Ufton, with its Tudor manor house Ufton Court (pictured above), has formed part of the greater Englefield estate since 1838, although unlike Englefield itself, many of the newer houses are in private ownership. After the Norman Conquest, part of Ufton shared the same feudal overlord as Englefield and the other part was in the hands of his brother. By the 15th century this second part was in the ownership of the Parkyns (or Perkins) family who like the Englefields were prominent Roman Catholics. Unlike the Englefields, though, the Perkins family remained at Ufton throughout the Reformation and after, until the last of that name died in 1769.
Ufton originally consisted of two manors: Ufton Richard, or Nervet, and Ufton Robert. Ufton Richard was the northern part of the combined parish, around Ufton Green, with its parish church of which only a part of one wall remains. Ufton Robert was the southern part and its original church was on the same site as the present 19th century building, formerly St Peter's but now de-consecrated. A third manor, Ufton Pole, was apparently a sub-manor of Ufton Robert and not a parish in its own right. It lay in the west of Ufton Robert but probably had some land in the parish of Ufton Richard as well. The map included in Mary Sharp's History of Ufton Court shows the combined parish as it was just before the introduction of civil parishes as a unit of local government, including the part lying north of the Bath Road where the common fields were.
Ufton Richard was held in 1086 by Giles, a brother of Ansculf de Pinkney and the first recorded under-tenant was Richard Neyrvut in the 13th century, from whom comes the name Ufton Richard or Ufton Nervet. Before the end of the century, it was sold to the Abbot of Reading Abbey and after the Dissolution given to Sir John Williams and thence via his daughter, wife of Henry Lord Norreys, to that family (who also had property in Englefield). In 1623 it passed to the Earls of Abingdon.
In 1086 the manor of Ufton Robert was in the hands of William Fitz Ansculf de Pinkney, as was Englefield, with an unknown under-tenant. By 1428 William Perkins was lord of the manor, which then passed from father to son for three generations and ultimately to Richard Perkins, husband of Elizabeth. In 1560 Richard Perkins left property in the manor of Ufton Robert to his wife and charged her to bring up his nephew Francis until he became 21. The year before his death he had already settled on Francis the manor of Ufton Robert so the land left to Elizabeth must either be additional to that or part of the same but reserved to Elizabeth during her lifetime.
There are no records of Ufton Pole until the reign of Henry IV in the 14th century when it was conveyed to John Lord Lovel in 1396 and described as the manor of Pole in Ufton Robert and Ufton Richard. At Domesday it was probably another of William Fitz Ansculf's many properties. It passed through successive generations of the Lovel family until the death of another John Lovel in 1465 followed by his widow the next year. Their son Francis Lovel being then still a minor. He was the famous "Lovel our Dog" who with "The Cat, the Rat...do rule all England under a Hog". The Cat was William Catesby, the Rat was Richard Ratcliffe and the Hog was Richard III, whose badge was a white boar. As a consequence Lovel was attainted in 1485 after Richard lost the crown at the battle of Bosworth. Lovel's forfeited lands at Ufton Pole were granted to Richard Weston and in 1567 his grandson conveyed the manor to Richard Brunynge who was acting for his aunt, Elizabeth Marvyn. By her will of 28 July 1581 she left Ufton Pole manor to her nephew Francis and it thus became fully amalgamated with Ufton Robert.
The two manors of Ufton Robert and Ufton Pole, thus combined in 1581, remained with the Perkins family, despite frequent problems owing to their recusancy, and the third manor, Ufton Richard, was added in 1709 when Montague Lord Abingdon sold it to a later Francis Perkins. In 1769 the then owner John Perkins died without issue and it passed to a distant cousin, John Jones. Jones sold the combined manor in 1802 to Mr Congreve of Aldermaston, from whom it was purchased by Richard Benyon de Beauvoir of Englefield in 1838.
Ufton Court was probably the manor house of Ufton Pole, and later the combined manor. The site of the manor house of Ufton Richard (if there was one) is unknown but the manor house of Ufton Robert is thought to have been just off the track running between St Peter's church and Ufton Court where the overgrown moated site can still be seen. Among the property left by Richard Perkins to his wife was "...the scite of the manor and mansion house of Ufton Robert...", the form of words indicating that perhaps even by then the house was derelict and uninhabitable. Hence Elizabeth's purchase of Ufton Pole with its manor house at Ufton Court, to which she made extensive additions, when she returned to Ufton after her second husband's death. The old system of feudal tenure was by then breaking down but under that system, since the manor of Ufton Pole fell under Ufton Robert, Elizabeth appears to have been both owner and tenant at the same time.
Dame Elizabeth Marvyn and the Ufton Dole
Dame Elizabeth Marvyn was the daughter of Sir John Mompesson of Bathampton in Wiltshire, of whom she and her three sisters were co-heirs. She married first, in 1534, Richard Perkins of Ufton Robert and secondly, on his death in 1560, Sir John Marvyn of Fonthill Gifford in Wiltshire. Sir John died only six years later, leaving Elizabeth an heiress three times over.
In her will Lady Marvyn left instructions that every year about the middle of Lent, starting in the year after her death, the poor people of the parishes of Steeple Langford and Wylye in Wiltshire should be given four quarters of wheat, the poor of Tisbury, also in Wiltshire, given one quarter and those of the parish of Ufton and Padworth 20 bushels, all to be made into good household bread. The people of Tisbury were also to have 20 shillings in money. Similarly, the poor people of the parishes of Steeple Langford, Wylye, Ufton and Padworth were to receive between them 50 ells of canvas of 12 pence the ell to make shirts and smocks and 50 yards of narrow blue cloth of 20 pence the yard to make cassocks and coats. This canvas and cloth were to be divided equally between the Wiltshire and Berkshire parishes. A table of benefactions in Ufton Nervet Church states that she gave 10 bushels of wheat, 12½ ells of canvas and 12½ yards of narrow blue cloth so this obviously represents a further subdivision between Ufton and Padworth.
Local legend has it that the Ufton benefaction was in recognition of the kindness of local people who found Lady Marvyn when she was lost in 1566, gave her food from their meagre supplies and took her home. There is also a version that says she actually instituted the dole in her lifetime and distributed the bread and cloth herself through a window looking onto the terrace at the back of the house. Since the gift to Ufton and Padworth is only a part of the larger bequest that includes parishes in Wiltshire this may be only a romantic fiction - unless she was lady prone to getting lost. There was a small manor at Padworth that became part of the property of the Perkins family and some more land in that parish also belonged to the manor of Ufton Pole. Tisbury, Steeple Langford and Wylye are all close to Fonthill Bishop so it is probable that this was simply an enduring gift to the parishes with which she was connected.
Lady Marvyn died in 1581 so the first distribution was therefore in Lent of 1582 and has continued uninterrupted ever since; a curse is said to to have been placed on any lord of the manor who breaks the tradition. The origin of this supposed curse is probably the somewhat complicated will of Elizabeth Marvyn which provides that should Francis Perkins and his lawful male children in succession, fail to carry out the distribution of bread and cloth at the request of the churchwardens, then the estate would pass from them to Henry Perkins and his male children. It goes on the stipulate that should Henry or his heirs then fail in their duty the estates would go to Thomas Mompesson and his heirs, but should any of them fail then it would pass to her "right heirs", which we take to be the heir established under the Common Law of descent and distribution at that time.
In 1806, on Good Friday, 55 people from Ufton and 53 from Padworth received bread and three people from each parish were also given woollen gifts and three given linen. In more modern times the Dole has been restricted to the old parish of Ufton Nervet and in 1980 some 60 people received two loaves of bread each and some were also given sheets, at a total cost of £97. Today two large loaves of bread each are still given but the canvas and blue cloth part of the bequest is interpreted as a pair of towels. In the years 2010 to 2017 attendance has been by representatives from about 40 households (out of 85) on average, with between five and ten also being given towels; the total cost then being about £240.
The parish of Ufton Nervet shown by Mary Sharp included a small part of the modern Padworth parish opposite the Round Oak and also parts of what are now the civil parishes of Beenham and Englefield on the north side of the Bath Road, and this situation was perpetuated in the Dole until 2018. Critically, it did not actually include that part of the modern village and civil parish of Ufton Nervet that has only been developed since that time. In 2018 the trustees decided to extend entitlement to this part of Ufton Nervet, increasing the number of eligible households to 144. Having for some time taken place on Maundy Thursday, the Dole is now generally on the Thursday before to allow the schoolchildren to be present.