A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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Stoltun (ix and xi cent.); Stulton (xv cent.); Stowton (xvii cent.).
Stoulton is a small parish lying between Worcester and Pershore and covering an area of 1,959 acres, of which the greater part is arable land, 961 acres being permanent grass and 16 woodland. (fn. 1) The soil is chiefly clay, gravel and sand, and the subsoil Lower Lias, producing crops of wheat, beans, barley, turnips and fruit. The ground varies in height from 79 ft. above the ordnance datum in the south-east near Stonebow Bridge to about 200 ft. on the borders of White Ladies Aston in the north.
The parish is watered by the Bow Brook, which divides it from Peopleton, and by two of its tributaries, one of which, known as the Saw Brook, forms the boundary between Stoulton and White Ladies Aston. The village is situated on rising ground on the main road from Worcester to Pershore. (fn. 2) A wooden bridge and 'causey' over the stream near Hawbridge, where the road enters Holy Cross, were built in 1625 by George Allen, curate of Stoulton, with £5 given by the Dean and Chapter of Worcester and 5s. 4d. of his own money. (fn. 3) The main road from Worcester to Evesham forms the north-eastern boundary of Stoulton for some distance. The Great Western railway passes through the parish and has a station on the south-eastern boundary.
The village is composed of scattered houses and cottages, many of half-timber and brick dating from the 17th century. On the north side of the church, which stands a little distance to the east of the main road, is the vicarage; the nucleus of the house appears to be of the 17th century, but there is an early 19th-century addition on the west. At the corner where the by-road to the church joins the main road is a square 18th-century plastered brick house of three stories with a tiled roof and a large central chimney stack, and off the main road, about a quarter of a mile to the west, is a two-storied half-timber house, dating probably from the 16th century, with 18th-century brick nogging. The plan is L-shaped, and there are projecting chimney stacks in the end walls. The roof is partly thatched and partly tiled. Inside are the original heavy ceiling beams and rafters and three wide fireplaces. A projecting beam on the east has the letter W cut on its face and a date, which may be intended for 1710, probably the date of the brickwork. About half a mile south of Stoulton station is a good three-story brick house of the 18th century, now tied with iron bolts and glands, and at Wolverton Magna is a 16th-century half-timber house with later brick nogging and modern chimney stacks. Wolverton Hall, the property of Mr. William Walter Acton, a descendant of the Thomas Acton who in 1637 neglected to repair the road at Stonebow, and now occupied by Mr. Anthony H. Lechmere, D.L., stands about a mile north-east of the station; it is a plain square three-story house of the first half of the 18th century built of brick with stone rusticated quoins, brick string-courses and a plain parapet. On the garden front the string-courses are of stone and the windows have keystones of the same material.
Cookes Holme, formerly part of Stoulton, was transferred to Norton by Kempsey in 1885. (fn. 4)
Among the many complaints brought against the last Abbot of Pershore in 1533 is one by the tenants of Stoulton of 'great injuries, wrongs and oppressions' done to them in driving their cattle from the heaths of Thornton, Wolverton, Wadborough, Mucknell and Over Wolverton. The abbot's answer shows that the matter had already been submitted to arbitration. (fn. 5)
The first mention of STOULTON occurs in 840, when Bertwulf, King of the Mercians, is said to have restored it to the Bishop of Worcester, who had been unjustly deprived of it. (fn. 6) Before the Conquest Stoulton was a berewick belonging to the Bishop of Worcester's manor of Kempsey and was assigned with Mucknell and Wolverton, two other berewicks of the same manor, to the support of the monks of Worcester, the three berewicks together containing 7 hides. At the time of the Domesday Survey these 7 hides were in the possession of Urse the Sheriff. (fn. 7) The overlordship belonged to the Bishops of Worcester until it lapsed, probably in the 15th century. (fn. 8) In 1280 William Earl of Warwick, then lord of the manor, acknowledged that he owed 6 marks yearly to Godfrey, Bishop of Worcester, and agreed to pay it to the nuns of Wroxall, (fn. 9) giving a bond to the bishop for the payment of the same in 1298. (fn. 10) No later mention of this rent has been found, and there is no trace of it among the possessions of Wroxall at the Dissolution.
Urse's interest passed with the rest of his possessions to the Beauchamps of Elmley, and followed the descent of Elmley Castle (fn. 11) until the death of Henry Duke of Warwick in 1446. (fn. 12) It was assigned in 1447 to his widow Cecily, (fn. 13) and after her death in 1450 it seems to have passed to Elizabeth wife of George Lord Latimer, a half-sister of Henry Duke of Warwick, (fn. 14) for she died seised of the manor of Wadborough, of which Stoulton formed part, (fn. 15) in 1480, (fn. 16) and the manor remained with her descendants in spite of the fact that it is included among the manors which Anne Countess of Warwick granted to Henry VII, and which were confirmed to Henry VIII by Act of Parliament in 1536. (fn. 17)
Elizabeth Lady Latimer was succeeded by her grandson Sir Richard, (fn. 18) who was dealing with the manor in 1523, (fn. 19) and on whose death in 1530 it passed to his son Sir John Nevill, Lord Latimer. (fn. 20)
He, by his will dated September 1542, left it to his eldest son John. (fn. 21) The latter died in 1577, leaving four daughters, Katherine, Dorothy, Lucy and Elizabeth, between whom his property was divided. (fn. 22) Stoulton was assigned to Katherine and settled on her first husband, Henry Percy Earl of Northumberland, in 1579, (fn. 23) and on her second husband, Francis Fitton of Binfield, co. Berks., in 1586. (fn. 24) By the second settlement it was arranged that the reversion should belong to the heirs of Katherine, but in 1595 she sold it to Francis Fitton to increase the portions of her younger sons William and Jocelyn Percy and her daughter Eleanor. (fn. 25) Accordingly the manor passed to Sir Edward Fitton, bart., nephew of Francis, who held it in 1625, (fn. 26) and he sold it to Samuel Sandys of Ombersley for £7,300 in 1636. (fn. 27) The latter was a prominent Royalist, a colonel in the king's army, and for a time governor xof Worcester. (fn. 28) He had to compound for delinquency, and mortgaged Stoulton, which passed to the family of Somers, who were solicitors in Worcester and engaged in mortgage transactions. (fn. 29) It was probably acquired from the Sandys family by John Somers, who died in 1716, leaving his property to his two sisters, Elizabeth wife of Sir Joseph Jekyll, who died childless, and Mary wife of Charles Cocks, (fn. 30) who finally inherited the whole. Her grandson Charles Cocks was created Lord Somers of Evesham in 1784, and his son John Somers Cocks was created Earl Somers in 1821. (fn. 31) Stoulton has since remained in his family, (fn. 32) and now belongs to his great-granddaughter Lady Henry Somerset, one of the two surviving daughters of Charles the last Earl Somers.
From the 16th century the lords of Stoulton had the right of free fishing in the 'Hymbell Brook' from 'Fecknam' Pool to the Avon. (fn. 35) 'Hymbell' is evidently another name for the Bow Brook which flows through Himbleton. Possibly it is this fishery which is mentioned in an extent of the manor in 1315. (fn. 36)
WOLVERTON (Wulfrintun, x cent.; Uulfrinton, Ulfrinton, Wlfrinton, xi cent.; Wolferton, xiv cent.; Wollerton, xvi cent.) may have been included in the grant of Stoulton to the Bishop of Worcester. It was certainly in the possession of Bishop Oswald in 984, when he granted 3 manses there to his kinsman Eadwig and Wulfgifu his wife for their lives and the lives of two heirs after them. (fn. 37) Before the Conquest and at the time of the Domesday Survey there were two separate estates in Wolverton afterwards known as Over and Little Wolverton, both held of the bishop's manor of Kempsey. One of these, probably Over Wolverton, was with Stoulton and Mucknell assigned to the use of the monks of Worcester in the time of Edward the Confessor, and belonged to Urse the Sheriff in 1086. (fn. 38) The other is said to have been granted by Bishop Brihteah to his brother Alric, (fn. 39) who continued to hold it after the Conquest, (fn. 40) but he was deprived of it by William Earl of Hereford, (fn. 41) and at the time of the Domesday Survey it was in the possession of Aiulf, who held it of Roger de Lacy.
The overlordship of Over Wolverton passed from Urse to his descendants the Beauchamps, and was probably included in 7½ hides at Mucknell and Stoulton held by William de Beauchamp in demesne early in the 13th century. Later it was held under them by a family called Bruly or Brayly. About 1280 and in 1315–16 it belonged to Walter de Bruly, who held it by service of keeping the Earl of Warwick's warren at Stoulton. (fn. 42) He was succeeded by John de Bruly, who with Joan his wife settled it on his son John and Alice his wife in 1336. (fn. 43) There appears to be no later mention of it as a separate holding, but it evidently came into the possession of the Beauchamps, and was annexed to their manor of Stoulton. (fn. 44)
The 2 hides at Little Wolverton were lost by the Lacys before 1108–18, when Walter de Beauchamp held them. (fn. 45) About 1182 it was said that William de Beauchamp held this land, though Hugh de Lacy ought to have held it of the bishop. (fn. 46) The rights of the bishop in this manor were recognized until the 13th century, (fn. 47) and William de Beauchamp's interest followed the descent of Elmley Castle, Little Wolverton being held of that manor until 1616. (fn. 48)
Aiulf, the Domesday tenant, was followed by a family who took their name from the manor. Philip de Wolverton probably held it in 1174–5, when his name occurs on the Pipe Rolls for the county of Worcester, (fn. 49) and early in the 13th century William de Wolverton was holding 2½ hides at Little Wolverton. (fn. 50) The extra half hide was perhaps the half hide of the demesne of Kempsey given by Bishop Simon (1125–50) to a certain son of Walter de Beauchamp called Simon, whom he had baptized. This land lay near Oswaldslow, and was locally called 'Beane' because all hernasii (tota hernesse) ploughed it at the summons of the steward and reeve. (fn. 51) Simon de Beauchamp probably died childless, for about 1182 this estate belonged to William de Beauchamp, (fn. 52) and was perhaps given with Little Wolverton to the Wolvertons. This family was succeeded before 1220 by the Folyes, who were lords of the manor for about 100 years.
In 1220 Nicholas de la Folye surrendered all his right in half a knight's fee in Little Wolverton to Richard de la Folye, (fn. 53) and about 1280 the manor belonged to Robert de la Folye. (fn. 54) Robert appears to have been succeeded by Peter de la Folye, whose widow Alice was holding part of the manor in dower in 1329. (fn. 55) At that date the reversion of the manor was divided between Sibyl wife of Peter le Harpour and Joan wife of Henry Bole, the heirs of Peter de la Folye, (fn. 56) who sold it in 1327–9 to John de Wysham and Hawisia his wife. (fn. 57) From this time the manor followed the descent of Churchill in Oswaldslow, (fn. 58) being divided between the Croft and Guise families. The moiety held by the Crofts passed with a moiety of Churchill to William Cooksey, who purchased the other moiety of John Guise in 1531. (fn. 59)
By his will dated September 1581 he left the manor and house at Little Wolverton to his wife Alice for life with reversion to Anne Croft, widow of his nephew Martin Croft, for her life, and afterwards to the heirs male of his sister Alice wife of Humphrey Acton. The will gives some idea of the size of the house at Little Wolverton. It mentions the parlour, the chapel, the old chamber over the porch, the chambers over the 'compasse windowe' and over the chapel, the buttery, tavern, kitchen, 'larder howse, deyhowse, mylnehowse and bakehowse.' (fn. 60) In 1583 a certain Edmund Croft who had acquired Alice Cooksey's interest in the manor asserted that the reversion had been settled on the heirs male of Martin Croft and his wife Anne with contingent remainder to himself, (fn. 61) but in 1585 he appears to have given up his claim to John son of Humphrey and Alice Acton. (fn. 62) William Acton (fn. 63) son of John died seised of the manor in 1615, leaving a son Thomas, (fn. 64) who in 1632 settled it on Elizabeth daughter of John Weedon, whom he afterwards married. (fn. 65) He fought on the side of the Royalists in the Civil War and in 1650 his estates were sequestered. (fn. 66) He died some time before 1657, when his son William was holding Little Wolverton. (fn. 67) The latter was succeeded in 1679 by a son William, (fn. 68) whose grandson of the same name, son of another William, was lord of the manor in 1811. (fn. 69) He died in 1814, (fn. 70) and his son William Joseph was succeeded in 1871 by his eldest son William Robert Acton, whose son Mr. William Walter Acton is the present owner of Little Wolverton. (fn. 71)
MUCKNELL (Mucenhil, xi cent.; Mokenhull, xvi cent.), now a farm in the parish of Stoulton, was a berewick of the manor of Kempsey at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 72) It afterwards became merged in the manor of Stoulton and has always followed the same descent. (fn. 73)
The church of ST. EDMUND consists of a chancel 31 ft. by 19¾ ft., nave 51 ft. by 27½ ft., west tower 12½ ft. deep by 9 ft. wide, and a small timber north porch. These measurements are all internal.
The history of the church is simple, as it has never been enlarged since it was built about the year 1120. Larger windows were inserted in the south wall of the chancel and also on either side of the nave in the 14th century, c. 1320. The tower is about 120 years old; marks of fire on the northwest buttress of the nave suggest that the former tower was destroyed by fire. The church was restored in 1848, when new windows were inserted in the east wall of the chancel, the north and south walls of the nave, and in the west wall of the tower; at the same time the flat ceiling which then existed was removed.
The east window is of four lights under a pointed head, and below its sill externally is a shallow buttress of 12th-century date. There are shallow clasping buttresses at the angles, the upper parts being of brick. The side walls of the chancel are divided into three bays by similar buttresses; in the first and second bays on the north side and in the second on the south are the round heads of the original 12th-century windows, but the jambs have been cut away to widen the lights at a later period. The first intermediate buttress on the south side has been cut away and an early window filled in to make room for the 14th-century window, which is of three lights under a pointed head. The walling of the chancel is of lias stone with wide joints plastered over outside. The former east wall was of brick. The chancel arch is semicircular, and of two square orders, the rebate being carried down on the east side only, while the jambs are plain and square on the nave side, and the simple abacus is continued to the side walls.
The north-east and south-east windows of the nave are 14th-century insertions of three lights under twocentred arches. The north doorway is round-headed and of two square orders with a chamfered string at the springing; the outer order is set in an ashlar projection, which is continued up to the old eaves level. It has an arcade of two round-headed bays in the upper part, the shafts having scalloped or cushion capitals. A cross cut in the eastern jamb of the doorway may possibly be a consecration cross. The south doorway has been filled in with brick; it is of two round-headed orders; the inner is square and the rollmoulded head of the outer order was carried by jamb shafts, of which the cushion capitals remain, but the shafts have gone. Over the doorway is a similar arcade to that on the north side, but with lozenge and zigzag enrichments cut on the abaci. The two western windows are modern insertions. The side walls are divided into three bays by shallow buttresses and have clasping buttresses at the angles, splayed off below the old roof line. Near the tops of the buttresses are string-courses variously enriched. The present eaves of the nave are about 18 in. higher than the former ones, and on the east faces of the north-east and south-east buttress is another string, below the last mentioned, the use of which is doubtful. The tower is of three stages, the lowest of lias stone, perhaps old material re-used, and the upper two of brick. The archway opening into the nave is of the full width of the tower with a semicircular arch of two square orders springing from a chamfered abacus. The stair turret rises in the south-east corner. The west window is a three-light insertion of 1848 and the bell-chamber is lighted by single lights on the north, south and west. The parapet is plain and has a stone coping and small angle pinnacles. The gabled roofs are modern, that of the chancel being of a lower pitch than formerly. The walls inside are plastered.
All the furniture is modern except the font, which dates from the erection of the church; it is cut from one block 2¾ ft. wide by 2⅓ ft. high, and is round on plan, with sides tapering to the base. It is moulded at the base and near the top. There are several gravestones and monuments in the chancel; one dated 1679 to William Acton has the words 'Pray for his soule,' an unusual form for the date; they also occur on the slab to another person of the same name, dated 1725. Other slabs are to Barbara Vincent, who died in 1702, and William Acton, 1721. In the nave passage-way below the chancel arch is a stone to Alianor Desmasters, who died in 1667, and outside by the south doorway is a defaced mural slab. In the tracery of the south chancel window are some pieces of ancient painted glass. To the south of the chancel hang a sword and a funeral helmet with the crest of an arm holding a sword piercing a boar's head; a hatchment below bears the arms of William Acton. The same arms are carved on the 1679 gravestone.
There are five bells, the tenor recast in 1897, the other four dating from 1799.
The plate includes an Elizabethan cup with cover paten, hall marked, probably of 1571, a salver paten, hall marked 1732, and a plated flagon.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1542 to 1663, burials 1542 to 1651 and marriages 1542 to 1652; (ii) all entries 1677 to 1707; (iii) baptisms and burials 1707 to 1765 and marriages 1707 to 1755; (iv) marriages 1755 to 1811; (v) baptisms and burials 1765 to 1812.
Stoulton was formerly a chapelry of the church of Kempsey and is first mentioned on the appropriation of that church to the college of Westbury in 1473. (fn. 74) It was not separately valued for Pope Nicholas's taxation in 1291, but at the time of the Dissolution was worth £4 1s. 6d. (fn. 75) The advowson, with that of Kempsey (q.v.), probably passed on the dissolution of Westbury to Sir Ralph Sadleir and later to the Dean and Chapter of Worcester, to whom it certainly belonged in 1683. At that date the chapel is said to have been endowed with tithes of hay and other tithes except corn, all of which had been commuted for money, and the profits of some meadow ground in Great Wolverton. (fn. 76)
According to Nash (fn. 77) the chapel was in his time 'in many respects independent of the Mother Church' and elected its own curate and other officers.
In 1814 an Act was passed vesting the advowson in John Lord Somers, from whom it has passed with the manor to Lady Henry Somerset. (fn. 78)
The charity of Thomas Blyzard, founded in 1859 by declaration of trust, is endowed with £164 11s. 8d. consols, producing £4 2s. yearly, which in pursuance of a scheme 10 May 1907 is applied for the general benefit of the poor.
In 1886 Miss Ann Hemus by her will left £50, the interest to be distributed to the poor at Christmas in coals, blankets and other necessaries. The legacy is represented by £51 19s. consols, producing £1 6s. yearly, which is usually applied in clothing.
The sums of stock are held by the official trustees.