A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Silcestre (xi cent.); Ciltestere, Cilcestre (xiii cent.); Scilchestre (xiv cent.); Sylkchester (xviii cent.).
Silchester is a parish and village 3½ miles west from the Mortimer station on the Basingstoke and Reading branch of the Great Western Railway. On high ground reaching an elevation of over 300 ft. above the sea-level in the north of the parish is the site of the Romano-British city of Calleva. (fn. 1) The site consists chiefly of arable and pasture land inclosed by the remains of the Roman wall, and is nearly 2 miles in circumference. The walls in the south-east are the most perfect, being in some places nearly 12 ft. high. At the present time the only buildings within its boundaries are the Manor House—now used as a farm-house—and its appurtenances, and the parish church of St. Mary. Lord Jeffrey visited the site in 1833, and wrote thus to his friend Lord Cockburn: ' The whole stands upon a high lonely part of the country with only a rude low church and a single farm-house in the neighbourhood, but commanding a most lovely and almost boundless view over woody plains and blue skyey ridges on all sides of it. It is about the most striking thing I ever saw, and the effect of that grand stretch of shaded wall with all its antique roughness and overhanging wood, lighted by a low autumnal sun, and the sheep and cattle feeding in the green solitude at its feet makes a picture not soon to be forgotten.' (fn. 2) Lying as it did on the direct line of the great Roman road to Bath from London, Calleva was a commercial centre rather than a military town. The road now generally called The Devil's Highway can still be traced, as can also the other Roman roads connecting Calleva with Winchester, Salisbury, and the north. In the west of the parish is Silchester Common, comprising an area of about 174 acres. It was here that Queen Elizabeth, in her royal progress through England, was received by Francis Palmes, the sheriff of Hampshire, and other gentlemen of the county, on 5 September 1601. 'Her majesty sayd she was never so honorably received into any shire, for as Hampshire is a county pleasant of soile and full of delights for princes of this land who often made their progresses thither, so it is well inhabited by ancient gentlemen civilly educated and who live in great amity together.' (fn. 3)
The Primitive Methodist chapel and the schools are situated on the common, and on its eastern boundaries are the rectory, Silchester House, the residence of Mrs. Davis, and Silchester Hall—standing in its own grounds of about 102 acres—the seat of Mrs. Thorold. A stream called Silchester Brook int:rsects the eastern portion of the parish. The total area is 1,945 acres, of which 893¾ acres are arable land, 438¼ acres permanent grass, and 199¾ acres woods and plantations. (fn. 4)
The soil is principally gravel, while the subsoil is chalk. The chief crops are wheat, barley, and oats.
At the time of the Domesday Survey there were two estates in SILCHESTER—one of 5 hides which Alestan had held of Edward the Confessor, and which was then in the possession of Ralph Bluet, who held of William de Ow, (fn. 5) and the other assessed at 3 hides and forming part of the possessions of Ralph de Mortimer, whose predecessor Cheping had held it of Earl Harold as an alod. (fn. 6) Ralph de Mortimer's holding passed probably to the Bluets, and from this time there was but one manor of Silchester, the property of the Bluet family. The overlordship had passed by the beginning of the 13th century from William de Ow to the Earl Marshal, who was returned by the Testa de Nevill as holding one knight's fee in Silchester of the old enfeoffment of the king in chief, (fn. 7) but whether he held it in right of his wife Isabel de Clare, sole daughter and heiress of Richard de Cure, Earl of Pembroke, (fn. 8) or in his own right as brother and heir of John Marshal, marshal of the King's Court and lord of the manor of Hampstcad Marshall (fn. 9) (co. Berks.), is uncertain. It continued with successive Earls of Pembroke until 1245, when Anselm Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and Marshal of England, died without issue. (fn. 10) The knight's fee in Silchester was then apparently divided into moieties, half being assigned with the lordship of Hampstead Marshall, the castle of Strigul, and the honour of Carlow, to Maud, eldest sister of Anselm and widow of Hugh le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk; (fn. 11) and the other half, with the honour of Wexford and all rights of the earldom of Pembroke, to John de Monchensy, elder son of Warine de Monchensy by Joan, youngest sister of Anselm. (fn. 12) The former moiety passed to Roger le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk, son and heir of Hugh, (fn. 13) and on his death in 1270 descended to his nephew Roger le Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. (fn. 14) Roger died seised of half a knight's fee in Silchester in 1306, (fn. 15) when, according to his surrender of 1302, (fn. 16) it passed to the Crown with all his other possesiions, and became merged therein. (fn. 17) It continued with the Crown until 16 December 1312, when Edward II created his brother Thomas of Brotherton Earl of Norfolk, and granted him all the lands held by the late earl. (fn. 18) The other moiety of the knight's fee in Silchester passed from John de Monchensy to his brother and heir, Sir William de Monchensy, and from the latter to his only daughter Denise, wife of Hugh de Vere. (fn. 19) Denise died without issue in 1313, and the whole of her possessions passed to her cousin Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, son and heir of William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, by Joan, only daughter of Warine de Monchensy. (fn. 20) Thus in 1323 the overlords of Silchester were Thomas, Earl of Norfolk, and Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. (fn. 21) In 1325 half a fee in Silchester was assigned to Elizabeth Comyn, afterwards wife of Richard Talbot, niece and co-heiress of Aymer de Valence, in the partition of knights' fees of that earl; (fn. 22) and in 1348 the manor of Silchester was said to be held of Richard Talbot and Elizabeth his wife by the service of one knight's fee. (fn. 23) After this date the overlords of the manor are variously returned. Thus, in 1415, 1438, 1449, 1481, 1521, 1536, 1576, 1597, 1611, and 1623, the manor was stated to be held of the lords of the manor of Hampstead Marshall, (fn. 24) but in 1490 and in 1501 the Marshal of England and Sir Walter Herbert respectively, as holders of the manor of Strigul, arc given as the over-lords. (fn. 25)
Returning, however, to the actual holders of the manor, another Ralph succeeded the Ralph Bluet of the Domesday Book, and was holding in 1167; (fn. 26) and in 1204 Ralph Bluet, probably his son, gave a palfrey for licence to inclose a park in his manor of Silchester. (fn. 27) In 1228 Ralph granted half a virgate of land in Silchester to William de Waterschete, (fn. 28) and he was still holding the manor in 1233, in which year the king ordered the sheriff of Hampshire to give seisin to Eleanor, Countess of Pembroke, of the land of Ralph Bluet in Silchester which was of her fee. (fn. 29) John Bluet was the owner towards the end of the 13th century, accompanying his overlord, the Earl of Norfolk, on the king's service into Wales in 1287. (fn. 30) He married Eleanor, the widow of William de Brianzon, in 1311, (fn. 31) and the next year two-thirds of the manor were settled upon him and his wife in fee tail. (fn. 32) He was returned as holding the vill of Silchester in 1316, (fn. 33) but he had died before 17 January 1317, as is apparent from a patent roll of that date nominating William de Northo in his stead in a commission of oyer and terminer originally issued to William de Hardene and John Bluet. (fn. 34) His widow Eleanor went on pilgrimage beyond the seas in 13 21, (fn. 35) but two years later was summoned to deliver up the bodies of her daughters Margaret and Eleanor—the co-heiresses of John Bluet—to William de Cusaunce, the king's clerk, to whom Thomas, Earl of Norfolk, and Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, as overlords, had sold their marriage. (fn. 36) Although she had petitioned the king for permission to keep her daughters with her by reason of their tender age, (fn. 37) she was forced to comply with this order, and in 1327 sought consolation in a third marriage, in that year obtaining Jicence to marry whom she would of the king's allegiance. (fn. 38) William de Cusaunce gave Margaret in marriage to Sir William de Cusaunce, probably his nephew, while he bestowed the hand of Eleanor upon Edmund Baynard. (fn. 39) Although Eleanor, the mother, had a life interest in the manor of Silchester, Sir William de Cusaunce, as lord of Silchester, granted a lease of premises in that vill to Nicholas le Heir of Silchester, his wife, and their sons, in 1342; (fn. 40) and in 1346 Peter de Cusaunce, son and heir of William, (fn. 41) and Edmund Baynard were stated to be holding one knight's fee in Silchester formerly belonging to John Bluet. (fn. 42) Eleanor, in conjunction with her third husband, Sir John de Peyton, (fn. 43) sought to recover tenements in Silchester from Sir Peter de Cusaunce and others in 1347, (fn. 44) but died the following year. By an inquisition taken in 1348 it was stated that she had been holding the manor of Silchester, including a park and a windmill, at her death, and that her heirs were her daughter Eleanor Baynard and her grandson Sir Peter de Cusaunce. (fn. 45) In 1349 the king assigned to Eleanor Baynard half the manor of Silchester, afterwards called THE NETHER COURT, (fn. 46) but Sir Peter de Cusaunce, being a minor, did not obtain livery of his moiety, afterwards called THE OVER COURT, until 1350, in which year he came of age. (fn. 47) Sir Peter was sheriff of Wiltshire in 1377, and presented to the church of Hilmarton (co. Wilts) in 1380, (fn. 48) but he probably died soon afterwards without issue, and his moiety of the manor consequently passed to his cousin Philip Baynard, son and heir of Edmund and Eleanor. (fn. 49) Philip Baynard, as lord of the manor of Silchester, presented to the church on 10 April 1394, (fn. 50) and eleven years later settled the moiety of the manor called the Over Court upon his son Robert and Joyce his wife in. fee-tail. (fn. 51) Upon the death of Philip Baynard, in 1415, the other moiety, called the Nether Court, passed to Robert, (fn. 52) and was by him probably settled upon his son and heir by his first marriage, Philip. In 1428 Robert Baynard and Philip Baynard were stated to be holding one fee in Silchester, formerly belonging to Sir Peter de Cusaunce and Edmund Baynard, (fn. 53) but ten years later Philip gave up his right to the Nether Court to William Brocas and Robert Dyneley, (fn. 54) who in turn conveyed to Joyce widow of Robert Baynard in March 1439. (fn. 55) Robert Baynard, who had died in 1438, (fn. 56) was survived ten years by his widow, and on her death the whole manor passed to John Baynard, her son and heir by Robert. (fn. 57) John presented to the living twice during the episcopacy of William Waynflete (fn. 58) (1447–86), but had died without issue before 1470, in which year the manor was settled upon his widow, Agnes, for life, with remainder to his sister Thomasina, wife of Richard Martin of Edenbridge (co. Kent), and her issue, with contingent remainder to Robert Baynard, son and heir of his half-brother, Philip Baynard. (fn. 59) Agnes Baynard died in 1481, (fn. 60) and on the death of Thomasina Martin without issue eight years later, (fn. 61) the manor passed, in accordance with the settlement, to Robert Baynard, who died in 1501, leaving a son and heir Philip. (fn. 62) On his death in 1521 Philip was succeeded by his son and heir Robert, (fn. 63) who died in 1535, leaving a son and heir Edward, aged nineteen. (fn. 64) Edward died forty years later, and was followed by his son and heir Robert, (fn. 65) who in 1589 conveyed the manor to Thomas Gardiner, citizen and grocer of London. (fn. 66) From the latter it passed by purchase five years later to William Dunche of Little Wittenham (fn. 67) (co. Berks.), who died in 1597 at the age of eighty-nine, and lies buried at Little Wittenham. His son and heir Edmund (fn. 68) died seised of the manor of Silchester in 1623, his heir being his grandson Edmund, son and heir of his son Sir William, (fn. 69) who had died in 1611. (fn. 70) Edmund, an ardent republican, who suffered much loss in the Civil Wars by his adherence to the cause of his kinsman Oliver Cromwell, (fn. 71) parted with Silchester, the purchaser probably being Sir Thomas Draper, bart., of Sunninghill Park (co. Berks.), who presented to the rectory in 1667. (fn. 72) Sir Thomas died without male issue in 1703, (fn. 73) and the following year his widow Mary, and his two daughters and co-heirs, Mary widow of John Baber, and Elizabeth wife of Henry Ashurst, (fn. 74) sold the manor to Murrough Boyle, Viscount Blessington, (fn. 75) son and heir of Dr. Michael Boyle, Archbishop of Armagh. (fn. 76) The manor passed in marriage with Anne, youngest daughter of Viscount Blessington, to William Stewart, Viscount Mountjoy, who died in 1727. (fn. 77) Their son and heir, William Stewart, Viscount Mountjoy, who was created Earl of Blessington in 1745, died without issue in 1769, (fn. 78) and the manor then passed to Charles Dunbar, son and heir of Captain David Dunbar, by Mary daughter of Sir John Dillon of Lissmullen (co. Meath), by Mary eldest daughter of Murrough Boyle, Viscount Blessington. (fn. 79) Charles Dunbar, who died without issue in 1778, by will made elaborate arrangements for keeping his estates, of the annual value of £10,000, in the family of 'the late primate Boyle,' (fn. 80) bequeathing his property in Wicklow and Kildare to Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, great-grandson of Eleanor, second daughter of the archbishop, (fn. 81) and the rest of his estates in moieties to Thomas, Viscount de Vesci, great-grandson of Elizabeth eldest daughter of the archbishop, (fn. 82) and Edward Michael, Earl of Longford, great-grandson of Honora Frances, third daughter of the archbishop. (fn. 83) From Thomas, Viscount de Vesci, and Edward Michael, Earl of Longford, the moieties of the manor of Silchester descended respectively to their sons and successors, John, Viscount de Vesci, (fn. 84) and Thomas, Earl of Longford, (fn. 85) who dealt with them by recovery in 1805, (fn. 86) and by fine in 1817. (fn. 87) Eleven years later these joint-owners sold the manor to Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, (fn. 88) and it now belongs to his grandson the fourth duke.
The church of OUR LADY consists of a chancel and nave 62 ft. 10 in. long, of which 22 ft. is to the east of the screen, north aisle of two bays 30 ft. 5 in. by 7 ft. 10 in., south aisle 29 ft. 5 in. by 9 ft. 4 in., and north and south porches. All these measurements are internal.
The peculiar features of the plan are the absence of a chancel arch and the unusually short aisles and nave, the chancel being more than half the total length of the building. There may have been a 12th-century aisleless nave which regulated the length of the present one, and the chancel, which was built about 1230, was probably an enlargement of an earlier one; the north aisle was added at the end of the 12th century, and the south aisle probably a little later than the chancel. In the 14th century the aisle windows (excepting that at the west of the north aisle) were replaced by larger openings, and a new west window to the nave inserted; another window was put into the south wall of the chancel later in the same century, and in the 15 th the east window of the chancel and a north lancet were replaced by larger windows. The west window of the south aisle and some gable lights are modern insertions or repairs. The church has been very well treated in modern restorations.
The east window is a 15th-century one of three cinquefoiled lights under a traceried two-centred head, its jambs and arch are of two hollow-chamfered orders, and over it is a modern gable light; the east wall has been strengthened by three low brick buttresses. The first and second windows in the north wall of the chancel are 13th-century lancets; under the first is a plain square aumbry with rebated edges all round. A priest's doorway, now disused, pierces the wall just west of the second window; it is of a single chamfered order, and has a two-centred head with an ovalshaped rear-arch; the doorway is old, but the position in the wall points to its being later than the wall in which it is set. The third window, west of the chancel screen, is a 15th-century insertion of two cinquefoiled lights (the middle foil ogee-shaped) under square heads; the jambs are moulded with a filleted round between two hollows. In the south wall the first two windows are lancets like those opposite, with old masonry pattern diaper on heads and jambs, and there is also a similar locker between them, but no piscina. The third window is probably a late 14th-century insertion of two trefoiled pointed lights under square heads, and is set low in the wall close to the screen; the fourth window, west of the screen, is another 13th-century lancet.
The two bays of the north arcade of the nave have a circular column with a moulded base (a hollow between two rounds), and an irregular eight-sided capital carved with small scallops, each with a sunk face. The east respond is a square one of modern stonework, and there is none against the west wall, the arches at both ends being carried on chamfered abaci, which are supported by two rounded corbels; part of the eastern abacus and one of its corbels are modern. The pointed arches are two-centred, and of a single edgechamfered order. The south arcade also has two bays, with a circular pillar and half-round responds; the bases, of which the eastern is modern, are of a single round; the capitals are irregularly octagonal with hollow-faced abacus and a roll above the bell. The arches are two-centred and chamfered—the chamfer being larger than that of the opposite arcade—and have a moulded label rounded above and hollowed below. The west window of the nave is a 14th-century one of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights under a twocentred head filled with net tracery, and having a moulded label; the outer of the two orders of the jambs is hollowed and splayed, the inner chamfered.
The north aisle has an east window of two ogee trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil above in a twocentred head with a label; it is partly of modern stonework outside. The only window in the north wall is one near the east end; it is of the unusual form of two trefoiled ogee lights, each set in pointed arches under a square head, and is probably of midI4th-century date. The north doorway is of 13th-century workmanship; the jambs and arch are of a single chamfered order, and have moulded abaci; the label is enriched with dog-tooth ornament, but ends about 18 in. above the springing of the arch. The west wall of this aisle is pierced by a lancet window; it may be of 13th-century date, but differs from those in the chancel in having three small chamfers externally and two hollows inside; it is also set unusually close to the north wall.
The south aisle has a 14th-century east window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights under a pointed arch inclosing a quatrefoil; it has no label on either side, but inside are two human-head corbels, as though there was one originally.
In the south wall is a window of the same date and style, but of three lights; this also has two humanhead label stops inside, but no label. Below the window is a small piscina with a single chamfered two-centred arch and round label; the upper half of its sill is half round in plan, the lower semi-octagonal; both halves are moulded with several small rolls. West of this is a good 14th-century tomb recess with a cinquefoiled ogee arch, the foils having roll points. In it lies the contemporary effigy of a lady in a wimple and veil, mantle and cote hardi; her feet rest on a dog, and at her head are two angels.
The south doorway is apparently a 13th-century one with a pointed head, the jambs and arch having a plain edge roll. The west window of the aisle is cemented outside, and is of two round-headed lights; over it is a modern gable light. The walls of the whole building have been covered with cement and 'pebble-dashing' outside, and the north porch is a modern one of wood. The south porch is also a modern one, but more substantially built of stone; it is lighted on either side by two-light windows, and has a pointed outer doorway. Set in its east wall is what appears to be a corner of a 12th-century font bowl with panelled sides and a scalloped capital, to which a modern shaft has been fitted. Over the outer entrance, inside the porch, is another old stone—a portion of a small panelled frieze with an embattled cornice; the panels are eight-foiled diamonds, and had small shields painted on them; the whole is part of a larger panel, and two of the shields have on them a bend fusilly.
The roof of the chancel and nave is gabled and all modern except for the plain tie-beams. The south aisle also has a modern gabled roof, but the stone corbels taking the timbers are of 14th-century date; they are carved as human heads and grotesque beasts. The north aisle is a 'lean-to' of modern date. Above the west bay of the nave, and supported by heavy posts from the floor, is a plain wood bell-turret with square openings to the bell chamber; it has a boarded pyramidal roof.
The font at the west end of the north aisle is of 15th-century workmanship; it is octagonal, and has a moulded base and bowl. The pulpit is hexagonal, made up with late 17th-century woodwork, but over it hangs an octagonal canopy which is inscribed: 'The guift of James Hore, gent, 1639.' It has a domed top surmounted by a dove, and a cornice with semicircular arches and pendent fleurs-de-lis, all enriched with carving; the soffit is panelled. The chancel screen belongs to the early years of the 16th century; it is divided on either side of the middle doorway into two bays by heavy moulded posts, each bay having four traceried openings; below is a heavy middle rail and solid lower panels. The tracery in the three southern openings is modern, but the rest is old and of very pretty design, the rose and pomegranate occurring in it. The whole is much patched and altered and has a line of cresting set upside down in the middle opening. Above the head beam is a beautiful band of open carving with kneeling angels holding scrolls, between two bands of cresting; between each pair of angels is a large leaf. The rest of the furniture is modern.
In the churchyard east of the chancel are laid two 14th-century gravestones, much overgrown with moss; one is carved in low relief with the heads and shoulders of two persons, and below them a long foliated cross. The other has a man's head set in a quatrefoil sinking with a cross below.
There are five bells; the treble is inscribed, 'The gift of John Parres, D.D., late Rector of Ilchester, J.S., B.F. (i.e. John Stares, bell-founder), 1744'; the second by W. Taylor, 1848; the third by John Stares, 1744; the fourth is also by John Stares; and the tenor is of the same make, but bears the date only–1744.
The plate consists of a cup and cover paten of 1572, a paten of 1757, given by Mrs. Rebecca Taylor, a flagon 1635, given in 1636 by James Hare and Anne his wife, and a pewter plate.
The first book of the registers contains baptisms from 1653 to 1779, marriages 1653 to 1754, and burials 1653 to 1675; the second has burials from 1678 to 1779, and has a black-letter copy of the 'Burial in Woollen' Act; the third book has marriages from 1754 to 1812; the fourth has baptisms 1780 to 1812; and the fifth burials 1780 to 1812. There are also some churchwardens' accounts from 1698 to 1768.
The advowson of the church has throughout followed the descent of the manor, (fn. 89) the living at the present day being a rectory in the gift of the Duke of Wellington.
The parish is possessed of 4 acres arising from a gift in 1671 of Richard Hyde and others, now let at £10 10s. a year, the rents to be distributed among twelve of the poorest people on Good Friday and St. Matthias Day. The net income, together with the annual dividends on £121 0s. 5d. consols with the official trustees, amounting to £3 0s. 4d., is duly applied.