A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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The River Avon forms the northern boundary of the parish, and on it, no doubt, was the mill worth 10s. 6d. which was mentioned in the Domesday Survey (fn. 1) and was later given to the monks of Pipewell Abbey, being valued at 5s. in 1291. (fn. 2) The small village lies to the west of the church between the river and the road leading west from Rugby, close to which the railway from Rugby to Birmingham cuts straight across the parish. The country is open, rising gently from about 260 ft. in the north to 360 ft. in the south. A terrier of the glebe in 1635 speaks of 'the inclosure of some parts of the fields here fifty years ago', (fn. 3) probably by Thomas Wightman, who had put out of cultivation 140 acres of arable. (fn. 4)
An undated early-18th-century petition of 22 inhabitants of Church Lawford (3 of whom signed with their marks) to the Duke of Montagu for the establishment of a charity school has been preserved. (fn. 5) The Montagu estates here were rented at £704 17s. 10d. (plus woodland valued at £259 6s. 6d.) in 1710, and £1,115 15s. 6d. in 1796, when there were 36 tenants, and the duke owned all but about 100 acres of the parish ('the quantity of lands in this manor is between 1,600 and 1,700 acres'). (fn. 6) As early as 1710 only 154 acres were arable, pasture accounting for 1,465 acres and river and upland meadow for 109. An undated survey, circa 1717, gives 37 tenants of 1,679 acres, valued at £770 14s. 10d., besides 84 acres of glebe and 29 of wood, waste, &c. (fn. 7)
In 1086 the 5-hide unit of [CHURCH] LAWFORD was among the estates held of Earl Roger of Shrewsbury by Rainald de Bailleul; before the Conquest Chetelbert held it. (fn. 8) In the reign of Henry II Roger Heyrun was lord of this manor. (fn. 9) He was probably son of the William 'Hairo' who held land in Warwickshire in 1130. (fn. 10) There seem to have been three Rogers, all benefactors to Combe Abbey, (fn. 11) of whom it was probably the second who was dealing with land in Lawford in 1200, (fn. 12) and the third who was acquitted on a charge of arson in 1221. (fn. 13) On this occasion his brother William was mentioned as suspected, while among Roger's sureties were John Heyrun (presumably his brother) and William de Wavere of Lawford (John's son-in-law). Roger Heyrun, who in 1243 held a knight's fee in 'Lawford Heyrun' of John FitzAlan, (fn. 14) one coheir of Earl Roger, died in or shortly before 1251, leaving a widow Agnes, daughter of Richard atte Halle; (fn. 15) and, his brother John being dead, his heir was the latter's daughter Julian, then wife of William de Wavere. (fn. 16) William took his wife's name of Heyrun and left a son John and a daughter Margery, married to William de Newenham. (fn. 17) In 1307 John Heyrun settled the manor on himself for life with remainder to (his nephew) Robert son of William de Newenham and his wife Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Boydyn in tail, with contingent remainders to Nicholas, Julian, Walter, and Richard, brothers and sister of Robert. (fn. 18) This Robert is identified by Dugdale with Robert de Lalleford (i.e. Lawford), who figures as the chief taxpayer in Church Lawford to the subsidy of 1332; (fn. 19) but the Pipewell chronicler expressly states that Robert de Lalleford acquired his rights by purchase and not by heredity. (fn. 20) He was knight of the shire in 1340 and died before 1346, when his son John de Lalleford granted the manor to John Whitwell for life. (fn. 21) After the death of John de Lalleford his brother William is said to have granted the manor in 1361 to Walter Whythors and Isabel his wife, who conveyed it to trustees. (fn. 22)
By some means the manor came into the hands of the Staffords (fn. 23) and was held by Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, at his death on the field of Northampton in 1460. (fn. 24) After the attainder of Edward, Duke of Buckingham, in 1521 it was granted to Thomas, Marquess of Dorset, (fn. 25) whose son Henry, Duke of Suffolk, was also attainted, and in November 1554 the manor, with the park (20 acres) and other appurtenances, was granted to Robert Bayly, the elder and younger. (fn. 26) In May 1555 they had leave to convey the property to Thomas Leigh, alderman of London. (fn. 27) His grandson Francis, Lord Dunsmore, was holding the manor about 1640 (fn. 28) and through his daughter Elizabeth it passed with Dunchurch (q.v.) to the Dukes of Montagu and Buccleuch.
The abbey of Combe received a number of small grants of land in Church Lawford from the Heyruns and others, Roger Heyrun and his widow Agnes both being buried in the abbey church. (fn. 29) In 1291 the Combe property in this parish produced £3 17s. 8d. yearly, (fn. 30) and in 1535 their rents amounted to £4 3s. 6d. (fn. 31) At the Dissolution the Combe estates were granted to the Duchess of Richmond for life and in May 1557 all the Crown's rights in such of this property as lay in Church Lawford were conveyed to Sir Rowland Hill and Thomas Leigh, the owner of the manor. (fn. 32)
The Northamptonshire abbey of Pipewell also held land in the parish, (fn. 33) the chief grant made to them being one from Roger (III) Heyrun of waste ground at Bromehill, or Marham, where the monks planted trees and established a sheep-run, and a water-mill and the site for a windmill. (fn. 34) In 1535 their rents here amounted to 52s. (fn. 35) After the Dissolution this property was granted in 1553 to John Grene of Westminster and Ralph Hall, scrivener. (fn. 36)
Stude was among the possessions of Coventry Priory confirmed in 1221 by Pope Honorius III, (fn. 37) and a chapel here is alleged to have been appropriated to the priory in 1260. (fn. 38) In 1528 the convent leased 100 acres and several groves at the Stode on Dunsmore Heath to Thomas Bromeswyse, his wife, and two sons for their lives; (fn. 39) and in 1554 this property was sold by the Crown to Thomas Reve and Giles Isham. (fn. 40)
Philip de Wynchecumbe in 1246 granted 1½ virgates in Church Lawford to the priory of the Holy Sepulchre, Warwick. (fn. 41) In 1535 the priory was receiving 20s. in rents from this parish, (fn. 42) and in 1544 a messuage here which had belonged to the priory was included in a grant to John Burges and Edward Wotton, Doctors of Medicine. (fn. 43)
The church of ST. PETER is situated to the east of the village, standing on the north side of a large churchyard. It consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower, north porch, and a vestry. It was rebuilt in the gothic style in hammer-dressed sandstone ashlar in 1874, and all that has been retained of the previous church is three bays of the 14th-century north arcade, two piscinas, the font, and some fragments of tracery and early-14th-century slabs with foliated crosses built into the tower walls. A low side window and two lancets, redressed and restored have been re-used in the north wall of the chancel.
The chancel has a tiled roof and is lighted on the north by the low side window, a lancet, and a pointed three-light window; on the east by one of five lights; and on the south by one three-light. All the windows except the re-used lancets and low side are traceried and have hood-moulds with carved stops. The aisles have low-pitched lean-to roofs covered with lead, and the nave a tiled one of steep pitch. Each aisle is lighted by four two-light windows, with single ones east and west. The clearstory has five three-light windows on each side.
The tower, which rises in three stages, divided by string-courses, has buttresses at each angle, and a battlemented parapet with gargoyles at each angle. On the north side is the tower staircase, square, splayed to an octagonal battlemented turret. There are single lights to the second stage and the belfry has two-light traceried windows on each face. The west doorway, combined with a three-light pointed traceried window, has a pointed head, carved spandrels, and a band decorated with three shields and the date 1874. The porch has a moulded pointed entrance arch on detached shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases. The doorway has a moulded arch with a hoodmould.
The chancel (30 ft. 10 in. by 15 ft. 6 in.) has a 14th-century piscina at the eastern end of the south wall, with an ogee trefoiled head and twin circular basins, the projecting portion a restoration. Opposite, in the north wall, there is an aumbry with a shelf and the iron hinge-pins of a door. There are two steps to the altar, which is modern, but the rails with turned balusters date from the 17th century and below the window on the south side there is some panelling inscribed enis thoi 1618; further sections of this oak panelling are fixed at the eastern ends of both aisles. On the south side an arcade of two bays of pointed arches opens into an organ chamber and vestry.
The nave (51 ft. 4 in. by 15 ft. 6 in.) has an open roof with moulded members, the tie-beams with central carved bosses. The arcades each consist of five bays of pointed arches of two splayed orders on octagonal pillars with moulded capitals and bases. The three eastern bays of the north arcade are 14th century, the pillars being constructed of alternate courses of light and red sandstone. Below the corbel supporting the east bay there is a 14th-century piscina with a trefoil ogee head, fitted with a modern circular basin. The chancel arch is of two moulded orders with a hoodmould, the inner order supported on moulded corbels. The pulpit, placed to the south of the chancel arch, is octagonal with carved panels and dates from the 17th century; it stands on a modern stone base. The font in the south-west corner is octagonal, of red sandstone with a moulded basin on an octagonal stem splayed to a square base. It dates from the 14th century and has a deep lead-lined basin.
Here in a steedfast hope of joyful resurrection resteth ye bodye of Tho: Evans Gentleman, borne at Henlan in ye coun: of denbigh who attended on ye great seale of England as ordinarie messenger about XXX yeares & about 13 yeares one of ye 4 ordinarye of ye receipt he gave by his last will fyftye poundes for a stock to continnue for ever that ye profit thereof yearilie raused might be imployed towards ye repayre of this church where his body is interred. Besides divers other good soms of money for ye releefe of ye poore & repaire of ye churches in such places as he had lived in and having accomplished ye age of LXXVII years he deceased at Newenham Regis ye XII day of august AoD MDCXII.
The tower (10 ft. square) paved with stone, has a painted list of charities on the walls, and a framed Royal Arms of George III. The arch is pointed, of five splayed orders to the nave and two to the tower, the inner order supported on moulded corbels.
Of the bells, the treble, by Watts of Leicester, 1621, was given by Mark Brewster, a London wool merchant who died at Moscow. Two others were recast by J. Taylor & Co. in 1872. (fn. 44) A fourth bell was added later, and in 1932 the ring was augmented to six. (fn. 45)
At some date between 1086 and 1094 Hugh Baldran and Aeliz his wife gave to the Norman abbey of St. Pierre-sur-Dives the churches of Wolston and of St. Peter of Lawford ('Ledleford'), the latter with its endowment of 1 hide of land. His grant was confirmed by his lord Rainald de Bailleul and by Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury. (fn. 46) During the long wars with France the abbey's English possessions, which were administered from its cell of Wolston Priory, were frequently in the hands of the king, who presented to Lawford Church; (fn. 47) and at last, in 1394, the abbey sold its English property to the Carthusian priory of Coventry. (fn. 48) The church, which was valued at £6 13s. 4d. in 1291, (fn. 49) was not appropriated and in 1535 the Carthusians were receiving from it only a pension of 50s., (fn. 50) the clear value of the rectory being then £11 15s. 4d. (fn. 51) After the Dissolution the advowson was acquired by Sir Thomas Leigh, who presented in 1559, (fn. 52) and it then descended with the manor until 1919, when it was transferred to the Bishop of Coventry. Since 1595 the benefice has been united with that of Kings Newnham. Terriers of 1635 and 1698 show 80 acres of glebe, in 4 plots; at neither of these dates was there any rectory house. (fn. 53)
The only known evidence for the alleged chapel of Stude (mentioned above) seems to be the occurrence of 'William son of the chaplain of Stude', accused of homicide at Lawford in 1232, (fn. 54) and the statement in 1276 that William Bagod when sheriff (1271) caused 20 sheep, worth 20s. to be taken from the chaplain of Stade (sic) for the king's service and paid nothing for them. (fn. 55)
The Rev. Robert Edmonds by his will proved on 17 August 1863 bequeathed to the rector and churchwardens of Church Lawford £500, the interest to be laid out on 25 March in every year in the following manner: viz. £5 towards the support of the Sunday School penny club, £2 for the purchase or towards the repair of books in the old parish library, and the remainder in the purchase of either coals, blankets, or sheeting, or in certain named articles of grocery, to be distributed generally among the poor of the parishes of Church Lawford and King's Newnham, special favour to be shown to the widows, the aged, and those having large families. The testator directed that the recipients of the charity shall be members of the Church of England. Miss Anne Edmonds, a niece of the testator gave £200 in augmentation of his gift to be held upon the same trusts. By an Order dated 21 December 1906 the Charity Commissioners determined that the part of the endowment of the charities which ought to be applied to educational purposes consists of the sum of £200 Consols, part of the sum of £555 15s. 3d. like Stock constituting the endowment of the charities. The annual income of the charities for the poor amounts to £8 17s. 8d.
James Croft by will dated 30 June 1830 gave to the minister and parish officers of Church Lawford £500, to apply yearly £10, part of the interest, in educating 5 boys and 5 girls, children of the most deserving poor of the parish, and to distribute the remainder of the interest on New Year's day in blankets, sheets, and coals amongst the most deserving and industrious poor of the parish. The annual income of the charity for the poor amounts to £5 8s.