A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The parish of Blockley, containing nearly 7,896 acres, of which 2,360 are arable, 4,128 permanent grass and 290½ woods and plantations, (fn. 1) lies among the Cotswolds to the north of Bourton-on-the-Hill, and is entirely surrounded by Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. The soil is light and fertile; the subsoil is inferior oolite with beds of bunter pebble and Middle Lias; the chief crops are cereals and beans, and there is much pasture for the famous Cotswold sheep. Stone quarries have been a feature of the parish since the 14th century: Norcombe Quarry and Blockley Quarries are mentioned as early as 1383 (fn. 2) and White Quarry in 1506. (fn. 3)
The village of Blockley lies in the south-west part of the parish on two hill-slopes and has a station nearly 2 miles away on the Great Western railway. The church stands at the top of the lower slope and adjoining the churchyard to the south is the old manor-house, built of native stone well weathered and stained with orange lichen. It is a good example of the local architecture of the early 17th century, though most of the window openings have been enlarged and sash windows inserted. A wide lawn stretches from the south-western front of the house to the edge of the slope where a flight of stone steps leads down to the lower garden overlooking the stream which runs through Dovedale Plantation. The majority of the houses in the village are of stone and date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The road to Chipping Camden skirts the edge of Northwick Park, whence a beautiful view of the country may be seen. The park stretches to the northern boundary of the parish and contains many fine trees, especially beeches and oaks; there is a large herd of follow deer, and the two pools—Northwick River and Upper Water—are well stocked with trout. The house was rebuilt about 1730 by Sir John Rushout, who, however, retained as much as possible of the appearance of the Elizabethan house which had belonged to the Childes. The west front is early Georgian. There is still a fine collection of pictures, though the great Northwick collection was moved to Thirlstane House, Cheltenham, and sold in 1859.
Upton Wold Farm lies about a mile due west of Blockley, near the Five Mile Drive, the main road to Broadway, which crosses the Buckle Street about a mile and a half north-west of the parish boundary. It is a 16th-century three-storied house of stone rubble masonry with ashlar quoins. The triple-gabled entrance front, with its central porch, extending the whole height of the building, is an excellent example of the symmetrical type of design which was beginning to prevail at the period of its erection. The outer doorway of the porch has a Tudor arch and the transomed windows of the ground floor are of five lights divided by stone mullions. The two upper floors are lighted by windows of three lights, those of the first floor being transomed. The chimney stacks are surmounted by diagonal shafts. The east side has been lately restored.
The hamlet of Aston is situated about 2 miles east of Blockley. The houses are mostly of stone, and many appear to be of the 16th and 17th centuries, and with their gabled roofs and stone-mullioned windows present a very picturesque appearance. The railway now cuts the village in two, the greater portion of the houses being on the west side of the railway, while the church stands on the east side. The original chapel stands to the south-west of the present building and has been converted, probably at some time in the 17th century, into a pair of cottages, one occupying the chancel, which measures externally 22½ ft. by 17½ ft., and the other the nave, 24½ ft. by 22 ft. The building appears to date from the latter part of the 12th century. The only original detail remaining is the chancel orch, which is now blocked and partly concealed by a later chimney-breast. Enough is revealed, however, to show that the arch is two-centred and had shafted jambs with scalloped capitals and grooved and chamfered abaci. At the western end of the south wall of the nave is a blocked doorway, and all the window openings are later work. At the junction of the road leading from the main part of the village southwards past the church with the by-road leading eastwards over the railway are the base and part of the stem of a cross, probably of 14th-century date. On the west side of the railway line are some recently established brick and terra cotta works, to the influence of which is probably due a glaringly inharmonious row of red brick cottages which have just sprung into existence in the main street.
The hamlet of Paxford, which is in the extreme north of the parish on a hill overlooking the railway line, consists of a main street of plain stone houses. The school, built in 1866, is used for church services. Paxford House is of stone, partly old, with mullioned windows and a gable at either end. Upper Ditchford Farm, a 17th-century house of brick, stands to the north of Aston Magna, not far from Knee Brook.
Dorn is situated on the west side of the Fosse Way, which here forms the eastern boundary of the parish. It is traditionally the site of a Roman station, and coins and pottery have been found near Dorn Farm; evidences of stone foundations have also been noticed, but these are not uncovered. Here, built into the outbuildings of an early 17th-century house, is a portion of the south wall of a 12th-century chapel. The masonry is of small rubble with wide joints and the original detail in situ comprises a small round-headed window, glazed, a square-headed window, a doorway with a wood lintel and a small ogee-headed light. These, with the exception of the first, are all blocked.
The following place-names occur in local records: Redlaund (fn. 4) (xiii cent.); Longehens House, Germyns (fn. 5) (xv cent.); Shipley Close, where the fairs were held, (fn. 6) Stapenhill, Cronynge, Crawe Meadow (fn. 7) (xvi cent.); Lady Homb, Chappell Ground, Dalby's Ditch, (fn. 8) Mapphale, Darton Hill and Callsham Cradles (fn. 9) (xvii cent.).
Leave to inclose a common leading from Blockley to Bourton-on-the-Hill was granted to Sir William Juxon, bart., in 1669, on condition that he made a road for travellers in his own grounds. (fn. 10) An Inclosure Act for Aston Magna was passed in 1733, (fn. 11) and for Blockley, Draycott and Paxford in 1772. (fn. 12)
Burhred, King of the Mercians, granted a monastery at Blockley in 855 to Aelhun, Bishop of Worcester, who paid 300 solidi of silver for it. Liberties of an archaic kind were granted with the estate to the bishop. (fn. 13) This gift was confirmed in the grant of the hundred of Oswaldslow to the church of Worcester made by the so-called charter of King Edgar. (fn. 14)
At the time of the Domesday Survey the Bishop of Worcester held 38 hides belonging to the manor of BLOCKLEY, including 1 hide at Iccomb which was appropriated to the support of the monks. (fn. 15) During the early part of the 12th century Ditchford, which had been held in 1086 by Richard, (fn. 16) was added to the bishop's demesne (fn. 17) together with 1½ hides of land (fn. 18) which had previously belonged to Ansgot. (fn. 19)
The manor continued in the possession of the Bishops of Worcester until 1648, (fn. 20) when it was sold by the Parliamentary Trustees to William Combe for £1,394 12s. 5d. (fn. 21) After the Restoration it was regranted to the church, and the bishops, as lords of the manor, held courts there at least as late as 1781. (fn. 22) The manorial rights are now in abeyance.
The hamlets of Aston Magna, Draycott, Upton Wold and Paxford belonged to the manor of Blockley, and the lands there were usually held of the Bishop of Worcester on leases of three lives. In some cases these leases were renewed time after time to members of the same family, so that it is possible to trace for many years the history of even a small holding.
In 1282 Nicholas de Stanesby and Elizabeth his wife held, apparently in right of Elizabeth, 2 virgates of land in ASTON MAGNA (fn. 23) (Hangynde Aston, xiii cent.; Aston by Blokeleye, xiv cent.; Hanbury Aston, Hanging Aston, xvi cent.) which they granted to Adam and John, the two sons of Robert de Pirton, (fn. 24) whose family retained the estate until 1355, when it was given to the priest John Blockley by John de Upcote, (fn. 25) the son of another Robert de Pirton, and probably the grandson of one of the 13th-century grantees. (fn. 26) In 1356 the property was bestowed by John de Blockley on the chantry of St. Mary, (fn. 27) the descent of which (q.v. infra) it subsequently followed.
In the early part of the 12th century Jordan held 2 hides in Aston, of which he had been enfeoffed by Bishop Samson (d. 1112), (fn. 28) and he afterwards obtained another hide and a mill called Spina from Roger Golafre, whose sister he married. (fn. 29) Jordan was succeeded before 1182 by his son William, (fn. 30) who gave the property held of Hugh Golafre to his brother John. (fn. 31) The 2 hides which remained to him had passed before 1246 to another John de Aston, (fn. 32) who was perhaps William's son, and were held in 1299 by Adam de Aston. (fn. 33) Adam seems to have been succeeded by three daughters and co-heirs, for his land was held in 1346 by John Chester, John Bagge and John Wattes, (fn. 34) among whose heirs it was still divided in 1428, (fn. 35) though the whole of the property had come into the hands of Henry Chester by the middle of the 15th century. (fn. 36) It is, however, difficult to trace its history after this date.
The descent of the hide which was given with the mill to John the brother of William de Aston is even more obscure. Possibly it descended to Jordan de Hanging Aston alias Jordan de Blockley, whose son John, having shown title of sufficient patrimony, took priest's orders in 1305. (fn. 37) His property probably passed at his death to a brother or nephew, (fn. 38) as it seems to have been part of the land held in the middle of the 14th century by another John de Blockley, presumably a kinsman, who was also a clerk. (fn. 39) This John, who granted lands in Aston to the chantry of St. Mary in 1356 (fn. 40) (vide supra), was still living in 1375; he then added to this gift the whole of his remaining estate, (fn. 41) which thus became merged in the chantry lands (q.v.).
In the time of Henry III Roger de Draycott held half a hide in Aston, which he had obtained in exchange for other lands from Iseult, the daughter of Samson, to whom it had been given as her marriage portion. (fn. 42) This holding, which belonged to William de Draycott in 1299, (fn. 43) probably followed the descent of his lands in Northwick (q.v.). Certain lands in Aston Magna were leased in 1587 to the Crown by Edmund Freke, Bishop of Worcester (fn. 44); these followed the descent of Blockley Park and the manor of Tredington (fn. 45) (q.v.).
A good deal of land in Aston was held in the 16th century by the Freeman family, who were said in 1526 to have been established in the parish 'from old time.' (fn. 46) Their name does not seem to occur on the earlier Court Rolls, but the statement as to their long connexion with Blockley was made on the authority of Thomas Freeman, at that time steward of the bishop's manor. (fn. 47) In 1565 another Thomas Freeman held lands in Aston (fn. 48) which eventually descended to Richard Freeman, whose lease for three lives was renewed by Bishop Hough in 1737. (fn. 49) His nephew Thomas Edwards Freeman of Batsford quarrelled with his own family and left his estates to his wife's nephew John Mitford, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was created Lord Redesdale in 1802. He assumed the additional name of Freeman, and was succeeded in 1830 by his son John Thomas created Earl of Redesdale in 1877. On his death in 1886 his estates passed to his cousin Algernon Bertram Mitford (now Freeman-Mitford), who was created Lord Redesdale in 1902, (fn. 50) and now holds an estate at Aston Magna.
UPTON WOLD (Upton, xiii cent.; Upton Olde, xvi cent.) was held in the 13th century by a family which took its name from the place, (fn. 51) but it had passed by 1346 to John Gilbert, (fn. 52) and seems to have been afterwards held by Robert Prodehomme. (fn. 53) The mention of a reputed manor there occurs in 1608, when Ralph Sheldon was the owner. (fn. 54)
In the time of Henry II Haerte held half a hide in DRAYCOTT (Draycote, xii cent.; Dracott, xvi cent.) of the gift of Bishop Simon (d. 1150), (fn. 55) and Roger de Draycott is mentioned in a fine of 1227. (fn. 56) Tedelm de Draycott (miswritten Braicota) held half a hide there in the later part of the reign of Henry III (fn. 57); this land had passed before 1295 to John de Draycott, (fn. 58) whose son and namesake afterwards held it. (fn. 59) The last member of this family of whom mention is made in local records was William Draycott, whose heirs were tenants of the property in 1431. (fn. 60)
In 1551 the so-called manor of Draycott was divided between William Freeman and Thomas Bushy, the latter of whom held in right of his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 61) The Bushys subsequently sold their moiety to Thomas Smith, (fn. 62) and in 1609 Anthony Smith, probably the son of Thomas, died seised of the estate, leaving as his heir his son, another Thomas. (fn. 63) The descent of the property after this date is obscure, but it came ultimately to the owners of Northwick, and was held by Sir John Rushout at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 64)
Half a hide in PAXFORD was held in the middle of the 13th century by Robert son of William, (fn. 65) and afterwards descended to John Leger, who is said to have been Robert's son. (fn. 66) This land had been divided before 1346 between Gilbert Leger and Thomas atte Silver (fn. 67); and a virgate called 'Lyggers' subsequently came into the possession of the college of Westbury-on-Trym (co. Gloucester), to which it was granted probably during the latter half of the 15th century. (fn. 68) Another virgate, possibly that which had been held by Thomas atte Silver, (fn. 69) was held in 1358 by John Weleye, who granted it in that year to John Laurence. (fn. 70) This also formed part of the endowment of Westbury College, and at the Dissolution was granted together with Legers to Sir Ralph Sadleir. (fn. 71) He alienated both in 1556 to Richard and John Fletcher, (fn. 72) by whose family the joint estate was held for over a century. (fn. 73) It was afterwards sold by another John Fletcher to William Freeman, (fn. 74) and Mr. A. B. Freeman-Mitford (now Lord Redesdale) has property in the district and he and Major Knox, Mr. James Slatter, and the trustees of Mr. Joseph Crescens Reynolds now hold most of the land here.
Certain lands in Paxford were among those leased to the Crown in 1587, (fn. 75) and by Charles I to William Warmestry in 1634. (fn. 76) Thomas Warmestry, the younger son of William, in 1653 compounded as a delinquent for these lands (fn. 77); they afterwards followed the descent of Blockley Park (q.v.).
The manor of DITCHFORD (Dicford, xi cent.; Dicheford, xiii cent.) was held of the episcopal manor of Blockley in 1086 by Richard and previously by Alward; it was assessed at 2 hides. (fn. 78) In the time of Edward I Geoffrey de Ditchford held 4 hides here, (fn. 79) which afterwards passed to William de Ditchford alias William Kynich. (fn. 80)
In 1319 this William settled the manor of MIDDLE DITCHFORD (Dichford Kenych, Mid-deldycheford, xiv cent.; Freeman's Ditchford, xvi cent.; Peshall Freeman's Ditchford, xiv cent.) on himself and Joan his wife and the heirs of his body with remainder to John de Peyto and his heirs. (fn. 81) William de Ditchford, who was probably the son of this William, held half a knight's fee and one-tenth of a knight's fee in Ditchford in 1346. (fn. 82) He was succeeded by John de Ditchford, who died in 1376, leaving as his heir his son William. (fn. 83) William, still in his minority, died in 1381, (fn. 84) and his only child Katherine in 1383; the manor was then divided between his sisters Aline and Margaret. (fn. 85)
Robert de Clynton, who seems to have been the son of Margaret, (fn. 86) apparently succeeded to both portions of the estate. He held half a knight's fee in Ditchford in 1428, and in 1459 a Robert Clynton, perhaps his son, was described as farmer of the manor. (fn. 87) It passed shortly afterwards to William Ranes, (fn. 88) and was held in 1509 by Anne the daughter and heir of Thomas Ranes and the wife of Roger Cheverell. (fn. 89) She and her husband leased a moiety of the manor in that year to John Palmer and Mary his wife for their lives, (fn. 90) and in 1518 Anne, then a widow, granted half of the other moiety to John Grevell and his heirs. (fn. 91) This property seems afterwards to have been acquired by William Palmer and Anne his wife, who dealt with three-quarters of the manor by fine in 1555. (fn. 92) It subsequently passed to William Sheldon, who also obtained possession of the remaining quarter (fn. 93) and died seised of the whole estate in 1570. (fn. 94) The property then followed the same descent as the manor of Beoley (q.v. in Pershore Hundred) until 1649, when it was forfeited by William Sheldon to the Parliamentary Trustees, who sold it to Major John Wildman. (fn. 95) After the Restoration it was, however, recovered by Ralph the son and heir of William Sheldon, (fn. 96) in whose lifetime it was settled upon trustees to the use of Joseph Sheldon and Margaret his wife and their heirs. (fn. 97) In 1681 Sir Joseph Sheldon made a fresh settlement by which the trustees were to hold the manor after the death of Margaret to the use of his brother Daniel and Gilbert, Daniel's son, charged with a legacy of £3,000 to his own daughters Elizabeth and Anne to be paid within two years after his wife's death. (fn. 98) Gilbert Sheldon, who succeeded in 1696, (fn. 99) by his will in 1721 bequeathed the manor to his wife Elizabeth with the provision that it was to be sold after her death and the proceeds divided equally between his daughters Judith the wife of Paul Jodrell and Mary, who had married William Cradock. (fn. 100) Gilbert's debts, however, so far exceeded his personal estate that his widow and daughters agreed to forgo their interest in the manor in order that the money might be paid. (fn. 101) A Private Act of Parliament was accordingly passed to set aside the will of Gilbert Sheldon and allow the immediate sale of the property, (fn. 102) which was bought in 1726 by Thomas Lord Foley. (fn. 103) He sold it in 1742 to the trustees for the marriage settlement of Cosmas Henry Nevill and Lady Mary Lee, daughter of the Earl of Lichfield, (fn. 104) whose son Charles Nevill 'not being minded to marry' made provision out of the estate for his sisters and younger brothers in 1772. (fn. 105) Charles Nevill was vouchee in a recovery of 1821, (fn. 106) but the subsequent history of the property is obscure and the manorial rights are now in abeyance.
The reputed manor of OVER DITCHFORD (Overdicheford, xiv cent.; Dycheforde Leasnes, Guyes Dycheford, xvi cent.; Upper Dichford, xvii cent.) is not mentioned before the end of the 14th century. (fn. 107) It seems to have been held on lease from the Bishops of Worcester, (fn. 108) and may perhaps have been the quarter of a knight's fee held by — Skales in 1431. (fn. 109) In 1459 Thomas Hyckes was farmer of the manor, (fn. 110) and in 1526 Thomas Freeman, the steward of the bishop's lands, obtained a renewal of his lease for forty years. (fn. 111) A moiety of the estate was afterwards rented by William Grevell, (fn. 112) the other moiety being divided between John Freeman and John Herytage. (fn. 113) In 1550 Nicholas Heath, Bishop of Worcester, obtained licence from Edward VI to alienate the property to William Sheldon, (fn. 114) who died seised of it in 1570. (fn. 115) The so-called manor subsequently followed the descent of Middle Ditchford.
The manor of DORN (Dorene, xiv cent.; Doron, xv cent.) was among the lands mentioned in 'King Edgar's Charter' to the church of Worcester, (fn. 116) and seems to have been included in the manor of Blockley in 1086. (fn. 117) It was subsequently taken out of the manor by Urse D'Abitot, (fn. 118) and was held in the time of Henry I by Walter de Beauchamp, when it was assessed at 5 hides. (fn. 119) It then became annexed to the honour of Elmley, but was said in 1428 to be held of the bishop in chief. Robert de Weteley held the estate in the time of Bishop Roger (1164–79), (fn. 120) and Richard de Walegh held it in the time of Henry III, (fn. 121) but by 1265 part of the property seems to have passed to Agatha the wife of Thomas le Blake, (fn. 122) who exchanged it for lands in Severnstoke with John D'Abitot (fn. 123); possibly John had previously been a coparcener of the estate. Another John D'Abitot held Dorn in 1316 (fn. 124) and 1346, (fn. 125) and the name of 'Thomas Dapitot of Dorne' occurs in 1356, (fn. 126) but the manor seems to have passed before 1375 to John de Blockley, a priest. (fn. 127) Another John de Blockley held it in 1428 (fn. 128); he was succeeded by Thomas de Blockley, perhaps his brother, who died about 1478, leaving a widow Alice and two children, William and Sibyl. (fn. 129) Alice died seised of the manor in 1481, leaving as her heir her grandson John the son of William Blockley, (fn. 130) who was succeeded by his aunt Sibyl Malyns before 1509. (fn. 131) The estate was subsequently divided, and in 1544 Thomas Guise and Eleanor his wife held in right of Eleanor a moiety which they sold to William Gower (fn. 132); this was bought from Robert Gower by John Woodward in 1568. (fn. 133) The other moiety was in the possession of Thomas Wye in 1576. (fn. 134) Both portions were bought in 1583 by John Throckmorton, (fn. 135) from whom they passed to John Croker, (fn. 136) who settled them in 1616 on his daughter Mary on her marriage to Robert Pye of Faringdon (co. Berks.). (fn. 137) This family remained in possession of the estate until 1767, (fn. 138) when Henry James Pye, the Poet Laureate, sold the manor to Thomas Edwards Freeman. (fn. 139) It then followed the descent of the Freemans' estate at Aston, (fn. 140) Lord Redesdale being the owner at the present day.
NORTHWICK was held in the time of Henry III of the manor of Blockley by Avice de Kingsford and Robert de Northwick, (fn. 141) whose ancestor Roger had held his share in 1182. (fn. 142) In 1227 Robert granted his land in marriage with his daughter Maud to Roger de Draycott, reserving a moiety to himself for life and dower for his wife Marjory. (fn. 143) This holding, which belonged to William de Draycott in 1299, (fn. 144) afterwards passed to Thomas de Clipstone, who held it as the fifth part of a knight's fee in 1346. (fn. 145) The land which had belonged to Avice de Kingsford perhaps passed to Richard Redlaund, who died seised of a carucate of land before 1254. (fn. 146) His widow Emma received dower therein, and the remainder was granted by Walter Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, to Richard de Crisetot. (fn. 147) By 1346 Avice de Kingsford's land had come into the possession of John de Clipstone, (fn. 148) and in 1383 John Childe, whose family had already been established for some years in the district, seems to have become tenant of the whole estate. (fn. 149)
Thomas Childe, 'gentilman,' succeeded before 1426 to the property, (fn. 150) which afterwards passed to Edmund Childe, who died about 1459, leaving as his heir his son William. (fn. 151) This William Childe in 1520 granted the reputed manor to Robert Haldyworth and other feoffees, on condition that they should pay 10 marks yearly to William Childe the younger and Anne (Hunckes) his wife, (fn. 152) who ten years later conveyed the estate to the feoffees, apparently for the purpose of a settlement (fn. 153) on his brotherin-law Thomas Hunckes. In 1558 Thomas Hunckes died seised of the manor, leaving as his heir his son Robert, (fn. 154) who having no children settled it in 1564 on his brother John. (fn. 155) In 1583 Robert and Thomas Hunckes, the sons of John, sold it to William Childe, the son of William and Anne, (fn. 156) from whose grandson and namesake it was bought in 1683 by Sir James Rushout, bart. (fn. 157) From that date until 1912 the property remained in the possession of the Rushout family. (fn. 158) On the death of Lady Northwick in May 1912 the property passed under the will of her late husband, the last Lord Northwick, to her grandson Mr. George Spencer-Churchill.
There were twelve mills attached to Blockley in 1086, (fn. 159) but it is not possible to trace the descent of more than half that number.
There is a mill now called Snugborough at the bottom of the slope on which the village is built which may possibly stand on the site of the 'mill in Blockley,' valued in 1364 at 10s. yearly. (fn. 160) This mill seems always to have been attached to the bishop's manor. In 1299 mention is made also of Frenismill, afterwards French Mill, (fn. 161) in 1383, of the mill called 'Peomull,' (fn. 162) and in 1506 of the fulling-mill. (fn. 163) There were two water corn-mills in Blockley in 1707. (fn. 164) The Chantry Mill in Blockley, which was probably the ancient Spina Mill (vide supra in Aston), belonged in 1375 to John of Blockley, who granted it to Henry Rose the chaplain and his successors. (fn. 165) At the dissolution of the chantry Edward VI gave the mill to Thomas Watson and William Adys and their heirs, (fn. 166) but it is difficult to trace its later history. There are still two disused silk-mills in Blockley village, the only traces now left of an industry which flourished here during the 18th century. The first of these was built by Henry Whatcot, who died in 1718, and by 1780 there were five mills working with great success, (fn. 167) but the trade has now entirely disappeared.
A water corn-mill is mentioned among the appurtenances of the manor of Middle Ditchford in 1376, (fn. 168) and this followed the descent of that manor until 1580 (fn. 169) and again from 1662 to 1821. (fn. 170) Possibly this was Bran Mill (Braundes Mill, xvi cent.), which now stands about three-quarters of a mile from the hamlet of Upper Ditchford and was leased to the Crown between 1587 and 1662. (fn. 171) Bran Mill was said to be attached to Draycott in 1634, (fn. 172) but there is no other mention of any mill in connexion with that hamlet.
Northwick Mill is first mentioned in 1227, when Robert de Northwick granted it in marriage with Maud his daughter to Roger de Draycott. (fn. 173) It subsequently followed the descent of the so-called manor of Northwick, (fn. 174) and was probably on the site of the present mill.
There is now a water corn-mill in Paxford known as Pye Mill which perhaps marks the site of a mill mentioned about 1182, when it was worth 10s., though its previous value had been 5s. only. (fn. 175)
Walter Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, in 1239 obtained from Henry III a grant of a yearly fair on the three days before the vigil of St. Michael and on the vigil and feast, (fn. 176) which was confirmed to his successor Giffard in 1270. (fn. 177) In 1286 mention occurs of another fair on the eve, day and morrow of St. Matthew and the five days following, which had already been granted to the Bishops of Worcester, presumably in extension of the grant of 1239, and was further extended over another eight days at Giffard's request. (fn. 178) The two fairs were thus amalgamated. By 1692 another fair seems to have been heid, (fn. 179) possibly that which is mentioned by Nash as taking place on the second Tuesday after Easter. (fn. 180) Both fairs were still held at the beginning of the 19th century, though the duration of the autumn one had apparently shrunk to one day, Michaelmas, and neither was of much importance except for the hiring of servants. (fn. 181)
The woodland belonging to the manor of Blockley was described at the time of the Domesday Survey as 'half a league in length and in width,' (fn. 182) but the date of its inclosure as a PARK is uncertain. Walter Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, obtained a grant of free warren in Blockley from Henry III in 1248, (fn. 183) and this grant was afterwards confirmed and extended. (fn. 184) His successor, Godfrey Giffard, who cared as little as Chaucer's monk for 'the text . . . that seyth that hunters ben nat hooly men,' seems to have been the first to stock the park with deer. (fn. 185) In 1277 he obtained for that purpose a gift from Edward I of twenty bucks and does from the neighbouring forest of Wychwood. (fn. 186) There is more than one reference to the deer kept in this park during the next three centuries, (fn. 187) but after the Reformation the stock seems to have been allowed to decline, though John Bell, Bishop of Worcester, in granting a lease of the park to Humphrey Talbot and Thomas Hungerford, made a condition that 100 deer should be inclosed. (fn. 188) After the death of Talbot, Hungerford assigned his interest to John Stevens, who seems to have conveyed the unexpired term of the lease to Oliver Dawbney, retaining the under-tenancy for himself. (fn. 189) John Stevens, however, while in possession of the lease, had failed to inclose the deer according to the terms of the agreement, and after the expiration of the year's notice, as provided in the lease, the bishop re-entered and granted a new lease to William Sheldon, (fn. 190) which was confirmed by the dean and chapter. (fn. 191) John Stevens was thereupon expelled by Richard Hecks, sub-lessee for five years under William Sheldon, and the park became the subject of proceedings in the Court of Chancery. (fn. 192)
John Stevens was still in possession of a moiety of Blockley Park in 1572 (fn. 193); this was afterwards leased for thirty-five years to John Talbot, who conveyed his interest in the lease together with property in Bromsgrove to William Sebright for £200 in 1574. (fn. 194) Talbot subsequently complained that the money was unpaid, and that Sebright had coaxed him into giving a release of the debt to be shown to Mistress Bowyer, on the plea that 'the said Mistress Bowyer was doubtfull of his estate and feared that he was indebted, and that if he might by any meanes satisfy her therein he was like to marry.' (fn. 195) This story was of course emphatically denied by Sebright, who declared that it was well known to Mrs. Bowyer, then his wife, that he was, long before his marriage, able to pay far greater sums. (fn. 196)
In 1587 a lease of Blockley Park, together with the site of the manor of Tredington, was granted to the Crown by Edmund Freke, Bishop of Worcester, (fn. 197) and the two estates subsequently followed the same descent (q.v. in Tredington) until the expiration of the lease in 1679. (fn. 198) The site of the park was afterwards leased to the Rushouts of Northwick in this parish, and was held by Sir John Rushout at the end of the 18th century. (fn. 199) The park has from that time followed the descent of the manor.
A free fishery in Blockley Park is mentioned in a lease of the 15th century, (fn. 200) and in later documents concerning the park. (fn. 201) There are still the remains of a fish-pond near Blockley Park Farm. Another fishery 'on the bank of the stream by Paxford' is mentioned in 1383. (fn. 202)
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL consists of a chancel 32 ft. by 18 ft. 6 in., north vestry 11 ft. by 12 ft., nave 58 ft. by 25 ft., north aisle 12 ft. wide by 71 ft. long, north and south porches and a western tower 14 ft. square. These measurements are all internal.
The church dates from about 1180, and work of that period still remains in the four walls of the chancel, and in the east, south and west walls of the nave. There was probably a contemporary western tower, the two eastern buttresses of which appear inside the west wall of the nave. The church apparently stood unaltered until the 14th century, though a note in the Worcestershire Episcopal Registers (fn. 203) records the dedication of a high altar in Blockley in 1285. About 1310 several alterations were made and enlargements begun. These included the insertion of the large east window and the widening of those on the south. The piscina and sedilia were inserted, a south priest's door built, and a new vestry added on the north side. This last dates from 1320, the upper part being a chantry for Ralph de Balleton. The north aisle, of the same length as the nave, with an arcade of four bays, was built about the end of the same century. Later on came the usual enlargement of windows, the middle one in the south wall of the chancel being an insertion of the 15th century. Those in the north walls, and perhaps the easternmost on the south side of the nave, were probably put in when the clearstories were added in 1636, although they are of rather good work for that date. The 12th-century south doorway was filled in with a square-headed one in the 15th century, the south porch being added in 1630. The western tower was pulled down in 1724, and the present structure built in the following year against the western wall of the nave. Somewhat later, probably about 1790, the east wall of the north aisle was taken down, the aisle being extended eastward to the vestry, as a chapel for the Northwick family. It was inclosed by an iron fence, recently removed. The last addition was the north porch, built in 1871.
The east window is of five lights with trefoiled tracery under a two-centred arch. There were three 12th-century windows on either side of the chancel; two of those in the north wall have been blocked, the easternmost alone remaining open. It is a round-headed single light, with widely splayed jambs, and an outer order, both within and without, of a quarter-round attached shaft, with moulded bases and carved foliage capitals of the late Norman type. The middle window is blocked to the face of the splay inside, so that the side shafts show, and the one to the west is blocked flush with the wall face, and has lost its eastern jamb. The middle window in the south wall has been displaced by a 15th-century insertion of three lights, with traceried head, under a four-centred arch, and elaborate mouldings. The other two windows, whilst retaining their 12th-century jambs inside, have been cut away on the outer face in the 14th century to form two-light windows with traceried heads and pointed rear arches. In each angle at the east end is a detached round vaulting shaft with carved capitals, of the 12th century, and between the two eastern windows on either side the upper portions of a second pair remain. They consist of three attached shafts, with elaborately carved capitals, separated by small rolls. About 6 ft. above the chancel floor is a horizontal string-course banding these shafts, and below it they have been cut away into conical points, probably in the 14th century.
The piscina and sedilia date from about 1310. The former has a trefoiled ogee head, and the latter three bays with plain ogee heads, all with crocketed labels and finials. In the north wall is a square aumbry about a yard wide and divided into four compartments.
The 14th-century south priest's doorway has a two-centred arch, and the north doorway leading to the vestry is similar. The wall behind this doorway, in the vestry, has been cut back, and is partly arched over. In the south-east corner of the vestry was the stone stair to the room above, but this has been closed up, and is now obscured by a cupboard. In the east and north walls are trefoiled lancet windows, apparently old, and in the west wall (now hidden by the wooden stair) is a small square aumbry with rebated edges. The upper chamber, approached by a modern stair, is lighted by a trefoiled lancet in the east wall and a modern two-light window on the north. The responds of the chancel arch belong to the 12th century. They consist of two square orders, with two half-round shafts on the inner face and detached shafts in the angles. The latter have been cut away about 6 ft. above the floor, probably to receive the Jacobean panelling below. The capitals are elaborately carved, each jamb differing in design. The two-centred arch is 14th-century work of three orders.
The nave arcade dates from about the year 1390. It is of four bays and has hexagonal piers with moulded bases and capitals. The arches are two-centred and of two chamfered orders, the inner being cut away to form an edge on the soffit like the angle of a hexagon; the unusual section of the arches and capitals may indicate a later date, and they are perhaps contemporary with the clearstory. In the eastern respond is a piscina for the original side altar with the basin and canopy cut away. The head is moulded and at the back is a small shelf.
There are three lower windows in the south wall; the first (from the east) is of three lights, with a square head, and is probably contemporary with the clearstory, the other two date from the middle of the 15th century and have three lights and traceried four-centred heads.
The south doorway dates from the 12th century with a 15th-century insertion. The earlier work has rebated jambs with detached shafts and foliage capitals. The arch is semicircular with a plain chamfered label and later head stops. The 15th-century doorway, which is flush with the inner order of the earlier work, has a two-centred arch in a square head, with traceried spandrels.
In the clearstory there are four windows on either side, each with three lights under a square head. Below the easternmost on the north side is the inscription 'AF AL 1635,' and under the one opposite 'AL TF 1636.' Between these windows on both sides are wide pilasters built on moulded corbels at the level of the window sills, and projecting from the face of each is a corbel about 3 ft. below the ceiling. These doubtless once supported the trusses of the former roof, which was replaced by a flat plastered ceiling, probably in 1702, when the Bishop of Worcester 'beautified the church.' At the west end below the gallery is a blocked doorway with rebated jambs of the 12th century, having detached shafts with scalloped capitals; the arch has been replaced by a pointed one. This was the entrance to the former tower, and on either side of it the shallow Norman buttresses of its east face still project into the church. The gallery at the west end is of Renaissance design and was put up in 1735. The west wall formerly supported the tower, but the later one was built up against it, the two walls being together 9 ft. 3 in. thick.
The easternmost window in the north aisle, of three plain square-headed lights, was inserted in the 18th century, when the aisle was extended eastwards. The second, third and fourth windows are of three lights under square heads, the lights of the second being ogee-headed. These, like the south-east window of the nave, are probably of the 17th century. The window in the west wall has been blocked up.
The 14th-century north doorway is of two continuous orders, with a two-centred head. In the upper part of the north wall is a range of clearstory windows, an unusual feature in an aisle; they appear to be of the same date as those to the nave and were evidently built to light a gallery. The windows are of two lights each, the easternmost differing somewhat from the other three.
Of the two porches the northern was built in 1871, but the southern dates from 1630. It is embattled and pinnacled, with a round-headed outer doorway (on which is inscribed the date), and above it is a sundial.
Some 12th-century work has apparently been re-used in the west doorway and in a square-headed light in the south wall. The west window has a semicircular head and the belfry windows are of three lights, of which the centre one is blocked.
Externally the 12th-century shallow buttresses still remain on the south side of the chancel and inclosing the eastern angles. Between and flush with them, below the parapet, is the original corbel tabling of pairs of small half-round arches between moulded corbels. It is carried along both side walls and round the vestry, where it appears to be partly old work re-used and partly 14th-century imitation.
The 12th-century moulded plinth is also copied in the 14th-century work. The east wall and part of the north wall of the chancel were rebuilt in 1838 with the old materials. The parapet of the chancel is plain and bears an inscription recording its erection in 1738. The walling is of rough-coursed ashlar with dressed quoin stones.
There is a fine 15th-century oak screen across the chancel arch, consisting of five bays on either side of a central doorway, which has a two-centred cusped arch. The details are somewhat thin in appearance, and it has been varnished in recent times; the carved work at the top was added in 1870. The chancel fittings are modern, but around the walls is some panelling of the 17th century, which is also the date of the carved oak pulpit.
There are two monumental brasses in the chancel, one on the floor to Philip Worthim, M.A., who died in 1488, with a small figure of a priest kneeling in eucharistic vestments, and a scroll above. Engraved on the slab is a chalice, and a small plate of the Virgin and Child is missing. The second brass, to William Neele, vicar here and rector of Bourton-on-the-Water, who died in 1510, is set in the back of the sedilia and consists of a small figure of a priest with the inscription and portions of scrolls. There are said to be the remains of another brass, undated, to William Jombhaste, rector of Stretton on the Fosse. In front of the two blocked north windows are modern mural monuments to Lord Northwick and his daughter.
At the east end of the north aisle is a large monument to William Childe and Elizabeth his wife, 1633 and 1622, with kneeling figures, and next to it, on the east wall, is a triple arcade of modern date inclosing monuments to members of the Rushout family of Northwick dating from 1698 to 1878. (fn. 204) On the north wall is another monument to William Childe, said to have died in 1601, with an armed kneeling figure and shields of Childe, Gules a cheveron ermine between three eagles close argent, impaling Folliott and Childe impaling Jeffereys. East of it is a monument with the reclining figure of a lady, to Anne Jenkinson, wife of Thomas Childe of Northwick, who died in 1659. To the north of the chancel arch is another to Edward and Maria Carter, 1667 and 1675, and on the south wall are others of later date.
The communion plate comprises two cups and patens, two flagons, a plate and an almsdish, all given in 1732 by Elizabeth Countess Dowager of Northampton; also a plate given by Elizabeth Martyn of Upton Wold in 1706.
The church of ST. JOHN at Aston Magna, erected in 1846, consists of a chancel, nave, west tower and south-east porch, which serves as a vestry. The design is Early English in character, the materials being stone and the roofs slated.
There was a church at Blockley in 1086, served by a priest who held 1 hide of the manor. (fn. 205) The living was in the gift of the Bishop of Worcester, and was a valuable one. In 1279, (fn. 206) when the rector, Gregory of Caerwent, died at the Papal Court, (fn. 207) the pope granted the presentation for that turn to the Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 208) Giffard thereupon made a heated protest, declaring that he had himself received an indulgence to exercise the patronage, (fn. 209) but a few weeks later he gave way and instituted the archbishop's nominee. (fn. 210) In this case, however, residence was enforced, (fn. 211) and when the living fell vacant in 1291 the bishop was able to present his kinsman William Greenfield, afterwards Archbishop of York. (fn. 212) Greenfield resigned in 1294, and Giffard then gave the living to Piers de Escote, who, though not a kinsman, had been a member of his household. (fn. 213) Escote died at Rome in the following year, 'procurando ecclesias episcopi fieri prebendales contra commodum ecclesie Wygorniensis,' (fn. 214) according to the monks of Worcester, who evidently considered his death an awful warning. Giffard was then trying to make the churches of his patronage, including Blockley, prebendal to the college of Westbury-on-Trym, (fn. 215) but the prior and convent appealed against it, stating that they had always possessed the right of instituting rectors to those churches during a vacancy of the see and the bishop's action deprived them of the privilege. (fn. 216) It does not, however, appear from Giffard's register that Escote was sent to Rome on this mission; the only correspondence between them concerns a dispensation for the rector's illegitimacy. He had allowed himself to be ordained without saying that such a dispensation was necessary, and the bishop having discovered this wrote reproaching him 'that so, by withholding the truth,' he had obtained orders. (fn. 217) The letter betrays a gentleness of which Giffard is not often suspected, but the writer was obviously very anxious about the consequences of Escote's action; he hinted that the affair must be kept as secret as possible, lest the living should 'rightfully be reputed vacant' and the papal chaplains clamour for it. (fn. 218) Escote in reply acknowledged that he had not been regularly ordained, and declared that he would never lay claim to the living if Giffard chose to give it to another, but the bishop declined to take this advantage, (fn. 219) and Escote ultimately obtained from the pope not only his dispensation but a recognition of his position as rector. (fn. 220) His death in the summer of 1295 threw the patronage once more into the hands of the pope, (fn. 221) and for the next fifty years the living was filled by a succession of non-resident foreigners. (fn. 222) In 1333 Adam Orlton, then Bishop of Worcester, petitioned John XXII for leave to appropriate Blockley Church to the episcopal income, and a licence was granted to take effect on the resignation of the Bishop of Porto, then rector. (fn. 223) It was not until 1352 that the vicarage of Blockley was ordained, (fn. 224) but after this date there was no further interference with the bishop's patronage there. (fn. 225) The advowson still belonged to the Bishop of Worcester in 1904, but passed in the following year from the Bishop of the newly created see of Birmingham to the vicar of Bromsgrove, the present patron, in exchange for the advowson of Moseley and some of the other churches in the Birmingham part of the old parish of Bromsgrove. (fn. 226)
Aston Magna was formed into a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1847. (fn. 227) The living is a vicarage in the gift of Lord Redesdale.
A chantry was founded about 1314 in the parish church of Blockley in honour of the Blessed Virgin by William de Ditchford and Ralf de Baketon, who gave lands in Middle Ditchford, Northwick and Blockley for the maintenance of the chaplain. (fn. 228) This endowment proved insufficient, and further lands were granted by Baketon in 1324 (fn. 229) and by John de Blockley in 1356 and 1375. (fn. 230) The right of presenting a chantry priest belonged to the incumbent of Blockley, or if the living were vacant to the bishop. (fn. 231) The yearly value of the chantry lands at the time of the Dissolution was £9 2s. 6d. (fn. 232) The property was granted to Thomas Watson and William Adys in 1549, (fn. 233) but after this date its history becomes obscure.
Habington says that there was a chapel of St. Michael besides St. Mary's chantry. (fn. 234)
Stretton on the Fosse (co. Warwick) was formerly a chapelry annexed to Blockley, but in 1351 the parishioners there obtained from Bishop John Thoresby leave to bury their dead at Stretton on account of the distance from Blockley Church, to which burials had previously belonged. (fn. 235) Bourton on the Hill, Moreton-in-Marsh and Batsford formerly buried at Blockley and still paid mortuaries there in the 18th century. (fn. 236)
— It appeared from the church table that Erasmus Saunders, D.D., vicar of the parish, erected a new schoolhouse in 1715, to which Jane Croft, by a codicil to her will, gave £3 yearly for clothing and 10s. yearly for buying Bibles for the children. The sums are paid out of the Northwick estate. The same table also mentioned that Goddard Carter, by his will dated in 1723, gave £10 yearly out of his estate in Upton Wold for the school; also that Mrs. Mary Carter gave £100 for the school and for buying books for the poor. This gift is represented by £194 7s. 1d. consols with the official trustees, arising from the sale in 1899 of cottages and gardens, formerly the site of the workhouse, towards the building of which the £100 had been applied.
The official trustees also hold a sum of £154 3s. 11d. consols, representing two legacies of £50 each by wills of Mrs. Ann Martyn, 1727, and Mrs. Elizabeth Martyn, 1747. They also hold £200 consols left by will of Ann Boughton and £103 7s. 2d. consols left by will of Mrs. Lucy Russell, proved at Worcester 15 September 1858.
—Richard Perkins, who died in 1710, by his will directed £400 to be laid out in land, the rents to be applied in clothing aged or impotent poor or children of the poor who were regular attendants of the parish church. The legacy was laid out in the purchase of 9 acres or there abouts at Mickleton, county of Gloucester, producing £28 a year. The net income is applied in the distribution of coats for men and gowns for women.
Elizabeth Countess of Northampton, who died in 1750, left to the parish £200 to be disposed of as her brother Sir John Rushout, bart., should think proper. The legacy remains as a charge on the Northwick estate, in respect of which twenty two-penny loaves were distributed every Sunday morning.
In 1909–10 twenty women received 5s. each, 12 tons of coal were distributed at a cost of £13, and the remainder, after payment of 12s. 4d. to the vicar and churchwardens of Aston Magna in respect of Mrs. Russell's charity, was applied in coals, blankets, quilts and sheets.
1. William Boughton, will, in or about 1831, trust fund, £297 18s. 2d. consols, income to be applied primarily in repair of tablet to be erected in the church to the memory of testator's sister and himself, surplus for the poor.
2. Admiral Sir Edward Collier, K.C.B., founded by codicil to will proved at London 29 October 1872, trust fund, £323 17s. 9d. consols, dividends to be applied during the term of 100 years from the day of testator's decease in the distribution of coal or other necessaries at Christmas.
3. Mrs. Elizabeth Sperry, will proved at Gloucester 19 March 1873, trust fund, £108 16s. 11d. consols, dividends to be applied, subject to repair of her husband's tomb and tablet in the church, in the distribution of blankets or warm clothing at Christmas.
The several sums of stock are held by the official trustees, producing together in annual dividends £20 13s. 4d., of which £2 10s. was in 1909 paid to the vicar and churchwardens of Aston Magna for distribution, 5s. in cleaning tomb and the remainder in the distribution of coal and clothing for the poor.
—Under the Inclosure Act, 1772, 10 a. 3 r. 21 p. was awarded to the vicar and churchwardens in lieu of certain lands mentioned on the church table as given for the reparation of the church. The land is let at £24 15s. yearly.