A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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Niton (Neeton, xi cent.; Neuton, xiii cent.; Newton Regis, xiv cent.; Nyton, xv cent.; Crip Niton, xvii cent.; Crab Niton, xix cent.) is a large, somewhat straggling village of thatched cottages lying at the foot of the down of the same name, about 5 miles west of Ventnor. There are many good class houses in the neighbourhood, as Niton became in the middle of the 19th century a favourite locality for residence owing to its sheltered position and mild air. Here fuchsia and myrtle flourish as nowhere else in the Island. The White Lion Inn is a quaint old hostelry and the neighbourhood of the Undercliff is famed for its beauty. The main street runs north and south, intersected by the road from Whitwell, which continues towards the church at the western end of the village. Puckaster Cove in the south of the parish was the scene of the landing of Charles II in 1675, (fn. 1) and the lighthouse on St. Catherine's Point is of world-wide reputation. Begun in 1838 and completed two years later, it was one of the first lighthouses to be illuminated by electric light, with which it was fitted in 1888. The height to the top of the lantern is 86 ft. By the side of it is a steam siren to warn ships off the dangerous 'Rocken End' in foggy weather. There is a coastguard station at the point.
The soil is very varied, from the chalk downs to the lower level of greensand, below which is gault and heavy clay. The inclosure award for Head Down and Upper and Lower Common Fields in this parish is dated 14 May 1859. (fn. 2) In 1608 there were commons in the parish of Niton called Brokenberry Gore Common, Chalden Common, Heathdown, Greenleyd and Ereborrough. (fn. 3)
The parish includes 1,334 acres, the extent of arable, grass and woodland being 407¼ acres, 784½ acres and 23 acres respectively. (fn. 4)
The manor of NITON was held by the king at the time of Domesday, having formerly been held of King Edward by two freemen. (fn. 5) The overlordship was evidently granted with the lordship of the Island, for the three manors into which Niton afterwards became divided were all held of the honour of Carisbrooke. (fn. 6)
A holding which appears to have been the capital manor of Niton was held under the lords of Carisbrooke in the 13th century by Robert de Pavilly. (fn. 7) It was probably this estate which, as a messuage and a carucate of land in Niton, was granted in 1279–80 by William de Braddene and his wife Joan to Isabel Countess of Albemarle, for John de Pavilly put in a claim to the estate, (fn. 8) and at the time of the Testa de Nevill Robert de Pavilly's estate was held by the countess in demesne. (fn. 9) Niton passed with the rest of the possessions of the countess to the king, (fn. 10) and from that time was frequently called 'Newton Regis.' It followed the same descent as the honour of Carisbrooke from this time (fn. 11) until the death of the last lord, Sir Reginald Bray. The manor then reverted to the Crown and the capital messuage or farm was leased from time to time. (fn. 12) It remained a Crown possession until the time of Charles I, (fn. 13) when it with many others formed part of the security for a loan by the City of London to the king. (fn. 14) In May 1632 it was conveyed by the City trustees for the sum of £720 to Sir Thomas Cotele, a rent of £18 4s. 4d. being reserved. (fn. 15) Sir Thomas was succeeded by a daughter Mary, wife of Sir Richard Edgcumbe, (fn. 16) and the manor passed from her to her great-grandson Richard, who was created Lord Edgcumbe of Mount Edgcumbe in 1742. (fn. 17) George son of this Richard was in possession of the manor in 1771 (fn. 18) and sold it in 1787 to James, John and Joseph Kirkpatrick, (fn. 19) whose representative, Mr. Richard T. G. Kirkpatrick, still holds land in the parish. The manor came by marriage to Sir Henry Daly, whose executors sold to the late Charles Allen. His son Mr. Charles Allen now holds it.
BEAUCHAMP (Bewchamp, xvi cent.), which in 1669 contained 233 acres, is a farm-holding forming part of the manor of Niton, and represents the quarter fee held at the end of the 13th century by William son of Walter de Lisle. (fn. 20) This estate had passed into the king's hands before 1299–1300, (fn. 21) whether through William's forfeiture or on account of failure of heirs does not appear. From a lawsuit of 1414–15 it appears that the estate was given by John de Kingsbury to Hugh de Beauchamp and his wife Aundrina, and Hugh was in possession in 1316. (fn. 22) In 1346 this quarter fee was held by Idonea Beauchamp, who was probably the widow of John son of Hugh de Beauchamp. (fn. 23) William Beauchamp, son and successor of John, sued Robert Smith and six others for this estate in 1414–15, and died seised of it in 1419, leaving a granddaughter Joan, daughter of his son John. (fn. 24) She was probably the Joan Malday who was holding in Chale in 1431, (fn. 25) but John Beauchamp of Devon was holding Beauchamps Court at that date. (fn. 26) The manor then passed with Chale to the Buller family. (fn. 27) John Buller sold Chale in 1556, and he may have parted with Beauchamps Court at about the same time, for John Meux of Kingston died seised of the 'manor of Bewchamp' in 1568. (fn. 28) It then passed with Kingston (fn. 29) to Sir Edward Worsley of Gatcombe, on whose death in 1762 (fn. 30) the manors of Beauchamp and Caines Court, then held together, were divided and sold to different purchasers. (fn. 31) The former belonged in 1859 to George Kirkpatrick, (fn. 32) and is now the property of Rev. G. A. Willis.
CAINES COURT (Keyneys Court, Caynes Court, xvi, xvii cent.) took its name from a family of Caines who held a messuage and 40 acres of land in the manor of Niton in the beginning of the 14th century. (fn. 33) Baldric de Noneton or de Nonyngton (co. Somers.) held a quarter of a fee in Niton at the end of the 13th century. (fn. 34) He died about 1309–10, but before his death he had given all his lands in the Isle of Wight to Robert de Pidele, who had married his daughter Margery. (fn. 35) Robert was in possession in 1316, (fn. 36) but the manor had passed before 1328 to John Caines. He died seised of it in that year, and was said to hold it only for life with reversion to Richard de Stapeldon, (fn. 37) but it passed to John's descendants the Caines, (fn. 38) and followed the same descent as Tangley in Pastrow Hundred (q.v.) to the Spekes. (fn. 39) The last member of the family who owned Caines Court seems to have been John Speke, who died in 1508. (fn. 40) It was afterwards apparently sold to John Meux, who died seised of it in 1568. (fn. 41) It then followed the descent of Beauchamps Court, with which it appears to have become partly merged, as in 1630 it is called 'the manor of Kaynescourt alias Bewchamp.' (fn. 42) Buddle and Kingates formed in 1669 part of Caines Court, which then included some 280 acres. Caines Court after its sale in 1762 (see Beauchamps Court) became attached to the manor of Niton and was sold with that manor by the executors of Sir Henry Daly to Mr. Charles Allen, of whom it was purchased by the Rev. G. A. Willis, who sold it to the present owner, Mr. Attrill.
In an inspeximus of 1313 a charter is mentioned whereby William de Redvers confirmed gifts made by Baldwin his father and Richard his brother to the canons of Christchurch Twyneham of land at Preston and Niton, (fn. 43) but this land is not mentioned in any other grants and the canons do not appear to have held any land at Niton at the Dissolution.
Two mills in the capital manor of Niton are mentioned in 1299–1300, and at the same date a water mill called Memelne belonged to the manor of Beauchamps Court. (fn. 44)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST stands at the west end of the village under the down and comprises a nave, chancel and north and south aisles, with a western tower surmounted by a stone spire. The oldest part, the nave, may have been part of the original 11th-century structure, but this is difficult to determine, as at the end of the 12th century a north aisle was added and early in the 13th a south aisle, thus obliterating any earlier features. A chancel was erected at the time, or soon after, the south aisle was built and was remodelled in the 14th century (fn. 45) and a porch added to the south door of the church. (fn. 46)
In the 15th century the south aisle was evidently widened and extended eastward to the line of the chancel east wall, and a four-centred arch was inserted in the chancel south wall. To resist the thrust of the chancel arch, when the east wall of the south aisle was removed, a buttress was built against the south side of the pier. (fn. 47)
The north aisle about this time seems to have fallen to decay and been taken down, the material being used to fill in the arcade, and two-light windows (fn. 48) inserted in each bay. Towards the close of the century the tower was built, and in the 16th century new square-headed windows were inserted in the south aisle wall. The spire was added to the tower probably at the beginning of the 17th century. In the south wall of the chancel there is the usual 15th-century opening to the rood-loft and in the eastern-most pier of the north aisle a piscina is inserted, pointing to the former existence of an altar here. In the churchyard stands the base of a churchyard cross, (fn. 49) on which has been placed a modern one of Celtic motif. In 1864 a general restoration took place. The old north aisle was rebuilt, the 15th–16th-century gun-house removed, another bay added to the north arcade by piercing the solid wall west of the second bay, and the 15th-century buttress south of the chancel arch done away with.
The church plate, consisting of two chalices, a paten, two dishes and a baptismal shell, is of the 19th century.
The registers are in nine volumes; baptisms and burials begin 1559, marriages 1561.
In the vestry there is a panel of the royal arms of George III, dated 1803.
The church was one of those granted to the convent of Lire by William Fitz Osbern, (fn. 50) and remained with that body until Carisbrooke Priory, the cell of the abbey of Lire in the Isle of Wight, was suppressed by Henry V. (fn. 51) The church of Niton was given with the other possessions of Carisbrooke Priory to the Charterhouse at Sheen. (fn. 52) It probably remained with this house till its dissolution in 1539, though it is not mentioned in the valuation taken in 1536, and thus passed to the Crown. It remained with the Crown until Charles I gave it in 1626, at the solicitation of Queen Henrietta Maria, to Queen's College, Oxford, (fn. 53) in whose gift it still is.
The parishioners of Niton claimed the church house of Niton in 1608 under an indenture dated 14 March 1605. (fn. 54)
There are denominational chapels for Baptists (1847) and Wesleyans (1864).
The educational charities of Robert Weeckes, will 1784, Mr. — Pittis, and Robert Slayner Holford, deed 1855, are regulated by scheme, 24 July 1900. The official trustees hold the sums of £179 16s. 7d. consols, £119 17s. 9d. consols, and a moiety of £61 13s. 9d. consols, in respect of each of the donors respectively. The annual dividends, amounting together to £8 14s. 8d., are applied for educational purposes. (fn. 55)
In 1858 the Rev. Richard Dixon by his will, proved at London 28 July, left £100, the interest to be distributed in bread at Christmas to poor members of the church. The legacy was invested in £108 16s. 11d. consols with the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £44 12s. 9d. consols, representing a legacy of £20 and one-third of residuary estate, left for the poor at Christmas by will of Henry Creswell Priddle, proved at London 7 January 1887.
The official trustees further hold a sum of £59 3s. 11d. consols in respect of a gift of Mrs. Jane Barwis for bread for cottagers, and the sum of £61 13s. 9d. consols, above referred to as the charity of Robert Slayner Holford, a moiety of which is applicable in food or clothing for the poor.