A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.
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Irencestre, Hirecestre (xi cent.); Yrencestre (xii cent.); Ircestre (xiii cent.); Iringchester (xiv cent.); Erncestre, Archester (xvi cent.); Erchester (xvii cent.).
The parish of Irchester lies in the south-east of Higham Hundred on the borders of Bedfordshire, where it is bounded by Podington. The navigable River Nene forms its northern boundary. It covers an area of 2,788 acres, divided between arable land, the chief crops being cereals, and permanent grass, with some 40 acres of woods and plantations. The upper soil is fertile and of a mixed character, the subsoil mainly Oolite, with a streak of Cornbrash at Knuston, but along the banks of the Nene at and south of Chester Upper Lias. The parish stands at a height of 200 ft., rising on the Bedfordshire border to 300 ft. Knuston was inclosed in 1769, Irchester proper in 1773. (fn. 1) In 1931 the population numbered 2,503 persons.
The highroad from Wellingborough to London enters Irchester on the north-west and leads southwards into Wollaston. Two branches of the L.M.S. railway intersect the parish, the Wymington Loop Line on which is Irchester station half a mile east of the village, and the Northampton and Peterborough branch running to Wellingborough station on the north-west boundary of Chester. In this direction lies the hamlet of Little Chester. Traces of Roman occupation have been found close to the River Nene about half a mile from the village, and at Chester House, (fn. 2) a 16th-century mansion, once the seat of the Ekins family. (fn. 3) A few prehistoric and Anglo-Saxon remains have also been discovered. (fn. 4)
The old rectory house stands on the south side of the church and, though modernized, incorporates some portions of a 14th-century building: in its north gable is a blocked pointed window with ogee hood-mould. The rectorial tithe barn still stands to the south of the church, but is newly roofed with thatch. It is about 70 ft. long by 22 ft. 6 in. wide inside with buttressed stone walls, but is otherwise without architectural features.
The Methodists have two chapels, one, opened at Easter 1870, replacing an earlier building, and the other erected in 1877.
About a mile north-east of the village is the hamlet of Knuston where there are now few buildings besides Knuston Hall, a large square mansion on rising ground in the centre of a well-wooded park.
Ditchford Bridge, crossing the Nene near the boundary of the parish, is medieval, probably dating from the 14th century. It has six semicircular arches over the stream with sharp cutwaters; on the parapet facing upstream are carved the crossed keys of Peterborough, and on the opposite side is a St. Catherine's wheel.
The overlordship of 1 hide and 3 virgates of socland in IRCHESTER which belonged to William Peverel's manor of Higham Ferrers in 1086 (fn. 5) descended with Higham Ferrers (q.v.), and in 1769 the king was lord of the manor of Irchester in right of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 6)
'A Frenchman' was sub-tenant here of William Peverel at the Survey. Goscelin of Irchester held land of the manor of Higham Ferrers from 1164 to 1179, (fn. 7) but by 1181 this had descended to Richard of Irchester, tenant until 1200 (fn. 8) and probably later. (fn. 9) Peter son of Peter of Irchester held land here in 1231, (fn. 10) and in 1242 a later Richard of Irchester was the Earl Ferrers's tenant for one-eighth of a knight's fee in the parish. (fn. 11) Richard his son, on whom he made a settlement in 1249, (fn. 12) settled the manor in trust for his brother William on William de Clifford, (fn. 13) rector of Irchester from 1268 and in later years Bishop of Emly. (fn. 14) In 1275 Amy, wife of William de Polebrook, with her husband sued William de Clifford for the manor as heir of her brother William of Irchester. Richard, however, was still alive and in accordance with the Dictum of Kenilworth was allowed to redeem his inheritance, which he settled afresh on William de Clifford and his brother Richard. (fn. 15) A later suit brought by William and Amy against Richard of Irchester himself was equally unsuccessful, (fn. 16) and in 1284 William de Clifford held a quarter of a knight's fee in Irchester, (fn. 17) which he and his brother Richard transferred to Thomas de Morton five years later, (fn. 18) possibly in trust for Margery, wife of Sir Nicholas de Crioll, who was tenant in 1298 and 1316. (fn. 19) She was a widow in 1313 when Richard son and heir of Sir John de Clifford surrendered to her and her co-heirs Elizabeth, wife of Sir John Pabenham the elder, and Margery Hereward, daughter and heir of Margaret, late the wife of Sir Robert Hereward, all his right to lands in Irchester and neighbouring parishes. (fn. 20) Possibly she or Margery Hereward afterwards married Sir William Lovel whom, with his wife Margery, Elizabeth de Pabenham sued in 1342 for a moiety of the manor of Irchester as her inheritance. (fn. 21) This she recovered and settled upon her son Thomas, on whose death in 1345 the manor was taken into the king's hands during the minority of his heir, Elizabeth's petition for its restoration to herself being rejected. (fn. 22) Her grandson Laurence de Pabenham was seised of her inheritance in Irchester at his death in 1399. (fn. 23) His son John, then aged 9, survived his father only eight years. One moiety of the Pabenham manor in Irchester came to his step-sister Katharine, wife of Sir Thomas Aylsbury (fn. 24) who died in 1418. (fn. 25) From Katherine, who was still seised in 1428, (fn. 26) this descended to Laurence, her son by her second husband Sir John Cheyne of Fen Ditton, (fn. 27) and from Laurence to his brother John. (fn. 28) This younger Sir John Cheyne was succeeded in 1489 by his son Thomas (fn. 29) whose estates passed at his death in 1514 to his only child Elizabeth whom he had betrothed to Thomas son and heir of Sir Nicholas Vaux. (fn. 30) The son of this marriage, William second Lord Vaux of Harrowden, his mother's heir at her death in 1556, (fn. 31) sold Irchester in or before 1593 to Sir Thomas Cecil, (fn. 32) and he in 1596 sold the manor to John Wiseman, (fn. 33) who within two years transferred his rights here to Thomas Bletsoe, (fn. 34) a freeholder of the Duchy of Lancaster in this parish in 1611. (fn. 35) A grant of his great-grandmother's inheritance, which included the manor of Irchester, was made to Edward, grandson and heir of the second William Lord Vaux of Harrowden by James I in 1613. (fn. 36)
The other moiety of the Pabenham manor in Irchester came on John de Pabenham's death to his younger sister Eleanor, wife of John Tyringham. (fn. 37) She was dead in 1420, (fn. 38) and in 1428 it was held by Alice Chamber, (fn. 39) probably daughter of Eleanor. Sir Robert Fitz Simond, whose mother, Mary Chamber, (fn. 40) was presumably Alice's daughter, died seised of this moiety in 1473 when his heir was his daughter Joan wife of Robert Tymperley and subsequently wife of Henry Wentworth, by whom she had a son Nicholas. (fn. 41)
Two and a half virgates in Irchester which Siward had held freely belonged in 1086 to the Count of Mortain, and in the reign of Henry I to the fee of Wahill. (fn. 42) A mesne lordship over this, or part of this fee belonged to the family of Grey of Ruthyn in the 14th and 15th centuries and lasted until 1495 when lands in Irchester were held of George Earl of Kent, Lord Grey of Ruthyn. (fn. 43)
Robert, the Count of Mortain's tenant here, had been succeeded in the following century by Nicholas le Sauvage. (fn. 44) In the 13th and 14th centuries members of this family held land in Irchester, (fn. 45) part of which had passed to Thomas de Pabenham before 1346. (fn. 46) It may be identical with land held of the Earl of Kent by George Ingleton at his death in 1495. (fn. 47) This descended through his son Robert to his grand-daughter Joan who, as the widow of George Tyrrell, settled it on her son George in 1550. In 1558 this George Tyrrell owned a manor (so called) in Irchester which he sold seven years later to Richard Bletsoe who held it of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1591 (fn. 48) and 1610. (fn. 49) In 1591 Richard also owned a manor in Irchester called KNOLES which he had acquired from William Pierce and his wife Eleanor and John Bowes in 1589, (fn. 50) but which is otherwise unrecorded.
Cnuteston (xi cent.); Knoston (xii cent.); Cnoston (xiii cent.); Knuston (xviii cent.).
One hide and 3 virgates in Knuston which Uluiet held freely in King Edward's time belonged in 1086 to the fee of Gunfrid de Cioches. (fn. 51) The overlordship descended with the fee of Chokes, Robert the advocate of Betun accounting in 1235 for one knight's fee in Knuston and Billing of the fee of Chokes. (fn. 52) This part of Knuston still belonged to the honor of Chokes in 1252 (fn. 53) and 1274, (fn. 54) and in 1330 was found to be exempt from the jurisdiction of the Earl of Lancaster in Higham Hundred. (fn. 55) In 1346 and 1428, however, this fee was said to be held of the honor of Clare. (fn. 56)
The tenant of the Chokes fee in Knuston in 1086 was Winemar, (fn. 57) and the mesne lordship descended as Preston Deanery (q.v.), but two-thirds of a fee were held here in 1242 by Walter de Knoston. (fn. 58) In 1232 land in this hamlet passed from Margery, widow of Nicholas de Normanvill, to John de Hulcote (fn. 59) who was sub-tenant of Gilbert de Preston in Holcot, Knuston, and Haddon in 1274, (fn. 60) in which year the service of Ralph de Normanville for a fee in Knuston was assigned to Alice, widow of Gilbert de Preston, in dower. (fn. 61)
The first mention of Knuston as a manor is in 1325 when Ralph de Normanvill settled it on his son Ralph and his wife Sarra, (fn. 62) and Ralph was seised in 1329. (fn. 63) John de Normanvill in 1392 and 1394 settled Knuston in trust on his brother John Wolf. (fn. 64) By 1428 the halffee, 'formerly of Hugh Croft', (fn. 65) was held in equal portions by the Lady Elizabeth Kingsman, John Bedell, Henry Alcote, John Sweetbone, senior, John Sweetbone, junior, William Archbold, (fn. 66) and Simon Southend. (fn. 67) A settlement of the manor of Knuston on William Sweetbone and his wife Joan was made in 1498, (fn. 68) but it came afterwards into the possession of Sir Robert Brudenell who died seised in 1531. His younger son Anthony, to whom he had left Knuston, (fn. 69) parted with his interest here in the following year, (fn. 70) and in 1542 Thomas Brudenell, Sir Robert's elder son, sold the manor in two moieties. (fn. 71) Thomas Page, junior, who acquired one moiety, was succeeded by John Page who owned the other also in 1591. (fn. 72) No more is heard of the manor, but a considerable estate in Knuston, comprising the North Hall with 4 virgates of land, the Borough Farm, and certain closes, was acquired by William Payne and descended at his death in 1624 to his niece Sybil, wife of Sir Christopher Yelverton, (fn. 73) and presumably passed with Podington (Beds.) to the family of Orlebar. (fn. 74)
One hide and 1 virgates in Knuston which belonged to William Peverel's manor at the Survey descended with Higham Ferrers (q.v.), (fn. 75) the last mention of its overlordship occurring in 1531 when Knuston was held of the king by knight service as of his Castle of Higham Ferrers, (fn. 76) after which it was probably absorbed into the manor of Irchester.
When the open fields and commons of Knuston were inclosed in 1769, allotments were made in the first place to the King as lord of the manor of Irchester, and the patron and vicar of the parish church, and afterwards to eleven other landowners, some of whom seem from their names, such as Bletsoe and Mason, to have belonged to families long resident in the neighbourhood. (fn. 77) The present owner of the hamlet and of Knuston Hall is Charles Arthur Kersey Green, esq.
Cestre, Parva Cestre (xiii cent.); Chestrebethewatre, Litdechestre by the Watre (xiv cent.).
The first mention of the overlordship of LITTLE CHESTER occurs in 1236 when it was appurtenant to the manor of Higham Ferrers. (fn. 78) From that year until 1428 it was held of the lords of Higham Ferrers, (fn. 79) after which their overlordship appears to have lapsed. A mesne lordship here belonged to Brian de Lisle in 1232, (fn. 80) and to Walter de Lisle from that year until 1253. (fn. 81) At the close of the century and until 1327 this was held by William de Echingham, (fn. 82) who had married the eventual co-heir of Brian de Lisle. (fn. 83)
The early tenants of Little Chester belonged to the family of de Nowers. Emery de Nowers held of the de Lisle mesne lords in 1232 and 1253. (fn. 84) William de Nowers held 1/20 of a fee of Edmund the king's brother (fn. 85) in 1284. (fn. 86) From his son Emery Little Chester decended in 1308 to his son John, (fn. 87) who was seised until his death in 1327. He was succeeded by his son of the same name, (fn. 88) who with his wife Maud sold the contingent reversion of the manor to the king in 1369. (fn. 89) They died without issue, and John of Gaunt who had entered on the estate was sued in 1398 by John Stokes, nephew and heir of one of the trustees of John de Nowers. Though judgement was given in favour of the duke, (fn. 90) the fortieth part of a knight's fee in Little Chester which had formerly belonged to Maud de Nowers was held by Thomas Stokes in 1428. (fn. 91) Thomas Stokes granted it to Thomas Singilton and his wife Agnes in 1429. (fn. 92) In 1466 it was owned by Henry Petit and his wife Agnes; in 1494 by William Hampden and his wife Audrey, in both years being the inheritance of the wife. (fn. 93) William Coope had bought it in 1494 and, with his wife Joan, sold it in 1511 to Thomas and William Wigston and others; (fn. 94) and the next year licence was granted to William Wigston of Leicester, junior, and Thomas Wigston, clerk, to found a perpetual chantry of two chaplains in the collegiate church of Newark, Leicester. (fn. 95) The manor of Little Chester was amongst the temporalities of the Newark college in 1535 and remained in the Crown until in 1616 James I sold it to John Godbould and Thomas Ekins. (fn. 96) Thomas held alone in 1633, (fn. 97) and in 1705 the manor was sold by Susan Ekins, widow, and a later Thomas Ekins to John Ekins, (fn. 98) possibly the deputy steward of Higham Ferrers Manor of that name twenty years before. (fn. 99) In the early part of the 18th century Captain Thomas Ekins was lord of the manor of Little Chester, (fn. 100) and it passed from Timothy Stonehouse Vigor and his wife Charlotte Oliver to Francis Dickins (see advowson) in 1798. (fn. 101)
A mill on the land of William Peverel in 1086 was then claimed by the king. (fn. 102) In 1282 Edmund the king's brother bought of Henry le Scot of Abbots Leigh (fn. 103) the 'Dickford Mulnes', possibly the two water-mills in Irchester of which he died seised in 1298. (fn. 104) There was one mill on the Vaux manor in 1595. (fn. 105) Knuston had two mills at the Survey, (fn. 106) Little Chester three in 1309. (fn. 107) Dovecotes are mentioned amongst the appurtenances of all three manors from the 14th to the 17th century. (fn. 108) The fishing of the River Nene which belonged, at least in part, to Little Chester in 1327 and 1566, (fn. 109) in the reign of Charles I was found to be within the manor of Irchester and to extend from Ditchford Mills to Wellingborough Bridge. (fn. 110)
Free warren in his demesne lands of Knuston and Irchester was granted to William de Ferrers in 1248, in his demesne lands of Irchester to William Lovel in 1346. (fn. 111) View of frankpledge, courts leet and baron, and other feudal dues belonged to the manor of Irchester, (fn. 112) and in the 14th century Emery de Nowers paid his overlord Thomas of Lancaster 2s. a year for view of frankpledge in his own manor of Little Chester. (fn. 113) About the same time a custom called Couvill-thressing was exacted by the earl from his tenants of Irchester and Knuston. (fn. 113)
The church of ST. KATHARINE consists of chancel, 43 ft. 4 in. by 19 ft. 6 in., with north chapel about half its length, clerestoried nave of four bays, 63 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. 8 in., north aisle, 16 ft. wide, south aisle, 11 ft. wide, south porch, and west tower, 12 ft. 6 in. square, with lofty spire, all these measurements being internal. The north chapel and north aisle are continuous, without division, and the width across nave and aisles is 52 ft.
The building is of rubble throughout and the walls are plastered internally. It was extensively restored in 1889 under the direction of J. L. Pearson, R.A., when the present high-pitched leaded roof of the chancel was erected (fn. 114) and the other roofs renewed.
The lower part of the wall between the chancel and the north chapel appears to be in part of the 12th century, and the western responds of the nave arcades are also late in that century, together with the plinths of the two westernmost piers of the north arcade. The 12th-century church was thus not much smaller than the present building, with an aisled nave and somewhat shorter chancel. The two half-round western responds have square abaci with heads or foliage at the angles, and the plinths in part retain their foot ornaments and the lower member of the base moulding. The 12thcentury church was rebuilt and the chancel lengthened in the course of the 13th century, when the north chapel was added, and in the 14th century the north aisle appears to have been rebuilt and united with the chapel, which was widened for that purpose. The present width of both aisles is, however, contemporary with the nave arcades, part of the plinth of the original late13th-century north-aisle wall remaining on either side of the doorway, but the doorway itself is of early-13thcentury character and was probably removed from the wall of the earlier and narrower aisle to its present position. The west wall of the north aisle retains a portion of that of its predecessor, and there are traces at its south end of a blocked opening, including part of a jambshaft and the spring of an arch, which may imply that the 12th-century nave had an engaged western tower. The building was completed in its present form at the close of the 14th century, when the tower and spire, the clerestory, and the porch were erected. In the 15th century new windows were inserted in the chancel and the roofs altered: the parapets of the aisles are of that period.
The chancel is substantially of the 13th century, with moulded plinth, string at sill level, and coupled angle buttresses of two stages. The four-centred east window is set within 13th-century jambs, probably belonging to a triplet of lancets, and is of five trefoiled lights with vertical tracery. The three windows in the south wall are of the same type, the easternmost of two lights, the others of three, but the mullions and tracery are modern. (fn. 115) At the east end of the south wall is a double aumbry, with its eastern opening splayed, and west of it a beautiful trefoil-headed piscina and a single arched sedile with its seat on the same level as the piscina: there was probably another seat, if not two, but this was blocked in the 14th century, when larger windows were first inserted in the wall. There is also on this side a 13th-century priest's doorway with voussoirs alternately of ironstone and freestone, shafted jambs, and inner trefoiled arch with foliated cusps. In the east wall, north of the altar, is a rebated aumbry, and the north wall is pierced at its west end by a fine late-13thcentury arch of two orders, opening into the adjoining chapel, with additional shafting on the side next the chancel. East of this was a two-story vestry entered from the chancel by a doorway with rounded trefoiled head and moulded jambs, now blocked: the upper story of the vestry appears to have been approached by a doorway in the east wall of the chapel. Between the blocked doorway and the north-east angle of the chancel is a curious 13th-century niche beneath a straight-sided pediment enclosing a quatrefoil, with the remains of a bowl or ledge at floor-level. The present floor of the chancel, however, has been raised some 2 ft., and is now level with that of the nave, which probably followed the natural ascent of the ground from east to west. At the back of the niche is a hole in the wall, which suggests that it may have been used for baking altar-breads and was provided with a flue. (fn. 116) The chancel screen, erected in 1932, embodies some traceried portions of a 15th-century screen, long preserved in the north chapel.
The arcades of the nave, with arches of two hollow chamfered orders on octagonal piers with moulded capitals and bases, were built in the 13th century, but as already noted, the western responds and other traces of earlier arcades remain. The capital of the north-east respond has a band of nail-head ornament, but the arcade is not early in the century and the bases are without hollow mouldings. The arch between the nave and chancel, with three hollow chamfered orders on shafted responds, is of the same date: a settlement on the south side has caused the jamb to lean outward. The eastern half of the adjoining arch of the south arcade appears to have been rebuilt in the 15th century, the junction of the new with the old work being very noticeable. On each side of the chancel arch is a doorway from which stairs led to a rather low rood-loft, and above the arch are the remains of a 15th-century painted Doom. (fn. 117)
The north chapel, now occupied by the organ, covers the chancel for about 18 ft. Evidence of its having been widened exist at the east end, where the coupled 13thcentury angle buttresses were removed and rebuilt in their present position (fn. 118) probably as part of the 14thcentury alterations in the north aisle, to which period the square-headed windows belong. They are similar to those of the aisle, of three plain trefoiled lights, with wave-moulded jambs, except that at the east end which is of four lights and placed high in the wall so as to clear the vestry roof. In the north wall of the chapel is a fine late-13th-century tomb recess, with richly moulded arch springing from short shafts.
The early-13th-century north doorway is of two moulded orders, the outer on shafts with moulded capitals and bases, in the former of which the nail-head occurs. Over it and on the face of the diagonal northwest buttress are the arms of Lovel, some member of which family in all probability rebuilt the aisle.
The south aisle with its doorway is of the late 13th century and retains its original angle buttresses and a two-light window with forked mullion in the west wall. The other windows are early-15th-century insertions, two square-headed and of three trefoiled lights in the south wall east of the porch, and a pointed window of four lights at the east end. Between the two south windows is a massive buttress probably added when the new roof and parapets were erected. The doorway is of two moulded orders, the outer on shafts with moulded capitals and bases. In the usual position in the south wall is a trefoil-headed piscina, and in the west wall, north of the window, two rectangular aumbries, one above the other. The line of the original lean-to roof of the aisle is preserved at the west end below the later low-pitched gable.
The porch appears to have been heightened in the 15th century and finished with a battlemented parapet: it has transomed windows of two trefoiled lights in the side walls.
The roof of the nave is of six bays and there are four square-headed clerestory windows on each side, with a fifth at the east end on the south, added in 1500 (fn. 119) in order to light the rood-loft.
The tall and slender tower with broach spire is of the late type found at Brampton Ash, Stanion, and other places in the north of the county, and was built from the ground probably c. 13801400. The tower is of four stages with moulded plinth and coupled buttresses to the height of the bell-chamber stage set back from the angles. It is faced throughout with alternate courses of ironstone and freestone, and has conspicuous put-log holes in the two lower stages. The west doorway has good plain continuous mouldings and the window above it is of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head. The double bell-chamber windows are of the same type: below them the north side is blank, but in the middle stage facing south is a small square-headed ogee loop. The vice is in the south-west angle. The spire rises from a corbel table of heads and flowers connected by tendrils, and has very low broaches: (fn. 120) the angles are ribbed and there are three sets of openings on the cardinal faces, the two lower of two trefoiled lights and quatrefoil above. The height of the tower above the floor of the nave (fn. 121) is 62 ft. 6 in., and of the spire 92 ft. 6 in. (fn. 122) The tower arch is of three chamfered orders, the two outer continuous, the inner springing from half-octagonal responds with moulded capitals.
The 13th-century font has a roughly-carved octagonal bowl on four detached octagonal shafts. (fn. 123) The oak stem pulpit is of early-17th-century date, (fn. 124) with six carved panels on its seven sides. In the wall of the north aisle is a blocked doorway which apparently communicated with the gallery of the screen between the aisle and chapel.
The eastern bay of the south aisle which is screened by plain woodwork of early Tudor character, with linen-pattern lower panels, is now again used as a chapel, and contains the 17th-century communion table formerly in the chancel. A fair amount of 15thcentury seating remains in the church. Of later furniture there is an interesting balustered receptacle for bread, with hinged door and lock, at the west end of the south aisle, made for the safe-keeping of the dole founded by Thomas Jenison (d. 1681), whose monument, with a long inscription, is on the north side of the chancel.
Bridges records a brass memorial to John Glynton 'merchant of the staple of Calais' (d. 1506) and Isabel his wife, but little of this now remains. (fn. 125)
The royal arms of Charles II (1667), long relegated to the clock chamber, have been recently placed near the south doorway.
There is a ring of eight bells, three smaller ones by Taylor of Loughborough having been added in 1930 to a former ring of five. The old treble (now fourth) is by W. Taylor of Oxford, 1846, and the old second (now fifth) is dated 1729. The old third and fourth are alphabet bells with the shield of Richard Brasyer of Norwich, and the tenor is by Edward Arnold of Leicester, 1792. (fn. 126) There is also a priest's bell by Taylor of Loughborough, 1882.
The plate consists of a silver cup and cover paten of 1813, a plated flagon presented by Joseph Monk, vicar, in 1881, a plated alms dish, a pewter flagon, two old pewter alms dishes, and two modern ones of Sheffield make. (fn. 127)
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 162281, with gaps 166570 and 16769; (ii) baptisms 16731740, marriages 16761740, burials 16751740; (iii) baptisms 17411807, marriages 174153, burials 17411806; (iv) marriages 175472; (v) marriages 17731812; (vi) baptisms and burials 180712. The second volume is remarkable for the extra matter inserted by Thomas Allen, vicar 1706 20, whose liberal ideas of the scope of parish registers led him to record local events in its pages. (fn. 128)
The church of St. Katharine of IrChester was given by the elder William Peverel to the Priory of Lenton. (fn. 129) In 1227 the prior's right to the advowson was challenged by Emery de Nowers, lord of the manor of Little Chester (q.v.) who afterwards withdrew his claim. (fn. 130) In 1268, however, the patronage was successfully claimed by Margaret de Ferrers, Countess of Derby, as part of her dower, (fn. 131) and the church remained in the gift of the overlords of the manor (fn. 132) until 1330 when Henry Earl of Lancaster made it part of the endowment of his hospital at Leicester (fn. 133) to which it was accordingly appropriated. (fn. 134) When the hospital was refounded as the College of Newark in 1360 (see Higham Ferrers advowson) the church of Irchester remained in its possession. It was amongst the spiritualities of this house in 1535 (fn. 135) and came to the Crown on its dissolution in November 1547. (fn. 136) In 1607 James I granted the advowson to Robert, Earl of Salisbury, (fn. 137) from whom it passed to Thomas Jenison, patron until his death in 1647. (fn. 138) Ralph his son and heir died twelve years later and was succeeded by his son Thomas Jenison (fn. 139) who owned the advowson in 1662 (fn. 140) and presented in 1675. (fn. 141) He died suddenly without issue in 1681, (fn. 142) and his sisters, Elizabeth, wife since January 1641 of Samuel Collins of the Middle Temple, (fn. 143) and Mary wife of Nathaniel Agutter with their husbands and Elizabeth's son, Samuel Collins, junior, and his wife, made a settlement in which the rectory of Irchester was included. (fn. 144) Afterwards the Agutters alleged that they had been defrauded of Mary's share by the younger Samuel, and in 1686 they unsuccessfully sued his son of the same name with his widowed mother and sisters. The third Samuel Collins (fn. 145) presented to the living in 1688 and 1705. (fn. 146) Samuel Collins, junior, and John Collins, presumably his sons, joined him in a settlement of the church in 1711, and the younger Samuel and John held it with Elizabeth Collins, spinster, six years later. John Collins and his wife in 1727 sold to Rupert Clarke. (fn. 147)
Valentine Knightley presented to the living in 1745 and 1748, and Ambrose Dickins between 1751 and 1777; (fn. 148) and from 1794 to 1848 Francis Dickins was patron. In 1770 the vicarage of Irchester was joined to that of Wollaston and so remained until 1881. (fn. 149) During the second half of the last century the advowson changed hands several times, being held for the most part by three of its vicars, the Rev. R. Wood, the Rev. J. Monk, and the Rev. H. Slater. (fn. 150) It subsequently belonged to Mrs. Thomas of Reepham, Lincolnshire, (fn. 150) and is now held by the Misses Thomas and Mrs. Semple.
The rectory of Irchester followed the descent of the advowson until 1605, when James I granted it in socage to Peter Bradshaw, (fn. 151) trustee, as appears from a later document, for the Earl of Salisbury (fn. 152) in whose possession it was again united to the advowson in 1607. [See above.] The two may have been acquired together by Thomas Jenison, owner of the parsonage impropriate in 1610, when he was engaged in a dispute touching rights of way. (fn. 153) In 1773 Ambrose Dickins, then patron and lay rector, received compensation in lands for the glebelands and tithes of the rectory. (fn. 154)
A chapel of ease in Knuston dedicated to St. Leonard had fallen into decay before 1567, when it was granted to Robert Holmes and Thomas Boughton with land belonging to it. (fn. 155) Twenty-four years later only the site remained and was said to be held by Henry Freeman, lessee of the rectory, as 'concealed land'. (fn. 156)
There were gilds of St. Katharine and St. John in the church of Irchester with lands which were included in the grant of 1567.
The Feoffee Estate has been held in trust from the time of King Henry VIII and is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 10 May 1912. The trustees are 8 in number, 5 being appointed by the parish council and 3 are co-opted. The property originally consisted of 36 acres of land at Irchester, 1 acre in Knuston Great Meadow, a house and blacksmith's shop and 12 cottages in Irchester. The house and shop and cottages and about 1 acres of land have been sold and the proceeds, together with accumulations of income, invested with the Official Trustees. The gross income amounts to about 112, and the net income is applied in aid of the Local Nursing Fund.
Thomas Jenison by his will dated in 1681 gave an annuity of 5 4s. charged upon his right to tithe hay and grain of the village of Knuston to be paid to the churchwardens and distributed in bread to the poor weekly. This charge is paid by the owner of the Knuston estate and is applied in the weekly distribution of bread.
Samuel Sharwood Charity was founded by indenture dated 17 June 1858. The income of 7 8s. 2d. yearly is distributed in sums of 5s. amongst the deserving poor by two trustees appointed by the parish council.