Manorial History

(Taken from ‘Preston Capes Through the Ages’ by Mrs H Gardner)

Preston Capes

According to the Domesday Survey the land at Preston held from the King was divided into several estates. Three of these were held by the Count of Mortain who was a half-brother to William the Conqueror and sub-let to Alvred (the Count’s butler), Nigel and Ralph. The fourth part, an unnamed manor but believed to be at Preston was held by Hugh from Walter the Fleming. Here there was land for 4 ploughs with 2 acres of spinney, worked by 13 men which was worth 40 shillings.

Soon after the Norman conquest Hugh de Leycester built a castle on the summit of a spur of land to the north-east of the village and in 1090 founded a cluniac priory next to his castle. However the priory was moved to Daventry in 1108. After Hugh de Capes acquired the manor or Great Preston he obtained permission from the Prior to build a manorial chapel there provided that the rights of the church were safeguarded. The manors subsequently descended through the families of the de Lyons and the Earls of Warwick until in 1558 they were all owned by William Butler, son of Thomas Butler of Bewsey in Lancashire. The descendants of William Butler sold the estate to Edward Knightley in whose family it remained until the death of Sir Charles Knightly in 1932, after which the lands and cottages were sold to individual owners in sales which took place in 1932 and 1937.

Little Preston

The lordship of Little Preston was held in the 13th century by the Montacute family. In 1227 John de Montacute paid a fine of 40 marks (£26.67) for the right to enclose a deer park, the boundary of which can still be traced. This part was given in 1268 to prince Edward later Edward I. The manor house, now only an earthwork, stood just inside the north-east of the present hamlet which is much smaller than in medieval times.

In 1234 a chapel adjoined the house and William de Montacute granted the right to Daventry priory to graze animals on some of his land in return for a chaplain to officiate in the chapel.

When the male line of the Montacutes ended the manor descended through the families of Audlam, St. Clere, Windsor and Lovell. By 1551 it had been bought but not confirmed until 1558, by Peter Coles and his son Richard whose granddaughter Mary brought the estate of Little Preston into the Knightley family when she married Edward Knightley of Preston Capes. After the death of Edward, Mary married Sir Robert Bevill KB of Chesterton, Hunts. and in 1635 her son Richard Knightley sold the manor for One thousand pounds to his half brother Sir Robert Bevill after whose death in 1640 it passed to his three sisters. In 1701 a Deed of Partition divided Little Preston into three parts, one of which, the Horse Close share, came to the Dryden family of Canons Ashby through Honor the wife of John Dryden, one of the three sisters.