A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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Stonton Wyville is situated about eleven miles south-east of Leicester. The parish, which is 1,217 a. in area, lies in the valley of a south-flowing tributary of the Welland, the river forming its entire western boundary. Several minor divergences of the boundary-one of them near the mill-house-probably indicate changes in the course of the river. A small stream from the east joins the river near Stonton village. The ground rises from between 250 and 350 ft. near the river to about 450 ft. in the north of the parish and nearly 500 ft. on Langton Caudle in the south. Almost the entire eastern parish boundary follows field boundaries on the high ground. The soil is a loamy clay over a subsoil of clay. The large Stonton Wood lies in the north of the parish, and there are three small plantations on the slopes of Langton Caudle.
The road from Hallaton in the east to Tur Langton and Kibworth Harcourt in the west passes through the centre of the parish; near the eastern boundary of Stonton it is joined by the road from Goadby and Glooston to the north-east. The village lies along a short offshoot on the north side of the chief road and close to the river. A farm road from the village is continued as a footpath to the northern extremity of the parish where it crosses the river into Noseley. To the south of the village another farm road flanks Langton Caudle on its way to a ford leading to Thorpe Langton. The Gartree road crosses the north of the parish, passing over the river by Hardwick Bridge.
A small group of houses lies along the village street with the Rectory, church, and manor-house on its west side and the former inn on its east. Un identified earthworks lie between the village and the former watermill, a short distance to the south-west.
The former Fox and Hounds Inn, now a farm, opposite the old Rectory is externally 19th century in appearance; the plan, however, suggests an earlier origin. During the 19th century new brick cottages were built to the east of the church and other older cottages were re-fronted. One such row includes the Pump House, a cottage that contains two altered cruck trusses probably of medieval date. A stone house at the east end of the row has leaded casements and dates from the late 18th century. West View Farm, standing slightly to the south of the village, is a typical two-storied brick house of the early 18th century.
The manor-house is built on a slight eminence which may have been moated in medieval times. It is an ironstone building, rectangular in plan and roofed with slate. Its position on the east side of the raised site suggests that the existing house may represent only one wing of a formerly larger house. The building is of two distinct periods: the southern half is two-storied with attics and cellars, and retains mullioned windows of c. 1630, mostly of two lights; the northern half was altered internally and re-faced about a hundred years later in fine jointed ashlar. This work included the re-use of a doorway with moulded jambs of 17th-century date as the principal entrance. The windows, some of which are blocked, have wooden mullions and transoms and the lintels have key-blocks.
In 1791 there was a gabled wing across the north end of the house and a two-storied polygonal turret at the junction of this wing with the existing east façade. (fn. 1) Both these features, possibly the work of Edmund Brudenell (d. 1590), have been destroyed. Most of the masonry now exposed in the north gable formed the south wall of the vanished wing and incorporates rubble work with long and short quoins of medieval character at its base. A large brick buttress, built in the 19th century against the wall, conceals earlier fire-place openings but a blocked attic fire-place with chamfered jambs and head is preserved. A gable at the south end of the east front has been flattened in pitch and in its apex is a carved achievement of arms inverted and reset. A halfround column is embedded in the west wall of the earlier half of the house and a door opening, now blocked, remains at first-floor level above it. The large lean-to kitchen addition of c. 1780 against the same wall may occupy the site of a destroyed hall. (fn. 2) Painted glass displaying the arms of Brudenell impaling Entwistle was described by Nichols in 1791. It was confined to the chamber and garret windows. The farm buildings date from the 19th century.
Two cottages, on either side of the road that runs north into the fields, date from the early 18th century. They are both single-storied with half-attic bedrooms and their mixed red-brick and ironstone walling may have replaced earlier timber-framing. Earthworks in the fields to the north probably mark the sites of demolished cottages and similar traces are visible in the field east of the church.
There was a recorded population of 20 in 1086. The poll tax was paid by 103 people in 1377. There seems to have been a fall in the population during the 15th and 16th centuries for there were only 15 households in 1563. In 1603 there were 78 communicants, in 1670, 14 households, and in 1676 42 communicants. (fn. 3) In the early 18th century there were 16-20 households. (fn. 4) The population in 1801 was 96; it rose to a maximum of 122 in 1821 and then gradually fell to 42 in 1911. In 1951 it was 62. (fn. 5)
MANOR AND LESSER ESTATE.
In 1086 STONTON WYVILLE formed part of the extensive estates of Hugh de Grentemesnil. (fn. 6) About 1130 Richard Basset held it, probably as an under-tenant of the Earl of Leicester to whose descendants it later passed, ultimately becoming part of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 7) Ralph Basset seems to have made claim to Stonton in 1252, (fn. 8) but nothing further is known of the Bassets' tenancy.
The under-tenant in 1086 was another Hugh, founder of the family of Widville or Wyville from which the village took its name. (fn. 9) His descendants held the manor until 1494 when the last William Wyville died, leaving a widow Margaret and the manor of Stonton in the hands of trustees. (fn. 10) William's heir was his niece Katherine Warde, a child of eleven, who married Thomas Entwistle, the son of one of her uncle's trustees. (fn. 11) The manor was leased from Thomas and Katherine by Sir Robert Brudenell, who married William Wyville's widow very shortly after her first husband's death, and in 1499 he purchased its reversion from them. (fn. 12) The Brudenells did not obtain full possession of the manor until 1533, after Sir Robert's death. (fn. 13) It descended in the Brudenell family, and was usually leased to a younger branch until the early 18th century. A lease for 61 years was made in 1582 and in 1635 the manor-house and demesne were leased, each time to Edmund Brudenell. (fn. 14) In 1957 the owner was Mr. George Brudenell of Deene (Northants.). (fn. 15)
Recognition of Stonton Wyville as the oldest of the Brudenell estates was made in 1628 when Thomas Brudenell was created Baron Brudenell of Stonton. (fn. 16) An attempt to re-name the village Stonton Brudenell was made in the 17th century, and this name was used as late as the 19th, although it was never common. (fn. 17)
In 1086 the Countess Judith owned land in Stonton, held by an under-tenant named Osbern. (fn. 18) Nothing further is known of this estate, which may have been wrongly attributed to Stonton Wyville.
Hugh de Grentemesnil's holding in Stonton Wyville in 1086 was assessed at 6 carucates, sufficient for 4 ploughs. Hugh de Widville had 2 ploughs and 2 serfs in demesne, and a priest, 15 villeins, and 2 bordars had a further 4 ploughs. There was woodland measuring 6 by 4 furlongs, and 8 a. of meadow. The estate was worth 40s. before the Conquest, and 60s. in 1086. (fn. 19) In 1265 the manor was valued at £20. (fn. 20) In 1279 Robert de Wyville still held 6 carucates-2 in demesne, one in free tenure, and 3 in villeinage. (fn. 21) He claimed common all the year in the wood of Stonton, which then covered 100 a. (fn. 22) In 1381 the population included 2 free tenants and 17 tenants at will, and there was also a butcher. (fn. 23)
A close belonging to the Duke of Lancaster is mentioned in 1389, when Thomas Wyville was accused with his two sons of breaking it down. (fn. 24) By the end of the 15th century considerable inclosure had taken place. Closes, including Hardwick Bridge Close, are mentioned in 1460. (fn. 25) By 1495 most of the area north of the Gartree road had been inclosed. (fn. 26) It was then divided into the Great Close (the later Great Pasture on the boundary with Shangton and Noseley), (fn. 27) Great and Little Stocking, and the Horse Close. Sir Robert Brudenell was probably pasturing sheep on these closes from the date at which he first leased the manor on his marriage with Margaret Wyville. In 1507 he was certainly in possession of the Great Stocking and another close called Brenwode. In 1560 it was estimated that there was pasture for 800 sheep in the Stonton closes. (fn. 28)
The names of the open fields vary very much in different documents. In 1601 the glebe terrier mentions Mill Field, Brook Field, and Hardwick Field. The 1625 terrier omits Hardwick Field and adds Upper and Little Fields. In 1638 Brook Field and Glooston Field are mentioned; the name of the third is not given, as it was fallow. (fn. 29) In the surveys and maps of the manor made in 1635 and 1637 for the Brudenells three large fields are shown: North Field lay between the village and the Gartree road, with East Meadow Close between it and the Glooston boundary; Brook Field occupied the area between the village, the boundary with East Langton, and the road from Stonton to Tur Langton; and Hill Field lay on the west side of that road, between it and the lower slopes of Langton Caudle. The higher parts of that hill formed the cow pasture. In addition a Little Field lay to the north of Langton Caudle and south of East Meadow Close. (fn. 30)
The fields were thus still partly open in 1638. In about 1631 Lord Brudenell had stated that all that Stonton needed to make it thoroughly profitable was the completion of his son's proposed inclosure. He was prepared to provide the tenants with wood to fence their newly-allotted lands, and to grant new leases at the same rates as the old since tenants would not be prepared to spend money on inclosing unless they were assured of a tenancy for a fixed term of years. (fn. 31) The village seems to have been completely inclosed before the end of the 17th century, but probably not as early as stated by Nichols- about 1640 or 1650. (fn. 32) New closes are mentioned in 1679, and in 1690 a distinction was drawn between the old and the new inclosure. (fn. 33) The inclosure seems to have had little adverse effect upon the population. (fn. 34)
At Stonton, as on their neighbouring estates, the Brudenells abandoned in the later 16th century their previous policy of farming for wool and began to draw their profits from increased rents. This process began earlier in Stonton Wyville than on the other estates. In 1549 the family farmed 483 a., but these were leased by 1560. In 1606-7 their rents were £330 6s. 4d. (fn. 35) In 1614 they drew £158 17s. 8d. from the lease of the demesnes alone. (fn. 36) By 1635 the total rents from Stonton Wyville had increased to £397 18s. 10d. but the revenue altogether totalled £590 18s. 10d. with the sums drawn from fines on the renewal of leases. (fn. 37) The demesne in 1635 consisted of 122 a. of land and feed for 24 cows and 192 sheep on the commons. Most of the tenants held between 30 and 50 a. (fn. 38) In 1637 the demesne comprised most of the inclosed land round the village itself, the whole of Little Field, 30 a. in North Field, 42 a. in Brook Field, 50 a. in Hill Field, and 14 a. of meadow. (fn. 39) One important effect of the extended policy of leasing was the tendency for farms to become much the same size. (fn. 40) Tenants were obliged by their leases to plant young trees and protect them with fencing, to keep their buildings in repair with timber sometimes provided by the lord of the manor, and often to undertake the yearly carriage of a cart of coals to Deene. (fn. 41)
Stonton has remained a predominantly pastoral parish since the inclosure. In 1801, for example, only 19 a. were cultivated. (fn. 42) The land has been divided into a small number of farms: there were only 4 farmers and graziers in the 19th century, and only 2 in 1932. Few people have been employed outside agriculture. In 1846 one of the graziers was also a corn miller, and there was an inn. (fn. 43)
In 1086 there were two mills in Stonton, valued at 5s. and 4d. respectively, (fn. 44) and still more than one in 1605. (fn. 45) Only a watermill survived to modern times, but there was a windmill in the early 17th century on Langton Caudle. (fn. 46) The watermill was still working in 1846; it was probably closed by 1863 but the building remained standing and in 1960 was known as Water Mill House. (fn. 47) It is a red-brick and stone structure of two stories and attics. The main elevation faces south and has been considerably altered in its ground story. Limestone quoins and other courses at this level together with a nowencased rear wall are all that remain of the 17thcentury mill. Early in the following century a brick addition was made to the west end. In or about 1791, when the Earl of Cardigan obtained an estimate for the extensive repair of the mill, (fn. 48) the present mansard roof and attics were constructed together with part of the upper story. A large sundial below the eaves is inscribed 'Redeem the time'. The mill machinery, including the wheel which was of the undershot type, has been removed. The mill leat feeding the dam can be traced in a close to the rear of the house.
In 1635 there was a town house in which poor people lived. (fn. 49) There was no workhouse in 1802-3 when no regular outrelief was given. (fn. 50) In 1835 Stonton was placed in the Uppingham Union. (fn. 51)
There was a priest at Stonton in 1086. (fn. 52) The living is a rectory, and was united with Glooston in 1930. (fn. 53) In 1220 the advowson belonged to Robert de Wyville, (fn. 54) and it has subsequently descended with the manor.
In 1217 the living was valued at 5 marks, in 1254 at 6 marks, and in 1291 at 12 marks, (fn. 55) at which figure it remained for most of the Middle Ages. (fn. 56) By 1535 the value had risen to £9 18s. 11¼d. (fn. 57) In 1650 the living was valued at £40. (fn. 58) In 1831 it was worth £360. (fn. 59)
Two-thirds of the demesne tithes were granted to the abbey of St. Evroul (Orne) by Robert FitzParnell, Earl of Leicester, in 1190-1204. The grant may have been originally made by Hugh de Grentemesnil. (fn. 60) Like most of St. Evroul's English possessions those in Stonton passed to Ware Priory, whose pension from the church in 1428 was 26s. 8d. (fn. 61) By the 16th century the rectors of Stonton were drawing all the tithes. In 1586 the rector agreed to demand from Thomas Brudenell no more than the customary rate of 20s. a year in respect of tithes due from the Great Pasture and other closes. (fn. 62) In 1618 a tenant of the manor made an agreement to pasture 4 cows for the rector in lieu of the payment of tithe. (fn. 63) The tithes were presumably extinguished as a result of inclosure during the 17th century.
In 1635 the glebe consisted of 32 a. of land and a house. (fn. 64) The manorial extent of 1637 shows 11 a. of glebe in North Field, under an acre in both the Little and Brook Fields, 9 a. in Hill Field, and less than an acre of pasture. (fn. 65) It seems probable that the rector was given land in lieu of tithes, for his glebe had increased to 104 a. by 1846. (fn. 66) The glebe was sold in 1919 and 1923. (fn. 67)
The Rectory was in bad condition at the end of the 18th century, and was ordered to be repaired in 1777 and 1796. (fn. 68) It was rebuilt on a new site given by Lord Cardigan in 1857-8. (fn. 69) In 1923 it was sold and the money invested. (fn. 70) Since the living was united with Glooston in 1930, the rector has not lived at Stonton. The building is of red brick with two stories and a hipped slate roof. An added wing at the rear contains a schoolroom.
The small church of ST. DENIS, built of ironstone rubble and limestone, consists of a chancel, a clerestoried nave with a bell-cote at its west end, and a south porch. The south wall of the nave was originally pierced by an arcade of four bays dividing it from a former south aisle. This arcade, now blocked, dates from the early 13th century and has double-chamfered pointed arches resting on round piers; the responds have semi-octagonal capitals with a simplified stiff-leaf form of ornamentation, that of the west respond being enriched with small nail-head decoration. One lancet window of the same date remains in the centre of the north wall flanked by two later windows of c. 1400. This, the least restored of the nave walls, is of ironstone rubble and has a buttress at its east end incorporating a fragment of a foliated cross from a coffin lid of c. 1200. Other early work remains in the chancel, which was probably rebuilt c. 1300. The north wall contains three windows with partly-renewed tracery of that date; a string course at sill level, together with patches of the original rubble walling, is also preserved. The priest's door is probably a later medieval insertion. Internally each window has a moulded rear arch and deep splays with slender shafts having moulded capitals and bases. The hoodmoulding of the central window has foliated stops. A single window in the south wall has a similar rear arch arrangement.
The clerestory, a 15th-century addition, has cusped lights on the north side and quatrefoil openings set in sunk chamfered square frames on the south. In the 17th century the church seems to have been in poor condition. In 1619 the south porch wanted re-pointing, and some of the windows which had been stopped up were ordered to be filled with glass. (fn. 71) Plastering and painting were needed in 1639 and 1692. (fn. 72)
The church was much restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. The windows inserted into the blocked arcade are 'churchwarden Gothic' of the 18th century. (fn. 73) In 1832 the north wall of the chancel had recently been repaired, and the inside roof of the church had been replaced in the late 1820's. (fn. 74) The south wall of the chancel was restored in 1838 when the 13th-century sedilia and piscina were destroyed. (fn. 75)
A thorough restoration of the church was carried out by Goddards of Leicester in 1863, to which date the roofs of the nave and chancel, the south porch, and the nave walls belong. The last were built or re-faced with alternate courses of limestone and ironstone. The restoration took six years to complete, the cost being met partly by subscription and partly by the rector, Thomas Burnaby. (fn. 76) Further restorations were undertaken in 1897. (fn. 77) The east wall of the chancel was rebuilt in 1951. (fn. 78)
The plain octagonal font is probably medieval. In 1791 Nichols described a small water stoup in the north wall of the nave, but this is now missing. The pulpit was then described as 'modern' and was of panelled oak with similarly-fashioned pews in deal; some old pews also remained in the chancel and nave. (fn. 79) The fittings are now all of 19th-century date.
The chancel contains an alabaster table tomb and effigy to Edmund Brudenell (d. 1590); the front panel has bas-reliefs of his three children and of Elizabeth, his wife. In front of the tomb is a grave slab to Richard Brudenell (d. 1699). There are also two Brudenell mural monuments: one to Thomas (d. 1661) and Dorothy (d. 1653), the other to Major-Gen. Thomas Brudenell (d. 1707). Reset in the external south wall of the nave is a stone tablet to William Brudenell (d. 1636). Stained-glass windows in the church were installed in memory of George Burnaby (d. 1853) and the Revd. Charles Armstrong (d. 1889).
The single bell was recast by Joseph Eayre of St. Neots in 1768. (fn. 80) The plate includes a silver cup of 1826 and a paten of 1736, both presented by the Revd. Thomas Burnaby, and a set of pewter communion plate given in 1728 by Elizabeth, Countess of Cardigan. (fn. 81) The registers date from 1539 and are complete.
Stonton has never had a nonconformist chapel. In 1804 the house of William Burrows was licensed as a dissenting meeting-house, and another house was licensed in 1825. (fn. 82)
In 1833 there was an infants' school attended by 6 children, and a girls' school with 6 pupils. All these children were educated at the expense of their parents. Eight children attended the Sunday school at Glooston. (fn. 83) There is no village school and children from Stonton Wyville have attended the school at Cranoe, built in 1843. (fn. 84)