Parishes: Bythorn

Pages 26-28

A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1936.

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In this section


Bierne (xi–xiv cent.); Bytherne (xii–xv cent.); Byerne (xiii cent.); Bithorne (xiii–xvi cent.).

The parish lies on the Northamptonshire border and measures about 3 miles in length from north to south, and from half a mile to a mile in width. It covers 1,570 acres of clay land which grows wheat, barley, oats and beans, but most of the land is pasture. A stream runs from west to east through the middle of the parish, where the land lies about 120 ft. above Ordnance datum, and is liable to floods. It rises to the north on the Northamptonshire boundary to about 250 ft. and to the south at Mickle Hill to about 234 ft.

The village stands on ground rising from the stream, and mainly on the north side of the road from Thrapston to Huntingdon, where it is crossed by byroads called Clack Lane, from the south, and Warren Lane, from the north. The church is in the middle of the village, surrounded by farms and cottages, one or two of which date back to the 17th century. The Baptist chapel, to the north-east of the church, was built in 1809. There was a windmill on the south side of the road to Huntingdon, about a quarter of a mile to the east of the village, which was destroyed not long ago.

The nearest railway station is at Raunds, 3½ miles to the south-west.


Alfwold (d. 990), younger brother of Aylwin, the founder of Ramsey Abbey, granted BYTHORN to the monks. Like Brington, Bythorn, after appearing in 1086 as a 'manor' assessed to the geld at 4 hides, became a dependent part of the manor of Old Weston (q.v.), the descent of which it followed.

Ramsey Abbey. Or a bend azure with three rams' heads argent cut off at the neck thereon.

It is related that Alfilda, the wife of Alfwold, held Bythorn in dower and granted it to the monks with the request that they would receive Aednoth, the son of her daughter, as a monk. (fn. 1)

William I confirmed Bythorn to Ramsey in 1077, and ordered that half a hide, of which Humphrey the larderer disseised them, should be restored, as it was appropriated for the provision of their victuals and clothing. (fn. 2) This may be the half-hide in Bythorn held by Eulard in the time of Henry I (fn. 3) and which passed, after the death of Henry I, to Henry de Wychenton. (fn. 4) Later William de Wychentone sold his land in Bythorn to the abbot of Ramsey, who before 1254 had added it to the manor of Bythorn. (fn. 5) Between 1254 and 1267 the abbey allocated to the custody of the shrine of St. Ive 2s. annual rent from their manor of Weston, bought from Andrew de Bythorn. (fn. 6)


The church of ST. LAWRENCE consists of a chancel (21¼ ft. by 15¼ ft.), with north chapel (21¼ ft. by 7¾ ft.), nave (39 ft. by 14¾ ft.), north aisle (4¾ ft. wide), south aisle (41¼ ft. by 8¼ ft.), west tower (8 ft. by 7½ ft.) and south porch. The walls are partly of ashlar and partly of coursed rubble with stone dressings, and the roofs are covered with lead and slates.

The church is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), but there was evidently a stone church on the site in the 12th century, some of the stones of which are built into the existing walls. The nave was probably rebuilt towards the end of the 13th century, when a north aisle was added, but, notwithstanding the presence of a 13th-century piscina, it is doubtful whether the chancel was rebuilt at this time. Early in the next century a south aisle was added, and about 1345 (fn. 7) the chancel was rebuilt and widened to the south, the tower and porch were added and the north aisle rebuilt. The clearstory was built in the 15th century, and the north chapel early in the 16th century. The tower and spire were repaired in 1853. (fn. 8) The church was largely rebuilt in 1870 and the chancel much restored in 1874. Some repairs were done to the tower and the west end of the south aisle in 1907.

The chancel, c. 1340, has a three-light east window with tracery in a two-centred head, the lower part largely original, but the upper part, together with the gable over it, entirely modern. There is also a small rectangular recess in the east wall, near the south end. The north wall has a 16th-century arcade of two two-centred arches of two orders, one chamfered and one hollow-chamfered, carried on a central column formed by the continuation downwards of the outer orders of the arches between two attached shafts, and similar responds, all the shafts having moulded capitals and mutilated bases. The south wall has two original windows much restored and with modern heads, and the sill of the eastern one carried down to form a sedile; and a 13th-century piscina having a trefoiled head with soffit cusping, projecting bowl, octofoiled basin, and a wooden shelf.

The chancel arch, originally of c. 1345 but nearly all modern, is two-centred, of two chamfered orders, the lower order carried on semi-octagonal attached shafts with moulded capitals and chamfered bases. There is a squint on each side, with square heads on the east and trefoiled heads on the west. The roof is modern and of steep pitch, rising much above that on the nave.

The early 16th-century north chapel has no east window, but in the north wall there are two 15thcentury two-light windows with vertical tracery in four-centred heads. The west wall has a modern two-centred arch to the aisle, of two chamfered orders resting on made-up corbels.

The late 13th-century nave has an arcade of four bays on each side, both having two-centred arches of two chamfered orders. That on the north, of late 13th-century date, has one octagonal between two circular columns, and the eastern respond is a semioctagonal and the western respond a semicircular attached column all with moulded capitals and bases. That on the south, c. 1340, has columns composed of four grouped semicircular shafts with moulded capitals and bases; the lower orders of the arches, at the east and west ends, are carried on semi-octagonal corbels terminating in modern carving. The 15th-century clearstory has four square-headed two-light windows with simple tracery, on each side. The contemporary roof has moulded cambered tie-beams with jacklegs and braces, and carved bosses. The mark of the earlier high-pitched roof may be seen on the east wall of the tower.

The north aisle, c. 1345, has in the north wall two original two-light windows each with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; a mid 14th-century two-light window with modern flowing tracery in a square head; a reset 13th-century doorway with a two-centred head of one chamfered order on plain jambs with moulded imposts; and a small niche with a twocentred head. There is a straight joint between the west wall and the north-west corner of the nave.

Plan of Bythorn Church

The early 14th-century south aisle has, in the east wall, a much-restored mid 14th-century two-light window with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; and a 14th-century chamfered bracket resting on a notchhead. The south wall has three windows similar to that in the east wall; a reset 13th-century doorway with a two-centred head of one chamfered order on plain jambs with moulded imposts. The west wall has a two-light window similar to the others.

The west tower, c. 1340, has a two-centred tower arch of two continuous moulded orders. There is no west door, but a west window of two lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head. In the stage above in the west wall is a spherical-triangular window with flowing tracery and a continuous label. The belfry windows are transomed two-lights with quatrefoils in two-centred heads. The tower has diagonal buttresses at the north-west and south-west corners, which rise to the tops of the belfry windows, and is finished with a band of quatrefoils in circles, above which is a moulded cornice enriched with carved grotesque faces. From this cornice rises a stone spire, square at the bottom but quickly reduced, by means of splayed broaches, to an octagon. It has three tiers of spire lights, all on the cardinal faces, the lowest tier being transomed two-lights, the next simple twolights, and the upper tier single-lights. The stairs are in a rectangular turret at the south-east corner.

The south porch, c. 1345, has an almost entirely modern two-centred outer archway of two chamfered orders resting on semicircular attached shafts having moulded and carved capitals and moulded bases. The side walls have each a much-restored single-light window with a two-centred head.

The 16th-century font has a plain octagonal bowl with a chamfered lower edge, resting on an octagonal stem with a chamfered base. (fn. 9)

There are four bells, inscribed: (1) Henry Bagley made mee 1682. (2) Henry Penn fusore 1711. (3) Omnia fiant ad gloriam Dei 1620 N.Q. (4) Thomas Norris made me 1674. The third bell is by Tobias Norris I. In 1552 there were three bells and a sanctus bell. (fn. 10)

The 17th-century oak Communion table has carved and moulded rails and turned legs.

On the south-west buttress of the tower is a well-cut sundial; and there is a scratched dial on the south buttress of the chancel.

Some pieces of 12th-century chevron-ornament have been built into the south wall of the south aisle.

There are the following monuments: in the chancel, to Francis Parris, d. 1723, and Elizabeth (Sawyer) his wife; on the floor a brass plate to Philip Hustwait, d. 1788. In the north chapel, floor slabs to John Hustwait, d. 1653; Thomas Hustwait, d. 169–, and Elizabeth wife of Tho. H[ustwait] and Ann wife of Thomas Ashton, d. 1723. In the tower, on the floor a brass plate to Sillina wife of William Parris, d. 1658.

The registers are as follows: (i) baptisms 25 April 1571 to 15 January 1642/3, marriages 21 July 1560 to 10 January 1640/1, burials 20 November 1564 to 4 December 1642; (ii) baptisms, marriages and burials 3 April 1640 to 6 April 1684; (iii) the same 6 March 168¾ to 26 September 1777, marriages end 26 February 1754; (iv) baptisms and burials 24 August 1777 to 23 August 1812; (v) marriages 9 June 1755 to 18 November 1811.

The church plate consists of a silver cup of delicate Renaissance form embossed with roses and foliage, with a steeple-cover also embossed and having three shaped brackets supporting a pyramidal spire. The cup is inscribed 'Bithorne in HuntingtonShire Ann. Dom. 1639. Tho: Becke: Rich: Browne: Churchwardens,' but hall-marked for 1614–1615; a plated paten inscribed 'Bythorn. 9th August, 1902'; a plated standing paten.


The church of Bythorn is mentioned in 1178. (fn. 11) The Richard and Geoffrey de Br . . ., chaplains, whose rights were safeguarded when Richard Foliot was instituted to the church of Brington (q.v.) in 1225 (fn. 12) must have been vicars of Bythorn and Old Weston. Both were chapelries of Brington, to the rectory of which they are still annexed.

In Jan. 1345 Philip, son of Lawrence de Bythorn, had licence to grant 3 acres to the 4 reeves of the chapel of St. Lawrence for roofing it, renewing and maintaining vestments, and finding a chaplain to celebrate 24 masses yearly for his good estate, and for the repose of his soul. (fn. 13)


The charity consisting of the Baptist Chapel and Trust Property, comprised in indentures dated 16 June 1809 and 22 Dec. 1846, is now regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 23 Oct. 1923 and administered and managed by the Baptist Union Corporation Ltd. as the trustees of the charity.

The Bread Charity established under the will of Henry Queenby, dated 1 March 1642, consists of three rent-charges of 12s. 6d., 3s. 4d. and 3s. 4d. issuing out of St. Katharines Farm, Ekins Farm and Smiths Farm. These yearly sums are distributed in bread among poor persons of the parish.


  • 1. Chron. Abbat. Rames. (Rolls Ser.), 63–4.
  • 2. Ibid. 201, 213.
  • 3. Cartul. Mon. de Rames. (Rolls Ser.), iii, 313; Cbron. Abbat. Rames. (Rolls Ser.), 225, 256.
  • 4. Cartul. Mon. de Rames. iii, 313.
  • 5. Ibid. ii, 226 (cf. Cal. Feet of F. Hunts (Camb. Antiq. Soc.), p. 24).
  • 6. Cartul. Mon. de Rames. ii, 229.
  • 7. See Advowson.
  • 8. Churchwardens' Bks.
  • 9. The Eccles. and Arcbit. Topog. of Engl. (J. H. Parker), pt. v, Hunts, 1851, describes the font as 'Norman, on legs,' but this must be a mistake.
  • 10. Excheq. K.R. Ch. Goods, bdle. 3, no 5.
  • 11. Cartul. Mon. de Rames. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 136.
  • 12. Rot. Hug. de Welles (Cant. and York Soc.), iii, 50.
  • 13. Cal. Pat. R. 1343–5, p. 432.