Parishes: Priors Hardwick

Pages 137-139

A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.

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Acreage: 1,535.

Population: 1911, 193; 1921, 177; 1931, 142.

The parish is divided from that of Priors Marston on the east by a road running north from Bodington (Oxon.). From the east, where the land lies for the most part between 450 ft. and 500 ft., the ground slopes down to about 340 ft. on the western border. There is no woodland, though the hedgerows contain many trees. The Oxford and Birmingham Canal runs from south to north through the centre of the parish, and the village lies close to the eastern boundary.

The village is a small and irregular one, and the roads have undulating surfaces. Most of the houses and cottages are of the local yellow stone, several with thatched roofs. One house, about 200 yds. south of the church, has a 17th-century arched and square-headed doorway and mullioned windows with labels: the roof is tiled. Another, west of the church, is fairly similar, and the Butcher's Arms Inn, south-west of the church, also shows a mullioned window.


HARDWICK was one of the 24 vills which formed Earl Leofric's original endowment of the monastery which he founded at Coventry, and his gift was confirmed by Edward the Confessor in 1043. (fn. 1) In 1086 it was among the estates of the priory and was said to be assessed at 15 hides. (fn. 2) It remained in the hands of the monks, and during the vacancy of the priory of Coventry in 1195 the farm of Hardwick for half a year was £13 16s. 9d., (fn. 3) which corresponds pretty closely with the valuation of Hardwick (including Marston) in 1291, when the rents of assize were £23 9s. 4d., 5 carucates of land were worth £3 15s., 3 mills 13s. 4d., perquisites of courts 13s. 4d., making a total of £28 11s. (fn. 4) In 1535 the farm of the manor (now distinct from Priors Marston) was £5, and rents of lands and tenements there came to £11 8s. 4½d. (fn. 5)

At the Dissolution the manor of PRIORS HARDWICK was granted, in April 1542, to Sir Edmund Knightley and the Lady Ursula his wife. (fn. 6) He died in 1542, his heirs being the daughters of his brother Richard, (fn. 7) but under the terms of the grant the manor went to his widow for life, with remainder to his brother (Sir) Valentine Knightley. Lady Ursula died in 1558; (fn. 8) Sir Valentine had licence immediately after her death to grant the manor to Sir John Spencer and others, (fn. 9) but apparently this was a mortgage or settlement, as he died seised thereof in 1566, and his son Richard Knightley sold it to Ralph Blount. (fn. 10) Ralph's son Richard inclosed the manor and sold it to Sir William Samuel of Upton (Northants.), whose son Arthur sold it in 1633 to William, Lord Spencer, (fn. 11) in whose family it descended with Wormleighton (q.v.), being now held by Earl Spencer.


The parish church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel, nave, north vestry, south porch, and west tower.

The building is of early-to mid-13th-century origin, but of this period only the west tower remains. The chancel was rebuilt and much enlarged c. 1300 and has some interesting details of that period. The nave, which is short and broad for its length, was probably widened at the same time or very shortly afterwards, but its side walls were entirely rebuilt in 1868, and only the early14th-century doorways and west wall survive. New roofs were also provided and a vestry built in place of a north porch. There have been other repairs during the 20th century to chancel windows, &c.

The chancel (36½ ft. by 20 ft.) is a good example of the c. 1300 period, but has suffered from decay and settlement of the side walls. Although two of the windows differ considerably in their tracery from the other four, their mouldings, &c., show that they are all of the same date. All have jambs differing from the mouldings of the heads, and all have cusping inside the glassface but not outside. The east window is of three lights and tracery, consisting mainly of three triangles with convex sides in a two-centred head: inside they are trefoiled with thin soffit-cusps that are pierced; the tracery-lights flanking the triangles have been filled in. The pointed heads of the main lights are cinquefoiled in like manner. The mouldings of the jambs and mullions include a smail Toll-mould inside that is continued on the tracery-bars. Outside, the jambs are deep plain splays, but the arch is hollow-chamfered and has a moulded outermost order, which stands forward as a hood-mould at the apex but at the springing level is flush with the walling, where it has broken head-stops; presumably this is the result of a plumb-vertical resetting of the head. The inner splays have attached shafts with moulded bases and capitals carved with foliage. The concentric rear-arch is of two orders, the inner moulded with three small rolls, the outer with a larger roll between hollows, and it has a hood-mould that returns as a string-course on either side, to continue on the side walls as cornices below the wall-plates. The sill is tabled back in three courses, and the bottoms of the lights are walled up to about a yard above it. The window has been distorted by pressure from the roof. The original material is the local dark-brown stone, but repairs on the tracery are of a lighter grey stone.

In the north wall are three windows, each of two acute-pointed lights and spandrel in a two-centred head; the lights have cinquefoiled heads formed by the internal soffit-cusps, with rosette cusp-points, and the top foil cinquefoiled with sub-cusping; the spandrel is quatrefoiled. The mullions and jambs resemble those of the east window. The plastered internal splays are plain; the rear-arch is hollow-chamfered and has small humoresque or grotesque stops.

Of the three south windows the middle is like those opposite: the western has lost its traceried head and has a square head now at the old springing level. The eastern is a wider opening with a higher sill because of the sedilia: it is of four pointed lights, and the tracery in the two-centred head includes three circles. These are trefoiled inside with the pierced soffit-cusps which also form a trefoiled ogee-head to each light with a trefoil above it. Between the first and second windows is a priest's doorway. It has a pointed head of three moulded orders, the inner two merged into the splayed jambs. The outer projects beyond the wall-face and was carried on small detached shafts. These have disappeared, but the foliated capitals survive; also the moulded bases, carried on the top member of the plinth. The head has a hood-mould with mask-stops. Below the windows, inside, is a moulded string-course in all three walls, lifted to a higher level to clear the piscina, sedilia, and doorway.

The piscina and two sedilia form one architectural feature, and their moulded jambs are divided and flanked by detached shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases. The piscina has a moulded two-centred head, of which the innermost order, of three rolls, is cinquefoiled and is carried on foliated capitals on tapering corbels in the reveals with small foliage knops at the base-points. The sill is a horizontal slab in which the middle part is raised, in semi-octagonal plan, to contain the round basin.

The sedilia are in two recesses, the eastern 2 ft. 9 in. and the western 4 ft. 10 in. wide. The smaller has a two-centred head of three orders, the innermost hollowchamfered and continued from the jambs; the middle is moulded and carried on small engaged shafts with capitals and bases; the hollow-chamfered outermost order is carried on the detached shafts. The larger, of similar detail, is segmental-pointed. The heads have hood-moulds mitring over the divisions and terminating at the west, at the junction with that of the doorway, with a boss carved as a small long-eared beast biting a coiled snake. The wall is thickened inside to give sufficient depth for the recesses. Below the north-east window is a plain locker with rebated edges for a door.

The walls are of dark yellow-brown ashlar, mostly irregularly coursed, but more regularly coursed and probably later above the springing line of the east window. At the angles are diagonal buttresses. The plinth is in two splayed courses, the upper projecting; below the window-sill levels is a similar projecting string-course that passes round the diagonal buttresses and, like that inside, is lifted to a higher level behind the position of the sedilia. The tops of the side walls have modern brick eaves-courses and there is a modern patching above the south-west window. On the buttresses are many grooves from arrow or knife sharpening.

The gabled roof is modern and has a panelled wagonhead ceiling that cuts across the tip of the east window; it is tiled.

The pointed chancel arch is modern and springs from shafts with foliated capitals and moulded bases: on the nave side is a hood-mould.

The nave (about 43½ ft. by 26 ft.) has three windows in each wall. The south-eastern may be a 14th-century window restored: it is of two narrow pointed lights and a plain spandrel in a two-centred head. The other five are wider modern windows of two trefoiled lights and tracery in a pointed head with a hood-mould.

The pointed north and south doorways are of early14th-century date. The north is of one hollow-chamfered order with a hood-mould having mask-stops: the south is of two orders, the inner ovolo-moulded and with a hood-mould with return-stops. In it is an ancient door of battens with close-set square vertical and horizontal framing and hung with plain strap-hinges: it has an oak lock.

The walls and buttresses are of modern ashlar but with some re-used old stones: the south-east buttress is dated 1868. The west wall is of old rough squared ashlar, like the tower, but not coursing with it. The modern roof is of four bays with arched trusses and panelled soffits to the sloping sides.

The south porch is probably of the 14th century and is built of rubble-work, roughly coursed in the side walls. The two-centred entrance has jambs and head of two orders, the outer chamfered, the inner ovolomoulded like the south doorway. It is fitted with modern doors. The gabled roof is tiled.

The west tower (7 ft. square inside) is in one stage. The walls are of 13th-century rough ashlar. The parapet is built of 15th-century fine ashlar; it is embattled with copings returned in the merlons, and has at the angles decayed crocketed pinnacles. At the west angles are low buttresses projecting to the west.

The archway from the nave has a chamfered twocentred head, dying on the square reveals, which are flush with the tower walls. In the west wall is a lancet window, and another in the south wall of the second story; on the north and west walls are clock dials, placed in 1938. The bell-chamber has in each wall twin trefoiled lights in red sandstone, much restored. There is an old ladder up to the first floor, one standard being a 15th-century re-used beam or wall-plate.

The font has a bowl of flower-pot shape, probably of the 13th century, with a moulded square base. The communion-rail has turned balusters of the 17th century, panelled square posts to the middle gate and a moulded top-rail. In the vestry is a 17th-century oakframed chest, 6 ft. 3 in. long, bound with iron straps. It is divided by a partition into two halves, each with its own lid hung with plain strap-hinges. It has an interesting large skeleton lock inside which works two long horizontal hooked bars that engage with staples.

The chancel has ancient stone paving and an inscription: 'This chancell was paved at the proper cost of Sir Robert Spencer, Knight, Baron Spencer of Wormleghton in the yere of our Lord 1612'.

Also in the chancel floor is an alabaster grave-slab incised in outline with the figure of a man in armour with his feet resting on a dog. Only a fragment of the marginal inscription with the incomplete date 14 . . survives.

In the nave floor is a grave-stone to the Rev. Thomas Kent, Junior, Vicar 1695; another, partly hidden, to the Rev. Thomas . . . 1686, aged 75; and a third to the Rev. Thomas Bill, Rector of Upper Worton, Oxon, 1724, and other later stones.

There are three bells: the second is medieval, by Thomas Newcombe, inscribed 'Sancta Marea'; the other two of 1670 by Henry Bagley. (fn. 12)

The registers date from 1643.


The patronage of the church belonged to the monks of Coventry and it was appropriated to the priory in 1260. (fn. 13) In 1279 the prior was returned as holding the church with its chapels of Marston, Staunton or Stoneton, and (Lower) Shuckborough, and the church was said to be endowed with 2 carucates of land. (fn. 14) The rectory was valued in 1291 at £18, (fn. 15) and the vicarage at £3. (fn. 16) In 1535 the vicarage of the parish church with the chapel of Priors Marston was worth £23 16s. after payment of a pension of 26s. 8d. to the monks, (fn. 17) who appear to have received nothing else from the benefice; (fn. 18) so that it would seem that the rectory had been converted to the use of the vicar; the pension represen ted the tithes of Staunton. (fn. 19)

After the Dissolution Henry Over alias Waver had a lease for 21 years of the tithes, (fn. 20) and he also bought the advowson from John Wright and Thomas Holmes, (fn. 21) whose title to it does not appear. Henry Over died in 1567, his heir being his son Richard, (fn. 22) who was patron in 1569. (fn. 23) By 1604 the patronage had come into the hands of Robert, Lord Spencer, (fn. 24) and from that time the advowson has descended with the manor.


Heyrick's Charity. The origin of this charity is unknown. The endowment now consists of £32 14s. 2d. 3½ per cent. War Stock, the income from which is distributed by the vicar and churchwardens amongst the poor of the parish.

Joseph Fessy by his will proved 18 February 1898 directed his trustees to purchase £500 Consols, the income to be distributed by the incumbent and churchwardens on St. Thomas's Day in sums of 5s. each amongst the aged infirm and deserving poor of the parish. The endowment now produces an annual income amounting to £11 5s. which is distributed as directed in the will.

Miss Joanna Jamima Beck's Charity. The endowment of this charity consists of £197 15s. 6d. Metropolitan 3 per cent. Stock settled by Deed Poll dated 8 June 1887 under the provisions of which the Tithe Redemption Trust were appointed to be the trustees of the charity and to pay over the income to the vicar of Priors Hardwick. By an order of the Charity Commissioners dated 13 December 1898 the Corporation of 'The Queen Victoria Clergy Fund' were appointed trustees for the administration of the charity.


  • 1. Kemble, Cod. Dipl. 916, 939; Cal. Chart. R. ii, 70.
  • 2. V.C.H. Warw. i, 305. The assessment is so high, considering the extent and value of the estate, that one may suspect an error for 5 hides.
  • 3. Pipe R. Soc. n.s. vi, 58.
  • 4. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 253.
  • 5. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 49, 50.
  • 6. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 285 (6).
  • 7. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), lxx, 23.
  • 8. Northamptonshire Families (V.C.H.), 183.
  • 9. Cal. Pat. 1557–8, p. 228. Cf. Feet of F. Warw. East. 3 Eliz.
  • 10. Dugd. 512.
  • 11. Ibid.; Feet of F. Warw. Mich. 9 Chas. I.
  • 12. Tilley and Walters, Church Bells of Warws. 203.
  • 13. Dugd. 512.
  • 14. Exch. K.R. Misc. Bks. 15, fol. 74.
  • 15. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 241.
  • 16. Ibid. 244.
  • 17. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 70.
  • 18. Ibid. 49. They had, however, the tithes of Marston, farmed at £10; ibid. 50.
  • 19. Mon. Accts. (Dugd. Soc.), 60.
  • 20. Ibid.; L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, 694.
  • 21. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cxlv, 4.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. Dugd. 513.
  • 24. Ibid.