The Ramsdens, comprising Ramsden Bellhouse and Ramsden Crays (which was at one time a Royal Manor), are in the historic Hundred of Barstaple, a short distance from the towns of Billericay to the west and Wickford to the east. They are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ramesduna. Crays and Bellhouse were later additions to the name. Both have been in existence since at least the thirteenth century and the Ramsden Bellhouse name appears to have arisen from the presence of Richard Bellhous who held land in the area. In 1281 Richard was Patron of the church which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin (or St Mary the Virgin as it was later known) and he had presented Theobaldum Belhous as the rector.
Richard Belhous was the brother of Thomas Belhous, who, in 1281, was the Sheriff of Cambridgeshire. In 1283 Thomas and his wife Floria purchased Ramsden Bellhouse, having previously purchased Stanway (1274) which was occupied by John Belhous who had received that land by enfeoffment. Records at the National Archives indicate Thomas died before 1302 (probably the late 1280s or early 1290s) and that he was succeeded by John Belhous, his son and heir, with whom he had bought lands at Newington.
It was John’s son, Thomas, however, who was the Patron at the Ramsden Bellhouse rectory in 1326 when he presented the priest Simon Ailward on the resignation of the previous incumbent, Richard de Sampford. Thomas presented again in 1337 on the resignation of Ailward. Ailward’s successor was the priest Robert Spark.
Thomas was succeeded by John and John’s son Thomas succeeded him, but there is no evidence they directly presented to the church. This last Thomas died in 1374 and Joan, his only child, died in infancy. The Ramsden Bellhouse estate then went to Joan’s cousin, another Joan, who was the daughter of John Castelayn and Isolde Belhous. This Joan married Robert Kynvet who presented to the church the priest Johannes Boteler in 1388. The advowson thus changed from Belhous to Kynvet. Robert only made the one presentation as all that followed was by a Thomas Kynvet until another Robert Kynvet presented Johaness Lincoln in 1480 on the resignation of William Wade who had been there since 1455. Thomas Baker (1497) and Thomas Ganby (1498) were both presented by Edward Kynvet. This Edward died in 1501 and the advowson passed to his daughter Elizabeth who married John Raynesford, the son of Sir John Raynesford. Elizabeth died without issue and her aunt Thomasyne, the sister of Edward Kynvet and the wife of William Clopton, was one of her heirs. It would appear the advowson passed to her for her son Francis Clopton presented to the church John Metcalfe (1546) and again on Metcalfe’s decease John Forest (1549). William Clopton of Groton, Suffolk, who was the nephew of Francis, presented his son Thomas Clopton to the church in 1616. Thomas was born at Graughton in Sussex and ordained in the Great Chapel of the Bishops Palace in Fulham. It would appear William died a few months before Thomas was appointed so the appointment must have been agreed before William’s death. Thomas Clopton stayed in office until his death in 1663 when he was succeeded by Sam Garrade who was appointed by Sir Jacob Garrade, Knight (1641) and Baronet (1662). Sam Garrade was succeeded on his death in 1686 by the clerk Joshua Nunn who was appointed by Thomas Garrade, Sir Jacob having died in 1666. Thus the advowson of the church at Ramsden Bellhouse was now with the Garrade’s.
Interestingly there was a parish within Ramsden Bellhouse and this was Ramsden Barnton, a free chapel. In 1281 Walterum Otington was the rector and Nicholaum Barnton the Patron, thus Ramsden Barton appears to have got its name from the Barnton family. The name changed at a later date, from Ramsden Barnton to Ramsden Barrington, although a Barrington Hall does appear to have been there as early as the thirteenth century.
An inventory of Ramsden Bellhouse rectory from 1610 appears in Richard Newcourt’s Repertorium or an Ecclesiastical History of the Diocese of London Vol II” published in 1710 and reads as follows: “Terrier 1610. A Parsonage House, a Garden, an Orchard and about 14 Acres of Glebe Land, besides 4 Acres of Wood”.