A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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This small parish, about 2 miles from east to west by little more than a mile from north to south, lies mostly to the east of the road from Banbury to Warwick. Where this road enters the parish a small road leads off from it north-eastwards to Fenny Compton, and this is met by another coming from Farnborough at the lower end of the village. The country is hilly, rising from 400 ft. in the south and east, where the parish is bounded by small streams, to 624 ft. at the top of the hill above the church.
South of the churchyard is the Old Rectory, of which the north wing has thick walls of Hornton stone ashlar, and a stone central chimney-stack with two diagonal brick shafts, of the 17th century; the house has been mostly enlarged and renovated in modern times. In the village along the road to the south are several 17thor 18th-century cottages of local yellow stone with thatched roofs. There is a Roman Catholic church, built in 1854, and a Methodist chapel founded in 1862.
On the hill above the church is the site of a windmill, no doubt the successor of one mentioned in 1284, when a man eating his lunch in its shade was struck by the sails and killed. (fn. 1)
In 1309 Maud widow of Hugh le Norreys sued Walter de Cantilupe (the lord of the manor) and 22 others for depasturing her corn. In reply they claimed the right to common in Norryscroft, between the lands of the lord and of the rector, every second year from Midsummer to Lady Day. (fn. 2) The parish was inclosed in 1779 under an Act affecting 1,200 acres. (fn. 3)
AVON DASSETT, which before the Conquest was held by three theigns, was held in 1086 by the Count of Meulan. It was rated at 10 hides and included 50 acres of meadow. (fn. 4) The overlordship came to the Earls of Warwick, (fn. 5) and in 1242 a mesne lordship was held by Rose de Verdon. (fn. 6) When her great-grandson Theobald de Verdon died in 1316 he left four infant daughters; (fn. 7) 2¾ fees in Avon Dassett were assigned in 1336 to the youngest, Margery, and her husband Mark Hussee, (fn. 8) but no more is heard of this mesne lordship.
William Giffard of Fonthill (Wilts.) was steward of Roger, Earl of Warwick, and in 1166 held two knights' fees of him, (fn. 9) of which part was presumably here, as in 1175 he was concerned in a suit, apparently with Gilbert de Unestonescota, touching land in 'Dercet'. (fn. 10) He had also given land in Avon Dassett to the Knights Templars before 1185. (fn. 11) The last of this line, his nephew Andrew Giffard, was a clerk and before his death in 1220 made over his estates to his heirs—Robert de Mandeville, Robert Mauduit, William Cumin, and William de Fontibus. (fn. 12) Accordingly we find the fee held by Robert Mauduit in 1235, (fn. 13) and by the (unnamed) heir of Andrew Giffard in 1242, (fn. 14) while in 1224 Robert de Mandeville was sued by John de Mar and Eve his wife for ⅓ of ¼ of the vill of Dassett as part of her dower in right of her previous husband William Cumin, whom she had married in Scotland. (fn. 15) A William Cumin, of Snitterfield (q.v.), probably father of this William, (fn. 16) had died in 1216 leaving a widow Margery, who subsequently married William de Hastings, and a daughter and eventual heir Margery who married John de Cantilupe. (fn. 17) Their son Walter was lord of Avon Dassett in 1316 (fn. 18) and three years later held the manor jointly with Thomas Beton for life, with reversion to Christiane (widow of William) de Bisshopesdon. (fn. 19) Next year she conveyed the reversion to John Pecche. (fn. 20) It then descended with Hampton-in-Arden (fn. 21) (q.v.) to the family of Mountfort and on the attainder of Sir Simon Mountfort in 1495 escheated to the Crown and was granted to Gerald, Earl of Kildare, and Elizabeth his (second) wife. (fn. 22) She died on 3 July 1516 and as her eldest son Sir Henry died five days later the manor passed to his brother Thomas (fn. 23) and on his death in 1531 to his brother Sir James FitzGerald. (fn. 24) On his attainder in 1537 it came to the Crown (fn. 25) and was granted in 1550 to Sir Ralph Sadler, (fn. 26) who promptly sold it to John Woodward of Butlers Marston. (fn. 27) In this family (fn. 28) it remained for two centuries, passing to John's grandson John in 1624 (fn. 29) and to his son Richard in 1627, (fn. 30) and being held by a later Richard in 1738. (fn. 31) In 1744 the manor was sold by Catherine Letitia Woodward, spinster, and seven other persons to William Holbech of Farnborough, (fn. 32) from whom it descended to Ronald Herbert Acland Holbech, lord of the manor in 1937. (fn. 33)
In 1279 Adam le Fraunceys held 3 virgates here, for which he 'did service as rodman for the whole vill at the county and hundred courts'. At the same time Robert Ilger held 1 virgate from the Knights Hospitallers, and Walter le Bedel ½ virgate from the Hospital of St. Michael of Warwick. (fn. 34)
A small estate in Little Dassett constituted the endowment of a prebend in Lichfield Cathedral at least as early as 1255. (fn. 35) It was the poorest of all the prebends, being valued in 1291 at 10s., (fn. 36) and in 1535 at only 3s. 4d. (fn. 37)
The parish church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST stands on high ground on the east side of the steeply rising road leading from the village northwards to Fenny Compton. It consists of a chancel with a north organ-chamber and vestry, nave, north aisle, south porch, and west tower with a spire.
The old church having become dilapidated was pulled down and rebuilt in 1868. Only a small portion of the ancient material was re-used. The discovery or survival of some small fragments of 12th-century stonework was evidently the reason for the new north arcade being designed in the 'Norman style'. The remainder of the fabric is of the early-14th-century style; to which period belong an archway, possibly the former chancel arch, reset at the east end of the north aisle, the east window of the chancel, reset in the west wall of the tower, and a recess replaced in the north wall of the chancel above a unique effigy of a 13th-century deacon. Otherwise the architecture is modern.
The chancel (about 34 ft. by 16 ft.) has an east window of three trefoiled lights and tracery, and two north and three south two-light windows. At the west end of the north side is an archway to the organchamber and vestry, and below the second north window is the recess with the effigy described later. It is of grey stone with moulded jambs and a cinquefoiled, two-centred, ogee-pointed arch enriched with ball-flower ornament and with a hood-mould having men's-head stops. The walls are of Hornton stone ashlar and the gabled roof is covered with tiles. The chancel arch, of two chamfered orders, has shafted responds with moulded capitals and bases.
The nave (44 ft. by 17 ft.) has a north arcade of 12th-century style in three bays with square responds and round pillars having scalloped square capitals and moulded bases on square sub-bases. The grooved and hollow-chamfered abacus of the east respond is ancient, also the south-west quarter of the moulded base of the eastern pillar and the north-east piece of its chamfered sub-base. The remainder of the arcade is modern.
In the south wall are three windows: the westernmost a traceried single light, the other two of two lights and tracery. The south doorway, between the second and third, has shafted jambs and a pointed head with a hood-mould, and the south porch a pointed entrance and single side-lights.
The north aisle (10 ft. wide) is lighted by three north windows of two lights and tracery. At the east end is an archway of c. 1300 opening into the organ-chamber and vestry. It has a pointed head of two chamfered orders with medium to large voussoirs, the outer continued from the responds, the inner carried on detached round shafts that have moulded capitals and bases.
The west tower (about 12 ft. square) is of three stages and is surmounted by a tall octagonal stone spire and tall pyramids in the angles of the tower. There are square buttresses at the west angles and a stair-vice in the south-east angle. The archway to the nave is pointed and of two chamfered orders, the inner carried on half-round shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases. The west window is the old east window of c. 1300 reset. It is of four plain pointed lights and plain intersecting tracery in a two-centred head with an external hood-mould: the outer order of the jambs and arch is ovolo-moulded. In the north and south sides are windows of two lights and tracery. The second stage has a single-light window, and the bellchamber windows are of two lights and tracery.
In the recess in the chancel is a stone coffin and lid carved in high relief with a beautiful and probably unique effigy (fn. 38) of a 13th-century tonsured deacon in his vestments-cassock, alb, dalmatic, maniple, and stole—his left hand raised to his breast and lying with the palm outwards. His right arm is pendant with the hand grasping a wide riband or scroll. The figure is represented in a canopy with a round head surmounted by tabernacle work depicted as a hall between two lower wings or extensions, all with round-headed windows and gabled roofs having ball finials at the apices. It is flanked by half-round pilasters having moulded capitals that carry semi-octagonal turrets with similar windows and ball-tipped cupolas. The moulded bases are supported on ball-tipped tapering corbels level with the feet of the effigy. Below this is a half-ring of trefoil leaves about a small tortoise which is biting one of the leaves, perhaps intended for a kind of rebus. The edge of the slab is moulded. The cist shows one long side divided into two bays by angle and intermediate half-round pilasters with moulded capitals and bases, between upper and lower chamfered courses.
In one of the tracery lights of the west window are preserved a few fragments of 15th-century white and yellow glass, including a small figure of a mitred bishop in a yellow chasuble with his pastoral staff in his left hand and his right hand in blessing. The remainder are quarries with outline designs of foliage and flowers, some yellow.
The Domesday Survey mentions a priest, implying a church, at Avon Dassett, (fn. 39) and the advowson followed the descent of the manor, (fn. 40) being included with it in the grant to Sir Ralph Sadler in 1550. (fn. 41) In 1562, however, presentation was made by Simon Raleigh, (fn. 42) whose son Sir George in 1611 conveyed the advowson to Richard Gorestele and William Hall. (fn. 43) John Bywater, or Bowater, of London was patron in 1617 and in 1629 presented Francis Staunton to the living. (fn. 44) On Dr. Staunton's death in 1668 his son Thomas was presented by Sir Thomas Beverley, and in 1676 Frances Staunton held the advowson, which she shortly afterwards conveyed to Sir Richard Barker. (fn. 45) In 1711 Katherine Knapp, widow, presented Thomas Saunders, (fn. 46) who acquired the advowson and conveyed it in 1725 to Samuel Leigh. (fn. 47) Sarah Leigh, widow, held it in 1744; in 1769 Thomas Gill, D.D., was both rector and patron. (fn. 48) Dr. Gill in 1776 conveyed the rectory of Avon Dassett to Ann Taylor; (fn. 49) in 1778 his widow Elizabeth presented; (fn. 50) and in 1802 Thomas Gill and Sarah with William Marriott and Ann conveyed the advowson to Robert Green. (fn. 51) Next year he presented Humphrey Jeston, (fn. 52) who probably married Green's daughter, as his son who succeeded him in 1839 as both incumbent and patron was Robert Green Jeston. (fn. 53) About 1926 the advowson was acquired by the Bishop of Coventry and since the benefice was united with that of Farnborough, in 1933, the right of presentation rests alternately with the bishop and the patron of Farnborough.
The Rev. Thomas Hindes by will dated 21 Dec. 1768 gave to the rector and churchwardens £50 upon trust to place out the same in a good security or in the purchase of lands and to distribute the interest in equal amounts to industrious poor persons of the parish. The annual income amounting to £2 10s. is applied for the benefit of the poor.
The Rev. John James, who died in 1617, gave by will to the poor of Avon Dassett 20s. yearly to be paid out of a messuage and one yardland which he purchased of Sir Edward Rawley. The charge is distributed among the most needy poor of the parish.