A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The present parish of Westwood Park was originally included in Dodderhill, but became a separate extraparochial district in 1178. (fn. 1) Habington says, 'Westwood in the territoryes of the Sayes, Barons of Bureford and Lordes of Wichbaud, was by their indulgence made a parish of it sealfe, including Westwood, Cruche, and Clerehall.' (fn. 2) For ecclesiastical purposes it was annexed to Hampton Lovett in 1541, (fn. 3) but it remained extra-parochial (fn. 4) until 1857, (fn. 5) when it became a parish.
It is situated immediately south of Hampton Lovett and covers an area of only 740 acres. The ground is undulating, but nowhere rises higher than about 185 ft. above the ordnance datum. The soil is marl, with patches of sandy gravel, the land being mostly pasture and park land. The house in the middle of the park, now the residence of Mrs. Bruce Ward, the daughter of the present owner, is on one of the highest points, and commands extensive and beautiful views of the surrounding country. The nucleus of the present mansion was erected early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth by Sir John Pakington (the Lusty Pakington), and seems to have been merely intended as a hunting-box. That this was, however, a building of considerable pretensions is apparent from the size and elaborate nature of the plan, which consists on the ground floor of a large entrance hall occupying the whole length of the principal front, with bay windows on either side of a central entrance doorway and in each end wall, and a similar block at the rear containing the kitchen and offices, separated from the front portion of the house by a narrow staircase hall in the centre of the building. The front block is of three stories with an attic floor, the kitchen block of four stories without an attic. There is a basement beneath the whole house. On the first floor is the saloon, an apartment of equal size with the entrance hall below it, measuring internally 46 ft. 6 in. by 22 ft. The bay windows throughout extend the whole height of the house. The materials are red brick with dressings of red sandstone. The house having suffered considerably during the Civil War, considerable alterations and repairs were undertaken about the time of the Restoration, with the double object of repairing the fabric and transforming it into the principal seat of the family, whose former house at Hampton Lovett had been destroyed by fire. Wings designed in a style to correspond with the existing house were added at each of the four corners of the building, projecting from the central mass at about the angle of 45°, and two diamond-shaped courts were formed at the front and back. At the northeast and south-west angles of the courts were square tower-like garden houses three stories high. The forecourt, with its garden towers and gate lodges, has survived in its entirety, but the court at the rear has disappeared. An engraving by Kip shows that the original arrangement of the courts was still preserved in the early years of the 18th century, about which period considerable internal repairs appear to have been entered upon. About 1840 a new kitchen was added at the rear of the house, contained in a onestory building occupying the portion of the court embraced by the wings on this side. The original panelling of the ground floor rooms was then replaced by painted deal 'Tudor' panelling of a singularly inappropriate type, and a plaster ceiling designed in the same style and grained in imitation of oak was substituted for the original ceiling of the staircase hall. A 'Tudor' bay window of stone was added to the room on the ground floor of the north wing, known as the 'chapel,' to bring it more into accordance with the notions of ecclesiastical propriety then prevalent. This room is now used as a servants' hall. These alterations were made under the direction of P. Hardwick, whose drawings are in the possession of the present owner.
From this it will be gathered that the ground floor rooms contain no features of particular interest, having been almost entirely modernized. The floors of the wings are at a higher level than those of the main building and are approached by short flights of steps. The kitchen, at the west of the central block, has been converted into a dining room, and the floor level of the 'chapel' has been re-arranged. The staircase-hall in the centre extends the whole length of the house at the first floor level, and the stairs rise to this height in successive flights of eight risers separated by landings of equal length. The handrails are supported by turned balusters, and the massive newel posts are surmounted by Corinthian columns with ball finials. The upper floors are reached by subsidiary stairs in the four-storied back portion of the house. Over the main stairs, at the level of the second floor of the front portion, is a long gallery, known as the 'Museum' gallery, with open wells at either end, railed with balustrading of a similar but slightly plainer design. The ceiling of the staircase formed by the floor of the latter, and the ceiling above, visible from below at either end, are of plaster, grained in imitation of oak, and date from the 19th-century restorations above referred to. Large four-light windows at the first and second floor levels light the staircase at either end. The square projecting bay at the north-east of the ground story appears to be an addition of the latter half of the 17th century.
In the centre of the north-west wall of the saloon is an elaborate chimney-piece of carved oak, probably contemporary in date with the original building of this part of the house. It is of two superimposed orders, the lower Ionic and the upper Corinthian. The frieze of the entablature of the lower order, which spans the fireplace opening, is carved with a vine pattern in delicate relief, the shafts of the supporting columns being ornamented with elaborate strapwork. The upper order has the frieze of its entablature decorated with grotesques and festoons and the shafts of its columns carved with the vine. The central panel, over the fireplace opening, has an enriched bolection moulding of bold section, and is filled by a modern portrait of Henry VIII; between the coupled columns on either side are semicircular-headed niches, fluted and elaborated with strapwork. The surfaces behind the columns and on the returns of the chimney breasts are ornamented with a design of oak leaves and acorns in shallow relief. The fireplace opening itself has a grate and marble surround of the 18th century. A deep strapwork frieze of plaster runs round the walls of the room. This appears to be contemporary with the chimney-piece, the comparative coarseness of execution being due to the difference of material. Above this is the cove of the magnificent plaster ceiling, which seems to have been executed at the time the wings were added, or perhaps a few years earlier. In the centre is an oval wreath within a rectangular panel with curved ends. The soffit of the large and heavily moulded rib inclosing the panel is enriched with a garland of deeply undercut foliage, and the whole is inclosed by a modelled band of pointed leaves in high relief extending the length of the chimney breast. The remainder of the ceiling, and of those of the bay windows, is made out with wreaths and panels of slighter projection. The cove is ornamented with festoons of fruit and flowers. The walls still retain their original tapestry hangings, illustrating the life of Jacob. In the panelled jambs of the bays are fluted Corinthian pilasters. The tapestry hangings conceal the doorways at the south and east angles of the saloon leading to the rooms in the wings on this side of the house. Their addition has necessitated the blocking of the returns of the bays adjoining them.
The 'Japanese' room in the south wing has a ceiling of very similar type and of the same date as that of the saloon with a good modillion cornice. The room was re-decorated in the middle of the 18th century and remains to this day practically unaltered with its Oriental paper, marble bolection moulded chimney-piece, and elaborately enriched doorcase. The bay in the end wall is blocked. The room in the east wing, known as the 'White' room, has a ceiling of the same type, and white painted panelling of the 18th century, with a fine carved wood chimney-piece of contemporary date.
Externally the house presents a particularly imposing appearance with its four wings radiating from the central mass, and terminated at their extremities by tower-like projections having stone-mullioned bay windows in their side and end walls, and pyramidal slated roofs. In the first instance it is probable that these roofs were of a fanciful curved outline like those of the still remaining garden towers. Between the two stone-mullioned bay windows of the central block, which extend the whole height of the three principal stories, is the entrance porch, a charming piece of almost fully developed classical design, after the type of a triumphal arch in miniature, with a central and two side archways. An entablature, broken forward over four detached Corinthian columns and surmounted by a plain attic order, crowns the whole. The columns stand upon pedestals sculptured with lions' faces, and in each side opening are balustrades. Above the keystone of the central arch is a carved female figure riding upon an eagle with outstretched wings. The inner doorway is flanked by coupled Corinthian pilasters enriched with strapwork. The porch is elevated on a flight of steps. Over the porch, on the face of the blank wall of the first story between the bays, is the large shield of Pakington quartering Washbourne, Baldwin and Arden, with the crest of an elephant. The floor levels are marked by moulded string-courses of stone, which on the walls of the wings are raised and dropped to correspond with the difference in level of the floors. The bay windows and the wing towers are finished with an elaborate carved parapet formed of the sheaves and molets of the Pakington shield. The attic windows of the central block are surmounted by curvilinear gables, crowned at the apex by circular panels, each inclosing a molet. Square bays forming the extremities of the staircase hall compose the central features of the side elevations. The angles of the bay on the north-east have buttresses extending to the first floor level. The ground story of this bay, as mentioned above, is further extended by a square projection containing a threelight transomed window with rusticated jambs and head, dating probably from the latter half of the 17th century. The bay windows of the wings have had their return lights blocked, probably in the 18th century, with the view of avoiding the window tax, and have been otherwise much altered in the 19th century, the sills having being lowered and extra mullions inserted; a drawing made about the year 1830 shows them to have been originally of two lights. The disposition of the plan renders all the elevations of equal size and importance, and was doubtless suggested by the site, which is on the summit of almost the highest ground in the whole extent of the park.
The twin-lodges on either side of the entrance gates are of brick with stone dressings, two stories in height, and have mullioned windows and curvilinear gables. They are joined by a semicircular archway containing the gates and surmounted by open stone screenwork filled with sheaves and molets. Above this an ornamental arched framing of timber supports a slated cupola. The garden towers at the northeast and south-west angles of the forecourt are of brick, three stories in height, with cornices of stone and curved slated roofs.
The exact site of the nunnery is unknown, but is supposed to be in the present kitchen garden. (fn. 6) A stone coffin has been found in Nunnery Wood, and there is a stone-lined well in a pool close by.
There are at present no roads in the parish, but a bridle-path from Hampton Lovett goes through the park. The main road from Ombersley to Droitwich passes along the southern boundary of the park. This road seems to have been made by Sir John Pakington before 1616, and was at that date the subject of some dispute between him and Sir Samuel Sandys, lord of Ombersley. It seems that there were formerly two roads through Westwood, one entering it at a bridge called Wadebridge, over Hadley Brook, and passing from there by Wadebridge Lane, Westwood Coppice and a field called Boycott to two bridges over a divided stream called 'Bryarmill' bridges, and from there to Droitwich, Bromsgrove, Kidderminster and Bewdley, the other from Ludlow, Bewdley and Ombersley, crossing Hadley Brook by a 'waynebridge made of stone' above Hadley Mill, passing the site of the nunnery and through woods called Westwood to Boycott Bridge, and so on to Droitwich and London. Sir John had inclosed these roads in his park, and 'drowned' a great part of one of them in 'a new great pool' there, but had made instead the present road, which is said to have been 'very narrow and very fowle in winter and a worse way and further about than the others.' (fn. 7) As a result Sir John is said to have had the embankments of his new lake cut through. The present park contains a lake of 60 acres.
During the Civil War and Commonwealth many eminent men visited Sir John Pakington at Westwood Park. Doctor Hammond, Bishop-designate of Worcester, spent the last years of his life there, and died there in 1660. (fn. 8) Bishops Morley, Fell and Gunning and Dean Hickes often visited at Westwood, and jointly with some of them Lady Dorothy Pakington is alleged to have written The Whole Duty of Man. (fn. 9)
Among the place-names are Ulnys Medowe, Byrcheyll, Boycote Felde, Ogans Medowe, Horsesiche, Banhamyshyll, Wynowynge Hylle, Dappyngs Medowe, Parsons Hill, Bryerhylle, (fn. 10) Le Pykes (fn. 11) (xvi cent.), Boycott (fn. 12) (xvii cent.), Cobbett's Corner, Nuns Harbour (xx cent.).
WESTWOOD is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, being then probably included in the parish of Dodderhill, (fn. 13) but by the 12th century it was in the hands of Osbert Fitz Hugh, who with Eustacia de Say, his mother, granted it to the nunnery they founded there in the reign of Henry II. (fn. 14) This gift was confirmed by John, and subsequently by later kings. (fn. 15) After the Dissolution Sir John Pakington of Hampton Lovett petitioned that he might have the site of the nunnery in farm, 'since it was close to his house where he had no pasture for his horses although he was in the king's service in North Wales to his great charge.' (fn. 16) The manor with the site and demesne lands of the late nunnery was granted to him in 1539, and has since that date followed the same descent as Hampton Lovett (fn. 17) (q.v.).
The nuns of Westwood received a licence to make a PARK at Westwood, if they so chose, when the manor was granted to them, (fn. 18) but they do not seem ever to have done so. In 1618 Sir John Pakington obtained licence to impark 1,000 acres at Westwood, Hampton Lovett and other surrounding parishes, (fn. 19) and he impaled two great parks called Westwood Parks and stocked the one with red deer and the other with fallow deer. In doing this he met with some opposition from the burgesses of Droitwich, on account of rights of way which they had enjoyed over the manor of Westwood. (fn. 20)
The park was originally planted with oak woods radiating from the house. The oak is very rapidly growing but lacks durability, and this is so well known that it used to be specified in local building contracts that Westwood oak was not to be used. Since the present owner purchased the estate the park has gradually been reduced in area to 350 acres. (fn. 21)
A fee-farm rent of £5 16s., which must have been reserved when the manor was granted to Sir John Pakington, was vested in trustees for sale in 1670. (fn. 22) It was afterwards purchased by the Pakingtons.
A mill called Bierhalla in Westwood belonged to the nuns of Westwood in 1299, (fn. 23) and Henry Lovett by an undated charter remitted to them the foreign service which they owed him for it. (fn. 24) This mill, then called Bryer Mill, was valued at 48s. in 1535, when it still belonged to the nuns. (fn. 25) It was granted with the manor to Sir John Pakington in 1539. (fn. 26) The present Brier Mill is in the parish of Droitwich.
CHURCH AND ADVOWSON
The date of the building of a church at Westwood is not known. In 1178 the tithes of Westwood, with sepulture and obventions of all the inhabitants, were assigned to the nuns of Westwood in exchange for their claim to the church of St. Augustine Dodderhill, (fn. 27) these tithes having formerly belonged to the church of Dodderhill. The conventual church or chapel of Westwood was valued at £2 in 1291. (fn. 28) The rectorial tithes were appropriated to the nunnery, (fn. 29) and the chaplain was provided at the expense of the nuns. (fn. 30) The chapel served as a parish church for the inhabitants of Crutch as well as those of Westwood, and had full parochial rights. (fn. 31) On the dissolution of Westwood nunnery the chapel was also suppressed, and the inhabitants of Westwood were left without any parish church. They petitioned the bishop that, as the tithes of Westwood were insufficient to support a priest, their hamlet might be annexed to the church of Hampton Lovett, which was conveniently near and accessible to them at any time of the year. Their petition was granted and the union was legalized in 1541. (fn. 32) The rectory and advowson had been granted in 1539 to John Pakington, (fn. 33) and his sanction was obtained to the union. The advowson and rectory of Westwood are mentioned in a deed of 1542, (fn. 34) but after that time all references to a church at Westwood cease, it having probably shared the fate of the conventual buildings. All remains of the church have disappeared.