Parishes: Islip

Pages 215-218

A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1930.

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Slepe, Ycteslepe, Isteslepe (xi cent.); Hystlepa (xii cent.), Eslep, Itteslep (xiii cent.).

The parish of Islip covers an area of 1,383 acres. The surface of the parish is undulating. Liable to floods in the vicinity of the Nene, it rises about 250 ft. in the north-west, and in the east is mostly about 100 ft. above ordnance datum. The soil, which varies in quality, is mainly clay and gravel, with a subsoil of clay and ironstone. Harper's Brook, which flows into the Nene, forms its northern boundary, and separates it from Aldwinkle. There is a bridge over this brook to carry the road to Aldwinkle, with the mill stream near by. The Nene, flowing northward, forms its eastern boundary, and the parish is divided from Woodford on the south by a stream flowing east into that river. A little to the north of this stream is the Kettering, Thrapston, and Huntingdon branch of the L.M.S. Railway, which has a station about half a mile away in Twywell. The Northampton and Peterborough branch of the London Midland and Scottish Railway traverses the southern corner of the parish, and a tramway takes a circuitous route to the Islip furnaces in the south-west, where the Islip Iron Company have valuable mines of iron stone, and three smelting furnaces. There are old quarries in the same direction. A fine white stone is quarried for building; and good stone for repair of roads. Besides the iron work and quarrying carried on, the manufacture of horse collars and matting was a considerable industry. The population was 616 in 1921.

The village lies along the road from Lowick to Woodford. It has a charming situation and contains a fair number of 17th and 18th century stone houses, roofed with thatch, stone slates or pantiles, with good stone chimneys. The newer houses generally are of red brick. The manor house probably of Drayton manor, on the east side of the street, now occupied by Mr. Waller, is a modernised 17th-century gabled building with mullioned windows and tiled roof. The Norwyches manor house is possibly the 17thcentury two-storied cottage, with stone slated roof, on the opposite side of the road a little to the north. It has its end gable and chimney to the street, but only one mullioned window is now left. Inside there are the remains of an oak staircase and two stone fireplaces. The Rose and Crown Inn, in the middle of the village, is dated 1691, but is without architectural features, and two other houses are dated respectively 1744 and 1763. At the north end of the main street is a house dated [S.S. 1767] and another at the south end [J.B. 1744] The recreation ground on the west side of the village street was presented by Mr. S. G. Stopford Sackville as a memorial of the Great War (1914–18). The public elementary school, erected by subscription in 1862 (and enlarged in 1883 and again in 1894), on a site given by William Bruce Stopford, then lord of the manor, is somewhat south of the church; and there is an infants' school, built in 1905, on a site given by Mr. S. G. Stopford Sackville.

The rectory house, a substantial stone building, stands on the north-west of the church. A reading room, with billiard room and small library, was built in 1897 by public subscription. Two almshouses for two poor widows were erected under the will (d. 1705), of Henry Medbury, a member of a family long connected with the parish, Thomas Medbury having been instituted rector in 1646–7. The almshouses form a pleasing block on the east side of the main street, with good end gables, middle chimney and dormer windows to the upper floor, but the windows and chimney are modern and the roof is covered with modern blue slates. The inscription on the tablet is indecipherable: only the figures of the date [1] 7 [0] 5 can be distinguished.

Chapel Lane led to the chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury (fn. 1) on the bridge over the Nene on the road to Thrapston. Leland wrote c. 1545 'At the very end of Thrapeston Bridge stand Ruines of a very large hermitage welle builded but a late discovered and suppressed: and hard by is the Toune of Islep on Avon as upon the further Ripe.' (fn. 2) Bridges says that the ruins referred to by Leland were probably those of the chapel of St. Thomas the Martyr, in a close called Hermitage close on the right hand from Thrapston 'in which stood several stews of water.' The chapel was standing in 1400, when William Mareschal, chaplain, had the custody of the king's free chapel or hermitage at the end of the bridge of Islip. (fn. 3) In 1492, Henry Vere bequeathed 10s. to the chapel. It is described as one of two chapels annexed to the mother church of Islip. (fn. 4) The bridge has no architectural features, and is of uncertain date It consists of seven round arches, and has four cut-waters facing up stream and two down stream; the arches are of yellow brick and the superstructure of stone. The view from the bridge towards Islip is very picturesque.


In the Domesday Survey 1 hide 1 virgate of land were entered as held of the Bishop of Coutances by Algar in ISLIP in the hundred of Huxloe. (fn. 5) Before the taking of the 12th-century Northamptonshire Survey, the lands of this bishop had been forfeited, and his lands in Islip, with an addition making a total of 2 hides, had passed into the hands of Aubrey [de Vere], the chamberlain, by whom they were held of the king's fee. (fn. 6) From this date the manor has passed with that of Drayton in Lowick parish (q.v.). The bishop's manor of Drayton in Lowick had also passed to Aubrey, (fn. 7) who made a grant of tithes from land in Islip, Drayton and Addington to Thorney Abbey, which his son Robert confirmed. In 1584 the manor place and close in Islip called the Lords Lands, in which was the chief messuage of the manor, were the subject of a suit. (fn. 8)

Norwich. Party gules and azure a lion ermine.

NORWYCHES MANOR may have had its origin as a member of the royal manor of Brigstock called Slepe. (fn. 9) It was possibly the manor to which the advowson of the church (q.v.) was attached. Gervase son of Richard de Islip, living in 1230, (fn. 10) was succeeded by his son Adam. (fn. 11) Lands were held by Hugh son of William de Islip, in 1238, (fn. 12) and John and Simon de Islip in 1329. (fn. 13) Master Simon de Islip, parson of Horncastle in Lincolnshire, possibly a son of John, or at least a member of this family, in 1348 requested licence to alienate land in mortmain for a chaplain to celebrate daily there for the souls of his father and mother, John and Margaret de Islip, and William, Thomas, and Richard de Islip, his brothers, and others. (fn. 14) In 1376 Alice, widow of William de Islip, quit-claimed to John Holt and his wife Alice, and the heirs of the said John Holt, all lands, rents, reversions and services of free men and neifs in the towns of Islip, Lowick, Aldwinkle, Grafton by Cranford, and Woodford, formerly belonging to the said William de Islip and Millicent de Islip. (fn. 15) The lands of Sir John Holt, Kt. (justice of the Common Pleas) were forfeited in 1388, but restored to his son John in 1391. (fn. 16) John the son died in 1419 and was succeeded by his son Hugh, and he in 1420 by his brother Richard Holt, clerk, (fn. 17) from whom this manor descended in 1451–2 to his next heir Simon Norwich. (fn. 18) John Norwich, the son of Simon, died in 1504 seised of a manor of Islip held of the Earl of Wiltshire, which he had settled on his wife Katherine; his son and heir John was aged thirteen. (fn. 19) John Norwich died in 1557 seised of this manor, and left a son and heir Simon Norwich, aged 19. Margaret, the widow of Simon the grandfather, was still living at Leicester in 1558, and Alice, the widow of her son John, at Brampton. (fn. 20) Simon Norwich was dealing with this manor with Brampton, Cotterstock, etc., in 1579, (fn. 21) and in 1594 it was held by Charles Norwich, and Anne his wife, who then conveyed it as the manor of Islip alias Norwiches Manor to Sir Lewis Mordaunt, Lord Mordaunt, (fn. 22) to whom the overlordship already belonged as representative of the heirs of the earls of Wiltshire, and with whose other manor it then descended.

A member of the family, Ascan Norwich, was holding a messuage or farm and 40 acres of land in Islip at his death there on 20 May 1630, in socage of the heirs of Katherine Green and was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 23)

In the 12th-century Northamptonshire Survey 4 sokemen of the king were entered as holding a hide in Islip of the fee of Westminster Abbey. (fn. 24) This was possibly the land in Islip formerly belonging to Hugh de Morevill for which Robert, son of Hawise of Islip, claimed quittance before the barons of the Exchequer in 1190–1. (fn. 25) It was held by Reginald de Waterville in 1284 as 5 virgates of land in Islip, of the abbey of Westminster, which the abbot held of the king in chief. (fn. 26) The abbey was holding £7 in rent in Sudborough and Islip c. 1291. (fn. 27) Their land was possibly that which John de Tolthorp was holding in 1316. (fn. 28)

Water mills in Islip, known in 1624 as Drawater Mills, were the subject of dispute. (fn. 29) Possibly the mills were those held with Norwyches Manor.

An inclosure Act for the parish was passed in 1800. (fn. 30) Allotments were made (inter alia) for shares in the Low Town Leys and in Lammas ground called the Five Leys Close. The common or open fields were estimated at about 1,320 acres.


The church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of chancel 30 ft. by 15 ft. 3 in. with vestry on the north side, clearstoried nave of four bays 42 ft. 4 in. by 15 ft. 4 in., north and south aisles 8 ft. 6 in. wide, south porch, and west tower and spire. The width across nave and aisles is 37 ft., all these measurements being internal.

The church is of one period throughout, having been rebuilt in the latter part of the 15th century, and is a very perfect example of a village church of that date, unaltered in plan and little changed by restoration. At the east end of the nave outside is a roof table wider and of higher pitch than that of the present chancel, (fn. 31) which seems to indicate that the body of the church was built on to an earlier chancel, which was afterwards pulled down and the present one erected. The whole structure, however, is uniform in design, and its situation on rising ground above the valley of the Nene makes its spire a prominent landmark.

With the exception of the upper stage of the tower, which is of dressed stone, the whole of the building is of rubble, with flat-pitched leaded roofs and plain parapets. The walls are plastered internally. The building was restored in 1854–55, new roofs being then erected and the nave reseated.

The chancel is of two bays and has a four-centred east window of five cinquefoiled lights and diagonal angle buttresses. On the south side are two three-light windows and one in the west bay on the north, the east end of the north wall being covered by the vestry, (fn. 32) which was built about 1881 on the site of an old vestry which had long disappeared; the doorway of the old vestry alone remained. At the east end of the south wall, set within the window splay, to which it also opens, is a piscina recess with fluted bowl, with which is combined a rectangular aumbry in the thickness of the angle of the wall. The chancel arch is of two orders, the outer with a hollow chamfer continued to the ground, and the inner on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The oak screen, with rood and attendant figures, is modern. (fn. 33)

The arches of the nave arcades are of two orders, like the chancel arch, but have an ogee curve at the top, and spring from piers of unusual type, in plan an oblong set north and south, down the angles of which the outer hollow chamfered order is carried, and with attached shafts east and west: the responds are of similar character. The tower arch is also of the same type. All the shafts have moulded capitals and high moulded bases, and the uniformity in design and detail make the interior of the church one of much dignity and beauty. The north and south doorways occupy the second bay from the west, each of the other bays having a recessed three-light window similar to those in the chancel, with wall benches below the sills. There is a piscina at the east end of the north aisle, (fn. 34) in the jamb of the respond, the bowl of which is partly cut away, and to the east of the south doorway a groined niche for a stoup, the supporting half-octagonal shaft of which still remains.

The clearstory windows, four on each side, are four-centred and of two cinquefoiled lights, and there are similar windows in the side walls of the porch. Over the outer moulded doorway of the porch is a niche containing a modern figure of St. Nicholas.

The tower is of four stages, marked by strings, and has wide clasping buttresses and battlemented parapets with crocketed angle pinnacles and gargoyles. The moulded west doorway is set within a rectangular frame with quatrefoiled circles in the spandrels, and above it is a three-light window. On the north and south the two lower stages are blank, but in the third stage on each side is a small rectangular opening containing a quatrefoiled circle. The bellchamber windows are of two trefoiled lights, with quatrefoil in the head and ogee hoodmoulds. Below the parapet is a band of quatrefoils set lozengewise. There is a vice in the north-west angle. The spire is crocketed and has two tiers of lights, the lower on the cardinal and the others on the diagonal faces.

The font appears to be of 13th century date, and consists of a plain octagonal bowl on eight short attached shafts without bases or capitals.

The chancel contains wall monuments to Mary, wife of Sir John Washington, kt., of Thrapston, and daughter of Philip Curtis, who died in January, 1624–5, and to Katharine, wife of Philip Curtis (d. 1626). In the floor is a modern brass commemorating John Nicoll (d. 1467) and Annys his wife, placed here in 1910 by their descendants in the United States of America. (fn. 35)

There are some fragments of old glass in one of the windows. (fn. 36) The modern glass in the east window is of great excellence.

The pulpit and all the fittings are modern. The organ is in a loft at the west end below the tower.

There are six bells, the first and third by Henry Bagley of Chacomb 1678, and the others by J. Taylor & Co., of Loughborough, 1892. (fn. 37)

The plate consists of a cup of 1570, a paten of c. 1682, a silver gilt cup and paten 1883, a cup and paten of 1917, and a bread box of 1925. There is also a pewter flagon. (fn. 38)

The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and burials 1695–1754, marriages 1695–1753; (ii) baptisms and burials 1755–1809; (iii) baptisms and burials 1810–1812; (iv) marriages 1755–1812.

The graveyard was extended eastward as far as the main street in 1927, and a lych gate, erected in 1903 to the north east of the church, was moved to form an entrance from the road. The War Memorial on the north side of the church was designed by Mr. Temple Moore.


The advowson was held by the Islip family. In 1202 Joscelin de Islip was holding lands in the parish (fn. 39) and some twenty-five years later Gervase son of Richard de Islip held lands, apparently a manor, here. (fn. 40) This Gervase, it would seem, presented to the church in 1227–8 and 1230. (fn. 41) He married Eustachia and had three sons, Adam, Hugh and Joscelin. (fn. 42) In 1248 Eustachia, then the wife of — de Pavilly, claimed the advowson against her son Adam, and it was seized by the king by default of Adam. (fn. 43) In 1253 Thomas de Pavilly agreed to presentation being made by the King if the next presentation were made by himself. (fn. 44) In the meanwhile in 1264 Baldwin de Vere claimed the advowson by grant of Adam, son of Gervase Islip, to his father Robert de Vere. (fn. 45) Thomas de Pavilly said that his mother Eustachia had enfeoffed him of the advowson, which she had obtained from her son Adam de Islip. Baldwin evi- dently won his case, and in 1277–8 the presentation was made by Sir Baldwin Wake as guardian of the heir of Baldwin de Vere. (fn. 46) From this time the advowson followed the descent of the manor, which was the same as that of Drayton (q.v.).


The charity of Henry Medbury, founded by will dated 27 December, 1705, is administered by the rector and four co-optative trustees in conformity with a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 12 Feb. 1892. The property originally consisted of two almshouses, land, and tenements in Earls Barton and Islip. The land was sold in 1920 and the proceeds invested in sums of £2,490 17s. 2d. Consols and £1,900 6s. 8d. 4 per cent. Funding Stock with the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds, producing £138 5s. 6d. yearly in dividends. The Official Trustees also hold a sum of £130 15s. 4d. Consols to a Rebuilding Fund Account the dividends upon which are invested in augmentation of the principal.

In 1924 £26 was paid to the two almswomen, who are widows and members of the Church of England. The almswomen must be inhabitants of Islip, or, failing that parish, then of Earls Barton. Failing Earls Barton, then of any of the following parishes: Thrapston, Slipton, Twywell, Lowick, Denford, Woodford, Titchmarsh or Aldwinkle.

Four clergymen's widows receive £20 each, the Vicar of Earls Barton receives £1, and £3 is paid to him for distribution to the poor of that parish. £3 is also applied by the rector and churchwardens of Islip in doles at Christmas to 30 recipients.


  • 1. The patronage of this chapel was in dispute between Henry de Drayton and Gervase de Islip in 1231 and 1232. Gervase maintained his right as patron of the mother church of Islip. There were no tithes nor right of sepulture belonging to the chapel: Maitland, Bracton's Note Bk. 625, 693.
  • 2. Itinerary, i, 8.
  • 3. Cal. Pat. 1399–1401, p. 197.
  • 4. Red Bk. of Thorney, pt. 4, fol. iv.
  • 5. V.C.H. Northants. i, 311b.
  • 6. Ibid. 365.
  • 7. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. ii, 603, nos. 27, 28; Chart. R. 22 Edw. III, m. 26, no. 36.
  • 8. Ct. of Req. lix, 17.
  • 9. V.C.H. Northants. i, 305b.
  • 10. Rot. Hug. de Welles. (Cant. and York Soc.), ii, 133, 151, 236.
  • 11. Drayton Chart. 83.
  • 12. Feet of F. Northants, case 173, file 28, no. 370.
  • 13. Bridges, Hist. Northants. ii, 239.
  • 14. Cal. Pat. 1348–50, pp. 127–8, 374.
  • 15. Cal. Close, 1374–7, p. 360.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. 1388–92, p. 286.
  • 17. See Churchfield in Oundle.
  • 18. Bridges, Hist. Northants. ii, 265. John de Tolthorp released lands in Woodford, as brother and heir of Gilbert son of Gilbert de Tolthorp, in 1353 to Sir Richard Chamberlain, Kt. (Close R. 27 Ed. III, m.8), which possibly indicates a connection with John de Tolthorp in Islip.
  • 19. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), xviii, 54.
  • 20. Ibid. cxii, 115.
  • 21. Feet of F. Div. Cos. Trin. 21 Eliz.
  • 22. Ibid. Northants. Trin. 36 Eliz.
  • 23. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), dxc, 1.
  • 24. V.C.H. Northants. i, 365.
  • 25. Pipe R. 2 Ric. I, m. 43. Moreville here may be a slip for Waterville.
  • 26. Feud. Aids. iv, 12.
  • 27. Pope Nich. Tax. 55b.
  • 28. Feud. Aids, iv, 29.
  • 29. Chan. Proc. (Ser. 2), ccclxvi, 37.
  • 30. Priv. Stat. 40 Geo. III, cap 2.
  • 31. It extends downwards along part of the east walls of the aisles.
  • 32. The vestry is 9 ft. 6 in. long by 9 ft. wide internally.
  • 33. The screen, stalls and reredos were erected in 1911 by Delancy Nicoll and Benjamin Nicoll, of New York, to commemorate their ancestor, Matthias Nicoll, who, as secretary of the Duke of York's expedition to America in 1664 and after the capture of New Amsterdam, became mayor of New York in 1671, Speaker of the first Colonial Assembly, writer of the Duke's Laws. He died 22 December 1687, and was buried at Manhasset, Long Island, U.S.A. [from inscription on screen]. In 1570 the churchwardens were presented for not having taken down the rood loft. Serjeantson MS.
  • 34. There is reference to the altar of the Blessed Mary in this church of Islip in an undated charter. Drayton Chart. no. 58.
  • 35. Bridges records 'the portrait of a woman in brass' in the chancel, but the inscription at her feet had gone. A copy had been kept, which he gives (Hist. Northants. ii, 241). This is reproduced on the new brass. The new brass with figures of John and Annys [not Amys] Nicoll has this inscription around verge: 'An ancient stone bearing effigies and inscription as here depicted lay near this spot and to commemorate their ancestors the descendants of John and Annys Nicoll in the United States of America have caused this memorial to be placed A.D. mcmx.' The old inscription, 1467, is reproduced, and the two figures.
  • 36. Bridges (op. cit. ii, 240) notes heraldic glass in one of the south windows of the chancel, a figure of a man praying in one of the north aisle windows, and 'some imperfect portraits' in other windows.
  • 37. There were five bells before 1892, when a tenor was added and the second, third and fifth were recast. The old second and third were by Bagley 1678, and the fifth by Hugh Watts II of Leicester 1621. The inscriptions are given in North, Ch. Bells of Northants. 313.
  • 38. Markham, Ch. Plate of Northants. 166. The modern cups are of mediæval design, the later one given in 1919.
  • 39. Feet of F. Northants. case 171, file 10, no. 154.
  • 40. Drayton charters 50; Joscelin de Islip and Peter his brother were witnesses to this deed. Close R. 12 Hen. III, no. 10d; Cal. Close, 1227–31, p. 98.
  • 41. Rot. Hug. de Welles (Cant. and York Soc.), ii, 133, 151, 236.
  • 42. Drayton Chart. 83.
  • 43. Assize R. East. 32 Hen. III. 6a.
  • 44. Cal. Pat. 1247–58, pp. 185, 203.
  • 45. The charter is among the Drayton Charters (no. 83) whereby Adam, son of Gervase de Islip, granted a rod of land and the advowson of the Church of the Blessed Nicholas of Islip to Robert de Vere, knt., to hold of Adam and his heirs. Hugh son of Gervase and Josceline his brother were witnesses.
  • 46. Rot. Rich. de Gravesend (Cant. and York Soc.), xxvi, p. 133.