A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1947.
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Acreage: 5,703. (fn. 1)
Population: 1911, 2,886; 1921,3,177; 1931,3,868.
The short northern boundary of the parish is formed by the River Tame and then crosses to the Cole shortly before that stream flows into the River Blythe, which constitutes the eastern boundary. On the south the boundary runs for the most part along a road leading to Marston Green as far as the Low Brook, which runs northwards along the western edge of the parish, becoming Kingshurst Brook before it enters the River Cole near Bacon's End and just north of Chelmesley Wood, which is the largest block of woodland in the parish and is mentioned as early as 1200. (fn. 2) The boundary then turns west up the Cole till it reaches the edge of Aston parish, near Babbs Mill, when it turns north past York's Wood and the moated site of Burton's Farm, and so across country to the Tame.
The country is pleasant gently undulating pasture land, with some arable, well treed. The town of Coleshill lies along a ridge road running northwards from Warwick at a height of about 330 ft., the church standing at 355 ft., from which point the road drops fairly steeply to 245 ft. at the bridge over the Cole. Here the main road turns north-westwards to Lichfield but sends a branch northwards to Forge Mills, where is a station on the Birmingham-Derby line of the L.M.S. Railway, which crosses the northern tip of the parish. Farther west, and separated in the south from the first road by the plantations surrounding the extensive Coleshill Pool, (fn. 3) the Old Chester Road from Warwick to Birmingham runs in a north-westerly direction over Coleshill Heath past Windy Arbor, crossing the Cole at Bacon's End Bridge, above which it is crossed by a road leading south-west from Coleshill over Ford Bridge to Sheldon.
The town consists principally of one long street from north to south. The High Street is about half a mile long and rises from the bridge at the north end to the middle of the town, where a turning to the east (Church Hill) leads to the parish church, which crowns the hill and forms a landmark for a considerable area. The Birmingham Road meets the High Street at right angles on the slope of the hill, about 100 yards north of Church Hill, and is continued eastwards as Blyth Road. The south end of the High Street is at Maxstoke Lane, a turning to the east, whence the road continues southwards as Coventry Road.
The bridge at the north end spanning the River Cole is ancient and, although it has been widened in modern times on the west side, it still forms a bottle-neck approach to the town. It dates apparently from about the middle of the 16th century and is built of red sandstone ashlar. It consists of six bays with semicircular arches showing two chamfered orders on the east face: the west face is modern. There are five piers with V-shaped cut-waters on both faces: the middle pier is entirely rebuilt, mostly of brick: some of the others have been repaired on the east face. The pier parapets, except above the middle pier, are slightly recessed, the tops of the lower parts of the V faces sloping back to them. Above the end arches the ashlar courses are sloped down to the original steep ramps, and later masonry to the present more gentle slope is added above these courses at the north end. There are three further arches to the north under the causeway, of 17th- or 18th-century masonry, with cut-waters on the east face.
The buildings in the High Street are numbered from 1 to 147 on the east side and 2 to 156 on the west side, both from north to south. Other roads are similarly numbered on opposite sides. Many of the numbers are to two or more tenements in an originally single house. The majority of the buildings are of the 18th century or later, and mostly of red brick with tiled roofs. But about one-fifth have some indication of a 17th-century or earlier origin; of these only six or seven have exposed remains of the original timber-framing that was doubtless the common construction at that time, while some four or five others have the framing wholly concealed externally by plaster or rough-cast facings. None is of exceptional interest, and only one (no. 148 High Street) can be positively claimed as being of medieval origin. A few others have 18th-century or later fronts but show 16th- or 17th-century chimney-stacks above the roofs. A number of the private houses or shops in the High Street retain wide covered gateways for the passage of vehicles to the courts behind: some of these, if not all, were formerly inns. One informant remembers twenty-two inns in the street, (fn. 4) most of which are no longer licensed.
Among the secular buildings of the High Street the following are worthy of notice:
No. 1. A good type of early-18th-century house. It is of three stories with walls of red brick having rusticated painted angle-dressings, moulded string-courses and cornice, and plain parapets. The middle entrance has rusticated work, pilasters with moulded capitals and bases, a flat arch with a carved keystone, entablature, and a scrolled broken pediment. The windows have similar rustications, flat arches, and carved keystones. A low addition on the north side has similar windows, and north of this an adjoining small building is of late17th-century brickwork.
Houses nos. 3 and 5, no. 7, and nos. 15 and 17 are lower houses with plastered fronts and modern windows, &c., but showing 17th-century chimney-shafts above the tiled roofs. The last is of cross-shaped plan. Nos. 8–10 shows some 17th-century timber-framing in the gabled north wall.
No. 35 is a late-18th-century brick house, but in the yard behind it is a 17th-century timber-framed cottage.
No. 38 is an early-18th-century brick house with rusticated painted angle-dressings and a wooden eaves cornice with brackets. The entrance has a wooden pediment.
Nos. 48–50 is a long low building of the 17th century with a brick front mostly of the 18th century, but the gabled north end is of original timber-framing.
No. 59, formerly the Lamb Inn, is a late-16th-century house of timber-framing with a modern, plastered front and parapet. In the north wall under the wide covered gateway between it and no. 57 some close-set studding is exposed, and the former doorway to the cellars. Framing is also seen in the back gabled end and north side of the upper story of the same wing of the house, but the interior appears to have been all modernized. An outbuilding in the yard is of similar construction.
Nos. 63–5 has a late-18th-century brick front but shows an early-16th-century moulded ceiling beam in a cross passage and also has some exposed timber-framing at the back.
Nos. 62–4, at the north corner of Birmingham Road, opposite, was probably an inn. The front is plastered and has tall windows with casements and transoms of the late 17th century, but the interior may be earlier. Above the roof are two 17th-century chimney-stacks, one of rebated type.
No. 77 is a narrow plastered house with a gable and may be of the 17th century or earlier. The lower story has built-out shop-fronts. Nos. 79–81 is a long plastered house with a jettied upper story on brackets and may have been one with no. 77 originally. Above the roof is a chimney-shaft of c. 1600 with a V-shaped pilaster on each of its faces.
No. 85 is an 18th-century brick house of three stories, formerly the Clock Inn; the name was probably derived from a former clock dial now indicated by a blocked bull's-eye opening in the front.
No. 87 also has an 18th-century brick front, but the south gabled side (towards a narrow passage-way) is completely of 17th-century timber-framing. This was the Reindeer Inn. A wide covered gateway between it and no. 85 has a pair of substantial 18th-century gates with small fielded and bolection-moulded panels and curved ramped top-rails.
Nos. 95–7 is probably a late-17th-century house: the front is plastered and has a wooden bracketed eaves cornice. The upper windows have casement frames and transoms.
The opposite houses between Birmingham Road and the Swan Hotel are chiefly 18th-century buildings. No. 68 at the corner is the Green Man Inn. No. 74 was the Angel Hotel and had a wide covered gateway, now walled up except for a narrow passage-way. There are long parallel wings behind and other outbuildings; one that crosses the courtyard was once used as a Roman Catholic Chapel. Through it is a wide covered gateway through which coaches entered the yard from the road at the rear (Parkfield Road).
No. 90, The Swan Hotel (opposite Church Hill), has an 18th-century main front block; a long wing extending behind was mostly of the early 17th century with original timber-framing, but has now been rebuilt. Some of the lower ceilings had heavy joists or chamfered beams and the roof had old queen-post trusses.
Nos. 107–9 was once the Three Tuns Inn. It is a late-16th-century house of half-H-shaped plan having a main block between two cross wings jettied on the west front. The gable-head of the north wing is also jettied. The overhang of the south wing has been underbuilt with a shop-front. Next to it is a wide covered gateway through the main block. The walls are of timber-framing: some of it with close-set studding is exposed in the south side of the gateway, but the whole of the front, including the brackets of the overhangs, is covered with rough-cast cement, and the windows, &c., have been modernized, as has also the interior except for a moulded beam in the north wing and the outline of a heavy tie-beam in the upper story of the main block. A central chimney-stack is of crossshaped plan above the roof, another projecting behind the south wing is plain. Against the back of the main block is an addition of c. 1640–50, showing square timber-framing in its gabled east wall.
No. 111 is a single-bay plastered house with a gable. It is probably of the 17th century and had a jettied upper story.
No. 131, a plaster-fronted early-18th-century house of two stories, has a deep eaves cornice with square brackets, and a porch or hood on shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The entablature has an enriched frieze of foliage and flowers and the curved pediment has swags of fruit in the tympanum.
No. 148 is the oldest surviving house in the street. It is a small timber-framed house covered with roughcast cement and probably only a part of a 15th-century building that had a main block and wings. The north wing remains and is built askew with the main block because of the slight bend in the road. The upper story in front is jettied on curved brackets. Internally there are wide flat ceiling-joists to the lower story and the roof has curved wind-braces. The 16th-century inserted ceiling of the main block has a stop-chamfered beam and small joists. At the south end is a wide fireplace. A doorway into the wing has a high cambered lintel or V-shaped arch. There are no visible signs of an original roof-truss, but a tie-beam over the side of the wing has been cut through for a doorway. The rafters are of early wide flat type. The south wing, if there was one, has disappeared.
No. 154, now a café, is an early-17th-century timber-framed house with wattle and daub and other infilling. The ceilings are open-timbered and in the roof construction are straight wind-braces.
In Coventry Road, No. 6, on the west side, next to the Methodist Chapel, is probably a late-17th-century house. It was once an inn. Adjoining north of it is an early-17th-century timber-framed barn on brick foundations. The great doorway near the south end has been walled up. Nos. 8–10, also part of the former inn, is a taller building of the end of the 17th century, of red brick.
The other houses are more or less modern, except nos. 47–9 which is another early-17th-century timber-framed cottage on brick foundations.
In Church Hill no building is earlier than the 18th century. No. 9 on the north side is a red-brick house with Ionic pilasters of painted stone at the angles, and a wooden moulded and bracketed eaves cornice. The doorway also has Ionic pilasters: the windows are tall and narrow.
No. 20, on the south side, is also of red brick and has a moulded painted eaves cornice. The entrance has plain pilasters, an entablature, and pediment. The upper sash windows are original. These two buildings are probably of the early 18th century.
The Market Hall, with open arcading, formerly stood in the middle of the roadway with the pillory in front of it. It was demolished in 1865 and the pillory now stands in front of the building nos. 1–3. It has a post about 14 ft. high with a turned moulded head, a platform or standing board, and a transom with holes for the heads and hands of two persons. Lower are the shackles for whipping and at the foot one of the former pair for the stocks.
The old Grammar School, at the east right-angle bend in the road, founded 1612, appears to have been entirely rebuilt in the 18th century. It is of three stories with red-brick walls, square-headed windows, and a dentilled brick eaves cornice.
Farther north are two 17th-century timber-framed barns, one on either side of the roadway. The eastern and larger, about 85 ft. long, has 17th-century brick foundations, and large doors towards the road. The other, about 30 ft. long, has 18th-century brick foundations.
Blyth Road. The small houses on the north side from no. 1 at the west end to no. 19 were all built or altered in the 18th century except one, no. 17, which is a small cottage with 17th-century timber-framed walls. It sets back from the fronts of the later brick buildings between which it is sandwiched. The western of these, nos. 11–15, once contained the jail; it retains the old iron-plated strong door at the back, in which is a small grid bound with a strap and staple. Nos. 25– 27, mostly of 18th-century brickwork, shows a few earlier timbers in the walling.
North of the bridge are several 18th-century houses and one cottage, east of the Wheatsheaf Inn, which has some 17th-century timber-framing exposed in its north side.
At the hamlet of Gilson, ¾ mile to the north-west, is a small group that includes Gilson Hall, an early18th-century house of red brick, two cottages of 17th-century timber-framing, one early, a plastered cottage with a 17th-century chimney-stack, and a timber-framed barn.
Coleshill Hall Farm, on the north side of the Birmingham Road ¾ mile south-west of the church, is an 18th-century brick house, but on the south side of the road is a 17th-century timber-framed barn and other farm-buildings. North-east of the house are the remains of a dry moat with no structures inside it.
At Bacon's End is a modern farm-house with a 17th-century timber-framed barn, and farther north a cottage with some 17th-century framing.
Bacon's End Bridge, where the main road from Castle Bromwich crosses the River Cole, is ancient on the east side but was widened on the west side in 1925. It is of three bays: the northernmost has a slightly pointed arch and may be a medieval survival. The other two are of greater span and have round arches of the 17th or 18th century. The two piers have rounded cut-waters, truncated well below the parapet. The masonry above the arches is squared rough ashlar, unevenly coursed. A stone in the parapet bears a random inscription W C 1764, and on the west side is an inscription recording the widening in 1925.
Kingshurst Hall, ¾ mile west of Bacon's End, is a large red-brick house of two stories and attics dating from c. 1700. The north-east front is recessed in the middle, otherwise the plan is a wide rectangle. The middle entrance has a shell-hood; the windows are slightly arched and have modern sash frames. Around the house, and leaving a fairly narrow space on three sides of it, is a square moat, now dry. The inner revetting wall is of bricks similar to those in the walls of the house, on stone foundations, and the approach to the north-east front is by a brick bridge. The moat is probably much older than the house and is said to mark the site of a seat of the De Montforts. At the west corner outside the moated inclosure is an earlier timber-framed stable, and south-west of the moat is a square mound.
Southfields Farm, about ¾ mile south of the church, is an L-shaped house. The main block facing west is modern, but the back wing retains some timber-framing of c. 1600. The ceilings have wide stopped chamfers and masons' joints where they cross each other. Hawkswell Farm, about ½ mile farther on, has a barn of 17th-century timber-framing in three bays.
Wheeley Moor Farm, 1 mile south of the church, is an early-18th-century house. In the middle of the east front is a later tall porch and staircase wing with a side entrance. A cottage, ¼ mile south of it, retains much of its original framing of c. 1600 and at the back an ancient window.
Alcott Hall, 2¼ miles south-west of the church, is a mid-18th-century house of red brick with a central chimney-stack.
Coleshill Park, the property of the Birmingham Corporation, is now a training colony for mental defectives; and the Marston Green Cottage Homes, on the western edge of the parish, originally erected in 1880 by the Birmingham Board of Guardians for the care of children, have now also been converted into an institution for mental defectives. There are also Roman Catholic Homes for children on the Coventry Road, with a Hospital in connexion therewith. A small almshouse was founded by William Harvey in 1679; and in 1930 Sir John Sumner established a Trust under which ten houses were built for the use of ladies in reduced circumstances.
The Roman Catholics, Congregationalists, and Methodists have places of worship within the parish.
At the time of the Domesday Survey COLESHILL was a royal manor rated for 3 hides. There was a priest here and a mill, and woods 3 leagues in length and 2½ in breadth. There were also 10 burgesses in Tamworth belonging to the manor. (fn. 5)
It is uncertain when the manor passed from royal hands. Dugdale (fn. 6) quotes from a charter of Henry II which ratifies a grant made to Osbert de Clinton by his kinsman Geoffrey de Clinton. In this charter 'there is express mention that Geffrey de Clinton, father to the said Geffrey, did purchase it', which would place the grant in the time of Henry I. Osbert de Clinton married Margaret daughter of William de Hatton, whose father, Hugh, founded Wroxall Priory. In 1200 Margaret claimed dower by gift of her late husband Osbert, and Osbert her son granted her the whole wood called Chelemundesheia (Chelmesley Wood), the whole wood called Witesmore, from the oak which is called Castle Oak to Lutleshare and to Wirsetemede and from Wirsetemede to Bromwich Blakeley. (fn. 7) In 1207 Osbert obtained a royal charter for a weekly market in his manor of Coleshill on a Sunday and an annual fair on the eve and festival of St. Peter and St. Paul. (fn. 8) Osbert sided with the Barons against John, but later returned to his allegiance, whereupon his lands which had been confiscated were returned to him. (fn. 9) At his death in 1222 (fn. 10) he was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas, but the overlordship of the fee was confirmed to William de Briwer, (fn. 11) who immediately sold his rights to William de Cantilupe for 100 marks. (fn. 12)
In 1241 an agreement (fn. 13) was made by which Thomas should hold the manor of Coleshill as one knight's fee from Luke de Culum and Amabel, Ralph son of John and Isabel, and Warin de Bragenham and Agnes, doing homage to Warin and Agnes. William de Cantilupe and the heirs of William de Briwere registered their claims. Amabel, Isabel, and Agnes were daughters and co-heirs of Henry de Clinton, (fn. 14) son of the Geoffrey from whom the first Osbert had acquired the manor. In 1235 Thomas de Clinton was a justice of assize in the county (fn. 15) and from 1251 to 1253 was King's escheator in the county. (fn. 16) In 1254 he was given the right of free warren in his demesne lands of Coleshill. (fn. 17) In 1259 Thomas settled the manor on his second son, John, and his heirs, with contingent remainder to another son Osbert, Thomas to retain a life tenancy at a yearly rent of 50s. (fn. 18) Thomas died in 1278. (fn. 19) During the Barons' War John de Clinton supported Simon de Montfort and was one of those that held out against the king at Kenilworth, (fn. 20) for which action his manor was seized and given to Roger de Clifford in 1265, (fn. 21) but was restored by the Dictum of Kenilworth. (fn. 22) In 1285, 1309, and 1311 he was commissioner for, or justice of, oyer and terminer gaol delivery in Warwickshire. (fn. 23) In 1297 he, together with Andrew de Astley, was entrusted to select knights and esquires in the county thought fit for service, to attend Edward, the king's son, and his lieutenant in England, with horses and arms at London a fortnight after Michaelmas. (fn. 24) In 1284–5 he claimed by prescription within the lordship of Coleshill, assize of bread and ale, gallows, pillory, tumbrell and court leet, infangthef and utfangthef, a market, fair, and free warren. He was then described as John de Clinton the elder. (fn. 25) He died in 1316, holding the manor of the young son and heir of John de Clinton of Maxstoke. (fn. 26) His heir was his 12-year-old grandson, John, (fn. 27) who subsequently married a daughter of Sir Roger Hilary, and died in 1353 or 1354 leaving one daughter Joan. (fn. 28) She as her first husband married Sir John de Montfort, illegitimate son of Sir Peter de Montfort of Beaudesert. (fn. 29)
The Montforts had possessed the adjacent manor of Kingshurst for a long time, and in 1357 Sir John de Montfort complained that various persons, including John le Baillif of Coleshill, had assaulted him at Coleshill in Arden and carried away his goods and £40 in money. (fn. 30) Presumably this refers to the same Montfort who was summoned to parliament in February 1361 as a knight of the shire. (fn. 31) At John's death the manor reverted to his widow Joan, who then married John de Sutton and subsequently Sir Henry Griffith. In 1371 (fn. 32) she entailed the manor in the first place upon her issue by Sir Henry, in the second place on John son of John de Sutton, and in the third upon Baldwin her son by her first husband, to whom it eventually came.
This Baldwin died in Spain in 1385, whither he had gone to attend the Duke of Lancaster. He married Margaret, daughter of Sir John de Clinton of Maxstoke, and had four sons John, William, Baldwin, and Thomas, and one daughter Margaret. John the heir was not of age at his father's death and Sir William Bagot was appointed guardian. (fn. 33) John was succeeded by his brother William who took part in the siege of Calais and was attached to the household of the earl of Warwick. (fn. 34) In 1405 he was concerned in the murder of one Alan Waldeyeve, but was pardoned on 25 April 1407. (fn. 35) He was sheriff for Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1431, 1441, and 1450, (fn. 36) and died in 1452. (fn. 37) Dugdale, quoting his will, dated 22 September 1451, says that he intended to found a chantry at Coleshill, but this was never carried out. (fn. 38)
He was succeeded by his son Sir Baldwin de Montfort or Mountfort, but there was a great dispute as to the inheritance between Baldwin and his half-brother Sir Edmund, who was Sir William's son by his second wife, Joan, (fn. 39) and on whom Sir William had settled the reversion of the manor in 1451. If Edmund left no heir, the manor was to return to the right heirs of Sir William. (fn. 40) Sir William is said also to have enfeoffed Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, of the manor, to the use of Joan and Edmund, which Edmund subsequently settled the reversion, failing his own heirs, on the duke and his son Humphrey, Earl of Stafford. (fn. 41) In 1456 or 1457 Sir Baldwin Mountfort released all his right in the manor to the Duke of Buckingham and others, (fn. 42) but after the duke's death at the battle of Northampton in 1460, and the discrediting of Edmund Mountfort, carver to the deposed Henry VI, he again laid claim to Coleshill. (fn. 43) Baldwin had already enfeoffed the future Edward IV, then Earl of March, Richard, Earl of Warwick, (fn. 44) and others, who might then re-enfeoff himself or his son Simon. (fn. 45) As a result of these transactions Simon entered into possession of the manor before 4 March 1461, that is before the accession of Edward IV. (fn. 46) On 28 August 1465 Sir Simon was described as 'late of Coleshill' and had been guilty of insurrection and other misdeeds, (fn. 47) for which, however, he was pardoned in the following year. (fn. 48) In April 1471 Simon was appointed sheriff of the counties of Warwick and Leicester. (fn. 49) He was retained by the king to serve in the French Wars with 5 spearmen and 60 archers, (fn. 50) and in 1469–70 he was Lieutenant of Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. (fn. 51) He supported Perkin Warbeck in his rebellion and was tried at Guildhall, London, on 30 January 1495 for treason. He was sentenced to be hung, drawn, and quartered—'which said Catastrophe did put a period to the greatness of this antient Familie', as Sir William Dugdale observes. (fn. 52)
On Simon's execution and subsequent attainder (fn. 53) the manor was given in December 1495 by the king to Simon Digby, deputy Constable of the Tower, who had brought Simon de Montfort to his trial, (fn. 54) and Coleshill has been in the Digby family ever since.
Simon Digby died on 24 February 1520, (fn. 55) and is buried in a tomb, made in his lifetime, bearing superb effigies of himself and his wife, in the sanctuary of Coleshill Church. Simon Digby was succeeded by his son Reginald, (fn. 56) whose mother Alice in her will dated November 1496 left a messuage valued at £1 10s. 8d. and certain rents to be distributed on the following conditions: (fn. 57)
Every day in the year immediately after the Sacring of the High Mass in the Church of Colshill, and at the end of the same Altar, where the said Mass should so happen to be sung, to a Child, viz. male or female, whose parents are Householders dwelling within the Parish, and under the age of ix years, that can and will, before the said sacring kneel down at the said Altar's end, and say five Pater nosters, five Aves and a Creede, for the soul of Simon Digby her late husband, hers, her Childrens' and all Christen souls, a peny of silver sterling; beginning first at the House next to the Church, and so in order passing on from House to House till all be gone through: and to the Dean of the said Church, for the time being, yearly for his labour and diligence in seeing the said Prayers so performed; and himself also saying at the said time a Pater noster, an Ave, and a Creed for the souls abovesaid, the yearly summe of vis. viiid. And that the remainder shall be to maintain a solemn Obit in the said Church, for the souls abovesaid, with the number of three Priests, whereof the Vicar of Colshill to be one, and the Deacon and the Clerke besides; the said Vicar, in case he be present, to have viiid. and to xii poor people, the same time kneeling about the Herse and saying our Ladies Psalter, xiid. To the Bell-ringers vd. For Waxe and Torches, burnt then likewise, xiid.
At the Reformation the land and revenues given to maintain the charity were confiscated, but the townspeople acquired the income to maintain the Grammar School and also made a distribution to a child that should come to the church at 10 each morning and repeat the Lord's Prayer before the clerk, who for hearing the child and ringing the bell had a yearly allowance. (fn. 58)
Reginald Digby married Ann Danvers (fn. 59) and died on 25 February 1549. (fn. 60) Like his parents he is buried at Coleshill. His son John, who married Anne Throgmorton of Coughton, (fn. 61) died in 1558, (fn. 62) and was succeeded by Sir George, who married Abigail Henningham. (fn. 63) They had several children. The eldest, George, died young, in 1586, and the heir was his brother Sir Robert. (fn. 64) This Sir Robert made a very judicious marriage with Lettice, grand-daughter of Gerald, Earl of Kildare and Baron Offaly, and herself in 1620 created Baroness Offaly, (fn. 65) who, as the large memorial on the north wall of the sanctuary at Coleshill points out, was 'Heir General to that Antient Family of Earls of Kildare in Ireland', and brought to the Digby family the vast estates of the Earls of Kildare. Though Sir Robert and his children lie buried at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, memorials to them were erected at Coleshill as well, a practice that was also followed in the case of Kildare, Lord Digby. Sir Robert, who died in 1618, was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 66) who in 1620 was created Baron Digby of Geashill in Ireland. (fn. 67) Like his father he married very well, for his first wife was Sarah second daughter of the 1st Earl of Cork. Robert died on 7 June 1642 and was buried with his father in St. Patrick's, Dublin, and his son Kildare, then a minor, succeeded him. (fn. 68)
Kildare, Lord Digby, although Lord Lieutenant of King's County in Ireland, seems to have spent much of his time at Coleshill, where there was at this time an excellent domestic chaplain and tutor at the Hall, named William Rawlins. (fn. 69) He was chaplain to several generations, and is buried in the church, a tablet in the north wall of the tower commemorating him. He lived to be a great friend of the vicar, John Kettlewell, and his wife left, in a will dated 4 March 1694, a handsome charity to the poor of Coleshill. When Kildare died Rawlins wrote an epitaph, but this was eclipsed by the fulsome epitaph to Mary, Kildare's widow, written by John Kettlewell. Kildare was succeeded by his son Robert in 1661, (fn. 70) who in turn was succeeded in 1677 by his brother Simon, Lord Digby, (fn. 71) who is very well known in Coleshill, for he endowed a charity from which many benefit each year. Moreover, this Simon was responsible for bringing John Kettlewell to Coleshill as vicar in 1682. Kettlewell was known as the 'Saint of Coleshill' and seems to have deserved the title. When Simon, Lord Digby, died in 1686 (fn. 72) Kettlewell preached a memorial sermon in which he said: (fn. 73) 'Upon the Death of his excellent Lady, besides his liberality to every adjacent parish for a present Distribution, he allotted a considerable sum to the use of the Poor for a perpetual settlement. And now at his own death he has given a much greater for the use of the poor of this Parish, and restored two Impropriations, one whereof is very considerable, to the Church, viz. the Impropriate Tithes of this Parish of Coles-Hill, and of the Parish of Upper Whitacre.'
Simon died in 1686 and was succeeded by his brother William. (fn. 74) There is an interesting roll of ByLaws, now at Coleshill Rates Office, bearing the date 1728, and drawn up during the lordship of William. (fn. 75) The roll contains thirty by-laws and injunctions, mainly concerned with draining and street cleanliness. Two of the heaviest penalties are 16 and 19:
16. 'And that every person who shall carry fire in or along any street within this Lordship otherwise than in a Lanthorn or Warming Pan shall for every such Offence forfeit to the Lord of this Mannor in the Name of a Pain Thirty shillings.
19. 'And that every person who shall put in the Common feild or Common Meadows or grounds within the Mannor above five sheep for a Day work, two cows for a Day work One horse for a Day work or Young Cattle proportionable shall forfeit to the Lord of this Mannor for every such Offence in the name of a Pain Thirty shillings.'
William, Lord Digby, succeeded his brother Simon in 1686, (fn. 76) and was known as 'the good Lord Digby'. At this time Coleshill was a centre of learning. There was Kettlewell as vicar, while at the Hall William Rawlins, who died in 1676, had been succeeded by Edward Holdsworth, a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and a nonjuror. He wrote two works, Remarks and Dissertations on Virgil with Some Other Classical Observations, published in 1768, and Muscipula, or the Mousetrap, a poem published in 1709. He died suddenly at Coleshill on 30 December 1746 and is buried near the chancel step. (fn. 77)
William, Lord Digby, died in 1752 and was succeeded by his grandson Edward, who, dying unmarried in 1757, was succeeded by his brother Henry. (fn. 78) The title of Lord Digby of Sherborne, extinct on the death of the 3rd Earl of Bristol in 1698, was revived in his favour in 1765, and in 1790 he was created Viscount Coleshill and Earl Digby, dying in 1793. (fn. 79) His son Edward succeeded him and was the 2nd, and last, Earl Digby and Viscount Coleshill, (fn. 80) dying unmarried in 1856, when the manor passed to his nephew George son of Charlotte Mary sister of the 1st Earl Digby, who had in 1796 married William Wingfield. George Wingfield, on succeeding to the estates, took the additional name of Digby, and became the first Wingfield Digby. Once again, however, the squire died childless; and the estates devolved upon his nephew John son of the Rev. John Wingfield Digby, vicar of Coleshill. He died in 1888 and was succeeded by his son John Kenelm Digby Wingfield Digby, who dropped down dead while shooting at Sherborne Castle in 1904. He was succeeded by his son, then a minor, now Colonel Frederick Wingfield Digby, who holds the manor at the present time.
The earliest known record of the manor of GILSON is in 1336, when Richard le Wrong, rector of Shustoke, was holding it for life, and William le Wronge of Coleshill granted the reversion of the manor to Sir Richard de Peshale and his heirs. (fn. 81) From Sir Richard, William de Clinton, Earl of Huntingdon, acquired the manor about 1345. (fn. 82) In 1346 the earl exchanged Gilson with John de Collesley for lands about Collesley's Hall, (fn. 83) a house of which the moat is still plainly visible in a field at the back of Southfields Farm. John de Collesley left Gilson to his daughters Margaret, who married Thomas Holt, and Alice; but in 1349 by a partition it was allotted to Margaret, who with her second husband, Philip de Budeford, (fn. 84) sold it in 1365 to William le Mascy or Massy of Swanley, Cheshire. (fn. 85) The manor passed in succession to his grandson William of Sirscote, Staffs., whose daughter Katherine and her husband William de Chesunhale, of Chisnall, co. Lancs., sold Gilson in 1388 to John de Barwe, a Coventry smith. (fn. 86) The smith, however, next year conveyed it to Richard Richards, who in 1401 alienated it to John Tate of Coventry, and it continued in this family until 1535– 6. (fn. 87) In 1535–6 John Tate sold the manor, then described as Gylston Hall or Guyllysdon Hall, to George Kebyll, (fn. 88) whose son Thomas sold it to John Wise in 1577. (fn. 89) In 1598 John Wise settled the manor on himself for life with successive remainders to his brothers William and Thomas and their heirs. (fn. 90) Gilson remained in the Wise family for a considerable time. William Wise died seised of the manor in 1608 leaving a son Richard, (fn. 91) who in 1656 was dealing with the manor, along with his wife Lucy, Egerton Wise, and Chad Kinge and Mary his wife. (fn. 92) In 1693 Charles Wise was holding the manor of Gillesden alias Gilson Hall, (fn. 93) but he sold it to Thomas Murcot, who was holding it in 1706. (fn. 94) His daughter married John Tarver, and they sold it in 1716 to William, Lord Digby. (fn. 95)
By a lease dated 14 June 1724 William, Lord Digby, Baron of Geashill in the Kingdom of Ireland, let to the Rev. Charles Newburgh of the City of Dublin, clerk, and his daughter Ann the manor of Gilson for £500 for the full term of 500 years 'if the said Charles and Anne Newburgh or either of them shall so long live'. (fn. 96) The manor remained in the hands of the Digby family, who held it till 1921 when Mr. John Townshend, the tenant, bought it.
The manor of 'Oldecoteshalle' or ALCOTT (at the south-west end of Chelmesley Wood) was forfeited by Richard de Lymesy in 1322. (fn. 97) Alice, the widow of Richard de Seyeldoun, granted to William de Charneles of Bedworth 'Aldecotenhale' in Coleshill. (fn. 98) The deed is not dated, but it was probably this William who in 1332 settled on himself and Margaret his wife land including Aldecotenhale. (fn. 99) In 1383 William's widow Margaret gave the manor to her son John, (fn. 100) who settled the property on himself and his wife Elizabeth in 1384–5, (fn. 101) and their estates were subsequently acquired by Sir William Astley. (fn. 102) In 1434–5 Margaret widow of Sir William Astley conveyed Alcott to Richard Orme, (fn. 103) her act being confirmed by Reynold, Lord Hastings, her son-in-law, to whom the reversion of the estate belonged. (fn. 104) Reynold's descendant, Sir Edward Grey, Viscount Lisle, at his death in 1492 owned pasture and woodland in Alcotenhall, which was held of Sir Simon Montfort, the lord of Coleshill. (fn. 105) In 1593 John Bellers and his wife Eleanor were dealing with the manor, so called, of Alcote Hall, (fn. 106) and again in 1610 (fn. 107) John Bellers, with his wife, here named Helen, and a son and heir named William conveyed the manor to John Brandreth and Humphrey Mayou. In 1692 John Bembowe conveyed to Arthur Devereux the manors of Aldcoate alias Aldcott, Lindon, and Shustoke. (fn. 108) It is, however, doubtful if the estate ever had manorial rights.
In a Rental Book of John Taylor dated 1754–63, now in the Birmingham Reference Library, Alcott Hall appears as let by Taylor to John Taverner at a rent of £45 a year. Eventually it was absorbed into the Digby estates.
The manor of KINGSHURST is said to have belonged to the Montforts before they acquired Coleshill and to have descended to Richard second son of Peter de Montfort in about 1368. (fn. 109) His widow Rose in 1418 is said to have enfeoffed John de Catesby who married her granddaughter Margaret, co-heiress of William de Montfort, (fn. 110) but the manor was subsequently regained by the lords of Coleshill, and Sir Baldwin Montfort held it. (fn. 111) His son, Sir William Montfort or Mountfort, lived here in about 1390 (fn. 112) and established his title against John de Catesby. (fn. 113) Sir William is said to have added much of his demesne land of Coleshill to this manor and to have bequeathed it to his younger son, Sir Edmund Mountfort, who lived here and made the PARK here in 1447–8. (fn. 114) His possession does not appear to have been undisputed since in 1458 or 1459, his half-brother Sir Baldwin released his right in Kingshurst manor to Humphrey Stafford, eldest son of Henry, Duke of Buckingham; (fn. 115) and in 1474–5 Richard Monford, clerk, presumably his brother, did the same. (fn. 116) Baldwin's son, Simon Mountfort, is described in 1465 as late of Kingshurst, (fn. 117) and was attainted in 1495, (fn. 118) from which time the profits of this manor were found, by inquisition, to have passed to Simon Digby till his death in 1520, after which they passed to his son Reginald or Reynold Digby. (fn. 119) It was maintained in this same inquisition made in 1526 that Kingshurst had from time out of mind been a separate manor and never part of Coleshill. (fn. 120) It has been said, however, that the manor did not pass with Coleshill to the Digbys. (fn. 121) It was conveyed to Simon Mountfort and others in 1529 (fn. 122) and Simon addressed a letter from there to Cromwell in 1531. (fn. 123) In 1534 the attainder against Sir Simon Mountfort was reversed, and his grandson, this Simon, was granted the manor of Kingshurst. (fn. 124) The Digby family still disputed possession of the manor, but in 1578 George Digby made a conveyance of Kingshurst to Francis and William Mountfort. (fn. 125) William Mountfort was holding the manor of the king, by fealty and rent of a red rose, at his death in 1610. (fn. 126) He also held Kingshurst Park. (fn. 127) On 24 October 1601 on his son Edward's marriage with Elizabeth daughter of Valentine Browne he settled this manor, with others, on them and their heirs male. (fn. 128) Sir Edward Mountfort subsequently passed away all his rights in the manor to Sir Robert Digby, (fn. 129) lord of Coleshill (q.v.), with which manor Kingshurst subsequently descended.
The parish church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL consists of a chancel, with a north vestry, nave, north and south aisles and porches, and a west tower with a spire. The building was very drastically restored in 1868–9 and much of the evidence of its historical development was lost. Not only was all the external masonry renewed but the internal stonework was scraped, if not replaced by modern material. The contours of mouldings, &c., were probably altered in the process but retain enough of their original forms to indicate approximately their dates. The earliest surviving parts of the structure are the four eastern bays of the seven-bay arcades; these date from c. 1340, indicating an original nave of about 54 ft. in length to which the aisles were added. The nave was lengthened subsequently about 32 ft. and the west tower was added. Dugdale states that the tower was built by William de Montfort who succeeded to the Coleshill manor in 1384–5, but its details suggest a date at least half a century later than this. From the way the eastern diagonal buttresses obtrude upon the aisles it is probable that the original extension was aisleless and that aisles were added at the end of the century. The arcade capitals differ entirely from those of the tower archway. Before 1868 the aisles of the 14th-century portion of the nave were of the present width (c. 18 ft.), but those of the 15th-century portion were narrow and were covered by the continuance downwards of the slopes of the nave-roof. Had the tower and the narrow aisles been coeval the eastern angles of the tower would have been treated differently within the church. The chancel was rebuilt, also late in the 15th century: it was erected probably around the earlier chancel, of which no traces are left. The west tower had a spire which was struck by lightning in 1550 and was then re-erected 15 ft. less in height. It was again rebuilt in 1888. The east wall of the chancel was restored in 1907.
The chancel (about 39 ft. by 24 ft.) has a modern east window of seven lights and vertical tracery. In each side wall are three windows, each of five lights and vertical tracery in a four-centred head with hood-moulds: parts of the jambs and splays may be original, although re-tooled. Below the westernmost window in each wall is a two-light pseudo-window or blank, of modern masonry. These may be reproductions of former low side windows, although in their present form they have never been glazed. Below the west jamb of the middle north window is a moulded and four-centred doorway to the vestry; its crocketed hood-mould has damaged stops carved as harts. The general floor-level of the chancel has been raised so that there are now three steps down to its threshold. In the south wall opposite to it is a similar doorway for priests; its mouldings which are external have been restored. The walls are of red sandstone ashlar and have a moulded plinth. The angles have diagonal buttresses and each side wall three square buttresses (one at the west end). Above them are carved spouts and crocketed pinnacles. The parapets are embattled. The roof, almost flat, is modern but the stone corbels supporting the four trusses may be ancient: they are carved as demi-angels with shields.
In the south wall are the mutilated remains of two canopied sedilia.
The chancel arch has responds and two-centred head of two chamfered orders. The moulded capitals are probably of the 14th century but have been reworked.
The nave (about 86 ft. by 18½ ft.) has north and south arcades of seven bays, with short responds between the fourth and fifth bays. The pillars are octagonal with plain bases and moulded capitals; the capitals of the four eastern bays are of early-14th-century form retooled; those of the western bays are of late-15th-century form and are larger and higher. All the arches are two-centred and of two chamfered orders. The high walls above the arcades are unpierced except for one modern three-light window over each of the easternmost pillars. The gabled roof is modern and is of trussed rafter type.
The north aisle (about 18 ft. wide) has east and west windows of three lights and geometrical tracery; the western is set in the south part of the wall. In the north wall are four windows, each of two trefoiled lights and tracery. The north doorway, between the third and fourth, has moulded jambs and pointed head: the hood-mould has shield stops carved with the Digby arms and initials G D W D. (fn. 130) None of the masonry of the windows and doorway is ancient. The walls are of sandstone ashlar in large courses, almost entirely modern. At the angles are diagonal buttresses, and there are two buttresses forming three bays outside, east of the modern porch.
The south aisle is generally similar but has five south windows and the south buttresses form four bays east of the porch. The shield stops to the doorway have the Digby arms and a monogram J. D. W. D. (fn. 131) Both aisles have modern gabled roofs of trussed rafter type.
The west tower (about 17 ft. square inside) is of three stages and built of red sandstone ashlar in small courses. It has a moulded plinth, and an embattled parapet above a range of trefoiled panels; the merlons are also panelled and at the angles are gargoyles. The diagonal angle-buttresses, of five stages, change to square buttresses at the bell-chamber or third stage, where they are treated with trefoiled panels with crocketed hood-moulds. They are surmounted by crocketed pinnacles above the parapet. The archway towards the nave has responds of two orders; the inner is rounded, with a very wide flat fillet in the reveal and with moulded capitals at the springing level: the outer is sunk-chamfered and continuous in the two-centred head, which has a chamfered inner order. The west doorway has moulded jambs and a four-centred head with a crocketed hood-mould having large demi-angel stops. The west window is of five cinquefoiled lights and vertical tracery in a two-centred head with a crocketed hood-mould: the stops are carved as winged monsters. The second stage has a window in each wall of two trefoiled lights and tracery in a four-centred head with a similar hood-mould. Above the west, north, and south windows are canopied niches with crocketed hood-moulds; the corbels are carved with winged beasts. The north and south niches contain ancient images, now headless. All are covered by skeleton clock-dials.
The bell-chamber has a pair of windows in each side with trefoiled lights, embattled transoms, and fourcentred main heads. They are flanked by blanks of the same design. All have crocketed hood-moulds with stops carved as winged beasts, heads downwards. In the south-west angle is a stair-vice with four-centred doorways and lighted by loops with crocketed hood-moulds. All the masonry has been restored. The octagonal spire has crocketed moulded angles and ranges of twin trefoiled spire-lights. At the apex is a gilded ball and vane.
The most interesting features of the church are the font and the sepulchral monuments.
The font is of mid- to late-12th-century date. The bowl is cylindrical and its side is carved with panels. The widest, towards the east, contains the Crucifixion; a large ring pierced with small holes or dots surrounds our Lord and crosses over the lower parts of the figures of our Lady and St. John. The other nine panels are narrow and are divided by pilasters with scalloped capitals supporting semicircular arches. Four of them contain low-relief carved standing figures of nimbed saints, apparently ecclesiastics. One holds an object probably a book and two others have short flowered staves resembling sceptres. The other five alternate panels are filled with scrolled foliage, and there is some foliage in the sides of the Crucifixion panel. The stem has a moulded top member of the 14th century. The base is hollow-chamfered and changes to octagonal plan in the lower half.
The church is rich in recumbent effigies, of which there are 8 altogether. The two oldest are set in 15th-century recesses in the north and south aisles. Both are cross-legged knights of c. 1300, dressed in mail coifs and hauberks, long surcoats, and leather breeches, or knee-caps. Their feet rest on lions or hounds; the northern beast is headless. On their left sides are swords. The northern effigy has a shield with the arms of Clinton of Coleshill, a chief with two fleurs de lis. It is suspended by a guige that passes over his right shoulder. The right side of his legs and surcoat is mutilated. The southern is better preserved. The head rests on two cushions, north of which is a small blank shield.
In the chancel are four altar tombs to members of the Digby family, two on either side. The oldest, in the north-east corner, is to Simon Digby, died 27 February 1519 (1520), and Alice (fn. 132) his wife (date not completed). The tomb and effigies are of alabaster. The man's head rests on his helm, which has lost its crest. He wears full plate and mail armour of the period and a collar of S.S., a sword on his left, and the remains of his dagger on his right. His hands are in prayer; the gauntlets lie by his right leg. His feet rest against a lion. The woman, on his left, has her head resting on cushions with tiny angels, now headless, holding the corner tassels. She wears a veiled pedimental headdress, a chain necklace, a tight corsage below a sideless gown which has a full skirt. About her waist is a girdle with tasselled pendant cords and a medallion from which is suspended a chain and pomander sachet. At her feet are two tiny dogs. The sides of the tomb are panelled with foiled diamonds in squares enclosing shields. At the angles are twisted shafts painted black. The capping is moulded and has a frieze on which is carved the inscription in Latin. The moulded plinth is enriched with flower or foliage paterae. The shields are painted with the arms of Digby and Walleys.
The next in date is to 'Reginolde Dygby Esquyer' son of Simon, died 25 April 1549, and Anne (fn. 133) his wife (date not completed). It is the western of the two on the south side and formerly stood free of the wall, as the inscription is carried round all four sides of the moulded edge of the top slab. This slab, of alabaster, is incised with their effigies in outline; the lines were filled with bitumen, some of which survives. The man is portrayed with long hair, his head resting on his helm; he wears full armour of the period with exaggerated pauldrons, elbow- and knee-cops, &c., and his feet rest on a greyhound. The woman has a close head-dress with fur trimming, bodice with an embroidered collar and pleated sleeves bound at the wrists with cords, a mantle with pendant false sleeves, and fastened down the front below the waist with tags, but raised a little at the bottom to reveal her pleated skirt and shoes. Below them are the figures of eight sons in gowns and four daughters with close caps and puff sleeves, &c. The base is almost a replica of the other; on the plinth mould are carved the initials R A D in Lombardic capitals. On the north side are five shields and at the ends three, painted with the arms of Digby and Danvers. The inscription is in English.
The third in point of date is the western on the north side to 'John Dyggeby of Colleshull', (fn. 134) died 15 November 1558, and Anne his wife, daughter of Sir George Throgmorton, who died 21 December in the same year. Their recumbent effigies are of painted alabaster. The man's head, with long hair, moustache, and forked beard, rests on his mantled helm which bears the Digby crest, an ostrich painted black, now headless. He wears full armour, with three chains about his neck and resting on his cuirass, pleated wristlets, a girdle of twisted cord, a guige with a sword on his left, &c. His feet rest on a lion. The woman has a close cap, beaded and jewelled, close collar with a frilled edge and bound by a chain necklet, close bodice and tight sleeves with crimped cuffs, and a mantle tied in front from neck to waist with cord tags but open below to show the skirt, and having long false sleeves with puffed shoulders, cheveron ornament, and slashes held together by knotted tags. A tiny dog bites the end of the mantle. The base has square pilasters at the angles and intermediate twisted shafts. At the east end are the small standing figures of four sons, one in armour, two in boys' gowns, and the fourth a swaddled baby. At the west end is a shield with the arms of Digby (five quarterings) impaling Throgmorton (seven quarterings), set in a circlet. On the south side are three shields charged 1 Digby, 3 Throgmorton, and 2 the two impaled in the remains of a similar circlet. The inscription is in English.
The fourth, in the south-east angle, is to Sir George son of John died February 1586 (7), and Abigail his wife, daughter of Sir Henry Heningam (Heveningham), Knight Banneret. Their painted recumbent effigies are separate carvings. The knight is bearded and his head rests on two cushions. He wears full trunks and Elizabethan armour painted black, with a good deal of gilded guilloche enrichment. His gloved hands are in prayer and his feet rest on his gauntlets. The lady wears a close head-dress with a French hood turned over on top from back to front, a ruff, a tight corsage which has a collar of point lace, and stiff shoulders, a linen sleeved under-bodice with turn-over cuffs and a full skirt. She appears to be lying on a long veil, and her head rests on two cushions. It is all painted black except the jewelled fillet in the head-dress and the cushion-tassels. The alabaster slab has moulded edges and is supported by Doric shafts. On the north side are the kneeling figures of four sons, the first an infant, the other three with beards or moustaches and wearing armour. At the west end is the figure of a daughter in a close cap, ruff, and red dress; her hands are missing. The inscription (in modern lettering) is on a tablet on the east wall set between a pair of Doric shafts that carry an entablature. Above it is an achievement of the Digby arms (five quarterings).
Other monuments in the chancel include a stone tablet on the north wall to Sir Robert Digby, Knight, son of Sir George died 1614, and his son Robert, created Lord Digby of Geashill, Ireland, 1642. Both were buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
Against the south wall is a pedestal and urn with an inscription to Kildare, Lord Digby (son of Robert the first Baron). He married Mary daughter of Robert Gardiner of London, and died 1661. He also was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In the chancel floor are four brasses: (1) Near the north wall, is the figure of a priest 12½ in. high, in mass vestments and holding the Host; the Latin inscription below is to William Abell, former vicar, who died 18 May 1500. (2) In the middle of the chancel, the figure of a priest wearing a cassock and lawn sleeves, 18½ in. high. He holds a book inscribed 'Verbũ dei'. The inscription is to 'Syr John Fenton, prest & Bachelar of Law, sumtyme vicar of this church and Offishall of Coventree who Deceassed the XVI daye of Maye 1566'. It is set in a slab of shelly grey marble. (3) North of the altar table, the figure of a woman, 25½ in. high, wearing a pedimental head-dress, gown with full skirt, girdle, and pendant. Her hands are in prayer. A marginal inscription on the marble slab is to Alice Clifton, 'late the wyffe of Robert Clifton Esqre and daughter of Simon Digby Esqre wch Alice' …(part missing) … 'and the yeare of our lord God MCCCCCVI'. (4) South of the altar, a grey marble slab with a marginal inscription to Mary wife of John Milward of Bradnash, co. Derby, who lived at Coleshill Hall with Lady Offaly and died 1651. (5) Under the chancel arch, an inscription to Robert Beresford died 1651, with an achievement of arms.
There are 8 bells, 6 of 1720 by Joseph Smith of Edgbaston and 2 of 1923.
The registers date from 1538.
In the churchyard by the south porch are the base and part of the shaft of a medieval cross.
The ancient parish of Coleshill included the villages of Lea Marston, Over Whitacre, and Nether Whitacre, whose churches were chapels to Coleshill. Domesday records a priest, and it would seem that the advowson went with the lordship until at least 1259, when Thomas de Clinton recognized the manor, with the advowson of the church, to be the right of John de Clinton, (fn. 135) who in 1279 sold his claims to the advowson to Markyate Priory, Beds. (fn. 136) From this time down to the Dissolution the priory held the advowson. (fn. 137) In January 1453 the prioress let at farm the church, with houses and tithes, to Sir William Mountfort, his wife Jane, and son Edmund; but by May 1454 they had paid no rent and still owed various charges to the bishop. (fn. 138)
After the Dissolution the priory was given to George Ferrers, (fn. 139) but the advowson of Coleshill was retained by the Crown until March 1539, when it was given to Charles, Duke of Suffolk, (fn. 140) whose daughter Mary had married Thomas Stanley, Lord Monteagle, (fn. 141) and their son William, Lord Monteagle, appears as patron in 1562. (fn. 142) By 1573 the advowson was in the hands of the Digbys, (fn. 143) whose descendants still hold it. In 1577 John Neville's name appears together with that of George Digby, but in 1606 John Neville and his wife Alice quitclaimed their right to Sir Robert Digby. (fn. 144)
Baroness Offaly, who married Sir Robert Digby (1586–1618), gave the church a silver-gilt chalice; but in 1685 Archbishop Sancroft dedicated the present plate. (fn. 148) The vessels to be consecrated, a paten, two chalices, a flagon, and a basin (all of which, with the exception of the basin, are still in use) were placed on a table before the altar. Then the vicar, Kettlewell, handed each in turn to the Archbishop, 'whereupon the Archbishop after an answere of approbation and a devout invocation of the Holy Name of God, in terms very pathetic and appropriate to the occassion, standing before the midst of the altar did receive in the Name of God from the hands of the presenter, kneeling, each piece of plate separately and did place it upon the altar'.
John Kettlewell, 'the Saint of Coleshill', was vicar in 1682. He was a native of Northallerton, being born there in 1653. In 1670 he was a student of St. Edmund's Hall and a fellow of Lincoln College in 1675. He was appointed chaplain to the Countess of Bedford, and in 1682 vicar of Coleshill, which he resigned in 1690, for he was a nonjuror. He died five years later and was buried in Laud's tomb in All Hallows' Barking. He was a voluminous writer, and his collected works, together with a life by Dean Hickes and Robert Nelson, were published in 1719.
Simon, 4th Lord Digby, left £500 to trustees for such good, pious, and charitable uses as they should think fit. By deed dated 14 February 1694 the said trustees covenanted that the £500 should be laid out in the purchase of lands, the issues to be disposed of as follows: (1) an annual sum of £2 10s. to buy Bibles, Prayer Books, &c., for distribution among poor inhabitants; (2) £5 to be applied annually in physic and things necessary to recover health for the poor of the parish; (3) £5 per annum to be expended in clothes for poor widows and housekeepers within the parish; (4) £4 yearly to be employed in teaching poor boys and girls; (5) £6 yearly in apprenticing one poor boy; and any surplus to be applied to apprentices.
Offalia Rawlins by will dated 24 December 1687 left the residue of her estate for charitable uses at the discretion of her executor. The residue consisting of £100 was by deed dated 4 March 1694 settled by the executor in the same manner as the £500 mentioned in the preceding deed.
William, Lord Digby, brother of Simon, having become possessed of the whole of the £600 settled by the two preceding deeds, purchased a fee farm rent of £35 17s. issuing out of the manor of Curdworth as a security for the charities.
Thomas Everett by will dated 27 February 1712 gave his brother John Everett two tenements in Coleshill for life and bequeathed the same after the death of his brother to the use of the poor of Coleshill. By deed dated 1 December 1717 John Everett conveyed to the trustees of Simon, Lord Digby's Charity two cottages in Coleshill.
John Everett by indenture dated 7 February 1720 conveyed to the trustees of Simon, Lord Digby's Charity three tenements in Coleshill towards the support of the Charity School in Coleshill for educating poor girls.
Gustavus Brooke by indenture dated 8 May 1761 granted to Henry, Lord Digby, a yearly rent-charge of 40s. issuing out of land in Coleshill called Dog Lane Croft and Peploe Croft, for clothing such poor people of the parish as Lord Digby and his heirs and the vicar of Coleshill as trustees of Simon, Lord Digby's Charity should think fit.
John Adamson by will directed that the sum of £20 should be placed out for the use of the poor of Coleshill and the interest distributed in bread to such of the poor people as should come to church and hear Divine Service. Of this legacy only £15, which was deposited in the hands of Lord Digby, could be recovered from the executors.
Margery Orton by will gave to the trustees of Simon, Lord Digby's Charity the sum of £10, the interest to be distributed in bread among poor housekeepers in Coleshill.
William, Lord Digby's Charity. By deed dated 21 May 1730 William, Lord Digby, in consideration of the sums of £15 and £10 left by J. Adamson and M. Orton, sold to the vicar of Coleshill a messuage in Coleshill then used for a Charity School for girls, also two cottages in Coleshill, an acre of meadow ground lying in Cole Meadow, and a cottage with barns, buildings, gardens, and appurtenances thereto belonging. The deed directs that out of the issues of the property 15s. and 10s. shall be paid yearly to the churchwardens for distribution as directed in the wills of J. Adamson and M. Orton, the surplus to be applied to the use of the mistress of the Charity School.
Gustavus Long by will bequeathed £10 for the use of the Girls' School.
By a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 18 October 1907 the above-mentioned charities (which appeared to have been administered as one charity) and their endowments were divided into separate foundations known as the Educational Foundation of Simon, Lord Digby, and others, and the Non-Educational Charity. The endowment of the non-educational charity then consisted of a rent-charge of £32 3s. 7d. (subject to a payment of £8 16s. 7d. to the educational foundation), a rent-charge of £2, five houses, and gardens at Coleshill, and £107 16s. 4d. Consols.
Huntbach's Charity, or The Whitacre Dole. By deed dated 1 June 1652, made in pursuance of the will of Thomas Huntbach dated 1 June 1628, a cottage and land in Nether Whitacre were conveyed to trustees to the use of the poor of Coleshill. The endowment is now represented by 7 acres (approx.) of land at Nether Whitacre let at an annual rent of £9.
Mrs. Mantell left by will in 1754 £20 to the poor of Coleshill. This sum was invested in Consols and produces an income of 10s. 4d.
Mary Wharr, who died in 1842, gave by will to the vicar and churchwardens £200 Consols, the dividends to be distributed among 24 poor widows of Coleshill. The stock now produces an annual income of £5.
James Tavener by will dated 1851 gave to the vicar and churchwardens £500, the interest to be applied in the distribution of coals and clothing to the poor of Coleshill. The legacy was invested and now produces an annual income of £11. 3s. 8d.
Mary Proctor by will proved 24 January 1867 gave £50 to the trustees of Thomas Huntbach's Charity, the interest to be distributed to the poor of Coleshill. The legacy produces £1 6s. 4d. annually in dividends.
Thomas Harris by will proved 14 January 1858 gave to the churchwardens and overseers £40, the interest to be distributed equally among six poor widows of Coleshill. This now produces £1 1s. 8d. annually.
By a Scheme of the said Commissioners dated 30 May 1911 it was directed that the above-mentioned six charities shall be included with the said non-educational charity of Simon, Lord Digby, and others under the same title and managed by a body of seven trustees appointed by the 1907 Scheme. The scheme provides for the income of the charities to be applied for the benefit of the poor of Coleshill in such way as the trustees consider most advantageous to the recipients and most conducive to the formation of provident habits. The endowment of the charities now produces an annual income of £110 (approx.).