Population: 1911, 193; 1921, 177; 1931, 142.
The parish is divided from that of Priors Marston
on the east by a road running north from Bodington
(Oxon.). From the east, where the land lies for the most
part between 450 ft. and 500 ft., the ground slopes
down to about 340 ft. on the western border. There
is no woodland, though the hedgerows contain many
trees. The Oxford and Birmingham Canal runs from
south to north through the centre of the parish, and the
village lies close to the eastern boundary.
The village is a small and irregular one, and the roads
have undulating surfaces. Most of the houses and cottages are of the local yellow stone, several with thatched
roofs. One house, about 200 yds. south of the church,
has a 17th-century arched and square-headed doorway
and mullioned windows with labels: the roof is tiled.
Another, west of the church, is fairly similar, and the
Butcher's Arms Inn, south-west of the church, also
shows a mullioned window.
HARDWICK was one of the 24 vills
which formed Earl Leofric's original endowment of the monastery which he founded at
Coventry, and his gift was confirmed by Edward the
Confessor in 1043. (fn. 1) In 1086 it was among the estates
of the priory and was said to be assessed at 15 hides. (fn. 2)
It remained in the hands of the monks, and during the
vacancy of the priory of Coventry in 1195 the farm of
Hardwick for half a year was £13 16s. 9d., (fn. 3) which
corresponds pretty closely with the valuation of Hardwick (including Marston) in 1291, when the rents of
assize were £23 9s. 4d., 5 carucates of land were worth
£3 15s., 3 mills 13s. 4d., perquisites of courts 13s. 4d.,
making a total of £28 11s. (fn. 4) In 1535 the farm of the
manor (now distinct from Priors Marston) was £5, and
rents of lands and tenements there came to £11 8s. 4½d. (fn. 5)
At the Dissolution the manor of PRIORS HARDWICK was granted, in April 1542, to Sir Edmund
Knightley and the Lady Ursula his wife. (fn. 6) He died in
1542, his heirs being the daughters of his brother
Richard, (fn. 7) but under the terms of the grant the manor
went to his widow for life, with remainder to his
brother (Sir) Valentine Knightley. Lady Ursula died
in 1558; (fn. 8) Sir Valentine had licence immediately after
her death to grant the manor to Sir John Spencer and
others, (fn. 9) but apparently this was a mortgage or settlement, as he died seised thereof in 1566, and his son
Richard Knightley sold it to Ralph Blount. (fn. 10) Ralph's
son Richard inclosed the manor and sold it to Sir
William Samuel of Upton (Northants.), whose son
Arthur sold it in 1633 to William, Lord Spencer, (fn. 11) in
whose family it descended with Wormleighton (q.v.),
being now held by Earl Spencer.
The parish church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel, nave, north vestry, south
porch, and west tower.
The building is of early-to mid-13th-century origin,
but of this period only the west tower remains. The
chancel was rebuilt and much enlarged c. 1300 and has
some interesting details of that period. The nave, which
is short and broad for its length, was probably widened
at the same time or very shortly afterwards, but its side
walls were entirely rebuilt in 1868, and only the early14th-century doorways and west wall survive. New
roofs were also provided and a vestry built in place of
a north porch. There have been other repairs during
the 20th century to chancel windows, &c.
The chancel (36½ ft. by 20 ft.) is a good example of
the c. 1300 period, but has suffered from decay and
settlement of the side walls. Although two of the windows differ considerably in their tracery from the other
four, their mouldings, &c., show that they are all of the
same date. All have jambs differing from the mouldings of the heads, and all have cusping inside the glassface but not outside. The east window is of three lights
and tracery, consisting mainly of three triangles with
convex sides in a two-centred head: inside they are
trefoiled with thin soffit-cusps that are pierced; the
tracery-lights flanking the triangles have been filled in.
The pointed heads of the main lights are cinquefoiled
in like manner. The mouldings of the jambs and mullions include a smail Toll-mould inside that is continued
on the tracery-bars. Outside, the jambs are deep plain
splays, but the arch is hollow-chamfered and has a
moulded outermost order, which stands forward as a
hood-mould at the apex but at the springing level is
flush with the walling, where it has broken head-stops;
presumably this is the result of a plumb-vertical resetting
of the head. The inner splays have attached shafts with
moulded bases and capitals carved with foliage. The
concentric rear-arch is of two orders, the inner moulded
with three small rolls, the outer with a larger roll
between hollows, and it has a hood-mould that returns
as a string-course on either side, to continue on the side
walls as cornices below the wall-plates. The sill is
tabled back in three courses, and the bottoms of the
lights are walled up to about a yard above it. The
window has been distorted by pressure from the roof.
The original material is the local dark-brown stone, but
repairs on the tracery are of a lighter grey stone.
In the north wall are three windows, each of two
acute-pointed lights and spandrel in a two-centred head;
the lights have cinquefoiled heads formed by the internal
soffit-cusps, with rosette cusp-points, and the top foil
cinquefoiled with sub-cusping; the spandrel is quatrefoiled. The mullions and jambs resemble those of the
east window. The plastered internal splays are plain;
the rear-arch is hollow-chamfered and has small humoresque or grotesque stops.
Of the three south windows the middle is like those
opposite: the western has lost its traceried head and has
a square head now at the old springing level. The
eastern is a wider opening with a higher sill because of
the sedilia: it is of four pointed lights, and the tracery
in the two-centred head includes three circles. These
are trefoiled inside with the pierced soffit-cusps which
also form a trefoiled ogee-head to each light with a
trefoil above it. Between the first and second windows
is a priest's doorway. It has a pointed head of three
moulded orders, the inner two merged into the splayed
jambs. The outer projects beyond the wall-face and
was carried on small detached shafts. These have disappeared, but the foliated capitals survive; also the
moulded bases, carried on the top member of the plinth.
The head has a hood-mould with mask-stops. Below
the windows, inside, is a moulded string-course in all
three walls, lifted to a higher level to clear the piscina,
sedilia, and doorway.
The piscina and two sedilia form one architectural
feature, and their moulded jambs are divided and
flanked by detached shafts with foliated capitals and
moulded bases. The piscina has a moulded two-centred
head, of which the innermost order, of three rolls, is
cinquefoiled and is carried on foliated capitals on tapering corbels in the reveals with small foliage knops at the
base-points. The sill is a horizontal slab in which the
middle part is raised, in semi-octagonal plan, to contain
the round basin.
The sedilia are in two recesses, the eastern 2 ft. 9 in.
and the western 4 ft. 10 in. wide. The smaller has a
two-centred head of three orders, the innermost hollowchamfered and continued from the jambs; the middle
is moulded and carried on small engaged shafts with
capitals and bases; the hollow-chamfered outermost
order is carried on the detached shafts. The larger, of
similar detail, is segmental-pointed. The heads have
hood-moulds mitring over the divisions and terminating
at the west, at the junction with that of the doorway, with
a boss carved as a small long-eared beast biting a coiled
snake. The wall is thickened inside to give sufficient
depth for the recesses. Below the north-east window
is a plain locker with rebated edges for a door.
The walls are of dark yellow-brown ashlar, mostly
irregularly coursed, but more regularly coursed and
probably later above the springing line of the east
window. At the angles are diagonal buttresses. The
plinth is in two splayed courses, the upper projecting;
below the window-sill levels is a similar projecting
string-course that passes round the diagonal buttresses
and, like that inside, is lifted to a higher level behind
the position of the sedilia. The tops of the side walls
have modern brick eaves-courses and there is a modern
patching above the south-west window. On the buttresses are many grooves from arrow or knife sharpening.
The gabled roof is modern and has a panelled wagonhead ceiling that cuts across the tip of the east window;
it is tiled.
The pointed chancel arch is modern and springs from
shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases: on the
nave side is a hood-mould.
The nave (about 43½ ft. by 26 ft.) has three windows
in each wall. The south-eastern may be a 14th-century
window restored: it is of two narrow pointed lights and
a plain spandrel in a two-centred head. The other five
are wider modern windows of two trefoiled lights and
tracery in a pointed head with a hood-mould.
The pointed north and south doorways are of early14th-century date. The north is of one hollow-chamfered order with a hood-mould having mask-stops: the
south is of two orders, the inner ovolo-moulded and
with a hood-mould with return-stops. In it is an ancient
door of battens with close-set square vertical and horizontal framing and hung with plain strap-hinges: it has
an oak lock.
The walls and buttresses are of modern ashlar but
with some re-used old stones: the south-east buttress is
dated 1868. The west wall is of old rough squared
ashlar, like the tower, but not coursing with it. The
modern roof is of four bays with arched trusses and
panelled soffits to the sloping sides.
The south porch is probably of the 14th century and
is built of rubble-work, roughly coursed in the side
walls. The two-centred entrance has jambs and head
of two orders, the outer chamfered, the inner ovolomoulded like the south doorway. It is fitted with
modern doors. The gabled roof is tiled.
The west tower (7 ft. square inside) is in one stage.
The walls are of 13th-century rough ashlar. The parapet is built of 15th-century fine ashlar; it is embattled
with copings returned in the merlons, and has at the
angles decayed crocketed pinnacles. At the west angles
are low buttresses projecting to the west.
The archway from the nave has a chamfered twocentred head, dying on the square reveals, which are
flush with the tower walls. In the west wall is a lancet
window, and another in the south wall of the second
story; on the north and west walls are clock dials, placed
in 1938. The bell-chamber has in each wall twin
trefoiled lights in red sandstone, much restored. There
is an old ladder up to the first floor, one standard being
a 15th-century re-used beam or wall-plate.
The font has a bowl of flower-pot shape, probably
of the 13th century, with a moulded square base. The
communion-rail has turned balusters of the 17th century, panelled square posts to the middle gate and a
moulded top-rail. In the vestry is a 17th-century oakframed chest, 6 ft. 3 in. long, bound with iron straps.
It is divided by a partition into two halves, each with
its own lid hung with plain strap-hinges. It has an
interesting large skeleton lock inside which works two
long horizontal hooked bars that engage with staples.
The chancel has ancient stone paving and an inscription: 'This chancell was paved at the proper cost of
Sir Robert Spencer, Knight, Baron Spencer of Wormleghton in the yere of our Lord 1612'.
Also in the chancel floor is an alabaster grave-slab
incised in outline with the figure of a man in armour
with his feet resting on a dog. Only a fragment of the
marginal inscription with the incomplete date 14 . .
In the nave floor is a grave-stone to the Rev. Thomas
Kent, Junior, Vicar 1695; another, partly hidden, to the
Rev. Thomas . . . 1686, aged 75; and a third to the
Rev. Thomas Bill, Rector of Upper Worton, Oxon,
1724, and other later stones.
There are three bells: the second is medieval, by
Thomas Newcombe, inscribed 'Sancta Marea'; the
other two of 1670 by Henry Bagley. (fn. 12)
The registers date from 1643.
The patronage of the church belonged to the monks of Coventry and
it was appropriated to the priory in
1260. (fn. 13) In 1279 the prior was returned as holding the
church with its chapels of Marston, Staunton or Stoneton, and (Lower) Shuckborough, and the church was
said to be endowed with 2 carucates of land. (fn. 14) The
rectory was valued in 1291 at £18, (fn. 15) and the vicarage
at £3. (fn. 16) In 1535 the vicarage of the parish church with
the chapel of Priors Marston was worth £23 16s. after
payment of a pension of 26s. 8d. to the monks, (fn. 17) who
appear to have received nothing else from the benefice; (fn. 18)
so that it would seem that the rectory had been converted to the use of the vicar; the pension represen ted
the tithes of Staunton. (fn. 19)
After the Dissolution Henry Over alias Waver had
a lease for 21 years of the tithes, (fn. 20) and he also bought
the advowson from John Wright and Thomas Holmes, (fn. 21)
whose title to it does not appear. Henry Over died in
1567, his heir being his son Richard, (fn. 22) who was
patron in 1569. (fn. 23) By 1604 the patronage had come
into the hands of Robert, Lord Spencer, (fn. 24) and from
that time the advowson has descended with the manor.
Heyrick's Charity. The origin of
this charity is unknown. The endowment now consists of £32 14s. 2d. 3½
per cent. War Stock, the income from which is distributed by the vicar and churchwardens amongst the
poor of the parish.
Joseph Fessy by his will proved 18 February 1898
directed his trustees to purchase £500 Consols, the
income to be distributed by the incumbent and churchwardens on St. Thomas's Day in sums of 5s. each
amongst the aged infirm and deserving poor of the
parish. The endowment now produces an annual income amounting to £11 5s. which is distributed as
directed in the will.
Miss Joanna Jamima Beck's Charity. The endowment of this charity consists of £197 15s. 6d. Metropolitan 3 per cent. Stock settled by Deed Poll dated
8 June 1887 under the provisions of which the Tithe
Redemption Trust were appointed to be the trustees of
the charity and to pay over the income to the vicar of
Priors Hardwick. By an order of the Charity Commissioners dated 13 December 1898 the Corporation
of 'The Queen Victoria Clergy Fund' were appointed
trustees for the administration of the charity.