A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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In this section
Wilibi, Wyleby, Welby (xi–xiv cent.); Wilby (xv– xx cent.).
The parish of Wilby covers 1,161 acres. The soil is rich loam with a clay subsoil, and cereals form the chief crops. The highest point in the parish is 388 ft. in the north-west. From there the land slopes gradually to the south-east, where the lowest point is 214 ft. The main road approaches the parish from the south and runs north-east to Wellingborough, passing through Wilby village. St. Mary's Church is situated a little to the west of this road; other places of worship are the Methodist chapel and a Congregational Sunday school. Of the manor-house, on the south of the village, the only relic is a rectangular stone dove-house. To the east of the village lie the brickworks, and near the road which runs west to Mears Ashby are several stone-pits. Wilby parish was inclosed in 1801. (fn. 1)
Bridges writing in 1719 says that 'Certain closes named Bareshanks, belonging to Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Lord, pay a modus, the first of 4s. and the latter of 1s., only in lieu of tithes'. (fn. 2)
In 1086 the Countess Judith held 4 hides in WILBY. Bondi had been the tenant in the Confessor's time. (fn. 3) Until 1329 this overlordship follows the same descent as the manor of Fotheringhay. (fn. 4) In 1242 one-third of a fee in Wilby, formerly of the honor of Huntingdon, was said to be held of Hugh Despenser, (fn. 5) a whole fee being at the same time held of William de Forz and John de Baillol as of their portion of the honor of Huntingdon. (fn. 6) In 1329 John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond, then holding Fotheringay Castle, was overlord of Wilby, (fn. 7) and Wilby was among the fees held of Edward Prince of Wales at the time of his death. (fn. 8) The overlordship is last mentioned in connexion with this manor in 1388. (fn. 9)
During the 13th century the manor appears to have been held by a family who took their name from the parish. Two fees in the county were held of Earl David by John de Wilebyin 1204, (fn. 10) and presentation to the church of Wilby was made in 1219 by Sir Philip de Hamton as guardian of the heir of John de Wileby. (fn. 11) This heir was probably John's grandson, Walter; John seems to have had a son Robert de Wileby, also called Robert le Eyr, (fn. 12) who married twice. By his first wife Amice he had three sons, William and Robert, who died childless, and Walter, whose two sons William and John were living in 1260; by his second wife Lucy he had four sons, Peter, Roger, Elias, and Stephen. (fn. 13) Lucy survived until, at least, 1232. (fn. 14) In 1242 a certain Robert son of Richard held in Wilby one-third fee of Walter de Wileby and one fee 'with the heir of Robert Foliot'. (fn. 15) A John Foliot was dealing with land in Wilby in 1203, (fn. 16) as was Robert Foliot in 1226, (fn. 17) and it looks as if Robert son of Richard, called 'de Northampton' in 1243 when he presented to Wilby church, (fn. 18) had married the widow of Robert Foliot and was guardian of his heir, holding the manor under Walter. William de Wileby, presumably Walter's son, was seised of the manor in right of Margery his wife (possibly the said heir of Foliot) and granted it to 'Eudes' Fitz Warin. (fn. 19) William Fitz Warin died in 1299, holding the manor of William son of William de Wileby. (fn. 20) His son Alan Fitz Warin in 1310 mortgaged the manor to John de Wileby for a debt of £600, (fn. 21) but by 1329 it had passed to Alan's daughter Elizabeth and her husband Henry de Maundeville. (fn. 22) In 1330 they conceded the manor to Peter Fitz Warin for his life. (fn. 23) Henry de Maundeville was succeeded by his son (fn. 24) Richard, (fn. 25) who continued in possession until 1359 when he conceded the manor to William de Wilby, clerk, to hold for 16 years rent free and after that at a rent of £100 yearly. (fn. 26) Between 1359 and 1368 the manor passed to William Latimer (fn. 27) who died in 1381 and was succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth, who married John Lord Nevill. (fn. 28) He died seised of Wilby in 1388 and was succeeded by his son Ralph. (fn. 29) From the Nevills the manor passed to the Vaux, but how it was transferred cannot be traced. As early as 1405 William Vaux held the advowson of Wilby (fn. 30) and it is probable that he held the manor also. In 1462 William Vaux son of the former William (fn. 31) forfeited the manor by reason of an act of attainder, (fn. 32) and it was granted to Ralph Hastings; it was afterwards restored, and in 1525 Nicholas Vaux died seised of it. (fn. 33) Until 1624 Wilby Manor follows the same descent as Great Doddington (q.v.); between 1624 and 1656 it was conveyed to the Pentlow family. In 1641 Thomas Pentlow, then a resident in Wilby, was arrested and committed to the Fleet. (fn. 34) At his death in 1656 he was lord of the manor. (fn. 35) He was succeeded by his son William Pentlow, (fn. 36) who about 1706 alienated the manor to John Freeman, (fn. 37) whose widow was lady of the manor in 1719. After the death of this lady the manor descended to her daughters, (fn. 38) and in 1788 was in the possession of Hannah Freeman wife of William Pearson, who in the same year alienated a moiety of it to Anne Jerson, Abraham Bracebridge, and others. (fn. 39) The whole of this manor subsequently passed to Adam Corrie, the holder in 1801. (fn. 40) He was succeeded by John Corrie, whose successor at the present day is Arthur Corrie Keep.
Richard de Wilby had a mill in Wilby in 1245 by grant of Michael de Wilby and his wife Margaret. (fn. 41) In 1276 Maud widow of William de Wilby claimed a mill in dower. (fn. 42) No further mention has been found of a mill until 1702 when William Pentlow held a watermill with the manor. (fn. 43)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of chancel, 23 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., with north vestry and organchamber; clerestoried nave, 40 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. 6 in.; south aisle, 9 ft. 6 in. wide; south porch and west tower with spire, 10 ft. 6 in. square, all these measurements being internal. There was formerly a north aisle, but it was removed in 1839 and has not been rebuilt. (fn. 44)
No portion of the existing fabric appears to be older than the 13th century. (fn. 45) The church of this period seems to have been an aisleless building, of which little remains but a low-side window in the chancel and perhaps part of the wall above the arches of the south arcade. About 1310–20 the aisles were added, and the chancel seems to have been remodelled, or perhaps rebuilt. The tower was added later in the 14th century, and the clerestory appears to have been erected a century or more later, but the present wooden windows are of comparatively recent date. The chancel, which at some period had been reduced in length by about 12 ft., (fn. 46) was almost entirely rebuilt in 1853 on its then existing plan, with blank north wall, and the roof restored to its original pitch. (fn. 47) A vestry and organchamber were added in 1873, but were rebuilt in their present form in 1913. When the north aisle was taken down, its arcade was removed and a new wall with modern windows built in its place. There was a general restoration of the fabric in 1879.
As rebuilt, the chancel contains little or no ancient work except the low-side window at the west end of the south wall, which is a plain lancet of two hollow chamfers separated by a flat member, with hood-mould and rear arch. (fn. 48) A considerable amount of the old masonry appears to have been used in the external facings, but the three-light east window, and one of two lights in the south wall, together with the priest's doorway and the piscina and sedilia are modern. (fn. 49) The highpitched roof is leaded. Originally the chancel was of two equal bays, but about two-thirds of the eastern bay was removed, with the result that the dividing buttress is now only about 6 ft. from the east end. The 14thcentury chancel arch is of two hollow-chamfered orders without hood-mould, the inner order on half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases. There are remains of the rood-loft stair at the north end. Below the arch is a modern oak screen (1923). On the north side the chancel is open to the vestry and organ-chamber by an arcade of two arches erected in 1913. (fn. 50)
The early-14th-century nave arcade is of four bays with arches of two hollow-chamfered orders on octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases and half-round responds carrying the inner order: they have hood-moulds on each side and each hollow has a rounded stop above the capital. The piers stand on square plinths of rough masonry, probably portions of the original outer wall through which the arches were cut.
The aisle has diagonal angle buttresses, plain parapet, and lean-to leaded roof, and there are strings at sill level within and without. The east window and two in the south wall east of the porch are of the 14th century, the former pointed and of three cinquefoiled lights with cusped intersecting tracery, and the latter square-headed of two trefoiled lights. A similar two-light window west of the porch is modern, and the west wall is blank. A trefoiled piscina with fluted bowl remains in the usual position at the east end of the aisle. The doorway is in the second bay from the west and is of two continuous hollow-chamfered orders with hood-mould: the outer doorway of the porch is of two rounded orders. The porch has diagonal buttresses and high-pitched gable with modern apex cross: in the west wall is a single pointed window and in the east wall a modern quatrefoil opening.
The clerestory windows occur on the south side only and are square-headed and of two uncusped lights: the low-pitched leaded roof is modern and without parapets. Internally all the walls are plastered.
The tower is faced with ashlar and is of unusual design, consisting of two square lower stages with moulded plinth and diagonal angle buttresses, an octagonal bellchamber stage, or drum, the cardinal faces of which are in the same plane as the walls beneath, and a low stone spire rising from behind a parapet of pierced quatrefoils. The diagonal buttresses are carried up as pinnacles and from these pierced flying buttresses are thrown to the canted faces of the octagon, the angles of which are covered by flat buttresses carried up in their turn as pinnacles and connected to the spire by a second tier of flying buttresses. The junction of the square and octagonal stages is masked at the angles by a parapet of pierced quatrefoils, and the four bell-chamber windows are of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head. The two square lower stages are blank on the north and south, except for a small rectangular quatrefoiled window on the south side, and on the east, above the roof, is a pointed opening. There is a vice in the south-west angle. The arch to the nave is of two hollowchamfered orders, the inner springing from halfoctagonal responds with moulded capitals and chamfered bases.
The west doorway is a 15th-century insertion. It has a continuous moulded four-centred arch framed in a rectangular hood-mould, the spandrels being filled with quatrefoiled circles. Above it is an ogee-headed traceried (fn. 51) window of two cinquefoiled lights with crocketed hood-mould and finial, on either side of which, at sill level, is a canopied niche with tall straight-sided crocketed hood-moulds, finials, and rounded stops: the niches have image-brackets, but are unoccupied. The spire has plain angles and two tiers of gabled lights on the cardinal faces.
The font consists of a plain circular tapering bowl, on a rectangular stem with chamfered angles and square plinth, and is apparently of early-13th-century date. (fn. 52)
The 17th-century oak pulpit has three tiers of panels, the two lower arched, as at Doddington, but is octagonal on plan: it stands on a modern stone base. (fn. 53)
Below the tower arch is a modern screen, the toprail of which is old work from Yaxley, Hunts. (fn. 54) The royal arms of Queen Victoria are over the south doorway.
There were three bells till 1878, when a treble by Taylor of Loughborough was added and the tenor recast. The ring was increased to five in 1893 by the addition of another treble, also by Taylor. The old treble (now third) is by Henry Penn of Peterborough 1705, and the fourth by Matthew Bagley of Chacomb 1682. The old tenor bore the inscription: 'Sit nomen Domini Benedictum' and was from the Leicester foundry. (fn. 55)
The plate consists of a silver chalice and paten of 1853, a flagon of 1850, and an alms basin of 1857: (fn. 56) there is also a plated bread-holder.
The registers before 1812 are contained in a single volume beginning in 1562, but there are gaps. The book consists of 'many separate parts which were before in several volumes' (fn. 57) but were collected and bound in one volume in 1767 by Thomas Percy, rector. The entries of baptisms are continuous to 1650, of marriages to 1635, and of burials to 1639, and all entries are complete from 1713 to 1812.
There are constables' accounts from 1627 to 1678. In 1205 Robert son of Henry remitted his claim to the advowson of Wilby Church to John de Wileby, (fn. 58) to whose heir the presentation belonged in 1219. (fn. 59) Robert son of Richard of Northampton presented in 1243. (fn. 60) In 1260 William son of Robert de Wileby recovered the advowson, apparently in right of his wife, against Geoffrey de Leukenore as guardian of the heir of Robert de Wileby, but the said heir was to have the patronage when he came of age; (fn. 61) and in 1276 John de Wileby sued William Fitz Warin for the right to present to the church. (fn. 62) In 1330 Henry de Maundeville and his wife Elizabeth, grand-daughter of William Fitz Warin, held this advowson; (fn. 63) and in 1340 Robert de Wilby sued Richard de Maundeville for the next presentation. (fn. 64) In 1403 the advowson had passed into the hands of William Vaux; (fn. 65) but in 1427 Reynold, Lord Grey, then holding the honor of Huntingdon, (fn. 66) was patron presumably during the minority of the younger William Vaux. From this date until 1621, when it was sold by Edward Vaux to Henry Neale of Northampton, (fn. 67) the advowson followed the same descent as the manor. In the same year Valentine Lane presented and next year the Crown was patron. In 1626 it was held by Thomas Pentlow, (fn. 68) and by 1640 it was held by Sir Christopher Yelverton (fn. 69) from whom it descended to his grandson Talbot, the patron in 1712. (fn. 70) The advowson continued in this family (fn. 71) until 1783 when it was transferred to Matthew Easton. (fn. 72) Matthew Easton held the advowson as late as 1829; from him it passed to the Rev. William Stockdale, (fn. 73) father of the present patron, H. M. Stockdale, esq., D.L.
The living of Wilby is a rectory; in 1291 the annual value of the church was £8 (fn. 74) and in 1535 the value of the rectory and tithes was £14 9s. 11d. (fn. 75)
Church Land. About 2 acres let in allotments, the rent of which is applied by the rector and churchwardens for the repair or service of the church.
Poor's Land. About ½ acre, the rent of which is applied by the rector and churchwardens in the distribution of bread among the resident poor, and is partly given or sent in money to poor persons belonging to, but not resident in, the parish.
The origin of the above-mentioned charities is unknown.