A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 4, Hemlingford Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1947.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
THE BOROUGH OF NUNEATON
The ancient parish of Nuneaton, containing 6,541 acres, formed a roughly L-shaped block lying to the north and east of Chilvers Coton, the northern limb of the L being some 6 miles from east to west and the eastern rather over 3 miles from north to south. At the angle of the two limbs lay the town, which had originally grown up round the nunnery to which it owes its name, but had subsequently developed as a mining and industrial centre. For 1 mile on the north-east the boundary of the parish, separating it from Leicestershire, is the Watling Street as far north as Hollow Farm, where it runs south-west by the Change Brook (fn. 1) into the River Anker, which it follows for about a mile before cutting across country westwards. On the east the boundary leaves Watling Street to follow the Harrow Brook into the upper reaches of the Anker; on the west it runs down the Wem Brook to join the Anker ½ mile below the Market Place. From the Market Place run four main roads; the first, Queen's Road, leads west into the Arbury Road, which forms the parish boundary along the northern edge of Chilvers Coton; Abbey Street leads north-west to Atherstone, and in it (no. 75) is one of the very few old houses in the town, being a 17thcentury timber-framed building with a massive central chimney-stack and chamfered beams to the ceilings. The third road runs south through Chilvers Coton and Griff to Bedworth; and the fourth eastwards across the Anker, where it branches left as Bond Gate, (fn. 2) leading north-east into 'The Long Shoot' which strikes the Watling Street at right angles, and right, as Church Street, to go southwards to Attleborough. In Church Street a row of 17th-century houses (nos. 30–7) with plastered fronts, some with quasi-rusticated quoins and chimney-stacks of thin bricks was destroyed by enemy action in May 1941. Nos. 35 to 37 proved to be of timber-framing on a stone plinth 3 ft. 6 in. in height. (fn. 3) At Attleborough is the modern church (1842) of Holy Trinity, built of brown brick in the 13th-century style, with apsidal chancel, nave, and west tower with stone spire.
The country, so far as it is not built over, is open, with little woodland and numerous small streams. The town of Nuneaton lies in a slight hollow at an elevation of 270 ft., the ground rising round it, the eastern part of the parish being between 300 and 325 ft. and the western reaching 425 ft. at Stockingford Church (St. Paul's, built 1824) and 525 ft. at the south-west corner of the parish. The Coventry Canal crosses the parish just west of the town, which is an important junction on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, lines radiating thence in six directions, though the branch to Ashby-de-la-Zouch is now closed for passenger traffic. There are three stations: Nuneaton Trent Valley (opened Dec. 1847), Abbey Street, and Stockingford (1864). (fn. 4)
King Henry II granted to the priory a fair on the feast on the Invention of the Holy Cross (3 May) and four days following, (fn. 5) and this was extended in 1239 by inclusion of two days before the festivals. (fn. 6) This had dwindled to three days by 1830 (fn. 7) and is now limited to the one day, 14 May. Other fairs, for horses and cattle, on 18 February and 31 October, and a statutory fair 14 days before Michaelmas, which existed in 1850 (fn. 8) had disappeared by 1888. (fn. 9) In 1226 a weekly market on Tuesday was granted, (fn. 10) and in 1233 the day was changed to Saturday, (fn. 11) on which day it is still held. In 1314 a grant for five years of dues on all goods brought into the town was made to the priory for the paving of the town. (fn. 12) Twenty years later a grant of pontage for the repair of the bridge was made to 'the bailiffs and goodmen' of Nuneaton. (fn. 13) This suggests the existence of something in the nature of a manorial borough, which is borne out by a charter of 1227 by which Sibyl the Prioress and Robert the Prior of Nuneaton grant that all who hold burgages from them in the town shall hold them as freely as the burgesses of the Prior of Coventry hold in Coventry. (fn. 14) There are many references to burgages and half-burgages in Nuneaton, some of which were in 'Bakhouse Lane', between 1307 and 1574, (fn. 15) as well as to the Burgagefeld, (fn. 16) still known as The Burgages. (fn. 17) The town, however, was never called a borough, and any organization that did exist must have been quite rudimentary.
The rise of coal-mining in this district at the end of the 13th century increased the importance of the town, particularly with the introduction of improved methods in the middle of the 16th century. (fn. 18) The inclosure of 2,670 acres in Attleborough under an Act of 1731 (fn. 19) probably benefited the larger farmers at the expense of the poor, and in August 1756 Nuneaton was one of the places where there were serious riots over the price of corn. The houses of 'two substantial tradesmen' were sacked and demolished by the mob, who also threatened the mills. One rioter was shot and four arrested 'by the great courage of the Curate of Nuneaton', two of them being subsequently executed. (fn. 20) In 1802 another Act was passed by which 773 acres in Nuneaton and Stockingford were inclosed. (fn. 21)
Towards the end of the 18th century textile industries were established in the town, particularly ribbonweaving, (fn. 22) and these are still an important industrial feature, among the latest branches being the artificial silk factory established by Messrs. Courtauld. The production of hats, leather goods, (fn. 23) and needles contributed to the growth of the town, and the making of bricks and tiles ranks only second in importance to coal-mining. (fn. 24)
In 1893 the Urban Districts of Nuneaton and Chilvers Coton were amalgamated, and in 1907 these two parishes, including the hamlets of Attleborough and Stockingford, were incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Nuneaton. In 1931 the parish of Weddington and part of Caldecote were added, and in 1934 certain adjustments were made between the Leicestershire parishes of Higham and Hinckley and the borough, which now covers 11,624 acres and has a population of about 50,000. The council now consists of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, 8 Aldermen, and 24 Councillors representing 8 wards. (fn. 25) The Council House is a dignified building of local brick with stone dressings.
Riversley Park, containing 15 acres intersected by the River Anker, was given to the town by Alderman E. F. Melly. It contains the Memorial, a granite cross, to those who fell in the War of 1914–18, and also a Museum and Art Gallery with which a School of Arts and Crafts is associated. The King Edward VI Grammar School, formally founded in 1552 but actually established some ten years earlier, (fn. 26) has now more than 200 pupils. A High School for Girls was erected by the County Council in 1909, and there are about thirty elementary schools. The County School of Mining, originating in evening classes, was established in 1913 and has developed into an important institution. (fn. 27) The Roman Catholic Church in Coton Road was rebuilt in 1936, and the Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, and other denominations have their places of worship.
Before the Conquest Harding owned ETON, and he was replaced here, as in his Leicestershire estates, by Earl Aubrey de Couci. Aubrey withdrew from England before 1086, when the lands formerly his were held by the Crown and had been committed to the custody of Geoffrey de Wirce. A mill, worth 32d. annually, is mentioned. (fn. 28) Robert d'Oilly also held, under Turchil of Warwick, 3 hides in 'Etone', perhaps here, which had been owned by Alwin in the days of Edward the Confessor. (fn. 29) Before 1118 the property passed to Robert, Count of Meulan and Earl of Leicester, (fn. 30) whose son, Robert 'le Bossu', Earl of Leicester, founded here a nunnery of the Order of Fontevrault. (fn. 31) The whole lordship, which therefore became known as NUNEATON, was part of its lands, except the portion in Stockingford held by the Canons of St. Mary de Pré, Leicester, and that of the Nuns of Chaise-Dieu (France) in Nuneaton and Attleborough. (fn. 32) The latter was rented by Nuneaton Priory in 1243 for 24 marks, and subsequently bought for 300 marks. (fn. 33) In 1291 the priory's possessions here were worth £36 4s. 11d., including two mills worth £1, and another in Stockingford worth 6s. 8d., and £2 from the issues of the fair and market. (fn. 34) In 1535 the annual value of its temporalities in Nuneaton was £52 7s. 9d., and in Attleborough £21 13s. 6d. (fn. 35)
In 1540 the site of the priory and all its lands in Nuneaton were granted to Sir Marmaduke Constable of London, (fn. 36) and on 16 May 1552 the Duke of Suffolk and Thomas Duport received a grant of the reversion of some of Constable's lands here in default of heirs male of the body of the said Marmaduke. (fn. 37) The following day Sir Marmaduke was granted permission to sell 190 acres to Michael Purefoy and his heirs. (fn. 38) Sir Marmaduke died on 28 April 1560, and was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 39) who in 1564 sold his lands to Sir Ambrose Cave, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 40) Sir Ambrose died in 1568, and was succeeded by his only child, Margaret, wife of Henry Knollys. (fn. 41) Henry died in 1582, leaving two daughters, Elizabeth who married Henry Willoughby of Risley, who was created a baronet in 1611, and Lettice, afterwards wife of the fifth Lord Paget, between whom the property was divided. (fn. 42) Sir Henry Willoughby died in 1649 and the Nuneaton estate passed to his third daughter, Anne, wife of Sir Thomas Aston, of Aston, Cheshire. (fn. 43) Sir Willoughby Aston, son of Sir Thomas, succeeded, and the family (fn. 44) retained the moiety of the manor and the lands until 1863. (fn. 45) In 1863 C. H. Adams bought the estates for £1,000, and he sold them in 1867 for £1,500 to Andrew Thompson of Keele. (fn. 46) Thompson sold a portion for £500 in 1870 to George Skey of Bonehill, Tamworth, and the property seems to have become dispersed. (fn. 47)
The moiety which descended to Lettice, Lady Paget, remained in the Paget family (fn. 48) until 1765, when it was sold by Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, for £19,000 to three brothers, James, Edward, and Henry Tomkinson. These conveyed it to their father Henry in 1793 for a nominal sum, shortly before his death. (fn. 49) Major Charles William Tomkinson, his descendant, is the present lord of the manor. (fn. 50)
HORESTON GRANGE, lying to the east of the town, and originally part of the lordship of Nuneaton, was a possession of the priory in 1291, when it contained 6 carucates of land worth 10s. (fn. 51) In 1540 it was granted with the other former possessions of the priory to Sir Marmaduke Constable, (fn. 52) and in 1548 he made a settlement of 'the manor of Horestone'. (fn. 53) In 1552 he granted 'the grange of Horston' to Jasper Fisher, citizen of London. (fn. 54) Jasper died childless in 1578 and left as heirs two cousins, Katherine Norwood, a widow, and Anne wife of Richard Wolriche; (fn. 55) but in 1599 his widow Margaret, then widow of Nicholas Saunders of Ewell (Surrey), (fn. 56) sold Horeston Grange to Edward Blunt of Arleston (Derbs.). (fn. 57) In 1648 the estate was sold by William Englefield of Hinton Markaunt (Hants) to Edward Stratford of Nuneaton, and it has descended to Sir W. F. Stratford Dugdale, bart., of Merevale. (fn. 58) The site is now crossed by the railway line to Leicester, and no trace of the house remains except a dry moat.
THE HABIT, sometimes styled a manor, was a mansion situated in the outer court of the priory, with lands attached, and appears to have been the lodging of the prior. In 1541 'le Habyte' was leased by the Crown to Ralph Sadler, (fn. 59) but by 1563 it was held, as 'the manor of Thabbite', with Nuneaton Manor. (fn. 60) It continued, however, as late as 1786 to be specifically mentioned. (fn. 61)
Robert, Earl of Leicester, in about 1150 gave to the nuns of Chaise-Dieu, in France, 6 virgates in Eton and Attleborough in exchange for land in Olney (Bucks.) which he had previously given them. (fn. 62) This land was expressly excluded from his endowment of the Priory of Nuneaton, (fn. 63) and was confirmed to Chaise-Dieu by his son Robert, c. 1168. (fn. 64) In 1243 the Prioress of Chaise-Dieu leased the manor of ATTLEBOROUGH to Nuneaton, (fn. 65) and about fifty years later the lease was converted into a sale. (fn. 66) The manor passed at the Dissolution to Sir Marmaduke Constable with Nuneaton and descended with it, but retaining its separate manorial constitution, (fn. 67) until at least 1815. (fn. 68) By 1900, however, it had been acquired by the Earl of Harrowby, (fn. 69) whose successor in the title still held it in 1921. (fn. 70) The manorial rights appear to have lapsed.
There is said to have been a chapel here, for the maintenance of whose priest a sum of £5 yearly was allocated; (fn. 71) but nothing is known of its history.
A site (locus) in Stockingford, with woodland and arable, was granted c. 1143 by Earl Robert 'le Bossu' and William de Newmarch, with whom he had exchanged it for Whitwick, Leics., to the canons of St. Mary de Pre of Leicester. (fn. 72) The canons had a chapel here by grant of Geoffrey de Turville. (fn. 73) In 1291 the land of the canons comprised one carucate valued at 15s. a year, while the annual value of 3 carucates owned by Nuneaton Priory was 18s., together with a mill worth half a mark, and a meadow worth 7s. (fn. 74)
The manor of STOCKINGFORD may be identified with the messuages, mill, and land there granted in 1280 by Hugh de Lilleburne to his son Hugh. (fn. 75) In 1336 Roger Jabet granted the manor to William Jabet and Maud, with reversion to their son William and his wife Ellen. (fn. 76) The latter in 1365 bought the reversion of lands here from John Wale and Edith his wife after the death of Elia widow of Nicholas de Lilleburne, whose heir Edith was. (fn. 77) Hugh Jabet, mentioned as of Stockingford in 1373, (fn. 78) may be identical with Hugh Lilleburne, called son and heir of William Jabet, (fn. 79) who was lord of Stockingford between 1400 and 1413. (fn. 80) At the latter date the manor was held of him for the life of Hugh by John son of Thomas Boteler of Exhall, and the reversion was granted by Hugh Lilleburne to trustees who conveyed it to the Priory of Arbury. (fn. 81) This was probably in connexion with the foundation of a chantry in Arbury Priory Church in 1417 by Hugh Lilleburne for his own soul and those of his parents, William and Ellen. (fn. 82) In 1424 this John Boteler, and a certain Roger Levyng, made over their respective rights in the manor to the priory, (fn. 83) and in 1469 Henry son and heir of John Boteler released his claims. (fn. 84) In 1535 Arbury Priory possessed lands and tenements in Stockingford valued at £13 16s. 1d., and rents worth £1 3s. 4d., together with lands worth £5 6s. 8d. in Nuneaton; (fn. 85) while the Priory of Nuneaton held lands here valued at £9 1s. 6d. (fn. 86) After the Dissolution the Arbury lands were granted to Sir Edward Wootton, John Danett, and Anthony Cooke. (fn. 87) In 1544 Mary Danett, widow (of Gerard Danett), mortgaged her purparty to George Medley, (fn. 88) to the use of Sir Edward Wootton, who was her nephew. (fn. 89) One-third was granted by Thomas Wootton son of Sir Edward, to Richard Cooke in 1577, (fn. 90) and in 1584 (fn. 91) his son Anthony Cooke granted the whole manor to Edmund Parker. (fn. 92) The former possessions of Nuneaton Priory meanwhile followed the descent of Nuneaton Manor (q.v.) and came into the hands of Sir Henry Willoughby, who had also acquired the Parkers' manorial rights by 1631. (fn. 93) He seems to have bestowed the manor on his daughter Anne, (fn. 94) and she and her husband Sir Thomas Aston held it in 1639, (fn. 95) since which time Stockingford has been united to Nuneaton.
A messuage in Nuneaton, left for the maintenance of anniversaries and lamps in the parish church, was granted in 1550 to Thomas Reeve, gentleman, John Johnson, fishmonger, and Henry Herdson, skinner, all of London. (fn. 96) The Hospital of St. John the Baptist, Coventry, held lands here, which were granted in 1545 to John Hales of that city. (fn. 97) Stoneleigh Abbey possessed tenements valued in 1535 at 2s. 6d., out of which 1s. 3d. was paid to Nuneaton Priory as composition. (fn. 98)
The large parish church of ST. NICHOLAS consists of a chancel and nave, with north and south chapels and aisles, a west tower, and a north vestry.
The earliest work remaining is of c. 1340, i.e. the south chapel and parts (probably reset material) of the north chapel and aisle. The arcades of the nave and the clearstory are rebuildings and additions of the late 15th century, and the north arcade of the chancel of the early 16th century, when the north chapel was rebuilt. The west tower is an earlier 15th-century addition, as it shows the line of the nave-roof that preceded the clearstory, and the clearstory walls abut the fabric of the tower.
A great deal of modern restoration has been carried out and the south aisle has been rebuilt or refaced. The chancel, which was practically in line with the chapels, was lengthened about 21 ft. eastwards in 1852.
The chancel (about 57 ft. by 21 ft.) has a modern east window of five lights and reticulated tracery. All the masonry east of the chapels is modern; there is a north window of three lights and tracery, below which is a recess containing the tomb of Sir Marmaduke Constable, 1560. The walls are of ashlar with chamfered plinths and traceried parapets; the buttresses are gabled and surmounted at the angles by crocketed pinnacles. Farther west is the early-16th-century north arcade of two 16-ft. bays; the pillar and responds have sunk splayed faces, moulded capitals, and chamfered bases; the heads are segmental-pointed arches, stilted above the capitals. The south arcade is of three bays, two of 13-ft. span and the eastern of 11 ft., dating from c.1340; the western bay was subsequently altered. The two piers are a little unusual, in form of two wave-moulded orders separated by a canted fillet and hollow. They have moulded capitals with chamfered abaci, and 3-ft. bases with moulded round top members. The twocentred arches are of two wave-moulded orders. The east respond is flush with the east wall of the south chapel and the inner order is carried on a corbel-capital with foliage carving. The western bay has a 14thcentury respond of two wave-moulded orders, but the head is much loftier than the others and is stilted.
The roof is modern, of two-centred barrel-vault type with open trussed rafters.
The two-centred chancel arch, very high up, is moulded like the nave-arcades, springing from wall corbels carved with foliage, and was inserted in 1852. The spandrels are filled with foiled tracery panels.
The nave (58 ft. by 21½ ft.) has north and south arcades, each composed of four 13¼-ft. bays. The piers are moulded, a roll between two hollows on each splay, with moulded capitals, and the same mouldings are continued in the four-centred arches. The wallfaces set back in the spandrels, thus forming over the apices and piers moulded pilasters, which are carried up to form arches above the clearstory windows. Although the arcades are practically identical in detail of the 15th century, probably the southern, which is of white stone, preceded the northern, which is of yellowish stone like that of the clearstory. The nave arcades are divided from the chancel arcades by about 3 ft. of wallspace below the chancel arch.
The clearstory has eight tall four-centred windows each side, each of three cinquefoiled lights. The parapets are embattled and have five pinnacles each side, all restored. The parapet string-courses have weatherworn spouts carved as men, beasts, and monsters. From the way the walls meet the diagonal buttresses of the tower it is obvious that the latter is the earlier.
The roof is of late-15th-century low-pitched type; it has four subdivided main bays with flat cross-beams having the side-mouldings cambered. The beams have carved central bosses; the easternmost has foliage with a crown above it on the west face and a fleur de lis on the east; the second has a double rose, and the other two have grotesque faces. The beam against the east wall has a shield with the Five Wounds and foliage. The intermediate smaller beams are similar, and the purlins and wall-plates are also moulded. There are five purlins, making twelve compartments in each main bay, and they have varying carved bosses at the intersections; many of these have the sacred monogram [IHC], others grotesque faces, roses, &c., all accompanied by foliage. Each compartment is again divided into four panels by moulded ribs, which also have carved bosses of the same kind.
On the east face of the tower is a chase cut for the earlier gabled roof of the nave, which rose from the level of the sills of the clearstory windows; the chases pass round the diagonal buttresses.
The north chapel (about 34 ft. by 14 ft.) and the north aisle of the nave (about 56 ft. long) are undivided structurally. The east window is of three trefoiled lights and mid-14th-century tracery in a two-centred head; the jambs and arch are wave-moulded on both faces. The two north windows of the chapel are each of three trefoiled lights under a four-centred head, the jambs being of sunk-chamfered orders matching those of the arcade. Being set in an earlier wall they do not coincide with the bays of the arcade. Between them is a doorway with old chamfered jambs, probably 14thcentury, and a modern shouldered lintel. The third window, opposite the chancel arch, is an early-14thcentury window, probably reset, of two trefoiled ogeeheaded lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head, with an external hood-mould with head-stops, a man in a hood and a woman with a wimple. The fourth window is a tall one of three trefoiled lights and quatrefoils in a square head. It is modern, as is the doorway into the vestry. The original doorway has been removed to the extreme west end of the wall, and the west wall has been recessed to receive the door when open. It is of the 15th century and has moulded jambs and a fourcentred head. (fn. 99) The two-light window in the west wall is modern, except the jambs, which are of the 14th century. The east and north walls of the chapel up to the buttress immediately west of the two large windows are of old cream ashlar and have a plinth with a projecting moulded top member and chamfered lower. There is a broken vertical seam about a foot west of the buttress. The parapets are embattled and have a corbel at the angle carved as a half-human monster. The masonry west of the vertical seam is of larger cream ashlar and has a plinth of two chamfered courses, the upper level with the lower chamfered course of the eastern plinth. An ancient chamfered string-course (former eaves-course?) just above the 14th-century third window is stopped by the head of the tall fourth window. Above this string-course are three later courses of masonry and the parapet, which is like that to the chapel. The west wall, similar to the north wall, forms a straight joint with the tower buttress.
The roof of the chapel and aisle is of the same type as the nave roof, but the mouldings are more typical of the early 16th century. It is divided into eight bays with main and intermediate cross-beams and three purlins dividing each main bay into six compartments, each subdivided into four panels by moulded ribs. At the intersections are carved bosses, with beasts-heads, foliage, &c.
The south chapel and aisle (13 ft. wide) also have no structural division. The east window is of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and restored net tracery of the 14th century in a two-centred head with an external hood-mould. Externally the jambs and head are wave-moulded; internally the splays have a projecting moulding continued in the rear-arch. North of it, inside, is a plain rectangular niche with a large bracket carved with a man's head. In the south wall is a piscina, of which the moulded head rises through the sill of the window above. West of it is a single sedile with ogee head and finials.
In the south wall of the chapel are four windows; the two lower are of the 14th century. The eastern is of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head; the external hood-mould has stops carved with busts of men: it dates from c. 1340. The western is some 20 or 30 years older, and is of three narrow trefoiled pointed lancet lights below a twocentred head with an external hood-mould which has 15th-century man and woman head-stops. The jambs and arch, with a roll-mould, are original, the mullions and heads restored. At a higher level, but not enough to be called a clearstory, are two windows (c. 1507), (fn. 100) each of three cinquefoiled lights and vertical tracery in a four-centred head. The east wall is of creamtinted sandstone ashlar with a moulded plinth. The restored top of the wall is a low-pitched gable. The south wall, of similar masonry, has a restored embattled parapet with pinnacles and gargoyles. At the southeast angle is a low diagonal buttress with a gabled head, and low down in its face is an image niche with a trefoiled ogee-head. There are also low buttresses below the two higher windows, the western modern. On the masonry of the south wall, which has many pit-holes caused by weather and age, are scratched many sun-dials; two or three of them are probably genuine medieval mass-dials, but the majority, all at boy-height, are later imitative random scratchings.
West of the chapel is a projecting stair turret, probably put in for the 15th-century rood-loft, but now all restored. It has a four-centred doorway in its outer east wall, but none is visible internally. The remainder of the south wall and the west wall of the aisle have been refaced. There are four three-light south windows of 15th-century style, and below the westernmost a doorway of 14th-century character with ballflower ornament. The west window is of two lights and a quatrefoil in a pointed head. The parapets are embattled. The roofs are of the same character as the others, but with slightly different mouldings. The chapel ceiling, slightly higher than that of the aisle, is divided into three bays, and the aisle roof is of four bays; both have bosses carved with religious symbols, grotesque faces, and conventional foliage or flowers.
In both aisles are long galleries with 18th-century panelled fronts. The west tower (about 12 ft. square) is of three stages with plain chamfered string-courses and a plinth with a moulded top member like that to the north chapel. The walls are of old grey-white ashlar, much patched with new material. The battlemented parapet, also restored, is surmounted by pinnacles. At the angles are diagonal buttresses of six stages, reaching to half-way up the top stage; the offsets except the lowest, are moulded. At the southeast angle is a projecting square stair-turret changing to octagonal above the parapet string-course, and rising above the main parapet; it has an embattled parapet (restored) with carvings at the angles of the stringcourse. The vice is entered by an external doorway (fn. 101) in the main south wall of the tower and is lighted by loops.
The archway to the nave is of three continuous chamfered orders and has a two-centred head with a restored hood-mould towards the nave. The west doorway has jambs and a four-centred head of two chamfered orders. The window over it is of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and 15th-century tracery in a two-centred head with an external hood-mould and head-stops. The second stage has a south rectangular light and a modern west stone clock face. The four windows of the bell-chamber are each of two trefoiled lights and a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with a hood-mould; the western has foliage stops. The tracery is restored.
The vestry, near the west end of the north aisle, was extended eastwards about 30 years ago. In the vestry is a 16th-century communion table, with bulbous legs. Its west window of three lights has 15th-century casement-moulded jambs.
The font, pulpit, &c., are modern. Some pews are made up with 18th-century woodwork. In the recess in the north wall of the sanctuary is the well-preserved alabaster tomb and recumbent effigy of Sir Marmaduke Constable, 1560. (fn. 102) He is represented in Elizabethan armour, the face bearded and the head resting on a helm that has a crest of a galleon in full sail. The hands are in prayer and his gauntlets lie by his right knee. The feet rest on a lion. The tomb is panelled on the south side and west end and has carved shields of arms of Constable and quarterings, and the galleon crest. The inscription in raised 'black letter' is in two lines.
A small tablet on the north side of the chancel is to Mary, daughter of John Stratford and wife of Richard Combes; died 1668. Another on the south side, with busts of a man and woman, is to Antony Trotman, died 1703, and Abigail (Stratford) of Merevale his wife, died 1705. Other monuments are later.
Of the eight bells the third and sixth are by Abraham Rudhall, 1703, part of an original peal of six; the fourth is by J. Briant of Hertford, 1809, and the others by Warner's, 1873.
The communion plate includes a small Elizabethan chalice (no date mark); another chalice of 1650; two large patens given respectively by Anne and Frances Trotman in 1705; and two large silver flagons, the gift of Edward Dudley in 1771.
The registers begin in 1585.
In the vicarage garden east of the church are many pieces of ancient tracery, &c., from the church, and a damaged bowl, about 2 ft. square, which may possibly have once served as a font.
The church of ST. MARY incorporates ancient remains of the church of the Benedictine Nunnery of Nuneaton.
The nave was rebuilt in 1876 by Mr. Clapton Rolfe, the chancel in 1906, and north transept in 1931 by the late Sir Harold Brakespear. The latter, following a history of the nunnery by Mrs. Hilary Jenkinson, has written an architectural description of the remains, accompanied by a plan. This shows a cruciform church with a central tower, the vaulted presbytery and north and south transepts being each of two bays. The nave was of six bays, of which four served as the Nuns' Quire and the two west bays as the Brothers' Quire. The monastic buildings, of which very scanty remains survive, were on the normal lines.
The eastern part of the church and the dorter range were probably the first to be erected after the foundation of c. 1155–9 and were followed by the nave and other buildings about the cloister. Early in the 13th century the central tower fell, owing to the failure of the north-east angle, and doubtless in falling damaged the presbytery and north transept. The presbytery and east wall of the transept were rebuilt soon afterwards.
Of the remains of the church that have survived are portions of the 12th- and 13th-century piers of the tower, in part up to the springing lines of the arches, the south wall of the south transept to nearly the same height, and the foundations of the north transept and nave up to a course or two above the plinths. The portions rebuilt up to the present are the presbytery, north transept, and rather more than half the long nave.
The modern chancel (about 40 ft. by 28½ ft.) is on the lines of the original presbytery. The east window is of five lights and tracery and there are four windows in each side-wall, each of two lights and tracery. The buttresses divide the side-walls into two bays. No ancient masonry is visible in the north and east walls, but of the south wall a little of the plinth in the west bay is ancient; this has a triple-roll top moulding, below which it is splayed out. In the south wall are a modern piscina and three sedilia, but below the floor and not now visible there is a row of trefoil bases close together, occupying the position of the sedilia.
Of the remains of the four arches to the central tower only the 13th-century chancel arch has been restored. The arches were about 7 ft. thick, each pier conjoining two responds being about 11½ ft. by 11½ ft. The 12th-century responds were each of four orders; the innermost was a triplet of 5 in. attached round shafts, the second a 10-in. half-round angle-roll, the third a 6-in. detached nook-shaft, and the fourth a 5-in. three-quarter-round shaft between two deep hollows. Outside these another half-round like the second served to carry the vaulting ribs of the tower and nave and transepts. The nook-shafts and the three-quarter anglerolls had moulded bases with chamfered plinths, and capitals with scallops or incipient foliage. The halfround angle-rolls were probably continued in the heads without capitals and had the chamfered bases or plinths only. Most of the three-quarter edge-rolls have been broken away, leaving only the flanking hollows above the bottom one or two courses. In the north-west pier the dressings survive up to seven or eight courses above the bases (except for the nook-shafts, which have almost completely vanished), but the rubble core rises a good deal higher. In the south-west pier only a few courses of nave-respond remain, but by a freakish chance the west respond of the south transept-arch preserves two of the original capitals (with incipient foliage) on the transept side, although the nook-shafts or edge-roll below them are missing. The south vaulting edge-roll of the nave survives in twenty-four courses up to the level of the top of the modern triforium, and two voussoirs of the north-east vault rib of the tower exist. In the 13th century the north-east pier was rebuilt and the chancel arch redesigned. So far as the west respond of the transept arch was concerned the 12th-century mouldings were re-used or copied, but the middle shaft of the innermost triplet was changed into an octagon with concave sides instead of a round, and new moulded 'hold-water' bases and capitals were provided. These are still in place, although the shafts are missing and the three-quarter rolls mostly broken away.
The responds of the chancel arch differ from the 12th-century responds. The triplet of shafts with the octagonal middle shaft are like those just described, but instead of the other recessed square orders there is a wide splay on each side in which, cut from the solid, are two filleted shafts. In front and alternating with them are three free shafts (restored) tied in with intermediate moulded bands. The moulded pointed head is all modern; the innermost order was modelled from the draft lines found on the old capitals, but the contours of the others had been lost and had to be redesigned. The south-east pier, except for the 13th-century chancel respond, is like the other 12th-century work, but only the bases and a few lower courses are left. In this pier is a stair-vice, of which the lowest three or four steps and about twelve courses of masonry are ancient. It leads up to the rood-loft and roofs. North of the chancel arch towards the chancel is an ancient plain locker.
A number of loose stones lie on the ruins. They include several 12th-century capitals with scalloped ornament, &c., and a few grotesque or humoresque carved corbels.
The north transept (37¾ ft. deep by 28½ ft. wide) was entirely rebuilt in the 13th century, and was vaulted. It has now been rebuilt on the old foundations, as far as possible reproducing the original work but omitting the vaulting. It is of two bays, and foundations were found of a square chapel east of the north bay. This chapel has not been rebuilt. West of the southern bay was a 13th-century porch. Of the original masonry incorporated in the restoration are the following: (1) In the south-east angle attached to the great pier, at a level ten courses up, the remains of a triple vault-shaft (three courses) resting on a badly perished carved corbel and moulded capital. (2) The rubble walling inside the east wall up to about a yard above the capital, and the lower part of the west wall are ancient. (3) The original plinth survives in the west wall and a little in the north; this has the bottom courses of chamfered narrow pilasters like those in the frater of Merevale Abbey, which have served as a model for the restoration of the upper part. There is little trace of the east chapel, but of the western porch a few lower courses of the walls remain, with a chamfered plinth and the north jamb of the 9½-ft. outer entrance; this was of four orders or more, the second or third with a keeled edge-roll, between two orders that had nook-shafts of which the moulded bases survive, and the outermost with a filleted edge-roll between hollows. Of the south jamb only remains of the chamfered sub-bases are left. A few courses of the inner doorway are also ancient and are similarly moulded.
The south transept (35½ ft. by 28½ ft.) has not yet been restored, but the old south wall stands about 20 ft. high and the east wall up to about 7 ft., including the 13th-century plinth and bases of buttresses dividing it into two bays that had intermediate single pilasters. The west wall is marked only by loose stones. In the south-west angle remains the shafted corbel for the vaulting.
The nave (132½ ft. by 28 ft.) was divided outside on the north into six bays by shallow buttresses. The modern nave occupies four of the bays (the former Nuns' Quire) and is built in 12th-century style, with interlacing wall-arcading to three of the bays, and a triforium with three arches on each bay, the middle one having a window. Triple wall-shafts mark the bay inside. The beginning of the north wall next the crossing is of original 12th-century yellow sandstone ashlar with a wide shallow buttress rising above the plinth. The plinth has a round top member and is splayed out below it. The remainder of the north wall, of ragstone, is modern and there are no traces of a doorway. The two bays farther west retain the old plinth and two or three courses of 12th-century masonry on which is six or seven feet of later rag masonry. They mark the Brothers' Quire. The present west wall at the fourth bay is of brick. The original west wall (to the Brothers' Quire) is built of rubble work and stands up about 15 ft., but it has been robbed of its dressed masonry: the ends of the wall are rough and broken but probably had shallow buttresses like the north wall.
The whole of the south wall of the nave is modern, but at the east end in the re-entering angle with the transept is a twin shaft between hollows, evidently to do with the vaulting of the cloisters; it rises about fifteen courses.
In the floor of the chancel are re-laid a fairly large number of 4½-in. inlaid tiles, some with conventional foliage patterns in sets of four or nine, some with fleurs de lis, and some heraldic: two are charged, (argent) a bend with three cinquefoils thereon; another, a fesse dancetty between six crosslets fitchy; two have a fesse between six crosslets; three have a cheveron between three sexfoils; three have two lions passant; another two leopards; and another is checky. One, a part of a set of nine, has part of a circle, outside which is the figure of a man and inside it are letters, and four others have each a Lombardic capital.
In the church are several coffin-lids: one has a long cross with a slightly sunk head in a circle, and the stem and base in incised lines.
A slab partly cut away has indents of the brass effigies of a late-15th-century knight in armour and part of the figure of his wife with an inscription below them. In the top dexter corner was a shield.
The cloister was unusually large, being 135 ft. square. Of the remains of monastic buildings, only the east wall of the chapter-house and dorter range is still standding, about 6 or 7 ft. high and about 60 ft. in length. It was 10 ft. wider than the transept. The wall is of rubble. A row of socket-holes in the north wall (south wall of south transept) shows the position of the former upper floor. Above these the wall is fair-faced, but below them it is rough, probably because the chapter-house was vaulted. Very recent excavations have been made with the object of discovering a central pier: some stones thus exposed may indicate its foundations. There are only loose stones to mark the west wall and no visible trace at all of the south wall. No uncovered remains exist of the south or west ranges about the cloister. A raised lawn south of the vicarage (which is built on the site of the cloister) conceals any possible remains of the frater or its kitchens, &c., but south of it are the foundations of two detached buildings. The western was apparently a 12th-century brewhouse, 31¼ ft. east to west by 20½ ft. wide, that had at the south-east angle, projecting diagonally, a three-quarter round appendage 14¼ ft. in diameter, as though for a large well, but ascribed as a steeping vat. Of this remains a chamfered plinth with a top roll-mould and three or four courses of fair masonry. There were two doorways in the north wall, presumably leading to the former kitchen west of the frater.
West of it was a rectangular building, probably of the 14th century, 31¾ ft. north to south by 18¾ ft. wide, perhaps the misericorde. It had diagonal buttresses to the south angles, and about 4 ft. of the south wall with faced rubble is standing, above a chamfered plinth. There was a middle fire-place in the west wall and two east windows, but nothing of these is now visible, the walls being marked only by foundations. In the field south-east and south of the churchyard and vicarage garden there are various mounds and banks suggesting the site of the Infirmary, &c., but no remains of masonry are exposed.
The parish church of Nuneaton was given by Earl Robert of Leicester to the Norman Abbey of Lyre during the reign of Henry I, the gift being confirmed by Henry II in 1155. (fn. 103) From 1324 onwards the English estates of the foreign religious houses were constantly taken into the king's hands during war with France, presentations being then made by the king and only in intervals of peace by Lyre. (fn. 104) In 1414 the possessions of the alien houses were finally seized, and in the following year Henry V gave to his newly founded Carthusian Priory of Sheen (Surrey) the estates of Lyre, including, though not naming, this church. (fn. 105) In 1459 the advowson was granted to Nuneaton Priory by the convent of Sheen, (fn. 106) who retained the rectory, the tithes of which were valued at £11 at the Dissolution. (fn. 107) The church had been rated at £21 6s. 8d. in 1291, (fn. 108) and at £24 14s. 6d. in 1535. (fn. 109) Since the Dissolution the advowson has remained in the hands of the Crown.
In 1508 John Leeke obtained licence to found a chantry for the souls of himself and his parents in honour of St. Mary in the parish church, (fn. 110) and by his will, three months later, directed that it should be endowed with lands to the value of 4 marks. (fn. 111) In about 1542, however, his heirs agreed with the parishioners that the money should in future be paid towards the support of a schoolmaster, and this chantry therefore became the nucleus of the endowment of the Grammar School. (fn. 112)
St. Mary's (often called 'the Abbey Church') was created a separate ecclesiastical parish on 23 Aug. 1878, and is in the gift of the Vicar of Nuneaton, as are the churches of the modern parishes of Attleborough, dating from 1842, and Stockingford, formed in 1843.
Vicars of Nuneaton have included John Inett (1678–81), church historian; William Wyatt, scholar and friend of Jeremy Taylor (1681–5); Dr. John Ryder, later Archbishop of Tuam (1721–42); and Thomas Edwards, writer on religious subjects (1770– 85). John Ryder, Dean of Lismore and son of Dr. John Ryder, was born here in 1723, and Samuel William King, traveller and scientist, son of another vicar, in 1821. Other natives of Nuneaton were Thomas Smart Hughes, historian, born in 1786, and the Rev. William Gadsby, Baptist minister and hymn-writer, born at Attleborough in Jan. 1773. (fn. 113)
Dr. Robert Wild, ejected in 1662 from Aynho, Northants., is believed to have been the founder of Nonconformity in Nuneaton. (fn. 114) In 1672 licence was granted to William Sadler, an Anabaptist, for worship at his house; (fn. 115) and a meeting-house was erected before 1715, when it was demolished by a mob. (fn. 116)
William Willoughby by will dated 3 Oct. 1587 gave his lands in Nottingham, Lenton, and Radford to deliver yearly to four aged and needy persons four gowns of about 10s. each; to six honest men of occupations or tradesmen £6; and to a godly learned preacher to instruct the people on Whit Sunday 6s. 8d.; the several sums to be paid to people dwelling in Great Marlow, Nuneaton, Normanton-on-Soar, Nottingham, and Wolvey successively; and also to pay yearly 10s. to the poor of the Almshouse at Nuneaton in wood or coal and 10s. to the governors of the Grammar School for books for poor scholars and 7s. 4d. for the maintenance of two causeways. The churchwardens of Nuneaton receive annually £1 7s. 4d. and every fifth year in addition a further £8 6s. 8d. These sums are distributed as directed, with the exception that poor women receive the sum of 10s. in lieu of gowns.
The Almshouse Charity. Four tenements used as Almshouses were sold in 1862 for £15 and the proceeds invested, producing 8s. 4d. annually, distributed by the vicar and churchwardens to the poor of the parish.
Richard Orton in 1677 gave to the governors of the Grammar School land then let at £3 per annum, for the use of twelve poor men. The land, containing about 5 acres, was sold in 1893 for £450, and the endowment now consists of Stock producing £11 7s. annually, and a cottage at Nuneaton let at an annual rent of £10. The income is distributed in sums of 5s. each to poor persons.
Smith's Charity. Mr. Smith in 1704 gave 12s. yearly charged on a house in Abbey St., Nuneaton, to be distributed to six poor widows. The charge was redeemed in 1930 in consideration of £24 Consols producing 12s. annually, which are so applied.
Edward Stratford gave, before 1727, £3 yearly to be distributed to six poor tradesmen; and Francis Stratford gave £200 to be laid out in lands for the benefit of six poor people in Nuneaton. The income of the charities, amounting to £13, derived from land at Nuneaton, is distributed to six poor men and six poor women.
Edward Loader gave 12s. yearly charged on a house in Abbey Street, Nuneaton, to be distributed to six poor labourers. The charge was redeemed in 1937 in consideration of £24 Consols, the interest on which amounting to 12s. annually is distributed to poor people.
Elizabeth Farmer in 1819 gave the interest of £20 to be distributed to four deserving widows not receiving alms. The endowment now produces 16s. 8d.
Couney's Charity. An account of this charity is given under Atherstone. The churchwardens of Nuneaton receive annually £2 to be distributed on St. Thomas's Day and £2 on Good Friday.
Symond's Charity. An account of this charity is given under Atherstone. The churchwardens of Nuneaton receive annually one-third of the rents of the farm at Twycross. In 1938 a sum of £7 12s. was received by the churchwardens.
Wheatley's Charity. The governors of the Grammar School receive annually from the Corporation of Coventry £2, the gift of Alderman Wheatley in 1566, which is given away to four decayed tradesmen of Nuneaton in sums of 10s. each.