Parishes: Brafield-on-the-Green

Pages 228-230

A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1937.

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Brache(s)feld (xi cent.); Bragefeld (xi–xii cent.); Brachafeldia (xii cent.); Branfeld (xii–xiii cent.); Bramfeld (xii–xvi cent.); Braumpfeld (xiv cent.); Bradfield on the Green (xiv–xvii cent.); Brafield (xiv– xix cent.); Bravefield Green (xviii cent.).

The parish of Brafield-on-the-Green, comprising 1,282 acres of land and water, lies to the east of Little Houghton parish, both narrow strips of territory terminated on the north by the River Nene. The Nene is crossed at Billing Bridge by the road coming south from Billing; it intersects in the middle of the village the Northampton to Bedford road, and forms the boundary between Brafield and Little Houghton. Brafield Holme was amalgamated with Little Houghton in 1884. (fn. 1) The population, which was 303, living in 70 houses, in 1720, (fn. 2) had risen to 525 by 1921 and has since declined to 486 in the civil parish. (fn. 3) The soil is marl and loam, the subsoil Great Oolite with Upper and Middle Lias by the Nene; the chief crops are wheat and barley. The ground rises from 170 ft. in the river valley to 374 ft. in the south. The village, on the rising ground to the north, stands near the Northampton road, with its church as an outpost on the north, 4½ miles south-east of Northampton. A stone-built house near the village pond has on one of its dormer windows the initials and date IPW 1635. The present Parsonage, which bears the date 1697 and initials T.T.E., on the Smythe estate, was made over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1936; it is said to have been originally a public house. The fair followed the feast of St. Laurence. (fn. 4)

Bridges recorded that the meadows lay intermixed with those of Little Houghton, as did all the lands in the field. The common was divided by a decree in Chancery and the road was the boundary; 'Brayfield Common' was then covered with furze, and the lord of the manor had three-quarters, called farm-furze. (fn. 5)


Two fees are found in BRAFIELD in 1086: (1) that of Odo Bishop of Bayeux (already forfeited), who received 3 virgates there that Ulf son of Azor held in King Edward's time. William was under-tenant in 1086. (2) That of the Countess Judith, who also claimed, and apparently obtained, Odo's estate. She held 3 virgates in demesne, the soke of a house, and 5 acres of land belonging to Whiston (q.v.) and the soke of 1 virgate that Winemar the Fleming held. (fn. 6) Both overlordship and undertenancy descended with the manor of Little Houghton (q.v.).

In 1480 John Lord Scrope by right of Elizabeth his wife received £4 yearly from the profits of the manor. (fn. 7)


The church of ST. LAURENCE stands on the north side of the village and consists of chancel, 28 ft. 3 in. by 17 ft. 8 in.; nave, 36 ft. 9 in. by 20 ft.; north and south aisles respectively 11 ft. and 10 ft. 3 in. wide; south porch, and west tower 12 ft. square, all these measurements being internal. The width across nave and aisles is 45 ft. 6 in. There is no clerestory.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1848, and the north aisle and its arcade in 1850. Externally, with the exception of the tower and south aisle, all the walling is modern and in the style of the 14th century, the old chancel and north aisle having apparently been of that period. The windows in the south aisle also are modern, and in the same style. The porch was rebuilt in 1911. The roofs of the nave and aisles are slated, and those of the chancel and porch tiled. There are straight parapets to the chancel and north aisle, but the roofs of the nave and south aisle overhang. All the roofs are new. The tower has been repaired at different times and is strengthened by iron rods in both directions: its older walling is of roughly coursed limestone rubble, but ironstone is used in the buttresses and dressings of the later upper stage. The walling of the south aisle is of limestone and ironstone mingled. Internally all the walls are plastered.

The lower part of the tower is of late-12th-century date, and the south arcade in its original form was apparently of the same period, but was altered, or perhaps wholly reconstructed in the 13th century. The moulded bases of the north arcade are alone ancient and are similar to those opposite, and if the new work is a copy of the old, the original north arcade must have been contemporary with that on the south. There has, however, been so much renewal that the development of the plan is obscure. In the late 14th century the tower was given a new bell-chamber stage, which necessitated the erecting of buttresses, and the chancel and aisles were probably rebuilt.

The modern chancel is of two bays with diagonal angle buttresses and a pointed east window of three trefoiled lights with decorated tracery. All the other windows in both chancel and aisles are of similar character but of two lights. The arch to the nave was rebuilt at the same time and is of two chamfered orders. No ancient ritual arrangements have been retained.

The nave arcades consist of three pointed arches, of two chamfered orders on the nave side and a single order towards the aisles. The north arcade, as already stated, is entirely modern except for the moulded bases of the pillars and responds. The south arcade is of more than usual interest, presenting considerable variety of detail. The arches spring at each end from halfoctagonal responds with carved capitals (renewed or modern) of conventional foliage, and moulded bases. The easternmost pillar is circular, with moulded base and carved capital, the abacus of which is square with the angles cut off; on three sides the capital displays the incurved volute, or water-leaf, but on the north side, towards the nave, it is carved with a flat-band interlacing pattern. The westernmost pillar is of a welldeveloped 13th-century character, composed of clustered shafts on a square plan, those at the angles being keel-shaped, and the capital has a square abacus similar to that of the first pillar, though the general character of the pillar is some years later. The capital has a human head at each angle and on three sides is carved with stiff-leaf and slightly more natural foliage. On the east side is represented a serpent in coil and a small catlike animal, apparently meant to be hiding behind the foliage; (fn. 8) the carving is vigorous and naturalistic. In the modern north arcade both pillars are circular and the responds half-rounds. (fn. 9)

No ancient features remain internally in either aisle; the lower parts of the jambs of the pointed south doorway alone are original.

There are scratch dials on the faces of the two buttresses of the south aisle east of the porch.

The tower is of three stages, the later bell-chamber stage having pointed windows of two trefoiled lights with transoms, and a sexfoil opening in the head. The older work below is of very plain character with few architectural features, the north side being blank in both stages. On the south side the lower part of the wall thickens out in a series of set-offs, in which is a small round-headed doorway. (fn. 10) Above, at the top of the second stage, is a small round-headed chamfered window with hood and head-stops, and on the east side, above the nave roof, a small plain pointed opening. On the west the second stage is blank, but on the ground floor the wall is pierced by two square-headed windows, one on each side of a middle buttress, which appear to be insertions of a late date. (fn. 11) The massive diagonal buttresses are taken to the height of the second stage, but that against the west wall is less in height. The tower terminates in a battlemented parapet with angle pinnacles. There is no vice. The arch to the nave is modern. It is filled by an oak screen erected in 1892, the ground floor of the tower forming a vestry.

The font is modern, with a circular bowl elaborately carved in 'late Norman' style. The pulpit is also modern or an 18th-century pulpit remodelled, with plain oak panels.

The organ is at the east end of the south aisle. There are no monuments. At the west end of the nave is a 'shrine' in memory of twelve men of the parish who fell in the war of 1914–19.

There is a ring of five bells. The fourth and fifth are dated 1676, the first and third are by Henry Bagley II of Ecton, 1699, and the second by Thomas Russell of Wootton, Bedfordshire, 1732. (fn. 12)

The plate consists of a silver cup and paten made in Birmingham 1852, and a plated cup, flagon, and alms dish given in 1838. There is also a pewter flagon. (fn. 13)

The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1653–73; (ii) 1677–1764; (iii) baptisms and burials 1765–1812; (iv) marriages 1754–1812. (fn. 14)


Simon de Senlis I who died before 1113 gave to his foundation of St. Andrew's Priory, Northampton, with the consent of Maud his wife, the church of Brafield and 1 virgate here. (fn. 15) The advowson remained in the hands of the priory until its surrender in 1538. (fn. 16)

The priory held the church appropriated and a perpetual vicarage was ordained about 1325. (fn. 17) In 1291 the church was valued at £10, (fn. 18) and in 1535 the rectory was farmed at £11 and the vicarage was worth £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 19) The advowson descended with that of Little Houghton (q.v.) to which it became annexed. (fn. 20) Before 1225 the vicar Warner, with the prior's subsequent confirmation, gave some free tenement of the church land to his daughter Alice in marriage. (fn. 21)

In 1538 the RECTORY was leased to Sir William Parr of Horton, (fn. 22) and in 1550 to Ralph Sherman, yeoman of the Ewery. (fn. 23) It apparently remained in the hands of the Crown but came, with the rectory of Little Houghton, into the possession of Stanley and Payne who in 1594 sold both to Lord Zouche, and Lord Zouche sold Brafield rectory to William Ward. (fn. 24) It then descended in his family. In 1671 William Ward of Brafield conveyed it to Edmund Neale, presumably for a settlement. (fn. 25) In 1698 his daughter and heir Elizabeth and her husband Thomas Thornton made a settlement of it. (fn. 26) He was impropriator (fn. 27) at the time of his death in 1719; she then married the Rev. William Trimnell, dean of Winchester, and died 1737 leaving a son and heir Thomas Thornton of Brockhall who with his son Thomas Lee Thornton (fn. 28) made a settlement in 1774. (fn. 29) The last-named's son Thomas Reeve Thornton conveyed it to Christopher Smyth in 1801, (fn. 30) after which it descended with the manor of Little Houghton (q.v.).


Poor's Land. An allotment of 4 a. 2 r. 39 p. of land in this parish was awarded in lieu of certain pieces of land in the open fields, which had been purchased with certain benefactions amounting to £65 and were originally conveyed to trustees by deed dated 24 June 1731 for the benefit of the poor of the parish. The land is now let in allotments and the rent is distributed by 4 trustees appointed by the Parish Council.

Pendrid's Dole. The yearly sum of 5s. which is paid out of an estate at Brafield is distributed with the rent of the Poor's Land. The gift of the charity is ascribed to one Hannah Pendrid.

Church Land. On an inclosure in this parish an allotment of 1 a. 2 r. 34 p. was awarded in lieu of lands formerly held for the repairs of the church. The land is now let in allotment and the rent is paid by the churchwardens to the church expenses account.


  • 1. Kelly, Northants. (1931). Local Govt. Board Order 14,660.
  • 2. Bridges, Hist. Northants. i, 338.
  • 3. Census, 1931.
  • 4. Bridges, op. cit. 341.
  • 5. Loc. cit. A copy of the decree penes Northants. Rec. Soc.
  • 6. V.C.H. Northants. i, 308b, 319a, 351b, 354b.
  • 7. Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A. 8336.
  • 8. There seems no reason to assign any symbolic meaning to the carvings.
  • 9. The capitals of the pillars are carved with foliage of early-13th-century type, that of the east respond with flat-band interlacing, while the capital of the west respond is scalloped; all this work is modern, but may be a copy of the old.
  • 10. It is quite plain, the head of eight voussoirs without hood-mould.
  • 11. Perhaps in the 17th century. One of them has a stone head with moulding at top and wrought stone jambs; the other has a wooden lintel and the jambs are unwrought. They may be reconstructions of older windows.
  • 12. North, Ch. Bells of Northants. 201, where the inscriptions are given. From the evidence of the stops the fourth and fifth bells appear to have been cast by Henry Bagley I of Chacombe. In 1552 there were three great bells and one sanctus bell.
  • 13. Markham, Ch. Plate of Northants. 43.
  • 14. Bridges, writing about 1720, stated that the register 'bore date 1564.': Hist. of Northants. i, 339.
  • 15. Dugdale, Mon. v, 185; Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xvii, fols. 63, 289; Cal. Chart. R. iv, 118–19.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. 1345–8, p. 420; 1348–50, p. 210.
  • 17. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xvii, fol. 64.
  • 18. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 38.
  • 19. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iv, 314, 330.
  • 20. The Crown presented in 1632: Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.).
  • 21. Maitland, Bracton's Note-Bk. 1033.
  • 22. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 404, p. 589; xviii (1), p. 547; xx (1), p. 678.
  • 23. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1547–80, p. 31.
  • 24. Exch. Dep. East. 11 Chas. I, no. 11.
  • 25. Feet of F. Northants. Trin. 23 Chas. II.
  • 26. Ibid. East. 10 Will. and Mary.
  • 27. Bridges, op. cit. 340.
  • 28. Baker, Hist. Northants. 115.
  • 29. Feet of F. Northants. East. 14. Geo. III.
  • 30. Ibid. East. 41 Geo. III.