A History of the County of Leicestershire: Volume 5, Gartree Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.
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In the extreme south-east corner of Leicestershire bordering upon Northamptonshire and Rutland, the ancient parish of Bringhurst, which is 3,612 a. in area, is now divided into three civil parishes which correspond to the main settlements of Bringhurst, Drayton, and Great Easton. The River Welland forms the southern boundary and its tributary, the Eye Brook, the eastern boundary of both county and parish. (fn. 1) A dam across the Eye Brook to make a reservoir for Corby (Northants.) Water Company, completed in 1940, has flooded a portion of the eastern boundary. (fn. 2)
The village of Bringhurst is the site of a ringshaped Saxon settlement, Bryni's Hurst, founded probably in the early 6th century on top of an isolated hill which rises over 300 ft. above the Welland flood plain. (fn. 3) It possesses the mother church of the villages of Great Easton and Drayton which were founded from this settlement. The 13th-century hamlet called Prestgrave in Bringhurst parish may have been 'Abegrave' mentioned in Domesday Book. Prestgrave had disappeared by the middle of the 15th century, and the modern parish boundaries place its site within the chapelry of Nevill Holt. Great Easton, the largest settlement, throughout the Middle Ages used the large area of common and woodland which then covered the northern part of the parish, between Nevill Holt and Holyoaks. (fn. 4) Until the 19th century Great Easton was known as Easton by Rockingham or Easton upon Welland to distinguish it from Easton by Stamford or Easton on the Hill (Northants.).
The hill which rises sharply north of Drayton towards Nevill Holt belongs to a small outlier of Inferior Oolite rocks of Northampton sand ironstone, which also form the escarpment south of the River Welland where Rockingham Castle stands. The Upper Lias clays underlie the greater part of the parish; there are large patches of Boulder Clay (including Bringhurst Hill), sand, and gravel. (fn. 5) The land is largely used as pasture for fattening beef and fodder crops predominate in arable farming.
Part of the Nottingham–Kettering road, first turnpiked in 1754, (fn. 6) crosses the south-east corner of the parish. Rockingham Station on the Rugby– Stamford branch of the former L. & N. W. Railway, opened in 1850–1, was placed where this road crossed the railway line by a level crossing. (fn. 7) The 'Medbourne Curve', opened in 1883, crossed the southwest corner of the parish. (fn. 8) The curve, no longer in use, is believed to follow the line of the Gartree road which crossed the Welland here. (fn. 9) Where the curve meets the road from Drayton to Medbourne there are a few houses called Brookfield Cottages or Holt Yard, close to the site of a disused brick-yard and ironstone quarry. The Corby (Northants.) Water Company built Caldecott Pumping Station, north of Rockingham Station, in 1940 to receive the water from the Eye Brook Reservoir, and also the 5 adjoining houses for its employees, one in 1948 and the rest in 1955. (fn. 10) Electricity was first brought to the parish about 1935. In 1958 the whole parish still relied on local wells for its water.
In 1086 the whole lordship was listed under Easton which contained 39 persons, except for Abegrave with 4 villeins and 2 bordars. (fn. 11) The 1381 poll tax listed 133 persons in Easton, 43 in Drayton, 26 in Bringhurst, and 10 in Prestgrave. (fn. 12) This order of size has since been maintained. In 1563 there were 70 households in Easton and 21 in Bringhurst and Drayton combined. (fn. 13) The parish contained 403 communicants in 1603 and 449 in 1676, although the archdeacon's visitation in 1626 gave the number as only 340. (fn. 14) In 1670 there were 106 households in Great Easton, 25 in Drayton, and 22 in Bringhurst. (fn. 15) During the early 18th century there were said to be between 150 and 200 families in the parish. (fn. 16) In 1801 there were 543 persons in Great Easton, 136 in Drayton, and 98 in Bringhurst. (fn. 17) The total population for the whole parish rose from 737 in 1811 to 934 in 1851, the highest known. From 1851 to 1931 there was a continuous fall. In 1851 Great Easton contained 667 persons, Drayton 157, and Bringhurst 110. By 1901 these figures had fallen to 424, 93, and 49; and by 1931 to 349, 121, and 42, a total of 512. In 1951 Great Easton contained 398, Drayton 99, and Bringhurst 55. (fn. 18)
The three villages in the parish contain many old houses, almost all of which are built of ironstone. In the better houses the dressings are of limestone and the roofs of Collyweston slate, both brought from Rutland quarries. As in most stone districts, characteristic 17th-century features such as gables and stone mullioned windows persist well into the 18th century. Evidence remains that the ironstone cottages were preceded by cruck-framed timber structures with mud-filled panels, the change-over probably dating from the 16th and early 17th centuries. Throughout the 17th century a wholesale rebuilding in stone was taking place. Mud walling without appreciable timber reinforcement has occasionally survived in farmyard walls and outbuildings. Ironstone appears to have remained in general use until the 19th century when it was gradually replaced by brick.
At Bringhurst the houses are grouped round the churchyard on the crown of the hill. There was formerly a public house in the range to the northwest, but the village now contains neither inn nor shop. Several cottages west of the church were demolished c. 1900. (fn. 19) The oldest remaining house is probably that at the east end of the range lying north-east of the churchyard. It was formerly a three-bay house but a chimney inserted between the hall and the cross-passage and a later roof have obscured the original arrangement. The former hall contains a cruck truss, now covered with matchboarding. The external walls are cased with ironstone and limestone ashlar. Bryan's House, the chief messuage of the Norwich half of Bringhurst manor in the mid-17th century, (fn. 20) lies south of the church. It is built of ironstone with a roof of Collyweston slate and has stone windows with moulded heads and mullions. It consists of a main block with a twostory cross-wing at its west end. The upper floor of the main block is partly in the roof and has three gabled half-dormers facing the road. A service wing with cellars beneath projects near the east end of the back wall. There are two original gable-end chimneys and there were formerly two entrances, one at the back of the main block and one at its east end beside the chimney. Both the front doorways are later insertions, the most recent dating from 1956 when the house was restored and divided into two dwellings. A four-centred stone doorhead dated 1636 and carrying the initials R.S. and E.S. was found built into a brick summer-house on the same property and was inserted above this second doorway. (fn. 21) The date is consistent with the style of the house and the doorhead may have come from one of the original entrances. The Home Farm, occupied in 1958 by Lord Hugh Russell, stands north-east of the village and is an L-shaped stone house of two stories and attics. The older part dates from the late 17th or early 18th century and has tall mullioned windows with 'eared' architraves and a moulded stone fire-place of the period. The south wing appears to be an addition of c. 1800. Behind Castle View Farm is a thatched ironstone barn of the 17th century. A fourth farmhouse, a stone building with a thatched roof, stood between Castle View and Bryan's House until c. 1900. (fn. 22) Two pairs of Council houses were built on the west side of the village in 1955 and a small cottage dated 1701 was restored in 1958.
Drayton grew up around an oval green of which the present green is the north-western end. (fn. 23) West of the green, Drayton House is a tall red-brick structure, built in 1851–2 for Bryan Ward, a tenant of the Rockingham estate. (fn. 24) South of the road to Easton the present Manor House Farm, or College Farm, was built c. 1870–80, probably for a relative of Lord Sondes, whose arms it carries. (fn. 25) Its cart shed, a dilapidated ironstone structure retaining several stone-mullioned windows, was once a large house carrying the inscription 'H.N. 1651 T.W.' on a stone now built into the wall of the field behind. This was probably the chief messuage of the manor belonging to Henry Nevill and occupied by his tenants, the Watson family. (fn. 26) The older houses in the village are of ironstone and include a thatched cottage south of Drayton House in which part of a cruck blade has been re-used as a principal rafter. A mutilated cruck truss is visible in a derelict stone cottage north of the road to Easton. The former Plough Inn is a stone building, partly thatched, of which the older portions probably date from the 17th century. The modern inn of the same name was built on the opposite side of the road in 1938. (fn. 27) A stone cottage on the road to Easton has a tablet of 1791, a date at which ironstone was evidently still in general use. The village contains several 19thcentury brick cottages, including a row dated 1870. There are two pairs of Council houses on the Easton road built after the First World War and three pairs on the road to Nevill Holt, built in 1950. The village hall, given by Mr. Webb of Drayton House, is a wooden structure which was opened in 1925. (fn. 28)
Great Easton, a considerably larger village than either Bringhurst or Drayton, has a greater variety of buildings. The older houses are mostly on the lower ground to the south and west of the church. There are two triangular greens, one immediately south of the churchyard and one further south where the three principal roads meet. There are at least two examples of early timber-framing. No. 6 Church Bank, now a thatched cottage with stone walls, was originally a cruck house of three bays, the crosspassage being in the service bay at the south end. There is evidence of a chimney in the central bay, backing on the cross-passage, which has now been removed. All four cruck trusses are still in position. The lower part of the structure may always have been of stone but there is evidence of mud filling in an upper panel at the rear. (fn. 29) At No. 13 Barnsdale a pair of crucks, joined at the apex by a short saddle, is visible in the west gable-end. It probably formed part of the adjoining cottage, now demolished. There are mud-walled barns, probably dating from the 17th century, in Broadgate and in the lane southwest of the church. The roof of a similar barn behind Broadgate Farm fell in 1958. (fn. 30) The majority of the older ironstone houses occur round the two greens, in Barnsdale, and in the lanes near the stream on the west side of the village. In general the smaller houses have thatched roofs and wood casements, while the larger ones have stone mullioned windows, four-centred doorheads, and slate roofs. At the end of Banbury Lane a partly cruck-framed house (fn. 31) incorporates carved fragments of apparently ecclesiastical origin. Homeleigh in High Street, traditionally the manor-house, has barns of 1641 and 1725, the former being partly built of mud. The house is an L-shaped stone building of mid-17th-century type, the two wings being of slightly different dates. The south front has a four-centred doorway and a stone half-dormer with a sundial in the gable. (fn. 32) The Vicarage, which stands nearly opposite, is a stone house with mullioned windows and a lowpitched roof behind a parapet. It probably dates from the early 18th century, but was much altered and enlarged after it became the Vicarage in 1867. The garden wall is of mud with a slate capping. Rectory House Farm, immediately west of the church, was rebuilt in the 19th century, but a muchaltered barn, which has stone buttresses and contains a disused pigeon-loft, may be a survival from the Abbey Grange. (fn. 33) The so-called 'Roman Well' lies in a field about 150 yds. north-east of the farm. It is surmounted by a circular stone well-head with a conical roof, probably dating from c. 1700. (fn. 34) Greylands, a large stone house on the Rockingham road, has a date stone of 1615, and in general shape and layout is similar to Bryan's House at Bringhurst. It was much altered, particularly the rear service wing, before the First World War. In Barnsdale the last house on the south side is a square early-19th-century stone building of which the entrance was formerly on the west side. The corset factory of Moore, Haddon & Co. is a small ironstone building in Cross Bank, dating from 1908. (fn. 35) Three pairs of Council houses were built in Stockerston Lane soon after the First World War and four pairs in Broadgate after the Second World War. Five pairs in Lounts Crescent were completed in 1952. The Society of Oddfellows before the Second World War converted a barn into a hall; this is the ironstone building in High Street which c. 1953 was sold to the parish council as a village hall. (fn. 36)
Park Farm, Park Cottages, and Great Easton Lodge are isolated mid-19th-century buildings in the extreme north of the parish. Almost the only other isolated building is the school (1875) which stands on the road leading to Great Easton from Drayton and Bringhurst.
In 1086 the manor of EASTON, which included the greater part of Bringhurst parish, belonged to the Abbey of Peterborough. According to tradition it was originally given to the abbey by Ethelred of Mercia about 700, but Domesday Book ascribed the gift to Earl Ralf of Hereford (d. 1057). (fn. 37) The only portions of Bringhurst parish not controlled by the abbey were in the townships of Drayton and Prestgrave. Land in these places, which was omitted from the Domesday Survey, came under the lordship of the Bassets of Weldon (Northants.) in the 12th century. Two carucates in 1086 belonging to the king's soke of Great Bowden at 'Abegrave' have been identified as part of Prestgrave. (fn. 38)
Peterborough Abbey retained its manorial rights in Easton until the Dissolution. In 1541 Henry VIII included this lordship in his endowment of Peterborough Cathedral on condition that the dean and chapter leased it to Edward Watson (d. 1584) of Rockingham (Northants.). (fn. 39) Before the Dissolution the abbot had, apparently in 1531, leased the manor to William Goodman (d. 1543) of Easton who had been the abbey's bailiff; Thomas Waldram (d. 1539) had independently obtained a lease of the impropriate rectory. (fn. 40) The dean and chapters' lease to Edward Watson in 1546 did not upset this arrangement. (fn. 41) The Goodmans and the Waldrams were under-tenants of the Watsons until their leases lapsed in the mid-17th century. (fn. 42) The commissioners appointed under the Act for abolishing deans and chapters (1649) (fn. 43) sold the manor of Easton in 1650 for over £718 to Laurence Maydwell and Daniel Reading. (fn. 44) The latter were immediately approached by Lewis, 1st Lord Rockingham (d. 1653), Edward Watson's grandson, who wished to buy the reversion of the estate, and in consequence of this negotiation they conveyed it to his son Edward, 2nd Lord Rockingham (d. 1689) in 1654. (fn. 45) At the Restoration the manor of Easton returned to the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough and remained on lease to the Watsons of Rockingham castle. In 1746 on the death of the 3rd Earl of Rockingham the chapter renewed the lease in the name of Matthew Lamb, the 2nd Earl's executor, on behalf of Katherine, the 2nd Earl's widow. (fn. 46) The latter in 1751 married Francis, 1st Earl of Guilford (d. 1790). (fn. 47) While the main Rockingham estate passed to Lewis, 1st Baron Sondes (d. 1795), the lease of Easton descended to one of Lord Guilford's sons, Brownlow North (d. 1820), Bishop of Winchester, and to the latter's son Francis, who succeeded as 6th Earl of Guilford (d. 1861). (fn. 48) The property was still leased from the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough when it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1854, but Lord Guilford assigned his interest to them in the following year. (fn. 49) The total area transferred was over 1,196 a. The Church Commissioners in 1957 owned about 900 a. (fn. 50)
The two knights mentioned in 1086 as tenants of Peterborough Abbey in Easton can almost certainly be identified with Geoffrey de Bringhurst and Herbert the Chamberlain from whom it is possible to trace the descent of two demesne manors. (fn. 51) Other knights of the abbey held portions of land in Easton as appendages of larger manors in Northamptonshire. The descent of these holdings is described below.
Geoffrey de Bringhurst who held the manor of BRINGHURST from the abbey at the end of the 11th century was the ancestor of a family called both de Bringhurst and le Abbe or Abbott which was certainly connected with those of the same name in Oadby and Wanlip during the 13th century. (fn. 52) He was succeeded by Theobald de Bringhurst who witnessed a Peterborough charter of 1116. (fn. 53) The tenant during the reign of Richard I was Geoffrey le Abbe. (fn. 54) He enfeoffed his younger son Robert de Bringhurst (who died before 1249) with two carucates in Drayton and separated him from the rest of the family, but it is not clear whether this separate holding survived or how the descent of the elder son's inheritance was transferred. (fn. 55) The appearance of Robert de Bringhurst in the tax list of 1332, long after this manor had passed out of the hands of his family, and the persistence of Bringhurst as a surname in Easton until the 17th century suggest that some junior branch of the family survived on a separate small-holding as tenants of the abbey. (fn. 56) Geoffrey le Abbe was succeeded by another Robert and he by William de Bringhurst (d. 1277) (fn. 57) who also had a son Robert de Bringhurst. The chief messuage of this manor was apparently at Bringhurst although the greater part of its land lay in Drayton. For instance, in 1279 Robert de Bringhurst held 22 virgates—7½ virgates in Easton and Bringhurst and 14½ virgates in Drayton. (fn. 58) This holding was recognized by Peterborough Abbey as one knight's fee and had been described as one hide and one virgate in the early 12th century. (fn. 59) On the death of Robert de Bringhurst it was divided between his two daughters Alice and Ada. Alice, widow of Walter de Wingfield, between 1290 and 1302 sold her share for 100 marks to William de Kirkby, lord of the adjoining manor of Holt. (fn. 60) Ada married Henry Norwich whose heirs succeeded to the lordship of Brampton (Northants.). (fn. 61) The heirs of William de Kirkby (d. 1302) were his four sisters Mabel, Maud, Alice, and Margaret, who each received a quarter of his inheritance. The complicated descent of these subdivisions has been traced for the adjoining manor of Medbourne and Holt. (fn. 62) By 1427 the whole estate was reunited under Thomas Palmer (d. 1474) whose daughter married William Nevill, ancestor of the Nevills of Holt. In 1503 Henry Nevill held 3 messuages and 140 a. under the Abbot of Peterborough in Bringhurst and Drayton. (fn. 63) The other half of the Bringhurst manor remained in the hands of the Norwich family from the late 13th until the late 17th century, and during the 16th century was attached to the Norwich manor in Market Harborough. (fn. 64) In 1502 John Norwich held 10 messuages and 13 virgates under the Abbot of Peterborough in Bringhurst and Drayton. (fn. 65) A late-17th-century survey of the manor of Bringhurst Hall made for Sir Roger Norwich of Brampton included the manor-house in Bringhurst and 4 farm-houses in Drayton with land attached totalling more than 469 a. (fn. 66)
By the end of the 18th century both the Nevill and the Norwich parts of this manor had been united under the Watsons of Rockingham castle who in consequence until about 1925 owned the greater part of Bringhurst and Drayton. The Nevill part also had acquired the Basset Fee in Drayton (see below). The Norwich manor had been subject to various leases. (fn. 67) Edward Watson (d. 1584) of Rockingham acquired a lease in 1564 when his granddaughter Anne (d. 1569) married Sir Charles Norwich (d. 1605). The Watsons did not acquire a freehold until about 1693 when Lewis, 3rd Lord Rockingham (d. 1724), bought this manor from Sir Erasmus Norwich. (fn. 68) In 1672 the Nevill manor was sold to John Aldwinckle of Cottingham (Northants.). (fn. 69) It is not clear when this property passes from the Aldwinckle family to the Watsons; it appears to have been after 1761 but before 1800. (fn. 70) It has already been mentioned that the Watson lease on the Peterborough manor in Easton passed to Katherine (d. 1766), widow of the 2nd Earl of Rockingham, and to the earls of Guilford (see above). The freehold property of the Watson family in Bringhurst and Drayton did not follow this descent, but remained attached to the Rockingham castle estate which in 1746 was inherited by Lewis, 1st Lord Sondes (d. 1795). The latter's grandson, the 3rd Lord (d. 1836), devised the Rockingham portion of his estates to his younger brothers Henry (d. 1849) and Richard (d. 1852). The latter's eldest son George Lewis Watson (d. 1899) excluded the daughters of his younger brother Edward (d. 1889) from the inheritance, which therefore passed to the third son the Revd. Wentworth Watson (d. 1925). The latter's heir was his great-nephew Sir Michael Culme Seymour, Bt., then a minor. The trustees of the estate sold the greater part of his property in Bringhurst and Drayton in order to pay death duties. In 1957 Sir Michael Culme Seymour owned only a few acres in Bringhurst. Home Farm and about 212 a. in Bringhurst were acquired in 1955 by Lord Hugh Russell from Capt. Giles Gore Browne. (fn. 71) The Manor House Farm and about 500 a. in Drayton were acquired in 1920 by T. B. Mould who in 1932 sold them to St. John's College, Cambridge, the present owners. (fn. 72)
The descendants of Herbert the Chamberlain, tenant of ½ knight's fee in Easton under the Abbot of Peterborough at the end of the 11th century, were known either as Pancevolt or as Dummer from their other estate at East Dummer (Hants). (fn. 73) Their manor in Easton was usually called the DUMAR FEE. Herbert was succeeded by his son Richard. William Pancevolt was the tenant in 1189, Henry Pancevolt in 1212, and Richard Pancevolt or de Dumar in the mid-13th century. (fn. 74) Richard's successor, John Dumar, died in 1304 seised of land in Easton and Dummer. (fn. 75) John's son Robert (d. 1336) (fn. 76) had a daughter Alice, the wife of John Astwick, bailiff of Gartree hundred. Astwick died in 1369 seised of 3 messuages and 2 carucates in Easton which descended to his granddaughter Agnes, the wife of John de Drayton. (fn. 77)
Agnes married secondly John Campion, the only man in Easton described as a free tenant in the 1381 poll tax returns. (fn. 78) The Campion family were also known as Power in the early 15th century. (fn. 79) In 1479 on the death of John Power EASTON-BYHOLYOAK or POWER'S manor consisted of 20 virgates, 300 a. of pasture, and a wood called Power's Park, which suggests that this fee was on the site of the present Great Easton Park. (fn. 80) Its subsequent history is obscure. In 1505 John Power's son John appears to have conveyed the property to Henry Chapman who was probably the official collector of rents for Peterborough Abbey. (fn. 81) This transaction may have represented the surrender of this fee to its chief lord. Certainly during the rest of the 16th century the manor of EASTON PARK was listed separately in the lease of the chief manor. It contained a mansion which may have been the residence of various members of the Watson family from Rockingham castle. (fn. 82) Great Easton Park remains in the hands of the Church Commissioners.
About 1130 not only Holt and Welham, adjoining the parish of Bringhurst on the west, but also portions of Drayton and Prestgrave were in the BASSET FEE. Ralph Basset of Weldon (Northants.) held ½ carucate in Prestgrave and at least a third of the township of Drayton. (fn. 83) That part of Drayton belonging to the Bringhurst manor, which was divided between the Kirkbys of Holt and the Norwiches of Brampton, has already been described (see above).
The descent of the Basset Fee in Drayton is closely connected with that of Holt. (fn. 84) Robert Burnaby, the demesne tenant at Holt, stood as a mesne lord between Richard Basset and William Lovel when the latter enfeoffed John Burnaby and William de Bringhurst (d. 1277) with land in Drayton. (fn. 85) The demesne tenants of the greater part of the Basset Fee appear to have been a branch of the Bernak family from Barnack (Northants.), also one of the fees of Peterborough Abbey. (fn. 86) The manor of BERNAK LAND (fn. 87) in Drayton became subordinate to the Kirkby manor in Holt, probably because, as at Holt, John de Kirkby, later Bishop of Ely, was interposed as a mesne lord over the Burnabys. (fn. 88) Alice de Bernak was mentioned in 1250, and there are frequent references in the Nevill deeds to Hugh de Bernak, tenant in the late 13th and early 14th century. (fn. 89) Hugh had at least two sons, John and Robert, and two daughters, Joan and Emma, (fn. 90) but it is not clear how his property was shared between them. In 1696 a lawyer supporting Henry Nevill's claim to the Bernak manor maintained that it was halved, and that one of the halves was again divided into three. (fn. 91) The poll tax of 1381 lists two free tenants in Drayton, William Neel and William Attewell. (fn. 92) Neel had married Elizabeth, the daughter of John de Bernak, son of Hugh. (fn. 93) Attewell was the son of John Attewell who had married a Joan, perhaps Joan de Bernak. (fn. 94) Robert the son of Hugh de Bernak in 1322 quitclaimed all his lands in Drayton to his sister Joan. (fn. 95) By the beginning of Henry VI's reign the whole Bernak manor was united under the Attewell family. Neel's portion descended to Richard Whiteside, and the portion of William Holcote, acquired through the outlawry of Margaret de Bernak's husband, to Mariotta Whiteside; (fn. 96) both conveyed their interests to John, son of William Attewell, who in 1438 sold the reunited estate to Thomas Palmer of Holt. (fn. 97) Henceforward the descent followed that of the lordship of Nevill Holt which already included that part of Drayton under half the Bringhurst manor acquired by the Kirkbys. In 1457 the Nevill manor in Drayton consisted of 6 messuages and 6 virgates. (fn. 98) The subsequent descent of this property through the Aldwinckles to the Rockingham castle estate has already been described (see above).
The Basset Fee was not described in the inquisition of 1279 which apparently confined itself to lands held under the Abbot of Peterborough when describing Bringhurst parish. Only 2 virgates in PRESTGRAVE were mentioned, both belonging to the abbot. (fn. 99) One held by Walter de Preston, also the abbot's tenant at Woodcroft (Northants.), may originally have been attached to the fee of the Tot family at Paston (Northants.); (fn. 100) the other held by John de Holt, to the fee of the Marmion family in West Langton. (fn. 101) It is difficult to explain John de Holt's position without assuming that he was also the tenant of those 2 carucates which in 1086 had belonged to the king's soke of Great Bowden, although the 1279 inquisition mentioned only one carucate of the king's soke in Easton which it did not identify. (fn. 102) If the identification of the Domesday Abegrave with the 13th-century settlement called Prestgrave is correct, it is likely that HOLT'S manor which covered half the lordship of Holt was centred upon these 2 carucates of royal demesne in Prestgrave. (fn. 103) William the son of John de Holt was holding a manor court in 1291 at Prestgrave. (fn. 104) The descent of Holt's manor at Cotterstock (Northants.) shows the connexion between the Holt family and the Norwich family which inherited half the Bringhurst manor (see above). (fn. 105) But the descent of Holt's manor in Prestgrave has been traced only as part of the lordship of Nevill Holt. (fn. 106) It is unlikely that Prestgrave ever exceeded 3 carucates.
Part of Easton was included in the fee held by the Daundelyn family under the Abbot of Peterborough in Cranford, Cottingham, and Middleton (Northants.) during the 12th and 13th centuries. (fn. 107) Two virgates in Easton were attached to other tenements in Middleton held under the abbot in 1279 by Robert de Ros of Belvoir, and were later described as 1/100 knight's fee held by divers tenants. (fn. 108)
Thirteenth-century gifts to Bradley Priory in the adjoining lordship of Holt included land from William de Ros in Easton, (fn. 109) five separate strips in Prestgrave, (fn. 110) and one in Drayton. (fn. 111) At the Dissolution Pipewell Abbey (Northants.) held 5 a. in Easton as part of a larger estate at Caldecott (Rut.). (fn. 112) Before 1250 Alexander le Abbe gave a toft and croft in Drayton to the Knights Hospitallers. They were probably added to the manor of Stoke Dry (Rut.) which belonged to that order. (fn. 113)
It is clear that in the 13th century the hilly country east of Medbourne and north of Bringhurst and Great Easton was well-wooded, and that villages extended their fields by assarting. (fn. 114) By the 17th century Bringhurst parish contained three separate sets of open fields for Great Easton, Drayton, and Bringhurst. (fn. 115) Prestgrave, which disappeared in the 15th century, is known to have had open-field land, and there were 13th-century assarts in Prestgrave and Drayton. By 1226 a portion of the northern parts of the parish had been emparked. (fn. 116)
The Abbot of Peterborough as lord of the manor maintained a grange in Easton and farmed the demesne through bailiffs. After the Dissolution, although the nominal overlordship was leased by the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough, as successors of the abbey, to the Watsons of Rockingham castle, the principal inhabitants were the latter's tenants who leased the manor and the impropriate rectory.
In 1086 there was land for 16 ploughs in Easton, presumably including Bringhurst and Drayton also. Peterborough Abbey held 12 carucates with 10 villeins and 5 bordars; and 12 socmen had 8 ploughs. Two knights of the abbey held 2 carucates, the foundation of the Bringhurst and Dumar manors, and their 10 villeins had 2 ploughs. (fn. 117) By 1125–8 the abbot had 21 villeins with 12 ploughs and 11 socmen. (fn. 118) The labour services which the villeins owed included week-work, boon works in summer, various ploughing and sowing services, and rents in kind. But the socmen owed only seasonal boon works. (fn. 119) The abbot held one carucate in demesne in 1279. (fn. 120) A surviving account of 1294 lists the profits of Easton Grange for the abbey—rents of assize which amounted to over £11, and tallage and merchet of over £24. (fn. 121) In 1347 a village jury acknowledged that the abbot's tenants were of servile status as his bondmen. (fn. 122) Four other accounts for an unspecified year of Henry IV's reign, and for 1475–6, 1477–8, and 1496–7, show that the abbey continued to farm its demesne through bailiffs. (fn. 123) The abbey's property in Easton was valued in 1535 at £69 10s. 8d. and £26 13s. 4d. rent from the farmer of the rectory. (fn. 124) On its transference to the dean and chapter in 1541 it was valued at £70 3s. 4d. and the same rectory rent, although the income for 1545–6 was only £59 10s. 1d. (fn. 125) Sales of wood from the park and the 3 mills were valuable items.
The abbey's practice of leasing both the manor and the rectory to lay owners survived the Dissolution and was continued by the Watsons of Rockingham castle whose lease from the dean and chapter interposed them as mesne lords over existing tenants. The abbey had appropriated the rectory of Bringhurst with Easton in 1486. The Rectory House Farm later replaced the grange as the chief secular building in the village. A house which was pulled down in the late 19th century to allow the erection of the present Rectory House Farm was probably a 17th-century stone building, perhaps incorporating the remains of the former grange and using its barns. (fn. 126) In 1649 and 1740 the Rectory was described as the largest house in the village and had a malthouse and a tithe barn of 8 bays. (fn. 127) Until the middle of the 17th century the Waldram family leased the rectory and the Goodman family the manor, both as under-tenants of the Watsons. The first known lessee of the rectory was Sir Robert Brudenell (d. 1531) of Deene (Northants.). (fn. 128) Thomas Waldram (d. 1539), the next lessee, was the son of a London brewer. (fn. 129) The widow of his great-grandson was described as impropriator of the rectory in 1619, but by 1626 the lease had reverted to Sir Lewis Watson of Rockingham. (fn. 130) The latter began a practice of leasing the tithes and glebe of Easton, Drayton, and Bringhurst separately. (fn. 131) A lessee of 1650, Edward Moore, a haberdasher, issued tradesmen's tokens in Easton. (fn. 132) The earls of Guilford who acquired the Peterborough lease continued to sublet to groups of local farmers. Adam Tirrell, Samuel Tirrell, and Richard Rowlatt shared the rectory in 1773. (fn. 133) The lessees of the manor are more difficult to trace; their lease did not include the right to hold a court. William Goodman (d. 1543) who obtained a lease of the manor from the abbot in 1532 came from local yeoman stock. (fn. 134) Edward Goodman was in occupation in 1649 and Adam Tirrell in 1773. (fn. 135) As well as the rectory and the manor, another large farm was leased to the Collin family. (fn. 136) By 1773 the Collin farm had passed to the Molesworth family. (fn. 137) Another prominent yeoman family called Wignell survived many generations. (fn. 138) Rents from smaller tenants included hens and eggs at Candlemas (1790) and boon works (1720–35) which consisted chiefly in carting coal from Wansford to Rockingham castle. (fn. 139)
A wood in Easton measuring half a league by 4 furlongs, probably beside the adjoining wood in Holyoaks, belonged to Peterborough Abbey in 1086. (fn. 140) A charter of 1200 confirmed the abbey's right to pannage there. (fn. 141) In 1215 the abbey received a licence to make assarts in Easton. (fn. 142) By 1279 there were two inclosed woods or warrens in Easton and Drayton. (fn. 143) Easton came under forest jurisdiction from the early 12th century until 1235, and a charter of 1253 confirmed the freedom of the abbey's tenants from the customs of the forest. (fn. 144) William de Cantilupe (d. 1239), the lord of the adjoining manor at Holt, in 1236 received deer from Rockingham Forest for his park in Easton. (fn. 145) The present Great Easton Park therefore is probably on the site of an ancient inclosure. In 1535 2 inclosures were distinguished, the Park and Power's Wood, (fn. 146) the latter belonging to Power's manor.
Both inclosures were then estimated to cover 62 a. About 1595 Easton Park was given as 74 a. and 87 a., perhaps a distinction between statutory and customary measure. (fn. 147) At the same time, the irregularly-shaped piece of land between the park and the northern parish boundary was called Easton Upper Pasture, containing 238 a. (fn. 148) In 1810 these 2 ancient inclosures contained over 194 a. (fn. 149) During the 16th and 17th centuries Easton Park was divided by ridings into 8 coppices which were leased in severalty for pasture. (fn. 150) In 1649 4 closes, amounting to 15 a., belonged to the manor, which at the sale in 1650 included 3 closes amounting to 26 a. (fn. 151)
The whole ancient parish of Bringhurst was inclosed by an Act of Parliament of 1804. (fn. 152) The award of 1810 allotted 795 a. to the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough from the 1,171 a. remaining in Easton to be inclosed. Seventy other allotments were made, the largest of 104 a. to Mary Inchley. There were still 941 a. held by copyhold tenure. Eleven out of the 25 proprietors who were allotted 10 a. and less disappeared between 1820 and 1827. (fn. 153) Two terriers of Great Easton manor in 1843 have survived. (fn. 154)
There were three open fields on the slopes of Bringhurst Hill: Savie Field to the north, Grove Field to the east and south, and Bridge Field towards the river. (fn. 155) The manor-house occupied by Thomas and Elizabeth Salisbury in the mid-17th century and afterwards by John Salisbury, a fishmonger as well as a farmer, was then the largest farm with over 164 a. (fn. 156) It was the chief messuage of the Norwich half of Bringhurst manor and still stands on the south side of the churchyard, but is now called Bryan's House, after Richard Watson's tenant, William Bryan, in the mid-19th century. At the inclosure of the open fields by the Act of 1804 the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough received 84 a. The largest allotment went to John Green. (fn. 157) Lord Sondes, who owned the former Norwich manor, received 106 a. and by 1826 had acquired John Stokes's allotment of 68 a. (fn. 158)
The open fields of Drayton, when first recorded in 1660, were larger than those of Bringhurst: Prestgrave Field to the north-east of Drayton confined the Savie Field of Bringhurst to the slopes of the hill. Hill Field to the north-west and Meadow or Water Field to the south were smaller. In the late 17th century that part of Drayton under the Norwich manor of Bringhurst consisted of 4 farms containing about 300 a. (fn. 159) During the 15th century the greater part of Drayton came under the lordship of the Nevills of Holt. In 1607 Sir Thomas Nevill was reported to have depreciated the value of a farm-house in Drayton by taking away its land. (fn. 160) A mid-17th-century survey of Nevill property in Drayton reported that 3 more farms were to be improved by inclosure. (fn. 161) At the inclosure of the open fields by the Act of 1804, the largest allotments were made to the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough (161 a.), Edward Inchley (94 a.), the Revd. Rich Farrer, the Guilfords' steward for Great Easton manor (90 a.), and William Smith (78 a.). (fn. 162) A large part of Drayton was bought by the Watsons of Rockingham.
The possible identification of Prestgrave, a deserted hamlet, with the Abegrave mentioned in 1086 has already been noted. (fn. 163) The change of name might be attributed to the number of clerks in minor orders among the Holt family. (fn. 164) The present parish boundaries place the site of Prestgrave within the chapelry of Nevill Holt. (fn. 165) Nichols stated that Prestgrave's fields had been divided between Holt, Great Easton, and Drayton. (fn. 166) Prestgrave Field in Drayton contained 24 a. of glebe, a much higher proportion than all the other open fields in the parish. (fn. 167) Prestgrave was never large. The Nevill deeds contain two references to assart in Prestgrave, (fn. 168) and the reference to Alan le carbonator in a Prestgrave court roll of 1295 suggests wooded country suitable for charcoal-burning. (fn. 169) In 1381 there were 4 households, all of free tenants, and 2 servants and a shepherd. (fn. 170) Prestgrave disappeared in the middle of the 15th century, probably as a result of the emparking activities of Thomas Palmer of Holt. (fn. 171)
Since the inclosure of the whole of Bringhurst parish the area of arable land has greatly decreased. Leland travelling through this district in 1535–43 noticed large fields of corn. (fn. 172) There are frequent references in the Easton court books of the 18th century to regulations for 'the Wheatfield' and 'the Pease field'.
The 1801 crop-returns for the parish were given in customary measure and the following figures are rough estimates by statutory measure: wheat, 279 a.; barley, 254 a.; beans, 490 a. (fn. 173) A considerable area of pasture already existed, and in 1669, for instance, William Moore, a yeoman tenant of the Nevills, had 58 cows and 210 sheep. (fn. 174) Since about 1850 a large part of this district has been devoted entirely to beef fattening. (fn. 175) The present Manor House Farm in Drayton, for example, is used chiefly for fattening as part of a large estate run by C. B. Patston of Peterborough.
Bus services have recently permitted a change from purely agricultural pursuits. Local people since 1945 have worked in the steelworks at Corby (Northants.) or in Symington's factories at Market Harborough. The small corset factory of Moore, Haddon & Co. at Great Easton was introduced by the present owner's grandfather who came from Caldecott (Rut.) c. 1875 and carried on the business in his house in Cross Bank. A single-story building was erected on the adjoining site in 1908. In 1958 six workers were employed. (fn. 176)
In 1125–8 Peterborough Abbey owned a mill in Easton, together with meadowland, worth one mark a year. (fn. 177) The abbey owned 3 mills at Easton in 1535—a watermill from which a rent was due towards the ward of Rockingham castle, a windmill, and a horse-mill. (fn. 178) In 1629 Sir Lewis Watson prosecuted certain tenants of Easton manor for failing to perform their suit at his windmill and horse-mill. (fn. 179) In 1650 these 2 mills were valued at £10 a year. (fn. 180) The Nevills of Holt possessed a mill on their manor in Drayton during the 15th century. (fn. 181) There are the remains of a windmill on the north side of the road from Easton to Caldecott.
A considerable number of rolls from the manor courts held in this parish has survived. William son of John de Holt held a court at Prestgrave in 1291, and John de Holt in 1344. (fn. 182) There are also copies of Prestgrave court rolls for 1295 and 1297. (fn. 183) Among the Nevill charters are rolls from the courts held at Holt by the Trussell and Palmer families for their tenants in Drayton in 1414, 1425–6, 1429–31, and 1434. (fn. 184) A lawyer examining the later court rolls of Nevill Holt in 1696 noted that in the 15th and 16th centuries tenants of the Nevills in Drayton performed suit to the court leet at Holt where the constable of Drayton presented breaches of the assize of ale and defaults of service. (fn. 185) From the court of the Abbot of Peterborough at Easton 13 rolls have survived. These show that during the 15th century the abbot's bailiff held a view of frankpledge and court of hallmote every year in Easton on a convenient day close to the feast of St. Luke (18 October) at which 2 constables for Easton and 2 tithingmen for both Bringhurst and Drayton were elected. (fn. 186) There is an unbroken series of court books for the manor of Great Easton from 1630 until the last court was held on 11 December 1925. (fn. 187) The parallel series of enrolments and miscellaneous papers is not complete. (fn. 188)
The churchwardens' accounts which have survived suggest that the parish maintained 2 vestries and 2 sets of parish officers, one for Great Easton and one for Bringhurst and Drayton. (fn. 189) The overseers of the poor for Great Easton spent £34 in 1752–3 and £110 in 1766–7. (fn. 190) Their average annual expenditure in 1783–5 was £148. By 1802–3 this sum had risen to £671 on the poor alone, and by 1809–10 to £1,006. By 1802–3 both Easton and Drayton had small workhouses, with 32 paupers in the former and 5 in the latter; in addition, 21 adults and 18 children were then given out-relief in Easton, and 6 adults and 22 children in Bringhurst. (fn. 191) Between 1802 and 1819 Easton parish apprenticed 10 boys, 3 as cordwainers in Leicester and 7 as framework-knitters in villages near Leicester. (fn. 192) In 1836 the parish was included in the Uppingham (Rut.) Union. (fn. 193) In 1894 a parish council was established for Great Easton with a membership of 6 councillors; (fn. 194) it had the same composition in 1958. (fn. 195) There is no parish council for either Bringhurst or Drayton.
Bringhurst church, which contains work of the 12th century, was described about 1220 as the mother church on which the chapels of Great Easton and Drayton were dependent. (fn. 196) Great Easton, which as the largest settlement in the parish had its resident chaplain, acquired independence of the mother church at the time of the Black Death. The inhabitants of Great Easton petitioned the Bishop of Lincoln to allow the burial of plague victims in their own village instead of at Bringhurst. Although the bishop intended that the burial ground which he consecrated in 1349 should be licensed only for the duration of the pestilence, a separate churchyard for Great Easton became a permanency. (fn. 197) Drayton chapel was abandoned, probably in the 15th century, and was used as a bake-house. (fn. 198) In 1576–7 the Crown granted the building to John Farnham (d. 1587). (fn. 199) Therefore from the 14th to the 19th centuries the parish was divided into 2 parts, Great Easton and Bringhurst-with-Drayton, which apparently had 2 separate vestries and 2 sets of parish officers. (fn. 200)
About 1220 the patron of Bringhurst was the lord of the manor of Great Easton, the Abbot of Peterborough, who retained the advowson until the Dissolution. (fn. 201) In 1541 the Crown transferred the former abbey's property to the newly established Dean and Chapter of Peterborough. (fn. 202) The latter in 1546 included the advowson of Bringhurst in their lease of the manor of Great Easton to Edward Watson (d. 1584) of Rockingham (Northants.). (fn. 203) The descent of the advowson until 1854 followed the successive renewals of this lease. Therefore the Watsons of Rockingham castle were patrons of the living from 1546 until the death of the 3rd Earl of Rockingham in 1746, when the lease passed through the 2nd Earl's widow to Francis, 1st Earl of Guilford (d. 1790), and his son Brownlow (d. 1820), Bishop of Winchester. Francis, 6th Earl of Guilford (d. 1861), surrendered his right to the advowson when the lands of the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough were transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in May 1854. (fn. 204) The Dean and Chapter of Peterborough have since exercised the rights of patronage themselves.
Between 1220 and 1254 Peterborough Abbey appears to have ordained a vicarage at Bringhurst, but the rectory was not appropriated at the same time. (fn. 205) There are two parallel series of rectors and vicars, the former presented by the abbot and the latter by the rectors themselves, until 1486. (fn. 206) In order to settle a dispute over boundaries in the Fens between the Abbot of Peterborough and the Abbot of Croyland, the latter agreed to procure for the former a licence to appropriate the rectory of Bringhurst. (fn. 207) The cause of the dispute and the reason for the impropriation have not been discovered. After 1486 the Abbot of Peterborough appears to have leased the impropriate rectory to a succession of lay owners. (fn. 208) By the terms of the lease of the manor of Great Easton from the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough to Edward Watson in 1546, the lessees of the rectory remained in possession as under-tenants of the Watsons. By 1626 the lease had reverted to Sir Lewis Watson who then leased the tithes and glebe to local farmers. (fn. 209) Because the lessees succeeded to the former monastic grange of the manor of Great Easton, the ecclesiastical benefice itself was frequently known as Easton and not by its correct title, Bringhurst.
In 1291 the annual value of Bringhurst rectory was £26 13s. 4d. from which the Abbot of Peterborough received a pension of 3s. (fn. 210) In the early 14th century the rector enjoyed an ancient endowment of 2 messuages and 30 a. in Bringhurst and Drayton. (fn. 211) For lay owners in 1649 the great tithes were valued at £180 a year with glebe which consisted of 62 a. arable and 17 a. pasture. In 1773 both tithes and glebe were reckoned by Lord Guilford to be worth £300 a year, although the reassessment then made allowed £290 16s. 3d. for tithes and £69 for glebe. (fn. 212) By the inclosure award (1810), which commuted all tithes, the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough received 404 a. for great tithes and 65 a. for glebe and common rights. (fn. 213)
In 1291 the annual value of Bringhurst vicarage was £4, and in 1535 £11 15s. with tithes worth £1 3s. 6d. (fn. 214) It is difficult to account for the valuation of the vicarage at £50 a year in 1626: (fn. 215) in 1645–6 the County Committee thought it scandalously poor, worth only £15–£16 a year, and ordered £50 a year to be added from the revenues of the sequestered estates of Sir Lewis Watson. In 1650 the vicarage was returned as worth £20 a year. (fn. 216) By the inclosure award the vicar received 52 a. in compensation for small tithes. There was apparently no glebe attached to the vicarage. Two 19th-century benefactions and the inclosure allotments created a vicarage glebe of about 74 a. (fn. 217) In 1867 the vicarage was endowed with £86 a year from the Common Fund, and in 1868 with £120 a year for a curate. (fn. 218) In 1955 the net endowment income of the vicarage was £227. Various grants supplemented this to a total net value of £617. (fn. 219)
There was no parsonage house in 1526. (fn. 220) The Vicarage at Bringhurst was reported to be out of repair in 1692 and again in 1777; by 1800 it had been demolished and a plot of land north of the church was still in 1958 known as 'Vicarage Garden'. (fn. 221) In 1867 the benefice was endowed with £1,400 from the Common Fund towards a parsonage; another £100 was added for this purpose in 1870. (fn. 222) The money was applied to the purchase of the present Vicarage in Great Easton, a former farm-house.
'Our Lady's Meadow' in Easton, an ancient endowment for the maintenance of a light in Easton church, after the Dissolution passed to the Waldram and Collin families. (fn. 223) In 1621 William Collin and George Parker conveyed it to trustees on behalf of Easton parish on condition that the profits were used 'for the upkeep of church bells, highways, bridges, springs, waterings, butts, stocks and other necessary charges'. (fn. 224) There were in all 4 ancient endowments of land for the parish officers. In 1810 the inclosure commissioners allotted 4 a. to the churchwardens of Bringhurst, 14 a. to the churchwardens of Great Easton, 5 perches to the clerk of Bringhurst, and 1 a. to the clerk of Great Easton. Together these form the Church Land Charity, the profits of which are administered by the Parochial Church Council for church expenses. (fn. 225)
Those rectors who were resident in the Middle Ages probably chose to live in Great Easton and assigned Bringhurst and Drayton to the vicar. Richard de Spridlington, rector 1359–82, was buried in Easton chancel. (fn. 226) It is likely that the majority of rectors were non-resident; the benefice changed hands 7 times between 1314 and 1359. (fn. 227) There appears to have been a chantry priest at Bringhurst in 1526. (fn. 228) During the 16th and 17th centuries the poverty of the vicarage made the provision of curates difficult. In 1626 the vicar had no curate and in 1634 his successor was suspended for employing an unlicensed one. (fn. 229) The lack of a proper parsonage house in the late 18th and early 19th centuries encouraged non-residence. The Revd. Randle Smith, vicar 1749–70, apparently lived at Welham. (fn. 230) Edward Ireson, vicar 1772–1833, lived in the neighbouring village of Caldecott (Rut.); (fn. 231) William Cape, vicar 1833–68 and headmaster of Peterborough Cathedral School, entrusted the parish to a succession of curates. (fn. 232) The purchase of a Vicarage at Great Easton altered this state of affairs after 1870. E. B. Whyley (d. 1903), Cape's successor as headmaster at Peterborough, became Vicar of Bringhurst on his retirement from school. (fn. 233) Bringhurst and Drayton were served from Great Easton. In 1878 the site and remains of the abandoned chapel at Drayton were purchased by G. L. Watson (d. 1899) of Rockingham castle, and the present church, then called Drayton Mission Hall, was erected and in 1879 licensed for services. (fn. 234) Bringhurst, however, was not considered large enough to maintain its church: in 1832 there had been only one service there each fortnight. (fn. 235) The Parochial Church Council in 1953 decided that although Bringhurst church was unnecessary, it was worthy of preservation as an ancient building, and services are still occasionally held there. (fn. 236)
The church of ST. NICHOLAS stands at the highest point of Bringhurst Hill, forming a conspicuous landmark. It is built of ironstone and limestone and consists of chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower, and south porch.
The north arcade of two bays dates from the late 12th century. The round arches are of two orders and the circular pier and semi-circular responds have square abaci. Two of the capitals have carving which incorporates heavy beaded volutes, (fn. 237) some broken and some restored. The western respond has a scalloped capital. The semi-circular tower arch is probably a little later in date and the south arcade belongs to the early 13th century. In this case the arches are slightly pointed, the chamfer of the inner order terminating in broach-and-bar stops at the springing. The piers and moulded capitals are circular. The massive tower, with buttresses at its two western angles, was rebuilt or re-faced in the 14th century and alterations were apparently made to the body of the church at the same period. There is a piscina at the east end of the south aisle with two moulded brackets near it and the low arch of a tomb-recess a little further west. There was formerly a stone seat in the same aisle. (fn. 238) The plain parapet and pinnacles were added to the tower in the Perpendicular period. The clerestories and several of the windows elsewhere are also of this date and it is probable that the tall chancel was entirely rebuilt in the late 15th or early 16th century. The square-headed east window with its transom and four-centred lights may be even later. (fn. 239)
In the north aisle a dated tablet bearing the names of two churchwardens suggests a restoration of the fabric in 1707. The south porch, which has a roundheaded opening, may have been rebuilt at the same time. The nave roof is dated 1802. In 1862 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners paid £136 for the repair of the chancel, work which involved a new chancel arch, a new roof, and the replacement of the east window. (fn. 240) In the same year the parish subscribed over £500 for the restoration of the rest of the church. The tower roof, staircase, and bell-frame were restored in 1899, and the north aisle roof in 1907. (fn. 241)
The plain octagonal font may date from the 14th century; the other fittings belong to the late-19thcentury restoration. In the chancel is a memorial slab to the Revd. Randle Smith (d. 1770), and in the north aisle are three slate tablets (signed J. Bates) to members of the Rowlatt family (1802–32). There are three bells: (i) 1776; (ii) 1724; (iii) 1618. (fn. 242) For several years before 1958 it had been considered unsafe to ring them. The plate includes a silver cup and paten of 1567. (fn. 243) The Bringhurst registers are kept at Great Easton Vicarage (see below).
The church of ST. ANDREW stands on the slope of the hill above Great Easton. It is built of ironstone with limestone dressings and consists of chancel, clerestoried nave, north and south aisles, south chapel, vestry, west tower, and south porch.
It has been suggested that herring-bone masonry, visible externally in the west wall of the nave immediately north of the tower, is of Norman origin. (fn. 244) An 'old round font', formerly in the church, may also have survived from the 12th century. (fn. 245) The north aisle of three bays was probably built by the mid-13th century. The arcade has octagonal piers, one of which has a 'water-holding' base. The moulded capitals to the responds are flanked by carving, the capital at the east end being also enriched with nail-head ornament. An intermediate capital has foliage carving. The east wall of the aisle has a single lancet and a piscina below it with a chamfered head and broach-and-bar stops. In the north wall is a doorway and a small niche. The spired west tower, which stands south of the central axis of the nave, was reconstructed in 1864–5 but dated originally from the late 13th century. It is considered one of the best examples of the period in the county. The design resembles that at Hallaton, having tall paired windows with bar tracery at the belfry stage and a corbel table below the broach spire. The spire has angle pinnacles and two sets of lights. Before the rebuilding there was a doorway in the south wall of the tower. (fn. 246) The south aisle, which has an arcade of three bays with quaterfoil piers, was probably the next part of the church to be built. Externally an angle buttress at the west end carries a scratch dial. The chancel, subsequently much altered, appears to date from the late 14th century, designed to house the tomb of Richard de Spridlington. This stands against the north wall and bears a mutilated alabaster effigy surmounted by an ogee canopy with much-damaged pinnacles and crockets. There were originally large windows, of which the blocked openings are still visible, in both north and south walls, and also a doorway on the north side. The east window of five lights is late Perpendicular in style and was renewed in the 19th century. The clerestories to the nave are also of the Perpendicular period. Carved corbel-heads in the spandrels of the nave arcades represent supports for the timbers of an earlier roof. The south chapel, forming an eastward extension of the south aisle, probably dates from the 16th century and has a large threelight window in its south wall. The arch leading to the chancel cuts through an earlier window opening.
The lead roofs of the chancel and nave carry the dates 1730 and 1774. The chancel was repaired in 1731 and 1830. (fn. 247) In the 18th century there was a large west gallery on the front of which the Lord's Prayer, The Creed, and the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Parish charities were recorded on the panels of a chancel screen. (fn. 248) In 1832 the tower and spire were reported to be in a dangerous condition and in 1864–5 they were taken down and rebuilt. (fn. 249) In 1889 the chancel was restored and the east window was renewed. (fn. 250) In 1895 the angle pinnacles on the tower were blown down and never replaced. (fn. 251) The vestry was built in 1906 against the east wall of the south chapel. The chapel itself was converted into an organ chamber to accommodate an organ built by Taylor & Son of Leicester. (fn. 252) During a restoration of the chancel in the following year the north doorway and blocked window openings were uncovered and a new window was inserted in the north wall. (fn. 253) Fragments of tracery from the original window have been preserved in the vestry.
Fittings in the church include an early-17th-century carved oak pulpit and a painted royal arms of the 18th century. The present font dates from the late 19th century. The clock was given by Mrs. M. A. Holland c. 1889. (fn. 254) The chancel contains memorial tablets to two daughters of the Revd. Edward Ireson (d. 1798 and 1811), to John and William Wignell (d. 1821 and 1848), and to Canon A. M. Harper, vicar (d. 1928).
There are 5 bells, all dated 1684. (fn. 255) A silver paten (c. 1350) is believed to be the oldest piece of church plate in the county. (fn. 256) There are also a silver paten and spoon bequeathed to the church under the will of Valentine Goodman (proved 1685) and a chalice and 2 flagons given by a former vicar, E. B. Whyley. An Elizabethan chalice was sold about 1885. (fn. 257) The registers for Bringhurst begin in 1640 but there are gaps in burials from 1640 to 1672 and in marriages from 1748 to 1755. The registers for Great Easton begin in 1656 but there are gaps in all entires from 1710 to 1722, in burials from 1672 to 1691, and in baptisms from 1656 to 1660. (fn. 258)
The church of ST. JAMES stands on the green in Drayton. It is a single room built of stone and roofed with slate, constructed on the site of the former chapel in 1878–9 by G. L. Watson. The door is in the centre of the south side; the east end has one and the west end two lancet windows. A bell on a bracket projects from the east end. The former chapel had been converted into a bake-house by 1794. An illustration of this date shows that it consisted of nave and chancel. A large semi-circular arch internally suggests that it was of 12th-century origin and there was said to have been a 'small narrow window' externally. (fn. 259)
There were only 2 nonconformists in the parish in 1676 and no more than 7 or 8 in 1705–16, (fn. 260) but in 1730 2 dwelling houses in Great Easton were licensed as meeting-places. (fn. 261) In 1798 a new Independent chapel building in Easton was licensed. (fn. 262) This was rebuilt in 1830 on the east side of the road to Caldecott, with a small graveyard opposite. (fn. 263) The Independents had a resident minister in 1846, (fn. 264) but by 1900 the chapel had been demolished; its stones were incorporated into the garden wall at Greylands. (fn. 265) Houses in 1807, 1826, and 1829 were licensed as meeting-places for Wesleyans in Easton, and in 1812 and 1817 in Bringhurst. All these were served by ministers from Market Harborough. (fn. 266) The present Wesleyan chapel in Easton bears the date 1857, and the Wesleyan chapel in Drayton the inscription 'restored 1867'. (fn. 267) The older part of the Drayton chapel is of ironstone and appears to date from c. 1800. In 1958 it contained an oak pulpit of this period.
A schoolmaster reported at Bringhurst in 1614 had left by 1626. (fn. 268) Thomas Collins, by will dated 1669, gave a yearly rent-charge of 40s. from 11 a. in Easton to the minister of Easton for the instruction of 4 poor children there. (fn. 269) This endowment founded a school, reported in 1719 and 1777, which was held in Easton church vestry until 1830 when the chancel was repaired. (fn. 270) It was increased by legacies from Elizabeth Wilson (1793) and Thomas Molesworth (1794) which in 1837 amounted to £125 2s. 5d. invested in stock. (fn. 271) From 1830 until the establishment of a school board in 1874, this school was held sometimes in the master's own house and sometimes in the church vestry. It received no other financial support. Twelve children attended in 1833, 6 free and 6 at their parents' expense. (fn. 272) From 1874 to 1880 a schoolmistress was employed to teach 10 poor children and was paid from the school's endowment. (fn. 273) In 1880 a Charity Commission Scheme converted the interest from the endowment into prize money for children attending the board school; in 1958 it was still paid for prizes at the junior school. (fn. 274)
In 1874 a school board was compulsorily formed for Bringhurst, Drayton, and Great Easton, and a building (dated 1875) to accommodate 150 children was erected with a loan of £2,000 from the Education Department. (fn. 275) The average attendance was 99 in 1894, 80 in 1910, and 47 in 1933. (fn. 276) In 1929 this building was converted into a junior school, and the seniors were thereafter taken by bus to Church Langton. (fn. 277) The attendance of juniors and infants in 1957 was 45.
Ann Aldwinckle, by will dated 1792, bequeathed £120 to endow Sunday schools in Drayton and Weston-by-Welland (Northants.). (fn. 278) At Drayton 6 children were being taught in 1819, but only 4 in 1837. (fn. 279) Easton in 1833 possessed 3 private day schools educating 63 children, chiefly girls, and 2 Sunday schools, one (51 children) run by the parish church, and the other (58 children) by the Independent chapel, which had a lending library. (fn. 280) Two of the private schools survived in 1871. (fn. 281)
Valentine Goodman, by will proved 1685, bequeathed £800 to buy land to provide money for the poor of Hallaton, Medbourne, Blaston, and Great Easton. (fn. 282) The land acquired lay in Bringhurst and Drayton, and was represented by allotments to the Goodman Trustees by the inclosure award (1810) amounting to 60 a. (fn. 283) The annual revenue from this land in 1884 was £108 and in 1911, £120 10s. (fn. 284) By Goodman's will the parish of Bringhurst and Great Easton was entitled to 3/8 of the profits. In the 19th century 27 individuals from this parish usually received £1 10s. each annually. After 1893 the income decreased; in 1943 £25 10s. was divided between 37 individuals; in 1951 £30 between 31 individuals. (fn. 285)
At the inclosure of 1810 the overseers of the poor were allotted 9 a. in respect of the Poor's Land Charity, of which the origins are obscure. The income was applicable at their discretion. (fn. 286) Mary Inchley, by will dated 1803, bequeathed £150 to be invested for the benefit of the poor in Easton, but this charity had been lost by 1839. (fn. 287)
The Charity Commission Scheme of 1880 governing the educational endowments of Collins, Wilson, and Molesworth (see above) was slightly modified in 1907 to fulfil Molesworth's original intention of supplying 2s. 6d. to 10 poor widows on Christmas Day. (fn. 288) This was still distributed in 1957.