A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1951.
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To the south of Ladbroke is a block of sparsely populated country formed by the districts of Hodnell (521 acres: population in 1931, 9), Chapel Ascote (604 acres, population, 14), Watergall (553 acres, population, 16) and Wills Pastures (149 acres, population, 7). These originally formed the parish of Hodnell, of which the church, or chapel, was situated in Ascote. At the time of the Domesday Survey there were on the various estates into which the vill had become divided (see below) 31 customary tenants, representing a population of about 150. In 1332 there were 16 persons contributing to the subsidy, (fn. 1) so that, allowing for the exemption of the poorest, the population had not apparently fallen noticeably. Whether this district was ravaged by the Black Death is not known, but by the 15th century it was depopulated, so that in 1428 there were only four householders. (fn. 2) By the end of the 16th century the church was in ruins and the whole parish had been inclosed and converted into pasture. By 1638 Watergall and Hodnell had been annexed to the parish of Fenny Compton, whither the inhabitants resorted for divine service. (fn. 3) Next year these pastures or hamlets with that of Chapel Ascote were said to have 'never no poor at all in them' and were therefore to contribute to the support of the poor in Napton; the shepherds who were the only inhabitants were then appointed overseers of the poor; (fn. 4) in 1651 they were presented for not having collected the rates from Lady Kingsmill's lands, worth £500, in Chapel Ascote and 'Whittington' (now Weddington). (fn. 5) Two years later, it being reported that Hodnell was 'anciently an eminent parish . . . before the depopulation thereof by enclosure and the appropriation of the rectory to the late nunnery of Nun Eaton, but for many years past the estate being in great men's hands . . . those lands with Chappell Ascott and the rest of the parish being of the value of £1500 by the year bear no charges in ... things belonging to the constable's office', an attempt was made to make one of the shepherds serve as constable. (fn. 6) It was found, however, that the only inhabitants of Hodnell, Watergall, and Ascote were three shepherds 'which never used to serve as constables within the memory of man'. (fn. 7) At some later date these hamlets became detached from Fenny Compton and after a period of existence as extra-parochial townships have now, with Radbourne, become absorbed into Southam Rural District. (fn. 8)
Hodnell and Chapel Ascote are separated by the road running north from Banbury to Southam and are divided from Watergall and Wills Pastures (or Lower Hodnell) on the south by the River Itchen, of which a branch, or tributary, forms the south-western boundary of Watergall. The country is open, with few trees, and lies mostly at elevations between 300 and 350 ft., but in the northern part of the parish heights slightly over 400 ft. are reached at Hodnell Manor Farm and Weddington Hill in Ascote. It was probably here that stood the windmill, worth 6s. 8d. yearly, belonging to the Priory of Nuneaton in 1291, (fn. 9) and leased by the nuns in 1321 to William Fryday, (fn. 10) and its successor which John Horseley held of Sir John Seyntlowe in 1547. (fn. 11)
Before the Conquest HODNELL constituted a 10-hide vill. By 1066 it was divided between three tenants, Ordric holding 5 hides, Ulnod 4 hides, and Alwi one hide. In 1086 four of Ordric's five hides were held of the Count of Meulan by Gilbert (fn. 12) and the fifth was held by Godwin of Turchil, (fn. 13) who himself held Ulnod's 4 hides; (fn. 14) Alwi's hide was in the hands of William son of Corbucion, of whom it was held by Roger. (fn. 15) The overlordship of the count's and Turchil's estates came to the Earls of Warwick, who may also have acquired the remainder, as there is no later trace of any Corbucion interest in this neighbourhood.
In the 12th century the earl apparently enfeoffed Hugh son of Richard here, as they both confirmed the gift of land here, described as the whole vill and held of Hugh as one knight's fee, made by Richard de Ubestocha of Burton in about 1160 to Nuneaton Priory. (fn. 16) That priory in 1291 held 5 carucates of land in Hodnell and Ascote, worth £2 10s., rents to the value of £6 2s., and a windmill worth 6s. 8d. (fn. 17) In 1535 the demesnes had been let to Thomas Spencer for £11 13s. 10d., but were in the occupation of John Awdeley. (fn. 18) After the Dissolution the Nuneaton lordship of Hodnell was granted in 1540 to Sir Marmaduke Constable, (fn. 19) who sold it two years later to Sir John Seyntlowe. (fn. 20) He, in turn, had licence in 1547 to sell his manors of Hodnell and Ascote to John Coope. (fn. 21) Apparently Sir John Coope sold the manors to Thomas Wilkes in 1551, (fn. 22) but it would seem that, probably because he had not obtained licence to alienate, they were taken into the hands of the Crown and granted in 1552 to Edward Fynes, Lord Clinton and Saye, (fn. 23) being at the time mostly in the tenure of John Spencer and Thomas Bramfield. He promptly obtained licence to alienate to Anthony Coope, (fn. 24) who in 1554 joined with Sir John Coope, Mary Coope, widow, and others to convey the manors to Thomas Wilkes, (fn. 25) merchant of the Staple. In his will, (fn. 26) dated 16 August 1558, he directed his executors to discharge the manor of Hodnell of an annuity of £200 payable during her life to Margaret wife of Sir John Seyntlowe, and to use the issues of the manor and other lands for the relief of poor scholars of St. John's College, Cambridge, and Magdalen College, Oxford, and other charitable works. His wife Joan was to have the plate and household stuff at Hodnell, so long as she resided there at least six months in the year. He died on 6 January 1559, (fn. 27) his heir being his brother William, who died in 1573. (fn. 28) On the death of William's son Robert, under age, in 1577 the manors passed to his three sisters (fn. 29) —Anne, aged 19 and said then to be wife of Anthony Dryden, (fn. 30) Frances, 14, and Margaret, 12. The manors in question were Hodnell, Old Hodnell, Ascote, and Hooks (and also Radbourne), and it is not easy to decide precisely what these represented.
Late in the 12th century William Angevin granted land in Hodnell to Combe Abbey, his gift being confirmed by Robert de Taiden. (fn. 31) In 1195 William was impleading the same Robert for intrusion upon 9 virgates of land in Hodnell, (fn. 32) but died before his case was heard, and next year his son Niel Angevin was the plaintiff. (fn. 33) In 1197 Niel quitclaimed the 9 virgates to Robert de Taiden and his son Henry, and in return they gave him two half-virgates of that land to hold of them with 2 other virgates which he already held. (fn. 34) Lettice de Teydene, (fn. 35) who was daughter of a later Henry, (fn. 36) in 1281 conveyed to her relative (fn. 37) John de Briwes, or Bruys, a messuage, a carucate of land, and 10 acres of meadow in Hodnell. (fn. 38) Already, in 1269, Beatrice, daughter of Henry de Terays, had released to Sir Robert de Briwes (John's father) all her right in the manor of Hodnell and in all the lands late of Paulin de Tayden and Henry de Terays. (fn. 39) This constituted the quarter-fee of HODNELL BRUIZ, held c. 1330 by Robert Burnel, 'who had married the heiress'. (fn. 40) Robert, who styles himself lord of Hodnell in 1316, (fn. 41) was apparently the nephew of his namesake the Bishop of Bath and Wells. (fn. 42) John Burnel is said to have held one-eighth fee here in 1346, (fn. 43) but in 1400 (fn. 44) and in 1403 (fn. 45) the quarter-fee of Hodnell Bruiz was held by the Prioress of Nuneaton.
In 1235 the fees of the Earl of Warwick included half a fee in Hodnell and Luddington held by Henry le Franseiz and William de Ludinton, (fn. 46) of which the Hodnell portion may be that just dealt with; a quarter fee in Hodnell held by Osbert; and one-fifth fee held by Gurmund. (fn. 47) This last is described in 1242 as onefifth fee in HODNELL GURMUNT, held by Thomas Gurmunt of Thomas de Arden, who held of the earl. (fn. 48) John Gurmund and his son Richard occur at the end of the 13th century; (fn. 49) Richard Gurmond was tenant in 1316, (fn. 50) and Simon Gurmund in 1346. (fn. 51) In 1428 return was made of a quarter fee formerly held by Simon Gurmund in OLD HODNELL. (fn. 52) This manor, with land in 'Howkes next Astcoytt', was sold by Thomas Spencer and John and Giles, his brothers, in 1546 to Sir John Seyntlowe (fn. 53) and so came, as already mentioned, to Thomas Wilkes. This Thomas Spencer was the son of John Spencer who had died on 4 January 1497 seised of 20 virgates in Ascote. (fn. 54)
The Osbert mentioned in 1235 was probably Osbert la Noreis who married the sister of Henry, son of Robert de Thaiden, (fn. 55) and, with the assent of his wife Columbine, gave ½ virgate in Hodnell to Philip de Mutton, (fn. 56) who acquired other land by his marriage with Isoult, sister of Stephen and William de Lodinton. (fn. 57) In 1242 Simon de Hodenhull, possibly successor of the Osbert mentioned above, was returned as holding half a fee of Thomas de Arden, who held of the Earl of Warwick in SHITEN HODNELL. (fn. 58) By 1316 part at least of this, representing one-sixth fee, was held by the Abbot of Combe, (fn. 59) who is again returned as tenant of one-sixth fee there in about 1320 (fn. 60) and in 1400. (fn. 61) Not long after the latter date, Thomas, Abbot of Combe, leased the abbey's lands in Hodnell and Ascote, as part of their manor of Radbourne, to Dame Emma Catesby for her life, with remainder to her son John in tail male. (fn. 62) John's son Sir William Catesby was renting these lands in 1476, (fn. 63) and his son William had a fresh lease of them from the abbey in 1481. (fn. 64) The Catesbys had long been accumulating an estate in this district; in 1342 Christiane widow of Robert Burnel granted to William Catesby all her right in a meadow called 'le Bruscroft' in Hodnell in which William had been enfeoffed by her father Richard Geremund; (fn. 65) in 1387 Sir John Peyto gave lands in Hodnell and Ascote, which he had inherited from his father William, to John Catesby; (fn. 66) and Robert Catesby was dealing with lands there in 1451. (fn. 67) William Catesby was a strong supporter of Richard III and, being taken prisoner at Bosworth Field, was beheaded and attainted. (fn. 68) His lands in Ascote, some 200 acres of arable and 100 acres of pasture, and the 317 acres in Hodnell and Ascote attached to Radbourne were granted in 1488 to Sir John Risley in tail male; (fn. 69) but in 1495 the forfeited estates were restored to William's son, George Catesby. (fn. 70) These lands seem to have been acquired by Thomas Wilkes, as in 1555 he sold to William and Richard Wills 83½ acres of pasture in Astefelde in Hodnell, late of Richard (son of George) Catesby. (fn. 71) This is probably the origin of the district known as WILLS PASTURE.
Having traced the descent of the various manorial entities into the hands of the Wilkes family, we may now return to the three sisters and coheiresses of Robert Wilkes. Anne's marriage to Anthony Dryden, if it ever took place, must have been short-lived; she married Sir William Kingsmill (fn. 72) and her son Sir Henry and grandson Sir William succeeded to her share, which became the manor of ASCOTE. This was in the hands of William Kingsmill in 1722, but by 1772 had been acquired by William Palmer, whose brother Charles succeeded him in that year and held the manor until 1804. (fn. 73) His son William in 1825 took the additional name of Morewood, (fn. 74) and his son Charles Rowland Palmer Morewood was lord of the manor in 1865. (fn. 75)
The second daughter, Frances, married Sir Erasmus Dryden, son of John Dryden and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Cope, whose mother was daughter of Sir John Spencer of Hodnell. (fn. 76) Lady Frances died in 1630, having settled her third of the manors on her son John; (fn. 77) this third included the manor-house of OLD HODNELL. (fn. 78) Sir John's son Sir Robert Dryden died without issue in 1708, (fn. 79) the heirs to his estate being his sisters, of whom Frances married Ralph Sneyd, from whom the Sneyds of Keele descended; the manor, however, was acquired by a member of the family of Sneyd of Ashcombe, descended from Ralph's younger brother William, as in 1752 William Hodges Sneyd was dealing with the manor, (fn. 80) of which he was described as lord in 1753. (fn. 81) He died in 1757 and his brother John in 1777. The latter's grandson the Rev. John Sneyd was succeeded in 1873 by his son Dryden Henry Sneyd. (fn. 82)
The wardship and marriage of the third daughter, Margaret, was granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1578 to Robert, Earl of Leicester, who sold it to John Dryden, who assigned it in 1579 to Sir William Catesby. (fn. 83) He procured her marriage to his relative Francis Dimock, (fn. 84) after whose death she married Thomas Gibbs. On her death in 1639 her share, which included the capital messuage of WATERGALL, passed to her son, Edward Gibbs. (fn. 85) His son Thomas had a daughter Frances who married, as his second wife, Sir John Rayney, bart., of Wrotham; (fn. 86) she died in 1690 and her son Edward in 1703. On the death of his son without issue the property was sold, about 1720, to John Mead, whose brother Richard was in possession in 1730; (fn. 87) it was subsequently acquired by Lord Leigh.
The church of Hodnell is mentioned as appropriated to the Priory of Nuneaton in 1291, when it was valued at £3 6s. 8d. (fn. 88) In 1535 the rectory was farmed for 26s. 8d. (fn. 89) and a pension of 16s. 8d. was paid to Kenilworth Abbey for the parish church. (fn. 90) This presumably represented the yearly render of 1 mark and a stone of wax to the canons of Kenilworth with which the church was charged in about 1160. (fn. 91) The church was still standing in 1531, when Thomas Spencer left orders for his burial there, near his father's tomb. (fn. 92) The rectory and advowson of St. Helen's, Hodnell, remained attached to the main manor, (fn. 93) and in 1639 Margaret Gibbs was said to have held onethird of the advowson of the church of St. Helen in Ascote; (fn. 94) but already in 1633 Bishop Wright had reported to Archbishop Laud that the churches of Hodnell, Ascote, and Watergall (which seem in fact to be three names for the same building) were decayed, and requiring whether they should be rebuilt or united to other parishes. (fn. 95) Neither solution was applied, even the ruins of the church perished, (fn. 96) and the three places became extra-parochial.