A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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CLENT (fn. 1)
Clent is a hilly parish containing besides the village of Clent the hamlets of Upper Clent, where is situated the church, Lower Clent, Adam's Hill, Holy Cross and Rumbold, divided from the rest of the parish by Walton Hills, of which Holy Cross is the most populous. Although surveyed in Worcestershire in Domesday Book the parish was soon afterwards annexed to Staffordshire, evidently owing to the fact that it paid the farm it rendered to the king, through the manor of Kingswinford in that county. It remained part of Staffordshire until 1832, when it was again annexed to Worcestershire for Parliamentary purposes. (fn. 2) In 1844 it became part of Worcestershire for all purposes. (fn. 3) The soil is gravel, marl and clay and the subsoil clay and stone. Agriculture is the only industry, the chief crops being wheat, oats and potatoes, which latter have largely supplanted the barley which used to be grown. In the 16th and 17th centuries the chief trade was scythe-making, which was followed by nail-making, (fn. 4) and this in its turn died out late in the 19th century. The parish covers an area of 2,424 acres, which includes 755½ acres of arable land, 911½ of grass land, 81 acres of woods and plantations (fn. 5) and 7 acres covered by water, the last being made up by several ponds, two of which work mills.
The whole of the eastern part of the parish is on the Clent Hills, which at some points attain to a height of over 1,000 ft. above the ordnance datum and afford wide and beautiful views. The hills are rounded in outline and covered with grass and gorse. On these hills the Britons are said to have encamped before a battle thought to have been fought on Clent Heath. The tradition is supported by the fact that five tumuli formerly existed on the heath and were opened by Bishop Lyttelton, who attributed them to the Romans. In all of them he found the remains of human bones and burnt wood, and one contained an urn filled with bones. (fn. 6) There is a description of the Clent Hills and the country to be seen from them in Drayton's Polyolbion. (fn. 7) The origin of four upright stones on the summit of the Hills was the subject of some discussion in 1865 and again in 1883. The statement that they were placed there by George first Lord Lyttelton is the correct one, but his successor Lord Lyttelton claimed for them a much earlier origin and they are sometimes said to be Druidical remains. (fn. 8)
According to tradition the Kings of Mercia had at one time a residence in Clent and the parish was the scene of the murder of St. Kenelm. The legend states that on the death of Kenulf, King of Mercia, in 819 his son Kenelm, then a child of eight, became king. His sister Quendreda wishing to be queen persuaded her lover Ascobert to take the child into the woods and kill him and bury him under a thorn tree. The body was miraculously discovered by the appearance of a dove at Rome bearing a scroll on which were the words.
'In Clentho vaccae valli Kenelmus regius natus, Jacet sub spino, capite truncatus.'
Thereupon messengers were sent to England to remove the body to Winchcombe Abbey and in the place where it was found 'a sacred fountain (fn. 9) burst out from the dry cave and flowed away in a stream, which brought health to many who drank it.' (fn. 10)
The chief road in the parish is from Stourbridge through Lower Clent and Holy Cross to Bromsgrove, but the main road from Birmingham to Kidderminster bounds and passes through a small portion of the western extremity of the parish. At Holy Cross the Stourbridge road is intersected by a road from Birmingham which passes through the village of Clent. Clent House stands back on the east side of the Bromsgrove and Stourbridge road to the west of the church. The older portion of the building dates from the early 18th century, but the main structure was not erected till later in the same century. The materials of both portions are red brick and stone. The present owner is Mr. John Amphlett.
A common called Calcot Hill is mentioned in a survey taken in 1553 as containing 100 acres and being able to keep 400 sheep. (fn. 13) The owners of certain land in Clent still have rights of common on the Clent and Walton Hills.
Heming, the Worcester chronicler, states, on the testimony of Bishop Wulfstan, that the manor of CLENT with Tardebigge and Kingswinford was purchased from King Ethelred by Æthelsige (Ægelsinus), Dean of Worcester, for the use of his monastery, but that when he died during the war between Edmund Ironside and Cnut, Ævic Sheriff of Staffordshire, 'because there was no one who would do justice to the Holy Church,' seized them from the monastery, (fn. 14) probably for the use of the king. Clent was still a royal possession at the time of the Domesday Survey, when the farm of £4 yearly was paid at the manor of Kingswinford, in Staffordshire. (fn. 15) Its name occurs regularly on the early Pipe Rolls of Staffordshire (fn. 16) as part of the king's demesnes, 1 mark being rendered from it, and in 1193 it was among the places from which the annuity of £22 6s. 8d. granted to Emma wife of David King of North Wales was to be paid. (fn. 17) In 1204 King John granted it to Ralph de Somery to be held by a rent of £4 13s. 4d., paid by the hands of the Sheriff of Staffordshire. (fn. 18) Roger de Somery, who was probably the son of this Ralph, obtained a grant of a fair at Clent in 1253. (fn. 19) In the 13th century the Somerys held the manors of Clent and Mere, co. Staffs., by rendering yearly 40 marks, and had in Clent free warren and tallage when the king tallaged his manors, and owed suit at two general hundreds. (fn. 20)
Since that date the manor followed the same descent as that of Northfield (fn. 21) (q.v.) until about 1431, when the possessions of Joyce wife of Sir Hugh Burnell were divided between Joan Lady Beauchamp and Maurice Berkeley. (fn. 22) Clent was assigned to Lady Beauchamp, (fn. 23) and passed to her grandson James Butler, created Earl of Wiltshire in 1449. (fn. 24) On his attainder in 1461 (fn. 25) Clent passed into the hands of the king, and was granted in 1462 to Fulk Stafford, (fn. 26) but on his death without issue male in the following year two thirds of the manor and the reversion of one third after the death of Margaret widow of Fulk Stafford were granted to Sir Walter Wrottesley. (fn. 27) The whole manor was confirmed in tail-male to Sir Walter in 1466. (fn. 28) He died in 1473, (fn. 29) and though he left a son Richard the manor was granted in 1474 to Humphrey Stafford of Grafton and his heirs male. (fn. 30) Humphrey Stafford was executed for treason soon after the accession of Henry VII, (fn. 31) and in 1485 the Earl of Wiltshire's attainder was reversed in favour of his brother Thomas Earl of Ormond, (fn. 32) Clent with the earl's other property being granted to him. (fn. 33) Clent has since followed the same descent as Hagley, (fn. 34) the present owner of the manor being Charles George Viscount Cobham.
The rent reserved to the Crown, when the manor was given to Ralph de Somery, was granted in 1351 to Hugh de Wrottesley for life only, the grant being confirmed in 1378–9, (fn. 35) and in 1442 to William Burley for life. (fn. 36) It remained with the Crown for more than 200 years, being sold by the Parliamentary Commissioners to Christopher Howling in 1649, (fn. 37) but returning to the Crown at the Restoration. Under the Act of 1670 for the sale of fee-farm rents, (fn. 38) that of Clent appears to have beer sold to the Pagets of Beaudesert, afterwards Earls of Uxbridge, (fn. 39) and in that family it remained until 1769, when Henry Paget second Earl of Uxbridge died childless. (fn. 40) He apparently left it to his kinsman Sir William Irby, created Lord Boston in 1761, (fn. 41) to whom it was paid in the time of Bishop Lyttelton. (fn. 42) Towards the end of the 19th century it was purchased from Lord Boston by Lord Lyttelton. (fn. 43)
In the reign of Henry VIII the inhabitants of Clent petitioned for a confirmation of their rights as dwelling on ancient demesne of the Crown and obtained a charter in 1566, which was confirmed in 1625. (fn. 44)
The charter was granted to the inhabitants of Clent alias 'Chenett' through a curious mistake which arose from the transfer of the manor from Worcestershire to Staffordshire. When search was made for Clent in Domesday Book, the fact that it had originally been in Worcestershire was overlooked, and it was identified with Chenet in Staffordshire, the only place in that county to which its name bore any resemblance. (fn. 45) By the charter the inhabitants were exempted from the payment of toll, stallage, passage, pontage, &c., from contributing to the expenses of sending knights to Parliament, and from serving on any juries except those in their own parish.
The four days' fair at the feast of St. Kenelm (17 July), granted in 1253 to Roger Somery as lord of Clent, (fn. 46) was always held in St. Kenelm's Chapel Yard just within Romsley, (fn. 47) and was continued until the middle of the 19th century. (fn. 48) In the middle of the 18th century fairs were also held by prescriptive right at Holy Cross on the second Wednesday in April and the first Wednesday in September. (fn. 49) In 1868 Clent had a cattle and cheese fair 'at which the inhabitants are allowed by an old charter to sell beer without licence,' (fn. 50) but this fair with those at Holy Cross has been discontinued.
Besides the Domesday manor of Clent there is in the parish a manor known as CHURCH CLENT or KINGS HOLT. There was a court baron, but as regards view of frankpledge it was always under the jurisdiction of the lords of the ancient manor. (fn. 51) At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries this manor belonged to the abbey of Halesowen. (fn. 52)
Charles I in 1633 gave this estate, with a tenement called Calcot Hill, to William Scrivener and Philip Eden. (fn. 53) They appear to have sold it to a Mr. Norrice, from whom it was purchased in 1660 (fn. 54) by John Underhill, whose father John Underhill and grandfather William Underhill had lived at Calcot Hill House. (fn. 55) It passed successively from the Underhills to Dr. Samuel Barton, Sarah French, John Wowen (fn. 56) and Jane his wife and three maiden ladies, Jane, Ann and Matilda Manning. (fn. 57) Before 1799 Ann Manning's share had been sold to John Hollington, whose descendant William Hollington purchased the other two thirds about 1878. (fn. 58) The Calcot Hill estate, 198 acres in extent, together with the manor of Church Clent, in which are contained other lands in the parish, mostly glebe, (fn. 59) was sold by Mr. Hollington in 1893 to Thomas Jarvis Hodgetts for £4,200. (fn. 60)
Bishop Lyttelton gives a list of some of the customs of the manor of Church Clent in the 16th century from a manuscript formerly in the possession of a Mr. Tyrer, steward of the court. (fn. 61)
At the time when Nash wrote his History of Worcester (c. 1782) the manor comprised only three cottages and four farm-houses, of which Calcot Hill Farm was the largest. (fn. 62)
The church of ST. LEONARD consists of a chancel 23 ft. by 15 ft., with an organ chamber on the north, a nave 46 ft. by 15 ft., north and south aisles, the latter 12 ft. wide, a west tower 11 ft. by 10½ ft., the ground floor of which is used as a vestry, and a south porch. These measurements are all internal.
The 12th-century church probably consisted of a chancel and nave only, to which a south aisle was added about 1170. There is no evidence of further structural alterations until early in the 15th century, when the tower was built and the south aisle widened, the chancel being reconstructed about 1440. The north aisle was added in 1837, but this, together with the nave, was rebuilt during the years 1864–5. The organ chamber and porch were erected at the same time.
The chancel axis inclines to the south. In the east wall is an original traceried window of five lights, with a segmental-pointed head ribbed on the inside and ornamented at the apex with a small carved angel holding what appears to be a paten. The external hood is finished with a finial. In the west end of the north wall a modern arch opens into the organ chamber. The chancel is lit from the south by two square-headed two-light windows, the inner jambs of which are splayed below, but shouldered at the head. Under the sill of the easternmost is an ogee-headed piscina. The basin appears to have been quatrefoiled, but has been broken off flush with the wall face. Between the windows is a very flat ogee-headed doorway of the same date as the chancel, the external label of which returns on itself. Cut on the eastern inner jamb is a black-letter inscription reading, 'Juxta hunc lapidem jacet corpus johannis cleye.' In the opposite jamb is a large groove cut to receive a wooden bar. The chancel arch, of three chamfered orders, is 15th-century work. The chancel walls are built of sandstone with a moulded plinth, stepped to the fall of the ground from east to west, and diagonal buttresses at the east end. The coping of the eastern gable is finished, at the apex, with a crocketed pinnacle and with carved grotesques at the eaves.
The nave arcades are in three bays. That on the north is entirely modern, but portions of 12th-century masonry have been retained in the southern. The pointed arches of two square orders rest on circular piers with scalloped capitals and moulded bases raised on square plinths. Parts of the capitals of both piers are old, and a few stones in the piers and arches appear to have been re-used. The west respond, with the exception of the abacus, is original 12th-century work. The two-light east window in the south aisle is contemporary with the widening, but the tracery and mullions have been restored. At the east end of the south wall is a small piscina, with a pointed head and broken bowl, and in the same wall are two 15th-century windows of two lights each. The pointed south door between them has been much restored, and the south porch is modern. Externally the walls of this aisle have a double chamfered plinth, with a diagonal buttress at the south-west angle and a second in a line with the east wall.
The tower, divided into three stages by moulded strings, has an embattled parapet and a moulded plinth, with diagonal buttresses at the angles. In the south-west corner is a small vice. The tower arch is pointed and of two orders, the outer continuous but the inner interrupted by a moulded cap. The south wall is pierced by a modern doorway, but the three-light traceried west window is original. The ringing stage is lit from the north and south by a single square-headed light, and in each wall of the bell-chamber is a two-light pointed opening of the early 15th century. Projecting from each face of the tower below the parapet is a much-weathered gargoyle, carved in the form of a grotesque beast. The nave roofs are modern, but that over the chancel is of early 15th-century date and of the trussed rafter type. Each pair of rafters is trussed by a collar and two curved braces, which spring from the moulded wall-plates and form a series of semicircular arches.
There is a peal of eight bells, two of which were added in 1902 by Taylor of Loughborough. The old bells are inscribed as follows: (1) 'M' John Waldron de Field, Mr Wm Cole, Zeph Creswell 1718'; (2) 'Cantate Domino Canticum Novum. 1681'; (3) 'Henricus Bagley mee fecit 1681'; (4) 'Henry Bagley made me 1681'; (5) 'Henry Bagley made me 1681'; (6) 'John Perry vicar, John Cresswell John Waldron Churchwardens, John Amphlett Esquire' and on the lip of the bell 'John Gopp, Abraham Hill, Richard Wight, Joseph Waldron, Thomas Waldron, Richard Hill. Richard Bagley made mee 1743.'
The plate consists of a mid-16th-century silver cup unstamped, a silver salver of 1693 inscribed 'Donum Mariae Amphlett Ecclesiae Clent 1750,' a modern silver flagon of 1907, an electro-plated paten and an electro-plated flagon.
The registers previous to 1813 are as follows: (i) all entries 1562 to 1619, also for year 1626; (ii) baptisms 1637 to 1642, marriages and burials 1637 to 1641, also all 1654 to 1729; (iii) baptisms 1729 to 1775 (no entries for 1738), also for year 1782, marriages 1729 to 1754, burials 1729 to 1757, for the year 1768, 1774 to 1776 and 1780 to 1782; (iv) baptisms and burials 1783 to 1812; (v) marriages 1754 to 1787; (vi) marriages 1787 to 1798; (vii) marriages 1798 to 1812. The earlier books have been handsomely bound.
The advowson of Clent followed the descent of the manor, (fn. 63) until John Botetourt granted it in 1340 to the abbey of Halesowen, (fn. 64) his gift being confirmed in 1340 and 1393. (fn. 65) The rectory was appropriated to Halesowen Abbey in 1343–4 and a vicarage was ordained in 1344. (fn. 66) In 1291 the church with the chapel of Rowley, which was annexed to Clent until 1841, (fn. 67) was said to be worth £18 13s. 4d. (fn. 68) The advowson was granted with the rectory in 1538 to Sir John Dudley, (fn. 69) and on his attainder in 1553 it fell to the Crown, to which it has since belonged. (fn. 70) In 1558 the advowson and rectory were temporarily granted to the Bishop of Worcester. (fn. 71) The rectory was granted in 1609 to Francis Phillips and Richard Moore, (fn. 72) and thus became separated from the advowson. Before 1726 it had been bought by Joseph Amphlett of Clent, (fn. 73) and the great tithes have since remained in his family, being now in the possession of Mr. John Amphlett of Clent House. (fn. 74)
The Church Lands, which were originally derived from a surrender in 1616 by Humphrey Penn at a court baron, now consist of four cottages with gardens producing £13 a year and a sum of £2,815 4s. 6d. consols with the official trustees, arising from sales of land from time to time. The dividends, amounting to £70 7s. 4d. yearly, together with the rents, are carried to the churchwardens' account to maintain the services and fabric of the church.
In 1654 Hester Cordiwen at a court baron surrendered 4 a. 2 r. for some charitable purposes. The trust property was sold in 1902 and proceeds invested in £228 1s. 8d. consols, producing £5 14s. yearly, which is applied under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners 26 March 1897 for the benefit of the poor.
In 1712 John Maris by his will devised several parcels of land in Clent for the poor not in receipt of parochial relief, and in 1713 William Cole by his will devised other lands for the same purpose. In 1903 a piece of land known as Sandfield containing 2 a. 2 r. 31 p. was sold and the proceeds invested in £1,192 8s. 3d. consols, leaving 11 a. 2 r. belonging to the charity, producing about £32 a year. This rent and the annual dividends, amounting to £29 16s., are applied in the distribution of doles.
In 1843 John Harris, by his will proved in the P.C.C. 26 August, bequeathed a legacy now represented by £501 18s. 7d. consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £12 10s. 8d., to be applied in winter in good warm clothing. In 1908–9 300 yards of flannel were distributed.
In 1865 Miss Susanna Goodman, by her will proved at Worcester 28 March, bequeathed £100, now represented by £110 17s. 7d. consols, the annual dividends, amounting to £2 15s. 4d., to be distributed on 4 April among poor widows and old men over sixty years of age, in sums of not less than 2s. 6d. each.
At the inclosure of Lower Clent Common in 1788 a sum of £15 was charged by the award on one of the fields formed out of it, to go in ease of the poor rates of persons who did not benefit by the inclosure, those persons to whom lands were allotted being excepted, and also tenants of the manor of Church Clent. The field in question having come into the possession of Lord Cobham, the charge was redeemed by him in 1909 by the transfer to the official trustees of £600 consols.
In 1704 John Amphlett by deed gave the site and school building thereon for the use of the parish, and endowed the same with a rent-charge of £8.
In 1797 Thomas Waldron bequeathed £500, the income to be applied in maintaining a Sunday school and for other purposes. The legacy is now represented by £732 12s. consols, producing £18 6s. 8d. yearly.