A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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COSTON or COFTON HACKETT
Coston Hackett, a small and hilly parish, covers an area of 1,299 acres, which includes 224 acres of arable land, 766 acres of pasture and 90 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) In 1911 a small part of King's Norton was added to this parish. Bilberry Hill (800 ft.) and Coston Hill (800 ft.), part of the Lickey Hills, bound Coston Hackett on the west. The former evidently derived its name from the bilberry, which gave its name also to 'Bilberry wake,' held on the three Sundays following Midsummer.
The chief road is a branch from the main road between Birmingham and Bromsgrove, which enters the parish near Rednal and passes south through Kendal End to Alvechurch. From this road there are two branches, Groveley Lane, which cuts through the parish in a north-easterly direction and joins the main road from Birmingham to Evesham, and another which passes through the village of Coston Hackett to Coston Richard Farm.
The village of Coston Hackett is situated about 9 miles south-west of Birmingham on the eastern slopes of the Lickey Hills. The village is small and scattered. It presents no features of interest, with the exception of Coston Hall, formerly the manor-house of the Leicesters and Jolliffes, in which Charles I is said to have spent the night after Hawkesley House was taken 14 May 1645. (fn. 2) Though otherwise completely modernized it still retains its original late 14th-century hall. On the north-west of the hall, parallel and of equal length with it, is an L-shaped block of buildings, which appears to be part of the original house. This is now occupied by the kitchen and offices, and has been so completely altered internally, and re-faced externally with stone in the quasi-Gothic taste of the early 19th century, that all trace of the original arrangement has been obliterated. The material of this portion of the house is probably half-timber, though concealed by modern casings of stone and brick. On the north-east side of the hall an early 19th-century house, three stories high, has replaced the original buildings, some of the cellars of which remain, though no work here appears to be earlier than the end of the 16th century. The hall, recently restored, measures about 38 ft. by 21 ft. The roof is a splendid specimen of mediaeval carpentry. There are nine hammer-beam trusses, two of which are good copies of the 18th century, the hall, as originally constructed, being of six bays only. The hammer-beams are strutted from each main upright by solid moulded braces resting upon octagonal corbels of wood, beneath each of which is a shieldshaped block of the same material. Immediately below this level a deep and elaborately moulded wooden cornice runs round the walls of the hall; a cornice of equal elaboration marks the wallplates. At about one-third the height of the roof are moulded and cambered collars, strutted from the hammer-beams by curved braces, forming depressed four-centred arches, having at their centres carved pentagonal bosses. The spandrels between the collars and the ridge are occupied by slender wooden uprights. Each slope of the roof is divided into three compartments by two heavily-moulded purlins. The framing of the original louvre opening still survives between the fourth and fifth trusses from the east. Upon the corbels are shields with the following charges: an eagle displayed; party-palewise indented; a bend cotised; a cheveron; the bend cotised quartering and impaling the cheveron; and a cheveron between three lilies. The lower part of the walls has been recently panelled, and at the south-east is a modern fireplace. All the windows are modern. Externally no original detail remains.
The Upper Bittell reservoir, a feeder of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, is partly in Coston parish, and there is also a smaller reservoir which lies to the east of Bilberry Hill and from which the water is conveyed by the little River Arrow to the Lower Bittell reservoir in Alvechurch parish.
The soil is marl and the subsoil gravel, sand and clay. There is a small quarry where Wenlock limestone was worked at the time of the making of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, and there are some gravel-pits. The population is entirely agricultural, the chief crops raised being wheat, barley and beans. There are also large orchards of apples and pears. The inclosure award for the parish is dated 1 June 1831. (fn. 3)
Five cassata of land in the vill of COFTON were given in 780 by King Offa to the church of St. Peter, which his grandfather Eanulf had founded at Bredon. (fn. 6) When this monastery became annexed to that of St. Mary of Worcester the property at Cofton passed to the latter church and as five cassata 'on Coftune aet tham hamstealle' was leased for five lives by Bishop Aelhun in 849 to Berhtwulf, King of Mercia, in exchange for his protection for the church of Worcester. (fn. 7) Berhtwulf appears immediately to have transferred his interest to his servant Egbert. (fn. 8) The land afterwards passed to King Athelstan, who in 930 granted it to the church of St. Mary, Worcester. (fn. 9) It still belonged to the church of Worcester as a berewick of the manor of Alvechurch in 1086. (fn. 10) At the same time Urse D'Abitot was holding 3 hides of land there, of which Turold held two and Walter one, and which Leofgeat, Ælfric and Æthelric had held as three manors before the Conquest. (fn. 11)
A hide of land at Coston, which appears to have formed the manor subsequently known as COSTON HACKETT, remained a member of the Bishop of Worcester's manor of Alvechurch at least as late as the end of the 13th century, (fn. 12) and was held of that manor. Under the bishop this manor was held by the Beauchamps, Urse's successors, as of their barony of Elmley, and the mesne overlordship followed the descent of the honour of Elmley Castle until 1637, when it is mentioned for the last time. (fn. 13)
Under these lords the manor of Coston Hackett was held by the Hacket family for knight service. The knight's fee in Worcestershire, held of William de Beauchamp in 1166 by William Hacket, (fn. 14) included this manor. Early in the 13th century Ralph Hacket held it as 1 hide of land, (fn. 15) and it was probably he who in 1226–7 agreed with Alda widow of Thomas Hacket that she should hold half a knight's fee in Coston in part satisfaction of her dower. (fn. 16) The manor probably belonged to Walter Hacket in 1270, when he was summoned by the Bishop of Worcester to be at London with horse and arms 'for the honour of the Holy Church and peace of the land.' (fn. 17) Some interest in Coston Hackett seems to have passed like Oddingley to the Mortimers, and was confirmed in 1284 by Edmund Mortimer to his brother Roger. (fn. 18) About 1280 it was in the hands of Maud Hacket. (fn. 19) As at Oddingley some right in this manor passed to John de Costentyn and his wife Margery, for in 1293–4 Robert Leicester and Catherine his wife claimed 2 carucates of land in Coston and Alvechurch against John de Costentyn and Margery. (fn. 20) Their claim was quashed owing to an error in the spelling of Alvechurch, and John Costentyn seems to have remained in possession of the manor until 1299. (fn. 21) Robert Leicester held half a knight's fee at Coston Hackett in 1316, (fn. 22) and in 1346 the manor belonged to his widow Maud, who is styled 'Maud Hacket, who was the wife of Robert de Leicester.' (fn. 23) It would seem possible that the name Maud is given in error for Katherine, for in a return of knights' fees of the same date Katherine Hacket was said to be holding land in Coston which had formerly been held by Ralph Hacket (fn. 24) and Katherine Hacket paid a subsidy of 2s. at Coston in 1327. (fn. 25)
The manor evidently descended in the Leicester family. In 1431 it was held by Henry Leicester, (fn. 26) and William Leicester, lord of Coston Hackett, died in 1508. (fn. 27) On the death of William Leicester in 1525 it passed, after provision being made for his wife Anne, to his nephew John More, (fn. 28) who was succeeded in 1535 by three daughters, Jane wife of Michael Ashfield, formerly wife of James Dineley, Margaret wife of William Stanford, and Eleanor wife of John Folliott. (fn. 29) The Folliotts seem to have retained their share at any rate until 1620, when Thomas Folliott son of John and Eleanor (fn. 30) died seised of a capital messuage or farm in Coston Hackett, which was settled on his eldest son John. (fn. 31)
The rest of the manor was conveyed in 1573 by Jane Parker, widow, the eldest daughter of John More, who had married as a third husband Thomas Parker, and Thomas Dineley, evidently her son by her first husband, to Ralph Sheldon and John Middlemore, (fn. 32) evidently for settlement on Thomas Dineley and his wife Jane. Their daughter Mary married John Childe and she and her husband conveyed the manor to Edward Skinner, a clothier of Ledbury, in 1594. (fn. 33) The latter appears to have settled most of the property on his eldest son Richard, (fn. 34) and at the time of his death in 1631 held only Coston Hall and the advowson of the chapel. (fn. 35) Richard Skinner died in 1633, leaving four daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret and Theodocia. (fn. 36) Coston Hackett passed to Margaret and her husband Thomas Jolliffe, a favourite of Charles I, whom he attended on the scaffold. He is said by Nash to have been represented in a picture formerly in the dining room of Coston Hall 'with a melancholy despairing countenance with his pistols and sword hanging on a pillar before him' and holding 'a key in his hand which the tradition of the family says was given to him by Charles I when in prison that he might have access to him when he pleased.' (fn. 37) Benjamin Jolliffe son of Thomas and Margaret died in 1719, leaving three sons and two daughters. (fn. 38) The eldest son Thomas succeeded, (fn. 39) but died childless in 1758, leaving the manor to Rebecca Lowe, the daughter of one of his sisters, for life, with reversion to Michael Biddulph, the son of his other sister. (fn. 40) Rebecca Lowe died in 1791, (fn. 41) and Michael Biddulph, after the death of his son Thomas in 1793, (fn. 42) seems to have settled it on his grandson Robert Biddulph, (fn. 43) and with him sold it about 1812 to Other Archer, sixth Earl of Plymouth. (fn. 44) From the latter it has descended to the fourteenth Lord Windsor, the present Earl of Plymouth.
The manor of COSTON RICHARD, which was held for knight service under the lords of Elmley Castle, (fn. 45) was probably included in a knight's fee held in 1166 by Richard de Coston of William de Beauchamp. (fn. 46) John de Coston, witness to a grant to Dudley Priory [1160–1206], (fn. 47) may have been owner of the manor which was in the possession of Richard de Coston early in the 13th century. (fn. 48) Walter de Coston, who in 1256 was exempted from being put on assizes, &c., against his will, was possibly lord of Coston. (fn. 49) In 1262–3 John de Coston granted this manor for life to Richard de Coston, who was to render for it the service of half a knight's fee. (fn. 50) Richard son of Alexander de Coston still held land at Coston in 1283–4. (fn. 51) Sybil eldest daughter of John de Coston was holding the manor in 1316. (fn. 52) She appears to have been succeeded before 1327 (fn. 53) by Lucy wife of Alexander de Hodington, possibly her daughter or sister, who was still holding the manor in 1346, when she is called the heir of John de Coston. (fn. 54) In 1428 it was held by the heirs of Lucy de Hodington, (fn. 55) and in 1431 Thomas Webb held certain lands at Coston, and John Walsingham held a quarter of a knight's fee in Coston Richard. (fn. 56) John Walsingham was apparently lord of the manor in 1525, (fn. 57) and it was held in 1567 by Edward Walsingham, who had inherited it from his brother John and his father John. (fn. 58) Before 1594 it had been acquired by William Child, the lord of Coston Hackett, (fn. 59) and has since followed the same descent as that manor. (fn. 60) Coston Richard is not mentioned as a separate manor after the end of the 18th century, but the name still survives in a farm-house which lies near the boundaries of Alvechurch.
A water-mill belonged to one of the manors at the time of the Domesday Survey (fn. 61) and seems to have passed with Coston Hackett to the Leicesters. (fn. 62) It is last mentioned in 1573, when it was settled with the manor on Thomas Dineley and Jane his wife. (fn. 63) There are now no mills in existence in the parish, but there was probably at one time a windmill, as a field still bears the name Windmill Field.
The manor of GROVELEY belonged to the college of Westbury in co. Gloucester in 1536, (fn. 64) and was granted with it in 1544 to Sir Ralph Sadleir, (fn. 65) who sold it in 1548–9 to John Combes. (fn. 66) The latter died in 1550, leaving a son John, (fn. 67) who evidently sold the manor to Sir John Lyttelton. Sir John in 1590 left it by his will to his nephew George, the eldest son of Roger Lyttelton, (fn. 68) whose brother Humphrey seems to have sold it to Francis Heton. (fn. 69) Early in the 19th century the estate then known as Groveley Hall was in the possession of Robert Middleton Biddulph, who sold it to John Pickering. His trustees conveyed it in 1820 to John Merry, (fn. 70) who added to it by the purchase of adjoining land. John Merry died in 1856 and left the estate to his son William Lucas Merry, who sold it in 1872 to Ambrose Biggs of Birmingham. It was purchased of him in 1883 by Joseph Billing Baldwin of King's Norton, who left it to his son and daughter Major James Baldwin and Mrs. Fanny Jolly, who are the present joint owners. (fn. 71)
The church of ST. MICHAEL consists of a chancel 20 ft. by 16 ft. 6 in. with a modern organ chamber on the north side, and a nave 38 ft. 6 in. by 20 ft. 6 in. having a bell-turret at the west end. These measurements are all internal.
The building was restored in 1861 and the earliest remaining portions date from the latter half of the 14th century. The east window is of three lights, with modern tracery under a pointed head. The walling and moulded jambs are old and appear to date from the 14th century. In the modern north wall is an arch opening into the organ chamber, and to the east of it a pointed window. The south wall is old, but the two windows are modern. Between them is a pointed doorway with a moulded label and head stops, and further east is a piscina. The chancel arch is modern.
In the north wall of the nave are two squareheaded windows of three and two lights respectively, the tracery in each case being modern, and a low square-headed door. Externally the wall has been straightened by a facing 9 in. thick for most of its height. In the south wall are two windows similar to those opposite. A 15th-century doorway, with a moulded label and head stops, opens into an ancient porch built of wood. The west wall of the nave has been rebuilt; it has square angle buttresses and a large reconstructed 15th-century central buttress under a 16th-century bell-turret containing two bells.
In the chancel is an incised alabaster slab to William Leicester and his wives Eleanor and Anne, with three effigies under canopies. William Leicester wears plate armour with scalloped tuiles and rounded sabbatons. His head rests on a tilting helm crested with a roebuck and his feet on a dog. His wives wear kennel head-dresses and from their girdles hang pomanders. Below the first wife Eleanor is a scroll, partly illegible, inscribed 'Non intres in judicium cũ aĩabus tuorum …,' and below William Leicester and his second wife are a boy and girl. The marginal inscription reads:—'Hic jacent corpora Wi[llel]mi Leysestur dñi de Coston hacket Elinore et Anne uxorum suarum qui quidem Wi[llel]mus obiit [blank] die [blank] anno dñi mi[llessi]mo ccccc [blank] et dicta Elionora fuit filia Edmundi (?) Worley Armig[']i et obiit 7 die mensis Januarii (?) ao dñi mi[llessi]mo cccccxiiii quorum aīab[z] p[ro]picietur deus Amen.' Above the canopies are shields, the husband bearing: quarterly (1) a fesse between three fleurs de lis, (2) a lion passant, (3) ermine a bend, (4) a bend engrailed ermine. Above the first wife is the coat: a chief with a raven impaling a cheveron between three bulls' heads cabossed; and over the second: a cheveron between three hunting horns.
In the nave is an alabaster tablet to William Babington, 1625, and his wife Eleanor daughter of Sir Edward Lyttelton, who died 1671; this was formerly in the chancel. There are also monuments to various members of the Jolliffe family.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) (much injured by damp) contains all entries 1550 to 1629; (ii) 1630 to 1651; (iii) 1654 to 1683, when there is a blank until 1702; (iv) 1702 to 1712; (v) 1712 to 1754; (vi) baptisms and burials 1785 to 1812; (vii) marriages 1755 to 1812.