A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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The parish is roughly L-shaped, the longer limb (1¾ miles) lying east and west, with the shorter projecting southwards for about a mile. The angle between the two limbs is occupied by the Oxfordshire parish of Hornton, from which Ratley is separated by a small stream. From Sugarswell Barns at the south-west corner of the parish the boundary runs north-eastwards following a road on the ridge of Edge Hill, except for a slight divagation westwards at Grove Corner, (fn. 1) 1½ miles from Sugarswell. East of this point is the site of a windmill, no doubt the successor of one which is mentioned in 1619, (fn. 2) and near here are several quarries of'Hornton stone', formerly in demand for building. Some 300 yards east of this road and roughly parallel with it is another, connected with it by crossroads, which turns eastward and splits up into a tangle of roads constituting the little village. Most of the buildings are of the local stone, with thatched or stone-tiled roofs. Some of these may date from the 17th century or earlier, but they show no distinctive architectural features. On a hill on the northern edge of the parish are the extensive earthworks of Nadbury Camp. (fn. 3) Here and on the crest of Edge Hill heights of a little over 700 ft. are reached, and most of the parish is above the 600-ft. level.
South-west of the village, about 1½ miles, stands Upton House, (fn. 4) given to the National Trust in 1948 by Viscount Bearsted, with extensive plantations. Outside Upton there is now no woodland in the parish, but reference in 1637 to pasture called Ashwood, Homewood, Bastwood, and Stockwood in Ratley (fn. 5) suggests that it was formerly more plentiful. About 1500 Sir Edward Ralegh, John 'Waryner' (or Warner), and Sir William Danvers between them destroyed five messuages and converted to pasture 220 acres of arable, putting out of action five ploughs, evicting 34 persons, and thus destroying the hamlet of Upton. (fn. 6) Under an Act of 1795 (fn. 7) some 900 acres in Ratley were inclosed.
RATLEY, assessed at 5 hides, was held before the Conquest by Ordric and in 1086 by Almar under Turchil, (fn. 8) whose grandson Hugh de Arderne, or Arden, owned it in 1155. (fn. 9) From Hugh it passed to his nephew Thomas, whose widow Eustacia was granted land in Ratley by her son Thomas in 1236. (fn. 10) This Thomas held a knight's fee here of the Earl of Warwick in 1242, (fn. 11) and when he (or possibly his son) was taken prisoner at Evesham in 1265 his manor of Ratley was valued at £6. (fn. 12) In 1279 Thomas de Arderne was lord of the vill, where he had 2 carucates of land, an inclosed park of 2 acres, and rights of free warren. (fn. 13) He got into debt and sold the manor in 1287 to Nicholas de Eton (fn. 14) who had a grant of free warren therein in 1290. (fn. 15) Nicholas married Margery de Coleville, and in 1301 the manor was settled on them in tail. (fn. 16) Their son Sir Nicholas heads the list of taxpayers in Ratley in 1332; (fn. 17) he married Joan daughter and heir of Richard de Stockport and left a son Robert and daughter Cecily. Robert, who took his mother's name of Stockport, died before 1358, when his widow Isabel settled the manor on herself and her then husband John de Stafford with reversion to (Robert's son) Richard de Stockport. (fn. 18) Isabel was still living, again a widow, in 1374 (fn. 19) and seems to have survived both her son Richard and his son of the same name. The manor then passed to Sir John Warren, son of Sir Edward Warren and the abovenamed Cecily, and descended in that family (fn. 20) for about 150 years. In 1518 Sir John Warren died, holding of the king as of Warwick Castle the manor of Ratley, which he had settled on his wife Joan. (fn. 21) His son Laurence conveyed the manor in 1529 to Thomas Tropwell and others, (fn. 22) who were possibly acting for Thomas Englefield, as at his death in 1537 he was holding the manor, which Laurence Warren had mortgaged to him. (fn. 23) His son Francis Englefield sold it in 1546–7 to John Warner, (fn. 24) who died seised thereof in 1553. (fn. 25) George Warner was dealing with the manor in 1619, (fn. 26) and according to Dugdale John Warner was lord of the manor when he wrote (c. 1640); (fn. 27) but the descent about this period is confused. In 1586 William Warner, eldest son of John, on the occasion of the marriage of his son George with Elizabeth daughter of Ralph Joyner of Coventry, conveyed the manor to trustees, (fn. 28) of whom William Andrewes was one, and a few months later assigned half the manor to George. (fn. 29) In 1622 William Andrewes and Elizabeth his wife conveyed the manor (apparently held in her right) to Edward Walker. (fn. 30) He died 7 March 1640–1 (fn. 31) and soon afterwards Daniel Walker, who died in October 1641, (fn. 32) was dealing with it. (fn. 33) Thomas Walker claimed to be lord of the manor in 1665. (fn. 34) In 1699 John Walker with Katherine, Viscountess Say and Sele, William Style and Anne his wife, Elizabeth and Frances Walker (of whom Katherine was certainly daughter of John, and the last three presumably her sisters) conveyed the manor to George Freeman, clerk. (fn. 35) By 1724 the manor seems to have been in the hands of Thomas Archer, (fn. 36) who occurs as lord from 1730 to 1734. (fn. 37) He apparently conveyed it to his brother Henry, as he held it between 1744 and 1759, as did his widow Lady Elizabeth (Montagu) in 1785. (fn. 38) Possibly, however, they only held the demesne, as Henry's nephew Andrew, Lord Archer of Umberslade, in 1777 conveyed the manor to Mark Smithson. (fn. 39) In 1790 Ann Rigby, Bernard Hale and Martha his wife, and Francis Hale Rigby and Frances his wife conveyed it to Joseph Hill; (fn. 40) and by 1809 it was in the hands of Sir Edward Smythe, bart. (fn. 41) Its subsequent descent is obscure, but Andrew Richard Motion was lord of the manor when he died in 1934, and it was soon after this sold to Viscount Bearsted.
UPTON, which is frequently bracketed with Ratley, gave name to a family, of which Richard de Upton and Thomas his son occur in 1200 (fn. 42) and William in 1256. (fn. 43) In 1279 Hugh de Upton held of Thomas de Arderne's fee of Ratley 3 virgates as 1/10 knight's fee by render of a pair of gloves at Easter. (fn. 44) This or another Hugh held the 1/10 fee in Ratley of the Earl of Warwick in 1316, and John held ¼ fee there (fn. 45) and was lord of the vill of Upton. (fn. 46) It seems to have been styled a manor for the first time in 1452 when William son of Robert Verney sold it to Richard Dalby, (fn. 47) from whom it passed to Sir William Danvers at the end of the 15th century. (fn. 48) Thomas Danvers is said to have succeeded him by 1518; (fn. 49) George Danvers died seised of an estate in the parish of 'Ratcliffe' in 1635; (fn. 50) John Danvers held the manor in 1640, (fn. 51) and Elizabeth Danvers, widow of his nephew John, some 35 years later. (fn. 52) This branch of the Danvers family then dying out, the manor was acquired by the Archers of Tysoe and about 1700 was sold to Sir Rushout Cullen, bart., who held it in 1730, (fn. 53) in which year he died, leaving no issue. (fn. 54)
A manor of Ratley, associated with Warmington, was in the hands of George Villiers, Earl of Jersey, in 1806, (fn. 55) and seems to have been held by his son George Augustus Frederick, Viscount Villiers, in 1829. (fn. 56) The earl was still lord of the manor in 1850, when Viscount Villiers was living at Upton House. (fn. 57)
Waleran, Earl of Warwick (1184–1204), gave lands in Ratley to Stoneleigh Abbey; (fn. 58) and Hugh de Arderne and Alice his wife gave the abbey 3 carucates, containing 330 acres of arable, 5 acres of meadow, pasturage rights for 300 sheep and 10 oxen everywhere except in the park, and a grove called Knithgrave, as bounded by Bradeweie. (fn. 59) About a century later Sir Thomas de Arderne granted to the monks half the arable of Edge Grange and the mills with the suit of his men of Ratley and Upton. (fn. 60) The estate of Edge Grange lay partly in the neighbouring parish of Radway, and in 1291 the Abbot of Stoneleigh had here 2 carucates, worth £2. (fn. 61) It was apparently leased to Thomas de Stathom (third husband of Isabel widow of Robert de Stockport) and subsequently to Robert de Legh, who granted his rights in it to John de Catesby in 1374. (fn. 62) As mentioned under Radway, (fn. 63) it was granted in 1542 to Richard Andrewes and Leonard Chamberleyn. (fn. 64) John Warner acquired it from Edward Leke in 1549 for his second son George, (fn. 65) whose son Walter had livery of it in 1589. (fn. 66) He was succeeded by John Warner, who died seised of the estate in 1600. (fn. 67)
The whole fabric, except the 15th-century porch, dates from the 14th century but the foundations may be partly on the lines of an earlier building. It was begun about 1340 and continued in several spells, finishing with the top stage of the tower, which is late-14th-century work. It is remarkable for the variety of its window tracery and, judging from the north windows of the nave, it is probable that the Black Death interfered for a time with the progress of the work.
The chancel (about 32½ ft. by 18 ft.) has a modern east window of four trefoiled lights and tracery based on that of the older windows. In the east half of the north wall is a tall window of two trefoiled lights with pierced soffit-cusps and leaf tracery in which the line of the mullion is continued up to the apex of the pointed head and with an external hood-mould, all of c. 1340. The second window, near the west end, is much shorter and set at 'low-side' level; it is of two trefoiled ogeeheaded lights and a duofoil piercing in a two-centred head with a hood-mould and segmental-pointed reararch. Between them is a pointed doorway.
In the east half of the south wall is a larger window of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and foiled intersecting tracery in a two-centred head. It is recessed below for a sedile and in the east splay is a piscina with a projecting trefoiled ogee-canopied head. All the windows are of two chamfered orders and the internal splays are plastered. The east wall is of coursed rough ashlar in yellow Edge Hill stone, while the north and south walls are of approximately-coursed squared rubble. At the east angles are diagonal buttresses of ashlar. The slated roof is low-pitched: the original high-pitched roof is indicated by the east gable-head which rises above it, also by the weather-course remaining on the east wall of the nave. The flat ceiling is plastered and is cut away at the east end for the head of the modern window.
The arch in the west half of the south wall of the chancel, the west chancel arch, the west arch of the south chapel, and the nave arcade of three bays are all of identical detail and date, being two-centred and of two ovolo-moulded orders which are continued from the piers and responds without a break, the southern pier of the chancel arch receiving the thrust of arches extending four different ways. There are hood-moulds on both faces of each wall. The bases are chamfered and stand on square sub-bases.
The south chapel (about 15 ft. by 9½ ft.) has an east window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and a circle with revolving tracery in a two-centred head with a hood-mould. The window in the south wall is of three trefoiled lights and net tracery. East of it is a piscina with a round basin in a corbelled sill and a modern or restored trefoiled ogee head with a hood-mould and finial.
The nave (48 ft. by 17 ft.) has three tall north windows. The two easternmost differ in appearance from all the other windows and may not have been finished until later in the century. They are each of two plain ogee-headed lights and a plain piercing, instead of a quatrefoil, in a two-centred head that has an ogee point. This is exaggerated in the hood-moulds, especially the eastern, into a pinnacle capped by a human-head carving. Otherwise the details—jambs, hood-moulds, &c.—are similar to the others. The eastern has head-stops. The third window was somewhat similar, without the exaggerated point, but has had some repair and is now of two trefoiled ogeeheaded lights and a quatrefoil in the head.
The north doorway has jambs and two-centred head of two continuous moulded orders, each of two small rolls and shallow hollows all in one splay and with a hood-mould resembling them, with square block-stops. It dates from the 15th century.
The wall is of old fine-jointed ashlar and has a plinth of two splayed orders: there is a buttress at the east end, for the chancel arch. The roof is high pitched and covered with slates but is hidden inside by a flat plastered ceiling. On the east face of the tower is the weather-course of a former higher nave-roof.
The north porch has a 15th-century gabled front with a four-centred entrance of two chamfered orders with broach base-stops and external hood-mould, and with a plinth of two moulded courses on the front only. The side walls are of larger ashlar, without plinths, and are unpierced: these may perhaps be earlier than the front. Against each is a stone bench. The roof has modern timbers and is tiled.
The south aisle (about 10 ft. wide) has two south windows: the eastern is of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and tracery with elongated quatrefoil in a twocentred head; the western of similar type of two lights. The pointed south doorway between them is a plain one of two hollow-chamfered orders. The west window is of two trefoiled round-headed lights and tracery differing from the others.
The walls of the aisle and chapel are of fairly widejointed and coarsely tooled squared rubble, mostly coursed but not regularly. At the angles are diagonal buttresses, and intermediate square buttresses divide the length into four bays. A splayed plinth dies into the ground west of the second buttress. The parapets are plain. On the wall-face west of the doorway are two scratched mass-dials, one with only two radiations.
The roof is a low lean-to divided into six bays by highly cambered stop-chamfered cross-beams: three of them have bead-moulds above the chamfer: it is probably of the 15th or early 16th century and is covered with lead.
The west tower (about 10 ft. square) is of three stages, the top stage diminishing, divided by splayed projecting string-courses and having a similar plinth, and a plain parapet with a spout or two. A vice in the north-west angle rises above the parapet as a square turret. The walls are of fine-jointed regularly coursed ashlar of local dark-brown stone: the masonry of the top stage is generally rather smaller than the lower. At the west angles are diagonal buttresses to the two lower stages. The ground floor has two precisely similar doorways in the east and west walls, with the reararches inwards, as though the tower was meant to be a stronghold: they have pointed heads of two chamfered orders dying on single-splayed jambs and having plain hood-moulds. The eastern is reached by five steps up from the nave. In a splay across the north-west angle is a square-headed doorway to the vice. This story was vaulted, or intended to be, and the two lowest springing stones of chamfered diagonal ribs remain in the angles. The second stage has west windows of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with a hood-mould.
The two-light windows in the north, west, and south walls of the bell-chamber are of late-14th-century date: they vary in elevation. The west window has cinquefoiled heads, the north trefoiled two-centred heads, and the south trefoiled ogee heads: all have quatrefoils in the pointed heads, and external hood-moulds. The east opening seems to have been a doorway on to the apex of the former nave roof, which reached its sill.
In the tower is a 4 ft. 9 in. oak-framed chest of hutch type (raised on legs). The two ends are carved with foiled piercings, boarded behind, and the front board shows slight traces of also having been carved with circular patterns, but it has (apparently deliberately) been cut back. There is one lock, and staples and hasps for two padlocks. Probably it was secular, of the early 16th century. The lid is modern.
In the sill of the east window of the chapel is fixed a stone achievement of arms charged with a lion passant between two roundels, a helm supported by putti and a helmet and crest of a lion (broken). There is also another similar crest complete in a wreath of fruit and flowers. Loose on the south window-ledge of the chancel is a stone with the same arms impaling quarterly a bend with three scallops a crescent for difference.
On the west wall of the nave are 8 brass inscriptions mounted on two boards. They are (1) to John Warner, 1520; (2) Thomas son of Thomas Lewis, 11 March 1673–4; (3) Judith (Bury) wife of Thomas Lewis, 14 February 1697–8; (4) Simon son of Thomas Lewis, 26 January 1667–8; (5) Mary daughter of Thomas Lewis, 1668; (6) Judith daughter of Thomas Lewis, 16 March 1673–4; (7) Thomas Lewis, 1675; and (8) Edward son of Thomas Lewis, 1726.
In the churchyard is a 15th-century preaching cross 12 ft. 2 in. high with an octagonal shaft on a moulded base and two steps. It has a moulded capital and remains of a carving of the Crucifixion facing west and apparently our Lord in majesty facing east.
Thomas de Arderne in 1286 granted the advowson of Ratley church to the Abbey of Stoneleigh, (fn. 68) who did not retain it many years but conveyed it to William, Earl of Warwick, before 1298. (fn. 69) His grandson Earl Thomas in 1342 was given leave to grant it to the Priory of Clattercote (Oxon.), who were at the same time licensed to appropriate it. (fn. 70) The church had been valued in 1291 at £11 6s. 8d.; (fn. 71) in 1535 the vicarage was worth £6 12s., (fn. 72) and the rectory was farmed to Robert Warner at £15, out of which £4 was paid to the vicar. (fn. 73) With the other possessions of Clattercote the rectory and advowson were granted in 1538 to Dr. William Peter, (fn. 74) but in 1545 he sold them back to the Crown, (fn. 75) in whose hands the advowson remained until the second half of the nineteenth century, when it was sold to the Rev. George Miller with that of Radway, with which it was united.
The rectory had come into the possession of Edward Sheppard by 1619, when he settled it on his wife Alice; (fn. 76) he died in 1624, leaving two infant daughters, one posthumous. (fn. 77) His possession, however, seems to have been only on lease, as the rectory reverted to the Crown and was purchased during the Commonwealth by St. John's College, Oxford, who had to return it at the Restoration. (fn. 78)
The advowson seems to have been closely associated in the 13th century with land, amounting to 2 acres, in Upton, (fn. 79) and this was presumably 'the chappell lands in Upton' mentioned in leases of the rectory to Richard Warner in 1574 and 1588 and to John Murden in 1592. (fn. 80)
Poor's Land. Under the inclosure of the common fields of Radway in about 1766 land at Kerswell Quarter containing 9 a. 2 r. 15 p. was allotted to the trustees and feoffees for the poor of the parish in lieu of one-quarter of a yardland in the common fields. Upon the Ratley Inclosure in about 1796 there was allotted to the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers in trust for the poor a plot of land at Grange Leys containing 1 a. 2 r. 28 p. These two pieces of land which are let at an annual rent, together with £59 13s. 5d. 3½ per cent. War Stock, now form the endowment of the charity, which is regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 12 March 1895. The scheme appoints trustees and directs one-half of the yearly income to be applied in aid of any Provident Club or Society in, or in the neighbourhood of, Ratley for the supply of coal, clothing, or other necessaries. The other half of the income is to be applied to educational purposes for the benefit of poor children of the parish.