black-letter inscription was reproduced incorrectly in Roman capitals and a second inscription added; it formerly read 'Nomen Magdalene Campana Geret Mullade. TH', the initials for Thomas Harrys, bellfounder of London, c. 1480; 2nd, a priest's bell, inscribed 'HB 1685' for Henry Bagley II, bellfounder of Chacombe, with band of scroll-work; 3rd, clock bell (see Clock) inscribed '. . . John Goodman Founder 1818', but probably cast by Mears (inf. R. W. M. Clauston). Benefactor's Table: on nave N. wall panel of c. 1800, recording late 17th-century benefactions including the provision to buy for ever plum puddings on Christmas day for six of the oldest poor men of the parish. Brasses: in chancel (1), Sabbian Cressener, 1598, wife of George Cressener and 'full cozen' to John Stafford, rectangular plate with indent for female figure below; in N. chapel (2), of Sir Humphrey Stafford and wife, 1548 (Plate 63) (see Mon. (6)); standing male figure in armour, head on helm, said to be a palimpsest; female figure, top half missing, with end of girdle bearing shield, ermine a chevron; two shields of arms, one quarterly of six for Stafford and Stafford alliances: Fray, Aylesbury, Burdet, Hastang and one unidentified. The other has the same quarterings impaling a dragon and crowned lion combatant rampant for Tame for Margaret, sister and co-heiress of Sir Edward Tame; two similar shields below a rectangular plate inscribed in black-letter, ... Sir Humfrey Stafford knyght one of ye Esquires for the body to the late King of Famous memorye King Henry VIII and Margaret his wife . . .', her name being on an inserted brass; plate of six male children on left, and indent for plate of female children on right. The plates are secured by rivets set in lead poured from the back of the slab (M. Norris, Monumental Brasses: The Craft (1978), 41). Brass Indents: in chancel (1), for small rectangular plate, medieval; in N. chapel (2), presumably for a large rectangular plate with dowel holes, medieval. Clock and bell (q.v.), removed from the stables of the Hall in 1949, probably 1818, the date on the bell; lozenge-shaped face, gilded. Coffin lid: in chancel, coped top with foliated cross-head and further leaf forms on shaft and base, 13th-century. Communion rails: symmetrical turned balusters with central knop, reset under chancel arch, 17th-century. Font: square bowl with circular cross in relief on one face, perhaps 12th-century, heavily recut, on column and base of 1840; brass plate on steps records installation in that year.
Monuments and Floor slabs. Monuments: in chancel (1), of Rev. Edmund Popple, 1726, limestone tablet with gadrooned shelf and shaped apron carved with cherub's head, branches and shield of Popple (Popley), and a skull above the cornice. In N. chapel – (2) of Henry O'Brien, January 1723, and William his son, 1751, limestone tablet; (3), of Fanny and Emma O'Brien, 1825 and 1827, marble tablet with enriched surround; (4). of John Stafford, 1595, and wife (Clopton) (Plate 64); standing limestone monument comprising two framed panels carved with kneeling female and male figures in relief, and figures of two kneeling daughters with an infant, and five sons, both panels in an architectural setting with Ionic columns supporting an entablature with a frieze enriched with fluting and roundels; the elaborate strapwork cresting has a central panel repeating the inscription on brass (2); the inscription. to John Stafford's grandfather, has been added since the monument was recorded by Bridges in 1719 (Bridges II, 278); the three shields of arms of Stafford, Stafford impaling Clopton, and Clopton were seen by Bridges. The monument is late 16th-century; (5), of Angelina Fitzroy (O'Brien), 1837, white marble tablet with classical limestone surround and broken pediment; (6), of Sir Humphrey Stafford, 1548, and wife Margaret, standing limestone monument with attached columns on high bases, the panel divided into two panels with triangular heads united under a similar head; the monument displays brasses (q.v.); (7), of Thomas Randolph, poet and dramatist who died at Blatherwycke in 1635, given by Christopher Hatton, and provided by Nicholas Stone in 1640 for £10 (Walpole Soc. 7 (1919), 128–9), white marble tablet with eared surround and wreath of leaves. Floor slabs: limestone, in chancel – (1), of Jane Smith, 1762, pitch-filled Greek fret border and lettering; (2), of Edmund Popple, 1726; (3). of . . . Ellis, wife of Thomas . . ., 1643; (4), of Ann, wife of Robert Kirnham (Kirkham) of Fineshade, 17th-century; (5), of the Rev. Charles Burton, 1817, pitch-filled lettering; (6), of Elizabeth Popple, wife of Edmund, 1706; (7), of Robert Kirkham of Fineshade, 1656; (8), of Lieutenant George Kirkham, son of Robert, February 1652; (9), of William Stafford, 1687, with shield of arms of Stafford within oval; (10), of Lucius O'Brien, 1791; (11), of Mary Campbell, 1773; (12), of Sir William Stafford, 1606; (13), of Spurstow O'Brien, 1753; (14), of William Stafford, 1665; (15), of Erasmus Kirkham, 177–; (16), of Susanna O'Brien, 1747; (17) of William O'Brien, 1757.
Niches: flanking E. window of chancel, with trefoil heads beneath crocketed gables; between these niches and the E. window are very small pointed-head niches; all 14th-century, reset. Piscinae: in N. chapel, (1), with damaged quatrefoil sinking, and trefoiled ogee head, 14th-century; in N. aisle (2), with damaged sexfoil sinking, trefoil head and continuous hollow-moulded jambs, 14th-century.
(2) Blatherwycke Hall (Plate 106). A manor house in Holy Trinity parish was in existence in 1319 (Cal. IPM, vol. 6, no. 192), but its site is unknown. In 1719 Bridges recorded that a house standing at that time was 'large but unfinished' and that 'it seems old' (Bodleian MS. Top. Northants. f1, p. 82). In 1560 Sir Humphrey Stafford created a park of 300 acres (125 hectares) at Blatherwycke. A balustraded gatehouse with statues, mentioned by Bridges, may have been a 16th-century building; although Stafford was by 1570 fully engaged with the building of a new house on a large scale at Kirby, it is possible that he was also responsible for this gatehouse. In 1720 Henry O'Brien built afresh a house in the Palladian style on a site near the church. It was demolished in 1948. The architect was Thomas Ripley and the contract for building was with Robert Wright of Castor (NRO, OB(B) 12). It was to cost £3000 exclusive of certain fittings such as best floor boards, paving, carving and some chimney-pieces, which were to be supplied by O'Brien; wainscot was to be charged separately. Stone for rubble walling was to come from the park as was lime and sand, and clay for brickmaking. Ashlar and chimney-pieces were to be of stone from King's Cliffe, and paving and steps of Ketton stone. The basement was vaulted in brick. The three-storey house with attics under a 19th-century mansard roof was of nine bays on the N. and S. and five on the sides. A basement, rusticated on the entrance side, was masked on the S. by a wide balustraded terrace terminating in two-storey pavilions (Plate 106). The outer bays on the N. projected forward slightly and were emphasized by pilaster-quoins; on the garden front four Ionic pilasters supporting a pediment framed the central three bays. The principal rooms were largely redecorated in the early 19th-century, a stair with an iron latticework balustrade being of particular refinement (Plate 114).
Outbuildings which survive include a U-shaped range of stables dated 1770. and kitchen gardens with a brick crinkle-crankle wall, probably 18th-century.
(3) Nos. 1 and 2, a pair of two-room houses, two storeys, hipped roofs, flush quoins, Tudoresque windows, date-panel inscribed 'S.O.B. 1834' for Stafford O'Brien (Plate 124).
(4) Two storeys, hipped roof, three-room plan, built as a farm house for the glebe farm, detached date-panel '1826'.
(5) No. 6, formerly a pair, of single-room plan with original wing, two storeys, hipped roof, windows with bold returned hoods, date-panel 'S.O.B. 1823'.
(6) No. 10, two storeys, parapeted gables, originally a two-room house of the late 17th century, extended in 1860 to form three dwellings, now unified. End gable with first-floor three-light mullioned window with hood-mould. Date-stone '1860' refers to modifications.
(7) Former School and Schoolhouse (Plate 121), two storeys, roof with two hips and one gable, Welsh slates, triangular-headed windows with Gothick glazing, early 19th-century. It replaced a school which functioned in the 18th century (Mercury, 14 Nov. 1745). The schoolhouse, square in plan, has a symmetrical three-bay front, and the schoolroom rises through two storeys, continuing the domestic appearance of the building.
(8) Bridge House, former Rectory, two storeys and attics, short central range with two large cross wings, built in 1836 (Whellan). (Not entered)
(9) No. 23. formerly a pair, one storey and attics, hipped roof, Welsh slates, windows and dormer-windows with pointed heads, and Gothick glazing, date-stone '1831'. A later doorway on the N. is set in a window opening.
(10) Mill, of three storeys with two-storey store-room adjoining, of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings and Welsh-slated roofs, is sited by the dam of Blatherwycke lake which forms the headwater. Three millstones and some machinery remain. Mid 19th-century.
(11) Bridge over Willow Brook, at S.W. end of the lake is approached by a causeway and consists of three round-headed arches and cutwaters. Although rebuilt in 1915 it probably followed the shape it had reached by 1826. Date-stones, '1656', '1726' and '1826' are incorporated in the present walling. A bridge was in existence in the mid 16th century; in 1560 John Morgan bequeathed 3s. 4d. for its repair (NRO, Reg. Wills R).