A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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Spetchley is a small parish about 3 miles east of Worcester. It covers an area of 780 acres, of which 13 are covered by water, 189 are arable land, 539 permanent grass and 37 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) Almost the whole of the south-west of the parish is included in Spetchley Park, which contains 196 acres, 117 of which are in the deer park, where there are herds of red and fallow deer. The mansion at Spetchley Park, a house in the Grecian manner of the early 19th century, is the seat of Mr. Robert Valentine Berkeley. The village itself, though prettily situated, possesses no buildings of architectural interest. The main road from Worcester to Alcester forms the northern boundary of the park and the chief street of the village. There is a Roman Catholic chapel of St. John the Baptist attached to the house at Spetchley Park. It was registered for marriages in 1841. (fn. 2) Agriculture is the only industry, the chief crops being wheat, barley and beans. The soil is various, the subsoil marl and clay.
The land varies in height from 138 ft. in parts of the park to 207 ft. in the north of the village. The nearest passenger station is at Worcester, 3 miles west. There is a goods station on the Midland railway in this parish.
SPETCHLEY was among the manors belonging to the church of Worcester freed in 816 by Coenwulf, King of the Mercians, from secular services. (fn. 3) Bishop Oswald granted three 'manses' at Spetchley in 988 to the monks of Worcester in exchange for other land which he wished to give to his nephew Alfwin. (fn. 4) Bishop Brihteah gave it to his brother Agelric, Ethelric or Alric, who was deprived of it by William Earl of Hereford. (fn. 5) It must, however, have been restored to the church, and by the time of the Domesday Survey was a member of the prior's manor of Hallow, being assinged for the support of the monks of Worcester, and in the possession of Roger de Lacy. (fn. 6)
The Prior of Worcester soon seems to have lost all rights in the overlordship of Spetchley, which was said towards the end of the 12th century to be held of the bishop's manor of Kempsey, (fn. 7) and in the 13th century was held of the manor of Northwick. (fn. 8)
Roger de Lacy still owned Spetchley at the beginning of the 12th century, (fn. 9) but his descendant Hugh Lacy, as at Himbleton, lost this fee, which passed with Himbleton to Hugh Poer, who held it of Walter de Meduana. (fn. 10) Walter de Meduana's interest passed with the rest of his possessions to William de Monchensey. (fn. 11) Warin de Monchensey held the fee in 1245–6, (fn. 12) and it afterwards passed to his son-in-law William de Valence. It then followed the descent of Inkberrow (q.v.) until the death of Aymer de Valence Earl of Pembroke in 1324, and was assigned in 1325 to his kinswoman Elizabeth Comyn. (fn. 13) After this time this mesne lordship seems to have lapsed.
Hugh Poer's interest descended in the Poer family, (fn. 14) and the fee became annexed to their manor of Battenhall, passing with that manor to the Prior of Worcester. (fn. 15) The overlordship of the lords of Battenhall was recognized until 1579 or later. (fn. 16)
Under these lords the manor was held by the Spetchleys. It is probable that Robert Spetchley, who was one of the justices of assize in 1230, (fn. 17) was lord of the manor. He had been succeeded before 1245–6 by Richard Spetchley. (fn. 18) Richard Spetchley belonged to the household of Maud de Cauntelow and went with her to Scotland in attendance on the king's daughter Margaret in 1252, (fn. 19) and abroad in 1255. (fn. 20) In the summer of 1252 he obtained exemption for life from being put on juries and assizes. (fn. 21) He seems to have left an only daughter Philippa, wife of John de Everley, (fn. 22) king's yeoman, who received a grant of free warren in Spetchley in 1271, (fn. 23) and twelve years later licence to hunt foxes, hares, badgers and cats in the king's forests in the counties of Worcester and Hampshire. (fn. 24) In 1280–1 John and Philippa settled Spetchley on their son John with contingent remainders to Thomas and Agnes, their other children. (fn. 25) It was probably this son John who was made coroner for the county of Worcester, but removed from that office in 1320 for 'insufficient qualifications,' (fn. 26) and who with many other men of the county was compelled by the Despensers to pay a large sum of money to the king for a 'certain trespass maliciously charged against them.' (fn. 27) He was succeeded before 1346 by William de Everley, (fn. 28) probably his son, who took part in the riots of 1345 against William Beauchamp. (fn. 29) In 1346 a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he was found to have fled the county. (fn. 30) In 1348 he was still in possession of Spetchley, and was then concerned in the riots between the men of Worcester and the priory, (fn. 31) but he died in the following year, (fn. 32) and his property passed to William Spetchley, a descendant of the former owners, who was dealing with tenements in the parish in 1363. (fn. 33) Another William Spetchley presented to the living in 1419. (fn. 34) and was succeeded before 1433 by John Spetchley, (fn. 35) who may have been his son. The latter in 1454 sold the reversion of the manor after his death to Sir Thomas Lyttelton of Frankley and Joan his wife, (fn. 36) and with his wife Maud confirmed the sale in 1459. (fn. 37) Sir Thomas Lyttelton settled Spetchley on his younger son Thomas and Anne his wife. (fn. 38) The younger Thomas died in 1524, (fn. 39) leaving three sons, Thomas, who died without issue in 1535, (fn. 40) John and Anthony. John succeeded his brother in the manor and with Anthony sold it to Richard Sheldon in 1544–5. (fn. 41) By his will, proved in February 1562, Richard left it to his wife Margaret for her life or as long as she remained unmarried, with reversion to Philip, his eldest son. (fn. 42) The latter with his wife Elizabeth and son William sold Spetchley in 1606 to Rowland Berkeley, a clothier of Worcester, (fn. 43) who left it to his second son Robert in 1611. (fn. 44) Sir Robert Berkeley was made serjeant-at-law in 1627 and justice of the King's Bench in 1632. (fn. 45) He was among the judges committed to the Tower for their support of the ship-money tax and was fined £20,000, the fine being afterwards reduced to £10,000. (fn. 46) He was a Royalist, but in 1651 Spetchley was the head quarters of Cromwell before and at the battle of Worcester, and at that time Sir Robert Berkeley's house was burnt down by some Presbyterian soldiers in the king's army. He made his stables habitable and lived there until his death in 1656. (fn. 47) A 'capital messuage and buildings, with a moat about half-way encompassing the same,' mentioned in an inquisition taken soon after his death, (fn. 48) must evidently have been this dwelling. A picture of the stables in which Sir Robert lived, and which the family occupied until the present house was built in 1821, is now in the possession of Mr. R. V. Berkeley. (fn. 49) Robert Berkeley, grandson of Sir Robert, (fn. 50) married Elizabeth daughter of Sir Richard Blake, the authoress of A Method of Devotion and other works. (fn. 51) He died childless in 1694 (fn. 52) and was succeeded by his brother Thomas, who left two sons John and Thomas. (fn. 53) Thomas Berkeley, the only son of John, died without issue in 1742 and Spetchley passed to his uncle Thomas. (fn. 54) Robert Berkeley, son of Thomas, died childless in 1804 and was succeeded by his nephew Robert. (fn. 55) The manor now belongs to Mr. Robert Valentine Berkeley, great-grandson of the last-named Robert. (fn. 56)
A mill at Spetchley was sold with the manor to Rowland Berkeley in 1608, (fn. 57) but is not mentioned in any other documents relating to the manor.
The PARK at Spetchley was made or enlarged by Robert Berkeley, the judge, who in 1625 received licence to impark any part of the parish for deer, rabbits and pheasants. (fn. 58) It extends into the parishes of Whittington and St. Martin, Worcester, and covers an area of 196 acres.
The church of ALL SAINTS consists of a chancel 24½ ft. by 15¾ ft., a south chapel of equal length with the chancel and 13 ft. in width, nave 29 ft. by 21¾ ft., inclosing at its west end a tower 9 ft. wide by 9½ ft. deep. Over the west doorway is a wooden porch. The measurements here given are all internal.
The nave and chancel date from about 1330, and there is no evidence of older work on the site. The south chapel, dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity, was added by Sir Robert Berkeley in 1614, as recorded on the tomb set up by him to his father and mother. His own tomb stands against its south wall, and his arms are carved above the doorway at the west end of the chapel. The tower is also attributed to him, but is very inferior in design to the chapel, and a later date, 1714, for which there seems to be some evidence, is on the whole more likely to be correct.
The church had no rights of burial till 1561, and the churchyard is very small, which is no doubt the reason why it was found more convenient to block up the west part of the nave with a tower than to encroach on the very restricted area of the graveyard.
The east window of the chancel, which has three lights with tracery of 15th-century style, is modern. There were originally two north windows, the western of which, a tall trefoiled single light, yet remains, but only a few stones of the east jamb of the other are now to be seen, it having been destroyed in the latter part of the 16th century, about 1580, when the existing rectangular bay window was inserted. It is a curious and unusual feature, and was built by one of the Sheldons to contain his tomb, though Habington records that he was not actually buried there. It has a moulded cornice and a flat roof. On the jambs inside are four shields; the upper on the east face has three axes impaling a cheveron between three stars and the lower three lions' heads razed and a chief impaling three axes. The upper on the west side bears a fesse between three eagles impaling a cheveron between three stars in the chief, and crusilly formy three lozenges fessewise in the foot; the lower shield has a cheveron between three stars impaling a fesse between three eagles. In the bay is an altar tomb with no inscription; its base is divided into three panels, the middle one of which incloses an almost obliterated shield of six quarters of which the first four seem to be three lions' heads, three axes, a cheveron between three stars and a fesse between three eagles. To the east of the bay are the quoin stones of an earlier blocked window. The other window at the western end of this wall is of a single trefoiled light, the jambs and head being of two chamfered orders. The large opening on the south side into the chapel is spanned by a flat wood lintel, moulded like the stone jambs, with a sunken halfround in the centre and chamfered outer edges. On the top of the latter, below the lintel, are chamfered cornices. The pointed chancel arch probably dates from the 14th century, and is in red sandstone of two continuous chamfered orders.
The chapel is lighted through its east wall by a window of three trefoiled lights under a pointed head. It is contemporary with the chapel and is chiefly of white sandstone. The two windows in the south wall are each of two trefoiled lights with a feathered spandrel over in the pointed head. The west doorway has a four-centred flat arch, and over it is carved a Berkeley shield of fourteen quarterings.
The first window on either side of the nave is of two lights with a pointed head. Both date from the 14th century, and below the southern is an old piscina with a trefoiled pointed head and a sill cut away flush with the wall. The second north window is a single light with a plain pointed head, and is probably an insertion of the 16th century or later. The north doorway, which has a two-centred head, has been blocked, but has a wood threshold in position. The third window is a single light, blocked on the building of the tower. The second window on the south is also a single light with a plain triangular head, presumably a late reconstruction. The south doorway, of a single chamfered order, has a pointed head like that opposite, and is also filled in, with its wood door retained in position. The third window is similar to the blocked opening opposite, the space between the tower and the nave wall on this side being used for the stairway up to the first floor. The doorway in the east wall of the tower is a square plastered opening with a 'churchwarden' Gothic window of three lights over it. The west doorway, now the only entrance to the nave, has a round head of a single chamfered order and has been partly renewed. The window over it is perhaps of late 14th-century date; it has two lights with a quatrefoil over in a two-centred head. The tower passes through the nave roof, and has an embattled parapet with a moulded string and square corner pinnacles, enriched with crocketed finials. The bell-chamber is lighted by plain square-headed lights.
The walling generally is of rubble; that in the east chancel wall is of very small slaty material with large quoin stones. The embattled parapet of the chapel has large square stones with tiles between. The roofs are gabled, with plaster cradle-vaulted ceilings below to the chancel and nave, and a flat ceiling also of plaster to the chapel; the latter is divided into panels by moulded wood beams. A few fragments of 14th and 15th-century glass remain in the nave windows.
In the chancel floor are nine old painted tiles of red and white patterns bearing the Berkeley arms, the same with a partly obliterated inscription 'adjuva nos Deus,' an oak leaf, a rose, a lily and a sword with cross keys. The altar table dates from the 18th century, and the east wall is panelled in oak of the same date. The font is modern except the bowl, which may be as early as the 12th century; it is cup-shaped with a small roll around its lower edge and a modern moulded rim.
The church contains numerous ancient monuments, including several to members of the Berkeley family; the most prominent is that of Rowland Berkeley, who purchased the Spetchley estate, and Katherine Haywood his wife, which stands between the chancel and chapel. It is an altar tomb with diagonal pedestals, on which are obelisks surmounted by balls. It bears the effigies of the pair in the dress of the period, with dogs at their feet, and above is a half-round canopy supported on each side by square fluted columns with Ionic capitals. The soffit is coffered, and at the springing on each side is a shield with Berkeley impaling Haywood. Rowland was buried in 1611 and his wife in 1629, and a slab in the floor of the chancel with their arms marks their grave. On the upper edge above the canopy are Gothic crockets, and in the middle of the arch on both sides are draped cartouches bearing the arms and crest.
Against the south wall of the chapel is the altar tomb of the founder, Serjeant Robert Berkeley, who died in 1656. The tomb is of black and white marble, and on it is his recumbent effigy in white marble robed in a judge's gown and holding a scroll. The epitaph is on the wall above, and over it is the shield of Berkeley with thirteen quarterings and thirteen shields around it, one for each quarter. In the north-west corner of the chapel is another large monument in white marble to Thomas Berkeley, who died in 1693, and his wife Anne, who died in 1692. Over the tomb is the shield of fourteen quarters and two lozenges, one with the arms Azure a sleeve or with a crescent for difference, for Elizabeth Conyers, his mother, and the other Azure a lion or, for Anne Dayrell, his wife. In the opposite corner is the monument of his son Robert, who died in 1694, and Elizabeth his wife, who died in 1708. The arms over are Berkeley impaling Argent a cheveron between three wheat sheaves sable, for Blake. The other Berkeley monuments in the chapel are modern. In the chancel is a mural monument on the south wall to Anne daughter of Rowland and Katherine Berkeley, and wife of William Smyth, who died in 1638. In the floor are slabs of various dates, one with a brass inscription to Dr. William Smyth, rector of Tredington, Warden of Wadham and Vicechancellor of Oxford, who died in 1658. Other slabs commemorate Thomas Berkeley, who died in 1719, the wife of Roland Crosby, who died in 1689, and Anna Smyth (undated).
There are four bells: the first, second and fourth with no inscription, the third with the inscription partly gone; it is in crowned Lombardic capitals and reads 'Sancte Petre ora pro nobis.' (fn. 59)
The communion plate consists of a silver cup with no date mark, but apparently of about 1640, the maker's initials being R. T., a cover paten, a tankard flagon of the same make, and two stand patens of 1688, with the maker's initials D.B.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries, containing baptisms, burials and marriages 1539 to 1745 (with one baptism of 1784); (ii) baptisms and burials 1746 to 1812, marriages 1748 to 1753; (iii) marriages 1764 to 1810. There is also an account book with entries of gifts to the poor from 1801.
The advowson of the church of Spetchley has always belonged to the lords of the manor, (fn. 60) and the present patron is Mr. Robert Valentine Berkeley.
The rectory of Spetchley was united with Warndon in 1874. (fn. 61)
From the 13th century the priory of Worcester had a pension of 2s. from the church or chapel of Spetchley, (fn. 64) probably as a recognition of the rights of the mother church. This rent was granted after the Dissolution to the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. (fn. 65) Right of sepulture was granted to the inhabitants of Spetchley in 1561. (fn. 66)
In 1397 the rector of Spetchley obtained licence from the pope to let the rectory while he was studying at any university or in the service of any prelate in England or living at the Roman court. (fn. 67)
In 1574 an acre of land at Spetchley held by the churchwardens, formerly given for the maintenance of lights in the church, was granted to John and William Marsh. (fn. 68)
In 1767 Moses Hyett, by his will, gave £80, the interest thereon to be distributed to the poor. An unknown donor, as mentioned in the Parliamentary Returns of 1786, gave £30 to the poor. A sum of £110, representing these two gifts, was in 1872 invested in £119 4s. 10d. consols with the official trustees. The annual dividends, amounting to £2 19s. 4d., are distributed in coal on St. Thomas's Day to about ten recipients.