A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
This small parish lies to the north of Bredon Hill, 2 miles south-east of Pershore, in one of the most fertile parts of the county, the inhabitants being mainly occupied in agriculture. The village is small, consisting of one street of cottages, one of which on the west side has a picturesque overhanging, timberframed gable. Opposite the church is a fair-sized timber-framed house with brick filling known as the Old Manor House, which formerly belonged to the Wigleys. It is probably of early 17th-century date, and has gabled wings at the north and south ends and a massive stone chimney to the south wing. A short distance to the north is Nash's Farm, a black and white house of about the same date. It has a gabled wing at one end, and in the farmyard is a circular pigeon-house of stone.
The ground has a steady slope from its highest point, 500 ft. above the ordnance datum in the extreme southwest, to 66 ft. at the north of the parish, the village standing at a height of about 100 ft. It has an area of 790 acres, of which 263 are arable land and 417 permanent grass. (fn. 1) The soil is marl, the subsoil Lower Lias. The chief crops grown are wheat, barley and beans, and there are extensive apple and pear orchards.
Romano-British objects have been found in the parish. (fn. 2)
Among ancient place-names have been found Newey, Prestewey, Wymedewe, Putmedewe (fn. 5) (xiv cent.).
The manor of LITTLE COMBERTON was probably included with part of Great Comberton in 1086 in the manor of 10 hides at Comberton which Gilbert Fitz Turold then held, and which had formerly belonged to Eadric, a free man. (fn. 6) Gilbert held this manor of the Abbot of Westminster's great manor of Pershore. (fn. 7) Later it became one of the fees held of the abbot's manor of Binholme, (fn. 8) and it was still held of that manor in 1610. (fn. 9)
The history of the under-tenants of this manor from 1086 to the middle of the 13th century is not known. It probably, however, passed with Gilbert's manor of Hadzor to the Fitz Warins of Wick near Pershore, for in 1256–7 William Fitz Warin settled land in Comberton on himself for life with reversion to his son William. (fn. 10) It was probably the same estate which was sold between 1298 and 1315 to Guy Earl of Warwick by William Fitz Warin. (fn. 11) It then seems to have descended with Elmley Castle, (fn. 12) and was still at the beginning of the 15th century called 'Little Comberton of William Fitz Warin.' (fn. 13) On the death of George Duke of Clarence in 1478 the manor passed into the king's custody on account of the minority of the duke's son Edward. (fn. 14) At this date the manor was said to be held of the king, but by what service was not known. In a Valor of the Earl of Warwick's lands of 1526–7 it was still in the hands of the king, (fn. 15) Edward Earl of Warwick having forfeited all his possessions in 1499. (fn. 16) The manor must have been granted before 1549–50 to John first Earl of Warwick of the house of Dudley, who then sold it to George Willoughby. (fn. 17) From George Willoughby it passed in 1549 to his younger son Thomas, (fn. 18) by whom it was sold to Edward Morgan in 1567. (fn. 19) Before Edward's death in 1578 he had granted this manor to John Morgan, son of his brother Thomas, (fn. 20) but it must have reverted to the Crown before 1612, when it was granted to William Lloyd and Thomas Parker of Holborn, for divers sums granted by Thomas Berington and others, to hold of the Crown in chief. (fn. 21) By Habington's day it had passed to Mr. William Savage, and from him to others. (fn. 22) It seems, however, to have again returned to the Savages of Elmley Castle, a manor of Comberton being held in 1753 by Thomas Byrche Savage, (fn. 23) and in 1822 by Robert Clavering Savage. (fn. 24) Nash states that the Savages held only the royalty of the manor, the estates having passed to others. (fn. 25)
Another estate known as the manor of LITTLE COMBERTON probably originally formed part of the manor whose descent has just been traced, for it was held in the 15th and 16th centuries of the barony of Elmley Castle. (fn. 26) It may perhaps be identified with the manor of Comberton for which William Shepard of Birlingham owed a farm of 10 marks, 2 weys of wheat, 2 weys of barley and 5 weys of pease in 1397, (fn. 27) and with the manor of Little Comberton of which Robert Hugford died seised in 1411, holding it for life by grant of Thomas Earl of Warwick at a rent of £6. (fn. 28) In 1496 Auchar Beauchamp died seised of the manor, leased to him at a rent of 6s. He bequeathed it for life to his wife Avice (who was still living in 1500), after whose death a priest was to be maintained out of the issues of the manor. (fn. 29) In 1528 Robert Morgan of South Mapperton (co. Dorset) died seised of this manor, having ordained by his will the foundation of a chantry in the convent of Studley for his soul and those of Anthony (sic) and Alice (sic) Beauchamp. (fn. 30) He was succeeded by his son John, who in 1533 killed Anchret Palmer in self-defence at Little Comberton, (fn. 31) and received pardon for this in the following year. (fn. 32) He died at Studley in 1535 seised of the manor, having bequeathed it to his son Robert and his heirs, with remainder to his other sons Edward, Nicholas and Thomas successively. (fn. 33) Robert succeeded him and settled the manor on 4 February 1550 on his wife Mary, directing by his will dated 15 July 1567 that his son George should not be disturbed in his quiet possession of the manor for seventy years after the deaths of himself and his wife Mary, if the said George should live so long. (fn. 34) Robert died on 15 July 1567 and was succeeded by his son John, (fn. 35) who was convicted of murdering Nicholas Turberville, his brother-in-law, (fn. 36) at Wells (co. Somerset), on 23 January 1580, and hanged at Ilchester gaol on 14 March following. His heir was his brother Christopher, who died seised of the manor on 8 January 1591. (fn. 37) He was succeeded by his son Christopher, who died in 1609, his heirs being his sisters Elizabeth wife of John Molford, and Mary wife of Richard Brodrepp. (fn. 38) Elizabeth afterwards married Thomas Trenchard. (fn. 39) By a partition of Christopher Morgan's estates made in 1618 the manor of Little Comberton was assigned to Richard Brodrepp and Mary, (fn. 40) who held it in 1635. (fn. 41) Richard Brodrepp, grandson of Richard and Mary, held the manor in 1670 (fn. 42) and died in 1706, when his son Robert succeeded. (fn. 43) On Robert's death in 1708 the estate passed to his brother Richard, whose only son George died without issue in 1739. (fn. 44) Thomas brother of Richard succeeded, and he and his son Richard sold the manor in 1748 to Edmund Makepeace. (fn. 45) Edmund died in 1766, leaving it to his nephew Henry Wigley, who was succeeded in 1801 by his son Edmund, who assumed the name Meysey-Wigley. (fn. 46) His son of the same name took the name Greswolde and died childless in 1833. (fn. 47) Little Comberton then passed to his sister Anne Maria, wife of John Michael Severne, who sold it in 1854 to Charles Abell of Little Comberton. (fn. 48) Of him it was purchased in 1867 by the executors of Mr. Bagnall, and it now belongs to the latter's son Mr. William Henry Bagnall of Bafford House, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham. (fn. 49)
The manor of GULLIVERS (Golofer, Golafres, Golofoures, xvi cent.; Colyfers, Colefowers, xvii cent.) was held of the abbey of Westminster as of the manor of Binholme. (fn. 50) It seems to have been held by the Golafres early in the 14th century. In 1327 John Golafre headed the contributors to the subsidy in Little Comberton, (fn. 51) and in 1328 land and rent in Little Comberton were recovered from John Golafre by Walter de Stanewey. (fn. 52) In 1332 John Golafre again contributed to the subsidy. (fn. 53) In 1340 Sir John Golafre and Elizabeth his wife granted to their son John and Amice his wife tenements in Bricklehampton and Great and Little Comberton. (fn. 54) In 1363 John Golafre granted to Philip de Hambury and Joan his sister lands and rents in Comberton on condition that the said Joan undertook to bring no manner of action against him by reason of her marriage and divorce from him. (fn. 55) In 1395–6 John Golafre did homage at the abbey of Westminster's court at Binholme for his lands in Little Comberton. (fn. 56) He seems to have sold them before 1401–2 to Thomas Eode, who in that year did homage for the land which he bought of John Golafre in Comberton. (fn. 57) From the Eodes or Edes the estate seems to have passed at the end of the 15th century to Robert Throckmorton, who in 1500–1 owed suit for land lately belonging to Walter Eode in Little Comberton, (fn. 58) in 1504–5 for 'land late Edys in Little Comberton called Golafres', (fn. 59) and in 1506–7 for land in Little Comberton called Edyes. (fn. 60) It may be identical with a manor of Comberton claimed by John Stephens, cousin and heir of Walter Bode, who complained that William Gryme, a feoffee, had sold it to Thomas Throckmorton, then deceased, to his disinheritance. (fn. 61) The Throckmortons must have retained possession, as in 1556 Sir Robert Throckmorton conveyed the manor of 'Golofoures' to Margaret Browne, widow. (fn. 62) On 18 April 1620 Henry Browne died seised of the manor, his heir being his son William, to whom he had bequeathed his 'farm of Colyfers.' (fn. 63) Among the notes in the Prattinton Collection for Little Comberton parish is one under 23 July 1817, stating that 'Gulliver's Manor' paid 15s. to Pershore, 10s. to the rector of Comberton, 1s. to the clerk, and 4s. to the poor, (fn. 64) but the owner of the manor is not given, and its further descent has not been traced.
The church of ST. PETER consists of a chancel 30¾ ft. by 16 ft. with north and south chapels, nave 38 ft. by 16 ft. with north porch and south chapel, and west tower 14¼ ft. by 12½ ft. All measurements are internal.
The 12th-century church appears to have consisted of a nave and chancel of the same size as the existing ones, and of these the north nave wall and the base of the south chancel wall are still standing. A window was inserted in the north nave wall in the 14th century and the west tower built. Early in the following century the chancel was largely rebuilt. The north porch was added in 1639. The church has been drastically restored and the side chapels are modern additions.
The east wall is of ashlar with two-stage diagonal buttresses and an old gable cross. The early 15thcentury east window is of three lights with a pointed traceried head. In the north wall is a square-headed window of three trefoiled lights. The external hood has the letter S in the centre of the head and voluted stops bearing the letters T and P. Further west are two modern arches to the north chapel. In the south wall is a three-light early 15th-century window similar to that on the north, and west of it is a modern arch opening to the south chapel or transept. In the same wall is a trefoil-headed piscina with the bowl cut away; the wall itself is partly of 12thcentury rubble masonry. The timber chancel arch is modern, as is the north chapel; built into the east wall is a two-light early 15th-century window with a quatrefoil in the head and in the north wall is a later square-headed window, both being formerly in the chancel wall. The south chapel is entirely modern with a three-light south window. The chancel roof retains a few old timbers.
The nave has five windows in the north wall, three of them being early 12th-century single-light openings but much restored. The easternmost window is square-headed and of late date, and the third window is of two lights, pointed and of the 14th century. The jambs of both cut into the early 12th-century opening between them. The westernmost 12th-century window has an external cable moulding round the head. The north door is of similar date with a semicircular tympanum externally, ornamented with a plain cross and four whorls on each side. The rear arch is plain and round. At the east end of the south wall are two modern arches opening into the south chapel and west of them three modern windows, the last two being of two lights and coupled together; the rear arches, however, spring from ancient jambs. The south chapel has a modern arch on the east opening into the chancel chapel, and in the south wall are two two-light windows, of which the eastern is largely ancient and the western mainly modern. The masonry of the north nave wall is 12th-century rubble, but the south wall, though much restored, appears to be later.
The west tower opens into the nave by a depressed four-centred arch with moulded capitals and bases to the responds; in the west wall is a three-light 14thcentury window with restored tracery and a pointed head, the external hood has large 'ball-flower' stops. The tower is four stages high, divided by stringcourses and faced with ashlar; it has diagonal buttresses at the angles, a moulded plinth and embattled parapet. The latter has crocketed pinnacles at the angles and gargoyles at the angles of the parapet string. The bell-chamber is lighted by a 14th-century threelight window in each face with external labels and head-stops. The north porch has stone side walls with benches and a timber front and gable with a segmental-headed outer door; on the face is inscribed 'A [inverted capital L], EP 1639.'
The font has a circular stem and a plain octagonal bowl with a modern cross cut in one face. The other fittings are modern and include a carved oak reredos. In the coupled windows on the south of the nave and in the south-east window of the south chapel are some fragments of ancient glass. In the chancel are a number of old tiles, mostly with conventional designs, but some bearing the arms of the Confessor, of the Berkeleys and the Hungerfords.
There are six bells: the tenor, fourth and treble cast by J. Taylor, 1866; the fifth inscribed, 'Richard Neale, Thomas Young Ch-wardens 1750'; the third, 'Abel Rudhall cast us all 1750'; and the second 'Prosperity to this parish A.R. 1750.'
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1542 to 1693, marriages 1540 to 1693, burials 1585 to 1694; (ii) all entries 1695 to 1757, marriages to 1754 only; (iii) baptisms and burials 1757 to 1812; (iv) marriages 1755 to 1812.
The church was first mentioned in 1283 when the advowson belonged to William Fitz Warin. (fn. 65) The advowson was held by the lords of the manor (fn. 66) until after the attainder of Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, in 1396. It was granted in 1397 to Sir John Russell, (fn. 67) who settled it in 1399 on himself and his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 68) but on the reversal of the earl's attainder the advowson was restored to him with the rest of his estates in 1399. It passed with the manor to the Crown in 1499, (fn. 69) and was granted in 1545 to John Dudley, Lord Lisle, (fn. 70) afterwards Earl of Warwick, who evidently sold it with the manor to George Willoughby, by whom the presentation was made in 1550. (fn. 71) His son Thomas presented in 1580, (fn. 72) from which it appears that he had not sold the advowson with the manor to Edward Morgan, and Robert Willoughby died seised of the advowson in 1595. (fn. 73) His heir was his daughter Eleanor, (fn. 74) who probably subsequently married Thomas Berington, by whom the presentation was made in right of his wife in 1614. (fn. 75) The advowson was in 1616 and 1618 in the hands of James Tomkyns, whose wife Judith was in a later lawsuit described as seised of the rectory by virtue of a lease for 200 years made by the rector with the consent of the patron in 1570. (fn. 76)
The advowson seems next to have been held by daughters of James Tomkyns and their husbands, and to have been involved in disputes as to tithes which resulted from the above lease. Edward Somervile of Edstone in Wootton Wawen (co. Warwick) presented in 1632, (fn. 77) but by what title is not clear, unless he did so by grant of Thomas Somervile of Toddington in Gloucestershire and Mary his wife, daughter and heir of James Tomkyns, Thomas and Mary themselves presenting in 1643. (fn. 78) Judith Tomkyns had a son Edward Lawrence, who married Susanna daughter of John Parsons, and had by her a son Edward, father of another Edward, whose son Charles left two daughters, Mary and Grace, as co-heirs. Grace married as her first husband a Mr. Bright, and on his death Mr. Henry Goodere, whose heir, his brother John Dineley Goodere, presented Richard Parkes of Pershore to the living in 1734. (fn. 79) His title to present appears to have been considered invalid, and the king presented Bridges Thomas in the same year 'on a suggestion of lapse,' as was stated in a suit brought to recover arrears of stipend by Edmund Thomas against John Dineley Goodere in 1739. (fn. 80) In 1737 the presentation was made by William Neale, (fn. 81) but in 1741 the advowson was in the hands of Thomas Byrche Savage of Elmley Castle. (fn. 82) It then followed the descent of the mansion and park of Elmley Castle, passing from Richard Bourne Charlett in 1822 to Colonel Davies. (fn. 83)
Before 1836 the patronage had passed into the possession of the Rev. William Parker, the incumbent, who held the advowson until his death, and in the hands of whose representatives it continued until 1900. It passed, through the marriage of his daughter, to the Lowndes family, and is now in the possession of the Rev. William Dobson Lowndes. (fn. 84)
In the 13th century the bodies of persons who were not owners of land had to be brought from all the surrounding vills for burial in the graveyard of Little Comberton. (fn. 85)
Depositions as to custom of tithing in Little Comberton in 1676 mention a payment of a penny to the rector out of every noble paid to servants as yearly wage, which seems to have been in practice a yearly offering of 2d. from servants. (fn. 86)
There was a rent of 12d. from 2½ acres of arable land given for the maintenance of certain lights in the church of Little Comberton. (fn. 87)
The Church Land consists of about an acre of land allotted on the inclosure of the common fields in lieu of a piece of church land recorded upon a stone tablet in the church. The land is let at £2 8s. a year, which is applied towards church expenses.