Great Billing, Northamptonshire Family History Guide

Great Billing is an Ancient Parish in the county of Northamptonshire.

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1662
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1706

Nonconformists include: Wesleyan Methodist

Adjacent Parishes

  • Overstone
  • Brafield on the Green
  • Ecton
  • Little Billing
  • Little Houghton
  • Cogenhoe

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

BILLING (Great), a parish in the district and county of Northampton; near the river Nen, 1½ mile N of Billing Road r. station, and 4 ENE of Northampton. It has a post office under Northampton. Acres, 1,290. property is divided among a few. The manor belonged formerly to the O'Briens, Earls of Thomond; and belongs now to the Elweses. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Peterborough. Value, £495. Patron, Brasenose College, Oxford The church is very-good; and there are a Wesleyan chapel, a parochial school, and charities £39. Sir J. Wake, the diplomatist of James I., was a native.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

History, topography, and directory of Northamptonshire, by Francis Whellan and co. 1874

Or Billing Magna, is bounded on the east by Ecton, on the north by Overstone, on the west by Billing Little, and on the south by the river Nene. It contains 1324 acres, the rateable value of which is £2991 ; the gross estimated rental is £3364. Its population in 1801 was 267; in 1831, 372; in 1841, 401; in 1851, 459; in 1861, 420; and in 1871, 409 souls. The soil varies from a light red loam in the upper lands, to clay on the hillsides, whilst that part bordering on the river consists of a gravelly nature ; two-thirds of the land is arable, but there are excellent meadows and pastures in the lower parts of the parish. V. D. H. Cary-Elwes, Esq., is lord of the manor, and the principal proprietor of the parish.

Manor. — Billing Magna, or according to the Domesday book, Belinge, contained four hides of land, which, with twenty-eight acres of meadow and a mill, had been valued at 405., but at the time of the Conqueror's survey was rated at £5. This was then held of the king by Gilbert the Cooke; but in King Edward's time it was the freehold of Thor. The lordship of Great Billing was certified to contain four hides in the reign of Henry II.; by inquisition taken in the twenty- fourth of Edward I. (1296), Robert Barre, or Barry, was found to hold one moiety of Roger de Mortimer, by knight's service, and the other moiety by knight's service of the Countess of Rivers, who held it of the king in capite. These moieties in the preceding reign were in the hands of Peter Barre, and estimated at a knight's fee each. The manor remained in the possession of the family of Barry, whose place of residence was at Stanton-Barry, in Buckinghamshire, until the reign of Edward III. In the thirty-eighth of this reign (1365), a precept was directed to the king's escheator, to inquire after a pot of silver sterling, found by one John Nore, within this parish, with orders to seize and detain it, in the name and for the use of the king. The reversion of this manor was granted in the first year of Richard III. (1483), by the crown to John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, eldest son of the Earl of Suffolk, by Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV. Bridges tells us that he was so much in favour with the king (Richard III.), that, upon the death of his own son, he was in the second year of his reign proclaimed heir-apparent to the crown of England, to the prejudice of the daughter of King Edward IV., his elder brother. Upon the advancement of Henry VII. to the throne, he (John de la Pole) fled to Flanders, to his maternal aunt, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, and returning at the head of a powerful army, made an ineffectual attempt to dethrone him in the second year of this reign. He was encountered by the king's forces at Stoke, near Newark-upon-Trent, on the i6th of June 1487, where, after a sharp engagement, his army was routed and himself slain. The manor of Great Billing was included in a very extensive grant made by the king in the fifth of his reign (1490) to Sir John Fincox, Lord Chief-Justice of the King's Bench, and co-feoffees "in trust to settle on the dean and canons of Windsor, in recompense of their prayers for the souls of the king, the late Countess of Richmond, his grandmother, and Catherine his wife. This grant, if not subsequently revoked by the king, was avoided by his executors, who in first Edward VI. (1547) substituted certain rectories, advowsons, and tithes to the same uses." The manor seems to have reverted to the crown after this, for, in the thirty-second of Elizabeth (1590), it was granted to Alexander King and Thomas Crompton, with license to alienate it to John Freeman of Ecton, who purchased it, and whose grand-daughter and heir, Catherine, wife of Edward Georges, Baron Dundalk in Ireland, sold it to Sir Barnaby O'Brien, about the year 1628. This Sir Barnaby O'Brien was a lineal descendant of Brien Boroihme, King of Ireland in 1002, and the heads of which family were denominated kings of Thomond, till Murrough O'Brien surrendered the sovereignty to Henry VIII. "Sir Barnaby O'Brien," says Mr Baker, "on the death of his brother Henry without male issue in 1639, became sixth Earl of Thomond. On the breaking out of the civil wars, he hastened into England and joined the king at Oxford, who, in return for his zealous attachment, created him Marquis of Billing, in the county of Northampton, to him and his issue-male, by patent bearing date 3d May 1645 ; but in the feverish agitation of that eventful period the enrolment of the patent was neglected, and neither he nor his descendants enjoyed the dignity." From Murrough O'Brien, who died in 1741, the estate descended to Percy VVindham, who assumed the name of O'Brien, but dying in 1774, it passed to his nephew George, the late Earl of Egremont, who sold Billing in 1776 to Lord John Cavendish, fourth son of William, third Duke of Devonshire. Lord Frederick Cavendish succeeded his brother Lord John, and sold the estate, comprising the manor, mansion, and from six to seven hundred acres of land, to Robert Cary-Elwes, Esq., of Roxby in Lincolnshire, about eighty years since, and from whom it descended to the present proprietor, Valentine Dudley Henry Cary-Ehves, Esq., who succeeded in 1866.

Great Billing is a handsome village, situate on an eminence, four miles N.E. of Northampton, commanding extensive prospects.

The Church, dedicated to St Andrew, stands north of the village, and consists of a western tower containing four bells, nave, north and south aisles, south porch, chancel, and north chapel. The tower, which is of three stories, was originally surmounted by a spire, which, on April 11, 1759, was destroyed by lightning, "and some of the stones," says the Northampton Mercury, "were whirled into the air with such an astonishing force and rapidity as to be carried to a considerable distance. Many of the pews in the church were shivered to pieces, and the sulphurous smell was so powerful that scarcely anybody could bear to go near the church, which is so much shattered that it was thought the whole fabric must be rebuilt." The church was restored in 1867 at a cost of £1000, the chancel being at the expense of the present rector, and the remainder by Mr Cary-Ehves. It was furnished throughout with open sittings, and an organ was presented at the same time by Mrs Cary-Elwes. The tower is parapeted with panellings from the mansion of the Earls of Thomond, which Bridges describes as "a handsome old house with pleasant gardens adjoining," and which was taken down in 1776 by Lord John Cavendish. The chancel is separated from the nave by a wooden screen, under an open pointed arch, and communicates with the north chapel, or burial-place, through double pointed arches of the same character as the chancel arch, supported by a cluster pillar in the centre. In the chapel is a large and costly monument to Henry, the seventh Earl of Thomond, ob. 1691, and also a small but elegant tablet, with a bas-relief by Flaxman, to Caroline, wife of R. Cary-Elwes, Esq., ob. 1812. The benefice is a rectory, in the deanery of Haddon, valued at £19; gross income £521, in the patronage of the principal and fellows of Brasenose College, Oxford, and incumbency of the Rev. Joseph Walker, M.A. The tithes were commuted at the enclosure of the common in 1788, for about 300 acres.

The Rectory House, a good substantial building, occupies a pleasant situation in the village. One portion of it was built in 1672, and the other between seventy and eighty years since.

In the village is a small Wesley an Methodist Chapel, erected in 1836.

A National School was built here in 1845, but a new and more commodious one was erected in the centre of the village in 1873, at the expense of Mr Cary-Elwes, and is well attended.

Billing Hall, the seat of Valentine Dudley Henry Cary-Elwes, Esq., stands nearly on the site of the old mansion of the O'Briens, Earls of Thomond, and was erected by Lord John Cavendish, from a design by Carr, of York, a celebrated architect, though originally bred a common mason. It is a plain, commodious edifice of Kingsthorpe stone, with east and west fronts, and from its elevated situation is one of the most conspicuous objects in the neighbourhood.

An Almslwuse, for five poor widows and one poor widower, was founded here 1 in the reign of James I. This charity is in an unsettled state : the almshouse is partially occupied, and the poor receive each £6 a year.

Charity. — George Wortley Lovell, Esq., bequeathed, on the 26th March 1848, the sum of £117, 3 per cent, consols, the interest of which to be distributed to such poor as the trustees should select as proper objects.

Biography. — Sir Isaac Wake, orator of the University of Oxford in 1604, ambassador extraordinary in Savoy and Piedmont, ordinary for Italy, Helvetia, and Rhetia, select for France, and about to become Secretary of State, when he died in 1632, was son of the Rev. Arthur Wake, rector of this parish, and born here about the year 1575.

Post-Office. — Thomas Bustin, sub-postmaster. Letters arrive from Northampton at 6.30 A.M., and are despatched at 6.30 P.M.

Cary-Elwes Valentine Dudley Henry, Esq. F.S.A. Billing Hall, and The Manor House, Brigg, Lincolnshire

Britten Misses Fanny and Elizabeth

Britten George, butcher

Campion Mrs Sarah

Co-operative Store, grocers, bakers, Sec. (William Wright, manager)

Harlot William, brazier

Jones John Erasmus, school master and assistant-overseer

Rixon John, brick and tile mkr. and beerhouse

Rose Daniel, stonemason

Slow Thomas Shortland, vict. Stag's Head

Spokes Mrs Mary

Walker Rev. Joseph, M.A. rector

Wightman George, head gardener

Farmers and Graziers.

Britten Arthur

Brookes Mrs Anna

Dunn George

Fairey John (and corn miller), Hilling Mill


Kelly Post Office Directory of Northamptonshire 1869 - Google Books

Kelly Post Office Directory of Northamptonshire 1885 -


County: Northamptonshire
Civil Registration District: Northampton
Probate Court: Court of the Archdeaconry of Northampton
Diocese: Peterborough
Rural Deanery: Haddon
Poor Law Union: Northampton
Hundred: Spelhoe
Province: Canterbury