A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1968.
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PRESTON ON STOUR
Preston on Stour is a rural parish of 1,769 a. (fn. 1) 3 miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon. It lies astride the River Stour, which divides it into two distinct parts. The larger part lies south-west of the Stour and forms a compact area bounded on the east by the Stour, the Humber brook, and its tributary the Small brook, on the west by the Marchfont brook, formerly called the Rad brook. (fn. 2) North-east from the Stour the parish stretches in a long and irregularly shaped tongue, with parts of its southern boundary following a small brook and the lane that crosses the Stour. In 1931 it was transferred from Gloucestershire to Warwickshire; (fn. 3) until then it had formed a narrow promontory of Gloucestershire in the extreme north-east of the county. It was presumably included in Gloucestershire rather than Warwickshire because, like Clifford Chambers, (fn. 4) a neighbouring promontory of the same county, it belonged to a Gloucestershire monastery. It was that ownership that gave the name Preston. (fn. 5)
The land falls from 250 ft. in the north-east and 200 ft. in the south-west to 130 ft. on the Stour. The landscape is gently rolling, drained by the brooks that form the boundaries of the parish. Where the Stour crosses the parish it divides into two arms: the division is perhaps artificial, for one arm was used for a mill. The Humber brook was straightened, to avoid flooding and help drainage, in the early or mid-18th century. (fn. 6) The soil is loamy, overlying Lias clay. (fn. 7) The greater part of the land has long been agricultural. In the extreme north-east, however, where in 1964 there were two mediumsized woods, some rough pasture land survived into the 20th century. (fn. 8) That part of the parish was used also for scattered buildings connected with the wartime airfield in Atherstone on Stour (Warws.); in 1964 groups of derelict huts and overgrown hardstandings remained. Alscot Park, in the centre of the parish, was apparently established north-east of the Stour in 1401, when the lord of Alscot was granted free warren. (fn. 9) The park was infringed in 1593, (fn. 10) and was possibly enlarged in 1617. (fn. 11) It was further enlarged in 1686, when it took in land to the southwest of the river, (fn. 12) and in the period 1747–72. (fn. 13) In the early 18th century it was described as delightful, (fn. 14) and it was the subject of a few lines in Richard Jago's poem Edgehill. (fn. 15) In 1747 the new owner said it was small but well planted. (fn. 16) As enlarged, the park covers 200 a., (fn. 17) and is separated from the roads on the north-east and south-east sides by a long wall. Part of it was under the plough in 1964. From the 17th century the lords of the manor have made their home in the house in the park, which has been the centre of an estate covering several parishes. The 18th-century Gothic house is described below. (fn. 18)
The main centre of population is Preston village, which lies close to the river on its south-west bank. The site is on sloping ground, and on a prominent spur overlooking the village green stands the parish church. Most of the houses are grouped in two loop roads leading off the green, where the pound, adjoining the churchyard fence, (fn. 19) and the stocks stood in the 19th century. (fn. 20) A timber-framed and thatched house called the Old Thatch Tavern stood beside the green until demolished c. 1900. (fn. 21) Four of the larger houses in the village retain in their lower stories close-set timber studding of the 16th century, while their upper stories have square framing; some of their gable-ends and dormers contain decorative framing. In those houses and in three 17th-century timber-framed houses the filling was originally of plaster; but a late 17th-century timber-framed house has apparently original brick nogging, and another house of the same period is brick-built with mullioned and transomed window-frames of wood. A timber-framed cottage perhaps of the 16th century is reputed to have been a priest's house, and a 17thcentury framed cottage next to it retains the thatch that elsewhere has been replaced by tiles. The village includes one cottage, the post office in 1964, which is built of mud. Newly built cottages were mentioned in 1615 and 1657–8. (fn. 22) There are two terraces of 18th- or early 19th-century brick cottages. Most of the older cottages were demolished in the 1850's, when James Roberts West rebuilt part of Preston as a model village. (fn. 23) The school, at the southern end of the village, was the earliest feature, built in 1848. Eight pairs of two-storied cottages, evenly spaced on each side of the road running up from the school to the green, were built between 1852 and 1856. (fn. 24) School and cottages are of red-brown local brick, uniformly Gothic in style and with heavy octagonal chimneys. The cottages have contemporary garden sheds. There has been little later building in the village.
A secondary settlement existed at Alscot in the Middle Ages. Tradition locates a chapel at Alscot; (fn. 25) in 1248 there were some peasant inhabitants, (fn. 26) and in 1287, when Alscot was a separate vill, there was a reeve of Alscot and perhaps a tavern there. (fn. 27) In 1327 there were 6 taxpayers in Alscot, (fn. 28) but by 1534 the whole place was in a single occupation, and there was apparently only one house. (fn. 29) In 1506 there had been a house and two cottages. (fn. 30) Alscot later included buildings subsidiary to the park — stables, lodge-cottages, kennels — and isolated farm-houses: Whitehill Farm existed by 1700, (fn. 31) but two others appear to have been first built after the mid-18th century. (fn. 32) South-west of the Stour isolated farms and barns were built after the inclosure of that part of the parish in 1760, (fn. 33) and there was some further building of scattered houses and cottages in that part in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In 1327 there were 19 taxpayers in the parish. (fn. 34) In the mid-16th century there were said to be c. 30 communicants (fn. 35) and 18 households in the parish. (fn. 36) Thereafter there was probably an increase, but the figure of over 200 adults in 1603 (fn. 37) is likely to be an exaggeration. In 1650 there were said to be 24 families, (fn. 38) and in 1672, 32 houses were assessed for or discharged from hearth tax. (fn. 39) By the early 18th century there had been a further increase, for there were 36 houses and cottages in Preston village alone, (fn. 40) and an estimated population of 200 in the parish. (fn. 41) The population was 267, in 60 houses, in 1801. The number of inhabitants rose steadily to 421 in 1851, and then fell, initially as a result of the removal of dilapidated cottages and a reduction in the number of families to a house. The population was 369 in 1871, 273 in 1901, and 244 in 1931. In 1951 it was 570, (fn. 42) but the increase resulted from the occupation of the airfield huts by homeless families. (fn. 43) In 1961 the population was 203. (fn. 44)
The main road between Stratford-upon-Avon and Shipston on Stour (Warws.), apparently mentioned in 1553, (fn. 45) passes along the edge of Alscot Park. In 1662 it was called Alscot Lane where it passed through Preston. (fn. 46) It was a turnpike road from 1730 to 1877. (fn. 47) From the main road lanes lead off to the farms north-east of it, and another leads over the Stour and south towards Admington. It crosses the lane from Whitchurch (Warws.) to Preston village, which was still gated in 1964, and north-west of Preston village took a winding course over Atherstone Hill to Atherstone on Stour (Warws.). The roads south-west of the river were established by the inclosure award of 1760. (fn. 48) Sir Richard Brawne, lord of the manor 1615–50, built the bridge over the river, and his successors repaired it. (fn. 49) It was a stone bridge in 1740, (fn. 50) and it was rebuilt in stone between 1747 and 1760. (fn. 51) By 1825 it was regarded as a county bridge, (fn. 52) and in 1853 it was rebuilt in timber and iron. (fn. 53) Later it was rebuilt in brick, perhaps in 1890. (fn. 54) The bridge across the Humber brook was named as Broad Bridge in 1740. (fn. 55) The Stratford & Moreton Railway, a horse tramway opened in 1826, passed through the parish alongside the main road. After 1859 it gradually became derelict. (fn. 56) The single-track railway line between Stratford and Banbury, which crosses the north-east tip of the parish, was opened in 1873, (fn. 57) and closed to passenger traffic by 1953. (fn. 58)
In 1964 Preston village remained small and sequestered. A few of the owners of Alscot, who are mentioned below, have achieved prominence in national life, as has General Sir Michael Montgomerie Alston-Roberts-West, G.C.B. (b. 1905), (fn. 59) a younger son of the family that has owned Alscot since 1747.
Ethelric son of Ethelmund gave land at 'Sture' to the monastery of Deerhurst in the year 804. (fn. 60) The land was evidently at Preston on Stour, for in 1086 the abbey of St. Denis, Paris, to which part of the possessions of Deerhurst had been granted in 1059, (fn. 61) held 10 hides there. (fn. 62) The manor of PRESTON ON STOUR remained part of the alien priory of Deerhurst, (fn. 63) and was granted with the priory in 1467 to Tewkesbury Abbey, (fn. 64) which held it at the Dissolution. In 1538 it had been let at farm to Roger Wakeman, (fn. 65) apparently a nephew of the last Abbot of Tewkesbury and first Bishop of Gloucester, John Wakeman. (fn. 66)
In 1545 the manor was granted to John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, who sold it in 1546 to Thomas Hunks, of Radbrook (fn. 67) in the neighbouring parish of Quinton. Thomas Hunks died in 1559, having devised the manor to his second son, the elder of two brothers both called John. (fn. 68) The elder John died in 1571; his son and heir Thomas Hunks (fn. 69) in 1594 sold the reversion of the manor, then held by his mother Frances for life, to Sir Edward Greville of Milcote. (fn. 70) Greville, who was in financial straits, (fn. 71) mortgaged the manor in 1599, (fn. 72) and in 1607 sold it to Sir Hugh Brawne. (fn. 73) Brawne died in 1615, and was succeeded in his manors of Preston and Alscot, and in the rectory and advowson of Preston, by his son Sir Richard. (fn. 74) Sir Richard, who received a grant of free warren in Preston and Alscot in 1617, (fn. 75) died in 1650 and his son Richard, a minor, c. 1657. Sir Richard's three daughters inherited his estates; Preston and Alscot, subject to the life-interest of their mother, Theodosia, went to the second daughter, Lucian or Lucy Anne, wife of Thomas Mariett. (fn. 76) Thomas Mariett died in 1691, (fn. 77) and his son and heir John in 1709. (fn. 78) John's son and heir Richard was in turn succeeded in 1739 by his son Richard Mariett, (fn. 79) who appears to have mortgaged the estate. (fn. 80) The residuary legatees of the second Richard (d. 1744) were his sister Sidney and her husband John Lowe, who in 1747 sold Preston and Alscot to James West. (fn. 81)
James West, who was a Member of Parliament, President of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, and a noted collector, died in 1772. He was succeeded by his son James (d. 1795), (fn. 82) and the estate thereafter passed from father to son, the successive owners being James West (d. 1838), who added the surname of his wife, Anne Roberts, to his own, James Roberts West (d. 1882), another James Roberts West (d. 1918), who assumed as an additional surname that of his wife, Elizabeth Louisa Alston, (fn. 83) Capt. Harry Charles John Alston-RobertsWest, R.N. (d. 1931), William Reginald James Alston-Roberts-West (d. 1940), and Capt. James William Alston-Roberts-West, (fn. 84) who owned Preston on Stour and Alscot in 1964.
Preston on Stour manor-house is evidently represented by the house leased with the manor farm to John Jackson in 1618, (fn. 85) by which time the lords of the manor of Preston had settled at Alscot. Preston manor-house may have been the one with five hearths, the second largest in the parish, occupied in 1672 by Thomas Smith. (fn. 86) The 16th-century timber-framed house near the school, bearing the date 1659 on the lintel of the main doorway, is thought to have been part of the manor-house. (fn. 87) In 1964 it had long been divided into several occupations.
After the appropriation of Preston church to Tewkesbury Abbey in 1504 (fn. 88) the rectory estate was for most of its history held with Preston manor. In 1546 the rectory, though included in the grant of the manor in the same year, was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 89) In 1552 the dean and chapter sold the rectory to Thomas Hunks, lord of Preston, subject to a pension of £8 a year. In 1635 the dean and chapter claimed that Hunks had had only a leasehold title, but Hunks's successors continued to own the rectory though they acknowledged the pension, (fn. 90) which survived. (fn. 91) In 1594 Edward Greville separated the rectory from the manor by selling the rectory to Leonard Bennett, (fn. 92) who in 1597 sold it to John Thorpeley. (fn. 93) Although in 1621 Thorpeley's widow was to claim one-third as dower, (fn. 94) Thorpeley sold the rectory in 1599 to Sir William Glover, (fn. 95) who in turn sold it, at Thorpeley's direction, to Sir Edward Greville. (fn. 96) The purchase-money for the last sale was not paid, (fn. 97) and the rectory was conveyed to Sir Hugh Brawne both by Greville in 1607, with Preston manor, (fn. 98) and by Glover's representatives in 1609. (fn. 99) Thereafter the rectory descended with the manor. (fn. 100)
The land in Alscot held in 1359 by William de Framelesworth and his wife Eleanor (fn. 101) has been thought to represent the sub-manor of ALSCOT. (fn. 102) It may, however, have been no larger than the one yardland in Alscot that was conveyed in 1255. (fn. 103) In 1379 an estate of a house, one plough-land, and 6 a. of meadow in Alscot and Preston was conveyed by Walter of Luddington, of Alcester, and his wife Margery to William Barwell. (fn. 104) In 1401 William Willicotes was granted free warren in his demesnes of Willicote (in Quinton) and Alscot, (fn. 105) and at his death in 1411 he had a house, 2 plough-lands, and 6 a. of meadow in Alscot, held of Deerhurst Priory as of the manor of Preston on Stour. His heir was his son Thomas. (fn. 106) Shortly afterwards Sir William Bishopston is said to have lived mainly at his manor of Alscot, and before his death in 1447 to have settled Alscot manor among others on himself, his wife, and their children. (fn. 107) The manor that he settled was in fact not Alscot but Lark Stoke (fn. 108) (in Ilmington). Bishopston's heirs were his two daughters, of whom Philippa married Sir William Catesby. (fn. 109) Catesby settled the manors of Willicote and Alscote on their son William, the councillor of Richard III, and William's wife Margaret, (fn. 110) who in 1478 jointly received Alscot manor from Robert Brome and others by way of exchange. Robert Brome's father, William, (fn. 111) had in 1456 been granted Willicote manor and an estate in Alscot of exactly the same extent as William Willicotes's, (fn. 112) and in 1459 he held the reversion of Alscot manor, then held for life by Elizabeth, late wife of Thomas Blount. (fn. 113) The way in which the manor descended to the younger William Catesby is therefore not certain.
William Catesby was attainted and executed in 1485, but the attainder was reversed in favour of his son George. (fn. 114) At his death in 1505 George Catesby held Alscot manor of the Abbot of Tewkesbury. (fn. 115) His wife Elizabeth afterwards married Sir Thomas Lucy, (fn. 116) and as Elizabeth Lucy, widow, she bought other lands in Alscot c. 1525. (fn. 117) In 1532 she and another husband, Richard Verney, (fn. 118) acquired the lease of Preston on Stour rectory, (fn. 119) and in 1534 they were granted, by Tewkesbury Abbey, the farm of Alscot manor. (fn. 120) Meanwhile, George Catesby's eldest son, William, had died young, to be succeeded by his brother, Sir Richard Catesby (d. 1554). (fn. 121) Sir Richard was described as a free tenant of Preston manor in 1545, (fn. 122) and in 1553 the lord of Preston manor obtained a decree confirming that the farm of Alscot was part of Preston manor. (fn. 123) William Catesby, as Sir Richard's grandson and heir, claimed livery of Alscot manor on reaching his majority in 1568. (fn. 124) In 1570 William Catesby, father of Robert, the Gunpowder Plot conspirator, (fn. 125) conveyed Alscot, evidently for the purpose of a sale to John Hunks, (fn. 126) lord of Preston manor, who died seised of Alscot manor the following year. (fn. 127) Thomas Hunks, who in 1587 acquired some further property in Alscot from William Catesby, (fn. 128) sold Alscot manor in 1590 to Henry Bartlett. (fn. 129) In 1596 Henry Bartlett settled the manor on his son, (fn. 130) later Sir Thomas, and the father and son together conveyed it to Sir Hugh Brawne in 1606. (fn. 131) Sir Hugh acquired Preston manor the next year, and thereafter the two manors shared the same ownership.
There was presumably a relatively large house at Alscot in 1323, when Walter 'de aula' of Alscot was ordained. (fn. 132) With the possible exception of Sir William Bishopston, in the early 15th century, none of the lords of Alscot is recorded as living there before the late 16th. In 1594 Henry Bartlett was described as of Alscot, (fn. 133) as was his son Sir Thomas in 1605. (fn. 134) Sir Hugh and Sir Richard Brawne in turn lived at Alscot until 1647, (fn. 135) but in 1648 Sir Richard was described as of Saintbury. (fn. 136) From 1663 the Marietts lived at Alscot. (fn. 137) The house they lived in was of stone, apparently built c. 1600, perhaps by Sir Hugh Brawne soon after his acquisition of Alscot. In 1691 it was of two stories with a garret, and it contained a hall with a room over it, a parlour, a study, and at least three bedrooms. (fn. 138) Richard Mariett (d. 1739) made some alterations to the house. It was described as a handsome seat c. 1705 (fn. 139) but as very bad and old in 1747. (fn. 140) It was almost entirely rebuilt, in two stages, in 1750–2 and 1763–5, for James West. The house, known as Alscot Park, is a remarkable example of early rococo Gothic, and survives largely unaltered. (fn. 141)
In 1750–2 the existing house was remodelled and refaced. The windows were remade with ogee heads, battlements were added, and a new three-story block was built at the north end overlooking the river. The work was done by Thomas, Edward, and Richard Woodward, masons of Chipping Campden, to designs by John Phillips and George Shakespeare. In 1763–5 the size of the house was roughly doubled by the addition of a transverse two-story wing on the south end, giving the house a T-shaped plan. The south wing, comprising a large hall and state apartments which contain a fine collection of pictures, also has ogee-headed windows and a battlemented parapet, and the south elevation is broken by two large pinnacled buttresses rising above the battlements. About 1825 a central entrance porch was added, to a design by Thomas Hopper. (fn. 142) Later in the 19th century some of the interior, including the main staircase, was altered; the glazing-bars were removed from the windows, but they were replaced in the mid-20th century. In the park a rotunda and an obelisk designed by Edward Woodward were demolished before the end of the 19th century, (fn. 143) but the hothouse designed by Phillips and Shakespeare survived. On the main road is a pair of lodgecottages, single-storied, of stone, and in the Gothic style of the big house.
In 1086, when the land of St. Denis in Preston was assessed as 10 hides, (fn. 144) the whole parish may have formed a single manor and a single agricultural unit. Later, the manor of Preston and the sub-manor of Alscot were physically distinct, the Stour forming the boundary between them. (fn. 145) It is likely also that Alscot formed a separate agricultural unit even before its depopulation. (fn. 146) The demesne of Alscot manor amounted to 2 ploughlands in 1411. (fn. 147) In 1615 the 596 a. of Alscot demesnes included land called the old wheatfield. (fn. 148) The ridge and furrow of former open fields was still visible in pasture (fn. 149) in 1964. Depopulation is likely to have been accompanied or followed by inclosure and conversion to parkland and permanent pasture, but in 1506, when there were still two cottages in Alscot manor, there were 220 a. of arable, compared with 260 a. of pasture. (fn. 150) At later periods Alscot appears to have been mostly permanent grass-land, with a little arable. (fn. 151)
South-west of the river, in Preston manor, there were 2 plough-lands in demesne in the late 13th century. (fn. 152) By 1615, (fn. 153) and apparently by 1538, the demesne had been reduced to 6½ yardlands. (fn. 154) In 1615 the demesne was held as a single farm by a lessee, (fn. 155) but afterwards it was divided into the six several yardlands and the odd half, held by the lord of the manor and six other landholders. (fn. 156)
Freeholds within Preston and Alscot manors were mentioned in the 13th century; (fn. 157) there was one substantial freehold in Preston manor in 1540, (fn. 158) held by a family that until c. 1525 had held lands in Alscot. (fn. 159) No copyholds in Alscot are recorded, but in 1553 it was stated that copyholders in Alscot took their tenements at Preston manor court. (fn. 160) In Preston manor in 1540 there were 14 copyholders, with holdings mostly between 12 a. and 50 a. The holdings were not then reckoned in yardlands; (fn. 161) in the late 15th century some tenants had more than one holding of a fraction of a yardland, (fn. 162) and it looks as though in 1540 most copyholders had one, two, or three half-yardlands. The copyholds were held for lives, (fn. 163) and were not heritable. (fn. 164) Widows held by freebench, (fn. 165) and heriots in kind were payable in the late 16th century. (fn. 166) The larger copyholds were enfranchised in the late 16th or early 17th century, and at the same time the manorial waste was divided and sold. (fn. 167) In 1615 the tenants of Preston manor included freeholders with 123/8 yardlands between them, 3 copyholders with 37/8 yardlands between them, 6 cottagers, and 1 leaseholder, apart from the tenants of the demesne and the mill. (fn. 168) Leaseholds were more frequent in the late 17th century, (fn. 169) but copyholds survived in 1721, when some former copyholds were in the lord of the manor's possession, (fn. 170) and 1728. (fn. 171)
The number of yardlands in Preston field, 25¾, was the same in 1721 as in 1615 and, apparently, in 1540. The amount of arable in a yardland increased from c. 23 statute acres in 1540, the amount varying from yardland to yardland, to a regular 27½ a. in 1615, and a regular 42¼ a. in 1721. (fn. 172) The increase indicates an extension of the arable land in Preston field, in which the land of each holding lay in scattered selions. The intrusion by ploughing into common pasture-land was presented in the manor court in 1632 (fn. 173) and 1669, (fn. 174) and in 1658 the court ordered that existing greensward was not to be ploughed and that a piece at the end of each selion was to be allowed to become permanent grass. (fn. 175) Those measures did not permanently restore the former proportions of arable and grass-land. In 1540 Preston field lay divided between 4 lesser fields, each containing between 140 and 155 statute acres. The total acreage was 592½, comprised in 2,159 selions, so that each selion averaged little more than ¼ a. (fn. 176) By 1721 the larger part of the arable land lay in 4 quarters, which may have corresponded with the 4 fields of 1540 but were called by different names and were much larger. Evidently after the division of Preston field into quarters another field was opened, called the Furfield or Further field. The quarters each contained from 482 to 673 lands and leys, and the Furfield, of which more than half belonged to the demesne farm, 213. In all there were 2,485 lands and leys totalling 1,088 a., so that the average land was little less than ½ a. (fn. 177)
The extension of the arable acreage presumably reduced the amount of livestock. In 1540 there was common of pasture in Preston manor for 905 sheep and 193 beasts, and the normal stint seems to have been 40 sheep and 9 beasts for each yardland. (fn. 178) After 1540 there is little record of sheep in the parish. Shepherds were recorded in 1571 (fn. 179) and 1608, (fn. 180) but they are more likely to have been employed at Alscot than on Preston manor. In 1615 there were 3 pasture-grounds — a beast-pasture of 159 a., a sheep-pasture of 87 a., and a horse-pasture of 20 a. — but they were then described as divided equally between the yardlands, (fn. 181) perhaps for the purpose of their inclusion in the arable field. In 1694 the manor court made regulations about the siting of a summer fallow for 8 years in advance, (fn. 182) suggesting an 8-course rotation of crops.
Before inclosure under Act of Parliament there were some steps towards consolidation and inclosure in Preston manor. The enlargement of the park in 1686 was achieved partly through the exchange of meadow-land. (fn. 183) At some stage the 6½ yardlands of the demesne farm were consolidated, for in each quarter of the field in 1721 the farm land formed a compact block equivalent to a furlong. After the farm was split into 7 separate holdings each holding had isolated selions in each block. In the Furfield the demesne farm was not consolidated, which, in the light of the high proportion of demesne there, suggests that the Furfield was opened after the consolidation of the demesne in the quarters. (fn. 184) In 1722, however, the several holdings of demesne in the Furfield were individually consolidated and inclosed, (fn. 185) though the other land there and the holdings of demesne in the quarters were not. (fn. 186) By 1721, and perhaps in that year, the hedgerow in Preston field, amounting to 520 linear yards, was apportioned among the landholders. (fn. 187)
In 1721 there were 12 holders of land, excluding the lord of the manor, (fn. 188) not much fewer than in 1540. (fn. 189) From the 16th century the holdings of the yeoman farmers in Preston appear to have been fairly large and mostly comparable in size. Some families held land there over long periods, the Jeffs family from the early 14th century to the 17th, the Yate family from the early 14th to the 18th; the Lock family held land there in 1498 and in 1776, the Timbrell family before 1572 and in 1800; the Smiths, who had a house in Preston in 1594, and the Mansells, who were lessees of closes in Alscot in 1586, and whose freehold included until 1870 the timber-framed house at the top of Preston green, were represented in the parish in the 20th century. (fn. 190)
The number of estates in the parish was reduced between 1721 and inclosure in 1760, when 1,100 a. including roads were reallotted. The manorial estate had evidently absorbed some others, for the lord of the manor received 656 a., including an allotment for tithes. Seven others received allotments, all between 40 a. and 100 a., and there were no small allotments. (fn. 191) In the 19th century almost all the land in the parish was merged in the Alscot Park estate: in 1838 the estate held by the Zouch family since 1719 or earlier was added to it, (fn. 192) and in 1872 the estate held by the Salmon family from the 17th century. (fn. 193) Whereas in 1870 there were 4 substantial landowners in the parish, in 1914 there was only one. (fn. 194) The larger part of the parish still belonged to the Alscot Park estate in 1964. The farms remained fairly large: there were 9 in 1831, (fn. 195) 7 in 1856, and the 6 farms existing in the mid-20th century were all over 150 a. (fn. 196)
After the inclosure of 1760 some arable land was converted to meadow and pasture, as shown by the ridge and furrow visible south-west of the river. In the early 19th century the parish was said to be mostly meadow and pasture, (fn. 197) but in 1801 nearly a third of the total acreage was sown to wheat, oats, barley, beans, and peas. (fn. 198) The proportion of arable to grass-land was much the same in 1901, (fn. 199) 1933, (fn. 200) and 1964.
A miller possibly of Preston was recorded in 1287, (fn. 201) and the taxpayers of the vill included a miller in 1327. (fn. 202) In 1496 the Abbot and Convent of Tewkesbury leased two mills in Preston apparently under one roof, together with a fishery. (fn. 203) The watermills continued to belong to and to be leased by the lords of Preston manor; (fn. 204) in 1691 they were described as three mills under one roof. (fn. 205) The mill, standing beside the bridge across the Stour, was mentioned in 1740, (fn. 206) but it had apparently gone by the early 19th century. (fn. 207) In 1896 the site was said to be no longer visible. (fn. 208)
A few other non-agricultural occupations are recorded. One of the taxpayers in 1327 was surnamed mercator. (fn. 209) A common bakehouse was mentioned in 1564, 1590, and 1614–18. (fn. 210) A butcher, a carpenter, a wheelwright, and a tailor were among the inhabitants in 1608, (fn. 211) a matmaker in 1685, (fn. 212) and a weaver in 1688. (fn. 213) A surgeon of Preston on Stour was licensed in 1736, (fn. 214) and an alehousekeeper in 1755. (fn. 215) From the mid-19th century there were: tailors, shoemakers, and a timber-merchant until 1870, a wheelwright until 1889, a carpenter until 1923, and a blacksmith until 1936. A shopkeeper, who was also a baker until 1963, remained in 1964. Since the early 20th century people working in Stratford have formed an increasing proportion of the population. (fn. 216)
Preston and Alscot were separate vills in the 13th century (fn. 217) and were described as two separate hamlets in the late 17th century, (fn. 218) but no separate administrative arrangements for Alscot have been discovered. There are rolls and other records of the manor court of Preston for the period 1477–1699; they are a fragmentary series, with only one or two records earlier than the late 16th century. (fn. 219) By the last decade of the 17th century the manor court seems to have met less frequently than once a year, (fn. 220) but the court continued to meet in the early 18th century. (fn. 221) The court in theory exercised view of frankpledge, (fn. 222) since the lords of the manor had acquired the rights in Preston of Deerhurst Priory, which had owned the hundred. Alscot is unlikely to have had a manorial court of its own. (fn. 223) In 1740 and 1813 separate courts were held for Preston and Alscot, but they were extraordinary assemblies held primarily for declaring the bounds of the two manors. (fn. 224)
In 1545 the manor court of Preston appointed a constable and a tithingman for the parish. (fn. 225) In 1559 it appointed in addition two affeerors, two surveyors of highways, and two surveyors of the field. (fn. 226) The surveyors of highways, described in 1595 as 'directores Anglice the foremen', (fn. 227) were combining that office with that of the surveyors of the field in 1664 (fn. 228) and 1698, but the offices had been separated again by 1737. (fn. 229) To a small extent at least the manor court supervised the administration of the poor law: in 1681 it made an order about a recognizance which the overseers of the poor of Preston were to deliver to the parish officers of Wixford (Warws.). (fn. 230) A miscellaneous account-book includes the accounts of the overseers of the field and the overseers of the poor, entered alternately, 1696–1756, of the churchwardens, 1704–24, and of the surveyors of the highways, 1737–68. (fn. 231) The churchwardens in 1540 owed 1d. a year rent for a parcel of waste ground on which they had built a 'church house'; (fn. 232) the later history of this property is not known.
In 1700 the expenditure of the overseers of the poor, £10 in the year, was less than that of the overseers of the field, (fn. 233) who among other duties provided two parish bulls. (fn. 234) Expenditure on the poor remained comparatively low, and from just over £100 in 1775 it had risen less than a third by 1803. In the early 19th century a quarter of the population received parish relief regularly or occasionally, (fn. 235) but apart from a few exceptional years the cost of poor relief had not increased significantly by the time of the Poor Law Amendment Act. (fn. 236) Under that Act the parish became part of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poor Law Union in 1836. (fn. 237) In 1863 Preston was included in the Chipping Campden highway district, (fn. 238) and in 1894 it was transferred from the Stratford Rural Sanitary District to the newly formed Marston Sicca Rural District. (fn. 239) In 1931, on being added to Warwickshire, Preston became part of the Stratford-upon-Avon Rural District. (fn. 240)
In 1272, the date of the earliest known reference to the church, the advowson belonged to Deerhurst Priory, although then, as at many later times, it was in the hands of the Crown. (fn. 241) The rectory remained unappropriated until 1504; before that a portion of 13s. 4d. was paid out of the rectory to the priory. (fn. 242) In 1504 Tewkesbury Abbey was licensed to appropriate Preston church on condition that a vicarage was endowed. (fn. 243) Thereafter the rectory estate was, for most of its history, owned by the lords of Preston manor, (fn. 244) and with it descended the right to present vicars or, as explained below, to nominate curates.
Despite the terms of the licence of 1504 the vicarage was not endowed, and in 1540 the whole income of the vicarage was a salary of £8 13s. 4d. (fn. 245) worth £8 4s. 8d. clear. (fn. 246) The salary was later paid by the impropriator of the rectory, and had been reduced to £8 a year by 1647. (fn. 247) A vicarage house was mentioned in 1615, but by then it had been divided into two cottages. (fn. 248) It was perhaps the house known in the 20th century as the priest's house. The smallness of the salary and the vicar's dependent relationship with the impropriator were such that the living came to be regarded as a perpetual curacy, (fn. 249) a donative, (fn. 250) and even a stipendiary curacy. (fn. 251) Between 1747 and 1818 the living was augmented by lot with seven capital sums of £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 252) From c. 1870 the living was usually described as a vicarage. (fn. 253) In 1918 it was united with the rectory of Whitchurch (Warws.). (fn. 254)
Disputed presentations to the rectory by the Crown in right of Deerhurst Priory, either because of war with France or because the priory was vacant, resulted in confusion in the late 13th century. (fn. 255) In the late 15th century, long after the confirmation of Deerhurst Priory to Tewkesbury Abbey, the Provost of King's College, Cambridge, claimed to exercise the right to present as his predecessor had done. (fn. 256) The rectory, valued at £8 13s. 4d. in 1291 (fn. 257) and at £133 13s. 4d. in 1603, (fn. 258) may have been a valuable living, but after the appropriation of the rectory the vicarage was so poor that the parish was often inadequately served. Thomas Roberts, vicar between 1532 (fn. 259) and 1557 (fn. 260) was weak in doctrine (fn. 261) and apparently beneficed elsewhere, for in 1544 he kept a curate at Preston. (fn. 262) In 1566 the living was ordered to be sequestrated because of the vicar's contumacy. (fn. 263) Roger Horrocks, described as very old and impotent in 1572, (fn. 264) remained vicar until 1576, when he was excommunicated for contumacy. (fn. 265) In 1584 the vicar (described as curate) was presented for neglecting to hold services and teach the catechism. (fn. 266) The living appears to have remained vacant for 8 years from 1623. (fn. 267) John Bursey, who held the living by 1642, (fn. 268) retained it until 1664 or later, (fn. 269) though in 1650 he was said to be 'no constant preacher'. (fn. 270) From 1703 the incumbents held other benefices and lived elsewhere; since Preston was thought to be a perpetual curacy there was no imputation of pluralism. (fn. 271) In the early 19th century stipendiary curates served Preston, but they also lived outside the parish. (fn. 272) In the 1850's and from 1876 to c. 1910 the incumbents lived at Preston, in the early 18thcentury house afterwards called the old vicarage. (fn. 273)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN, anciently of St. Peter the apostle, (fn. 274) comprises chancel, nave, and tower. The church is of ashlar, except for the south wall of the nave; that wall is medieval in origin, containing masonry of several different builds, but there are no identifiable medieval features in it. Below one of the windows are signs of a former south doorway. There was also a north doorway with a porch, demolished in 1757. (fn. 275) The tower was built in the late 15th century; it has a high plinth and three stages above, separated by moulded string-courses. The belfry stage is lit by pairs of cinquefoil pointed lights in two-centred heads; the roof has battlements and angle pinnacles; and the buttresses, straight on the east, diagonal on the west, rise to the level of the belfry floor. In 1753 James West began the rebuilding of the church. The work was done by Edward Woodward of Chipping Campden, and the result is 'remarkable as one of the earliest churches of the Gothic revival.' (fn. 276) The chancel was rebuilt in 1753–4. It was given a roof of three small gabled bays, tiled and surrounded by a parapet broken on each side by a pinnacle. The segmental vaulted ceiling is plastered and divided into ribbed and painted panels, and has an enriched frieze and cornice. The east window, in the style of the early 14th century, and the north and south windows, in the style of the 15th, have on the inside enriched plaster architraves. The chancel is hardly narrower than the nave, and the chancel arch is almost the full width of the chancel. The interior of the chancel was said, in 1868, to indicate 'the careful munificence of a wealthy resident family at an earlier period than the ecclesiastical movement'. (fn. 277) In 1756 the main doorway into the church was made through the west face of the tower, with a window like the side windows of the chancel above it. In 1757 the north wall of the nave was rebuilt, with two windows similar to the east window of the chancel. The late 15th-century roof of panelled timber with carved bosses was restored; it is covered with lead and surrounded by a parapet. Two windows were inserted in the south wall, to match those in the north. A gallery was built at the west end of the nave in front of the tower arch; on its front was placed the royal arms, carved and painted, of the period 1603–88. The chancel was restored in 1904, (fn. 278) when a small north door was added below the window.
In the windows of the chancel and tower is a quantity of painted glass acquired by James West. The pieces in the east window, and some removed thence to the tower window in 1904, came from the Netherlands and Germany, and some of them are dated 1605 and 1632. The remaining glass in the tower window, mostly heraldic, is English, of the 16th century and later. The glass depicting heads, in the north and south windows of the chancel, allegedly taken from Evesham Abbey, (fn. 279) is probably 17th-century and perhaps also from the Netherlands. The small cup-shaped font was made in the 18th century. The organ was given in 1895 by James Roberts West. (fn. 280) In the chancel are two groups of mural monuments in marble to members of the West family, including one by Peter Mathias Vangelder (1800) (fn. 281) and one by Richard Westmacott the younger (1838); also mural monuments to members of the Mariett family, and one with figures, brought apparently from St. Mary's chapel, Islington, (fn. 282) to Sir Nicholas Kempe (d. 1624). There were three bells c. 1700; (fn. 283) two by Henry Bagley, 1635, survive, and the third is by Abraham Rudhall, 1713. (fn. 284) The plate includes a chalice with base and stem of c. 1500 and a remade bowl and paten-cover given by Sarah, wife of James West, 1747; also an Elizabethan chalice and paten-cover. (fn. 285) The registers begin in 1540 and are virtually complete.
The churchyard was enlarged in 1885 and 1926. (fn. 286) In the early 18th century each landowner was responsible for a specified section of the fence round it. (fn. 287) The fence was later replaced by a wall, and there are two pairs of large 18th-century stone gateposts with wrought iron gates. One pair opens on an avenue of ancient yews.
There is said to have been a medieval chapel at Alscot, on the site of which Alscot Park was built. (fn. 288) No documentary evidence of this has been found; the possibility that the moulded stones found at Alscot (fn. 289) were brought from elsewhere is the stronger because of James West's antiquarian interests.
In 1603 seven recusants were enumerated in Preston. (fn. 290) After that, no evidence of religious dissent has been found until 1885, when a small brick mission room was built (fn. 291) by Baptists. It remained in regular use in 1964. (fn. 292)
In 1818 the only school in the parish was a dame school attended by c. 10 children. (fn. 293) Anne, wife of James Roberts West (d. 1838), started a Sunday school in 1821; it had 52 children in 1833. (fn. 294) In 1846 there was a day and Sunday school for girls, and a Sunday school for boys; the total number for both schools together was 65 children. (fn. 295) In 1848 the second James Roberts West built a parish school, the earliest feature of his model village, and he continued to own and maintain it. Attendance was 80 in 1872, (fn. 296) 58 in 1907, (fn. 297) and c. 25 in 1964, by which date the older children went to Stratford. (fn. 298) The school is a brick building, similar in style to the cottages built by West. It comprises a central block, originally divided into boys' and girls' sections, flanked by a pair of teachers' houses.
Giles Smith (d. c. 1634) gave £10, Richard Mariett (d. 1744) gave £20, and Sarah West (d. 1779) gave £20 during her life and £20 by her will, for the poor of the parish. (fn. 299) The money was invested in stock, and no income was distributed in the years 1801–28. (fn. 300) From the late 19th century c. £3 10s. a year was distributed in cash or coal. (fn. 301)