A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1949.
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Population: 1911, 495; 1921, 451; 1931, 414.
The parish is bounded on the east and south by Northamptonshire, and is separated from Priors Hardwick on the west by the road leading north from Bodington. The country is mostly undulating, between 400 ft. and 500 ft., but near the eastern boundary, overlooking the village, Marston Hill reaches a height of 662 ft.
The village is a fairly large one at the junction of the Welsh Road, north-westwards to Southam, and four others, north to Lower Shuckburgh, east to Charwelton, Northants, south-east to Byfield, Northants, and southwest to Priors Hardwick.
The church stands about 300 yards north of the junction, to the east of the road to Shuckburgh. As well as the group where the main roads intersect, a large number of the buildings lie to the north of it about and within a large irregular four-sided loop formed by a side road connecting the Shuckburgh and Charwelton roads, within which is a smaller four-sided loop south of the church.
Most of the houses are built of local stone, a number retaining their thatched roofs or stone tiles, but a few have ugly corrugated iron roofs. A number of them are probably of the 16th and 17th centuries, but in only a few are the original windows, &c., left.
The Vicarage, about 150 yards north-east of the church, was an early-17th-century two-storied farmhouse, facing south, that was enlarged and heightened in the 18th century. The south front preserves several original stone-mullioned windows with labels and an arched and square-headed doorway. Inside is a wide fire-place, a moulded ceiling beam, &c. A thatched house at the north entrance to the churchyard, of T-shaped plan, the head facing east, is also of the 17th century. It has a similar window in the south side of the back wing, but the front windows have been modernized. The gables are coped.
The Falcon Inn, about 250 yards south-east of the church, at the south-east corner of the smaller loop, is a picturesque building facing west; it is of L-shaped plan and of two stories and attics, the last with gabled flush dormers in which are blocked windows. Practically all the windows are mullioned and have moulded labels of the normal type. The entrance doorway has a four-centred arch in a square head, with a label having diamond-shaped volute stops, but its mouldings are of a later-17th-century form. There are several other houses with similar mullioned windows. A threestoried house, 100 yards farther west, facing west towards the Southam road, has a doorway like that at the 'Falcon', but the house is obviously of the early 18th century and has tall windows with eared architraves. In most of the houses the chimney-stacks have been rebuilt with brick.
'The Priory', about ½ mile north of the church, is a small stone building, now tenements, and has no claim to the name. The only old feature is a mid-17th-century fire-place of hard grey stone; this is moulded and has a three-centred arch in a square head. The face above the arch has a row of four raised lozenges.
Marston was, like Hardwick, one of the 24 vills which Earl Leofric bestowed upon his foundation of Coventry Priory. (fn. 1) At the time of the Domesday Survey it formed part of Hardwick and is therefore not recorded by name. The fees of the prior of Coventry in 1236 included ¼ fee in Marston held by Peter de Montfort, and 1/10 fee there held by Thomas atte Hall (de Aula). (fn. 2) They were probably tenants for a term of years only, as no more is heard of these fractional fees, and in 1242 Marston was part of the prior's demesne. (fn. 3) It was one of the manors for which the priory received a grant of free warren in 1257, (fn. 4) and in 1279 the prior of Coventry had here 37 bond tenants holding 23 virgates. (fn. 5) From 1316 (fn. 6) the manor is usually distinguished as PRIORS MARSTON. It remained in the possession of the monks, and in 1535 the manor was farmed at £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 7) and there were rents from tenements there amounting to £19. (fn. 8) After the Dissolution the manor was granted to Sir Edmund Knightley (fn. 9) with that of Priors Hardwick (q.v.), and is said to have followed the same descent. (fn. 10) It was certainly in the hands of Robert, Lord Spencer, by 1599, when William Grant died holding land of his manor of Priors Marston; (fn. 11) but in 1585 Robert Beale, the diplomatist and antiquary, (fn. 12) had a grant of a manor of Priors Marston, (fn. 13) and when he died in 1601 he was holding that manor of the Crown by knight service, with court leet and view of frankpledge. (fn. 14) His son and heir Francis Beale had livery of the manor in the following year, (fn. 15) but no more is heard of this so-called manor. Lands in the parish, however, continued to be held in chief of the king; thus in 1618 William Lanckton died holding a cottage and 7 selions of land in Priors Marston of Robert, Lord Spencer, and a messuage and 1¾ virgates of the king. (fn. 16) The main manor, however, continued in the Spencer family and has descended to the present Earl Spencer.
The parish church of ST. LEONARD consists of a chancel with a north vestry, nave, north aisle, south porch, and west tower.
The earliest material in the building is the late-13thcentury north arcade, indicating an aisle of that period added to an earlier nave that was probably shorter than now. The aisle may have been widened late in the 14th century. There seems to have been a medieval tower, which was entirely remodelled about 1720, when the upper half was added or rebuilt. There is no detail by which the lower half can be dated. In the vestry is a tablet recording that the south wall of the nave was rebuilt and the nave and aisle reroofed, the interior refitted, and the vestry added in 1863. The chancel is not mentioned, and it was evidently subsequent to this that it was entirely rebuilt, probably in 1875, the date of the glass in the east window. The north arcade also seems to have been reconstructed with the old material, except for the western bay, which is all modern. Except for repairs the aisle seems to have been undisturbed.
The chancel (25 ft. by 18 ft.) has a modern east window of three lights and one north and two south of two lights, all with tracery in the late-13th-century style. The walls of coursed rough ashlar have some ancient stones re-used. The roof has arched trusses forming two bays and is tiled. The responds of the modern pointed chancel-arch are triple-shafted, with moulded capitals and bases.
The nave (about 60 ft. by 19½ ft.) is long and narrow. It has a north arcade of five 11½-ft. bays of late-13thcentury date, excepting the west bay, with its pillar and respond, which is modern. The pillars are octagonal and have moulded capitals and bases, the latter mostly mutilated. The arches are semicircular, of two chamfered orders; the voussoirs are small and from their unevenness have evidently been reset.
In the rebuilt south wall are five modern windows, three of two lights and tracery, the third a lancet, and the fourth a single light with tracery, perhaps forming a clue to the dates of the original windows. The south doorway, between the third and fourth, is of the 15th century except for modern base-stones. The yellow stone jambs and two-centred head are moulded on a splay of 45°, and the innermost hollow is decorated with square foliated paterae, except for two near the apex which are blank shields; they are irregularly spaced from 4 to 9 in. apart. The head, which is of two stones only with a middle mitre-joint, has a hood-mould with return-stops. While the masonry of the upper part of the wall is modern, with many re-used stones, the lower part up to about 7 ft. is ancient rough ashlar in yellowgrey stone. The south-west angle buttress is also ancient, and has a 15th-century double plinth. The others and the south porch are modern. The modern roof is of hammer-beam type in five bays.
The north aisle (10½ ft. wide) has four north windows; the first three are of the late 14th century and are each of two trefoiled lights and tracery in a square head; the easternmost and parts of the others had lost their cusps and these have been restored outside the glass, with other renovations. The westernmost window is modern, of two trefoiled lights and different tracery. The north doorway, between the second and third, has chamfered jambs and a four-centred head of c. 1500. The west window is of two plain four-centred lights under a square head, of the same period. The north wall is of ancient yellow-grey rubble, partly squared, but the east and most of the west wall are of coursed yellow rough ashlar. Only the middle part of the north wall, east of the doorway, has a plinth. The buttresses, except that west of the third window, are also ancient; the eastern is diagonal. The lean-to roof is modern.
The west tower (12 ft. square inside) is built of coursed yellow ashlar in two stages, divided by a plain string-course. The ashlar of the lower stage is probably medieval, and it has a chamfered plinth of which the top course is of the 18th century, but the lower part of ancient squared rubble. There are clasping buttresses at the angles, 2½ ft. wide and 7 in. projection, of a deeper yellow ashlar, the courses of which do not align with those of the walling; they have 18th-century moulded caps at the level of the string-course, and moulded bases level with the main chamfered plinth.
There was a round-headed archway to the nave, now walled up by a thin wall on the nave side with a modern doorway in it. In the north-east angle is a stair-vice entered by a round-headed doorway in the splayed angle and lighted by north loops. In the south wall is a round-headed doorway. In the west wall is an 18th-century round-headed window, also of stone differing from that of the walling and not coursing with it; it has been fitted with a modern mullion and transom and tracery bars in an attempt to Gothicize it.
The upper stage is of 18th-century ashlar, more even and regular than the lower, and has a plain pilastered parapet. The bell-chamber windows are like the west window and similarly treated with modern mullions, &c. The clock-chamber below has two small west windows and north and south clock faces.
The font and other furniture are modern. In the south porch is a slab with a brass inscription to Richard West, buried 1691, and his wife Elizabeth, buried 1 January 1688–9. There are also a few late-18th and 19th-century monuments, and in the churchyard a number of early-18th-century carved head-stones and high tombs.
There are six bells, the tenor recast by Taylor & Sons, 1845, and the others by Henry Bagley, 1721. (fn. 17)
The registers date from 1689.
Marston was a chapel of Priors Hardwick in 1279, (fn. 18) and that was still its status in 1535, (fn. 19) at which time the tithes were farmed by Coventry Priory at £10. (fn. 20) It continued to be a perpetual curacy attached to Priors Hardwick until 1861, when it was separated under an Order in Council, being constituted a vicarage in 1866, only to be reannexed to Priors Hardwick in 1920. (fn. 21)
The Rev. Edwin Robert Birch by codicil to his will proved 1 August 1896 bequeathed to the vicar and churchwardens £200, the income to be distributed amongst poor widows and widowers. The income, amounting to £4 11s. 4d., is so applied.
James and Aholiah West gave £200 to the minister and churchwardens to be laid out in land, the rent thereof to be distributed yearly on 29 April to the poor of the parish. The sum of £200 together with sums of £10 and £5, the gifts of Thomas and Job Baseley, purchased an estate in Charwelton in the County of Northampton. The land is let at an annual rent which is applied for the benefit of the poor.
Charity for upkeep of churchyard. By a deed dated 31 December 1931 land known as Church Meadow, containing 8 a. 2 r. 26 p., was conveyed to the Coventry Diocesan Trustees upon trust to apply the net income towards the upkeep of the churchyard at Priors Marston. The land is let at an annual rent which is applied as directed.