A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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In this section
Medeleffeld, Metheresfeld (xii cent.); Mederesfeude, Medresfeld (xiii cent.); Maddersfyld (xvi cent.).
Madresfield is a small parish lying between Powick and Great Malvern. Madresfield Court, the seat of Earl Beauchamp, with its park and dependencies, occupies most of the parish. The area is 883 acres, of which the greater part is pasture land. (fn. 1) The soil is loamy marl, suitable for wheat and beans; hops are grown, also apples and pears for the manufacture of cider and perry. The subsoil is Keuper Marl. The eastern part of the parish, which is near the Severn, is low, reaching a height of only about 64 ft. above the ordnance datum. The land rises gently towards Malvern on the west, but nowhere exceeds a height of 162 ft.
Madresfield Brook flows from Howsell in Leigh along the northern edge of Madresfield Park and empties itself into the Severn in Powick parish. Near the river it is joined by another brook which rises near North End in Great Malvern and flows through the south of Madresfield parish. The high road from Great Malvern passes through the southwest corner of the park and through the village, to the north of which it divides, one branch going to Newland, the other to Powick.
Madresfield Court, though much restored and added to during the 19th century, still retains a good deal of 16th-century work and the general disposition of the plan has not been very materially altered. The site, which is about 3 miles to the west of the Severn, is an ancient one entirely surrounded by a still perfect moat. The house was probably erected or rebuilt when the Lygons came into the possession of the manor in the mid-15th century. Portions of this house remain in the cellars and in the lower part of the walling along the north-west and southwest sides. The house is built round two courtyards with the great hall between and is approached by a bridge over the moat from the south-west. Its axis lies roughly south-west and north-east, but the plan is very irregular and some considerable portion of the original internal arrangement, especially in the eastern wing, has been lost in successive rebuildings.
The panel over the entrance with the date 1593 and the initials of Sir William Lygon and Elizabeth his wife, though not in its original position, indicates approximately the year of the completion of the house. The building followed to a large degree the plan of the older structure, and a large part of the new building was apparently erected on the old foundations. The hall occupies the middle part of the house with the screens at its north-west end, and the kitchen and offices in the wing beyond extended practically along the whole length of the building on that side. The living rooms occupied all the eastern and south-eastern wings with the long gallery on the upper floor between the hall and the south-west corner of the building overlooking both the courtyard and the garden. The bake-house, brew-house and other offices were grouped round the inner courtyard. The only entrance to the house was by the bridge already mentioned, and this continued to be so down to the middle of the last century.
The 16th-century building was a picturesque red brick structure with crow-stepped gables, tall chimneys and mullioned windows. The south-west or entrance front is shown in a drawing of c. 1775, (fn. 2) but even at that time tall sash windows had been introduced in both floors. A great deal of alteration appears to have been done before the middle of the 19th century, but no exact record has been kept.
On the accession of the fifth earl in 1863 the repair of the house was determined on, but upon examination by the architect, Philip Charles Hardwick, it was found necessary for the most part to substitute reconstruction for repair, the principal lines of the old building, however, being followed. (fn. 3) Hardwick did away with a corridor across the courtyard, which, however, he covered in with a glass roof supported by iron pillars. The hall was enlarged and rebuilt, the long gallery with the rooms under it (comprising ante-room, billiard room and library) was reconstructed, and on the site of the larger dining room were erected two sets of bedrooms of four rooms each. Before its rebuilding the great hall possessed all the usual mediaeval features with the screens or passage-way at the lower end leading to the butteries and kitchen, and at the other a small dining room, above which was the upper drawing room and solar which communicated directly with the long gallery and with the hall by two small galleries. In the course of the rebuilding the old house was found to have been to a large extent constructed of timber filled in with wattle and daub, encased in some parts with brick and in others with rough-cast. (fn. 4) This first work of reconstruction, which comprised the rearrangement of the offices, was completed at the end of 1865. On the death of the fifth earl in the following March his successor began the restoration of the front of the house, replacing the then existing wooden window frames with stone mullions and improving the internal arrangements on that side of the building. The drawing room and small dining room at the upper end of the hall were pulled down and a new block, consisting of the music room, drawing room and book room, with bedrooms and dressing rooms above, was erected during 1866–7. The restoration and reconstruction of the house was proceeding continuously from 1866 to 1875 and included the erection of the chapel at the east end of the southwest front, completed in 1867. The bedroom immediately over the entrance porch and the room used later as a schoolroom were the only rooms which were left substantially unchanged, and in these new stone-mullioned windows were inserted, a bay window was added to the long gallery and the panelling taken down and rearranged. The bell-turret with its fleche and vane dates from 1875. The only mode of exit at the back of the house over the moat had been by an uncovered plank with handrail, itself a comparatively modern arrangement, but new offices comprising a game larder and brew-house were erected in 1870 on the other side of the moat and connected with the house by a covered wooden bridge.
In 1885 the middle portion of the front, comprising the entrance porch and recessed portions on either side, was raised a story, though the design of the original gables was repeated in the new work. The effect of this has been materially to alter the proportion and skyline of the 16th-century elevation, the middle part of which now stands up well above the roof of the chapel on the one side and the old two-story gabled corner wing on the other. In 1887–8 the glass roof was removed from the courtyard, the elevations of the house towards which were reconstructed in timber and plaster, and a mosaic pavement was laid. (fn. 5) Further structural alterations of a minor kind have since been made. The result of all this reconstruction is to a large extent a modernlooking building, with which, however, the original portions of the house have been successfully blended, the whole forming a picturesque irregular mass of brick and timber gables and red roofs and chimneys of mixed Elizabethan and modern Gothic character.
'Up to 1866 the pleasure grounds were unimportant in character and circumscribed in extent,' (fn. 6) but they were altered and remodelled by the sixth earl. The old kitchen garden was removed to the north side in 1867, and in the following year the flower garden and bowling green were finished. The reconstruction of the grounds was in progress till 1881, and was made possible by the fourth earl having previously obtained permission to stop up a highway which led from the village of Madresfield by the old manor mill to Woodsfield Green. The approach from the west from Malvern Link passes by four fine elm trees marking the site of the manor pound, (fn. 7) the entrance to the park being by a lodge erected in 1872. (fn. 8) An old avenue of oak and elm, probably planted after the Civil War, which had been much choked up at either end, was opened out in 1866, and to mask the side of the house containing the offices a straight walk of cedars was planted, leading by a sharp angle from the avenue. The materials of the old lodge have been used in the construction of a summer-house in the form of a Greek temple. The iron gates now forming the entrance to the home farm from the gardens, but formerly opposite the stables on the south side of the house, are of 17thcentury date and were originally in the north porch of Worcester Cathedral. A larger pair of gates, purchased in 1871 and erected ten years later, have since been removed to the Newland almshouses; they are said to have been the quire gates of Cologne Cathedral. 'The removal of the old church in 1866 was the means of obtaining greater privacy for the grounds on the west side of the house, and the old church footpath was legally extinguished.' (fn. 9) On the south-west side of the house are two pieces of water, probably fish-ponds. (fn. 10)
The chimney-piece in the hall and other woodwork was brought from a farm-house on Newland Green, the marble pillars to the fireplace being added later, and two other chimney-pieces brought from a farm-house at Kempley (Gloucestershire), are placed one in the long gallery and the other in the room to the east of the gateway on the first floor. (fn. 11) The former bears the date 1610 and the initials of Henry and Anne Finch. The room immediately over the entrance known as the Bridge Room has a fine original plaster frieze and ceiling in three panels, and another first-floor room (Lady Beauchamp's bedroom) has an original plaster ceiling with vine, rose and acorn ornament. With these exceptions the interior of the house may be said to be modern.
The Court was occupied in turns by both parties in the Civil War. (fn. 12) Colonel Lygon, the holder at that date, was in the Parliamentarian army. When his troops were turned out before 1646 (fn. 13) the place was garrisoned for the king, but was surrendered when Worcester was taken in 1646, (fn. 14) and then had honourable terms allowed it. (fn. 15)
The village is small and the houses are chiefly clustered round the park gates near the high road; the population in 1901 was 173. (fn. 16)
At Penn Farm there is a circular dovecot restored by the late Norman Shaw in 1867. It has a modern top on old foundations. (fn. 17)
The following place-names occur: Wodemonsbrok, Venebrok, Cuttecroft, Raveleslond, Lydley, Aslahardesbrugge, le Lyth, Bruesmedue, Huysselych, Makken Moysew, Hathyelleslone, Westmererudyng, Holandesplace, Holynbrok, Orpodeswey, Osbauerslake, Perkynesley, Rolves, Stilemanesweie, Cockesdich, Plaesset Wode, Hereswode, Fesauntsplace, Barlinggesplace (fn. 18) (xiv-xv cent.).
MADRESFIELD is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, and was in 1086 part of Powick, a large manor held of the abbey of Westminster by various holders, of whom the chief was Urse the Sheriff, (fn. 19) I virgate and 2 carucates of his estate being at Madresfield. (fn. 20) His descendant William Beauchamp, in the time of Stephen, held of the abbey a hide in Madresfield pertaining to his holding in Powick. (fn. 21) Madresfield formed part of seven fees in Worcestershire which were returned as abbey lands in the 13th century, (fn. 22) and the Beauchamps of Elmley continued to hold of the Abbots of Westminster until the 15th century. (fn. 23)
The interest of William Beauchamp passed to his descendants the Earls of Warwick, the manor being held of the honour of Elmley Castle (fn. 24) until the end of the 17th century. (fn. 25)
Madresfield was probably held by the Bracys as early as the time of Henry I, for William Bracy in 1166 held half a knight's fee in Worcestershire of William Beauchamp of the ancient feoffment from the time of Henry I. (fn. 26) He appears to have been alive in 1175–6, (fn. 27) but had been succeeded before 1192 by Robert Bracy, against whom Walter de Baldenhall claimed half a knight's fee in Madresfield (fn. 28) as his share of the inheritance of three knights' fees which six sisters had divided between them. (fn. 29) In 1196 Walter gave up his claim in exchange for other land. (fn. 30) Robert Bracy is again mentioned in 1204 (fn. 31) and 1205, (fn. 32) and it was perhaps this Robert, a coroner of Worcestershire, who died in 1220. (fn. 33) He was apparently succeeded (fn. 34) by William Bracy, lord of Madresfield about 1250. (fn. 35) He was exempted in 1253 from being put on assizes and juries (fn. 36); about 1280 he paid a subsidy of 10s. for his lands in Madresfield. (fn. 37) In ill-health in 1282 (fn. 38) he lived till 1289, when he died and was buried at Great Malvern. (fn. 39) Robert Bracy was appointed one of the commissioners to perambulate the forest of Feckenham in 1297, (fn. 40) and was Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1298. (fn. 41) In 1300 and again in 1301 and 1305 he was returned as knight of the shire for Worcester. (fn. 42) He was appointed one of the assessors of two subsidies in the county of Worcester in 1308, (fn. 43) and held various other offices in the county. (fn. 44) In 1316 he was seised of three knights' fees in Warndon, Madresfield and Brace's Leigh, (fn. 45) and in that year settled the manors of Madresfield and Warndon on himself for life, with remainder to Robert son of William Bracy and the heirs of his body. (fn. 46) A grant of free warren in his Worcestershire lands was made to Robert Bracy in 1328, (fn. 47) in which year he was appointed keeper of the manor of Hanley Castle and the chase of Malvern (fn. 48); in 1345 Robert Bracy, probably he to whom the reversion had been granted in 1316, was lord of Madresfield. (fn. 49) Robert Bracy was knight of the shire for Worcester in 1361, 1365 and 1366. (fn. 50) He appears to have been succeeded before 1370 by William Bracy, (fn. 51) who apparently died about 1390, in which year the Lady Joan Bracy, probably his widow, held her first court for the manors of Madresfield and Brace's Leigh. (fn. 52) William Bracy presented to the church in 1415, 1419, 1420 and 1433, (fn. 53) and in 1431 he was returned as holder of the manor of Madresfield. (fn. 54) Joan, heiress of the Bracys and probably daughter of this William, married Thomas Lygon; the date of the marriage is given by Habington as 1419–20. (fn. 55) There seems no doubt that it took place before 1428. (fn. 56) Thomas Lygon, probably their son, (fn. 57) died on 10 April 1507 seised of the manor of Madresfield (fn. 58); he was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Richard, who died at Madresfield on 1 May 1512, having previously settled the manor on his wife Anne daughter and co-heir of Richard Lord Beauchamp of Powick. (fn. 59) This Richard was succeeded by a son Richard (fn. 60) who was knighted at the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533. (fn. 61) He was Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1548 (fn. 62) and died in 1556. (fn. 63) His son and successor William, sheriff in 1550 and 1560, (fn. 64) died about 1567, (fn. 65) when the manor passed to his son Richard, sheriff in 1573 and 1583, (fn. 66) who was succeeded in 1584 (fn. 67) by his son William. In 1590 William settled this manor on his wife Elizabeth daughter of Edward Harwell. (fn. 68) He was sheriff in 1592 and knighted in 1603 (fn. 69); in his time many of the family manors were sold. (fn. 70) He was succeeded in 1608 by his son William, (fn. 71) who was knighted in 1609–10, and was sheriff in 1646. (fn. 72) Colonel William Lygon, (fn. 73) his son, died in 1680. (fn. 74) His eldest son Richard, sheriff in 1684, (fn. 75) died without issue in 1687, the estates passing to his younger brother William, (fn. 76) who died in 1720. (fn. 77) His only son William having predeceased him in 1716, (fn. 78) William's lands were inherited by his daughter Margaret, who married Reginald Pindar. (fn. 79) Their son Reginald took the name of Lygon, (fn. 80); he died in 1788 and his son William Lygon, (fn. 81) M.P. for Worcestershire 1780–1806, (fn. 82) was created Lord Beauchamp of Powick in 1806 and Viscount Elmley and Earl Beauchamp in 1815. (fn. 83) He died in 1816. (fn. 84) His son William was M.P. for Worcestershire from 1806 to 1816, (fn. 85) and dying unmarried in 1823 was succeeded by his younger brother John, who died without issue in 1853. (fn. 86) His brother and heir Henry, M.P. for Worcestershire from 1816 to 1831, (fn. 87) and for West Worcestershire from 1832 to 1853, (fn. 88) was a lieutenant-colonel and general in the Army. (fn. 89) He died at Madresfield in 1863 and was succeeded by his son Henry, (fn. 90) who represented West Worcestershire from 1853 to 1863. (fn. 91) He was a captain in the Army and died unmarried in 1866, succeeded by his only surviving brother Frederick, M.P. for Tewkesbury 1857–63 and for West Worcestershire 1863–6. (fn. 92) In 1859 he was appointed a lord of the Admiralty in Lord Derby's ministry. From 1874 to 1880 he was lord steward of the household, in 1874 he became a privy councillor, and in 1876 was made lordlieutenant of Worcestershire; he was paymaster of the forces 1885–7. He was a High Churchman, compiling a hymn-book for Madresfield Church in 1853; he helped to establish the Pusey memorial. He died in 1891 and was buried in Madresfield Church. (fn. 93) His son and successor William the seventh earl is the present owner of the manor.
A miller is mentioned as one of the manorial tenants in 1394 (fn. 94) and again in 1407, (fn. 95) but there is no special reference to a mill here.
The original church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN stood a short distance to the north-west of Madresfield Court and was in plan a simple parallelogram without distinction of chancel and nave externally, but with a timber porch on the south side and a bell-turret with short spire and pyramidal roof at the west end. The building appears to have been of 12th-century origin, but considerably altered at later periods. An undated print (fn. 96) in the possession of Earl Beauchamp shows two lancet windows on the south side and 15thcentury windows at the east and west ends. A 12thcentury doorway 'with its jambs and tympanum' (fn. 97) is stated to have been built into the church which succeeded it, but only the tympanum now remains. It is incorporated with a memorial to the sixth Earl Beauchamp, which now marks the old site, and is 4 ft. 3 in. diameter, the surface being covered with scalloping and a series of circles with star ornament. Nash notes some ancient glass in the north window of the chancel—a Franciscan friar kneeling, inscribed 'Augustin Simond, rector,' and heraldic glass in the east and west windows. (fn. 98)
The old building was taken down in 1852 and a new church erected on its site from designs by E. W. Pugin. This second church is described as 'a parallelogram with two projections on the north side, one of which contained seats for the family at the Court and the other the family vault, to which the old Norman doorway formed the entrance.' (fn. 99) Being erected on the surface without foundations, the building cracked and settled, and was taken down in 1866, when the present church was begun on a new site further west. It was designed by Mr. Frederick Preedy in the style of the 14th century, and was consecrated 10 November 1867. The building consists of a chancel 24 ft. 6 in. by 17 ft. 6 in. with north vestry and organ chamber, nave 50 ft. by 24 ft. 6 in., south porch, and north-west tower open to the nave, surmounted by a spire 130 ft. in height. The walls are faced with hammer-dressed Cradley stone, but red and grey ashlar is introduced to give variety of colour, (fn. 100) and the roofs are covered with red tiles overhanging at the eaves. Everything that was worth retaining in the church of 1852 was made use of in the new building, including the east and west windows, part of the reredos, the font and the pulpit. The roof of the chancel is the entire roof of E. W. Pugin's church compressed into its present form. (fn. 101) In the vestry is the marble basin of an 18thcentury font built into the wall and used as a piscina. There are mural tablets in the nave to the first and second Earls Beauchamp, and the fifth earl (d. 1866) is buried in the churchyard to the south-east of the chancel.
There is a ring of six bells cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1867.
The plate is all modern and consists of a chalice, paten and flagon of 1852–3 of mediaeval pattern, and a paten, Chester make, of 1832. The flagon is inscribed round the bottom, 'Mrs. Margaret Biddulph gave the silver for this flagon 1735.' (fn. 102) There is also a repoussé silver almsdish by W. B. Reynolds, London, inscribed, ' In usum Ecc[lesi]ae B. Mariae Virginis de Madresfield d.d. E. M. M. et M. M. 1899.'
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1742 to 1813, burials 1742 to 1763, marriages 1742 to 1810.
The road passes by the church on the west side, (fn. 103) the churchyard being entered by a timber lych-gate 'in memory of Mary Ann Munn 1857.' There is a well with wrought-iron canopy to the south-west of the building sunk for the use of the workmen at the time of the erection of the church in 1866.
The church of Madresfield is first mentioned in 1282, when a dispensation was granted to the rector, 'on account of the weakness of Sir W. de Bracy, knight, his progenitor,' to celebrate divine service there till the octave of the Epiphany, by a fit priest, 'notwithstanding the interdict upon the same church.' (fn. 104) In 1291 the church was taxed at £4 6s. 8d. (fn. 105) The first recorded presentation was made by Sir Robert Bracy, in 1311, (fn. 106) and from that date to the present time the patronage has belonged to the lords of the manor. (fn. 107)
The rectory of Clevelode was annexed to that of Madresfield in 1595, the two places both being small and unable to support two priests and the churches lying about a mile from each other. (fn. 108)
Charity of Anna Bull.— This parish is entitled to one-fifth of the dividends on a sum of £ 2,886 16 s. 1d. consols, held by the official trustees, arising from the sale in 1863 of land at Newland originally purchased with a legacy bequeathed in 1705 by will of this donor. The annual dividends, amounting to £72 3s. 4d., are applicable in teaching poor children as to four-fifths in the parishes of Grimley and Hallow. (fn. 109) and as to one-fifth in Madresfield.
George Dowdeswell, as recorded on the church table, by his will bequeathed £75, the interest to be employed in buying bread for the poor. The legacy was augmented by the Rev. Reginald Pindar, a former rector. The trust fund with accumulations is now represented by £ 179 4s. 5d. consols with the official trustees, producing £4 9s. 4d. yearly.
In 1760 Thomas Dalley, as stated on the same table, by his will charged an estate in the parish of Leigh with 10s. a year for ever, to be given in bread on Good Friday and St. Thomas's Day.
Earl Beauchamp's charities, founded by the will of the Right Hon. John Reginald Pindar Earl Beauchamp, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 22 February 1853, consists of £2,492 2s. 1d. consols belonging to the educational branch and £1,000 consols belonging to the eleemosynary branch. By an order of the Charity Commissioners 16 July 1909 the sum of £62 6s. a year was made applicable for educational purposes in the ancient parish of Madresfield and in the civil parish of Newland, in such manner as may be determined by the Board of Education, and the sum of £25 a year for the benefit of the poor of the same areas in one or other of the modes prescribed in the said order.