A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The parish of Crowle is bounded on the south and west by Crowle Brook, a tributary of Bow Brook, which runs from north to south through the centre of the parish. Its area is 1,735 acres, (fn. 1) of which 481 are arable, 895 are permanent grass, and 104 acres are woodland. (fn. 2) The land rises from the Bow Brook in the east to a height of over 200 ft. above the ordnance datum near the western boundary. The subsoil is Lower Lias, and the chief crops are wheat and beans.
Habington, in his Survey, says of the village of Crowle that it 'lyethe between the vale of Evesham and the woodland, deep in the one and warme by the other.' (fn. 5) The church is at the south end of the village, which extends for about a quarter of a mile northwards along the road from Broughton Hackett. This road then joins that leading westwards to Worcester and eastwards in the direction of Himbleton. Here are the green and the Chequers Inn, a modernized building of little interest. There is some half-timber work in the main street of the village, which possesses no remarkable features.
Crowle Court, the manor-house of the Priors of Worcester, was destroyed about 1864. It was surrounded by a moat, still remaining, and is supposed to have been built in the 13th century and rebuilt on the old foundations shortly before Prior Moore's time. It included a chapel and tithe-barn. A portion of the house remained in 1868 and was then used as a cider-house. (fn. 6)
Habington mentions a coffin found in Crowle 'made of a Burford stone beeinge the best of England and covered with the same lyinge Southe and Northe whearein weare the bones or rather dust of a man uppon a sheete of leade and sheetes of leade by his sydes with an earthen pychar at hys heade, hys stature not extraordinary for the coffin was little more then syx foote in lengthe, but hee excelled in authority who was not onely interred in leade but allso in a stony coffyn brought from Burford in Oxfordshyre. This greate personage was by all lykelihoode a Dane.' (fn. 7)
Five mansae at CROWLE were given to Eadberht, Bishop of Worcester(822–46), by Beortulf, King of Mercia. (fn. 10) The boundaries of these five mansae extended from Crohwella to Maidenbridge; from there all round Snoddeslea to Hymelbrook; from Hymelbrook to Honeybourn and thence to Godinges boundary at Bredicot; thence to the drain (sice) at Crowle Wood and from that drain to Oddingley Wood; along the old inclosure place (aldan geard stelles) to Huddington boundary and thence east to Crohwell. (fn. 11) Bishop Eadberht bestowed this estate upon the priory of Worcester. (fn. 12)
As has already been remarked, the reference to the boundary of Goding's land shows that these boundaries cannot be contemporary with Beortulf of Mercia. The language of the charter is very inflated—too inflated to be easily assigned to this early date—and the terms of the grant are not easily reconciled with the reference to Crowle made in a grant of undoubted authenticity issued a few years earlier. In 836 King Wiglaf of Mercia granted certain liberties to the monastery of Hanbury. Gifts of land were made by the Bishop of Worcester to the king and to two ealdormen who obviously would suffer from the grant of immunities to Hanbury. In particular Mucel the ealdorman, otherwise described as Mucel the son of Esne (Mucel Esninz), received 10 hides at Crowle. (fn. 13) This fact is of great interest, for this Mucel may fairly be identified with the father of Ealdorman Æthelred, surnamed Mucel, whose daughter married King Alfred. We thus obtain a hint as to the local position of the Gaini over whom the second Mucel was ealdorman, a standing crux in old English topography. It is only reasonable to assume that the second Mucel succeeded to the same ealdormanry as his father, and that Hanbury lay within the latter's government. Later evidence (fn. 14) connects the family with the Severn valley. It is natural to conclude that the territory of the Gaini included part of the later Worcestershire. (fn. 15)
During the rule of the Danes Crowle was divided into two parts, of which Simund, a Dane by birth, and a thegn of Earl Leofric, held one, (fn. 16) the other being apportioned to the support of the monks of Worcester. Simund, coveting the monks' portion, harried it, was impleaded for doing so, and finally at the entreaty of Earl Leofric obtained it for his life from Prior Ethelwine, agreeing to serve the monastery in expenditions by land and sea and to pay annually some pecuniary acknowledgement or a horse to the prior. (fn. 17) This service seems to have been transferred to the Bishop of Worcester, for in the Domesday Survey it is stated that Simund had rendered for the manor service and geld to the bishop, and could not transfer his services. (fn. 18) It seems not improbable that the priory, by this grant to Simund, lost the manor, for it is said to have been given to them by Bishop Wulfstan. (fn. 19)
In 1086 the monks of Worcester held 5 hides at Crowle as a berewick of their manor of Phepson. (fn. 20) Attached to this manor was a salt-pan at Droitwich worth 3s., and woodland half a league long and 1 furlong wide, lying in the king's forest. (fn. 21) Though the monks of Worcester seem at this time to have been overlords of the manor and still were in the time of Henry I, (fn. 22) it afterwards became separated from Phepson, and was annexed in the reign of Henry II to the bishop's manor of Northwick, (fn. 23) the monks once more losing their rights of overlordship. Successive bishops continued to be overlords until the middle of the 14th century, the overlordship being mentioned for the last time in 1336. (fn. 24)
Under the priory of Worcester the manor was held in 1086 by Roger de Lacy. (fn. 25) Roger was banished in 1091–2 and succeeded at Crowle by his brother Hugh. (fn. 26) In the Domesday Book of the bishopric (temp. Henry II) Hugh de Lacy, probably grandnephew of Roger and Hugh above named, was tenant immediately under the bishop, (fn. 27) but since that time the Lacys' interest in the manor has not been traced.
Under the Lacys Crowle was held in 1086 by one Odo. (fn. 28) His interest had passed before 1182 to Hugh Tirel, who then held the manor under Hugh Lacy. (fn. 29) In 1194 Eudes Tirel paid 5 marks for having judgement in the king's court against Roger Tirel for a knight's fee in Crowle. (fn. 30) Richard Tirel held the estate early in the 13th century, apparently immediately of the Bishop of Worcester, (fn. 31) and in 1213 Richard son of Roger Tirel gave a palfrey for having a 'precipe' against Richard Tirel for a knight's fee in Crowle. (fn. 32) At about this time the manor must have passed to Stephen Devreux, whether by descent or by a grant from the Crown is not known, for in 1214 Stephen obtained licence to assart 40 acres in his wood of Crowle. (fn. 33) This grant was perhaps made to Stephen in recognition of his services with the king in Poitou. (fn. 34) In 1214 he was acquitted of scutage for one fee which he held of the Bishop of Worcester in chief. (fn. 35) In 1228 Stephen's lands were taken into the king's hands until it could be found who rightfully held the custody of them. (fn. 36)
In 1240–1 William Devreux acknowledged that 2 carucates of land in Crowle were the right of Joan Devreux and her heirs. (fn. 37) From this it seems possible that Joan was an heiress of the Tirels and the widow of Stephen Devreux. In 1299 John Siward held the manor in right of Joan Devreux his mother, (fn. 38) and in 1304–5 it was settled on John and his wife Joan. (fn. 39) Joan widow of John Siward held the manor as dower in 1324–5, and it was in that year settled on John son of Richard Siward and his wife Olive and their heirs with contingent remainder to the heirs of Olive. (fn. 40) It was probably this Olive who as the wife of Peter Nevill conveyed the reversion of the manor of Crowle Siward (fn. 41) after the death of Joan wife of John Siward to Thomas de Evesham and John de Bransford in 1335. (fn. 42) In the same year Thomas and John obtained licence to grant this reversion to the Prior and convent of Worcester, (fn. 43) the licence of the bishop, as overlord, being obtained in the following year. (fn. 44) For this the prior and convent granted to the bishop a pension of a mark yearly from the manor of Tibberton, (fn. 45) and inserted his name in their Martyrology, and promised to keep his anniversary with mass and chant in their quire. (fn. 46)
The manor remained in the possession of the prior and convent (fn. 47) until 1536, when it was granted to William Moore, Prior of Worcester, on his resignation of the office. (fn. 48) In the valuation of the priory lands taken in 1535 the clear value of this manor was given as £16 8s. 5d. (fn. 49) After the dissolution of the priory in 1540 this manor was granted in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. (fn. 50) This grant was confirmed in 1609, (fn. 51) and the manor remained in the possession of the dean and chapter until 1650, when it was sold by the Parliamentary commissioners to Major Richard Salwey. (fn. 52) He and his wife Anne conveyed the manor in 1655 to Richard Sturt and John Woolfe, (fn. 53) and in 1657 and 1658 Richard Gilman and his wife Hester conveyed it to John Okey. (fn. 54) At the Restoration the lands of the dean and chapter were restored to them, and this manor was confirmed to them in 1692. (fn. 55) It remained in their possession until 1859, when it was taken over by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, (fn. 56) who are now lords of the manor.
The manor of FROXMERE COURT or CROWLE HACKETT.
—At the date of the Domesday Survey a second holding in Crowle, which in the time of King Edward had belonged to Chetelbert, was held by Urse under Osbern Fitz Richard. (fn. 57) This was doubtless the manor of Crowle, held, as mentioned above, by Simund the Dane, who is probably to be identified with Simon, who had preceded Osbern Fitz Richard at Shelsley. (fn. 58) It was assessed at 5 hides, and attached to it were a burgess and two salt-pans, probably at Droitwich.
Osbern Fitz Richard's interest in the manor followed the same descent as the manor of Wychbold in Dodderhill to the families of Say, Mortimer, Talbot and Lucy, by whom it was held as part of the honour of Richard's Castle, and is last mentioned in 1428. (fn. 59) It is possible that before this date the sub-tenancy of the manor lapsed, and it was held by the overlords in demesne. (fn. 60) In 1593 the manor was said to be held of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. (fn. 61)
In 1086 Urse was tenant of the manor under Osbern Fitz Richard. (fn. 62) His interest passed to his descendants the Beauchamps, (fn. 63) but their rights of overlordship seem to have lapsed after 1309.
The Poers seem to have been intermediary tenants early in the 13th century between the Beauchamps and the Hackets, who held the manor in demesne, but their overlordship is mentioned only in the Testa de Nevill. (fn. 64)
William Hacket was a tenant under William de Beauchamp in 1166, (fn. 65) but it is not known whether his holding then included Crowle. Early in the 13th century Walter Hacket held the manor of Crowle, (fn. 66) and in 1233 he was pardoned for the death of Adam de la Kersonera. (fn. 67) Walter sold part of the wood of Crowle in 1237 to the monks of Worcester Priory, (fn. 68) and in 1240–1 his widow Margery gave woodland at Crowle to the brethren of the hospital of St. Wulfstan in Worcester. (fn. 69) William son of Walter Hacket with the consent of his wife Alice gave to the Prior and convent of Worcester all his wood in Crowle called Northwood, lying between Oddingley Wood and Huddington Wood. (fn. 70) In 1300 Walter Hacket obtained a grant of free warren in his demesne lands of Crowle. (fn. 71)
This is the last mention of the Hacket family in connexion with the manor, which may perhaps have lapsed to the overlords soon after this time, for John Talbot was said to be holding it in 1346, (fn. 72) and no mention is made of any sub-tenant. His daughter Elizabeth wife of Sir Warin Archdekne held a fee at Crowle at the time of her death in 1407–8, (fn. 73) and again no sub-tenant is mentioned, and her son-in-law Sir Walter Lucy held it in 1428. (fn. 74) In 1431, however, an eighth of a knight's fee at Crowle Hackett was held by John Froxmere of Droitwich, (fn. 75) and it was evidently from him or his descendants that the manor took the name Froxmere Court, by which it was subsequently known.
From this time until 1575 documents relating to this manor are wanting, but it probably passed from John Froxmere, who died without issue, to his brother Thomas, (fn. 76) who left daughters as his co-heirs. This manor passed to the eldest daughter Anne wife of Edward Cockett of Ampton. (fn. 77) Her eldest son Anthony died in her lifetime, and on her death a disagreement arose between her grandson and heir, Arthur son of Anthony, and his uncle, her younger son Thomas, as to the division of her estate, and the dispute was not settled until 1580. (fn. 78) Each seems to have claimed half the manor of Crowle, for in 1575 Arthur sold half to William Banaster, (fn. 79) and in October 1579 Thomas Cockett sold his moiety to Arthur, (fn. 80) of whom it was purchased in November of the same year by William Penrice alias Glover of Crowle. (fn. 81) Banaster's moiety was purchased in 1584 by Richard Gardener, (fn. 82) who sold it in 1587 to William Penrice. (fn. 83)
The Penrices had been settled some time at Crowle, William Penrice, grandfather of the purchaser of Froxmere Court, having held a messuage called Tenburyes in the manor of Froxmere by demise of Anne Cockett. (fn. 84) William Penrice died in 1593, leaving a son Thomas. (fn. 85) Thomas and his son and heirapparent John conveyed the manor of Froxmere Court to John Green and John Blanchand in 1630, (fn. 86) and in 1655, after the death of Thomas Penrice, his son John conveyed it to Thomas Bridges and Hugh Phillips. (fn. 87) Both these conveyances were evidently made for settlements, for in 1662 John Penrice and his wife Susan sold the manor to John Holmden. (fn. 88) It passed in the Holmden family (fn. 89) until the death of John Holmden about the middle of the 18th century. He left two daughters, Elizabeth and Lydia, both unmarried in 1777. (fn. 90) This manor fell to the share of Elizabeth, (fn. 91) who appears to have married Rawson Parke, for in 1802 he and his wife Elizabeth conveyed the manor of Froxmere Court to John Exley. (fn. 92) In 1813 they made a further conveyance of the manor to William Welles. (fn. 93) Froxmere Court afterwards passed to Colonel Clowes, who died there about 1868, when the estate passed under his will to his niece, who married Captain Castle, (fn. 94) the father of Captain Norton C. Castle, the present owner of the manor. (fn. 95)
The hospital of St. Wulfstan in Worcester obtained land at Crowle from various donors. Walter Hacket of Crowle gave a virgate and a half of land, Stephen son of Hugh de Crowle gave a virgate of land in Crowle, and another virgate there, being one of two which his father pledged to the hospital. Hugh (fn. 96) son of Nicholas de Crowle gave 3 virgates in Crowle, and Emma de Hales gave all the land which she purchased of Henry son of Herce in Crowle. Hamo the Hunter gave a rent of 4s. and Baldwin Hacket a rent of 2s. in Crowle. The date of none of these gifts is known, but they were all confirmed to the hospital by the king in 1232. (fn. 97) These possessions, and a further gift of woodland in Crowle made by Margery widow of Walter Hacket in 1240–1, (fn. 98) subsequently became a manor held by successive masters of the hospital until the Dissolution. (fn. 99) In 1406–7 it was held, for the service of one knight, of Margaret widow of Thomas Earl of Warwick. (fn. 100) In 1535 the property of the hospital at Crowle was valued at 119s. (fn. 101)
The manor was confiscated by the Crown on the dissolution of the hospital in 1540, (fn. 102) and granted in June of that year to Richard Morrison, a gentleman of the privy chamber. (fn. 103) The grant was renewed in 1541, (fn. 104) but was surrendered in 1544, when another was made to him with the rents reserved in the previous grants. (fn. 105) Morrison sold the manor in the same year to John Combers, (fn. 106) who died in 1550, (fn. 107) being succeeded by his son John, to whom livery was made in 1553. (fn. 108) On his death in 1588 the manor passed to his son Edward, (fn. 109) who died in 1597, leaving as his co-heirs three daughters, Joyce wife of John Garner (afterwards of Francis Cornewall), Anne and Elizabeth. (fn. 110) The manor had, however, been entailed in 1590 upon the heirs male of Edward and his brothers, (fn. 111) and though in May 1601 two parts of the manor were delivered to Joyce and Anne, (fn. 112) their sister Elizabeth having died in 1598, (fn. 113) the manor passed under the entail to Thomas brother of Edward Combes. He died seised of it in 1609, and was succeeded by his son William. (fn. 114) William sold the site of the manor and capital messuage of Crowle with closes called Commanders. Furlong, Fryer Jennings, Nineland and the Wincey to Thomas Penrice of Crowle, (fn. 115) and this estate subsequently descended with the manor of Froxmere Court. (fn. 116) William Combes and Katherine his wife and Thomas Combes conveyed the manor in 1620 to Sir Thomas Bigg, bart., and John Savage, (fn. 117) but this conveyance was perhaps made only for a settlement, for William Combes presented to the church, whose advowson was appurtenant to this manor in 1621. (fn. 118) He must have sold the manor at about this time to William Keyt, for he presented to the church in 1622. (fn. 119) The manor then descended in the Keyt family in the same way as the manor of Church Lench until 1727. (fn. 120) It was sold in that year by William Keyt, bart., to Thomas Gem. (fn. 121) The further descent of the estate is not known: its site is perhaps marked by the present Commandry Farm at Crowle.
There was a mill worth 2s. in the manor of Crowle held under the monks of Worcester in 1086. (fn. 122) In 1220–1 Peter de Wick built a mill at Crowle, and with his pond swamped the land of Hugh de Crowle. (fn. 123) There are now no mills in Crowle.
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST (formerly dedicated to St. Peter) consists of a chancel, north and south transepts, nave, west tower, and a north porch. The porch, a magnificent example of late 14th-century timber work, alone survives of the fabric of the original building, which was entirely rebuilt between the years 1881 and 1885. A remarkable marble lectern of the late 12th century, locally said to have come from Pershore Abbey at the time of the Dissolution, and a fine 15th-century font have also been preserved, while parts of the old windows have been reset in the modern walls.
Portions of the mullions and tracery of the three-light east window of the chancel appear to be original and to date from about 1300. The external label and sill-string, with their leaf stops, are also partly original. The north-east window is of two coupled cinquefoiled lights. The head and mullion are original and probably contemporary with the east window. The south-east window, also of two lights, is entirely modern. Modern segmental arches open into the two transepts.
In the east wall of the north transept is reset a 15th-century piscina head with plain spandrels contained within a square. Portions of the three-light north window are original 15th-century work, and the jamb and mullion of the two-light west window are of similar date. The windows of the south transept are the most perfect of the re-used work and preserve their original rear arches. All have two-centred heads, and appear to be of late 14th-century date. The south window is of three lights, with tracery of an early vertical character. The east and west windows are each of two lights, with an elongated quatrefoil in the head.
Of the two windows in the north wall of the nave the eastern is entirely modern, while the western window has remains of early 14th-century work in the tracery. In the south wall all three windows are modern. The original early 15th-century tower arch has been reset, and is of two chamfered orders. The responds are hollow-chamfered, and their plain bell capitals fit them very ill. The modern tower is of three stages, and is crowned by an embattled parapet, both belfry and ringing stage being lighted by two-light traceried windows. On the east wall, above the apex of the nave roof, is an elaborate niche with a trefoiled head, crocketed and finialled, and small pinnacled flanking buttresses, all apparently reset work of the 15th century. Parts of the three-light west window of the ground stage appear to be of the same date, but the tracery is entirely modern.
The north porch, which measures internally 8 ft. by 7 ft., is a fine specimen of late 14th-century carpentry. At about half their height the corner posts are cut back to receive curved pieces, which form two-centred arches at the entrance and against the north wall of the nave. These pieces brace the cambered collars resting on the corner posts. Out of the lower part of the side plates are formed the trefoiled ogee heads and pierced and foliated spandrels of the eight open lights which occupy the upper half of each side wall. The lower half is filled by four square panels, which with the mullions of the open lights have been renewed. Framed on to the collar above the entrance arch, and forming a sort of key, is a large block of wood carved with an Annunciation. The bargeboards are enriched with semicircular foliations, culminating in an ogee at the apex of the gable. The ceiling is divided into four main compartments by richly moulded ribs with carved bosses at their intersections. Each main compartment is further subdivided into six by subordinate hollow-chamfered ribs. The porch has been very carefully restored and re-erected on a stone basement.
The most remarkable survival from the original church is the marble lectern. The desk is formed of a large block of blue-grey marble, sunk to receive the book. The front and sides are sculptured with a conventional vine, springing on each face from the mouth of an inverted lion's head. In the centre of the front is a bearded figure, with the knees bent forward, holding with both arms to the vine. The desk is supported by a central and four angle-shafts, all of the same diameter, with foliated capitals of Romanesque character. The shafts are modern and the moulded bases have leaf-spurs at the angles and rest on a common plinth. The 15th-century font has an octagonal bowl supported by a stem of the same form. The sides of both have traceried panelling, the cardinal faces of the stem being the most elaborated.
In the west window of the north transept are some fragments of 15th-century glass. The only perfect piece is a shield—Gules a saltire argent within a border sable charged with stars. The other fragments include two crowned female heads.
There is a ring of eight bells. The first three were cast by Barwell of Birmingham, who rehung the whole peal in the year 1887. The remaining bells are inscribed as follows: the fourth 'lesvs be our good speed 1667'; fifth.'All prayse and glory be to God for ever 1667'; sixth 'Soli deo gloria pax hominibvs 1667'; seventh 'Iohn Manley Henry Prescott churchwardens 1667'; eighth 'Francis Reynolds vicar of Crowle William Wagstaffe assistant 1667 Iames Reynolds.' All these bells are stamped with a heart-shaped shield, with a bell in the middle and the founder's initials I.M.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) mixed entries 1539 to 1640, with fragmentary entries to 1661 (fn. 124); (ii) mixed entries 1663 to 1751; (iii) baptisms and burials 1752 to 1812, marriages 1752 to 1754; (iv) marriages 1754 to 1812.
The church of Crowle was evidently originally appurtenant to the manor known as Crowle Siward, for the advowson was granted to the hospital of St. Wulfstan in Worcester by Stephen Devreux, a grant confirmed in 1232 by the king, (fn. 125) and it subsequently followed the same descent as the manor in Crowle held by the hospital of St. Wulfstan until 1727, (fn. 126) when it was sold by Sir William Keyt to Thomas Gem. It apparently passed from him to George Gem, who presented to the church in 1749. (fn. 127) Edward Pearce presented in 1770 (fn. 128) and Richard Harrison in 1798 and 1803. (fn. 129) Edmund Pearce was patron in 1817, (fn. 130) and the Rev. Richard Harrison presented in 1822. (fn. 131) The advowson passed in 1845–6 from him to Edwin Crane, (fn. 132) who sold it in 1854 to A. H. Green, (fn. 133) and he in 1861 to W. H. Woolrych. (fn. 134) His representatives made the presentation in 1889, (fn. 135) but in 1892 they sold the advowson to the Rev. James Stephenson, (fn. 136) from whom it passed in 1896 to the Rev. John Bamber, (fn. 137) who is now the owner.
The date of the appropriation of the church of Crowle to the hospital of St. Wulfstan is not known, but it had taken place before 1289. (fn. 138) The rectory followed the same descent as the advowson (fn. 139) until 1727 or later. In 1802 and 1813 it belonged to Rawson Parke and Elizabeth his wife, owners of the manor of Froxmere Court. (fn. 140)
By an undated charter Baldwin de Akeny and Joan his wife gave to the church of St. Mary, Worcester, and to the prior and convent there, a yearly rent of 2s. from their manor of Crowle, for keeping a light before the tomb of St. Wulfstan. (fn. 141)
1. The parish lands, which are recorded on a stone upon the north wall of the church, now consist of 19 a. called Towthan Land, allotted under the Inclosure Act in exchange for the lands so recorded. They are let at £27 10s. a year, and the official trustees hold a sum of £166 5s. 8d. consols in trust for this charity.
The scheme directs that the income of the parish lands shall be applied in equal shares for the maintenance of the fabric of the church, the repair of highways and support of provident clubs. In 1910 the sum of £8 6s. 6d. was applied for each of those purposes, and gifts were made to twenty-one widows and spinsters and to ten men.
The charity of Caleb Baylis, founded by will proved at Worcester 11 March 1889, consists of £101 15s. 7d. consols with the official trustees, the annual dividends, amounting to £2 10s. 8d., being applicable in the distribution of bread on St. Thomas's Day.