Whilton Local History Society

The next meeting

Friday 14th November - 7.30 pm in the village hall:  Brockhall Water Gardens in the 18th and 19th centuries: a continuation of the Brook Project

The meeting in November last year, heard a fascinating and enthusiastic talk entitled "Canons Ashby, a Labour of Love" by Bob Illingworth, who is a National Trust garden volunteer there.  He explained how the decisions were made to restore the gardens to their late Victorian appearance, followed by the meticulous research and the hard labours of the gardeners.  We saw the 1896 plans drawn by Sir Henry Dryden, showing the gardens as he knew them, and early 20th century photos which gave clues about layout and planting.

Bob’s enthusiasm and expertise, combined with illustrations of the restoration work and the lovely photos of the renewed gardens made the evening very worthwhile for all who attended.

We came away with much more knowledge about the history of the house, garden and estate, and many of us decided to revisit the gardens with new eyes in 2014.


Our local history expert, Anthea Hiscock, has written a book 'Living in the Gap' covering the history of Whilton covering the period 1,000-2,000 AD.  If you would like a copy (281pp price £12.99) please ring Anthea on 01327 843319 or email her.  For an independent review of the book by local resident Tom Price, see here.


Previous meetings (click on the links below)

Whilton on the Eve of War (May 2014)

Roughmoor through eight centuries (January 2014)

The Brook Project: Peopling the Map (September 2013)

A Voice from Whilton's Past (July 2013)

1656 - One Document's Story (March 2013)

The Art of Whilton (November 2012)

Who was who in South View (September 2012)

Ridge and Furrow - a talk by Barry Smith (July 2012)

Orphaned and fatherless of Whilton (March 2012)

Faces of Whilton (January 2012)

Barley, malt and beer in Whilton  (November 2011)

Don Welch and his Times  (July 2011)

What to see in Whilton Churchyard  (May 2011)

What have you found in your garden? (March 2011)

The Stone House  (January 2011)

Christmas Parties at Whilton Lodge (November 2010)

The Plough: Past into Present (May 2010)

Worn in Whilton (March 2010)

Wadds in a Name (January 2010)

William Langton and his Farm (November 2009)

Landlubbers and Boatmen (September 2009)

The Tale of Tommy Adams (July 2009)

Monuments and Memories in Whilton Church (May 2009)

Fetes and Festivals (March 2009)

A Typical Medieval Winter Meal (January 2009)

Whilton Charities (November 2008)

Whilton Fields (August 2008)

The Poor (July 2008)

May 2014


What the parish was like in the run up to the First World War.

The 1911 census shows that, omitting visitors and passing boat people, there were 102 males and 113 females, making a total of 215 inhabitants in 64 households.  The census recorded 24 farm labourers in the parish, but 11 of these were over 50, the oldest being 76 year old Frank Hillyard at the Locks.  Here I introduce you to just a few Whilton people.

Edmund Henry Bevan, the owner of Whilton Lodge, was a retired cement manufacturer.  He, his young wife and two little daughters lived in a world apart from the main parish with 26 people living on his estate and coming from all over the country.  Among their many jobs were lady’s maid, butler, cook, stud worker, chauffeur, gardeners and coachman.  Edmund Bevan was High Sheriff for Northamptonshire in 1912, and steward at the Pytchley Hunt Ball in January 1913, but just before the War he left Whilton.  This probably led to the dispersal of his household.  His successor Sir Kay Muir used the Lodge mainly as a hunting lodge, and may have just kept a skeleton staff here. This probably means that about 10 men who would have been eligible to fight in 1914 had already left Whilton.

The picture we formed of Whilton showed a depressed poor village.  The shadow of the workhouse loomed.  John Hillyard had come from a large struggling family in Whilton.  As a young man he had been sentenced to hard labour for stealing potatoes, he had worked as a labourer, carrier and farm worker, and had first entered the Workhouse in 1903.  He was brought before the Northamptonshire Assizes in November, pleading guilty to an attempted suicide in Whilton.  "P. C. Johnson said that the prisoner discharged himself from the Workhouse, and cut his throat because he wanted to lie in the churchyard.  Prisoner was discharged, and his Lordship directed the Police to see that he returned to the Workhouse." Widow Ethel Hillyard living in Buckby Lane in 1911 was no doubt a relative.  A number of tiny cottages were squeezed into Buckby Lane, among them the home of Joseph Adams and his daughter Isabella.  Joseph had lost his wife in childbirth in 1876, and struggled to bring up three children, the family having to resort to periods in the Workhouse in Daventry.  Joseph himself finally died in the Workhouse aged 82 in 1924.

Harry Dunkley was landlord of the Plough Inn, living here with his wife Elizabeth and niece Barbara Gammage; he also acted as the village carrier.  About exactly 100 years ago tragedy hit this family on 26th May 1914.  The witnesses’ account of that morning gives us a picture of normal life on the canal at this period.  Harry Webb a carpenter for the Canal Company said he was moving material from a shed opposite Whilton Lock, helped by another canal employee Walter Manning.  Henry Dunkley was carting stone close by on the off-side of the canal.

About 9.45 a.m. Harry Webb and Henry Dunkley had a chat by the stop gate of the lock, and then Henry Dunkley went off towards the place where he was carting, probably part of his job as the local carrier. 55 minutes later the two canal workers saw a pocket handkerchief and cap in the canal, and then minutes later they saw a body in the lock.  They dragged it out, but Henry Dunkley was past help.  His death remains a mystery.  Henry was sober; his brother James from modern Church Farm said he was in his usual health the day before.  The doctor recorded death caused by drowning in the six feet of water in the lock, following concussion.

Opposite the Plough was once the main farm of the village, with its old stone and thatch farmhouse, yard and buildings. In this period the building housed two old spinsters and their servant.  Anne and Laura Emery were the only representatives of the family in Whilton.  There had been complications over inheritance, bankruptcy of Robert Emery from Home Farm, and a general depression.  The main farming Emerys were living in Norton.

In part of the modern "Old Post Office" next to Rose Briar (the home of John SL Townley), live George Tomlinson with his wife and baby son Elgar Frank.  George worked as a canal clerk, but was an accomplished pianist and composer, publishing some of his works in the 1920's after he had left Whilton.

Tom Essen, a farm labourer with his two sons lived in the Stone House, and also kept an outdoor beer shop here.  Behind this was a short lane leading to the Corner House, a stone and thatched farmhouse, but its occupants were ladies of private means and none with local roots.  Widow Eliza Loam had been born in Peterhead, Scotland.  Her three spinster daughters lived with her, and her niece Helen.

Mrs Loam was the mother-in-law of the rector, Rev William Henry Logan.  In the Rectory we find the rector with his interests in education and role as education inspector for the diocese, his wife Eliza, whose three sisters were next door, and the three Rectory children.  The oldest, Michael Loam Logan was an articled clerk, an architect and a surveyor, aged 26 in 1911.  He had two younger sisters, Helen and Charity.  Charity, known as Miss Cherry, was 18 when war broke.  She was popular for her work leading the local Scout troop, supported by her father.  In later years she married a clergyman and moved to Windsor.  Michael enlisted and served throughout the War.

There was an intriguing visitor to Whilton on census night.  The Rectory had a guest; Violet Winifred Raynell aged 17 had been born in Kobe, Japan, but it was noted she was a British subject by her parentage.  She was on a visit to England and returned alone on the long voyage to Japan in 1912.  She had visited England before when she was 7 and came with her mother.  There must be another story lurking here, but she was probably a relative of the Logans.

Whilton-eve-of-war-Kate-Rose-etcThe family at Field View are an example of some of the movements of local families and the link with Birmingham.  The head of the family was Thomas Higgerson, a railway worker, who had been born in Norton.  His wife Kate had come from Birmingham.  Her roots, however, were in Whilton, as she was a great grand daughter of the first schoolmaster of Whilton, Thomas Taylor.  Thomas and Kate had a number of children, one of whom, Tom, was in the forces by the end of the First World War.

Whilton School was not thriving.  Mrs Sharpe the head, resigned in 1911 and her replacement Miss Lamerton was unpopular in the village, using her taws or whip too frequently and failing in her discipline.  Some parents sent their children to Long Buckby instead.  There were only 24 children recorded in the 1911 census and so the talk of building a new school must have been unrealistic. There were also difficulties because Mrs Sharpe refused to move out of the School House.

Next door in Rose Cottage lived elderly Dorothy (Dolly) Dyer, the daughter of previous schoolteachers, now running the Post Office, playing the church organ and describing herself as a seamstress.  Usually dressed in black, she was respected by the village, but seen as a bit eccentric.  Sadly she too ended her days in Daventry Workhouse.

Down at the Locks the Spotted Cow was a busy pub, particularly catering for the boat people, with landlord William Elliott and his wife Mary, and further down the canal, Windlass Cottage was the home of Thomas and Kate Rose Adams, with their baby son, Will.  Tom was a canal lengthsman, looking after the canal from Whilton until half way to Weedon.  With the heavy wear of boatpeople and their horses, this would have been an unending maintenance task.  Tom enlisted in 1915 and served as a driver in the Expeditionary Force.

The large double fronted house on the site of the carpet shop was the home of Frank Litchfield with his wife, three children and two living in servants.  Frank was a horse breaker and trainer, who had been born in Long Buckby.  He became Captain Frank Litchfield and held a position in the prisoner of war centre at Brixworth, living in Brixworth Grange.  He later became the secretary of the Pytchley Hunt.

Despite well over 20 men from Whilton serving in the Forces, it is a remarkable fact that no one from Whilton was killed.

The sequel to this meeting will be in the autumn, when we hear about the man from Whilton who won the VC in 1917.

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January 2014


Until 2012 Roughmoor was part of Brockhall.  It has had links with Whilton for centuries, but has now become part of our parish.

The earliest reference to "Roughmoor" dates from the first half of the 13th century. It was then the name of a furlong in Brockhall open fields.  Its meaning is obscure.  It has been suggested that it means "area of waste", but the evidence of its history does not back this up.  Documentary evidence suggests that for much of its history the area was known as “Roomer", and the "mer" may come from an old word meaning "boundary”.  From the late 1880s it was sometimes called "Ringmore Grounds", perhaps a change designed to make it sound better!

Despite the mystery over its meaning there is a surprising amount known about this area of about 100 acres, and this is just an attempt to pick out some of the highlights we heard about.

In medieval times Brockhall and Muscott both had open strip fields, but as Muscott was a much bigger settlement, it provided some of the labour for Brockhall.  Roughmoor came within the manor of Brockhall and in 1249 Sir Philip Lucien became lord of Brockhall on his marriage to Joan Wake.  The Luciens remained here for several generations; in 1322 there is a record that part of Roughmoor furlong was being farmed by Margery Lucien, lady of Brockhall.  No doubt it was her labourers who were doing the work!

This regular farming system might have continued for many generations, with a prospering village nucleus at Muscott.  However, the later 1300s were marked by bad weather and poor harvests, weakening the villagers who depended on their own crops for survival, and probably meaning they were less robust to face the disaster which hit from the outside.  The Black Death appears to have reached this area around 1349, with recurring bouts in 1361/2 and through the following decades.

There was some trouble in 1362, when Robert Syer of Brockhall complained that the lord of Whilton, his wife and his son and a few others assaulted him in Brockhall after Robert Syer’s sheep got into Whilton.  They had impounded his cattle in Whilton and made him pay a hundred shillings to release them.  He claimed he was afraid they would kill him.  A hundred of his sheep had been hunted and bitten by Whilton’s dogs, leading to 20 of them dying.  Whilton’s lord was fined for his actions.

One interpretation of this event is that for some reason the boundary hedges or fences between Brockhall and Whilton were not being maintained.  This may be an indication that there had been a drastic decrease in the population.  Within a short time in about 1375 James de Nevill and his son died.  Most of Muscott township appears to have been abandoned by 1377.  This may well have been caused by another visitation of the plague.

In 1410 Sir Robert Tyrwhit purchased Brockhall manor.  The Tyrwhit family lived here for a while and the family continued to own Brockhall, but they were an old and powerful family with other interests and property particularly in Lincolnshire and Huntingdon, with a seat at Kettleby.

These new owners were faced with the aftermath of population decline.  In 1433 Sir William Tyrwhit took a new departure in physically separating Roughmoor from the rest of Brockhall with a fence or hedge, so that it would no longer be arable, but used entirely for sheep grazing.  It was far from the village and on the boundary with Whilton and Brington.  By enclosing about 100 acres for sheep he dramatically reduced the labour required.

The strips within Roughmoor were exchanged for others in the main manor.  This suggests that there were lands which had reverted to the lord after the departure of his tenants.  Even today, after nearly six centuries, the clearly marked ridge and furrow reveals the old arable farming.  This must be evidence against those who believe the derivation of the name means "area of waste".  Such clear ridge and furrow after so long must indicate many centuries of cultivation before enclosure.  From 1433, when Roughmoor was referred to as "the new inclosure next to Whilton," its history changed as it became permanent pasture.

The Tyrwhits let Roughmoor to tenants and sub tenants.  In 1538 Lawrence Wassyngton of Northampton took on a lease of “the manor and a close called Roughmer", paying annually "at the front stone in the cathedral church of St Paul in London, £33.6.8."  Robert Tyrwhit, esquire for the body of the King, would often have been in London.  By 1578 William Salter and Henry Roper of Daventry were paying an increased annual rent of £100, paid half yearly to Sir Robert Tyrwhit, "at his mansion house at Kettelbye".  The lease allowed these tenants to take the "shredde tops and Iopps" of all manner of oaks, ashes, willows, elms and all manner of thorns growing "in and about the said Close of Riughmere as in and about the manor and premises.”  "Shredding" is a traditional method of tree pruning by which all side branches are removed repeatedly leaving the main trunk and top growth.

The Tyrwhits were a powerful family, and through Tudor times were present at all the royal courts. However, mixing in such elevated circles had its disadvantages.  In 1580 Sir William Tyrwhit was committed to the Tower, a suspected Catholic sympathiser, and as Tyrwhit fortunes fell, Brockhall manor was sold in 1583.

Roughmoor was now established as a sheep farming close, and after a time in the ownership of Lawrence Eyton, it was sold to Robert Andrew of Harlestone.  Late Elizabethan records give us some details.  Robert Langton, a Whilton farmer recorded that: "Roomer. .. will keepe about x score sheepe and so manie hath the sayd Mr Eaton kept on the same yearely and most of the sheepe have benne ewes and of them hath had Iambes everie lamb he estemeth to be worth iis vid."  Robert Linnell of Whilton cautiously agreed with him that Roughmoor could: ‘‘bear ii hundred sheepe or thereabout but what number of sheepe and Iambes or other beastes the seyd Mr Eaton hath kept thereon he this deponent doth not knowe."

In the mid seventeenth century Henry and Barbery Smith were farming Roughmoor and there was a house there by 1649.  By the 1700s Roughmoor had been divided in to several closes.  In 1738 woadman John Lawson had a short tenancy of Banky Roughmoor and Roughmoor Meadow, but his agreement stipulated that woad could not be grown on these fields, so they remained as pasture.

Roughmoor was farmed for most of the 19th century by the Judkin family, descendants of Whilton carpenter and farmer, George Judkin.  By 1807, however, they were the tenants of the Thorntons of Brockhall, who had gained Roughmoor through marriage into the Andrew family.  As part of the Thornton estate, Roughmoor had a stone pit, which was in frequent use when the Thorntons altered the roads across their property, especially in the 1830s.  All trace of this pit has disappeared.

The Judkins were graziers.  They bought and sold at Northampton Fair and their produce was of good quality.  For example in December 1860 the Mercury reported on the Christmas Meat Show, which included "some very fine oxen and heifers, fed by several farmers including ...Mr Judkins, Romer Grounds".  This prosperity was in the years of high farming and before the agricultural depression of the Iate1800s.  William Judkin, who died in 1871 was sometimes described as farmer, but also as “gentleman".

By late Victorian times the Judkins had left Roughmoor.  For a short time James and Hester Stevenson with their five young children lived there, and they were followed by a family from Devon, named Burgoin.  In 1901 Susan Burgoin was continuing to farm there as a widow.

In 1908 a couple from Gloucestershire took on the tenancy.  When they arrived George and Sarah Pride already had one little daughter, Freda, and in 1910 another little girl was born, named Blanche Elizabeth, but always known as Betty.  George struggled to make a living in the early years, but the Thornton Estate was also drawing in its horns. In 1920 George Pride had the option to buy his farm, for £4,300, which he was able to do by realising some investments, and not taking on a mortgage, which was a matter of principle for him.

The Prides remained there for another 30 years.  Towards the end of George’s life Sarah and her two daughters kept the farm going with help from prisoners of war.  George Pride died in 1946, and Sarah in 1951.  The Misses Pride came to live in Dormer Cottage in 1966 and sometime before that Roughmoor was transferred to Fred Richmond, a race horse breeder and builder involved in various speculations.  After five years he moved on and the farm was purchased by the Wilson family, who farmed here for four years before selling to Joan and Griff Davies in 1970, happily remembered by many in Whilton.  A new house and stables have now been built on the site of the old farm, and this is now the home of Andrew and Margaret Jack, Margaret being the daughter of Griff and Joan Davies.

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September 2013


In this project we are looking at the history which surrounds the stream which passes Whilton, and then runs down past Brockhall towards the Nene.  After marking the map with coloured flags to represent historic figures along the route we heard about two locations passed by the stream, Muscott village and Whilton Mill.


Today there is hardly anything left of Muscott beyond the farm and two or three cottages.  This makes it hard to imagine the bustling agricultural community there in the 1200s and 1300s.  Between 1301 and 1377 there was a startling drop of taxpayers in Brockhall and Muscott together from 48 to 5; even allowing for some discrepancies, this must indicate a major disaster, and it is most tempting to look to the Black Death, whether people simply died or chose to abandon the village.

We do have some clues about the people of Muscott before the disaster.  Surnames were only just beginning, so many people had only one name and a description which would later become a surname.  This was particularly important as Richard was so popular!

Walking through Muscott in the 1200s, we might have met William, son of Stephen of Brockhall, who had a son called Geoffrey and owned a toft in Muscott next to the ditch by the yard of Nicholas Albe.

Richard, son of Nicholas of Muscott, and married to Cecily, had property in Muscott, Buckby, Throp and Brockhall.  Another Richard, son of Elys and Matilda, had a house in Muscott, for which he paid one silver mark and service to John “le Louerd” and paid the chief lord of the fee one clove gillyflower annually.  Some of his land lay beside land farmed by Geoffrey Bercarius (Shepherd).  Henry le Somynour of Muscote, had a son named Thomas.  Perhaps Henry’s job was to summon people to the manor court.

In 1328 Richard, son of Richard Elyot of Muscott had a house and land, which he held for the service of providing one candle and one lamp worth 12 pence each year and paying the lord or lady of Brockhall 2 shillings annually.  Another villager held his “messuage and toft in the town of Muscott” for performing the services due to the altar of the parish church of Brockhole.  This man had a surname: Richard Molt of Muscott.  This was probably the Richard Mold listed in the 1301 tax list.  It is possible that this surname is an abbreviation of the Latin “molendinarius” or miller.  In this case it might be an early record of a miller called Richard at Muscott Mill.


Many of the stories concerning the area around Whilton Mill were less cheerful, but the following tale dating from 1844 has a happy ending.  There was a nasty bend as you came down Whilton Hill to cross the bridge.  Drivers needed to pay attention.  It was tempting to come down too quickly especially if you had already partaken of refreshment at Northampton Market. 

Perhaps this is what had happened to two gentlemen from Welton, on a Saturday evening in May 1844.  Mr Thomas Derby and Mr William Jones were returning home from Northampton Market. 

“The night being dark they came into contact with a stone bridge near Whilton Mill (which is a very dangerous place), by which the gig was upset, and the shafts both broken off.  The horse, a spirited animal, finding himself at liberty, started off at a furious rate through Norton, and proceeded on to Daventry, and was stopped soon after it had passed through the town, and although at the time it came through the streets there were great number of people about, only one person was knocked down by it, and fortunately he was not injured.

The horse was dreadfully cut on one leg, and he will be some time before he will be able to work.  Immediately the horse reached Daventry several persons started in search of the gig, expecting to find the parties injured.  When they arrived at Whilton Bridge they found the body of the gig in the road, and the two gentlemen enjoying themselves at a friend's house close by.  Mr. Jones escaped unhurt, but Mr. Darby had received a very severe bruise on the ankle, and it is a miracle they were not both killed on the spot.”

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July 2013


This was an opportunity to hear some of the recorded memories of Will Adams.

For various reasons, it seemed appropriate to listen to this recording in 2013 in the Village Hall.  Will was born in Whilton in 1909 and died here in 1993, 20 years ago.  Through his mother, Kate Rose Adams, nee Taylor, Will was descended from Thomas Taylor, the first schoolmaster of Whilton, who taught in Whilton School from about 1786.  The old Whilton School is now the Village Hall in which we were sitting to listen.  The recording was made in 1992, a year before Will’s death.  We were interested to hear the accent and speech patterns of an old man, steeped in Whilton history.

Voce-from-Past---Will-and-Freda-AdamsHe referred to his grandfather, James Adams, who was a baker in Whilton.  Will did not know where his grandfather baked, but records show that he lived in the Stonehouse, and that he took over from his father, another James Adams, who died in 1875.

Will also referred to his uncle, who had lived in Buckby Lane in a cottage long since demolished. This uncle was Joseph Adams, who was left with three children, when his wife Sarah, died in child birth in 1876.  Will remembered that only the two daughters, Mary Anne and Isabella, lived with their father.  Their brother George Lewis Adams, was brought up by his maternal grandparents, whose surname was Boot.

Will lived in several Whilton houses, renting according to the fortunes of the family.  He was born at the Manor House, but when his father became a canal lengthsman, they moved to Windlass Cottage.

At the beginning of the First World War the Adamses moved back to the village, living a while in Tudor House, spending another period in the Manor House, and at Inglenook.  Will grew up with family members around in the village, and with a younger brother Oliver, and a sister, Marjorie.  His mother had memories of the 1890s in Whilton, and shared them with her children.

As a child Will knew a variety of people who came bringing services and goods to the village, among these were the tinman, who repaired metal utensils, "Clockie" who mended clocks and watches, especially if provided with a cup of tea and slice of cake, and the crumpet man, who walked over the fields with one of his baskets on his head.

There were memories of baking day, and the delicious smell of pork pies cooking in the communal oven at Whilton Feast.  This must have been the memory of Will’s mother, as Will said this had ended before his time.  He did, however, give a clear description of the way the stick oven worked at Field View.

Will became a carpenter and married Freda Collier, from a family of carpenters and wheelwrights. They lived at Field View, where Will was still living at his death.

The recording included details of the Whilton wells, most of them open, but some with a pump. Langton House and Langton Cottage had the deepest wells at 50 feet.  In Manor Lane the depth was only 10 feet, and Holly House and The Old Cottage had springs in their cellars.

Our minds were taken back over a century, helping us to appreciate the depth of experience within one small village.

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March 2013


Who was Robert Hill?

During the evening we heard that Robert Hill came from a Whilton farming family.  In 1554, in the time of Mary Tudor, there were a Henry and Thomas Hill living in Whilton; it seems likely that Robert was a descendant of this family.  His house had been in the family since at least his grandfather’s time, possibly longer.  Grandfather John Hill had married Elizabeth Salorcke in Whilton Church in 1598.  When John died he left the farm to his son, Robert.  Robert and his wife Joan spent the rest of their lives on their Whilton farm.  They had two children; their son, another Robert, was baptized in 1635, and a daughter, Elizabeth, arrived two years later, no doubt named after her grandmother.

By 1656 young Robert’s father was dead, and at 21 he had inherited the farmhouse, with its sitting tenant.  Robert would have grown up during the Civil War, and maybe experienced the possibilities of leaving the land.  During the Civil War Northampton had supported the Parliament and provided footwear for its Army.  Young men learning the skill of shoemaking would have realised that the place to make your money was in the town, not a little village like Whilton.  By 1656 young Robert had departed from the family farming tradition and had become a shoemaker, living in Daventry.  By selling the house, Robert was closing his links with Whilton.  The document we looked at was William Langton’s part of the indenture; he would have signed the document which Robert Hill kept as a record, and from other evidence we know that William Langton could write.  But Robert Hill could not write.  He just “made his mark.”  After this the Hill family disappears from Whilton’s records.

Who was Widow Linnell?

When the house was sold in 1656, Widow Linnell was living in it.  The records suggest that the Linnells, already an old Whilton family, were related to the Sallockes, and this may explain why she was there.

Because there were a number of Linnell families, it is impossible to be certain, but it is most likely that Widow Linnell had been born Elizabeth Phillips in Whilton.  She had married farmer Thomas Linnell in 1615, and they had gone on to produce 14 children, some of whom did not survive childhood. The last child, a daughter was baptized in 1641 and so would have been seen as able to fend for herself by the time her father died in 1655.  After all this child-bearing, however, Elizabeth may well have seemed an old woman. 

Who was William Langton?

The Langton family had been well established here since early Tudor times, but the Langtons of Whilton are very difficult to disentangle at this period. However, we do have some clues.

On 1st April 1681 William Langton, husbandman of Whilton, made his will, leaving certain property to his son, Thomas Langton.  This property was “the house which I bought of Robert Hill” and all the goods therein at my decease and 30 shillings more for taking my grandchild Thomas Davis to be his apprentice.  This must surely be the house in our document.  William’s other son, Robert Langton, was executor and received all the rest of my goods, chattels and cattle, both within doors and without, with crops of hay and corn growing on the ground at my decease.

After old William died in 1683, an inventory was taken of all his possessions.  These were:

“His wearing apparel and money:                        10 shillings

An old cow and a small heifer                             £2

Ten sheep                                                         £1

An old garner and chest                                      6 shillings and 8 pence

An old brass pan and other refuse trumpery          3 shillings and 4 pence”

The total came to £4.

All this sounds rather pathetic, and we may well ask: how did such a man find £28 to buy a house in 1656?   But we need to read behind the lines.  Old William had been a farmer.  He had adult sons.  He was no longer really farming, but kept a few animals for interest.  He was probably living with his son Robert in the main farmhouse, where he had always lived.  Robert was the farmer of the next generation.

In 1683 Thomas Langton received the house which had been bought from Robert Hill.  Old Widow Linnell was no doubt long gone.  Perhaps Thomas was already living there?   There is no suggestion that Thomas was receiving land or even that Thomas was a farmer.  There is a real suggestion that he had a different trade and had taken on a nephew as an apprentice.  He may well have been the Thomas Langton who was a weaver.  This was the time when the worsted cottage industry was thriving around Long Buckby, and does not preclude Thomas from being a farmer too.

After this the story becomes more murky.  A number of Langtons died in the mid 1680s, including a Robert Langton, which may mean that the farm descended to his brother Thomas.  The house deed remained in Langton hands, and the house itself may possibly have been on the site of today’s Langton House, but that cannot yet be proved.

We finished the evening by remembering the last descendants of the Langtons here, who were the twins Beatrice and May Gammage, who died in 1976.  Their mother had been Julia Langton before her marriage.  Like them we tasted seedie cake and currant cake, which they used to cook in Langton House.

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November 2012


On Thursday 29th November the society met to see some of the art work produced in or depicting Whilton.  Among many others, we were able to see portraits, depictions of the Church and other buildings and local views, dating from the 19th century to the present.  Animals, birds and plants also featured , and reminders of hallowe’en parties in the last century. 

The variety of skill, talent and interpretation made the evening interesting for all.  We would especially like to thank those who hunted through their pictures and were willing to share their own or other people’s art. 

Sketches of the rear and front of the Manor House by an unknown member of Whilton WI in 1975.  Note that the rear view is the view facing the road.


Sketch of Martins Farm, now called Church Farm, and the derelict old shop beside it in the late 1950s, by Brian Mutton, who married Susan Gardner of the Stone House.


The evening was an opportunity to enjoy the talent which Whilton has produced, and to celebrate the heritage of buildings and landscape in which we live. 

The art included work by anonymous artists and the following:

John Ashwell, Rae Barnes, Janet Bowers, George Clarke, Joan Davies, Frances Drake, Clifford Ellison, Bennie Eyton-Jones, Edna Gardner, Rev C H Hartshorne, Barbara Lewis, Brian Mutton, Freda Thomas and Jean Wiltsher.

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September 2012


The society met on 13th September, when the subject was "Who was who in South View?"

After 1946 there was a drive to replace devastated urban housing, and improve rural dwellings. Clement Attlee built over a million homes, 80% of which were council houses.  By 1948, 2000 houses had been built in Northamptonshire, but older housing stock was poor.  Daventry Rural District was typical of the county with a quarter of its houses inspected being declared unfit for human habitation and beyond repair.  Whilton was not alone in having no provision of mains water, electricity or sewerage, and much rural housing was damp and pest-ridden.  Lack of agricultural labour emphasised the need for council housing.

The site for the first Whilton houses was acquired by August 1946.  Other sites had been considered, and the area of the modern allotments was purchased too.  Eight houses were built on what had previously been glebe-land, overlooking the valley once known as Deepdale to the north. There was some controversy over naming these houses, as the suggested "Townley Row", after RD Councillor Townley, was not popular.  The village protest was even recorded in the national press, with the caption: "Row over a row".  Deepdale or Glebe View might have been more appropriate than the compromise of "South View".

By April 1946 plans for six houses at Whilton were approved.  Type B were priced at £2,509.16.1½ per pair; Type E were £4,882.5.1 per block of four, although Major Fancott of the RDC said the prices must be reduced.  In October the Housing Committee recommended building four houses for the agricultural population at Whilton.  These completed the council housing for Whilton.  Plans to build more never came to fruition, mainly because villages with better services were considered more suitable for development.  Thus Whilton has 9 and 10 The Gardens, but numbers 1 to 8 were never built.

The first South View houses were built by the local firm Holland and Marks, the Marks family coming from Whilton.  Jack Wright worked for them as a carpenter and joiner.  Jack and Kathleen Wright and Don and Vi Welch were the first tenants, the Wrights moving in on 28th February 1948.

The builders struggled to complete with post-war shortages in labour and materials, including grates, window frames and chain link fencing.  In May 1948 the Housing Committee was dissatisfied with the progress of construction.  After discussion the builders promised, "that one house would be completed in a fortnight, one in a month, one in five weeks and the fourth in eight weeks from the date of this meeting."

In Whilton, as in many villages in this district, the council houses were built before modern services arrived.  Pipes and taps were provided and water pumped up from a farm spring, although much of the village still depended on wells or stand pipes introduced in the war.  There was no public sewerage, the septic tank in Number 1 serving all of South View.  Other villagers were still disposing of buckets of night soil until 1953.  In 1947 it was noted that the Whilton houses would be fitted with cast iron independent coppers as electricity was not available in the parish.  The houses were wired for electricity, which finally arrived in 1951.

These houses were much sought after.  Priority was given to returning service men and agricultural workers.  On the whole these ground rules were kept.  Men from the services moved into the first four, and the fifth was let to the widow of Oliver Adams, who had died at Arnhem.  All of these had young families.  Number 6 was for the large Poole family, who had had to leave the village in the previous year.  In vain, they complained that their four bed-roomed house was too small.  Number 7 was let to Arthur Gittins who worked on the Emery farm.  The letting of Number 8 to farmer’s son, Frank Ashby, rather than an employee, caused some protest, and he was forced to pay a higher rent.

Residents have happy memories of childhood freedom, and of playing in the wilderness on top of the high bank at the front.  This overhung the narrow lane into Whilton.  Children made dens and tracks and swung from the overhanging trees, scaring motorists below.  Eventually the County Surveyor noted that, ‘Along this length of road there is a steep bank and high hedge.  The Parish Council are concerned about the safety of children who play on this bank.”   By 1966 the ownership of the bank was transferred to the County, the bank and hedge were removed, the road widened, and the bank shaved back, giving the modern frontage of today.

Memories abound, from the thrill of having a first bathroom, to gatherings of young men with motorbikes, and neighbourly support in times of illness.  There was irritation over the tenant who climbed his apple tree to see what was happening over the fence and amusement that chickens kept for the pot lived to a good old age with the duck.

Of the ten council houses, only two are now rented.  Otherwise tenants took advantage of Margaret Thatcher’s "Right to Buy" scheme between 1980 and 1998.  Kathleen Wright is proud to be the one original resident; four houses are occupied by families or their descendants, who were there fifty years ago, but whereas the first residents all had children, there are only two teenagers today, a reflection of changing times.

South View and The Gardens marked a step towards modernisation for Whilton, and a huge improvement in living conditions for those fortunate enough to be the early tenants.  The residents have played an active part in parish life for over 60 years.  They have produced Parish Councillors, WI members, gardeners, allotment holders, and produce show winners.  Over the years there has been much kindness, and some tolerance, and still today there is a co-operative spirit, which reveals itself particularly in mowing the grassy bank, looking out for one another, and pride in the appearance of South View.

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July 2012


The society met on 12th July 2012 to hear a talk by Barry Smith on “RIDGE AND FURROW”.  Although there was a good attendance from Whilton, our numbers were swelled by a large company from other villages mainly from the farming community, who were keen to hear Barry speak.  They were not disappointed, although the hall was so full that there was standing room only at the back!

With his experience of farming and his training in historical geography, Barry gave a lively and educational account of the landscape which surrounds Whilton and many other West Northamptonshire villages.  He explained the system of communal farming in great open fields, which were probably laid out as early as the 6th to 8th centuries AD.  Each farmer’s “yardland” consisted of many strips in different parts of the fields, so that, at least at first, each had a fair share of fertile, poor, boggy or well drained soil. He described how the ploughing by a team of oxen created the long s-shaped raised strips, the ridges, and how the furrows beside them were good for drainage, and also helped to mark one strip from another, delineating ownership.

Medieval farmers sowed their seed by broadcasting or scattering it by hand, and then treading it in, perhaps a job for children.  The harvest was very limited, providing only a tiny fraction of what would be expected today, and a run of bad weather, or a season of poor seed could decimate these poor crops. As agricultural improvements began to create new possibilities, there was more discontent with this old system, until finally the open fields were enclosed by fences and hedges and came into private ownership.  Whilton was enclosed in 1778.  This was done by Act of Parliament and organised and supervised by commissioners.  This caused problems in some places, where especially the poorer people saw there was disadvantage to them.

As enclosing of open fields became more common, so too the canals were being built, and these were the means by which grain from the Baltic and Europe could be brought into the Midlands.  There was less demand for home grown grain.  Thus enclosed pasture for meat production took over from the huge open arable fields.  However, when Napoleon’s blockade led to a drop in imports to 5% of what had been coming in, there was a sudden need to provide more wheat for bread and barley for beer.  In some parishes the ridge and furrow was adjusted to be flatter for new grain growing; where this was successful it brought huge wealth to the farmers who could do this.  In fact they sometimes incorporated the name “Gold” into their field names, giving an indication of how good their profits were! 

Throughout the talk Barry illustrated his points with slides of local places.  We saw aerial and ground level views of ridges and furrows, examples of baulks and headlands, and the flat areas where grain would have been stored in thatched ricks before being threshed during the winter. 

After taking in all this fascinating information, we were provided with refreshments and delicious cakes by Mary Emery to end a very successful evening.

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March 2012


Whilton Local History Society met on 15th March to hear the stories of four fatherless children over the centuries. 

Felicia de Whelton was the granddaughter of William, lord of Whilton Manor.  She was born in 1264 or 1265, during Simon de Montfort’s rebellion, in which her father and grandfather were involved.  After her father’s death, when she was still a toddler, feudal regulations allowed her overlord, Joan de Stuteville to remove her and control her upbringing.

As a long and bitter legal dispute over the right to Whilton Manor developed, Felicia and her mother Joyce came to be on different sides.  Over many years a variety of legal methods were used to promote different interpretations and great sums of money were expended on lawyers, while the descendants of William de Whelton went to law against each other. 

The first part of Felicia’s life was overshadowed by this dispute, as her guardians fought her case for her in many courts from Rockingham to London.  Possession of Whilton changed several times as courts gave different rulings, and Felicia herself may have come and gone in Whilton.  She was about 20 when a major ruling gave her possession and sometime in that year she made the decision to marry Philip de Montgomery.  Felicia and Philip were confirmed as lord and lady of Whilton Manor; the land descending in the female line.

Felicia and Philip had a daughter, Anne, who became heir to Whilton, but after her mother’s second marriage, Anne lost her rights to Whilton, because Felicia and her new husband William de Nevill had a son, James, who inherited because he was male.  We heard, however, that in the long run it was Anne’s heirs who inherited Whilton, and held it until the seventeenth century.

The next fatherless child was Elizabeth Langton, brought up at Muscott in the late seventeenth century and who was well provided for in her father’s will.  She married Richard Freeman, lord of Whilton Manor in 1709, and bore him eight children, besides being step-mother to the four he already had.  One of Elizabeth’s children was the eccentric Rev Langton Freeman, who, after his death in 1783, was sealed up in his summer house in the garden of the modern Manor House.

William or Billy Adams, a real orphan, would have been known to Elizabeth Freeman, but he was only four when he left Whilton to be cared for in Long Buckby after the deaths of both his parents in 1735 and 1736.  We traced his sad and short life until he was 19 and brought back for burial at Whilton.  He had been a sickly child in Whilton, with treatments from the apothecary for colic, coughs and a sore throat.  Nothing much worked for Billy, and perhaps his own attitude to work and inclination to overspend did not help either.  As a younger son, he was expected to make his own way in life, and although his guardians did their best, apprenticing him to a grocer in London, they could not prevent him stealing from his employer, and filling his pockets with luxury tea, which he sold in the streets.  Later he tried to become an apprentice to a buckle and stud maker in Birmingham, but had a very poor work record there, being frequently too ill to work, and coming back to his guardian in Brockhall to recover, besides running up debts with the perriwig maker and hat dresser.  Finally his illness got worse, despite treatment with ass’s milk.  On 4th November 1750 the Whilton parish register recorded the burial of  “William Adams an apprentice at Birmingham”.

Our last fatherless child was Edward Tarry of Chapel Brampton, born in about 1832.  His mother Ann was from Whilton, and after his father died, he seems to have spent some of his childhood in Whilton, with his uncle John Dunkley, a man of doubtful and violent reputation.  Edward became a farm labourer in Chapel Brampton.  In the 1850s he left this country and appears to have joined the Gold Rush to Australia, where he eventually married Sophie, another emigrant from Chapel Brampton.  Conditions in Melbourne in the 1850s, despite or because of the huge amounts of gold, were described by one English visitor as a “very hell on earth”.  Perhaps this, combined with the inheritance of his uncle’s Whilton house, was the reason for the couple leaving Melbourne and returning to England.

By 1866 Edward and Sophie Tarry had moved into his uncle’s house, which we call today “The Old Cottage”.  Edward described himself as a grazier or a farmer, but the only land he owned was the field now known as Tarry’s Orchard.  His income came from fattening stock for market.  There was no sign of a gold digger’s fortune. 

The couple now put Australia behind them and became part of Whilton village life, Edward serving on the Parish Vestry and later the Parish Council.  The entry in the 1881 census of Edward Tarry, farmer, aged 49, born in Chapel Brampton and his wife, Sophie, aged 50, born in Chapel Brampton, suggests a quiet middle aged farming couple, but it belies the wide ranging experiences of their youth.

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January 2012


The Local History Society’s last meeting was on 12th January, and was entitled “Faces of Whilton”,  when members looked at a presentation of photos of people who have been residents of Whilton during this Queen’s reign.  Besides this some people had brought their own photos, which proved very interesting, but made us realize how many, and what a variety of subjects, there are.  This was a good opportunity for bringing back memories of the past.

The Local History Society is now embarking on finding and copying photos of Whiltonians from the last 60 years, and is hoping to provide an exhibition of these in the church during the Jubilee Weekend.  We shall also be very interested in any photos of how Whilton celebrated the coronation in 1953, including the fancy dress parade down the main street.  Please do let me know if you can help with this.

Part of the meeting was also taken up with making final alterations to our leaflet about the churchyard, and this will now be available for visitors to the church.

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November 2011


Records of a 1388 investigation show that the lord of Whilton Manor had stores of malt in his granary and was growing more barley than any other cereal, some no doubt destined for brewing. The best malt for brewing ale came from barley, which grew well in Whilton.

Some people were very suspicious when hops were first introduced from the Continent.  Andrew Boorde, an Englishman, wrote in 1557 “... Beere is made of malte, of hoppes, and water, it is a naturall drynke for a doche [Dutch] man, and nowe of late dayes it is moche vsed in Englande to the detryment of many Englysshe men …. for the drynke is a colde drynke.  Yet it doth make a man fatte, and doth inflate the bely, as it doth appere by the doche mennes faces and beIyes.”  Eventually hops became accepted and records show hops being bought for brewing in Whilton by the early 18th century.

The essential ingredient for malt is grain, and the best grain is barley. 16th and 17th century Whilton farmers were making their own malt, and their wives brewing the beer for consumption by their families and labourers.  A malt house and brewery would have been part of their farm buildings.

After soaking in a steeping vat, the swollen grain was drained and transferred to a vessel called a couch, where it began to germinate.  It was then spread out on the growing floor, the depth dictated by the temperature, but sufficiently deep to encourage vegetation. It was turned at intervals to achieve even growth and over the next fortnight or so it was turned and moved towards the kiln. Temperature was also controlled by ventilation.  As the germination proceeded, the grain was spread thinner on the floor.

Once dried, the barley was moved into the kiln, for a few days.  A slow fire was used to start, and then gradually raised to suit the purpose of the malt and the desired colour.  Malt was stored for a few months to develop flavour.  The art of malting depended on adapting to changes in weather and temperature, and in timing the different processes as the grain changed.  Barley does not germinate well in high temperatures, and so malt houses were mainly in action during the winter, which was also a time when agricultural workers needed employment.

Because the process involved control of the fire beneath the malt, there were always some hazards. This probably explains why John Dunkley, a maltster who rented the kiln and part of what is now Holly House in 1735, included in his lease a "bedsted and bedding belonging to it", so that he could keep an eye on the process during the night.  An additional hazard was that the kiln was thatched.  We know that in 1748 Thomas Facer charged 18 shillings for three loads of straw to thatch this kiln.

While the grain was being roasted, it rested on a hair cloth to prevent it dropping onto the furnace below.  In 1635 yeoman William Langton, who owned a malt kiln in Whilton, left "the steeping fatt and haire cloth belonging to my kilne" to his son, William.  This may have been the kiln purchased sometime before 1591 by Thomas Langton the Elder when he acquired a homestead with kiln and barns from Sam Lynnell.  By the end of the 1700s, farmers were beginning to buy malt from professional maltsters, such as the Barkers of Holly House, but farmers’ wives continued to be the brewers.  George Judkins of Roughmoor left his brewing vessels to his wife in 1802, as did Thomas Emery in 1842.

But there was change in the wind.  The Plough was originally a private house, but by 1786 the tenant was William Moss, who besides being a tailor, was brewing beer there and was described as a publican too.  By the 1830s it was "known by the sign of the Plough," and Joseph Emery was innkeeper.  Brewing continued here until Phipps the brewers took over in mid Victorian times, bringing an end to Whilton brewing.

It may seem surprising, but the 1841 census records four public houses in Whilton: the Plough, the Spotted Cow at the Locks, which also served the canal, the Wheatsheaf in Brington Lane, and the Mill, which probably provided refreshment for the miller’s customers.  The publican was his elderly mother aged 84.  Other publicans had second or even third occupations and did not rely on the pub for their whole livelihood.

In addition, Whilton had a short lived off licence.  Sometimes before 1901 the Stone House acquired an "outdoor beer licence".  In 1913, the house was put up for sale.  The auction was held in the Plough and the house was bought by Phipps the brewers, who cannot have enjoyed the competition from down the road.  As a result there is a codicil in the Stone House modern deeds, stating beer may not be sold from the house.

After the war country pubs began to decline, although the Plough and the Spotted Cow survived into the 1950s.  There is a codicil to the story of pubs in Whilton, because there was an attempt to create a new one.  The Bannaventa pub was built by David Steele in 1975 on the site of the old farmhouse at the Locks.  Its history was not happy and it failed to attract locals or passing trade.  It closed in 1991 to become the Whilton Locks Carpet Centre, a rather dismal end to the story.

Within the last year Whilton-grown barley has stopped being used for brewing, and so this marks the end of a long tradition in the parish.

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July 2011


The Local History Society met in July to hear the about the life and recorded memories of Don Welch, who died last year. 

Don had clear memories of his happy Whilton childhood.  His father and grandfather were hand sewing shoemakers from Northampton, but Don was born in 1921 in Holly House, where his family had moved, and he remembered his father as a shoemaker and repairer with his shop in Rugby.  When he was still small the family moved into the shop, now the Old Shop, on the corner of Buckby Lane.  Don’s mother, Flo, kept the shop there until she was over 80.  Don was brought up living with the shop, which was curtained off from the front room.  He was used to customers arriving at any time of the day or evening; his mother always had time for them. 

Downstairs was the living room, curtained off from the shop and a little narrow pantry or larder.  Up the winding narrow stairs were two rooms, one leading into another, and after another brother arrived, the three boys all slept in one bed.  They went up to bed with a candle.  There was no heating, but they kept each other warm.  The wash place was by the cobbled yard, with a copper boiler heated by a fire below.  Clothes being washed were prodded with a stick.  Soft water for washing came from the roof and was caught in a barrel.  Water for drinking was fetched from the well across the road behind what we now call the Old Post Office.  This well was shared by several households.  His mother cooked on a black leaded stove, with a hook over for the pot and a kettle to one side.

Don with his parents, Bill and Flo Welch, his older brother Lawrence and his younger brother Norman

He was particularly friendly with the Dunkley children at Martins Farm, now Church Farm.  He reckoned that he and Bob Dunkley were the young tearaways of Whilton, riding horses up and down the street, and sometimes sheep too!  He loved helping with the farm work, especially shocking up the sheaves to dry at harvest, and haymaking.  He was interested in the Dunkleys’ animals too, and had his own tortoise and angora rabbits at home.

His mother sold sweets and the Welch children were allowed to help themselves, on condition that they did not give them away – that would undermine mother’s profits!  Not that Flo made much money.  A packet of cigarettes was 11½ d, which left Flo with no profit, but Don reckoned she enjoyed the company of the half dozen or so who came in during a day.  She had always been used to company, as she was one of 14 children.  In his memories Stan Haynes described how the Haynes children liked being sent on an errand to visit the shop, perhaps for a quarter of cheese, adding: “Mrs Welch always seemed glad to see us.”  She clearly enjoyed children’s company.  Stan also recalled that sometimes a group of children would go foraging for dandelion leaves and take a bundle to Mrs Welch for their pet rabbits.  “Hold out your hands,” she would say, and would fill each with half a dozen comfits, which she called “guinea pig mucks”!

We also heard how Don left Whilton School and trained as a carpenter in Daventry, sometimes going far afield for work during the difficult 1930s and receiving no pay when the weather was too bad for work.  When war came he was involved in rebuilding the “gun shops” in Coventry by day after bombing by night.  Later he was called up and was part of the invasion force, crossing the Channel in very rough weather in a flat bottomed American ship, with tanks which had broken loose.  He then went through France, Holland, and Belgium in a Bren carrier, a small tank, coming to Arnhem where he witnessed the chaos a few days after the fighting there.  He had to walk across the gliders which had landed there in order to cross a canal.  As he said: “We were the support troops which did not make it.”  After crossing the Siegfried Line, Don could find no words for what he saw at Belsen, and then went on to the River Elbe, to face the Germans fleeing from Russian bombing and revenge. 

When at last he came home he took up his work again, and finally returned to Whilton, where he renovated and modernized the house he had lived in as a child.  His craftsmanship and carpentry skills meant that he was much in demand, and there are few older houses in Whilton where he did not do any work.  Thus we could say that he literally made his mark on our community.

His patience and hard work helped him through a number of difficulties, which included the sudden loss of his first wife, leaving him with four children, and a serious work injury, which he overcame.

A good number of his family attended this meeting and were able to meet with old friends, all a sign of the respect in which Don was held all his life.

May 2011


Members of Whilton Local History Society met on 19th May to begin work on producing a leaflet about Whilton Churchyard.  The stone structure we know today as St Andrew’s was probably first built in the late 1100s, but it is very likely that there was a wooden structure here before that, especially since we know there was a priest here in 1086.  Some historians now think that in many cases the burial site around a church may have been in existence before there was a building.  It is thus quite possible that our churchyard is a thousand years old.

It is very difficult to estimate how many burials there have been.  Until recent times almost everyone dying in the parish would have been buried here, and a few important people were actually buried beneath the church.  Since the parish registers have existed there is no record of a plague or disaster here.  In fact there is every reason to think that Whilton, with its good clean water supply from springs, its hilltop atmosphere and fertile farming land was a very healthy place to live.  Almost certainly it was affected by the Black Death in the late 1300s, when the lord of the manor and his son both died, and, if Whilton followed the national pattern, perhaps over half the inhabitants died.  However, even this would only have been a relatively small number.  Over the millennium perhaps a maximum of 7,000 bodies have been buried.

Throughout the middle ages most bodies were buried in a shroud, tied above the head and feet.  As an attempt to help the woollen industry there were even Acts of Parliament between 1666 and 1680 to force people to use woollen shrouds.  Whilton has records that burials in woollen were taking place.  This law was officially in force until 1814.  Coffins became more common for those who could afford it by the 19th century.  While talking we found we did not know the derivation of the word "coffin".  In fact, it comes through Old French and Latin from a Greek word, which means "basket”.

On the whole, tombstones in churchyards date usually from the 17th century.  This is so with Whilton.  There are three listed stones outside the west wall of the south aisle, described by English Heritage as "3 headstones.  Dressed ironstone.  Largest to north dated 1691 with cherubs head, middle stone with double volute head to Thomas Embry, Wool Winder, d. 1681, third with oval laurel wreath facing worn inscription and dated 1687.”

There are others, some earlier, along the wall by Churchgate.  Among them is this stone memorial to Henry Sneath.

The inscription reads:






* This date is hard to decipher but appears to be 1666

These early gravestones are small compared with later ones and some are decorated with worn cherubs’ heads, often used as a symbol of resurrection.

They are so weathered that it is difficult, if not impossible, to read the inscriptions.  This is one of the problems we face in the churchyard.  The local stone used is very soft and crumbles away after time.  We are also faced with a healthy growth of lichen, often a sign of clear air, but not very helpful to us here.  This does mean that everything we can record or notice is quite important, because some things will be illegible after a few more years.

Over years fashions have changed and different types of memorial have been popular.  We do not have extravagant or showy memorials in Whilton, and that is probably in keeping with the history of the village, but we do have some examples of changes in fashion in lVhilton.  These include a few foot stones as well as head stones, with just the initials and date, and four chest tombs, of which that for the Elliott family of the Locks is listed.  There are signs that at least two of these were surrounded by rails.  These rails may have been surrendered in metal salvage collections during the Second World War.

The Greek Revival style in the early 1800s with plain geometric shapes and triangular heads can be seen in one or two examples here.  After the coming of the railway there was more use of non local stones, which on the whole have weathered better, sometimes having the letters picked out in black, which helps us to read them.  There was also a fashion for curbs around a grave, which can be seen in the Reynolds memorial to the south of the church.  We only have a handful of crosses, and no standing angels, obelisks or broken columns which became very popular by the late l800s, and which would have changed the character of Whilton churchyard.

This is one of the more ornate tombstones at Whilton.  This is in memory of Henry Dunkley, who died just before the First World War on 26th May 1914, aged 55.  Although the gravestone does not record this, he was drowned in the canal lock.

The space below was left for a memorial for his wife, Elizabeth. She was not buried in Whilton churchyard, and the inscription was never completed.

Society members looked at leaflets produced by other places and discussed a variety of possibilities which may be put into a leaflet about our churchyard.  This may include its wildlife and the routes of paths leading into it.  We also talked about what would be the best sort of illustrations.  We hope to work on this idea and to produce something within the coming year.  The Society intends that this will be the first of a series of leaflets on Whilton, including perhaps the interior of the church, the canal, and other aspects of the parish.

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March 2011


This was the title of the Local History Society’s meeting on 17th March.  Julie Cassidy, the Finds Liaison Officer for Northamptonshire, talked to us about her work identifying old objects all over the county.  Unless an object is identified as “treasure”, the finder may keep it, but she explained that by being able to record items and where they are found, it is possible to understand more about our history and the way we used to live.

Following her talk, there was an opportunity to see and handle examples of items which have been found in the county.  Several people had brought items found in Whilton and these were examined.  Although there was no official "treasure", those present were very interested to learn about what has been found and what might still be lying in the local fields and gardens.

Apart from fossils and water smoothed pebbles, the oldest item was probably a Stone Age arrow head, which had later been made into an awl for making holes, perhaps in leather.  There was evidence of the Romans, who would have travelled along the two Roman roads in Whilton.  This included some coins and a little Roman brooch.  However, there was also some pottery from about the first century, which came from the village, and suggests that there were already habitations on the top of Whilton hill, besides the town of Bannaventa on Watling Street.

There was a small Elizabethan silver coin with a hole in it.  Perhaps it was worn around a neck, or stitched to clothing.  Was it a Royalist or Parliamentary soldier who lost an unfired musket ball from the Civil War period?  An 18th century thimble had been found in a field.  Women used to sit and stitch in the fields, and this is not an uncommon find.

Glass and pottery found included everyday ware from the 1700's and 1800's and early 20th century bottles for water, beer and Bovril.  There were also coins, clay pipe stems, an instrument for tamping down tobacco and a solidified spoonful of lead, which was once melted down to mend pots.

All who came were fascinated and went away determined to look more carefully as we dig our gardens or walk our dogs.  For further information, or to talk about a find, you can contact Julie Cassidy on 01604 237249 or email her.

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January 2011


Members of the society met on Thursday 20th January to hear the story of the Stone House.  This has probably been the site of a dwelling since Saxon times.  To the north and east are the old manorial and ecclesiastical centres.   In 1301, one of the seven farmers paying tax probably lived on this site, but we cannot tell if it was Henry Cappe, Luc Hynes, John Russenole, Richard Bendane, Walter Coupere, Walter de Fodringeye or Henry Eyr.

The Stone House does not follow the pattern of most of the farmhouses in Whilton, which have fireplaces at the gable end of the building.  The Stone House has two fireplaces back to back in the centre, as does Dormer Cottage.  The listing describes the house as dating from the late 17th century, built of ironstone ashlar, with a slate roof with ornamental ridge tiles, brick end and ridge stacks, with 2 storeys and attic.  There is a 4-window range, with a door to left of the centre blocked with a 2-light leaded wood mullion and transom window and hood mould.  There are similar 3-light windows to the ground and first floors except for a small upright oval leaded window with stone surround over the blocked door.  There is another similar window in the right gable.  Around the base is a blue brick chamfered plinth.  These blue bricks were perhaps added late in the nineteenth century, when they were fashionable.

The listing also mentions the quoins, moulded stone eaves and stone-coped gables with kneelers.  Quoins are the dressed stones on the corner of the building.  Kneelers are the roughly triangular stones at the base of the gable.  The rear porch dates from the last century and is the work of Mick Gardner.

The interior has ogee-stop-chamfered spine beams and some stop-chamfered joists.  (Ogee is the name given to a double curved shape, like an elongated S.  The stop chamfered beams have shaped flat surfaces at the corners.)  The 2 open fireplaces back to back have stop-chamfered bressumers, the beams supporting the masonry above a fireplace.

We do not know who built the house we recognize today.  The first owner mentioned in the deeds was a yeoman, called Thomas Carr, who lived here in the early 1700s.  He had two sons, named William and Thomas.  The Carr or A’Carr family had lived in Whilton since the 1570s, and were farmers, holding positions such as church-warden in the village.

Thomas Carr the father died in 1728.  William inherited the Stone House from his father and continued farming here.  The Stone House followed the usual pattern for a farmhouse, with a yard behind it and a way through to the back.  Animals would go through this entrance on return from their grazing in the common pastures.  This entrance shows up clearly in the late nineteenth century photo of the house.

In 1730 William mortgaged property including the Stone House to raise £756.3.0, a very large amount.  The money was borrowed from John Rose a prosperous Daventry saddler.  By 1735 he had borrowed another £100.  However, in 1744 William died, without making a will; this suggests he may have died unexpectedly.  His brother, Thomas, inherited the Stone House and the mortgage.  Two years later he “had occasion” to borrow another £250 from John Rose.  At this time the house was described as a messuage with yard, garden, orchard, homestead, home close, backside and appurtenances in Whilton, standing on the north or north-west side of the public street of Whilton.

Thomas Carr left the Stone House on the marriage of his daughter in 1756, and went to Welton to live with the young couple, leaving John Dunkley here as their tenant.  By 1759 the house had been sold to William Humphrey, a butcher.  Here he and his wife Elizabeth brought up their children Thomas, Elizabeth, William, John, Francis, Jacob and Robert.  William added to his land and property, including the purchase of the south east end of the Dovehouse Close.  After he died in 1812, his widow, Elizabeth, had to collect her annuity once a quarter from the church porch and his son, Jacob, lived in the house until 1820.

The Stone House in the late nineteenth century, looking as it would have done since the late 1600s.  The roof is still thatched, including the three gables in the attic.  The entrance gate to the yard, can clearly be seen, and above it a thatched garret room.

The Humphrey family then sold the house to Walter Watson, but sometime after his marriage to Sarah Dalton of Rugby, the house was let.  By 1863 James Adams, the Whilton carrier, was living in the house and paying 12 shillings rent.  He continued to be their tenant for some years, but by 1872 he was able to buy the house for £250.  He had to take out a mortgage and borrowed the money from Thomas and Elizabeth Ann Bull, the Watson’s heirs.

James Adams was also the baker, with a bakehouse at the west end of the house, but he died as the result of an accident on 30 December 1875.  He was only 48.  His only son, James Wallace Adams, inherited the house and mortgage, and lived in the Stone House, but in 1878 Thomas Bull called in the mortgage money, giving the family until Lady Day to find the money.  James Wallace Adams arranged to sell the house to James Emery of the central farm, and thus pay off his mortgage.

James Emery owned the property until his death in 1880, after which the Stone House and other Whilton properties were to be divided between his three sons, Thomas James, Robert and James.  Robert bought out his two brothers in 1881.  By this date the Stone House was occupied by William Dunkley, an agricultural labourer, who also did some gardening and was probably the carrier too.  By 1901 it also had an “outdoor beer licence”.  Thomas Essen was living there paying £14 rent.  He was an agricultural labourer too, who finally died in 1933 aged 85, maybe still living at the Stone House.  

By 1909 Robert Emery was probably in financial difficulties.  Certainly by 1913 it was the bank which owned the Stone House and put it up for auction, along with other Whilton properties previously owned by Robert Emery.  The auction was held at the Old Plough at 4 p,m. on Tuesday 7th January 1913, perhaps a bleak day.  The purchasers were the brewers P Phipps and Co Ltd;  they may have been eager to acquire a business competing with their own pub, the Plough.  There is now a clause in the Stone House deeds preventing the sale of alcohol there.

Sometime after this, there was a disastrous fire, which destroyed the old thatched roof and dormer windows and the bakehouse, so that photos dating from about 1930 show the new slated roof.  During the war Colonel Shaw of Whilton Lodge acquired the dilapidated house, which he hoped might make a new Rectory, but by December 1947 it was bought by Arthur (Mick) Gardner and his wife Edna.

The Stone House after repairs following the fire which destroyed its roof and old bakehouse.

The door to the off-licence, run by Tom Essen, would later be replaced by a window

As in many other Whilton houses, conditions were primitive, but Mick used his many skills to make the house habitable, with help from other villagers such as Jack Wright and Roy Carpenter.  He made use of some materials from other old buildings.  These included the ornamental ridge tiles from a school in Northampton, and the banisters and wrought iron doorway halfway up the stairs with the date 1693, which came from Norton Hall.  He closed off the old off-licence door onto the street, and added a porch at the rear.  Even before there was mains water in Whilton, he installed running water in an upstairs bathroom and a new sink in the kitchen, by pumping well water up to a tank in the roof.  A bath required one hundred pumps at the well!

It was the Gardner’s who gave the Stone House its name, as, like most houses in Whilton, it had no name until the mid 20th century.    Edna Gardner became the well loved Postmistress for 18 years, combining this with a small shop in what had been the bakehouse.  After Mick retired from teaching at Daventry Grammar School, they moved away to Northampton and the house was sold to Mark and Bennie Eyton-Jones, who are still here today.

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November 2010


In the 1930s, when Colonel Shaw owned the Lodge, he and his family hosted a party for Whilton children in the week before Christmas.  These parties were remembered for years afterwards by the village children, not only for the food and special treatment, but for the majestic journey in a chauffeur-driven Daimler or Lancia from the village down to the Lodge, and for the welcome by Colonel Shaw with his monocle and waxed moustache, accompanied by his film star-like wife. 

Members of the society sat around a table, as the children did eighty years ago, and sampled thinly cut sandwiches, orange jellies and fancy cakes.  Leaf tea was poured through a strainer and sugar was served with silver tongs.

As Christmas is coming we also enjoyed the nostalgic, perhaps rose-tinted, memory of Stanley Haynes, one of those Whilton children.  This memory must date from about 1937 when Rev. Lawrence Edward Brown became Rector of Whilton.

It was Christmas Eve.  In the church new candles were in place, the stove was going well, and the polished copper lamps shone on the holly which decorated the lectern and the pulpit.  There had been a brief snowfall - it would be a white Christmas - and as the congregation assembled they shook the snow from their boots on the welcoming doormat, warming their hands over the stove before taking their places for the Christmas Eve carol service.

The boy in the corner pumped the organ, Parson Brown announced the hymn, Betty Pride played the opening chord, and the church rang to the sound of “O come all ye faithful.”

…There’d be two Christmas services for Dad to attend - the early communion and the mid-morning Matins.  Then it was home to put the dinner in the oven.  From the spring broods of poultry we’d keep a cockerel.  By Christmas this bird would be in the pink of condition.  For some weeks Mum would take a stick into the hen run to fight the blighter off as he’d always attack a woman - not a man, as a rule, but how did he know one from the other?  Anyway, he’d now be trussed and stuffed - a feast for kings.

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May 2010


On Thursday 27th May, our meeting was based on the story of the house known as "The Old Plough," shown in this photo of about 1925.

This began with Richard Langton of Whilton, who sold a house in Whilton to Thomas Mutton sometime in the mid 1600s, probably after the Civil War. Thomas was a prosperous shepherd. He and his wife, Lucy, seem to have lived in this house, where they had two children, Alice and Thomas. In December 1656 Thomas Mutton was unwell, and "considering the weake and fraile estate of my mortall bodye " he made his will, and died in 1658. The house was left to his widow for life, and then to Thomas, his son, who was aged about six at his father’s death.

Young Thomas Mutton grew up in Whilton. He became a husbandman, or farmer, and was active in adding to his property and building. Other houses were also being built in Whilton at this time of renewed confidence and prosperity after the Restoration. Thomas bought a parcel of ground from widow Alice Dawson, on which she had built a new house. There was a yard and orchard adjoining it. He also bought an orchard from William and Hannah Cleaver to the west of Alice Dawson’s house and orchard, and laid it all out together. William Cleaver kept his yard, which lay to the south end of this plot. Alice Dawson’s house became the core of what was to become the Plough.

In 1693, when he was 41, Thomas Mutton had, at least temporarily, left Whilton and gone to Long Orton near Peterborough. In that year he took out a mortgage on his Whilton property, borrowing £70 from Thomas Emery. Borrowing money in this way was common before the days of building societies and banks for all. The witnesses to the deed were Jonathan Newbold the blacksmith and Eleanor Edmunds, the cooper’s widow.

Thomas Mutton was not away long. He is recorded in the poll book as being in Whilton in 1695. In 1697 John Ball, a Whilton weaver, died, and Thomas Mutton helped his widow, Mary, to administer his estate. In the next year he married widow Mary Ball at Long Buckby Church. By now Thomas was 46. I have found no record of any children of this marriage. Thomas and Mary settled to married life in Whilton, and it appears that they were living in Thomas’ newly built house, almost certainly what we know as Dormer Cottage. Thomas was overseer of the poor for the year 1698.

By 1722 Thomas was 70 and had found someone to take over some of his property. George Judkin, (sometimes spelt Judkins) a carpenter, took a lease of what had once been known as Dawson’s House. The house had probably been enlarged, and consisted of four bays and part of a fifth, and with it part of the yard and orchard were leased too, with detailed instructions about the provision and upkeep of the mounds on the boundaries.

These were thatched cob walls, which required maintenance. Thomas Mutton was to make and keep a sufficient mound the whole length of 26 yards on the east side, and on the south end of the orchard the 20 yard mound wall belonged to George Judkin.

Thomas Mutton was a widower and getting old and described himself as in "indifferent health” and so made his will in August 1723, dying a few months later. He left his barn and part of the yard and homestead which “I sometime since agreed to sell to him, or leased to him, and which is now in his possession", to George Judkin. His other bequests were to distant relatives, and his administratix was his kinswoman Barbery Daniell of Whilton. On 4 Feb 1723/4 she left her mark on the statement: "I acknowledge Tho. Mutton received of George Judkin sometime since twenty pounds towards the purchase of a house he bought of the said Tho Mutton in Whilton witness my hand Barbaray Daniel.”

Thomas Mutton had intended George Judkin to have the property, but George had only paid £20 at Thomas’s death, and Barbary stood to inherit the residue of Thomas’ estate. George Judkin considered that by his will Thomas had left the property to him and refused to pay the rest of the money. As a result Barbary and her husband, Sam, would not assent to the bequest. The dispute was finally solved by George Judkin agreeing to pay £11 5s of the £18 10s he still owed and by the Daniells assigning the premises "and the other part of the said fifth bay" to George in November 1724.

George Judkin and his wife Ann now became the owners of the house, where he ran a carpenter’s business. The property stayed in Judkin's ownership for generations, although after the first George Judkin they did not live in the house, but farmed from Roughmoor.

The property was let to a variety of tenants and other properties were taken in. These included the site of a cottage which was "ruinous and much out of repair ", conveyed by John Blencow to tailor William Moss. William Moss pulled down the cottage, which was to the west of Dawson’s house and built a new one with a brewhouse and outbuildings, borrowing £30 from George Judkin to do this in 1789. His fire insurance certificate noted that all these buildings were thatched. William Moss then became tailor, shopkeeper and publican. No doubt he needed every penny as he had twelve children, although one died as a baby.

Other tenants followed and the house was split up into smaller cottages, with a variety of people calling themselves "publican", but none depending on this entirely for a living. There can have been little profit from the pub.

By 1810 the publican was Joseph Emery, a carpenter as well, assisted by his first wife, Susannah, and then his second, Mary. After his death in 1835, Mary Emery and l her step-daughter Zillah took over from her father at the Plough, as it was now known. Before long Mary found a new husband, and married John Kilsby, a mason and victualler, yet again combining the pub with another job. But John Kilsby died in 1844. Mary, his widow, conveyed her pub to John Hyde in 1851. She remained in one of the little cottages adjoining the Plough. Her gravestone, dated 1857, is in the churchyard near the gate. It was John Hyde who took out a mortgage with Phipps Brewery, which by 1894 had taken over the Plough.

The brewery also acquired a little cottage near the street between the Plough and the modern Dormer Cottage. This cottage had once belonged to John Facer, who died here in 1760. He sold it to John Jellis, a Whilton woolcomber. His son and grandson, both called James, inherited the cottage, but were farmers in Leicestershire and so let it out to tenants. The younger James sold the cottage to Phipps in 1894.

Despite a boost during the Second World War, when soldiers from Brockhall and Whilton used the pub, trade gradually declined, and the pub finally closed its doors at Christmas in 1954. It seems fitting that Harold and Trudy Haynes were able to acquire the pub as a home. Harold had Dunkley ancestors, and Harry Dunkley ran the Plough and a carrier’s business in Victorian and Edwardian times.

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March 2010


"WORN IN WHILTON" was the title of our meeting on 23rd March, when we considered some aspects of clothing worn here over the centuries. Until the eighteenth century the main fabrics used were wool and linen, the wool being produced locally. The rector had a right to a tenth of the fleeces, and in 1631 two Whilton men, who had been involved in shearing at Brockhall, gave evidence about the collection of tithe there. After the farmer’s sister had laid out the fleeces in tens, the Brockhall rector would send his factor to look over them. He would then choose one from each group as the rector’s tithe. It is likely that a similar system operated in Whilton.

In this area the wool was mostly used to make worsted cloth, which was made of long-staple fibres which were combed to remove unwanted short fibres and make them lie parallel. In the spinning operation, which gives the necessary twist to hold the fibres together, worsted yarns are more tightly twisted than are the bulkier woollen yarns. The soft, heavy yarn is strong and durable and is often used for fine materials. There is a record of a Whilton farm being sold in 1437 for money and armour, which included a red worsted doublet, perhaps locally made.

Wool used for worsted cloth required more than carding, as the fibres to be laid parallel to each other and unwanted short staple wool had to be removed. This process was called woolcombing. It was an apprenticed trade, a seven year apprenticeship being the norm in the mid eighteenth century with apprenticeship starting at about the age of 12 or 13.

The comb, which was like a short handled rake, had several rows of long teeth, or broitches - originally made of wood, later of metal. The broitches were heated in a charcoal fuelled comb-pot, as heated combs softened the lanolin and the extra oil used which made the process easier. The wool comber would take a tress of wool, sprinkle it with oil and massage this well into the wool. He then attached a heated comb to a post or wooden framework, threw the wool over the teeth and drew it through them repeatedly, leaving a few straight strands of wool upon the comb each time. When the comb had collected all the wool, the woolcomber would place it back into the comb-pot with the wool hanging down outside to keep warm. A second hank of wool was heated in the same way.

When both combs were full of the heated wool (about four ounces) the comber would sit on a low stool with a comb in each hand and comb one tress of wool into the other by inserting the teeth of one comb into the wool stuck in the other, repeating the process until the fibres were laid parallel. To complete the process the combed wool was formed into slivers, several slivers making a top, which weighed exactly a pound.

The cloth industry was relatively important in Whilton by the late eighteenth century. With a fast growing national population the production of clothing was essential. In 1781 there were three weavers and nine woolcombers in Whilton. Just as the numbers were reaching their peak, disaster struck, as new methods of making cloth were invented further north. As factories took over, there was no work left for Whilton woolcombers. We have the story of one of these men.


The records suggest that Richard Constable probably lived in Tudor House. He had a number of children baptized at St Andrew’s and after his first wife died, he married Ann Townley of Whilton. Like other woolcombers he had various business interests. He had a shop in Whilton, but he was almost certainly part of the "harateen" or worsted industry for which Long Buckby was well known. He was probably more than an ordinary cottage woolcomber, being involved in collecting and delivering to other home workers in the area, and in this way may have had the opportunity to meet a variety of other people. This would have suited him because he was one of earliest Methodists in this area.

Sometimes those he met were not trustworthy, as in 1796 when some of his jersey wool was stolen by a Dodford woman. "Jersey wool" was wool which had been combed but not yet spun. By the 1800s the home based woollen cloth industry was in serious decline in the face of industrialization. Richard was one of those left without work. He and his new wife had a baby daughter in 1811 and sometime after this he moved to Northampton in the search of employment. All the woollen industry had now moved further north and there was no congenial work available. Ann was pregnant again. With another new baby to feed and no income, he took on work on a canal wharf in Northampton. The winter of 1813-14 was bitterly cold, and perhaps it was this freezing weather and snow, which must also have prevented canal trade, which led to his final illness and his return to Whilton. By February 1814 he had died and the fatherless new baby was christened here in the following May.


We heard about some of the clothes passed on through generations in the past, when hard wearing qualities were more important than the latest fashions. In 1601 Thomas Linnell inherited his father’s russet coat and hose, and in 1641 William Reeve a Whilton husbandman left his wearing clothes of linen and woollen to his brother Richard. However, it was usually women who described their clothes in more detail, when leaving them in their wills.

We looked particularly at the clothes of the interestingly-named Philip Smith, a widow, who died in 1707. She was comfortably off and left a variety of money gifts to various relatives and friends. She had also given thought to all her dresses, and divided them up among several women, some of whom may have been her daughters. Elizabeth Langton received two "pettycoats and a sute of my best linen". Elizabeth Smith, the daughter of Widow Smith of Wootton near Northampton got a black gown and petticoat. Mary Russell, wife of Sam Russell of Long Buckby, inherited a sad coloured gown and petticoat. "Sad" in those days, as we would expect, meant dull. There was a mixed serge gown and petticoat for Alice, wife of John Smith of Stow, and Elizabeth Hedg of Daventry had a different sad coloured gown and a grey petticoat. But Elizabeth Green of East Haddon received a black tawny gown and petticoat with a silver lace. A petticoat at this period was an underskirt, sometimes decorated, and not a piece of underwear.

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January 2010


Our meeting in January was based on some of the place names in Whilton, beginning by re-visiting a Newsletter article by Harold Haynes published in December 1997. He called it "Wadd’s in a name?”, and raised a number of questions and suggestions, some of which can now be answered.

See here for a map showing field names.

Harold rightly guessed that Wadd Close came from the word "woad". From the late 17th century until the enclosure, Whilton was in the area known for its woad growing and processing. The woad people were itinerant, staying for three or four years in an area, and then moving on. They would return twelve to fifteen years later. Woad was not grown in the open fields, but in old enclosures near the village. Landowners would grant leases to the woadmen who organised this. Woad Close and second Woad Close fitted into this category. Some of the enclosures of Roughmoor and fields in Brington and Norton were used for woad.

Harold was intrigued by the name "Top of the Town Close", saying you could hardly call this a town. In fact you could. The suffix "ton" is a Saxon word meaning settlement or village, and in many records over the centuries there are references to the "township" of Whilton. Modern "Hill Top" stands in this close. Not only does it mark the top of the hill, but it also marked the end of the village before the enclosure, when the road took a different route down to the valley.

Inkerman is another puzzle, because no record suggests that a Whilton man fought in the Battle of lnkerman in the Crimea in 1854. However, in the previous year, a Captain George Jenkinson of Weedon Barracks had purchased Whilton Lodge, including the Mill and its farm. The Captain and his family lived in Whilton for a few years, becoming involved in parish affairs, before he left for his new home after becoming the eleventh Earl of Liverpool. It would seem likely that he had some influence in renaming the field in honour of the great battle.

Harold mentioned Windmill Close, Dairy Ground and Donkey Field as having obvious meanings, the Donkey Field being where the Rector kept the donkey which pulled the mowing machine over the Rectory lawns. The Donkey Field was next to a much larger old enclosure, known as the Dove House Close. The medieval dove house may well have stood in this field.

Harold wondered who was the Tarry of Tarry’s Orchard. Edward Tarry was born in about 1832 in Chapel Brampton. His mother, Ann, had come from Whilton. When his father died, Edward came to live in The Old Cottage, Whilton, with his uncle John Dunkley, a bachelor. The records suggest he may have had an unhappy childhood, and this may be what prompted him to leave for Australia. When John Dunkley died in 1866, leaving his house and land to his nephew, Edward Tarry came back from Melbourne. He lived the rest of his life in the Old Cottage, being a grazier here. Presumably Tarry’s Orchard was used for grazing and apple growing. Edward Tarry died a widower with no children in 1907.

Collins Orchard was remembered by Harold as a place for scrumping pears. There were Collins families in Whilton throughout the 19th century. In 1841 Thomas Collins and his family were living in a cottage next to the Wheatsheaf pub in Brington Lane; almost certainly it was they who gave the name to the field beyond their cottage. Thomas was an agricultural labourer.

Harold believed the three fields called Butlins to the north of the road going down Whilton Hill, may have once been farmed by William Langton Wright Butlin. In fact they were allotments to John Butlin at the enclosure in 1778. John Butlin must have been a relative of William Langton Wright Butlin and both were living in Whilton at this time. Later John Butlin seems to have moved to Duston, and let his farmland to Thomas Humphrey.

The Humphrey family were butchers and some were millers. Harold guessed that the two fields off the Brington Road known as John Humphreys were allotted to John Humphrey the butcher in 1778. This is probably correct. It is interesting that some of the original names of people who gained land at the enclosure have been preserved in these field names after two and a quarter centuries. Lang’s Hill Meadow and Langs Hill were allotments to Perridge Langton and Joe Langs was allotted to Joseph Langton at the enclosure.

Harold noted that one of the fields in the glebeland has the intriguing name,"AngIends". This is in fact a very old name. The first record of it is in 1501, when it was part of the open Fen Field, and was known as Hanging Lands or Hanglands, that is "land on a slope".

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November 2009


At our November meeting we found out some of the details of the farming life of William Langton of Whilton. William was born in the time of Queen Elizabeth, would have lived through the scare of the Spanish Armada, the accession of James l, the Gunpowder Plot and the early years of Charles l. He died in 1636.

We cannot be sure where William’s Whilton farmhouse stood four hundred years ago, but there is enough information to give us an idea of what his home looked like. With the aid of a model we considered William’s yard, which included the farmhouse where he lived. This was probably well furnished for a yeoman, but we only have records of a bed, chair, cupboards and buffet stool. The house and buildings would all have been thatched and probably built of cob. The fireplace was vital for cooking and for warmth, and the fire was kept in all year. The Langtons had a yearly trip to Rugby to collect coal, presumably from the Warwickshire mining area, and they also burnt furze in the house. Furze could be used as a form of kindling or to raise a blaze when more heat was needed. When William later built another farmhouse, he reckoned there was a need for sixty faggots of furze a year, but the size of the faggots is not described! There were trees in or around his Great Close, from which, no doubt, firewood was obtained. There was timber stacked about the place, some in sheds, which William referred to as hovels.

The yard was almost certainly cobbled. The outbuildings housed his farming equipment, which included at least two long carts and two dung carts, his ploughs, with irons belonging to them, and one great harrow. This equipment would have been pulled by the six horses owned by William. In the stables and cow houses round the yard were gear for horses, racks, mangers and lures. The entry to this yard was through a gateway, with two garners over it, suggesting a wide entrance, with gates which were closed at night, something like the farm at Muscott.

Other equipment included a salting trough, used in the salting of meat, which would have been butchered and preserved for the use of the family. There were also barrels, probably for the storing of beer brewed for the family and its servants and labourers. William had his own malt kiln, with its steeping vat and hair cloth belonging to it, and used in the production of malt probably from his own barley. Thomas Hale, a writer of the next century compared methods for making malt, and wrote, "Of all the methods the plain and simple hair cloth is the best for the finest malts. A slow fire under this dries it very gradually and equally, it is easily turned as is required, and when it is done there is no difficulty in getting it out, for ’tis only turning it at once and all is clean." This suggests William Langton knew what he was doing. He stored his malt in barns round the yard.

In July 1602 William was married in Nether Heyford, where his bride was Elizabeth Worley. Their marriage was to last 33 years, which was a good long time for those risky days, when many women died young. William and Elizabeth brought up their children in the old farmhouse. There were two sons, William and Thomas, and several daughters. William and Elizabeth Langton prospered during their lifetime, and William was able to build a second farmhouse on Nichols Yard in Whilton, so that after his death each of his two sons could have his own farm. This new house had two storeys and with it a yard, homestead, barns and "edifices". There was a great barn next to "Beane Well", with a grass close beside it to the west. This new house was probably comfortably furnished, but the records only mention a table with frame and form in the hall, a spit, cupboards, a swilling pot and brazen pots, but that there were other items of furniture too. After William died, his widow, Elizabeth went to live in this new house with her son Thomas Langton; she had a patch of south facing ground outside her parlour where she could sit in the sun.

William’s closes included an orchard, next to Robert Langton’s close, with different types of apple trees. A few cows were kept in the Great Close near the house, almost certainly for milking, and some sheep grazed here too. Besides his two farmhouses and the hedged fields connected with them, William held four yardlands of arable land in the open fields of Whilton, just as other farmers did. A yardland was not a precise measurement and varied from parish to parish, in this area often being between 25 and 30 acres. If we base our calculations on the lower figure, we can say that William held at least 100 acres in Whilton open fields. He also held ten lands, or strips, in Muscot Field. This was another open field, stretching up adjoining Whilton, beside Roughmoor Grounds, which was communally held by Norton, Brockhall and Whilton parishes. In these open fields William grew corn and peas, wheat and barley. Some barley was used for malt, but other grain would have been threshed and taken to the windmill on the hill or the watermill in the valley, to provide flour for the family. He also harvested hay and held the sixth part of a yardland in the Farm Ground of Whilton. This may have been grassland for hay or grazing.

However, William’s main business involved livestock. In his old age, he owned 16 cows and 8 heifers, and in the common fields he kept 30 young sheep, 15 ewes and lambs and 15 barren sheep, besides his sheep and cows in his Great Close near the house. There were also another 60 hogs (a local word for yearling sheep). His sons also had their own flocks and herds, and appear to have worked the farm with him.

Dung from the animals was an important by-product, used for fertilising the ground. William had dung carts for transporting this manure where required, but the sheep were sometimes folded on the arable strips which William held, the folds being carried out to the lands. After William died, the sons had to carry out his will that young William’s sheep should be moved out to a fold on Thomas’s arable in the open fields every year, so that Thomas should have the muck from his brother’s sheep kept in Great Close; Thomas had the duty of carrying the sheep fold out to the fields.

After his death in 1636, William Langton was not buried in the churchyard, but in the church itself, usually the sign that he was an important and wealthy parishioner. He left the church a plate for the serving of the bread during communion, but no memorial to him has remained. His "beloved friends" whom he made the overseers of his will were other farmers, Thomas Linnell, William Hall and William Briggs. William Phillips, another farmer who probably lived in a farmhouse at the end of Buckby Lane, and the Rector, Samuel Phillips, witnessed the will. The value of William Langton’s goods was reckoned to be £607-9-4, a considerable sum in 1636.

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September 2009


At our September meeting, entitled “Landlubbers and boatmen”, we looked at the history of the canal in Whilton, which is over 200 years old.

The boat people spent their whole lives working on the cut, with their own traditions, dialect and costume. Whilton Locks developed as a “service station” for these forerunners of long distance lorry drivers. The Spotted Cow pub (now Foursquare Farm) provided a meeting place, alcoholic refreshment, especially Guinness, and sold fresh produce.

In 1891 it was sold by auction at the Peacock Hotel, Daventry. The sale details described it as a:-
brick-built and slated old-established Public House, very eligibly situated near to the road from Daventry to Whilton, and adjoining the towing path of the Grand Junction Canal, having an extensive frontage thereto. The house contains taproom, bar, two sitting-rooms, pantry, kitchen with room over scullery, top and underground cellars, and four b
edrooms. The outbuildings comprise stabling for ten horses, granary, hen and coal houses

and piggeries, large yard with pump and well of good water, and extensive garden. Well planted with fruit trees, the whole occupying an area of one acre, or thereabouts. The property was for many years in the occupation of the late Mrs Elizabeth Elliott, and is now of Mr William Elliott, the proprietor. It is in close proximity to Whilton Locks, and is much used as a halting place for boats, there being no other licensed house within a considerable distance.”

Memories of the first half of the twentieth century included fishing competitions, clog dancing, and cricket matches with teas provided by the Spotted Cow. The blacksmith, Sam Tomlinson, shoed the horses for the boat people and the hunters from Whilton Lodge, while his wife was a dressmaker. Bonnets and shirts could be ordered on one trip and collected on the next. It took a skilled needlewoman to work these intricate designs.

Because of their nomadic way of life, few boatpeople learned to read and write, and had to have their letters read by Mrs Wright at the Spotted Cow. We also heard how small boys (Will Adams in the years before the First World War and Jack Wright between the Wars) were fascinated by the blacksmith’s forge, which was also making bikes, and by the threshing tackle, engine box, elevators and a set of saws in the yard which is now the site of Saxon Lifts. Small boys nowadays would not have the freedom to roam in such places!

We noted the bewildering variety of activities undertaken by the Victorian entrepreneur, Thomas Henry Reynolds. Among others, these ranged from being a farmer, coal merchant, miller, grain merchant, lime merchant with lime kilns at the Locks, farm steward for John Craven at the Lodge, Rural District Councillor, four times Mayor of Daventry, Guardian for the Daventry Poor Law Union, Whilton School Manager, Churchwarden and Parish Councillor.

In his spare time he was colour sergeant of the Althorp Company of Volunteers. It was he who fired the first shots on the new range at Brington in 1897. Shooting was one of his leisure pursuits, and with two others, he rented the shooting and fishing rights of Daventry Canal Reservoir, although it was generally agreed that his favourite sport was angling. Perhaps this was one of the few opportunities he had to sit quietly! Going home would not have been quiet, as he and his wife, Tryphena, had nine children.


The Reynolds family lived in the farmhouse, which was demolished in order to build the Bannaventa pub, which has now become the carpet shop. The farmhouse, outbuildings and lime kilns can be seen on the left of this map of about 1880.

The house faced the road with an orchard in the area beside the railway embankment. If anyone has a photo of the front of this house, I would be very interested to see it. Needless to say, a photo of the energetic Mr Reynolds would be equally interesting.

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July 2009


The Local History Society met on 15th July to hear “The Tale of Tommy Adams."

Tommy was born in Whilton, 280 years ago, and baptised in the parish church on 11th April 1729. He was the middle child of Thomas and Mary Adams, probably descendants of the Adams family who had farmed in Whilton in Elizabethan times. His grandfather, another Thomas, had made money in London as a butcher.

By the time of Tommy’s birth the family was wealthy, living in fashionable comfort in a large house in Whilton, with coach house, brew houses, stable, malt kiln and pump house, besides its orchard and garden. When his parents Thomas and Mary entertained, they may have used their silver spoons, ladle and salver, stirring their tea with silver teaspoons and lifting the sugar with silver tongs. Thomas had a choice of gold or silver watches and maybe the large crystal with two diamonds on Mary’s ring glittered, while the sparkle of Thomas’s silver sleeve buttons and buckles caught the candle light. Thomas would have looked smart, newly shaved by his barber Jonathan Cue, who also provided the powder to whiten his wig. Their visitors may have been from London, or have been squires and their families from local parishes, sometimes on business and sometimes on social occasions. Thomas’s property extended to Warwickshire, other Northamptonshire parishes and London, providing a wide network for the family. Perhaps Mary and Thomas kept in touch with friends and connections writing at the escritoire in the "Best Room".

Sadly this idyllic existence ended with the death of both parents within a year, when Tommy was six. The three orphan children were then brought up under the care of three long suffering guardians, named in their father’s will. The children stayed together at first, but after a year or two being looked after by the Taylors in Long Buckby, Tommy went as a boarder to Guilsborough School.

However, things did not work out well and by 1743 a guardian was writing: “and as to T Adams, am of ye opinion ‘tis time should learne writing and accounts and if he cannot be sufficiently taught att Guilsborough think ye master ...at Preston may be a proper one for him and ye sooner he is sent thither ye better." He was moved to a new master, Mr Jones at Preston Capes, but his interest in education did not improve. He was a constant worry to his guardians, one writing of him: "if he proceeds in this manner he will be fitt for no manner of business and must be ruin’d." We heard of various traumas through his teenage years, and how by 1745 he had run away from his apprentice master in Daventry lest he be forced into the Pretender’s army in 1745 — "a likely story,” as one guardian commented.

Despite his guardians’ concerns, he finally joined the British army in 1747, and experienced his first battle at Maastricht, a disaster for the English and their allies, but a victory for France. Tommy “escaped with only ye loss of his hatt, ‘tho he was in ye hottest of ye battle and very much exposed." We then followed adult Tommy as he blossomed in his army career, with occasional periods of leave back in England, including one in 1750, when he finally sold his Northamptonshire estates and visited Whilton again to follow the coffin of his younger brother, who was brought back for burial here.

Tomrny’s career culminated in his victories in India, where he replaced Robert Clive while he was back in England. As one military historian wrote: "Had Napoleon fulfilled his dreams and added such a campaign to his exploits in Europe, the whole world would still ring with it; yet the conquest of Meerccossim by a simple Major of Foot is forgotten. Nevertheless, be it remembered or forgotten, one of the great names in English military history is that of Thomas Adams of the 84th Foot."

Tommy was posthumously awarded the rank of Brigadier General, but had died in Calcutta from illness after a battle in 1764.

There is no memorial to Brigadier General Thomas Adams in Whilton, but the Local History Society reacted with interest and pride to hear his story.

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May 2009


The society met in St Andrew’s Church on Thursday 21st May, which was Ascension Day. In medieval Whilton this was the culmination of Cross Week, when there would be processions around the parish and fields, and litanies would be sung, praying for good crops and that the parish should be free of the pestilence. As the procession went along people would carry banners, probably embroidered with symbols or pictures of saints. These were known as cross cloths, and were sometimes left to the church in parishioners’ wills. They may have been hung near the crosses inside the church for the rest of the year. We have a record that Thomas Tobye left 6 shillings in 1547 to buy a cross cloth for the best cross in Whilton. Cross Week therefore meant a holiday in Whilton, and with that went other celebrations, including the "parish drinking.” The same Thomas Tobye left six hives of bees and their increase to be used "to make a parish drynkyng in the crose weke after ye procession."

We began by walking round the churchyard noting a few of the graves. It was not until the mid 1600’s that gravestones were generally introduced. Among our earliest are those in memory of Ann Dixon, who died aged 26 in 1668, and of her brother, William, who died in 1671.

The first Emery gravestone dates from 1681 and they have a number of other memorials and chest or table tombs over a vault where several members of the family were buried. There is also an Elliott chest tomb. Richard Elliott was a boatman, who brought his baby son for baptism in 1811. He settled at the Locks, where he was variously described as a shopkeeper or grocer, innkeeper at The Spotted Cow, a farmer and a coal merchant. In fact he probably combined these activities for most of his life, serving the boat people. He died aged 68 in 1852.

By far the majority of memorials are to adults who reached a good old age in Whilton, many in their 80’s, suggesting this was a healthy place to live. There are, however, a few to young children and babies, including a stone in memory of Frederick Main Walker, the little son of WhiIton’s second schoolmaster. He died in 1841 aged two and a half. George Watson was another child, aged 7 years 8 months. He died in 1825, after being accidentally drowned at Brownsover.

Inside the Church we noted particularly the memorials to the Freeman and Rose families. Richard Freeman was lord of Whilton Manor and died in 1749. The memorials in the Church tower include Richard, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Jane. Richard and Elizabeth were parents of the eccentric Langton Freeman, whose body was sealed up in the summerhouse of the Manor House in 1784. There is no memorial to him.

At the west end of the Church are several monuments to members of the Rose family. Whilton benefited tremendously from the generosity, taste and genuine social concern shown by this family, especially by Rev William Lucas Rose and his wife, Ann. The memorials reflect this. This Rector died in the bitter January of 1814 when snowdrifts over 24 feet were recorded in Dunchurch.

His memorial is effusive, but records suggest that it genuinely reflects the feelings of his family and parishioners:

"Patron and Rector of this Church and for many years an active and upright Magistrate for the County. Constant in the practice of every Virtue that can adorn the Character of Master; Husband and Father; he directed his chiefest care to the more important concerns of the Pastoral Office, conducting them for thirty-seven years with a fidelity, diligence, and zeal, which afforded to all who knew him abundant testimony that the service of his God, and the Spiritual improvement of his Flock, constituted the first Business and Pleasure of his Life.”

Set into the floor tiles in the chancel are two slabs in memory of John Spateman and his wife. Rev John Spateman was Rector and died in 1749 the same year as the lord of the manor, Richard Freeman. John was Whilton’s poet Rector, writing long works in blank verse, entitled "Jesus” and “War.” He attempted to get another 10,000 word poem printed, entitled "Tobias.” This was going to be in twelve volumes, but there is no record that he managed to get enough subscribers.

We also noted that there are other unmarked burials beneath the Church itself. These include several Tudor villagers, among them Francis Hodge, a farmer, who requested to be buried in the church porch of Whilton in 1597. Our current porch and entrance date from a later period, and so his remains may lie under or near the old tower door. It does mean that he expected parishioners would walk over his bones for centuries to come. Francis also showed concern for the community, leaving six shillings and eight pence to the church and four pence to every poor householder in this town of Whilton.

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March 2009


Our March meeting was based on fetes and festivals of Whilton in the last century.

Our ancestors were governed by two main factors for their festivals. These were the Christian calendar and the agricultural year. The calendar of saints’ days and religious festivals was once much better known than today, and had a significance for daily life.

Each parish church was dedicated to a saint or saints, and on that saint’s day, there would be the patronal festival. For Whilton this was St Andrew, and his day is 30th November.

Rents, annuities and debts were often paid on the quarter days, and servants were sometimes hired from one to another.

These were four days, coinciding with religious festivals, each three months from the next. The days were:

· 25 March, Lady Day, once the first day of the year.

· 24 June, Midsummer, the Feast of John the Baptist

· 29 September, Michaelmas, the Feast of St Michael and All Angels

· 25 December: Christmas Day, Feast of the Nativity

By the twentieth century the significance of many of these festivals had faded, and one or two had been revived perhaps from pagan days. The roots of May Day are definitely based on some sort of fertility ritual. There was a revival of May Day in the early twentieth century, and Whilton is no exception in this. The traditions of Rogation and “beating the bounds” may both have mixed origins in Christian and pagan traditions. In Whilton the Rogation tradition has been continued to modern times, and has been extended to such events as pet blessing services, which are really a development of praying for blessings on crops and livestock at Rogation time.

For the farmers, harvest was important and Harvest Festival is still celebrated. The importance of Christmas, of course, has been noticeably over emphasized during the later twentieth century

At the Local History Society in March we used written memories and old photos to recall some of the special events of the twentieth century. Here is a small selection:

May was a good time for days off. In the 1930s the May Queen was crowned on the Green. The Maypole was sometimes in the playground, sometimes on the Green. They sang May songs around the village, and then walked to Norton or went on a wagon, for May Day at Emery’s. Even the children had cake and home made wine at Norton Lodge. Stan Haynes remembered shivering in a white blouse, while Ozzie, Mrs Osborne the teacher, wore her winter coat with fur lined collar. He remembered the year when Annie Bingley looked regal as queen and he and Hilda Clements danced a minuet.

Mrs Osborne’s logbook: 1931 1 May “School closed today for May Day celebrations. After crowning the Queen (Phyllis Essen) posing for photographer, we visited neighbouring farms and were refreshed at Norton Lodge with wine and cake. Mr and Mrs W Emery gave the children a splendid tea – followed by Sports with prizes for all.”

There was a fancy dress parade for the coronation of Elizabeth II.

There were good written memories, but sadly no photos, of the Christmas parties for children at Whilton Lodge, where the host was Colonel Shaw, with his moustache, monocle and red countenance and his filmstar like wife. For most village children presents were sparse at home. Don Welch remembered having an orange, nuts, a book and a drawing book from his parents. Stan Haynes remembered the excitement of having pork pie for Christmas breakfast.

We heard how Empire Day activities on 24th May 1937 suffered from bad weather: “Part of the afternoon was to be devoted to Games in the field, where we are allowed to play through the kindness of one of the Managers, Mr Emery, but owing to the dampness of the grass they had to take place in the playground.” At the 1953 coronation , “the children were presented with the County Souvenir, Richard Dimbleby’s book, “Elizabeth our Queen”, and each child was given a ½ lb Coronation box of chocolates by the Head Mistress.” There are still clear memories of this.

We also heard Tony Allen’s memories of bidding for apples with Marcus Swinford at a harvest auction in the 1960s, only to find they were cookers!

We relished Stan Haynes’ account of Christmas Eve here in the 1930s: In the church new candles were in place, the stove was going well, and the polished copper lamps shone on the holly which decorated the lectern and pulpit… The boy in the corner pumped the organ, Parson Brown announced the hymn, Betty Pride played the opening chord, and the church rang to the sound of “O come all ye faithful.”

Our evening finished with a photo of Whilton bell ringers ringing in the Millennium on 1st January 2000.

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January 2009


On Thursday 15th January Whilton Local History Society met for a medieval winter meal.

Over 30 people sat down by candlelight and tucked into a meal based on food either available or produced in Whilton in about 1388.

1388 was a significant year, because John Holt, a lawyer and the lord of the manor of Whilton, a supporter of Richard II, had been declared a traitor by the Merciless Parliament of that year. The king was too weak to prevent him from being exiled to Ireland. Because all the property of any traitor became forfeit to the Crown, the "civil servants" of the day needed to know what John Holt

was worth. As a result we have details of the crops and livestock in the lord’s demesne that year from the ricks of rye and peas and the malt in the granary to the sow with her 12 piglets worth two shillings.

John Holt ‘s land is described as three gardens for depasturing, (this probably means enclosed fields for grazing), 200 acres of arable adjoining the manor, "divers pieces of meadow and pasture", a dovecote, a water mill, rents, perquisites of courts and 13 boon-works for mowing hay. There were fish ponds too, but it appears no one was very keen on fish, despite the medieval rules for avoiding meat on Fridays and other occasions. The fish in the ponds were sold for two shillings.

The first course was leek and rabbit soup, providing a flavour of the medieval winter cooking pot, which hung over the fire. Every cottager had his own piece of garden, which was cultivated to produce essentials for the family. Onions were grown throughout the country, as were leeks.

The rabbits may have been poached, or may have just been culled to protect the crops. The lord of Whilton Manor, William de Whilton, had obtained the grant of free warren in 1258, and so officially all the rabbits belonged to his successors. However it seems unlikely that they all stayed inside the warren!

This was followed by a small taste of terrine of pike, one of the fish which may have been stocked in the lord of the manor’s fishponds.

The main course consisted of smoked bacon, pigeon breast, pease pudding, parsnips and rye bread with mustard sauce. Records show that peas were grown in quantity in Whilton and put into ricks. They provided protein and a filling ingredient in the days before potatoes. The pudding was cooked very long and slowly, and took in the flavours of other items in the pot, in this case the bacon. Parsnips were probably grown in the gardens here and perhaps a few pigeons escaped from the lord’s dovecote!

Lastly oatcakes were served with a choice of honeyed apples or cheese, all good winter fare in medieval Whilton.

The onion and mustard sauce

Some people liked the sauce and asked for the recipe to be published, as follows:


One onion

A knob of butter (about 1½ oz)

1 rounded tablespoon flour

Heaped teaspoon Colman’s mustard powder

About pint of milk and stock (or liquid from your cooking pot)

Heaped teaspoon French whole grain mustard from Waitrose

Melt the butter and very gently cook the chopped onion, without letting it turn brown (about 15-20 minutes).

Stir in the flour and mustard powder over a gentle heat.

Gradually add the stock and milk, until you reach the consistency you wish, stirring all the time over a low heat.

Allow to barely simmer for about 5 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in the French mustard.

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November 2008


John Murcott was a gentleman of Warwick Square, London, who died in 1833 leaving £100 to the Rector and Churchwardens of Whilton. The interest was to be used for "the benefit of the Poor of the said Parish in purchasing clothing and night covering, except a few shillings to be given to each poor person to commemorate the name of the donor."

John Murcott was born in Whilton in about 1772, and was possibly the brother of the Methodist, Thomas Murcott, of lnglenook. If so, he was one of the eight children of Thomas and Elizabeth Murcott, and may well have had memories of not enough bedclothes to go round, leading to his bequest towards "night covering". It is interesting that he left some money to be given as gifts to the poor to commemorate the name of the donor. This suggests he hoped some people would remember him, and in a way we are commemorating him now.

Over the years the use of his charity changed and it became the coal charity. In providing coal, it continued to fulfil the aim of helping to keep people warm.

Rev Langton Freeman was the fifth son of Richard Freeman and the first son of his second wife, Elizabeth Langton, after whom he was named. He was born in Whilton in 1710, but in contrast to John Murcott, seems to have lived most of his life here.

Langton was destined for the Church and was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. As Rev Langton Freeman, he became Vicar of Hellidon in 1735. He kept this position until 1760, but this did not stop him also becoming Vicar of Long Buckby in 1738 and then Rector of Bilton. He was never Rector of Whilton, but he did hold property here and in 1749 inherited his position of Lord of the Manor of Whilton.

Langton was a wealthy lifelong bachelor, but gained the reputation of a miserly eccentric. It is even claimed, probably correctly, that he stayed the night with someone and unpicked the threads from his host’s blankets to mend his clothes!

He ended his days in the house known today as the Manor House in 1784. The strange terms of his will were adhered to, and his body was sealed up in the summerhouse in the garden, surrounded with evergreens and a fence, painted dark blue. Perhaps by his death he regretted some of his mean actions, as in his will he bequeathed a recompense to those whom he had robbed in his lifetime! However, in the charity he founded, he showed little sign of generosity, leaving only £20 to the poor of Whilton. This was such a small amount that in later years it was amalgamated with John Murcott’s coal charity.

Mrs Ann Rose was the widow of Rev William Lucas Rose, who had been Rector of Whilton until he died in 1814. During her many years in the Rectory she had helped the poor girls of Whilton with clothing and wanted this to carry on after her death.

In 1823 she set up a trust deed, founding her charity. The trustees were to use the income from the £400 she gave "to purchase once in every year for ever twelve pairs of shoes and twelve pairs of stockings and once in every two years for ever the several articles of clothing hereinafter mentioned, that is to say, twelve bonnets, twelve tippets, twelve pairs of mittens and twelve gowns."

The clothing was for girls who lived in Whilton and who were aged between six and fourteen. This was a charity which had the double benefit of providing apparel for girls and work for dressmakers and shoemakers. During our meeting we dressed Katherine Waterhouse in clothing of the 1820s, as was probably worn by the first charity girls. We now have an idea of how they all looked when they arrived at church on Sunday mornings.

As the years passed, the fashions changed. We heard memories of about 1930, when the girls trooped down to Miss Tomlinson, the dressmaker at the Locks, to be measured for their dresses, and how when all the straw hats arrived at the Rectory, there was no choice of hat: you just had to wear the one that fitted your head! Later on girls were given money and could go to Northampton to purchase a coat, and we saw a photo of Susan Gardner wearing hers in about 1951.

By late Victorian times the coal charity was being distributed at Christmas once every three years, to about 40 households. The trustees "considered this the best course to adopt, the coals being then equally divided between the poor inhabitants of Whilton, whereas if it was distributed every year all the poor persons could not participate in the Charity."

The modern regulations of the Charity Commissioners no longer allow such general distribution, but the Whilton Relief in Need Charities continue with new definitions in the 21st century.

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August 2008


At our workshop on 21st August, we looked at some of the old field and furlong names (see here for map), and shared memories of some areas of Whilton. As a result we have moved a little further towards plotting more places on our map of Whilton, both before and after the enclosure of 1778.

Some of the field names have lasted through many centuries. Among these are Anglends, earlier known as Hang Lands and, in 1501, as Hanging Furlong, probably meaning "land on a sIope." The fields called Flimbres were once Flintborough Furlong in the open fields. Windmill Close is where the windmill stood from at least 1500, but was in ruins by 1827. The name Mill Leys goes back to at least 1500, near the water mill. There was a dove cote in the Dove House Close, and some people still have a memory of the white house which stood in White House Fields.

Other fields recall the names of those who farmed them. Joe Langs is the field allotted to Joseph Langton in the 1778 enclosure, Butlins to John Butlin, and Dunkleys to John Dunkley. Parson’s Close was allotted as part of the glebeland at the same time. Barkers Meadow was probably so named because William Barker, a maltster and farmer, was renting it from the rector in around 1800.

Some names give clues to old uses, such as Wheatlands and Great Sheep Pen. In the eighteenth century woad was grown in Wadd Close. Edward Tarry, who was born in Chapel Brampton, but farmed here in Victorian times, had fruit in Tarry’s Orchard on the way to Roughmoor Spinney. The Laundry Field was by the laundry which served Whilton Lodge into the twentieth century.

Other field names await further enlightenment. What is the origin of Knavecote, and was a man’s head or skull dug up at Man’s Head Furlong near the Roman Watling Street?

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July 2008


In July when there were celebrations of sixty years of the National Health Service, we looked at the poor and how they fared in the past in Whilton. We have records of some with ill health.

One of these was Reuben Kenning, who was born here and who reported that about 1787, when he was old enough to start work, his mother took him to Mr Denny’s of Muscott, “hearing that he wanted a lad to drive plough, to offer him as such, but the weather being bad Mr Denney would not take him at that time, but would send for him, that about the spring of the year the said Mr Denney did send for him and employed him to drive plough and other business which he had for him to do. While he was there he was taken ill with an ague and with his master’s leave he came to his mother at Brington but returned in a very short time to his place again, after then he was ill again with a humour in his eyes when he asked his master’s leave to come again to his mother till he was well.

He returned again to his master in ten days, after that he was ill with a humor in his eyes again and with his master’s leave came to his mother again in Brington, after a short time returned to his master Mr Denney again - that he continued with the said Mrs Denny four years and half that his said master in consideration of his service gave him clothes and sometimes money but he does not recollect how much.”

On the whole people lived and died in the parish, using folk wisdom and medicine with little recall to doctors. Just occasionally there might be a need for specialist help. During the eighteenth century we have records that four of the poorer inhabitants of Whilton were patients in Northampton Hospital. For such poor people to be taken on the long journey and then to be in-patients, there would have been expenses, either borne by the parish or a private sponsor.

Two of the patients were from the same family, and perhaps shared the same symptoms. In June 1745 Thomas Andrew was admitted suffering from sciatica. He was 57 years old and stayed in hospital for nine months. When he was discharged, his condition was recorded as being relieved. In December 1772, William Andrews, aged 56, was admitted, also with sciatica. Six months later he too was discharged with his symptoms relieved. If this was the William Andrews sometimes described as “labourer” and sometimes as “pauper”, then he survived for a long life, dying in Whilton in 1798.

Mary Jellis of Whilton was admitted at the recommendation of Reverend John Cadman. Mary was only 20 and had been suffering from epilepsy for a month. She was in hospital from April to November 1761 and was discharged cured. Unfortunately there is no record of the treatment given! The last patient recorded from here was Elizabeth Berridge. She was 30 and her illness was not recorded, but she died in the hospital in January 1838.

By this time the poor of Whilton were being sent to the Daventry Workhouse. The parish paid according to how many of its residents were inmates, and thus the admission of a whole family could be significant for Whilton. The early 1880s can illustrate this. Thomas Linnell of Whilton was 82 when he entered the Workhouse in 1880. He was described as “not able bodied” and came to end his life there.

In the next year the Dodd family arrived. Fanny, a laundress, clearly pregnant with “infant Dodd” brought with her Ellen and Charles, identified as “illegitimate children of inmate”. Ellen and Charles had both been born during previous stays in the Workhouse. “Infant Dodd” died after 7 ½ weeks, but the family remained inmates for a year or two, with one period away. In fact “infant Dodd” had a name. He was buried in Whilton as George Arthur. The Dodd family had old Whilton connections. Fanny was probably brought up by her grandparents, Thomas and Hannah Andrews of Whilton. Thomas Andrews was very likely descended from the Thomas and William Andrews who suffered from sciatica in the 1700s.

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