A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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Bishop's Itchington is a parish and large village 3 miles south-west of Southam. The river Itchen, from which it derives its name, flows northward through the parish, which accounts for the large amount of meadow, 50 acres, recorded in 1086. (fn. 1) The ground slopes from Christmas Hill (fn. 2) (425 ft.) on the western boundary to 269 ft., where the Itchen leaves the parish at its northeastern corner. There are no main roads through the parish, though the Southam-Kineton road, which crosses it from north to south and passes through the village, has or had milestones. (fn. 3) Minor roads connect the village with Harbury, Ladbroke, and Knightcott in Burton Dassett. The present village in the north of the parish was formerly known as Upper Itchington, Lower Itchington being about a mile to the south-east, probably near the present Old Town Farm, where there are traces of buildings having once existed. (fn. 4) Lower Itchington was at one time the more important, and contained the church (St. Michael's Church in the upper village is on the site of a medieval chapel), but Thomas Fisher, who purchased the manor from the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield in 1547, 'pulled down the church for the building of a large manor house . . . actually changed the name from Bishop's to Fisher's Itchington, but is only remembered as the ruthless depopulator'. (fn. 5) In 1730 this manor-house had been abandoned and converted into two of the six dwellings that then existed in Lower Itchington, (fn. 6) and traces of the depopulation remained as late as 1801, when the first census showed a population (370) much below that of most neighbouring parishes, having regard to the large area. Since then the population has risen almost continuously to a figure about two and a half times what it was in 1801, a noteworthy increase for a rural parish, though caused partly by the development of lime and cement works on the northern boundary with Harbury. (fn. 7) As in Harbury, the soil is rather heavy but productive. The former G.W. R. main line to Birmingham crosses the northern part of the parish, the nearest station being at Harbury, a mile and a half distant. In the south-west corner of the parish is the large wood known as Itchington Holt.
There are a Congregational chapel, erected in 1837, and a Methodist chapel, erected in 1859. (fn. 8)
A windmill is mentioned in 1279 (fn. 9) and in 1602. (fn. 10) Many 'old coins, bones, musket balls and foundations of stone' were found in 1849, (fn. 11) no doubt relics of the destroyed lower village.
A grant of 24 acres made to the church of All Saints by Mabel de Hagley in 1246 shows that they lay in the East and West Fields, (fn. 12) which seems to imply a two-field system of cultivation at that date. An Inclosure Act for Bishop's Itchington was passed in 1774. (fn. 13)
Sir John Willes (1685–1761), Chief Justice of Common Pleas, was the son of John Willes, vicar from 1681 to 1700. (fn. 14) In 1638 a warrant was issued for commitment of Edward Tompkins of Bishop's Itchington for 'giving ill language and reviling speeches against the collectors of ship money'. (fn. 15)
East of the church is the Manor House, which now forms six cottages, with two added to the north and south ends in red brick. Although adapted for eight families the external elevation has suffered little alteration. It is a two-story building, T-shaped in plan, dating from about the middle of the 16th century, and is built of limestone ashlar with sandstone dressings, moulded plinth, and tiled roof. The windows throughout have a single splay in a square rebate. The south front has a porch, with a steep-pitched gable, two stories high, and has a wide entrance with a flat head, moulded architrave, plain pilasters and a moulded pediment with a two-light window above, and a blocked two-light in the gable. The entrance doorway has a chamfered four-centred head. There is a moulded string-course at first-floor level carried up over the windows as a hood-moulding. The upper story is projected slightly on a moulded corbel stopping against the pilasters. East of the porch is a four-light transomed window, with two lower lights removed to insert a modern door, and above a three-light window; to the west there are two-light windows to each floor. In the return wall of the west wing there is a small single-light window at first-floor level. On the north side there are two two-light transomed windows with two two-lights above, one blocked. At the west end there is a door with a slightly cambered chamfered head, with a small single-light window east of it. In the return wall of the west wing there is a similar door and window, and a two-light transomed window to each floor. On the west there is a central doorway with a four-centred moulded arch with a square head, carved spandrels, and moulded stops, and south of it is a four-light transomed window with a three-light above. North of the doorway a two-light transomed window has been converted into a door by removing the two lower lights, and above it is a two-light window. The chimney-stacks have all been rebuilt in red brick and the roof re-tiled. Internally nothing of interest remains.
ITCHINGTON was one of the fifteen Warwickshire lordships granted by Earl Leofric to his newly founded priory of Coventry in 1043, (fn. 16) and was in 1086 held by the church of Coventry for 5 hides, worth £12. The fact that in 1066 it had been worth £10 and afterwards £3 suggests that it may, like the Coventry holding in the neighbouring parish of Harbury, have been laid waste by the king's army. (fn. 17) At some date early in the 12th century the monks seem to have been dispossessed of some of their estates; they were restored by command of Pope Eugenius III (1145–53), the grant being confirmed by King Stephen, with special mention of Itchington, in a charter recited in 1348. (fn. 18) The exact date when this manor became the exclusive property of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield is not certain; Dugdale (fn. 19) puts it at the beginning of the episcopate of Roger Molend (1257), but it was already called BISHOP'S ITCHINGTON in 1247, (fn. 20) and the bull issued in 1152 by Eugenius III expressly confirmed Itchington to Bishop Walter Duredent and his successors. (fn. 21) In any case Bishop Molend was in 1259 granted free warren in his demesne lands, a weekly market on Wednesdays and an annual fair in connexion with the feast of SS. Peter and Paul, at Itchington. (fn. 22) In 1285 he claimed and was allowed view of frankpledge, assize of bread and ale, and infangthief or the right to try and to hang thieves caught within the bounds of his Warwickshire manors. (fn. 23) Six years earlier Itchington had been returned at 5 carucates, with a windmill, held in demesne, 8 free and 26 unfree tenants holding (fn. 24) in all 42¼ yardlands, and 16 cottagers with 17 cottages. The value of the bishop's manor in 1291 was returned as £19 18s. 8d. (fn. 25) In 1322 a commission of oyer and terminer was issued regarding persons who during a vacancy in the see had broken into the bishop's estates at Itchington and elsewhere, burnt the houses, fished in the stews, and cut down the trees. (fn. 26) An extent taken after the death of Bishop Northburgh (1359) shows the manor-house as of no value: the pasture in the garden was worth 2s.; there were a windmill, and 32 acres of arable in the demesne worth only 4d. an acre because in fallow: also 24 acres (cultivated) worth 3s. an acre. A pasture called Smethys was worth 6s. The 30 customary tenants had commuted for 4s. each per year, and in Nether Itchington there were 10 'acremen' each holding a messuage and half a virgate. The rents of the free tenants amounted to £6 5s. 8d. and perquisites of court to 5s. 10d. An aid called 'Stuth' was payable by the customary tenants at Michaelmas, realizing 18s. a year. (fn. 27)
The bishops of Coventry and Lichfield remained lords of Itchington till 1547, when Richard (Sampson), then bishop, granted it with the advowson (fn. 28) and all appurtenances to Thomas Fisher for a yearly rent of £50. This was confirmed by the dean and chapter the same year, as also a release of the £50 rent in 1548, the whole being ratified by the king, to be held in chief as of the manor of East Greenwich. (fn. 29) Fisher was also granted the return and execution of writs within the manors of Itchington and Tachbrook, which were henceforth to be known as the Liberty of Thomas Fisher in the county of Warwick. (fn. 30) The only survival of this concession is the brass matrix of a seal executed for his son Edward and now in the Museum at Birmingham. (fn. 31) It bears the figure of St. Edward the Confessor, and in front of him a shield charged with a kingfisher, between the initials E. and F., with the date 1581 above. The legend is: sigillvm. peculiaris. ivrisdictionis. de. ffysshers. itchyngton. Fisher, who was a confidential agent of John Dudley, Viscount Lisle and later Duke of Northumberland, and of the Protector Somerset, (fn. 32) seems to have been a typical nouveau riche of his time, and Dugdale suggests that the conveyance of two valuable manors to him by Bishop Sampson was to gain favour at court in view of the changes in religion, regarding which the bishop was conservative. (fn. 33) Fisher died in possession of the manor in 1577; (fn. 34) it had been settled, probably in 1558, (fn. 35) on his wife Winifred, now deceased, and his son and heir, Edward, was then 30. The latter dealt with the manors of Upper and Nether Itchington in 1576, (fn. 36) and 1592, (fn. 37) as did his son John in 1602, when he conveyed land and a windmill to James Enyon. (fn. 38) By this time the Fisher estates were heavily encumbered owing to Edward's extravagance, and the manor of Over Itchington had been taken into the queen's hands in 1597 to liquidate his debts, and was still so in 1601 after the death of the then tenant Richard Stoneley. (fn. 39) In 1610–11 John Fisher sold the manors to Thomas Coxe of Hunningham, (fn. 40) after which the upper and lower manors parted company. Thomas Coxe, junior, son of the preceding, (fn. 41) is said to have married Judith Fisher of Warwick Priory (? sister of John); (fn. 42) he, in association with William Tym and Alice his wife, conveyed to Thomas Wood and Humphrey Lee a part of the manor of Itchington Episcopi alias Over Itchington in 1631. (fn. 43) Ten years later Over Itchington was in the hands of Samuel Cranmer, who held this manor of the king as of East Greenwich, (fn. 44) and his son Caesar was dealing with it in 1656 (fn. 45) and 1696. (fn. 46) Caesar was created a knight in 1677, and it was probably his only surviving son Charles, who was unmarried in 1696, (fn. 47) who about 1719 sold the upper manor to Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy. (fn. 48) He was lord in 1731 (fn. 49) and died the following year, (fn. 50) his son Thomas being lord in 1747. (fn. 51) The manor was held in 1753 by George and Constance Denton, (fn. 52) and their daughter married Wenman Coke who dealt with Upper Itchington manor in 1770 (fn. 53) and was lord in 1773; (fn. 54) he died in 1776, and his widow Elizabeth was lady of the manor in 1786. (fn. 55) She died in 1810, but between 1800 and 1822 Edward Tomes was lord of the upper manor. (fn. 56) After this date only one manor is mentioned in Bishop's Itchington, of which H. T. Chamberlayne of Stoney Thorpe, who married Mary, only child of Edward Tomes, was lord in 1838, (fn. 57) and after his death in 1875 the manor apparently went to his third son S. B. H. Chamberlayne of Witherley Hall, who was lord in 1900 (fn. 58) and at his death in 1931, (fn. 59) when he was succeeded by his son Col. E. Tankerville Chamberlayne.
The manor sold by the younger Thomas Coxe to James (afterwards Sir James) Enyon of Flore (Northants.) about 1636 (fn. 60) must have been the lower manor. According to Dugdale, Enyon re-sold his manor within five years of purchase to Sir David Conyngham, (fn. 61) but in 1662 Nether Itchington 'lately belonging to Sir James Enyons' was in crown hands owing to the forfeiture of William Purefoy, the late holder, for his share in the execution of Charles I. It then comprised 752 acres and was worth £415 4s. 3d. yearly, (fn. 62) and seems to have returned to Enyon's descendants; in 1670 Dorothy and Katherine, two of his coheiresses, (fn. 63) with their respective husbands Thomas Stanley and John Garrard, and Sir Henry Puckering (fn. 64) and Sir Charles Adderley, conveyed Nether Itchington to Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke. (fn. 65) A 'manor' in Bishop's Itchington was similarly dealt with between William Peyto and John Verney in 1683. (fn. 66) The Hon. Doddington Greville was lord of the manor of Nether Itchington in 1713 (fn. 67) and Fulke Greville's great-grandson, Francis, 8th Baron (afterwards Earl) Brooke, in 1730 (fn. 68) and 1749. (fn. 69) Between 1755 and 1819 this manor was in the hands of the Taylor family of Birmingham. (fn. 70)
A portion of the Stoneleigh Abbey property in Radway, known as RADWAY GRANGE, was reckoned as part of Bishop's Itchington, apparently because the precentor of Lichfield Cathedral, who was rector of Bishop's Itchington, held 8 virgates in Radway for which by an agreement in 1275 he received 13s. 4d. annual rent from Stoneleigh Abbey. (fn. 71) For the descent, see Radway. (fn. 72) Thomas Cowper of Wellingborough, who was surveying the neighbourhood for inclosure purposes in 1758–9, noted 'the castle or high summer house (built by Mr. Miller of Radway) on the very top of Edge Hill, which commands a vast part of this kingdom, for with a telescope from the summit of this mountain places may be seen about 100 miles distant'. (fn. 73)
The church of ST. MICHAEL is situated on the north side of the village and stands in a small churchyard. The old church, which originated as a chapel to the church of All Saints in Lower Itchington (destroyed by Thomas Fisher), at the beginning of the 19th century consisted of a chancel and nave, structurally undivided, with a bell-turret at the west end. Judging from the view of it in the Aylesford Collection it had no external features earlier than the 17th century. In 1834 a small brick tower was added. (fn. 74) The whole church was rebuilt in 1872 and consists of a chancel, nave, north aisle, west tower, organ chamber, and south porch. It is built of squared and coursed stonework and has a tiled roof of steep pitch. Internally all the walls are plastered and the floors tiled. The chancel is lighted by a tracery window of three trefoil lights on the east, on the south by a square-headed window of four trefoil lights, using old stone mullions, and a similar one of two lights. The south side of the nave has a porch with a trefoiled light on either side; the doorway has a moulded pointed arch, the mouldings dying out on splayed jambs. East of the porch are three tracery windows, one of four trefoil lights and the others of two. The north aisle has three tracery windows, one of three trefoil lights and the others with two, and on the west another of three. The organ chamber is at the east end of the aisle; it is lighted by a window of two trefoil lights on the east and has an entrance door on the north side with a flat shouldered head. The tower, which is without buttresses, is in two stages, with a weathered offset to the upper stage, gargoyles at each corner, and a plain parapet. The west door has a pointed arch of two splayed orders with a two-light tracery window over, and above a narrow rectangular light; on the south side there is a similar light with a clock dial above it. In the north-west angle there is a staircase turret with an external entrance, and on the north face another clock dial. The belfry has tracery windows of two trefoil lights on all four faces.
The chancel (19 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft. 1 in) has a mosaic reredos at the east end and one step to the altar. On the north side there is an arch to the organ chamber. In the floor there is a white marble slab to Margaret, wife of Lord Chief Justice Willes, died 1757; and two slate slabs, one to John Willes, D.D., died 1700, the other to William Willes, son of John Willes, Chief Justice of Chester, died 1729; and on the south wall of the tower there is a memorial to John Willes, died 1761.
The nave (33 ft. 1 in. by 20 ft. 1 in.) has a trussed rafter roof, plastered between the rafters. The font, in the south-west corner, is octagonal and made up of old stones, probably from the arcade of the earlier church. The chancel arch of two orders rests on short shafts of coloured marble resting on fluted stone corbels. The pointed tower arch is of two splayed orders, the outer carried down to the floor and the inner dying out on the wall. The nave arcade of three bays has pointed arches springing from circular shafts with moulded bases.
The tower (11 ft. by 11 ft.) has a mural monument in marble, flanked by Doric pilasters, in memory of Thomas, the son of Sir Thomas Hardy, Rear Admiral, died 1749; on it is a shield, sable on a cheveron or three griffin's heads erased sable between three scallops or.
Of the five bells by Taylor & Co., 1874, two were recast from bells of which one was probably by Watts of Leicester and the other by Pack and Chapman. (fn. 75)
By about the middle of the 12th century the church of Itchington had been attached as a prebend to the precentorship of Lichfield; which arrangement was confirmed c. 1177 by Bishop Richard Peche. (fn. 76) Several grants of lands and rents were made to the church of All Saints in the middle of the 13th century, (fn. 77) and in 1253 the bishop granted to the precentor additional land adjoining his rectorial house. (fn. 78) By 1279 the precentor's holding included 1 carucate in demesne and 4 virgates held by 8 free tenants. (fn. 79) A vicarage had been constituted and in 1282 (?) was increased; at the same time the ancient house of the church in Over Itchington, in which the priest ministering there used to live, was made over to the vicar, who was to provide a chaplain there. (fn. 80) In 1291 the value of the church with its chapels (of Over Itchington, Chadshunt, and Gaydon) was £40; (fn. 81) and in 1535 the vicarage and rectory were each rated at £26 13s. 4d. (fn. 82) The advowson remained with the precentor, except for one presentation by the Crown in 1586 (probably during a vacancy) and one by Thomas Coxe, lord of the manor, in 1621, (fn. 83) until it passed, under the Act of 1840, to the bishop (the Bishop of Coventry since the formation of that see).
Poor's Allotment. By the award of the Commissioners under the Act for Inclosing the Common Lands within this parish dated 29 May 1775 an allotment was set out and awarded to trustees of a parcel of land lying on Bishop's Itchington Heath containing 8 a. o r. 1 p. which the Commissioners adjudged to be equivalent to the custom enjoyed by the poor people of the parish of cutting furze, or furze bushes, in certain places of the heath.
The above-mentioned charities are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 17 February 1871, which contains provisions for the application of the income for the benefit of the most deserving and necessitous inhabitants of the parish.
John Spraggett by will dated 1 August 1873 gave to the resident minister, churchwardens, and overseers of the poor of the parish £200, to apply the annual income in the purchase of coals to be distributed in the early part of January amongst the aged widowers and widows living in the parish. The annual income of the charity amounts to £5 7s.
The Rev. James Hamer Scowcroft by will dated 20 February 1897 devised to the vicar of Bishop's Itchington the building known as the Conservative Club and Village Reading-room, to be maintained for the furtherance of Conservative principles and religious and mental improvement. He also devised to the vicar the freehold land known as Pool Yard and Brothers or Vermin Close situated in the village, one moiety of the income thereof to be used towards the church expenses (especially the organist's salary) and the other moiety for the maintenance of the Club and Reading-room.
The charity consisting of the Conservative Club and Village Reading-room is now regulated by a scheme of the High Court of Justice (Chancery Division) dated 19 June 1902, appointing managers to maintain the Bishop's Itchington Parish Room for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the parish for the purposes therein stated.
The Bishop's Itchington Memorial Hall. By an Indenture dated 6 April 1922 Sir Michael Henry Lakin, bart., conveyed to trustees a piece of land in Bishop's Itchington together with the Memorial Hall erected thereon to hold the same upon trust to permit the premises to be appropriated and managed by a committee of 12 members and 5 ex-officio members, and empowers them to make rules for the internal management and use of the Hall, but subject to the approval of the trustees.