A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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UPTON SNODSBURY (fn. 1)
The parish of Upton Snodsbury, 1,691 acres in extent, lies between Piddle Brook on the east and Bow Brook on the west. The country is flat, the highest part of the parish being at Bow Wood, 200 ft. above the ordnance datum. About 700 acres are cultivated, and the grass land covers 897 acres, more than half the total area. Bow Wood in the extreme north is of considerable size, and the total area of woodland is 81 acres. (fn. 2) In 1086 the woodland at Snodsbury was a league square, while that at Cowsden was 3 furlongs in length and 2 furlongs in width. (fn. 3) Woods called Broke Vallett, Bonney Wood Vallett and Bryar Vallett belonged to the manor in the 16th century. (fn. 4) The parish is on the Lower Lias, the chief crops being wheat, barley and beans. Apples, pears and plums are cultivated, and glove-making occupied some of the inhabitants until the middle of the 19th century. (fn. 5)
In the 17th century the farmers and tenants of Upton Snodsbury had the right of pasturing their cattle on certain common land in Upton Snodsbury, and Richard Payne of Cowsden was indicted for inclosing a portion of this ground for his own use. (fn. 6) The common was inclosed under an Act of 1774, (fn. 7) the award being dated 13 January 1775. (fn. 8)
The village lies to the south of the high road from Worcester to Alcester. It retains a number of 17 thcentury black and white cottages; one to the south of the church appears from the parish records to have been built in the time of Charles II. The hamlet of Cowsden, about a mile to the south, also contains some old cottages; Cowsden Hall was rebuilt in the 18th century. About a quarter of a mile north-west of the village is the Court Farm.
The care of Upton Snodsbury Bridge, by which the Worcester road crosses the Bow Brook, was partly the business of the inhabitants of the village, who in the 17th century were held responsible for it, (fn. 9) and partly that of the inhabitants of Broughton Hackett, by whose fault the bridge was said to have fallen into decay in 1599. (fn. 10) Near this bridge King Charles is supposed in 1651 to have defeated a party of Cromwell's army. (fn. 11) A new bridge was built by the County Council in 1913. In 1725 an Act was passed for the repairing of certain roads leading to Worcester, and amongst them was the road from the yew tree in Spetchley parish to Upton Snodsbury, a distance of about 2 miles. (fn. 12) Amongst the charges that the villagers had to meet upon occasion was a payment towards the keep of the prisoners at Worcester Castle, and in 1600 the sheriff distrained for this money. (fn. 13) A wake used to be held at Upton Snodsbury in July; it is referred to in 1618. (fn. 14)
Ten manses in SNODSBURY are included in the charter said to have been granted by King Edgar in 972 to the church of Pershore, (fn. 17) restoring to that abbey property which had formerly been given to it by King Coenwulf. Like so many of the other manors belonging to the abbey of Pershore, Snodsbury was afterwards taken from it by Edward the Confessor and given as part of the manor of Pershore to the abbey of Westminster. In 1086 the abbey of Westminster held 11 hides at Snodsbury, of which 3 hides and 3 virgates representing Cowsden were held by Urse the sheriff. (fn. 18) The part of the estate held by the abbot in demesne probably continued to be so held until the 12th century, when Abbot Lawrence (c. 1160) granted it as the vill of Snodsbury to Peter de Wick. (fn. 19) The overlordship of the manor was held by the abbey (fn. 20) until its dissolution. After the sale of the manor by Sir Hugh Burnell in 1417 some confusion seems to have arisen as to its tenure. In 1463 it was said to be held of John Aldbury, lord of Sheriff's Naunton, (fn. 21) but in 1467 the tenure was not known. (fn. 22)
Peter de Wick had also acquired the manor of Wick, afterwards known as Wick Burnell, and Upton Snodsbury followed the descent of that manor (fn. 23) (q.v.) until both were sold by Sir Hugh Burnell in 1417 to Joan Lady Bergavenny. (fn. 24) It has been seen in the case of Wick Burnell that this sale never seems to have taken effect, but in Upton Snodsbury it seems to have led to counterclaims in the manor. In 1431 James Butler Earl of Ormond, who had married Elizabeth daughter of Joan Lady Bergavenny, held Upton Snodsbury, (fn. 25) though his mother-in-law was still alive, and his son and successor James, created Earl of Wiltshire in 1449, held the manor at the time of his attainder in 1461. (fn. 26) It was granted with many other of his Worcestershire estates to Fulk Stafford in 1461, (fn. 27) and this grant seems to have been followed by a claim on the manor by John Lovel, who represented the heirs male of the Burnell family, and to whom Wick Burnell had apparently passed without contest by the Earls of Ormond. Lovel's estate in Upton Snodsbury was ratified in 1461, (fn. 28) but it seems doubtful whether he ever enjoyed it, for in 1463, after Fulk Stafford's death, a third of the manor was granted to Fulk's widow Margaret for life (fn. 29) and the other two-thirds to John Scott. (fn. 30) The grant to Scott was confirmed in 1464 (fn. 31) and again in 1476, (fn. 32) but in 1467 Joan widow of Sir John Lovel died seised of it. (fn. 33) Her son Francis Lord Lovel forfeited this with his other estates in 1485, (fn. 34) and Upton Snodsbury was granted with Wick Burnell to Sir John Mortimer. (fn. 35) Upton then passed with Wick Burnell until the death of Anthony Kingston. (fn. 36) It was leased in 1556–7 for forty years to William Babington, (fn. 37) and in 1576–7 to Thomas Burroughs for twenty-two years. (fn. 38) This lease required him to keep in repair all buildings, hedges, ditches, banks, &c., but he was given permission to levy from time to time housebote, hedgebote, firebote, ploughbote and cartbote to cover his expenditure. At his death some seven years later his executors sold the lease to Robert Burbage, who in 1583–4 obtained Letters Patent granting him the manor for his life and the lives of his three sons. (fn. 39) In 1590 (fn. 40) the lordship of the manor was purchased by Sir William Walshe for the sum of £839 11s. 3½d., (fn. 41) and in 1632–3 it was sold by his nephew and heir William Walshe (fn. 42) to Thomas Lord Coventry, lord keeper of the great seal. (fn. 43) It has since followed the same descent as Croome D'Abitôt, (fn. 44) George William Lord Coventry being lord of the manor at the present day. (fn. 45)
A mill in the manor of Upton Snodsbury is mentioned in 1258 and in 1448, (fn. 46) and 'le Nete' called 'le Milnenete' was granted to William Walshe with the manor in 1590, (fn. 47) but no mill is then mentioned, nor is there a mill at Upton Snodsbury at the present day.
In 1086 Urse held in the manor of Snodsbury 3 hides and 3 virgates, which were returned in a later survey as at Cowsden. (fn. 48) The estate had been held by Ælfward, who was bound to mow for one day and do the service he was bidden. (fn. 49) From Urse the land passed to his grandson William Beauchamp. (fn. 50) The overlordship followed the descent of Elmley Castle until 1481, (fn. 51) but in 1507 and 1635 the manor was said to be held of the Bishop of Worcester. (fn. 52)
A manor of Cowsden was given with Upton Snodsbury by Christine de Wick to William Beauchamp and the descent of this manor is the same as that of Upton Snodsbury, of which it seems to have been a member (fn. 53) until 1417, when Hugh Burnell conveyed it with Upton Snodsbury to Joan Lady Bergavenny, (fn. 54) but it seems doubtful whether this was the manor held under the Beauchamps. The first mention of that estate occurs early in the 13th century, when Walter Beauchamp confirmed to Gervase Abbot of Pershore a hide of land in Cowsden and Upton, which he held of Beauchamp's fee. (fn. 55)
This estate had been given to the abbey of Pershore by Warin son of William de Upton, who had married Hawise Beauchamp, (fn. 56) and had perhaps obtained this estate with her. She confirmed her husband's grant and it was also confirmed by their son William. (fn. 57) The estate seems, however, to have been restored to Warin, who apparently gave it to his daughter Ascelina and her husband Thomas Lyttelton, (fn. 58) for Thomas granted 4 virgates in Upton and Cowsden to the Abbot of Pershore, (fn. 59) the grant probably taking place about the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 60) After Thomas's death Ascelina granted rents there to the abbey, her grant being confirmed by her brother William son of Warin. (fn. 61) Edmund Lyttelton, son of Thomas and Ascelina, resided at Cowsden, (fn. 62) and on his death without issue it probably passed to his brother or nephew, both called Thomas. (fn. 63) Thomas Westcote alias Heuster, who married Elizabeth daughter and heir of the younger Thomas Lyttelton, is called 'of Collesdon' in 1437. (fn. 64) The manor followed the descent of Frankley (fn. 65) until the death of John Lyttelton in 1532. (fn. 66) By his will he left it and Sheriff's Naunton to provide portions for his younger sons. (fn. 67) Cowsden then followed the descent of Sheriff's Naunton until 1830, (fn. 68) when it is mentioned for the last time. Lord Coventry now claims to be lord of Cowsden, but the manorial rights have lapsed.
The western half of the north wall of the nave appears to be of early 13th-century date. The chancel was entirely rebuilt in the 14th century and the west tower added early in the following century. The south aisle was built during the first half of the 16th century. Considerable alterations were made to the church in the 18th century, when the existing west door was inserted, a west gallery built and a plaster ceiling added. The two latter disappeared when the church was restored in 1873, when a modern south porch took the place of one built in 1815. At the same time the clearstory and the upper parts of the nave and chancel walls were rebuilt.
The chancel is structurally undivided from the nave and has a 14th-century east window of three trefoiled lights with clumsy tracery and a double-chamfered string-course at the sill level. In the north wall is a three-light pointed window of the same date, the central light being carried up to the head. To the east of it is a modern piscina. In the south wall is a blocked priest's door with a moulded external label and further west a three-light window uniform with that on the north. The east wall has been refaced externally and has modern diagonal buttresses at the angles.
The nave has three restored lancet windows in the north wall and between the second and third is a blocked north door with a segmental pointed head. Only the western part of this wall appears to be ancient and two straight joints visible externally indicate the extent of the 13th-century work. On the south side an early 16th-century arcade of four bays opens into the south aisle. The chamfered arches are four-centred and low; they rest on piers with moulded bases and capitals, the latter bearing roughly carved ornaments. On the east respond is a rose and shield, on the first pier a rose, tun, shield inscribed T and two objects resembling dice boxes; the other piers and respond have shields, some charged with crosses and roses. Above this arcade is a clearstory of four square-headed windows, each having two lights with four-centred heads. The south aisle has an early 16th-century east window of two lights under a four-centred head, and in the south wall are two similar windows. Between them is a doorway with a four-centred head with carved spandrels. It is fitted with a more ancient door, cut down to fit its present position. The south porch is a modern timber erection on a stone base. The pent roof of this aisle retains the original moulded principal rafters and purlins, with curved struts against the walls and carved head bosses at the main intersections.
The west tower is three stages high with an axis deflected considerably to the north of that of the nave. It is a large and handsome structure of coursed rubble with ashlar buttresses and is now in a condition of serious decay. The tower arch of two orders is lofty and pointed, the inner order is semi-octagonal with moulded capitals and bases. The pointed 15thcentury west window is of three trefoiled lights with a transom and traceried head. Below it is an 18thcentury doorway. The tower is supported by diagonal buttresses of six stages, stopping below the parapet string, and in the south-west angle is a vice now entered from an external door. The second stage has small single-light openings and the bell-chamber is lighted by a pointed window of two trefoiled lights in each face. It is finished with a plain parapet with small pinnacles at the angles and a low pyramidal tiled roof.
The communion table dates from the 17th century and has good turned legs. Between the nave and chancel is a modern oak screen, but the traceried heads of the side compartments are all of the 15th century. The font in the south aisle is also of the 15th century with moulded base and octagonal bowl; four faces bear the symbols of the Evangelists and the others have quatrefoils, two with a rose in the centre and two with a face. Under the tower is a parish chest with conventional flowers chip-carved on the top and front; it bears the inscription, ' Arrmel Greene Gent, John Gale Chvrch 1681 Wardens.' In the north window of the chancel are some remains of 14th-century glass in the heads of the side lights and a few old quarries remain in the eastern window on the north of the nave. The main roofs of the church are modern and tiled. Covered by the existing chancel pavement are several tomb slabs to John Parkes, 1697, Anne wife of Richard Claridge, rector of Peopleton (d. 1676), and others.
There are six bells: the treble inscribed, 'Armell Greene, John Greene C. W., 1738 R.S.'; the second, 'God save Queen Anne 1703 R.S.'; the third,'Richard Sanders, Bromsgrove made us all six 1703'; the fourth, 'John Rudhall, Glocester fect. 1793'; the fifth by the same founder, 1805, and the tenor inscribed, 'Consider man when you hear me, that I ere long may ring for thee 1719.'
The church of Upton Snodsbury was probably originally a chapelry of the church of Holy Cross, Pershore, for until 1426 the inhabitants had to take their dead to Pershore for burial. (fn. 69) Its advowson may have been acquired by the priory of Great Malvern with that of St. Andrew's, the earliest recorded presentation to Upton Snodsbury being made by the prior and convent in 1297. (fn. 70) In 1346, at the request of Roger Mortimer, the prior and convent obtained licence to appropriate the church, (fn. 71) but the appropriation did not take place until 1398. (fn. 72) The prior and convent of Great Malvern remained in possession of the advowson and rectory until the Dissolution. (fn. 73) In 1541 the rectory was leased for twenty-one years to Richard Berde (fn. 74) and in 1551 both rectory and advowson were granted to Edward Lord Clinton. (fn. 75) Seven years later the advowson was granted to Richard Bishop of Worcester, (fn. 76) but this seems to have been only a temporary grant, and on the death of Lord Clinton the rectory and advowson apparently reverted to the Crown, for they were granted in 1600 to Arthur Arscott, Bestney Betts, Humphrey Speccott, John Aberford, (fn. 77) George Shipside and Armel Green. (fn. 78) By an agreement of the same date George Shipside took the advowson and half the rectory, while Armel Green took the parsonage-house and the other half of the rectory. (fn. 79) George Shipside and John Aberford conveyed the advowson and their share of the rectory in 1612 to Jerome Freere, (fn. 80) who joined with them in 1617 in selling them to Robert Berkeley of Spetchley. (fn. 81) The advowson descended with Spetchley until 1743 (fn. 82) or later, but in 1768 Armel Green presented. (fn. 83) A moiety of the rectory had remained in his family since 1600, (fn. 84) and he probably bought the other moiety, with the advowson, of the Berkeleys, who are said by Prattinton to have sold both before 1812. (fn. 85) The Greens retained the advowson and perhaps the rectory until about 1864, (fn. 86) when the advowson passed to the Rev. H. O'Donnell, the incumbent. (fn. 87) The rectory was probably sold about the same time to Lord Coventry, (fn. 88) the present impropriator. The Rev. H. O'Donnell sold the patronage about 1868 to the Rev. J. J. Merest, and it passed about 1877 to the Rev. J. Wright. (fn. 89) It was purchased in 1889 of Miss Wright and vested in the Bishop of Worcester, to whom it now belongs.
In 1895 the vicarage of Upton Snodsbury was united to the rectory of North Piddle. (fn. 90)
In 1424 a papal mandate was issued to the Prior of Great Malvern, in consideration of the distance of Upton Snodsbury from the church of Holy Cross, Pershore, to allow the parishioners of Upton to have a cemetery of their own. (fn. 91) A protest against this was apparently raised by the Abbot of Pershore, and the matter was not settled until April 1426, when the Bishop of Worcester, as arbitrator between the parties, decreed that the inhabitants of Upton Snodsbury should have their own graveyard and right of sepulture, the sacrist of Pershore to have a penny called 'massepeny' for every body buried, with half the mortuary and half the candles and lights, as well as an annual payment of 3s. 4d (fn. 92) The cemetery was duly consecrated in the following May. (fn. 93)
A chapel in the court of Snodsbury is mentioned in 1258 in the conveyance of the manor by Christine de Wick to William Beauchamp. (fn. 94)
Two acres of land at Upton Snodsbury given for the maintenance of lights in the church were valued in 1545 at 22d. (fn. 95)
The parish is in possession of a blacksmith's house and shop, which is understood to have been purchased with the gifts of Richard Tolley and others mentioned on the church table. The premises are let at £10 10s. yearly, which is distributed in coal.
The church lands consist of about 20 a. in Sulladine Field in this parish, allotted to the vicar and churchwardens under an Inclosure Award dated 13 January 1775. The land is let in allotments. In 1908–9 £12 was received and applied towards church expenses.