A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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Circehille (xi cent.); Cherchull, Chirchehull, Cershull-juxta-Humelbrok (xiii cent.).
Churchill, usually spoken of as Churchill in Oswaldslow to distinguish it from Churchill in Halfshire, is a small parish 5 miles to the east of Worcester. Bow Brook runs south along the eastern side and the Evesham and Worcester road forms the boundary on the south. The parish covers an area of 670 acres, of which 251 acres are laid down in permanent grass and 56 are woods and plantations, (fn. 1) Churchill Wood being the largest of these; 202 acres are arable land, the chief crops being wheat, barley and beans. The parish lies partly on the Keuper Marls and partly on the Lower Lias formation, the soil being clay. The eastern part of the parish lies on the right bank of the Bow Brook, but to the west the land rises, reaching a height of 200 ft. above the ordance datum at Churchill Wood in the north-west. No railway line touches the parish, the nearest station being at Stoulton on the Great Western line, 3 miles distant. At Churchill Spa in the north-east there is a chalybeate spring and in the east of the parish a petrifying spring.
The village is very small, and consists of a few farm-houses and half-timbered cottages. The church stands on the summit of a slight hill on the east side of the road along which the cottages forming the village are grouped. To the north-east of the church is the site of the former manor-house, the surrounding moat of which may still be traced in its entirety. On the west side of the road, nearly opposite the church, is a two-storied L-shaped half-timber house, probably of 16th-century date. On the same side of the road, at the southern extremity of the village, is a small half-timbered farm-house of picturesque appearance. At the foot of the hill to the north of the church, where the road takes a turn to the eastward, is a late 17th-century farm-house or brick. At Churchill Wood, on the north side of the Alcester road, about half a mile to the north of the main village, is Wood Farm, a 17th-century house of brick, and adjoining it is a fine brick dovecot and stable combined. The dovecot forms a tower at the west end of the stable, and is crowned by a tiled roof gabled on each face, the gable ends being filled with half-timber work. A small central lantern surmounts the whole. The lower story forms part of the stables.
Among former place-names were Le Mershe, Wythewell (fn. 2) and Small Elms, now contracted to Smellums. (fn. 3) In 1811 an Act was passed for inclosing lands in the parish and for making compensation for tithes. (fn. 4)
Three hides at CHURCHILL were held of the Bishop of Worcester's manor of Northwick in Claines at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 5) Churchill still formed part of Northwick in the 13th century, (fn. 6) and in 1488 the bishop was still said to be overlord of the fee. (fn. 7) Azor held this manor in the time of Edward the Confessor, but Walter Poer (Ponther) was the bishop's tenant in 1086. (fn. 8) As at Bredicot, Walter's interest in the manor as mesne lord became annexed to the Poers' manor at Battenhall, and passed with it to the Prior of Worcester, (fn. 9) the manor being said in 1501 and 1574 to be held of the manor of Battenhall. (fn. 10) The manor was perhaps held by the Poers in demesne until the 13th century, for no mention has been found of any tenant until about the middle of that century.
Sir John de Churchill, who was evidently lord of the manor, (fn. 11) had a long quarrel with the Bishop of Worcester over the patronage of the church, and 'incurred the sentence of excommunication for contumacy' because he insisted on presenting John de Farley, the rector of Stanton near Oxford, to Churchill, although the bishop refused to admit him. In 1296 'the said John, having at length sought and obtained absolution, the bishop, although having the right to collate to the church, out of clemency admitted the said John on the presentation of the same knight.' (fn. 12) Sir John joined the rebellious barons during the Barons' War and forfeited all his estates. He was in prison in 1266, when part of his land was assigned to his wife Maud. (fn. 13) He died before 1272, when his property was given to his widow. (fn. 14) Maud was still holding a third of the manor in 1321, (fn. 15) but the rest passed between 1280 and 1289 to the heir of Sir John de Churchill, Joan wife of Giles de Argentein. (fn. 16) Joan was holding the manor in 1297–8, (fn. 17) and it seems probable that Maud wife of John de Burwell, who released her right in the manor in 1304 to Joan de Argentein, then a widow, was Maud, formerly the wife of Sir John de Churchill. (fn. 18)
Joan in 1321 gave two-thirds of the manor and the reversion of the other third after Maud's death to Richard de Westbury. (fn. 19) Six years later John de Westbury, probably a son of Richard, gave the manor to Sir John de Wisham and his wife Hawise, (fn. 20) and in 1328 Sir John obtained from the king a grant of free warren in this manor. (fn. 21) He died about 1333, leaving a son and heir John, (fn. 22) who obtained a pardon for marrying without the king's licence in 1334, when only fifteen years old. (fn. 23) Hawise, widow of the elder John, retained a life interest in the whole manor, which was confirmed to her by her son when he came of age. (fn. 24) In 1356 she settled the manor on herself and her son John and his heirs, with remainder to Sir Robert Bures. (fn. 25) She died three years later, when John succeeded. (fn. 26) The manor had passed from him to another John before 1415. (fn. 27) This John (fn. 28) married Margaret daughter and heir of Sir John Beauchamp of Holt, and after his death the manor was divided, like Holt (q.v.), between the Guise and Croft families. (fn. 29)
The part which passed to the Guise family was sold by John Guise in 1543 to George Habington. (fn. 30) Of him it was purchased by Jane Stanford, (fn. 31) and she with her husband Edward Stanford sold it to Sir John Bourne in 1555. (fn. 32) The right of the last-named was unsuccessfully contested by William Guise, the son of John Guise, who claimed that his father had made a settlement of the property in 1554 on his sons Anselm and William in tail-male successively, and that Anselm had died childless. (fn. 33) Sir John Bourne was in possession of the estate at his death in 1575, (fn. 34) and was succeeded by his son Anthony, who sold 'some of these lands to his tenants creating them freeholders,' (fn. 35) and this portion of the manor therefore disappears.
The moiety of the manor which belonged to the Crofts was purchased by William Cooksey. (fn. 36) The date of the purchase is not known, but it evidently took place before 1565–6. (fn. 37) William Cooksey died without issue and this estate passed to his sister Alice wife of Humphrey Acton (fn. 38) or to her son John, for William Acton, apparently the son of John, was dealing with it in 1607, (fn. 39) and John Acton and his son William sold it in 1610 to Rowland Berkeley. (fn. 40) The manor has since followed the descent of Spetchley, (fn. 41) and now belongs to Mr. Robert Valentine Berkeley.
In 1086 there was a mill at Churchill worth 4s. (fn. 42) About the middle of the 13th century Sir John de Churchill and his wife Maud gave two water-mills under one roof at Churchill for the support of a chantry priest in the church of Churchill. (fn. 43) This grant was ratified by the king in 1344. (fn. 44) The parson of Churchill apparently remained in possession of these mills until the dissolution of the chantries in the time of Edward VI. (fn. 45) In the 16th century this mill was the subject of Chancery proceedings. Sir John Bourne and William Cooksey claimed the ownership, but Thomas Harewell and his wife Margaret, who were in possession, replied that it had come into the hands of Edward VI by virtue of the statute made for the dissolution of chantries, and that Queen Elizabeth had granted it in 1565 to them for twenty-one years. (fn. 46) The result of this suit is not known, but in 1590 the queen granted two watermills to John Williams and John Wells and their heirs for ever. (fn. 47) A water-mill still stands in the parish.
The church of ST. MICHAEL consists of a chancel 20½ ft. by 15½ ft. and a nave 37 ft. by 20 ft. These measurements are internal. The chancel was rebuilt a few years ago, and the nave, which dates from the 14th century, is now undergoing a complete restoration. It appears to have replaced an earlier structure, probably of the 12th century, as a few worked stones of that date were re-used in the 14th-century walling. Lying in the churchyard is a knee-stone of a gable, once painted and carved with a small couchant lion.
The east window of the chancel is of three lights under a pointed head, without tracery, and the two windows on the south are single lights. The north wall is plastered externally and is without openings. The chancel arch is modern, of two chamfered orders.
The nave has a single 14th-century window in each side wall of two lights with a quatrefoil above. To the east of each is a small hole through the wall about 7 in. square and about 3 ft. above the ground. The purpose of these openings is doubtful. A piscina in the south wall appears to be original and has a trefoiled head. The 14th-century north doorway has been lately reopened; it is of a single chamfered order with a pointed arch. The south doorway is similar and the jambs of both have deep holes for the reception of wooden draw-bars. The south wall has recently been rebuilt, owing to its serious inclination outwards, but the old materials have been carefully re-used. In the side walls several worked stones, including jambs and shafts, of an earlier building have been found in the 14th-century work. The two-light west window is modern. The church was ceiled throughout, but the plaster of the nave roof has been stripped and the old timbers exposed. A small modern turret capped by a pyramidal roof rises above the west end and contains two bells, one dated 1711 and the other undated but probably somewhat older.
The stone font is octagonal and appears to be of 15th-century date. The altar rails are of the early 18th-century baluster type.
There are several monuments in the chancel, the oldest to Thomas Barker, died 1688.
A small piece of ancient glass in the east window bears a shield of the arms of Wisham.
A gravestone in the churchyard commemorates George Apedaile, a Roman Catholic priest who died in 1799, and some English nuns of the order of Poor Clares, who, when banished from Dunkerque by the fury of the French Revolution about 1792, found, by the kindness of Mr. Berkeley, a refuge at Churchill, and William Southworth, their chaplain, who died in 1814. They lived at Wood Farm in this parish.
The communion plate includes an Elizabethan cup with the date 1571 inscribed on it and the date letter for the same year and an exact copy of the same cup inscribed 1905. There are also a pewter flagon and two small pewter almsdishes.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1565 to 1794, burials 1566 to 1792 and marriages 1564 to 1750; after this the baptisms and burials before 1813 are missing; (ii) marriages 1761 to 1812.
In the 11th century Churchill was a chapelry of the church of St. Helen, Worcester. (fn. 48) It seems to have become separated from St. Helen's before 1269, for it is then called a church, and its advowson was in dispute between the bishop and Sir John de Churchill. (fn. 49) After this time, however, the advowson followed the same descent as the manor, (fn. 50) and was divided in the same way at the end of the 15th century between the families of Guise and Croft. (fn. 51) The moiety which ultimately passed to the Crofts followed the same descent as their share of the manor to Rowland Berkeley. (fn. 52) The moiety held by the Guise family seems to have been sold by John Guise with his share of the manor to George Habington, though it is not mentioned in the conveyance, for Edward and Jane Stanford sold it with the Guise moiety of the manor to Sir John Bourne, (fn. 53) who died seised of it in 1575. (fn. 54) It must have passed shortly after to Philip Sheldon, for he presented to the church in 1581 (fn. 55) and sold the advowson in 1606 to Rowland Berkeley. (fn. 56) From that time the advowson has remained with the Berkeley family. (fn. 57)
The charities of Thomas Barker and others, mentioned on a table in the church, are now represented by £200 consols with the official trustees, arising from the sale of a cottage and garden in the parish of White Ladies Aston, which had been purchased with £55 given by Thomas Barker and others for the poor. The annual dividends of £5 are, under a scheme of 1 July 1864, distributed to the poor on the eve of St. Thomas's Day.
In 1867 Mrs. Maria Dineley, by her will, bequeathed £150 consols, the interest to be applied in the first place in keeping in repair the Dineley tomb in the churchyard, and any residue to be distributed to the poor. The stock is in the name of the official trustees, and the income, £3 15s. yearly, is applied in aid of the sick poor. The tomb is kept in repair.
It was recorded on another table in the church that in 1733 a sum of £6 was given to the parish to remain a stock for ever, the use thereof to be laid out in books of devotion and piety to be distributed by the minister.
The church land consisted of about an acre situate in the glebe, in respect of which £1 was paid to the clerk in part payment of his salary.