A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1947.
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Ansley is a large parish to the west of Nuneaton. The road from Coleshill to Nuneaton branches at Church End, the old village containing the church, school, and vicarage, one branch leading southward to Astley. Along this the houses of the present village extend for nearly a mile.
Bourne Brook passes from north-east to south-west through the parish and forms part of the south-western boundary between Ansley and Arley. Ansley mill is on this brook. A water-mill at Ansley was conveyed by John Colepeper to Ralph Pickering, clerk, and John Dyson in 1550, (fn. 1) and a water grist mill belonged to the manor in 1728. (fn. 2)
The soil is stiff and very fertile, equally divided between arable and pasture. The population in 1841 was 701, some of whom were occupied in weaving of ribbons. (fn. 3)
Ansley Park was made by John Ludford about 1750 and contains about 100 acres. It was described in 1814 as well stocked with deer, (fn. 4) and in the park there was a 'hermitage' built from the stone of 'an ancient oratory', once belonging to Bretts Hall. Here the poet Thomas Warton wrote some verses when visiting Ansley in 1758. (fn. 5)
Coal has been worked in the parish, but only on a small scale until c. 1879, when the Ansley Hall Coal and Iron Company bought the manor. The parish was once part of the forest of Arden, but in 1791 it contained only 50 acres and in 1849 about 37 acres of woodland. (fn. 6) The hedgerows abound in oak and ash, which gives the parish a well-wooded appearance.
Ansley Hall is now used chiefly as a club and belongs to the Ansley Colliery Co. The plan is irregular. It has two conjoined long ranges on the south and east sides of a courtyard, the southern extending westwards and the eastern northwards. On the north side, towards the roadway, is a shorter range; the north front of this has two projecting end wings, the north end of the east range being one of them, and a middle porch-wing with a way through to the courtyard. The main stair-hall is a projection in the south-east angle of the courtyard, and there is a modern wing running north from the south range and almost closing the west side of the courtyard.
The oldest part is the middle of the south range; this is of late-16th-century date, but probably incorporates remains of an earlier building. At the west end of the south wall, seen inside the hall, is the oak framing of a former pointed doorway which certainly looks medieval. The wall, rough-cast externally, is probably timber-framed—at least in the upper story. It has three gables, and in front of the middle of these is an Elizabethan stone bay window: the other windows are modern. It has two rooms on the ground floor, the hall and a smaller chamber east of it, with a chimney-stack between them. In it the smaller chamber has a moulded stone fire-place with a four-centred arch; above it are three square detached shafts of thin bricks. The hall has a later 17th-century chimney-stack projecting from its north side. Another room west of the hall with a bay window is a modern extension. A small entrance hall (from the garden), east of the oldest part, the long east range, and probably the staircase, were added about 1700. The two lower stories of the east range are of brickwork of this period with sash windows and a bay window at the projecting south end. About 1750 three towers, of brickwork with rusticated stone quoins, were raised above the range, the middle being the highest, and about 1800 the spaces between the towers were filled in to form a complete third story to the range.
The north range towards the road is of c. 1720–30. The middle porch wing has a round-headed entrance flanked by pairs of stone Doric shafts supporting an entablature and pediment. A passage leads through to the courtyard. Over the middle of the range is a turret with a clock. The kitchen and scullery (north end of east range) have wide-arched fire-places of brick. The billiard-room, farther south, is lined with early-18th-century panelling and has a south fire-place with fluted pilasters and panelled overmantel.
South of the west end of the south range is the 'Orangery', (fn. 9) a small detached building in which are re-used late-17th-century stone fragments, including Ionic capitals, pieces of a moulded cornice, &c., said to have come from Bretts Hall. The building is of red brick with rusticated stone quoins and has a round-headed entrance.
In the grounds of the modern house next south are several fragments of carved masonry, from Caldecote Church. These include pieces of a funeral monument (fn. 10) like those of the Purefoys at the west end of that church and some broken scraps of a 12th-century round fontbowl. The complete lower part of the bowl, used as a flower-pot, shows the shafts of arcade ornament around the side, and the two or three other pieces show that the arcading with round heads contained carving, possibly human figures.
The manor of ANSLEY was held together with Hartshill by the Countess Godeva before the Conquest. In 1086 it was farmed with the rest of her estates by Nicholas. (fn. 11) It was said in 1482 to be held of the Prior of St. Mary's, Coventry, (fn. 12) and it descended with Hartshill (q.v.) to Sir Alexander Colepeper. (fn. 13)
Sir Thomas Colepeper, grandfather of Sir Alexander, had in 1410 enfeoffed Henry Ludford of pastures in Ansley containing 50 acres, to hold at a rent of 24s. 10d.; and Sir Alexander in 1505 gave to John Ludford, grandson of Henry, Ansteley Hay and Oxehay and the Hall grounds, amounting to another 140 acres. At John's death about 1532 he was holding 300 acres of Sir Alexander. (fn. 14) As the manor was entailed these grants gave rise to various controversies between the Colepepers and Ludfords. William Ludford, son and successor of John Ludford, claimed the manor of Ansley and was accused by Sir Alexander Colepeper of stealing a deed relating to the lease of Ansteley Hay and Oxehay from Sir Alexander's house in Kent. (fn. 15) This matter was settled by arbitration in 1535, (fn. 16) but further disagreements arose between Sir Alexander's son Thomas and Thomas Ludford, who had succeeded his father William in 1540. (fn. 17) This also was settled by arbitration in 1544, Ludford agreeing to pay rent for the Ansley lands to Colepeper. (fn. 18) Thomas Ludford died in 1556 holding land in Ansley. (fn. 19)
Thomas Colepeper's brother John sold the manor in 1551 to Robert and Edmund Wyeth of Loughborough, co. Leicester. (fn. 20) They sold it in 1562–3 to John Rampton of Atherston, (fn. 21) who with his wife Joyce conveyed it in 1567 to George Wyghtman of Elmesthorpe, co. Leicester. (fn. 22) Wyghtman mortgaged it in 1591–2 to William Glover, afterwards a knight and alderman of London. He obtained in 1601 from Thomas Wyghtman of Burbage, son and heir of George, a release of all his title in the manor, which passed to Sir Thomas Glover, son of Sir William. (fn. 23) Sir Thomas and his mother Anne sold it in 1608 to James Wightman of Brackman, co. Leicester, (fn. 24) and he with his son Thomas conveyed it in 1611 to Matthew Bates, (fn. 25) who with the Wightmans sold it to George son of Michael Ludford and grandson of Thomas named above. (fn. 26) George settled the estate in 1618 upon Sarah Warren, his intended wife, and died in 1627, leaving a son John not quite 3 years old. (fn. 27) John Ludford was buried at Ansley in 1675. He had several sons, but all died without issue. James, the longest survivor, died in 1699 at the age of 44, and under his will Ansley manor passed to his nephew Thomas Bracebridge, son of his sister Jane, on condition that he should take the name Ludford. (fn. 28) Thomas died leaving no children, and his brother Samuel Bracebridge succeeded to Ansley. He also took the name Ludford, and died in 1727. (fn. 29) His son John made conveyances of the manor in 1728 and in 1749, probably on his marriage with Juliana daughter of Sir Richard Newdigate, bart. (fn. 30)
John was succeeded in 1775 by a son John Newdigate Ludford, (fn. 31) who left no sons, and on his death in 1826 Ansley passed to his eldest daughter Elizabeth Juliana, wife of Sir John Chetewode, bart., who then assumed the names of Newdigate Ludford before his own. (fn. 32) A man calling himself Frederick Ludford asserted his right to the manor in 1845, and actually succeeded in obtaining possession of Ansley Hall for a time, (fn. 33) but Sir J. N. L. Chetwode had recovered it by 1850. (fn. 34)
MONEWODE is mentioned as a manor in a settlement by John de Hartshill in 1365, (fn. 35) and was in the possession of the Colepepers, lords of Ansley, in 1426 and 1437. (fn. 36) It was pledged with Hartshill and Ansley in 1475 by John Colepeper to Brian Talbot, (fn. 37) and belonged to John Colepeper on his death in 1481. (fn. 38) It is not mentioned after this as a manor, but a good deal of land at Monewood was sold with Ansley demesnes to the Ludfords. (fn. 39)
William de Hartshill, who died in 1261, gave land in Ansley, which Hereward lately held of him, to William le Bret, for a rent of a pair of white gloves, and foreign service belonging to a virgate of land. (fn. 40) This was afterwards known as the manor of BRETTS HALL. Henry son and heir of William le Bret was a minor when William died, and in 1281 his wardship and that of his brothers Robert and William was sold by Sir John de Montalt to Gilbert, vicar of Eaton. (fn. 41) In 1303 Henry le Bret and his wife Margaret had a grant of 3 acres of waste land from William de Hartshill, and in 1320 Henry had licence from John de Hartshill to inclose the way below his house called Brettes house from the corner of his garden to Hunnettes Stile, and to plant trees and build a house there. (fn. 42) Henry also obtained from Maud, daughter and heir of Walter, the clerk of Ansley, her capital messuage and land in Ansley, granted to Walter by William de Hartshill. (fn. 43) William le Bret, son of Henry, had licence for an oratory at Bretts Hall in 1359. (fn. 44) This William was followed by a son and grandson of the same name. The latter died about 1470, (fn. 45) leaving a daughter Christine, wife of John More, afterwards Christine Jenkyns, who died without issue. (fn. 46) Christine by her will left Bretts Hall to a trustee to settle the manor in tail male on William and Richard Palmer, sons of Joan wife of Robert Palmer, a sister of the last William le Bret. William Palmer died leaving three daughters: Elizabeth, wife of William Purefoy, and after of Thomas Brett; Anne, wife of William Harecourt; and Mary, who married William Pochin, grandson of Joyce Pochin or Pygeon, sister of Joan Palmer and William Brett. (fn. 47)
John Brendwood, Christine's trustee, was required by William Palmer's daughters to deliver the deeds to them, and John, son and heir of Richard Palmer, also sued him for them. (fn. 48) John Palmer's claim seems to have been ignored, and the manor passed to the heirs-at-law of William le Bret. William Pochin sold his interest in 1545 to John Purefoy, and a partition was made in 1571 between John and George Harcourt. (fn. 49) John was succeeded by Michael Purefoy, who in 1591 conveyed the whole manor of Bretts Hall to John Whyte. (fn. 50) It remained in this family until 1658, when Thomas White sold it to William Thornton of Mancetter, who in turn sold it in 1661 to John Stratford of Horston Grange in Nuneaton. His descendant Francis Stratford exchanged it in 1732 with John Ludford, lord of Ansley manor. (fn. 51) The site and most of the demesne land of Bretts Hall were inclosed in the park at Ansley Hall about 1750. (fn. 52)
The chancel and nave are of mid-late 12th-century origin, but the only actual details of this period are the chancel arch, the reset north doorway, and probably the south doorway. The chancel was doubled in length about the middle of the 18th century, the original east wall being pierced by a new archway. The west tower and the clearstory of the nave were added late in the 15th century. In 1913 the north aisle was added and the 12th-century north doorway reset in the new wall. Restorations to the fabric took place in 1894 and 1902. A west gallery was removed in 1931.
The chancel consists of the 12th-century chancel, about 15½ ft. east to west by 16 ft., and the 18th-century chancel, 18 ft. square, east of it, in all 36½ ft. long. The 18th-century part has a small quatrefoiled circular window with a moulded stone frame, hidden inside by the reredos. In the north wall is a 15th-century reset window of three cinquefoiled lights and intersecting tracery in a four-centred head; it was probably the former east window. The south wall was pierced only by an 18th-century doorway with moulded jambs and ogee head, now blocked. The walls are of red sandstone ashlar with a chamfered plinth. The east wall has a low-pitched gable with a moulded coping. At the east angles are diagonal buttresses with moulded offsets. The plastered ceiling is flat, coved down at the sides on to a moulded cornice enriched with heads and other paterae. The square flat part has a moulded frame about a Holy Dove. The roof is hipped at the east end, the east gable standing up alone.
The original east wall is pierced by an 18th-century round-headed archway. In the original north wall is a 14th-century window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head. West of it is a blocked low-side rectangular window, hidden externally by the cement which covers both side walls, with a plastered semicircular rear-arch. The south wall has a similar 14th-century window, and west of it a blocked priests' doorway with a hood-mould, and a. 14th-century low-side window, also blocked, with wave-moulded jambs and a trefoiled head. At the original east end are 2 ft. by 6 in. shallow buttresses of red sandstone, up to the eaves. The roof has a flat plastered ceiling. The chancel archway, of the 12th century, is of two square orders on the west face and has restored nook-shafts. The northern retains the original but mutilated capital with flutings or incipient foliage to the round lower part and angle volutes to the square upper part; the abacus is chamfered. The south capital is modern. The inner order has an interesting carved capital or impost on the north side; the west end of it has a conventional tree in low relief; the south face shows a nimbed figure of a man between a winged scaly reptilian monster (west) and a lion (east), his outstretched arms thrust into their jaws. The chamfered abacus is carved over it. The carving is incomplete, as it occupies only two-thirds of the reveal. The south capital is uncarved and has a broken abacus. The semicircular head is of two identical moulded orders— an edge-roll and a hollow—with a hood-mould towards the nave; the east face is of square section and the soffit plastered between the voussoirs. It is all red sandstone.
The nave (about 46 ft. by 20½ ft.) has a north arcade of three bays, built in 1913 as recorded by a brass inscription. It has round pillars and moulded pointed arches. In the south wall are two windows; the eastern, of the 15th century, is of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and vertical tracery in a two-centred head of red sandstone. The second is of three cinquefoiled lights (one differing from the other two) and vertical tracery in a four-centred head; the external hood-mould has very large lions'-head stops. The window is of the late 15th century and a replica of that in the tower. It has casement-moulded jambs and is of red sandstone with mullions of grey stone. The south doorway between them may be 12th-century or a later imitation. It has plain square jambs with a chamfered impost and a round arch of two shallow square orders.
The south wall has mostly modern ashlar facing, but west of the porch are a few old courses of red, grey, and yellow ashlar. At the south-east angle, and just east of the porch, are shallow buttresses with remains of 12th-century masonry; they reach to the base of the clearstory. The clearstory is of old red sandstone ashlar; most of it sets back a few inches from the lower wallface. It has an embattled parapet, partly restored, with carved water-spouts, and above it 18th-century pinnacles. The east wall, mostly cemented, shows the earlier gable-head with a 14th-century stone cross.
The roof is probably of the late 15th century, partly reconstructed later. It is low pitched, of four bays, with five moulded cross-beams. The three eastern have original curved braces and wall posts under the ends, the two western straight braces with open spandrels, all supported by moulded wooden corbels to the south, one inscribed I. A. 1786, and north stone corbels. All the beams have middle soffit bosses carved with roses, except that against the west wall, which has a grotesque face. The purlins are also moulded.
The north aisle (14 ft. wide) has a reset 13th-century lancet window in the east half of the north wall. The other windows are modern and of three lights. Between the north windows is the blocked reset 12th-century doorway from the nave. It has shafted jambs and a round head of two moulded orders. East of the lancet window, inside, is a recess with a round arch with late12th-century tooth ornament, probably the rear-arch of the former doorway.
The late-15th-century west tower (about 13 ft. square) is built of red sandstone ashlar in one stage unbroken by string-courses, and has a moulded plinth, on square footings, and an embattled parapet. At the angles are diagonal buttresses of five stages reaching to the parapet string-course and having moulded offsets. The south-east buttress has a trefoiled niche in the top stage with a crocketed hood-mould. At the angles are perished gargoyles and restored crocketed pinnacles with arrow vanes.
The two-centred archway to the nave is of the local type of two continuous orders, the outer sunk-chamfered, the inner moulded and with moulded capitals. At half height is a gallery of 1816. The west doorway has moulded jambs with hollow-chamfered bases, and four-centred head; the hood-mould has large headstops. The oak doors are of the 18th century. The west window is of three cinquefoiled lights and tracery in a four-centred head. In the south-west angle is a stair-vice with four-centred doorways and plain looplights.
The second story is lighted by small loops, and the bell-chamber by windows of two trefoiled lights and a foiled spandrel in a four-centred head, having carved stops to the hood-mould; they have middle transoms. The roof is pyramidal. The tower, 72 ft. high, looks very lofty because of the low nave.
The north window of the 18th-century chancel contains a mixture of ancient glass. (fn. 53) There is also a jumble of 15th-century fragments in the middle south clearstory window. The reredos, of the 18th century, is of wood painted to imitate marble; it has Doric shafts and a round arched panel with a carved cherub in the crown. The communion rails are of the 18th century with turned balusters and are set in a semielliptical curve around the communion table. There are also 18th-century quire-seats with fielded panels in the old chancel.
There are several funeral monuments in the chancel. Against the reveals of the intermediate arch are two marble pedestal monuments; the northern is to John Ludford of Ansley (no date), erected by Catherine his widow 1700. The southern is to Samuel Bracebridge Ludford, died 1727. There are also floor slabs to George Ludford 1627 and … Ludford 1675.
Later monuments are to members of the same family. One is to Elizabeth Ludford, aged 8, daughter of John Ludford and Juliana (Newdigate) his wife of Arbury, who was buried first in the Newdigate vault at Harefield, Middlesex, and removed here in 1765.
There are three bells, (fn. 54) (1) inscribed +MARGARETA with the mark of Thomas Newcombe of Leicester (1562–80); (2) of 1669 by George Old field of Nottingham; and (3) 1609 by Newcombe of Leicester.
In the churchyard is a 15th-century base of a churchyard cross. It is octagonal with a moulded top edge. It has square base-stops on which are the badly worn heads of four men and women, the features entirely obliterated.
The church of Ansley was given to the nuns of Polesworth by William son of Robert de Hartshill. (fn. 55) The rectory was appropriated to the nuns, and in 1275 as the endowment of the vicarage, consisting of the small tithes and obventions, was worth only 50s., the rectorial tithe corn being 24 marks, it was ordered that the vicar should in future have the first sheaf of the corn tithe throughout the parish, to be delivered out of the tithe barn of the nuns after it had been gathered at their costs. (fn. 56) The nuns retained the rectory and advowson until the Dissolution, (fn. 57) when the rectory was farmed for £2 15s. 4d. (fn. 58)
After the Dissolution the advowson remained in the Crown until 1865, (fn. 59) when the Rev. Theophilus Sharp became vicar and patron. In 1878 the patronage passed to the Rev. J. N. Adams, who was also vicar. From 1894 to 1899 the advowson belonged to the Heaton family, and it passed before 1915 to the Church Patronage Society.
The rectory passed to the Stratford family. Robert Stratford of London by his will in 1615 charged it with 20s. yearly to be given in bread to the poor of Ansley, and bequeathed the rectory to his nephew Edward Stratford when he reached the age of 28. (fn. 60) Robert Stratford and Elizabeth his wife conveyed it in 1660 to John Stratford, (fn. 61) and it remained in the family until the death of Francis Stratford of Merevale. His daughter married Richard Geast of Blythe Hall, (fn. 62) from whom the impropriation has descended to Sir William S. F. Dugdale, bart.
Charities of Twycross and Perkins. John Perkins by will dated 1 April 1618 devised to trustees two closes called the Newes, the rents and profits to be distributed to the most needy and aged persons residing in Ansley; and St. John Twycross by will gave 20 marks to purchase an estate to be settled upon the abovementioned trust. The endowment of the charities now consists of Charity Farm, containing about 62 acres, and Charity Cottage, let at an annual rent of £114 approx., together with stock producing £2 3s. p.a. A Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 11 June 1920 appoints nine trustees to administer the charities and provides that the income, after payment of a sum not exceeding £30 towards educational purposes, shall be applied for the poor of Ansley generally.