The base of an Anglo-Saxon dated to the late ninth century was discovered when the church was restored in the 19th century. The influence for the decoration derives from Northumbria.
The two surviving Anglo-Saxon features in the church appear to be of different dates and it is suggested that the tower may be dated earlier than the nave with its surviving long and short quoins, which possibly replaced an earlier nave. The Saxon tower which, was encased by outer facing in the late 12th century, is dated to the 11th century.
The Prebendal Manor and Tithe Barn Museum
The Prebendal Manor and the church stand on a promontory overlooking the River Nene and the village of Nassington. The river and streams border the village on all sides. Facing the Manor is the church of St Mary and All Saints, which has Saxon stone work and the remnants of a Saxon stone cross.
Archaeological excavation and documentary investigation has provided a great deal of information about the Prebendal Manor and the village of Nassington
It forms the focus of a group of stone buildings, which includes a 16th century dovecote, a large 18th century tithe barn and a 15th century lodgings building.
Excavations in the field show that somewhere in the vicinity there is likely to be a site associated with the Neolithic Period. An Early Iron Age field and fence system crosses obliquely under the manor house. Roman pottery most likely of a manuring scatter, indicates that fields of a Roman farmstead also occupied the site.
Although an appreciable amount of Early/Middle Saxon pottery has been discovered during the excavations at the Prebendal Manor, the early Saxon site was possibly on the lower valley levels near an Anglo Saxon burial site, recorded in 1944.
During the 1984 excavations within the grounds of the Prebendal Manor, and directly opposite the church, a stone quarry was uncovered which was dated to the 10th century. The quarry probably provided the stone, either for the repair of an existing church, or for the first stone built church in Nassington.
During the 1986 excavations a Late Saxon single aisle timber building, with a central hearth, was recorded beneath the Prebendal Manor and was dated 950 AD to 1000 AD. When King Cnut visited Nassington some time after 1017 he was accompanied by Aetheric, the bishop of Dorchester on Thames and large entourage. However, the smallness of the accommodation caused many of his retinue to find lodgings in the neighboring settlements. Aetheric is recorded, in the Ramsey Chronciles, as having stayed in the Dane’s house in Elton, Cambridgeshire.
At Domesday, Nassington was still under the ownership of the King and is recorded as having 6 hides – enough “land for 16 ploughs” and “ in lordship two” . There were 24 villagers and a priest. The two small holders had 14 ploughs. The two 2 mills were valued at 30s 8d; There was also 40 acres of meadow land; woodland which was “one league long and ½ league wide”. “It paid £26, 13s at face value”, and at Domesday was valued at £30.
One of the mills may have been in Yarwell which, although not mentioned in the Domesday survey, was probably included with Nassington.
Between 1107 and 1123 Henry I granted to St Mary’s of Lincoln, and Bishop Robert the churches of Nassington, Woodnewton, Tansor, and Southwick "in prebendam and the church and bishop shall hold them as Leving, the kings’ scribe, best held them." Leving was the rector of Nassington at this time.
Simon Earl of Northampton granted the Prebend an augmentation of lands in Tansor in about 1150. The augmentation could have come from lands belonging to the church in Tansor. The grant of Henry I was finally confirmed in 1163 by Pope Alexander III at Tours. This long delay may have been caused by feudal anarchy which occurred in England during Stephan and Matilda’s reign.
Ranulf de Nassington, a canon and the cathedral Presentor at Lincoln, was appointed in about 1160. Ranulf would have occupied the Late Saxon hall and may have instigated the replacement of the earlier annex building of the Saxon hall with a more substantial timber building.
A further grant to the Prebend was made by Richard Fitz-Urse to Ranulf, the canon in 1169, of the fee of Robert Marmiun, with the tithes and possessions and of the lands belonging to the properties of Cobbe, Thedric and the nephew of Wlueua. Ranulf is recorded as having died some time before 1188.
In 1200 King John granted land in Nassington to the sum of a hundred marks to David, the Earl of Huntingdon, who also owned Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire.
During the reign of Edward IV all the lands in Yarwell and some of the lands in Nassington, except the Prebend’s, were let to tenants the remaining lands stayed in the hands of the crown until the reign of Elizabeth I.
When the church was set fire in 1299 the Bishop of Lincoln issued an injunction to the prebendary of Nassington insisting that culprits must be excommunicated. A great deal of damage was done to the south aisle which required extensive rebuilding.
Edward II granted the privileges of a weekly market in 1308 and in 1377 Richard II the privilege was increased with yearly fair on the eve day of the morrow of St Michael, the 28th September.
Nassington benefited from its royal ownership with the privileges of markets, of the freedom of a wodes halfmarc tax and of the rights of commonage in Sulhay during Edward IV reign. The Prebend provided benefits in other ways by granting patrimony for one or two inhabitants of Nassington. Henry of Nassington, a clerk in minor orders in 1283, later became Bishop Oliver’s Official and eventually the Bishop’s Principle which entitled him to act on all legal matters. He is therefore named on countless occasions, witnessing wills, dealing with disputes in the Bishop’s absence and giving various presentations to the church.
John of Nassington became Rector of Curtenhale in 1287 and later a Canon of York.
Thomas Board was appointed as an un-beneficial Deacon in 1290 and paid by the patrimony of 40s from the Prebend. The average value of patrimony was 50s and the minimum acceptable stipend of a vicar was fixed at 5 marks.
Guy Daffyn of Nassington was examined for the priesthood in St Michael’s Priory, Stamford in 1298. Guy of Nassington, who became an unbeneficed sub deacon, was examined for holy orders at Brampton, Huntington in 1299. Thomas de Nassington became an Oxford graduate in 1309. William of Nassington became an advocate in the Ecclesiastical court of York and translated various theological works into English.
A similar situation occurs in the fourteenth century where Nassington men receive benefit from the Prebend. Although only one person is mentioned as receiving Patrimony some may have first acquired skills as clerks to the Prebend. Prebendaries were often absent and some never visited the Nassington Prebend preferring to remain in Rome, or as the King’s clerks, working for him elsewhere. It was therefore probably necessary to have a clerk living at the Prebend to deal with all ecclesiastical matters during the prebendaries’ absence.
In 1286 the Prebend is listed as vacant and remained so for three years. In 1290 documents concerning the Prebend were sent to Rome. In 1291 the Prebend was valued at £100 per annum. Probably because of its wealth the Pope tried to annex the Prebend to Rome but failed. However, in that same year 160 marks, described as the “fruits of the manor”, were paid to Pope Nicholas IV.
The 1551 village survey provides a detailed description of the village and the fields. Each cottager was entitled to have 3 beasts and 10 sheep. The cattle were allowed to graze in Rockingham forest provided that they were marked with a crown. The cattle were also allowed to use the nearby woods for pannage at no cost. This freedom from payment probably reflects a much earlier grant.
In 1553 prebendary William Nittern let the Prebendal farmland for £24 per annum for 24 years. Some of the income provided a pension for the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln.
During the Civil War, Cromwell’s men “violently dispossessed the Prebendary and the vicar, and the Prebend was sold to Mr. Bellamy and his family “for ever". However with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 came the return of a prebendary to Nassington.
A change of ownership in Nassington occurred during the reign of Elizabeth I. All the lands she held in Nassington and Fotheringhay were sold to Alexander Kinge who then sold it to Sir Anthony Mildmay of Apethope in 1616. Mildmay died in the following year and the land passed to his daughter Lady Fane, who later became the Countess of Westmorland. Elizabeth I’s decision to sell land in Nassington and Fotheringhay may have happened because she needed to distance herself from the locality after the beheading of Mary Queen of Scotland in Fotheringhay castle.
When Nassington was enclosed in 1778, James Ibbotson, the Prebendary at that time, vigorously protested in the hope of halting the land changes however he failed but a consequence of the enclosure released him from the requirement to keep a bull, or boar for the inhabitants of Nassington, and the surrounding villages, within the benefice. Although this is the first time this custom is mentioned it was probably a practice that had been in place for many years.
The Prebend was dissolved by an Act of Parliament in 1836. In 1840 the lands were passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the Prebendal Manor was sold into private ownership, thus ending hundreds of years of church ownership.