Parishes: Sotwell

Pages 507-511

A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.

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Stottanwille (x cent.); Sotwelle (xi cent.); Suttanwylle (xii cent.); Shottewell (xiii-xiv cent.); Satwell (xv-xix cent.). (fn. 1)

This parish intervenes between the two portions of the parish of Brightwell, its northern part being an elevation of the Upper Greensand rising to 322 ft., and its southern part a level of sandy loam. The area is 708 acres, of which 6 are covered by water. There are 380 acres of arable and 187 acres of grass. (fn. 2) There are also considerable orchards. The soil is good, the chief crops being wheat, barley and beans. The occupations are agriculture and fruit culture. Sand-pits are worked at the eastern end of the parish. The bulk of the parish lies to the north of the village, which has the manor-house of Sotwell Farm at its western end and the site of its second manor-house at its eastern end. Midway between these is the church of St. James. Southward from Sotwell Farm and the church the remainder of the parish is a narrow strip with an apex of about a furlong in width on the Moreton Brook, giving a southern outlet independent of Brightwell.

There are some ancient tracks which cross the parish. (fn. 3) A new road through the western part of the village on the line of a former foot-path was made by the late Mr. Edward Fairthorne to supersede a watery lane called the 'Well Springs.' Mr. Fairthorne also gave to the parish a large recreation ground south of the village.

The moated house at Sotwell Farm, (fn. 4) of which the back part is ancient, doubtless represents the manor-house of Sotwell St. John. Arthur, Prince of Wales, is said by tradition to have stayed here when Robert Court, his auditor, lived at Mackney (fn. 5) in Brightwell (q.v.). The site of the mill mentioned from the 10th to the 13th century (fn. 6) is seen outside the moat on the north.

The site of the second manor-house, called Stonor Hayes or Stonhouses, is an orchard with remarkable trenches. (fn. 7) Manor Farm, to the west of it, has a house of some antiquity, which has long been occupied by the owners of the united manors. The Priory farm-house, the capital messuage of the estate belonging to Wallingford Priory in Sotwell, of some antiquity, is on the southern edge of the village.

There is no Nonconformist chapel, but one formerly stood in 'Chapel Close.' (fn. 8) The children of the parish attend Brightwell School.

Fragments of British pottery with bones of red deer and other animals have been found near the foot-path on the eastern boundary of the parish. (fn. 9) An ancient cottage at the south-east corner of the churchyard is known as the 'Old Rectory.' (fn. 10) An old house further westward is notorious as having been used by smugglers for concealing spirits. (fn. 11)

The Inclosure Award is dated 1842, under an Act of 41 Geo. III, (fn. 12) and the tithe map 1838.

Field-names to be noted are 'Gore Furlong,' 'Slat Furlong,' 'Town Furlong,' 'Bustard Piece,' where the last bustard is said to have been killed. (fn. 13) 'Coticroft' and 'The Evils' (fn. 14) are near the brook; 'Smellmoor' and 'Gaudicroft' are north of these. 'Kedging meadow' (partly in Brightwell) is on the Thames; and near it are 'Pedmoor,' 'The Sideling' and 'The Butts.' 'Morelynch,' (fn. 15) 'Stonore Elm,' 'le Courte Gate' (fn. 16) occur in the 16th century, 'Bishop field,' 'Mett lands,' 'Portfurlong' in the 17th century.


In its earliest history SOTWELL is identified with Brightwell (q.v.). King Eadred is said to have granted to the thegn Æthelgeard in 948 5 hides at 'Suttunwille,' with 5 at Mackney, and both portions of this grant appear to be included in 15 hides at 'Stottanwille,' which, according to the Liber de Hyda, were granted to him by Eadwy in 957 and bestowed by him upon Hyde Abbey at Winchester; but the Mackney portion passed with the other Brightwell lands to the bishopric of Winchester. (fn. 17) In the Domesday Survey Sotwell is reckoned as 10 hides, which were held by the abbey of St. Peter, Winchester (Hyde), in demesne in the time of Edward the Confessor, and by Hugh de Port in fee of the abbey after the Conquest, when the value had increased from £8 to £12; also eight closes in Wallingford belonged to it. (fn. 18) In 1347 it is described as 'held of the abbot of Hyde with suit at the king's hundred of Morton.' (fn. 19) The abbot's overlordship is last mentioned in 1416. (fn. 20) The manor was still held of the hundred of Moreton in 1494 and 1613. (fn. 21) In 1615 the tenure was not known. (fn. 22) Hugh de Port's interest in the manor apparently descended in the same way as West Shefford (fn. 23) to Sir John St. John, who in 1277 granted it to Nutus Fulberti, a merchant of Florence, and Mary his wife, for their lives. (fn. 24) Mary outlived Nutus, and was holding the manor in 1309–10, when she was disturbed in possession by Roger St. John. (fn. 25)

St. John. Argent a chief gules charged with two molets or.

The manor had apparently reverted to John's son John St. John before 1316, (fn. 26) and in 1327 he granted it for twenty years to Margaret widow of William de Bereford. (fn. 27) The reversion passed with West Shefford until the death of Edmund St. John in 1347, when a third of Sotwell, part of which was held in dower by Alice widow of John St. John, then wife of Reynold Pavely, was granted to Elizabeth the widow of Edmund St. John as dower, and the manor was assigned to one of his sisters, Margaret wife of John de St. Philibert, (fn. 28) who conveyed it in 1354 to Edward St. John. (fn. 29) In 1364 Edward settled the manor on himself and his wife Joan and their issue, with remainder to Richard son of Richard Fitz Alan Earl of Arundel and Surrey and his heirs male. (fn. 30) Edward evidently died childless, and the manor passed to Richard, who succeeded his father as Earl of Arundel in 1376. (fn. 31) Richard was attainted and executed in 1397, and Sotwell was granted in that year to Thomas Percy Earl of Worcester. (fn. 32) Richard had, however, granted it to his esquire, Thomas Parker, for life, the grant being confirmed by his son Earl Thomas, who must have had this manor restored, as he held the reversion at his death in 1415. (fn. 33) Thomas Parker held courts from 1424 to 1426, (fn. 34) but William Parker was holding the manor in 1428. (fn. 35) The manor of Sotwell, called 'St. John's Manor,' soon afterwards passed into the possession of Sir Thomas Poynings, Lord St. John, overlord of Sotwell Stonor, and he, shortly before his death in 1428, granted it to trustees for his tenant Thomas Stonor. (fn. 36) These trustees leased the manor in 1430 for ten years to John Pope. (fn. 37)

The two manors of Sotwell St. John and Sotwell Stonor having thus become united descended with Didcot (q.v.) to Sir William Stonor, who held them at his death in 1494. (fn. 38) His daughter Anne brought them by marriage to Sir Adrian Fortescue. (fn. 39) Sir Adrian was beheaded in 1539 and the manor passed to his daughter Margaret wife of Thomas Lord Wentworth. (fn. 40) Her son Thomas Lord Wentworth conveyed it in 1562 to John Bolney and Ambrose Dormer. (fn. 41) Bolney seems to have sold it to John Upperton, (fn. 42) and in 1581 Thomas Upperton enfeoffed Edmund Fettiplace, who held it at his death in 1613. (fn. 43) Two years later Sir Michael Moleyns of Mackney died seised of the two manors, which passed to his son Sir Barentine Moleyns, (fn. 44) and from him to his only son Michael. (fn. 45) He conveyed them in 1655 to Sir John Smith, kt., (fn. 46) of Crabbet, Sussex, who appears to have died in or before 1682, when his son John Smith sold them to Ralph Whistler of Sotwell. (fn. 47) Ralph Whistler died in 1684, leaving a sole daughter and heir Joan. (fn. 48) She married James Stonhouse, son of Sir George Stonhouse of Radley, bart. (fn. 49) James died before 1713, (fn. 50) and in 1715 the manor was settled as jointure on Carolina Bullock on her marriage with James's son Richard. (fn. 51) In 1763 Richard's son James sold the manor to James Hazel of Sotwell. (fn. 52) He devised it in 1768 to his son William, who by his will in 1827 gave it to his son James for life and afterwards for sale. (fn. 53) It was then purchased by John and Benjamin Hazel, brothers of the last-named James, and was by them devised to John Hazel, the son of their brother Robert Hazel of Harwell. (fn. 54) He died in 1896, leaving his estate to his widow for life and afterwards to be divided among their children, and at the death of Mrs. Hazel in 1903 the larger part of the estate was sold to various purchasers, the Manor Farm and Stonor Hayes with the manorial rights being reserved to Martha Emily the daughter of the last John Hazel and wife of Mr. Richard Bradfield Lay, who is the present lady of the manor.

One hide in Sotwell was held by an unnamed tenant in 1086. (fn. 55) In 1156 the tithe of the demesne of Matthew de Sotwell was confirmed to Wallingford Priory, (fn. 56) and in 1246 John son of Matthew de Sotwell purchased land here of Joan wife of William de Leckyndon. (fn. 57) In 1253 he witnessed a charter relating to Mackney. (fn. 58) The manor then appears to have passed to the Mandeville family, (fn. 59) for in 1283 John son of John de Mandeville sued his father's widow Clementia wife of Simon de Montalt for her dower, Sotwell eventually passing to her, (fn. 60) and in 1290 John de Mandeville ceded to John St. John an estate in 'Scotewell' for which he received one red sparrowhawk, while he retained the other property there. (fn. 61) It seems probable that this was the estate which became in the 14th century the manor of SOTWELL STONOR. This consisted of a messuage and a carucate of land in Sotwell, with a second carucate which is frequently described as in Sotwell, (fn. 62) but is clearly identical with Slade End in Brightwell (q.v.). In 1354 and in 1362 the whole was said to be held of the Bishop of Winchester as of his manor of Brightwell by service of 12s., (fn. 63) but in 1394 the one portion was a knight's fee held of the manor of Basing, and the other was held of the bishop. (fn. 64) John de Stonor and his sons Henry and Edmund acquired this estate in 1342 of Henry son of Robert de Sotwell as two messuages and 2 carucates of land in Sotwell and Brightwell. (fn. 65) In 1347 half a fee in Sotwell was held of the manor of Sotwell by John de Stonor, (fn. 66) who in 1358 granted a piece of land here caHed 'Le Fyshpollondes' to John le Smyth and Matilda his wife and their son John for their lives. (fn. 67) John de Stonor died in 1361, (fn. 68) and this manor descended with Didcot (fn. 69) (q.v.) until the two Sotwell manors became united about 1429.

In 1156 the tithes of the land of Matthew de Sotwell were confirmed to the priory of Wallingford, (fn. 70) and the temporalities of the chapel were charged in 1291 with a sum of 4s. to the Prior of Wallingford. (fn. 71) In 1392 the prior acquired land of John Seward and John Wentwode. (fn. 72) A lease of the estate was granted in 1508 to William Jener, (fn. 73) and in 1516 to William Lyde or Luyde, whose widow Joan held it in 1550. (fn. 74) The Sotwell estate was included among the possessions of the priory at its dissolution in 1528 (fn. 75) and in the grant to Wolsey the same year. (fn. 76) After his attainder it was granted in 1532 to the Dean and Canons of St. George's, Windsor, (fn. 77) but the grant appears to have been withdrawn, for in 1554 it was granted to Thomas Everarde together with the manor of Aston Tirrold (fn. 78) (q.v.). In 1550 a messuage and tithes in Sotwell were conveyed by Sir Humphrey Foster to his son William, from whom at his death in 1574 they passed to his son Humphrey. (fn. 79) The subsequent history of the estate cannot be traced, but in 1842 William and John Tayler held jointly the priory farm, which they sold shortly afterwards to Mr. Edward Wells of Slade End in Brightwell (q.v.). The Sotwell Hill portion of the estate passed to his son Mr. Alfred Dodd Wells, the present owner, and the other parts were purchased by Mr. Edward Fairthorne, who left them to his niece together with his estate at Slade End in Brightwell (fn. 80) (q.v.).

Fisheries are named as belonging to the manor in the grant by John St. John in 1277. (fn. 81) The 'fishpool lands' having been granted away from the manor of Sotwell Stonor in 1358, (fn. 82) no further mention of them is found for a long period, but their history is traceable. Fisheries in the Thames were held with the manor of Rush and land in Clapcot (fn. 83) and Sotwell called the 'cyte' by John James of Wallingford in right of Christine his wife at his death in 1396, passing to their son Robert. (fn. 84) A fishery in the Thames, described as in Clapcot and Brightwell and other places, was held with the manors of Clapcot and Rush Court, (fn. 85) and messuages in Sotwell and Brightwell by the Dynham family from 1547 to 1571, (fn. 86) and conveyed by Thomas Bromley to Michael Moleyns in 1576. (fn. 87) Free fishery in the Thames was among the rights conveyed with the manor of Sotwell by Sir Barentine Moleyns in 1616 and 1627. (fn. 88) It belonged in 1687 to Sir Edmund Fettiplace, (fn. 89) and passed in 1770 from Richard Boycott to William Blackstone. (fn. 90) His grandson William Seymour Blackstone sold it about the middle of the 19th century to Thomas Powell, of whom it was purchased in 1880 by Mr. Howard Wells of Sotwell, who again sold it in 1903 to Mrs. Frances Haggie of Shillingford Court (Oxon.), with whom it remains. (fn. 91).


The church of ST. JAMES, almost entirely rebuilt in 1884 on the old foundations, consists of a chancel and nave, and a timber bellcote surmounting the west gable of the nave.

In the exterior of the north wall of the chancel the head of a small 12th-century window from the former church has been built in. In the south wall is placed the head of a window of similar date, carved with a peculiar form of trellis pattern. In the north wall of the nave is an original 15th-century window of two cinquefoiled lights within a square head. Next to the westward are two windows, each of a single cinquefoiled light, the western of which is also of original 15th-century date. Between these two windows a portion of a 13th-century respond capital has been built into the inside face of the wall. On the exterior, portions of the original 13th-century north doorway have been incorporated into the new wall, and also the head and jambs of a 12th-century round-arched window. The head of the doorway is shouldered; the lintel and jambs are old, but the shoulders of the head are modern.

The high-pitched roof of the nave of the former building, apparently of early 14th-century date, has been preserved. The trusses have moulded tie-beams and collars supported by curved braces.

The two bells are in an inaccessible bellcote, but are said to be modern.

The communion plate consists of a cup with the date mark of 1780, a paten with the mark of 1831 and two modern glass flagons.

The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1684 to 1722, burials 1693 to 1722, baptisms and burials promiscuously 1723 to 1754, marriages 1693 to 1726; (ii) baptisms 1684 to 1812, burials 1693 to 1812, marriages 1693 to 1754; (iii) marriages 1756 to 1812.


The 'chapel of Sottewell' is first named in 1158 as a dependency of the church of St. Lucian in Wallingford, (fn. 92) which belonged to the priory of St. Frideswide in Oxford. (fn. 93) The chapelry continued to be annexed to St. Leonard's in Wallingford (fn. 94) after the disappearance of St. Lucian's in the 14th century. In 1868 it was separated from St. Leonard's and united to Brightwell (q.v.).


In 1712 John Leaver, by his will proved in the Court of the Archdeacon of Berkshire at Oxford, gave 10s. yearly for the benefit of the poor. The rent-charge is paid out of Baker's Farm, Sotwell, by Mr. A. D. Wells, the present owner, and applied in aid of the Brightwell and Sotwell Coal Club.

The Clerk's Land is now represented by £168 3s. consols with the official trustees arising from the sales in 1879 of a rood of land in Brightwell allotted in 1813, and of 2 roods in Sotwell Field allotted in 1842 for the benefit of the parish clerk. The dividends, amounting to £4 4s. a year, are paid to a woman who acts as caretaker of the church and who rings the bell.

For the Fairthorne Scholarships, the Stewart Village Club, and the recreation ground, being the charitable gifts of Mr. Edward Fairthorne, see under the parish of Brightwell.

By deeds, 1907 and 1908 (enrolled), Miss Augusta Fairthorne settled a building and site and adjoining land as a dwelling-house for the minister of the Mission Hall, now known as the Brightwell Free Church. The expenses of maintenance are defrayed out of the funds of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union, including the income of certain securities transferred by Miss Fairthorne.


  • 1. 'Stotta's Well,' from which the village may be named, would be 'the well-springs' to the north of Sotwell Farm.
  • 2. Statistics from Bd. of Agric. (1905).
  • 3. Berks. Bucks. and Oxon. Arch. Journ. xii, 11, 83.
  • 4. V.C.H. Berks. i, 269.
  • 5. Berks. Bucks. and Oxon. Arch. Journ. xvi, 120.
  • 6. Kemble, Cod. Dipl. v, 316; V.C.H. Berks. i, 343; Cal. Pat. 1272–81, p. 211. A horse-mill is mentioned in the 16th century (Ct. R. [Gen. Ser.], portf. 154, no. 64).
  • 7. V.C.H. Berks. i, 270.
  • 8. Berks. Bucks. and Oxon. Arch. Journ. xvi, 120.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Blue Bk. Incl. Awards, 9.
  • 13. Berks. Bucks. and Oxon. Arch. Journ. xvi, 120.
  • 14. 'Iwilde' (xvi cent.); probably 'eawells' (water-springs) (Berks. Bucks. and Oxon. Arch. Journ. xvi, 120).
  • 15. Surv. of Wallingford, 1550, penes Mrs. J. M. Marshall.
  • 16. Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 154, no. 65.
  • 17. See Brightwell.
  • 18. V.C.H. Berks. i, 343; cf. ibid. 287. There is no ground for the statement of Rudborne (Angl. Sacr. i, 248–9) that the Conqueror took this manor from the abbey (V.C.H. Hants, i, 418).
  • 19. Chan. Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 57.
  • 20. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 110, 123; Chan. Inq. p.m. 4 Hen. V, file 255, no. 54.
  • 21. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, 441; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccxxxiii, 42.
  • 22. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccclxxviii, 130.
  • 23. Geoffrey de Mandeville is returned as holding the estate early in the 13th century, possibly during William St. John's forfeiture (Testa de Nevill [Rec. Com.], 110, 126; Dugdale, Baronage, i, 464).
  • 24. Pat. 5 Edw. I, m. 13; De Banco R. 18, m. 72.
  • 25. De Banco R. Mich. 3 Edw. II, m. 520.
  • 26. Feud. Aids, i, 52.
  • 27. Abbrev. Rot. Orig. (Rec. Com.), ii, 27; Index Plac. de Banco R. (P.R.O. Lists and Indexes), i, 21.
  • 28. Chan. Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 57; Cal. Close, 1346–9, pp. 330, 331.
  • 29. Feet of F. Berks. case 11, file 65, no. 6.
  • 30. Ibid. case 11, file 68, no. 1.
  • 31. G.E.C. Complete Peerage, i, 146.
  • 32. Ibid.; Cal. Pat. 1396–9, p. 213.
  • 33. Chan. Inq. p.m. 4 Hen. V, file 255, no. 54.
  • 34. Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 154, no. 62.
  • 35. Feud. Aids, i, 65.
  • 36. Close, 7 Hen. VI, m. 18, 19; Chan. Inq. p.m. 7 Hen. VI, no. 69.
  • 37. Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 154, no. 62.
  • 38. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, 441.
  • 39. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv (2), 3500; x, 1091; Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 154, no. 63–5.
  • 40. Early Chan. Proc. bdle. 505, no. 54; G.E.C. Complete Peerage, viii, 96.
  • 41. Feet of F. Div. Co. East. 4 Eliz.
  • 42. Close, 4 Eliz. pt. xxvi, no. 45.
  • 43. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccxxxiii, 42.
  • 44. Ibid. ccclxxviii, 130.
  • 45. Visit. of Berks. (Harl. Soc.), i, 112; Feet of F. Berks. East. 4 Chas. I; Hil. 5 Chas. I; Hil. 6 Chas. I; Recov. R. East. 7 Chas. I, m. 36.
  • 46. Feet of F. Berks. East. 1655.
  • 47. Ibid. Trin. 34 Chas. II; Deeds in possession of Mrs. Lay.
  • 48. Monument in Sotwell Church.
  • 49. Feet of F. Div. Co. Mich. 2 Jas. II; Deed in possession of Mrs. Lay.
  • 50. Feet of F. Div. Co. Trin. 12 Anne.
  • 51. Deed penes Mrs. Lay.
  • 52. Feet of F. Berks. East. 3 Geo. III.
  • 53. Deeds penes Mrs. Lay.
  • 54. Ibid.
  • 55. V.C.H. Berks. i, 343.
  • 56. Dugdale, Mon. iii, 280. In 1162 Matthew obtained remission of 5s. due from him for danegeld (Pipe R. 8 Hen. II [Pipe R. Soc.], 44).
  • 57. Feet of F. Berks. Hil. 30 Hen. III, no. 1.
  • 58. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), C 1949. Edith de Sotwell in 1297 paid £10 for 12 acres in Sotwell, the property of Emma wife of Laurence le Veneter of Wallingford (Feet of F. Berks. 25 Edw. I, no. 9).
  • 59. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 110, 126.
  • 60. Feet of F. Div. Co. East. 11 Edw. I, no. 128.
  • 61. Ibid. Berks. Trin. 18 Edw. I, no. 3.
  • 62. Chan. Inq. p.m. 3 Hen. V, no. 34.
  • 63. Ibid. 28 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 58; 35 Edw. III, pt. ii (1st nos.), no. 57.
  • 64. Ibid. 17 Ric. II, no. 45; 18 Ric. II, no. 39; 3 Hen. V, no. 34.
  • 65. Harl. Roll G. 17 (6).
  • 66. Chan Inq. p.m. 21 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 57.
  • 67. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), C 1369.
  • 68. Chan. Inq. p.m. 35 Edw. III, pt. ii (1st nos.), no. 57.
  • 69. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), C 2529; Close, 14 Ric. II, m. 38d.; 16 Ric. II, m. 20 d.; Chan. Inq. p.m. 18 Ric. II, no. 39; 3 Hen. V, no. 34; Close, 5 Hen. V, m. 17.
  • 70. Dugdale, Mon. iii, 280.
  • 71. Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 191.
  • 72. Cal. Pat. 1391–6, p. 97.
  • 73. Leadam, Dom. of Incl. i, 143.
  • 74. MS. Surv. of Wallingford, fol. 21.
  • 75. Exch. Inq. p.m. (Ser.2), file 799, no.3.
  • 76. L. and P. Hen. VIII, iv (2), 4471.
  • 77. Ibid. v, 1351.
  • 78. MS. Deed under the Great Seal penes Mr. F. J. K. Cross.
  • 79. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), clxviii, 1.
  • 80. Inform. from Mr. A. D. Wells.
  • 81. Cal. Pat. 1272–81, p. 211.
  • 82. See above.
  • 83. See Wallingford. An isolated part of the parish of Brightwell on the river is surrounded on three sides by that of Sotwell and is adjacent to Clapcot.
  • 84. Chan. Inq. p.m. 20 Ric. II, no. 32.
  • 85. See Wallingford.
  • 86. Feet of F. Berks. East. 1 Edw VI; Mich. 3 Edw. VI; Hil. 13 Eliz.
  • 87. Ibid. Trin. and Mich. 18 Eliz.
  • 88. Ibid. Trin. 14 Jas. I; Trin. 3 Chas. I.
  • 89. Recov. R. Trin. 3 Jas. II, m. 11.
  • 90. Feet of F. Berks. Mich. 10 Geo. III.
  • 91. Inform. from Mr. Howard Wells.
  • 92. Chartul. of St. Frideswide (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i, 29.
  • 93. Ibid. ii, 365.
  • 94. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), ii, 153; Cal. S. P. Dom. 1655–6, p. 311.