The Middle Years
After the Norman Conquest and following the great Domesday Survey of 1086 the whole country settled down to a life of greater prosperity, more settled conditions and the first signs of a system of government supported by a feudal legal system. From this time more documentary evidence became available, and still remains to this day as archieval material of considerable value.
From these records it is now possible to piece together the earlier beginnings of this parish. In 1340 for instance the large estate of Poulton was in the hands of John de Poulton, the Bishop of Worcester (which is the first of two occasions that this ancient see is linked to Mildenhall). In 1165, the farming settlement to the east of the parish is named as Stotecombe, and this 'combe' is still maintained in the name of Combe Farm, now just yards outside the parish boundary.
In 1237 there is a reference to Elcot Mill, which, after 760 years is still given that exact name despite the fact that it was burned down some years ago. At the same time, in 1241, the village was confirmed in its proper name of Mildenhall. Twenty years later, John de Dunnesford was the owner of Durnsford Mill. Also at this time, the manor of Mildenhall passed to Roger de Moun who succeeded to the estate at the age of six years ! In 1279 John de la Mere is shown in the Assize Rolls as being the owner of Mere Farm, and was involved in further property purchase of a dwelling and 2 acres. Mere Farm is still a lonely farmstead to the east of the parish. 1282 mentions the strangely named hamlet on the south side of the Kennet valley called Cock¬-a Troop. It was then designated 'The hamlet of the crock maker', but some will still associate the name with a legendary signal station at the time of the Romans at nearby Cunetio. In 1294 the name of the first Rector of Mildenhall is given as John de Knovill and his is the first name entered on the Institutions board in the church, although given there as 1300.
Over the centuries, Minal has increased and decreased in its economic strength, although it was never amongst the most prosperous in comparison to other local villages. Its main economic activity has always been farming. Of interest there was a royal prison at Minal in 1265, and in 1272-73 James de Audeberg raised a gallows there. In the 15th and 16th centuries, courts were regularly held in Minal. At the end of the 18th century a house was rented by the parish to accommodate some of the poor.
In 1305, one Walter de la Hempstalle was selling a dwelling and an acre of land in Mildenhall for 20 marks, but the sale of another dwelling with an acre and two acres of woodland was settled for 'one sparrow-hawk'. This was in the time of Edward the Second. By 1327 Roger de Moun had given the manor to his son whose daughters had died without issue. John Merret now owned the manor. Thicketts Copse, now upgraded to Thickets Wood, is on record in 1381, as is Sounde Bottom in 1384. A 'feet of fines' document shows Thomas Hungerford of Grove as being involved in land transaction in 1383, the first time this farmstead is mentioned.
In 1403 Woodlands was shown as Wodeland, either as the spelling of that time or perhaps as a place where wode was growing. This dye was used to colour wool, an important part of the local industry.
In 1540 an event of some magnitude occurred. The manor of Mildenhall was forfeited to the Crown (in fact to Edward Seymour, father of Jane Seymour the third wife of King Henry VIII). In 1553 the church had plate in the form of a chalice of 13 ounces. The records show that the church retained this and that 'nothing was given to the King'. In 1596 the first bells were cast (probably by John Wallis) and these remained in the tower for some two hundred years before being remade. It seems that at this time some of the farm and estate owners were becoming financially embarrassed for, in 1579 Edward Essex owed one thousand marks and was 'missing' and by 1598 William Jones the Younger of Woodlands owed three thousand pounds and was also missing.
However, in 1560 there was an event of particular interest to historians of the future. The Bishop in Salisbury instructed all of the clergy in his Diocese to make entries of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in a book with vellum pages, in which they were to be carefully inscribed 'for all time' and that the book was to be stored in the Parish chest. In Mildenhall this edict was carried out to the letter and all church records have been kept to the present day. Most of these registers are now kept in the County Record Office with only the current books being kept in the parish. I have had the first register in my hands and seen in the Gothic script the entry of the baptism of Edith Lovelock, the daughter of Robert. To me, seeing a Minal record of 430 years ago is a very precious thing.
At this period therefore we know who lived, married and died in the parish during the decade of 1560, at the time when the new Queen Elizabeth the First had been on the throne of England a matter of only two years. There were thirty families and a population of about 103.
The families living here at that time were:-
Baron, Franklin, Kaye, Pearce, Smith, Coleman, Bowshear, Gent, Lovelock, Perkin, Webb, Baker, Bryne, Gibbs, Lurke, Plasted, Wight, Hall, Davie Heale, Jones, Saverie Wrenne,Harris.
In addition there were six other families who had no cause to be included in the church records during that decade.
The name most given to boys at that time was headed by John with William very close second. The girls name most used was Alice with Elizabeth coming next.
In 1609 the manor of Hungerford covered most of Mildenhall parish, with Littlecote the most likely manorial centre.
A list of the manorial tenants in the parish who paid to Hungerford was as follows :-
Philip and John Goodwin
Martha, William and Harold Jones of Woodlands
John, John and Thomas Hitchtoke
William and John Bower
Thomas, Thomas and John Newby
William and John Stamner
Robert and John Gibbs
William, William and Edward Pearce.
The total paid in 1613 was £23 17s 4 ¾d.
In 1666 the Great Plague swept through England and few places escaped completely. Mildenhall seems to have been one such place. I have checked on the number of burials which took place from 1653 until 1670 (the seventeen years which cover most of the plague period) but there is no significant increase shown in the church register. However, there were twelve in 1670 and no burials at all in 1659. But there was one person at least who was of the opinion that the plague would come. It is on record - in the County newspaper - that the Churchwarden of the time had to go out and seek the Rector of Minal and bring him back from whence he had fled. He was taken before the Magistrates at Marlborough and charged with "leaving the parish with his family and therefore abandoning his flock to the perils of the plague". I have searched diligently for a report of the outcome of this matter, but without success. Perhaps the powers of the Bishop prevailed, for the Rector, Stephanus Constable went on to serve the parish until 1684.
It is interesting to note that the Churchwardens, Overseers of the Poor and Surveyors of Highways were nearly always the land owners - the farmers - of the parish. In 1691, William Lydeard of Poulton Parka and Stephen Hyde of Stitchcombe were Churchwardens and also acted as Surveyors of Highways for a further period of three years. Both have memorials in the church. Stephen Blandy of Grove Farm and Stephen Shanniors were Overseers of the Poor at the same time. Thus, as far back as the end of the seventeenth century the beginning of parish government had commenced - a task still perpetuated by the elected Parish Council.
A Glebe Terrier is a survey of the property of the Church. It may include a description of the Glebe, Tithe Fees and other relevant information. The prosperity or otherwise of a parish will be reflected in the Glebe or Church Benefice. From the proceeds, the Rector took his living, as a freehold. He had to provide for the poor of the parish and keep the properties, including the church itself, in a state of good repair. He could, if necessary inflict a parish 'rate' on all the parishioners. This was collected by the Churchwardens, the Overseer and the Survey appointed.
Such a Terrier was drawn up in 1684, when Stephanus Constable was the Rector.
2 acres parsonage
12 acres Dean Field
18 acres northward
3 acres westward
2 acres in woodland
2 water meadows at Grove
50 tenements each with a half yard
A Terrier of 1677 gave the Benefice details as follows :-
" The Parsonage, 2 barns, 1 stable, 1 orchard and 2 gardens. Adjoining 2 acres and 5 small pieces totalling 50 acres. 4 pieces. Deans field 36 acres. Watermeadows of 2 acres. 40 acres arable in Common Fields."
In the time of Edward Pococke the Glebe Terrier was a little more detailed :¬-
" A particular of the Parish House and premises of the Rector of Mildenhall, in the hands of Richard Pococke, Patron and Rector. The dwelling house is a large building of brick and stone tiles, with four barns, stables, offices garden and farm yards contain about two acres. As the Rector can reside on the spot and the whole is in his occupation, the premises are kept in good order and substantial repair. There are likewise two old cottages belonging to the premises. In the churchyard are eighteen elm and ash trees. The Glebe lands lie in various parts of the parish. That nearest to the parsonage is five pieces of meadow land, some five acres. The next is that which was common land and has been appropriated by the Earl of Ailesbury who, after endeavouring to pass an act without the conference of the Rector, failed. On 18th March 1774, the Rector met the Earl. As a result the Rector found his acreage reduced from 77 to 61 (part of the Glebe called Dean Field; three enclosed fields, woods and two small coppices, totalling 40 acres). There are 15 acres of Glebe land in Poulton. The communion table is covered with green cloth with proper linen. Two small and one large plates exist for sacramental bread and two cups for wine, unmarked. There are four bells in the tower.'
The Rector could set whatever dues he considered fit and right. Everyone had to contribute in money or in kind. As there was a considerable store of agricultural goods, particularly at harvest time, there was a barn maintained especially for this. It was called the Benefice Barn or Buildings. Minal had such a set of Benefice Buildings near to the Glebe Farmhouse - and the Parsonage.
A list of tithes due to Edward Pococke in 1704.
2 pence for every Communicant yearly
Every cow and calf - 8 pence
Milch cow - 2 pence
Weaned calf - 2½ pence
Dry cow - 1½ pence
For a killed calf the left shoulder.
Eggs - 2 for every hen & 3 for every cockerel.
Poulton Mill pays 10/- yearly.
Werg Mill pays 10/- yearly.
Durnsford and Stitchcombe Mills pay 6/8d each.
There was one engaging item in 1692, when Charles Finch, the 4th Earl of Winchilsea was married in the parish church to Sarah, daughter of Mr. Nourse of Woodlands. Erroneously, it was previously stated that she married the Earl of Winchester, whose title did not exist in 1692, the title having lapsed and assumed that if the Earl did lead the bride to the chancel steps, he also led her up the garden path! In actual fact, she married the Earl of Winchilsea, and the only garden path she would have walked would have been the paths on the Earl's estate.