Parishes: Rothersthorpe

Pages 285-288

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

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In this section


Trop Advocati (1220); Torp (xi-xiii cent.); Thorpe, Throp (xiii-xviii cent.); Thrupp (xvi-xviii cent.); Troupe, Throope (xvi cent.); Ritheres- (xiiixvi cent.); Rethres- (xiv cent.); Rothers- (xiv cent. onwards); Ruddis- (xvi cent.); Ryther-, Rethes- (xvixvii cent.); Reresthorp (xix cent.).

The civil parish has an area of 1,275 acres of land and water. The soil is mixed, the subsoil Oxford Clay, the chief crops turnips and barley. The population of 240 (fn. 1) must have been stationary since the early 18th century, when there were about 54 houses, including two set apart for the poor. (fn. 2)

The old-world village stands high among its poplar trees and with its saddle-back church tower to the south, and quaint cottages, is the delight of artists. Behind the manor-house at the entrance to the village is a circular stone dovecote, probably of 17th-century date, with leaded roof and octagonal wooden cupola. (fn. 3) The village is divided into two parts, one north and one south of the Berry, an entrenched space of about 4 acres. The parish slopes upward from 214 ft. in the north to 300 ft. in the south-east. It is traversed by Banbury Lane going south-west and the Northampton canal in the north.


ROTHERSTHORPE lay in Collingtree Hundred in 1086. Geoffrey Alselin was overlord of a ½ hide that had previously belonged with sac and soc to the English thegn Tochi son of Outi and was appurtenant to the manor of Milton Malzor. In 1086 Winemar the Fleming held the soc of this ½ hide of Geoffrey Alselin.

The major part of the vill, 2½ hides, was held in demesne by the tenant-in-chief Gunfrid de Chocques (Cioches). (fn. 4) In the 12th century the 'Chokes' fee had been increased by ¼ hide, and was held by Ascelin, or Anselm, de Chocques. (fn. 5) From him it descended to the family of Béthune, hereditary advocates of the church of St. Vedast of Arras; (fn. 6) and in 1209 at the request of William of Arras, advocate of Béthune, King John granted the manor and all appurtenances to Simon de Pateshull and his heirs for £10 yearly as 1 knight's fee. (fn. 7) The overlordship continued with the honor of Chokes until 1428, (fn. 8) and it was afterwards held in chief. (fn. 9) In 1252 its tenant owed castle-guard. (fn. 10) All the royal lands in the parish became annexed to the honor of Grafton in 1542. (fn. 11)

Andrew. Gules a saltire or voided vert.

From Simon de Pateshull, the judge, who died in about 1217, (fn. 12) the manor passed to his eldest son Walter, whose son Simon succeeded him in 1232. (fn. 13) It then descended with their manor of Pattishall (fn. 14) (q.v.) through the family of Fauconberge to that of Strangeways until 1539, when Sir James Strangeways and Elizabeth his wife conveyed it to Edward Pureferey and John Yate. (fn. 15) James and Philip Yate had licence in 1541 to alienate it to Elizabeth Englefield, widow, for life with first remainder to her son John in fee, then to her son and heir Francis in fee. (fn. 16) On her death in 1543 her younger son John entered into possession. (fn. 17) He died seised in 1567 leaving a young son Francis, (fn. 18) who was created a baronet in 1611, (fn. 19) made several settlements, (fn. 20) and died seised in 1631. His son and heir Sir Francis (fn. 21) alienated the manor by a conveyance in 1639 to Sir William Willmer and others, (fn. 22) evidently trustees for Sir William Andrew, bart., of Little Doddington. (fn. 23) In 1647 it was sequestered for his recusancy; and Peter Stringer of Rainham, Norfolk, and John Watson of St. Andrew's, Holborn, stated that they had purchased it of him and begged to compound for it. (fn. 24) The manor descended, however, in the Andrew or Andrews family until 1723. (fn. 25) It later came into the hands of Peter John Fremeaux, from whom it had passed by 1773 to James Fremeaux and Margaret his wife; (fn. 26) and in 1798–9 it passed with the marriage of Susanna Fremeaux to Thomas Reeve Thornton (fn. 27) to the Thorntons of Brockhall.

The manor included in 1295 Thorpe Wood in Salcey forest, with housebote and heybote by view of the foresters and verderers. (fn. 28) In 1359 14 cottars paid 16s. yearly rent for a common oven; and there were then customs called 'beaupleyt' and 'yeld'. (fn. 29) In 1675 free fishery and free warren, view of frankpledge and court baron were descending with the manor. (fn. 30)

Plan of Rothersthorpe Church

Winemar's successors held of the honor of Huntingdon of the Hastings pourparty. Walter, son of Winemar the Domesday tenant, and his brother Michael, with consent of 'A.' his wife, gave two thirds of the tithe of their demesne in Thorpe and Wootton to St. Andrew's priory, Northampton. (fn. 31) Three-quarters of a hide was given to the Hospital of St. John of Northampton (fn. 32) soon after its foundation in about 1138, (fn. 33) the Preston family retaining the mesne lordship. (fn. 34) The Hospital held 10 virgates in 1284, (fn. 35) was returned as joint lord of the vill in 1316, (fn. 36) and had ¼ knight's fee in 1376. (fn. 37) In 1535 it paid Sir James Strangeways 34s. annually for land here and in Tiffield, and had a bailiff for these places. (fn. 38)

The £10 fee farm rent from the manor was granted by Henry III in 1231 to St. Mary de Pratis near Creak, Norfolk, as a temporary gift, (fn. 39) confirmed by Edward I; (fn. 40) and that house remained in possession until it came to an end automatically in 1507, 'because there was no convent in it'. (fn. 41) John de Pateshull in 1349 held £42 13s. 5d. rent and rents of 3 capons and 14 hens of the Abbot of Creak by the service of 30s. yearly and to John Cook 12d., (fn. 42) these sums being presumably the proportion of the £10 chargeable on his tenements. Henry VII gave the £10 rent to Christ's College, Cambridge, with the rest of the abbey's property; (fn. 43) and the Englefields, as lords of Rothersthorpe, were still pay ing it in the late 16th century. (fn. 44)


The church of ST. PETER A.ND ST. PAUL consists of chancel, 26 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. 3 in., with north and south chapels, clerestoried nave, 36 ft. 6 in. by 18 ft., north and south aisles, respectively 10 ft. 9 in. and 12 ft. 3 in. wide, south porch, and west tower 8 ft. 9 in. by 9 ft., all these measurements being internal. The width across nave and aisles is 46 ft. 2 in. The chapels belong structurally to the aisles and overlap the chancel on each side for about half its length. The north chapel is now used as a vestry.

The walling is all of roughly dressed coursed limestone mingled with local ironstone, and, with the exception of the porch, all the roofs are of low pitch and leaded. There is a parapet to the north aisle, but elsewhere the lead overhangs. The tower has a leaded saddle-back roof, and the porch is covered with red tiles. Internally the walls are plastered, except in the tower and at the west end of the nave.

The 12th-century font and the sculptured crosshead noticed below point to a church of that period on the site, but no part of the existing fabric can definitely be assigned to so early a date. The present nave may be considered to represent that of a 13th-century aisleless church, the quoins at the western angles of which remain, and the walls of the chancel are in the main of the same period, a portion of a 13th-century string-course, originally external, being now within the south chapel. About 1300, aisles were added and the present arcades built, the aisles being carried eastward so as partly to cover the chancel, the arch to which was rebuilt, a clerestory erected and the tower heightened or its upper part reconstructed. In the 15th century new windows were inserted in the chancel and other changes made, the nave roof being perhaps then lowered to its present pitch. (fn. 45)

In 1841 (fn. 46) the nave and aisles were re-pewed, but no extensive reparation was undertaken until 1910–12, when the north aisle and the east end of the south aisle were rebuilt, an arch turned across each aisle to resist the thrust of the chancel arch, and the tower repaired. Some alterations were made in the chancel in 1932.

The chancel has a chamfered plinth and keel-shaped string at sill level all round. The large pointed 15thcentury east window is of four cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery and hood-mould, (fn. 47) and the two-stage diagonal angle buttresses were no doubt added when the window was inserted. On the south side is a tall pointed window of three cinquefoiled lights, and on the north side, high in the wall, a square-headed window of three ogee cinquefoiled lights, with pointed rear arch. The piscina and double sedilia form a single composition of three continuous-moulded ogee arches without hoods, the bowl of the piscina being fluted and the seats on one level. Immediately west of the sedilia is a splayed flat-arched opening, about 3 ft. wide, forming a squint from the aisle, or chapel, (fn. 48) and in the north wall is a rectangular aumbry, which retains its original oak door and beautiful iron hinges with snake-head terminations. (fn. 49) At its western end the chancel opens to the north and south chapels by early-14th-century pointed arches of two chamfered orders, the inner order on halfoctagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases; and the wider chancel arch is similar, all the bases having double rolls. The chancel has an old open timber roof of plain character, and turned oak altar rails. The floor is flagged.

The nave arcades are of three pointed arches of two chamfered orders springing from pillars composed of attached triple shafts grouped round a cylindrical core, which fills the spaces between the four sets of shafts. The pillars have moulded capitals with plain bells and the bases a simple double roll upon a square plinth. The responds are half-octagonal, and the arches have hood-moulds on both sides. At the east end of each arcade, high in the wall, in the usual position near to the chancel arch, the rood-loft doorways remain, but the lower doorway on the north side is either hidden or removed. The arches between the aisles and the chapels, as already stated, are modern, (fn. 50) and the former screens have been removed.

There is a piscina in each of the chapels, that in the south with continuous-moulded pointed head and fluted bowl, and the other with trefoiled head and bowl with orifices placed round a central boss. The south chapel has a restored pointed east window of two trefoiled lights, the splayed jambs of which widen out at the bottom internally, (fn. 51) and in the south wall a single-light pointed window near the east end, (fn. 52) and a later elliptical-headed window of four trefoiled lights. On each side of the east window is a moulded bracket, and below the four-light window a wide wall-recess (fn. 53) with moulded ogee arch and crocketed hood-mould.

The much-restored east window of the north chapel is of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in the head, but in the north wall is a pointed three-light window with good original curvilinear tracery.

The 13th-century south doorway, moved outward when the aisle was built, has a pointed arch of two orders, the inner with a continuous half-roll edge moulding and the outer with a plain chamfer, on nookshafts with moulded capitals and bases: the hoodmould is keel-shaped. The original oak door has been faced with deal, but retains a good iron ring-handle with circular pierced plate. The pointed north doorway is of two continuous moulded orders with hoodmould. The pointed aisle windows are much restored: that at the west end of the south aisle consists of a single trefoiled light, the others of two lights, varying only slightly in detail.

The clerestory windows, three on each side, are small quatrefoiled circles, but on the south side the easternmost one has been replaced by a long squareheaded window of four lights with wooden lintel. (fn. 54) The east gable of the old nave roof, surmounted by a sanctus bell-turret, still stands, though the roof itself no longer remains.

The restored porch (fn. 55) is without buttresses and has a pointed outer doorway of two chamfered orders, the inner order on half-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and bases. A disused sun-dial in the plain coped gable occupies the place of a former niche. In each of the side walls is a small nondescript opening cut from a single stone.

The tower, which is undivided by strings below the bell-chamber, has pairs of three-stage buttresses at its western angles, and a wide single-light pointed west window, below which a doorway with wooden frame is cut through the wall. The north and south walls are blank, except for a small pointed louvred opening in the upper part. There is no vice. The bell-chamber stage is much restored; the pointed windows are of two trefoiled lights, with plain pierced spandrels, and hoodmoulds. On the north and south sides the tower terminates with straight parapets, and the coped east and west gables of the saddle-back roof have each a small pointed window of two lights. (fn. 56) Internally the tower opens to the nave by a 13th-century pointed arch of two chamfered orders, the inner order on half-round responds with moulded capitals and bases.

The 12th-century font has a circular bowl ornamented with an arcade of intersecting round arches and with a cable moulding round the top. It formerly stood on a plain circular drum and two steps, (fn. 57) but is now on a small roughly shaped pedestal and base.

The plain panelled oak pulpit has a moulded top and base and on the front panel is incised 'F.S. 1579', within a shield.

In the nave and aisles are sentences of scripture painted on the walls; (fn. 58) and the pillars are painted grey with orange-coloured capitals. In the north aisle is a memorial to seven men of the parish who fell in the war of 1914–18.

There is a ring of five bells cast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon in 1914. (fn. 59)

The silver plate consists of a cup of 1570 and a paten of 1591; there is also a pewter flagon, and a pewter plate dated 1702. (fn. 60)

The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1562–1653; (ii) December 1655–95; (fn. 61) (iii) burials February 1678/9–1759; (iv) baptisms 1706– 49; (v) baptisms 1750–1813; (vi) marriages 1754– 1812; (vii) burials 1773–1812.

In the church is preserved the head and upper part of the shaft of a 12th-century wheeled cross, which was found in 1869 in pulling down a barn in the village. (fn. 62) The cross proper, which bears the figure of Our Lord, rises from beautifully carved foliage, with projecting heads at the sides above a horizontal moulded and sculptured band. (fn. 63)

In the churchyard is the base of a cross consisting of a square socket stone with chamfered edges, containing a small portion of the shaft. (fn. 64)


William II, le Roux, advocate of Béthune, gave the church to the abbey of St. James outside Northampton (fn. 65) by 1209. The abbey presented to the vicarage in 1227, saving a portion to themselves. (fn. 66) St. Andrew's priory had received a grant of tithes from Michael de Preston, (fn. 67) and when this church was appropriated to St. James's Abbey in 1277 the pension was reserved (fn. 68) and still paid in 1535. (fn. 69) The vicar, it was arranged in 1277, was to have the manse on the south of the church and the house that 'Sarra called the nun' used to dwell in. The abbey held the advowson and rectory until its surrender in 1538. (fn. 70) They were sold by Edward VI to Matthew White and Edward Bury, (fn. 71) and purchased from them by Francis Samwell, (fn. 72) of Upton, who presented in 1555, (fn. 73) and the rectory and advowson descended with Upton (q.v.) until 1865, (fn. 74) after which the advowson was acquired by the Rev. J. L. S. Hatton. From 1903 until now it has been in the possession of P. Phipps, esq., (fn. 75) the present patron. The living is a vicarage.


  • 1. Census (1931).
  • 2. Bridges, Hist, of Northants. i, 385.
  • 3. Northants. N. and Q. n.s. vi, 55. It contains about 920 nesting-places, and in 1926 was in use as a hen-house. There was another dovecote on the other side of the street, but it was taken down about 1914.
  • 4. V.C.H. Northants. i, 345a, 347a.
  • 5. Ibid. 375a. The former was assessed at 10½ carucates in 1220: Bk. of Fees, 325.
  • 6. André du Chesne, Maison de Béthune, 32; and see under Knuston, above, p. 22.
  • 7. Rot. Chart. (Rec. Com.), 184b. Farrer (Honors and Knights' Fees, i, 21) suggests that the fee of Chokes held in 1166 by Robert son of Sewin may have been here; but the evidence is inconclusive.
  • 8. See Gay ton, which became the caput of the honor; also Bk. of Fees, 325, 494, 499; Chan. Inq. p.m. 36 Hen. III, no. 64.
  • 9. Cal. Inq. Hen. VII, i, 61.
  • 10. Cal. Inq. Misc. i, 149.
  • 11. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 28 (22).
  • 12. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 13. Farrer, op. cit. 93.
  • 14. Bk. of Fees, no. 495, 939; Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 727, where it is misprinted as Kitheresthorp; Feud. Aids, iv, 5, 27, 42, 447; Cal. Close, 1364–8, pp. 307, 434; Cal. Pat. 1405–8, p. 64; Cal. Inq. Hen. VII, i, 611.
  • 15. Feet of F. Northants. Mich. 31 Hen. VIII; Recov. R. Mich. 31 Hen. VIII, rot. 156.
  • 16. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvi, g. 1056 (46).
  • 17. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lxxi, 77.
  • 18. Ibid, cxlv, 52.
  • 19. G.E.C. Complete Baronetage, i, 91.
  • 20. Recov. R. Trin. 26 Eliz. rot. 17; Feet of F. Div. Co. Hil. 36 Eliz.; ibid. East. 14 Jas. I, Trin. 14 Jas. I.
  • 21. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccclxx, 63.
  • 22. Feet of F. Northants. Trin. 15 Chas. I.
  • 23. See G.E.C. Complete Baronetage, ii, 146–7.
  • 24. Cal. Com. for Comp. nos. 1740, 1884.
  • 25. Add. Chart. 24157; Feet of F. Northants. Hil. 6 Will. III; ibid. Trin. 9 Geo. I; Div. Co. Hil. 7 Anne.
  • 26. Recov. R. Trin. 13 Geo. III, ro. 341–2.
  • 27. Feet of F. Northants. Mich. 39 Geo. III; V.C.H. Northants. Families, 308.
  • 28. Cal. Inq. p.m. iii, 269, p. 233.
  • 29. Ibid, x, 520, p. 411.
  • 30. Recov. R. Mich. 27 Chas. II, rot. 215.
  • 31. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xvii, fol. 79; Dugdale, Mon. v, 191b.
  • 32. V.C.H. Northants. i, 375a.
  • 33. Ibid, iii, 59.
  • 34. Feud. Aids, iv, 7.
  • 35. Ibid.
  • 36. Ibid. 27.
  • 37. Cal. Close, 1374–7, p. 190.
  • 38. Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.), iv, 317.
  • 39. Cal. Chart. 1226–57, p. 139.
  • 40. Cal. Close, 1339–41, p. 446.
  • 41. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), xxiii, 285.
  • 42. Cal. Inq. p.m. ix, 350, p. 289.
  • 43. Cal. Pat. 1494–1509, p. 543.
  • 44. Whellan, Gaz. 281.
  • 45. The lines of the two older roofs are on the east face of the tower, the lower one being that of the 13th-century nave.
  • 46. Some of the ancient furnishings were unfortunately removed. The condition of the church in 1835 is thus described: 'The chancel arch was boarded up and the King's arms placed thereon; part of the rood-loft screen remained. The screens of the chantry chapels divided them from the aisles and were of Perpendicular character': Four. Brit. Archael. Assoc. (April 1846), p. 6. Before the introduction of the new pews part of the floor was paved with red glazed figured tiles forming quarters of circles, the designs on which comprised running deer and fighting cocks: ibid. 9–10.
  • 47. The jambs are double chamfered and may belong to a 14th-century window. The window in the south wall has a casement moulding.
  • 48. The sill is about 2 ft. from the floor; towards the chapel it is formed by the string of the originally external chancel wall.
  • 49. The opening is 1 ft. 8½ in. high by 14 in. wide and is rebated all round. The hinges are of 'omega' shape.
  • 50. The thrust of the chancel arch is still active, and the nave walls immediately to the west of it are bolted together with iron rods.
  • 51. In the lower widened part the jambs are wave-moulded.
  • 52. It has wave-moulded jambs and its sill is 5 ft. 6 in. above the plinth.
  • 53. It is 7 ft. wide and 4 ft. high.
  • 54. The stone tabling below the eaves is cut away for the wooden lintel.
  • 55. The porch was described as 'in bad repair' in December 1892.
  • 56. The height of the tower from the ground to the top of the gables is given as 'nearly 60 ft.': Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. (1846), 7.
  • 57. Four. Brit. Arch. Assoc. (1846), 2. It is so shown in a drawing by Sir Henry Dryden dated June 1838, in the Northampton Public Library. The bowl is 2 ft. 6 in. diam. at top, narrowing to about 2 ft. at the bottom, and is 17 in. high.
  • 58. One over each pillar, and over the north and south doorways.
  • 59. They are recastings of a former ring of four, to which a new treble was added. Of the old bells one was dated 1630, two 1638, and one 1719: the inscriptions are given in North, Ch. Bells of Northants. 393.
  • 60. Markham, Ch. Plate of Northants. 252.
  • 61. Inside the cover of vol. ii are baptisms from July 1702 to February 1702–3.
  • 62. Assoc. Arch. Soc. Rep. xx, 89.
  • 63. Markham, Stone Crosses of Northants. 103, where it is figured. See also drawing by Sir Henry Dryden, dated November 3, 1884., in Northampton Public Library. The total height is 2 ft. 9 in. and the width at the top 15 in. The cross was placed in the church in 1884.
  • 64. Markham, op. cit. 104.
  • 65. Dugdale, Mon. vi, 114.
  • 66. Rot. Hug. de Welles (Cant. and York Soc.), ii, 135, 222.
  • 67. Cott. MS. Vesp. E. xvii, fol. 79.
  • 68. Rot. Ric. Gravesend (Cant, and York Soc.), 131.
  • 69. Valor Eccles, (Rec. Com.), iv, 331.
  • 70. Ibid. 319; Rot. Roberti Grosseteste (Cant. and York Soc.), 162, 219; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiii (1), 404; xiv (1), p. 605.
  • 71. Cal. Pat. Edw. VI, iii, 151.
  • 72. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccx, 69.
  • 73. Bridges, loc. cit.
  • 74. Feet of F. Northants. Mich. 28–29 Eliz.; ibid. Div. Co. Mich. 27 Chas. II; ibid. Hil. 7 Anne; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), ccccxlii, 27; Inst. Bks. (P.R.O.); Clergy Lists.
  • 75. Crockford, Cler. Dir.