A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The parish of Elmley Castle lies in the south-east of the county. It is watered by an unnamed tributary of the Avon and has an area of 2,062 acres, of which 717 acres are arable, 1,792 permanent grass, and 184 wood. (fn. 1) The parish lies to the north of Bredon Hill, the southern part of it being on the hill at about 900 ft. above the ordnance datum. To the north the ground falls to 200 ft. The soil is clay and the subsoil Lower and Middle Lias. The chief crop is beans. There are stone quarries on Bredon Hill. (fn. 2)
The village of Elmley Castle is situated about 5¼ miles south-west of Evesham at the foot of the northern slopes of Bredon Hill, on an outlying spur of which is the site of the ancient castle. The church stands on the east side of the existing Elmley Castle, the churchyard adjoining the park. At the fork of the road a little to the north of the church is the base and stem of a cross, probably of late 14th-century date. A square sundial appears to have been substituted for the cross in the first half of the 17th century. Upon the stem is carved in Roman characters 'A. DOM. MCXLVIII,' an obvious error, by the omission of D after the M, for 1648. In the village is some good half-timber work, including the building now used as the village hall. A cottage, now the police-station, may be of the 14th century.
The signboard of the Queen's Head Hotel contains portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the then lord of the manor William Savage and his wife, who received the queen on her visit to the village on 20 August 1575. (fn. 3) The painting, which is modern, is much above the usual level of sign-painting.
There is no Inclosure Act for Elmley Castle. Netherton was annexed to Elmley Castle for ecclesiastical purposes in 1864. (fn. 4)
Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London (1540–59), was born at Elmley Castle. (fn. 5)
Place-names occurring in deeds relating to Elmley Castle are Pychweye (fn. 6) (xiv cent.); Wyndemulle-furlong, Wodeyate, (fn. 7) Edmundes Place Beauchamp (fn. 8) (xv cent.); Wormastall, Worrall, Puppy's Parlour, Fiddler's Knap (xx cent.).
Elmley Castle, which stood on the summit of a hill in the deer park to the south of the village, is supposed to have been built by Robert le Despenser, brother of Urse the Sheriff. (fn. 9) After the castle at Worcester fell into decay Elmley was for a time the chief seat of the Beauchamps, and it followed the same descent as the manor of Elmley Castle (q.v.) until the death of Thomas Byrche Savage in 1776. The house and park went to his widow, who sold them to Richard Bourne Charlett, at whose death in 1822 they were purchased of his executors by Colonel Thomas Henry Hastings Davies, M. P. for Worcester. (fn. 10) He died in 1846 without issue, leaving the estate to his widow for life, then in succession to his two brothers, Warburton, who died in 1870, and General Francis John Davies, who died in 1874. Colonel Davies's widow married Sir John Pakington, afterwards Lord Hampton, and died in 1892, when the castle passed to the present owner, Lieut.-General Henry Fanshawe Davies, J.P., D.L., son of General Francis John Davies. (fn. 11)
In 1216 the king committed the custody of Elmley Castle to Walter de Lacy, Hugh de Mortimer and Walter de Clifford to keep while Walter de Beauchamp went to the Papal Legate to obtain absolution for his lapse from fidelity to the king. (fn. 12) In 1298 the castle was found to be in need of much repair, (fn. 13) and after the death of Guy de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick in 1315 it was in such a bad state as to be valued at only 6s. 8d., evidently a nominal valuation, as in another survey taken at the same time it was said to be worth nothing. (fn. 14) The castle was granted by the king to the executors of Guy's will in 1315–16 on condition that they should not grant it to any other without the king's licence. (fn. 15) The custody of the castle was, however, taken from them and granted to Hugh le Despenser the elder about 1317. (fn. 16) In November of that year Hugh was ordered to fortify it, (fn. 17) and to put in twenty fencible footmen to be retained at the king's wages until further orders. (fn. 18) Hugh le Despenser having been banished in 1321 the Sheriff of Worcester was ordered to take the castle into the king's (fn. 19) hands, and to cause it to be safely guarded and to make an inventory of the arms and victuals and other goods contained in it. (fn. 20) Later in the same year Elmley Castle was taken by the rebel barons under Humphrey de Bohun Earl of Hereford, and suffered considerable damage. (fn. 21) It is not known whether it underwent a siege, but the gates and some of the houses were burned and many of the defenders slain. (fn. 22) Peace having been restored, order was given in 1322 to the keeper of the castle to disband the extra menat-arms placed there during the war. (fn. 23)
Some slight repairs were made in the castle in 1413 and 1425, (fn. 24) and again in 1480 and 1492. (fn. 25) William Adams was appointed keeper and Thomas Brugge steward in 1478, the castle being then in the hands of the king on account of the minority of Edward Earl of Warwick. (fn. 26) Sir John Savage, the younger, received a grant of the constableship in 1488. (fn. 27) In 1528 the castle seems to have been still habitable, for Walter Walshe was then appointed constable and keeper, (fn. 28) and ten years later Urian Brereton succeeded to the office. (fn. 29) In 1544, however, prior to the grant to Sir William Herbert and Christopher Savage, a survey was made of the manor and castle of Elmley, and it was found that the castle, strongly situated upon a hill surrounded by a ditch and wall, was completely uncovered and in decay. (fn. 30) Leland writing at about this time says, 'Ther stondithe now but one Tower, and that partly broken. As I went by I saw Carts carienge Stone thens to amend Persore Bridge about ii miles of. It is set on the Tope of a Hill full of Wood, and a Townelet hard by.' (fn. 31)
Of the fabric of the ancient castle, which stood on the summit of the hill about half a mile to the south of the existing building, only a very small amount of masonry, probably forming part of the keep wall, remains. The outer and inner ditch and the site of the barbican can be distinctly traced.
The present mansion of Elmley Castle is a large stone Elizabethan (fn. 32) house of two stories with gabled attics. The plan seems to have been originally E-shaped, but in 1702 the house was entirely remodelled and the character of the plan transformed by filling the arms of the E with brick additions, the south or garden front being refaced with brick to harmonize in appearance with the new building. At the same time large sash-windows were substituted for the original mullioned openings, one or two of which still survive in the attic story and in the cellar. The finest feature of the house is the handsome staircase hall added at this period to the south of the entrance hall. The ceiling is a particularly good example of Queen Anne plaster work. The stairs are of oak with twisted balusters supporting the hand-rail. The east wing contains the principal apartments, and the panelling, where not replaced by later work, dates from the 1702 remodelling. The drawing room at the south end of this wing has been increased to its present size by the removal of a partition. In the southernmost of the two rooms out of which it has been formed Queen Elizabeth is said to have slept when she visited Elmley Castle. Between the drawing room and the dining room is a small room called the cedar parlour from the panelling of this material which lines its walls. At the side of the doorway opening from the hall to the staircase was originally an entrance to a secret chamber or hiding hole which can now be entered from one of the first floor bedrooms. The kitchen and offices are in the west wing, which retains some original 16th-century detail, including a stone fireplace with moulded jambs and a four-centred head, and a small external doorway now partly masked by a brick porch.
The PARK at Elmley, which belonged to the lords of Elmley Castle, was possibly made about 1234, for in that year Walter de Beauchamp received from the king a gift of ten does and three bucks for stocking his park at Elmley. (fn. 33) In 1298 the wood in the park was worth 4s. yearly. (fn. 34) Thomas de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick complained in 1349 that several persons, including Robert de Amyas, parson of the church of Great Comberton, had hunted in his free chase at Elmley Castle and carried away deer. (fn. 35) The park was enlarged about 1480 by the addition of part of the demesne land of the manor called Court Close. (fn. 36) In 1478 William Adams was appointed keeper of the park and warren at Elmley Castle. (fn. 37) In 1480 John Mortimer was appointed master of the game in Elmley Park, (fn. 38) and in 1484 John Hudelston succeeded to this office, (fn. 39) but it was granted in the following year to Richard Naufan, and in 1488 to Sir John Savage. (fn. 40) Henry VIII appointed Sir John Savage and his son John Savage keepers of the park and warren in 1512. (fn. 41) Walter Walshe was appointed keeper in 1528. (fn. 42) He died in 1538, and Thomas Evans (fn. 43) and Rowland Morton both wrote to Cromwell asking for his aid in obtaining the position, the latter saying, 'if it please the King by your Lordship's mediation to prefer me, I and mine shall stand balanced in also et basso, live and die in your Lordship's retinue.' He also begs credence for his messenger 'and will give your Lordship £20.' (fn. 44) Neither of these suppliants received the post, which was granted to Urian Brereton. (fn. 45) The park was included in the sale to Christopher Savage, (fn. 46) and remained in his family until 1822, when it was sold with the castle to Colonel Thomas Henry Hastings Davies. It now belongs to Lieut.-General Henry Fanshawe Davies, J.P., D.L.
Elmley Castle was the caput of the Worcestershire honour of the Beauchamps. The chief part of the honour descended to them from Urse the Sheriff, but Elmley Castle came to them from Robert, Urse's brother. The honour seems to have consisted of the land which Urse held of the Bishop of Worcester in 1086, (fn. 47) and was held in 1166 (fn. 48) and in the 13th century (fn. 49) by the Beauchamps for fifteen knights' fees. The manor (fn. 50) and castle were included in the honour (fn. 51) and followed the same descent. A rent roll of the honour in 1698 is preserved at the British Museum. (fn. 52) When the castle was purchased by Colonel Davies he revived the claim to chief rents due to the honour, which had been allowed to lapse. The owners of most of the manors compounded and their lands were enfranchised.
The court of the honour of Elmley seems to have been held at Worcester in the 14th century, for in the inquisition taken on the death of Guy de Beauchamp in 1315 it was said that the pleas and perquisites of the court of the castle of Worcester called the court of knights pertained to the manor of Elmley. (fn. 53)
King Offa is said to have granted the land of two manentes in ELMLEY to the Bishop of Worcester in 780, (fn. 54) and the overlordship of the manor remained with the see of Worcester (fn. 55) until the middle of the 15th century. (fn. 56) In 1478–9 the manor was said to be held of the king in chief. (fn. 57)
Brihteah, Bishop of Worcester (1033–8), gave the vill of Elmley to a certain servant of his, but Bishop Lyfing, his successor, restored it to the monastery. Later, however, on the entreaties of his friends, he gave it to Aegelric Kiu, one of his knights, to hold for his life only, with reversion to the monastery. (fn. 58) 'After the death of Kiu, it was restored to the monastery and one Witheric was bailiff, but Robert le Despenser, the brother of the sheriff, with the authority of the King took it away from the monastery.' (fn. 59) This Robert held 4 hides in the manor of Cropthorne, evidently representing the manor of Elmley, (fn. 60) at the date of the Domesday Survey. He died without issue, and the manor of Elmley Castle passed to the Beauchamps, the heirs of his brother Urse D'Abitot, the Sheriff of Worcester. Emmeline daughter and heir of Urse married Walter de Beauchamp, (fn. 61) who is mentioned as the owner of these 4 hides in an early 12th-century survey of Oswaldslow. (fn. 62) He was succeeded in 1129–39 by his son William. (fn. 63) For his zeal in the cause of the Empress Maud William was dispossessed of his lands by King Stephen, but was afterwards restored to them. His son William succeeded him in 1170, (fn. 64) and dying before 1211 (fn. 65) was followed by his son Walter, a minor. (fn. 66) In 1211 Roger de Mortimer gave 3,000 marks for having the wardship of Walter de Beauchamp and the custody of his lands, and married Walter to his daughter. (fn. 67) Walter de Beauchamp seems to have taken the part of the barons against John for a short time in 1216, but made his peace with the king in August of that year. (fn. 68) He died in 1235, and in the following year the king took the homage of his son William for the estates in Worcestershire. (fn. 69) In 1254 this William obtained from the king a grant of a weekly market on Wednesdays at Elmley and a fair for three days at the feast of St. Leonard in the summer. (fn. 70) He married Isabel daughter of William Mauduit and sister and heir of William Mauduit Earl of Warwick, (fn. 71) and dying in 1269 was succeeded by his son William de Beauchamp, (fn. 72) who had previously inherited the earldom of Warwick from his uncle. (fn. 73)
In 1275 Bishop Godfrey Giffard renewed the suit against the Beauchamps, which had been begun by Walter de Cantilupe, alleging that they held the assize of bread and ale at Elmley Castle without authority, and claiming the redress of sundry other grievances. (fn. 74) In 1279 the decision of the arbitrators was given in favour of the bishop. (fn. 75)
This William de Beauchamp died in 1298. (fn. 76) His son Guy did homage for his father's lands in October 1298, (fn. 77) and died 10 August 1315, leaving as his heir his eldest son Thomas, then aged two years. (fn. 78) Thomas Earl of Warwick was knighted in January 1330 and had livery of his lands in the following year. (fn. 79) He conveyed this manor among others to trustees for the payment of portions to his daughters after his death. (fn. 80) He was marshal of the army in France in 1346 and distinguished himself at Crecy and at Poitiers in 1356. He died at Calais in November 1369 and was succeeded by his second but eldest surviving son Thomas. (fn. 81) The latter was arrested for treason and imprisoned in the Tower in 1396, and his estates were forfeited. (fn. 82) In August 1397 the manor of Elmley Castle was granted to Thomas Lord le Despenser. (fn. 83) In September of that year Thomas was created Earl of Gloucester, and the manor was confirmed to him under that title. (fn. 84) Thomas Earl of Warwick was, however, reinstated in all his possessions on the accession of Henry IV, and died in 1401. (fn. 85) The manor of Elmley was held by his widow until her death in 1406–7, when her son Richard succeeded. (fn. 86) In 1423 the manor was settled on him and his second wife Isabel le Despenser Countess of Worcester. (fn. 87) He died in April 1439, and on the death of Isabel in the following December Elmley Castle passed to their son Henry, aged fifteen years. (fn. 88) In 1444 he was created Premier Earl of England, and advanced to the dignity of Duke of Warwick in the following year. He is supposed to have been crowned King of the Isle of Wight by Henry VI. (fn. 89) He died 11 June 1446, when the dukedom and the male line of this branch of the family expired, but his other honours devolved on his only daughter Anne Countess of Warwick, then aged three years. (fn. 90) She died an infant in 1448–9, and the manor of Elmley Castle passed to her aunt Anne, the wife of Richard Nevill Earl of Salisbury. (fn. 91) After his death at the battle of Barnet in 1471, Elmley Castle was settled on his daughter Isable wife of George Duke of Clarence, the right of his widow Anne being ignored. Isabel died in 1476, (fn. 92) and Elmley Castle was held by her husband until his death on 4 March 1478. (fn. 93) Edward his son and heir being a minor the castle and manor passed into the king's hands. (fn. 94) In 1487, however, Anne Countess of Warwick obtained an Act of Parliament for her restoration to the Warwick estates, but this seems only to have been done to enable her to convey them to the Crown, (fn. 95) for in the same year she surrendered the manor and castle of Elmley with the other Warwick estates to Henry VII. (fn. 96) The manor remained in the king's possession until 1544, (fn. 97) when it was sold by Henry VIII to Sir William Herbert of the Privy Chamber and Christopher Savage. (fn. 98) The grant included the lordship and manor, castle and park, of Elmley Castle, the water of the Avon beside Peryforde, from Cropthorne Field to le Lytle Neytesende and thence to the lower end of Peryforde Meadow, and thence as far as Chalforde, with all 'lez neytes' pertaining to the said water and free fishery in it, a parcel of land called 'le Nocke' beyond the Avon, the site of the manor of Elmley otherwise called the lodge of Elmley Park. (fn. 99) On 6 November 1544 Sir William Herbert quitclaimed his share of the manor to Christopher Savage, who died on 23 November 1545, leaving a son and heir Francis Hardwyk Savage. (fn. 100) The latter died August 1557 and was followed by his eldest son William Savage. (fn. 101) William Savage died 7 August 1616, (fn. 102) when the estate passed to his eldest son Sir John Savage. He on 15 June in the following year settled the manor on his brother Giles in tail-male with contingent remainder to another brother George and his son William. Sir John Savage died without issue at Elmley Castle on 2 April 1623 and was succeeded by his brother Giles, who died 31 January 1631–2. (fn. 103) Thomas son of Giles raised a troop of horse for Charles I at the beginning of the Civil War, being then only seventeen years old and a ward of the king. He deserted, however, on the publication of the Declaration of Grace and lived at his mother's house near Tewkesbury. When the county committee came to Worcester he compounded for his estate and gave them £100 for the support of the garrison of Evesham. He came before the Committee for Compounding on 29 November 1645, and it was proved that his corn, barns and other houses had been burnt in September by soldiers from Evesham and that he was £600 in debt. Nevertheless he was fined £1,500 on 4 June 1646. His fine was reduced to £1,487 on 30 October 1649. (fn. 104) The estate remained with the Savage family (fn. 105) until 1742, (fn. 106) when Thomas Savage died without male issue and left the manor to his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret. (fn. 107) Some litigation followed, but under an Act of Parliament in 1743 (fn. 108) the manor of Elmley Castle went to Thomas Byrche son of Elizabeth. (fn. 109) He assumed the name of Savage, and dying in 1776 without issue left the manor to his widow Dorothy and afterwards to Robert Clavering, the eldest son of Jane, his youngest sister. (fn. 110)
Robert Clavering took the additional surname of Savage, (fn. 111) and was succeeded by his son also Robert Clavering Savage, who sold the manor to his tenant and agent Mr. Moore, of whom it was purchased about 1867 (fn. 112) by Joseph Jones of Oldham. From him it passed to his heir John Joseph Jones in 1880. (fn. 113) He was succeeded by his cousin William Jones, and on the death of Frederick William son of the latter in 1910 the manor passed to his brother Arthur, the present owner, (fn. 114) who, however, claims no manorial rights.
In 1298 there were two mills at Elmley Castle, one water-mill and one windmill. (fn. 115) Fisheries between the banks of Nassebrook and Burne are mentioned as belonging to Guy Earl of Warwick in 1315. (fn. 116) The mills are not again mentioned in deeds relating to the manor, but a fishery in the Avon belonged to Elmley Castle in 1646. (fn. 117) The site of Castle Mill is still to be seen near the ruins of the castle, and there are two water-mills at Elmley Castle at the present day.
A hide of land at KERSOE (Criddesho, viii cent.; Crideshoth, xii cent.; Creddeshey, xv cent.) was given with Elmley by King Offa in 780 to the church of Worcester. (fn. 118) It evidently followed the descent of Elmley Castle, (fn. 119) being part of that manor in the 15th century. (fn. 120) It was granted with Elmley in 1544 to William Herbert and Christopher Savage, (fn. 121) and apparently followed the same descent until 1822, when under the name of 'the manor of Kersoe' (fn. 122) it occurs for the last time.
At the Dissolution the Abbot of Westminster was receiving a fee-farm rent of £17 6s. 0¾d. from Elmley and the neighbouring parishes of Bricklehampton and Comberton. (fn. 123) It was perhaps paid by the lords of Elmley Castle for his tenants at Bricklehampton and Little Comberton in the abbot's fee. (fn. 124) The fee farm was granted in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. (fn. 125) This rent has not been traced later.
'A manor of Elmley,' which has not been identified, was granted by Queen Mary to the refounded abbey in 1556–7, (fn. 126) and by Queen Elizabeth regranted to the dean and chapter in 1559–60. (fn. 127) It was sold in 1650 among many other of the dean and chapter's manors to Cheney Colepeper of Hollingbourne, co. Kent, (fn. 128) and then seems to have formed part of the manor of Binholme in Pershore. It was restored to the dean and chapter on the accession of Charles II, and is mentioned among their possessions in 1690, being then leased with Bricklehampton and Comberton at a rent of £16. (fn. 129)
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel 25 ft. by 16 ft., nave 57 ft. by 19½ ft., north transept 20 ft. deep by 16½ ft. wide, north aisle to the west of it, 9 ft. 10 in. wide, and south aisle 10 ft. wide, a north porch, and a western tower 18½ ft. wide by 14 ft. deep; all the measurements are internal.
The church dates from a very early period, the walling of the chancel, which was shorter than the present one, belonging to about the end of the 11th century. The plan at that time consisted simply of nave and chancel, and doubtless much of the original stonework remains in the present nave, though many of the carved stones belong to 12th-century alterations. The first addition of which there is any definite evidence took place early in the 13th century, when the unusually wide tower was erected at the west end of the nave, which may have been lengthened at the same time. About 1340 the church was considerably enlarged, the north transept and the south aisle being added. The chancel also was lengthened by some 5 ft., evidently to form a narrow vestry behind the high altar. The north aisle was an addition of the latter part of the 15th century, the earlier transept arch being retained as the easternmost bay of the arcade and a cross arch constructed in place of the west transept wall. At the same time a new column was substituted for the first pier in the south arcade and the top stage was added to the tower, a new west door and window being inserted. In the early part of the 16th century the transept was heightened and new windows inserted to form a chapel for the Savage family, the alterations amounting practically to a rebuilding. The north porch underwent considerable repair in the first half of the next century, and it is not improbable that the western half of the south aisle was rebuilt in 1629, the date inscribed upon a stone between the two westernmost windows in the south wall. To the same date belongs also the embattled parapet of the north aisle. Prattinton, who wrote in 1817, mentions a semicircular end to the chancel; it was probably an 18th-century addition and has now been removed. The chancel was restored in 1863, when the east wall was rebuilt, a new roof put up, and new tracery inserted in the side windows. The round chancel arch, which is said to have been of wood, was rebuilt at the same time. The chancel also underwent a general restoration in 1878, when the nave and aisles were re-roofed.
The modern east window, put up by Lieut.-General Davies to the memory of his parents and brothers, is of three lights with a traceried head; a 14th-century doorway opening into the former vestry behind the altar is now walled up, and traces remain of a corresponding door in the south wall. The first of the two windows on the north is of two lights under a traceried two-centred head; the second also has two lights with a quatrefoil over; the tracery and mullions of both are modern, but the jambs are old, those of the easternmost dating probably from the early 15th century, while those of the western window appear to be of the 14th century. The two windows on the south side correspond in all respects with those opposite. Between these windows and visible on both sides of the wall is the herring-bone work of the late 11th century, and at the west end of the south wall is a short length of plinth course. The chancel arch is modern and springs from corbels. In the east wall of the nave flanking it are niches for figures; the one to the south is complete with its square head, but of the other only the lower parts of the jambs remain.
The nave arcades each consist of four bays. The first bay on the north side has a square jamb on the east with a 14th-century pointed arch of two chamfered orders dying on it. The rest of the arcade is of late 15th-century date and has octagonal columns with simple capitals and bases and pointed arches of two chamfered orders. The arches on the south side are similar to the first bay on the north, but the first column is octagonal and similar in detail to the later work opposite. The second and third piers and the western respond are square, the arches dying on them, and the east respond is dispensed with. The rood stair formerly existing in the angle of the north transept and the nave has been removed, but the blocked doorways remain. The east and north windows of the transept are both 16th-century insertions, though not quite contemporary. The former, which was of five lights, is now blocked by the large tomb of the first Earl of Coventry (fn. 130); the north window has three lights with sunk spandrels under a flat head. The transept has an embattled parapet both to its side walls and to the low north gable. In the aisle wall west of the transept is a raking stone showing the position of the former steep gabled roof. The cross arch towards the aisle, which stands somewhat east of the line of the transept wall, belongs to the 15th-century work and springs from the first column of the arcade. The two north windows and the west window of the north aisle are all original and have three lights with feathered tracery in a square head. The entrance doorway between the two north windows has a two-centred drop arch, and is evidently a 14th-century doorway removed here from the former nave wall. The porch has in its west wall a diminutive and almost shapeless light. The outer doorway has continuous mouldings and a semicircular head with a moulded label. Set in the side walls are many 11th and 12th-century stones carved with various beasts, foliage, and diapering.
The porch is strengthened by diagonal buttresses, and its parapets, with those of the aisle, are embattled with continuous copings; above the porch doorway is a small trefoiled niche. Set in the aisle wall below the string are two gargoyles with grotesque human and animal figures.
The east window of the south aisle is a 15th-century insertion of three lights under a pointed traceried head. To the north of it outside is a shallow buttress, above which can be seen the quoined angle of the original nave. In the south wall of the aisle is a small ogee-headed piscina of 14th-century date the bowl of which has been cut away. The first window on the south is a later insertion with three lights under a square traceried head. The second window appears to be contemporary with the aisle and has two narrow lights with a quatrefoil above them, the jambs being of two chamfered orders. The third window is modern, and the fourth, of two lights under a pointed head, appears to be an insertion of the 16th or 17th century. Between the last two windows is a stone inscribed 1629 F.F.
The tower is of three stages with a pointed tower arch of two chamfered orders springing from moulded abaci. The respond of the inner order is corbelled back to the face of the jambs a little below the level of the abacus. It is evidently part of the original early 13th-century tower, as is also the small lancet window in the south wall. The west doorway and window above it are 15th-century insertions. The doorway has a two-centred drop arch with a moulded label, and the jambs are of two orders. In the north and south walls of the second stage are large 13th-century lancet windows now filled in. The third stage or bell-chamber is lighted by transomed windows of two lights in each wall, with a quatrefoil above them in a pointed head. The parapet is embattled and has grotesque gargoyles at the angles. The walling of the lower part of the tower is of small rubble with wide jointing, and the third stage is ashlar faced.
The walling of the church generally is of rubble, varying in the different parts of the building. Besides the herring-bone work in the chancel wall the other parts of the earlier work are of uncoursed rubble. In the east gable of the nave are several ancient carved or worked stones. The parapets generally are of ashlar. The roofs are all gabled and modern.
The font has a 13th-century square base carved with four dragons around a circular stem. The bowl dates from about 1500, and is octagonal, with plain panels inclosing shields carved with the Five Wounds, the rose, feathers, a portcullis, a trefoiled leaf with a bar on the stem, an indented fesse, and a ragged staff. In the pewing of the south aisle are four turned legs, which probably belonged to the 1637 communion table mentioned in the churchwardens' accounts. There are also four standards for misericordes. A large number of 16th-century pews with moulded rails remain in use. An old stone bowl now in the transept was brought from a farm at Kersoe.
In the north window of the transept are two pieces of old glass; one is a panel inclosing the arms of Westminster, and over it is a crowned rose, party palewise red and white, a royal badge of the Tudors. In the south-east window of the south aisle are a few other old fragments, including a crowned red rose and the quartered lilies and leopards of France and England.
In the transept are two large monuments. The first is an alabaster altar tomb, with a black marble slab on which rest the three recumbent effigies of William Savage, Giles Savage, who died in 1631, and his wife Catherine. The latter holds the figure of a posthumous daughter. At their feet are the kneeling figures of their four other children. On mural slabs above the tomb are placed the inscriptions, arms, &c. The second large monument, against the east wall, is to the first Earl of Coventry, who died in 1699; it is of Renaissance design, and has a white marble effigy of the earl reclining on his elbow under a canopy of the same material, supported on Ionic columns flanked by large allegorical female figures. In the cleft pediment are the Coventry arms and crest with allegorical figures at the sides. The monument, which was refused admittance to Croome D'Abitôt Church by the second earl, was erected by the countess dowager, who in 1700 married Thomas Savage of Elmley Castle. On the south wall of the chancel is a mural monument to Anne daughter of Sir Richard Fetyplace, 1609; and another, opposite, to E. G. died 1668, has Corinthian capitals and a broken pediment, but has lost its columns. An undated slab in the floor commemorates William Ganderton. In the north aisle below the second window is a tablet to Elizabeth wife of Thomas Harper, vicar of Elmley, who died in 1609.
Mention may be made here of the curious sundial which stands in the churchyard; it is a square pillar, on the south face of which is the dial above a carving of the Savage arms in a shield of ten quarters as they appear on the tomb in the north transept.
The bells are six in number: the first a treble of 1700; the second cast by Henry Farmer, 1619; the third with the inscription 'Eternis annis,' &c. (upon this bell are the heads of a king and queen) (fn. 131); the fourth by Matthew Bagley, 1686; the fifth an old bell, said to have been of 1556, recast in 1886; and the sixth a tenor bell of 1620.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1665 to 1740; (ii) baptisms and burials 1741 to 1812 and marriages to 1754; (iii) marriages 1754 to 1812. There are also some old churchwardens' accounts and some 17th-century papers found in the church in 1817, which include inventories of church goods and property. In the inventory of 1633 among the churchwardens' accounts are mentioned 13 dozen and 2 organ pipes, also a silver flagon, and in 1637 a new rail for the communion table is mentioned; there is also note of repair to the tower in 1666.
The advowson of the church of Elmley Castle evidently belonged to the lords of the manor in early times, (fn. 132) for in 1308 Guy de Beauchamp granted it to his newly-founded chantry in the chapel of the castle of Elmley. (fn. 133) Licence was given for this gift, although it was found that it would be to the king's damage, because in case of forfeiture or during a minority the presentation would belong to the king. (fn. 134) In the following year the church was appropriated to the warden and chaplains of the chantry, (fn. 135) and the vicarage was ordained in 1312. (fn. 136) The vicar was presented by the warden of the chantry. (fn. 137) In 1530 an inquiry was made as to the advowson of Elmley, which was found to belong to the warden of the chantry. John Brereton, then warden, had apparently neglected the interests of the parishioners. (fn. 138) The chantry was surrendered to Henry VIII in May 1545, (fn. 139) and the advowson of the church with the rectory was granted in that year to Sir Philip Hoby. (fn. 140) In 1558, however, the advowson was granted to Richard Pates, Bishop of Worcester. (fn. 141) On the accession of Elizabeth Pates was deprived, but the rectory was granted to his successor Edwin Sandys in part compensation for certain manors which the queen retained. (fn. 142) This grant seems to have included the advowson of the church, for presentations have since that time been made by the Bishops of Worcester. (fn. 143)
There was also a chapel in the castle of Elmley, and in 1308 Guy de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick founded there a chantry of eight chaplains and four clerks. In addition to the advowson of the parish church of Elmley he endowed this foundation with a rent of £20 from the manor of Childs Wickham, co. Gloucester, (fn. 144) but this proved insufficient to meet the needs of the chaplains, and in 1311, though the rectory of Elmley had been added to the endowment in 1309, it was found necessary to reduce the chantry by one priest and two clerks. (fn. 145) The chantry was under the care of a master or warden appointed by the lords of Elmley, (fn. 146) and the warden had the power to admit and remove the chaplains. (fn. 147)
In 1463 Richard Nevill Earl of Warwick obtained licence to grant land to the value of 20 marks to the warden of the chantry to find an additional chaplain, (fn. 148) and George Duke of Clarence gave the manor and advowson of Naunton Beauchamp. (fn. 149) In 1536 the chantry was valued as 'the Rectory of Elmley' at £55 13s. 3d. clear. (fn. 150) It was surrendered by the warden Robert Bone in 1545, (fn. 151) and all its possessions were granted in the same year to Sir Philip Hoby. (fn. 152) In 1546 Sir Philip was in controversy with William Tattersall, lessee under the late warden, as to the chantry lands. (fn. 153) The mansion-house, which had belonged to the warden, was granted to Sir Ralph Sadleir by Henry VIII, but he surrendered it to Edward VI in 1547. (fn. 154)
The chantry with the mansion was granted in 1564 to Anthony Daston and Anne his wife, widow of Francis Savage of Elmley, for their lives, with remainder to William Savage and his heirs. (fn. 155) Anthony died in 1572, and Anne granted her interest for a term of years to Richard Daston and Thomas Savage of Nobury. (fn. 156) William Savage died seised of 'the chantry of Elmley called Le College' in 1616, (fn. 157) and it then followed the same descent as the manor, with which it seems soon to have become incorporated. (fn. 158)
A parcel of land given for the maintenance of lamps and lights in the church of Elmley Castle was valued in 1549–50 at 3s. 4d. (fn. 159) This or another estate given for the same purpose was valued in another survey at 7s. 4d., 2s. 4d. being set aside for the poor. (fn. 160)
In 1821 Richard Bourne Charlett—as stated on the church table—by his will left £100, the interest to be paid annually to poor persons not on the parish books. The legacy was lent on the security of certain lands in the parish of Claines, into which the trustees entered into possession and eventually sold. The proceeds, with accumulated rents, were invested in £260 8s. consols with the official trustees, producing £6 10s. yearly.
—The church table further stated as follows:—'One land in King's-hedge Furlong, in the Fields of Elmley Castle, one land in a Furlong called Crowel; one land and four leys in a field called Bartlett's Field, in Bricklehampton, the donor out of memory.'