A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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'Parishes: Byfleet', in A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3, (London, 1911) pp. 399-403. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/surrey/vol3/pp399-403 [accessed 29 February 2024]
Biflet (xi cent.); Byflete (xiv cent.).
Byfleet is a village 5 miles south of Chertsey, 2 miles south-west of Weybridge Station. The parish, roughly triangular in form, is bounded on the north by Chertsey and Weybridge, on the east by Walton-on-Thames, on the south by Wisley and Pyrford. It measures 3 miles from east to west and a mile and a half from north to south at the eastern border, becoming narrower towards the west. It contains 2,045 acres of land and 30 of water. The soil is mainly the drift sand and gravel and alluvium of the Wey valley, but on the east it abuts upon the rising ground of the Bagshot Sands which form St. George's Hill in Walton parish and Cobham Common. The natural River Wey and the artificial navigation both pass through the parish, and much of the ground is low and easily flooded by the former. The main line of the London and South Western Railway passes through the western part of the parish, and there is a station, Byfleet and Woodham. There are about 40 acres of common. Maps of the 17th century mark an iron mill on the old river where Byfleet corn mill stands. Manning says that it was 'lately an iron mill.' (fn. 1) It would be interesting to know whether it used ironstone from the Bagshot Sands or depended upon water carriage for ore from the weald. The present industries, apart from agriculture, are Mr. Newland's Rosewater and Essential Oil Distillery, and a brewery carried on by the Friary, Holroyds, and Healy's Breweries Company.
Neolithic flints occur on the slopes near St. George's Hill and Cobham Common.
Byfleet Park was one of the parks in the Surrey bailiwick of Windsor Forest which Norden surveyed for James I in 1607. (fn. 2)
A person once of some note was rector of Byfleet from 1752 to 1756—Stephen Duck, a Wiltshire labourer, who attracted the notice of Queen Caroline by his poems and was made by her a beefeater and keeper of her library at Richmond. He learned Latin and was ordained. His poems are of no great merit, but one of the earliest, 'The Thresher's Labour,' dealing with his real experiences, shows that he might have been as good as Blomfield and better than Clare if the fashion of the age had allowed him to continue to write naturally. He drowned himself in a fit of melancholy in the Thames.
An Inclosure Award was made in 1811 (fn. 3) for 780 acres, including common fields of Byfleet Manor.
There are Wesleyan and Congregational chapels in the parish. The Village Hall was built in 1898 in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee, and a public recreation ground was presented by Mr. H. F. Locke King on the same occasion.
Of the principal houses, Byfleet Manor belongs to Mrs. Rutson, St. George's Hill is the residence of Lady Louisa Egerton, Petersham Place of Mr. W. B. Owen. A number of small residential houses have lately been built in the parish. The present rectory was built by the Rev. Charles Sumner, rector, in 1834.
The School (national) was built in 1857 and enlarged in 1860 and in 1899. A school had been built in 1840, but was replaced by the present one.
BYFLEET is not in the original grant to Chertsey Abbey in the alleged foundation charter of 673, but is included and confirmed in the later charter of Frithwald, attributed to 727, (fn. 4) which, however, includes land granted at various times before the Norman Conquest, and must be looked upon merely as an assertion by the monks of their claims, perhaps preparatory to the Domesday Survey. (See Chertsey.) In 967 the grant was again confirmed by King Edgar as 'v mansas.' (fn. 5) At the time of the Domesday Survey Byfleet was held of the abbey as 2½ hides by Ulwin, who had also held it in King Edward's time, when it was assessed for 8 hides. (fn. 6) It continued in the possession of the Abbot and convent of Chertsey, and in the 13th century was held of them, as half a knight's fee, by Geoffrey de Lucy, who died in 1284 leaving as heir his son Geoffrey. (fn. 7) The latter enfeoffed Henry de Leybourne of the manor in 1297, (fn. 8) and Leybourne remained in possession until after 1305. (fn. 9) It is not clear how the manor became Crown property, but it was certainly in the king's hands in 1312. (fn. 10) The overlordship continued to be vested in the abbey for some time after the manor became the king's property. A rental of 1319 speaks of it as being held 'in chief of the Abbot of Chertsey' by the service of half a knight's fee and 15s. rent to the abbot for the vill of Weybridge and 13s. 4d. rent for the vill of Bisley; the surveyors add that before the manor came to the king its lord did suit at the abbot's hundred court of Godley, and that all free tenants and fifteen customary tenants came to the view of frankpledge there. (fn. 11) A return of the feudal aids in the hundred of Godley in 1428 also refers to half a knight's fee in Byfleet which 'Edward, formerly Prince of Wales, used to hold of the Abbot of Chertsey.' (fn. 12) It is probable, however, that this overlordship, held by the abbey over the king or the Prince of Wales, soon became merely nominal. The courts of Byfleet were held by the king, and no further mention of Byfleet occurs in the records or court rolls of the abbey. (fn. 13)
Edward II appears to have stayed frequently at Byfleet, many of his ordinances being dated from here. (fn. 14) A grant to Piers Gaveston in 1308 of free warren in his demesne lands at Byfleet (fn. 15) suggests that he had been previously granted the manor also, probably as part of the lands belonging to the earldom of Cornwall. Edward III assigned Byfleet to his mother Isabella as part of her dower in 1327. (fn. 16) She surrendered it shortly afterwards, (fn. 17) and in 1330 the king granted it to his brother John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, to be held by knight's service; at his death it reverted to the Crown. (fn. 18) In 1337, when the king's eldest son received the title of Duke of Cornwall, the manor and park of Byfleet were among the lands granted to him, (fn. 19) to hold to him and his heirs, as parcel of the duchy of Cornwall. (fn. 20) The Black Prince held the manor until his death, (fn. 21) when it passed to his son.
Richard II, as lord of the manor of Byfleet, granted it in 1389 to the Earl of Northumberland for two years, (fn. 22) and in 1391 to John, Bishop of Salisbury, for ten years 'for his easement and abode whenever he chooses to go thither.' (fn. 23) The bishop died in 1395, but two years before his death the manor was granted to William, Duke of Guelders, son of the Duke of Juliers, to hold for life without rent, he having 'become the king's vassal and done homage.' (fn. 24) The duke afterwards granted the manor and park to Roger Walden, Dean of York and Treasurer of England, and John Walden his brother, for their lives, on condition that he, the duke, might lodge there with his household whenever he should come there. Richard's grants were annulled by Parliament in 1399, and Byfleet was granted to Henry the son of the king. (fn. 25) Roger and John Walden surrendered their estate in the manor for £100 to Sir Francis Court, who was a trusted friend of Prince Henry, and Joan his wife. Both Walden and Court entered the premises without the king's licence, for which offence they were pardoned in 1401, Sir Francis and his wife receiving a confirmation of the grant to hold the manor for life, all fees, advowsons, wards, marriages, reliefs, escheats, franchises, liberties, warrens, reversions, &c., being included. (fn. 26) Sir Francis Court presented to the church during the time he held the manor. (fn. 27)
Byfleet continued to be granted by the Kings of England to their eldest sons until the time of Henry VIII. (fn. 28) The last-named king is said to have spent much of his boyhood at Byfleet. (fn. 29) As king, he granted the manor in 1533 to Katharine of Aragon, whom he had divorced in that year, (fn. 30) she being styled Princess Dowager of Wales. Sir Anthony Browne was at this time keeper of the manor. (fn. 31)
In 1537, when the monastery of Chertsey surrendered to the Crown, (fn. 32) the deed of surrender included among the manors belonging to the abbey that of Byfleet. This cannot refer to the manor, which was already in the king's hands. Certain rents, however, had remained due to the monastery when the manor passed to the Crown in the 14th century, since mention of 'assize rents in Byflete' occurs in the accounts of the surrendered abbey in 1538. (fn. 33) It was possibly those due from certain lands in Byfleet which were surrendered to the Crown as the manor of Byfleet in 1537, although there may have been some reminiscence of the overlordship which the abbey had undoubtedly held even when the manor was in royal hands. (fn. 34) It is also certain that several lands and tenements referred to in the abovementioned deed of surrender as 'manors' did not really occupy that standing. (fn. 35)
At the erection of the king's manor of Hampton Court into an honour in 1539 Byfleet was included in the possessions allotted to it. (fn. 36) Queen Elizabeth visited Byfleet in 1576. (fn. 37) James I granted the manor to Henry, Prince of Wales, and, after his son's death, to Anne of Denmark, his consort. (fn. 38) In 1617 the reversion of the manor, after her death, was granted to Sir Francis Bacon and others, for the term of ninety-nine years, in trust for Charles Prince of Wales. (fn. 39) During the Commonwealth the manor and park of Byfleet were sold as Crown lands to Thomas Hammond. (fn. 40)
After the Restoration Byfleet, again in the Crown, seems to have been held by Queen Henrietta Maria until her death in 1669. (fn. 41)
In 1672 the lands were granted to Lord Hollis and others to hold in trust for Queen Catherine of Braganza for her life, and afterwards for Charles II and his heirs. (fn. 42) In 1694 Sir John Buckworth was accused, as lord of the manor of Byfleet, of neglect in repairing a bridge over the Wey within the said manor. It was found, however, that he was not responsible for such repair, as he was only a 'termer for years' in the manor under a 'lease made by the late queen mother's trustees.' (fn. 43) There is very little trace of the manor after this time. According to Manning, Byfleet was usually let to owners of Oatlands, and in 1804 Frederick, Duke of York, then owning Oatlands, purchased Byfleet with Walton and Weybridge, by Act of Parliament. (fn. 44) The estate passed at the death of the Duke of York to E. BallHughes, who in 1829 sold a considerable portion of the land to Lord King, whose younger son, the Hon. P. J. Locke King, inherited the land so purchased in 1833. Mr. Hughes, however, remained lord of the manor of Byfleet until after 1841. (fn. 45) At the present time Mr. H. F. Locke King is one of the principal landowners at Byfleet; Mrs. Rutson owns the Manor House, bought in 1891; and Messrs Paine & Brettell, solicitors, of Chertsey, are owners of the manor.
The grant of the manor made to John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, in 1330 was supplemented by a further grant of all corn whether sown or for seed, livery of servants, plough-cattle and cart-horses, which had been in the manor when it was granted to him. (fn. 46) Free warren was granted with the manor to the Prince of Wales in 1337, (fn. 47) and was included in later grants to the king's eldest son.
In the Domesday Survey mention is made of a mill at Byfleet worth 5s., and of 1½ fisheries worth 325 eels. (fn. 48) Geoffrey de Lucy, who held under the abbey in 1284, owned both the mill and fisheries, as in an account of his property made in that year the site of the mill was valued at 18s., the miller's rent was 12d., and the value of the fisheries 3s. (fn. 49) Perquisites of the court were also his. (fn. 50) In 1279 he claimed assize of bread and ale in his manor, (fn. 51) and in 1284 he was in receipt of a toll of brewers called le Schench. (fn. 52) Mills known as the King's Mills at Byfleet were used for paper-making in the 17th century. (fn. 53) Aubrey states that the Earl of St. Albans owned a mill here, (fn. 54) but this is probably a mistake. (fn. 55) Henry Jermyn, Earl of St. Albans, did, however, live in the manor-house here. John Evelyn records a visit to 'my lord St. Alban's house at Byflete, an old large building,' on 24 August 1678. He also visited the paper-mills at Byfleet on the same day, and gives a description of the process employed there for paper-making. (fn. 56) The present mill is a corn-mill.
The manor-house known as the King's House was built by Sir Anthony Browne, keeper of the park (vide infra). It was sold with other Crown lands during the Commonwealth, as 'Byfleete house, situated about the middle of Byfleete park, upon the river of Byfleete.' (fn. 57)
According to Aubrey, Queen Anne of Denmark, when the manor was settled on her by James I, began to build 'a noble house of brick,' (fn. 58) afterwards completed by Sir James Fullerton, one of Prince Charles's trustees under the grant of 1617. It was built where the old manor-house had stood, and Evelyn in 1678 speaks of it as 'an old large building.' (fn. 59) The forecourt, garden-wall and gateway, and part of the existing manor-house are of early 17th-century date, but the house was rebuilt about 1724–34. A tile stamped with the former date and a halfpenny of the latter date, embedded in the mortar, bear out the evidence of the style. Part of it was pulled down early in the 19th century.
The first mention of the PARK of Byfleet occurs in 1337; it was probably not imparked before the manor came into the king's hands. In 1337 John de Chestre was granted the custody of the park and warren of Byfleet, with a robe worth a mark, or a mark, every year for his fee and 2d. daily for his wages. (fn. 60) Norden gives an interesting account of the park in 1607 when Sir Edward Howard was keeper. It was stated to lie partly within and partly without the bounds of the forest of Windsor, and was 3¼ miles in circuit. There were about 160 fallow deer, about 36 of antler, and 14 buck. He also adds that 'the Hooping birde, vulgarly held ominous, much frequenteth this park.' (fn. 61)
In 1337 the park of Byfleet was included in the grant of the manor to the Prince of Wales, (fn. 62) and was henceforth held, with the manor, by the Crown. (fn. 63) The grant of 1672 to Queen Catherine includes the park, but there appears to be no subsequent mention of it. Most of it had evidently been inclosed before the inclosure award of 1800, but a small part of it has always remained as open land round the manor-house.
Grants of the custody of the king's park were made at intervals from the 14th to the 17th century. Writs of aid to cut and sell underwood were occasionally issued. (fn. 64) In 1507 John Stoughton, late bailiff of the king's manor of Byfleet, was charged with committing waste of timber, having been ordered to cut down '50 great oaks worth 50s. in the king's wood at Byfleet.' (fn. 65) In 1513 John Wheler was appointed keeper of the park, (fn. 66) but he surrendered his patent, which in 1527 was transferred to Sir William Fitz William and Sir Anthony Browne. (fn. 67) Sir Anthony Browne apparently spent much of his time there, (fn. 68) and died at the manor-house in 1548. (fn. 69) In 1604 a grant of the park for life was made to Sir Edward Howard, the king's cup-bearer; (fn. 70) the reversion being granted to his brother, Sir Charles, in 1613. (fn. 71)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN consists of a chancel 19 ft. 6 in. by 12 ft. 7 in., south chapel and baptistery, south vestry, nave 42 ft. 10 in. by 17 ft. 2 in., north porch and south aisle 19 ft. 1 in. wide, all internal dimensions.
The chancel and nave seem to have been built early in the 14th century, and are of very plain detail. The dressings of the windows, &c. are all of chalk, and have a very sharp appearance suggesting that they have either been completely renewed in modern times or that the old material has been recut; the south aisle and the remainder of the building are quite modern, but the side windows of the aisle are those formerly in the south wall of the nave.
The east window of the chancel is of three lights with plain heads and intersecting tracery under a two-centred arch, and the two north windows are each of two plain lights under a two-centred arch; below the first is a plain square recess. On the south side are two modern arches opening to the organ chamber, the eastern arch containing two plain sedilia, which seem entirely modern, and a piscina with a cinquefoiled head partly restored and a sixfoiled drain in a projecting sill; at the back is a modern quatrefoil piercing, and the backs of the sedilia are also pierced. The chancel arch has chamfered jambs and a double chamfered pointed arch, the inner order being corbelled off at the springing line.
The three north windows of the nave are similar to those of the chancel, and the doorway between the second and third windows is of chalk in two chamfered orders and has a pointed head; outside is a modern porch of wood. The south arcade is of four bays having round pillars and responds with moulded bases and carved capitals, and pointed two-chamfered arches; the west window of the nave is also like the others—of two lights.
The south aisle is wider than the nave and opens by two arches into the south chapel and organ chamber. Its three side windows resemble those in the opposite wall, and it has a modern south doorway; the west window is of four plain lights with intersecting tracery. The organ chamber has a two-light east window and at the south-east a small baptistery or chapel serving as an approach to the vestry; this baptistery has a modern single-light east window, and in its south wall an old chalk piscina has been re-set; it has a sixfoiled drain and a plain pointed and chamfered arch.
The roof of the chancel is gabled and has a modern panelled ceiling. The nave roof has an apparently old truss with a king post from which struts branch four ways. Over the west end is a modern wood bell-turret partly supported by wood posts from the floor to the nave; it has two pointed lights in each side and is hung with oak shingles. Over it is an octagonal spire also covered with shingles. The aisle and other roofs are modern.
The font dates from the 15th century and is octagonal in plan with quatrefoil panelled sides to the bowl; three of these panels contain heads of angels wearing diadems, and two others have plain shields, the other three inclosing paterae of foliage. The stem is panelled with two trefoiled sinkings on each face, and the base is moulded. The pulpit is six-sided and bears the initials and date RS 1616 RS; each face has two rectangular panels, the lower and larger one inclosing a lesser formed by a moulded rib.
Set in the north jamb of the chancel arch is a brass figure of a priest above the following inscription:—
'Hic jacet Thom[as] Teylar rector ecclie p[ar]ochialis de Biflete et unus canonicor' ecclesie cathedralis Lincoln[iensis] qui quid[am] Thom's obiit … die mensis … Ao dñi milliõ cccc lxxx … cuius anime p[rp]piciet' De'.' The exact date of the death has never been filled in. The figure is dressed in a fur almuce, alb, and cassock. The stone slab from which the brass was taken still remains in the chancel floor.
Over the north doorway are the remains of a mural painting, apparently that of a seated king under a canopy, and the wall is covered with a masonry pattern of double red lines with flowers in each compartment. This formerly covered the whole surface of the nave walls, and was revealed in 1853; the work is probably of early 14th-century date, and a little to the west of the doorway is also a painted consecration cross with expanded arms; the masonry pattern seems to be painted over the cross, although probably nearly contemporary with it. Other instances of the painting over of consecration crosses in this manner have been noticed.
The three bells are modern, dating from 1853, the old tenor having been a mediaeval bell, inscribed 'Protege Virgo pia quos convoco Sancta Maria.'
The oldest piece of the Communion plate is a cup of 1764; there are also two cups, two patens, and a flagon, all of silver, given in 1893.
In the register the baptisms begin in 1698, the marriages in 1755, and the burials in 1728.
There is a small iron mission church of St. John at Byfleet Corner.
The church of Byfleet was among the possessions of the abbey of Chertsey at the time of the Domesday Survey, (fn. 72) and it so continued until after 1284, in which year Geoffrey de Lucy, who held Byfleet of the abbey, was patron of the church. (fn. 73) Shortly after this, however, the church passed into the king's hands with the manor (q.v.). (fn. 74) From that time until the present the patronage has remained in the gift of the Crown. (fn. 75) The living, a rectory, is now in the gift of the Lord Chancellor.
The chapel of Wisley was attached to Byfleet as early as 1535, (fn. 76) presentation to the chapel being included in that made to Byfleet until after 1646. (fn. 77) In 1648 George Bradshaw was appointed to Wisley alone.
The rectory of Byfleet was sequestered during the reign of Charles I. In June 1645 the wife of the rector, Hope Gifford, petitioned for aid towards the maintenance of herself and her children. A fifth part of all tithes due to the rector was ordered to be paid her by any person to whom the rectory might stand sequestered. Mr. Scuddamore, the person in question, refused, however, to do this, and in 1646 suffered sequestration himself on this account. (fn. 78) Nevertheless Calamy gives him among the ejected ministers of 1662.
The charities include Smith's, as in other Surrey parishes, also a sum of £11 10s. under the will of 'Lady Margaret Bruce,' probably Margaret daughter of the fourth Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who would have been Baroness Balfour of Burleigh but for the attainder in 1715 of her elder brother, whose heir she was. She died in 1769.