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.
The northern boundary of the parish is formed by the River Leam, and the eastern by a small stream which runs into that river. Birdingbury Hall stands on a slight hill overlooking the Leam, to whose banks its grounds slope down. South of the Hall is the church, and the village lies farther south round a road which runs south-west to Long Itchington, and another, crossing it at right angles, from Marton to Leamington Hastings. The houses are mostly modern, of brick, but there are a few of timber-framing with thatched roofs. Another road runs due south from the village for 2 miles to Birdingbury Wharf on the Warwick and Napton Canal, which crosses the southernmost projection of the parish. To the north of the village the Leam is crossed by the road and by the Rugby and Leamington branch of the L.M.S. Railway, Birdingbury Station being just over the boundary in Frankton parish. Near this bridge was the mill referred to in 1200, (fn. 1) and mentioned in 1315 as appurtenant to the manor. (fn. 2)
Henry Homer (fn. 3) was rector of Birdingbury from 1764 until his death in 1791, being also incumbent of Willoughby and Anstey and chaplain to Edward, Lord Leigh. He wrote with acumen on the subjects of open fields, public roads, and inland navigation, on all of which his views were in advance of his time. He also produced seventeen children, of whom three figure in the Dictionary of National Biography—Henry (the eldest) was a notable classical scholar, but his chief connexion with Birdingbury is that he died there in May 1791, a few months before his father; Arthur (4th son) compiled a Bibliographica Americana and died in 1806; Philip Bracebridge (10th son) was born in the Rectory in 1765, was a classical scholar and poet, and became master and fellow of Rugby School, where he died in 1838.
BIRDINGBURY was among the twenty-four vills which Earl Leofric bestowed upon the monastery of Coventry, his gift being confirmed by Edward the Confessor in 1043. (fn. 4) Accordingly the Domesday Survey shows the Church of Coventry holding 2 hides in Birdingbury (corrupted by the scribe into 'Derbingerie'); (fn. 5) and the manor and church were among the possessions of the priory taken under his protection in 1221 by Pope Honorius III. (fn. 6) By 1242 Henry de Hastings was holding the manor of the Prior of Coventry. (fn. 7) On his death custody of the manor during the minority of his son Henry was assigned in 1251 to Stephen Bauchan. (fn. 8) This Henry, as a leading rebel, forfeited his lands in 1265, and this manor, valued at £12, was first granted to John de Warenne but was apparently among those committed 'of grace' to Henry's wife Joan. (fn. 9) Under the Dictum of Kenilworth Henry recovered his lands, and in 1285 his son John established his rights to view of frank-pledge and other franchises in Birdingbury. (fn. 10) John leased the manor for life to John Paynel, as half a knight's fee, (fn. 11) and he had a grant of free warren in his lands here in 1312. (fn. 12) After the death of John de Hastings his widow Julian, who married Thomas le Blount, held the manor in dower, it being valued in 1325 at £17 18s. 1½d. (fn. 13) The manor then descended with Fillongley (q.v.) to Sir William Beauchamp, who in 1392 granted it for life to John Olney, his receiver, at a rent of 40s. (fn. 14) Olney must have acquired the fee simple, as when his granddaughter Margaret married Thomas Throckmorton she brought the manor into that family. (fn. 15) Their grandson Sir George Throckmorton sold it in 1541 to John Hylmer, freemason of London, and Emyn Ogle, widow. (fn. 16) In 1567 Jasper Lake of Gray's Inn conveyed the manor to Henry Goodere (fn. 17) of Baginton, who six months later transferred it to John Shuckburgh of Napton. (fn. 18) His great-grandson Thomas Shuckburgh sold it in 1658 to Charles Leigh of Leighton Buzzard, (fn. 19) second son of Sir Thomas Leigh of Stoneleigh, who in 1674 sold it to Sir Charles Wheler, bart. (fn. 20) His son Sir William in 1687 released his rights to his mother Lady Dorothy and she at once sold the manor to Simon Biddulph, who was still lord when Dr. Thomas wrote in 1730. (fn. 21) The family of Biddulph, baronets since 1664, continued to hold the manor (fn. 22) until 1914. (fn. 23) Lt.-Col. Harry Egerton Norton was lord of the manor in 1924, (fn. 24) and in 1936 it was held by Mrs. Alsagar Pollock. (fn. 25)
At the time of the Domesday Survey 1 hide ½ virgate in Birdingbury was held by Goslin under Turchil; among the sub-tenants were 3 franklins who had themselves held this land in the time of Edward the Confessor. (fn. 26) With Turchil's other estates this passed to the Earls of Warwick. Thus in 1242 a half-fee was held of the earl by Thomas de Clinton, (fn. 27) and in 1316 by John de Somerville; (fn. 28) in 1400 it was held by John Olney, (fn. 29) who, as already mentioned, also held the other half-fee, and presumably the two estates were amalgamated.
In 1206 Henry de Armentiers proved his right to the services of half a knight's fee for an estate held of him in Birdingbury by Henry Trovecerf, (fn. 30) Treverf, (fn. 31) or Tredeuern. (fn. 32) To which of the two half-fees this refers is not obvious.
The Abbey of Polesworth had land in this parish given by Edeline sister of Robert Boteler of Engleby for the souls of Roger de Somerville (her husband) and Walter (his father), (fn. 33) but there seems to be no later reference to it.
Land in Birdingbury was included among the property of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist of Coventry granted to John Hales in 1545. (fn. 34)
The church of ST. LEONARD was built about the end of the 18th century and enlarged and gothicized in 1873. It is rectangular in plan, with an apse forming five sides of an octagon, and stands at the east end of the churchyard. It consists of nave, choir, and apse, with an internal porch and a vestry at the west end of the nave, the apse being a recent addition. The church is built of ashlar and the apse is coursed rubble. The west end of the building is of classic design and the remainder modern gothic. The apse is lighted by five two-light windows with pointed arches, the choir by two pointed lights with pointed arch and hood-moulding on each side, the nave has two similar two-light windows on each side. At the west end on the north side there is a narrow square-headed window to the vestry, and above a lancet window, with hood-moulding, to the gallery, with a similar light on the south side to light the gallery staircase. The west front is of classic design with an entablature and pediment supported on four Doric pilasters, and above is an octagonal bellcote built of stone with round-headed lights in each side and a domical lead-covered roof springing from a moulded cornice. The west doorway has moulded architraves and a panelled oak door.
The choir, i.e. the eastern 12 ft. of the rectangle, separated by a wooden screen, which was made from the old oak rafters in 1873, and the small apse have tiled floors, one step to the choir, two to the altar rails, and one to the altar. The apse is vaulted, the ribs springing from three clustered shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases, the vaulting being decorated in gold, blue, and red. On the south side is a combined piscina and sedilia with moulded trefoil heads supported on coloured marble shafts with floriated capitals, and at the window sill level there is a stone band of foliated carving. There is a pointed arch to the apse, moulded in two orders, the inner supported on short coloured marble shafts with floriated capitals and fluted corbels, the outer on attached shafts with floriated capitals and moulded bases. The walls of the choir are cemented, with stone dressings, and the underside of the roof has matchboarded panels.
The nave (38 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft. 3 in.) has ashlar walls, tiled floor, and matchboarded ceiling in panels. At the west end are three tall pointed arches; the lower parts of the two side ones are blocked to form the vestry (north) and the gallery staircase (south), the centre one opens into the lobby, and in each of the openings is the panelled gallery front, the centre one with a carved royal arms. In the north-west corner there is a small stone font of classic design. The pulpit, which stands to the north of the choir, is octagonal, panelled with wood inlay.
There are two bells: (fn. 35) the larger bears part of an alphabet and the date 1615; the other is by Pack and Chapman, 1774.
The advowson followed the descent of the main manor until 1929 when the rectory was united with the vicarage of Marton, the joint patronage being assigned to the Bishop of Coventry. (fn. 36)
William Smith by a codicil to his will dated 23 August 1711 charged property at Kites Hardwick and Thurlaston in the parishes of Leamington Hastings and Dunchurch with the yearly sum of 4s. to the poor of each of ten parishes, including Birdingbury, to be paid on Easter Day to the churchwardens and overseers, to be laid out in bread and distributed among the poorest people of the parishes. The rent-charge was redeemed in 1905 in consideration of the sum of £80 Consols, producing an annual income of £2.
Thomas Bayes, who died on 5 October 1730, by will charged the land called Gilberts Close, Monks Kirby, with the payment of the yearly sum of 20s. to the churchwardens and overseers of Birdingbury to be laid out in forty sixpenny loaves to be distributed among the poor inhabitants at two equal distributions in the year; viz. on 1 May and 1 November. The rentcharge was redeemed in 1915 in consideration of a sum of £40 Consols, producing an annual income of 20s.