Badby is a rural parish of some 2,400 acres in the west of Northamptonshire, England south of Daventry, on the Daventry to Banbury main road. It is bisected west to east, at about 395ft. above sea level, by the upper reaches of the River Nene. The village is mainly to the south of the river, where the land rises to Badby Down at 610ft. Its population has fluctuated between 450 and 625 from 1801 to 1971, with a low point of 410 in 1901, then to a high of 720 in 1991 and back to 645 in 2001 as average occupancy fell.
Badby is found spelt in various ways since Saxon times, through the Norman period, until printing stabilised it in the present form. Badby, Badbye, Baddebi, Baddeby, Badebi and Badeby are all found. Baddanbyrg or Baddan Byrig were used in the 944 AD charter, but these more likely refer specifically to Arbury Hill in the south west of the parish, which at 734ft. is the highest land in the county.
There are several mediaeval charters referring to the area around Badby, but some are suspect. The land around Badby and Newnham changed hands frequently as the swirling forces of Mercia and the invading Danes ebbed and flowed across middle England. Badby and Newnham manors were treated as one until the Knightleys sold Newnham manor to the Thorntons of Brockhall in 1634. The church benefice has always been Badby with Newnham (or Badby-cum-Newnham), Newnham being a chapel of the parent church at Badby in the initial times, but for a few years was recorded as the main church. The shared rector or vicar is no modern arrangement here, it goes back 750 years!
Charters record that the land was given by a Saxon sheriff (or shire reeve), Norman, to the Abbey of Croyland around the year 726 AD. To fund defence against the invading Danes around 871, Beorred seized it back and gave it to his army officers in order to secure their services. In a charter dated 944, King Edmund I of England gave an estate comprising Dodford, Everdon and all of Badby with Newnham to Bishop Aelfric of Hereford. After Edmund’s murder in 946, the estate was returned in 948 to Croyland by his brother, King Edred (or Aedred, Ædred, Edric) on the advice of Turketul (or Turketulus), his chancellor. Abbot Godric II of Croyland, again to buy protection against the threatening Danes, leased Badby in 1006 for 100 years to Norman, son of Leofwine, earl of Leicester (or Chester), a great military officer under King Edred. The Danes attacked and prevailed in 1013 under their King Sweyn (or Sveyn), who died in 1014. He was eventually succeeded by his son Canute (or Cnut, Knud, Knut). In 1016 Norman was killed and in 1017 Edred was executed by King Canute. Canute thus acquired Badby and later transferred it to Norman’s brother, the Earl Leofric of Mercia, who had supported Canute and was married to the famous Godiva (or Godgifu). In turn, Earl Leofric gave the lordship of the manor of Badby and Newnham to the Benedictine Abbey of Evesham, for the remainder of the 100 years lease supposedly granted by Abbot Godric II of Croyland. This was ratified by King Canute in 1018. The Anglo-Saxons and the Danes began to settle together.
Then the Normans arrived. In their Domesday Book of 1086, Badby is listed under the lands owned by Croyland Abbey, ignoring the lease to Evesham! Around 1124, as the lease had ended, elderly Abbot Joffrid of Croyland set about resolving with Evesham the ownership of Badby. The fire which burned down Croyland Abbey in 1091 destroyed any deeds, if they actually existed! Abbot Reginald of Evesham convinced Joffrid that Croyland had no claim. The retention by Evesham was confirmed in 1246 in a charter by King Henry III and again in 1330 by King Edward III after a court hearing.
Evesham Abbey built a grange or farm headquarters in the village. The noble, almost regal, moated house was built by the notorious Abbot Roger Norreys in 1189. In 1246 King Henry III granted free warren within Badby Wood and authorised the formation of a deer park for hunting and food, the enclosing embankments and ditches of which still exist to the east of the village. Three bakehouses were added to the grange in the 1350s; its hall and chapel were renovated in the 1380s and it continued in a variety of uses after the dissolution of the Abbey, until its ruins finally tumbled down in 1722. Its remains lie hidden in a thicket at Ordnance Survey reference SP562592, 500 yards north east of the church.
In 1316, King Edward II appointed Thomas de Evesham, one of his Chancery clerks, as rector of the benefice. The licence, which moved more control of, and finance from, Badby and Newnham to the Abbot of Evesham, was effected through Pope John XXII with Henry Berghersh, Bishop of Lincoln. It was in 1343 that the endowment for a vicar was laid down in a Lincoln diocesan document (Ordinacio Vicarie in Ecclesia de Baddeby; 1343), and Reginald Musard became the first vicar.
Since its foundation in 709, Evesham Abbey had successfully developed an independent existence but it could not avoid being dissolved in November 1539.
In the ninth century, the parish was in the Diocese of Dorchester (Oxon), a safer location adopted by an earlier Bishop of Leicester to avoid the invading Danes. The seat was moved to Lincoln in 1073 by Bishop Remigius. Lincoln Diocese was itself split on 4th September, 1541 and Badby church, in Daventry deanery, came within the new but poorly endowed Diocese of Peterborough, in which it remains. It is now closer to six other cathedrals of the Church of England, which are, in order of distance: Coventry, Leicester, Oxford, Birmingham, Lichfield and Worcester!
King Henry VIII granted the manors of Badby and Newnham in 1542 to Sir Edmund Knightley and his wife Ursula and their heirs. The dower house in Fawsley Park, last inhabited in 1704 and now in ruins, was built for Lady Ursula after Sir Edmund died. There was considerable unrest in the parish in the last 20 years of the 16th century, when Valentine Knightley attempted to transfer much acreage of arable to pasture and to restrict tenants’ rights to woodland. Several tenant families, despite being puritans like Valentine, used aggressive action as well as national legal arbitration to protect their rights. The manor lands and courts were dissolved in the early 20th century.
In 1546 the rectorship and patronage of Badby and Newnham were passed to Christ Church Oxford. It remained with Christ Church Oxford, except for disruption by the Commonwealth, until 1919 when the Bishop of Peterborough became the patron.
“A History of Badby Church” published in 2018, A5 size, 48 pages including nine pictures, is available price £3, from the Church in aid of church restoration funds.