A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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Arley is a parish about 6 miles west of Nuneaton, bounded on the north by Ansley, east by Astley, south and south-west by Fillongley, and on the north-west by Over Whitacre. The original nucleus of the village was around the church, the large Georgian Rectory, and the school at cross-roads near the centre of the parish; there is a line of 18th-century brick cottages against the churchyard, but the main settlement is now at Gun Hill in the south-east, where the Arley Colliery Co., Ltd., the principal landowners, have opened a pit and built a village of 600 houses. Here is St. Michael's (C. of E.) Church, a stone building seating 250 persons, built in 1928 by the Colliery Company; also a Roman Catholic church and Miners' Welfare Hall. (fn. 1)
Arley Hall, which is situated close to the east edge of the large Arley Wood, about ¼ mile west of the church, has remains of a moat, and some of the masonry may be medieval, but the house has been completely modernized; Arley Grange, to the south of this, and Arley House, about ½ mile east, are 18th-century buildings. The Bourne Brook flows in a winding course across the parish from north to south-west, and for a short distance divides it from Ansley. The ground slopes fairly steeply to this brook, the extreme points being 554 ft. on the east boundary near Brown's Farm and 330 ft. at New Bridge (fn. 2) in the south.
Where the main road to Coventry descends Slowley Hill, there is a farm-house of plastered brickwork walls and tiled roof named Slowley Hill Farm. It is on the south-west side of the road, between which and the house stand two stone gate piers 8 ft. 6 in. in height, with ball finials raised above a cornice with a single mould. They are of the late 17th century and line up with the main block of the house, whose external features are of the 18th century. From the west side a wing projects forward, making the building L-shaped. It is plastered, with early-18th-century stone quoins on the angles. There is a blocked window of the 15th or early 16th century in the projecting wing, set close to the re-entrant angle at ground-floor level; it is about 3 ft. wide and is slightly less in height, of grey sandstone, and has a square head above two lights divided by a mullion and treated with a single chamfered order.
An examination of the interior walls suggests that they are largely timber-framed. The whole of the interior was renovated in the mid-18th century, and the earlier features which remain consist of a cupboard with wrought iron strap-hinges, wainscoting in the room occupying the ground floor of the projecting wing—all in the small oak panels of the early 17th century—and the oak beam in this room, which has its edges rounded by an ovolo moulding with stopped ends.
The old L.M.S. Railway from Whitacre to Nuneaton crosses the parish from west to east, and has a station (Arley and Fillongley) where it crosses the Coventry—Tamworth road, in the south of the parish. (fn. 3)
In the early 18th century there were 33 houses in Arley, 20 of which kept teams, and 3 in Slowley. (fn. 4)
In the early 17th century there was a rudimentary poor-house in Arley 'commonly called the Church house', where three persons lived. In 1630 it was in decay, and the churchwardens and overseers were ordered to repair it or to provide alternative accommodation. (fn. 5)
The parish boundaries can be roughly equated with those named in a charter of 1001 of King Ethelred, (fn. 6) in which Arley is described as a portion of Itchington. The south-west and northern boundaries, along the Bourne and two smaller brooks respectively, are clear. The long dic and the old weg may be the Bourne Brook and its tributary from near Brown's Farm, and the road from the southern end of Ansley village to Gun Hill.
ARLEY was assessed at only 1 hide in 1086, when it was held by Cristine, sister of Edgar Atheling. (fn. 7) With her other Warwickshire estates it came into the possession of Ralph de Limesi; Dugdale suggests, without proof, that he became her husband. (fn. 8) The chief tenancy of the manor continued in this family till the reign of John, when Basile, one of the two co-heiresses of the Limesis, married Hugh de Odingsels. (fn. 9) This family, of Flemish origin, continued as overlords till the middle of the 16th century; in 1380 Sir John held view of frankpledge here. (fn. 10) In the late 13th century Ralph de Limesi granted the manor to his brother Richard and his heirs, to be held of the Odingsels. (fn. 11) According to the Worcester Assize Roll of 3 Edward I, (fn. 12) Ralph was a descendant of Ralph and Hawise de Limesi by their son Geoffrey (not found in other pedigrees of the family); Dugdale (fn. 13) mentions this possibility but sets out a pedigree of the Odingsels showing him as son of Gerard de Odingsels, and suggests that he and his brother Richard took the name Limesi as grandsons of Basile, who was a great heiress; there is, however, no reason to accept this theory or to doubt the descent from Geoffrey. This branch of the Limesis held the manor as tenants of the Odingsels to about the middle of the 14th century. Richard's son Peter was granted free warren in his demesnes at Arley in 1310, (fn. 14) and in 1313 he was pardoned for his share in the killing of Piers Gaveston. (fn. 15) In 1316 and 1317 he was respectively a commissioner of array for Warwickshire and for inquiring into the illegal raising of bodies of men-at-arms and confederacies. (fn. 16) He took part in the rebellion of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, for which he forfeited his estates, dying in 1325. (fn. 17) In 1322 an inquiry was ordered touching the persons who entered the estates late of divers rebels and in the king's hands through forfeiture, including Arley. (fn. 18) The year after Peter's death the manor was declared to descend to his son John, then aged 24, to be worth £10 13s. 4d. yearly, and to be held of John de Odingsels by the service of half a knight's fee. (fn. 19) John was the last of this branch of the Limesis. (fn. 20)
During the 14th century a branch of the Shropshire family of Corbet appears as tenants of the manor; they were related to the Odingsels by the marriage of Emma, widow of John de Odingsels (died 1336), to William Corbet, (fn. 21) and of Amice, daughter of Sir Roger Corbet, to John's son, another John, before 1335. (fn. 22) Sir Roger in 1328 settled property in Arley on himself and his wife Amice, with contingent reversion in tail to William, son of Thomas, Camville, or to Roger or Peter, sons of Roger Corbet of Caus. (fn. 23) In 1381 Sir Roger Corbet of Leigh died, holding a third part of the manor of Sir John Rochford. (fn. 24) This third, consisting of 8 messuages and 4 yardlands, though not described as a manor or part of one, was in possession of Thomas Corbet of Leigh at his death in 1420, (fn. 25) and as late as 1540 John Corbet and Anne his wife conveyed a 'manor' at Arley to Robert Grene, senior and junior, and William Grene. (fn. 26) When Robert Grene senior died in possession six years later, having settled it on his wife Margaret with remainder to his second son Thomas, it is more correctly described as a quarter of the manor of Arley. It was held of Edmund Odingsels as of the manor of Long Itchington. (fn. 27) The younger Robert Grene and Dorothy his wife conveyed the 'manor', so called, to John Poley in 1553. (fn. 28)
The origin of the Rochford tenancy, which is first mentioned in 1381 (see above), is unknown; possibly the Rochfords represented a senior co-heir of the Limesis and the Corbets a junior. Sir Ralph Rochford made a settlement of Arley and his other possessions in 1413, (fn. 29) as did his son Sir Henry before 1457. (fn. 30) In 1498 the manor was settled on Elizabeth Bygod, widow of Henry Rochford, for life, with remainder to her son Ralph Rochford and his issue. (fn. 31) In 1511 Ralph was in possession, but was a lunatic. (fn. 32)
By the marriage of Margaret, the Rochford heiress, to Thomas Skeffington early in the 16th century, (fn. 33) the manor came to the latter family, whose chief seat was at Skeffington (Leics.). The first definite mention of their lordship is in 1571, (fn. 34) when Thomas, grandson of the Thomas mentioned above, came of age, being possessed of the manor of Arley. (fn. 35) His two sons William, who was dealing with the manor in 1601 (fn. 36) and died in 1605, (fn. 37) and John succeeded him in turn, and on the death of the latter in a brawl in 1613 the manor became divided amongst his four sisters and co-heiresses: Mary, who married William St. Andrew of Gotham (Notts.); Elizabeth, who married William Jeter or Jetter of Skeffington; Catherine, who married William Broome of Woodlow; and Ursula, who married Sir John Skeffington of Fisherwick (Staffs.). (fn. 38) The manor had been settled by Thomas Skeffington on himself at his marriage in 1577, with remainder to his wife Isabel (Byron) and his heirs, his son William making a similar settlement. (fn. 39) In 1616 William Jeter settled his fourth share of Arley and other Skeffington manors on himself and his wife and their issue, with contingent remainder to John St. Andrew, son of William, and Barbara his wife; (fn. 40) Catherine (Skeffington) with her son Robert Broome and her second husband Robert Barford, and Sir John and Ursula Skeffington were dealing with their quarters in 1633 and 1636 respectively. (fn. 41) Francis Thornhagh and his wife Elizabeth (St. Andrew, daughter of John and Barbara) with her sister Barbara were dealing with their share, termed a whole manor, in 1646, (fn. 42) and Barbara with her husband Oliver St. John obtained possession of the Broome-Barford quarter seven years later. (fn. 43) They were dealing with this, in conjunction with Elizabeth Thornhagh, in 1655. (fn. 44)
The St. John quarter of the manor was in 1665 purchased by Anthony Sadleir, together with the manorhouse. (fn. 45) His sons Anthony and Thomas both died without issue; on Anthony's death in 1698 his share of the manor went to his wife, an Italian from Naples, for life, and then to his sister Elizabeth, wife of the Hon. Myles de Courcy. (fn. 46) She held courts leet and baron at Arley in 1707, (fn. 47) and on her death in 1723 the lordship became divided between her son Gerald, Lord Kingsale, and Andrew Thornhagh, who had purchased the two remaining shares. (fn. 48) Lord Kingsale died in 1759 without surviving male issue, his quarter of the manor descending to his daughter the Hon. Eleanor Elizabeth Ann de Courcy, who was joint lady of the manor in 1777 and 1793; (fn. 49) she died unmarried. The Vaughton family of Hamstead Park (Staffs.) were lords in 1789 and between 1794 and 1823; (fn. 50) in 1850 they were among the chief landowners of the parish, but the lordship at that date was divided between Charles Foulger and Mrs. Shaw, (fn. 51) neither of whom was resident, and in 1874 between Mrs. Foulger and the trustees of the late Thomas Shaw. (fn. 52) In 1900 Mrs. Foulger of Leamington was lady of the manor. (fn. 53) Mr. John Shaw's daughter married Mr. George Fowler, of Basford Hall (Notts.), who founded the Arley Colliery Co. in 1902 and lived at Arley Hall. On the death of his son Lt.-Col. G. Herbert Fowler in the war of 1914–18, the latter's two sisters, who had married two brothers named Ransom, succeeded to the estate; the younger Mrs. Ransom died in 1949. (fn. 54)
The priory of Maxstoke held a small property in Arley, (fn. 55) which was granted in 1538 to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; (fn. 56) he immediately sold it to Robert Trapps, a London goldsmith. (fn. 57) At the death of Nicholas, Robert's son (1545), this property is called a manor; it devolved on two infant daughters as coheiresses, but has not been further traced. (fn. 58)
After the rebellion of 'the young King Henry' in 1174 land worth 40s. in SLOWLEY, held by Reynold de Eton, 'who was with the king's enemies', was seized. (fn. 59) This is probably the 2 virgates in Arley which Jordan de Eton disputed with Hugh de Bibbesworth in 1199, (fn. 60) eventually agreeing to hold of Hugh by a rent of 3s. (fn. 61) Reynold son of Jordan de Eton seems to have transferred his interest to Robert le Potter, (fn. 62) who in 1202 agreed to hold 'a moiety of the vill of Arley' from Hugh by service of 1/8 knight's fee. (fn. 63) The family of Bibbesworth were connected with the Limesis and Odingsels by tenure, and possibly by blood. (fn. 64) Slowley is described as a separate manor in 1403, when it was held with Arley by Sir Ralph Rochford, (fn. 65) but otherwise figures only as a member of Arley. A family who took their name from this place occur from the early 13th century onwards; (fn. 66) in 1332 the two largest payments to the subsidy in Arley, 5s. each, were made by Sir Roger Corbet and Richard de Sloleye; (fn. 67) and in 1421 a later Richard Sloley, son of Henry, held a messuage and land in Slowley in chief of the king by the service of giving a pole-axe to the king whenever he went with an army against the Scots. (fn. 68)
The parish church of ST. WILFRID stands upon a slight mound. It is built of red sandstone and consists of chancel, aisleless nave with a south porch, and a west tower. (fn. 69)
The whole of the existing building appears to be of 14th-century construction, except portions of the north wall of the nave, which may be of 12th- or 13th-century date, and the modern porch, of half-timber construction with small three-light windows in each side and a tiled roof. The south wall of the nave has been refaced, its buttresses rebuilt, and portions of the window tracery removed. The whole church was restored in 1873. (fn. 70)
The nave roof, covered with lead, rises behind solid stone parapets on the north and south and terminates in a low-pitched gable, against which abuts at a lower level the tiled chancel roof; this is of steeper pitch and slopes down to projecting eaves, which have a plastered soffit. There are kneelers to the gable, each with gablets, and a modern stone cross at the apex. The buttresses at the eastern angles terminate below eaveslevel. The moulded plinth is carried round these buttresses and round the contemporary buttress on the south of the chancel, which has a gablet on its lower offset. A string-course links the sills of the chancel windows and is stepped up 12 in. before returning along the east wall at the higher level of the east window sill.
The east window of the chancel has three lights with cusped heads surmounted by trefoils; the mullions interlace to form three quatrefoiled diamond shapes; the hood-mould is stopped against carved heads. In the north wall the easternmost window, of which the sill is raised a foot to accommodate the tomb-recess below it, has two cusped lights with three quatrefoils in the head, and a hood-mould. The middle window has two double-cusped pointed lights; and the western has two lights with trefoiled heads surmounted by trefoils, and over them a large inverted trefoil with spikes projecting between the lobes. The window opposite to this in the south wall is of the same 'Kentish' type, its sill stones much defaced by the sharpening of implements. Between this and the middle window, which resembles that opposite, is a small priests' door, ogee-headed, of one order consisting of a hollow moulding, with a hoodmould and finial; above it is a very small rectangular window. East of the buttress is a square-headed window of two cusped lights without a hood-mould. Internally the chancel walls are plastered above a dado of modern oak panelling. The chancel has a modern ceiling of painted boards in three equal facets, flat in the centre; the section above the altar is treated with gilding.
In the nave the easternmost window in the north wall is square-headed with two uncusped, ogee-headed lights; it is set with its sill 10 ft. above floor level, no doubt to light the original rood-loft. To the west of this, at a lower level, is a window of three cusped lights, having a hood-mould without stops. The next window is square-headed and probably had two lights, but the mullion and tracery have been removed. Below it is a doorway, now blocked, with a two-centred head, the angle treated with a hollow chamfer which is carried round without imposts; the hood-mould, which has returned ends, is 10 in. distant from the edge of the arch. The jambs of this doorway rest on an offset from a second plinth, which runs along this north wall and is possibly 13th-century work. Beyond the doorway is a window with a semicircular head, which shows signs of having lost its tracery and is of doubtful age. In the south wall the eastern window is of three lights, like that opposite to it; the western is similar, but of two lights. Between the two is the modern porch, covering the doorway, which is a plain arch with a two-centred head and is of two chamfered orders. The stonework of the walls of the nave is exposed to a height of 4 ft. 6 in., above which it is plastered. The nave has a modern flat ceiling, surrounded by wide coves.
The tower is divided into two stories by a stringcourse and finishes in an embattled parapet with small pinnacles at the angles (fn. 71) and a gargoyle projecting on the north side. The diagonal buttresses each have four offsets, finishing at the level of the belfry windows. There is a window in each wall of the belfry; each is of two chamfered orders and of two cusped lights with ogee heads; that in the south wall has a small slit window beneath it. Below the string-course the only external opening is the west window, of two lights in a two-centred head; the tracery is all modern.
In the south wall of the sanctuary is a recess (presumably originally a piscina) with a head in the form of a pointed cove and straight jambs, 1 ft. 5 in. in height. A similar recess, or aumbry, exists in the east wall, south of the altar.
Under the north-east window of the chancel is a 14th-century recess; the arch is pointed, with two segments, and the angle is treated with two hollow moulds separated by a fillet. Its hood-mould, which has been restored in modern times, is heavily crocketed and has a finial which breaks free of the sill above. In the recess is the effigy of a priest on a coffin-shaped slab, 6 ft. 4 in. by 2 ft. 1 in. and 1 ft. 9 in. He is in Mass vestments; his head, with short curls and a rather small tonsure, rests on two cushions supported by twin angels. His pointed shoes rest against a dog. (fn. 72) The figure is probably that of the rector at the time of the rebuilding of the chancel. Near by, built into the east wall, are a number of fragments of the marble tomb of Jane St. Andrew (died 1620), formerly on the north side of the chancel. (fn. 73)
The north-west window in the chancel is filled with 14th-century glass, much of which appears to be in its original position. Each light contains two figures, one above the other, against a background of diamondshaped diapering and vine and oak leaves; the upper figure in the eastern light is the best preserved, the others being largely made up with odd fragments.
Across the chancel arch is a modern oak screen in three bays, the central open; it has a carved oak canopy of decorative vaulting, with cresting and, in the centre, a large crucifix. The furnishings, including the sandstone font, are modern.
The belfry, to which there is no stair, contains three old bells: 1, by Robert Newcombe, c. 1590; 2, by Watts, 1625; 3, by Edward Arnold of Leicester, 1790. (fn. 74). Three others were added in 1929.
The first mention of a church at Arley is in 1282, when the rector was exempted from purveyance for the army in Wales. (fn. 75) Up to the end of the 13th century the advowson was with the Odingsels as superior lords of the manor; (fn. 76) it was, however, separated from the manor and was held of Hugh by his cousin William de Odingsels in 1295 when he and his son Edmund died, the latter leaving four sisters as co-heirs. (fn. 77) In 1311 the Crown presented as guardian of the heir of John de Grey of Rotherfield, son-in-law of William de Odingsels, (fn. 78) and in the same year it was stated that the advowson was held of Sir John de Odingsels per antiquitatem. (fn. 79) In 1349 Sir John Clinton of Maxstoke, grandson of another son-in-law of William de Odingsels, was patron, (fn. 80) and in 1388 on the death of Sir Robert de Grey of Rotherfield it was stated that the patronage was exercised alternately by him and Sir John Clinton. (fn. 81) Elizabeth, Lady Clinton, widow of the latter, who was previously the wife of Sir Robert, was stated to hold the advowson in dower by gift of the latter. (fn. 82) The male line of the Greys died out with him, and their share of the advowson passed by marriage to Sir William, Lord Lovel of Titchmarsh, (fn. 83) who died seised thereof in 1455. (fn. 84) After the forfeiture of Francis, last Lord Lovel, for his support of Lambert Simnel in 1487, (fn. 85) the advowson seems to have remained with the Clintons till 1517, when the feoffees of Thomas, Lord Clinton, presented after his death. (fn. 86) By 1554 the advowson had come to the Aston family, (fn. 87) and so continued up to at least 1598, when there was a crown presentation owing to the minority of Walter Aston. (fn. 88) In the 17th century fourth shares of the advowson were included in conveyances of similar fractions of the manor, (fn. 89) but probably in error. From 1687, when Thomas Leigh presented, (fn. 90) it passed through a variety of hands till reunited with the manor under the Vaughtons from 1815. (fn. 91) In 1850 and 1859 Roger Vaughton was patron and incumbent. (fn. 92) In 1900 and 1915 (fn. 93) Mrs. Parker was patron, and from 1924 Mrs. Ransom and Mrs. D'Oyly Ransom. (fn. 94)
In 1357 Richard de Caldeford was licensed to grant tenements in Arley to Robert de Sekyndon, parson of the church, for a collect to be said every day in Arley church for the soul of Robert Norreys. (fn. 97)
Henry Shakespear by Indenture dated 26 July 1803 caused £200 Consols to be settled on trust, one moiety of the income to be distributed in bread to needy and poor persons of this parish on Christmas and Lady Day.
The above-mentioned charities are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 4 April 1913 under the title of the Consolidated Charities. The scheme appoints a body of trustees to administer the charities and directs the annual income of the charities (amounting to £9 10s.) to be applied under various heads for the general benefit of the poor of the parish.
John White. An Indenture dated 30 October 1660 recites that by a Deed Poll dated 21 September 9 James I, certain land in Arley was conveyed to the persons named, upon trust that the profits should be employed according to the devise and intent of John White, viz. to pay yearly to the churchwardens of Fillongley 6s. 8d. and the like sum to the churchwardens of Arley to the uses of their churches and, after the fifteenths and tenths due for the said lands should be discharged with part of the profits thereof, the residue to be evenly parted to the use of the churches of Fillongley and Arley. The land was sold in 1905 and the proceeds of sale invested. By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 9 April 1907 the endowments were divided under the respective titles of White's Fillongley Church Charity and White's Arley Church Charity. The scheme appoints a body of trustees to administer each charity according to its provisions. The annual income of White's Arley Church Charity amounts to £56 (approximately).