A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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The manor of WITTON, or Witton St. Mary, probably originated in the land at Witton asserted to have been given to the abbey of Evesham in 716 by Ethelbald son of Alewi, King of the Mercians. (fn. 1) The manor afterwards seems to have been lost by the church of Evesham, and to have been restored to it in 1046 by Wulfgeat, when his son Aelfgeat became a monk at Evesham. (fn. 2) Abbot Alwin leased the land to his uncle for life, but on the death of the latter in Harold's battle against the Northmen the manor returned to the abbey. (fn. 3) It was among the lands taken from the abbey by Odo of Bayeux and given to Urse the Sheriff, (fn. 4) who was in possession in 1086, his sub-tenant there being Gunfrei. (fn. 5) Theobald and Peter held this half-hide in Witton of Urse's successor, William de Beauchamp, at the end of the reign of Henry I. (fn. 6) Possibly this estate afterwards became annexed to the sheriff's seals at Droitwich, held by the Beauchamp family (see above).
It appears to have been distinct from the half-fee at Witton, to which the advowson of the church of St. Mary was in early times annexed, held under the lords of Richards Castle. (fn. 7) This estate was held early in the 13th century by the Pauncefoots, (fn. 8) apparently a branch of the family who held Bentley Pauncefoot. Grimbald Pauncefoot of Bentley was in possession in 1307–8, (fn. 9) and from that time the manor seems to have descended with the advowson of St. Mary's Witton (fn. 10) (q.v.). The tenant of the manor (Thomas Earl of Warwick) is mentioned for the last time in 1378–9, but the half-fee was still held of the lords of Richards Castle in 1407–8, (fn. 11) the tenant's name not being given.
The manor of ST. PETER WITTON originated in 2 hides at Witton held in the time of Edward the Confessor by his thegn Tuini. At the Conquest the estate passed to William son of Corbucion, (fn. 12) and was given, as half the vill of Witton, by his successor Peter Corbezun, (fn. 13) or Peter de Studley, to the priory which he founded at Witton St. Peter. (fn. 14) Peter also gave the prior ten 'junctis' of salt in Droitwich, two seals and places for firewood. (fn. 15) The priory was subsequently moved to Studley in Warwickshire, and its estate at Witton was augmented by a gift of land and a capital messuage at Witton by John le Roter, son of Hubert Balistarius. (fn. 16) Successive priors of Studley remained in possession of this estate until the Dissolution. (fn. 17) There was then a house on the manor called Canons Place, which was granted in 1545 to John Bellow and John Broxholme. (fn. 18) They sold it in the same year to Sir Humphrey Stafford. (fn. 19) John Wythe or Withy was dealing with half the estate in 1576–7, (fn. 20) and died seised of it in 1591, (fn. 21) leaving a son Thomas. The other moiety of the estate was held in 1581–2 by Anne Woodward, daughter and heir of William Woodward. (fn. 22) From this time until the beginning of the 19th century no deeds have been found relating to this estate, but it seems to have been annexed to the advowson of the church of St. Peter Witton, a quarter of which was held in 1621–2 by John Wylde. (fn. 23) He died in 1669, (fn. 24) and his share of the estate was purchased by Richard Nash, (fn. 25) who acquired the rest by descent from his father, James Nash. (fn. 26) His great-grandson, Treadway Nash, D.D., was owner of the whole manor in 1779. (fn. 27) It then passed with the manor of Impney until 1811, when it is mentioned for the last time. (fn. 28) The parish covers the eastern side of the borough, originally called Goseford.
In the In-Liberties in the neighbourhood of what is now called the Vines lay the house of the AUSTIN FRIARS to the south of the river. (fn. 29) Its earlier history has been told elsewhere. (fn. 30) In 1543 the friary was given by the king to John Pye of Chippenham and Robert Were of Marlborough. (fn. 31) Their grant included the friars' orchard, Vine Close, and Barley Close. In the following year Were released his claim to Pye, who sold the site to Sir John Pakington in 1549. (fn. 32) Sir John gave it to his daughter Bridget on her marriage with John Lyttelton of Frankley. (fn. 33) They evidently sold it before 1579 to Thomas Gyerse, who settled it in that year upon himself and Margaret his wife for their lives with reversion to Francis Unett and his wife Jane and their issue. (fn. 34) Its further descent has not been traced.
The church of ST. ANDREW consists of a chancel about 35 ft. 4 in. by 14 ft. 9 in., a north-east tower 16 ft. 3 in. by 16 ft. 5 in., a small chapel opening out of the east side of the tower 18 ft. 4 in. by 9 ft., a south chapel 25 ft. by 13 ft. 3 in., nave about 40 ft. by 20 ft. 9 in., north aisle 40 ft. by about 17 ft. 9 in., and a south aisle 41 ft. 4 in. by 11 ft. 4 in. These measurements are all internal.
The chancel, tower and west wall of the nave appear to date from the early 13th century. These, with the exception of a small portion of the east end of the north wall of the nave and the deeply weathered plinth of the north chapel, are the only parts that have survived a fire which occurred at the end of the same century; the width of the former north aisle is shown by the western tower arch, which is only about half the width of the present aisle. No evidence remains to show whether there was a south aisle previous to the fire. At the beginning of the 14th century a general rebuilding appears to have been entered upon, and to this date must be referred both arcades of the nave, including the whole of the north wall, the south chapel and south arcade of the chancel, and the south aisle. The nave was at the same time widened at the east end, the north wall now abutting clumsily upon the south limb and respond of the western tower arch. The buttress-like projection on the east wall of the nave to the north of the chancel arch is shown by the plan to line with the buttress at the north end of the west wall of the nave. As the present north wall is obviously outside the line of the former nave wall at the east, the presumption is that this otherwise unaccountable projection is a fragment of the 13th-century nave wall left by the 14th-century builders to give abutment to the southern tower arch. At the same time windows now blocked appear to have been inserted in the north and south walls of the chancel. In the last quarter of the 14th century the north chapel was rebuilt. About fifty years later the pitch of the roof seems to have been lowered, the north wall raised and a new window inserted in it at a considerable height from the floor. At the same period the upper stages of the tower were rebuilt. Early in the 16th century the chancel was treated in the same manner and some plain windows inserted in the clearstory. The roof then constructed still remains, though concealed by a flat plaster ceiling. It is evident that the chancel has been considerably altered and perhaps shortened at the east end, but at what period it is difficult to say. The present east wall, which follows the slant of the site, is of brick and dates from the 18th century. The three lancets in this wall and the west doorway and window of the nave are of the early 19th century. The jambs of these latter openings are probably of original 14th-century date. Within the last two years the tower has been restored and the north and west walls of the north aisle taken down and rebuilt.
At the north-east of the chancel is a blocked two-light window of the 14th century, the head of which can just be distinguished internally. To the westward of this is an opening into the north chapel, with boldly moulded jambs and acute two-centred head of early 13th-century date. The remainder of the wall is occupied by the southern arch of the tower. In the south wall is a blocked 14th-century window, visible only externally, similar in design and position to that in the opposite wall. A little to the west of this is a doorway of the 13th century, with chamfered jambs and two-centred head, blocked at the addition of the south chapel in the early part of the 14th century. Immediately adjoining is the east respond of the arcade of two bays pierced in the wall at the same period, to the width of which the west jamb of the doorway has been narrowed down. The arches of the arcade are two-centred and of two chamfered orders, with octagonal columns and responds. The capitals have plain bells and moulded abaci. Over the arcade are five square-headed clearstory windows, each of two plain lights, which belong to the 15th-century raising of the walls and lowering of the pitch of the chancel roof. The chancel arch is of two orders; the inner order is chamfered on both faces, but the outer order is chamfered only on the east face; the west face, where it overhangs the respond which fits the arch very ill, is moulded with a filleted bowtel, which is returned horizontally for a short distance upon the east wall of the nave. The north respond is contemporary in date with the tower, and continues the design of its north-west pier, the inner order being carried by a filleted attached column of semicircular section, and the outer order by a filleted nook shaft on the east side. On the west side the springing of the overhanging outer order is masked by two sculptured human heads. The south respond is similar on plan, but seems to be of slightly earlier date. The capital of the attached column is scalloped, and there are nook shafts on both east and west sides, carrying the outer orders. The lower half of the column has been cut away, and it now rests on a moulded corbel of the 15th century. Externally the north and south walls of the chancel are of large blocks of local sandstone, while the east wall is of red brick.
The ground stage of the tower is entirely of early 13th-century date. Two wide arches open into the north chapel on the east and the chancel on the south, while on the west is a narrower and acutely pointed two-centred arch of equal height opening into the north aisle. All are of two moulded orders, the inner carried by a filleted attached column of semicircular section, and the outer by filleted nook shafts projecting from a containing hollow. Their foliated capitals are of a fully developed Gothic type with square moulded abaci truncated at the angles. The bases are of the water-holding Attic form with square plinths. The mouldings of the east and south arches appear to have been cut away to form large casements at the end of the 14th century, to harmonize with the style of the north chapel, rebuilt at that period. The capitals of the eastern responds and of the north respond of the western arch have human heads mingled with the foliage. In the north wall are two wide lancet windows with shafted internal and external jambs, stepped sills, and external labels. The jamb shafts have foliated capitals, annulets, and moulded bases, and have been renewed externally. In the west wall to the north of the aisle arch is an aumbry recess. In the north-east angle a doorway with a two-centred head and label opens into the vice. Over the eastern face of the chapel arch are the marks of an earlier high-pitched roof. Externally the tower is divided into three receding stages by moulded strings. At the north-west angle is a large clasping buttress, extending about three-quarters the height of the ground stage, while a buttress-like projection at the north-east, stopping a little below the first string-course, contains the vice. The base of the tower is marked by a weathered plinth of considerable projection. The two upper stages appear to have undergone extensive alterations in the 15th century. The ringing stage is lighted by windows of two cinquefoiled lights with two-centred heads and vertical tracery, and the bell-chamber by windows of two similar lights with four-centred heads. Their tracery, together with the embattled parapet which crowns the tower, has been recently renewed.
The north chapel, which opens out of the tower, was rebuilt in the last quarter of the 14th century. The plinth of the north wall is a survival of the 13th-century chapel which it replaces. The east window is a fine example of transitional work. It has a twocentred head and is of four transomed lights, the upper cinquefoiled and the lower trefoiled. The tracery is of semi-vertical character, and there is an external label. The jambs are casement-moulded. On either side are image brackets. In the south-west angle is an early 13th-century shaft with a foliated capital forming part of the same suite with the south respond of the eastern tower arch. A fragment of shaft is supported on the capital, which most probably carried one of the corbels of the original roof.
High up in the north wall is a square-headed traceried window of two uncusped lights with an external label, later in date than the large east window. The sill string of this latter window is returned round the north wall. The walls are of the same local sandstone as the tower and the rest of the church, and are crowned by a cornice and parapet, gabled on the east and embattled on the north.
The south chapel is continuous with the south aisle, from which it is divided by a two-centred arch of two orders, the outer moulded with a plain and the inner with a swelled chamfer. The latter springs from plain square abaci supported by the head, shoulders, and upturned arms of two human figures; that on the south is crowned, while the northern figure wears a plain jerkin. The east window has a two-centred head and external label, and is of three trefoiled ogee lights with flowing tracery of a rather clumsy type. At the east of the north wall is the blocked chancel doorway, while the remainder of the wall is occupied by the arcade of two bays above described. At the south-east is a piscina with a trefoiled two-centred head; the basin is much decayed. The two south windows have two-centred heads, and are each of two trefoiled lights surmounted by a quatrefoil. Externally there are three buttresses of two offsets on the south, the westernmost taking the thrust of the dividing arch.
Immediately to the north of the nave face of the chancel arch is the truncated portion of the original 13th-century nave wall. The early 14th-century north arcade is of three bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders, and octagonal columns and responds. The east respond abuts clumsily upon the western tower arch, concealing the nook shaft which carries its outer order upon this side. The southern half is cut away immediately below the capital, and exposes a small circular shaft terminating in two human heads, placed by way of corbel to the respond capital. The shaft is evidently contemporary with the tower, but its original use and the reason for leaving its lower portion untouched are obscure. The central arch is very much distorted, its western half being appreciably the longer. The south arcade is of a similar number of bays, and has two-centred arches of like character supported by octagonal columns and responds, with plain bell capitals and moulded abaci and bases. The north side of the east respond is built into the slanting wall which fills the south-east internal angle of the nave. It seems probable that this is of the 15th century, and that rood stairs exist within this angle, though all trace of the entrance is concealed by the later plastering and the mural monument placed upon it. The west window has lost its tracery. The jambs and head of the doorway beneath have been stuccoed over, rendering it impossible to tell if it be original or not. Two 13th-century buttresses of two offsets, with chamfered angles, take the thrust of the arcades upon the west. A parapeted gable terminates the nave externally at this end.
The walls of the north aisle have been entirely rebuilt within the last two years upon the original foundations. Part of the north-west clasping buttress of the tower is visible at the north-east internal angle. In the north wall are three two-light windows, while on the west is a large window of three lights.
The south aisle is contemporary in date with the south chapel, and is lighted on the south by two two-light windows of the same design, to the west of which is a plain chamfered doorway. The three-light west window repeats the east window of the chapel. There are buttresses of two offsets between the windows and at the west end, the latter partially built into the brick wall of the adjoining vestry.
The early 16th-century timber roof of the chancel is now concealed by a plaster ceiling, a moulded tiebeam and carved boss being alone exposed. This boss, now whitewashed over, is carved with a figure, which may be intended for St. Andrew. The roofs of the nave, south chapel and south aisle are concealed by plaster ceilings. Those of the north chapel and north aisle are modern.
The painted stone font is of Jacobean date. The original Elizabethan altar table is now placed in the north chapel. In the upper lights of the east window of the north chapel are some pieces of heraldic glass, one of which, a shield, Gyronny gules and argent, is probably genuine, and may date from the early 16th century; the remainder seem to be merely put together from fragments. There are also fragments of late 16th and early 17th-century heraldic glass in the east window of the south chapel.
There are no monuments earlier than the 17th century now remaining. On the south wall of the south chapel is an elaborate mural tablet to Mary wife of Henry Clifford and relict of Edward Wheeler, who died in 1680, and various other members of the Wheeler family. On the east wall of the nave to the south of the chancel arch is a large and elaborate mural monument to the memory of Coningesby Norbury, 'Captain of one of his Majesties Ships of War | and Envoy from King George the first to the Court of Morocco | to redeem the British Slaves.'
There is a peal of eight bells, inscribed as follows: Treble, 'God prosper this Corporation 1735. R.S.,' for Richard Sanders. (2) 'Richard Bullock Richard Hale. Ch. Wd. 1735. R.S.' (3) 'Richard Sanders cast us 3. 1735. Bromsgrove.' (4) 'Jesus be our good speed (name erased) … churchwarden 1631.' Founder's mark, a shield with an anchor between the initials T.H. for Thomas Hancock. (5) 'Richd Norris Jno Phillips Ch. Wardens. A.R. 1759,' a Rudhall bell. (6) 'Robert Whieler John Gower Baylifes Peeter Wallwin Churchwarden 1631. Gloria Deo in Excelses' (sic). Same founder's mark (fn. 35) as (4). (7) 'God Save oure King. John Wheeler Edwin Barret, Bayles (Bailiffs) 1645. I.M.,' for John Martin. (fn. 36) Below the inscription is the shield of the corporation of Droitwich. Tenor, 'Thomas Street Esquier Recorder Edward Barrett and Thomas Rastell Baylifs Henry Clifford and Wintour Harris Justices 1676.'
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms and marriages 1571 to 1644, burials 1572 to 1644. Between 1644 and 1657 the entries are fragmentary. From the latter year all entries continue to 1692. (ii) all entries 1693 to 1769; (iii) all entries 1770 to 1787, baptisms and burials to 1804 (the marriages are entered in duplicate in this and the preceding volume from the year 1755); (iv) marriages 1755 to 1812; (v) baptisms and burials 1805 to 1812.
The church of ST. PETER consists of a chancel 26 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 1 in., a modern south vestry and organ chamber, north transept 19 ft. 4 in. by 18 ft., south transept 17 ft. by 19 ft. 4 in., nave 43 ft. 10 in. by 19 ft. 5 in., a west tower 10 ft. 9 in. square and a modern south porch. These measurements are all internal.
The nave and chancel date from the first half of the 12th century, though the western portion of the north wall of the nave seems to have been entirely rebuilt early in the 16th century. About 1220 a south aisle was added, the arcade of which still survives, though the aisle has been pulled down. The south transept may also be of this date; the earliest detail is the south-east window, which is of late 13th-century date, but this appears to be an insertion. Two blocked arches in the west wall of the transept point to the fo mer existence of a double south aisle, of a width nearly equal to the depth of the transept. The presence of re-set 14th-century windows in the blocking of the bays of the nave arcade shows that the aisle was probably rebuilt at this period, a date with which the blocked arches in the transept wall would well accord. The north transept is of the same date, and the windows in the rebuilt portion of the north wall of the nave are also re-set work of the 14th century. At the close of the same century the west tower was added, and is an excellent specimen of early vertical work. Early in the 16th century very drastic alterations were made to the nave, entailing the rebuilding in brick of the whole of the north wall to the west of the north transept, and the addition of an elaborate timber roof of low pitch, raised on a clearstory of half-timber. It is probable that the south aisle was removed in the early 17th century, as the bricks which are used occasionally in the filling of the south arcade are of this date. The east window of the chancel and the south window of the south transept are modern, while a vestry and organ chamber have been added on the south side of the chancel.
In the north wall of the chancel are three roundheaded windows of the early 12th century. At the south-east is a piscina of c. 1400 with a trefoiled head and a semicircular projecting basin. The head is surmounted by a finial which does not appear to belong to it. A doorway with a four-centred head of original 15th-century date opens into the modern vestry, which is on this side of the chancel, and adjoining it to the west is a modern opening into the organ chamber. The chancel arch is semicircular, and is contemporary with the three north windows. It is of two plain square orders, the inner order carried by coupled semicircular attached shafts with scalloped capitals, grooved and chamfered abaci and moulded bases of Attic type. The abacus-mould is carried round the responds of the otherwise continuous outer orders, and produced as a string-course upon the nave and chancel faces of the dividing wall. Above the arch is a modern triple opening, made with the intention of improving the acoustic properties of the chancel. Externally the north and east walls are plastered. The jambs and heads of the north windows, which are exposed, are grooved and chamfered, and at the west end of this wall is a small doorway, now blocked, and visible only externally, with a two-centred segmental head and chamfered jambs. The south wall, against which are built the modern vestry and organ chamber, is plastered on what was originally its outside face.
The north transept dates from c. 1340. In the east wall is a window with a two-centred head of two trefoiled ogee lights with flowing tracery over. The north window is of similar type, but of three lights. The west window is blocked by the large Wylde monument, and only the jambs and head are now visible. The transept opens into the nave by a twocentred arch of two chamfered orders, the inner order dying upon the flat face of the responds and the outer segmental and continuous. A small arch of similar character has recently been formed in the short length of wall to the eastward of it, where were formerly the rood-stairs. Externally the walls are faced with sandstone, and there is a straight joint between the east wall and the north wall of the chancel.
The south transept probably dates from the early 13th century and appears to have opened out of the now destroyed south aisle. It now opens into the nave by the eastern arch of the south arcade, its west wall abutting upon the eastern column of the arcade. In the east wall are two windows, the northernmost of three cinquefoiled lights with a square external head and segmental rear-arch, dating from the early 15th century. The south-east window appears to be an insertion of the late 13th century. It has a twocentred head and is of three uncusped lights, the side lights acutely pointed and the head of the centre light extending to the apex of the opening. Externally there is a label with a head-stop on the north; the southern stop has disappeared. In the south wall is a two-centred window, probably an insertion of the 14th century, filled with modern tracery, and below it is a late 13th-century piscina with a trefoiled ogee head, the projecting basin of which has been cut away. Externally the walls are faced with sandstone, and there are buttresses of two offsets at either end of the south wall. In the west wall can be plainly traced the heads of an arcade of two bays which must have formerly opened into a double south aisle. The outer orders, which alone are visible, are two-centred and segmental.
At the east end of the north wall of the nave is the arch opening into the north transept. The rebuilt portion of the wall to the west is occupied by a re-set 14th-century window of two trefoiled ogee lights with flowing tracery within a two-centred head. The transept bay of the south arcade is the only one now open, the remaining two having been blocked on the demolition of the aisle. It is of three bays with two-centred arches of two chamfered orders, having labels on the nave side, and is supported by circular columns, of which only half of the eastern column and the upper part of the western column (where the wall has been recently cut away to show it) are now exposed. This arcade is of c. 1220. The east respond has a foliated cap of good early stiff-leaved character and a moulded semi-octagonal abacus. The east column has a plain bell capital and abacus of similar form, while the capital of the western column has human heads alternating with foliage in a manner very similar to the capitals of the responds of the tower arches at the neighbouring church of St. Andrew. The 14th-century window above described is in the blocking of the centre bay, and in the blocking of the west bay is a modern doorway. The north wall appears to have been entirely rebuilt at the period of the construction of the roof and clearstory. Externally piers of brickwork carry the wall-plate and are spaced with the roof principals. The lower courses of the wall are of red sandstone. The filling of the south arcade is of stone with occasional brick. The early 16th-century clearstory is of brick nogged half-timber.
The tower is divided externally into two stages by a moulded string-course, and has angle buttresses of four offsets on the west, the thrust of the tower arch being taken by large buttresses of a single offset at the east end of the north and south walls. The tower arch is of two moulded orders. The west window of the ground stage has a two-centred head and is of three trefoiled ogee lights with good early vertical tracery above. Below it is a doorway with a straightsided four-centred head and casement-moulded jambs. The bell-chamber is lighted on the east, north and south by traceried windows with two-centred heads, each of two trefoiled ogee lights, and on the west by a square-headed window of two similar lights. The walls are of ashlar work, and are crowned by a 17th-century parapet of brick. The high-pitched roof of the chancel is modern. The north transept has a segmental plastered ceiling. The south transept has a roof of late 15th-century date. The nave roof dates from the early 16th century; there are five principals (two being against each end wall) trussed by curved braces from wall posts resting on stone corbels. Each bay is divided into eight compartments by the moulded ridge-piece, common rafters and purlins, which have carved bosses at their intersections. Each compartment is further subdivided into four by subsidiary moulded ribs, also with carved bosses at their intersections. This roof is covered externally with lead; the remaining roofs are tiled.
The font is a poor piece of Jacobean work. In the south-east window of the south transept are some fragments of original glass, comprising a piece of a Crucifixion with some canopy work of the 15th century, and some 14th-century black and white glass, including a pelican in her piety. There is also a shield erminois with a chief argent. Several interesting tiles of 15th-century date have been relaid in the floor of the vestry and on the step of the font. Most are of patterns found elsewhere in the neighbourhood, the most widely met with being a four-tile pattern containing four small shields, each charged with the monogram R E and surrounded by a circular border, inscribed in black letter 'In te dñe confidi.' At each corner is the initial M of our Lady. Another pattern contains four talbots drawn with great spirit and surrounded by a circular border inscribed in black letter 'Sir John Talbot.' Many have various heraldic charges, among which are the crest of an elephant's head cut off at the neck, and the upper part of a lion pattern within a circular border. There are two complete shields, the blazon of one of which is as follows: quarterly (1) and (4) a bend, (2) and (3) fretty impaling a fesse between six quatrefoils; the other is also quarterly (1) and (4) a cheveron, (2) and (3) barry of six in chief three roundels. There is also a fragment of France quartering England, not to be confused with a mid-Victorian version of the same laid in the floor of the vestry.
The earliest monument in the church is a stone slab on the north wall of the tower to John Wythe and his wife Isabel; the slab is much decayed and broken, and only the date of the latter's death is now legible. She died in the year 1545. The inscription, so much as now remains, is as follows: '… He was buried here ye … | Nove[m]br in the yere … | & Isabell wyfe to ye sayd Iõ wythe & dowgr & heyr to the | soone & heyre of Iohn moore | & Rose his wyfe wch Rose was Daughtr & heyr to willā Brace | The sayd Isabel Was Buried ye 30 day of Mach (sic) Anno Domini 1545.'
Below the inscription is a shield, quarterly: (1) and (4) Wythe, (2) Moore, (3) Brace. On either side of the shield is inscribed 'Iohn wythe | elldest sonne | to the sayde | Iohn Wythe | and Isabell | his wyfe.'
On the south wall is a slab of similar character, also much decayed, to Robert Wythe, son of the above, who died in 1586. The inscription is as follows: '… lyethe | … bodye of Robert | wythe esqui … the | seconde sonne of Iohn | wythe and Isobel | His wyfe wch Robert dyed ye 24 daye of | December Anno d[omin]i | 1586 Anno Aetatis sue 63.'
Against the west wall of the south transept is a large and elaborate monument to George Wylde, serjeant-at-law, who died in the year 1616. He is represented reclining at full length, his head supported on his left hand, wearing the robes of a serjeant-at-law. The figure is contained beneath an arched recess, flanked by Corinthian columns supporting an entablature. The spandrels and tympanum of the arch are ornamented with elaborate strap-work and arabesques, and the whole is picked out with colour. The inscription states that he married Frances the second daughter of Sir Edmund Huddlestone of Sawston in the county of Cambridge, by whom he had issue John (who married Ann, eldest daughter of Thomas Harries of Tong Castle, serjeant-at-law), George, Elizabeth (who married Walter Blount of Sodington), and Dorothy, who died young.
In the chancel are slabs to many members of the Nash family. John Nash, who died in 1618; Elizabeth wife of James Nash, 1633; Anne wife of Richard Nash, daughter and heir of John Byrch of Cannock, 1651; Elizabeth second wife of Richard Nash, 1676; John, James and Thomas sons of John Nash, who died in 1660, 1661 and 1662 respectively; Elizabeth daughter of Richard Nash, by his second wife, 1673; Richard Nash and Elizabeth his daughter, 1740; and Elizabeth his wife, 1741.
There are three bells, inscribed as follows: Treble, 'God Save our Queene A | Lesabet,' probably by John Greene of Worcester about 1600; (2) '+ Celi Pande Fores Nobis Petre nobiliores' in Gothic capitals, with heads of Henry VI, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward as stops, probably cast at Worcester about 1480; (3) is a modern recasting of a bell of 1685, originally made by John Martin. There is also a small treble priest's bell, also a recast from a bell of 1692.
The plate consists of a silver cup of 1571, a modern copy of it with the mark of 1858, a silver paten of 1696, a silver flagon of 1781, presented to the church in 1883, and a modern silver paten of 1897.
The registers previous to 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms, burials and marriages 1544 to 1760, baptisms and burials 1760 to 1792; (ii) marriages 1792 to 1812; (iii) baptisms and burials 1792 to 1812.
The modern church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of a chancel, north vestry and organ chamber, nave, north and south aisles and a south-west tower. The material is stone and the roofs are slated. The style is 'early Decorated.'
The church of St. Andrew in the centre of the original town, by which stood the 'Chequer' and market, was the church with which the corporation was closely connected in the 17th century and later. The advowson, before 1086 in all likelihood, and by royal grant, passed to the alien priory of Deerhurst. (fn. 37) Edward III and Richard II claimed the gift while the temporalities of the alien priory were theirs. (fn. 38) In 1467 Edward IV granted the priory of Deerhurst with the advowson of St. Andrew to the abbey of Tewkesbury, (fn. 39) with which it remained until the Dissolution. It then again passed to the Crown, in which it has remained until the present time. (fn. 40)
An agreement of 1359, (fn. 41) drawn up between the rector and the parishioners, throws light on the origin of the churchwarden's office and the history of the rights and duties of clergy and laity. The rector was to have the free custody of all books, vestments and other things, of which the finding and repairing belonged to him by law or by custom. For the custody of books and vestments provided by the parishioners a fit person was to be selected by the rector if he chose, or, if not, the custody of the same was to be arranged as the parishioners might wish, at their own risk in case of any loss. The necessaries of divine service, as prescribed by Archbishop Winchelsey's council of 1305, (fn. 42) were to be found by the parishioners. Oblations were not to be limited to 1d.—this, perhaps, because the borough had made a by-law attempting to limit the amount of the oblation. (fn. 43) No profane assemblies might gather in the church, and no stipendiary priests might celebrate without the rector's leave. There was to be no salt-boiling on Sunday, but there might be distribution of salt water to the seals.
In this church there was a chantry founded before 1491, when it was described as newly dedicated, (fn. 44) by Thomas Walker and his wife, (fn. 45) for their souls and the soul of Reginald Bray, famous councillor of Henry VII. It was dedicated in honour of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a chantry-house and other endowments fell to the Crown at the dissolution of the chantries. (fn. 46) The presentation to this chantry passed from the founder to George Newport, who held it in 1506 and 1511 in right of his wife Joan. (fn. 47) Besides this chantry there was a foundation in honour of St. Richard, probably of earlier origin, in connexion with the parish church. (fn. 48) The number of communicants in the parish was in the reign of Edward VI 200. (fn. 49)
In 1548, (fn. 50) on the request of the parishioners, the parish of St. Mary de Witton (with the vicarage of St. Peter de Witton) was united to St. Andrew's by Letters Patent, but it was not till 1662 that the final union took place. (fn. 51) In the 17th century the borough accounts show that the corporation contributed towards the repairs of St. Andrew's, and the claim to certain corporation pews was established.
The advowson of St. Peter de Witton, or de Wich, was granted by Peter de Studley to the priory of Studley, (fn. 52) and remained appropriate to the priory till the Dissolution. (fn. 53) The rectory and advowson of the vicarage followed the same descent as the manor of St. Peter's (fn. 54) until the disappearance of the latter in 1811. (fn. 55) The advowson then belonged to Lord Somers and descended with the title until its extinction on the death of Charles, the third earl, in 1883. It then passed to his eldest daughter Isabella Caroline Lady Henry Somerset, who held until 1906–7, when the patronage was transferred to the Bishop of Worcester.
An obit of small value is mentioned in St. Peter's Church in the 16th century. (fn. 56)
Dependent on Witton St. Peter was the bridgechapel, on the bridge on the Bromsgrove road, still called Chapel Bridge. Nash says 'the public road with horses and carts passed through the chapel, the congregation sitting on one side of the road, the priest on the other, until in 1763 the chapel was pulled down.' The corporation contributed to its maintenance in the 17th century. (fn. 57)
The church of St. Nicholas is first heard of in connexion with a grant from Matthew Count of Boulogne, made about 1170, which gave the church to the nuns of Fontevrault settled at Westwood near Droitwich. (fn. 58) The gift was confirmed by the count's brother Philip and by Matthew's daughter Ida, and recorded in the Westwood chartulary together with the resignation (1186–91) of the rights of the parson, Master Pharicius, who appears to have held this 'chapel' (as it is then called) hereditarily by the gift of the count. Mr. Round has suggested (fn. 59) that the count's rights in St. Nicholas Church were perhaps appurtenant to his rights in Bampton, Oxon., which Domesday Book gives as a royal manor with salt rights in Droitwich. (fn. 60) This is borne out by a charter whereby Nicholas son of William granted to the nuns of Westwood all his land of 'Wichio,' within and without the town, which he had by grant of the nuns, de feudo de Bampton. (fn. 61)
The church remained appropriate to Westwood till the Dissolution. It must have been granted with the site of Westwood Priory to Sir John Pakington, though it is not mentioned in the grant, for he was in possession of it in 1542. (fn. 62) The advowson descended with Hampton Lovett Manor until 1643, when Sir John Pakington of Westwood sold it with the rectory to Thomas Pakington of Droitwich. (fn. 63) Thomas died in 1653, leaving two daughters, Mary, afterwards wife of Arthur Lowe, and Anne, who seems to have been unmarried. (fn. 64) Arthur Lowe and Mary and John Alderne and John Bath and his wife Elizabeth were dealing with the advowson in 1688. (fn. 65) From Mary Lowe the advowson passed with the Lowe in Lindridge to the Rev. William Cleiveland, who held it in 1779. (fn. 66) The church was in ruins long before this time, and no rector served the cure, the incumbent of St. Andrew's having the spiritual care of the parish.
In 1843 the parish was united to St. Andrew's (fn. 67) but in 1870 it was again separated, (fn. 68) and a new church was built on the Ombersley road. The advowson of this living, which is a rectory, was in the Crown until 1907–8, when it was transferred to the Bishop of Worcester.
Parts of the parishes of Salwarpe and St. Andrew were transferred to the parish of St. Nicholas in 1880, and at the same date Park and Berry Hill Farms with part of Egg Hill, formerly in St. Peter's, became part of the parish of St. Nicholas. (fn. 69)
The church of St. Mary de Witton, called also St. Mary de Wich, is no longer in existence. It stood on the Worcester road to the south of the borough. The advowson passed to the Pauncefoot family, and Reynold Pauncefoot's right to the church was acknowledged by the Prior of Worcester at the Gloucester assize of 1203–4 in return for a composition. (fn. 70) The advowson belonged to Richard son of Reynold Pauncefoot in 1220–1, (fn. 71) but had passed before the end of the century to the Frenes, who presented to the church during the last decade of the 13th and at the beginning of the 14th century. (fn. 72) In 1348 John son of Ingram de Frene sold the advowson to Thomas Cassy of Droitwich, (fn. 73) who in 1355 sold it to Thomas Earl of Warwick. (fn. 74) The advowson was forfeited by his son in 1396, (fn. 75) and was granted in 1398 to the king's nephew, Thomas Duke of Surrey. (fn. 76) It was afterwards restored to the Earls of Warwick, (fn. 77) and passed with the rest of their possessions to Henry VII. The advowson seems to have remained in the Crown (fn. 78) until the union of the parish with that of St. Andrew in 1662. Already in 1349 the church was described as in bad repair, (fn. 79) and in 1427–8 it was said that there were not ten inhabitants. (fn. 80)
Coventry's Hospital, founded by will of the Right Hon. Henry Coventry, 1686, was the subject of a protracted suit in Chancery between the trustees and the Pakington family, involving the title to the entire property. A compromise was effected and the charity placed on a permanent basis in 1823 by the creation of an annuity of £473 charged upon certain farms.
In addition to the hospital the donor provided for the instruction and clothing of forty boys and forty girls of the borough. The trustees in exercise of their powers have closed the schools and appropriated the income formerly applicable for this purpose for increasing the number of the almspeople, for whose accommodation five new almshouses were erected in or about 1902, at a cost of £2,900, of which £2,000 is in course of being recouped.
The trust property now consists of twenty-three almshouses, each occupied by two inmates, and of the following securities arising in part from the redemption of the annuity of £473 above referred to and in part from investment by the Court of accumulations of income, namely—£10,920 India 3½ per cent. stock, £3,000 New Zealand 3 per cent. stock, £5,589 Middlesex County 3 per cent. stock, £4,000 Surrey County 3 per cent. stock, £133 6s. 6d. India 3 per cent. stock, and £110 East India Railway (Class B) annuities, and £885 12s. Metropolitan 3½ per cent. stock, producing together about £900 a year. Each of the inmates receives 3s. 6d. a week if under seventy years of age, and clothing and 5s. a week if above that age.
The several securities are held by the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £2,280 India 3½ per cent. stock on an Investment Account for recoupment of the £2,000 above mentioned. In 1910 a sum of £400 was also on deposit at a bank.
In 1789 Nathaniel George Petre, by his will, bequeathed £850 consols, to which £100 stock was added for the Sunday schools for boys, and in 1801 Mrs. Sarah Roberts by a codicil to her will bequeathed a further sum of £100 consols, making together £1,050 consols, which is held by the official trustees.
By a scheme of the Charity Commissioners 25 April 1899 the annual dividend, amounting to £26 5s., is made applicable in prizes or rewards of the value of 10s. each to children who attend a public elementary school and also attend a Sunday school, reserving £5 a year to St. Peter's Church Girls' Sunday School so long as it continues to be maintained.
In 1866 Alderman George Grove, by deed, declared the trusts of a sum of £1,000 given by him to the corporation, namely, that the income should be laid out in alternate years in the distribution of blankets, flannel and sheets on 5 November among deserving poor within the municipal borough or 500 yards thereof irrespective of religious creed.
In 1698 Catherine Talbot—as appeared from the Church Table—by her will bequeathed an annuity of £4 for the poor of this parish not receiving parish relief, and of £1 for the poor of St. Nicholas. See Lea's Provident Fund below.
In 1719 Talbot Barker, by his will, charged his estates in the parishes of Salwarpe and St. Andrew, Droitwich, with an annuity of £95, of which £40 is payable to the clergyman preaching a sermon on Sunday afternoon in St. Andrew's parish church, £20 for educational purposes in Droitwich, £20 for educational purposes in the parishes of Salwarpe and Martin Hussingtree, £10 for the poor of Droitwich and £5 for the poor of Salwarpe.
In 1859 Miss Harriet Ricketts, by her will, left a legacy in augmentation of this charity, which is represented by £55 7s. 11d. consols, of which two-fifths, £22 3s. 2d. stock, is applicable for educational purposes, under an order of the Charity Commissioners of 23 March 1906.
The stock is held by the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £110 16s. consols bequeathed by the same testatrix, producing £2 15s. 4d. yearly, administered by the vicar and churchwardens in clothing.
Giles Trimnall—as appeared from the Church Table—left to the poor of this parish several parcels of land, and a rent-charge of 6s. 8d. charged on a house, to be distributed on St. Thomas's Day. The land produces about £10 a year, and the official trustees hold a sum of £92 19s. 9d. consols, producing £2 6s. 4d. yearly. The income is duly applied. On 3 April 1912 a sum of £500 was paid by the Corbett Trustees, under the authority of the Charity Commissioners and of the High Court, to the account of the official trustees for investment in trust for Trimnall's Charity, as a compromise and an extinguishment of all claims on behalf of the charity trustees to the fee simple in two pieces of land in St. Andrew's parish, containing together rather more than an acre, which had apparently become merged in the Corbett estate.
In 1786 Mary Hickman, by her will, bequeathed £200, the interest to be applied for the benefit of the poor. The legacy, reduced by legal costs, is represented by a sum of £171 15s. 8d. consols standing in the name of the Paymaster-General of the High Court, producing £4 5s. 9d. yearly.
In 1756 Joseph Bache—as mentioned on the Church Table—by his will left the residue of his estate for the poor of this parish and Dodderhill. The sum of 50s. formerly received in respect of this charity has ceased to be paid.
In 1822 Mrs. Mary Wakeman, by deed, conveyed land near to a place called Cuckold's Corner, containing 1 a. 2 r., the annual rents to be applied in the purchase of bread among the virtuous poor. The land is let at £6 a year.
In 1797 Mrs. Sarah Roberts, by her will, left a yearly sum of £4 to be distributed on New Year's Day among the poor of St. Andrew and St. Nicholas by the minister of St. Andrew's. The legacy is represented by £133 6s. 8d. consols with the official trustees, producing £3 6s. 8d. yearly. See Lea's Provident Fund below.
In 1833 Miss Elizabeth Smithsend, by her will, bequeathed £45, the interest to be applied for the benefit of the poor of St. Andrew and St. Nicholas. The legacy is represented by two sums of £29 19s. 4d. consols, with the official trustees, producing 13s. each yearly for each parish.
Lea's Provident Fund:
In 1889 the Ven. Archdeacon William Lea, by his will proved at Worcester 11 December, bequeathed £100, represented by £107 16s. 4d. consols, with the official trustees, in augmentation of the charities of Mrs. Catherine Talbot and Mrs. Sarah Roberts, otherwise the 'May-day Money,' in accordance with the provisions of a scheme of the Charity Commissioners 26 June 1874.
Lea's Savings Bank Fund:
The charity of William Squire, founded by will dated 10 December 1716, was the subject of proccedings in the Court of Chancery. A sum of £1 6s. 8d. was applicable for the poor of St. Nicholas, £1 for the poor of Northfield, and the residue of the rents of 6 acres for the benefit of poor relations.
In 1685 Mr. Tolley, as appeared from the Church Table, by his will devised 2 r. 12 p., the rents to be applied towards the repairs of the church. The land was sold with the sanction of the Charity Commissioners and the proceeds—less £30 remitted to the administering trustees—is represented by £198 6s. 7d. consols with the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £101 18s. 2d. consols in augmentation of this charity derived under the will of the Ven. Archdeacon Lea. The dividends, amounting to £7 9s. 10d., are applied in repairs to the church.
In 1780 William Haseldine by his will directed that £100 should be placed out at interest, to be distributed in bread every Sunday to poor attending divine service. The legacy is represented by £110 19s. consols, producing £2 15s. 4d. yearly.
In 1789 Nathaniel George Petre, as mentioned on the Church Table—left £100, the interest to be given to the poor in bread on Christmas Eve. The legacy is represented by a sum of £150 consols, producing £3 15s. yearly.
In 1860 John Cole Wedgberrow by his will left a legacy, represented by £218 11s. 7d. consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £5 9s., to be applied (subject to repair of tomb) in the distribution of blankets.
In 1797 Mrs. Sarah Roberts by her will gave the yearly sum of £5 to be distributed to the poor on New Year's Day. The annuity was provided by the purchase of a sum of £166 13s. 4d. consols, which now produces £4 3s. 4d. yearly.
The five sums of stock above mentioned are held by the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £210 10s. 2d. consols, producing £5 5s. yearly, representing the gift of Mr. William Henry Ricketts and the educational foundations of Harriet Ricketts.