A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1947.
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The parish lies between Merevale on the east and Kingsbury on the west, with Baddesley Ensor to the north of it. The Baxterley pit of the Baddesley Collieries with its branch railway is just within the parish on Baxterley Common.
On 2 May 1882 a disastrous explosion occurred at this pit. In an endeavour to rescue nine miners cut off by a fire nearly the entire rescue party of some thirty persons perished as well, including the proprietor, Mr. W. S. Dugdale of Merevale Hall.
The elevation at this point is 500 ft. and from here the ground slopes down to c. 400 ft. at Baxterley Church, near the western edge of the parish. From the common one road runs approximately west to the church, and another south-west to Old Baxterley Hall, on the southern edge of the parish, and past Boultbees Farm to cross the stream which forms the western boundary. There are one or two spinneys, but the only consider able block of woodland is Drybrooks Wood, near Boultbees.
In May 1615 one Hugh Glover died, seised of a capital messuage in Baxterley, held of Robert, Earl of Essex, as of the manor of Merevale. (fn. 1) Dugdale states (fn. 2) that John (fn. 3) uncle of this Hugh rebuilt the Hall in the time of Edward VI, and, from the evidences of the coats of arms and badges on the building, judges him to have been a retainer of Lord Ferrers, though he was said to have been previously a servant of Merevale Abbey. Whether this is so or not, the Reformation found in him a keen supporter. Bishop Latimer and his clerk Augustine Bernher spent some time there, (fn. 4) and Robert Glover, brother of John, was burnt at Coventry in 1555, John himself narrowly escaping with his life. (fn. 5) A later John Glover sold the estate in 1704 to Thomas Strong, who was living there in 1730 (fn. 6) and probably rebuilt the house. The present Old Baxterley Hall is an 18th-century brick house but has an older central chimney-stack of thin bricks. The site is surrounded by a moat.
A small farm-house on the south side of the road about ¾ mile east of the church has walls of red sand-stone rubble, timber-framing in the gable-heads, and a central chimney-stack of thin bricks. Another on the north side of the road ¼ mile north-west of the church is similar. Both are probably of the early 17th century. The latter has a timber-framed barn.
The manor of BAXTERLEY is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, being perhaps included in Baddesley Ensor and Grendon. From an early date it seems to have been held in two moieties. One was held of the Earl of Warwick as 1/6 knight's fee in 1242 (fn. 7) and 1401; (fn. 8) and also in 1436, when Joan widow of Sir William Beauchamp died having held it for life from Richard, Earl of Warwick, her husband's nephew. (fn. 9)
In 1242 the tenant of the earl's 1/6 fee was Richard Harecourt, and the mesne lordship descended in that family, the tenant in 1401 being 'the heir of John Harecourt' (i.e. Thomas Astley). When the Black Death in 1349–50 carried off both Sir William Harecourt and his son Sir Richard, Sir William's widow Jane was promptly remarried to Sir Ralph Ferrers, (fn. 10) who presented to Baxterley Church in 1358. (fn. 11) Sir Richard Harecourt's daughter and heir Elizabeth married Sir Thomas Astley, (fn. 12) and in 1517 the moiety of the manor was held of Richard Astley as of his manor of Patteshull. (fn. 13)
The actual tenants in fee under the Harecourts were the Chetwynds. John Chetwynd died in 1281 seised of a moiety of the manor, containing 4 virgates, for 1/6 knight's fee, and having there customary tenants who rendered 100s. yearly, but no capital messuage or demesne lands. (fn. 14) In 1343 Sir John Chetwynd held 16 messuages and 6 virgates of land in Baxterley, to which his brother Reynold, rector of Chetwynd, acknowledged his right. (fn. 15) At some date before 1444 (fn. 16) Joan widow of Sir Philip Chetwynd married Sir Thomas Littleton, the judge and legal author, and must have brought with her as dower this moiety of the manor, as Sir Thomas at his death in 1481 left 'the halfyndele of the manor of Baxterley' to his second son Richard, (fn. 17) who held it, with a moiety of the court leet and view of frank-pledge, when he died in 1517. (fn. 18) Richard's grandson Sir Edward Littleton died in 1575 having settled the reversion of what is called 'the manor' of Baxterley on his son Edward at his marriage with Margaret daughter of Sir William Devereux (younger son of Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers), of whom it was then held. (fn. 19) The younger Edward's son Sir Edward sold the manor 'of late years', according to Dugdale, (fn. 20) to George Corbyn, George Ludford, and Richard Whitehall, trustees for the freeholders, in whom it rested at the time of his writing (c. 1640).
The history of the second moiety of the manor is obscure. It was presumably held by Robert Ferrers, Earl of Derby, in the 12th century, as he is said to have given the church of Baxterley to Merevale Abbey (fn. 21); and this would account for its being held in 1344 by Henry, Earl of Lancaster, as of the Honor of Leicester. (fn. 22) Under the Earl it was held by Maud daughter of William de Canville; of her by Richard Burdet of Sheepy (Leics.) (fn. 23) and from him by William de Shulton, (fn. 24) rector of Colton, and William de Cruddeworth, chaplain. These last two were executors, or feoffees to uses, of William de Henore; for they alienated this moiety of the manor and the advowson of the church, with other lands, to the abbot and convent of Merevale to maintain a chantry in the chapel of St. Mary outside the abbey gate for the souls of William de Henore and his ancestors. (fn. 25) Another small estate in Baxterley was acquired by the abbey in 1387. (fn. 26)
These lands appear to have lost any manorial status and to have been absorbed into the manor of Merevale. In 1535 the abbey had lands in Baxterley of which the rents were worth 67s. 6d. (fn. 27) and after the Dissolution these were included in the grant of the abbey property to Sir Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, made in 1541. (fn. 28)
While the one moiety of the original manor was presumably extinguished by its sale to the freeholders and the other by its absorption into that of Merevale, a manor of Baxterley is found in the hands of the family of Hall in the 18th century. Thomas Hall was patron of the church in 1732, (fn. 29) and members of the family seem to have sold the manor in 1778. (fn. 30) In 1790 it was sold by John and Mary Wintle to Joseph Boultbee, (fn. 31) and about sixty years afterwards was bought from Mr. Boultbee by W. S. Dugdale, whose grandson Sir William F. S. Dugdale is the present lord of the manor. (fn. 32)
The parish church is a small structure with a chancel, north vestry, nave with an enclosed west tower, north aisle, and north porch. The chancel dates from c. 1200 and had remarkably tiny windows. A low-side window was inserted in the 13th century. The nave has little left by which it can be dated, but is perhaps of the 14th century. The arrangement of the west wall with the small tower within it seems to be work of about mid16th century, but it may be later. The aisle, porch, and vestry, and the roof are modern, and the south wall of the nave has been practically all rebuilt.
The chancel (about 20 ft. by 13 ft.) has a triplet of three modern lancets in the east wall. In the north wall and now enclosed by the vestry is a 4 in. roundheaded light with plastered splays and lancet rear-arch. The door farther west into the vestry is only 22 in. wide and may be a 12th-century door adapted; it has a round head with moulded imposts enriched with nail-head ornament. The arch may have been restored but the hood-mould, double-chamfered and with like ornament, is original: the lower jambstones of the doorway are modern. In the south wall is a similar 4 in. light of grey stone, and next west of it an unglazed low-side window, 17 in. wide, of red and yellow stone with a triangular head, unequal splays, and roughly round rear-arch: the east jamb is modern. It has a modern wood shutter. At the east end of the wall is a restored sedilia recess with a middle shaft. The side walls, and the east wall below the modern lancets, are of original largish grey and red rubble with wide joints, all on rough footings. At the east end are north and south modern buttresses; next the southern the south wall has some (later?) squared stones and at the foot of it, about a yard high, is a projection of a few inches, up to about a yard from the buttress, with a straight joint. The reason for it is not apparent, unless it indicates the remains of an original unusually wide shallow buttress.
The chancel arch has a depressed, originally half-round, head of square section with a chamfered hood on the nave side. Both plain reveals are slightly canted inwards from west to east. The northern is thinly plastered and has a grooved and chamfered impost; the chamfer is decorated with primitive leaves formed by grooves; it returns a short length on the east and west faces; there is no base. The south jamb is of scappled ashlar with a similar impost, mostly modern; it has a chamfered plinth.
The nave (about 34½ ft. by 22½ ft.) is widened about 7 ft. southwards from the axis of the chancel, and in the south end of the east wall is a window of two trefoiled lights and a plain spandrel in a twocentred head. It is of modern stone-work, but the walling below it is of ancient large rubble. South of the window are old coursed stones reset, and above it is modern ashlar. The gable-head is of roughly squared old rubble, mostly grey.
North of the nave is a modern arcade of three bays in the 14th-century style, with octagonal pillars and pointed arches. Both south windows are of modern masonry; the eastern is of two cinquefoiled lights and a quatrefoiled spandrel in a two-centred head; the western is a trefoiled single light. The whole wall is of rebuilt red and grey rough ashlar with modern buttresses. The former south doorway, between the windows, has been obliterated outside; inside, it is now a recess with a segmental head.
At the west end are two 7 ft. parallel north and south walls, 5 ft. apart, to carry the small bell-tower. Their sides are plastered but their ends show old ashlar. They support a moulded semi-circular arch, probably of the 17th century. The west wall, of old pink masonry, has two ranges of windows; the lower are plain rectangular lights; the middle one, glazed, comes between the tower-supports; the other two, walled up, are indicated in outline only externally. The middle upper window which also comes between the tower supports, is of two round-headed lights with very obtuse inner splays: high above it outside is a string-course lifted above the window to form a semicircular hood. The side windows are single roundheaded lights with external dripstones. Two buttresses, in line with the tower-supports, are of two stages, the lower having crudely formed ogee gablets, and the upper plain gables. The whole arrangement is probably of c. 1540. The small tower above is probably later—17th century; it has a lower west window of two square-headed lights with a label high above it, and the bell-chamber has a window in each wall, also of two square-headed lights. The walls are of coursed rough ashlar. The parapet rises high above its string-course, in which are gargoyles; and is embattled, with plain angle-pinnacles.
The 15th-century font is octagonal; the bowl has a moulded underedge and on four sides are blank shields. The top has been cut down, reducing the size of the shields. A flat lid with a turned centre knob is of the late 17th century.
Robert, Earl Ferrers, is said to have granted the chapel of Baxterley with the church of Orton-on-the-Hill (Leics.) to Merevale Abbey, (fn. 33) but there is no evidence of this, and the advowson was in 1293 in the hands of Richard de Harecourt (fn. 34) and was assigned in dower to his widow Joan. (fn. 35) In 1302 William de Henouer presented to the church, (fn. 36) as did his assign William de Shulton in 1343. (fn. 37) In the following year, as already mentioned, the (Ferrers) moiety of the manor with the advowson of the church was conveyed to the Abbey of Merevale, and from this time presentations were made alternately by the representatives of the Harecourts (fn. 38) and by the monks. The Harecourt portion remained in the Astley family until the end of the 16th century and subsequently passed to their descendants the Seymours, William Seymour, Marquess of Hertford, and his son Sir Henry conveying it in 1649 to Thomas Bradgate. (fn. 39) The Merevale portion was held by the Devereux until at least 1613, in which year Robert, Earl of Essex, and Frances his wife conveyed it to Henry, Earl of Southampton, and Grey, Lord Chandos. (fn. 40) The later history of the advowson is obscure. John Palmer, rector of St. Mary's, Stafford, presented in 1627, (fn. 41) as did Thomas Leving in 1712, (fn. 42) and Thomas Hall in 1732. (fn. 43) The advowson (of half) was held with the manor by members of the Hall family in 1778. (fn. 44) John Holden was patron in 1788. (fn. 45) By 1735 one moiety of it had come into the hands of the Crown, (fn. 46) and since 1850 presentations have been made alternately by the Crown and the lord of the manor. (fn. 47)