A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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Ryton-on-Dunsmore is a village and parish 4½ miles south-east from Coventry on the main London road, which here crosses the River Avon. The river forms most of the north and west boundaries of the parish, the lie of the land being from south-east (336 ft. above sea level) to 217 ft. at Ryton Bridge in the north-west corner. Ryton Wood covers several hundred acres on the south side of the parish, and there are other small plantations. 'The soyl here is of a light sandy disposition, and beareth Rye best of any Grain', (fn. 1) but this crop, which gives the village its name, is now little grown in Warwickshire, and Ryton is not in the parts of the county where it is at all in evidence. (fn. 2) The parish is well served with main roads; in addition to the one from London to Birmingham there is the road from Coventry to Oxford, which leaves it at Ryton Bridge and runs south-east across the parish, and both these are crossed by the road from Warwick to Rugby. The village is mostly situated in the triangle formed by these three roads, its street running northwards to the Avon. There are a few timber-framed houses, of no greatage. The nearest station is Brandon and Wolston on the Rugby-Birmingham section of the former L.M.S.R., 2½ miles away; there is no railway through the parish.
The inclosure of 300 acres of arable land by the prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem was reported by the Commission of 1517; (fn. 3) another 200 acres were put out of cultivation by Sir Thomas Dilke about a century later. (fn. 4) The parish was inclosed under an Act of 1760. (fn. 5)
A serious fire occurred in 1654, when at least 7 houses with their barns and other outbuildings were destroyed, representing £447 damage, besides more than £400 to houses of others 'of good ability' who were not eligible for relief. (fn. 6)
On the east of the parish, where the London road enters that of Stretton-on-Dunsmore, is Knightlow Hill, the site of the meeting place of the hundred. The custom of 'wroth silver', the collection by the agent of the Duke of Buccleuch, as lord of the hundred, of various moneys from the constituent parishes, is still observed annually on 11 November. (fn. 7)
RYTON was one of the vills given by Earl Leofric to Coventry Priory in 1043. (fn. 8) But in Dugdale's words 'it seems, that the Monks chopt it quickly away, though it appears not how', (fn. 9) for by 1066 it was held by 'Alwin' (Ælfwine), and in 1086 by his son Turchil of Warwick, being then assessed at 3½ hides and including woodland half a league by 2 furlongs, and a mill worth 12s. The value had seriously decreased, from 100s. in 1066 to 60s. in 1086. (fn. 10)
The manor remained with Turchil's descendants, the Arden or Arderne family, for about 200 years. (fn. 11) In 1239 Thomas de Arderne received from Nicholas de Wythebroc, for a consideration of 20 marks silver and a palfrey, 300 acres of land, 40 of meadow, 80 of wood and a mill, and also a virgate of land and 10 acres of meadow. (fn. 12) He granted a life tenure of 3 virgates to his mother Eustacia in 1243, (fn. 13) and was still lord of Ryton in 1272. (fn. 14) In 1279 the demesne contained 3 carucates and a mill, and there were 3 bond tenants, each with 1½ yardlands, also 15 freeholders with 8¼ yardlands, 3½ acres and a rood. (fn. 15) At this time the Knights Hospitallers had 1 yardland held by 2 freeholders, and a mill. Three years later there was a lawsuit between Thomas de Arderne and the Hospitallers, which was settled by the former handing over 200 acres of land, 12 of meadow, 10 of wood and a mill. (fn. 16) In 1286 Thomas de Arderne received licence to alienate the whole manor to the Hospitallers, (fn. 17) and the prior of the order was returned as lord of Ryton in 1316. (fn. 18) The last tenant of the manor under the Hospitallers was Constance Benet, who had a 29-year lease, for £18, dating from 1533. (fn. 19) After the suppression of the order the manor remained with the Crown till 1550, when it was granted, to be held in chief for 36s. yearly, to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. (fn. 20) After his attainder and execution the manor was leased for 21 years from June 1555 to John Manne. (fn. 21) Queen Mary in 1558 granted the manor to the revived order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, of which Sir Thomas Tresham was appointed prior, (fn. 22) but this was reversed on the accession of Elizabeth, the manor being granted to Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, and his heirs male in 1562. (fn. 23)
He died without surviving issue in 1590, and after another short interval in crown hands the manor was granted (1598) to Randolph Crew of Lincoln's Inn and Richard Cartwright of London, and their heirs. (fn. 24) The following year they sold it to Thomas Dilke. (fn. 25) He and his son Fisher Dilke were dealing with the manor in 1613, (fn. 26) and his grandson Thomas held it of the king as of the manor of East Greenwich at his death in 1639. (fn. 27) His successor was his half-brother William, (fn. 28) who with his wife Honor (Ward) dealt with it in 1663; (fn. 29) and the manor remained with the family, (fn. 30) the descent being similar to that of Maxstoke in Hemlingford Hundred (q.v.). (fn. 31)
Siward de Ardern, Turchil's son, granted the mill of Ryton to Thorney Abbey (Cambs.). (fn. 32) This was confirmed to the abbey by Gregory IX in 1240, (fn. 33) and seems to have been attached to their manor of Sawbridge in Wolfhamcote. (fn. 34)
The church of ST. LEONARD is situated on the north side of the main Coventry-Northampton road, on a level site in the centre of a large, recently extended, churchyard. It consists of chancel, nave, west tower, vestry, and a south porch. It was built of red sandstone rubble with worked dressings late in the 11th century, probably consisting of a chancel and nave, and it was apparently not until the 15th century that a west tower was added. A vestry with a gallery over was added in the 19th century, and more recently the south porch was rebuilt. The tower is a lofty and imposing structure, out of proportion to so small a church, and the presence of angle buttresses on its east side, which make a very awkward junction with the nave, suggests that it was intended to rebuild the body of the church on a similar scale. All the roofs are covered with modern tiles.
The east wall of the chancel has been entirely rebuilt in red sandstone ashlar with angle buttresses, splayed plinth, a weathered offset at sill level, and a window of three trefoil lights with a segmental arch. The north side is built of red sandstone rubble patched with ashlar, and in the centre there is a late-11th-century round-headed window with a large roll moulding and plain cushion capitals on detached shafts with moulded bases, the shafts, bases, and sill being modern restorations. A little to the west is a narrow 12th-century lancet window. The south side has been extensively patched with ashlar, but part of a blocked 11th-century window corresponding with the one on the north still remains. It is now lighted by a modern window of three trefoil lights with a square head and hoodmoulding, and by a 16th-century two-light, single-splay, square-headed window. The south wall of the nave has also been patched with ashlar. In the centre there is a blocked 11th-century semicircular-headed window and to the east a large 15th-century window of three trefoil lights with a four-centred arch of two splayed orders, the outer one hollow. The south door, of late-11th-century date, has a semicircular arch of two orders, the inner a square and the outer a large roll moulding with a flush reeded outer band. The arch is supported on detached shafts with slightly tapered capitals, splayed impost mouldings, and bases which are a reverse of the capitals. It is fitted with a 16th-century oak door of four panels, formed by applied hollow-splayed mouldings, hung on plain strap hinges. In front is a modern porch built of red brick with a tiled roof, and above it a modern lunette with a red brick arch. West of the porch a square single-light window has been roughly cut through the wall. On the north side there is an 11th-century doorway, similar to and nearly opposite the one on the south side. but with a plain tympanum and a simple scroll on the capitals. A massive modern buttress (fn. 35) built over the west jamb has destroyed its shaft and capital; no bases to the shafts are visible, but they probably exist below the present ground level. The door opening has been built up to form a square window. Above the doorway is a modern lunette, as on the south side. The remainder of this wall is taken up by the 19th-century vestry.
The tower is divided by a moulded string-course into two stages with angle buttresses at all four corners rising in four weathered stages to the string-course at the base of a battlemented parapet with crocketed pinnacles and grotesque gargoyles at each corner. The west door, in the centre of the tower, has a fourcentred arch with deep hollow-moulded splays continued down the jambs to a splayed stop. Above the door is a window of three cinquefoil lights and tracery, with similar mouldings and a hood-moulding with mask stops; it is a modern restoration, except for the jambs and hood-moulding. Above the window is a clock face. The belfry has windows with two cinquefoil lights of two splayed orders and hood-mouldings with mask stops; the lower halves on all four faces are blocked with ashlar, with louvres above. On the south side there are two loop-lights to the spiral staircase and a small rectangular light in the centre, which is repeated on the north face.
The chancel (19 ft. 2 in. by 16 ft. 4 in.) is paved
with modern tiles, with one step to the chancel and
two to the altar. The roof is modern, of the trussed
rafter type, with semicircular ribs, and the walls,
except the east one, are plastered. The modern window
recess on the south side has a segmental-pointed arch,
and the earlier window a segmental arch. On the north
side the 11th-century window has a wide-splayed recess
with a semicircular arch, and the lancet a wide splay
with a pointed arch. The altar rails are 17th-century
oak with turned balusters and a moulded rail, but the
altar table is modern. On the south wall is a small brass
with the following inscription to Moses Macham,
minister of Ryton, who died 29 June 1712:
Lo here doth ly a shining light
wrapped up in the shades of night
the sheppard is took from his sheep
but O would they his doctrine keep
and practice the rules that he did give
So shall ye Pastor and ye People live.
On the right of the inscription is engraved an elaborate lantern standing on a coffin, and beside it a skeleton holding to a tree. On the north wall is a mural tablet to Edward Bonham, died 1679. Fixed to the front of the benches are two carved tracery-headed panels, each of two trefoils, probably late-15th-century.
The inscription and group of six daughters, described by Dr. Thomas as the remains of the brass of Richard Wulmer (16th century), were sold by a former vicar and churchwardens and are in private hands. (fn. 36)
The nave (41 ft. by 21 ft.) has a four-centred vaulted plaster ceiling and below it are two 16thcentury cambered tie-beams, the one to the east retaining a central carved boss, supported on curved brackets, with contemporary moulded wall-plates on both sides. The window on the east has a splayed recess with a four-centred arch. The chancel arch is modern, inserted in 1929. The tower arch is a lofty one of two orders supported on responds with moulded capitals to the inner order, the outer one continuing to the floor to a square stop. The walls are plastered.
The red-brick vestry with a gallery over was built in 1812; (fn. 37) at the same time the church was re-seated.
The tower (11 ft. by 11 ft.) is paved with brick and the walls are ashlar. In the south-west corner there is a narrow doorway to the tower staircase, with a fourcentred chamfered arch. The window recess is splayed and has a pointed arch, the doorway a deep splay with a four-centred arch.
The pulpit, placed on the south side of the chancel arch, is octagonal, built up of 17th-century carved panels. The red sandstone font, which stands in front of the tower arch, is octagonal, reduced to a square shaft with splays, standing on a modern splayed base. It dates from early in the 12th century, and has a deep circular lead-lined basin.
There are three bells: (fn. 38) (1) recast by Mears in 1864; (2) by William Watts, c. 1595; (3) by John Masters, 1653.
The church was granted in 1249 by the prior of Coventry to the dean and chapter of Lichfield as a prebend, (fn. 39) and was worth £10 in 1291. (fn. 40) In 1535 the rectory was worth £11 6s. 8d., with 20s. pension to the dean and chapter and 8s. to the archdeacon, the rector holding the prebendal stall. (fn. 41) He, as prebendary, continued to hold the patronage of the perpetual curacy till, under the Act of 1840, (fn. 42) it was conveyed to the Bishop of Worcester; it is now a vicarage in the gift of the Bishop of Coventry.
An augmentation of £11 6s. 8d. was granted in 1657 by the Trustees for the Maintenance of Ministers. (fn. 43)
Dilke's Charity. The Parliamentary Returns of 1786 state that — Dilke gave, by deed, £30, vested in the churchwardens, and producing 30s. a year. The endowment of the charity now consists of an annual payment of this amount.
Thomas Bayes. It is stated in the printed Parliamentary Reports of the Former Commissioners for Inquiring Concerning Charities dated in 1834 that there is a close of land in Ryton called Poor's Meadow, said to have been left long ago by Thomas Bayes. The land was sold in 1932 and the proceeds of sale invested.
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. 2½% Consols, producing £3 6s. 8d. annually.