A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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'Parishes: Welford', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4, (London, 1924) pp. 116-125. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol4/pp116-125 [accessed 29 February 2024]
Weliford (ix–xii cent.); Welliford (x–xii cent.); Waliford (xi–xii cent.); Weleford (xiii cent.); Welforde, Welford (xv cent.).
The parish of Welford lies partly in the valley of the Lambourn, which bisects the parish, and partly in the valley of the Kennet, which forms its southern boundary. There are several villages or hamlets. Welford lies around the church in the centre of the Lambourn Valley portion, with Easton a mile down and Weston a mile up the river. Welford Park, lying to the west of the church, is a large modern red brick building, surrounded by a deer park of 200 acres. It is the property of the lord of the manor, Col. G. B. Archer-Houblon, but is at present the residence of Major R. P. Cobbold. Some of the brick cottages in the village have thatched roofs. Wickham lies in the south-west corner of the parish near the ancient chapel of ease on the top of the hill where two ancient highways crossed one another. The rectory at Wickham is a large building in the style of the 15th century. In its original state it was a square red brick building erected towards the end of the 18th century. Towards the middle of the last century it was enlarged by the addition of bays to the east and south sides and a tower and new front on the west side. The tower is a copy of that at the house of Jacques Cœur at Bourges; over it is an ornate stone spire 100 ft. high. Hoe Benham lies to the south of the ridge at the eastern side of the parish and extends southward to the Bath road, where is a hamlet known as the Half-way, from the inn of that name. Near the Half-way is Milton Lodge, occupied by the Rev. J. C. W. Le Mesurier. The highest point in the parish is the plateau on which Wickham Chapel stands, which is 544 ft. above the ordnance datum, and the lowest points are where the Lambourn leaves the parish, about 310 ft., and where the Kennet leaves the parish, less than 290 ft. above the ordnance datum.
The parish contains 5,228 acres, of which 3,168 are arable, 886 permanent grass, and 486 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The chief crops are wheat, barley and oats. The soil is mostly chalky, often covered with a few feet of clay with flints. There are beds of clay and sand at the higher levels, beds of gravel at the top of the plateau and on the hill-top at Easton, as well as in the valleys of the Kennet and the Lambourn, while at the bottom of both valleys there is peat and alluvial soil. The Great Western railway line from Newbury to Hungerford and the west, opened on 21 December 1847, skirts the southern boundary of the parish, but has no station here, while the Lambourn Valley branch of the same company, opened in 1898, runs through the centre of the parish, with a station near Welford village, called Welford Park.
The highway from London to Bath crosses Hoe Benham at the south of the parish, where stands the Half-way Inn, said to be half-way between the two ends of the road. The high road to Lambourn runs through the parish along the bottom of the valley, and the Newbury and Baydon road, which follows the direction probably taken by the Roman road from Spinœ to Durocornovium, runs along the ridge which divides the two valleys.
The parish is divided into several townships or vills—Welford, Easton, Weston and Hoe Benham—but the boundaries of these, though approximately known, cannot now be defined with certainty, except the boundary between Welford and Weston, which is shown on the map of the Commons Award. The common fields, meadows and waste of the whole parish, with the exception of Weston, were inclosed in 1820, and a copy of the award is in the custody of the lord of the manor.
There are Congregational and Primitive Methodist chapels at Weston. The elementary school for the parish is at Wickham.
The population is mainly agricultural, but a few men find employment at the brick and tile works at Wickham, which have been in existence for over a century.
A standing stone, known as Hangmanstone, at the north of the parish, where it meets the parishes of Leckhampstead and Boxford, has already been referred to under Boxford (q.v.). At the entrance of the garden of Wickham House is a mound, which is said by some to be soil excavated from the cellar of the house, while others state that it is a barrow and some gold coins were found in it about sixty years ago.
Many traces of Roman occupation have been found in this parish. (fn. 2)
A charter of Kenwulf in 821 purports to confirm to the abbey of Abingdon, amongst other property, lands at WELFORD with its members and Wickham with its fields, in like manner as King Ceadwalla had given them, but this charter, in the form that it has reached us, has been pronounced a forgery. (fn. 3)
In 949 King Edred granted to his servant Wulfric 13 'mansae' at Welford, which the latter gave soon afterwards to Abingdon Abbey, (fn. 4) and in 956 King Edwin granted 22 'mansae' here to his servant Edric, which were also passed on to the same abbey. (fn. 5) Both charters enumerate the bounds of the vill, which in both cases are nearly identical, though the second series apparently includes a larger area than the first. Many of the places thus mentioned can be located with fair precision, as they occur in the bounds both of Boxford and Leckhampstead, but none of the names are found existing at the present day.
After the Conquest the abbey continued to hold the manor of Welford, which seems to have included the vill of Easton as well as the hamlet of Wickham, and the abbey is returned as holding it in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 6)
In 1107 King Henry I renounced his forest rights over the waste of this manor, and at the same time he granted the abbot permission to inclose and cultivate the waste and to recover fugitives. (fn. 7) The manor was confirmed to the abbey by Pope Eugenius in 1146 and 1152, (fn. 8) and in 1166–7 the abbey is found paying a tax of 2 marks in respect of this manor and Boxford. (fn. 9)
We have a list of the tenants about 1190, with the conditions of their tenure. The vill of Welford was held in demesne, 3 carucates belonging to the chamberlain of the abbey; four tenants paid rent and service and seven rent without service. There were twenty-three cottagers, two of whom paid rent, the others service. (fn. 10) With its members it was at this date assessed at 27½ hides. (fn. 11) There are various references to the abbey's lands here during the Middle Ages. (fn. 12) The abbey is said in 1275–6 to have had free warren here by charter from King Henry I. (fn. 13) During the greater part of the time the abbey farmed its land here by means of a bailiff. In 1528, however, they let the principal messuage, known as Farm Place, with all the demesne lands, for thirty-nine years to Joan Woodward, widow, and Thomas Woodward for a yearly rent of £16. (fn. 14) In 1538 the abbey was dissolved and the abbot surrendered the manor and overlordship to the king, (fn. 15) when a number of surveys were made to ascertain its value. (fn. 16) The overlordship remained in the hands of the Crown, and was attached to the manor of Benham Lovell, while the overlordship of the vill of Easton was attached to the manor of East Greenwich. (fn. 17)
The vills of Welford and Easton, formerly the property of the abbey of Abingdon, remained with the Crown until 1546, when they were leased for twenty-one years to Sir Thomas Parry, kt., late treasurer of the king's household, and Anne his wife, the great trees and woods only being reserved. (fn. 18) The manor was surveyed for the king by Roger Amyce in 1550, (fn. 19) and in 1551–2 it was granted to George Owen, one of the king's physicians, but owing to the previous lease to Sir Thomas Parry the grant was afterwards annulled. (fn. 20) Sir Thomas Parry died in 1560, when it appeared that he had been known also by the name of Vaughan. (fn. 21) His wife, Lady Anne Fortescue, was the daughter of Sir William Rede, and had married as her first husband Adrian Fortescue. She died in 1585. (fn. 22) Sir Thomas's heir was his son Thomas, then aged nineteen and a half years. (fn. 23) The following year the queen granted to him the reversion of the lordship with remainder to his brother Edward. (fn. 24) In 1580 Thomas Parry purchased certain lands nere from Edward Yate and Jane his wife, (fn. 25) and in 1590 the queen granted the manor to him. (fn. 26) In the same year he settled it upon himself and his wife Dorothy, and, failing their issue, upon his sister Muriel and her husband, Sir Thomas Knyvett, and their heirs, (fn. 27) but the manor was resettled in 1615 to the use of Thomas Parry and his heirs. (fn. 28) Sir Thomas Parry, who had been knighted, was ambassador in France and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He died in 1616 seised of this and adjoining manors, when his wife Dorothy survived him, but under a settlement made in 1615 the manor passed to Sir Thomas Knyvett, grandson of Sir Thomas, who had married Muriel Parry, and John Abrahall, son of John Abrahall and Frances Parry. (fn. 29) Sir Thomas left an illegitimate son Samuel, to whom he bequeathed by will a charge on the manor, but owing to the settlements already cited the heirs refused to consider this. (fn. 30)
In 1617 Thomas Knyvett and Sir Thomas, his father, conveyed their share in the manor to Sir Francis Jones, kt., (fn. 31) and the following year John Abrahall and Dorothy his wife sold their portion to the same purchaser. (fn. 32) Sir Francis Jones, alderman of Aldgate in the Haberdashers' Company, was a son of John Jones of Claverley in Shropshire. He was sheriff for the City of London in 1610–11 and lord mayor in 1620–1, (fn. 33) and died at Welford in 1623 seised of the manors of Welford and Easton. In 1622 he had settled this estate upon his son Abraham Jones of the Middle Temple and Susan his wife, and to them the manors descended. (fn. 34) In 1626 Abraham Jones with Susan his wife conveyed the manor to trustees, (fn. 35) and died in 1629 seised of both manors, which passed to his son George, then aged four. (fn. 36) George died without issue (fn. 37) before 1647, when his mother Susan, who had married again, with William Hinton her second husband and William Jones her eldest surviving son, conveyed the manor to George Cure, apparently in trust. (fn. 38) Both she and her son William died, the latter without issue, (fn. 39) before 1664, when we find her third son, Richard Jones, in possession of the estates. (fn. 40) Richard married Anne daughter of Robert Mason, Recorder of London, (fn. 41) and died in 1664, (fn. 42) when the manor passed to his only daughter Mary, aged five. (fn. 43)
Mary married John Archer, son of Sir John Archer, kt., justice of the Common Pleas, and in 1682 he and Mary his wife conveyed these manors to trustees. (fn. 44) Mary died in 1702, (fn. 45) leaving the estate to her husband, who died soon afterwards, when his property passed to William Eyre of Highlow and Holne, Derbyshire, who had married Eleanor the daughter of Sir Walter Wrottesley, bart., and of Eleanor sister of John Archer.
On inheriting the estate William Eyre took the name of Archer, and with Eleanor his wife conveyed the manor to trustees in 1709. (fn. 46) He married as his second wife Susanna sister and heir of Sir Michael Newton, bart., and died in 1729, when his estates descended to his eldest surviving son John. (fn. 47) In 1784 John with his wife Rosanna conveyed the estate to trustees, (fn. 48) and he died in 1800, (fn. 49) when his estates passed to his only daughter Susanna, who had been married in 1770 to Jacob Houblon of Great Hallingbury, Essex. (fn. 50) In 1809 she assumed her grandmother's name of Newton, and died before 1822, when her son John Archer Houblon was in possession of the manor. (fn. 51)
John Archer Houblon married Mary Anne Bramston, and at his death in 1828 his property in this parish passed under his will to his youngest son Charles Archer Houblon, who was holding it in 1828. (fn. 52) Charles Archer Houblon married firstly, in 1835, Mary Anne daughter of General Popham, who died in 1855, and afterwards Louisa Randolph. In 1831 he took the name of Eyre and died on 22 July 1886, when the estate passed to his eldest son George Bramston Eyre, born in 1843. He took the name of Archer-Houblon on inheriting the Hallingbury estates from his uncle in 1891, and is the present possessor of the manor. (fn. 53)
The land in EASTON was not included in the demesne of the abbey, but half a hide was held in 1190 by Wilfrid, a free tenant, for 3s., while the same tenant held another half hide for 2s. and performed certain services. (fn. 54) After the dissolution of the monastery the manor of Easton was granted, as we have seen, to Sir Thomas Parry, and subsequently followed the descent of Welford. Certain lands in Easton, however, were sold in 1545 to Robert Browne, goldsmith of London, (fn. 55) but were probably among the lands purchased by Thomas Parry of Edward Yate and Jane his wife in 1580. (fn. 56) Since then all the lands here appear to have passed with the manor of Welford.
From the Domesday Survey it appears that in 1086 a certain William held WESTON of the abbey of Abingdon, and that Alfric had held it of the abbey in the time of King Edward the Confessor. (fn. 57) This William appears to have been the William Mauduit who was holding the land here by military service in the reign of Henry I, as his father and predecessors had held it before him. (fn. 58) The abbey of Abingdon retained the overlordship until the Dissolution, but part of the land in Weston was held under the abbey by its military tenants. Between 1175 and 1190 we find that there were 10 hides here, of which 4 were held by Robert Pont de l'Arche by military tenure, I was held by John de St. Helena, who held some adjoining land in Shefford, while I belonged to the church; the remaining 4 hides were held by several tenants, who paid rent and service. (fn. 59) Benedict de Weston was holding land here in 1218, some of which he then sold to Geoffrey de Oakhanger, a neighbouring landowner. (fn. 60) In 1247–8 the Prior of Poughley had acquired land here, some of which he then conveyed to William de Macy. (fn. 61) The connexion, however, between these various under-tenants has not been found. During part of the 13th century Drew de Weston held half a knight's fee here of the abbey. (fn. 62)
By 1275–6 the fee had passed from Drew to William de Valence Earl of Pembroke, who attached the fee to his manor of Benham Valence, and so removed it from the hundred of Roeberg to that of Kintbury, in which his other manor lay. (fn. 63) The fee from this time on remained a member of the manor of Benham Valence in the parish of Speen (q.v.).
It was, however, subinfeudated not long afterwards to John de Hartridge and Nichola his wife, to be held by the service due from half a knight's fee. John died seised of it in 1309, when his heir was his daughter Elizabeth, then aged five years. (fn. 64) Elizabeth appears to have married John son of George Percy (fn. 65) before 1340, when John died seised of tenements here held of the Earl of Pembroke, the property passing to his son William, then aged two years. (fn. 66) In 1363 William, with his trustees, sold the property to John Aubrey, citizen and spicer of London, and William of Newark, chaplain, (fn. 67) who sold it in 1365 to John de Cokking of the county of Sussex. (fn. 68) It would appear that the manor passed to William atte Wode, who sold it to John Coteron of Newbury and Sir Richard Abberbury. John Coteron in 1422 released his share to Katherine widow of William atte Wode, (fn. 69) but Sir Richard was holding his share in 1428. (fn. 70) Again the history is obscure, until in 1445 John Roger the younger, who had purchased Benham Valence some years previously, granted to the abbey of Abingdon the manor of Weston, with a tenement here called 'Pittesplace,' in exchange for certain tenements in Lambourn (fn. 71); nevertheless, the manor continued to be a member of the manor of Benham Valence, and its tenants did suit at the courts (fn. 72) of the latter manor. The position now was complicated, for the land here was held by the abbey of the lord of the manor of Benham Valence, who held it by military tenure of the abbey as overlord.
With the dissolution of the abbey the manor and overlordship came to the Crown, when the former was leased in 1540–1 for twenty-one years to Ralph Madocks, (fn. 73) but seems to have been again leased to Robert Elgar, who was the tenant in 1542–3. (fn. 74) In 1544, however, the king granted it to Thomas Denton and Margaret his wife, to be held by a fortieth part of a knight's fee, paying 33s. 3d. rent, (fn. 75) but as they failed to pay the purchase-money the sheriff was ordered to distrain in 1550–1. (fn. 76) In 1552 Thomas Denton of Hillesden, Bucks., with Margaret his wife, sold the manor to Edward Hungerford, who was distrained for failing to do homage in 1564. (fn. 77)
Edward Hungerford was the second son of Sir Anthony Hungerford by his first wife, Jane Darrell, (fn. 78) and died in 1572 seised of this manor, which by his will he left to his wife Dorothy. His eldest son John was then aged eight years, (fn. 79) and coming of age in 1586 received possession of the manor. (fn. 80) John Hungerford was holding it in 1600, and in 1604 conveyed it to John Rastell and Matthew Moore, apparently in trust. (fn. 81) In 1607, with Mary his wife and several others, he conveyed the manor to Anthony Hungerford, (fn. 82) again apparently in trust, for in 1614 he and others sold it to Francis Moore, serjeant-atlaw. (fn. 83)
Francis Moore was the son of Edward Moore of East Ilsley by his wife Elizabeth daughter and one of the heirs of J. Hull of Tilehurst, and was born at East Ilsley in 1558, and in 1614 was made serjeant at-law. He was M.P. for Reading in 1597–8, 1601, 1604–11 and 1614 and was knighted in March 1616. He invented the conveyance of lease and release, and was the author of several works on law, which were published after his death. He married Anne daughter and heir of William Twidy of Boreham, Essex, and died in 1621, when the estate passed to his eldest son Henry, (fn. 84) who was created a baronet in 1627. (fn. 85) In December 1634 he sold the manor of Weston to Robert Elgar of Orpenham in the parish of Kintbury, (fn. 86) who we may conjecture was a descendant of the Robert Elgar who was tenant of Weston a century before. In 1638 Robert Elgar sold it to Peter Pheasant of Gray's Inn, London, to whom, in confirmation of his title, Sir Henry Moore, son and successor to the previous owner, conveyed it in 1646. (fn. 87) Peter Pheasant became a justice of the King's Bench, and, together with his wife Mary, his son Stephen and Sarah wife of the latter, sold the estate in 1648 to John Elwes (fn. 88) or Sir John Elwes of Barton Court. (fn. 89) In 1663 John Elwes with Constance his wife conveyed the manor to Thomas Browne, (fn. 90) apparently in trust, for after his death in 1678 his son John Elwes in February 1679 sold it to Sir William Jones. (fn. 91)
Sir William Jones was attorney-general to Charles II, directed the 'Popish Plot' prosecutions, and was the 'bull-faced Jonas' of Absalom and Achitophel. He died in May 1682, when, owing to the death of his eldest son without issue in October 1679, the manor passed to his second son Richard, who died, aged seventeen, in 1685. (fn. 92) The manor then passed to William Jones, son of Sir William's younger brother Samuel. His only son William died in 1766 during his father's lifetime, and the manor passed soon afterwards to his sister Elizabeth, who had married William, younger brother of Sir James Langham of Cottesbrooke, Northants. On inheriting the manor William Langham took the name of Jones, and was created a baronet in 1774. (fn. 93) He left no issue, and, as his wife had apparently died before him, the manor passed to her sister Eleanor, who had married Francis Burdett. They had two sons, Francis and William Jones, the elder of whom, Sir Francis Burdett, M.P., of Foremark and Ramsbury, inherited the manor, which he held until his death in 1844. He was succeeded by his son Sir Robert Burdett, bart., who died in 1880, leaving no issue, when the manor passed to his cousin Francis, the son of William Jones Burdett. This Sir Francis Burdett died in 1892, and was succeeded by his son Sir Francis, who is the present owner of the manor. (fn. 94)
The two moieties of ELTON, described in the Domesday Survey as being in Shefford and belonging to Odo Bishop of Bayeux, (fn. 95) are represented by the farms of Elton and, possibly, OAKHANGER. They are first mentioned as one manor in the foundation charter of St. George's Chapel at Oxford in about 1074. (fn. 96) After the forfeiture of the Bishop of Bayeux in 1082 the overlordship returned to the Crown. The abbey of Abingdon at an early date acquired the greater part of the tithes, which they attached to their church at Welford, and thus this part of Shefford came into this parish. (fn. 97)
The Domesday record states that Bristei had held 1½ hides in Shefford of the Confessor and that at the time of the Survey they were held of the Bishop of Bayeux by Robert Doyley. (fn. 98) The overlordship of this manor seems to have passed with the other estates of this family to Robert's only daughter Maud, who married firstly Miles Crispin and secondly Brian Fitz Count. After her death it passed to her cousin Robert, the founder of Oseney Priory, who was the son of Niel Doyley. From Robert it passed to his son Henry and from him to another Henry his son, who left an only daughter Maud, who died unmarried. It then passed to Henry Doyley's sister Margery the wife of Henry de Newburgh Earl of Warwick, who was followed on his death in 1229 by his son Thomas Earl of Warwick, who was holding it shortly afterwards and died seised of it in 1242, (fn. 99) when the overlordship seems to have passed to the Crown.
Wilfrid was the tenant in 1220–1, (fn. 100) and between that date and 1229 he and his son Richard gave a house in Elton, called Buttuc, to Oseney Priory. (fn. 101) Richard de Elfreton was holding an estate here soon afterwards. (fn. 102) He is mentioned again as holding it in 1242, (fn. 103) in 1272 (fn. 104) and also in 1275–6, when it appears that the Hospitallers had some interest in the manor, (fn. 105) and in 1340 Geoffrey de Elfington, to whose wife it had belonged, purchased from his son Richard the latter's interest in this estate. (fn. 106) About this time the abbey of Abingdon, which had previously obtained most of the tithes, seems to have acquired this estate, for they were possessed of it at the time of their dissolution in 1538, when it was attached to their land in the adjoining parish of Chaddleworth. (fn. 107)
In 1544 Elton was granted with the manor of Weston to Thomas Denton and his wife (fn. 108) and seems to have passed with that manor (q.v.) until the beginning of the 18th century.
No record has been found of its separation from that manor, but in 1710 it was conveyed by Henry Skylling to John Smith, (fn. 109) apparently in trust, for members of his family were holding it in 1722 and sold it in 1741 to Martha Edwin, who in 1750 sold it to William Sawbridge. It was by members of the Sawbridge family that it was sold in 1834 to Charles Eyre, whose son Col. Archer-Houblon, the lord of the manor of Welford, is the present possessor. (fn. 110)
The Domesday record states that Bristei had held 1½ hides in Shefford of Edward the Confessor, but that Roger de Iveri was then holding it of the bishop. (fn. 111) The overlordship of this with all Roger's other manors seems to have passed to the honour of St. Valery, which was granted to Richard Earl of Cornwall and Poitou, afterwards King of the Romans, who was holding it in the 13th century. (fn. 112) After his death in 1272 the overlordship passed to his son Edmund, who died in 1300 seised of rents here, (fn. 113) which passed with his other estates to the Crown.
The under-tenant was Adam de Elfington, (fn. 114) who was holding it in 1220–1 and 1272. (fn. 115) He appears to have died soon afterwards, for in 1275–6 we find Ralph, perhaps his son, holding it. (fn. 116)
In 1286 lands in Oakhanger and elsewhere were held by Joan widow of Gilbert de Oakhanger, (fn. 117) who was a daughter of Fulke de St. John. Joan appears, however, to have held only a third in dower, and this she was still holding in 1315 with her second husband Richard de Pudelcote. (fn. 118) The remaining two thirds had passed to her son Geoffrey de Oakhanger, who was then dead, and his son Gilbert in March of that year sold his interest in it to Geoffrey de Padebury. (fn. 119) Geoffrey granted it to the abbey of Abingdon, which is here described as mesne lord between him and the king. (fn. 120)
The abbey of Abingdon held rents here in 1417–18, (fn. 121) and at the time of their dissolution in 1538 their property here consisted of a pasture called Oakhanger valued at £2 6s. 8d., (fn. 122) which was in 1544 granted with the manor of Weston to Thomas Denton and Margaret his wife. (fn. 123) How long this estate passed with the manor of Weston has not been ascertained, but in time the house and certain lands were sold and in 1837 they were the property of Captain George William Collins Jacks. (fn. 124) It is now the property of Mr. Arkell.
HOE BENHAM. In 956 King Edwin gave 25 cassates of land in Benham to his servant Ælsy, who soon afterwards gave them to the abbey of Abingdon, (fn. 125) but these lands were only a small part of the vill of Benham in the parish of Speen (q.v.). This land seems to have been lost by the abbey in the time of the Danes, (fn. 126) for in the reign of the Confessor it was held by a free tenant Edith, apparently of the king, although the abbey succeeded in making good its claim to part at least of these lands by the time the Survey was made. (fn. 127) From the Domesday record it would appear that the title of the abbey was insecure and in the succeeding reign their estate in Hoe Benham seems to have been seized by Humphrey de Bohun. The Abbot Faritius approached King Henry I respecting this and other manors and succeeded in obtaining restoration of four of them, and in 1110 Humphrey agreed to quitclaim the lands in perpetuity. (fn. 128) This agreement was confirmed by royal charter in the same year and the lands were attached to the manor of Welford, and from this time on were parcel of it.
At the time of the Domesday Survey Hoe Benham was held under the abbey by Walter de Rivers, (fn. 129) who was still holding it in 1110, when he is called Walter son of Joscelin de la Rivera. (fn. 130) The tenant owed military service commuted by the abbey in 1168 for 40s. (fn. 131) In 1190 the land was held in demesne and occupied only by servile tenants. (fn. 132) The payment in lieu of military service still continued in 1175. (fn. 133)
Another part of the ancient vill of Benham was held in the time of the Confessor by Ormar in alod and at the time of the Domesday Survey by Wigar of the king. (fn. 134) Wigar or Witgar died before 1109, when his son Hugh with his wife granted the tithes on his land to the abbey, (fn. 135) while another son, Ralph son of Wigan, granted them his land in Benham, thus bringing this portion also into the parish of Welford. (fn. 136) The king seems to have granted this part of Hoe Benham, like the remainder, to Humphrey de Bohun, and it would appear that the heirs of the latter retained the overlordship of this section, as it was held in the 13th century by the Earl of Hereford. (fn. 137) It must have passed to the Crown soon afterwards, probably on the disgrace of the third Earl of Hereford, for we find the sheriff rendering account for it. (fn. 138) The overlordship seems to have been granted by Edward I to his mother, who was holding it in 1292, (fn. 139) but must have passed soon afterwards to Roger Bigod Earl of Norfolk, who died seised of it in 1306, (fn. 140) when it passed again to the Crown. In 1353 the king purchased the adjoining manor of Benham Lovell, and the overlordship of these lands, which were of small extent, seems to have then become attached to the larger manor in the parish of Speen (q.v.).
As we have seen, Wigar, Witgar or Wigan held part of Benham at the time of the Domesday Survey (fn. 141) and died shortly afterwards, when his property seems to have been divided between his two sons Hugh and Ralph, the latter of whom granted his share to the abbey. (fn. 142) In the 13th century Robert de Harleter held it (fn. 143) and later it was held by Abelais, who died in or before 1292, leaving his widow Isabella possessed of one third in dower. The queen then granted the remainder, with the reversion of the third, to William le Page for life, (fn. 144) and in 1306 it was held by Robert Baterkyn. (fn. 145) After this it is not easy to distinguish the tenants from those of Benham Lovell.
Five mills, worth 60s., are mentioned in the Domesday Survey as belonging to the manor of Welford, (fn. 146) but beyond the mention of Ralph the Miller in 1190 (fn. 147) no further allusion has been found to them. One of these perhaps may be the mill at Weston, which is stated to have been worth 11s. in 1190, (fn. 148) and is again referred to in 1699. (fn. 149) It is now used as a corn-mill.
The two moieties of Elton had a joint mill, the profits being divided between them. It was worth 8s. to the one and 7s. 6d. to the other. (fn. 150) It is referred to in 1272, (fn. 151) but no mill exists there at the present day.
There seems to have been a fair held at Wickham as early as 1275–6. It is spoken of as a royal fair, and the rector of the parish appears to have had certain rights in connexion with it. (fn. 152) The Wickham feast, still held on St. Swithun's Day, appears to be the survival of this fair.
The church of ST. GREGORY consists of a chancel 31 ft. 10 in. by 14 ft. 6 in., nave 50 ft. by 18 ft. 8 in., north aisle 13 ft. 8 in. wide, south aisle 12 ft. 1 in. wide, a circular west tower 12 ft. in diameter, and a south porch. These measurements are all internal.
When the 12th-century north wall of the nave was pulled down in 1852 evidence of a pre-Conquest building was found, and among the old foundations was a silver coin of Edward the Confessor. Nothing remains of the 12th-century building, but the circular tower is a copy of one of that date. In the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt and a spire added to the tower. A south aisle was added late in the 15th century. In 1852, when the whole building was pulled down, some of the old stonework was re-used in the chancel and tower, but the nave and aisles are entirely modern. All the old windows of the south aisle and many of the 13th-century details of the chancel were removed to Wickham, and there built into the wall of the vinery, where they still remain.
The east window of the chancel is a modern triplet of 13th-century type. Below the sills externally runs an original pointed bowtel string-course. In the gable is a 13th-century moulded quatrefoil panel, probably from the old spire. The north and south windows of the chancel, three on each side, are plain lancets. Most of the external stonework is original, but has been restored with modern stones. The north wall has a pointed bowtel string carried over each window as a label. The south windows have labels of similar section with slightly carved stops. The rear arches of all are segmental and are moulded, with pointed bowtels continued upon the jambs and stopping upon moulded bases. At the east end of the south wall are four arched sedilia of original 13th-century date, divided by small detached shafts with moulded bases and foliated capitals. The arches are trefoiled and richly moulded both on the faces and the soffits and have moulded labels with mutilated carved bosses at the intersections. The easternmost arch has been carefully restored and two of the shafts are modern. Between the second and third south windows of the chancel and visible only externally is a blocked 13th-century doorway with chamfered jambs and a shouldered lintel. All the rest of the work here, including the chancel arch, is modern, the whole of the walls being richly arcaded and the ceiling vaulted. Some fragments of chalk filling in the vault suggest that this is copied from a 13th-century original.
The modern nave arcades are each of four bays with two-centred arches carried by clustered columns. The windows of the aisles have tracery of 'Deco- rated' character, and the south doorway and porch are in the same manner.
The tower is a careful rebuilding of the original of the 12th century and the quoins to the inside splays of most of the windows are old. It is of four stages, the first having a modern north doorway leading to a short staircase in the thickness of the wall which ascends to the first floor, and a semicircular- headed window on the west. The second stage has similar windows in the north and south sides. The third stage has modern two-light windows of Early English design facing in all four directions. The fourth is a low plain octagonal stage with a modern corbel table. Above this is an octagonal spire appa- rently partly of the original 13th-century stonework. There are two-light windows all round the base with small gables over in which are quatrefoil panels. The apex of the spire bends in rather suddenly to finish off; this is said to be due to a mistake on the part of the masons when rebuilding in 1852.
The walls of the tower are of rubble and flint with stone dressings, and the west wall of the south aisle is of the same materials; all the rest of the walls are of flint with stone dressings, the east quoins of the chancel being old. The roofs throughout are tiled.
The circular font is of early 13th-century date and is carved with interlacing semicircular arches with small attached shafts having moulded capitals and bases. The upper edge of the bowl is moulded and the staple and hasp marks remain; the base upon which it stands is modern. At the west end of the nave are two old bench-ends, each of which is divided into four trefoil-headed panels. Lying loose in one of the recesses of the south aisle is the scalloped capital of an early pillar piscina, a fragment of the 12th-century church. In the same recess is a 13th- century coffin slab much broken and cut about, on which is an elaborate cross with stiff-leaf foliage ter- minations to the branches.
At the back of one of the sedilia on the south side of the chancel is a small brass figure of a priest with tonsured head and wearing a cassock and a tippet, and below is the following partly defaced inscription in black letter, 'Quisquis eris qui transieris sta perlege plora | Sum quod eris fueramque quod es pro me precor ora | Rex xpe Westlake anime miserere Johannis.' John Westlake was rector of this parish and died in 1489. In the next sedile to the east is another small brass dating from about 1530 with a figure of a man and the inscription in black letter, 'Of yor charite pray for the soulles of | John Younge John Thom[a]s Elyn and | Susan his children whos soulls | J[e]hu pardon.' Both these brasses were origi- nally on the chancel floor. Against the west wall of the south aisle, behind the font, is the alabaster monument of Anna daughter of William Rede, kt., and wife first of Adrian Fortescue, kt., then of Thomas Parry, kt., with her effigy kneeling before a desk. On the front of the base, which is of grey marble, are the figures of her seven sons and twelve daughters be utifully incised in outline. She died 5 January 1585, in her seventy-fifth year. On the floor of the chancel is a slab to Richard Jones, who died in 1664. In the tower is a marble wall monument, with an inscription surmounted by a mantled helm and crest, to Francis Mundy, a former rector of this parish, who died in 1678; near this is another to Elizabeth his wife, who died in 1689. Her bust is in a semicircular panel over the inscription.
There is a wooden lychgate on the south side of the churchyard, and to the south of the church there still exists the stone octagonal tapering shaft of a calvary cross, but the portion above the moulded capital is missing.
Considerable fragments of old Welford Church are now to be found in the grounds of the rectory at Wickham. The back wall of the vinery contains six large three-light windows, five mainly of late 15thcentury date, though much restored, and one a modern copy. Between the third and fourth of these windows is a doorway of the same date now blocked. Above the doorway is a 13th-century moulded quatrefoil panel similar to that now set in the east gable of the church. Near the west end of the vinery wall are the muchrestored remains of a fine 13th-century triplet, apparently the inner jambs and arches of the east window of the church. The side jambs have modern shafts with foliated capitals, one of which is original, and the arches are supported between the jambs by triple clustered shafts, also modern, with foliated capitals and original annulets and bases. Further west is an arched recess of the same design and date as the sedilia in the church; one of the stones is wrongly set and really forms the springing of an adjacent arch. Standing in the garden of the rectory are two octagonal piers with concave faces and moulded bases and capitals which evidently formed part of the 15th-century south nave arcade of the old church. One pier is of chalk and the other of stone. On the top of the first pier are placed a group of small capitals, apparently of the 13th century, and a stone cross which came from the spire of the church, and on the other a large vase-shaped stone and a second stone cross. Other fragments of various date are to be found in different parts of the grounds.
There is a peal of five bells, the treble inscribed 'Blessed be the name of the Lord' with the name and mark of Joseph Carter and the date 1588; the second is inscribed 'Henri Knight mad mee an[n]o 1592'; the third 'Henri Knight made mee 1619'; the fourth has the names 'William Webb, George Coxhed, churchwardens,' and the initials G. B. 1661, W. P. W. B., while round the top is a band of vine ornament; the tenor has the following black letter inscription, 'Missa de celis, habeo nomen Gabrielis' with the date 1576 below and the initials W. R. Besides these there is a small bell bearing the initials G. F. and the date 1674.
The plate consists of a silver chalice, paten, two plates and two flagons, all made in 1737 and presented the following year. There are also a second chalice made in 1890 and two silver-mounted cruets.
The registers before 1812 are contained in six volumes, the first of parchment with entries of burials from 1559, baptisms from 1562 and marriages from 1603, all to 1649. At this date the Wickham chapel registers begin and the book is confined to baptisms and marriages for the Welford district with burials for the whole parish to 1699. The second volume is of paper and contains baptisms and marriages in the Welford district from 1700 to 1748 with burials for the whole parish for the same period. The third book, of parchment, contains baptisms solemnized in the parish church from 1749 to 1812 as well as burials for the whole parish for the same period. The fourth is a parchment volume containing the baptisms and marriages for the Wickham district from 1649 to 1812 as well as the Welford marriages from 1754 to 1812. The fifth book contains banns and marriages including all the parish from 1754 to 1799, and the sixth the same from 1800 to 1812.
The church of ST. SWITHUN at Wickham is a small building consisting of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, and a south porch, all of which are modern, and a west tower probably of the 11th century and certainly pre-Conquest. No portion of the old walling appears to have been retained in the rebuilt parts. It is thought that the tower was isolated, originally being used for defensive purposes only, as when the old chapel was demolished in 1845 it was seen to have been built against the tower and not bonded into it in any way, although some portions of the main structure were considered to be of very early origin. Up to the middle of the 19th century the tower had a tiled pyramidal roof and when this was removed the openings were discovered for the beams of the original flat roof; there had also been a coping. The only entrance to the tower was by the doorway high up in the south wall (now filled in and repaired) which was discovered when the rough-cast was removed. The former church consisted of a small chancel and nave; in 1547 it had a roof of stone shingles. In 1827 the then rector added to the church a large north aisle, which was removed under the scheme for the rebuilding of the main body of the church when the present building was erected in 1845.
The east window of the chancel is of three lights with tracery. In the north wall are two trefoiled lancets, containing re-used stones from the former church. (fn. 153) At the south-east is a window of the same type with a sedile and a small doorway to the west of it. A pointed archway opens to the nave. The arcades on either side are each of three bays with compound piers and pointed arches. A narrow arch at the east end of the south arcade admitted to the pulpit before it was removed to its present position. The wide north aisle is lighted by traceried east and west windows of three lights (the latter obscured by the organ) and four north windows of two lights; the aisle at its west end incloses the greater part of the north side of the tower. The south aisle is narrower and has its west wall in line with that of the nave; it is lighted by an east, a west and two south windows, each of two lights, and there is a doorway and porch on the south. A modern pointed archway filled by a stone screen opens into the tower. The walling of the modern building is of squared split flints with stone dressings.
The tower measures internally about 10 ft. 6 in. square, but is a little wider at the east than at the west. It is built of flints and mortar, the former generally set diagonally with long and short quoins at the angles. The old portion is unbroken and has no string-course; at the top is a modern story added to the bell-chamber. In the south wall of the ground stage, at a considerable height from the ground, is the blocked doorway above referred to, the external jambs of which have been renewed. In the west wall is a small round-headed window, splayed inside and out, which lighted the former first floor story; it is now restored with cement outside. The bell-chamber has windows in its north and south sides, each of two round-headed openings divided by a baluster shaft with moulded capitals and base; the jambs, which are square, have been restored and have square imposts. On the west wall is a small roundheaded light like that beneath it and there was probably a similar light in the east wall where it is now built up with brickwork. Over this is the modern upper portion of the bell-chamber, which is pierced in each face by two round-headed lights and is crowned by a plain embattled parapet.
The hammer beams of the north aisle roof have attached to them large gilded plaster elephants' heads, eight in all; these were purchased by a late rector in the last century at the great Paris Exhibition.
The font is modern and extremely ornate. In the south aisle is the bowl of an ancient font which was dug up and placed here some years ago; it is a plain octagon in plan with the corners chamfered off. The top is much damaged and around the edge is a deep groove, probably the result of later mutilation. The other furniture, with the exception of a 15th-century bench at the west end, is modern. This has panelled square standards and is similar to those at Welford Church described above, to which it probably belonged originally. A cupboard in the servants' hall at Wickham House is made up from the materials of the former Jacobean pulpit. It has the initials T. C., T. S., and the date 1629, and is of the usual style of the period.
There is one bell in the tower inscribed 'R. P. anno domini 1617.'
The communion plate comprises a cup, cover paten and two patens of 1804.
Two churches are mentioned in the Domesday Survey, which are no doubt the parish church and the ancient chapel of ease at Wickham. (fn. 154) The advowson seems to have belonged to the abbey of Abingdon and to have been handed over with the manor to the king at the time of the dissolution of that house.
In 1547 it was granted to Thomas Lord Seymour of Sudeley, (fn. 155) but returned to the Crown after his execution in 1549, and was in 1559 granted to Robert Freke. (fn. 156) By 1590 it had come into the hands of Thomas Parry, who then held the manor, and was that year placed in settlement by him. (fn. 157) It continued to pass with the manor until 1784, (fn. 158) and seems to have been sold soon afterwards, for it is not referred to in certain transactions affecting the manor in 1828. (fn. 159)
Though the lords of the manor were patrons up to this date, they seem to have often sold the presentation, for, although Richard Jones is returned as patron in 1655, (fn. 160) presentations were made in 1639 by Thomas Hussey, in 1678 by Edward Heath, in 1709 by William Coward, in 1761 by Edward Sawbridge and in 1780 by Dorothy Shirley. (fn. 161)
The advowson appears to have been sold about 1784 to the Rev. Henry Sawbridge, who is stated to have been incumbent and patron in 1806, (fn. 162) and again by him, between 1829 and 1836, to the Rev. W. Nicholson, who is stated to have been the patron in 1839. (fn. 163) He died in December 1878, leaving the advowson in trust for his great-nephew, Mr. John H. Nicholson, the present patron. (fn. 164)
The revenues of the church of Wickham were given in the reign of Henry I to the minister of the altar at the abbey of Abingdon, and the church had to provide 40 lb. of wax, (fn. 165) while in 1396 it paid 50s. in lieu of 100 lb. of wax, besides 20s., which appears to have been a pension. (fn. 166) The value of the church in 1291 was £16, while the abbot's portion was worth 16s. 4d. and the rent of wax £2. (fn. 167) At the time of the Dissolution the pension was valued at £2 13s. 4d., (fn. 168) and in 1573 it was granted for twentyone years to Thomas Parry. (fn. 169)
The abbey of Oseney received a grant of some of the tithes of Elton, probably about 1074, and about 1240 a lawsuit arose between them and the abbey of Abingdon on this subject. The dispute was settled in February 1272, when it was decided that Oseney ought to receive two-thirds of the tithes, but that this did not apply to the tithes from newly assarted land, nor from the mill, both of which were from old time paid to Welford Church. (fn. 170) The tithes belonging to Oseney Priory were in 1291 assessed at £2. (fn. 171)
It has been shown how the abbey became possessed of much of the tithes of Elton and Oakhanger and all those of Hoe Benham, thereby bringing these lands within the boundaries of the parish of Welford. (fn. 172)
The rector appears to have built the rectory-house at Wickham during the reign of Henry II, and had to pay considerable sums to the Crown for assart here between 1166 and 1178, as well as fines for diverting the high road, (fn. 173) which appears then to have run through what is now the park of the rectory-house, now known as Wickham House.
There is a mission room at Weston, erected in 1894–5, and another at Hoe Benham, which was enlarged in 1875.
The Rev. William Nicholson, by will proved at London on 20 January 1879, bequeathed £1,500 to be invested, and the income applied by the rector and chapelwardens of Wickham in the repair of the organ of Wickham Chapel, the salary of the organist and small choir and in the repair of the chapel. The legacy, less duty, is represented by £1,377 11s. consols with the official trustees.