A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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Moleford, Molesford, Muleford (xii–xiii cent.); Mulesford, Mulseford, Molisford, Mollesford (xiv–xv cent.); Moulsford (xvi cent.).
Moulsford was a chapelry of Cholsey till 1847. (fn. 1) Its small village lies in the Thames Valley along the road from Wallingford to Reading, which has been identified as a part of the Roman road from Silchester to Dorchester. (fn. 2) On the river bank at the north end of the village is the parish church with the manor faced by Moulsford Farm, an old house with modern additions. Between the street and the river, the site of the old manor-house is still marked by the boundary walls of 'Great House Meadow' and by a 17th-century brick barn. On the road to the river are two half-timber cottages with brick nogging and an overhanging upper story, probably of the 16th century, and at this end of the village is the Grange, a 17th-century brick building. From the picturesque inn, the 'Betel and Wedge,' a ferry crosses to South Stoke (co. Oxon.). A free fishery in the Thames was attached to tenements held by William Hyde at his death in 1567, (fn. 3) and seems to have been acquired by the Haville family in the 17th century. (fn. 4) The manor had its own water-mill in 1451. (fn. 5)
The parish covers only 1,441 acres. More than half is arable, but there is a considerable quantity of pasture, chiefly on the Moulsford Downs in the south of the parish. The woodland covers 230 acres. (fn. 6) The soil is chalk and loam upon a subsoil of chalk. The occupations are mainly agricultural, but racing stables have recently been introduced. The Great Western railway station in Cholsey parish was opened as Wallingford Road, was called Moulsford station when it became the junction for a branch line in 1866, and has been called Cholsey and Moulsford since its removal to Cholsey (fn. 7) (q.v.).
Some traces of early occupation have been found in the parish. A fine spear-head of the Bronze Age is now in Reading Museum. (fn. 8) Lingley Knoll is a barrow with remains of a trench, and on Moulsford Down, east of it, is a circular barrow. (fn. 9) Devil's Ditch, near Unhill Wood, is possibly a continuation of the Grim's Ditch which can be traced on Aston Upthorpe Downs. (fn. 10) Coins of the Emperor Valerian (A.D. 254–63) have been found at Moulsford. (fn. 11) The theory that this village was the 'Thamesis' of the Itinerary was put forward by Dr. Beke in 1804, but has since been refuted. (fn. 12)
There is no definite mention of Moulsford in the Domesday Survey. The subsequent history of MOULSFORD MANOR supports the theory that it was then included in the king's extensive holding at Cholsey, (fn. 13) and a spurious charter in the Winchester chartulary records an early and perhaps trustworthy tradition that it was acquired as part of Cholsey by King Alfred in 891. (fn. 14) By the grant of Henry I Moulsford came into the hands of Gerald son of Walter (fn. 15) de Windsor, the husband of Henry's mistress Nesta daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, King of Deheubarth. (fn. 16) To Gerald evidently succeeded his son William Fitz Gerald, (fn. 17) sometimes called 'de Pembroke.' (fn. 18) He died about 1174, when his son Raymond Fitz Gerald 'le Gros' received seisin of his lands. (fn. 19) Raymond was a distinguished leader among the knights who invaded Ireland in 1170. (fn. 20) He married Basile sister of Gilbert 'Strongbow,' Earl of Pembroke, but died childless. (fn. 21) His heir was his brother Odo. He disputed the claim of Geoffrey de Cholsey to land in Moulsford, possibly the whole manor, in 1194. (fn. 22) It seems probable that Geoffrey's predecessors had had some interest in the vill, since at some time previous to 1160 Emma de Cholsey had given two-thirds of the tithes of Moulsford to Wallingford Priory. (fn. 23) Geoffrey de Cholsey failed to appear in 1194, (fn. 24) and in the year following William son of Odo made fine with the king not to be impleaded concerning his land at Moulsford. (fn. 25) Again in 1207 William, now styled William de Carew (from Carew Castle, co. Pembroke), paid 40 oz. of gold not to be impleaded by Geoffrey concerning this land, since King John 'wished him to remain in peace thereof.' (fn. 26) In 1212 he had further confirmation of the grant to his greatgrandfather Gerald son of Walter. (fn. 27) To him evidently succeeded Nicholas de Carew, (fn. 28) who is said to have been his son. (fn. 29) Nicholas died about 1228, (fn. 30) and John Marshall had the custody of Moulsford Manor for a short time after his death. (fn. 31) In July 1228 the manor was committed to Bertram de Crioil, constable of Dover, (fn. 32) for his maintenance in the king's service during pleasure. (fn. 33) In the following September the grant was extended until the heir of Nicholas should be of age. (fn. 34) John Marshall endeavoured to recover the custody of the lands and heir of Nicholas Carew in 1230, (fn. 35) and Crioil was disseised, but restored again in 1232. (fn. 36) The heir of Nicholas is said to have been his son William, (fn. 37) possibly the William Carew who had a serjeanty of county Waterford in 1277. (fn. 38) Nicholas Carew, probably the son of William Carew (fn. 39) and husband of Avice Tute, (fn. 40) went to Ireland in 1284, (fn. 41) but was in England in 1286, (fn. 42) about which time he is said to have died. (fn. 43) Nicholas son of Nicholas and Avice was summoned to Parliament as 'lord of Moulsford' in 1300–1 (fn. 44) and died seised of the manor about 1311. (fn. 45) His son John had livery of his lands in that year, (fn. 46) but John Wogan, justiciar of Ireland, (fn. 47) evidently had the custody of Moulsford in 1316. (fn. 48) John Carew died about 1324. (fn. 49) His eldest son Nicholas died about the same time. (fn. 50) According to one return the heir was John younger son of John Carew by his second wife Joan, (fn. 51) but the Berkshire jury stated that Thomas brother of John the elder was the next heir to Moulsford. (fn. 52) The manor was seized first by Master William Carew, and afterwards by night on 6 May 1325 by Joan widow of John Carew and her son John, contrary to the will of the king's escheator. (fn. 53) One-third of the manor had been assigned in dower to Joan, (fn. 54) who was afterwards in the service of Queen Philippa, (fn. 55) and Eleanor widow of Nicholas Carew the son also had a portion in dower. (fn. 56) John Carew paid £100 fine for his seizure of Moulsford Manor, (fn. 57) and it apparently passed to his uncle Thomas. (fn. 58) In 1331 Thomas Carew had licence to enfeoff Master William Carew, (fn. 59) probably in trust for his nephew John, (fn. 60) who was afterwards knighted and became justiciar of Ireland. (fn. 61) He held the manor at his death on Whit Monday, 1362, (fn. 62) and his son Leonard received seisin of it in 1364. (fn. 63) He died 9 October 1369, leaving an infant son Thomas, (fn. 64) and his 'next friend' had the custody of the manor. (fn. 65) This was evidently Nicholas Carew of Purley in Theale Hundred, who had a grant of free warren there in 1373. (fn. 66) Thomas Carew, or another of the same name, was in possession in 1401, (fn. 67) and made a settlement on his wife Elizabeth 8 April 1410. (fn. 68) She survived, (fn. 69) and in 1437 joined with Nicholas son of Thomas Carew in a settlement upon herself, with remainder to Nicholas and his wife Joan, who afterwards married Robert Vere. (fn. 70) At her death in 1451 the heir was Thomas son of Nicholas and Joan. (fn. 71) His son Nicholas Carew transferred Moulsford Manor to Joan Denham, widow, and others, (fn. 72) probably in trust for his son Edmund. (fn. 73) In 1497 Edmund Carew sold his Berkshire lands to Bartholomew Reed, citizen and goldsmith of London. (fn. 74)
Bartholomew Reed was lord mayor in 1502 (fn. 75) and died on 26 October 1505, (fn. 76) having bequeathed Moulsford Manor to his wife with a ten years' estate after her death to the Goldsmiths' Company, and remainder to William younger son of his brother John. (fn. 77) A John Reed was dealing with the manor in 1578. (fn. 78) He evidently sold it about 1581 to George Chowne and Christopher Puckering. (fn. 79) They conveyed it in 1591 to James Morris and Francis Craddock, (fn. 80) and in 1596 it was purchased by 'Henry Samborne of Bishops Lands (co. Oxon.)' from Thomas Mildmay, (fn. 81) who apparently had some connexion with Craddock. (fn. 82) The Samborne family were already settled at Moulsford. (fn. 83) Sir Henry Samborne, knighted in March 1608–9 and Sheriff of Berkshire in 1631, (fn. 84) set an example to the whole county in refusing the use of his pigeon-house at Moulsford, 'the best of all the county,' for the making of saltpetre. (fn. 85) His son Henry did not live at the manor-house as his father had, (fn. 86) but let it to a certain Robert Gregory, (fn. 87) and in 1668 sold the manor to Anthony Libbe, (fn. 88) youngerson of Richard Libbe of Hardwick (co. Oxon.). (fn. 89) Anthony Libbe evidently lived at the 'Place House.' (fn. 90) The subsequent history of the manor is somewhat obscure. Early in the 18th century it was evidently subject to the interests of a considerable number of persons. William Hatton and his wife Elizabeth, Henry Predy and his wife Dorothy, Richard Hatton and his wife Eleanor, Martha and Mary White, and Jonathan Sayer and his wife Mary conveyed a messuage and free fishery, probably a portion of the manor, to Robert Baker in 1715. (fn. 91) Dorothy Predy acquired the interest of Martha and Mary White in a messuage and a moiety of the manor about the same time, (fn. 92) and the Hatton interest in certain land and the ferry was acquired by James Wallis. (fn. 93) In 1727 Richard and William Hatton and others conveyed this manor to Cornelius Norton, together with Aston Tirrold (fn. 94) (q.v.). Towards the end of the century Robert Baker and his younger brother George, sons of Wilmot Baker, held the estate in moieties (fn. 95) until 1778, when, upon the death of George, the whole passed to Robert Baker, who died in 1812. (fn. 96) He was succeeded by his nephew the Rev. Deacon Morrell, son of James Morrell of Oxford, attorney-at-law, by Ann daughter of Wilmot Baker. (fn. 97) The Rev. Deacon Morrell died in 1854, and the estate passed to his great-nephew Hopewell Baker Morrell, whose son Hopewell James Shuldham Morrell succeeded to it. He died in 1906, and in the following year the manor was sold by his widow to Mr. Arthur William Mayo-Robson, C.V.O., F.R.C.S., who sold it in 1913 to Mr. Charles Anthony Mills, the present owner. (fn. 98)
A manor-house existed in the 14th and 15th centuries. (fn. 99) Sir Henry Samborne lived at Moulsford, but the house was taken down by Robert Baker about 1800. (fn. 100) Samborne had a grant of view of frankpledge and court leet in 1616. (fn. 101)
The so-called manor of SOUTHBURY, now known as SOWBERY COURT, is evidently identical with the land in Moulsford given to Eynsham Abbey by Robert Doyley (fn. 102) the second. The gift was confirmed by his son Henry. (fn. 103) The land was extended at 1 hide, (fn. 104) and may, therefore, have been the 1 unlocated hide in the Domesday Survey held by Robert Doyley, (fn. 105) predecessor of the Robert mentioned above. (fn. 106) This hide had been held before the Conquest by Azor, steward of Edward the Confessor. He held it under Robert in 1086, and it was then said that Robert Doyley had no just claim to it. (fn. 107) In the 13th century (fn. 108) a dispute arose between Eynsham and Reading concerning the ferry to Moulsford Mill, which the Abbot of Reading said belonged to his manor of Cholsey. (fn. 109) The Abbots of Eynsham alienated their land in Moulsford at a quit-rent of 4s. yearly and service at the manor of South Stoke. (fn. 110) Nicholas de Southbury was holding it in the 13th century. (fn. 111) It subsequently came into the possession of the Havill family. About 1366 the heirs of Philip de Havill (Haunle), (fn. 112) and in 1530 'Hawell of Moulsford,' owed 4s. to the abbey. (fn. 113) In 1634 Luke Havill conveyed certain tenements, including a fishery and 160 acres of arable in Moulsford, to John Higges. (fn. 114) Possibly this was the same Luke Havill who with his wife Joan and with Luke Havill the younger was dealing with a fishery and lands in Moulsford in 1659. (fn. 115) At the beginning of the 18th century this tenement was evidently held in moieties by Daniel Webb and his wife Elizabeth and Isaac Wane and his wife Anne. (fn. 116) The earliest record found of the 'manor' of Southbury occurs in 1763, when Samuel Norman and Jane Wheate suffered recovery of two-thirds of a moiety. (fn. 117) These were evidently the two-thirds of a moiety with which Robert Michaelson and his wife Millicent were dealing in 1813. (fn. 118) They also held another fourth part of the manor. (fn. 119)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST consists of a chancel, north vestry, nave, north aisle, and a wooden bellcote at the west end. In 1846 the old church was taken down and the present building erected on the old foundations, with the addition of a north aisle, from designs by Sir G. Gilbert Scott, and at the cost of the lord of the manor. The west wall of the nave and the main structural portions of the wooden steeple were retained.
In the east wall of the chancel is a window of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery of late decorated type within a two-centred head. This window is said to have been copied from the east window of the original church. In the west wall is a small lancet window of original 13th-century date. At the west end of the nave is the original timber framing carrying the bellcote. The two westernmost roof trusses are strengthened by four wall-posts resting on the floor, and from them spring curved braces supporting the tie-beams on which rest the corner posts of the bellcote. The bellcote has been much restored, and is surmounted by a modern conical roof covered with oak shingles. Among the older monuments are four mural tablets to members of the Gifford and Jones families.
There are two modern bells.
The communion plate consists of a chalice bearing the date letter of the year 1774 and a paten of 1847.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1772 to 1812, burials 1773 to 1812; (ii) marriages 1754 to 1808.
Moulsford was a chapelry of Cholsey until 1845, when it was constituted a perpetual curacy in the gift of the lord of Moulsford Manor. (fn. 120) There is mention of the chapel of Moulsford in a charter dated between 1220 and 1227. (fn. 121) A portion of tithes belonged to Wallingford Priory, to which it was confirmed about 1110. (fn. 122) It was granted with the priory to Cardinal Wolsey, (fn. 123) and was subsequently acquired by William Badby and Edmund Downing. (fn. 124)
In 1697 William Samborne, by will, gave to the poor two closes in the parish of Streatley. The land, containing 3 acres or thereabouts, is let at £4 a year, and the net income is distributed among the poor in sums of 3s. each.
In 1880 Mrs. Sally Hall Bradshaw, by her will, proved at London 26 August in that year, bequeathed £900 consols, now held by the official trustees, the income to be distributed to the poor, preference being given to the aged and infirm. The annual dividends, amounting to £22 10s., are distributed as directed by the will in sums of 10s. to 30s. each.