A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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Uluardele (viii cent.); Ulwardileia, Wulfferdinleh (ix cent.); Wlfereslawe, Welwardel (x cent.); Uulfordilea (xi cent.); Wlfwardill, Wulfardeley (xii cent.); Wluarle, Ulwardell, Wolvardelegh, Wluuard, Wulewarde, Wulwardesleg, Wluardele (xiii cent.); Woluardel, Woluardeley (xv cent.); Woluley (xvi cent.).
This parish, covering an area of 5,543 acres, (fn. 1) of which 52 acres are covered with water, lies on the northern boundary of Worcestershire, with Staffordshire to the north and the borough of Kidderminster to the south. The Stour enters the parish on the north-east and flows through it in a southerly direction, passing through the hamlets of Caunsall and Cookley and through the village of Wolverley, where it is joined by the Horsebrook. Below Wolverley Court the Honey Brook meets it, and after traversing the parish it enters Kidderminster near the Broadwaters. On the eastern side of the parish is a series of large pools of water, Benson's Bath, the Stew and Sleepy Mill Island, and there are four or five large pools at the Broadwaters on the Wannerton Brook. On either side of the river the land is rich pasture, liable to floods at certain seasons of the year, and it is along its course that the lowest ground of the parish lies, at a height of only 118 ft. above the ordnance datum near Wolverley Lock. The land rises from the river banks, especially to the west, where it reaches heights of over 500 ft. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, projected in 1766, follows the course of the river through the parish and is spanned at Cookley by an aqueduct in connexion with the Birmingham waterworks scheme. The welded steel pipes form a bridge with a span of 112 ft. Great difficulty was experienced in building the bridge owing to the gravelly nature of the ground, through which the water from the surrounding marshes percolated. (fn. 2)
The parish is well wooded, 372 acres being laid out in woods and plantations. (fn. 3) Some of these woods are ancient, namely Birch Wood, (fn. 4) Bodenham Wood and Cookley Wood, which comprises Spring Coppice and Solcum Coppice. Axborough Wood on the east is a plantation made since the Inclosure Act in 1775. The soil is light and the subsoil sandstone and gravel; 2,830 acres are arable land and 1,715 permanent grass. (fn. 5) Barley and wheat with market garden produce are the chief crops grown.
The River Stour flows through the centre of the village, which lies in a pleasant hollow surrounded by numerous trees. On the south there is an outcrop of sandstone forming a small cliff, and the church and churchyard are prominently situated upon it, overlooking the village to the north and the valley of the Stour to the east. The main approach to the village is from the east, off the road running between Broadwaters and Wribbenhall. This approach, after entering the village, rises sharply to the north, the road being cut through the sandstone hill. At the top of this hill on the east side of the road stands the old tithe barn, a mediaeval timber structure with a tiled roof. The cottages are of no great antiquity, and are generally built of red brick with tiled roofs, though the local red sandstone is also used. The church is approached from the north by an old path (fn. 6) hewn out of the sandstone hill. Hollowed out of the hill on the south side is the pound. The stocks used within the memory of some of the older inhabitants were placed opposite the Queen's Head Inn, but have now disappeared.
Wolverley Court, the property of the trustees of Mr. A. Cameron Hancocks, stands on the south side of the road leading from the Kidderminster and Wolverhampton road about a quarter of a mile east of the church. Though the south-east corner is late 16th-century work with stone mullioned windows, the house was almost entirely rebuilt early in the 19th century, the interior of the old building being all remodelled and most of the windows blocked up. In the conservatory are the remains of an alabaster effigy of a member of the Attwood family, popularly considered to be the Sir John Attwood mentioned below. It is of the latter part of the 14th century, and was taken from the church at the rebuilding. Unfortunately, most of the lower part of the figure is missing. The head of the effigy rests on a crowned helm, of which the mutilated crest was evidently that of his house, a swan's head and neck between two wings. The steel bascinet has an aventail attached, and over the mail shirt is a jupon, but this is too worn for the charge to be made out. The feet rest on the back of a small lion. There is at Wolverley Court a curious piece of old coloured glass representing the Attwood arms, apparently also removed from the old church.
A short distance above the court is Heathfield, the well-situated modern residence and property of Mr. Edward James Morton, M.A., D.L., J.P., and on the summit of the incline is Sion Hill House, the property and residence of Mr. T. A. Carless Attwood, M.A., F.S.A. It is an 18th-century two-story building, but has been much altered in the 19th century. The stables are a good piece of 18th-century brickwork, and the farm is also of that date. The farm was formerly known as Upton House.
Standing back on the east side of the road, at the top of the hill on the north side of the village, adjoining the mansion-house of the rectory, is Wolverley House, the property and residence of Major Eric A. Knight, M.P., J.P. It is a large three-story Georgian house built of red brick with red sandstone quoins, a modillion cornice and a porch of the Doric order.
Lea Castle, the property and residence of Mr. George Montagu Brown-Westhead, B.A., LL.M., is a large brick castellated mansion, standing in extensive and well-wooded grounds near Sion Hill House. It was erected early in the 19th century.
A curious feature of Wolverley are the rock dwellings scattered over the parish, of which the most picturesque are at Blakeshall and Drakelow. (fn. 7) Cut in the side of the sandstone hill, some of these primitive dwellings are dry and warm, others, owing to the porous nature of the rock, become very damp, especially in winter.
Wolverley includes the hamlets of Woodfield (Wodehamcake), (fn. 8) Blakeshall, Cookley, Lowe, Caunsall, Kingsford, Horseley, The Sladd, Little Hoboro, Austcliff (Alsclyne) and a portion of Broadwaters, (fn. 9) formerly known as Upton, but not Broadwaters House, which is in the foreign of Kidderminster, and has long been in the possession of the Homfray family.
Common lands in the parish are mentioned early, Fantesruding (fn. 10) and Whitfield (fn. 11) being the names of some of these in the 13th century. In a survey of 1649 the commons in the manor included about 160 acres in Cookley Wood, another common adjoining of 50 acres, a great waste of heath or gorse of 400 acres and Horseley Heath containing 20 acres. (fn. 12)
An Inclosure Act was passed in 1775, but inclosing was not completed until 1779 owing to dissensions. (fn. 13) There is now on Blakeshall Common a pillar erected to the memory of Richard Baxter, who became a minister of Kidderminster in 1641. John Baskerville was born at Upton House, known latterly as Sion Hill Farm, in Wolverley in 1706, but he removed to Birmingham, where he established a japanning business, and later set up his celebrated printing press. He died in 1775, and 'agreeable to the singularity of his opinions he was buried under a windmill in his garden, on whose top after it fell into disuse he had erected an urn.' (fn. 14)
Among former place-names in this parish have been found Horsebrook, Smythescrok, Vroggemore (fn. 15) (xiv cent.); Lords Meadow, High Holborough (fn. 16) (xvi cent.). Socombe, Aylesbury, Buryton, Berrington, The Flosses or Flaws, Draclow and Buryhalle have been found on the manorial rolls. (fn. 17)
The early history of WOLVERLEY presents difficulties. There was a confused tradition current at Worcester in the 11th century that the place had been the subject of a grant by Æthelbald of Mercia to one of his ealdormen named Hwita. (fn. 18) Otherwise the earliest references to Wolverley are dated 866. Two charters issued by Burhred of Mercia are preserved in a corrupt form: (1) granting to one 'Wulfferd' two manentes at 'Soegeslea' belonging to Wolverley (fn. 19); (2) granting the same estate under the name of 'Secceslea' to the monks of Worcester. (fn. 20) Secceslea, the correct form of this name, has been identified with Seckley Wood near Wolverley. Although the charters have been modernized in spelling they contain features which seem to come from the 9th century. (fn. 21) In each grant the boundaries of the land are given, (fn. 22) and the two evidently refer to the same estate. Possibly the exchange between the king and Wulfferd never took place, thus leaving the king free to bestow Wolverley upon the monks.
During the time when the Danes were ravaging England the monks of Worcester lost many of their manors, Wolverley being among them, but 5 hides there were restored to them by Leofric Earl of Mercia and his countess Godiva in the time when Wulfstan was prior. (fn. 23) The charter of Leofric is undated, but he died in 1057. (fn. 24) These 5 hides were assigned to the refectory of the monastery, (fn. 25) and, though it is stated that shortly after Leofric's grant they were seized by the Danes, (fn. 26) they were held by the monks in demesne at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 27)
The manor with its members Horseley, Cookley and Burton was confirmed to the prior and convent by Simon, Bishop of Worcester, in 1148, (fn. 28) and in 1207 King John granted them in this manor sac and soc, thol and theam, infangentheof, with judgement by fire and water, gallows (fn. 29) and iron, freedom from view of tithing and of murders and fines and all other liberties and customs which they enjoyed in their other manors. This manor was also freed for ever from suits at shire and hundred courts and from all aids and exactions of sheriff and bailiff. (fn. 30)
From that time until the Dissolution the manor of Wolverley was the property of the Priors of Worcester. (fn. 31) In 1542 Henry VIII granted it to the dean and chapter, (fn. 32) and this was confirmed by James I in 1609. (fn. 33)
The trustees for the sale of church lands sold the manor in 1650 to William Moore of Alvechurch, (fn. 34) but the dean and chapter appear to have recovered it at the accession of Charles II, as it was again in their hands in 1683. (fn. 35) The manor was confirmed to the dean and chapter in 1692, (fn. 36) and remained with them until 1859, when it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, (fn. 37) in whose possession it still remains.
Nash states that in the 18th century the court baron and court leet were held at Bury Hall Farm at the will of the lord. (fn. 38) Until 1768 copyhold estates in this manor were held by Borough English, but in that year an Act was passed to make the succession follow that of the common law. (fn. 39)
From the 13th century occasional notices appear of the descent of a property in Wolverley (afterwards described as a manor) held under the prior. (fn. 40) It seems to have originated in a messuage at Wolverley which Thomas de Northgrave sold to Malcolm de Harley for 100 marks in 1274, retaining the rent of a rose. (fn. 41) Prattinton, on the authority of MSS. belonging to the dean and chapter, states that in 1298–9 Sir Richard de Harley released his right in these lands to Malcolm de Wasteneys, to whom Margaret, lady of Pitchford, also released all claim in the manor in the same year. (fn. 42) He further says that in 1331 Malcolm de Wasteneys, lord of Tixhall, granted all his land in Wolverley to Robert Attwood (de Boys), Joan his wife and Robert their son. (fn. 43) John Attwood, king's yeoman, and possibly of the same family, obtained a grant of free warren in his manor of Wolverley in 1362, with licence to inclose and make a park of 600 acres. (fn. 44) John Attwood died in 1369 and Sir John Attwood in 1391. (fn. 45) The knight whose alabaster effigy, now at Wolverley Court, has been described above was a member of this family. There is a tradition in the village that one of the Attwoods went on a crusade and remained away so long that his wife, supposing him to be dead, was about to marry again. A milkmaid, however, going into the meadows early one morning, found a man, emaciated and fettered, asleep in the grass. The sleeping figure was recognized as the knight by his dog, but being so changed, his wife was only convinced of his identity when he produced the half of a ring which they had broken at parting. The Crusader related that he had been imprisoned by the infidels and kept in a dungeon until released by the Virgin, who transported him in a trance to his own fields. (fn. 46) Another version of the quaint old legend is that when it was reported that Sir John Attwood had been brought back by an angel he piously denied it, and said it was by a swan. Hence the origin of the swan crest used by several families of the name Attwood, in slightly differing forms. Although unable to identify the alabaster figure as that of a Crusader, Habington thus concludes the story: 'But that theare was one Sir John Atwode who beeinge imprisoned by the Infydelles was miraculously caryed from that far remote dungeon of his captivity to Trimpley, losed of his gyves, and restored to lyberty, the same is so publycke, the chappell buylded in remembrance theareof so notable, the gyves themselves researved as a trophy of thys glorious redemption so cleere a testimony as none but willfull obstinate can denye itt.' (fn. 47) Iron fetters said to have been worn by the knight are still shown, and there was at one time a rentcharge on 'The Knight's Meadow,' where the knight was said to have been found. This rent was 'paid to someone who should keep the irons polished and show them to all who would like to see them.' (fn. 48) The original fetters have long been lost.
The family of Attwood occupied a prominent position in the county during the 15th century, but there is little to connect them with this estate, although they probably continued to hold it. John and Thomas Attwood obtained land in the parish in 1452 from Sir Walter Scull and his wife Margaret, (fn. 49) but in 1504 John Wood conveyed the manor of Wolverley to Sir Thomas Englefield, (fn. 50) and Francis, the son of the latter, with his wife Catherine released their right in it to Anthony Attwood forty-three years later. (fn. 51) Anthony Attwood had been succeeded by his son Anthony in 1595, (fn. 52) and Samuel Attwood, the son of the latter, was living there when Habington wrote in the 17th century. (fn. 53) The Attwoods continued to hold land in the parish until 1714, when Abel Attwood and his wife were in possession. (fn. 54) This Abel was the son of Henry Attwood, and was the last heir male of the elder branch (fn. 55) of the house of Attwood. (fn. 56) He died in 1726, at the age of sixty-six, having outlived his son (or sons) and only grandson Holborough Attwood. (fn. 57)
Wolverley Court, the seat of the Attwoods, has for some time belonged to the Hancocks family, though they have not of late years occupied the house, (fn. 58) which is at present vacant.
Early in the 18th century the Knight family acquired land at Wolverley in succession to the Jewkes, who were then the chief family at Wolverley. Edward Knight of Wolverley died in 1780, (fn. 59) and Nash, writing in 1782, states that Edward Knight, son and successor of Edward, whose ancestors had acquired a large fortune by the iron trade and had built a good house, was then the principal landowner in the parish. (fn. 60) In 1809 John Knight obtained from the Dean and Chapter of Worcester a lease of their messuage called The Lee at Wolverley for twenty-one years, and seven years later he acquired the lease of an estate in Caunsall and Broadwaters from John Smith. (fn. 61) Lea Castle, which was for some time occupied by the Knights, was built by John Knight, probably at about this time. (fn. 62) It was sold about 1818 (fn. 63) to Mr. John Brown, from whose sister Ann Brown, afterwards Mrs. Westhead, the present family of Brown-Westhead of Lea Castle is descended. (fn. 64) The castle is now the seat of Mr. George Montagu Brown-Westhead.
The Sebrights (fn. 65) claimed to have held land in BLAKESHALL from the end of the 13th or early 14th century, when Mabell (here a man's name) Sebright of Blakeshall married Catherine daughter of Ralph Cowper of Blakeshall. (fn. 66) It is known that the Sebrights were living in the parish of Wolverley in 1302, when John Sebright, the son of John Sebright of Wolverley, became a monk in the priory of Dodford. (fn. 67) The same family continued to hold in Blakeshall, Cookley and elsewhere at least as late as the middle of the 17th century. (fn. 68)
Edward Sebright held Byrds Farm and Newmans Farm in the lordship of Kingsford in 1569. (fn. 69) John Sebright of Blakeshall was succeeded by a son Edward, (fn. 70) who was created a baronet in 1626. (fn. 71) He had succeeded his uncle William at Besford in 1620, (fn. 72) and was one of the executors of the will of the latter, who left certain lands for the maintenance of a free grammar school at Wolverley. (fn. 73) In 1634 Sir Edward received a lease from Charles I of free warren, fishing, fowling and hunting in Wolverley for a rent of two brace of partridges and one brace of cocks to the value of 3s. (fn. 74) In 1651 he had to compound as a Royalist for an estate at Wolverley. (fn. 75) The Sebrights subsequently from time to time parted with their Worcestershire estates, and took up their residence on their Hertfordshire property. Blakeshall was the property of John Smith in 1809, (fn. 76) and it now belongs to Mr. William Hancocks, in whose family it has been for some time.
The present COOKLEY WOOD near Kingsford has been identified with a place called in the 10th century Culnan Clif. (fn. 77) Land here was granted by King Edgar to Earl Beorhtnoth in 964, and was then described as being on the River Stour near Wolverley. (fn. 78) In 1067 2 hides of land at 'Culla Clif' were granted by King William to Bishop Wulfstan, who gave them to the monks of Worcester on condition that they should pray for the soul of the donor. (fn. 79) The estate (Culclive) was in the hands of the Prior of Worcester in the 13th century, his tenants there being Fulk, Edith the widow and others. (fn. 80) It probably remained part of the manor of Wolverley and followed its descent, passing into the hands of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester at the dissolution of the priory, for in 1650 Cookley Wood, valued at £20, was a part of the lands of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester. (fn. 81) This wood was sold at this time to William More. (fn. 82)
The Cookley Ironworks were founded towards the end of the 17th century, and from that time Cookley became a centre of the iron and tinplate industry. Joseph Piper, a native of this village, invented and perfected the patent tinning process. The mill at Cookley was originally a corn-mill, erected in the time of Elizabeth. It was still a corn-mill in 1649, when it and a slitting-mill were held by Sir Edward Sebright. It had been converted into an iron-mill before 1706. These mills were subsequently leased and held by the Knights. (fn. 83) Edward Knight owned these mills about 1750–80, in which latter year he died, (fn. 84) and the last of this family connected with these works was Sir Frederic Winn Knight. On his death in 1897 the Wolverley estates passed to his nephew Eric Ayshford Knight of Wolverley. (fn. 85) The industry gradually declined in the 19th century, owing to lack of railway communication, and in 1886 the entire works were removed to the neighbourhood of Brierley Hill in the midst of the Staffordshire coalfields, but of late years part of Cookley Mill has been used by Messrs. Brampton. Cookley has again become busy, as new works have been erected there.
HORSELEY (Horselega, Horselee, xii cent.; Horsleg, xiii cent.) was said to be a member of the liberty of the hundred of Wolverley in 1240 and was assessed at one-third part of it. (fn. 86) Ralph the Prior of Worcester (fn. 87) granted to Fulk de Horseley that land which his father and afterwards he had assarted from the wood of the prior, to be held for a sextar of honey besides those two which he owed for Horseley. In order that there should be no future disagreement as to the boundaries of Fulk's land they were set forth in the grant. (fn. 88) Horseley was confirmed to the priory as a member of Wolverley by Bishop Simon in 1148. (fn. 89) In 1189 the sheriff rendered 36s. for land which had belonged to Fulk de Horseley, (fn. 90) and in 1196 Osbert de Adleya rendered account of 2½ marks for the custody of the heir of Fulk de Horseley, so that Robert, who was heir of that land, might have his land in Horseley. (fn. 91) Afterwards Horseley seems to have passed to the Ribbesford family. (fn. 92) An assize of novel disseisin was brought against Henry de Ribbesford in 1223 by Simon de Cove. (fn. 93) In 1239 the monks of Worcester took Horseley at farm for twenty years. (fn. 94) The heirs of Ribbesford were tenants under the prior at Horseley in 1240, (fn. 95) and in 1300 Ralph de Streche was holding land at Horseley of Henry de Ribbesford. (fn. 96) Ralph Streche died seised of land at Horseley about 1300, (fn. 97) leaving a son and heir Robert, and in 1315–16 Robert sold the manor to the Prior of Worcester. (fn. 98) In 1321 the prior obtained licence to purchase land at Horseley, held of him and his convent, from Richard de Hawkeslow. (fn. 99) From this time Horseley seems to have become incorporated with the manor of Wolverley.
KINGSFORD (Cenungaford, Cynefares, x cent.; Kynefordes, xi cent.; Kyngvard, xvi cent.; Kyngefort, xvii cent.). William de Tracy was a freeman in Wolverley in the 13th century, when he paid an annual rent and did homage to the prior for 'Walter de Keingford.' (fn. 100) The Tracys appear to have held land at Wolverley through the next two centuries. In 1530 William Tracy the younger died seised of the manor of Kingsford held of the priory of Worcester, his father William having settled it on him on his marriage in 1517. (fn. 101) Henry the son of William Tracy the younger afterwards held Kingsford, but after his death his son John was obliged to institute Chancery proceedings to obtain possession of it. He stated that the deeds of enfeoffment had come into the hands of Katherine Jones, who claimed to hold a lease of it, and that she and others had made secret sales of the manor. (fn. 102) He appears to have obtained possession of it again, for in 1569 he sold it to Thomas Whorwood, (fn. 103) on whose death in 1616 it was said to be held of the lord of Hampton Lovett by fealty and socage and a yearly rent of 4s. (fn. 104) Gerard the son of Thomas Whorwood sold the manor in 1622 to Roger Fowke, (fn. 105) to whom he appears to have mortgaged it six years before. (fn. 106) Roger Fowke sold it in 1633 to Richard Foley of Stourbridge, (fn. 107) who had amassed a fortune as an ironmaster. Richard Foley sold the manor in 1648 (fn. 108) to his third son Thomas (fn. 109) for £500. Thomas died in 1677. (fn. 110) His grandson Thomas was made Lord Foley of Kidderminster in 1712, (fn. 111) and the manor passed with the title until 1830. (fn. 112) Prattinton states that Lord Foley sold the manor to Miss Perry of Wolverhampton, who afterwards sold the whole manor, including the Court Farm, to Mr. Knight. (fn. 113)
DEBDALE (Depedal, xiii cent.), now a farm, was the property of the monks of Worcester in the 13th century. Half a virgate there was rented by John the son of Edith for 9½d. quarterly, and a certain Leonin also had a rent of the same amount there. (fn. 114) In an undated deed Richard son of Richard de Debdale gave to Leonin the son of Philip all his land there, for which the latter paid 47d. to the convent quarterly and a pair of gauntlets to Richard at Easter. (fn. 115)
There was a mill at Wolverley in the possession of the church of Worcester at the time of the Domesday Survey, when it was worth 6s. (fn. 116) In the 13th century the mills were rented out, (fn. 117) one being leased for 13s. 4d. quarterly, a fulling-mill for 11d., and other mills for 10s. quarterly. (fn. 118) In 1291 the rent of assize of two mills went to the almoner's fund. (fn. 119) In 1482–3 a new corn-mill was erected on the Horsebrook near Cookley Wood by John Fleming of Tatenhill, co. Staff. The mill known as Lords Mill, probably that which existed in 1086, was demised as two water corn-mills under one roof to John Attwood for his life and the lives of his mother and his brother Samuel in 1641. (fn. 120) It was converted into iron-mills in 1656 by Joshua Newbrugh, and these passed before 1713 to Talbot Jewkes. A lease of this forge was granted in 1727 to Edward Knight. The corn-mill known as Sleepy Mill on Wolverley Heath was built about 1660 by Samuel Jewkes. In 1669 another iron-mill was erected by Joshua Newbrugh and Philip Foley at the Lowe. The mill is now disused. There was another corn-mill at Drakelow on the Horsebrook, and Upton Mill at Broadwaters was used as a fulling-mill until converted in 1746 by Thomas Smart into a corn-mill. In 1753 it was made into an iron forge by John Homfray, and used until about twenty-five years ago, when it was dismantled. Part of it has been used of late years by Mr. William Birkett, a saddle flock manufacturer. (fn. 121)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST is a red brick building consisting of a chancel, south vestry, nave with arcades, north and south aisles containing galleries continued round the west end, and a west tower.
The present church, which replaces an older one pulled down in 1769, is built in the Italian style and was completed in 1772 (fn. 122); it forms an excellent example of local work and design, the tower being particularly good.
The tester of an older pulpit is preserved; on it is inscribed 'Be of one mind. Live in Peace and the God of Peace and Love shall be with you. 1638.' In the church is a chained copy of Jewell's Apology.
The bells are six in number: the first by R. S. (Saunders), 1737; the second and fifth by John Rudhall, 1788; the third by the same maker, 1789; the fourth recast 1896; and the sixth by Richard Sanders, 1737.
The plate consists of a cup made in 1661 inscribed 'William Sebright Armig. Wolverley,' and bearing a shield with three roses, a standing paten of similar date, and a modern cup, paten, flagon and almsdish. There is a pewter almsdish, and the bowl of the font is lined with the same material.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) mixed entries 1539 to 1655; (ii) 1653 to 1696; (iii) baptisms and burials 1697 to 1769 and marriages 1697 to 1754; (iv) marriages 1754 to 1812; (v) baptisms and burials 1770 to 1812; (vi) a private register containing mixed entries 1678 to 1712.
There was a priest at Wolverley in 1086. (fn. 123) The church with its tithes and lands was given by Bishop Roger (1164–79) to the priory. (fn. 124) The priory held the patronage until the Dissolution, (fn. 125) and it was given with the manor to the Dean and Chapter of Worcester in 1542. (fn. 126) This gift was confirmed by James I, (fn. 127) and the patronage has remained in the same hands up to the present day. (fn. 128)
Geoffrey Bacoun, called de Northwick, the vicar of Wolverley, exchanged his benefice for that of Overbury in 1293 because the latter church was on wet land while the former was on dry soil. (fn. 129) Although he was non-resident he had held Wolverley by special dispensation of the Bishop of Norwich on condition that he would be ordained, but he was not ordained until after he was transferred to Overbury. He had in 1303 to obtain a dispensation from the pope to hold the benefice as an absentee. (fn. 130)
In 1351 the church was appropriated to the priory on payment of 20 marks yearly to the bishop, the prior being in great need of money for the repair of the monastery. (fn. 131) The vicarage was ordained in 1354, (fn. 132) when the bishop assigned to the vicar for his residence the houses and manse which had belonged to Thomas de Hale. They were to be rebuilt and altered at the expense of the priory. The prior and convent were bound to repair the chancel and to discharge the vicar from all payments of tithes. (fn. 133) In 1535 it was said to be a peculiar, subject to the jurisdiction of the dean and chapter. (fn. 134) An increase of £10 to the minister of Wolverley was recommended by the Council in 1656. (fn. 135)
There was a chantry in the parish in 1485, when James Nash was appointed chaplain to pray for the good estate of the king. His salary was an annuity of 9 marks from a quit-rent of £9 5s., payable by the manor of Kings Nordeley in the parish of Alveley, co. Salop, to be paid at the hands of the heirs of John Lee of Coton in that parish or of the Sheriff of Worcester. (fn. 136)
The ecclesiastical parish of Cookley was formed from Wolverley in 1849. (fn. 137) The living is a vicarage in the gift of Mr. William Hancocks of Blakeshall House.
On Blakeshall Common there is a mission chapel built by the late Mr. William Hancocks. It is now used by the vicar for church purposes. Another mission room at Broadwaters was built in 1908 in connexion with the church of St. John the Baptist, Wolverley. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Cookley was built in 1814 and rebuilt in 1874, and there is a Primitive Methodist chapel at Broadwaters built in 1858. A Primitive Methodist chapel erected at Cookley in 1860 has been converted into a private house.
Sebright's Endowed Schools, founded by will 1620, were regulated by a scheme of 11 July 1877, under the Endowed Schools Acts. (fn. 138) In consequence of the leases of a considerable London estate now falling in the endowments are now large and are rapidly increasing, and the school will be very rich. This has made a new scheme necessary, the terms of which are being settled between the governors, the County Council and the Board of Education. Out of the income an annual sum of £3 0s. 8d. is applicable in the distribution of bread and 6s. 8d. is paid to the parish clerk for his trouble. An annual sum of £10 is likewise applicable towards the repairs of the parish church. (See also under Old Swinford.)
In 1704 Richard Bibb by deed gave a house and land in Shenstone, the rents and profits to be distributed to the poor. The trust property was sold in 1898 and proceeds invested in £303 7s. 8d. India 3 per cent. stock. The annual dividends, amounting to £9 2s., are distributed on St. Thomas's Day in groceries, meat, &c.
In 1823 John Smith by his will bequeathed £600, out of the income thereof £12 to be paid to the minister for a sermon every Sunday afternoon and the remaining income to be applied in clothing or relieving superannuated husbandmen or widows. The legacy, less duty, is represented by £577 10s. 10d. consols, producing £14 8s. 8d. yearly.
In 1835 John Longmore by his will left a legacy, now represented by £539 1s. 8d. consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £13 9s. 4d., to be applied in the distribution of bread to poor regular attendants at the parish church.
In 1883 William Hancocks, by his will proved at Worcester 15 September, bequeathed £1,000, the income to be distributed among the needy poor, being Protestants, of Wolverley and Cookley St. Peter. The legacy was invested in £998 2s. 8d. consols, producing £24 19s. yearly, which is applied in moieties in the distribution of coal, clothing and other articles in kind among the poor of the respective parishes.
The same testator bequeathed a further sum of £1,000, one moiety of the income to be applied towards the support of the National schools at Wolverley and the other moiety towards the National schools at Cookley. This legacy was invested in £838 14s. 8d. consols, producing £20 19s. 4d. yearly.
The charity is regulated by a scheme of the High Court (Chancery Division) 18 December 1900, whereby the Charity Commissioners are empowered to vary the proportions in which the income may be divided between the two parishes.