A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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This parish was originally partly in Gloucestershire and partly in Warwickshire, but by an Order of 1894 the Warwickshire portion was constituted the distinct parish of Bickmarsh. By the Transfer Order of 1931 Welford-on-Avon was also incorporated in Warwickshire, while Bickmarsh was divided between the parishes of Pebworth in Worcestershire and Dorsington, transferred at this time from Gloucestershire to Warwickshire.
Welford lies to the south of the River Avon, its eastern boundary striking the river just where it turns sharply northwards to make a deep bend, within which lies the village. The present roads seem to have been laid out for the most part in 1801, when the common fields were inclosed, (fn. 1) as Rudder, writing in 1779, says: 'The public roads in all this part of the county are very incommodious, and almost impassable in the winter season. They are either carried through miry lanes, or along head lands in the common fields, so that the traveller is obliged to shape his course in a zig-zag direction, as the ground will permit.' (fn. 2) An older road, known locally as Buckle Street, (fn. 3) but actually part of the Roman road from Alcester to Chipping Campden, the so-called Icknield or Rycknield Street, runs along the western edge of the parish through Bickmarsh, the eastern boundary of which is formed by a small brook that runs northwards and joins the Noleham Brook near Little Dorsington.
The soil is fertile and many of the inhabitants are engaged in market gardening. Most of the parish lies at elevations between 100 ft. and 200 ft. and the country is open, with little timber except for plantations in the neighbourhood of the village.
The village, larger than most in the locality, is situated at the base of the deep bend in the river and is noted in the district for its picturesqueness. It has a fair number (some 30) of small timber-framed buildings, apparently none earlier than the 17th century. About two-thirds of them have thatched roofs, the others are tiled. The main village street forms part of the main road from Binton Bridge southwards to Long Marston and has a maypole at the south end in a small triangular green.
The church stands on the north side of a road, running west from the north end of the village street, which ends at the river by the mill. Here was the ancient ford, and the tall church tower close to it must have formed a conspicuous landmark and guide to travellers. The Rectory and another 18th-century house stand north of the church. The framing of the smaller houses is mostly of the ordinary 17th-century type; about a third of them are grouped near the church. Another third or more are scattered along the village street, and others in a side road that runs eastward from the maypole to end at the river on the east side of the deep bend. One, north-east of the maypole, is of farm-house size and has a chimney-stack with three diagonal shafts of brick. Another farther east has an X-shaped chimney-stack and a stone-tiled roof.
The only building with framing out of the ordinary stands at the corner where the church road meets the village street. It was a cottage that has been rebuilt and forms an annexe to the adjoining modern Welford House, being fitted up to serve as a hall for meetings, &c. It is uncertain whether the framing is indigenous. The lower story is of close-set studding and the upper of large square panels, each with four quadrant brackets. The east gable-head has a cambered tiebeam and more close studding.
At the northern edge of the parish where the Binton Bridges carry the road across the Avon is an island which is referred to early in the 13th century as lying between the mill of Binton and the mill of Welford. (fn. 4) In 1291 there were two mills valued at 20s. each. (fn. 5) The two mills were still attached to the manor in 1609. (fn. 6)
At the time of the Domesday Survey the Abbey of St. Denis near Paris held 15 hides in WELFORD, (fn. 7) as part of the pos sessions of the ancient Priory of Deerhurst, which had been given to the abbey in 1059 and re-established as a cell. (fn. 8) From 1190 till 1203 Ralph of Welford was suing the Prior of Deerhurst for 5 hides of land there. (fn. 9) The manor remained in the prior's hands; in the 13th century there were 2 ploughlands in demesne and the total value was about £12. (fn. 10) In 1447 Deerhurst with all its estates was given by Henry VI to his College of Eton. Edward IV, however, revoked the grant and restored the priory to St. Denis, putting a Westminster monk, William Bokeland, in charge. (fn. 11) As he proved thriftless and fraudulent, the king in 1467 gave Deerhurst to the Abbey of Tewkesbury, (fn. 12) who therefore held Welford until the Dissolution, when the site of the manor was farmed for £10 14s. 2d. and the copyhold rents and other issues brought in £22 9s. (fn. 13) In 1553 the manor, with its two mills and fishing rights in the Avon, was granted to William Willington with remainder, in default of male issue, to his daughter Margaret and her husband Edward Greville. (fn. 14)
When Sir Thomas West died in 1386 he was seised of the manors of Weston-on-Avon (q.v.) and Welford, which he had leased for life to John Rous of Ragley. (fn. 15) In both manors he had been succeeded before 1445 by John Greville, who died in that year seised of the manor of Welford, held of the Prior of Deerhurst by grant of Leonard Stapulton and Mary his wife. (fn. 16) This was evidently part of the main manor, but seems to have acquired or retained a separate identity, as on the death of Ludovic Greville in 1589 he was found seised of the manor 'commonly called Welnesford Grevill, and of another manor there commonly called Abbot's Welneford', late belonging to the monastery of Tewkesbury. (fn. 17) Ludovic's son Sir Edward Greville sold the manor to Lionel Cranfield, Earl of Middlesex, (fn. 18) and it descended with Weston (q.v.) and is now owned by Lord Sackville.
BICKMARSH was given by King Edgar in 967 to his thegn Brihtnoth, who at once conveyed it with his son, who was entering the monastic life, to Oswald, Archbishop of York, to the use of the monks of St. Mary's, Worcester. (fn. 19) They were deprived of it by Eadwine, brother of Earl Leofwine, (fn. 20) and by the end of the reign of Edward the Confessor it was held by one Edith. She retained the estate in 1086, when 5 hides in Bickmarsh were held by her in Warwickshire under the heading 'The King's Alms' (fn. 21) and 1 hide in Gloucestershire among 'The Lands of the King's Thegns'. (fn. 22) Richard Foliot gave a virgate in Bickmarsh to the Priory of Little Malvern at, or shortly after, its foundation in 1171, (fn. 23) which gift was confirmed after his death and not later than 1178 (fn. 24) by his son William, who added another virgate, half in the field of Thushul and half in Elfnadesmer; in consideration of which grant the monks were to receive him into their community when he desired. (fn. 25) The charter was witnessed by his wife Cecily and his son Richard. This Richard Foliot was apparently holding Bickmarsh in 1200, (fn. 26) and Robert Foliot was dealing with land there in 1221 (fn. 27) and 1231. (fn. 28) In 1235 Bickmarsh was returned as a knight's fee 'of the fee of Corbet', (fn. 29) but Corbet seems to have had a mesne lordship under the Earl of Gloucester, of whom Robert Foliot held the fee in 1242. (fn. 30) It may be this Robert who died in 1245 leaving a widow Christiane, (fn. 31) who was still living in 1255, when her heir was Reynold Foliot. (fn. 32) In any case Robert Foliot was dead before 1275, when it was recorded that he had withdrawn the suit to the hundred court of Barlichway due from Bickmarsh by arrangement with Philip de Ascellis the sheriff (in 1240). (fn. 33) The hide in Gloucestershire had also ceased to do suit to the hundred of Kiftsgate and had been 'transferred to another county' by 'the lord of Bickmarsh' in the time of King John. (fn. 34) In 1247 Rose Foliot sued William Corbet for lands here, as did Joan Foliot in 1260, (fn. 35) and Dugdale suggests (fn. 36) that the latter was Robert's heir and identical with the Joan who with her husband Richard de Williamescote was concerned in a suit for land in Bickmarsh in 1267. Richard was holding the vill in 1275, (fn. 37) and in 1307 Henry de Williamescote sold the manor to John de Bloxham, (fn. 38) who conveyed it in 1325 to William de Bereford. (fn. 39) He died the following year, when the manor, which was rated at a yearly value of £8 15s. 6d., was granted to his wife Margaret in dower. (fn. 40) His son and heir Edmund had obtained possession by 1341, when he sued his bailiff for an account of his stewardship at Bickmarsh, (fn. 41) and in 1342 he settled it on himself with contingent remainders in tail to his sons John and Baldwin. (fn. 42) In 1380 Sir Baldwin de Bereford was granted free warren in his demesne lands and woods there. (fn. 43) On the death of Baldwin's widow, Elizabeth, in 1423 the manor reverted to Thomas, son and heir of Philip St. Clair. (fn. 44) He was the great-grandson of Margaret, daughter of the William de Bereford who had died in 1326. (fn. 45) During his wardship the custody of Bickmarsh was granted to John Throckmorton, (fn. 46) to whom Thomas St. Clair conveyed the manor in 1427. (fn. 47)
No further mention has been found of Bickmarsh until 1558 when Richard Newport held the manor (fn. 48) and transferred it to Roland Heyward, George Bafford, and Francis Bowyer, (fn. 49) from whom it was shortly afterwards acquired by Edward Griffin. (fn. 50) In 1608 Sir Richard Griffin held the manor, (fn. 51) and in 1638 Edward Griffin levied a fine on it. (fn. 52) During the civil wars Bickmarsh was sequestered for recusancy, and in 1653 Anne Griffin, widow, complained to the Committee for Compounding that the estate, which was valued at £300 a year, had been over-rated. She had had to pay £185 rent besides £50 taxes for two-thirds of the farm, and out of the remaining third she had to maintain 'old Mr. Griffin and his wife, both 70 years old, his brother, four sons, two daughters, a widow and three children besides herself and children'. (fn. 53) In 1666 Edward Griffin and Anne his wife held the manor; (fn. 54) and Elizabeth and Anne Griffin, who were ladies of the manor in 1713, (fn. 55) were probably the members of the Griffin family who still held it in 1730. (fn. 56) By 1763 Nathaniel Ryder, who was created Baron Harrowby in 1776, (fn. 57) held Bickmarsh; (fn. 58) his son, Dudley Ryder, was created Earl of Harrowby in 1809, (fn. 59) and the manor has descended to the present Earl of Harrowby.
An estate in Bickmarsh is said by Dugdale to have been held in 1346 by Amice de Morehale and William de Audley of William Corbet, who held of the Honor of Gloucester, as a knight's fee. (fn. 60) It descended with Moor Hall in Wixford (q.v.), (fn. 61) but in 1418, when it reverted to William Clopton on the death of Thomas de Cruwe, it amounted to less than 2 virgates. (fn. 62)
In 1086 Stephen 'the Steersman' was holding of the King in (LITTLE) DORSINGTON 1 hide which before the Conquest had belonged to Ordui. (fn. 63) This estate, lying in the extreme west of Welford parish on the bounds of Bidford and Dorsington parishes, descended with Milcote in Weston-on-Avon (q.v.), being held by the Langley family from about 1250 to 1359. In 1373, however, the Langley heiress Joan and her husband Sir John de Trillowe alienated Little Dorsington to John Rous of Ragley, (fn. 64) after whose death it passed in 1396 to his eldest surviving son Robert. (fn. 65) He made a settlement of his lands in 1408, (fn. 66) and his wife Alice, who survived him and married Thomas Paynell, held the property in dower until her death in 1437, when it reverted to their son John Rous. (fn. 67) Maud, widow of John's son Thomas, was holding the manor in 1502, when she converted 200 acres of arable into pasture, causing 6 ploughs and 24 people to be put out of employment. (fn. 68) On her death the estate came to her son Thomas Rous and probably became part of the Ragley estate, losing any manorial character that it ever possessed.
The nave and narrow aisles are of mid-to late-12thcentury date and probably the lowest part of the tower is of about the end of the same period but cement facing obscures much of the evidence. The second stage was added early in the 13th century as the original bellchamber. The tower was considerably heightened in the 15th century and is tall compared with the rest of the church, probably to serve as a landmark and beacon for the ford from which the parish takes its name.
The chancel (30½ ft. by 20½ ft.) has an east window of three trefoiled lights and tracery of mid-14th-century style. It is all modern except the ashlar splays and possibly the ovolo-moulded rear-arch.
The former north-west window has been reset in the east wall of the vestry. The wall below the south-east window is recessed for an old sedile and east of it is a 14th-century piscina with moulded jambs and ogee head and hood-mould. The bowl is modern: there are grooves for two shelves. The doorway at the west end of the north wall opening into the vestry is also of the 14th century and has been reset inside out. The walls are cemented but in the north wall some coursed bluewhite lias rubble is revealed. The diagonal buttresses at the east end are 15th-century additions. The plinths are chamfered.
The nave (38 ft. by 19 ft.) has mid-to late-12thcentury arcades of two 15-ft. bays, the southern slightly earlier than the northern, judging from the bases. Both have middle circular pillars and square responds, all with scalloped capitals, varying slightly, and moulded abaci which are all alike. The base of the northern pillar approaches the typical 13th-century 'hold-water' mould, that of the southern is simpler; the reveals of the responds have chamfered bases. The pillars are short, little more than 4 ft. between base and capital. The arches are semicircular and of two plain square orders with small voussoirs, and with plain chamfered hoods towards the nave; where these meet over the south pillar is a human-head stop.
The north aisle (5 ft. 8 in. wide at the east end and 6 ft. at the west) has one north window of the 15 th century, of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and trefoiled piercings in a square head with an external label. The jambs externally are moulded, including a shallow hollow; inside, the splays are sunk and mostly of stone but the inner arrises are plastered. Farther west, not visible inside, is a blocked 12th-century plain doorway of one square order with chamfered abaci and a chamfered hood to the round head. The west wall has a small round-headed window, probably of 12thcentury origin but all restored outside and with plastered internal splays and a four-centred rear-arch.
The south aisle (5 ft. 10 in. wide at the east end and 6 ft. 3 in. at the west) has an inserted 15th-century east window of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and trefoiled piercings in a four-centred head with an external hood-mould; the jambs and arch have deep casement hollows. The south window has similar jambs but is of three plain square-headed lights under a main square head with a label and head-stops of a king and queen, the latter with a square head-dress of the Queen Philippa style. There is little doubt that the window had foiling and tracery originally.
The south doorway retains its 12th-century outer order with hollow-chamfered abaci; the round head has cheveron ornament on face and soffit, all of yellow stone. The east jamb is probably of 15th-century or later repair and is of red stone. The chamfered inner order is modern. The rear-arch is segmental. In the west wall is a small cemented round-headed window, probably original; its inner splays and splayed round head are plastered.
The walls are cemented but broken patches reveal some mixed rubble of lias, yellow stones, &c., suggesting some reconstruction. The east end preserves its original steep half-gable, with coping stones, and sets back about a foot above it to a later (15th-century) heightening with a plain parapet which continues along the south wall and west end. This has pinnacles, above the angles. The three buttresses against the south wall may also be of the 15th century but repaired or altered in the 17th century; they are mixtures of lias stone and red sandstone. That west of the porch has 17th-century moulded offsets and fluting, and one re-used stone on its west side set sideways shows a shield in a foliated panel. Another reset red stone in the wall-face above the buttress is carved with part of a frieze pattern; these fragments may have belonged to a 16th-century funeral monument. The buttresses have heavy chamfered plinths, but not the wall. The low-pitched leaded roof has modern timbers.
The west tower (about 10½ ft. square) is of three stages, the lowest of c. 1200, the second (the original bell-chamber) of the 13th century, and the tall top stage added in the 15th century. The lowest stage is a tall one, the string-course marking the top of it being level with the apex of the nave roof. Its lower story has a small round-headed light set low in the wall, the only piercing in this stage. The walls are cemented but patches expose streaky lias rubble-work with yellow angle-dressings.
The short second stage has in each wall a pair of large lancet windows of the 13th century with edgerolls to the jambs and heads. The tall third stage has in each wall a window of two cinquefoiled lights and a quatrefoil in a four-centred head with a hood-mould, all much restored. The walling, where exposed, shows coursed lias rubble-work. The embattled parapet has returned copings to the merlons and angle pinnacles.
The south-east window of the chancel has some scraps of late-14th-century or early-15th-century coloured glass taken from the east window in 1936. It is mostly white and yellow foliage, yellow roundels, pieces of ruby, and a few white cinquefoils in black line work. Also 13 quarries and parts of greenish-white glass with outlined foliage, which may be earlier. The piercings in the head of the north window have rosettes in black line and the same outlined foliage.
The font has a 13th-century round bowl with a rollmoulded lower edge and hollowed soffit in which are carved out of solid the capitals of four shaffis that originally surrounded the stem. These shafts were replaced by 17th-century balusters. The base has a 13th-century edge-roll and the four bases of the original shafts; the sub-base is of two chamfered courses.
In the middle of the nave is a slate slab with the indent of the brass of a priest and below it a scroll. A marginal inscription reads: 'Hic jacet [dns] Waltherus Williams quondam Rector istius ecclie qui obiit... die mensis Augusti Anno dni. mcccclx[xxviii].'
At the south entrance to the churchyard is a rectangular lich-gate of skeleton framework on low stone walls. It is of two bays, 7 ft. 3 in. and 3 ft. 6 in. wide, between the walls, and the oak posts have foiled braces below the tie-beams and eaves-plates of the gabled roof, which is tiled. It is probably of the 15th century.
The church of Welford belonged to Deerhurst Priory (fn. 69) and was valued in 1291 at £15, in addition to a pension of 20s. payable to Tewkesbury Abbey. (fn. 70) This 20s. was still payable to the Sacrist of Tewkesbury in 1535, when the rectory was valued at £29 15s. 10d. (fn. 71) After the Dissolution the advowson was granted in 1541 to the Bishop of Gloucester. (fn. 72) In 1547, however, Sir Ralph Sadleir obtained a grant of it; (fn. 73) but in 1552 it was regranted to the see of Gloucester, which had now been reunited with that of Worcester under Bishop John Hooper. (fn. 74) On the accession of Mary, Hooper was deprived, the two sees were again separated, and this advowson probably returned to Gloucester. Later it was acquired by the lords of the manor, the Earl of Middlesex presenting in 1631, (fn. 75) and it has since descended with the manor, the present patron being Lord Sackville.
The chapel of Bickmarsh was said to have been founded by William Foliot in the reign of Henry II, and in the reign of King John the Abbot of Tewkesbury claimed that the founder of the chapel had given two-thirds of the tithe of corn and half the small tithes to the abbey. (fn. 76) Herbert the chaplain, priest of Bickmarsh, is mentioned in 1221, when his daughter Denise appealed Roger son of Ralph of Bidford for rape. (fn. 77) The chapel was appurtenant to the church of Welford, and in 1325 John de Bloxham, who sold the manor in that year, disclaimed to the Prior of Deerhurst any right to the advowson of the chapel. (fn. 78) No later reference to it is known.
John Trapp, 'one of the prime preachers of his time', was presented to the rectory of Welford by the Assembly of Divines in 1646, where he had much difficulty in collecting his tithes, owing to the opposition of the ejected rector, Dr. Bowen, who was reinstated in 1660. (fn. 79)
John Frekelton's Charity. It is recorded in the printed reports of the former Charity Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities, dated in 1829, that John Frekelton gave to the poor of the parish 13s. 4d. for ever and he also gave 6s. 8d. to the church for ever to be paid out of Millham Close.
The charity is now regulated by a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 12 June 1903 which provides that one-third of the yearly income shall be applied by the rector of Welford towards the maintenance of the parish church and the remainder shall be applied by two representative trustees for the benefit of deserving poor resident in the parish. The rent-charge of £1 issuing out of Milham Meadow is regularly received and applied in accordance with the terms of the scheme.