A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1947.
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Lea Marston is a small parish 3 miles long from north to south and about a mile wide, lying for the most part to the west and north of the River Tame. The village of Lea lies in the centre of the parish on the left bank of the Tame, which is here crossed by a road from Nether Whitacre. A little to the south of it the church lies in among the trees at the north end of Hams Park, which occupies most of the southern part of the parish. Hams Hall, the 18th-century seat of the Adderley family, has in recent years been pulled down to make room for a power station, the property having been acquired by the Corporation of the City of Birmingham. A road runs north-eastwards from the village to the hamlet of Marston, where the vicarage is situated. The soil is light and there is a good deal of excellent meadow land.
An Inclosure Act affecting 770 acres in Lea Marston and Dunton (in the neighbouring parish of Curdworth) was passed in 1775. (fn. 1)
Lea has several old houses about the village green or near by; apparently none is earlier than the 17th century, and all have been more or less well repaired or reconditioned by the late owners of the former Hams Hall. A farm-house, now tenements, on the west side of the green is of square framing with later brick additions. A cottage to the north is of modern red brick on the north front, but has old framing in the back wall and east end. Lea Farm, north of the green, is of 18th-century and later brickwork. A barn on the south-east side of the green is also mainly of 18th-19th-century bricks, but the southern of the two gable-ends is of framing.
A small farm-house 5/8 mile north of Lea on the Marston road has a rough-casted south front. The other walls, including a lower east outbuilding, are of framing of c. 1600. A cottage next south is brickfronted to the east, but shows a heavy tie-beam, &c., in the north gable-head of the same period.
Lea Marston may probably be identified with the 'Merston' (9 hides) and 'Leth' (1 hide) held in 1086 by Robert Dispenser. (fn. 2) By 1235 MARSTON was in the hands of Robert Marmion of Tamworth Castle as half a fee. (fn. 3) The overlordship of Lea Marston follows the descent of Tamworth Castle.
LEA was presumably granted by one of the Marmions to a member of the de la Launde family, as in 1253 James de la Launde and his heirs were granted free warren on all his demesne lands in Lea, Marston, Stratford, and Longdon; (fn. 4) and his son John in 1290 held the half-fee of Lea of Philip Marmion. (fn. 5) In 1329 (fn. 6) it was found that John de la Launde and his ancestors from time immemorial had had view of frankpledge in their manor of La Lee, amercements for breach of the assize of bread and ale, bloodshed, hue and cry, and all things appurtenant, all of which together with the right of infangenthef, tumbril and pillory were confirmed to John and his heirs by a charter of the same year. (fn. 7) On the failure of the male line of this family on the death of John de la Launde (fn. 8) the manor appears to have reverted to the overlord, subject to the life interest of John's widow Eleanor. (fn. 9)
The manors of Marston and La Lee appear separately in the inquisition taken after the death of Sir Baldwin Freville in 1400, (fn. 10) and in 1428, (fn. 11) but early in the following century the two had become one in name, (fn. 12) and they seem to have been generally held together.
From 1400 there appear to have been no subtenants of Lea Marston and the descent follows that of Tamworth Castle. On the death of Baldwin Freville in 1419 his co-heirs were his three sisters: Elizabeth wife of Thomas Ferrers; Margaret wife of Sir Hugh Willoughby; and Joyce wife of Roger Aston. (fn. 13) The major part of the manor seems to have fallen to Thomas and Elizabeth Ferrers, though their right was challenged in 1431 by Eleanor, granddaughter, and Alice, great-granddaughter, of the last John de la Launde, and their respective husbands, William Newton and Nicholas Basset. (fn. 14) A third of the manor, settled in 1435 on Sir Hugh Willoughby and Margaret, (fn. 15) appears in 1585 as the 'manor of Blakegreaves' in the hands of Sir Francis Willoughby, (fn. 16) but it is doubtful if this estate was ever really manorial. (fn. 17)
In 1626 Sir John Ferrers made conveyances of the manor of Lea Marston to John Noel and Ralph Floyer. (fn. 18) In 1637 Ralph Floyer and Elizabeth his wife (the daughter of John Noel and widow of Ralph Adderley), (fn. 19) with Charles Adderley conveyed the manor to Robert Arden, (fn. 20) probably for a settlement on the marriage of Charles with Anne Arden. (fn. 21) It then descended in the Adderley family (fn. 22) to Charles Bowyer Adderley, who was created Baron Norton in 1878 and died in 1905, and is now in the hands of his grandson the 3rd Lord Norton.
There was a mill at Marston in 1086, (fn. 23) and there was one attached to the manor of Lea Marston in 1703. (fn. 24) The latter may have been at Ouston Grange, on the south-east edge of Hams Park, an estate which had been given to the Abbey of Merevale before 1221 (fn. 25) and on which there was in 1291 a mill worth 4s. (fn. 26) After the Dissolution the lands of Merevale, including Ouston with two mills, were given to Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, (fn. 27) whose descendant sold the estate to Charles Adderley, lord of Lea Marston, early in the 17th century. (fn. 28)
The parish church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST consists of a chancel, nave, south porch, and north-west tower. It dates from the late 13th century, but only the south wall of the nave and perhaps the substance of the north wall survive. It seems to have been lengthened westwards about 9 ft. for a former bell-turret in the 15th century, when also the south porch was added and other work done.
The modern chancel (about 25½ ft. by 16 ft.) has an east window of three lights and tracery, and two windows in each side-wall of two lights and tracery in the early-14th-century style. The walls are of red sandstone and have square buttresses at the east angles. The modern roof has a barrel-vaulted ceiling of stained deal. It is tiled. The modern chancel arch is of two moulded orders, the inner carried on short double-shafts supported by corbels.
The nave (40½ ft. by 21 ft.) has two pointed windows on the north wall, each of three trefoiled lights and tracery of early-14th-century character. Only the jambs and head of the eastern and its hood-mould are ancient; the western window is an entirely modern copy, and there are traces of a former doorway below it. At the west end is a pointed doorway to the modern tower. The wall is faced outside with pink ashlar, comparatively modern but older than the tower. The return at the east end is ancient masonry, but its buttress is modern. The middle and western buttresses (against the tower) are old, and perhaps some of the ashlar walling is of old stones reworked.
In the south wall are two windows in the east half of the wall, each of two cinquefoiled lights and a sexfoiled spandrel in a two-centred head with an external hood-mould. The moulded jambs, heads, and hoodmoulds, of white stone, are of late-13th-century date; the tracery is modern. The south doorway, west of, and close to, the second window, has red sandstone old jambs of two moulded orders, which are continued in the pointed head in white stone: the late-13th-century hood-mould is like those of the windows and has returned stops: under the west end and partly covered by the west wall of the porch is a small square corbel carved in low relief with a fleur de lis in a circle. The rear-arch is four-centred and has a small edge-roll of the 15th century.
There is no window in the 11½-ft. stretch of wall west of the doorway, but a slight break 2½ ft. from the doorway probably indicates where the wall was lengthened in the 15th century. The wall is of ashlar outside, mostly cream-tinted, with a few red stones. It has a moulded plinth east of the porch and an embattled parapet largely restored. At the south-east angle and between the windows are 14th-century buttresses of two stages, the lower with a trefoiled gabled head and the upper a trefoiled ogee head at the foot of the tabling. A heavy plain buttress of two stages west of the doorway is incorporated with the porch, and at the south-west angle is a diagonal buttress, both of the 15th century. Inside, the wall west of the break is of ashlar, but east of it a fair amount of plaster remains: where the masonry is exposed it is of roughly squared ashlar.
High in the west wall is a modern window of three cinquefoiled lights and tracery. The wall is of old ashlar up to the base of the gable, above which it is modern. Below the window is a modern patching suggesting a former doorway. The gabled roof has three trusses with tie-beams, tall king-posts up to the ridge, and sloping struts in herring-bone fashion. The west truss is modern, the others have older timbers (probably 17th century) re-cut with chamfers. The roof is tiled.
The modern tower projects a little to the west of the nave and wholly to the north. It is built of red sandstone in three stages. The lowest stage has a traceried west window of two lights, the second a single light in each side, and the bell-chamber windows of two lights with transoms and tracery. The parapet is embattled and has gargoyles at the angles.
The south porch is probably of the 15th century. The entrance has hollow-chamfered jambs and a two-centred head with a hood-mould. In the side-walls are small windows of two trefoiled lights. Its walls are of rough ashlar, and the south gable has an old chamfered plain coping.
The font and other furniture are modern. The reredos, glass, &c., in the chancel are memorials to members of the Adderley family of Hams Hall, and there are ten funeral monuments to them. The oldest is to Sir Charles, Knight and Esquire to Kings Charles I and II, who died 1682. The monument is of white veined marble and has four shields with his arms, impaling those of his four wives Anne (Arden), Constance (Enion), Felicia (Snead), and Frances (Cresheld).
The advowson of the church of Lea was granted by James de la Launde in 1252 to the Prioress and convent of Markyate (Beds.). (fn. 29) It was, however, in fact a chapel attached to the church of Coleshill, and as such was confirmed to the nuns of Markyate in 1280 by John de Clinton. (fn. 30) In 1535 what was then called 'the parish church of Leemerston' was said to be appropriated to the priory, who received all the tithes and other endowments, so that it was not valued. (fn. 31) At that time this and the other two chapels of Over and Nether Whitacre were farmed to William Ryddell for £7. (fn. 32) After the Dissolution the rectory and the advowson of the vicarage were sold by Henry VIII to Sir Nicholas Bacon; but he in 1545 returned them to the King, (fn. 33) who then granted them to Thomas Marowe. (fn. 34) In 1552 Marowe conveyed the rectory and chapel of Lea to Thomas Lysle. (fn. 35) After this the rectory and advowson followed the descent of the manor of Moxhull in Wishaw (q.v.) in the families of Lysle (or Lisley) and Hackett (fn. 36) until c. 1816, when it was acquired by Charles Bowyer Adderley and descended with the manor. (fn. 37) Since 1925 the living has been in the gift of the Bishop of Birmingham.
Thomas Bray, the founder of the S.P.C.K. and S.P.G., was vicar of Lea Marston for a short time about 1693, and Laurence Tuttiett, the hymn writer, was vicar there from 1853 to 1870. (fn. 38)
Charities of Dorothy and James Adderley. An indenture dated 26 May 1719 shows that sums of £70 and £10 given by these benefactors were used to buy a rentcharge of £4 per annum, whereof 50s. was to be given to the poor of Lea Marston and 30s. for the instruction of poor children.
The endowment of the above-mentioned charities is now represented by a rent-charge of £10 issuing out of Hams Estate, owned by the Corporation of Biriningham. Of this sum 30s. is applied towards educational purposes and the remainder for the benefit of the poor.
Charity of Dorothy Adderley founded by Arden Adderley. By an indenture dated 21 July 1693 certain lands in Shustoke were conveyed to trustees to pay the issues to the preaching minister of the parish church of Lea Marston. Part of the land was sold in 1894, and the endowment now consists of a house and land at Marston, ground rents on property at Bow, London, and Stock, the whole producing an annual income of £194 approx. which is paid to the incumbent of St. John the Baptist, Lea Marston, under a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 18 June 1918 which appoints a body of six trustees.