The village of Nassington is mentioned in the Chronicle of Ramsey Abbey when early in the eleventh century King Cnut stayed in the settlement on one of his journeys[i]. The hall was not of sufficient size to accommodate his entire entourage. As a result, Aethelric, bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames, who was traveling with the king, sought accommodation in the Dane's house in Elton. Nassington was still owned by the king at Domesday and it was rated at £30, with a priest, two mills and woodland, a league long and half a league-wide. Two hides in the neighbouring village of Apethorpe also belonged to Nassington,[ii] which was the centre of a large royal estate 'dominating the Willybrook Hundred'. Apethorpe, Hale, Woodnewton and Yarwell were ecclesiastical dependencies of Nassington and may originally have all been part of the estate. The neighbouring settlement of Yarwell was not mentioned in the Domesday Book, but was probably included with Nassington, and could have been the site of one of the mills. Nassington appears to be an example of a central royal estate with a minster church with extensive dependent chapels.
The aisled hall in which Cnut stayed was constructed during the early eleventh century and stood with modifications until it was demolished around 1200 to be replaced with a stone hall and chamber. The earliest features of the stone building are in the west wall of the hall, with the rear doorway and hoods to the rear hall windows all dating to about 1200.
In between 1107 and 1116 Henry, I granted the churches in Nassington, Woodnewton, Tansor, and Southwick, with their lands, tithes, and customs to Robert I, bishop of Lincoln, to be held in prebendam.[iii] Lincoln was to hold them as Leving, the king's scribe had held them. Leving would have controlled the accounts of the royal estate for the king.
The powers of the Nassington prebendaries were wide. They were permitted to hold a manorial court at which they could also direct spiritual and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They were also entitled to hold visitations in the absence of the bishop of Lincoln. In practice, the prebendaries were often non-resident. Many of those appointed to the Nassington prebend were the king's clerks engaged in public affairs, and sometimes foreigners who had been approved by the pope, and perhaps never set foot in England.
Bishop Oliver Sutton of Lincoln stayed in the prebend in 1291,1295 and 1298. When visiting in 1295 he granted an indulgence of twenty days from purgatory to anyone who contributed to the upkeep of Wansford bridge causing many local people to donate to its maintenance[iv].
There were 56 prebendaries of Nassington many of them played a pivotal role in the affairs of the state. John de Lacey, the king's special equerry when working abroad, is buried in Woodnewton. In 1301 Bishop Dalderby issued an indulgence for those who prayed for Lacey's soul. At the same time, he stated that Woodnewton was still dependant on Nassington. Simon of Sudbury, who was beheaded in the Peasants Revolt by the rioters in 1381, had been the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nicholas Colnet appointed in 1417, was a physician to Henry V and as such accompanied the king to the Battle of Agincourt. Lionel Wodeville appointed in 1465 was the king's brother-in-law. John Whitgift was appointed in 1575. He later became the archbishop of Canterbury and was a great favourite of the queen.
Recent tree ring dating has provided evidence of the changes to the manor[v]. In 1433-1450 a major reconstruction of the hall was undertaken, probably instigated by prebendary John Mackworth, described as the troublesome dean of Lincoln.
In the mid-sixteenth century the improvements to the manor may have been carried out during the period when John Archer was a lessee of the building in 1558 with the prebendary William Tailbois reserving rights to lodge with seven men for twelve days annually. Including fodder for their horses[vi]. At that time a large fireplace at the high-end of the hall was built, replacing the central hearth.
A new wing was added to the service wing creating an L-shaped building. In between 1575-1603 the hall roof was rebuilt. The work may have been undertaken when John Hanson was prebendary. He was buried in the church chancel in 1618.
In 1649 the parliamentary survey stated that there was a gatehouse, a dovecote, a malthouse with floors for malting, a brewhouse and large barns.[vii] In the eighteenth century the dovecote was retained but the gatehouse and all the earlier buildings were demolished to make way for a more modern farm. In 1846 an Act of Parliament disbanded prebends. The Prebendal Manor, with land in Nassington, three cottages, and land in Woodnewton, Yarwell and Fotheringhay were valued at £24,873 and sold into private ownership and its ties to the church were now severed[viii].
By the nineteenth century, the manor was divided into two dwellings. The north end for a farmer and the south end for his tenant. All evidence of its earlier origins were by now obscured.
In 1968 the particulars of sale described the property as a Georgian farmhouse in need of modernisation and a long period of restoration was instigated by the present owner.
[i] Chronicon Abbatiae Rameniensis ed., W.D. Marcay ( Rolls Series 83,1886).
[ii] Domesday Book 21 Northamptonshire ed., C & F Thorn Phillimore (1979)
[iii] Regista Regnum Anglo-Normannorum 2 ed., C, Johnson, N, A, Cronne & H. W. C. Davis (1956)
[iv] Rolls and Register of Bishop Oliver Sutton 1280 -1299,5 Ed., R.M.T Hill (Lincoln Record Society 60, 1954)
[v] Ron Baxter
[vi] The Chapter Acts of the Cathedral of St Mary of Lincoln 1574-1599 (Lincoln Record Society
[vii] Dioc/v/viii/v/1/2f (Lincoln Record Office)
[viii] Reference to be located
The Prebendal Manor and Tithe Barn Museum