A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Brandon and Bretford, 1,988.
Wolston: 1911, 879; 1921, 962; 1931, 918.
Brandon and Bretford: 1911, 398; 1921, 412; 1931, 508.
The parish of Wolston originally included Strettonon-Dunsmore and Princethorpe, in the south, but these were constituted a separate parish in 1696. (fn. 1) The present parish, which measures roughly 4 miles from east to west with a depth of 3 miles, is divided into two parts by the River Avon, on the left bank of which lies the village of Wolston, stretching southwards along a tributary of the Avon to a point where the road running south to Daventry meets several other small roads. On the other side of the Avon, crossed by a bridge at this point, are the extensive earthworks that mark the site of Brandon Castle (fn. 2) built in the 12th century and long the seat of the Verdon family. (fn. 3) It is said to have been 'pulled down' by the baronial troops from Kenilworth Castle in 1265 because John de Verdon was an active supporter of the king; (fn. 4) but, if so, it must have been repaired, as in 1279 Theobald de Verdon was returned as holding a castle and a park at Brandon, (fn. 5) and the castle was still used as a residence in 1309, (fn. 6) but how much later it continued so to function is not known. A little north of the earthworks is the hamlet of Brandon, on the eastern edge of the extensive grounds of Brandon House. Half a mile north-east of Wolston village, passing the site of Wolston Priory, is the small hamlet of Marston.
The parish is crossed from east to west by the RugbyBirmingham branch of the former L.M.S. Railway, running close to Marston and having a station just south of Brandon House. The Roman (fn. 7) Fosse Way runs through the parish from south-west to north-east and must have crossed the Avon at, or very close to, the present Bretford Bridge. This bridge is mentioned in 1279, and in 1653, when it was in great decay, was repaired at the cost of the county. (fn. 8) The road across it leads to the hamlet of Bretford. For this place, convenient as lying on the Fosse Way and close to the river, John de Verdon obtained a grant of a market, to be held on Tuesdays, in 1227 (fn. 9) and here, on the Fosse Way, he set up his gallows. (fn. 10) There was a windmill at Bretford in 1279, (fn. 11) and it is again referred to in 1360. (fn. 12)
In 1086 a mill worth 6s. 4d. yearly is recorded at Wolston (fn. 13) and one worth 26d. at Brandon. (fn. 14) The former may have been Marston mill, which Richard de Frevill gave to Combe Abbey (fn. 15) late in the 12th century. It is referred to again in 1279, when Theobald de Verdon was said to have appropriated fishing rights in the Avon between Bretford Bridge and the mill of Marston, (fn. 16) or 'Meruines melne' as it is called in another entry. (fn. 17) At the same date Theobald had a water-mill at Brandon. (fn. 18) This seems to have been the 'mill of Stratton which is called Perimulne' which was given to Combe Abbey by Robert de Chetwode and Sybil his wife, with the whole suit of his men of Wolston and Marston. (fn. 19) Its site is indicated by a charter of Nicholas son of Bertram de Verdon, of the early 13th century, by which he gave permission to the monks to repair the breaches (breccas) of the mill-pond of Perimulne, whereof 'one of the breaches was between the ditch of my castle of Brandon and my meadow of Sprowsam and the other was at the old pond-bays (baias) with leave to carry earth across his land. (fn. 20) Just west of Brandon Bridge there is a sluice and a water-lead which originally supplied the moat of the castle, near whose south-western angle it expands into a pond and then continues to re-enter the Avon where Wolston Mill still stands. About the same time, in 1227, the abbot agreed to hold Perimulne of Robert de Chetwode and Sybil and her heirs by a rent of 3s. and to make a bridge over the mill-pond near the old ford, for the carriage of their hay and the driving of their cattle. (fn. 21) Under Robert's son William de Chetwode 'the mill of Perie' was charged with a yearly payment of 20s. to the Staffordshire abbey of Haughmond, (fn. 22) to which abbey Guy le Strange and Mary had confirmed 'the mill of Stretton which is on the Avon'. (fn. 23) No later connexion of the mill with Combe is known and, as already stated, it seems to have come to the Verdons by 1279. Nicholas, son and heir of John Bacon of Wolston, and Margaret his wife were dealing with two mills and fishing rights in the Avon at Brandon in 1423, (fn. 24) and in 1605 Nicholas Wentworth bought Perrie Mill from Edward Ferrers and Francis Phillips. (fn. 25) His son Sir Peter bought the manor of Wolston (see below), and in 1699 there were two water-mills attached to the manors of Wolston and Marston. (fn. 26)
The parish appears to have been inclosed in 1692. (fn. 27)
Tradition relates that in August 1642 King Charles I, on his way from Leicestershire to Coventry, stopped and had lunch under an oak tree near the Fosse Way, the site of which is still called Charles Oak Ground, or Kington Close. (fn. 28)
The village is practically confined to the main street, and most of the houses are built of red brick with tiled roofs, dating from about the end of the 18th century. On the west side of the street there is a pleasing mid18th-century red brick house, typical of the period, with a modillioned cornice and tiled roof.
Wolston Bridge, over the Avon, is a private bridge belonging to the destroyed manor-house, west of the church. It is 13 ft. wide between the parapets, built of vermiculated sandstone ashlar, and is splayed in a slight curve at each end. It has a wide central span, which has a moulded segmental arch with a keystone flanked by pedimented coved niches. Both approaches have small dummy spans with moulded segmental arches filled in with plain ashlar. Over the central arch and the two niches, and at each end, there are panelled piers on a square string-course, which have lost their cappings. These piers are all that remain of the original parapets, now replaced with red brickwork. There are no cutwaters and the elevations on both sides are identical.
Wolston Priory, east of the village, is a much restored and modernized 16th-century house of considerable size. It has two stories and an attic and consists of a main block, west wing, and a narrow east wing which extends across the end of the main block forming north and south porches. It faces south and the main block appears to have been extended on the north, the upper story being timber-framed, probably dating from the 17th century. All the windows are ovolo-moulded with square heads. The south front is of red sandstone ashlar with light-coloured dressings; the other fronts are of small squared and coursed limestone with a plinth and dressings of red sandstone. At the level of the first-floor window heads there is a moulded string-course which forms a hood-moulding to the windows. The west wing is gabled, with moulded finials at the apex and on the skewbacks; it is lighted by a four-light transomed window on the ground floor with three-light windows above to the first floor and attic. The main block has a tall central gabled dormer with finials and, below, four-light windows to the first and ground floors, the latter transomed, on either side there are two-light windows to both floors. The porch has a similar gable to the dormer, two-light windows to the upper floors, and a late-15thcentury entrance arch with a four-centred moulded arch resting on moulded capitals, the mouldings being continued down the jambs to splayed stops. The soffit of the arch and the jambs are panelled, and it has a hood-mould with large, moulded, square stops. The doorway has a moulded four-centred arch under a square head with sunk spandrels, and is fitted with a 16th-century oak door of vertical panels. Against the porch is a one-story building, mostly modern, used as a garage. The doors have been cut through the original kitchen fire-place, which was 10 ft. wide, leaving the flue undisturbed and preserving the original stone paving with a shallow gutter down the centre. The presence of this kitchen suggests, as does the position of the porch, that there was an earlier east wing. The roofs have been retiled and the brick chimneys, set diagonally, rebuilt. The west front resembles the south, but with hood-moulds to the ground-floor windows instead of a string-course. It has a square-headed doorway near the centre with its hood cut away. The north front has a doorway to the porch, with a fourcentred head similar to the south, but combined with a two-light window with a hood-mould as a fanlight, and above it two two-light windows, as on the south. On either side of a central chimney-stack are the gabled ends of the timber-framed added story, lighted on the east side by a five-light oak-framed window, and below it there is a six-light window, with a label moulding, to the first floor.
Internally the original plan has been obscured by alterations, but some of the original timber-framed partitions remain; also six original stone chimneypieces, practically all the same design, with flat moulded heads, the mouldings carried down the jambs to splayed stops. The doorway to the top floor of the porch is an original one with a stop-chamfered four-centred head and fitted with a 17th-century counterboarded door. Painted on the sloping ceiling of one of the attics there is an inscription in black letters, only partly legible: 'I goe to bed as to my ...... knowes when ...... Lord ....... thou with me .... take Decem. 1640.' In the present kitchen, formerly a cellar, there is a piscina built into the wall about 6 ft. above the floor; it is bowl-shaped with a circular basin. In the adjoining pantry, built into an angle, there is a corbel carved with a grotesque mask. These and possibly the entrance arch to the porch may have come from the priory.
It was at the Priory, then owned by Robert Wigston, that John Penry in 1589 set up his press and printed some of the most famous of his series of 'Martin Marprelate' tracts, attacking episcopal government of the Church; for which he was hanged. (fn. 29)
The 5-hide vill of WOLSTON, which before the Conquest had been held by Ailmund, was in 1086 among the estates of Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury, of whom it was held by Rainald de Bailleul. (fn. 30) He must have enfeoffed Hubert Baldran, who between 1086 and 1094, with the consent of his wife Alice, granted the church and 2 hides of land here to the Norman abbey of St. Pierre-surDives, his gift being confirmed by Rainald de Bailleul and Amilia his wife and by Earl Roger. (fn. 31) Hubert's daughter and heir Sybil, as lady of Wolston, confirmed the grant between 1161 and 1170, and at the same time, with her husband Roger de Frevill, gave the land lying between the monks' court and the brook running through the vill, and pasturage rights. (fn. 32) They had a son Richard, whose heirs were his sisters Agatha, wife first of Hamon Lestrange and secondly of Geoffrey de Turvill, and Sybil, wife of Robert de Chetwode. (fn. 33) Hamon and Agatha confirmed to Kenilworth Priory their parents' gift of 4 virgates, each of 22 acres, in Wolston, (fn. 34) and she and her sister in 1242 held a knight's fee in Wolston of John FitzAlan, (fn. 35) the representative of Earl Roger. Agatha daughter of Hamon Lestrange had a son Richard, (fn. 36) of whom no more is heard. The elder Agatha in 1237 had a grant of exemption from suits of courts and hundreds for herself and her men of Wolston, Merston, and Brandon, at the request of her son Geoffrey de Turvill, Archdeacon of Dublin. (fn. 37) She, who must have died shortly after this date, had two other sons, Robert, who died in 1237, (fn. 38) and Hamon. (fn. 39) In 1240 after the death of John FitzAlan the dower assigned to his widow Hawise included 1 knight's fee held by Hamon de Turvill and another held by the heirs of Ralph Lestrange. (fn. 40) Sir Richard de Turvill, described as of Wolston in 1309, (fn. 41) was discharged from the office of coroner in 1314 as infirm, (fn. 42) and probably died about that time, as Robert de Turvill was lord of Wolston in 1316. (fn. 43) His successor John in 1326 entailed this manor on himself and his wife Margaret, (fn. 44) with contingent remainder to Thomas Ferrers, her father, (fn. 45) and his heirs. John Turvill seems to have died between 1353 and 1360 and to have been succeeded by his eldest son Thomas. (fn. 46) In 1368 the manor was conveyed by trustees to Robert son of John, son of John Turvill, (fn. 47) apparently younger brother of Thomas. It is next found in 1387 being conveyed by Sir William Wanton and Ismania his wife to Sir William Bagot and William Glym, (fn. 48) and as the warranty was against her heirs Ismania was probably the representative of the Turvills. Glym and others in 1418 gave a life-interest in the manor, then held of the Duke of Norfolk, to Thomas Stafford, (fn. 49) who had married Bagot's daughter Isabel. (fn. 50) Stafford sold it to Kenilworth Priory without obtaining licence to do so and it was therefore seized into the king's hands and in 1428 was committed to John Verney, clerk, and John Throckmorton for 12 years at a rent of £12. (fn. 51) The manor having thus passed away from the descendants of John Turvill, Sir Edward Grey in 1445 claimed that under the settlement of 1326 it should come to his wife Elizabeth as heir of Thomas Ferrers; (fn. 52) and in 1446 he and his wife conveyed it to trustees; (fn. 53) there is, however, no later connexion with the Greys, Lords Ferrers of Groby, and the whole transaction may have been an attempt to assert an unfounded claim.
The manor of Wolston had come into the hands of Nicholas Metley, a lawyer, by 1437, when he died, leaving it for life to his wife Joan (who afterwards married Richard Hotoft) with reversion to his daughter Margaret. (fn. 54) She married John Hugford, who survived her and died in December 1485, holding the manor, valued at 6 marks, from the Earl of Arundel. Their heirs were their daughters Alice and Anne, and John Beaufoe, son of an elder daughter Joan, then aged 2. (fn. 55) Richard Cotes, who married Alice, was said to be holding the whole manor at his death in 1504, (fn. 56) and in 1512, when a partition of the estates was made, (fn. 57) it was assigned to his son John Cotes, who exchanged it to Sir Edward Belknap. (fn. 58) He died in 1521 and left it to his sister Alice and her husband William Shelley, (fn. 59) whose son John Shelley of Michelgrove (Sussex) died seised thereof in 1550. (fn. 60) On the attainder of John's son William in 1582 the manor passed to his nephew, Sir John Shelley, who in 1612 sold it to George Warner. (fn. 61) The latter sold to Sir Peter Wentworth in 1650. (fn. 62) By 1691 the advowson, and presumably the manor, was in the hands of Fisher Dilke alias Wentworth, (fn. 63) who had married Sybil daughter of Nicholas Wentworth. (fn. 64) His son Samuel Dilke in 1699 made a conveyance of the manor, (fn. 65) perhaps for sale or mortgage to John Andrews, who was patron in 1706. (fn. 66) It was bought in 1712 by Letitia Pinchin, who died in 1713, (fn. 67) and passed to her son Charles Pinchin and on his death to his sisters; of whom Letitia married John Wilcox of Brandon. He, who died in 1732, is said to have been lord of the manor of Wolston, (fn. 68) but in 1740 his widow and her sister Hannah Pinchin sold it to Susannah Hubert of Wasperton, widow. About 1766 the estate was bought by General George Scott (an illegitimate son of the Duke of Buccleuch). His estate was sold (under the will of the 4th Duke of Buccleuch) (fn. 69) to pay his debts and was bought by William Wilcox. On the death of his grandson, Charles Walford Wilcox, in 1926 the estates passed to his daughter Mary Hilda wife of Eric Alfred Hoffgaard, and she later made them over to her son Charles Robert Eric Walford Hoffgaard, who has now taken the name of Wilcox. (fn. 70)
Sybil, Agatha's sister, had married Robert de Chetwode and in 1226 they granted to the abbey of Combe a mill called 'Perimulne' in Stratton, to which their men of Wolston and Merston were bound to take their corn. (fn. 71) They had a son Ralph, (fn. 72) who died without issue, and another son William, (fn. 73) who had two daughters, Agnes who married William le Breton, (fn. 74) and Beatrice who married Thomas son of William de Wynterton. (fn. 75) William le Breton left a son Guy, the picture of whose wife Alice was in a window in Wolston church in Dugdale's time, (fn. 76) and his son (or perhaps grandson) Sir William was given licence to have divine service celebrated in his mansion of Wolston in 1360. (fn. 77) The estate seems to have constituted the manor of MARSTON, which Guy Breton held in 1404. (fn. 78) He appears to have left coheiresses, as in 1419 one moiety of the manor was transferred to Thomas Wodelowe and Margaret his wife by Richard Quatermaynes of London, and the other moiety by John Boteler of Wolverton. (fn. 79) Thomas held this as half a knight's fee in 1431, (fn. 80) but soon afterwards it was acquired by Nicholas Metley and since then it has descended with the manor of Wolston.
Turchil held half a hide in BRANDON before and after the Conquest, but in 1086 Wlsi was holding it of him. (fn. 81) The overlordship passed to the earls of Warwick, of whom it was held as half a knight's fee in 1235 and 1242, (fn. 82) and as a whole fee in 1309, 1316, and 1360. (fn. 83) Brandon itself seems to have been granted to Geoffrey de Clinton, the chamberlain of Henry I, and given by him to Norman de Verdon, who married his daughter Lesceline. Her brother Geoffrey de Clinton married Agnes daughter of Roger, Earl of Warwick, and received with her 10 knights' fees, of which the tenants were to do service at the castle of Brandon. (fn. 84) Norman's grandson Nicholas de Verdon, who had a grant of free warren for his estates in Brandon in 1227, (fn. 85) died in 1231, (fn. 86) leaving as his heir his daughter Roese, who in that year paid relief on her inheritance and a fine that she should not be married against her will. (fn. 87) She eventually married Theobald le Boteler but retained her maiden name, which was used by her descendants. Roese held the halffee in 1242 (fn. 88) but was dead by May 1247, when her son John de Verdon undertook to pay 1,300 marks for the inheritance of her estates. (fn. 89) John married as his first wife Margery, one of the two daughters and coheirs of Walter de Lacy, (fn. 90) by whom he had two sons, Nicholas and Theobald. Nicholas died in 1271 (fn. 91) and John himself in 1274, (fn. 92) leaving a widow Eleanor, (fn. 93) against whom Ela, Countess of Warwick, complained in 1278 that when she sent John the reeve of Claverdon to Brandon Castle with a letter for 10 marks which Theobald de Verdon owed her as relief for the manor Eleanor and her men took away the letter and imprisoned him for one night. (fn. 94) Theobald died in 1309, holding the castle of Brandon with its members in Bretford and Flecknoe, leaving a son Theobald. (fn. 95) The latter married first Maud de Mortimer, by whom he had three daughters, Joan, Elizabeth, and Margery, and secondly Elizabeth de Clare, widow of John de Burgh, by whom he had a daughter Isabel, born after his death in 1316. (fn. 96) The manor of Brandon with the hamlet of Bretford, valued at £7 17s. 6d. yearly, was assigned in dower to Elizabeth, (fn. 97) the reversion being granted at the division of Theobald's estates in 1344 to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband Bartholomew de Burghersh. (fn. 98) They inherited it on the death of the elder Elizabeth in 1360, (fn. 99) and conveyed it to Sir Walter Pavely and others, who sold it in 1369 to Sir John de Delves, (fn. 100) whose brother Hervey sold it in the following year to Sir John Arundell (son of the Earl of Arundel). (fn. 101) He died in 1378, when the manor passed to his younger son (Sir) William, (fn. 102) who settled it for life on his wife Agnes, with remainder to his brother Sir Richard Arundell, whose wife Alice recovered dower in the manor in 1420. (fn. 103) Sir Richard left two daughters, and the manor was assigned to Eleanor wife of Sir William St. George, who died without issue surviving. Her sister Joan had married Thomas Willoughby, whose son Sir Robert died in 1465; his eldest son Robert died young and the second son Christopher inherited the manor on the death of Sir William St. George in 1472. (fn. 104) From Christopher Willoughby it passed to his third son Sir Thomas, who settled it on himself and his wife Bridget (Rede) in 1510 and died in 1537, leaving a son Robert. (fn. 105) His grandson Sir Percival Willoughby sold it in 1615 to Sir Henry Yelverton, the Attorney General. (fn. 106) His great-grandson Henry was created Viscount Longueville in 1690 and died in 1704 and Brandon manor was held by his widow Barbara until her death in 1763; by her grandson Henry, Earl of Sussex, who died in 1799; by his grandson Henry, Lord Grey de Ruthin, who died in 1810; and by his daughter Barbara, Baroness Grey in 1818. (fn. 107) From her it was bought by James Beech, with whose descendants the estate has remained. (fn. 108)
The younger Geoffrey de Clinton gave 150 acres of his demesne land in BRETFORD, with meadow between Bretford and the pond of Marston mill, and all the lands held in villeinage between the four bounds of Musewellesiche and the ditch, the Avon and the wood of Burdlege to Noemi the nun, for the establishment of a small house of nuns. (fn. 109) The scheme was speedily abandoned, and with his consent the nuns Noemi and Sebure handed the endowment over to the canons of Kenilworth Priory. (fn. 110) They subsequently leased the estate to Richard the clerk of Bretford for life at a rent of 1 mark, and he, according to the jurors at the inquest after the death of Theobald de Verdon the younger in 1316, made a fraudulent conveyance of it to 'the lord of Brandon'. (fn. 111) According to the return of 1279 the elder Theobald was then lord of Bretford, which he held of the Prior of Kenilworth, who held of the Earl of Warwick. (fn. 112) Whatever the rights of the case, Bretford from this time onward figures only as a member of Brandon, though Kenilworth in 1535 had tenements in Bretford producing 15s. 4d. in rents, and in Brandon 46s. 8d. (fn. 113)
The church of ST. MARGARET is situated on the south bank of the River Avon, north of the village, and stands in a small churchyard. It consists of a chancel, north and south transepts, north and south aisles, central tower, and a modern vestry. It dates from the 12th century, when it probably consisted of a chancel, nave and south transept, and a low central tower, the north transept being added early in the 13th century. In the 14th century the church was rebuilt with the addition of aisles; in the 15th century a clearstory was inserted, and in the 17th century the low tower was raised to form a belfry. Of the 12th-century church the tower crossing remains, with the 13th-century arch to the north transept, and the north doorway re-used in the 14th-century south aisle. The roof of the chancel was extensively repaired in 1680 and decorated in colour in 1760.
The chancel, built of small limestone rubble with red sandstone dressings, has a low-pitched lead-covered roof; the east end has diagonal buttresses at the angles and is lighted by a modern pointed four-light traceried window with a hood-mould. The upper part of the gable wall has been rebuilt in ashlar and the coping renewed. On the north side a large buttress in four weathered stages has been added, probably when the roof was repaired in the 17th century. Built against it and inclosing the original central buttress is a small modern vestry, built of red sandstone ashlar and lighted by two two-light square-headed windows. Between the vestry and the transept there is a 17thcentury three-light window with a segmental-pointed head. The south side has a central buttress and to the west a modern low-side window of two round-headed lights with a square head. On either side of the buttress there is a restored pointed traceried window of three splayed orders with two trefoil lights and hoodmoulds. West of the buttress there is a narrow pointed doorway of two hollow splays with a hood-mould formed by the string-course.
The north transept, which has a steep-pitched tiled roof, has had diagonal buttresses added to the angles and its walls refaced in small squared and coursed limestone with bands of red sandstone. It is lighted on the east by a three-light pointed traceried window of two splayed orders, the centre light cinquefoil, the outer round-headed with a hood-mould and head-stops. On the north the tracery has been removed from a large pointed window with a hood-mould and headstops; the opening has been built up for the insertion of a three-light square-headed window with a twolight above; the two-light, evidently re-used from elsewhere, has the date A.D. 1577 on the head, and on the sill a later inscribed date AnDom. 1624 and the initials R.W. In the gable over the window is a small tablet inscribed 'Thomas Willcox 1818' and below it another, 'John . . . . . 1776'.
The south transept has a modern M-shaped tiled roof; the walls are partly rebuilt or refaced similarly to the north transept and angle buttresses added. It is lighted on the east by a pointed traceried window of three trefoil lights, with a hood-mould, and has a modern string-course at sill level; on the south is a modern pointed window of three pointed lights.
The north aisle is built of small coursed limestone rubble with a low-pitched lead-covered roof and is divided into three bays by rebuilt buttresses. The west bay is lighted by a single square-headed window with a trefoil ogee light and has a pointed doorway of two moulded orders which continue down the jambs without capitals, the inner a splay, the outer a roll and hollow; it has a hood-mould with head-stops. The other two bays have similar windows, but with two lights, and all have hood-moulds without stops. High up in the west wall is a square-headed window of two pointed cinquefoil lights, probably inserted in the 17th century. The wall of the clearstory is built of ashlar and is without a parapet to the low-pitched leadcovered nave roof. It is lighted by three square-headed windows of two pointed cinquefoil lights. The west end of the nave is supported by two large modern brick buttresses, rendered with cement, and lighted by a 17thcentury segmental-pointed traceried window of five lights, the three central lights cinquefoiled and the two outer trefoiled.
The south aisle has a plain parapet on a band of red sandstone to a low-pitched lead-covered roof, and is divided into three bays by buttresses, the west bay containing a pointed traceried window of two trefoil lights, and a re-used 12th-century round-headed doorway, of two orders supported on an impost moulding and attached shafts with cushion capitals. The inner order is plain, the outer ornamented with zigzag decoration and a splay decorated with button ornament. The detail of the capitals has been weathered away and the bases encased in concrete. The centre bay has a modern trefoiled single light, and the east a pointed traceried window of two trefoil lights; the mullion and head are modern restorations. The clearstory is similar to that on the north side, and the west wall has a corresponding 17th-century window.
The chancel (37 ft. 3 in. by 19 ft. 3 in.) is paved with stone and has a roof divided into four bays with three trusses and two wall-trusses. The tie-beam, purlins, and ridge are moulded. It was extensively repaired in 1680; and in 1760 the whole roof was decorated in colour, following the gothic tradition, with cheverons, rosettes, the initials M, IHS, carried out in red, white, blue, black, and gold. The bay above the altar has a blue background with gold stars. The sides of the beams are decorated with shields and foliage, with the date 1760 on the western wall-truss. At the eastern end of the south wall there is a 13thcentury piscina with a pointed trefoil head, hoodmould with head-stops, and a circular basin. Adjoining are triple sedilia with pointed moulded trefoil heads, with hood-moulds and head-stops, supported on circular shafts having moulded capitals and bases, the arch moulding being carried down to the stone seats as responds. In the wall on the north side, east of the 17th-century window, the jamb and springer of a window corresponding to the one opposite are visible. The original windows have splayed reveals, pointed rear-arches, and moulded sills, probably part of a destroyed string-course; the later window has a moulded segmental rear-arch; the pointed doorway to the vestry is modern. The chancel arch is round-headed, of two plain orders on the chancel side resting on a square impost, on the crossing side the outer order is roll-moulded, supported on detached shafts with a carved capital on the south side, the corresponding one has been replaced with a square block. The altar is modern, but the rail dates from the 17th century and was originally in use at Rowington. (fn. 114) It has turned balusters, a moulded rail fitted with a modern capping. Carved on the rail are the initials and the date WBIG 1633 I.C
The south transept (20 ft. 9 in. by 19 ft.), now called the Lady Chapel, has a modern, flat, plastered ceiling, plastered walls, and a concrete floor. Extending along the south wall the full width of the transept there are a piscina, sedile, and two tomb recesses of the early 14th century, constructed as a single unit. The piscina has a pointed trefoiled head with a splayed projection for a six-foil basin, the sedile has a round trefoiled wave-moulded head, and over both is a hood-moulding with a central head-stop, the moulding being continued above the tombs as a string-course at window-sill level. The tomb recesses have segmental-pointed arches of two moulded orders, the inner cinquefoiled, which spring from panelled pilasters with gabled heads and pinnacles with foliated finials; the pilaster at the western end is missing. In the recess to the east there is a badly worn recumbent effigy of a woman and in the other a decayed effigy of a man, probably a knight. The arch to the crossing is round-headed, of two plain orders resting on a cavetto-moulded impost; the outer order continues down the jambs and the inner is sup ported on half-round responds with fluted capitals and moulded bases. Above the arch is a narrow roundheaded 12th-century window. East of the arch there is a table tomb, probably late 15th century, in lightcoloured stone with a polished Purbeck marble top and a canopy over. The front is traceried, with the matrices of three shields, and the canopy has a frieze of quatrefoils finished with a carved cresting; the back, which contained the inscription, is also traceried but only the lead fixing plugs of the inscription remain. (fn. 115)
The north transept (18 ft. 2 in. by 15 ft. 4 in.) has a flat, plastered ceiling, the walls plastered and lined out to represent ashlar. The arch to the crossing is pointed, of two orders, the inner chamfered, the outer plain with impost and responds similar to the one to the south transept and with a corresponding round-headed window above. Beneath this arch is the organ.
The nave (47 ft. 2 in. by 22 ft. 6 in.) has walls plastered and lined out as ashlar, and is paved with stone slabs. The roof is divided into five bays by trusses with moulded tie-beams, purlins, and ridge, the tie-beams having central carved bosses. The beams are supported by wall-posts with curved brackets resting on moulded timber corbels. This and the aisle roofs probably date from the late 17th century, when the chancel roof was repaired. The south arcade appears to have been the first to be built, followed by the north. It has only three bays and is of a more massive character than the north, which has four bays supported on slighter pillars. The three bays have pointed arches of two splays, the outer hollow, supported on octagonal pillars with moulded capitals, wide enough to take the outer order, and moulded bases. At the west end the arch rests on a half-octagon respond with a mutilated moulded capital, and at the east end the arch dies out on the wall. The north arcade has four bays of pointed arches, of two splayed orders, supported on octagonal pillars with moulded capitals and bases, the outer order resting on corbels carved with grotesque masks. At both ends the arches die out on the walls. The arch to the crossing is round-headed, slightly depressed, of two plain orders and on the nave side the outer order is supported on detached shafts with carved capitals and moulded bases; the capital to the south is carved with interlaced figures, and the north, although mutilated, retains three figures with a cross between them. At the west end the floor has been lowered to its original level for a distance of-10 ft. 6 in. and a concrete floor provided, with the intention of extending it to the whole of the nave and aisles. Along the step so formed, a 17thcentury barrier in two sections has been fixed with its panels cut out, leaving the muntings to form a balustrade; it has circular posts and a moulded rail and may possibly have been a gallery front. The font is placed between these rails against the step; it dates from the 14th century and is octagonal with a lead-lined circular basin, each face carved with crocketed ogee trefoils springing from carved mask stops and supported on eight half-shafts with continuous mouldings forming the capitals and bases. The pulpit placed on the north side of the crossing arch is a modern circular one of carved oak on an octagonal stem.
The south aisle (44 ft. 10 in. by 10 ft. 9 in.) is stone paved and has the walls and the underside of the roof between the trusses plastered. The roof has plain timbers, the trusses supported on small curved brackets. The corbels of an earlier roof still remain in the arcade wall. The arch to the transept is segmental-pointed of two orders, the inner a wave moulding, the outer a splay, which continue down to splayed bases without capitals. At the west end there are three painted lists of charities from 1607 to 1880 and a small oak chest with iron straps dated 1754. The windows have pointed rear-arches, and the door has a segmentalpointed one.
The north aisle (49 ft. 6 in. by 10 ft. 6 in.) has roof, walls, and floor as the south aisle. The transept arch is pointed, of two orders, the inner a wave moulding, the outer a splay, supported on responds repeating the arch mouldings with moulded capitals and splayed bases. The doorway has a segmental-pointed reararch and the windows have flat heads.
The plate includes a silver chalice and cover with hallmark 1729, inscribed 'Barbara Viscts Dowager Longueville ex dono'; a silver paten with hallmark 1518, 5 in. in diameter, engraved in the centre with a head of Our Lord; and a silver chalice 6¼ in. high with a projecting lip, the hallmark illegible.
The bell-chamber, to which there is no internal access, contains four bells. Of these the earliest is by John de Stafford and dates from c. 1350; the others are by William Clibury of Wellington, 1620; W. and T. Mears, 1789; and John Taylor, 1894. (fn. 116)
The registers begin in 1558.
Owing to disputes about pews in 1635 plans of the church were drawn, showing Sir Peter Wentworth's seat under the tower, against the south-west 'steeple pillar', with two adjoining seats for his servants; also Mr. Warner's seat in the south transept, from which he could not see or hear the priest, the pulpit being against the north-west pier. The communion table is shown standing lengthwise in the chancel. (fn. 117)
As already related, the church of Wolston was given to the abbey of St. Pierre-sur-Dives about 1090. It was appropriated to the abbey and in 1220 a vicarage was ordained, one of the duties of the vicar being to see that the chapels belonging to the church were served by fit persons. With the assent of the Prior of Tutbury (the chief cell of Dives in England) 4 marks yearly were assigned from the rectory, out of which the vicar was to provide coats and shoes for thirteen poor parishioners, any residue going to the support of an assistant priest. (fn. 118) In 1291 the rectory was valued at £22 (fn. 119) and the vicarage at £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 120) Presentation to the vicarage was made by the abbey until the end of the 13th century but in and after 1317 by the Prior of Wolston, or more often by the king, the possessions of alien priories being seized during war with France. Negotiations for the sale of the priory, including the advowson of the church, to the Carthusian priory of St. Anne at Coventry were begun at the end of 1394, (fn. 121) and licence for the alienation was obtained in 1396. (fn. 122) The vicar is said to have complained of the insufficiency of his endowment in 1454, (fn. 123) and in 1535 the vicarage, including the profits of two chapels within the bounds of the parish, was worth £15 10s. (fn. 124) At the same time the rectory was let for £19, against which had to be set 34s. 2d. payable in fees to the bishop and others, 8s. to the monks of Kenilworth for certain tithes, and the 4 marks (53s. 4d.) still paid to the vicar for alms. (fn. 125)
After the Dissolution the rectory and advowson of Wolston were granted to Richard Field and Ralph Woodward in 1549 (fn. 126) and they promptly conveyed them to William Wigston, (fn. 127) whose parents Roger and Christine Wigston had leased the rectory for a term of 60 years in 1522, (fn. 128) Sir William Wigston died in 1577, (fn. 129) and from his son Roger, who died in 1608, the rectory and advowson passed to Peter Wentworth, son of Roger's daughter Susan. (fn. 130) Sir Peter having acquired the manor of Wolston in 1650, the advowson descended with it, Charles Pinchin presenting in 1727. (fn. 131) In 1760 Elizabeth Baker presented in trust for Susanna wife of James Birch, (fn. 132) who is probably identical with the Mrs. (Susanna) Hubert named as patron about this time. (fn. 133) George Scott, esquire (afterwards General), and Sophia his wife presented in 1768 and 1780. (fn. 134) At the time of the sale of the estate (1823–5) a life-interest was saved to the general's widow, Harriet, then aged 73; she was presumably his second wife; and Mrs. Scott was said to be patron in 1830, (fn. 135) the year before her death. (fn. 136) By 1859 the advowson had certainly been reunited to the manor in the hands of W. Wilcox, in whose family it descended until 1930, when Mrs. Mary Hilda Hoffgaard, last surviving child of C. W. Wilcox, transferred the patronage to Sir C. A. KingHarman. In 1936 he conveyed it to the Diocesan Board of Patronage. (fn. 137)
The return of 1535 mentions two chapels in the parish, of which the chaplains were removable at the vicar's will. (fn. 138) One of these was Stretton-upon-Dunsmore (q.v.) and the other may have been the chapel of St. Edmund at Bretford. This was founded in the 12th century as a hospital for lepers and about 1180 Bishop Richard of Coventry, at the request of Alored, Abbot of St. Pierre-sur-Dives, licensed them to have a chaplain of their own in their chapel, saving the rights of the parish church. (fn. 139) It lost its connexion with lepers quite early, but chaplains were presented by members of the Turvill family from 1303 down to 1360. (fn. 140)
Clerk's Close. By indentures dated 30 and 31 December 1831 a parcel of land in Wolston containing 8a. 15p. called Church Land was conveyed to trustees to permit the churchwardens of Wolston to apply the rents as follows: viz. three fifth parts for the reparation of the parish church and the other two fifths for the use of the parish clerk.
Mary Herne by will dated 17 May 1847 charged certain property with an annual payment of £2 to the Wolston Women's Clothing and the Childbed Linen Societies, founded by her daughter, in equal proportions.
The Rev. James Corrall Roberts by will proved 25 September 1871 bequeathed £200, the income to be applied by the vicar and churchwardens in the purchase of bread or coals, or both, to be distributed at Christmas to the poor of the parish.
Thomas Walton by a codicil dated 13 December 1862 to his will dated 14 February 1862 bequeathed £100 to the minister and churchwardens, the interest to be laid out on 1 January in the providing of a cooked round of beef and potatoes and bread to be distributed amongst the poor widows of the parish.
Sir Peter Wentworth, who died in 1675, by his will bequeathed £300, the interest to bind forth four young people every year, the first two to be of Lillingstone Lovell and the next two of Wolston and so successively for ever, to be apprentices to some honest trade.
Mary Turner. This parish participates in this charity to the amount of 6s. 8d. each year, which is applied for the relief of the poor. For particulars of the charity see under parish of Ryton-on-Dunsmore.
The Rev. John Wilcox by will dated 15 January 1874 bequeathed £200 to the vicar and churchwardens, the interest to be applied for the benefit of the poor.
The above-mentioned charities are now regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 1 March 1921, by which the charities, with the exception of the Clerk's Close Charity, shall be administered under the title of the United Charities by a body of trustees. The scheme also appoints a body of trustees to administer the Clerk's Close Charity and provides for the application of the income of all the charities.
Owen Watkin Wynn Hardinge Meredith by a codicil dated 13 October 1917 to his will, proved on 15 June 1919, gave £100 to be handed to the vicar, and the parish to elect 12 men to decide how best to use it for the benefit of the poor. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 9 October 1931 it was provided that the charity should be administered by the trustees of the United Charities. The annual income of the charity amounts to £3 7s. 4d.
John Masters by will dated 5 February 1890 bequeathed £500, to be invested in the names of three of the trustees of the Queen's Road Baptist Chapel, Coventry, and the dividends to be used for keeping in repair the fencing round the Baptist Chapel at Wolston and its cemetery and in keeping the said cemetery clean, and to apply any surplus which may remain in the repairs of the said chapel.