A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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The Worcestershire part of Mathon, now known as West Malvern, forms a parish on the west side of the Malvern Hills. Mathon was formerly partly in Worcestershire and partly in Herefordshire and most of the original parish is now the parish of Mathon Rural in Herefordshire. By a Local Government Board Order of 1894 the parish was divided into two parts, Mathon Urban and Mathon Rural, the former comprising the part in Malvern Link urban district. By Local Government Board Order of 8 May 1897, confirmed by the Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 10) Act, 1897, (fn. 1) Mathon Rural was transferred to Herefordshire. By the Malvern Link Extension Act of 1896, (fn. 2) which came into operation 31 March 1897, part of Cradley was transferred to Mathon Urban, and the whole was renamed the civil parish of West Malvern. (fn. 3) West Malvern is still in the registration county of Hereford. (fn. 4) It was constituted an ecclesiastical parish out of Mathon and Leigh in 1844. (fn. 5)
The present parish of Mathon has an area of 3,038 acres, most of which is devoted to agriculture. (fn. 6) West Malvern contains 631 acres. There are many apple and pear orchards for cider and perry, and large crops of grain and hops are also grown. The parish has given its name to a well-known kind of hop of fine quality known as 'Mathon Whites.' The cider and perry of the Mathon district have long been famous and are mentioned by Camden. (fn. 7) The soil is loam and the subsoil chiefly Old Red Sandstone, but part of West Malvern lies on the Ludlow Beds. In the north-west the land is comparatively low-lying, but it rises to the east and south. The western part of the parish consists chiefly of farms. Here is Moorend Cross, whose name occurs in the 13th century. (fn. 8) This district is drained by Cradley Brook, which is joined at Mathon by another brook from the Malvern Hills, and flows north to Cradley. The parish is well wooded.
The village of Mathon is on the high road to Cradley. The parish church stands in a secluded valley near the road. Near it is Church Farm, which has the remains of a moat. There is a pound by the roadside. Mathon Court, lately the seat of Mr. William Croxton Vale, is near the village; to the south of it is South End, probably 'la Suthide' of the 12th and 13th centuries, which belonged to the fee of Hanley and was given by Robert son of Robert de Hanley and Eva his mother to the abbey of Pershore. (fn. 9) There is a disused Wesleyan chapel here. Still further south are Smith's Green and Ham Green; near the latter are the remains of a moat. North-east of Mathon, on the Cradley boundary, is Netherley Hall, now a farm-house.
About 1½ miles east of Mathon village, in a beautiful situation on the slope of the hills, lies West Malvern. Here are situated the Royal Well, the property of the Royal Well Mineral Water Company, and the Royal Malvern Well Hall, which was closed in 1885. Near the church of St. James is St. Edward's Orphanage for Boys founded in 1876. It stands in the same grounds as the Clergy House of Rest, the latter established in 1874. A chapel for the two was built in 1880. Further south at the Dingle is a Congregational chapel built in 1860; there is also a Wesleyan chapel built in 1866. South of West Malvern is Mathon Park, in which is Mathon Lodge, the seat of Mr. Theodore Kensington. Near by is a chapel on the side of the Worcestershire Beacon. To the north of West Malvern is Cowleigh Park, one of the most beautiful parts of Malvern. The population of West Malvern parish in 1901 was 1,406. (fn. 10)
In the 14th century the inhabitants of Colwall and Mathon paid 8 qrs. of oats yearly to the lord of Malvern Chase for having common in the Chase. (fn. 11)
The following place-names occur: Remner's Stocking, Esselond, le Fether, Hopesbroc (fn. 12) (xiii cent.); Shepynground, (fn. 13) le Hamend, Redefild, Le Gnabe Furlong (fn. 14) (xvi cent.); the Dead Water Closes, the Dog Pitt Meadow, the Aytes (fn. 15) (xvii cent.); the Dean and the Hold, Mundine (fn. 16) (xviii cent.).
Ethelred II in the year 1014 gave to a certain ealdorman Leofwine 'a district containing 4 mansae in the place which is called Mathon.' (fn. 17) By the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of MATHON, consisting of 5 hides, of which 3 paid geld and one was in Herefordshire, had passed to the abbey of Pershore. (fn. 18) Henry III in 1251 granted to the abbot free warren in his manor of Mathon. (fn. 19) In 1291 the abbot was returned as holder of a carucate of land here worth 2 marks a year, (fn. 20) and at the dissolution of the abbey the manor of Mathon was of the clear yearly value of £26 13s. 4½d. (fn. 21) It was granted in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of' Westminster, (fn. 22) by whose successors it was held till 1869, (fn. 23) when the manorial rights were vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the present holders.
The Dean and Chapter of Westminster have Court Rolls and deeds for Mathon and various leases of the manor after the Dissolution. (fn. 24)
Half a hide of land in the manor of Mathon which lay in Herefordshire was held in 1086 of Roger de Lacy by a tenant Odo; it had previously been held by Mereuin, a thane of Earl Odo. (fn. 25) This may possibly have been the manor of COWLEIGH (fn. 26) (Couley, xiv cent.). Henry de Cowleigh witnessed a deed in 1287, (fn. 27) and in 1351 William de Cowleigh gave to the vicar of Great Malvern lands in Cowleigh and Cradley. (fn. 28) It first appears as a manor in 1385, when two parts of the manor of Cowleigh next Malvern in Herefordshire and a third of the manor of Cowleigh next Malvern in Worcestershire were settled on Richard Ruyhale and Elizabeth his wife and their heirs. (fn. 29) Habington says that this manor belonged to the Corbetts of Impney, (fn. 30) and though no deeds have been found connecting the Corbetts with this estate, it belonged in the 16th century to the heirs of this branch of the family. It probably passed with the heiress of the Cowleigh family to her husband, a Corbett, (fn. 31) and followed the descent of Impney to the Harewells, for Edmund Harewell died seised of half the manor in 1532. (fn. 32) He was succeeded by his son Thomas, whose grandson Sir Edmund Harewell (fn. 33) in 1604 sold the site of Cowleigh Manor to Rowland Berkeley. (fn. 34) Of his son (fn. 35) William Berkeley the manor was bought in 1624 by Sir Walter Devereux of Leigh, (fn. 36) who had licence to make a park in Leigh, Cowleigh and other places in 1625. (fn. 37) Cowleigh was sold by the Devereux family about 1646, (fn. 38) probably to the Lechmeres, Edmund Lechmere being lord of the manor in 1674, (fn. 39) and it afterwards descended with Holdfast in Ripple in the Lechmere family. (fn. 40) The site of the manor was retained by the Devereux family after they parted with the manor. It was in the hands of Price Devereux in 1723, (fn. 41) but was acquired before 1811 by the Lechmeres, (fn. 42) of whom the manor was purchased by Frederick sixth Lord Beauchamp. (fn. 43) His son the present Lord Beauchamp is now the owner.
Three virgates of land in the manor of Mathon were held by Urse in 1086, (fn. 44) while Walter Poer (Ponther) held a virgate of waste land. (fn. 45) At the same time Adelelm, tenant of Drew Fitz Ponz, held half a hide in Herefordshire previously held by Alward, a thane of Earl Odo. (fn. 46) The further descents of the estates held by Urse and Drew have not been traced, but Walter Pocr's land is probably to be identified with an estate at FARLEY (Ferlegh, Farle, xiii cent.; Farnely, xiv cent.; Farelowe, Fareley, xvixviii cent.), afterwards held by the Poer family. It probably followed the same descent as Battenhall in St. Peter, Worcester, for in 1274 William Poer was presented at the assizes for making a warren in Farley and other places, (fn. 47) and in 1287 the Earl of Gloucester impleaded him for inclosing a park there and making a deer leap, to the detriment of Malvern Chase. (fn. 48) It was then shown that William father of William Poer had made the park, and the father of the Earl of Gloucester had given him deer to place in it, but at the time of the plea they had almost all been destroyed by wolves. (fn. 49) In 1305–6 John de Morton and his wife Elizabeth (probably a member of the Poer family) conveyed to Richard le Mercer, his wife Margaret and their son John 2 virgates of land in Farley. (fn. 50) Robert Bracy was dealing with rent in Farley in 1316. (fn. 51) There is no mention of a manor here till 1507, when Thomas Lygon of Madresfield died seised of the manor of Farley, which he held of the manor of Hanley Castle. (fn. 52). From this date the manor descended with Brace's Leigh (see Leigh) till 1652, when it was sold by Henry Bromley and Edward Penell to Thomas Dangerfield, Susan Fawke, Anne Fawke and George Wood. (fn. 53) Thomas Dangerfield 'of the Park' died in 1705, succeeded by a son Thomas, who died in 1735. He left a son Thomas and a daughter Anne, who married Edward Holder. Thomas died in 1742, (fn. 54) and in 1780 Edward and Anne Holder conveyed the manor of Farley to Samuel Wharton, clerk, and Robert Dangerfield, possibly a son of Thomas. (fn. 55) In 1884 Benjamin Bright was lord of the manor of Farley. (fn. 56) He died leaving an only daughter Phoebe, who married Mr. Cave, the present owner. (fn. 57)
The park of Farley contained 150 acres in 1633. (fn. 58)
There was a mill on the abbot's demesne in 1086. (fn. 59) It is probably to be identified with Mathon Mill mentioned in the 16th century, when there was also a second mill here. (fn. 60) In 1650 'the milne river,' 'the milne close,' 'the milne meadow' and 'the mill croft' are mentioned. (fn. 61) There was a water-mill and tan-house in Mathon in the tenure of Henry Wood in 1686, (fn. 62) and in 1735 a mill-house and the millcroft were leased to Allan Cliffe. (fn. 63)
There was also a mill attached to Cowleigh Manor in the 17th century, (fn. 64) but it seems to have disappeared before the end of that century.
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST (fn. 65) consists of chancel 22 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. with organ chamber on the north side, nave 66 ft. 8 in. by 19 ft., west tower 10 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft., and south porch 12 ft. by 11 ft., all these measurements being internal.
There is no structural division between the nave and chancel, the north and south walls of the building being unbroken throughout their full length, though the chancel roof is slightly lower than that of the nave. The chancel and nave are of 12th-century date, but all the windows with the exception of those at the east end and one on the north side of the nave are modern copies or restorations of 14th-century openings. The tower was added in the 15th century, and the existing roof of the nave was probably erected about the same time. The porch may be a little later than the tower, perhaps c. 1500. The organ chamber is modern. The church was partially restored between 1849 and 1868 and again in 1897.
The church throughout is built of rubble masonry, formerly stuccoed, and the roofs, which overhang at the caves, are covered with modern red tiles. The plaster remains at the east end below the string-course and on the north side of the chancel, but the antiquity sometimes claimed for it is doubtful. When the external plaster was removed from the north and south walls some herring-bone masonry was discovered. This occurs between the second and third windows of the nave just below the eaves on the south side and also to the west of the porch and along the greater part of the north wall at the same height. A vertical joint in the north wall about 10 ft. from the west end may possibly indicate a lengthening of the nave when the tower was added, but most likely only a rebuilding of this portion of the wall when the new roof was erected.
The east end has two round-headed windows high up in the wall resting on a flat string-course, the top edge of which is slightly chamfered. This and another string across the gable are almost the only external architectural features of the 12th-century structure, the walls being without plinth or buttress. The sills of the two east windows are more than 8 ft. above the ground, and the openings, which are 12 in. wide and 4 ft. 10 in. apart, are slightly chamfered all round externally. Above, in the lower part of the gable below the upper string, is an original circular window, but the upper part of the gable has been rebuilt. On the south side the chancel is lighted by a window of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in the head, and there is a similar window on the north side rather more to the west. Both these windows are modern, but are apparently restorations or copies of 14th-century work. The rear arch of that on the north side is shouldered, and the sill is formed of a mediaeval grave slab, with incised cross, part of which is cut away to fit the jamb. In the usual position in the south wall, below the window, is a 12th-century round-headed piscina recess, with plain sunk bowl; opposite in the north wall is another recess of similar type, but probably an aumbry. (fn. 66) The priest's doorway is original, with a semicircular head. The door is new. Internally the walls are plastered, and the modern boarded roof is separated from that of the nave by a modern framed principal of ornamental design partly filled in with lath and plaster forming a kind of chancel arch.
The nave is lighted on the south side by four modern two-light windows, one of which is to the west of the porch, all apparently copies of 14th-century originals, and there are two windows on the north side. The easternmost of these, which is a squareheaded opening of two trefoiled lights, was originally further to the east, but was removed to its present position when the organ chamber was erected. It is apparently of 15th-century date. The head of a mediaeval sepulchral slab is built into the sill inside. The other window, which is placed about the middle of the wall, is an original 12th-century opening lengthened at the bottom and the head roughly cut to a pointed shape. The jamb stones remain below the head, but the lower part has been simply cut through the rubble. The north and south doorways are about 20 ft. from the west wall and that on the north side is built up. It has a square lintel, the edge of which is ornamented with a cable moulding, and the upper jamb stones set in about 1½ in. on either side, forming a kind of trefoiled or shouldered arch. Internally it has a plain semicircular head. The south doorway is of the same type, but the head forms a plain tympanum flush with the walls inclosed by a semicircular arch. The lower edge of the tympanum has a plaited moulding, and the upper part of the opening, which is wider than that on the north side, is again contracted. The door is new, but the ironwork is ancient.
The nave roof consists of seven bays and is a good piece of 15th-century oakwork, having plain collared principals with curved pieces on the under side. The six western bays have purlin braces, the upper plain and the lower cusped, while the easternmost bay has trussed rafters only. Two original tie-beams remain in the middle of the third and sixth bays, and the whole of the roof timbers are continued some little distance down the walls, where they stop against a plaster moulding. The roof has been restored and is plastered between the rafters.
The tower is of four stages with a vice in the north-west corner, but only the upper or belfry stage is marked externally by a string, below which the walls are unbroken to the moulded plinth. The walling is of coursed grey rubble, different in colour from that of the nave, and there are diagonal buttresses of four stages on the west side going up the full height of the tower. On the east side there are square buttresses facing north and south, forming in their lower stages the termination of the nave walls and setting back below the belfry string, where they give place to diagonal buttresses, awkwardly corbelled out, similar to those on the west. The buttresses all terminate abruptly at the top of the belfry stage, the embattled parapet and angle pinnacles, which are set back from the face of the tower, being apparently of later date. The belfry windows are of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in the heads. The west doorway has a four-centred moulded arch without hood mould, and the window above is of two cinquefoiled lights with perpendicular tracery much restored There is a plain pointed light on the north and south sides to the ringing chamber, but the lower stages are blank. The buttresses have each a sunk tracery panel in the second stage. The tower arch is of a single hollow-chamfered order dying out into the wall on the west side, but continuous towards the nave.
The porch is timber-framed with tile filling on a low stone base and has a double two-light window on each side, but the tracery which once existed in the openings has disappeared. (fn. 67) The porch was restored in 1897 and trefoil cusping inserted. The four-centred outer doorway, however, retains its original carving in the spandrels and the timber work generally is ancient.
The font is modern and of stone, but the oak pulpit is a good example of Jacobean work on a modern base. It has four carved sides and an open back, each side having two tiers of panels, the upper of the usual round-headed type and the lower lozenge shaped.
The seating of the nave is modern, but three old oak seats, apparently of 17th-century date, remain at the west end. The walls are wainscoted to a height of 3 ft. 9 in. with woodwork from the old pews. In the vestry is an oak chest with two locks and good fleur de lis ironwork, on the lid of which is cut the date 1698 and the names of Io. How and H. Dangerfield. Against the wall on the north side of the chancel is an early 17th-century tomb of rather coarse Renaissance design with kneeling figures of John Walweyn and his wife and daughter. The daughter is by the side of her mother, who kneels at a prayer desk facing her husband. Below, along the ledge of the base of the monument, is the inscription, 'HIC IACET IANA VXOR IOHIS WALWEYN GENR FILIA PARIDIS SLOVEGHTER ARMIGERI QUAE OBIJT 2O oct: AO DNI 1617.' Below this are three panels with the arms of Walweyn, Slaughter, and Walweyn impaling Slaughter. The arms of Walweyn with crest and mantling occur again at the top of the monument. There are also mural monuments and two flat armorial slabs in the chancel to members of the Cliffe (fn. 68) and Dangerfield families. In the nave are tablets to members of the Barrett, Dangerfield and Vale families. A tablet within the built-up north doorway records the name of Canon Loraine Estridge, vicar (d. 1903), 'mainly through (whose) energy and ability this church was restored to its present state of beauty, A.D. 1897.'
There is a ring of six bells cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1760, (fn. 69) and also a sanctus bell by John Martin dated 1675.
The plate consists of a chalice, paten and flagon of 1849–50, given by Miss Vale in 1852, and patens (1848–9 and 1850–1) given in 1851 by the Rev. Archibald Douglas, vicar. There is also a pewter bread-holder inscribed, 'Be ready to give, glad to distribute, For with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 1 Tim. 6, 17. Heb. 13, 16,' a pewter flagon, and a brass repoussé almsdish of Flemish make.
The church of ST. JAMES, West Malvern, was originally built in 1841 and rebuilt in 1871 under the direction of G. E. Street. It is of stone in 13th-century style and consists of chancel with aisles, nave, aisles, south porch and tower with gabled roof at the east end of the south chancel aisle containing two bells. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.
The church of ST. PETER, built in 1876, stands near Cowleigh Park, and gives its name to an ecclesiastical parish formed in 1876. (fn. 70) The building is of stone in 13th-century style and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, north porch and eastern bell-turret. The living is a vicarage in the gift of Earl Beauchamp, who gave the site for the new vicarage-house built in 1894.
There was a priest in Mathon at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 71)
The church is mentioned about 1193 (fn. 72); the Abbot and convent of Pershore presented to it in 1285 (fn. 73) and it continued in their gift till the Dissolution. In 1512 the church was appropriated to the abbey, (fn. 74) the vicarage at the Dissolution being valued at £8 a year. (fn. 75) The rectory and advowson of the vicarage were granted, with the manor, in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, (fn. 76) and are still held by their successors.
About 1193 an arrangement was made between the patrons, the Abbot and convent of Pershore, and Peter, rector of the church, by which the abbot and convent received two parts of the great tithes and the rector the remainder with all the small tithes and the tithes of Farley. (fn. 77) This agreement was confirmed by Henry Bishop of Worcester (fn. 78) and by Hubert Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 79)
In 1548 the sum of 6s. 2d. was produced from a toft and a parcel of land which had been given for the maintenance of lights in the parish of Mathon. (fn. 80)