A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The original ecclesiastical parish of Kidderminster covered all the land lying in the angle between the Severn and the Stour, with the exception of Over Mitton, a hamlet of Hartlebury situated in a bend of the latter river. An arm of the parish also extended castwards, taking in the districts about Hurcott and Comberton. The northern boundary was formed by a chain of pools connected by a tributary of the Severn. The area of this triangular district is nearly 11,000 acres, of which 173 acres are covered with water, over 4,000 are arable land, 4,000 meadow and pasture and nearly 1,000 are covered with wood. (fn. 1)
MANORS AND BOROUGH
The present town of Kidderminster has developed from a settlement on the left bank of the Stour. (fn. 2) There is, however, evidence pointing to still earlier settlements elsewhere in the parish. In Mill Street, on the right bank of the river, there are caves in the sandstone cliff resembling the rock dwellings found in other parts of the country. The exact nature of the camps at Warshill near Trimpley (fn. 3) and of a tumulus near the Severn below the railway bridge is as yet undetermined.
Local tradition places at Broadwaters, on the northern boundary of the parish, the site of a Saxon monastery. It is at least certain that the 10 cassates of land in the province of Usmere near the River Stour granted in 736 by Ethelbald, King of the Mercians, to his companion (comes) Cyniberht for the purpose of founding a monastery were near to Kidderminster. This land lay on both sides of the Stour and touched on the north 'Cynibre' wood (? Kinver), and on the west another wood called 'Moerheb,' part of which was also granted to Cyniberht. (fn. 4) Nothing is known of the monastery which Cyniberht was to have built. He had power to bequeath or alienate the land. It was certainly included in the 13 cassates at Stour-in-Usmere which his son, the Abbot Ceolfrith, gave to the Bishop and Cathedral Church of St. Peter, Worcester. (fn. 5)
In 781 Bishop Heathored, in consideration of the restoration of certain disputed lands, is stated to have obtained from King Offa a confirmation of the rights of the bishopric in 14 'mansae' at Stour-in-Usmere. (fn. 6) This document, however, is not certainly authentic, as are both the charters previously cited. There is no question as to the charter by which in 816 Denebert, then bishop, gave 14 cassates in two portions (fn. 7) at Stour to Coenwulf, King of the Mercians, in return for certain privilages to be enjoyed upon the lands of his see. (fn. 8)
The identification of Kidderminster with a part of the land at Stour-in-Usmere rests upon the fact that the name 'Ismere' is now applied to the series of pools at 'Broadwaters,' (fn. 9) and that Usmere was in 964 a part of the boundary between Kidderminster and Cookley in Wolverley. (fn. 10) The identification is supported by the fact that both Wolverley and Kidderminster were after 816 lands of the Crown.
No other record of Kidderminster is known before the Domesday Survey, in which it is described as a central 'manor' with sixteen outlying farms or 'berewicks.' These were Wannerton, Trimpley, Hurcott, 'Bristitune,' Habberley, 'Fastochesfeld,' Wribbenhall, Sutton, Oldington, Mitton, 'Teulesberge' and 'Sudwale,' and two berewicks each at Franche and Ribbesford. (fn. 11) In the time of Edward the Confessor the whole vill was possibly held by the king. In 1086 it was held by William I, but most of it lay waste and the king had added the woodland to his forest (of Feckenham). It had probably suffered from depredations by the Danes, who certainly ravaged Ribbesford, one of its berewicks. (fn. 12) Three small estates in the manor were separately held. The land of one 'radknight' was held by the reeve of the manor; the land of another 'radknight' was held by a certain William, and Aiulf held a virgate of land. Moreover, two houses, one at Droitwich, the other at Worcester, belonged to the manor. (fn. 13)
The sheriff accounted to the king for the proceeds of the manor (fn. 14) until Henry II alienated it to his 'dapifer' or steward, Manasser Biset, (fn. 15) some time between 1156 and 1162. (fn. 16) Manasser had witnessed many of the king's charters, (fn. 17) and was present at Clarendon in 1164. (fn. 18) He died in or shortly before 1186. (fn. 19) The manor was to be held by knights' service, but the exact amount of the service is uncertain. In 1431, after its division into three portions, Lady Bergavenny, who held two portions, owed service for two-thirds of one half-fee. (fn. 20) The service from the whole manor was possibly that of half a fee. The statement made in 1428 that 'Hugh Cokesey, the Lady of Bergavenny and the Prior of Maiden Bradley hold one-third of a fee severally and none of them holds as much as a quarter' (fn. 21) should clearly read 'one-third of half a fee.'
In 1187 livery of Kidderminster was given to Manasser's heir, (fn. 22) who seems to have been his son Henry. (fn. 23) Henry Biset paid £8 as the farm of the town for one quarter in 1194. (fn. 24) In 1201, however, Geoffrey Fitz Piers was holding the manor at farm from King John, (fn. 25) but Henry Biset the dapifer received a new grant from the king (fn. 26) of this and other manors, and agreed (May 1199) to pay 500 marks in instalments for the vills of Kidderminster and Sandhurst (co. Hants). (fn. 27)
Two suggestions may be made to account for this. One is that there were two Henry Bisets, (fn. 28) but this is weakened by the evidence of pedigrees produced in 13th-century pleas concerning the manor. More probably the manor was held in pledge for a debt due by Biset; he still owed £100 14s. 8d. (? of the 500 marks) in 1201 when Geoffrey Fitz Piers accounted for a year's farm. (fn. 29) Shortly afterwards Henry Biset evidently recovered his lands, and upon his death the wardship of his heir was given to William of Huntingfield. (fn. 30)
Huntingfield was a prominent member of the baronial opposition to John. (fn. 31) Upon the outbreak of war the sheriff seized Kidderminster for the king. At Runnimede 21 June 1215, when Huntingfield had been appointed one of the 'conservators' of the Great Charter, the king restored the lands of which he had been dispossessed (fn. 32); but in the following November Kidderminster was delivered to Roger la Zouche 'during pleasure,' (fn. 33) and in 1216, when Huntingfield was subduing the eastern counties on behalf of Louis of France, John made a new grant of the town to his 'beloved and loyal' follower John L'Estrange. (fn. 34)
Kidderminster appears to have been restored to the Bisets after King John's death. It does not appear whether Henry Biset's heir, his son William, (fn. 35) ever actually held the manor. William's widow, Sarah, married Richard Keynes (de Cahannis), (fn. 36) and in 1223 failed to defend her claim to dower in Kidderminster against her daughter-in-law Isolde, widow of William Biset the younger, and her second husband, Aumary St. Amand. (fn. 37) Under an exchange with John Biset, brother and heir of the younger William, Aumary held the whole manor instead of the third which was his wife's dower. (fn. 38) In 1228 he had grant of free warren and a yearly fair. (fn. 39)
This grant was renewed to John Biset in 1238. (fn. 40) He also came to an agreement (1240) with the Prior and convent of Worcester as to the bounds of their respective lands on the heath between Wolverley and Kidderminster. (fn. 41) A year later (1241) he died, (fn. 42) leaving three daughters as co-heirs, of whom the eldest, Margery, was the wife of Robert Rivers, while Ela married firstly Ralph Nevill and afterwards John Wotton; Isabel, the third daughter, became the wife of Hugh Ploseys, (fn. 43) probably the son of John Pleseys, who in 1241 had a grant of the custody and marriage of the two younger daughters. (fn. 44)
The division of the inheritance among the co-heirs caused some dissension. (fn. 45) The manor of Kidderminster was apportioned in three parts.
The share of the one daughter, Ela Wotton (second by birth), was known later as the manor of KIDDERMINSTER BISET. (fn. 46) John Wotton survived his wife, and settled her inheritance on their son John, who took the name of Biset, and on his wife Katharine. (fn. 47) John Biset died shortly before 1307, leaving a son John. (fn. 48) The latter alienated a messuage and certain of his lands in Kidderminster to Hugh Cooksoy c. 1330. (fn. 49) Shortly afterwards Biset died, and the manor passed to his sister Margaret wife of Robert Martin of Yeovilton ('Yevelton'), co. Somers. (fn. 50) She and her husband granted a lease of the manor to Hugh Cooksey and his wife Denise for their lives. (fn. 51) Denise Cooksey lived till 1376, when, owing to the fact that Robert Martin and his two sons Robert and William, to whom the manor should have reverted, were already dead, (fn. 52) Kidderminster Biset passed to the surviving heir of Margaret, Sir Walter Romsey, kt., her son by a second husband. (fn. 53) In 1380 Sir Walter settled the manor in tail-male on his son John and the latter's wife Alice, (fn. 54) but John Romsey died in his father's lifetime. His widow apparently married Malcolm de la Mare, for in 1385–6 Sir Walter sold the reversion of the manor contingent upon the death of Alice wife of Malcolm de la Mare to Sir John Beauchamp of Holt. (fn. 55)
Beauchamp also acquired a second share of the main manor, viz. the portion known as Burnells (q.v.). He had been knighted during the Scottish expedition (1385) (fn. 56) of Richard II, and rose rapidly in the king's favour. In 1386 he had grant of free chase 'in vert and venison,' infangtheof, utfangtheof and the chattels of felons and fugitives in Kidderminster. (fn. 57) In October 1387 he was created Lord Beauchamp of Kidderminster 'in consideration of his good and gratuitous services, the trusty family from which he was descended and his great sense and circumspection.' (fn. 58) In the following May he fell a victim to the 'Merciless' Parliament, and in consequence of his attainder Kidderminster Burnell and the reversion of Kidderminster Biset were forfeited to the Crown. (fn. 59)
In 1389 his rights in Kidderminster were purchased by Thomas Earl of Warwick on behalf of John de Hermesthorpe and others, (fn. 60) who shortly afterwards conveyed to Nicholas Lilling and others as trustees for a reconveyance. (fn. 61) In June 1400, on the death of Alice widow of Malcolm de la Mare, (fn. 62) Lilling and his co-feoffees entered upon Kidderminster Biset, and settled it with Kidderminster Burnell on Warwick's younger brother, Sir William Beauchamp Lord Bergavenny. (fn. 63) His widow, Joan Lady Bergavenny, held both manors in dower (fn. 64) until her death, which took place 14 November 1435. (fn. 65) Kidderminster, apart from Bergavenny Castle and her other entailed estates, descended to her granddaughter Elizabeth wife of Sir Edward Nevill and daughter of Richard Earl of Worcester. Sir Edward was summoned by writ as Lord Bergavenny in 1450. (fn. 66) His son and heir George Lord Bergavenny (d. 1492) instructed his bailiff to allow the Priors of Maiden Bradley to take their part of the waifs and strays within their third of the manor and to avoid summoning the priors' tenants to Bergavenny's court. (fn. 67)
George Nevill Lord Bergavenny, a favourite with Henry VII and son of the first-named George, entailed all his estates upon himself and the heirs male of his body. (fn. 68) He died in 1535, and during the minority of his son Henry the king appointed John Avery to be bailiff of the lordship of Kidderminster Foreign. (fn. 69) Upon the death of Henry Lord Bergavenny in February 1586–7 the heir male to the estate was Edward Nevill of Newton St. Loe, Somerset, sometimes styled Lord Bergavenny. (fn. 70) His son Edward disputed the barony with the heir general and received a writ of summons as Lord Nevill of Bergavenny in 1604. (fn. 71) He died in London 1 December 1622, and was succeeded by his son Henry. (fn. 72) It was his son John Lord Bergavenny who in 1663 leased the manor and market tolls to William Dike for three lives. (fn. 73)
He was succeeded in the barony by his brother George, whose son and heir George Lord Bergavenny died without issue in 1695. Thereupon his estates passed to his kinsman, George Nevill, descendant and heir male of Sir Christopher Nevill, younger son of that Edward Lord Bergavenny who died in 1622. He died in 1721. His sons George and William died of smallpox in 1723 and 1724 respectively, whereupon their first cousin, William Nevill, inherited the entailed property and barony of Bergavenny. (fn. 74)
In 1733, under Act of Parliament, he sold his manorial rights in Kidderminster in order to purchase an estate in East Grinstead. (fn. 75) Conveyance was made to Edward Harley, (fn. 76) possibly in trust. Within the next forty years the manors were acquired by Thomas Foley, created Lord Foley of Kidderminster, 1776. (fn. 77)
Thenceforward these manors, with the remainder of Lord Foley's estate in Kidderminster, became entitled the manors of Kidderminster Borough and Foreign, and their history is coincident with that of the Great Witley estate (q.v.). The present owner of both is the Earl of Dudley.
The portion of the main manor assigned to Isabel Pleseys, the youngest daughter of John Biset, was known after 1476 by the name of KIDDERMINSTER BURNELL. It was evidently alienated before the death of Hugh Pleseys to Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells, the great chancellor of Edward I, who purchased other lands in the county. He held one-third of Kidderminster at his death in 1292, 'doing for it to the king reasonable service with arms and horses in time of war, as the king may desire.' (fn. 78) He was succeeded by his nephew Philip Burnell of Holdgate, co. Salop, who rapidly wasted his estate. (fn. 79) His son Edward, left heir to his father in 1294, (fn. 80) was summoned to Parliament as Lord Burnell in 1314, (fn. 81) but died without issue in the following year. (fn. 82) His sister and heir married firstly John Lovel, secondly John Handlo. In 1321 this portion of Kidderminster was entailed upon John and Maud Handlo and their heirs male (fn. 83); in 1339 a new settlement was made upon their son Nicholas (afterwards called Burnell) and his wife Mary. (fn. 84) He entered upon the estate after his father's death in 1346, (fn. 85) served in the wars in France, and was summoned to Parliament as Lord Burnell in 1350. (fn. 86) In January 1382–3, upon the death of Nicholas Burnell, Kidderminster Burnell descended to his son Hugh. (fn. 87) Having no sons, he alienated it to his friend Sir John Beauchamp of Holt, (fn. 88) who also acquired the reversion of Kidderminster Biset. Thus two divisions of the original manor were re-united.
The third share, that of Margery Rivers, was inherited by her son John Rivers of Burgate. (fn. 89) He gave it to the Prior of Maiden Bradley, co. Wilts., and the leprous sisters in that house, which was of the foundation of Manasser Biset, receiving in exchange land in Burgate. (fn. 90) In confirming to the priory the possession of the church of Kidderminster (fn. 91) he further granted the land and person of his villein, Hugh 'in la Grava.' (fn. 92) In 1270 Queen Eleanor confirmed to the priory the lands thus received, (fn. 93) and this portion of Kidderminster became merged in the priory's manor of Comberton. (fn. 94)
In the partition of the manor after John Biset's death the hall or manor-house seems to have been assigned to the lord of Kidderminster Biset. (fn. 95) It is said that a portion of the hall, including the kitchens, was converted into a Brussels carpet factory, which still existed in the last century. (fn. 96) The foundations of the old building were discovered when the savings bank was being built. (fn. 97) It lay in close proximity to the church on the sloping ground which rises from the left bank of the Stour. Hall Street, Dudley Street (formerly known as Barn Street), (fn. 98) and Orchard Street occupy the site of the demesne.
From early times the River Stour with its tributaries has been a source of industry. Two corn-mills were attached to the manor in 1086, while the reeve held another. The demesne mill, known as the Great Mill, (fn. 99) was burnt down late in the 14th century. (fn. 100) The Heathy mill south-east of the town was known as 'Walkmill,' and belonged to Bordesley Abbey. (fn. 101) In 1272 the Prior of Maiden Bradley had in view the building of a mill, probably Comberton Mill. (fn. 102) The mill at (Over) Mitton was known as 'le kylemilne.' (fn. 103)
To the south of the site of the hall already referred to, and on the same bank of the Stour, was the old market-house, with the town hall and gaol, the last being a cellar which acquired, not without reason, the ill-omened name of the 'Blackhole.' (fn. 104)
The roads from Birmingham and Dudley meet in the old market-place and are crossed at their junction by a third road. This last is continued across the river by the curve of the 'Bull Ring'; on the right bank it branches into the main roads to Bewdley and Bridgnorth, on the left, but beyond the area of the old market, it leads to Worcester and to Bromsgrove. The old Worcester road formerly joined the Bromsgrove road at a point more distant from the market than at present. The new road was brought into the centre of the town about 1835. (fn. 105) In the immediate proximity of the old market-place the Dudley road is known as Blakewell Street, the Birmingham road as the High Street.
Standing at the bottom of the High Street is a small 16th-century inn, now known as the 'Three Tuns,' but formerly as the 'King's Head.' (fn. 106) It is a two-storied gabled building, of half-timber and brick construction, though many of the uprights have been taken out and solid brickwork inserted, while the front to the ground floor is modern. On the east an archway through to the yard at the back divides the inn from another building of the same date, the front of which is entirely modern. The backs of both buildings overhang on the first floor.
On the south side of Church Street (no. 12) stands a small half-timber building, roofed with tiles, of early 17th-century date. It is rectangular on plan with a central stack, and is divided on the ground floor into four rooms, each having an angle fireplace, only one of which remains in its original state, the others having been blocked up. The front elevation is of symmetrical design, and it is in an excellent state of preservation. The upper floor projects over the street with small shaped brackets beneath the main beam. In the front are four windows of four lights each, with ovolo-moulded transoms. The timber framing to the walls is composed solely of vertical and horizontal members, there being no braces. The panels are all plastered.
The parish has from time immemorial been divided into the borough and the foreign. (fn. 107) The exact origin of the distinction is not clear. The earliest known record of the foreign as distinct from the borough is the 'Custom of the Lords of Kidderminster,' (fn. 108) which probably belongs to the fourth decade of the 14th century. Here it is stated that the profits of strays within the borough ought to be shared by the 'two lords' (possibly of Kidderminster Biset and Burnell), while strays on the commons or roads of the foreign belonged to the three lords (including the Prior of Maiden Bradley) and each lord ought to have those on his own lordship within the foreign.
The borough evidently centred round the marketplace. The lord had toll on all sales within certain bounds: 'Dakebroke in Blakestanstrete (? Blakewell Street), the Cross in Worcester Street, the Cross in Milstrete (? Proud Cross) or the barriers in Churchstrete.' (fn. 109) Leland, who visited the town about 1540, remarked that the 'fair and chief' part lay on the left side of the Stour; and in the centre of the market was a pretty cross with six pillars and arches of stone, with the seventh pillar in the middle to bear up the fornix. (fn. 110)
It remains uncertain whether the bounds given above were those of the original borough or only of the market. They were considerably smaller than those of the borough in 1837. (fn. 111) The borough and the foreign were distinct also for poor-law purposes and each had its own churchwardens. In 1616 the inhabitants of the borough petitioned that those of the foreign should contribute to the support of the poor of the whole parish. (fn. 112) The jealousy between the two districts was aggravated in the 18th century by the growth of considerable hamlets just outside the limits of the borough. (fn. 113) It was only partially allayed by a Boundary Act of 1841, (fn. 114) but is at last settled in 1912 by the incorporation into the borough of most of the outlying districts.
The division into two wards apparently dates only from the division of the borough for parlimentary purposes in 1832. (fn. 115)
Henry II in granting the manor to Manasser Biset gave him also full jurisdiction over his tenants, 'soke and sake, toll and theam, infangtheof and utfangtheof with all liberties and free customs whereof any of my Barons of England holds best.' (fn. 116) John Beauchamp had a further grant of the goods and chattels of felons and fugitives within his manors (of Kidderminster Burnell and Biset). (fn. 117)
The men of Kidderminster were slow to acquire any degree of independence. The possession of the manor by William I in 1086 gave them the position of tenants on ancient demesne of the Crown, rendering them free from toll, stallage, murage, &c., throughout the kingdom and exempting them from contributing to the expenses of knights of the shire or from sitting on juries outside the manor court. These privileges were confirmed to them in 1386, 1427, 1530 and in 1586. (fn. 118) The town was regularly tallaged by the king from 1177 onwards. (fn. 119)
The town was governed in the early period by a prepositus or reeve appointed by the lord. In 1086 he held the land of one radknight. (fn. 120) The reeve is again mentioned in 1221, when he with other freemen of the town 'testified that Robert Patrick's son had confessed himself a thief.' (fn. 121) Burgage tenure is frequently recorded. In the early 13th century Wulfric gave to Maiden Bradley a 'burgage' held of the lord by 12d. rent yearly, (fn. 122) and in 1254 Richard of Trimpley enfeoffed Hugh Attwood (de Bosco) of another burgage. (fn. 123)
The extent of Kidderminster Biset drawn up in 1300 mentions only the rents of free tenants (40s.) and services of customary tenants (fn. 124); but seven years later the rent of thirteen free tenants was 104s. 11d., toll of market was worth 53s. 4d., and there were sixty-three burgesses in addition to the free and customary tenants. (fn. 125)
Before the time of William de Cauntelow, who first took office as sheriff in 1200, the town was free from the sheriff's jurisdiction. In consideration of 16 marks of silver Walter Beauchamp (between 1237 and 1241) gave to John Biset and his heirs written acknowledgement of this exemption. (fn. 126) In 1275 it was recorded that the 'commonalty' of the borough had distraint save in cases of debt. (fn. 127) In 1305 the 'commonalty' joined the lord of Kidderminster Biset in presenting a chaplain to the chantry of St. Mary, (fn. 128) but what right they had to do so does not appear.
Two representatives, Walter Caldigan and Walter Lihtfot, were sent by Kidderminster to the 'Model' Parliament of 1295, but the burgesses were probably deterred by the contingent expense from returning a member to any other Parliament, until they sent a single member to the reformed Parliament of 1833. (fn. 129) The borough is still represented by one member.
The town probably owed its development during the 13th century to the valuable properties of the Stour water, which had already been recognized. In 1280 William the Dyer (tinctore) was assessed towards the payment of a subsidy, (fn. 130) and in 1292 a fulling-mill was standing. (fn. 131)
The town also received frequent visits from the king. Henry III was there in July 1221, when an expedition was proceeding against Llewelyn ap Iorwerth; the Welsh war brought him thither again in October 1223. He was there in September 1224 and 1226, August 1228, May 1231, August 1232, when there were renewed troubles with the Welsh and his visit seems to have been prolonged for at least ten days, and in June and September 1233. (fn. 132) He seems to have been entertained at the Hall (fn. 133) either by Aumary St. Amand, who took an active part in the Welsh negotiations in 1231, (fn. 134) or by John Biset, whose kinswoman Margaret saved him from an assassin when at her midnight devotions. (fn. 135)
The division of the manor between the three co-heirs of John Biset about the middle of the 12th century probably facilitated the growth of autonomy. Each of the three lords had the amercements from his own free and customary tenants. They shared the waifs found on the highway or common lands of the foreign. They divided with the rector (fn. 136) the fines from burgesses who imperilled the town by stacking brushwood near the houses, and from buyers and sellers who did business without the prescribed limits. (fn. 137)
In 1333 the steward of the lord of Kidderminster Biset held an inquiry into the claims of the 'community of the burgesses.' From this it appears that they elected their own bailiff or reeve, and twice yearly sent six representatives chosen by the bailiff to the lord's view of frankpledge held on the hill. The bailiff also collected the lords' toll, placing it in a box without rendering any account, after deducting the payment for his own dinner. These customs were from time immemorial, and were held for law. The burgesses were also free from relief and heriot. (fn. 138)
To about the same date evidently belongs another account of the customs of the town known as the 'Composition of the manor and borough of Kidderminster,' which adds that the bailiff was to be chosen by twenty-four of the burgesses the Monday after Michaelmas. The bailiff was to choose an assistant (the 'low' bailiff) to make attachments and serve distraints, and two catchpolls 'to see the market in order.' Two honest burgesses were to walk the fairs and the markets, which were probably prescriptive in origin (see below) with the bailiff, and the three eldest burgesses were to aid him in keeping the peace.
The bailiff acted as clerk of the market, giving bread that fell short in weight and 'misselled' (measled) pork or brawn to the poor. He appointed a borough herdsman to keep the cattle on the lord's waste, and took half the fines from offenders against the regulations of the cloth trade, the lord taking the other half. Aided by six burgesses he appraised waifs and strays, and he 'took the advisament' of at least three of the elder burgesses in 'redressing of all matters for the prince (fn. 139) and the lord.' His gaoler handed over prisoners to the constable of the manor at Worcester Cross. He was allowed to hunt a couple of rabbits in the lord's warren three days in each week, whereas the ordinary burgess might only shoot one without going out of the highway, and the 'tenter' might not kill any.
Twice yearly at the great courts leet the town clerk, his wife and his man, the twelve men (of the jury) and their wives, the low bailiff and his wife dined at the expense of the bailiff. The officers were bound to present their accounts on these occasions. (fn. 140)
The 'Twelve and the Twenty-four' presented to the lord's officers the man who desired to become a burgess, and if he could not pay the fine 'they ought to make him able.' (fn. 141)
In 1332, the year in which he took steps to introduce Flemish weavers into England, Edward III spent three days at Kidderminster. (fn. 142) The townsmen were then making broad and narrow cloths and kerseys and the trade of the 'tenters' (stretchers or dyers of cloth) was strictly regulated. (fn. 143)
There were at that time sixty-six men rated for the subsidy in the town itself, as opposed to fifty-eight in 1280. (fn. 144)
The commercial part of the town centred about the High Street, where the Prior of Maiden Bradley let land on a building lease in 1414. (fn. 145) The trades included those of draper, goldsmith, ironmonger and glover. (fn. 146)
A newly-built house in 'Blaxter Street' (? Blakewell Street) was owned by Sir Humphrey Stafford, a supporter of Richard III, attainted and executed at Tyburn, 17 November 1485. He also possessed a two-storied tavern, cottages in Worcester Street and Mill Street and the 'Courthouse' Tavern. (fn. 147) The rents of tenements in Shop Row were subsequently devoted to supporting obits, (fn. 148) while Sir Edward Blount bequeathed a tenement 'behind the shops' for the maintenance of his almshouses. (fn. 149)
Trade disputes arose between Kidderminster and Bewdley in the 15th century, and in January 1493–4 Prince Arthur of Wales is said to have made peace between the towns, commanding them 'to eschew all manner of debates and discords' and apply in future to himself and his council to settle all differences. (fn. 150) The quarrel apparently related to the toll on wool brought out of Wales across Bewdley Bridge. (fn. 151)
The cloth industry continued to flourish, and in 1533–4 an Act was passed limiting the industry to certain towns, (fn. 152) including Kidderminster. There were then in the town fifty-two men able to bear arms, and in the outlying hamlets forty-three. (fn. 153)
'By reason of the confluence of many thither daily' the town grew populous. In February 1632–3 the inhabitants petitioned for a royal charter. (fn. 154) They were probably influenced by disputes as to market-rights recently settled in favour of the lord of the borough. The charter was granted 4 August 1636. The town was incorporated under the name of 'the bailiff and burgesses of the borough of Kidderminster.' The bailiff (fn. 155) was to be chosen on the Monday after Michaelmas from the twelve capital burgesses, election being made by the whole of the burgesses. The capital burgesses were to hold office for life and join the bailiff in filling up vacancies in their number. The bailiff and burgesses chose a steward (Sir Ralph Clare of Caldwell being named in the charter). He was assisted by an under steward learned in the law.
The bailiff and capital burgesses were to assemble in the gildhall or elsewhere to make by-laws for the government of the borough, and they might claim the advice of twenty-five assistant burgesses appointed by themselves from the more honest and upright inhabitants. The bailiff, his immediate predecessor and the under steward were to be justices of the peace within the borough, but the rights of the lords of the manor to court leet, &c., were reserved. To the bailiff and burgesses were granted fairs and markets 'as they had lawfully held the same.' (fn. 156) The twelve capital, and twenty five assistant, burgesses may be compared with the 'Twelve and the Twenty-four' mentioned above.
The bailiff and capital burgesses aided by the 'assistants' proceeded to make by-laws at the 'courthouse,' the junior of the assistants speaking first. They provided themselves with 'comely and decent black gowns' in which to attend the bailiff to church on the Sabbath and festivals, and without which the bailiff might not walk the streets. They appointed a constable to keep order and bade every burgess keep at hand a club, bill or halbert. Innkeepers were forbidden to give entertainment on Sunday or holiday save 'due repose to strangers passengers and travellers'; and the churchwardens and constables left the church at the Second Lesson to make diligent search for such offenders. They ordered the cleansing of the streets on Saturday afternoons and the removal of standings from the street and market-place at night. Trading by any 'foreigner' not a burgess was prohibited unless he had been apprenticed seven years in the town or had gained permission from the burgesses and paid scot and lot. (fn. 157)
In 1642 Essex, expecting that the king would advance on London by the Worcester road, sent a regiment to Kidderminster under Lord Brooke. He withdrew before a feigned advance on the part of Prince Rupert (fn. 158) with the loss of one soldier who fell down the steep cliff into Bewdley Street. (fn. 159) 'From haste or fear' some wagons and three or four pieces of ordnance were left behind, (fn. 160) and the townsmen hastened to deliver these to the Royalists. (fn. 161)
Many of the townsmen declared that they would have lived peaceably at home, but that they were driven by the 'rage of soldiers and drunkards' (who persisted in identifying the sober-minded with the rebellious) to take refuge with the Parliamentary garrison at Coventry. (fn. 162)
Early in June 1644 the men of Kidderminster were threatened with ruin by a troop of Royalist horse if they should send provisions to the Parliamentary army, while an order was issued to Parliamentary commanders to forbear from plundering the fulling-mills of Robert Wilmot, treasurer to the County Committee of Stafford, in Mitton. (fn. 163) A week later a Royalist force for the relief of Dudley marched through from Bewdley, (fn. 164) and when Waller arrived in the town next day he found it 'little better than an empty farm.' He took prisoner Lieut.-Col. Stamford and a captain of foot with 'some poor soldiers' and the French agent M. de Sabran, (fn. 165) and moved to Stourbridge next day.
In the following June Charles passed through the town on his way from Naseby to Bewdley, leaving behind a poor woman who had been wounded in the late battle. (fn. 166) Shortly afterwards there was skirmishing at Trimpley, and in November 1645 Sir Thomas Aston with a Royalist force encamped there, probably on the site of the ancient camp at Warshill. Attacked by the Parliamentarians under Captain Stone, Aston made a stout resistance, but was taken prisoner, his troops being routed.
A skirmish in the town itself, in which Captain Denham and two soldiers were killed, (fn. 167) may be that in which tradition relates that the beaten party were driven from Clensmore to take refuge in St. Mary's chantry. (fn. 168) In December the town was again molested by 'the most rude and ill-governed [Royalist] horse that . . . ever trod upon earth.'
Sir Ralph Clare of Caldwall and other residents at Kidderminster favoured the king's cause. Edward Broad of Dunclent was assisted in preparing guns to be used against the 'Roundhead rogues' by a Kidderminster man. (fn. 169) It was said, too, that Thomas Crane of Kidderminster sent horses and arms to Hartlebury Castle and to Bristol. (fn. 170)
In 1651 Charles II and his Scottish army, marching southwards, 'passed most by Kidderminster a field's breadth off.' (fn. 171) After their defeat at Worcester the fugitives fled back along the same road, although Charles himself turned off at Hartlebury. (fn. 172) Some of Cromwell's men, stationed at Bewdley Bridge, entered Kidderminster to cut off the retreat of the Royalists. Thirty troopers stationed in the market-place shot at many hundreds, who, 'not knowing in the dark what number it was that charged them, either hasted away or cried quarter.' (fn. 173) Subsequently the bailiffs were eager to show their zeal for the Commonwealth in searching for plots against Cromwell, (fn. 174) but they were backward in collecting the excise on ale. (fn. 175)
Though the name of 'gildhall' is applied by the charter of King Charles to the town hall or courthouse, no trace has been found of a gild-merchant in Kidderminster, but there is some later record of craft gilds. In 1650 the bailiff and capital burgesses drew up ordinances for the craft gilds which then existed in the town. There were companies of weavers, tailors, smiths and shoemakers. Each fraternity was governed by two wardens elected yearly. The annual assembly of each gild took place on the Monday after Midsummer, and the last man to arrive before 11 a.m. was made beadle or messenger to his company. There were strict rules against trading by non-members, half the fines being paid to the bailiff and burgesses, half to the fraternity. The wardens supervised the appointment of apprentices and journeymen, while the bailiff and capital burgesses could fine negligent wardens and control their expenses. (fn. 176)
Shortly after the Restoration the prosperity of the town was much increased through the completion of Andrew Yarranton's scheme for making the Stour navigable from Stourbridge to Kidderminster. Coal was first brought thither by water in 1665. (fn. 177) The construction of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal brought not only a more satisfactory connexion with the Severn, but also a continuous stream of through traffic. (fn. 178)
The cloth trade, falling into decay early in the 18th century, was replaced by the manufacture of fancy materials, silk and woollen. (fn. 179) Carpet-weaving, introduced early in the 18th century by Pearsall and Broom, rapidly became the staple trade of the town. (fn. 180) New streets were built by Lord Foley within five years of the introduction of the first Brussels loom, (fn. 181) and the old streets were widened and improved. (fn. 182) Four-loomed shops were established in Dudley Street, Queen Street, Union Street and Broad Street. (fn. 183) With the rise of a new and important body of traders in the town, discontent at the exclusiveness of the governing body increased. (fn. 184) During the 18th century municipal elections were riotous. The mob threw cabbage-stalks at each other and respectable inhabitants were invited to pelt the bailiff-elect with apples. (fn. 185) In 1766 the high price of butter gave rise to serious disturbances, and the rioters visited neighbouring towns, forcing farmers to lower their prices. (fn. 186)
The capital burgesses were drawn chiefly from a single family; the assistant burgesses were not invited to vote in the common council, and, even after the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, it was long before a Dissenter was admitted as assistant. (fn. 187)
Ill-feeling was increased when, 6 August 1827, the corporation succeeded in gaining a new charter confirming their old constitution, save that the twelve capital burgesses gained the title of 'aldermen,' instituting the office of recorder and increasing the number of magistrates by creating the three senior aldermen ex officio justices of the peace. (fn. 188)
During the rioting which accompanied the great weavers' strike of 1828 the impartiality of the high bailiff was called into question. (fn. 189)
The local government was extended and reformed by the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, (fn. 190) which divided the borough into three wards represented by six aldermen and eighteen councillors. (fn. 191) The number of wards was doubled in 1880.
Previous to 1835 the sole jurisdiction possessed by the corporation was due to the charter of 1632–3, which constituted the bailiff, his predecessor and the under steward justices of the peace. Petty sessions had thenceforward been held weekly, but quarter sessions were regularly dismissed at once, owing to the lack of a sufficient gaol. (fn. 192) The Court of Requests established in 1772 was held by a commission distinct from the borough magistrates. (fn. 193)
The corporation insignia include a silver-gilt mace, a Jubilee gift of Mr. George Houldsworth (mayor 1886–7), and the mayoral badge and chain purchased in 1875. The common seal given in 1775 bears an ornate cartouche with the town arms: Azure two cheveronels or, between three bezants, and each charged with four roundels, and the legend 'Deo iuvante arte et industria floret.'
The corporation also possesses a beautiful Elizabethan loving-cup of silver-gilt with elaborately chased bowl and cover. Round the top is inscribed 'Given formerly p[er] Thomas Jennens of Kitterminster and inlarged p[er] his grandchild Thomas Jenens of the Citty of London Grocer A° D[omini]. 1623.' Hall-marks: London, 1611–12. (fn. 194)
A period of depression from 1851 to 1861 was ended by the development of the railway, which had been constructed in 1852. Power loom machines were introduced 1860–5 and hand looms were entirely superseded. Not only was an impetus given to the carpet manufacture, which has since increased threefold, but also the town has expanded in all directions and especially upon the rising ground in the neighbourhood of the station. Much of the new town was built with bricks made near the Stour Vale Works, on the canal side and at Caldwall. (fn. 195)
The canal was almost superseded by the railway. The former donkey traffic (fn. 196) has quite disappeared and a system of electric tramways has been established. Moreover, the condition of the town has been immensely improved since the 17th century, when every burgess and innholder set a lantern before his door on dark nights. (fn. 197) Steps were taken for better lighting and paving in 1813, (fn. 198) and gas was introduced in 1818. (fn. 199) The old watch, consisting of about eight householders, (fn. 200) was replaced by professional watchmen before 1835. (fn. 201)
The town hall in High Street was replaced in 1877 by the present more spacious and commodious building in Vicar Street. It was erected on the site of the vicarage (fn. 202) and its frontage is adorned by a statue of Sir Rowland Hill, the great reorganizer of the postal system, who was born at Kidderminster 3 December 1795. (fn. 203) Near the town hall are the Corporation Buildings with the Corn Exchange, purchased in 1853. (fn. 204) At the corner of Market Street, near by, are the Science and Art Schools and the Borough Free Library, removed to its present position in 1894.
The town owes a part of this prosperity to the market, which was probably prescriptive in origin or due to the grant of toll made to Manasser Biset. (fn. 205)
The lord of the manor had a grant of a three days' fair at St. Bartholomewtide in 1228. (fn. 206) The (undated) 'Customs of the Lords of Kidderminster,' (fn. 207) which may probably be assigned to the 14th century, show that it was usual for each burgess to set up stalls before his tenement, but for the lord to receive 1d. as toll from strangers and the low bailiff ½d. as stallage on fair and market days. The ambiguity of the charter of Charles I and the unsettled state of the town during the Civil War aggravated disputes between the burgesses and Lord Bergavenny's agent for the collection of tolls. About 1620 Lord Bergavenny offered the burgesses a lease of the tolls, but they refused, being under the impression that the high bailiff ought to receive the whole of the tolls towards his charges incurred in dining the lord's officers at the courts leet and baron and supping the low bailiff and the constable on market days. (fn. 208) The dispute was brought before the court of Exchequer and decrees given in favour of the lord, (fn. 209) who subsequently leased his rights to William Dike of Font, co. Sussex. (fn. 210) The latter sublet the tolls and court-house to the corporation, (fn. 211) who finally obtained from the lord a lease for 1,000 years. (fn. 212)
The general market is now held on Thursdays and Saturdays in a covered hall built by the corporation in 1822. (fn. 213) The cattle market, held fortnightly on Saturdays, was similarly moved from the streets to an inclosed space between Backmarket and Market Streets, (fn. 214) the new market being opened 26 October 1871. (fn. 215)
In 1694 there were three fairs yearly—one at Ascensiontide, one on Corpus Christi Day (Thursday after Trinity Sunday), and the third the chartered fair of St. Bartholomew. (fn. 216) The origin of the first two is unknown. The only existing fair is that which was formerly held in the town at Ascensiontide. It is now purely a pleasure fair, has been transferred to the third week in June, and is held in the suburbs. (fn. 217)
The cattle and cheese fair, held on 4 September until the middle of the last century, was probably a survival of the St. Bartholomew fair. (fn. 218) Early in the 19th century an additional fair was held on the Monday after Palm Sunday, and another, held on 29 June, may have been the original Corpus Christi fair, but these were all abolished before 1872, when a hiring fair was held the second Tuesday in each month and the pleasure fair was established in June. At Stourport the markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, said to have been established in 1768, were at first well attended, especially in the hop season, but they are now almost extinct. There were also fairs on the first Tuesdays in April, July and October. (fn. 219)
The Grammar School was founded by charter, 1636; but it may have originated in the school held in St. Mary's Chantry. (fn. 220)
Pearsall's Endowed Grammar School, founded in 1795, is now merged in the 'New Meeting' Schools. There is a High School for Girls in the Chester Road. In addition to the Science and Art Schools there are seventeen elementary schools in Kidderminster and its hamlets, while Stourport has five and Wribbenhall three.
Beyond the town itself lies the extensive parish of which it is the centre. Numerous outlying hamlets and farms represent the sixteen berewicks of the Domesday Survey. Two of these lay at Ribbesford across the Severn; the sites of three others—Bristitune, Fastochesfeld and Teulesberge—remain unknown.
The eastern arm of the parish contains Wannerton, still (as in 1086) no more than an isolated farm, and Hurcott, a hall with manorial rights of its own. (fn. 221) Near Hurcott, in a commanding position, stands Park Hall, the residence of Mr. G. E. Wilson, J.P.
South of Hurcott and Park Hall the parish is traversed by the Birmingham road and the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton branch of the Great Western railway, and beyond these are the fertile fields and pasture-lands of the Little Dunclent, Offmoor and Comberton Farms.
Comberton itself is a residential district of Kidderminster which lies along the main road to Bromsgrove. Comberton Hall (fn. 222) is in the occupation of Mr. R. Howard Krause. It dates from about the year 1600. The house has been much altered by the removal of its curvilinear gables and the addition of bay windows, but retains generally its original plan of central hall with rooms on both sides, its old heavy beams, some of which are encased, and at the top of the stairway a moulded handrail and turned balusters of the early 18th century. At the back are the original brick stables with curvilinear gables.
The low lands near the Worcester road, and indeed the whole valley of the Stour, are liable to floods, except in the town itself, where the stream is for the most part walled in. Such inundations frequently gave rise to 'malignant fevers' in the 18th century, (fn. 223) when many of the Kidderminster weavers lived in 'small nasty' houses along the river-side; but the townspeople declared that the high death-rate was due to smallpox. (fn. 224) The town, however, was thoroughly drained in 1872–3.
The road to Stourport following the river skirts Sutton Common, the 'Sudtone' of Domesday, near which is said to have been 'Sudwale,' (fn. 225) and, leaving on the left Brinton Park, given to the town in 1887 by Mr. John Brinton, D.L., J.P., formerly M.P., leads through Foley Park, a rapidly growing suburb of substantial houses, villas and small shops.
Beyond lies Oldington, another berewick; its woods extend from the road to the river-side. Oldington Farm, the probable site of the manor-house, stands back from the road. It has been converted into a sewage farm.
Stourport lies about the junction of the Stour and Severn, and is approached through Upper Mitton, formerly a part of Hartlebury parish. It is a town consisting mostly of modern houses, grouping generally on the road from the iron bridge over the Severn, which passes northward through Bridge Street, High Street and Lombard Street, and reaches the north end of the town in Foundry Street. In Lombard Street there is a fine square brick chimney, which rises to a great height, with perfectly plain sides, gradually diminishing in size. In 1863 Lower Mitton with Stourport adopted the Local Government Act of 1858, (fn. 226) uniting to form a local board of health, and in 1894 Lower and Upper Mitton were combined in the single urban district of Stourport. (fn. 227)
The town of Stourport grew up in consequence of Brindley's choice of the junction of the two rivers for the basin of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. The three great basins of the canal are the main feature of the town. There are large iron and carpet works built on the banks of the Stour. Green meadows sloping down to the left bank of the Severn form a pleasant contrast to the crowded shops and warehouses of the High Street and Bridge Street. The iron bridge was erected about 1870 to replace one which dated from about 1806. (fn. 228)
Lower Mitton is of older date than Stourport. It consists of a few scattered houses on the Wribbenhall road parallel with the Severn. Overlooking the river are Moor Hall, the residence of Mr. J. Brinton, and Lickhill Manor House, the seat of the ancient family of Folliott until the early part of the last century, when it became the property of the Craven family. (fn. 229)
Wribbenhall, another of the Domesday berewicks, a picturesque village on the Birmingham and Coventry road, is clustered about the bridge of Bewdley, where the main road to Birmingham crosses the Severn. The men of Kidderminster Foreign had to repair Wribbenhall bridge. (fn. 230) The older cottages with terraced gardens on the high banks of the Kidderminster road and the gabled houses facing the river are fast being replaced by modern villas, for Wribbenhall is practically a suburb of Bewdley, and since the construction of the Severn Valley Line about 1859 (fn. 231) it has afforded the only approach to that town by rail.
Wribbenhall was constituted a separate civil parish in 1901. (fn. 232)
On the outskirts of Wribbenhall is the small hamlet of Catchem's End, which is said to have been the limit of the sanctuary of Bewdley. (fn. 233) Beyond is the large park of Spring Grove, the residence of Mr. Thomas Wakefield Binyon, J.P.
When the high ground on the left bank of the Severn above Wribbenhall is reached the Bunter Pebble Beds, upon which lies the greater part of the parish, give way to a portion of the Forest of Wyre coalfield. The Coal Measures are covered by North Wood and Eymore Wood, east of which is a sill of basalt extending to Warshill Wood, where a ridge of breccia occurs. (fn. 234)
At North Wood a house with land was acquired by the Prior of Great Malvern about 1318. (fn. 235) Park Attwood, long the property of the Attwood family, (fn. 236) lies in the northern part of the parish. Local legend relates that a crusading member of the family, miraculously brought back from prison in a trance, delayed the fulfilment of a vow to devote his life to the protection of the Holy Sepulchre. He returned from a second imprisonment ragged and in chains, and was recognized by a faithful dog just in time to prevent the re-marriage of his despairing wife. The galloping of his horse and rattling of his chains are said to be still heard near Park Attwood. (fn. 237)
The chapelry of Trimpley marks the site of another of the Domesday berewicks. It consists of scattered farms and a few cottages lying near the road from Park Attwood to Kidderminster. The open common upon which the tenants of Trimpley Manor have common of pasture lies on either side of the road. During the last century it was planted with fine poplars by members of the Chillingworth family, (fn. 238) and in the midst are the grounds of Trimpley House, the residence of Mr. Arnold Crane Rogers.
The road leads eastwards over Ridgstone Rock about 400 ft. above sea level. Thence is obtained a perfect panorama of the county, stretching eastwards to the Clent and the Lickey Hills and southwards to Worcester and Great Malvern. The steep incline below descends by the rough natural steps of 'Jacob's Ladder' into the wood and heathland of Habberley Valley, broken by a quaint peak called the Pekket Rock.
Low Habberley is a hamlet on the left of the road facing the present manor-house, while High Habberley lies on the cross-road leading to Catchem's End. The existence of one Habberley only is recorded in 1086, unless either hamlet is to be identified with one of the neighbouring berewicks of Franche.
Franche is a village 1 mile from the town of Kidderminster, and with its church, schools and club lies on either side of the Bewdley to Stourbridge road, extending from the cross-roads at Honeybrook Terrace to Franche Hall, built by Mr. Michael Tomkinson.
The lepers of Maiden Bradley acquired the manors of COMBERTON (Cumbrintun, xiii cent.; Comerton, Cumberton, xiii–xix cent.) and OLDINGTON (Aldintone, xi cent.; Oldinton, xiii–xiv cent.; Oldington, xv cent.) in the 13th century. Manasser Biset (d. about 1186) had enfeoffed Sir Ralph de Auxeville of these, together with Mitton Mill, and a rent-charge on the great mill of the manor, (fn. 239) and Sir Ralph had granted them piecemeal to the priory, partly in consideration of the payment of his ransom of 100 marks, (fn. 240) and partly for the welfare of his own soul and that of his lord, Henry Biset. (fn. 241) Already the prior had rights in Kidderminster Church (q.v.) of the gift of Manasser Biset.
From others the priory acquired various houses and pieces of land in the town, (fn. 242) and Margaret sister of Henry Biset, who built herself a house within the priory court in order to live a life of contemplation, gave rents in Kidderminster, assigned to her by her brother. (fn. 243) John Rivers of Burgate subsequently exchanged one-third of Kidderminster Manor with the same priory.
The prior's reeve had charge of the whole estate during the 13th and 14th centuries. (fn. 244) He collected rents and enforced services, kept the houses in repair, supervised the sale of wood (which in one year included as many as fifty-one oaks), provided for the wants of the prior when he visited the 'halls' of Oldington or Comberton, presided over the courts with the aid of a clerk, and disbursed liberal alms to the poor.
In 1390, however, the prior leased the third part of the manor of Kidderminster, with Oldington and Comberton and the tithes of Kidderminster, to Thomas Mal, chaplain, and John Mal for thirty-four years, subject to a rent, which was to be increased later unless 'great pestilence came to those parts.' Other tenements were also let out on lease. (fn. 245)
It became customary to let the estate for considerable terms of years. (fn. 246) John Blount was collector of rents, and held the rectory on lease in 1455–6, (fn. 247) and in 1522 Sir Thomas Blount and his son Edward had a lease of the whole estate for ninety-seven years. (fn. 248) Thus the property was little affected by the dissolution of Maiden Bradley Priory in 1535, (fn. 249) or by the subsequent grant of the rights of the priory to John Dudley, the Great Admiral of England, Viscount Lisle, and afterwards Duke of Northumberland, (fn. 250) then embarrassed by debts incurred in the king's service at Boulogne (fn. 251) (1544).
When in 1553 Northumberland was attainted and executed for his attempt to secure the throne for his daughter-in-law, the Lady Jane Grey, his lands were forfeited to the Crown, and in February 1559–60 Thomas Blount (said to be the grandson of the former lessee of 1522) (fn. 252) purchased all the property in Kidderminster which had formerly belonged to Maiden Bradley Priory. (fn. 253)
Thomas Blount died on 28 November 1568, (fn. 254) and was buried in the parish church. His son, Sir Edward Blount, kt., married (firstly) Mary Nevill, sister of Edward Lord Bergavenny, (fn. 255) and from him obtained a lease of the remainder of the original manor of Kidderminster. (fn. 256) In 1603 Sir Edward settled the reversion of his portion of the manor contingent upon his death on his kinsman Charles (Blount) Lord Mountjoy, who bequeathed his rights to his wife Penelope and her son Mountjoy Blount, afterwards created Earl of Newport. (fn. 257)
Sir Edward Blount died in 1630. In 1634 the Earl of Newport, then Master of the Ordnance, sold his estate at Kidderminster to Edmund Waller (fn. 258) the poet, who (either to raise money for the fine which purchased his safety after the discovery of his 'plot' against the Long Parliament, or to provide funds during his exile in France) split up the estate, selling it in three portions.
Daniel Dobbyns, a merchant of London, who was related to Waller by marriage, (fn. 259) purchased the 'fair house next the church' (fn. 260) and the manorial rights, apparently including Comberton. Dobbyns's house was pulled down shortly before 1782. (fn. 261) The site is now the property of the vicar. (fn. 262) Dobbyns reconveyed the 'moiety of the manor,' and possibly the manor of Comberton, to Waller, who sold it about 1652 with Comberton to Adam Hough and Thomas Hunt. (fn. 263) Adam Hough's descendant of the same name sold the 'manor of Comberton' to Samuel Steward c. 1772. (fn. 264) In this family it remained until about 1832. (fn. 265) It was bequeathed by two sisters and co-heirs, Mary Anne wife of Henry Evans and Charlotte Elizabeth Steward, to their kinsman Henry Steward Oldnall-Russell in tail. His son John Edwin took the name of Russell-Oldnall. Comberton is now the property of his brother Captain Roger William Oldnall of Stone (fn. 266) (q.v.).
It is not clear whether Oldington was sold to Daniel Dobbyns or not. It was certainly severed from Comberton by 1656, when William Bromhall and his wife Anne, Thomas Cowett and his wife Anne, John Somers (probably the father of the great chancellor) (fn. 267) and his wife Catherine, Francis Walker and Richard Whettall conveyed it to Thomas Foley, who was then sheriff of the county. (fn. 268)
It was thus among the first acquisitions of Thomas Foley in Kidderminster. It descended with the Foley estate till its purchase by the trustees of Lord Ward. (fn. 269) It is still the property of the Earl of Dudley.
The 'hall' at Oldington appears to have been the principal dwelling-house attached to the estate of Maiden Bradley Priory in Kidderminster. In 1281 a lock was bought for the door of a room in the hall, and thirty cuttings (inserti) for the lord's garden. (fn. 270) It was at Oldington that the vicar paid his yearly rent. (fn. 271)
In 1281 the prior had another hall at Kidderminster which may have been on the site either of Comberton Hall or of the house near the churchyard. (fn. 272)
The manor of CALDWALL (Caldewell, xiii cent.; Caldewall, xv cent.; or Cawdewall, xvi cent.) was held of the Prior of Maiden Bradley (fn. 273) in the 14th century. Possibly it was included in the lands given to the priory by John Rivers, for Henry 'of Caldwall' was one of the witnesses of his grants. (fn. 274)
Of its subinfeudation nothing is known. Henry of Caldwall settled a life interest in two messuages and land in Kidderminster, Caldwall and Franche upon William de Verdun and his wife Margery in 1248–9. (fn. 275) A Henry of Caldwall was a tenant of the prior in 1283–4. (fn. 276) The tenant in 1327 was evidently Hugh Cooksey of Cooksey in Upton Warren (fn. 277) (q.v.). In 1330 he acquired the services of a bondman of the lord of Kidderminster Biset, (fn. 278) and in 1335 he had a grant of free warren at Caldwall. (fn. 279) He also held the manor of Kidderminster Biset (q.v.) on lease. About 1376 Caldwall was the property of Denise widow of Hugh Cooksey. (fn. 280)
For two centuries the history of this manor was identical with that of Cooksey, being inherited by Roger Winter, kinsman of Joyce Beauchamp, sister and heir of the Sir Hugh Cooksey, kt., who had died in 1445. (fn. 281) Roger Winter's grandson George Winter sold Caldwall in 1589 to Francis Clare, (fn. 282) son of Simon Clare, lord of Over Mitton. Francis Clare died at Caldwall, 8 June 1608. (fn. 283) His son and heir, Sir Ralph Clare, kt., was a zealous supporter of the king and the most bitter opponent of Baxter. He took a prominent part in the defence of Worcester, 1642, but his presence there in 1651 is doubtful. (fn. 284) Baxter describes him as a courtier noted for his eminent civility and a churchman very zealous for conformity, the ruler of the vicar and of all business at Kidderminster. (fn. 285) His brother and heir Francis Clare was a captain of foot in the service of Charles I, and died in 1680. (fn. 286) His son Francis evidently succeeded to the manor. (fn. 287) It seems to have remained in the Clare family until 1777, when Antony Deane the younger, nephew of Francis Clare of Henwick in Hallow, sold it to Matthew Jeffries of Kidderminster and Thomas Jeffries of London, goldsmith. (fn. 288)
In 1897 the estate was purchased by the corporation from the trustees of George Turton. (fn. 289)
Caldwall Castle stands on the low-lying land at the south end of the town. The site is bounded on the north-east and south-east by the Stour, which here takes a small bend. Of the mediaeval building only one octagonal tower remains, but this was added to in the latter part of the 17th century by the erection of a three-story brick building on the north-west. Beyond this a low castellated extension was built in the 19th century, containing a few offices. The original tower is built of red sandstone, is three stories high with an embattled parapet, and appears to have been erected early in the 15th century. The stonework on the outside is much decayed and greatly overgrown with ivy, while the interior of the two upper floors has been considerably modernized. In the north corner is a vice going the full height of the tower and crowned with an embattled parapet and a stone roof. The ground floor-now a basement—retains its original stone vault, the ribs springing from small moulded corbels and meeting in a boss carved with a lion's face. In the north-west wall is a pointed doorway, now leading up a few steps into the 17th-century addition. The vice opens, by an ogee-headed door, from the north side of the opening cut through the wall to this doorway. In the north-east wall are the jambs and pointed rear arch of an original opening, through which a modern doorway has been cut, while in the south wall is a three-centred opening in which are three steps leading up to the outside, but externally this is blocked up. In the west wall is a square-headed cupboard, divided in front by a central stone post, the jambs, head and sill being rebated for doors.
The road which runs along the north side of the castle is only a little below the level of the first floor and comes right up to the tower walls. (fn. 290)
The staircase of the 17th-century addition was erected immediately against the tower and has moulded handrails and strings and heavy twisted balusters. The newels are square and have moulded cappings crowned with spherical finials and large acorn-shaped drops. Sash windows have been inserted throughout the addition, with the exception of the two upper floors fronting the road, where the original wooden transomed and mullioned window frames, fitted with iron casements, have been retained. Two chimney stacks have been carried up on the north-west wall through the centres of two stepped gables. The roof is tiled.
The reputed manor of EYMORE (Eymer, xvii cent.) evidently originated in Edward Burnell's gift of 160 acres of wood, parcel of the manor of Kidderminster Burnell, to the Prior and convent of Worcester (circa 1312). (fn. 291) Shortly afterwards the prior had licence to impark his land at Kidderminster. (fn. 292) When the endowment of the priory was bestowed upon the dean and chapter (fn. 293) in January 1541–2 the lands in Eymore and Kidderminster were included. (fn. 294)
After the abolition of the chapter by the Long Parliament, Eymore was purchased (1649) by John Corbyn, the dean's lessee, for over £3,000. (fn. 295) The dean and chapter recovered their lands at the Restoration, and Eymore remained in their possession until 1861, when it was purchased by Mr. Edward Crane of Broom, who bequeathed it to his nephew, Mr. Arnold Crane Rogers of Trimple) House. (fn. 296)
HABBERLEY (Haburgelei, x cent.; Haberlegh, xiii cent. Haburley, xvi cent.), (fn. 297) a Domesday 'berewick' of Kidderminster, lay at least in part within the main manor of Kidderminster (fn. 298); but Francis Clare is recorded to have possessed a separate 'manor' of Habberley in 1606, (fn. 299) part of which may have been the land in Habberley which formerly belonged to the chantry of St. Katherine in Kidderminster Church and was granted to Simon Clare after its suppression. (fn. 300) It subsequently descended with Caldwall Manor (q.v.) to Matthew and Thomas Jeffries Reversionary rights were purchased by Thomas Crane of Habberley and Bewdley, who died 12 December 1824. Shortly before his death he made over the property to his nephew John Crane, who died in 1866, leaving Habberley to his youngest brother Henry Crane. Upon the latter's death in 1882 it descended to his son, Mr. John Henry Crane, of 'Oakhampton,' Stourport, the present owner.
The original manor-house was burnt down in 1718; it stood on the site of the present Low Habberley Farm and had been occupied by the Crane family since or before 1563. Of late years the tenant of Habberley House has called it the 'Manor House.' There seems no basis for a local tradition that an old house occupied by Mrs. Miller was at one time the manor-house. (fn. 301)
The reputed manor of HEATHY (Hetheye, xiii cent.; Dunclent Hethey, xiv cent.) lies near Dunclent on the borders of the parish of Stone. In 1275 Thomas Attwood granted a messuage, carucate of land and 2 marks rent in Heathy to Robert Attwood for life. (fn. 302) This was possibly identical with the quarter of a knight's fee in Dunclent which was held by Stephen Attwood (de Bosco) and subsequently passed to Avice Dunclent, 1346. (fn. 303)
The manor was held of Lord Bergavenny, 1544, (fn. 304) and therefore was doubtless a sub-manor of Kidderminster Biset or Burnell.
In 1524 John Hore and his wife Margaret conveyed the manor of Heathy to Gilbert Clare, Simon Rice and others with warrant against the heirs of Margaret. (fn. 305) Two-thirds of the manor subsequently came into the possession of Thomas Hey, and after his death in 1543 was divided between his three daughters, Elizabeth wife of Thomas Browne, Margaret wife of Peter Romney, and Joan Hey. (fn. 306)
The portion assigned to Elizabeth Browne descended to her son William, (fn. 307) who in 1574 conveyed it to Humphrey Doolittle of Stone. (fn. 308) His son John Doolittle had livery of it in 1583, (fn. 309) but died in January 1585–6, leaving an infant son John. (fn. 310) In 1607 this John had livery of his father's estate. (fn. 311) Its later history is unknown.
The portion of Heathy assigned to Margaret Romney was held after her death by her husband, and descended in 1577 to their son William. (fn. 312) In 1627 William and Paul Romney conveyed their interest in the manor of Heathy to Edward Broad of Dunclent, (fn. 313) who sold it with Dunclent (fn. 314) to Thomas Foley. (fn. 315)
HURCOTT (Worcote, xi cent.; Hurecot, xiii cent.; Hurcott or Huthcott, xvii cent.) was a berewick of Kidderminster in 1086. (fn. 316)
The manor appears to have belonged for a considerable time to the successive incumbents, possibly since the time of Robert of Hurcott, who was rector when Manasser Biset (d. circa 1186) gave the church to Maiden Bradley Priory. (fn. 317)
In 1211, when Adam of Hurcott was vicar, Thomas Esturmi quitclaimed to the Prior of Maiden Bradley and to the church of Kidderminster all his rights in 2 virgates at Hurcott. (fn. 318) Robert son of Adam of Hurcott released his rights in the whole 'vill' to the vicar of Kidderminster and his successors in 1235. (fn. 319)
In the 14th century Hurcott Hall was the dwelling-place of the vicars. Their house with the demesne lands and fish-ponds was worth 40s., the rent from bond tenants 58s. 3d., the mill 20s. and pleas of court 18d. (fn. 320)
When in 1335 the vicarage was re-ordained Hurcott was not included in the vicar's portion, but was assigned to the Prior of Maiden Bradley. In 1340, however, Sir John de la Doune, the newly inducted vicar, obtained from the bishop an appropriation more favourable to himself, especially stipulating that the vicar should enjoy 'the manor of Hurcott where the rectors were formerly accustomed to reside.' (fn. 321) Subsequent ordinances (fn. 322) seem to have again deprived the vicar of the manor of Hurcott. About 1449 the Prior of Maiden Bradley let it to farm to the mother of Thomas Everdon. (fn. 323)
It remained in the possession of the prior and passed with his other estates in Kidderminster to Edmund Waller the poet. He sold Hurcott to William Walsh of Abberley. (fn. 324) It appears to have been purchased by George Evelyn, brother of the diarist, John Evelyn. The latter bought it from his brother 27 June 1648, and sold it six months later at a profit of £100 to Colonel John Bridges, (fn. 325) who also purchased the jointure of Lady Mary widow of Sir Edward Blount in Kidderminster. (fn. 326)
Colonel Bridges was 'a prudent pious gentleman' who lived at Kidderminster and supported Baxter's work there. (fn. 327) In 1662 he sold the manor to Thomas Foley, (fn. 328) with whose estate at Great Witley it has since descended.
LOWER MITTON (fn. 329) was a berewick of Kidderminster in 1086. (fn. 330) Its early history is obscure; but it was clearly separate from Over Mitton by 1280, when the one township was styled Mitton was the other Mitton Walter. (fn. 331) Lower Mitton was the property of the Lygon family during the 16th century, and probably at an earlier date. Thomas Lygon died in 1507 holding two messuages in Lickhill and Lower Mitton. (fn. 332) He left a son Richard. A Richard Lygon died seised of the 'manor of Mitton' in 1556. (fn. 333) His son William Lygon held the manor of 'Nethermytton' in 1560. (fn. 334) He was evidently succeeded by Richard Lygon, whose son William ultimately inherited the manor. (fn. 335) Sir William Lygon, kt., is said to have sold to every tenant the inheritance of his tenement. (fn. 336) This was probably the Sir William Lygon who in 1616 with his wife Elizabeth sold the manor to James Clent or Clint. (fn. 337)
Miles Clent and his wife Dorothy conveyed it to Thomas the second Lord Folliott, governor of Londonderry in 1662. (fn. 338) In March 1716–17 the barony of Folliott became extinct by the death of Henry the third Lord Folliott, only son and heir of the above Thomas. (fn. 339) Lower Mitton and Lickhill were inherited by his niece Rebecca wife of Arthur Lugg (who died at Lickhill in 1726) and daughter of Anne Soley, sister of Henry Lord Folliott. (fn. 340) In 1740 Rebecca Lugg, then a widow, made over the property to her 'kinsman John Folliott in consideration of her natural love and affection . . . and for his advancement in point of fortune,' reserving to herself for life the occupancy of Lickhill Manor House. He was lieutenant-colonel of the regiment of horse commanded by Lord Cathcart, and in 1750 devised his Worcestershire estates to Captain John Folliott of the Royal Hospital, near Dublin, with successive remainders to the latter's second son John, and eldest son Francis, in tail. Captain John Folliott entered upon the estate in 1762, and was succeeded by John his second son, who died at Lickhill unmarried in January 1814. The estate then descended to John Folliott of Sligo, grandson of Francis Folliott, and a minor. He resided mostly in Ireland, and represented the county of Sligo in Parliament. In 1822 he barred the entail on the Worcestershire property, and subsequently sold the Lickhill Estate with its manors of Lower Mitton and Lickhill to Joseph Craven, J.P., of Steeton in Craven, co. Yorks.
Joseph Craven died 30 March 1867, having devised his Worcestershire property to his younger son John William Craven. The latter died in Scotland 12 October 1871, and the estate is now the property of his posthumous son, Mr. Campbell J. Craven. (fn. 341)
LICKHILL, also the property of Mr. Campbell J. Craven, has been accounted parcel of the Lower Mitton estate at least since 1429, when Robert Nelme of Worcester, who had in right of his wife Agnes the reversion of two messuages, a carucate of land, 6 acres of meadow and 11 marks rent in 'Leykhill,' Kidderminster, and Lower Mitton upon the death of Margaret wife of Walter Corbet, conveyed his title to Thomas Lygon, Thomas Heuster and others. (fn. 342) In 1507 Thomas Lygon's holding at Lower Mitton included a messuage at Lickhill. (fn. 343) Lickhill Manor House has long been the capital mansion of the Lower Mitton and Lickhill estate, and has been successively occupied by the Folliott and Craven families and their tenants. The house is of red brick, and is situated on the banks of the Severn between Stourport and Bewdley. It contains a fine oak staircase and some panelled rooms. During the time the Folliotts occupied it some choice tapestry covered the walls of the drawing-room. John Folliott, M.P., before referred to, removed the tapestry and Folliott family portraits to Hollybrook House, Sligo, his Irish seat, where they can still be seen.
At WRIBBENHALL the monks of Worcester had a small estate, which they asserted had been given to their monastery by King Offa. (fn. 344) It was assigned to the cellarer towards providing firewood for the use of the monks. (fn. 345) Its subsequent history is uncertain; possibly it was included in the land at Kidderminster and Eymore with which the dean and chapter was endowed in 1542. (fn. 346)
PARK ATTWOOD evidently originated in the licence granted in 1362 to John Attwood of Wolverley, the king's yeoman, to inclose 600 acres in his demesne lands at Kidderminster and Wolverley. (fn. 347) The reputed manor of Park Attwood remained in the Attwood family at least till 1595. (fn. 348) In 1661 John Attwood had rights in a considerable estate in Wolverley and Park Attwood, (fn. 349) and a John Attwood seems to have dealt with the manor in 1685. (fn. 350) The greater part of Park Attwood was purchased about 1797 by Henry Chillingworth of Holt Castle, and remained in the family until its recent sale by Lieut.-Col. William Henry Chillingworth. Thomas Hessin Charles, barrister-at-law, purchased the manor and lands of Park Attwood in 1912. (fn. 351)
TRIMPLEY (Trinpelei, xi cent.; Trimpelei, xiv cent.) was a berewick of Kidderminster in 1086, (fn. 352) and was probably the fee in Kidderminster granted by Manasser Biset to Stephen Attwood. (fn. 353) It descended to his grandson John Attwood in 1294, (fn. 354) and land at Trimpley remained in the Attwood family until the end of the 16th century. (fn. 355) The manorial rights were probably absorbed in those of Park Attwood.
Henry Chillingworth bought the bulk of the Trimpley estates about 1797. They remained with his descendants until recent times, when William Henry Chillingworth sold Trimpley to Mr. Mills, whose daughter Mrs. Hudson is the present owner.
WANNERTON (Wenuerton, xi cent.; Wenfertone, xiii cent.; Wenforton or Wannerton, xvi cent.) is a reputed manor. It was one of the berewicks of Kidderminster in 1086, (fn. 356) and appeared as a separate hamlet on the Subsidy Roll of 1280. (fn. 357)
Three generations of the Wannerton family are said to have been lords of Wannerton during the 15th century. (fn. 358) John Wannerton, whose father and grandfather lived here, had a son John Wannerton of Worfield, co. Salop, whose daughter and heir Jane married Sir George Bromley, kt., justiciar of Chester. (fn. 359)
The manor of Wannerton apparently formed her marriage portion. (fn. 360) She outlived her husband and settled Wannerton upon her grandson Thomas Bromley of Bridgnorth, who died without issue 20 February 1609–10. (fn. 361) He had settled the manor on his widow Eleanor, but it afterwards reverted to Sir Edward Bromley of Sheriff Hales, son of Sir George and Dame Jane, in accordance with the will of Thomas Bromley. (fn. 362) In 1677 William Bromley was in possession, (fn. 363) and in 1683 he conveyed Wannerton to Thomas Foley. (fn. 364) The manor has since descended with the Great Witley estate (q.v.).