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 bounded on the north, west, and south by small streams, and the land, which is mostly open, rises from about 320 ft. in the north to 400 ft. at the church and then more steeply to over 650 ft. in the south-west corner of the parish on Gredenton Hill, where there are remains of earthworks. (fn. 1) Near its eastern edge the parish is crossed by the joint tracks of the L.M.S. and G.W. Railways, which have adjacent stations on the road from the village to Wormleighton, north of which the tracks diverge. The Oxford and Birmingham Canal runs beside the joint tracks, turning eastwards out of the parish just before the stations are reached. Immediately east of the church, and 100 ft. above it, a windmill occupies what was no doubt the site of the windmill mentioned in 1655 (fn. 2) as attached to the manor.
The village is a rambling one with roads curving round several loops, and lies chiefly west and north-west of the church. It contains a fair number of stone-built houses with thatched roofs of the local type but mostly without any individual distinctive features.
Compton Farm, one of the larger buildings, about 300 yards north-west of the church and facing east, dates probably from the early 17th century. The twostoried front of squared masonry of two periods, marked by a straight joint, has mullioned windows with labels and a tiled roof. On the front is a tablet: 'This house was re-edified and built at the charge of Thomas Blicke and Elizabeth his wife', probably followed by a date now concealed by verdure. The house has a wide fireplace with a chamfered bressummer and chamfered ceiling beams. A barn at the back has also an inscribed tablet: 'e.b. In the year of our Lord God: John Basse 1667.'
Another house about 100 yards farther south on the same side of the road is dated 1593 and has similar windows, but in its south-east gable towards the road is a blocked pointed window of the 14th century, probably reset from elsewhere. A wide fire-place has an oak bressummer and the staircase has 17th-century turned balusters. A third house nearly opposite has similar mullioned windows and is thatched. A fourth, south of these, on the north side of the curved road past the church, is practically all modern but retains a small blocked window with 15th-century moulded jambs. A cottage farther east opposite the way to the church has a late-17th-century moulded doorway and next to it a curious half-round coved recess with a stone bench.
The pre-Conquest vill of 'Contone' appears to have been a 10-hide unit; in 1086 the Count of Meulan held 4 hides and 3 virgates, and Turchil had 5 hides and 1 virgate in two separate estates. The count's estate was held of him by Gilbert; in the time of the Confessor Aluric had held it. (fn. 3) The overlordship of this part descended with the Honor of Leicester, (fn. 4) and so came into the Duchy of Lancaster, (fn. 5) being last mentioned in 1361, when a knight's fee here was assigned to Maud, daughter and coheir of Henry, Duke of Lancaster. (fn. 6) A mesne lordship was held by Ralph le Boteler in the reign of Henry I, (fn. 7) and by his descendants the Botelers of Oversley until at least 1361. (fn. 8)
Ralph le Boteler apparently enfeoffed one Bigot in this manor, whose son Gilbert (fn. 9) 'Picot' is mentioned in 1174, when the sheriff answered for £6 from his land in Compton. (fn. 10) This Gilbert, or more probably another of the same name, died in or before 1221, when his widow Cecily sued (his son) Richard Bigot for ⅓ knight's fee in Compton in dower. Richard granted her 20s. of rent, of which 3s. was payable by Ralph Bigot, 12d. by John Bigot, and 4s. by Maud widow of Robert son of Gilbert. (fn. 11) Richard's elder son dying without issue the manor of FENNY COMPTON passed to his younger son Nicholas and from him to three successive Roberts, (fn. 12) of whom the first was probably the Robert Bigot who held the ½ fee of Ralph le Boteler in 1279. (fn. 13) The third Robert, who claimed the right of presentation to the church in 1337, (fn. 14) is the last of the family known to have been associated with the manor.
William Compton of Hawton (Notts.) is said to have held the manor of Fenny Compton in 1427–8, and his son (or grandson ?) John apparently sold it in 1444–5 to Hugh and John Pakenham. (fn. 15)
It was presumably this manor of Fenny Compton which, with Ladbrooke, was conveyed by John son and heir of Ralph Aylesbury in 1523 to Alan Percy, clerk, and others, (fn. 16) probably in trust for a settlement. By 1530 both manors seem to have passed to Margery widow of Sir Robert Bellingham and daughter and heir of John Beaufitz of Balsall; (fn. 17) she gave Ladbrooke to the Abbey of Combe (fn. 18) and sold Fenny Compton to Richard Wyllys. (fn. 19) Richard died in 1532; (fn. 20) and his son William died in 1578, seised of the manor and leaving a son Ambrose. (fn. 21) He died in 1590, having settled the manor on his wife Amy. (fn. 22) His son Richard came of age in 1593 (fn. 23) and died in 1597, leaving a son George, then aged 6; (fn. 24) the manor was then said to be held of the Crown in free socage. (fn. 25) George Wyllys settled in Hertford, Connecticut, where he became Governor in 1642 and died in 1645, leaving his Fenny Compton estate to his son George, (fn. 26) who in 1655 conveyed 'the manor' to Ambrose Holbech and Nathaniel Ekins. (fn. 27) A moiety of the manor, however, was in the possession of Bridget Wyllys in 1674 (fn. 28) and was conveyed in 1769 by George and Samuel Wyllys to William Holbech. (fn. 29) The manor then descended with that of Farnborough (q.v.).
In 1086 Turchil's estates in Compton, which had been held under the Confessor by Ordric, Alwin, and Ulsi, were held of him by Almar (2 hides) and Roger (3 hides 1 virgate). (fn. 30) The overlordship passed to the Earl of Warwick, of whom it was held as half a knight's fee in 1235 (fn. 31) and as late as 1400. (fn. 32) A mesne lordship was held by Thomas de Arderne in 1242 (fn. 33) and 1279, (fn. 34) and, theoretically, by his heir in 1400. (fn. 35) In 1196 the ½ fee was in dispute between Adam de Stocton and Maud his wife and Richard Peche; (fn. 36) and by a charter of about the same date (between 1194 and 1197) Adam and Maud gave 200 acres and 13 (or 3 ?) virgates of land in 'Fennicumbria' (fn. 37) to the canons of Trentham Priory (Staffs.). (fn. 38) Richard Peche held the ½ fee of the Earl of Warwick in 1235, (fn. 39) and his heir (his son John, a minor) held it of Thomas de Arderne in 1242. (fn. 40) John Peche was lord of FENNY COMPTON in 1279, when he was said to hold it as ½ fee of the Prior of Trentham, who held of Thomas de Arderne, and he of the Earl; (fn. 41) he had view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and ale there. (fn. 42) His great-grandson Sir John Peche leased the manor-house and demesnes to John Knybbe in 1370 (fn. 43) and died in 1386. (fn. 44) The manor then passed with Wormleighton (q.v.) to the family of Mountfort and on the attainder of Sir Simon Mountfort in 1496 escheated to the Crown. Both manors were granted in 1498 to William Coope, (fn. 45) and from him passed to the family of Spencer. (fn. 46) By the end of the 17th century this manor of Fenny Compton seems to have been absorbed into Wormleighton.
In 1235, besides the ½ fee of Richard Peche, the Earl of Warwick had in the same vill ½ fee 'of Henry'. (fn. 49) This may be the carucate held as ¼ fee of Thomas de Arderne by the Priory of Clattercote (Oxon.) in 1279. (fn. 50) The priory at this time also held 2 carucates (rated as 1 virgate) of the fee of John Peche. (fn. 51) At the Dissolution this, with other possessions of the priory, was given to Sir William Petre in 1538 as the manor of Fenny Compton; (fn. 52) the grant was renewed to him as late as July 1546, (fn. 53) but in December of that year the manor, 'late of Clattercote Priory and of Sir William Petre', was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford. (fn. 54)
The Priory of St. Sepulchre, Warwick, at the Dissolution was receiving 20s. rent from a mill in Fenny Compton. (fn. 55)
The earliest features in the building are the chancel arch and part of the north arcade, dating from c. 1320–30; the chancel was rebuilt then and a north aisle added to an earlier nave. The aisle seems to have been rebuilt and the arcade remodelled quite late in the 14th century, when also the west tower and spire and the north porch were added. The nave-clearstory was raised early in the 16th century but there is insufficient evidence that the flat roof of that period still survives. The roof was restored or reconstructed in 1879, when much other restoration to the masonry and the south aisle was added. All the windows are of modern stonework externally; the south wall of the chancel appears to have been entirely rebuilt, but its north wall may have been rebuilt in the 18th century. A date 1675 on the north porch is probably to do with a remodelling of its upper part and roof.
The chancel (about 27 ft. by 13½ ft.) has an east window of three trefoiled lights and net tracery in a two-centred head with a hood-mould. The ashlar splays are probably 14th-century; the south splay is plumb vertical but the north splay leans northward.
The only piercing in the north wall is a modern doorway in the east half: about 3 ft. east of it outside is the straight joint of the jamb and four voussoirs of the segmental head of a former doorway, probably 18thcentury. The three windows in the south wall are each of two cinquefoiled lights and a quatrefoiled spandrel in a four-centred head: the splays have a few ancient stones reworked. Below the eastern is a modern recess with a segmental-pointed head, marking a former piscina. All the windows are modern externally. The east wall is of ancient ashlar and has a low-pitched gablehead. At the angles are old buttresses, the southern diagonal, the northern square, projecting north. The plinth is chamfered. The north wall is of 18th-or early-19th-century ashlar but there is a piece of the original moulded string-course left in the middle of the wall outside. The plinth, continued from the east wall, stops at the former 18th-century doorway. The south wall also has an old chamfered plinth but above it the wall of yellow rough ashlar is modern. The lowpitched roof of four bays is modern, with plain trusses on stone corbels, but on the north side of the westernmost bay below the wall-plate is reset a medieval small human-head corbel or label-stop.
The 14th-century chancel arch has a two-centred head of two chamfered orders with medium-sized voussoirs and a hood-mould of half-round section towards the nave. The responds are similar, but the inner order has moulded capitals and bases and the outer is splayed out to square below an impost mould. The head has been rebuilt and some of the voussoirs are modern.
The nave (about 45 ft. by 15½ ft.) has a north arcade of five 8½-ft. bays with two-centred heads of two chamfered orders in medium small voussoirs and no hoodmoulds. They are carried on 18-in. octagonal pillars with chamfered bases and moulded capitals. The capitals of the easternmost and westernmost pillars are of good 14th-century contour, but those of the responds and the second and third pillars are of a cruder form and may be later replacements: the two chamfered orders of the east respond are merged into one splay at the foot, 16 in. above the base. Above the capital of the easternmost pillar (only) the outer orders are stopped by foliage carving, perhaps influenced by that at Burton Dassett. The material is a hard yellow-and grey-veined stone. Above the east respond on the naveside is a square-headed recess formed by the former doorway to the rood-loft, partly cut into the east wall.
The clearstory has three 16th-century north windows, each of two plain four-centred lights under a square head. On the south side are three modern windows of two trefoiled lights. The walls are of ashlar and have plain parapets.
The low-pitched roof is of five bays with braced plain tie-beams, some of which are old: the wall-posts are carried on plain stone corbels and they have longitudinal braces below the wall-plates. On the east wall of the tower is the weather-course of the earlier higher-pitched nave-roof, its apex a good deal south of the middle of the tower.
The north aisle (about 9½ ft. wide) has an east window of three lights; the segmental-pointed reararch is ancient but the splays have been retooled: the rest is modern. In the north wall are two windows of two trefoiled lights under square heads with labels, completely restored. The late-14th-century north doorway between them has jambs and two-centred head of two sunk-chamfered orders divided by a three-quarter hollow and having splayed bases and a plain hood-mould with man and woman head-stops. In it is an ancient door of three planks on heavy back framing with rows of nail-studding and plain strap hinges.
The north porch is of similar masonry but its gabled roof rises higher than that of the aisle and is covered with tiles. At the angles are low diagonal buttresses. The entrance has 14th-century moulded jambs and two centred head with an external hood-mould on square block-stops. In it is fixed a pair of late-17th-century plain doors. In the side walls are plain rectangular lights. In the gable-head is a stone inscribed hs. wk.cw 1675.
The west tower (about 8 ft. square inside) is of two stages divided by a plain splayed string-course and has a plinth of two chamfered courses, the upper projecting. At the west angles are diagonal buttresses of four stages reaching nearly to the parapet. There are no east buttresses. The walls are of coursed squared ashlar of dark grey-brown stone. The parapet is plain and has north and south gargoyles. For some reason the tower is placed in a northerly position with regard to the nave, the two axial lines differing about 17 inches. (fn. 56) The archway from the nave is only 6 ft. 4 in. wide in the clear. It has responds and acute-pointed head of two chamfered orders without bases or capitals: the voussoirs are large. On the nave-side is a plain hoodmould. In the west wall is a late-14th-century window of two cinquefoiled ogee-headed lights and an elongated quatrefoil in a two-centred head with an external hoodmould with head-stops and chamfered rear-arch: the outer of the two orders is moulded. Below it was a later doorway with a three-centred head, now blocked. The bell-chamber windows are similar except that the lights are trefoiled and the hood-moulds have return stops. The octagonal spire is of ashlar: the top has been rebuilt and is now rather blunted; at the apex is a weathercock. At half-height are four small gabled spire-lights and in the east face is a gabled ogee-headed outlet on to the gutter behind the parapet.
The communion rails have turned balusters of the 17th century. The font has a modern bowl on an old circular stem and base; an old plain tapering bowl, now lying loose, was probably the original. The pulpit, of hexagonal plan, has five sides of plain fielded panels of the late 17th century. In the north aisle is a massive iron-bound chest, probably of the 17th century, with two out of three hasps for locks and a fine old padlock.
On the north wall of the chancel near the east end is reset a brass inscription to Richard Willis, died 10 June 1597. In the floor are grave slabs to the Reverend Matthew Unite, Rector, 1700, to Joyce (Harris) his wife 1678, and Elizabeth Croke 1718(9). There are also mural monuments to the last, and others.
There are three bells, (fn. 57) two by Henry Bagley, 1636 and 1662: the second is undated but is perhaps by John Appowell of Buckingham, c. 1560–70.
Henry I confirmed to the Priory of Kenilworth the grant of the church of Compton of the fee of Ralph le Boteler (Pincerne) of Leicester. (fn. 58) It remained in the hands of the priory until 1284, when the prior and convent conveyed the advowson to Roger, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield. (fn. 59) The rectory was valued in 1291 at £7 6s. 8d. (fn. 60) and in 1535 at £15 8s. 2d. (fn. 61) In 1547 the bishop, with the consent of the dean and chapter, sold the rectory and advowson to Thomas Fisher alias Hawkins, (fn. 62) who died seised thereof in 1578, (fn. 63) leaving a son (Sir) Edward, who dissipated his property (fn. 64) and perhaps mortgaged the advowson to Edward Murcot who presented to the living in 1617. (fn. 65) A presentation was made in 1628 by James Horsey, (fn. 66) the son (by his second wife) of Hannibal Horsey who married Edward Fisher's daughter Katherine as his first wife. (fn. 67) Aaron Rogers had acquired the advowson by 1701, when he presented his son John, (fn. 68) from whom it passed in about 1727 to his niece Bridget (Willes) and her husband Thomas Prew. (fn. 69) By 1753 (fn. 70) the advowson had come to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, who still hold it.
The benefice was held c. 1245 by Aymar de Valence, half-brother of Henry III and, in 1250, Bishop of Winchester, (fn. 71) and from 1526 to 1533 by Roland Lee, who as Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield played a prominent part in the divorce of Henry VIII. (fn. 72)
Annie Augusta Matthews by will proved 21 March 1918 gave £100 to the vicar and churchwardens the income to be applied to the ecclesiastical purposes of the parish. The endowment now produces £4 18s. 4d. annually in dividends.
James Archer by will dated 1611 gave £20, the income to be distributed at the discretion of the constable and churchwardens to twenty of the poorest cottagers or householders for ever. The income, amounting to 11s. 4d. annually, is applied for the benefit of the poor.
Thomas Blick Reading in 1873 transferred to the rector and churchwardens for the time being 10 shares of £2 each of The Fenny Compton Water Co. Ltd. and directed the interest to be applied to pay the water rate of such persons as were unable to pay for themselves. The Donor also gave 10 similar shares in the same company to the guardians and overseers for the same purpose. The interest on the shares is applied in accordance with the trusts.