A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1945.
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Population: 1911, 682; 1921, 691; 1931, 741.
The old turnpike road from Stratford-on-Avon to Warwick forms the boundary of Snitterfield parish on the east as far as Marroway, (fn. 1) where the SnitterfieldWarwick road joins it. The boundary then runs northwards along a brook and west to the road from Norton Lindsey, down which it runs for some 500 yds. to Luscombe, then turning west again to Snitterfield Bushes, the largest block of woodland in the parish. Through the Bushes it runs southward, crossing the Bearley road, to Gospel Oak, near Pathlow. Here it turns south-east to Clopton Gorse and then for ½ mile up King's Lane, down which tradition says that Charles II rode on his escape from Boscobel; thence east to a tributary of the Avon, and so back to the Stratford-Warwick road.
The country is undulating, most of the parish lying at about 300 ft., the highest point being 386 ft. at Gospel Oak, with a rather rapid fall from King's Lane (340 ft.) to the south-east angle, on the Stratford road (165 ft.). It is good farming land; and in addition to the Bushes there are several coppices and small woods. In 1766 some 1,610 acres were inclosed; there were at that time a number of common fields, including Hither, Middle, and Further Brook Fields (west of Luscombe), Stonehill, Whornhill, Merce Field, Black Hill (on the borders of Hampton Lucy), and Pale Lane Field, adjoining the pale of the Park, as well as the commonable meadows called Broad, Edymuss, and Aston Meadows. (fn. 2) The Award mentions quite a number of 'old inclosures', one being Brickiln Close, which shows that brick-works, of which there are still traces, had already been established.
The village is central, lying north of the SnitterfieldWarwick road, its houses, mostly quite modern, being grouped to the west of the church.
Snitterfield House, south of the church, was built in the late 17th and demolished early in the 19th century. A drawing of it shows a square building with hipped roof, each front being divided with ornamental pilasters, (fn. 3) some of the capitals of which are still to be seen in the garden of Snitterfield Park. A building about 40 yds. long that seems to have been a garden pavilion belonging to it, but is now divided into residential tenements, dates from about 1680 and is built of red brick with moulded stone plinths. The south front has a middle and two end, slightly projecting, bays and a series of tall windows with oak transoms and mullions, the jambs, &c., wrought in fine brickwork and having stone key-blocks. In the middle bay was a wide archway, now filled in, and the entrance hall had a ceiling with a moulded circular rib, partly remaining; and this and the other chambers had deep moulded plastered cornices. A garden wall skirting the roadway, north of the building, and several brick gate-posts with stone ball-heads are of the same period.
The roadway, running south-west of the church and deflected by this garden wall, has three or four old buildings on its north-west side. One of L-shaped plan retains original 17th-century timber-framing; another, much altered and covered with rough-cast cement, shows some framing in its gabled west end. The Manor House, on the west side of the main street, shows a little 16th-century close-set timbering in the front wall. Another cottage about 150 yds. west of the church, east of the Wolverton road, is of 17th-century framing and has a tiled roof. A farm-house 3/8 mile farther north on the same road also shows 17th-century framing in walls and gable-heads of the west wing of its L-shaped plan.
Snitterfield Park (fn. 4) is mainly modern, but the western half of the south garden front is of early-17th-century timber-framing with a gable-head of geometrical panels. A central chimney has four square shafts set diagonally on a square base and of thin bricks. The west wall has some close-set studding in the lower story. The other framing is square-panelled.
The Wolds, (fn. 5) a former farm-house, about ¾ mile south-west of the church, has a modernized exterior, but inside has chamfered ceiling-beams of the late 16th century and a wide fire-place with an oak bressummer. The farm-buildings include a timber-framed barn and a pigeon-house, also of ancient timbering, gabled on all four faces; both have been adapted for domestic use.
Wayfield House, a farm-house farther south-west on the south side of the road, is an 18th-century or later building, but has a 17th-century barn with part of the original framing: a brick outbuilding adjoining is dated HS 1765.
Comyns Farm about ¾ mile farther south-west, setting back south of the road, is an 18th-century brick house, but has an early-17th-century timber-framed barn.
Richard Shakespeare, grandfather of the poet, settled in Snitterfield in 1535 and died there about 1560, some of his descendants remaining in the parish until the end of the century. (fn. 6)
Anne, Countess of Coventry, whose husband the 2nd Earl died in 1710, settled here in 1726. She obtained some fame as a writer of religious works and when she died in 1763 at the age of 90 her funeral sermon was preached by her friend Richard Jago, a poet of some celebrity, who became curate of Snitterfield in 1737 and vicar in 1754, which office he held until his death in 1781, when he was buried in the church. (fn. 7)
SNITTERFIELD, assessed at 4 hides, was held before the Conquest by Saxi, and in 1086 by the Count of Meulan. (fn. 8) From the count it passed to the Earls of Warwick, whose overlordship is mentioned in 1316. (fn. 9) Earl Roger, who in 1122 gave to the College of St. Mary at Warwick 1 hide of land with 2/3 of the tithes of the demesne in Snitterfield, (fn. 10) seems to have enfeoffed Hugh fitzRichard, of Hatton, who with the consent of his son William granted the manor to William Cumin. (fn. 11) Hugh's granddaughter Margery married Osbert de Clinton, and the mesne lordship was held by the Clintons in 1316 (fn. 12) and as late as 1386. (fn. 13)
According to Dugdale William Cumin was succeeded by his nephew Walter, (fn. 14) who was patron of the church in 1174. (fn. 15) Snitterfield evidently came to a William Cumin who died about 1213, (fn. 16) as did his son in 1223 or 1224. (fn. 17) The elder William left a widow Margery, who had married William de Hastings by 1216, when the sheriff was ordered to give them livery of the land in Snitterfield which she held in dower of William Cumin her first husband. (fn. 18) The younger William left a widow Eve, and his heir was his daughter Margery, (fn. 19) then under age and subsequently in ward to William de Cantilupe. (fn. 20) Eve married John de Mara and in 1225 they sued John d'Abitot (who had married Margery, granddaughter of Hugh fitzRichard and widow of Osbert de Clinton), (fn. 21) whom William de Cantilupe had called to warrant, for ⅓ of 2/3 of the manor of Snitterfield, as dower of Eve from her previous husband William Cumin. John d'Abitot replied that he would give it to her when she handed over the heir of William, whose wardship belonged to him. They replied that the heir was in Scotland (fn. 22) and had never been in their custody; and they recovered the dower. (fn. 23) Margery Cumin married William de Cantilupe's younger son John, (fn. 24) who held the fee of Snitterfield of Thomas de Clinton in 1242. (fn. 25) He had a grant of a weekly market on Wednesdays at Snitterfield and a fair on the eve, day, and morrow of St. Kenelm in 1257. (fn. 26) Their son Sir John de Cantilupe in 1318 settled the manor (excepting 5 messuages, 4 carucates, 2 virgates, 8 acres of land) on himself and his wife Maud for life, with remainder to his son John; (fn. 27) after the death of the younger John, his father in 1324 entailed the manor (excepting 1 messuage, 104 acres of land, and the advowson of the church) on his daughter Eleanor and her husband Thomas West. (fn. 28) The lands reserved in the settlement of 1318 correspond to lands acquired by John and Maud de Cantilupe in 1321 from Geoffrey de Alkenbury in Walda (The Wolds Farm) and Hethe (Heath End); (fn. 29) those excepted in 1324 (omitting the advowson) were acquired by Sir Thomas West in 1342 from Edmund fitz Waryn and Joan his wife. (fn. 30) In 1386 Sir Thomas West made an exchange of the manor to Sir William Beauchamp, Lord Bergavenny. (fn. 31) He died in 1411, having settled Snitterfield on his wife Joan with remainder to his nephew Richard, Earl of Warwick. (fn. 32) On the death of Joan in 1435 the manor therefore became part of the estates of the earldom, and so came into the hands of the Crown in the time of Henry VII.
At the time of the exchange a rent of £10 from the manor seems to have been reserved, Sir Thomas West and Sir Reynold his brother dying seised of such rents in 1416 and 1450 respectively, (fn. 33) as did Sir Thomas West, Lord de la Warre, in 1555; (fn. 34) and William and Thomas, Lords de la Warre, were dealing with the rent in 1572 (fn. 35) and 1596. (fn. 36) In 1545 Henry VIII granted the manor to Richard Moryson. (fn. 37) In September of the next year Moryson conveyed the manor to John Hales for regrant to himself for one month and then to Lucy Harper for life, with contingent remainders to her various children. (fn. 38) One of these children, Mary, was presumably the 'Mary daughter of George Harper of Kent' who married Bartholomew Hales, younger brother of John Hales, (fn. 39) as Bartholomew and Mary Hales made a settlement of the manor in 1568, (fn. 40) and he died seised thereof in 1599. (fn. 41) His son Sir Bartholomew Hales died in 1626 seised not only of the manor of Snitterfield but also of 'a messuage called the manor of Luscombe in Snitterfield', and of lands called Comyns Field, Pardies Hill, and Hollow Meadow, 'reputed to be the manor of Comyns'. (fn. 42) No other reference to Comyns as a manor is known, but the manor of LUSCOMBE had been bought by Sir Bartholomew from Richard Woodwarde and Frances, and John Woodwarde and Alice in 1602, (fn. 43) and from this date is included in all conveyances of Snitterfield. Sir Bartholomew settled Snitterfield on his wife Catherine for life, with remainder to a cousin Stephen Hales. Stephen's son Charles held it in 1639, and his son Stephen, a minor, in 1640. (fn. 44) He was knighted in 1661, married Elizabeth daughter of Sir James Hales, and died in 1668 without issue. (fn. 45) His widow at once sold the manor to Edmund Page, (fn. 46) who was apparently acting for Thomas Coventry, (fn. 47) who later became Earl of Coventry and died in 1699. It descended in this family until 1816, when George, Earl of Coventry, sold it to Robert Phillips, (fn. 48) after which time the manor follows the descent of Wolverton (q.v.), the present lords being the trustees of Lady Trevelyan.
The estate of GRESWOLD is once called a manor. According to a story told in 1302, (fn. 49) John de Grusselwolde married first Isolda, by whom he had a son John, and secondly Joan, by whom he had a son Roger. John the elder son entered on 'the manor of Gruswold' as heir to his father and assigned ⅓ to Joan. Afterwards he sold to John de Cantilupe, chief lord of the manor, the other 2/3 and the reversion of Joan's ⅓. Sir John de Cantilupe made over Greswold to his daughter Katherine for life, and subsequently gave it, in 1319, to his brother Walter, (fn. 50) who shortly afterwards obtained other land there from Thomas de Dene and Avice his wife, (fn. 51) but no more is heard of any manorial rights there.
Margery widow of John de Cantilupe gave land in Snitterfield and Bearley to Bordesley Abbey, (fn. 52) which was probably afterwards part of the monks' estate of Bearley (q.v.).
In about 1135 Hugh son of Roger Abbadon bought from Hugh fitzRichard one 'vavassor' with all his land in 'Esnitevile' and gave it to the Abbey of St. Peter of Préaux (Lisieux dioc.), (fn. 53) but nothing more is known of this gift.
The large parish church of ST. JAMES THE GREAT consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, and a west tower. There are also modern vestries north of the chancel and south of the tower. The sequence of the earlier development of the building is a little uncertain owing to the proximity of the various periods, added to the marked differences in detail, and some confusion caused by later alterations. Probably the south arcade dates from the latter half of the 13th century and the north from the early 14th century, but the similarity of the windows in both aisles suggests that after the north aisle was built the south aisle was widened to 9 ft. to match the other. The chancel, built of rubble, is of severer detail and may have followed soon after the 14th-century north aisle; (fn. 54) it is of great length compared with the nave and has large windows. The west tower was evidently erected in several successive stages: the lowest 10 ft. in the early 14th century, continued up another 8 or 9 ft. about 1340 with ashlar walling, the west window having moulded jambs rather like those of the south doorway, and completed c. 1400 in ashlar of larger stones.
The clearstory was added early in the 16th century: there seems to have been some trouble from weakness in the arcades, especially the northern, which shows inequalities in the arches resulting probably from partial reconstructions, and most of its capitals have been rather crudely remoulded. No important changes occurred before the 19th century, but there was some deterioration, as a description of 1858 (fn. 55) mentions that the chancel was heavily buttressed on the north side and its windows had lost their tracery. The closing of the side doorways and insertion of the west doorway were done before that time. Scars and repairs in the arcades are evidence of the damage caused to the masonry by the erection of galleries in 1841. Probably the vestry south of the tower was then added. Since then the church has been well restored, the chancel windows provided with tracery, and the north vestry and organ chamber added.
The chancel (about 45 ft. by 20 ft.) has an east window of five trefoiled lights and modern intersecting tracery in a two-centred head with a hood-mould. The chamfered rear-arch also has a hood-mould with modern foliage stops. In the north wall is a similar window of three lights also with modern tracery. At the west end is a modern archway to the organ chamber and between the two a pointed doorway to the vestry; this has a chamfered order which is ancient, the reveals to the vestry being modern; probably the doorway is original but re-set inside out. In the south wall are two windows like that in the north wall; east of the second is an original priests' doorway with chamfered jambs and hollow-chamfered pointed head. In this wall is a double piscina, all of modern stonework. The fillingin below the eastern window is of ashlar (the rest of the wall being of rubble) and may indicate a former sediliarecess.
The walls are of lias rubble, the east wall cemented, and have chamfered plinths and a moulded string-course below the windows. At the angles are square buttresses of ashlar, also intermediate in the south wall; the plinth and string-course pass round the buttresses. The west end of the south wall is of ashlar and seems to have been a buttress rebutting the south arcade; from the way the stones of the south-west window are fitted to the ashlar courses it is evident that the ashlar is the earlier. On the face of the south buttress is a scratched mass-dial. The roof is of the 18th century or later and of trussed rafter type covered with tiles.
The chancel arch is a very plain one of two chamfered orders continued in the two-centred head, interrupted only by a kind of bonding course at the springing level that is only of one chamfered order. The north half of the arch is distorted.
The nave (about 53¾ ft. by 20¼ ft.) has a north arcade of four bays with octagonal pillars and semioctagonal responds. The east respond has no base. The other bases are original, varying in height from 18 to 21 in.; they are of two round moulds and have square sub-bases with moulded stops to the octagons above. The capital of the west respond, 9 in. high, is of good normal contour of the early 14th century. That of the easternmost pillar, of an entirely different contour, may be of the same period re-tooled, but the others are of crude peculiar forms that may have replaced the original early-14th-century capitals some time in the 16th or 17th century.
The arches are of two chamfered orders: they do not spring directly from the pillars, but die on to octagonal super-pillars (tas de charge); they are two-centred, but are more or less distorted; and there is little doubt that the arcade was largely rebuilt at some later medieval period; the voussoirs vary in size from the original small stones to later large ones. Assuming the clearstory wall to be in a straight line, there is a curvature in the arcade-wall to the north so that the clearstory wall overhangs it over the third and fourth arch. The walling in the haunches is of small rubble with a patch of larger stones above the west respond.
The south arcade, also of four bays, is of late-13thcentury date. Each pillar is a circular group of eight round shafts and hollows; some of the shafts are filleted. The responds are half-pillars; the bases, of octofoil plan, are of two rounds and a hollow and stand on chamfered square sub-bases; in the middle base the square angles are carved with ivy-leaf spurs. The capitals of the pillars are unusually large (17 in. high); they are of circular plan with a scroll-moulded abacus, a small mould below it, and a large bell springing from the hollows, the shafts being carried up straight into it. The half-round capitals of the responds are of a more normal size (10 in.). The arches are two-centred and of two hollow-chamfered orders, the outer small, with medium to large voussoirs. The masonry between and above the arches is of ashlar of different periods: the western half is of small courses, but in the eastern half the courses are larger and of two dates. This may be the result of partial rebuilding to straighten the wall before the clearstory was added. The clearstory is built of ashlar in large courses and is lighted on each side by four early-16th-century windows of two trefoiled fourcentred lights under three-centred main heads, partly restored. Above are plain parapets with moulded string-courses.
The roof is of almost flat pitch and is divided into four bays by main horizontal beams that are supported under the ends by battering wall-posts and curved braces, on modern wood corbels: the wall-posts are packed behind by modern posts. All the main timbers are chamfered. The roof is probably of the early 16th century; as the trusses are shorter than the space between the walls it is said that the roof was brought from elsewhere, probably from Fulbrook Castle. It is covered with slates. On the east and west walls of the nave are the lines of the earlier high-pitched gabled roof antedating the clearstory.
The north aisle (8¾ ft. wide) has three north windows of the early 14th century: the first and third are each of two pointed lights and plain spandrel in a twocentred head with an external hood-mould and moulded rear-arch. The mullions and jambs are moulded, the latter rather elaborately in three orders with filleted rolls, &c. The middle window is a modern adaptation of the original north door-head raised to a higher level: below the modern sill are the straight joints of the original doorway. There is no west window. The walls are of rubble of rather thin stones. Two north buttresses are modern, the north-west diagonal buttress is of old ashlar. The north wall has an original moulded stone eaves-course.
The south aisle (9 ft. wide) has an east window very similar to those in the north aisle. The eastern of the three south windows is similar, but the sill has been heightened. The second is the old south doorway lifted higher and fitted with a modern mullion, &c.; and below are the straight joints of the former door-opening. The third window resembles the east window, with slightly different mouldings. In the west wall is a lancet window with wide splays and hollow-chamfered segmental-pointed rear-arch. Its exterior, covered by the modern vestry, is hidden by plaster.
The walls are of coursed ashlar and have chamfered plinths and hollow-chamfered eaves-course. At the south-east angle is a pair of square buttresses, another intermediate east of the (former) south doorway, and one at the west end: the last retains the original tabling or capping of two courses, but on the others they are cemented. Equidistant west of the south doorway was another buttress, now indicated only by a break in the masonry. The aisles have lean-to roofs of uncertain date covered with lead.
At the east end of the south wall is a former locker or reliquary 2 ft. deep and 2½ ft. wide recessed behind to the east, the rebated doorway being 1 ft. 7½ in. wide.
The west tower (about 15 ft. square internally) is divided externally by a string-course into two stages, the lower including the clock-chamber. It has a plinth 6¼ ft. high of four chamfered stages. At the north-west angle is a pair of square buttresses of ashlar. The southwestern stair-turret is of unusual treatment; it projects from the angle as three sides of a large irregular hexagon and is splayed across the angle inside, with a pointed doorway: near the top of the lower main stage it is tabled back. The lofty archway from the nave is of three continuous chamfered orders towards the nave, and of two orders, in the pointed head only, towards the tower. The west doorway has a four-centred arch and is said to be a modern insertion, presumably made when the side doorways were blocked. The west window is of three lights and late-14th-century tracery in a twocentred head. It has a transom, below which the jambs are of early-14th-century mouldings, but above the transom they change to plain chamfered orders.
These details and the masonry of the walls indicate that the lower stage of the tower is of at least three periods. Up to about 3 or 4 ft. above the plinth the walls are of rubble, probably, with the plinth, of early14th-century date. Above that up to the level of the tops of the square buttresses and the moulded windowjambs they are of coursed rough ashlar in fairly small stones of slightly later date. Above that level up to the parapet the masonry is of more even ashlar in larger stones, probably of c. 1400. At the same level also the north-west angle is provided with a diagonal buttress in place of the lower square buttresses and there are also diagonal buttresses to the other angles. The projecting stair-turret has the same changes of masonry, but is carried up a little higher. In the earlier ashlar it has two trefoiled loop-lights; in the later a shorter and wider ogee-headed loop-light. About 6 ft. below the clock-chamber floor it decreases in internal width and changes to the more normal stair-vice contained within the bounds of the square angle up to the bell-chamber. The clock-chamber has a tiny south light with an ogee head, below the string-course. The bell-chamber has an embattled parapet with a moulded string-course having gargoyles at the angles, now perished. The diagonal buttresses reach nearly to the string-course and carry angle pinnacles, restored above the parapet. In each wall is a pair of windows, each of two trefoiled lights and late-14th-century form of quatrefoil in a two-centred head with hood-mould and carved defaced stops. The roof, of low pyramidal form, has massive cross-beams, &c. The lower ceiling is of modern pitchpine.
The font is of the early 14th century; it is octagonal; the bowl has upper and lower mouldings and a hollow below in which are projecting carved heads at the angles; these are of men of various callings: one has a bishop's mitre, another is a knight, others have caps, probably academic and legal, and another a close-fitting hood. The stem and chamfered base are plain.
The communion table to the altar of the south aisle has thin turned legs, &c., of c. 1700. The communion rails in the chancel are of c. 1630 and have turned balusters: the gate-posts have flat ornament and moulded upstanding heads: the top rails are carved with incised running foliage. The pulpit of c. 1730 has five sides of a hexagonal tub, with oval panels having raised key-blocks to the four arcs and jewelled spandrels; above these are open frieze-panels.
In the quire stalls are incorporated two carved standards and panelled desk-fronts of c. 1500, perhaps brought from elsewhere. The standards differ a little: the northern is faced with an elaborate window-tracery design and has a shouldered head and a vine leaf and grape poppy-head. On the front (south) vertical edge is a carved post (showing Italian Renaissance influence) on which stands a small figure of an ecclesiastic holding a rounded object in his hands: in the crook of the right arm is a long staff with a foliated head. Over it is a canopy with a demi-rose soffit. On the back edge, just below the shoulder, is a half-angel with a shield. On the inner face are the initials IN (in Tudor-Roman style) in a knot suspended from an open hand above, and on either side is a small female figure with a foliage tail. The southern has similar tracery and a shield with the crowned arms and supporters of Henry VII. The figure on the front post is that of a bishop. At the back is the half-angel with a shield, and on the inner face the letters IN as a monogram in Lombardic letters, and foliage. The poppy-head is carved with roses and foliage. The remainder of the two blocks of seats is modern, but east of them are a shorter seat and desk on either side. The desk-fronts each incorporate four bays of panelling: each bay has subcusped trefoiled heads with crockets and finial and foiled tracery above. The muntins have posts carrying small figures mostly winged, some draped and some apparently nude, and holding objects intended perhaps for musical instruments.
A framed board in the quire vestry recording charities up to 1682 is probably of that date. In the tower are two painted hatchments of the Earl of Coventry's arms; 18th century. There are six bells, one of 1758 by Abel Rudhall, the others of 1874 and 1887.
The communion plate includes a large cup and cover of 1735, and a large flagon and salver of 1751 given by the Dowager Lady Coventry.
The registers begin in 1561.
In 1086 there was a priest, implying a church, at Snitterfield. (fn. 56) Pope Honorius II (1125–30) confirmed to Kenilworth Priory the church of Snitterfield, given by Siward de Arden, (fn. 57) but the gift seems to have been ineffective and there is no later evidence of any connexion with the priory. Hugh fitzRichard gave the church to the Priory of St. Sepulchre, Warwick, but in 1174 an agreement was reached by which the rector should pay 1 mark yearly to the canons and Walter Cumin and his successors should have the right of presentation. (fn. 58) The advowson remained with the manor until 1324, when Walter de Cantilupe conveyed it, with 8 acres of land, to Walter de Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter, (fn. 59) who next year gave it to St. Sepulchre's in exchange for the advowson of St. Clement Danes. (fn. 60) The church was appropri ated to the priory in 1325, being then valued at £17 13s. 9d.; (fn. 61) and a vicarage was ordained in 1330. (fn. 62) The vicarage was worth £8 clear in 1535. (fn. 63) Apparently in return for the appropriation the advowson was transferred to the Bishop of Worcester, and it has remained in the hands of the bishops since that time. (fn. 64)
In 1535 the rectory of Snitterfield was farmed by the canons of St. Sepulchre's at £7, from which a payment of 3s. 4d. was made to the vicar. (fn. 65) After the dissolution of the priory it was granted in June 1553 to Kenelm, Clement, and John Throckmorton. (fn. 66) By 1599 one moiety of the rectory had come to Richard Woodwarde and Frances his wife, who sold it to Bartholomew Hales; (fn. 67) he in 1619 conveyed it to Richard Baker. (fn. 68) The other moiety was evidently divided, as in 1574 Adrian Gylbert conveyed ¼ of the rectory to Edward Sheldon. (fn. 69) Ambrose Sheldon sold this quarter in 1621 to Richard Catesby, (fn. 70) who in 1640 settled it on Eleanor wife of his son Richard for life with remainder to her son William. (fn. 71) The later descent of these fractions is obscure.
Sir Stephen Hales by will in 1668 gave £100 to the use of the poor. The legacy was invested in the purchase of a meadow containing 2 acres or thereabouts in Alveston. The land is now let on a yearly tenancy at a rent of £4 10s., which is distributed to the poor by two trustees appointed by the parish council.