A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1913.
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WHITE LADIES ASTON
Eastun, Estun (xi cent.); Eston (xii and xiii cent.); Bishop's Aston, Aston Episcopi (xiv cent.); Bysshopusaston, Byshoppes Aston (xv cent.); Aston Episcopi, Whiteladiaston (xvi cent.).
The parish of White Ladies Aston lies to the south-east of the town of Worcester. Bow Brook, running southwards into the River Avon near Defford, forms the eastern, and Saw Brook, a tributary of Bow Brook, forms the southern boundary. The area of the parish is 1,236 acres. In 1905 the parish contained 446 acres of arable land and 772 of permanent grass. (fn. 1)
The soil is clay with a little sand and the subsoil is Lower Lias. The chief crops are wheat, beans and barley. The slope of the land is from west to east, the highest point, 205 ft. above the ordnance datum, being on Low Hill, on the western boundary of the parish.
The village of White Ladies Aston lies near the centre of the parish, a little distance to the south of the Alcester and Stratford road. The houses are grouped along a winding by-road, running roughly north and south, with the church at the east side of the road at the north end of the village, to which the many half-timber cottages with their thatched roofs give a characteristic and unspoiled appearance. Aston Hall, a farm-house at the lower end of the village, is a half-timber L-shaped house two stories in height, with tiled roofs. The north wing, containing the kitchen and dairy, though encased in 18th-century brickwork, dates probably from the 16th century, and originally formed a rectangular cottage of the normal central chimney type. The south wing, comprising a large hall and connecting staircase with apartments above, was added early in the 17th century, the house being then transformed into one of greater importance. The timbers of this latter part of the house are exposed, and the square panels which they form are filled with lath and plaster work. Against the gabled west wall is an original square brick chimney stack with a long vertical panel on the outer face in which the brickwork is arranged in a lattice pattern. The hall has a cellar under the east part, and is now divided into two apartments with a modern chimney stack on the east. The dog-legged stairs between the hall and kitchen are of early 17th-century date, and have square newels with moulded finials, chamfered rails, and plain flat balusters. Between this and the kitchen is a doorway made through the south wall of the original building, one of the horizontal timbers being partly cut away. The kitchen has a fine ceiling with a heavy beam along the centre about 12 in. square supporting the cross members, and a wide open fireplace. The brick chimney above is mainly original. Some of the old half-timber work of this part of the house is exposed at the north gable. At the north-west of the house there is a timber barn with a thatched roof, which dates probably from the 17th century, and at the, north-east there is another of similar character and date. An old stone cider press in another barn near the house is still in use.
A little to the north of Aston Hall, facing a bend of the road, is the house known as the 'Moat Farm,' which appears to have been rebuilt early in the 19th century to the west of the moated site from which it takes its name. The moat, which is still filled with water, is nearly perfect. Aston Court (fn. 2) is a modern red brick house of no architectural interest. Sneachill is a hamlet in the north-west of the parish on the Worcester and Evesham road. The nearest railway station is Stoulton, 1½ miles from the village, on the Great Western railway.
The Worcester and Evesham road forms the western boundary, and from it in the north of the parish another road branches off and runs east to Naunton Beauchamp, crossing Bow Brook by Edward's Bridge and ford. In the south another branch from the Worcester and Evesham road runs to Pershore. Other roads lead from the village of White Ladies Aston north to Churchill and south-east to Peopleton, the latter crossing Bow Brook near Hays Brake by Barrel Bridge and Barrel Ford.
An Inclosure Act for White Ladies Aston was passed in 1825. (fn. 3)
The manor of ASTON formed at the time of the Domesday Survey a part of the manor of Northwick, (fn. 6) and was probably given with Northwick to the Bishop of Worcester, as no separate grant of it has been found. Before 1086 Urse D'Abitot the Sheriff had obtained possession of part of the manor of Aston, and though this land was included under the possessions of the see of Worcester it does not appear that Urse did any service for it. Three hides and a virgate in the manor were held under the Bishop by Ordric, and this land had been and then was part of the demesne of the capital manor of Northwick. (fn. 7) King William I restored land at 'Eastun' to Bishop Wulfstan, (fn. 8) and this was probably Ordric's holding at Aston, for the land held in the manor of Northwick by the bishop in demesne had increased between 1086 and the time of Henry I by 3 hides, approximately the amount of Ordric's holding at White Ladies Aston. (fn. 9) Part of the manor of White Ladies Aston was given by Bishop Theulf (1113–23) to Robert de Evercy, (fn. 10) but a manor called 'the manor of Aston Episcopi' was retained by the bishop and remained in the possession of the see of Worcester (fn. 11) until 1648. It was then sold by the Parliamentary trustees for the sale of the lands of the bishops to Thomas Rawlins, Edmund Giles and Christopher Giles. (fn. 12) It was restored to the see at the Restoration and remained in the hands of successive bishops until the death of Henry Pepys, Bishop of Worcester, in 1860, when it became vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who are the present owners. (fn. 13)
Walter, Bishop of Worcester, obtained a grant of free warren at 'Eston' in 1255. (fn. 14)
The part of the manor given by Bishop Theulf to Robert de Evercy (fn. 15) probably comprised half the vill of Aston, (fn. 16) and afterwards became known as the manor of WHITE LADIES ASTON. It was held of the Bishop of Worcester's manor of Northwick by knight's service. (fn. 17) Robert de Evercy held the manor in 1166, (fn. 18) and he or a descendant of the same name obtained a recognition of his right to present to the church of Aston in 1204. (fn. 19) Olimpia daughter and heir of Robert de Evercy married Ralph de Wilington, (fn. 20) and in 1205 Robert granted half the vill of Aston to Ralph and Olimpia, retaining for himself a life interest in the estate, (fn. 21) and this was confirmed by a fine in 1207. (fn. 22) Ralph de Wilington received seisin of the manor in 1208, (fn. 23) Robert de Evercy having died at about that time. (fn. 24) In 1215 Walter Gray, Bishop of Worcester, recovered from Ralph de Wilington the manor and advowson of Aston, (fn. 25) and in March 1215 the Sheriff of Worcester was commanded to give the bishop seisin of the manor, which, it was said, his predecessor Bishop Mauger had held before he fled the country in 1208. (fn. 26) In 1216 the sheriff was ordered to restore the land to Ralph, (fn. 27) but between 1216 and 1218 Ralph with the consent of his wife Olimpia granted the manor and the advowson of the church to Silvester of Evesham, Bishop of Worcester, (fn. 28) and Cecily de Evercy, widow of Robert de Evercy, released all her claim to a third of the manor to William of Blois, who succeeded Silvester as bishop in 1218. (fn. 29) This estate evidently formed part of the manor at Aston granted about the middle of the 13th century by Bishop Walter Cantilupe (1237–66) to the newly-founded nunnery at Whistones, (fn. 30) for in 1346 it was stated that the Prioress of Whistones held a fifth of a knight's fee in Aston Bishop and Barbourne which 'Ralph de Wilymet' once held. (fn. 31) The estate of the nunnery also included half a hide at Aston held in the time of Henry II by Robert de Burford, (fn. 32) and early in the 13th century by Walter de Burford, of the Bishop of Worcester's manor of Northwick, for the service of a tenth of a knight's fee, (fn. 33) this land having been acquired by the nuns before 1299. (fn. 34) Whistones Nunnery was suppressed in October 1536, (fn. 35) and at that time the nuns' manor of White Ladies Aston consisted of demesne lands worth £6 7s. 10d., a rent of 64s. 4d. and king's alms amounting to £10. (fn. 36) The manor was granted on 14 July 1544 to Richard Andrews and John Howe, (fn. 37) and they on 30 July sold it to Thomas Hill. (fn. 38) Thomas died in 1557, (fn. 39) but this manor does not seem to have passed to his son and heir William, but to a younger son Francis, who had joined with his parents in buying the manor. (fn. 40) Francis Hill died in 1611, leaving a daughter Alice wife of Richard Andrews of Piddington, co. Northants. (fn. 41) Richard and Alice sold the manor in 1612 to Robert Berkeley of Spetchley, (fn. 42) and the manor has since descended in the same way as Spetchley to Robert Valentine Berkeley. (fn. 43)
Land at White Ladies Aston, afterwards known as the manor of ASTON BRULEY (Nether Aston, xvii cent.), was held under the Bishop of Worcester as of his manor of Northwick (fn. 44) by the Bruleys from very early times. In the Bishop of Worcester's Domesday (c. 1182), Richard de Bruley is entered as holding a hide at Aston, (fn. 45) and Richard 'Brusle' is mentioned in the Pipe Roll of 1175–6. (fn. 46) In the early 13th century a descendant of Richard's bearing the same name held a hide at Aston for the service of a fifth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 47) Milicent widow of Richard de Bruley sued Henry de Bruley in 1274–5 for not keeping a covenant made between them as to 3 virgates of land at Aston under Oswaldslow. (fn. 48) No further mention has been found of this manor until 1346, but it probably passed from Henry Bruley to his son Henry, (fn. 49) and from him to his eldest son William. (fn. 50) Henry Bruley son of William left a daughter Agnes, who married a cousin William Bruley, (fn. 51) and William in 1346 held the land in Aston which Richard Bruley had formerly held. (fn. 52) In 1413–14 he and Agnes conveyed a toft and 2 virgates of land in Aston Bishop to John Lynton and John Bertelmewe. (fn. 53) William and Agnes Bruley had a son John, whose daughter and heir Joan married John Danvers of Ipswell and Calthorpe, co. Oxon. (fn. 54) John Danvers died about 1448, (fn. 55) and Thomas, the eldest son of John and Joan Danvers, died in 1502 without issue, being succeeded by his brother Sir William Danvers. (fn. 56) The manor passed in 1504 (fn. 57) from Sir William to his son John, who died in 1508, leaving an infant son John. (fn. 58) On his death while still a minor in 1517 (fn. 59) this manor passed to his youngest sister Dorothy, who married Nicholas Hubaud or Hubold. (fn. 60) It was settled in 1532 upon them and the heirs of their bodies with remainder in default to Dorothy's heirs. (fn. 61) Nicholas died in 1553 and Dorothy in 1558, (fn. 62) and the manor was sold by their son Sir John Hubaud to William Solley, (fn. 63) whose son Leonard Solley held it at the time of Habington's Survey of Worcestershire. (fn. 64) In 1610–11 Sir — Fitton, kt., was lord of the manor of Aston Bruley. (fn. 65) Its further descent has not been traced, and the manor no longer exists.
The manor at White Ladies Aston held in 1086 by Urse, in the manor of Northwick, remained part of that manor probably till about the middle of the 13th century. (fn. 66) The bishop's overlordship seems to have lapsed after that time. Urse's interest in the manor passed with his other possessions to the Beauchamps, who were overlords of this manor until about 1316, when the overlordship is mentioned for the last time. (fn. 67)
This manor was held under Urse D'Abitot by a certain Robert, and, like the manor which he held at Warndon, this manor passed subsequently to the Bracy family. (fn. 68) It descended apparently in the same way as Warndon until, according to Habington, it was sold by Robert Bracy to Walter Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester (1237–66), who endowed Whistones Nunnery with it. (fn. 69) Robert de Bracy was said to be holding Aston about 1316, (fn. 70) and in 1346 the manor was again returned as held by Robert Bracy, (fn. 71) but all records of the estate cease after this time.
Habington refers to another property in White Ladies Aston, which he states was held by Sir Hugh de Eston in 1269, and descended to Richard de Eston, whose heir Isabel married Adam de Clifton. He adds that 'Clyfton injoyed thease landes in Eston tyll thys family once worthy but nowe synckinge with theyre ruinatinge house, Mr. Francis Clyfton sould thease in Eston called Clyfton's place to Richard Wagstaffe, and Wagstaffe to Mr. Thomas Simonds who now inhabiteth theare.' (fn. 72)
There seems to be little evidence to confirm this account beyond a claim by Elena daughter of Richard de Aston in 1313–14 from John son of Richard le Clerk of Aston Bishop of a third of two messuages and land in Aston Bruley which Isabel wife of Richard le Clerk claimed as dower. (fn. 73) In 1594 Eleanor and Anne Clifton had livery of three messuages in White Ladies Aston or Nether Aston (Aston Bruley), which had belonged to their grandfather Nicholas Clifton at the time of his death in 1588. (fn. 74) The Thomas Symonds who purchased from Wagstaffe was probably Thomas Symonds of Aston Bishop, who died in 1640. (fn. 75) In 1656 George Symonds and Jane his wife and Thomas Symonds conveyed a moiety of the manor of White Ladies Aston to Jasper Brittaine and Thomas Harris, (fn. 76) evidently for the purpose of some settlement. George Symonds died in 1664, (fn. 77) and was apparently succeeded by Thomas Symonds, Sheriff of Worcester, in 1669. (fn. 78) Mr. Symonds of White Ladies Aston was executed in 1708 for the murder of Mrs. Palmer of Upton Snodsbury, (fn. 79) and his estate escheated to Bishop Lloyd as lord of the manor. He founded therewith in 1713 two schools called the Bishop's Charity Schools in Worcester. (fn. 80) The estate still belongs to the trustees of the Charity, and is leased to Mr. Robert V. Berkeley.
A very fine old black and white timbered house was the residence of the Symonds family. Here it was that Cromwell slept on his way from Evesham to Worcester before the battle, Symonds being a great Roundhead. The house and some land came to Thomas Henry Bund, who pulled down the house, and ultimately sold all his land in the parish about 1836 to Mr. Berkeley of Spetchley. (fn. 81)
There is some indication that there was a manor of the RECTORY in this parish. When the manor of White Ladies Aston was granted to Richard Andrews in 1544 the mansion and chief messuage of the rectory of Aston Bishop was included in the grant, (fn. 82) and this mansion is mentioned in the inquisition taken on the death of Francis Hill in 1611. (fn. 83) In a deposition taken in 1610–11 there is mention of a court held for Francis Hill in his house called the Parsonage House in White Ladies Aston. (fn. 84)
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST consists of a chancel measuring internally 23 ft. by 13 ft., nave 40 ft. by 17 ft., north aisle 10 ft. wide, and a vestry north of the chancel. The aisle and vestry were added in 1861, up to which date the church had stood unaltered in plan since the 12th century. Larger windows had, however, been inserted, one in the south wall of the chancel at the end of the 14th century and another to the nave in the 15th. The timber tower and spire, which rise above the roof at the west end of the nave, have no distinctive features, but probably the oldest timbers date from the 15th century.
During the incumbency of the Rev. Henry Martin Sherwood, who was vicar from 1839 to 1911, the church was restored and enlarged. Besides the addition of the aisle and vestry the west wall was rebuilt in 1861 and the south porch added in 1864. The walling of the chancel is small, wide-jointed rubble work. The east window is a single round-headed light, probably original. A small round-headed light of modern stonework in the north wall is either a repair or an insertion, and in the south wall of the chancel is a two-light window under a square head. Further west is another round-headed window with modern stonework. The chancel arch has square jambs with square abaci and a three-centred arch. The modern arcade to the north aisle is of three bays with round and octagonal piers and responds. The aisle is lighted by pairs of lancet windows and the north doorway is of modern stonework in the style of the 12th century. The south window of the nave is square-headed and of two lights partly restored. The round-headed south doorway is evidently of the 12th century, but only the abaci and a few other stones are old. In the modern west wall are two lancet windows with a quatrefoil in the gable above.
The tower is supported on strong wood posts which stand in the church. Its sides are boarded and covered with lead on the west and south faces; the windows to the bell-chamber are square and luffered. The upper corners are chamfered off to the octagonal spire, which is covered with wood shingles. The roofs are gabled and have plastered ceilings.
The font, probably of the 13th century, is of a dark red sandstone with a twelve-sided bowl. The other fittings are modern.
There are three bells: the first dated 1707; the second 1636, inscribed 'Give prays to God'; the third 'Sancte Jacobpe, ora pro nobis,' with a crowned female head and a cross.
The communion plate includes an Elizabethan cup and cover paten with the hall mark of 1571.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) mixed entries 1558 to 1660 and baptisms 1661 to 1717, marriages 1661 to 1705 and burials 1661 to 1709; (ii) baptisms and burials 1718 to 1812 and marriages 1719 to 1753; (iii) marriages 1755 to 1812.
The advowson of the church of Aston was evidently granted with the manor of White Ladies Aston to Robert de Evercy, for in 1204 Robert paid two palfreys for having a confirmation of his right to present to the church, which seems to have been questioned by the Bishop of Worcester. (fn. 85) From that time the advowson followed the same descent as the manor of White Ladies Aston, (fn. 86) Mr. Robert Valentine Berkeley being the present patron.
There do not appear to be any endowed charities for the benefit of this parish. The children attend the National school at Bredicot.