A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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In this section
Sorewelle (xi cent.); Schorwell (xiii cent.).
Shorwell is a parish 5 miles south-west of Newport with a southern seaboard, comprising the tithing of Atherfield and the hamlet of Billingham. The approach to the village from the north is very picturesque, the road taking the form of a deep 'shute' spanned by a rustic bridge. The cottages are mostly built of stone and thatched. The fine Jacobean manor-house of North Court lies back from the road to the west at the bottom of the 'shute' where it enters the village. Having never been relegated to farm uses like many other manor-houses, it still retains its position as a gentleman's seat, and is the largest ancient dwelling in the Isle of Wight. It is a stone structure begun in 1615 by Sir John Leigh, and was still unfinished, it is said, at his death in 1630. A reference to the plan (fn. 1) will show it was not set out on the usual E lines of the period, but that an attempt was made to model it more after the larger houses to be found on the mainland. The garden front with its canted bays and mullioned windows is very picturesque, though the entrance front has been somewhat marred by the insertion of sash windows in the 18th century, which period is also responsible for a general internal remodelling on classic lines. The north front was extended westward in 1906 by the addition of a billiard room and offices, and has rather gained in dignity. The house contains some good pictures.
About half a mile from the village on the road to Brighstone is the earlier manor-house of West Court. It lies just off the left-hand side of the road, and was originally the manor-house of South Shorwell. The fact of its having no main entrance and the necessity of driving across the grass lawn to reach the front door rather adds to its homeliness. Its many gables distinguish it from other Island manor-houses. Like Mottistone it has a porch in the angle. The house is of three distinct dates, the earliest portion being the east wing, which is of the beginning of the 16th century, the main part being added in 1579, the date on the porch, and the projecting north and south wings—the one to enlarge the parlour, the other to contain the main stair—being subsequent additions of the 17th century. Modern partition walls have greatly altered the original plan.
Behind West Court to the east stands the later Woolverton House on low ground watered by the little stream that turns the Yafford Mill. It was built in the reign of Elizabeth by John Dingley, (fn. 2) succeeding an earlier moated dwelling to the north, (fn. 3) and is of the early E type with central porch and projecting wings. The entrance is through a forecourt with a low surrounding wall, to the north of which lay the old pleasaunce. The porch is a fine one of two stages with angle shafts and elaborate cornice and string course, under which is a four-centred arch with carved spandrels. (fn. 4) In the west wing the stone mullions have given place to sash windows; otherwise the house remains much as when it was first built. Some of the interior fittings were added by Sir John Dingley in the reign of James I; his arms impaling Hammond are carved on the fine oak mantelpiece on the first floor. In the drawing-room is another good chimney-piece of the period. The plan retains the original hall and a projecting building to the north used as a bakehouse, but intended originally for a staircase opening from the hall as at Yaverland. The back of the house is, in its way, as picturesque as the front—in fact, every elevation is worthy of study.
Yafford is an 18th-century stone house in the occupation of Dr. W. J. Jolliffe. Little Yafford, lying to the south-west, is a quaint specimen of the smaller farmstead—a parallelogram without wings, to which a porch has apparently been added in 1705, the date cut over the door. (fn. 5)
Billingham, a brick and stone house of the 17th century with additions in the 18th, is the residence of Col. Blakeney Booth.
There is a non-provided school (mixed), built in 1861 and supported by Mrs. Disney Leith. At Atherfield is a coastguard and lifeboat station near the dangerous reef known as Atherfield Ledge. The soil varies from sandy loam to clay, and the chief crops are barley, oats and wheat. The parish contains 3,849 acres of land, of which 1,719 acres are arable land, 1,742½ acres permanent grass and 89¾ acres woodland. (fn. 6) There are also 48 acres of foreshore. Part of the parish of St. Nicholas was added to Shorwell in 1882, and Brook Cottages were transferred from Kingston to Shorwell at the same date, while in 1889 Emmet Hill Cottages, formerly in Shorwell, became part of Kingston. Atherfield Green was transferred to Shorwell from Brighstone in 1882, and Atherfield Farm in 1889, and in 1882 part of Shorwell became included in Brighstone. (fn. 7)
The manor of NORTH SHORWELL or NORTH COURT was probably represented by the estate held in demesne by the king in Shorwell at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 8) The overlordship of the manor subsequently passed to the lords of the Island and Carisbrooke Castle (fn. 9) (q.v.). Henry VII and Henry VIII claimed that the manor was held in chief of the Crown, but the Abbess of Lacock, then tenant of the manor, was able successfully to establish that the manor was held of the lord of the Island for the time being. (fn. 10)
In 1205 Robert de Shorwell was the immediate holder of Shorwell, (fn. 11) and in 1228 Robert de Shorwell gave a third of the manor which had belonged to William de Shorwell his brother to Joan de St. Martin, William's widow. (fn. 12) Robert son of Robert de Shorwell, who is mentioned in an inquisition of 1360 as having previously held Shorwell, (fn. 13) may be identical with this Robert.
Amice widow of Baldwin Earl of Devon, who was lord of the Island from 1216 to 1245, gave to the nuns of Lacock 'with her heart' her manor of Shorwell, (fn. 14) and her daughter Isabel de Fortibus confirmed the gift, granting them the amercements of their men of Shorwell who should be amerced in the knighten court of Newport. (fn. 15) William de Poldon, or William Huse de Poldon, apparently as representative of the Shorwells, released to the Abbess of Lacock all his right in the manor of North Shorwell in 1284–5 and to a messuage and 2 carucates of land there in the following year. (fn. 16) William de Hedynton granted a messuage and land in Shorwell to the abbess in 1318–19. (fn. 17) The manor remained in the possession of successive abbesses until the Dissolution, (fn. 18) after which in 1544 it was granted to Thomas Temes, (fn. 19) who leased it to John Lovibond at a yearly rent of £16 in 1546. (fn. 20) Thomas Temes died seised of the manor in 1575, leaving a son and heir John, (fn. 21) who sold it in 1586 to John and Barnabas Leigh. (fn. 22) In 1603 John Leigh of Shorwell was appointed deputy captain of the Island. (fn. 23) John Leigh conveyed the manor in 1642–3 to Edward and Thomas Leigh and the heirs of Edward. (fn. 24) John Leigh was holding the manor in 1679–80, (fn. 25) and it probably passed to his son John, who married Anne daughter of William Eveleigh. Barnabas Eveleigh Leigh, who was holding the manor in 1749 and 1770, (fn. 26) was perhaps son of John and Anne. He was succeeded by his uncle John Leigh, (fn. 27) who died in 1772, leaving five daughters his co-heirs, (fn. 28) Amelia wife of Thomas Goldie, Catherine wife of Chaloner Arcedeacon, Joan wife of Richard Bennett Lloyd and afterwards of Francis Love Beckford, Elizabeth wife of Alexander Stewart and Mary wife of James Strachan. (fn. 29) A conveyance of the five parts of the manor to Robert Kekewich in 1795 (fn. 30) by these co-heirs was probably made for the purpose of selling it to Richard Bull, to whom it passed at about that time. (fn. 31) It was inherited in 1805 by his eldest daughter Elizabeth, who devised it to her half-brother R. H. A. Bennett. (fn. 32) He was succeeded in 1814 by his two daughters, one of whom married Sir James Willoughby Grant Gordon, who bought his sister-in-law's moiety. The estate passed before 1848 to his son Sir Henry Percy Gordon, (fn. 33) who died in 1876. His widow Lady Mary held the manor until her death in 1899, and it is now the property of her daughter Mary Charlotte Julia, who married General Robert William Disney Leith. (fn. 34)
The manor of WEST COURT or SOUTH SHORWELL was probably represented in 1086 by the holding of Gozelin son of Azor in Shorwell, two-fifths of which were held in demesne. (fn. 35)
About 1150 William de Sorewell witnessed a charter of Geoffrey de Insula (Lisle), (fn. 36) to whom the manor probably belonged at that date. In 1205 the advowson of the chapel was granted to Walter de Lisle, (fn. 37) and at the end of the 13th century it was held by John de Insula (Lisle). (fn. 38) From that date it descended with Wootton (q.v.) until the death of John Lisle in 1523, when the manor passed to his niece Mary wife of Sir Thomas Lisle. (fn. 39) On her death without issue in 1539 her property passed like South Baddesley (fn. 40) (q.v.) to Thomas Dennys, one of the descendants of Margery Rogers. (fn. 41) He died seised in 1549–50, leaving Michael his brother and heir, (fn. 42) who was succeeded in 1574–5 by a son Thomas. (fn. 43) From Thomas the manor passed in 1606 to his son Sir Edward, (fn. 44) and on the death of Edward, son and su cessor of the latter, (fn. 45) a difference arose between his widow Frances and Sir Alexander Frazier, guardian of Bridget Dennys, sister-in-law of Edward, as to certain rents. (fn. 46)
It would appear that the direct line of the Dennys family failed with Edward Dennys mentioned above, and that the manor reverted to the descendants of Anne wife of Richard Basket, daughter of the Thomas Dennys who died in 1606. Her daughter Barbara married Richard Broad, and a moiety of West Court descended to their granddaughter and co-heir Grace Broad, who married as a second husband Alexander Alchorne. (fn. 47) In 1717 John Popham, who had married their daughter and heiress Grace, (fn. 48) settled a moiety of the manor upon himself and his heirs, John Alchorne being a party to the conveyance. (fn. 49)
In 1754 a John Popham, either this John or his son (for the elder John died in 1754), (fn. 50) was dealing with a moiety of the manor (presumably the Alchorne moiety). (fn. 51) The younger John died in 1762, (fn. 52) and this part of the manor seems to have been divided between his son John Popham (fn. 53) and his daughter (by his first wife) (fn. 54) Elizabeth, who married Lieutenant. Colonel William Hill. (fn. 55) In 1810 the land was sold to the tenant — Way, who sold it in 1836 to Miss Grubbe. Of her it was purchased in 1876 by Sir Henry Gordon, bart., whose daughter Mrs. Disney Leith now owns it. (fn. 56) The manorial rights were retained by the Pophams (see Shanklin) and are now claimed by Captain Macpherson, R.N., nephew of Miss White. (fn. 57)
There is apparently no trace of the history of the other moiety of the manor which passed to the second co-heir of Barbara and Richard Broad.
The manor of ATHERFIELD (Aurifel, xi cent.) was held by a thegn of the king at the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), (fn. 58) but its subsequent history is obscure. This holding was apparently originally a part of Brighstone parish and is shown as such in a map of 1780. The first mention of a holding of any consequence occurs in 1250–1, when Robert de Daunfernet obtained a life grant of 2 carucates of land in Atherfield and Kingston from Stephen Simeon and Joan his wife, with reversion to John son of Stephen and his wife Benedicta and the heirs of John. The land was to be held of Stephen and Joan and the heirs of Joan, (fn. 59) who was possibly identical with the Joan de Arsyk who in 1276 conveyed the same property to Thomas Norris and his wife Cecily. In 1313 Thomas Norris, parson of the church of Chale, possibly a son of Thomas and Cecily, conveyed the property to Walter Norris and Agnes his wife, (fn. 60) and this Walter is returned in 1316 as holding Atherfield. (fn. 61) In 1346 Laurence and Thomas Norris were holding half a fee in Atherfield which was previously held by Richard and Walter Norris, (fn. 62) and in 1353 William Norris of Whippingham is mentioned in connexion with the manor. (fn. 63) Laurence and Thomas Norris were again returned as owners in 1428, (fn. 64) and in 1459 John atte Rythe and Christine were dealing with the manor as the right of Christine, who was probably the daughter and heiress of a Norris. (fn. 65)
At the end of the 15th century the family of Trenchard are found owning property in Atherfield, probably identical with that which had belonged to the Norris family. Sir John Trenchard died in 1495 seised of land in Atherfield, (fn. 66) and his son Sir Thomas owned a capital messuage or farm in the parish of Brighstone. (fn. 67)
In 1732 Elizabeth Legg (widow) and William Legg were dealing with the manor, and in 1750 Bethia Legg (spinster) was concerned in a conveyance. (fn. 68) She apparently married Richard Willis and is found dealing with the manor together with her husband in 1769. (fn. 69)
The later history of this holding has not been discovered. It is represented by Atherfield Farm.
There was another estate called ATHERFIELD in Shorwell, which belonged to the Comptons of Compton in Freshwater (q.v.) and followed the descent of that manor, with which it became merged in the 15th century. (fn. 70)
The manor of WOOLVERTON in Shorwell was probably represented in 1086 by ULWARCOMBE, belonging to William son of Stur, (fn. 71) who had formerly held it of Edward the Confessor. The overlordship followed the descent of Gatcombe (q.v.) in the de Estur family.
Juran was the immediate tenant of the manor under William son of Stur in 1086. (fn. 72) The family of Woolverton, who took their name from this holding and were perhaps descendants of Juran, held the manor from at least the 13th century. Thus John de Woolverton was in possession in 1293, (fn. 73) and in a survey of about the same date he or another John de Woolverton was holding an eighth part of a fee of the overlord. Ralph de Woolverton, knight of the shire in 1327, was probably his descendant. (fn. 74)
The manor subsequently descended by marriage to the Dingley family. The first of this family which came into the Island in the reign of Richard II 'matched with ye daughter and heyre of that auntient familye Ralfe de Wolverton,' says Oglander, 'by whom they nowe injoye Wolverton.' (fn. 75) About 1394 James and Richard Dingley and others bought the manor of Robert Dingley and Margaret his wife. (fn. 76) Ralf Dingley was owner of the manor in 1431, (fn. 77) and Lewis Dingley was holding in the reign of Henry VII when there was a dispute as to his right to a certain villein 'pertaining to the said manor.' (fn. 78) John Dingley was holding Woolverton in 1557 and died in 1596, leaving the manor to his wife Elizabeth for life and the remainder in trust for John Dingley his grandson. (fn. 79) Elizabeth died in 1598 and the manor remained in the same family throughout the next century, when it was acquired by the Hunt family. In 1704 Maurice Hunt conveyed the manor to Anthony Morgan. (fn. 80)
In or before 1780 the farm and manor-house was bought of — Delgarno by James Jolliffe, whose interest afterwards passed to Chaloner Archdeacon. (fn. 81) The manor passed from the Serles to the Goodenoughs, and belonged in 1795 to the Clarke family. In 1819 Sir Edward Swinburne and Emelia his wife were dealing with a part of the manor (fn. 82) which had been probably merged with North Court (q.v.) after passing to Chaloner Archdeacon and had thus passed to Richard Bennett of Beckenham, his daughter Emelia wife of Sir Edward Swinburne acquiring a portion, while the rest passed with North Court to Mrs. Disney Leith, the present owner of Woolverton.
Land at BILLINGHAM, part of the manor of Bowcombe, was given in 1293 by John de Lisle, clerk, to the oratory of Barton or Burton in Whippingham parish. (fn. 83) The king and the lords of West Court also had lands here. (fn. 84)
The church of ST. PETER, though of 12th-century foundation, has no work remaining earlier than the 13th century, to which period the eastern portion of the north wall with its blocked lancet windows and it may be the south door (fn. 85) belong. It consists of nave with north and south aisles, a chancel with north and south chantries and a western tower. In the 15th century the whole church was practically rebuilt, anyhow as regards the outer walls, only the eastern portion of the north aisle being left as it formerly stood and now stands. The nave, chancel and aisles all being of equal width and the arcade continuous from west to east gives the church a spacious appearance. The nave arcade consists of three bays, the chancel of two, the former having octagonal shafts, bases and capitals; the latter round shafts. To obtain a light appearance for the chancel arcade the spandrels of the arches are only the thickness of the inner ring of voussoirs, the outer continuing straight across the heads of the arches and returning square to the eastern wall shaft. (fn. 86) The tower, added in the 15th century, is in three stages (the lower is vaulted as at Carisbrooke) and finishes with a stone spire, rebuilt in the beginning of the 17th century, probably about the date on the weather vane, 1617. It has an embattled cornice, angle buttresses and a stilted arched opening connecting it with the nave. About 1620 the west end of the south aisle was extended for a house for the parish gun. Though the interior details are poor the general effect is good, giving a sense of space, and there are many interesting accessories, one of the most noticeable being the stone pulpit (fn. 87) with its entrance cutting through the second pier of the north arcade and contemporaneous with it. It springs from a semi-octagonal base corbelling out to an octagonal body, panelled and ending in a simple cornice. Over it is a graceful oak canopy of the early part of the 17th century, having six faces. In the spandrels under is cut the date 1620 and attached to the wall is the original hour glass bracket in hammered iron. To this period also belongs the octagonal font with its elaborate oak cover surmounted by the figure of the Holy Dove and having round its base the legend 'AND THE HOLY GHOST DESCENDED IN A BODILY SHAPE LIKE A DOVE UPON HIM, LVKE 3 VE. 22.' The whole of the nave arcades are an interesting instance of early Gothic revival and were probably built in place of the earlier at the beginning of the 17th century, about the date 1623, (fn. 88) cut on the spandrel of the west window of the north aisle. Over the north door is a fine tempera painting of St. Christopher, (fn. 89) which may be ascribed to the middle of the 15th century. In the south wall is a somewhat elaborate early 16th-century window with an external square spandrelled head.
There are many interesting memorials in the church, the earliest of which is a brass to Richard Bethell, (fn. 90) a former vicar, who died in 1518; the next in date being the Jacobean tombs of Sir John Leigh, 1629, and his wife Elizabeth daughter of John Dingley of Woolverton. (fn. 91) On the east wall of the south aisle is a carved and painted tablet dated 1569 and bearing a shield with two lions between the initials E. L., also a lettered brass to Elizabeth wife of Edward Leigh, 1621, and in the north aisle an alabaster tablet to John Merris, who died in 1692. There is an interesting brass attached to the east wall of the north aisle in memory of the two wives of Barnabas Leigh of West Court, who died respectively in 1615 and 1619. (fn. 92) An elaborately carved 18th-century tablet between the tombs of Sir John Leigh and his wife commemorates John Leigh and his wife Anne Every, (fn. 93) and in the wall spaces of the nave arcade are circular tablets to members of the Bull and Bennett families, former owners of North Court.
In the south wall of the south chantry is a piscina with drain, and at the east end hangs a painted altarpiece of crude workmanship, brought from Iceland and presented to the church. There is a fine copy of Cranmer's Bible, 1541 (ed. 3), a good oak communion table, dated 1661; and in the west wall of the south aisle the blocked entrance for the parish gun is still visible. (fn. 94)
There are five bells in the tower, three of the 17th century, inscribed 'Give God the Glory, 1611' (tenor), 'Give thanks to God, 1601' (no. 2), 'In God be our Gude, 1641' (fn. 95) (treble), and two lately added in memory of Sir Henry P. Gordon and General Robert Disney Leith.
The only ancient piece of communion plate is a chalice with cover dated 1569.
The registers are as follows: (1) all entries from 1676 to 1800; (2) banns and marriages 1754 to 1812; (3) baptisms and burials 1800 to 1812.
There appear to have been two distinct churches at Shorwell—one rectorial and one vicarial.
The history of the advowson is a matter of some uncertainty. In 1205 an agreement was made between the Prior of Carisbrooke and Walter de Insula (Lisle), when the former declared that Walter had the right of presentation 'saving the parochial right of the church of Carisbrooke and saving the annual pencon of xxs and also saving the tithe of all titheable things of the lordship of Robert de Sorewell and saving the tithe corn of the lordship of Wallwarton and the tithe corn with halfe the small tithe of the lordship of Atherfelde.' (fn. 96) The same agreement directs that the bodies of all the parishioners of Shorewell 'shall have their buriall in the burieng of Carisbroke.' The inconvenience of this obligation caused the inhabitants of Shorewell to petition for a separate parish church. 'One reason among others that they urged wase ye greate inconvenience they suffered in carryinge of corses to buriol to Caresbroke through ye wattorish lane at winter whereby many caught theyre death. So that ye death in winter tyme of one caused many moore.' (fn. 97)
The vicarial chapel was in existence early in the 14th century, when Richard le Brun, the rector, presented. The right to this advowson does not appear to have been the exclusive right of the rector, as the next entry of a presentation gives Sir John de Insula (Lisle) as patron, (fn. 98) but as a general rule the rector seems to have been presented by the lords of West Court Manor, who left the institution of the vicar in the rector's hands. (fn. 99) The advowson of the rectory and vicarage in the 17th century had been acquired by the Leighs of North Court. (fn. 100) In 1795 the advowson of the vicarage was sold by the heirs of John Leigh of North Court to Robert Kekewich. (fn. 101) It was purchased about 1870 by P. C. Baring, M.P., who conveyed it with the advowson of Kingston to three trustees for the benefit of Hertford College, Oxford. These trustees still own it. By Order in Council of November 1910 it was united to Kingston and Mottistone. (fn. 102)
There is a Wesleyan chapel in the village.
In 1808 Miss Elizabeth Bull by her will bequeathed £1,000, the income to be applied for the benefit of the poor.
In 1811 Richard Henry Alexander Bennett by his will bequeathed £1,000 for the benefit of the poor.
The two legacies are now represented by £2,791 19s. 4d. consols, with the official trustees, the annual dividends of which, amounting to £69 16s., are applied in relief in money and in the distribution of coal and clothing.
In 1908 £8 13s. was expended in money relief and the balance between the coal and clothing clubs. There were seventy-two recipients.