A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3, Barlichway Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1945.
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The parish of Exhall lies across the valley of the Hay Brook, a small tributary of the Arrow. The upper portion of the valley is enclosed on the south-east by the long steep ridge of Grove Hill and on the north-west by Oversley Wood, of which a small piece known as Prior Hackin's Wood is in Exhall parish. The ground here rises on either side to over 300 ft. and slopes down westwards to 137 ft. on the boundary between Exhall and Wixford.
The main village consists of about a score of buildings scattered along the road from Wixford. The parish also includes the hamlet of Little Britain, about half-a-mile to the south-east, and part of the north side of the street of Arden's Grafton, which was no doubt that portion of Grafton that belonged, with Exhall, to the manor of Oversley.
The parish church stands centrally in the village on the south-east side of the road. The Rectory is a little to the south-west on the opposite side, and next north of it is the village school. Eight of the houses in the main village show timber-framing of the 17th century or earlier, on stone foundations; most of them are raised on banks above the roadway. A farm-house, now called 'The Old Farm' and divided into tenements, is probably of the late 16th century. It is a rectangular structure of framing with a projecting stone chimneystack on its south-west side, with a wide fire-place reduced and two diagonal shafts of thin bricks. Next it is a gabled staircase-wing. Another farm-house south-west of the church has been mostly rebuilt with brick but has a 17th-century wing of framing and a chimneystack with two diagonal shafts. A cottage opposite it also has a massive stone chimney with two similar shafts. The walls are of framing, the steep-pitched roof is now covered with slates. Another, opposite the Rectory, has similar chimney-shafts above the tiled roof; and one near the north-east side of the street has a massive projecting chimney-stack at its north end with a rebuilt shaft.
The traditional appellation of 'Dodging Exhall' may perhaps have arisen from the fact that the village was not, at any rate in the 18th century, directly approachable either from Alcester or Stratford. The Inclosure Award of 1767 gives only three public roads in the parish: the present Wixford-Stratford road, which forms the southern boundary of Exhall; a road, now a green lane, branching north-east from this at the parish stone-pits towards Arden's Grafton; and the road through Exhall village, which then continued north-eastwards by Alcock's Arbour to Haselor. The section of this last-mentioned road beyond the turn to Arden's Grafton is marked on maps as late as 1841, but its course is now only faintly traceable across the fields. The road between Exhall and Grafton was, in 1767, only a private way for bringing timber down from Oversley Wood. (fn. 1) It continued northwards up the lane by Rosehall Farm and across to Oversley Green. Both these roads, the latter of which is now a bridlepath, (fn. 2) were apparently coming into general use by the beginning of last century.
The Inclosure Act of 1767 included Exhall, Wixford, and Broom (fn. 3) and covered an area of 1,918 acres (fn. 4) or 69 yard lands (giving an average of about 27¾ acres to the yard land). There were altogether 37 proprietors in the 3 townships, of whom 5 with over 100 acres each accounted for 1,412 acres in the allotment and 18 more received less than 10 acres (5 of them less than 1 acre) apiece. The cost of the inclosure was £1,120 11s. 1d.—about 11s. 8d. per acre. Four of the common fields mentioned were in Exhall. They were known as Exhall Field, Upper Exhall Field, Above Down (or Above Town) Field, and Wood Field and lay round the village on the south and east sides, the north side, close to the Oversley boundary, being already inclosed. The waste known as Exhall Heath lay farther off, in the north-east of the parish: Grove Hill, which is still largely scrub, must have formed part of it and the name survives in an adjoining field in the parish of Haselor. In addition, a part of the common fields known as Walker's Hill, which is above Little Britain, remained uninclosed and the right there was allotted to two of the proprietors in consideration of an extra £25 4s. 0d. towards the expenses of the inclosure.
EXHALL is included in the spurious grant of Ceolred of Mercia to Evesham Abbey in 710. (fn. 5) It also appears in the list of manors acquired by Abbot Ethelwig and the estates for which William I directed Bishop Wulfstan to give the abbot protection, but it was among the manors seized by Bishop Odo of Bayeux after Ethelwig's death in 1077, being then assessed at 2 hides. (fn. 6) In 1086 Exhall was held by William son of Corbucion and by Turchil under him. Before the Conquest, Suain had held it freely. It is assessed in Domesday at only 1½ hides. (fn. 7) By 1235 the overlordship was in the hands of the Earl of Warwick, (fn. 8) and possibly Exhall was part of the 10 knights' fees which Peter Corbizun held of the Earl in 1166. (fn. 9) In 1315 Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, died seised of ¼ knight's fee here (said to be held by the heirs of William Corbizun), (fn. 10) which passed to his widow Alice in the following year, being then valued at 40s. (fn. 11)
The Corbizuns continued as mesne tenants throughout the 12th century. William's son, Robert Corbizun, made a grant of land to the church of Exhall c. 1125–35 (fn. 12) and early in the 13th century Richard Corbizun (probably son of a Geoffrey who occurs c. 1155 (fn. 13) ) granted the manor to William de Cantilupe, who passed it to his sister Sybil and her husband Geoffrey Pauncefote. (fn. 14) Pauncefote was holding the ¼ fee here under the Earl of Warwick in 1235, but in 1242 ¼ fee was returned as held by Robert de Exhall and Ralph de Binton of Geoffrey Pauncefote, who was the undertenant of William de Cantilupe and he of the heir of Geoffrey Corbizun of Hunningham under the Earl of Warwick. (fn. 15) This Geoffrey Corbizun was the eldest son of Richard and still living in 1235. (fn. 16)
Dugdale surmises that during the 13th century the manor 'was parcell'd out to Freeholders, and no Courts kept, whereunto they did any suit or service'. (fn. 17) This is borne out by the confusion of civil, ecclesiastical, and manorial boundaries in Exhall and the neighbouring parishes. (fn. 18) In 1297 William Pikerel died seised of a messuage, 2 virgates, and an acre of meadow held of the manor of Bidford at a rent of 5s. yearly. (fn. 19) This was no doubt the estate referred to when Exhall was returned as a hamlet of Bidford in 1316. (fn. 20) It passed, with 1/10 fee in Broom (q.v.) to Peter de Leycester, on whose death in 1304 it was extended at 80 acres. (fn. 21) Other lands in Exhall belonging to the reputed manor of Moor Hall were settled by Thomas de Cruwe and Juliana his wife in 1400, (fn. 22) and his possessions on his death in 1418 included 3 messuages and 2 virgates in Exhall and Bickmarsh. (fn. 23) A third estate here was that held by Alcester Abbey, which in 1291 comprised a virgate and half a carucate of land worth a mark and a mill worth 6s. 8d. (fn. 24) The Abbot was the largest contributor in the village to the Lay Subsidy of 1332. (fn. 25) At the Dissolution this property was granted to Thomas Cromwell (fn. 26) and, having reverted to the Crown after his attainder, to William Sewster of Godmanchester in 1544. (fn. 27) It included Prior Hackin's Wood and also, apparently, land on the north side of the village where there is still a field called Abbot's Hill. In 1573 Sir Fulke Greville held 2 virgates here, formerly of Alcester Priory, which he had bought from Thomas Greville. (fn. 28)
In 1325 Henry de Belne was holding a croft in Exhall, next to the house of the Abbot of Alcester, of the manor of Oversley. (fn. 29) By 1520 the manor of Exhall was held, with Oversley, by Sir William Gascoigne. (fn. 30) It has since followed the descent of Oversley manor (q.v.) and came to be reckoned a part of it, the parish officers of Exhall being elected in the manor court of Oversley at least from 1538 onwards. (fn. 31) The bounds of the manor of Oversley given c. 1566 include the whole of the modern parish of Exhall. (fn. 32)
Among other holders of property here were the families of Ipwell, Walsingham, and Burnell. A William de Ipwell occurs in 1332 (fn. 33) and in 1432 John Ipwell, yeoman, was holding 2 messuages and 3 yardlands here, as ¼ knight's fee. (fn. 34) The Walsinghams of Exhall were distantly connected with the family of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Secretary of State. (fn. 35) John Walsingham of Exhall and William Gray of Salford received a grant of the presentation of the church here from the convent of Kenilworth shortly before the Dissolution. (fn. 36) Elizabeth Walsingham, widow, died in 1545–6 holding 2 messuages and 62 acres of land in Exhall and left as her heir her cousin John Walsingham, (fn. 37) who died in 1566 and is buried in the chancel. Maurice Walsingham (d. 1613) was steward of the manor of Oversley for Thomas Throckmorton, (fn. 38) and another Maurice, the last of the family who can be traced here, occurs in the Hearth Tax returns 1667–74. Francis Burnell is mentioned as attempting an inclosure at Walkersham in the manor in 1607. (fn. 39) He died in 1611 leaving an estate of 80 acres in Exhall, Bidford, and Broom to his younger son Thomas (fn. 40) —probably the 'Mr. Burnell' to whom the County Sequestration Committee offered a lease of the rectory of Exhall and Wixford in 1647. (fn. 41)
The parish church of ST. GILES is a small building with a nave dating from the 12th century, and a 13th-century chancel. It was much restored and in part rebuilt in 1862, mainly at the cost of the then rector.
The chancel (29½ ft. by 14½ ft.) leans a little to the south of the axial line of the nave. The east window is of two trefoiled lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head. It is of modern red sandstone outside and the internal splays, &c., are covered with Roman cement.
In the north wall are two 13th-century lancets of grey Lias stone with segmental-pointed rear-arches. The two south windows are modern, the eastern of one light and the western of two lights and a quatrefoil.
The east and north walls are of old Lias rubble, but the south has been rebuilt from a height of about 4½ ft. There are modern diagonal buttresses to the east angles and also one to the south wall. The chancel arch, of two chamfered orders, and the roof of the chancel, are modern.
The nave (33½ ft. by 15½ ft.) has a modern north window of two lights and lattice tracery. (fn. 42) Farther west is a 12th-century doorway, now blocked. The jambs are recessed; the original nook-shafts are missing but their defaced capitals are in place, and have chamfered abaci, all of a sandstone: the round head is of two square orders, the inner of Cotswold stone, the outer of Lias stone. The blocking wall is hidden by an old plain nail-studded door, and there is no trace of the doorway internally. (fn. 43) In the south wall, near the east end, is an early-14th-century window of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and foiled blanks in a square head. The outer order of the head and the segmental rear-arch are enriched with ball-flower ornament. The south doorway is modern. In the west wall are two single-light modern windows and between them inside a modern pointed doorway to a recess 3 ft. deep. The masonry of the north wall is of 12th-century Lias rubble west of the doorway but to the east it is of modern squared rubble, and there is a modern buttress between chancel and nave. The south wall east of the modern porch is also mainly of old Lias rubble, but west of the porch there is some old rubble in thin stones, perhaps of the 13th or 14th century. The west wall is 3 ft. 9 in. thick and has a modern middle buttress. The buttresses at the ends of the north and south walls are ancient although they have modern plinths and offsets. Both of them have an ancient batter on the west face about 2 ft. high above the plinth and extending along the wall to 6 or 7 ft. where the walling between them seems to have been rebuilt at some later medieval period. The gable-head, with its bell-turret, and the nave roof are modern.
In the chancel floor are small brass standing effigies of John Walsingham, died 20th January 1566, and Eleanor (Ashfield) his wife. (fn. 44) He is shown in Elizabethan armour and is incised on an irregularly rectangular plate, only silhouetted on his left side below the shoulder, possibly a palimpsest. She is in silhouette and wears a close cap, brocaded dress with padded sleeves, and a long cloak. Above the figures are two shields set upside down. The dexter charged with a trefoil between three molets (Ashfield); the sinister charged quarterly 1 (destroyed), 2 and 3, a checky cross between sixteen roundels, 4, paly of six a fesse (Walsingham).
The church at Exhall was dedicated by Simon, Bishop of Worcester, c. 1125–35, who declared it to be a chapelry of Salford (q.v.). (fn. 45) The advowson therefore belonged to the Canons of Kenilworth, and subsequently Ralph de Budiford and Richard de Exhall relinquished their claim to the advowson in favour of Kenilworth. (fn. 46) After the Dissolution the living remained in the gift of the Crown (fn. 47) and until 1916 the Lord Chancellor was patron, (fn. 48) but in the latter year the advowson was acquired by exchange by the Bishop of Worcester and about 1921 was transferred to the present patron, the Bishop of Coventry. (fn. 49) Since the Reformation the chapelry of Wixford has been attached to the living.
The church was endowed at its dedication with a virgate of land and meadow and part of a croft east of the churchyard by Robert Corbizun; by Roger with the other part of the same croft and 4 acres in the common fields (except for 2 acres that Wido had exchanged with him); by Wido with 4½ acres of land and meadow, and by Robert with 2 acres. (fn. 50) According to a confirmation of this charter by Bishop Simon, Robert Corbizun gave also a house for the priest. (fn. 51) The church was valued at £6 13s. 4d. in 1291 (fn. 52) and at £8 17s. 3d. in 1535. (fn. 53) The rectory pertained to the incumbent and not to the canons of Kenilworth, who in 1535 were merely drawing from it an annual pension of 13s. 4d. (fn. 54) The rector's allotment in the Inclosure Award was only exceeded by that of Sir Robert Throckmorton, lord of the manor. He received 322 acres, of which 313 were in lieu of tithes and glebe, all of it in Exhall; and thus became the largest landowner in the parish.
Church rent. The endowment of this charity consists of a rentcharge of £1 4s. to be given to the use of the church. The charge now issues out of a house known as St. Giles' House, Exhall, and is paid to the church expenses account.