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Fittleton and Hackleston :
NOTES OF MANORIAL DESCENT.
ITTLETON is a parish in the vale of the Avon, a few miles north of Amesbury: and Hakeneston (corrupted first to Hackleston, then to Haxton, and Haxon) is a tything in the parish of Fittleton.
Sir R. C. Hoare in his History of the Hundred of Elstub and Everley, pp. 24 and 172, has collected some particulars of the early history of these manors, the chief portion of which had become, by the year 1431, the property of the Darells of Littlecote. [See Wilts Mag. iv., 226.]
For the following particulars of their subsequent descent, we are indebted to Richard S. Mullings, Esq., of Stratton, near Cirencester, one of the members of our Society.
It appears from ancient deeds that in 1553, temp. King Edw. VI. William Darell, Esq., of Littlecote (Wild Darell), was the proprietor of the Manor, Capital Messuage, Farm, and Estate of Fittleton, and that he then sold some portion of the estate to George Fettiplace of the Middle Temple, London, Esq., in whose family it continued until 1650, in which year John Fettiplace of Coln St. Aldwyn's, in Gloucestershire, Esq., conveyed the same to William Adlam of Crockerton, Gentleman, subject to the yearly payment of a fee farm or Crown rent of £12. Mr. Adlam in 1665 resold to William Beach, Esq.
It also appears that in 1599 another portion of the estate and also the advowson of the parish church, which were formerly part of the possessions of Sir Edward Darell, Kt., were sold by William Stubbes of Watchfield, Berks, Esq., to the Rev. Thomas Jay of Fittleton, Clerk, and in the 7th year of James I. the capital farm of Haxton otherwise Hacklestone, and the Free Chapel of Fittleton, and the Tithes of Corn and two parts of Wool and Lamb of the
same farm called the "Porcionitry" theretofore also parcel of the possessions of the said Sir Edward Darell, were purchsaed by the said Thomas Jay of Thomas Emmerson, Esq. and William Bennett, Gentleman.
[The Darell estate appears to have been in the Crown in the 31st year of Queen Elizabeth.]
The will of Thomas Jay is dated the 25th of April, 1623.
He died seized of the purchased lands and also of the Manor of Combe in the parish of Enford.
He gave the capital house and estate at Haxton, and the tithes called "Porcionitry " to his son Benjamin Jay of Haxton, and the estate in Fittleton and the Manor of Combe to his son Thomas, afterwards Sir Thomas Jay, Kt. of London. Fittleton subsequently became the property of the Rev. Dr. Henry Edes of Chichester, and afterwards of John Briggs of the same place, Gentleman, in right of his wife Mary Edes. They in the year 1721 sold the advowson of Fittleton to Magdalen College, Oxford, and in 1734 the rest of the Fittleton estate was purchased of them or their representatives by Thomas Beach, Esq.
The capital messuage and farm of Haxton was, it is supposed, purchased by Henry Clark, Esq., who died in the year 1712, and subsequently by Abraham Gapper of Wincanton, Esq., Serjeantat-Law, whose grandson William Gapper, Esq., in the year 1803, sold the same to John Perkins, Esq. of London, of whose coheiress it was purchased by the late Sir Michael Hicks Hicks Beach,
In the year 1626 another portion of the manor and estate of Haxton, containing about 411 acres, was purchased of Sir John Brune, Kt., by Sir Richard Grubham, Kt. of Wishford, from whom it descended to John Howe the 4th and last Lord Chedworth, of whose devisees it was purchased by Michael Hicks Beach, Esq. in 1806 with lands in Netheravon parish. The several estates so acquired by the Beach family as above mentioned, are now the property of Sir Michael Edward Hicks Beach, Bart., M.P., who is the owner of nearly the entire parish and tithing, and who is descended from the ancient family of "Hicks" of Beverstone
Castle and Witcombe Park in Gloucestershire. His great grandfather Michael Hicks, Esq., the second son of Sir Howe Hicks, 5th Bart. married Miss Henrietta Beach who was the daughter and eventually the sole heiress of William Beach, Esq., the last male descendant of the Beach's of Fittleton and Keevil, and who died in the year 1790.
It would seem from ancient documents that the Beach family was connected with the parish of Fittleton from a very early period, as appears from the Placita et Petitiones, that in the time of 15th and 16th Edw. II., 1322, George of Brigmerston (clerk) petitioned the King that "whereas he had leased his Manor of Hakeneston in Wilts to Sir Philip de la Beche for the term of his life, on condition that Sir Philip should year by year deliver to the petitioner a robe suitable for an Esquire, and of the value of 120 solidi, and also find for him, and a Boy, and a horse, sustenance in all manner necessary meat and drink; but then the said Manor was seized into the King's hands by the forfeiture of Sir Philip, he being one of the King's enemies. Wherefore the said George prayed relief, &c."
The response he obtained was that "whereas Sir Philip was then at present in prison, the petitioner should await the gaol delivery." [See Wilts Arch. Mag., vol. ii., p. 260.]
The Crown rent of £12 a year payable out of the Fittleton Manor farm, was acquired by Archbishop Sancroft (who died in the year 1693), and by him given in augmentation of the vicarage of Lambourn in Berkshire, and it is still paid to the Vicar of that parish.
The common field lands in Fittleton were enclosed by Act of Parliament in the year 1796, and the tenantry lands in Haxton in the year 1839.
The tithes of the whole parish belonging to the Church, were commuted in the same year for a rent charge of £461 7s. 8d. The Rev. John Parkinson, D.D., being the then Rector.
The parish including the tithing, contains 3175 acres, of which about 35 acres belong to the Church.
By the Rev. EDWARD PEACOCK, M.A.
"The mountains, the forests, the valleys in truth,
But give me the Downs, for I loved them in youth,
HE county in which this magazine chiefly circulates, has, with the exception of a few others, a feature peculiar to itself, viz., "the Downs." It is very probable that many people look upon these open, uncultivated tracts, as a most uninteresting sort of country-bleak-and bare-and, in a certain measure, barren. A person crossing them in bad weather, especially should a strong easterly wind be sweeping across them, may fairly be pardoned if he should use rather strong terms of dislike in speaking of them. The rain and the wind, unchecked in their course, seem on them to have a doubly penetrating power; and the very best waterproof garment will afford but a very imperfect protection. On a rainy day the prospect presented to the traveller has something in it peculiarly disheartening: a few clumps of trees, or here and there a barrow, may slightly modify the general haze; but even such objects as these are frequently scarce. The shepherd, too, when seen under such circumstances, has little about him suggestive of the delights of pastoral life, as described by poets. Clad in a castoff infantry great coat, he stands with head bent down to avoid the rain, whilst his dog crouches at his feet, the picture of misery. How different, however, do the downs appear when the weather is fine: to those who delight in horse exercise, what can present a more pleasurable prospect than a stretch of their elastic surface, on which even the horse, whose work is nearly done, seems endowed with new vigour, and strikes out almost with the action of his prime. Men, too, who hunt, though they may miss the excitement of the constant fencing which an enclosed country affords, must
look with delight upon the lawn-like surface, as they dash across the bottom to the distant cover, leaving scarcely a hoof print in their track.
To the more sober searcher after Nature's beauties, too, the downs give promise of reward. To the superficial beholder the whole extended space appears simply composed of grass, diversified here and there, perhaps, by the flowering thistle, or its wandering downy seeds. But look a little closer, is there really nothing else to see? What are those small spots of blue, and white, and red? How graceful are those harebells, how exquisitely finished that dwarfed centaury, and that dark blue gentianella: whilst here and there are patches of the various milkworts; and, on the distant hill the purple heather and golden furze are growing.
To those who are interested in the history of the past, the downs are covered with objects associated with the people who dwelt upon them in distant times. Seldom can you see more than a few acres together which do not show the work of man. It may be that some of the mounds or banks which meet the eye are, comparatively speaking, of modern date, when the land was ploughed and cropped for a year or two, and then allowed to fall out of cultivation and gradually return to its former state of grass. But this will be a work of ages-centuries may elapse before the flint brought to the surface by the plough will disappear, or even the furrows become obliterated.
Dotted about on almost every part of the downs are those hillocks, commonly known as "barrows;" and what are they? Every one is a burial place-the larger the barrow, the greater probably the person whose interment is below. Dig into the mound, and human bones and a few fragments of coarse pottery are almost all that meet the eye. And even these relics of the early inhabitants of this part of Britain are scarcely now to be met with. Sir R. C. Hoare, or his followers, have opened almost every barrow in the southern part of Wiltshire, and the only relic likely to reward the barrow-digger for his labour would be a disc of lead, with the initials R. C. H., 1815, or some such date, or a brass medal with the words, "Opened by W. Cunnington, 1804."