A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1945.
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Wixford is a small parish lying across the valley of Hay Brook, a tributary of the Arrow, which river forms its western boundary. The ground rises from 122 ft. at Wixford bridge to the 200-ft. contour on the north and south. Moor Hall, now only a farm-house, is partly situated in Bidford parish, but is reckoned as belonging to the civil parish of Wixford. Aspley, formerly a submanor, but depopulated in the 16th century, was situated close to Moor Hall. (fn. 1)
The village is small but contains some nine or ten small buildings that are wholly or partly of 17th-century timber-framing. One is a cottage immediately west of the churchyard, with a tiled roof; The Fish Inn and four detached cottages, two of them thatched, stand on the main road to the south-west of the church; and half-way between them and the church is a small farmhouse with red brick infilling. Farther east at the junction of five roads is a small inn and a cottage, both partly of framing. Wixford bridge is mentioned in 1566, (fn. 2) but the present structure is modern.
It is possible that the middle part of Moor Hall, being the hall and its south wing, dates from the 15th century, and that an upper floor was inserted and a large fire-place built on the west side of the hall in the 16th century, but the evidence is not conclusive; a moulded beam with curved braces in the upper story may have been part of an original roof truss. The lower story was formerly one large chamber, 27 ft. by 18 ft., with two chamfered ceiling-beams running each way, dividing it into six compartments. Subsequently this chamber was divided into two rooms and a passage along the west side, the great fire-place being replaced by a modern fire-place in the smaller room to the east of it. The building was probably timber-framed, but the lower story was rebuilt with thick stone walls and the remainder is covered with rough-cast cement. The original house evidently extended farther to the north. In the 17th century a parallel but shorter wing was added on the south half of the west side, projecting a little beyond the original south end. It had labelled windows, some of which are blocked and others converted into doorways or fitted with modern frames. In modern times an L-shaped wing has been added to the south half of the east front, and at the north end of the 17th-century wing.
The 17th-century wing had a wide fire-place (now reduced) on its east side, and next north of it is a fine heavy battened door to the cellar on the site of the original buttery wing. A passage-way on the site of the original screens between hall and buttery has some early-17th-century panelling; the room over the cellar and passage is lined with early-16th-century panelling and has a late-16th-century panelled overmantel. Above the 17th-century part is a re-used 16th-century beam, serving as a purlin, which is carved with a dragon and foliage.
All round the house are traces of a large moat and adjoining north-east of it faint traces of another, beyond which are artificial banks which probably surrounded a series of large fish-ponds stretching to the north.
The Bidford-Alcester section of the Roman Ryknield Street crosses the parish from south to north. Beyond the church this has now degenerated into a green lane, but it seems to have been the usual road to Alcester until 1785, when Viscount Beauchamp made the present Alcester road, (fn. 3) which crosses the Arrow at Wixford bridge and joins the road from Evesham. From a junction in the village other roads branch off north-east to Exhall and south-east to Cranhill on the StratfordBidford road.
The soil is various, with a subsoil of Keuper Red Marl. Agriculture is the sole occupation and wheat, beans, and potatoes are the chief crops. (fn. 4) The parish was inclosed, with Exhall and Broom, by an Act of 1767. (fn. 5) But there had been some earlier inclosure here, for at the beginning of the 17th century the inhabitants of King's Broom complained that the Wixford men had recently inclosed 'the ground called the More' and that 'a certeine ground called Asples' had also been inclosed out of the common field. (fn. 6)
Ufa, Sheriff of Warwickshire, gave 6½ mansae in WIXFORD and Grafton to the abbey of Evesham in 973 and also directed that his body should be buried here. (fn. 9) The Wixford portion of this land was lost by the monastery to Ufa's son Wulfgeat who, having secured a grant of it for life, contrived to retain it and pass it on to his successor Wigor. From this Wigor, whom Domesday mentions as the pre-Conquest holder, Abbot Ethelwig bought it back, (fn. 10) and thus by 1086 it was once more in the possession of Evesham, being then assessed at 5 hides. (fn. 11)
The Abbots of Evesham continued overlords of the manor until the Dissolution. In 1206 the profits thereof, valued at £4, were said to be appropriated to the use of the cook of the monastery. (fn. 12) In 1252 the abbot was holding of the king in chief, but it was not known by what service. (fn. 13) In 1276 the abbot claimed the lordship of the 'hundred' of Wixford, with gallows and assize of bread and ale by grant from Henry III, (fn. 14) but in 1285 he expressly denied that Wixford was a hundred and said that it was only a manor within the king's hundred of Barlichway. (fn. 15) The manor was valued in 1535 at £5 10s. 3d. (fn. 16)
Abbot Robert of Evesham (1104–22) granted the manor in fee farm to Ralph Boteler of Oversley at a rent of £4. (fn. 17) The tenancy of the Botelers and their descendants continued until 1537. John Boteler of Wem in 1287 was holding of the abbot in free socage, rendering £4 4s. 4½d. yearly. (fn. 18) When the male line of the Botelers became extinct the manor passed to Thomas Molynton, third husband of Elizabeth Boteler, who held it in 1398. (fn. 19) A Robert Molynton occurs as lord of the manor in 1418, (fn. 20) but presumably he held only for a term, as it descended, with Oversley (q.v.), to Sir William Gascoigne, who in 1532 settled the profits of the manor on his second son Henry on the latter's marriage with Elizabeth Boynton (fn. 21)—a transaction which gave rise to lengthy proceedings in Chancery. (fn. 22) In 1537 Sir William and Sir Henry conveyed it to Thomas Cromwell, (fn. 23) on whose execution in 1540 it came into the hands of the Crown. A year later it passed with other lands, by an exchange, to Sir George Throckmorton, (fn. 24) in whose family it remained until 1919, when the estate was sold and the manorial rights extinguished.
The hamlet of Wixford was said to have been alienated from the manor about the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 25) In 1292 it was included with the manors of Knowle and Grafton in the grant made by Edward I to Westminster Abbey for the purpose of celebrating the anniversary of Queen Eleanor. (fn. 26) In 1337 the abbot complained that Robert de Lyndon of Wixford and others had robbed and broken into his houses there. (fn. 27) Presumably this property remained in the possession of Westminster, probably as part of the manor of Knowle or Grafton (q.v.), until the Dissolution, though there is no other separate reference to it.
A mill at Wixford in 1086 rendered 10s. and 20 sticks of eels. (fn. 28) It was given, in exchange for a grant of the manor, by Ralph Boteler to Abbot Reynold of Evesham (1130–49), (fn. 29) and in 1206 its profits, valued at ½ mark, were said to be devoted to the purchase of wine and mead by the manciple of the monastery. (fn. 30) John Boteler was paying 2s. 6d. rent to the Earl of Warwick for a quarter of a mill here in 1287. (fn. 31) There is no mill here now, but the traces of one can be clearly distinguished in a field between Wixford bridge and Moor Hall.
MOOR HALL, according to Dugdale, was known in the 12th century as Budeley, a name which occurs at least as late as 1388. (fn. 34) Included among the possessions of John Boteler in Wixford in 1287 were 20 acres of arable and 2s. 6d. rent for a quarter of a mill which he held of the Earl of Warwick by the service of a knight's fee, rendering 1d. to William de Wytenton. (fn. 35) If this was, as seems probable, Moor Hall, it appears to have been held under the Botelers by a family who took their name from the place, a Geoffrey de la More or Atte Morhalle being mentioned in Wixford in 1327 and 1332. (fn. 36) At some time before 1376 John de Morehall married Agnes daughter of Sir Walter Beisyn. The only child of this marriage, Juliana, married first John de Clopton of Quinton, Gloucestershire, by whom she had a son and heir William, and secondly Thomas de Cruwe, by whom she had no issue. (fn. 37) The Morehall property therefore came ultimately, with that of the Beisyns, to William (afterwards Sir William) de Clopton, to whom in 1400 his mother and stepfather, Juliana and Thomas de Cruwe made over all their rights in Moor Hall, Grafton, Wixford, Coughton, Bickmarsh, Exhall, and the manor of Aspley. (fn. 38) Juliana died in 1411 and Thomas in 1418 and both are commemorated by the magnificent brass in the church. Thomas de Cruwe was a high official in the household of the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick, serving as attorney to the Countess Margaret and afterwards as chief steward and a member of the council of Richard Beauchamp her son. He was chosen one of the Knights of the Shire in the Coventry Parliament of 1404, was a Justice of the Peace for the County, and served as Sheriff in 1413. (fn. 39) At his death he was holding the manor of Moor Hall for life of Robert Molynton's manor of Wixford by payment of 2s. annually. (fn. 40) Sir William Clopton died in 1419, leaving his property to be divided between his two daughters, Agnes wife of Thomas Herberd, and Joan—to whom Moor Hall was allotted—who married Sir John Burgh. At the time of his death in 1471 Sir John was holding Moor Hall for life as of the manor of Oversley. (fn. 41) In the division of his estates between his four daughters it passed to Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Mitton. William Mitton died holding the manor as of Oversley in 1513. (fn. 42) In 1551 his son Richard conveyed it to Allen Hood (fn. 43) and in 1562 Edmund and Elizabeth Hood granted it to Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton, (fn. 44) in whose family it remained until 1919.
Sir Robert Throckmorton in 1570 granted the house and manor to his son and heir Thomas, in augmentation of his wife's jointure. (fn. 45) Thomas's third daughter, Margaret, married Sir Rice Griffin of Bickmarsh and received Moor Hall as part of her dowry. This grant was the occasion of a dispute between Thomas, who claimed the overlordship, and his son-in-law, who attempted to maintain, on the strength of ancient deeds, that he held the lands in chief. (fn. 46) The hall meanwhile was occupied as a dower-house by Agnes widow of Thomas Throckmorton the younger, and her son Robert, afterwards the first baronet, is said to have been born there. (fn. 47) In 1696 the estate was sold by Sir Robert Throckmorton the 3rd baronet, to Richard Bartlam of Shelfield, for £1,120; Bartlam was to perform suit of court at Oversley and Sir Robert reserved the right to remove the 'wainscoat' from the dining-room of the house. (fn. 48) The Bartlams resold it to the Throckmortons towards the end of the 18th century (fn. 49) and in 1919 it was purchased by Mary Cubberley, mother of the present owners.
The manor of ASPLEY is first mentioned in 1400, when it was in the possession of Thomas and Juliana de Cruwe. (fn. 50) It descended with Moor Hall, but was later depopulated and by the reign of James I survived only in the field-name 'Asples' referred to above.
The chancel and nave is a rectangle, narrow for its length. Modern restoration has rather obscured its history, but probably the nave is the original 12thcentury building and the chancel is a 13th-century lengthening of the plan; it is possible, from the positions of the 12th-century doorways, that the nave was lengthened also at the west end in the 13th century. The south chapel with the south arcade of two bays was built about 1400 by Thomas de Cruwe, whose tomb stands in the middle of it.
The chancel and nave are 14½ ft. wide; the chancel is 15½ ft. from east end to south arcade, the arcade is 23½ ft. long, and the nave west of it 27 ft. In the east wall is a restored window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and a trefoiled circle in a two-centred head; perhaps of late-13thcentury origin. In the north wall are five windows, of which the two eastern appertain to the chancel. The easternmost is a 13th-century lancet with rebated and chamfered jambs and splayed inner reveals and restored rear-arch. The second appears to be a modern piercing, with a segmental-pointed reararch, but in it is set a peculiar two-light window, probably a crude piece of medieval workmanship. It is of a single slab of yellow Campden stone similar to that of the other windows, and has two narrow pointed lights, 5 in. and 4 in., with chamfered jambs and mullion: between the heads are sunk spandrels, inside and out, and at the top outside is a projecting human head cut from the solid: the tooling is roughly executed, but seems to have been 'assisted' by modern scraping. The third and fourth windows are each of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head, all of a yellow stone and probably of the 14th century, but mostly restored. The internal splays are plastered and the segmental-pointed reararches modern. The fifth window is a narrow 13thcentury lancet.
The blocked north doorway, between the fourth and fifth windows, is of the 12th century, and has plain square jambs, chamfered imposts, and a plain round arch, all of grey stone; the inner reveals are plastered and the round rear-arch of modern stone. On its inner face is set the ancient oak door, outside inwards: it is of plain battens with modern fillets planted on and has plain strap-hinges.
The arcade of two bays, to the south chapel, has an octagonal pillar, and responds to match, with moulded capitals and plain bases: the arches are two-centred and of two chamfered orders, all of the early 15th century, with some patches of modern stone in the responds and pillar where former screens abutted them. The south doorway, of the 12th century, has rebated jambs with round nook-shafts with plain cushion capitals and chamfered abaci: the moulded bases are probably later repairs. The round arch is of two square orders with small voussoirs. It has an ancient battened door studded with nails and with later fillets planted on the outside: there are five very narrow and deep horizontal rails inside. Near the west end is a 13th-century lancet like that opposite. In the west wall are two lancet windows, all modern outside and plastered inside. Between them outside is the only buttress, mostly modern but with some old stones. Above the gabled roof is a modern wooden bell-turret with a tall shingled oak roof.
The south chapel (30½ ft. by 14½ ft.) has a large east window of five ogee-headed lights and vertical tracery—none of it cusped—in a four-centred main head; the jambs and mullions are moulded. In the south wall are two windows of three similar lights under a square-head. West of them is a doorway with hollow-chamfered jambs and two-centred head with a moulded label and a four-centred rear-arch. The west wall is unpierced.
In the chancel is a 15th-century piscina with a canopied cinquefoiled ogee head and moulded and embattled capping. The recess is rounded in plan in the lower part and has a projecting rounded sill and basin moulded in front; in the upper half the recess is cut square and has a rounded shelf coinciding with the curve of the head. In the chapel is another 15th-century piscina: the moulded sill is half-octagonal in plan and the head projects as a three-sided canopy and has a foiled ogee arch and an embattled capping. In the east wall of the chapel against the arcade wall is a plain rough recess, probably a locker: it now has a modern segmental-pointed arch.
A chest in the chapel is probably of late-13th-century date: it is 5 ft. 9 in. by 1 ft. 6 in. by 1 ft. 11 in. high, of rough boarding bound at the angles with scrolled iron straps, the lid hung with three strap-hinges with remains of scroll ornament and with cross-straps with flowered ends (only one now remaining) to take the staples for the locks; the feet of the side-styles are cut with quadrants at the bottom and have the short posts usual for the period.
In the tracery of the east window of the chapel are some remains of the original glass, (fn. 51) almost colourless except for the heraldry. In the piercings over the five main lights are parts of angels with musical instruments, a nimbed bearded head, some drapery, and canopy work. Above these are two figures of apostles, the dexter, probably St. Philip, holding a cross staff and a book; over them are bits of canopy work with red and blue ground. Six rounded piercings are filled with heraldry. The dexter (north) three have the arms of (a) Ferrers (imperfect); (b) Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1 and 4 Newburgh, 2 and 3 Beauchamp); (c) Richard Beauchamp impaling Berkeley. Each shield is surrounded by white foiling with infilling of blue, purple, and green respectively. The three to the south have: (a) a blank shield; (b) shield imperfect, apparently argent a cross gules; (c) Earl of Chester, azure, three wheat-sheaves or (shield imperfect). Two other piercings above have fragments, including heads of angels, one with the chains of a censer.
The six piercings in the head of each of the two south windows also contain fragments, mostly of an angel choir with musical instruments (lutes, organ, &c.) or with scrolls of music notation, in clouds and foliage. None is complete.
Most of the closed lower part of the chancel screen remains in place. It is 4 ft. 2 in. high with plain chamfered top rail, muntins and door-posts. There are five bays in the south half and one in the north, the remainder of the latter being removed for the modern pulpit; in the top of the rail are the mortices for the former upper mullions. There are also remains of a low side-screen, to the chapel, under the arcade; it is 4 ft. 1 in. high and has a moulded top-rail and moulded muntins with masons' joints. There is about 10 ft. length of it altogether in place and another 3 ft. 10 in. length has been cut off and reset under the eastern arch against the backs of the modern choir seats. All early 15th century.
At the west end of the nave are four 15th-century benches now each cut into two half-lengths and fitted with modern standards towards the middle passageway. The old standards against the walls are squareheaded and have chamfered edges. The top rails of the backs are chamfered, excepting one 5-ft. length which is moulded. One standard has a well-carved pair of initials M G, probably only a random cutting. At the west end of the chapel is an 18th-century table with fluted square legs.
In the middle of the south chapel is a low altar tomb 9 ft. by 4 ft. 2 in. with one of the finest and best preserved brasses in the county, of Thomas de Cruwe and Juliana his wife, 1411. The tomb is of grey marble; the plinth and the edge of the top slab are moulded. The effigy of the man, 5 ft. 2½ in. high, is on the sinister side: he wears full plate armour with a bascinet (helmet) with enriched edging, high gorget, breast-plates, palettes at the shoulders, once enamelled with a cross, brassarts, elbow caps with foiled round plates, gauntlets, skirt of taces, cuisses, and jambs with plain knee-caps, sollerets, and rowel-spurs; his feet rest on a lion; on his left his sword without a belt and on his right his dagger. The woman, 4 ft. 11½ in. high, wears a close head-dress with net pads above the ears and a veil, close kirtle with buttoned sleeves and cuffs extending to the knuckles, and a mantle open in front, held together by tasselled cords and rings; at her foot is a pet dog with a belled collar. About the figures is a double canopy with enriched cinquefoiled pointed arches and ogee gables with crockets and finials; on the tympana are sexfoiled circles with the Cruwe badge, a human left foot cut off at the ankle. The ornate side-posts are finished with tall crocketed pinnacles, repeated between the main gables from a moulded and carved pendant. Between the heads and pinnacles are four badges and at the top four shields of arms: these are charged (a) Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick; (fn. 52) (b) Cruwe impaling Beisyn; (c) Cruwe; (d) a modern shield with a cross. (fn. 53) The base shows a frieze of quatrefoiled squares, between two cable-rings containing the badge, and having in the middle a shield charged with the arms of Clopton. The quatrefoils have alternately the badge of the foot and a shield with a pierced molet.
The inscription set on the moulded edge of the slab is in black letter and reads: '+ Hic jacent Thomas de Cruwe Armiger qui istam capellam fecit fieri Qui obijt die mensis Anno domini millimo cccc Et Juliana uxor eius Que obijt vicesimo die mensis Decembr' Anno dni Millesimo cccco undecimo Quor[..] animab[us] ppicietur deus Ame[n]. Amen.' The last word is added to fill up surplus space. Between the words are incised the badge of the human foot. The date of Thomas's death has never been filled in.
On the west wall of the chapel is a small brass set in a modern frame and bearing the figure of a kneeling child and a shield of twelve quarterings to Rice, fourth son of Rice Griffin of Broom, who died 6 Jan. 1597–8, 'being in his infancye being but three-quarters olde'. There are also numerous tablets and slabs of the 17th and early 18th centuries commemorating members of the Griffin family.
In the churchyard is a fine large base of a churchyard cross with a moulded top edge, the stump of a shaft, and three steps to the platform: 15th century. Lying loose on the floor of the chapel is a carved cross-head which may have belonged to it: on one side is the crucifixion, and on the other a Virgin and Child: partly broken away.
There are a curiously large number of scratchings on the masonry: on the south wall of the chapel are at least seven scratched sundials and two on the west wall, one or two probably ancient the others imitative; the best, on a west stone of the eastern south window, has radiating lines and the numerals 7, 8, ix, x, xi and 1, 11, 111. There are also many other casual initials, &c. Inside on the sloping sill of the western south window are five sets of holes and lines after the style of the game of nine men's morris. On the sill of the eastern window is another sundial with Roman numerals and a variety of other scratchings, some apparently fairly ancient.
There is one ancient uninscribed bell, and another by John Martin of Worcester, 1672, which was recast in 1937, retaining the old inscription. (fn. 54)
Mention may be made of a fine yew tree with outspread branches supported by props. It is south of the west end of the nave and covers some 24 paces in diameter. (fn. 55)
Domesday makes no mention of a priest at Wixford, though the dedication of the church to the Saxon saint St. Milburg seems to be evidence of its antiquity; (fn. 56) but it may have been in 1086, as certainly it was later, a chapel of Salford. Henry I gave it with the mother church to Kenilworth Priory, whose rights therein were contested by the monks of Evesham as lords of the manor. An agreement was finally made, and confirmed by Roger, Bishop of Worcester (1163–79), by which Kenilworth retained the patronage, paying 10s. annually to Evesham, and Evesham reserved the tithes of the demesne lands. (fn. 57) In 1206 the Sacrist of Evesham was receiving 10s. annually from the chapel at Wixford and a meadow in Salford. (fn. 58)
A further controversy arose out of a grant of the tithes of Wixford to Alcester Abbey by its founder, Ralph Boteler. (fn. 59) This was settled by an agreement, made in the presence of John de Coutances, Bishop of Worcester (1195–8), which assigned the tithes of the demesne to Alcester—though how this was reconciled with the claims of Evesham is not clear—and the tithes in villenage to the canons of Kenilworth, who also received the lesser tithes as owners of the advowson. The tithes of 'Budleia', i.e. Moor Hall (with the exception of certain tenements of which the tithe was divided), were adjudged to belong to Alcester. (fn. 60)
Since the Reformation Wixford has been a chapelry of Exhall (q.v.) and has never been served by a separate incumbent. The thatched wooden hut in the churchyard is said to have been the stable for the visiting clergyman's horse during service.
A chantry in honour of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist was founded here in 1448 by William Wolashull, for one priest to say mass daily in the south chapel of the church for the founder and for the souls of Thomas and Juliana de Cruwe, Sir William Clopton, and his wife Joan. The endowment consisted of a dwelling in Wixford called Priest's Place, with 2 acres of land and licence in mortmain up to £10 a year. (fn. 61) In 1535 the chantry was valued at £4 2s. annually. (fn. 62) From inquiries made in 1546 and 1566 it appears that the original endowment was made by a bequest of Thomas de Cruwe, that the priest, Richard Elyot, was chaplain to Dame Sybil, widow of William Mitton, lord of the manor of Moor Hall, and that his maintenance was provided by the goodwill of Richard Mitton, her son and heir. On All Saints' Day the parishioners used to hold a feast at the tomb in the chapel. (fn. 63) The chapel of St. John the Baptist was thus attached to Moor Hall and so passed to Sir Rice Griffin on his marriage with Margaret Throckmorton. The Griffins still had the right of burial in it and the responsibility of maintenance in 1730. (fn. 64)
Throckmorton's Charity. By an indenture dated 20 Sept. 1709 Robert Throckmorton gave property in Wixford, Exhall, and Broome, the rents to be applied by the minister and churchwardens for the benefit of the poor of Wixford and for the reparations of the church. The endowment now consists of land and six cottages at Wixford and Exhall let at a yearly rent of £16 15s.
Allen's Charity. The sum of 5s. is annually paid as a rent-charge out of a parcel of land known as Tandy's Piece at Bidford and is attributed to the gift of John Allen. The rent is annually applied to the relief of one or more poor persons by the rector and churchwardens.