A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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Bedworth is a parish and former market-town on the high road from Coventry to Nuneaton, 5 miles north of the former place, with which it was connected by electric tramway prior to 1941. (fn. 1) Chilvers Coton on the north, Bulkington on the east, Exhall and Corley on the south, and Astley on the west are the neighbouring parishes. The town is centred at the junction of roads to Bedworth Heath and Bulkington with the main road, with the church on the south and the Chamberlaine Almshouses to the east of the marketplace. The Coventry and Nuneaton branch of the L.M.S. Railway has a station here, and the Coventry Canal passes through the east of the parish.
By the Warwickshire (Bedworth Urban District) Order, 1928, the parish received urban status, and by the Warwickshire Review Order, 1932, it was enlarged by the addition of Exhall and Foleshill parishes and parts of Astley and Walsgrave on Sowe, bringing the acreage up to 4,763. It has since been further enlarged, and the population in 1947 was estimated to be 23,570.
The slope of the ground is from west to east, from 446 ft. in the north-west of the parish near Astley to 304 ft. along the canal bank. Ribbon development along the main road almost connects the town with Coventry and Nuneaton, and there is much colliery and industrial development. Bedworth was well known for its coal-mines in Dugdale's time; in 1730 the hamlet of Colly Croft, north of the town, contained over 30 houses, mainly occupied by miners. At that time the town consisted of about 260 houses; Thomas states that there were not more than 14 families in the reign of Elizabeth, before large scale coal working had begun. (fn. 2) In the early 17th century the system of free houses and coal for pitmen was already in operation. (fn. 3) Sir Roger Newdigate (1719–1806) owned coal works at Bedworth, and cut a canal to the Coventry Canal for the distribution of their produce. (fn. 4)
Opposite the market, and built round three sides of a quadrangle open to the road, stands a large group of modern almshouses, and lining the surrounding streets are rows of houses built early in the last century to accommodate silk weavers—manufacturers of ribands—each house having a lofty upper story, lit by large windows.
Few ancient buildings remain. The site of the old Manor House is said (fn. 5) to be near that now occupied by the Council offices.
The old Rectory stands over ¾ mile to the west of the church and just within the parish boundary. Although most of the house is of the mid-18th century, there is a wing at the rear which appears to date back a hundred years earlier. The windows here have heads constructed of stone flat arches with moulded keyblocks. There are internal doors belonging to both the early and late 17th century, and the most remarkable feature is the heavy oak staircase with solid strings and turned newels and balusters, which gives access to the first and second floors in conjunction with another stair of 18th-century design; two turned balusters, coupled together, form the bottom newel. There are ancient yew hedges in the gardens fringing a stream which may once have formed a moat.
Moat Farm, now converted into two cottages forming an elongated rectangle, is situated in the south-west corner of the parish and is approached from Goodyers End by Broomhouse Lane—a cul-de-sac to the north. It is mainly of two-storied 16th-century half-timber construction, with a tile roof gabled at the ends, but the long side adjacent to the Lane was rebuilt in brickwork in the 18th century. The opposite wall (on the east side), of half-timber, has wide panels between the timbers, braced at first-floor level and filled with brick nogging. The foundations to the framing consist of heavy sandstone blocks, one block on the south-west corner measuring 1 ft. deep, 1 ft. 9 in. wide, and 3 ft. long.
Surrounding the cottages is a ditch which, though now dry, was once a square moat. Opposite the centre of the east wall of the cottages a causeway spans the ditch to form a level approach from the Lane. The side walls of the causeway are much overgrown but below the modern parapet the brickwork is more ancient, and the foundations are of sandstone, pierced by drainage vents.
William Hanbury (1725–78), Rector of Church Langton (Leics.) and promoter of schemes for founding hospitals, colleges, and a cathedral from the revenues to be derived from planting woodlands, (fn. 6) was born here; and Dr. John Bull, the Elizabethan composer, held reversions for 21 years of lands in Bedworth known as Maynardeslands, formerly in possession of the College of Astley. (fn. 7)
Place-names mentioned in early documents include le Longecrone, Echelesfurlong, Peshul, Scortwodehet, le Putgreven, and Portlidgate. A mill is mentioned in 1331. (fn. 8)
An Inclosure Act relating to 16½ yardlands, or 500 acres, was passed in 1769. (fn. 9) Bedworth was the headquarters of a Gilbert's Act Poor Law Union, comprising the parishes of Bedworth, Brinklow, Pailton, and Wolvey in Warwickshire, and Harthill, Higham on the Hill, Ratcliffe, Sibson, Stapleton, Stoke Golding, Sutton Cheney, and Willoughby in Leicestershire. (fn. 10)
In the time of Edward the Confessor Edwin, Earl of Mercia, held 4 hides in BEDWORTH, which in 1086 had passed to Robert, Count of Meulan, Ulfchetel holding of him. (fn. 11) As with the count's other Warwickshire possessions, Bedworth soon passed to Henry, Earl of Warwick, and his descendants; in 1235 (fn. 12) Simon de Turvill and Roger de Craft, who had married two daughters and coheirs of William Turvill, and in 1242 (fn. 13) the same Roger and John Mace (perhaps a tenant during a minority) (fn. 14) held one knight's fee of the Earl of Warwick. The overlordship of the Earls of Warwick continued, and though there is no explicit reference to the earls after 1437, (fn. 15) the Saunders' manor (see below) was held of the King as of the earldom of Warwick in 1621. (fn. 16) From the 14th century an intermediate tenure appears; in 1316 John de Hastings held one knight's fee in Bedworth and Willey of the Earl of Warwick. (fn. 17) This family became Earls of Pembroke, and on their extinction in 1389 the mesne lordship passed to a younger branch of the Beauchamps, Sir William de Beauchamp holding one knight's fee of the Earl of Warwick in 1400, (fn. 18) and Joan his widow in 1435 (fn. 19) and 1437. (fn. 20) It then passed to her granddaughter and heiress Elizabeth, wife of Edward Neville, Lord Bergavenny, whose son George passed it in 1475 to Edward Grey, Viscount Lisle. (fn. 21) His son John died in 1505 leaving a posthumous daughter Elizabeth who died without issue in 1519; (fn. 22) in 1513 the manor was stated to be in the hands of her mother, Thomas Massy being bailiff and Henry Smyth steward. (fn. 23) After Elizabeth's death it passed to Sir Arthur Plantagenet, (fn. 24) the second husband of her aunt and heiress, another Elizabeth, formerly wife of Edmund Dudley; he died in 1542 without male issue, (fn. 25) and it passed to his stepson, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, on whose attainder in 1553 it reverted to the crown.
The Turvill and Craft families who held a knight's fee as tenants of the Earl of Warwick in 1235 were represented in 1313 by Robert Turvill, William Charneles, and the heirs of Hugh de Herdeberewe, (fn. 26) holding as sub-tenants of John de Hastings, the latter two parties being descended from the de Crafts through female lines. (fn. 27) The manor thus became divided into two parts; in 1330 Robert de Turvill leased a moiety of the manor, except for certain lands, to his brother Master Philip de Turvill for his life. (fn. 28) Oliver de Turvill and William Charneles are mentioned as tenants in 1346–7, (fn. 29) and in 1361 Robert de Lymeseie, presumably representing the Turvills, and Joan de Charneles were tenants, the immediate overlord in this case being John de Moubray of Axholme, (fn. 30) who may have been a guardian during the minority of John, Earl of Pembroke. The descent of the Turvill moiety then becomes obscure.
The Charneles moiety was held by Sir William in 1276 (fn. 31) and passed to his son (fn. 32) Henry before 1316. (fn. 33) His son Sir William held it in 1334 (fn. 34) and died in or before 1350, when his widow Margaret was lady of the manor, (fn. 35) as she continued to be until 1383. (fn. 36) In that year her son John Charneles settled half of the manor on her for life; the other half he had conveyed to John Grenehull as trustee, (fn. 37) probably for a settlement on his wife Elizabeth, to whom in her widowhood Grenehull conveyed the property in 1403. (fn. 38) The Charneles manor was granted by John de la Hall and Joan his wife, sister and heiress of John Charneles, to Sir William de Asteley and others in 1403, (fn. 39) and in 1413 the reversion was granted (fn. 40) to Sir William, the manor-house and some land then being in occupation of Thomas de Rokedon, for his life, and then to his daughter Joan and her husband Reynold, Lord Grey of Ruthin; from them it passed through the female line to the Greys of Groby, Lords Ferrers and later Marquesses of Dorset. On the attainder in 1554 of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and Duke of Suffolk, it was forfeited to the Crown; he had in 1551 leased 'the manor place', with barns, stables, a dovehouse, and three closes called Oxeclose, Roughclose, and Paynes Haye, for 21 years to Richard Smythe of Coventry, whose father had been tenant also. The lease was renewed by the Crown in 1557 at the same yearly rent of £6 16s. for 30 years. (fn. 41) In 1595 it was regranted by the Crown to Thomas Reade, (fn. 42) and in 1602 to Sir Clement Fisher, (fn. 43) at whose death in 1620 Robert his son and heir was 40 or more years of age. (fn. 44) In 1730 his descendants kept court baron at Bedworth. (fn. 45) In 1608 the Fishers granted the site of the manor, lands, and liberty to dig coal in the manor of Bedworth to Sir Thomas Beaumont, (fn. 46) and in 1615 Sir Henry Beaumont and others in turn leased these rights to Sir William Turpin and others. (fn. 47) Sir Henry Beaumont made a fresh sub-lease to William Blake, esq. and William Rolfe, gent. in 1624. (fn. 48) The Fishers remained in possession of the manorial rights till after 1712, when Mary daughter and heiress of Sir Clement Fisher married Heneage Finch, 2nd Earl of Aylesford, (fn. 49) with whose family the lordship remained till early in the 20th century. About 1911 the Earl of Aylesford had sold the lordship to Mr. J. Richards, (fn. 50) who died in 1933, the estate now being in the hands of his sons, Messrs. E. W. and N. F. Richards. (fn. 51)
A manor called SAUNDERS' MANOR appears in the reign of Elizabeth, and is probably to be identified with the Turvill half of the manor; half the advowson was alleged to have descended with it, (fn. 52) and in 1640 Timothy Saunders is described as 'one of the lords of the manor of Bedworth'. (fn. 53) The Saunders were a Northamptonshire family, of whom the first to settle in Bedworth was John, eldest son of Edward Saunders of Harrington (Northants.), (fn. 54) which suggests that he had married the heiress of the Turvill interest. His grandson (fn. 55) William died in December 1586, seised of the manor and of a moiety of the advowson, leaving a son Michael. (fn. 56) In 1621 this manor was stated to be held of the King as of the earldom of Warwick. (fn. 57) In 1651 Timothy and Francis Saunders and their wives, and others, were dealing with the manor, (fn. 58) and in 1658 it was conveyed to Francis by Brasbridge Saunders, Ann Saunders, widow, and Richard Saunders, and Elizabeth wife of the last. (fn. 59) After this date Saunders' Manor is not mentioned as such; the family was still described as of Bedworth in 1682. (fn. 60) In that year an estate in Bedworth was sold by Martha Flint and Humphrey Greswold to Nicholas Chamberlaine, Rector of Bedworth, to pay the debts of Samuel Flint, serjeant-at-law, Martha's husband. (fn. 61) Other lands, described as half a manor, being possibly the Saunder's manor, were sold by William Willoughby and Elizabeth his wife to Charles Goodwyn in 1696. (fn. 62) It was from Charles Goodwyn that Nicholas Chamberlaine, clerk, purchased land worth £200 a year, to endow boys' and girls' charity schools and almshouses; (fn. 63) the Governors of the Chamberlaine Charity are still one of the principal landowners in Bedworth. Nicholas Chamberlaine bequeathed the manor to his nephew, another Nicholas, who was the owner in 1730, keeping courts leet and baron. (fn. 64) In 1751 the Chamberlaine share had passed to the Hughes family of Coventry, (fn. 65) who retained it till shortly before 1798, when Francis Parrott was lord. (fn. 66) In 1809 he and John Pratt conveyed their share to William Piercy. (fn. 67)
SMERCOTE, already a depopulated hamlet in Dugdale's time, (fn. 68) was held as to one hide by Sexi in the reign of Edward the Confessor. In 1086 the Count of Meulan was chief and Godric sub-tenant. (fn. 69) In 1285 William le Boteler had free warren here, (fn. 70) which was exemplified in 1500 by Sir Thomas Boteler. (fn. 71) Land in Smercote belonged to St. John Baptist Hospital in Coventry, (fn. 72) and on its suppression in 1545 was granted to John Hales of Coventry. (fn. 73) This probably originated in a grant of land in Bedworth by Bernard de Arleye in 1327, (fn. 74) and another of 2 acres of wood there by William Suwet in 1392. (fn. 75)
A grove called Boles Grove in Bedworth which had belonged to the Carthusian Priory of St. Anne, Coventry, was granted in 1545 to Richard and Thomas Lawley. (fn. 76)
A close and pasture called Church Close, which had formerly provided for the upkeep of a lamp in the church, was granted in 1570 to Nicholas Yetsweirt and Bartholomew Brokesby. (fn. 77)
The church of ALL SAINTS is largely modern and stands on the west side of the main street. It consists of a square chancel, nave with north and south aisles, a chapel to the south of the chancel, and two vestries, for clergy and choir, to the north. Being without a clearstory the nave is lighted by means of two-light windows in the aisles. In the west there is a tower, without a spire, and the aisles are entered by a north and a south porch.
There have been at least three churches on the same site, and the list of rectors contained in the church dates back to about 1300. The earliest surviving remains are of the 14th century, as indicated by blocks of red sandstone dug up when the foundations of the present church were being prepared, and afterwards incorporated in them. (fn. 78) Another church was built early in the 19th century (fn. 79) to replace all but the tower of the one preceding it. The new nave ran with its length from north to south, immediately to the east of the old tower; it contained galleries, and a small chancel was planned on the east side, (fn. 80) opposite the tower. The whole of the church built at this time must have been demolished, for, with the exception of the tower, all the present fabric was built between 1888 and 1890 of red Runcorn sandstone with slate roofs. The style is uniform and in the manner of the 14th century.
The square tower of grey sandstone, though of genuine 14th-century work, has been much restored and is of little interest. It is constructed in two stages divided by a string-course. The mouldings of the embattled parapet and the base courses have been replaced in modern times. The four diagonal buttresses finish beneath the parapet. Those on the west side bear signs of two medieval scratch dials which have been restored. None of the openings appear to be preserved in their original state. The belfry window of two lights in each of the four sides has a two-centred 14th-century head with no cusping (probably removed). In the lower story the only external openings consist of a west door with three-light window over, both constructed with two-centred heads in the 19th century, the window tracery having been replaced at a more recent date.
Internally a two-centred tower arch of two plain chamfered orders dying on to square jambs opens into the nave and appears to be of 14th-century work. It is closed off by a pair of modern wrought-iron gates. The roofs are of open timber construction, with the members gilded over the main altar.
Five wall tablets of black and white marble, all dated about 1790, are fixed to the walls of the chancel. The reredos is of carved marble, and a modern organ overlooks the chancel, contained in a loft over the vestry. The interior walls are all plastered.
There is a peal of eight bells. Seven are mounted in the main belfry and one at a higher level just beneath the tower roof. (fn. 81) There were three by Watts of Leicester; the tenor, weighing 8 cwt., was recast in 1891 with the following old inscription recorded: 'cum cum and praie'; the other two were not recast and both bear the following words: 'ihs nazarenus rex judeorum miserere mei fili dei' with the two dates, respectively 1627 and 1629. The remaining five bells simply bear the date '1891' and 'J. Taylor, Loughborough'.
The first mention of a priest at Bedworth is in 1297, when protection was granted to Master Robert de Craft, parson. (fn. 82) In 1300 Master Philip de Turvill had leave of absence for 3 years to continue at the university, the patron then being William Charneles. (fn. 83) The patronage continued with the Charneles family all through the 14th century, and passed with the Charneles half of the manor to the Astley family, and so through the Greys of Ruthin and the Lords Ferrers to the Marquesses of Dorset till the attainder of Henry in 1554, except that in 1512 Henry Smyth presented pro hac vice, (fn. 84) and in 1521 Richard, son of Henry Grey, conveyed his rights in the advowson with the manor to Sir Arthur Plantagenet, who held the mesne lordship. (fn. 85) From the beginning of the 17th century the advowson was attached to the main manor, held by the Fishers, though the Saunders, tenants of the other half-manor, included it in all their dealings with the manor, and William Saunders presented to the benefice in April 1569; but as the Crown made another presentation just a month later it would seem that his right was not acknowledged. (fn. 86) From 1662 the right of presentation went with the Fisher half of the manor, except in 1663 when Sir Clement Throckmorton presented, (fn. 87) and so to the Earls of Aylesford, who held the right till the 20th century. (fn. 88) In 1926 the patronage was in the hands of Col. Brittan and Mr. A. Bolton, (fn. 89) and from about 1930 of the Martyrs' Memorial and Church of England Trust. (fn. 90)
Isabel, widow of Sir William de Turvill, in about 1230 gave to the canons of Arbury Priory land in the Hook Wood in Bedworth for the good of the souls of her husband and of their son William. (fn. 93) A century later, in 1332, Philip de Turvill, rector of Bedworth and prebendary of Lichfield, by permission of his brother Robert, lord of the manor, gave property here to found a chantry at the altar of St. Mary in Bedworth church. (fn. 94) He must have given the patronage to the canons of Arbury, as they presented to the chantry from 1339 to 1422. (fn. 95) In 1424, however, it was found that the endowment was insufficient for the support of a chaplain, and the Bishop and Dean of Lichfield ordained that in future one of the canons of Arbury should say a mass of the Blessed Virgin on three days in the week at Bedworth and on the other days in the church of the priory. (fn. 96) The property held by Arbury in this parish at the Dissolution was worth £2 8s. 8d. (fn. 97)
Nicholas Chamberlaine's Hospital and Sermon Charity is regulated by a Scheme dated 14 September 1878 made under the Endowed Schools Acts and is comprised in an Order made by the Charity Commissioners dated 20 July 1906. The charity was founded by will dated 24 June 1715 which directed that the Almshouses which the testator had then covenanted to have built in Bedworth should be occupied by poor men and poor women born in and of the parish of Bedworth and that each inmate should be allowed 1s. 6d. weekly and the sum of 4s. yearly to provide them with fuel, and also receive every two years at Christmas a gown or coat. Under the provisions of the above-mentioned scheme the yearly sum of £1 1s. is required to be paid by the Hospital Governors for a sermon to be preached by one of them, being a minister, or by some other minister, in accordance with the directions contained in the will.
Orton Memorial Trust. By a Declaration of Trust dated 30 August 1939 a sum of £200 2½ per cent. Consols was settled upon trust, the dividends to be applied by the trustees, who are appointed by the Urban District Council of Bedworth, in making gifts of coal to poor or necessitous widows who are resident in the Urban District.
Henry Smith. This parish is one of those partaking, in common with twenty-one other parishes, of the rents of the Thurlaston Estate, comprising part of the endowment of the General Charity of Henry Smith. The share of the income applicable for each parish is, in accordance with the provisions contained in an indenture dated 20 January 1626–7, applied by the churchwardens and overseers of each parish for the relief of the aged poor or infirm people of each parish.
Church Estate. By an Act for inclosing the common fields of this parish certain land was awarded to the rector and churchwardens of the parish for the repairing, beautifying, and enlarging the parish church. Part of the land has been sold and the proceeds of sale invested. Trustees of the charity are now appointed by Order of the Charity Commissioners. The annual income of the Charity amounts to £62 (approximately).