A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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Withybrook parish is situated about 7 miles northeast of Coventry. It occupies the upper part of the valley of a tributary of the Sowe, the ground falling from just over 450 ft. at Cloudesley Bush at the northeast corner to 300 ft. at Hopsford in the south-west. Hopsford is a hamlet, formerly a separate manor; in the early 17th century there were disputes between its inhabitants and those of the main village regarding levies and taxes, and it was laid down at Quarter Sessions in 1631 that Hopsford was responsible for a third part of the parish total. (fn. 1) When Dugdale wrote, Hopsford was 'little better than a depopulated place, there being no more left of the Mannour house than the bare skeleton, not habitable, and two mean Cottages'; in 1730, however, there were six houses. (fn. 2) At the present time the site of the former settlement can be traced to the north and west of Old Hall Farm, with the street leading to the ford. (fn. 3) The eastern boundary of Withybrook is formed by the Fosse Way, which is crossed at the north-east corner of the parish by the road from Lutterworth to Hinckley; that from Lutterworth to Bedworth and Nuneaton crosses the parish farther south-west, the straggling village being where it crosses the above-mentioned brook; and there are minor roads from the village east to Foxon's Corner on the Fosse Way, and west to Hopsford and Shilton. The main former L.M.S.R. line to Crewe and the North, and the Oxford Canal, touch the south-west edge of the parish; the latter formerly ran in a more circuitous course along the 300-ft. contour, passing near Hopsford Hall. The northern and eastern boundaries of the parish are very clearly defined by two shelter belts of trees, each about 2 miles long, but there is no other woodland in the parish. A good deal of inclosure seems to have been going on in the 17th century, as in 1633 inquiry showed 492 acres of former arable 'decayed' by the action of nine persons, Sir Henry Dimocke being responsible for 170 acres, John and Mary Britten for 110 acres, and Thomas Wright for 70 acres. (fn. 4) In 1672 the houses of William Paget and William Swaine were licensed for Presbyterian worship. (fn. 5)
WITHYBROOK is not mentioned in Domesday Book, the first reference being an exchange, temp. Henry II, by which Richard de Morville gave to his kinsman William Rodville, Lindley (Leics.) for Withybrook. (fn. 6) This was confirmed by Roger de Mowbray, of whom de Morville held 5 fees in 1166; (fn. 7) he also confirmed Richard's grant of 2 virgates to the abbey of Combe. (fn. 8) Richard de Morville (between 1188 and 1191), desiring to be buried in that abbey, gave the monks 6 virgates, namely 248 acres, with the meadow of Aldeford and Kaldewelle, 'except the little meadow between the two brooks (siches) which Spilleman holds'; he also affirmed that Nicholas son of Liulf had no rights in the monks' fishpond except for a causeway and in water for his mill and mill-pool, which pool he should so make that the water would not flow back beyond 'where the swan's nest used to be'. (fn. 9) Niel (son of Roger) de Mowbray confirmed his acts. (fn. 10) Other grants in Withybrook were made to Combe Abbey, whose head was granted free warren in his demesnes in Withybrook and elsewhere in 1290. (fn. 11) The following year the value of the Combe property in Withybrook, including a garden, a dovehouse, and the stock, was £6 7s. 6d. (fn. 12) which had increased to £10 13s. 3d. in 1535. (fn. 13) The abbot held of Richard de Harecourt 2 knights' fees in Withybrook and Wolvey in 1293, (fn. 14) but most of this was probably in Wolvey (q.v.). The Combe manor was granted, with the pastures leased with it to Christopher Wrenn, to Thomas Broke, merchant tailor of London, and John Wyllyams in 1544. (fn. 15) By Broke it was bequeathed to Richard Tonge, (fn. 16) and on 1 January 1563 his son (fn. 17) Peter Tonge was licensed to alienate it to Thomas Broome, (fn. 18) who with his wife Mary had a similar licence in April of that year (fn. 19) and sold it to George Turpyn in 1564. (fn. 20) The latter and his wife Frances sold to John Grey and his wife Jane in 1574, (fn. 21) and they to Edward Boughton in 1576–7. (fn. 22) Boughton died in possession in 1589, (fn. 23) and his son Henry was a vouchee in 1594. (fn. 24)
Nicholas son of Liulf, who contributed (as Nicholas de Withibroc) in 1209–10 to the sum required by his overlord William de Mowbray to reclaim his inheritance against William de Stuteville, (fn. 25) probably held the manor, as he laid claim to the advowson of the church in 1205. (fn. 26) His son Nicholas of Coventry gave an undertaking not to raise his mill-pond above its former level in 1229, (fn. 27) and with his freeholders came to an agreement with the convent of Combe about common of pasture in 1240. (fn. 28) William de Castell, perhaps Nicholas's son-in-law, as he held his land in right of his wife Joan, was the next lord and a benefactor to Combe Abbey. (fn. 29) His grandson William in 1284–5 paid 40s. for confirmation of his right to view of frankpledge and assize of bread and ale in Withybrook. (fn. 30) Alice, widow of his son George, held the lordship in 1316, (fn. 31) presumably in dower, as George left a son William. (fn. 32) He was probably dead by 1332 when Maud de Castell (? his widow) was the chief taxpayer in Withybrook. (fn. 33) William's grandson George was in 1373 excused jury service and appointment as sheriff, escheator, or other Crown official, (fn. 34) but was made a collector of the poll tax in 1377 and escheator for Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1381 and 1384, (fn. 35) knight of the shire in 1386, (fn. 36) and sheriff the following year. (fn. 37) A Robert de Castell held similar offices and was also steward of the manor of Cheylesmore in 1422. (fn. 38) The manor seems to have been the subject of a settlement by George de Castell, for in 1407 it had been bought by William Botener of Coventry, a member of a family that supplied several mayors of that city and contributed largely to the rebuilding of St. Michael's Church, from Thomas Compworth and Elizabeth his wife; (fn. 39) the warranty being against the heirs of Elizabeth suggests that she was a de Castell. In 1450 it was settled by Henry Everyngham and Alice (? Botener) his wife on themselves in tail, with remainder to the right heirs of Alice. (fn. 40) In 1499 Humphrey Grey died seised of the manor of Withybrook, then worth 20 marks and held of the Prior of St. John of Jerusalem as of the manor of Balsall by 16s. 10d. rent; Edward Grey, aged 26, was his son and heir. (fn. 41) The latter bequeathed a life interest in the manor to his wife Anne, who with his son Thomas survived him (1529). (fn. 42) Thomas's son John Grey obtained possession of the Combe manor in 1574, (fn. 43) and the two manors passed to Edward Boughton, whose son Henry, with Sir James Harrington and others, conveyed one of the manors, with a mill, to Sir John Spencer in 1594. (fn. 44) Sir John's descendants were lords up to 1827, (fn. 45) since when the manor has been in possession of the Loyd family. (fn. 46) By 1936 the estate had been broken up and there were various landowners, many of the farmers being owners of their farms. (fn. 47)
Another manor was, at the end of the 16th century, in the hands of the Leigh family of King's Newnham. (fn. 48) Sir Francis Leigh the elder died in possession in 1625, having settled the manor on his son Francis on his marriage (1618) with Dame Audrey widow of Sir Francis Anderson (fn. 49) and daughter of Sir John Boteler, to whom the second Sir Francis Leigh and his wife passed the manor in 1626. (fn. 50) The male line of the Botelers ended with the death of Sir John's son William in 1647 and this manor seems to have been resumed by the Leighs, being in 1671 conveyed by Elizabeth, Countess of Northumberland, daughter of Sir Francis Leigh, and others to Orlando Bridgeman. (fn. 51) Another Orlando Bridgeman, great-grandson of the former, was dealing with it in 1726. (fn. 52) The Dukes of Montagu and of Buccleuch occur as vouchees of the manor of Withybrook in 1711 and 1814, (fn. 53) Elizabeth (Leigh) having married as her second husband John, 1st Duke of Montagu. (fn. 54)
The Erdington family held land in Withybrook, producing in 1326 20s. in rent. (fn. 55) This holding is last mentioned in 1434 when Sibyl widow of Thomas Erdyngton held it in dower, her heir being her son Thomas, aged 31. (fn. 56)
HOPSFORD figures in Domesday Book as 'Apleford', 3 hides being held of Geoffrey de Wirce by Ulvric, who had been the tenant of Lewin before 1066. (fn. 57) The subsequent overlordship of the Mowbrays and their descendants is shown in inquisitions of 1297, when Robert de Hastang helf a half-fee in Nuthurst and Hopsford subject to scutage, (fn. 58) 1361, 1399, and 1461, in the last case Hopsford being reckoned by itself for a quarter of a fee. (fn. 59)
In the middle of the 12th century Herbet Putot was the tenant of the Mowbrays; he gave 2 virgates of land at Hopsford, one of his demesne and the other of 'terra defensabilis', to Combe Abbey, this grant being confirmed by Henry II between 1154 and 1158. (fn. 60) The later tenants were the Hastang family of Leamington Hastings (q.v.), Robert holding a quarter and a twentieth of a fee of Niel and of Roger de Mowbray in Hopsford in 1224–30 and 1242–3 respectively, (fn. 61) in addition to the half-fee in Hopsford and Nuthurst. The quarter and twentieth were extended at 60s. yearly in 1313 and 40s. in 1349. (fn. 62) In 1340 Thomas de Hastang and Elizabeth his wife settled the manor on themselves and their heirs, (fn. 63) but in 1358 Sir John Hastang confirmed a grant made the previous year by John de Lyouns, (fn. 64) who had a life interest in the manor, to William de Catesby. (fn. 65) This led to a lawsuit in 1438, when Sir Humphrey Stafford, the grandson of Sir John de Hastang's granddaughter Maud, sued Robert Catesby for the manor. (fn. 66) The latter, who had settled it in tail male in 1405, (fn. 67) and his wife Lettice quitclaimed the manor to Sir Humphrey and his heirs in 1441, the extent being 5 messuages, a toft, 220 acres of land, 12 of meadow, and 6 of pasture. (fn. 68) The Stafford family retained Hopsford for about 70 years, except from 1493 to 1516 when it was in the hands of Sir William Vampage owing to Sir Humphrey Stafford II's attainder; (fn. 69) it was finally passed in 1517 by this Sir Humphrey and Margaret his wife to Sir Edward Belknap. (fn. 70) He in turn sold it the following year to Richard Wright of Hopsford and his son Humphrey for £312 3s. 9d. (fn. 71) When Richard Wright died 3 years later the original Mowbray-Norfolk overlordship had been forgotten and the manor was stated to be held of the Abbot of Combe; Humphrey was then 32. (fn. 72) The Wright family continued to hold the manor till about the time Dugdale was writing his history; (fn. 73) Thomas Wright was granted free warren in 1616–17. (fn. 74) By 1647 it had come to Sir Simon Clark, (fn. 75) the antiquary and friend of Dugdale, whose third son Woodchurch Clark was dealing with it in 1662. (fn. 76) The Rev. Francis Bromley was lord of the manor in 1742, (fn. 77) and the last mention of Hopsford as a manor is in 1765, when members of the Bromley family passed it to William Dadley. (fn. 78)
The Combe Abbey property in Hopsford was increased in 1290 by 15 acres of land from Henry Wyther, (fn. 79) and by 7s. rent from Richard Pacy and Pernell his wife in 1347. (fn. 80) Its value in 1535 is not separately recorded; the post-Dissolution grantee (1539) was Mary, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. (fn. 81)
Two acres of woodland in Hopsford, with 2 messuages and 3½ virgates of land in Withybrook, were in 1340 granted by Sir Thomas de Astley to the chantry in Astley church, later converted into a college of dean and canons. (fn. 82) Worth 13s. 4d. in 1535, (fn. 83) this estate was granted in 1546 to Henry, Marquess of Dorset, and Lady Frances his wife, the king's niece. (fn. 84)
The church of ALL SAINTS, east of the village, stands in a small churchyard. It consists of a chancel, nave, north and south aisles, north chapel, south porch, and a tower built into the north-west corner of the church. It was rebuilt in the 14th century when the aisles were added. The only evidence of an earlier church is a late-12thcentury font. Late in the 15th century the tower was built, the aisle being widened to accommodate it, the chapel and clearstory added, and the chancel partly rebuilt. It was restored in 1821 and again in 1890.
The east wall of the chancel has been refaced with sandstone ashlar above a modern string-course at sill level, and the angle buttress rebuilt. It is lighted by a restored traceried window of five cinquefoil lights, probably a replica of one of the late 15th century. The roof is tiled and the gable has a modern coping with a cross finial. The eastern half of the south wall has also been refaced with ashlar and its buttresses rebuilt. It had a modern traceried window of three pointed lights and a square-headed traceried window of three trefoiled lights, probably 16th-century. Between the windows is a narrow pointed door of one splay which stops on the splayed plinth. The south aisle, which has a hollow-splayed plinth, is built of light-coloured sandstone. Both angles have narrow buttresses of three stages with gabled heads. It is lighted by four traceried windows in deep splays, two on the south, one of three trefoiled lights, the other of two, and one of three lights at each end, that at the west end being a modern replica; all have hood-moulds, the two-light with head-stops. Between the windows on the south is a two-storied porch, now without its upper floor. It is paved with stone slabs, two of them with the matrices of brasses, and has a tiled roof. The entrance has a segmental moulded arch of two orders carried down to splayed stops; both jambs have been renewed. On each side is a traceried window of two trefoiled lights under square heads; and a square opening in the gable originally lighted the upper floor. At the junction of the porch with the aisle wall on the west side are remains of a corbel for a stair turret to the parvise. The doorway has a richly moulded segmental-pointed head with the mouldings carried down to the threshold without stops.
The north and south walls of the nave have traceried clearstory windows of two trefoiled lights in deep splays, three on the south, and two on the north, and on the east gable is the base of a bell-cote for a sanctus bell. The west wall of the nave, built of a mixture of red and light-coloured sandstone, shows the line of the earlier steep-pitched roof before the clearstory was added. It has a tall pointed traceried window of three trefoiled lights with a hood-mould; the tracery and mullions are modern.
The tower, of light-coloured sandstone ashlar, is a low one rising in three stages undivided by string-courses and finished with a plain parapet. In the west wall there is a much-restored pointed doorway of two hollow splays, above it a moulded pointed traceried window of two trefoil lights, and a clock dial. The ringing-chamber is lighted by a single square-headed light on the east, and the belfry by a square-headed window of two trefoil ogee lights on each face. At the angle there is a diagonal buttress and one at right angles at the south-west corner, splayed at the side to accommodate the tower staircase, which is lighted by three loop-lights.
The north wall of the aisle and chapel, built of lightcoloured sandstone ashlar partly refaced, is divided into four bays by buttresses in three stages and is lighted by three pointed traceried windows of three trefoil lights in deep splays with hood-moulds. The lower part of the east wall has no plinth and is built of alternate courses of rubble and ashlar with squared and coursed masonry above; it has a traceried window similar to those in the north wall.
The chancel (27 ft. 4 in. by 16 ft. 10 in.) has unplastered rubble walls, and a modern tiled floor. On the south side the window to the east has a modern pointed rear-arch and in the upper part of each light fragments of late-15th-century coloured glass. The doorway has a segmental-pointed rear-arch and a hoodmould with carved head-stops. The window to the west, which has a low sill and its west reveal splayed at a wide angle, replaces an earlier low-side one. The north side opens into the chapel with a four-centred arch, of two splays, on responds which repeat the inner order with moulded capitals and bases. In the centre of the east respond there is a moulded stone bracket. East of the arch are remains of a late-15th-century Easter Sepulchre, plastered over until it was uncovered during repairs in 1848. It is of considerable interest although all its projecting pilasters, pinnacles, and canopy have been hacked away flush with the wall face. The tomb is represented by a plain trough and above it, on the back of the recess, are three carved figures, an angel and on either side what appears to be a soldier, all much mutilated. The sides and back of the recess have a diaper of pale blue leaves on a grey background, and on the soffit of the four-centred head are pale blue stars, also on a grey background. On the front below the trough there are a number of bays of arcading, coloured red. The roof is modern, with a matchboarded barrel-vaulted ceiling.
The nave (36 ft. by 16 ft. 9 in.) has a modern open roof and wood-block floor. The south arcade consists of three bays of pointed arches of two splayed orders on octagonal pillars, with moulded capitals, and halfoctagon responds. The original moulded bases have been hacked off, except those of the east respond. The outer splayed order on both sides terminates on carved head-stops immediately above the capitals. In the west face of the east respond there is a narrow trefoiled niche, and the capital of the western pillar is decorated with paterae of rosettes. The north arcade is similar, but of two bays, and the head-stops occur only over the pillar. The chancel arch is similar to those of the arcades and at the junction of its respond with that of the north arcade there is a trefoil-headed niche. The clearstory windows have splayed reveals with flat heads, and the west window a pointed rear-arch with a hood-mould terminating on carved head-stops. Cut in one of the ashlar stones in the south wall of the tower is: 'Cristofar Watkin Philip Hartley Churchwardens Ano. Dom. 1632.' The pulpit is modern and placed on the north side of the chancel arch. Fixed on the east end of the south arcade wall there is a small brass figure (c. 1500) from a slab now used as a paving-stone in the porch.
The south aisle (35 ft. by 11 ft. 4 in.) has a modern lean-to roof. At the eastern end of the south wall is a trefoil-headed piscina with its projecting basin cut away, and at the western end a badly mutilated late12th-century stone font with a circular basin on a shaft with a moulded base standing on a square pedestal; the shaft is modern. On the west side of the door there is a blocked square-headed doorway which led to the parvise staircase. At the east end of the arcade there are traces of a doorway to the rood-loft of the earlier church. There are fragments of late-15th-century glass in three of the windows, and at the east end an 18th-century chest lightly bound with iron.
The chapel (26 ft. by 12 ft. 6 in.) has lost its screen and is now separated from the aisle by a curtain for use as a vestry and organ chamber. Occupying the place of the original altar against the east wall there is an altar tomb on one step, and in each of the angles on either side are moulded brackets; that on the north side has the remains of a canopy. The tomb is that of Sir Christopher Wright of Hopsford who died in 1602. On the ledger are the incised figures of a man and lady with a marginal inscription and above the tomb an alabaster panel with his arms and those of his alliances. (fn. 85) There is an aumbry in the south wall with a four-centred head cut through into the trough of the Easter Sepulchre.
The tower (10 ft. 8 in. by 10 ft.) is entered from the aisle by a chamfered round-headed doorway. In the south-west angle part of the respond of the destroyed bay of the arcade is visible, and adjoining it there is a square-headed door to the tower staircase.
Of the four bells three were recast by Barwell of Birmingham in 1907: these were (1) by Robert Newcombe, 1582, given by Sir Christopher Wright; (2) by Brian Eldridge, 1656; (3) by John Martin of Worcester, 1654. The fourth is by Newcombe of Leicester, 1612. (fn. 86)
Withybrook is said to have originally ranked as a chapelry of Monks Kirby, (fn. 87) though in 1205 Nicholas son of Liulf was, at least temporarily, successful in his claim to present to the church. (fn. 88) The abbot and convent of Combe came to an agreement whereby they received the tithes of their own lands in Withybrook for an annual payment of 2 marks silver to Monks Kirby Priory; (fn. 89) the patronage remained with the latter monastery. It was in the king's hands in 1342 owing to the war with France, (fn. 90) and in 1399, on the transfer of the Monks Kirby endowments to the Carthusian priory of Axholme (Lincs.), licence was given for its appropriation to this foundation. (fn. 91) But this seems not to have been effected, as in 1535 the rectory is noted as 'newly appropriated' and estimated to be worth £6 in the following year. (fn. 92) In 1533 the nomination to the vicarage was in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury, owing to the vacancy in the see of Coventry and Lichfield, (fn. 93) the first presentation having presumably been asigned to the bishop. Five years later the rectory and advowson were conveyed to the Crown, (fn. 94) being granted out in 1546 to Trinity College, Cambridge, (fn. 95) who still hold them; the living is now united again with Monks Kirby.