A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The parish of Church Lench lies on the eastern border of the county. The parish includes the hamlets of Ab Lench or Hob Lench, (fn. 1) Atch Lench and Sheriff's Lench, the first being a chapelry of Fladbury until 28 December 1865, when, for ecclesiastical purposes, it became part of Church Lench. (fn. 2) The Whitsun Brook flows northward and then westward through the parish, and the land gradually rises from the valley of this stream, which near the western boundary of the parish is 154 ft. above the ordnance datum. Sheriff's Lench is 378 ft. above the same level. Church Lench has an area of 2,572 acres, of which, in 1905, 1,321 acres were arable land, 1,130¼ permanent grass and 90¾ acres woodland. (fn. 3) Ab Lench includes 884 acres. The subsoil is lower lias clay, the surface clay and sand. Farming is the chief occupation; wheat, barley and beans are grown.
17th-century place-names are: Hommeangswicke, Golden Butts, Hippitts, Woodcocke Thorne Coppice, Balloe Hill. (fn. 6)
It is stated in the Evesham Chronicle that CHURCH LENCH formed part of the gift made by Kenred of Mercia in 708 to Evesham Abbey, (fn. 7) but Church Lench is not mentioned in the grant as given in the Harleian Manuscript. (fn. 8) A grant of five 'manentes' at Lench was made to the abbey by King 'Eadward' of Mercia between 860 and 865. (fn. 9) No such king is known, and the charter is an obvious forgery. Church Lench seems to have been afterwards alienated, as Abbot Mannig (1044–54) is stated to have recovered this township for his church. (fn. 10) His successor, Æthelwig II, is also said to have acquired at great cost certain lands, among them Church Lench, from 'King Edward and other good men.' (fn. 11) In 1086 it was held by the abbot and convent in demesne, (fn. 12) but it was shortly afterwards granted by Abbot Walter (1077–86) to Urse d'Abitot the Sheriff of Worcestershire 'for service' for the term of his life only. (fn. 13) His heirs, the Beauchamps, apparently retained it, however, as a survey of the lands of the abbey of Evesham, the probable date of which is about 1150, states that William de Beauchamp, grandson of Urse, held 4 hides at Church Lench of the abbey. (fn. 14)
The rights of the Abbot of Evesham in the overlordship were recognized until the 13th century at least, when William de Beauchamp was said to be holding Church Lench by gift of Robert the Abbot. (fn. 15) After that time the rights of the abbot in the manor appear to have lapsed.
Under them the manor was held by the Roculfs, from whom Church Lench took the alternative name of Lench Roculf. (fn. 18) During the early part of the reign of Henry III it appears to have been held by Roger Roculf or Rotulf, who in 1229–30 conveyed certain land to Ellis son of Giffard. (fn. 19) About the same time the recently founded abbey of Halesowen received from him several grants in which he is designated 'lord of Church Lench.' (fn. 20) The property which the abbot and convent thus received appears to have afterwards become a distinct manor (q.v.), now the capital manor of Church Lench.
The Roculfs continued to hold the manor, and William Roculf paid a subsidy at Lench Roculf in 1280, (fn. 21) and in 1299–1300 he was in possession of the manor, (fn. 22) and was succeeded before 1315 by his son Thomas. It seems to have next passed to John Roculf, who in 1346 held the fourth part of a knight's fee there. (fn. 23)
The next mention of this property is in 1428, when Thomas Serchesdene held John Roculf's estate. (fn. 24) Thomas was still in possession in 1431. (fn. 25) After this time nothing is known of this manor, which may have become incorporated with Rous Lench, a manor also held by Thomas Serchesdene, or perhaps lapsed to the overlords, the Earls of Warwick, and became annexed to Sheriff's Lench.
The present' manor of CHURCH LENCH seems to have originated in land at Church Lench granted in the reign of Henry III by Roger Roculf, lord of Church Lench, to the abbey of Halesowen. (fn. 26)
In 1272–3 William Abbot of Halesowen conveyed a messuage and 3 carucates of land in Church Lench and a carucate of land in Ab Lench to Ralph de Hengham, afterwards chief justice of the Common Pleas, who was to hold the estate for life, with reversion to the abbot. (fn. 27)
No mention is made in Pope Nicholas's Taxatio of any property held in Church Lench by the Abbot and convent of Halesowen. The land and tenements granted by Roger Roculf appear to have been retained by them, (fn. 28) however, until in 1538 it was surrendered to the king by William Taylor, the last abbot. (fn. 29) It was granted in the same year to Sir John Dudley. (fn. 30) It was probably sold by him to William Scudamore, who died seised of it in 1560, when it passed to his son John. (fn. 31) He in 1596 settled the manor in tailmale on his son Sir James, with remainder to his brothers George and Roland. (fn. 32) Sir James died in 1619 in the lifetime of his father, leaving a son John, (fn. 33) who was created a baronet in 1620. (fn. 34) In 1627 he sold the manor to William Keyt, (fn. 35) who died seised of it 12 October 1632. (fn. 36) He left a son and heir John, who had livery of the manor of Church Lench in 1635. (fn. 37) He died in 1660, and was succeeded by his son John, who was created a baronet in 1662. (fn. 38)
Sir John Keyt was succeeded in 1662 by his son William, (fn. 39) who survived his four sons and died in 1702, when his estates passed to his grandson Sir William. (fn. 40) Sir William Keyt was burned to death at Norton, co. Gloucester, in September 1741, being supposed to have been a lunatic and to have set fire to the house, (fn. 41) and Nash states that the manor was then sold to Sir Dudley Ryder, (fn. 42) whose son Nathaniel, created Lord Harrowby in 1776, was the owner of it in 1779. (fn. 43) In 1793 John Callow and Ellen his wife conveyed 'the manor of Church Lench' to John Clarke. (fn. 44)
The Rev. William Chafy, D.D., of Sherborne, co. Dorset, master of Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge, purchased part of the manor about 1826, and more has since been acquired by his grandson the Rev. William Kyle Westwood Chafy, D.D., of Sherborne and of Rous Lench. (fn. 45) About a third of the manor was purchased by the Duc d'Aumale and on his death passed by will to the Duc d'Orleans. This part was sold in 1912 to Sir Charles Swinfen Eady.
SHERIFF'S LENCH (Lenche, xi cent.; Shyreveslench, xiv cent.; Shrewlenche, xvi cent.) is said to have been the Lench, Lench Bernardi or 'Lench Alnoth juxta Chadelbure' (Chadbury in Norton parish) asserted to have been given by Ethelbald of Mercia to the abbey of Evesham in 716, (fn. 46) but it must afterwards have been lost by the abbey, as it was among the lands recovered by Abbot Æthelwig (1070–7) from King Edward and other good men. (fn. 47) The manor comprised 4 hides and was acquired in moieties by Æthelwig; 2 hides he held in the time of King Edward and the other two he bought with the money of the church from Gilbert Fitz Turold with the permission of King William. (fn. 48) The Domesday Survey gives the additional information that the proceeds of the latter moiety of the manor supported one monk in Evesham Abbey. (fn. 49) It does not, however, agree with the chronicles of Evesham as to the acquisition of the other 2 hides, which are here stated to have been bought of King William for 1 mark of gold. (fn. 50) The whole manor was held by Abbot Æthelwig until his death in 1077, (fn. 51) when it was stolen from the church by Odo Bishop of Bayeux, who gave it to Urse the Sheriff. (fn. 52) It is difficult to decide to what period to assign the statement made in the Domesday Survey that Lench had been held as three manors, 2 hides being held by two thegns and two by a certain woman named Aelfgifu, (fn. 53) as in the Cotton MS. it is clearly stated that the church of Evesham held the manor in demesne after its acquisition by Æthelwig. (fn. 54)
In 1086 the manor of Sheriff's Lench was returned among the possessions of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, then in the king's hands. Urse was still sub-tenant, (fn. 55) and the Evesham Chronicle states that he held it 'contra Rotulum Winton' in the time of Abbot Walter towards the end of the 11th century. (fn. 56) In spite of the title to the manor, which the monks of Evesham had made out at the time of the Survey, they seem never to have recovered it from Urse, though they must evidently have extorted some acknowledgement of seignorial rights, for Urse's successors the Beauchamps recognized the Abbots of Evesham as their overlords. (fn. 57) Though the manor was said to be held for the service of half a knight's fee, 'because it was in the hands of the mighty it does nothing for the abbot except homage, and the men of Lench do suit at Blakenhurst.' (fn. 58) The abbot's overlordship is mentioned for the last time in 1316, and afterwards, though it was known that the manor was not held of the king in chief, it could never be discovered who was the true overlord. (fn. 59)
From Urse the manor passed to the Beauchamps, the hereditary Sheriffs of Worcester, and thus doubtless acquired its name Sheriff's Lench. It passed with Elmley Castle in the Beauchamp family until about the middle of the 13th century, when William de Beauchamp gave to his brother James the manors of Sheriff's Lench and Church Lench and the advowson of the church, with the exception of the land which he had given to Bartholomew de Sudeley. (fn. 60) By an undated charter James de Beauchamp granted Sheriff's Lench to his nephew William Earl of Warwick and Maud his wife, (fn. 61) and the manor descended with Elmley Castle (fn. 62) until it was granted in tail-male by Thomas de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick to his younger son William, afterwards Lord Bergavenny. (fn. 63) It then passed with Chaddesley Corbett (fn. 64) (q.v.) and was claimed with that manor by the co-heirs of Henry Duke of Warwick, and evidently assigned to Edward Earl of Warwick, who was attainted in 1499. (fn. 65) It was, however, like Chaddesley Corbett, granted by Anne Countess of Warwick to Henry VII in 1487–8. (fn. 66)
In July 1511 the manor was leased for forty years to George Throckmorton. (fn. 67) In November of the same year it was granted in fee to William Dineley of Charlton, (fn. 68) and this grant was confirmed in 1514, a rent of £5 a year being reserved to the Crown. (fn. 69)
From that time the manor followed the same descent as Charlton in Cropthorne (q.v.) to John Dineley. (fn. 70)
From deeds among the Prattinton Collection it appears that Sheriff's Lench was sold by a Mrs. Johnson towards the end of the 18th century to — Masefield, and that it afterwards passed to a Mr. Pulteney, who sold it to different owners, the greater part passing to a Mr. Stokes, who sold it to a Mr. Edwin, the owner in 1812. Half the manor was purchased about 1824 by the Rev. Dr. William Chafy, and the other half, including the old manorhouse, now called the Manor Farm, and about 500 acres of land, was bought of Mr. Winnall in 1873 by the Rev. William K. W. Chafy, D.D., who now owns the whole. (fn. 71) The manor-house is now undergoing restoration, but contains nothing of interest except a well-preserved dog-gate at the foot of the stairs.
By an undated charter, probably about 1253, William de Beauchamp granted to Bartholomew de Sudeley in free marriage with his daughter Joan 10 virgates of land and a messuage in SHERIFF'S LENCH, with reversion to the donor in case Joan had no children. (fn. 72) The manor, which was held of the lords of Elmley Castle by the service of a pair of spurs, (fn. 73) then followed the same descent as Fairfield in Belbroughton (fn. 74) until 1496, when the lands of Ralph Lord Sudeley were divided between Edward Belknap and Sir John Norbury. Sheriff's Lench was assigned to the former. (fn. 75) It was perhaps this manor which as 'the manor of Shrewlinche parcel of Warwick and Spenser's land' was granted in 1560 to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and his heirs. (fn. 76) Sir Nicholas left the manor in 1571 to his second son, Arthur Throckmorton, (fn. 77) and in 1596 he and his wife Anne were in possession of it, (fn. 78) but nothing further is known of the estate.
The sacrist of Evesham Abbey held an estate at Lench during the 13th century, and before 1206 had purchased of the commoners of Lench the right to assart certain common land there. (fn. 79) In 1206 he held 3½ hides of land at Lench. (fn. 80) In the Subsidy Roll of 1280 this estate is called 'Lenche Sacriste de Evesham' and the Abbot of Evesham paid a subsidy of 22s. there. (fn. 81)
ATCH LENCH (Eccheslenc, viii cent.; Eacesleinc, Achelenz, xi cent.) was given to the abbey of Evesham by Kenred son of Wulfhere, King of Mercia, in 708, (fn. 82) and like Church Lench was afterwards alienated but recovered by Abbot Æthelwig II (1070–7). (fn. 83) It was held by the abbot and convent in demesne at the time of the Survey, its assessment being 4½ hides. (fn. 84)
Atch Lench was probably the Lench which was appropriated to the use of the pittancer of the abbey, to whom, it is stated in a survey of the abbey made in 1206, Prior Thomas had granted the wood in Atch Lench which he bought of Peter de Lens. (fn. 85) In the reign of Henry III William Meldrope held half a hide there by gift of Robert the Abbot. (fn. 86) Atch Lench remained in the possession of the abbey of Evesham until the dissolution of that house. (fn. 87)
On 15 August 1542 Henry VIII granted it to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster. (fn. 88) Queen Mary, who refounded the abbey, regranted it to the abbot and convent, (fn. 89) but on the accession of Elizabeth the abbey was again dissolved, and Atch Lench was once more in May 1560 granted to the dean and chapter. (fn. 90) It remained in their possession until the Commonwealth, when, their lands being sequestered, the manor of Atch Lench was in 1650 sold to Sir Cheyney Colepeper of Hollingbourne, Kent. (fn. 91) At the Restoration the manor was restored to the dean and chapter. Their estates were vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners about 1858, (fn. 92) and the manor of Atch Lench has since belonged to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 93) It has for many years been held under the Commissioners by members of the family of Bomford. (fn. 94) Among the dean and chapter's documents at Westminster are court rolls of Atch Lench from 1666 to 1802. (fn. 95)
In the time of Bishop Werefrith (873–915) Ethelred the Earl gave to the church of Worcester Clceve Prior with LENCH. (fn. 96) This was evidently the half-hide which was held by Godric under Fritheric, custodian of the church of St. Helen, Worcester, and was restored to the monks in the 12th century by Fritheric because it justly belonged to them. (fn. 97) This half-hide at Lench was still held with Cleeve in 1086 by the monks of Worcester, (fn. 98) and continued to be so held until 1253, (fn. 99) when it is mentioned for the last time.
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel 27 ft. by 15 ft. 6 in., with a modern north organ chamber and vestry, a nave 45 ft. by 16 ft. 6 in., a south aisle 9 ft. wide, a western tower about 8 ft. square, and a south porch, all measurements being internal.
In the 12th century the church consisted of a nave and a short chancel, but rebuilding has destroyed almost all traces of its early history. A south transept was added at some date previous to the 15th century, in the early part of which the south aisle was built to line with the transept end, the 12th-century south door being reset in the later wall. Subsequent 15th-century alterations included the rebuilding of the chancel arch, the addition of the nave clearstory with the insertion of a large window in the north wall, and probably the erection of the lower part of the tower, the latter being completed in the 16th century. In modern times the chancel and the parapet of the tower have been rebuilt and the organ chamber and vestry added.
All the windows of the chancel are modern, in 14th and 15th-century style, though a few old stones have been used up in their jambs. The chancel arch has a slightly blunted two-centred head of two chamfered orders. A projecting block of masonry in the north wall of the nave contains the rood-stair, and west of this is a single-light window with a modern head. Half-way along the north wall is a large 15th-century window of three lights with rectilinear tracery under a four-centred head, and further west is the original 12th-century north door. The lower part is now blocked up, and the round head forms a lunette window in which are inserted some fragments of 15th-century glass. The wall of the clearstory above, being somewhat thinner, is set back externally, and contains two 15th-century windows of two lights each, with quatrefoils under the four-centred heads. The south wall of the nave is pierced with an arcade of three bays, the first arch, of wider span, being the original entrance to the transept. It is four-centred, with two chamfered orders, and dates from the middle of the 15th century. In its eastern respond is the canopy of an elaborate 15th-century image niche with a foliated finial, embattled cornice and cusped panels to the soffit. The two western bays of the arcade are of early 15th-century date, with pointed arches of two continuous chamfered orders stopped with a single broach stop. The low, late 15th-century opening to the tower has plain square jambs and a four-centred head, and to the south of it is a door leading to an open wooden belfry stair.
The three-light east window of the south aisle is of late 14th-century date, with flowing tracery and a four-centred head. To the south of it is a moulded image bracket of slightly later date. The three 15th-century windows in the south wall are all squareheaded, the westernmost having two lights and the others one only. The west window, of the same date, has been considerably restored. The 12th-century south door was reset at the building of the south aisle, and the round head is now the only unrestored portion.
The tower, three stages high, with angle buttresses, has a single-light transomed west window of 16th-century date, and similar lights to the two upper stages, all with square heads. The embattled parapet and pinnacles are modern.
Preserved in a glass case in the nave are the remains of an early 16th-century cope made into a desk cloth. The material is blue velvet embroidered with a floral pattern. The orphrey of the cope has been cut in half and sewed on as a border to both edges. It has six figures of saints under canopies on a gold ground. (fn. 100) After a precarious existence of many years the cope came under the custody of Dr. W. K. W. Chafy, who exhibited it to the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House, when they reported on it. Dr. Chafy handed it to the then rector, and had the case made for it and the particulars attached.
The tower contains six bells, the treble, second, third, fourth and sixth of which were cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1869 and 1870. The fifth is dated 1600 and bears the inscription 'give thanke to God' and the churchwardens' names.
The advowson belonged to the Abbots of Evesham, and was claimed by them in 1208. (fn. 101) It must shortly afterwards have passed into the hands of the Beauchamps, for William Beauchamp was patron in 1261 when the Bishop of Worcester assigned to the nunnery of Cookhill the great tithes of Church Lench. A vicarage was then ordained, (fn. 102) the ordination being confirmed by Bishop Giffard in 1279, when the vicar's portion was assigned and a piece of land upon which to erect tithe barns granted to the nuns. (fn. 103) Though the rectorial tithes were thus granted to Cookhill Nunnery, the advowson remained with the Beauchamps, descending with the manor of Sheriff's Lench. (fn. 104) On the attainder of Edward Earl of Warwick in 1499 it passed to the Crown, in which it remained until 7 November 1865, when the patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Worcester. (fn. 105)
The tithes of Church Lench which had been granted to the nuns of Cookhill remained in their possession until the Dissolution. (fn. 106)
The messuage and lands in Church Lench held by the nunnery were granted on 1 July 1542 to Nicholas Fortescue (fn. 107) and confirmed to John Fortescue in 1663–4 (fn. 108); their tithes of grain and hay in Church Lench and Atch Lench, in the tenure of William Milner, were granted in November 1561 to the Bishop of Worcester and his successors in part compensation for manors retained by Queen Elizabeth. (fn. 109)
William Roculf by his will provided for the establishment of a chantry, to which a chaplain was admitted in 1269. (fn. 110) The church in which the foundation took place is not stated, but the name Roculf suggests that it may have been at Church Lench.
On 26 May 1574 a chapel in Sheriff's Lench, formerly belonging to Evesham Monastery, was granted to John and William Mersh. (fn. 111)
In 1886 the Rev. Martin Amphlett, by his will proved at Worcester 9 October, bequeathed £198 10s. 2d. consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £4 19s., to be applied towards maintaining and keeping the churchyard in good order. The stock is held by the official trustees.