St Peter & St Paul's Parish Church

Victoria County History - A History of Northampton: Volume 5: The Hundred of Cleley - Philip Riden



Sometime before 1221 (when the gift was confirmed by his son Hugh, an undertenant of part of the Mortain fee there) (fn. 26) Robert Revell granted the advowson of Cosgrove to the Knights Hospitallers, (fn. 27) who presented Richard Giffard to the living the following year. (fn. 28) Other presentations by the Hospitallers followed later in the 13th century. (fn. 29) In 1330 the order's attorney claimed that it had held a frankpledge court in (amongst other places in Northamptonshire) Cosgrove and Furtho since time immemorial. (fn. 30)

After the Disolution and the annexation of the manor to the honor of Grafton in 1542, the advowson passed with the lordship until both came into the hands of William, 2nd Lord Maynard. (fn. 31) He sold the manor to John Beauchamp but the advowson remained in his family until 1800, when Charles, 2nd Viscount Maynard, sold it to John Christopher Mansel, who inherited the manor of Cosgrove after the death of his brother George. (fn. 32) Earlier members of the Mansel family had occupied the living at Cosgrove: in 1698 John Mansel was presented by Lord Maynard and remained rector until his death in 1729. (fn. 33) In 1810 J. C. Mansel presented his brother Henry Longueville Mansel to the living. (fn. 34)

From J. C. Mansel the advowson passed to Robert Stanley Mansel, who died in 1881. In 1892 his trustees, Thomas Arthur Preston and Constantine Richard Moorsom Mitchinson Maude, sold the living to Sarah Grace Hewson (later Mrs. William Gardner) for £550. (fn. 35) The following year Henry Newington Clark Hewson was instituted to the living. (fn. 36) Mrs. Gardner died in 1920 without making a bequest of the advowson, which passed to Hewson as her heir-at-law. (fn. 37) He sold the living in 1933 to his son Francis Arthur Alexander Hewson for £350. (fn. 38)

After the elder Hewson's death in 1945 Cosgrove was held in plurality with Passenhamwith-Deanshanger. (fn. 39) In 1952 the diocese suggested that, when the present incumbent left, Cosgrove should be united with St. Giles, Stony Stratford, and transferred to the diocese of Oxford. Passenham-with-Deanshanger was intended to be united with Wicken, and Cosgrove could not be united with the Potterspury living because that parish (which included Yardley Gobion) was already as large as a single incumbent could manage. The P.C.C. strongly opposed transferring Cosgrove to Oxford, and the following year the diocese suggested instead a union with Passenham, which could be done at once since the livings were already held in plurality. The P.C.C. remained unhappy, since a longer-term ambition of the diocese was to sell Cosgrove parsonage and use the proceeds to help with the cost of a new house at Deanshanger, by far the largest village in the proposed united benefice. The parsonage at Passenham had already been sold with this in mind. The P.C.C. were quite willing to continue sharing an incumbent with Passenham as long as he lived at Cosgrove and suggested selling part of the rectory grounds to improve the house. (fn. 40) The union did not go ahead and the parsonage was modernised. (fn. 41)

In 1958 F. A. A. Hewson presented the advowson of Cosgrove to the dean and chapter of Peterborough. (fn. 42) In 1959 his father's successor, J.S. Benson, resigned the living, and the P.C.C. was asked to consider whether Cosgrove should continue to be held with Passenhamwith-Deanshanger. (fn. 43) The council again rejected a union of the benefices and asked that the new incumbent, A.E. Bransby, should hold the two in plurality. This policy was supported by Passenham P.C.C. and Bransby himself, (fn. 44) who in March 1960 was instituted to the two livings. (fn. 45) When he left in 1964 his successor as rector of Passenham-with-Deanshanger was briefly also curate in charge of Cosgrove but from 1966 the parish had its own incumbent, S.C. Woodward. (fn. 46)

The creation of a civil parish of Old Stratford in 1951 (fn. 47) did not affect ecclesiastical arrangements. The village remained without a church of its own and lay a couple of miles from either Cosgrove or Holy Trinity, Deanshanger, which by that date had replaced St. Guthlac's (which actually lay within Old Stratford civil parish) as the focus of church life in Passenham. (fn. 48) In 1970 Canon Woodward regretted that arrangements for the 200 or so residents of his parish who lived in Old Stratford were so poor, (fn. 49) and when he retired the following year the P.C.C. suggested that the whole of the village be transferred to Cosgrove. This would give the parish a population of about 1,200, sufficient to secure a full-time incumbent, who would have the challenge of developing church life in Old Stratford. (fn. 50) Although no such change was made, Cosgrove retained an incumbent of its own until after the departure of Woodward's successor, R. H. Beatty, in 1983, when the living was united with that of Potterspury, Furtho and Yardley Gobion (itself the product of an earlier union of Potterspury (in which a chapel of ease was opened at Yardley Gobion in 1864) and Furtho. From 1984 the patronage of the new living was shared between the dean and chapter (two turns) and Jesus College, Oxford, who had the third turn as the former patron of Furtho. (fn. 51)

Income and property.

The rectory of Cosgrove was valued at 10 marks in both 1254 and 1291. (fn. 52) At the Dissolution the income was said to be £15 1s. 8d., less 10s. 7d. for synodal dues and procurations, (fn. 53) and in 1655 it was worth £100. (fn. 54) In the mid 19th century the income was stated to be about £430. (fn. 55) The figure then fell more sharply than in neighbouring parishes during the agricultural depression to only £150 by the 1890s, or £200 in the following decade. (fn. 56) This remained the published figure until 1931; (fn. 57) later in that decade the income was said to be £314. (fn. 58) In 1940 the incumbent reported that the glebe rents were worth £368, which, with a tithe rent charge of £13 15s. 10d., Easter offering and fees, brought the gross income to £401. Outgoings (mostly dilapidations) totalled £99, towards which Queen Anne's Bounty made a grant equal to two thirds of dilapidations, giving a final figure of £359. This was still above the level at which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would augment a benefice where the advowson was privately owned, and Cosgrove's poor record for paying its quota made it unlikely that the diocese would help. (fn. 59)

In the early 17th century Cosgrove glebe included land in the three open fields of Cosgrove and Furtho (Quarry Field, Middle Field and Moor Field), as well as portions of common meadow, although the living was said to have lost some pasture lying within Furtho when that parish was inclosed, as a result of an ill-judged exchange agreed to by Christopher Emerson, rector of both Cosgrove and Furtho. (fn. 60) When Cosgrove itself was inclosed the rector was allotted 202 a. in lieu of glebe lands, together with all the tithes from open-field land in Cosgrove tithing and certain old inclosures; at about the same time the Potterspury inclosure commissioners awarded him 23 a. in lieu of tithes from Kenson Field. By the early 1830s, after some exchanges, the rectory had 236 a. of glebe, as well as tithes from about 93 a. in Cosgrove, (fn. 61) which were commuted in 1845 for £33 8s. (fn. 62)

Cosgrove retained its glebe lands for rather longer than most neighbouring parishes, perhaps because of inertia during the exceptionally long incumbency of F. N. C. Hewson, combined with his (or his son's) ownership of the living. In 1952 about 140 a. was sold to Major Femor-Hesketh, without reference to the P.C.C., (fn. 63) leaving some 92 a. let for £140 a year, a smallholding at Bears Watering let for for £24, and Longwood House, divided into two cottages let for 10s. a week each. (fn. 64)

There was a parsonage, with two barns, a stable, orchard and gardens, at Cosgrove in 1633. (fn. 65) Shortly after inclosure Pulter Forrester largely rebuilt the parsonage, which the glebe terriers thereafter called a 'mansion house' and Baker a 'handsome residence', standing in 3 a. of grounds. (fn. 66) In 1948, after it became clear that the churchyard could not be reopened, half an acre of the rectory grounds was sold to the parish council for a public cemetery, where the first interment took place in January 1952. (fn. 67) Most of the rest was put up for sale in 1954 to raise funds to modernise the parsonage, after a proposal to demolish the house and build a new one was abandoned. (fn. 68) In 1962-4 the diocese suggested selling the house and building a new parsonage at Old Stratford or Deanshanger, which Cosgrove P.C.C. strongly opposed. (fn. 69) Their view appeared to be vindicated when the living ceased to be held in plurality with Passenham in 1966, and the parsonage at Cosgrove was retained until the union with Potterspury in 1984.

Incumbents and church life.

Several medieval rectors held other livings with Cosgrove, or were given licence to do so. (fn. 70) Thomas Parker, rector of Althorp and Cosgrove, was given special dispensation by Pope Innocent VIII to hold a third benefice for up to three years, (fn. 71) and John Fraunceys was given licence to reside elsewhere for study. (fn. 72) There were also several exchanges of clergy: in 1415, Henry Drayton, rector of Cheadle, and William Yewdale, rector of Cosgrove, exchanged livings, (fn. 73) as did William Wattes, rector of Hannington, and Nicholas Dowbrygge in 1421. (fn. 74)

In the 16th century Christopher Emerson held Furtho and Cosgrove in plurality for 30 years (1563-92), as did John Mansel, who was rector of Furtho for 50 years and of Cosgrove for 31 until his death in 1729 aged 86. (fn. 75) John Whalley was rector for 38 years between 1601 and 1639 before resigning in favour of his son of the same name, who held office until 1660 and was remembered for giving two cottages to the parish for the use of poor families, although the benefaction was later lost. (fn. 76) The outstanding 18th-century rector was Pulter Forrester (1756- 78), who held Cosgrove in plurality with Passenham (as well as several other offices) and was a generous benefactor to both livings, especially Cosgrove, where he refitted the interior of the church and rebuilt the parsonage. (fn. 77)

John Graham was rector of Cosgrove between 1835 and 1869, a period which, as elsewhere, saw the establishment of a National school and the restoration of the parish church, (fn. 78) although he seems not to have made the same mark on either the parish or wider church life in the district as, say, H. J. Barton at Wicken, Barwick Sams at Grafton Regis, or W.H. Newbolt at Paulerspury. (fn. 79) After two short incumbencies, H.N.C. Hewson was instituted to the living in 1893 (a year after his family purchased the advowson), where he remained until his death aged 93 in 1945, although for at least the last two years of his life he was incapable of performing the duties of his office. In 1943 the vicar of Potterspury was asked to take an afternoon service at Cosgrove (for which he was to be paid by the patron, Hewson's son) but the parish had no morning service in those years. (fn. 80) Throughout Hewson's incumbency, which began after the Mansels had left Cosgrove, the leading lay supporters of the church were the Atkinsons at the Priory. J. J. Atkinson was rector's warden for 40 years and was succeeded by his son P. Y. Atkinson, (fn. 81) until he was removed in favour of the younger Hewson in 1939. (fn. 82) After the elder Hewson had died and his son had left the district, Capt. Atkinson resumed his position as the main pillar, social and financial, of the P.C.C., supported for a time by Joan Wake and Major Fermor-Hesketh, until shortly before his death in 1972. (fn. 83) By that date there were fewer than 50 people on the church electoral roll. (fn. 84)

The parish church.

The church of SS. Peter and Paul comprises a chancel, nave, north aisle and west tower. (fn. 85) The late 12th-century chancel has an external string-course decorated with nailhead and beading, and the remains of grouped eastern lancets cut by the 14th-century east window. Its side walls were laregly rebuilt in the 19th century, but a flat-topped aumbrey on the north side of the sanctuary bears diagonal tooling, as does a high-level doorway visible externally at the west end of the north wall. This unusual feature, combined with the strange mis-alignment of the chancel, suggests the possibility that the chancel was originally a small, free-standing chapel with a west gallery.

The nave is off-centre from the chancel and on a slightly different axis. The mid 13th-century north arcade is of five bays, on slender quatrefoil piers with moulded capitals, and has a hood-moulding with sawtooth ornament. The north doorway of the aisle matches the arcade, but must be re-set if, as seems likely, the aisle was widened in the late Middle Ages. The clerestory of quatrefoil windows above the arcade is probably 14th-century. The west tower, aligned on the nave, with a tall arch containing a mixture of late Curvilinear and Perpendicular tracery, is evidently late 14thcentury. The south wall of the nave and its windows are now entirely Victorian, though the parapet bears a datestone of 1586; windows with Y-tracery and a substantial south porch are recorded. (fn. 86) The 15th- or 16th-century nave roof is of rather rough braced king-post construction, with remains of painted chevrons on its easternmost bay. Re-set in the nave windows are three shields of armorial glass.

There is a blocked doorway (already out of use in 1764) (fn. 87) in the north wall, which may be of early date.

The chancel contains several brass inscriptions for late 16th- and 17th-century incumbents; an elaborate wall-monument for Pulter Forrester, rector, chancellor of Lincoln diocese and chaplain in ordinary to the king (d. 1778); and tablets for the Mansel family and others.

The interior of the church was repaired, the ceiling coved and plastered, the windows reglazed, and a new font, pulpit, desk and pews installed by Pulter Forrester in 1770-4. (fn. 88) In the 1830s the church was described as well paved and pewed, with a north gallery and another across the west end, both added in 1826, of which the latter contained a small organ. (fn. 89)

In 1864 the vestry resolved to re-seat and refloor the church, replace and move the pulpit and desk, restore three windows on the south side of the nave, and make a new entrance to the north gallery. About 30 sittings would be gained by the changes. (fn. 90) The work was carried out the following year to the design of E. F. Law (fn. 91) at a total cost of £421, defrayed by subscription, of which £170 came from the Mansel family. In addition to the original scheme, the organ loft was removed and the organ rebuilt at ground level, and new heating apparatus installed.

A few years earlier, in 1861, the rector, John Graham, provided two stained glass windows for the chancel, (fn. 92) and in 1866 the principal of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, presented a new pair of doors for the entrance to the church. (fn. 93) The tower was repaired under Law's supervision in 1872 after it was struck by lightning. (fn. 94) A little later, a new east window was installed in memory of Henry Longueville Mansel (1820- 71), Waynflete professor of moral and metaphysical philosophy at Oxford and dean of St. Paul's, who died on a visit to his brotherin-law at Cosgrove. His father, also Henry Longueville Mansel, rector between 1810 and 1835, is commemorated by a memorial window in the south wall of the chancel. (fn. 95) In 1887 the north gallery was taken down (fn. 96) and a new organ, by Allerton of Leighton Buzzard, installed at a cost of 100 guineas. (fn. 97)

A proposal in 1921 to erect a war memorial in the church was initially rejected by the vestry but later approved and the work carried out the following year. (fn. 98)

In 1927 the P.C.C. was advised that the roof of the nave was beyond repair; (fn. 99) a thorough survey by William Weir followed and in 1932 a faculty was obtained to remove the plaster ceiling (beneath which the late medieval roof had been discovered) and also put a stone cross, to a design by Weir, on the eastern gable of the chancel in place of one which was blown down some years earlier. (fn. 1) Money was raised by subscription, with donations of £50 each from the Atkinsons at the Priory and W.W. Dickens at Furtho House, together with a large number of 10s. or less. (fn. 2) In 1934 electric light was installed in the church and two years later the tower was repointed. (fn. 3) The organ was repaired and restored in 1953. (fn. 4)

A fresh survey of the fabric by Lawrence Bond in 1955 revealed the need for a good deal of work, including repairs to the walls and roofs. (fn. 5) By 1958 the P.C.C. had completed the the re-roofing of the tower (fn. 6) but a report by Bond in 1962 recommended further work, including the re-roofing of the chancel. (fn. 7) All his suggestions had been carried out by the time of the next quinquennial inspection in 1967, when the tower was found to be in need of repointing and the Gurney heating stove to be worn out. (fn. 8) Electric heating was installed the following year (fn. 9) and new blowing plant for the organ in 1971. (fn. 10) The P.C.C. borrowed £1,000 from the diocese in 1974 to repair the tower. (fn. 11)

In 1973 a faculty was obtained to install a stained glass window (designed by M.C. Farrar Bell) on the south side of the nave next to the choir in memory of Philip York Atkinson (1886-1972) of Cosgrove Priory, for many years a stalwart supporter of the church. (fn. 12)

The tower contains seven bells, one of which, signed by Covington of Stony Stratford and dated either 1712 or 1772, is in a separate frame. Of the other six, rehung in a steel frame by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich in 1913-14, one is said to be 14th-century, another is dated 1624 and two others, signed I.K., are dated 1631 and 1632. (fn. 13) Two of the 17th-century bells were recast by Bowell in 1913. (fn. 14) The tenor or great bell was made by Richard Chandler in 1707. (fn. 15) The Jubilee Bell, by Taylor of Loughborough, was installed in 1936 to commemorate King George V's Silver Jubilee. (fn. 16)

The parish register was said by Bridges to begin in 1558, (fn. 17) but at least one volume had been lost by the time Baker was writing, when the earliest was that beginning in 1691. (fn. 18)

Modern alterations can be found in Tower and North Door