A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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A great part of the ancient civil parish of Lillington, including the village, is now incorporated in Leamington Spa, and outlying portions are under Warwick Rural District Council, and called Blackdown parish. It is situated 2 miles north-east of Warwick, with which it is united by houses, 4½ south-east of Kenilworth, and 8 south of Coventry. Two turnpike roads passed through the parish: the road to Rugby via Princethorpe, and the Leamington-Kenilworth road, of which the original route was Lillington Road turning left along Sandy Lane. The present Kenilworth road to Blackdown was not made until 1840. The land at the upper part of Cubbington Road and the Campion Hills rises to about 300 ft. above sea-level. At Chesford and Blackdown the parish is bounded by the placidly flowing Avon. (fn. 1) The chief crops were formerly wheat, beans, and oats; then more recently the land was mainly in pasture, but since the late war large quantities of wheat have been grown.
The geological formation of the parish consists partly of the Lower Keuper Sandstone and partly of the lower beds of Keuper Marls. They are concealed in some places by late glacial deposits and are seen in the sandpits on Cubbington Road to consist of sands and gravels, in which the remains of elephant, rhinoceros, &c., have been found. (fn. 2) They are capped in these pits by a boulder clay containing travelled blocks of rocks from south Leicestershire and other areas to the north-east. The Keuper Marls are found in the subsoil of Lillington village and its surroundings, and the Keuper Sandstone in that of Stoneleigh Road and the Blackdown district.
Some years ago a Neolithic interment and settlement were discovered here when a human skull, drinking-cup, and spindle whorl were dug up. (fn. 3) In 1900 a ground celt of green stone, more than 3 in. long, was found. (fn. 4) When in 1937 some workmen were digging a trench in Highland Road, a skeleton was unearthed, and near by a piece of pottery, part of a large jar of the early Roman period. Two years later some fragments of Roman pottery of the 2nd or 3rd century were discovered in Braemar Road, and near by a Roman copper coin, a sestertius struck in A.D. 176 in memory of the Empress Faustina (II). (fn. 5)
The Manor House, near the church, is a simple stone building, apparently of the late 17th century, containing some oak panelling of that period. The stone gate-posts are surmounted by stone balls; the gates and light iron fence are of good design. The modern Vicarage incorporates, at the north end, part of a 17th-century timber-framed house. In Cubbington Road is a late-16th-century timber-framed building with a thatched roof; it is now two cottages, but from the massiveness of the timbers appears to have been part of a house of some importance.
A Survey of 1711, (fn. 6) with map, (fn. 7) shows that the manor of the Puckerings embraced just over 906 acres. Seven principal tenants held all the 906 acres, of which their annual rentals amounted to £187 5s. The 10 cottagers paid a total rent of £1 18s. 4d.; the lay rectory was worth £60, and fishing rights, &c., £1 9s. per annum. No land was farmed by Lady Bowyer, who then held the manor and was non-resident. Lord Brooke's separate manor consisted of 444 acres but no details are given except the annual rentals amounting to £90. The map accompanying the survey shows a central block, consisting of the Upper and Nether Fields, in the middle of which lay the 'Town', or village, and Inclosures, with projections north and south. That to the north, between Leek Wootton and Ashow, contained Rye Field and The Heath, lying on the Avon; that to the south was the Hamm Field, with meadows on its eastern edge by the River Leam.
In the Inclosure Award of 1730 (fn. 8) only Henry Wise, then lord of the larger manor, and the vicar had any interest in it, and it would appear that all the owners had been bought out since 1711. Much the same had occurred on Lord Brooke's manor, only two proprietors besides himself being mentioned, but some of his cottagers had the right to graze their cows on the 'cow commons'. The Wises' manor 39 years later included 4 farms of just over 844 acres in all. (fn. 9)
The greater part of LILLINGTON was the property of Edric in Edward the Confessor's time and was held by the Count of Meulan in 1086 when it was assessed at 4 hides, with a mill, and valued at 40s. (fn. 10) Of him it was held by Warin and Roger. Half a hide here was in possession of Bruning in Edward's day, and at Domesday was held by R. de Olgi from Turchil of Warwick, its value then being 20s. (fn. 11) The overlordship of both portions came to the Earls of Warwick.
Apparently the above-mentioned 4 hides were given by Henry I, or by the Earl of Warwick, to Geoffrey de Clinton, and went to Geoffrey's daughter Lesceline, who married Norman de Verdon, as in 1242 Roese de Verdon held a knight's fee here of the Earl of Warwick, which Peter de Wolvardington, of Wolverton, held of her. (fn. 12) The mesne lordship was held in 1279 by Robert de Verdon, and Peter de Wolvardington held of him by service of ½ knight's fee. (fn. 13) This estate in 1279 consisted of 1 carucate held in demesne and 11 virgates with 10 tenants. (fn. 14) Later, in 1316, the manor was held of Guy, Earl of Warwick, by Theobald de Verdon by service of 1 knight's fee, (fn. 15) and in 1336 the tenant in fee was Margaret daughter and heir of Peter de Wolvardington. (fn. 16) Margaret de Wolvardington and John de Walgrave held it of the heirs of Theobald in 1346–7, (fn. 17) and in 1382–3 the heirs of Peter de Wolvardington held it of Sir William de Furnival. (fn. 18) In 1385 Peter's heirs held a moiety of a knight's fee of Sir William de Furnival's daughter Joan and Thomas de Nevill her husband. (fn. 19) John de Walgrave of the county of Buckingham and Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, are said to have held the manor in 1431–2 by service of ½ knight's fee. (fn. 20) It afterwards passed to the Greys, and in 1495 Will. Grey died seised of it. It was then worth £10, being held of the king as of his Hundred of Knightlow Cross for knight's service and a yearly rent of 3d. with suit of court, Thomas his son and heir then being 15 years old. (fn. 21) From this Thomas it passed to Edward Grey who in 1536–7 was in possession of it. (fn. 22) Robert Grey sold it in 1585 to Nicholas Mynne (fn. 23) whose son Nicholas released it in 1592 to his mother Elizabeth Mynne (fn. 24) and in 1598 William and Nicholas Mynne released it to her heirs. (fn. 25) It was transferred by Thomas Mynne to Timothy Wagstaffe in 1611, (fn. 26) who sold it to Sir Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke of Beauchamp's Court near Alcester (fn. 27) and Warwick Castle, who died in 1628. As he left no issue the manor passed to his cousin Robert Greville, 2nd Baron Brooke, a distinguished general in the Parliamentary Army. The manor descended with the barony until Francis Greville succeeded to it in 1727. He became 1st Earl Brooke and 1st Earl of Warwick and died in 1773, and his son George, 2nd Earl of Warwick, sold the manor and estate of nearly 500 acres, with the manor or reputed manor of Blackdown, on 13 May 1805. (fn. 28) Thereafter all the manorial rights were held by the Wise family.
The half-hide held by Turchil in 1086 came into the hands of Hugh son of Richard (of Hatton), and was held of him by Fulcold in 1121, when they combined to grant it to the newly founded Priory of Kenilworth, (fn. 29) which also received from Henry I and Geoffrey de Clinton the church of Leek Wootton (q.v.) with its endowment, which included 2 hides in Lillington. (fn. 30) The priory's holding in the parish in 1278–9 was certified to be: 1 carucate of land then held by them in demesne and 16 virgates held by servile tenants. They had a court leet and other privileges. (fn. 31) The Prior of Kenilworth was holding of the Earl of Warwick 1 knight's fee in Lillington in 1407, (fn. 32) and a quarter-fee in 1428. (fn. 33) The manor remained with this religious house until it passed to the Crown at the dissolution of the monastery in 1538. It was granted by Elizabeth in 1560 to William Garrard and others (fn. 34) but the grant was revoked in 1562, (fn. 35) and in 1564 the Queen granted it, together with the rectory, to Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, in tail male; (fn. 36) but he died without issue in 1589–90. In 1596 the Queen granted it to Sir John Puckering, kt., of the Priory, Warwick, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, (fn. 37) who died after holding it only nine days. He left Thomas, then aged 4, his son and heir; (fn. 38) in 1611 he was knighted, created a baronet in the following year, and became high sheriff in 1625. He died in 1637 (fn. 39) and as he left no male heir his only surviving daughter Jane, afterwards wife of Sir John Bale of Carlton, co. Leicester, succeeded him. (fn. 40) Lady Bale died in 1652 without issue and in 1653–4 her father's surviving trustee released the manor to Sir Thomas's nephew, Sir Henry Newton (fn. 41) of Charlton, co. Middlesex, who changed his name to Puckering, and took up residence at the Priory, Warwick. Sir Henry was M.P. for Warwick in 1679 and sometime Paymaster General. He died in 1700 without issue and was succeeded by his wife's niece Dame Jane Bowyer, (fn. 42) wife of Sir John Bowyer, bt., of Knipersley, co. Stafford. In 1709 the manor and the Priory was purchased from Lady Bowyer and those having any interest in it under the Puckering settlements, by Henry Wise, an eminent landscape gardener, of Brompton Park, Kensington, subject to the life interest of Lady Bowyer. (fn. 43) Henry Wise died in 1738 and was succeeded by his eldest son Matthew, who died a bachelor in 1776, when the manor passed to his brother Henry. He died in 1778 and his only son Henry Christopher succeeded him and died in 1805, when it went to his eldest son Matthew (Blackett) Wise. At his death in 1810 he was succeeded by his brother the Rev. Henry Wise of Offchurch and when he died in 1850 his son Henry Christopher, sometime M.P. for South Warwickshire, became lord. He died in 1883 and left a son George to succeed him, at whose death in 1888 without issue, the manor went to Major-General Sir George Henry Waller, bt., of Woodcote. Sir George died in 1892 and was succeeded by his son Sir Francis Ernest Waller, bt., who was killed in the First World War in 1914. (fn. 44) He was succeeded by his brother Sir Wathen Arthur Waller, bt., who died in 1947 leaving the manor to his widow, Viola, Lady Waller.
The north-western projection of the parish, rising above the left bank of the Avon and lying between the converging Welsh Road and Lillington-Coventry road contains Blakedown, or Blackdown. This, as already mentioned, was called a 'reputed manor' in 1805, (fn. 45) but never seems to have been so reputed before. Its importance lay in its water-mill, presumably that attached to Lillington and valued at 6s. 8d. in 1086. (fn. 46) This was given to Combe Abbey by William de Borthun by permission of Bertram de Verdon in the 12th century; (fn. 47) and subsequently Peter de Wolvardington undertook that his tenants should have all their corn ground at Blakedown mill. (fn. 48) Walter Spigurnel gave the monks pasturage rights between Blakedown and Humber (Farm) and on Bromhull in the same district. (fn. 49) In 1291 the mill was valued at £1 yearly, (fn. 50) and thirty years later Blakedown and Wridefen together constituted 1½ knights' fees, held of Theobald de Verdon by the monks of Combe and the canons of Kenilworth. (fn. 51) The mills had become attached to the main manor by 1596, when two millers were presented at the court of Elizabeth Mynne for taking undue toll; (fn. 52) but in 1650 the Blake Mills, consisting of a corn-mill and two fulling-mill stocks and a mill house, were among the possessions of the late King Charles. (fn. 53) The present corn-mill has been out of action for some years, and the 18th-century mill house is a private residence.
The old parish church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE seems to have consisted of a chancel, nave, and south aisle of 14th-century date, and a 15th-century tower. A north aisle was added in 1847; the south aisle was pulled down and rebuilt in 1858; dormer windows were inserted in the roof in 1875; the chancel, with the exception of the south wall, was rebuilt in 1884, when a chapel to the north of it was also built; and a choir-vestry was added to the east of the chapel in 1914. (fn. 54)
The only medieval part of the chancel is the south wall, of red sandstone, in which there is a blocked priest's door, the head being almost semicircular with a slight point in the centre. To the east of it is a window of three uncusped lights, their mullions intersecting in the pointed head, probably 17th-century. West of the door is a narrow window of a single light with trefoiled head in a rectangular frame, and immediately below it a rectangular low-side window, 17 in. high and 11 in. wide, with an iron grille outside; this was unblocked in 1912, when holes for the hinges and bolt of a shutter were found. (fn. 55)
In the nave the only ancient feature is the eastern bay of the south arcade with the respond, two-centred arch of two chamfered orders, and the octagonal pillar with simple moulded capital. The modern aisles have separate gabled roofs. There is a modern porch on the south. At the east end of the north aisle, and north of the chancel, the modern chapel opens into the vestry by a plain round-headed doorway which is alleged to have been refixed from elsewhere and to be Norman. (fn. 56)
The tower arch, now blocked by the organ, is of two chamfered orders, which spring from restored square responds. The tower, which is undivided by any string-course, has tall angle buttresses, with five offsets, rising to the embattled parapet, the angles of which carry restored crocketed pinnacles. In the west face the small doorway, with a four-centred head, appears to be modern, as is the tracery of the three-light window above it, though the jambs and two-centred head are original. The belfry has in each face a twolight window; the lights were originally trefoil-headed, with a quatrefoil between them, but are now uncusped and without tracery. Access to the tower vice is in the south-west angle, and the vice is lit by narrow slitwindows in the south face.
The font, though completely scraped, is of 15thcentury date, octagonal; the basin is panelled with quatrefoils, alternate panels having blank shields, and the stem has trefoiled panels. Near it, in the tower, is a single black oak choir-stall from Coventry Cathedral. The other furniture is modern, including a pulpit designed by T. Lawrence Dale.
Against one pier of the north arcade is a block of sandstone with a scratch-dial, probably of the 14th century; this was removed from the churchyard wall in 1937 and may have been originally in a buttress of the south aisle.
There are eight bells, (fn. 57) of which five were given by Mr. Frederic Bidmead Stratton in 1927. Of the three others, one, bearing the name of St. Katherine, is by Thomas Harrys of London, c. 1480, the second by Hugh Watts of Leicester, 1625, and the third by Henry Bagley of Chacombe, 1675.
The church plate (fn. 58) includes an Elizabethan cup, with a paten cover dated 1575.
The chapel of Lillington was given to Kenilworth Priory with its mother church of Leek Wootton when the priory was founded by Geoffrey de Clinton in 1121. (fn. 59) By 1291 it was a parish church, appropriated to Kenilworth and valued at £5 6s. 8d. (fn. 60) In 1535 the rectory was farmed for 66s. 8d. (fn. 61) and the vicarage was worth £5 13s. 4d., (fn. 62) including a payment of 13s. 4d. from the canons. (fn. 63) Just before the dissolution of the monastery, in January 1538, Laurence Grey obtained a long lease of the rectory; (fn. 64) and in 1544 the Crown granted it to him and Thomas Palmer of London. (fn. 65) Laurence Grey died in September 1545, seised of the rectory and advowson, (fn. 66) and his son Robert died in 1561, having settled them on his wife Bridget. (fn. 67) His son Laurence came of age in 1576 and had livery of the rectory and advowson, (fn. 68) which he and his mother sold to Sir John Puckering in 1596, (fn. 69) from which time it descended with the manor held by the Puckerings, Wises, and Wallers, Lady Waller being the present patron.
Charities (fn. 70)
Margaret William Tyron Cumberland by will dated 26 September 1884 bequeathed £100, the interest to be paid to the vicar of Lillington, subject to conditions contained in the will and the first codicil thereto. The annual income of the charity amounts to £2 9s.
Henrietta Ann Cunningham by will dated 13 October 1903 gave to the vicar of Old Lillington £100, to apply the income in keeping the testatrix's grave at Lillington in repair and planted with flowers and to apply the surplus income to the Church Expenses Fund. The annual income amounts to £2 15s. 8d.
John Machen by will dated 2 November 1887 gave to the vicar and churchwardens of Lillington £105, the income to be applied for the benefit of the poor of the parish. The annual income amounts to £2 17s.
Ellen Machen by will dated 20 February 1888 gave to the vicar and churchwardens of Lillington £500, the income to be applied for the benefit of the poor of the parish. The annual income amounts to £12 7s. 8d.
Edward Pershouse by will dated 29 December 1868 gave to the vicar and churchwardens of Lillington £100, the income to be expended annually at Christmas in the purchase of bread or other food or clothing to be distributed among the necessitous poor persons in the village of Lillington. The annual income amounts to £2 10s.