A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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Marton is a small parish and village 7 miles northeast of Leamington Spa. The north and west boundaries of the parish are respectively formed by the rivers Leam and Itchen, which unite close to the church. The compact village stands between the two rivers, where the Southam-Coventry road is joined by a by-road from Birdingbury and Leamington Hastings. At the confluence of the rivers the ground is just under 200 ft. above sea level, but it rises to over 250 ft. in the south-east of the parish, beyond the Rugby-Leamington branch of the former L.M. & S.R., which crosses the parish diagonally and has a station about half a mile from the village, by the bridge over the Southam road.
In early times Marton was a place of some importance as the centre of a hundred. This was functioning at the time of the Domesday Survey and continued until about the end of the 12th century, (fn. 1) after which time it was absorbed into the Hundred of Knightlow, of which it formed one of the Leets. The meetingplace of the hundred must have been at 'Spelestowe' (i.e. 'the place of speech'), where Amice daughter of Henry Lovel gave land to Nuneaton Priory c. 1220. (fn. 2) Over and Nether Spellestowe in Marton also occur in a deed of about the same date. (fn. 3)
In 1251 the prioress and nuns of Catesby (Northants.) were given free transit by the bridge of Marton, quit of pontage. (fn. 4) In 1414 the bridge was rebuilt in stone by John Middilton, a native of Marton who had become a mercer in London, and the tolls hitherto levied for its repair were therefore given up. (fn. 5) At the Quarter Sessions of Easter 1625 it was reported that this bridge had been repaired by John Harrys of Fillongley for the considerable sum of £51 13s. 4d., but it was 'in great decay' again a generation later, orders being given for its repair in 1661 for £20. (fn. 6) The present Marton Bridge crosses the river Leam from east to west just before it enters the Itchen. It has long approaches with two spans over the river and a flood-arch in both approaches. It was built in the 15th century, and later the western approach was canted to the north, re-using the old materials, to conform better with the road. Recently the bridge has been widened on the downstream side with one flat concrete span and the western approach canted still farther to the north. It is built of sandstone ashlar with segmental-pointed arches of two splayed orders over the stream, the splays dying out on the cutwater and on the abutments, which have been splayed to correspond with the cutwater. This is rather an unusual arrangement, as it recesses the arches and consequently restricts the carriage-way. The flood-arches, which are similar to those across the stream, have been treated in the same manner by splaying their abutments. Most of the low parapet wall has been rebuilt from time to time, and on the west with red brick.
In 1406 Thomas Palmer of Frankton received pardon for having with Richard Milward, also of Frankton, feloniously killed William Hemery the younger at Marton. He was also implicated in the murder of William Hemery the elder by John Walsheman of Frankton. (fn. 7) Six years later Palmer was again pardoned for having broken into the house of Thomas Smyth of Marton, seized John Ofchurch the younger, taken him to a place called le hundredplace (fn. 8) and robbed him of a sword worth 6s. 8d. and a bow and 11 arrows worth 5s. (fn. 9)
It is possible that the three small estates of the Count of Meulan, of 1½ hides held by Mereuin, and of 1 hide and 1 virgate, and ½ hide held by Wallef, in possession of Wallef and other Saxons before the Conquest, (fn. 10) relate to Marton, though the spelling 'Mortone' is hard to reconcile with that of the Hundred, which is consistently 'Meretone'.
In any case, the earls of Warwick, successors of the Count of Meulan, were later the overlords of MARTON. The grant of the church to Nuneaton Priory by Robert de Craft was about 1160 confirmed by William, Earl of Warwick, with the assent of the earl's tenant Hugh son of Richard, in whose fee it lay. (fn. 11) In 1235–6 Ralph de Marchameleg (fn. 12) held a fee here of the earl, (fn. 13) as in 1242–3 did Thomas de Clinton. (fn. 14) Half a knight's fee was held by Ralph Basset of Sapcote (Leics.) in 1315. (fn. 15) A final reference to the overlordship of half a fee in Marton by the earls of Warwick occurs in 1401, (fn. 16) when it was held by Sir William Beauchamp.
The Clinton interest does not appear again. Marchamley may have held in right of his wife, as in 1280 John Engaine and his wife Joan (fn. 17) had lands and rents in Marton which had come to them from her grandmother Joan de Marchamley. (fn. 18) They in 1290 sold to William de Hamelton, Archdeacon of York, (fn. 19) for conveyance to Nuneaton Priory, these lands which they held of Sir Nicholas de Charneles, who held of Simon Basset, whose tenure must have derived from Amice Basset, daughter of Robert de Craft. (fn. 20) The transaction was confirmed by Simon, (fn. 21) and in 1297 by William, Earl of Warwick. (fn. 22)
The priory of Nuneaton held fairly extensive property in Marton besides the church. As early as 1202 Mabel, the prioress, granted a messuage to Robert Palmer and his heirs for 16d. yearly for all services. (fn. 23) Later prioresses made leases of the manor of Marton to Robert Tankard in 1342 (fn. 24) and to William Hancock in 1517. (fn. 25) The total value of the Nuneaton property, excluding the rectory, was in 1535 £12 16s. 3d., (fn. 26) and in 1546–7 £13 18s. 11½d. (fn. 27) In 1542 John Higford of Henwood obtained a 21-year lease of 'Neperke croft' in Marton and the grain rents of the Nuneaton manor for a yearly rent of 114s. 8d. (fn. 28) The manor itself was not granted out of crown hands till 1557, when its value was £14 0s. 7½d., the recipients being Peter Temple of Burton Dassett and Michael Cameswell of Newland in Exhall. (fn. 29) Marton with two other manors was then rated at one-fortieth of a knight's fee. In the same year Temple and Cameswell received licence to grant this manor to John 'Whood' the elder, Richard Bagley and Thomas Badcocke, their heirs and assigns. (fn. 30) Wood had licence in 1560 to settle it on himself and his wife Agnes for life in survivorship, remainder to Robert Wood, his younger son, (fn. 31) who died in possession in 1577, (fn. 32) and Thomas, Robert's son conveyed it to Thomas Wilcock in 1596. (fn. 33) Four years later Wilcock granted it to Richard Walter, (fn. 34) after which date it followed the same descent as the Chalcombe manor, though the two are still mentioned as separate in the conveyance to the Biddulph family in 1700.
Hugh de Chaucombe granted an undertenancy of all his lands here to Chalcombe Priory (Northants.); (fn. 35) this must have been about the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century, as in 1217 the sheriff of Warwickshire was ordered to restore to the priory the lands they had held before the wars of the late reign, of which they had been unjustly deprived by William Basset. (fn. 36) These lands cannot have been of any great extent, as the total possessions of the monastery in Warwickshire were worth only £7 3s. 6d. in 1535. (fn. 37) They may, perhaps, be identified with a manor of Marton which was passed by John Gold of Welton (Northants.) and Alice his wife to Thomas Oldfield in 1550. (fn. 38) This manor remained with the Oldfield family for about half a century, Roland Oldfield dealing with it in 1592, (fn. 39) and with his son Roland selling it to John Davies of Watford (Northants.) in 1606, (fn. 40) who in turn sold it to Richard Walter ten years later. (fn. 41) Richard Walter is mentioned as lord of the manor of Marton in 1639 and 1647. (fn. 42) Thomas Walter, his grandson, was party to a recovery in 1667, (fn. 43) and with his son Edward and daughters Alice, Bridget, and Mary, conveyed the manor to Simon Biddulph of Birdingbury in 1700, (fn. 44) in whose family it has since remained. (fn. 45)
In 1545 John Hales of Coventry was granted the possessions of St. John Baptist Hospital of that city in Marton, (fn. 46) but there seems to be no record of how and when the hospital acquired them, or their value.
The church of ST. ESPRIT is situated on the west side of the Southam-Coventry road at the junction of the River Leam with the Itchen and stands in a small churchyard near the centre of the village. It was almost entirely rebuilt in the gothic style in 1871 and all that remains of the earlier church is the lower stage of the tower and the south arcade, both of the mid-14th century, together with an early-13th-century south doorway. The present church consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, west tower, organ-chamber, and south porch. It is built of squared and coursed limestone with sandstone dressings and all the roofs are tiled.
The lower part of the east wall of the chancel still retains some of the earlier walling of roughly coursed rubble with red sandstone dressings. It is lighted on the east by a pointed tracery window of three ogee trefoil lights and by a two-light on the south, both with hood-moulds. The east wall of the south aisle has a single trefoil light; the south side a three-light and a single light with trefoil heads; the west a similar window, but with two lights. The porch has a pointed entrance arch, the mouldings continued down to splayed stops. The 13th-century doorway has a pointed arch of two orders, the inner a splay and the outer a large roll-moulding, supported on detached shafts with moulded capitals and splayed impost, the outer jamb is chamfered, with a moulded stop below the impost moulding.
The tower is in three stages without buttresses and it diminishes with a splayed offset to the second stage. From half way up the second stage it has been entirely rebuilt in a light-coloured sandstone ashlar. The original walls are built of coursed limestone rubble with red sandstone dressings and, except on the north side, bands of red sandstone in the middle of the first stage and again at the base of the second stage. The west face has a narrow trefoil ogee-headed window in the first stage, and in the second a narrow lancet to the ringing-chamber. The belfry has windows with pointed arches on each face, of two trefoil lights, labels with head-stops, and a string-course at the sill level. Above is a plain battlemented parapet on a moulded string-course. A modern lobby has been built at the junction of the tower with the south aisle to give an external entrance to the tower.
The chancel (18 ft. 6 in. by 14 ft.) has a tiled floor, a collar-beam roof, plastered walls, and two steps to the altar. The east window has a pointed moulded rear-arch supported on shafts with moulded capitals and bases and a hood-mould with foliated stops. On the north side there is an arched opening into the organchamber.
The nave (31 ft. 7 in. by 19 ft. 6 in.) has a hammerbeam roof and a tiled floor. The 14th-century arcade has two bays of pointed arches of two splayed orders supported on octagonal pillars with moulded capitals and bases, the responds repeat the arch splays and have similar moulded capitals and bases. The north arcade is a copy of the south but with more elaborately moulded capitals. Above the apex of each arch there is a pointed two-light clearstory window with widely splayed jambs and sills. The tower arch has been replaced with a modern low segmental one of two splayed orders. The chancel arch is pointed, of three splayed orders supported on three attached shafts with foliated capitals and splayed bases.
The north and south aisles (31 ft. 10 in. by 8 ft. 6 in.) have lean-to roofs, tiled floors, and windows with reararches of three trefoils supported on shafts with moulded capitals and bases. At the eastern end of the south wall a badly mutilated 14th-century piscina has been built in.
The pulpit, placed on the south side of the chancel arch, is octagonal, of stone and coloured marble with open traceried panels. The font is also of stone with an octagonal basin, sunk trefoil panels, and stands on an octagonal coloured marble stem moulded at the base.
There are three bells (fn. 47) by Hugh Watts, dated 1616, 1623, and 1624.
Between 1155 and 1160 Robert de Craft, with the assent of Hugh son of Richard (of Hatton), granted the church of Marton to the Priory of Nuneaton, (fn. 48) his gift being confirmed by William, Earl of Warwick. (fn. 49) Although this is the first known reference to the church it is probable that it was a 'hundredal' church, an early mission-centre serving a wide district; (fn. 50) for Bishop Richard of Coventry in about 1170 notified the decree of a synod at Coventry that the following vills ought to pay 'churchaumber' of corn to the church of Marton: Rugby, Causton, Dunchurch, and Thurlaston, of the fee of the Earl of Warwick; Willoughby, Leamington (Hastings); 'Hulla' (Hill in Leamington Hastings), of the fee of Abingdon: Grandborough, of the fee of Water Croc; Wolfhamcote, Flecknoe, Calcutt, Napton 'de terra Moysi'; Ladbroke on the land of William and of Henry Boscher; Hodnell, of the fee of Hugh son of Richard; the other Hodnell of the land of Gurmund; the third Hodnell; Radbourne, of the fee of Hugh de Arden; Shuckborough, of the land of Robert; the other Shuckborough; and Hunningham. (fn. 51) The only chapel attached to it, however, seems to have been Hunningham, which the convent of Nuneaton about this time made over to the Priory of Monks Kirby. (fn. 52) The rectory seems to have been appropriated and a vicarage ordained about 1277, (fn. 53) and in 1291 the church is entered as appropriated to Nuneaton and valued at £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 54) Small bequests were made in the 13th century to the lights of the Holy Spirit (fn. 55) and of the Blessed Virgin Mary (fn. 56) in the church; and in 1351 the convent leased 17½ acres to William son of Nicholas le Graund, 'our clerk of our priory', Emma his wife and William their son, who were to maintain two lamps burning in the chancel during service. (fn. 57) In 1535 the rectory was farmed at £6 13s. 4d., (fn. 58) and the vicarage was worth £7 14s. 8d. (fn. 59)
The rectory and advowson were in 1545 granted to Thomas Marow of Rudfen, (fn. 60) who four years later had licence to convey them to Nicholas Hussey and John Fetherston for the use of himself, his wife and heirs. (fn. 61) By 1619 they had come into possession of Sir Clement Fisher of Great Packington, (fn. 62) in whose family they remained for most of the 17th century. (fn. 63) In or before 1699 Francis Fisher married Mary widow of Sir Samuel Marow, and must have settled the advowson on her, she and her daughter Elizabeth Marow being parties to a lawsuit concerning the vicarage in 1702, (fn. 64) and the latter making presentations up to 1744. (fn. 65) It then passed to the Knightley family of Offchurch, into which Elizabeth's younger sister Mary had married. (fn. 66) The marriage (1846) of Jane Wightwick Knightley to the 6th Earl of Aylesford (fn. 67) brought it to the latter family, who were patrons in 1850. (fn. 68) Since this date it has changed hands several times, being now vested, with the living of Birdingbury with which it was united in 1929, in the Bishop of Coventry. (fn. 69)
William Fawkes. The Returns to Parliament in 1786 mention a gift of William Fawkes in 1730, by his will, of land to the poor, then yielding £2 per annum. The charity is also recorded in a churchwardens' book of the parish as consisting of a rent-charge of £2 per annum issuing out of land in Grandborough, payable on St. Thomas's Day.
Unknown Donor. The Returns to Parliament also mention a gift to the poor of £5 10s. in money, by an unknown benefactor. In 1912 the sum of £6 2s. 9d., representing the endowment of the charity, was upon the application of the then trustees invested in the name of the Official Trustees of Charitable Funds, the income to be accumulated and invested in augmentation of the endowment until a sum of stock was acquired sufficient to produce an annual income of at least 10s. The funds have now been invested and yield 15s. yearly. (fn. 70)
Mary Turner by will dated 24 September 1607 charged certain property in Solihull with the annual payment of £3 6s. 8d. for the relief of the poor, impotent, and most needy people dwelling in the parishes of Kenilworth, Stivichall, Baginton, Stoneleigh, Bubbenhall, Ryton, Woolston, Stretton, Marton, and Wappenbury. The sum of 6s. 8d. to be paid to the churchwardens and overseers of each parish for distribution in accordance with the directions contained in the will. The rent-charge was redeemed in 1923 in consideration of a sum of £133 6s. 8d. Consols producing an annual income of £3 6s. 8d.
Church Land. On the inclosure of the common fields of this parish which took place in 1803 an allotment of 3 a. 3 r. was awarded in lieu of lands which had theretofore been used for the repairs of the church, but the origin of which is unknown. It is stated in the printed Parliamentary Reports of the Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities dated 1827 that in addition to the above-mentioned land there are received two small rents of 8s. and 2s. 6d. arising out of small parcels of land respectively situate in Eathorpe and Hunningham, the origin of both being unknown.