A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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This small parish was formerly in Shropshire, but was transferred to Worcestershire for administrative purposes in 1895. (fn. 1) It is on the north-western boundary of the county, and is divided into two parts by the Severn, which forms part of both the eastern and western boundaries of the parish. It is crossed from north-west to south-east by the road from Bridgnorth to Bewdley, and is watered by Dowles Brook, which flows into the Severn near Dowles Church. The ground rises from the valley of the Severn to a height of 500 ft. in the north-east of the parish and to 300 ft. at Skeys Wood in the west.
The village, which is somewhat scattered, contains some early 17th-century half-timbered cottages. One of these, on the main road near the church, was formerly the Boar's Head Inn. Its position, overlooking the valley of the Severn, renders it a conspicuous object for some distance round. Dowles Manor House, situated off the main road about half a mile north of the church, is the residence of Mr. Jannion Steele Elliott. It is a Li-shaped house of two stories and an attic, with a modern brick addition at the back. Over the doorway is the date 1560. The lower story is of stone, the walls being about 3 ft. 6 in. thick, and the upper part of the house is of half-timber with tiled roofs. The gables of the projecting wings on the south front have original barge-boards with carving in low relief and carved pendants at their apices. The oak mullioned windows on this front are also of the 16th century. The hall, entered directly from the main doorway, occupies the centre of the ground floor of the original part of the house; on the west is a room now used as a drawing room, and on the east the present dining room and the original stairway. There is a wide fireplace opening opposite the doorway with a heavy beam above. The rooms on either side are screened from the hall by heavy oak partitions, with plaster panels covered with 16th-century paintings. The painting on the lower panels is almost obliterated, but that on the upper panels, which has evidently formed part of the same design, represents winged animals and human figures, half figures of Elizabethan ladies in ruffs, and other designs. The present drawing room, probably the original kitchen, is panelled in oak in small squares, with a fluted frieze and moulded cornice. The fireplace is flanked by oak fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals, and has an overmantel of three semicircular-headed panels divided by similar pilasters, a frieze carved with vineleaf ornament, and a dentil cornice. A serving door to the hall still exists on the east side of the room. In the dining room, which seems to have been the original private chamber or withdrawing room, is a wide fireplace, the head of which is formed by a moulded beam. On the west walls of this room and of the study above some painted panels remain, similar to those in the hall. Formerly the whole room was so decorated, but the paintings were in too bad a state to be preserved. The original stairway, which was separated from this room by an oak screen, part of which remains, has been removed and a modern one constructed in a new position, but otherwise the old portion of the house, with its moulded beams and exposed timbers, remains substantially in its original condition.
The soil is clay, the subsoil Coal Measures and Old Red Sandstone. Coal and excellent fireclay are found. The chief crops are wheat and barley. The parish has an area of 711 acres, of which 160 were in 1905 arable land, 329 permanent grass and 121 woods and plantations. (fn. 2)
There is no record of DOWLES in the Domesday Survey, and it then probably formed part of Wyre Forest. Eyton considers that Dowles is to be identified with Achiseia or Hakiesheia, 2 solidates of land belonging to Stottesdon, co. Salop, held by Guy son of Helgot and granted before 1127 to Great Malvern Priory. (fn. 7) This land is described as lying on the opposite side of the Severn to Northwood, (fn. 8) which also belonged to the priory, and its limits had been perambulated by Fulk the sheriff, who had given seisin of the land to the monks. The gift included certain woodland which belonged to Stottesdon, and was confirmed to the monks by Henry I in 1127. At the same time he released them from payment of 2s. which Guy had been accustomed to pay for this land. (fn. 9) The manor does not again appear under this name, and was confirmed to the priory as 'Dules' in 1217, (fn. 10) but its subsequent connexion with Northwood is a strong argument in favour of Eyton's identification. In the Taxation of 1291 a carucate at Northwood is returned among the Worcestershire possessions of the priory, (fn. 11) but Dowles is not mentioned, unless it is to be identified with the 'Boules' (returned under Herefordshire) where the prior held rents of assize worth £1 per annum. (fn. 12) In 1292 the prior was impleaded for exercising certain privileges in his manor of Dowles. He claimed the right to hold two great courts yearly, but the jury found that he had never held these courts nor tried any pleas of the Crown until three years before, when he obliged his men of Dowles to cross the Severn and attend his court at Northwood in Worcestershire. These courts were afterwards conceded by the judge, if the king should allow them, for a rent of 6s. 8d. (fn. 13) The manor was held until the Dissolution by successive priors. (fn. 14)
In July 1543 the manor was granted in fee to James Leveson, merchant of the staple. (fn. 15) It was purchased from him in August of that year by Thomas Grey, (fn. 16) who was succeeded in 1559 by his son John. (fn. 17) He with his wife Jane sold it in 1567 to George Blount and Humphrey Hill. (fn. 18)
The moiety purchased by Humphrey Hill was settled by him in 1587 on himself, with remainder to his nephews John, Francis and William Hill and their heirs male, to William Hill of Bickley in Knighton on Teme and his heirs male, and the right heirs of Humphrey successively. (fn. 19) He died seised of it, as Humphrey Hill of Silvington (co. Salop), on 22 January 1600, (fn. 20) and was succeeded by his nephew John Hill of Bewdley (fn. 21) under the settlement. John married Ursula Hincksman and died at Silvington on 17 November 1625, (fn. 22) when he was succeeded by his son John, who received livery of this moiety in the following year. (fn. 23) He sold it in 1642 to Sir Richard Newport, kt., (fn. 24) the owner of the other moiety of the manor.
This other moiety must have passed from George Blount at his death in 1581 to his nephew Roland Lacon, (fn. 25) on whom he had settled certain of his estates, and who on 2 April 1586 received licence to settle it on his daughter Beatrice and her husband Francis Newport. (fn. 26) Francis Newport, knighted in 1603, (fn. 27) died on 15 March 1623, (fn. 28) and was succeeded by his son Sir Richard Newport, kt., then married to Rachel daughter of John Leveson. (fn. 29) He conveyed this moiety to Edward Lord Newburgh, Sir Richard Leveson, K.B., his brother-in-law, and others, for purposes of settlement in 1642. (fn. 30) In the same year he was created Lord Newport of High Ercall, co. Stafford, as a reward for his loyalty to the Crown. (fn. 31) After the execution of Charles I he lived in France, where he died on 8 February 1651. (fn. 32) His son Francis, who succeeded him, (fn. 33) was created Viscount Newport of Bradford in 1675, (fn. 34) and of him the whole manor and advowson were purchased in 1677, (fn. 35) as part of the dowry of Anne Ramsay, bride of Henry Herbert of Ribbesford. (fn. 36) Henry was created Lord Herbert of Chirbury (fn. 37) on 28 April 1694. His son Henry succeeded to the title and estates at his father's death in January 1708–9. He married the Hon. Mary Wallop, sister of John Viscount Lymington, afterwards created Earl of Portsmouth, but died childless, by his own hand, a ruined man, in 1738. (fn. 38) His estates passed under his father's will to his cousin Henry Morley, descended from Sir Henry Herbert of Ribbesford (the father of the fifth Lord Herbert). (fn. 39) He took the name of Herbert, and as Henry Morley Herbert presented to the church in 1779. (fn. 40) In 1783 the manor was conveyed by John Offley to Samuel Skey. (fn. 41) Samuel Skey of Spring Grove was succeeded at his death in 1800 by his son Samuel, who died in 1806. (fn. 42) Dowles passed to his three daughters and co-heirs, Mary, who on 2 February 1814 married William fourth son of Sir Charles Burton, bart., Louisa, who on 6 December 1814 married James Taylor of Moseley Hall, and Caroline. (fn. 43) Mary was dealing with her third of the manor in 1813, (fn. 44) James Taylor and his wife Louisa, and Caroline Skey with the remaining two-thirds in 1819. (fn. 45) Mary Burton and Caroline Skey seem to have subsequently transferred their thirds to James Taylor and his wife Louisa. She died in 1822, (fn. 46) and in 1856 the manor was held by her son James Arthur Taylor. It was purchased in 1871 by Edward Pease of Darlington, whose daughter and heir Beatrice Mary married on 17 February 1885 Newton Viscount Lymington, (fn. 47) who succeeded his father as sixth Earl of Portsmouth in 1891. In 1902 the Bewdley estate, including the manor of Dowles, was sold in lots, and the manor of Dowles was purchased by its present owner, Mr. Jannion Steele Elliott. (fn. 48)
The mill of Dowles was held under the Prior of Great Malvern in 1521 by William Southall of Bewdley. (fn. 49) A mill was held with the manor in 1587 (fn. 50) and in 1813, (fn. 51) but there is no mill in the parish at the present day.
The church of ST. ANDREW (fn. 52) consists of a chancel, north vestry and organ chamber, west tower and a south porch.
The original building, which is said to have been of the 15th century, appears to have been entirely rebuilt in 1789, (fn. 53) when the walls, if not entirely taken down, were encased with brick and every vestige of mediaeval detail destroyed. In 1882 the chancel was enlarged by the addition of a semi-octagonal apse, and an endeavour was made to impart a quasi-Gothic character by the insertion of new windows throughout and the conversion of the chancel and tower arches to the two-centred form. These details are all of red sandstone. The north vestry and organ chamber are still later additions; they are of red brick, and have traceried windows of sandstone, corresponding in design with the windows of the chancel and nave.
The font, which is now circular, was originally square, but the bowl shows it to be of no great antiquity. The panelled remains of a 'three-decker' which form the present pulpit bear the date 1695 and the initials 'I.G.,' 'I. B.' A piece of the framed oakwork which serves as the reredos of the altar is inscribed, 'Fraunces ap Bowen gave this Gifter 1669.' On the south side of the chancel is a good Jacobean bench, made for secular use, inscribed upon the front panel of the seat, 'Sit Down Ye Weary.'
The church of Dowles was confirmed to the priory of Great Malvern in 1217. (fn. 56) The priory must have held the advowson until the Dissolution, and it was granted with the manor in July 1543 to James Leveson. (fn. 57) The manor and advowson appear to have been held together as late as 1819, (fn. 58) but, whereas the manor seems finally to have been held by the heirs of Samuel Skey's second daughter and co-heir Louisa wife of James Taylor, the advowson continued to be held jointly by the co-heirs and their representatives until 1877. (fn. 59) From 1878 to 1885 it was again held with the manor by Edward Pease, whose trustees now hold it.
In 1521 William Southall of Bewdley left rent from land in Dowles to the parson of Dowles to keep the 'yerely myndes' of himself and his wife. The rent was to pass after the death of the parson to the churchwarden for the use of the church, putting William and his wife on the 'bederowle.' (fn. 60)
The following charities in the ecclesiastical district of Dowles (as it existed at the dates of the instruments of foundation of the respective charities) were by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners 30 April 1909 consolidated and placed under the administration of the body of trustees thereby constituted, namely, the charities of:
The several sums of stock, amounting together to £1,241 5s. 10d. consols, are held by the official trustees. The annual dividends are by the scheme made applicable for the general benefit of the poor of the ecclesiastical district of Dowles as it existed in the year 1874 in one or more of the modes therein specified.
In 1882 Mrs. Anne Hallen, by will proved at Worcester 2 November, bequeathed £100, the dividends to be applied in keeping in neat order and condition the churchyard belonging to the parish church. The legacy less duty was invested in £88 11s. 2d. consols, producing £2 4s. yearly, with the official trustees, who also hold a sum of £10 10s. 4d. consols, derived under the will of Elizabeth Marcy, dated in 1900, the dividend of 5s. a year being applicable for keeping in repair a tablet in the church.