A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.
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The ancient parish of Alton Barnes, 1,040 a., consisted of two detached areas, Alton Barnes, some 6 miles east of Devizes, and land at Shaw some 2 miles further north-east. (fn. 1) Other lands at Shaw are in Overton and Wilcot parishes and this account deals only with the Alton Barnes portion. In 1885 the Alton Barnes land at Shaw was transferred to the chapelry of Alton Priors in Overton parish. Alton Barnes and Alton Priors were merged in 1934 to form the parish of Alton. (fn. 2)
The boundaries of Alton Barnes were established by the early 10th century and thereafter remained unchanged. The eastern boundary with Alton Priors was marked in the north by an old highway east of and parallel to the Ridge Way, and in the south by the stream flowing from Broad Well spring (Brade Wyll), and eventually into the Christchurch Avon. The western boundary with Stanton St. Bernard was marked by stones, (fn. 3) still to be seen. The long narrow strip of land thus bounded, 607 a., is some 2 miles from north to south, and ½ mile from east to west. It reaches from the Marlborough Downs in the north, down the scarp face to the Pewsey Vale in the south. In the north, where Wansdyke crosses the strip of land, there is much land over 800 ft. Upper and Middle Chalk outcrop, and the highest land, over 900 ft., is capped by Clay-with-flints. The flatter areas north of Wansdyke can be tilled but the upland has generally been used for pasture. A white horse was cut in the hillside at c. 800 ft. in 1812 and remains a prominent landmark visible from the Pewsey Vale. (fn. 4) Lower Chalk outcrops below about 750 ft. The land slopes more gently southwards below the scarp face and is suitable for arable cultivation. There is also good arable or meadow land near the village of Alton Barnes where Upper Greensand outcrops.
The existence of a number of earthworks and ditches, including Eald Burgh, an Iron-Age hill-fort on the Stanton St. Bernard border, indicates prehistoric settlement on the downs above Alton. (fn. 5) The village of Alton Barnes, which presumably took its suffix from members of the Berners family, possibly lords of the manor in the 12th century and later tenants of a freeholding in Alton, (fn. 6) grew up on the spring line near Broad Well, on the other side of which lay Alton Priors. In 1766 the village apparently retained its ancient pattern. (fn. 7) The church and Rectory and the manor-house and demesne farm were clustered beside the stream. The tenant farms stood beside a path a short distance north of the church, and until c. 1580 (fn. 8) a mill stood a short distance south of it. The cottages standing in Alton Barnes in 1766, and those built afterwards, (fn. 9) were all on the waste. The village was very small. It was assessed for taxation at only 40s. in 1334 and there were only nine poll-tax payers in 1377. (fn. 10) Fewer than ten households were there in 1428, and 16th-century taxation assessments were also low. (fn. 11)
The land at Shaw which was part of the ancient parish of Alton Barnes belonged to a village of Shaw. The land of that village straddled Wansdyke from the Ridge Way to the old Huish-Marlborough road through Hursley bottom. (fn. 12) It extended northwards in a triangle with its apex on Lurkley Hill, and southwards in a triangle with its apex on Golden Ball Hill. Most of the land is over 600 ft. There is no permanent surface water and the landscape is one of alternating ridges and dry valleys running back from the Kennet valley. The dryness is caused by the predominant Upper and Middle Chalk outcrops which permit arable cultivation where the gradient is not too great, but Clay-with-flints caps much of the land which can therefore support dense woodland.
Archaeological discoveries and ancient earthworks on Golden Ball Hill, and a Celtic field-system near Wansdyke, indicate the likelihood of ancient settlements in the area. (fn. 13) The village of Shaw existed by 1086. (fn. 14) Excavations of the church in 1929 indicate that the village lay a little south of Wansdyke, west of Shaw copse, some ½ mile west of the Huish— Marlborough road. (fn. 15) It lay within Savernake forest until 1330. (fn. 16) The village was very small, assessed for taxation at only 8s. in 1334, and with only three poll-tax payers in 1377, the lowest number in any Wiltshire village. (fn. 17) It was probably deserted in the earlier 15th century when Shaw was linked with Alton and its farms merged with Alton farms. (fn. 18)
The land of Shaw was shared between the lords and tenants of Alton Barnes and the owner of Shaw farm. (fn. 19) Intercommoning rights over the woodland were apparently enjoyed by the men of Overton and Draycot Fitz Payne in Wilcot. The lands at Shaw belonging to the lords of Alton and the owner of Shaw farm were separated and inclosed in 1680. The land south of Wansdyke, except part of Shaw field, and the Barken grounds north of Wansdyke were allotted to the lords of Alton. (fn. 20) The wooded, eastern, part of Shaw common was inclosed in 1693. The lord of Draycot was then allotted the southern part, called Skilling heath; the northern part became part of Shaw farm; and the middle part was allotted to the lords of Alton. (fn. 21) When the boundaries of the land belonging to Alton Barnes at Shaw, called Shaw-in-Alton, were thus defined, it amounted to 433 a.
The ancient parish of Alton Barnes, as it was from 1693 to 1885, was served by the Avebury-Amesbury road, turnpiked under an Act of 1840. (fn. 22) The road passed through Shaw-in-Alton, the remoter parts of which were reached by farm tracks, and was crossed near Alton Barnes by the Devizes-Pewsey road linking the villages at the foot of the downs. The southern part of the parish was crossed by the Kennet & Avon Canal in 1807. (fn. 23)
The population of Alton Barnes was 83 in 1801 and only nine cottages stood there in 1812. (fn. 24) The population more than doubled in the next 40 years but declined slowly from a maximum of 177 in 1861 to 122 in 1931. (fn. 25) Alton parish, 2,518 a., had 306 inhabitants in 1951 but only 195 in 1971. (fn. 26)
The village of Alton Barnes still stands around its church, west of which is the Old Rectory. East of the church is Alton Barnes Farm, an irregular twostoreyed brick house of at least three periods. The south end, of chequered brick with a stone plinth and quoins, dates from the early 18th century. The house was altered and extended later in the 18th century and further extended and reroofed in the early 19th century. A short distance north of the church are three farm-houses, once the houses attached to the three copyhold farms, connected to the church by a footpath which was a road until the 18th century. (fn. 27) Neates, the southernmost, is an irregular two-storeyed range of red brick under a thatched roof, and is mainly of the late 18th century. It retains its farm buildings, the oldest barn apparently of the 18th century. In 1970 they were disused, but formed an impressive group of timber-framed and brick buildings with thatched roofs standing west of the house. Maslens, beside Neates, is an Lshaped thatched building of which the older southern arm, a single-storey range with attics, appears originally to have been timber-framed and contains a stone fire-place of Tudor date. The walls were faced with brick at various periods and there is a brick addition at the north end. The western arm is a much higher structure of two tall storeys, cellar, and attics. It was built c. 1700 of brick on a base of sarsens. The front doorway is set in the angle bay beside the older wing. The bay contains a staircase of c. 1700. The height and architectural treatment of the south façade seem inappropriate to its narrow frontage: the intention may once have been to demolish the older wing and to extend the new range eastwards, making it symmetrical with a central doorway. To the south of the house a garden was in 1970 enclosed by a cob wall with a thatched top. Chandlers, north of Maslens, has a mid-18th-century west front of chequer brick on a stone plinth, and a recent tiled roof carried down to first-floor level on the east. A pair of possibly 17th-century cottages stands by the DevizesPewsey road, 18th- and 19th-century cottages are by the Avebury-Amesbury road, and some 20thcentury council houses are opposite the Old Rectory.
Edward of Salisbury held Alton Barnes in 1086. (fn. 28) He was succeeded by his son Walter (d. 1147) and grandson Patrick, first earl of Salisbury. Alton passed with the earldom to Margaret Longespée. (fn. 29) Her husband, Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, held the manor in 1275, (fn. 30) and it passed to his daughter Alice whose husband Thomas, earl of Lancaster, was overlord in 1316. (fn. 31) After Thomas's death in 1322 Alice surrendered many of her estates, including Alton, in favour of Hugh Despenser. (fn. 32) When Despenser's lands were forfeited to the Crown after his death in 1326 the overlordship of Alton was probably granted with the earldom of Salisbury to William de Montagu whose son William died seised of it in 1397. (fn. 33) It was allotted as dower to William's widow Elizabeth. (fn. 34) At her death in 1415 the overlordship reverted to Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury. (fn. 35)
Henry de Berners was possibly the tenant in demesne of the manor of ALTON BARNES in the late 12th century when he held land in Swanborough hundred. (fn. 36) The manor may have passed to John son of Hugh on his apparently bigamous marriage to Maud de Berners, and it was forfeited to the Crown with his other lands in 1216. (fn. 37) It may then have been granted to a succession of royal servants (fn. 38) but in 1241 Geoffrey son of John, presumably the son of John son of Hugh and Maud de Berners, recovered half the manor. (fn. 39) In 1242 half was held by Geoffrey and half by Robert of Huxham, then sheriff of Wiltshire. (fn. 40) Geoffrey son of John had apparently recovered the whole manor by 1253 when he conveyed it to William son of Walter. (fn. 41)
In 1257 William son of Walter settled the manor on himself with reversion to his son Walter. (fn. 42) William still held it in 1285 when William the son and Rose the widow of Walter son of William conveyed their interests in it to Henry Thistleden and his wife Isabel who became lords of the manor after the death of the elder William son of Walter. (fn. 43) By 1326 Henry Thistleden had been succeeded by John Thistleden, (fn. 44) who in 1328 settled the manor on himself and his wife Elizabeth with reversion to Geoffrey Blount. (fn. 45) After John's death the manor was apparently held by Nicholas Martin, presumably the husband of Elizabeth. (fn. 46) After Elizabeth's death before 1363, however, the manor passed under the settlement of 1328 to Margaret, the daughter and heir of Geoffrey Blount, the wife of Walter of Frampton, and then a minor.
In 1363 Walter of Frampton successfully resisted the claims of the daughters of the younger William son of Walter and of the heir of Henry Thistleden to the manor. (fn. 47) His tenure of it in his wife's right was confirmed in 1366 (fn. 48) and in 1367 Walter and Margaret conveyed it to William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, a transaction completed in 1370. (fn. 49) Under licences of the king and of William de Montagu, earl of Salisbury and overlord of Alton Barnes, William of Wykeham granted the manor in 1385 to the warden and scholars of the newlyfounded St. Mary College of Winchester in Oxford, commonly called New College, who still owned it in 1970. (fn. 50)
Alwin held Shaw T.R.E. William de Breuse held it in 1086 and Robert de Breuse held it of him. (fn. 51) The manor of SHAW was settled by William Salisbury on the marriage of his daughter Maud and William Spillman probably in the mid 13th century. (fn. 52) William died c. 1291 when the manor passed to his son Peter, who died seised of it in 1292. (fn. 53) One of Peter's heirs was his elder sister Maud, the wife of John Grimstead who held Shaw at his death c. 1314. (fn. 54) John was succeeded by his son John whose widow Margery held the manor in 1348. (fn. 55) In 1358 reversion of the manor was acquired by Thomas Rivers whose wife Joan was a daughter of the younger John Grimstead. (fn. 56) In 1374–5, Thomas Rivers settled Shaw on himself and Isabel, then his wife, (fn. 57) who sold it to William of Wykeham after Thomas's death in 1375. (fn. 58) The manor was granted with the manor of Alton Barnes to New College (fn. 59) and the composite manor was called the manor of Alton Barnes with Shaw. The rights of Thomas Rivers's heirs to Shaw were extinguished in 1411 by a quitclaim of Thomas Rivers, presumably after Isabel's death. (fn. 60)
Alton Barnes was assessed at 5 hides in 1086. There was said to be land for 4 ploughs on the estate, but the demesne had only 2 ploughs and 4 serfs, while 3 villeins, a bordar, and 6 coscez shared only a single plough. There were 25 a. of meadow and pasture 3 furlongs long and 2 furlongs broad. The estate was worth £5 T.R.E. and £6 in 1086. (fn. 61)
The estate at Shaw was worth 10s. T.R.E. and 20s. in 1086 when it comprised 2 hides of demesne land with a single plough and 1½ virgate shared by a villein and 2 bordars. There were 40 a. of pasture and woodland a league long and 3 furlongs broad. (fn. 62) Even by the early 14th century Shaw probably comprised no more than c. 110 a. of arable cultivated in common, and small areas of meadow land and several pasture. It supported a demesne farm, a freeholding which was presumably the farm later called Shaw farm, and three half-virgaters. (fn. 63) The grassland and woodland of the downs afforded common pasture, probably shared by the farmers of Shaw with men from villages below the downs. Rights to feed animals on the upland were possibly increased in 1330 when Shaw was placed outside Savernake forest. (fn. 64)
Alton and Shaw apparently remained completely separate economic units until the late 14th century when they passed to New College. The two demesne farms were not leased at that time and the college presumably amalgamated them. The college demesne, on which large flocks of sheep were kept, (fn. 65) was first leased in 1430. It included 108 a. of arable and stock valued at £74, and was leased for £14 a year. (fn. 66) Some time after New College acquired Alton and Shaw, probably in the earlier 15th century, the three customary holdings at Shaw were merged with the three at Alton. The composite farms thus established were worked by Alton men and the village of Shaw was abandoned.
The agrarian patterns at Alton and Shaw remained fundamentally unchanged in the period 1450–1650. The demesne farm of the manor of Alton with Shaw, called Alton farm, was leased, (fn. 67) although the estate remained subject to visitations by the college warden. William Button (d. 1547) of Alton Priors, tried to secure a lease of Alton farm in the 1530s, but the warden of New College was unwilling to lease it to the tenant of the neighbouring farm. (fn. 68) John Benger held it from 1528 until his death in 1547, after which the lease passed to his widow Margaret and Robert Woodroff, her next husband. After Woodroff's death, however, Alton farm was acquired, lawfully or otherwise, by William Button (d. 1591) who thereby united for a time Shaw farm and the demesne farms of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors. (fn. 69) Button's occupation of all the farms created difficulties for the lords of Alton Barnes. An order was made in 1584 to view lands at Shaw to avoid future confusion about which of Button's lands there belonged to Alton; he was said to have kept too many sheep on the common, and to have demolished Alton Barnes mill and diverted the water of the stream to drive his own mill in Alton Priors. (fn. 70) Alton farm was leased in 1596 to Anthony Mawkes who apparently held it for many years. (fn. 71) He was succeeded by another Anthony Mawkes who assigned his lease to Francis Hill in 1666. (fn. 72) In 1659 the farm comprised 157 a. of arable, 49 a. of meadow at Alton, 11 a. of several pasture at Shaw, and feeding rights for 21 cattle, 300 ewes, and 600 wethers. (fn. 73) There were five other farms in Alton, probably from the mid 15th century, and all with land at Shaw. They were the glebe farm, (fn. 74) the freeholding called Barnes, some 20 a., which was held with Alton farm in the time of John Benger, (fn. 75) and three copyholds. In 1628 the copyholds were worth £4 12s. a year in rents to New College. They comprised a total of 4½ virgates, and each was an amalgam of two former holdings, presumably one at Alton and one at Shaw. (fn. 76) All the farmsteads were in Alton village. South of them the meadow land was divided between the copyholders' few acres of common meadow and the farmer's several meadow. The tenants' common arable lay in an arc around the north and west of the village and the farmer's arable lay in an arc outside it. (fn. 77) Further north the upland of Alton was divided between a sheep-down and a cow-down common to the farmer and tenants. (fn. 78)
The land of Shaw was shared by the farmers of Alton and the tenant of Shaw farm. It consisted of a common arable field, Shaw field, (fn. 79) a few small several meadows or pastures, an extensive common sheep-down, (fn. 80) and the wooded eastern part of Shaw Down. (fn. 81) Pressure on the upland pastures around Shaw clearly increased in the 16th century when the lords of neighbouring manors were said to have inclosed their common downs. (fn. 82) A long dispute developed between the tenants of New College and the Skillings of Draycot Fitz Payne about the title to, pasture rights over, and the right to cut wood on, the eastern part of Shaw Down which apparently remained open. (fn. 83) The pastures of Shaw were used in 1659 by the tenant of Shaw farm with 1,100 sheep, the farmer of Alton Barnes with 600, the tenants of Alton with 600, and by the Skillings of Draycot with 300 sheep in the eastern part of the down. (fn. 84) Considerable economic benefit was also derived from the extensive woodlands on the down.
Great economic changes took place at Alton Barnes and Shaw after 1650. The land of Shaw, except the eastern part of Shaw Down, was inclosed in 1680. Sir John Button, then owner of Shaw farm, was allotted most of the land north of Wansdyke, and part of Shaw field, c. 140 a., south of it. New College was allotted the Barken grounds north of Wansdyke and the rest of the land south of it. (fn. 85) Both the arable and pasture land over which New College acquired sole title was divided and inclosed by the college's farmer and tenants of Alton Barnes. The tenant of Alton farm was allotted the southern part of Shaw field. The copyholders and the rector divided among them the northern part of Shaw field and the Barken grounds which were converted to arable. The sheep-down on the steeper land between Shaw field and the Barken grounds was divided into a copyholders' sheepdown, in which the rector also had feeding rights, and a farmer's down, in which the freeholder had feeding rights. (fn. 86) The wooded, eastern, part of Shaw Down was inclosed in 1693. (fn. 87) The land over which New College acquired sole rights was divided among the farmer and the copyholders of Alton Barnes and converted to arable. At the time of these inclosures at Shaw the upland of Alton south of Wansdyke was divided between the copyholders' sheep-down and the farmer's sheep-down, and the land north of Wansdyke was allotted to the farmer. (fn. 88)
The agrarian changes of the late 17th century resulted in an increased acreage for every farm in Alton. By the late 18th century there were still six farms, Alton farm, 595 a., the three copyholds, 87 a., 76 a., and 68 a., the freehold farm, and the glebe farm. Nearly all the land of Alton farm was cultivated in severalty, but the other farmers used in common some 95 a. of arable and 3 a. of meadow at Alton. Sheep-downs at Alton and Shaw, 54 a. and 70 a. respectively, were used by the copyholders for flocks of 220 sheep, including 40 of the freeholder, and 240 sheep, including 40 of the rector. The freeholder also fed 40 sheep with the farmer's flock. In 1797 the parish included some 530 a. of arable, 400 a. of pasture, 43 a. of meadow, much of it water-meadow, and Shaw copse, 11½ a. (fn. 89)
Between 1797 and 1812 Maslen's and Chandler's copyholds were merged to make a farm of more than 150 a. (fn. 90) In 1812 the common arable, called Home field or 'Below Hill', was inclosed by agreement, and, presumably at the same time, the copyholders' common sheep-down at Alton was divided between the two tenants. (fn. 91) By 1839 there were only three farms in the parish. Alton farm, held from 1805 to at least 1853 by Robert Pile, (fn. 92) who, like several previous tenants, also owned the freehold farm, amounted to 629 a. in all. Maslen's farm amounted to 206 a. and its tenant also leased the 36 a. of glebe. Neate's farm amounted to 89 a. (fn. 93) By 1882 Neate's and part of Maslen's had been added to Alton farm, and the rest of Maslen's was leased to J. Stratton with Alton farm in 1907. The rector's portion of the former copyholders' sheep-down at Shaw, assessed at 23 a., was sold to New College in 1966 and was leased to the tenant of Alton farm, Mr. A. G. Stratton. (fn. 94) In 1970 the parish land was all part of one farm and devoted largely to arable and dairy farming.
There was a mill worth 10s. at Alton Barnes in 1086, (fn. 95) and a mill stood on the manor until c. 1580. It was situated c. ½ mile south of the village, driven by the stream flowing from Broad Well spring, and was apparently leased with the demesne. It was demolished by William Button when he was lessee and when he also held the near-by Alton Priors mill on the other bank of the stream. The Alton Priors mill was demolished c. 1650 and there were subsequent disputes, apparently resolved in favour of Alton Priors, over the course of, and the rights to, the water of the boundary stream which was especially useful for watering meadows. (fn. 96)
Court records for the manor of Alton Barnes with Shaw exist for the years 1384–9, when separate courts were held for Alton and Shaw, 1453, 1482, 1496, and 1501–1875. (fn. 97) The courts were held once a year by the steward during the warden's progress, (fn. 98) but could also be held at other times of the year. (fn. 99) New College exercised no public jurisdiction in Alton Barnes. The courts were therefore solely concerned with the administration of agrarian custom and tenurial business.
Saxon work in the church at Alton Barnes indicates that it was built there before the Conquest. (fn. 102) The rectory was united with the chapelry of Alton Priors in 1913 and, under an Order in Council of 1928, with the rectory of Stanton St. Bernard in 1932. (fn. 103) In 1928 the hamlet of Honey Street was detached from the ecclesiastical parish of Woodborough and annexed to Alton Barnes, and the hamlet of West Stowell was detached from Alton Priors and annexed to Wilcot ecclesiastical parish. (fn. 104)
The advowson of the church passed with the lordship of the manor. The king licensed Henry of Cerne to present in 1216 when the lands of John son of Hugh were in his hands, (fn. 105) and rectors were subsequently presented by Henry Thistleden and John Thistleden. Nicholas Martin, possibly lord of the manor in his wife's right, presented in 1335 and 1349, but Henry and Geoffrey Thistleden, presumably relatives of John Thistleden, presented in 1342 and 1361 respectively, perhaps under grants of Nicholas and his wife. William of Wykeham presented in 1376 and thereafter the patronage was exercised by New College. (fn. 106)
The value of the church was put at £5 in 1291, (fn. 107) and at £6 19s. in 1535. (fn. 108) The living, worth an average of £294 in the years 1829–31, (fn. 109) was of average wealth among the livings of the hundred but in 1861 the warden and scholars of New College resolved to increase its value by annexing Neate's copyhold to it. Although the rent from Neate's was possibly paid to the rector, the annexation was deferred until a vacancy in the living and the resolution was rescinded in 1883. (fn. 110)
The rector received the great and small tithes from the whole parish. They were commuted for a rent-charge of £262 10s. in 1839. (fn. 111)
The glebe included land at Shaw and at Alton. It was estimated to be some 15 a. in the 16th century, but at 18 a. with pasture rights for 100 sheep in the early and mid 17th century. (fn. 112) After the 17thcentury inclosure of land at Shaw the glebe amounted to some 39 a., still with rights in Shaw common down. (fn. 113) Most of the glebe, but not the common pasturage, was sold in 1915. (fn. 114) The former glebehouse, called the Old Rectory in 1970, stands immediately west of the church. (fn. 115) The front range, of two storeys and five bays, was built in the early 18th century. One of the chimneys is dated 1739. The house was enlarged 1785–7 by the addition of a back range containing the present staircase. (fn. 116) A chimney carries the date 1785 and a brick near the eaves is dated 1786.
William de Kyngrave, presented to the church in 1319, was refused institution by the bishop because of his lack of learning. Custody of the church was granted to Richard Thistleden, probably a relative of Henry Thistleden, then lord of the manor. William was instituted in 1320 but required to present himself to the bishop once a year until he had made up his lack of learning. (fn. 117) In 1409 Ralph Gardiner, rector 1393–1415, (fn. 118) was licensed to be absent for a year to serve the abbot of St. Albans. (fn. 119) The church was later served by men of learning, many of them fellows of New College. Richard Steward (d. 1651), the author of a number of religious works, though not a fellow of the college, became rector c. 1630. He held several other benefices, was a royalist, and followed Charles II to France. (fn. 120) He was succeeded as rector of Alton by the Puritan Obadiah Wills, presented in 1652. (fn. 121) It was suggested to parliamentary commissioners that the congregations of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors should be united, and that was achieved in practice by Wills who in 1656 became curate of Alton Priors where the former royalist curate was dispossessed. (fn. 122) Wills was ejected in 1660 and the two congregations were separated. (fn. 123) Much had been done to restore the Anglican order at Alton by 1662 (fn. 124) but a book of homilies was not purchased until 1687. (fn. 125)
Two services were held every Sunday in 1783 and Holy Communion was celebrated four times. (fn. 126) William Crowe, a poet and divine, was rector from 1787 to 1829. He was in the habit of walking between Alton and Oxford where he was the university's public orator. (fn. 127) He was succeeded as rector of Alton by Augustus Hare who also, unofficially, served the church of Alton Priors. Services were held alternately in the two churches. They were held on all saints' days, every Wednesday and Friday in Lent, and twice on Sundays with comments on Old Testament lessons in the morning and sermons in the afternoon. In addition to serving the church Hare joined with the villagers of Alton in forming a co-operative society, divided part of the glebe into allotments, and, with his wife, held schools for the poor. He forsook richer livings for the 'quiet life' at Alton but left the parish in 1833 shortly before his death. (fn. 128) The rector was assisted by a curate in 1864. Communion was celebrated six or seven times a year, services were held at the main festivals and twice a week in Lent, but the second Sunday service was replaced by a Sunday school. (fn. 129)
The church of ST. MARY consists of nave and chancel only. Its Saxon origin is clear from parts of its masonry, including long and short quoins at the west end, and from the high narrow proportions of the nave. (fn. 130) The damaged west window and the old north doorway date from the 14th century. (fn. 131) The chancel was reroofed c. 1661 (fn. 132) and rebuilt in 1748. (fn. 133) Alterations were made to the interior of the church in 1832 (fn. 134) but c. 1875 the chancel arch collapsed and the east wall of the nave had to be taken down. (fn. 135) The church and its 15th-century roof were restored in 1904 under the direction of C. E. Ponting. (fn. 136)
There were two bells at Alton in 1553, subsequently replaced by two dated 1626 and 1788. (fn. 137) They were hung between the ceiling and the roof of the nave until 1904 when they were rehung in the west gable. (fn. 138) The church possessed a chalice of 8 oz. in 1553 when 2 oz. of silver were taken for the king. (fn. 139) A chalice, paten, and flagon were given in 1757. (fn. 140) The flagon was missing in 1973. The registers date from 1592 and are complete. (fn. 141)
A church was built at Shaw in the early 14th century. Excavations undertaken in 1929 indicate that it consisted only of a rectangular nave, larger than the nave of Alton church, with north and south doorways and large windows in the east and west walls. One of the windows is possibly that in the west wall of Alton church since a tradition existed among the villagers that stones of Alton church were brought from Shaw church. It is not known how Shaw church was served, nor when it ceased to exist, but it was probably abandoned about the time that Shaw village was deserted. (fn. 142)
Anthony Mawkes was granted a licence for a Congregational place of worship in Alton Barnes in 1673, (fn. 143) but there is no other evidence of dissent in the parish before 1822 when a house was registered as a meeting-place. (fn. 144) A Baptist lived in the parish in 1831, (fn. 145) and a small group of Wesleyans lived there in 1864 but no permanent congregation was established. (fn. 146)
A school at Alton Barnes was opened in 1829, (fn. 147) and by 1833 was attended by 10 boys and 16 girls including some from Alton Priors. (fn. 148) A new school was built in 1837 and attended by children of both the Altons and of the near-by hamlet of Honey Street in Woodborough. (fn. 149) Attendances increased to 84 by 1906 but declined to 51 by 1938. (fn. 150) In 1969 the children of Stanton St. Bernard, where the school was closed, joined the school at Alton. In 1973 25 children attended it. (fn. 151)
Charities for the Poor.
Francis Brereton, rector of Alton Barnes, bequeathed by his will proved 1865 £100 for the poor of the parish. The sum was held by the incumbents of Alton Barnes until 1903 when it was transferred to trustees. The annual interest of £2 10s. was distributed to the poor in cash or in kind. In 1904 the rector gave 2 cwt. of coal to each of 23 poor families in the parish at Christmas. (fn. 152) The income was later distributed in cash but in 1971 it was put towards the cost of an annual party for old people. (fn. 153)
Six cottages in the parish, once occupied as a poorhouse and afterwards leased by the overseers in aid of the poor-rate, possibly had their origin in a charitable endowment for the poor. The cottages were sold in 1886, the proceeds invested, and the interest put towards the parish poor-rate. (fn. 154)