Chapter V. Ecclesiastical affairs (1)

THE probability, that there was a, church here before the Norman conquest, has been mentioned already in dealing with the manor. The first recorded fact connected with it is, that Richard Basset and Matilda gave the church of Coleston together with many others, to the Priory of Launde in Leicestershire.This grant was confirmed by King Henry I, the date being probably 1125, in which year the priory was established.

“As the monastic system developed it became common for benefacters and founders of religious houses to endow them with benefices in which case the monastery became the rector of the parish, took the tithe, and made itself responsible for the services in the parish church. This duty it usually fulfilled by sending one of its own members to say mass, or by hiring the chance ministrations of some wandering priest. Thus a considerable number of the parishes of England were deprived of a resident parish priest, and the endowment which was originally given to maintain a resident incumbents went to swell the corporate revenue of a, distant monastery. To remedy this abuse, Archbishop Langton, following the rules laid down by the Council of the the Lateran held in 1215 ordered that in all parishes held by monasteries, vicarages should be established and endowed by a portion of the tithe arid offerings so that every parish should have a resident priest of its own. The proportion of the assigned for the support of the vicar seems to have been about one-third of the whole.” See H. O. Wakeman's History of the Church of England).

This description no doubt applied to Colston Bassett. Seeing that Launde is over 20 miles away, it may easily be imagined that the ministrations of the church were supplied in a, very haphazard manner during a period of just over a century. On 13th April, 1228; Walter, Archbishop of York, ordained that there should be a vicar here, who should be presented by the Priory; further, that the vicar should “have assigned to him the whole altarage of the church, and one toft and croft, with a virgate of land next the toft, also the tithe of fourteen oxgangs of land in the town of Neubaud, as well of garbs as hay, and the tythe of two mills."1

On the same day Martyn de Leycester was instituted as vicar, on the presentation of the Prior and Convent of Launde. Undoubtedly he was the first vicar, properly so called. A list of the vicars with, in most cases, the dates of their institution is given by Mr. J. T. Godfrey2; the first of 18 of these were presented by the priory of Launde, bringing us down to the time of the Reformation; most of these had probably been inmates of the priory. The assignment of the vicar’s portion of the endowments is interesting; except for an augmentation of the benefice in 1914, there has been little change during 700 years. The toft is the old vicarage homestead, the boundaries of which are still distinctly marked by ancient baulks ; this, with the croft and virgate of land, will make approximately the 40 acres of land still forming the vicar’s glebe; whilst the tithes on land in Newbold are now represented by tithe-rent-charge paid on land in Kinoulton. It should be noted, as to Newbold, that the tithes were on garbs (or corn) and hay, and thereforie were rectorial tithes, from which arises the claim, alluded to by Thoroton, of the vicar of Colston Bassett to be also the rector of Newbold.

From the year 1228 must be dated the distinction between the rectory and the vicarage. Henceforward, by the word rectory we must understand all that part of the original endowment of the church which remained in possession of the priory; in this case there were the great titles besides a con­siderable amount of land and also a rectory house with farm buildings, which may have been erected at a later date, but were certainly standing in 1600. The profits of all this property went to swell the revenues of the priory. In 1291 the annual value of the rectory was returned at £30, whilst the vicarage was put down at £5. Either there would be a bailiff resident in the rectory house, or else the property would be let out on lease. Godfrey quotes in full the terms of one such lease, made 19th April, 1523 to Anthony Babington, of Dethick, esq., for 21 years. The lease included the church and parsonage of Colston Bassett, with all the glebe-lands, meadows and pastures, and also all manner of tithe-corn and herbage and all other profits and commodities, but excluding those of the vicarage. The prior and convent were to leave the chancel, parsonage and all other houses sufficiently repaired, and the said Anthony was to maintain them in repair. The rent was put down at £16 a year. It is evident that the former tenant, John Aleyn, had recently died, as his will was proved 30th April in the same year.

There were other church lands in the parish, besides the rectory and vicarage. The priory of Launde, besides the rectory, owned three messuages in the village, each with lands and meadows in the common fields; these may have formed part of the original grant by Richard and Matilda Bassett. Then there was the chapel of St. Ivo, with its endowment of land. All these have been referred to in the description of the map of 1600. It is also recorded that a certain Richard de Barneston, in 1178-9, gave to the priory of Lenton two bovates or oxgangs of land in Coleston, with the man who held them.

In 1536 and following years came the suppression of mon­asteries throughout Engand by King Henry VIII, involving the confiscation to the Crown of the greater part of their endowments. These in time were granted to court favourites, or sold on easy terms to any one who would buy; at any rate they became lay property. What became of the various properties in Colston? As regards the chapel of St. Ivo I have not come across any record. The two oxgangs belonging to the priory of Lenton may very likely be the same as “one toft and two oxgangs of land meadow and pasture in Colston Bassett called Monkesman lands alias Wyverton land held of Sir George Chaworth, knt.”; this occurs in a schedule of lands held by the first Edward Golding, the schedule being made after his death in 1580.

The property formerly belonging to the priory of Launde remained in the hands of the Crown until 27th March, 1601, on Which date Queen Elizabeth granted the whole of it by letters patent to Anthony Nevell, gentleman, who paid for, it the sum of £877. 6. 5d. The original document, bearing the Queen’s signature and with her seal attached, is preserved at Colston Bassett hall. The grant distinguishes carefully between the rectory and the other Launde property; and also refers to former grants of leases from the crown, which were still in force. By letters patent, dated 6th July, 1568, a lease of the rectory had been granted to Lady Dorothy Stafford, widow, of the Queen’s Privy Chamber; the lease to be for 30 years dating froth 9th April, 1585 (probably the date of expiry of an already existing lease), at a yearly rent of £16. The other possessions, formerly of Launde priory, are described as three tenements, late in the tenure of the widow of John Harte, Geoffrey Robinson and William Welles respectively; and tithes of hay arising from a certain meadow formerly in the several tenure of John Hart and Geoffrey Robinson. These by letters patent dated 17th March, 1584, were leased to Roland Ashley, gentleman, for the term of 21 years, he paying yearly 19s., 20s. and 13s. 4d. respectively for the three tenements, and 15s. for the tithe of hay. In this case again the lease was post-dated; it was to date from the surrender, forfeiture or determination of a lease of these premises amongst others formerly made to Edward Goulding the father and Edward Goulding his son for 21 years, which latter lease was granted by letters patent dated 23rd February, 1579.

The advowson, that is to say the right of presenting or nominating the vicar, was not included in any of these grants. It remained in the hands of the Crown and remains so to this day, though the actual appointments arc made by the Lord Chancellor. The last appointment made by the priory was in 1535. The next two, in 1547 and 1554, are stated to have been made by the assigns of the prior and convent of Launde. The remainder, with one exception, were made by the Crown; the exception is Roger Litherland, who became vicar after the death of Roger Jacson in 1651, when all ecclesiastical affairs were under the control of parliament.

On 6th May, 1601, Thomas Markham of Kirkbye Bellers, co. Leicester, esq., and his servant Anthony Nevell, of London, mortgaged to Henry Clerke of Rayslippe (Ruislip) co Middlesex, esq, for £1200 repayable on 10th January next all the above-named premises lately belonging to the priory of Launde subject to the leases already mentioned.

By indenture made 11th January 1602 between Sir Gryffyn Markeham of Kerkbye Bellers knt and Anthony Nevell servant to Thomas Markham on the one part and Henry Clerke on the other —Henry Clerke to obtain his money was willing to join the Markhams in any outright sale the best offer they could obtain was £1700 but the intending purchaser finding on inspection that the premises were subject to ward hip withdrew and would not give £1500 Clerke agreed to an extension of time till 31st May next, with repayment of £1367.

On 19th June 1605 Markham and Nevell sold outright to Henry Clerke, in return for £550 paid by Edward Golding, of Eye, co Suffolk gent. And finally, on 21st June 1605 we have the sale of the rectory by Henry Clerke to Edward Golding.

From this time the lands belonging to the rectory and also, apparently, the other lands formerly belonging to Launde priory, became absorbed in the manorial estate. The position as regards the rectorial tithes is clearly defined in the tithe award of 1842: on property owned, at that time, by Henry Burgess Martin, esq., and Henry Corles Bingham, esq., about 1909 acres in all, the great tithes are stated to have been merged in the said lands the vicar’s glebe-lands are exempt from all tithe; as to the remainder, about 445 acres, the several owners of the lands are also impropriators of the great tithes arising therefrom the total commuted value of these being £64 6s.

1. Archbishop Walter Gray's 's Register (Surtees Society). Garbs=sheaves. i.e. tithe of corn crops, usually known as “great or rectorial tithe.” “Alterage”=fees and offerings. T.M.B.
2. In his "Churches of the hundred of Bingham," 1907.