A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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In this section
Aestlaeh, Eslei, Heseleia (xi cent.); Astlega (xii cent.); Estle, Astleye, Astele (xiii cent.).
The road from the Hundred House to Stourport forms part of the northern boundary of this picturesque parish, and a road from Stourport to Worcester passes from north to south through it. Its eastern boundary is the Severn, the Dick Brook, which waters the rest of the parish, forming the southern boundary for some distance before it falls into the Severn. This brook is spanned by two bridges, Dick Bridge where the Stourport and Hundred House road crosses it, and Glasshampton Bridge where it is crossed by the Worcester road.
The ground is highest in the west, where it reaches a height of 600 ft. on Abberley Hill, and slopes east to the Severn, where it is liable to floods. The parish has an area of 3,031 acres, of which, in 1905, rather more than half was arable land, more than a third was permanent grass, and there were 266 acres of woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is loam and clay, on a subsoil of Keuper Sandstone and Bunter Pebble beds. The chief crops, grown are wheat, barley, beans and green crops, the land being specially adapted for barley and turnips.
The parish of Astley, which is large and scattered, is situated about 2¼ miles south-west of Stourport. The church, with the rectory and Church Farm, stands about half a mile to the east of the main road from Stourport to the Hundred House.
The Prior's Well, near the entrance of the churchyard, and a fragment of walling at the east end of the churchyard, are the only remains of the alien priory of Astley. To the west of the church, which stands on an eminence commanding very beautiful views, a road leads downhill to a picturesque cornmill on Dick Brook, long known as Prior's Mill, the road here being called the Toot. (fn. 2) The Church Bank, south of Astley Church, across the road, according to local tradition was terraced for the cultivation of vines in the days of the priory. (fn. 3) About half a mile east is Astley Hall, the residence of Mr. Stanley Baldwin, J.P., M.P., its grounds skirted on the east by the Worcester road. A little northwest of Astley Hall is Astley Town, a good but somewhat modernized half-timber house, with Little Astley Town to the east of it, an early 17th-century house of the same material, L-shaped on plan, and two stories in height with an attic. A little distance to the northward, upon the west side of the road, is the Pool House, (fn. 4) a small square building of sandstone dating from the first half of the 17th century, but much altered in the 18th century, when the front was remodelled in the Strawberry Hill Gothic manner. The house is two stories in height with an attic, and there are cellars under the western half. The upper flight of the stairs is of the late 17th century, and has good twisted balusters. The original windows, which have survived the 18th-century reconstruction, have stone mullions and transoms. To the north of Pool House is Syntley Farm. (fn. 5) About a mile north of the church, upon the Stourport and Hundred House road, is the hamlet of Dunley (fn. 6); here is Oakhampton, the residence of Mr. John Henry Crane, a large plain stuccoed house, entirely rebuilt in the last half of the 19th century. About half a mile to the west of the church, standing upon high ground near the main road, some distance to the south of Dunley, are the hamlets of Yarhampton and Yarhampton Cross. Here is Yarhampton Farm, a fine half-timber house of two stories with an attic, bearing upon the south front the date 1610. The plan is of the central entrance-hall type, with projecting wings on the east and west. On the first floor the wings are lighted from the south by windows with ovolo-moulded mullions and projecting sills supported by carved consoles. The west wing has been added to and partly cased with brick on the north side in the 18th century, when a court, with brick walls and an entrance gate having tall brick piers with stone cappings and ball finials, was inclosed on this side of the house. On the east side of the Worcester and Stourport road, about 1 mile to the east of the church, is Woodhampton, lately the residence of ViceAdmiral Robert Stevenson Dalton Cumming, a fine brick house of c. 1600, two stories in height with an attic, refronted and added to on the north front in the early years of the 19th century. On the garden front the curvilinear gables combine with the tiled roofs and the fine original chimney stack on the east to give the house a remarkably picturesque appearance. The principal stairs, with square newels and twisted balusters, rising the whole height of the house, form an exceptionally fine example of late 17th-century joinery. Bull Hill Farm, a little distance to the south of Woodhampton, and upon the same side of the road, is a good half-timber house of the early 17th century, considerably modernized, but retaining externally much of its original appearance. The school is between Astley Hall and St. Peter's Church. A school-house, always known as the Church House, is referred to in the 17th century. (fn. 7) North of the school is Pound Farm.
In the north-eastern angle of the parish are Larford (Lorvord, (fn. 8) xiv cent.; Larvor, Larvord, (fn. 9) xvii cent.) and Little Larford farms. The Yarranton family held land here (fn. 10) and in Astley in the 17th century. (fn. 11) The engineer and agriculturist, Andrew Yarranton, who held a captain's commission in the Parliamentary army, was born at Larford in 1616, (fn. 12) and lived there in 1675. (fn. 13) Near the northern boundary is Astley Cross. Here St. Luke's mission church was erected in 1900. At Glasshampton, on the southern boundary, a fine house was for many generations the home of the lords of the manor of Astley, but it was completely destroyed by fire after being greatly enlarged and beautified by the Rev. Denham James Joseph Cookes, the lord of the manor. (fn. 14)
The hamlet of the Burf is about 1½ miles east of the village, on the Severn. It is connected with the parishes of Hartlebury and Ombersley by Hampstall Ferry. The well-known Redstone Rock and Hermitage are on the bank of the Severen on the northern boundary of the parish. Here also was a ferry over the Severn. Deeds dating from the 14th century dealing with Redstone Ferry are to be found in the Prattinton collection for Astley and Rock, (fn. 15) and a picturesque description of the curious Hermitage in the Redstone Rock by the Ferry as it appeared in his day is given by Habington in his account of Astley. (fn. 16) Simon the clerk of 'Reddestan' is mentioned in 1182. (fn. 17) Protection was granted for the brethren of the House of Redstone (Radestone) in 1260. (fn. 18) Bishop Latimer wrote of it to Cromwell in 1538 as 'an hermitage in a rock by Severn able to lodge 500 men, and as ready for thieves and traitors as true men. I would not have hermits masters of such dens.' (fn. 19) On 6 February 1563 the hermitage was granted to Cicely Pickerell and her heirs, (fn. 20) and a piece of greensward called Arnell's Plecke belonging to the Hermitage was granted to Edward Grimston and others in 1576–7. (fn. 21) Noake wrote of it (1868) as recently occupied by poor folk, one portion an alehouse, one a school, and characterized it with 'its chapel, refectory, dormitories, arched ways,' &c., as the most interesting hermitage we have. (fn. 22)
This interesting series of mediaeval cave dwellings is cut out of the sandstone rock which forms here a vertical cliff facing north. An entry at the east opens to a passage, cut parallel to the face of the cliff, which leads westward and has a series of cells on the right. At the west end of the passage a flight of rough steps leads to a gallery, some 8 ft. above the present ground level, which connects a numbers of large apartments provided with side chambers, recesses and fireplaces. Some of the recesses are large enough to contain a bed, and the circular chimneys from the fireplaces ascend to the top of the cliff above. One of the largest of these apartments opens on to a kind of platform on the rock face. Some of the dwellings are strengthened with brickwork, and were inhabited until the middle of the 19th century.
A ford on the Severn at this point used to be the chief road across the river. Tradition says it was across this ford that Prince Arthur's body was brought on the way from Ludlow to Worcester. (fn. 23)
An Inclosure Act was passed in May 1811, (fn. 24) the award being dated 28 March 1814. (fn. 25)
The Rev. William Henry Havergal was rector of Astley from 1829 to 1845, his daughter Frances Ridley Havergal being born here in 1836. (fn. 26)
Among place-names have been found Brokhampton (fn. 27) (xiii cent.); Coldwalle, Mormedwe, Michel and Little Romesok (fn. 28); (xiv cent.); Peny Parke (fn. 29) (xvi-xvii cent.); Osden, Stermieslands, (fn. 30) Gilbeit Meadow, Le Hempleck, Great and Little Lamsett, the Hopyard, Stocking Furlong, Bacon Yard, Cratford Close, Ludleche, (fn. 31) Prior's Furlong, (fn. 32) Priest Heales (fn. 33) (xvii cent.).
ASTLEY is said to have originally belonged to the church of Worcester, under whom it was held by Ocea, a Dane, from whom Ralph de Barnack (Beornaco), sheriff of William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, wrested it, so that the church of Worcester lost possession of it. (fn. 34) At the date of the Domesday Survey it was held by Ralph de Toeni, who had possessed himself of other lands belonging to Ralph de Barnack, (fn. 35) and it had previously been held by Ernesi. Six hides paid geld, and there were appurtenant to the manor two burgesses at Worcester and one salt-pan at Droitwich. (fn. 36) Towards the end of the 12th century Roger de Toeni was still recognized as overlord of Astley, (fn. 37) but after that time the connexion of this family with the manor is not mentioned. (fn. 38) The tenure of the manor was not known in 1436. (fn. 39)
The church of St. Taurin at Evreux held Astley in 1086 under Ralph de Toeni and of his gift, the church holding 4 hides 'quit and freed from all dues belonging to the king, as was granted by King William himself when Ralf gave it to the saint.' (fn. 40) The history of the manor is the same as that of the priory until the Dissolution. (fn. 41) In June 1544 Astley Manor was granted in fee to Sir Ralph Sadleir and Ellen his wife. (fn. 42) It seems to have been purchased from him in the same year by Robert Blount, (fn. 43) who died at Astley, seised of the manor, on 25 May 1573. (fn. 44) He bequeathed certain rents to his second son Walter, and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas. (fn. 45) Two parts of the manor, then in the queen's hands by reason of the recusancy of Thomas Blount, were leased for twenty-one years to John Harris in 1600. (fn. 46) In 1620 Thomas Blount sold the manor to John Winford. (fn. 47) On the marriage of his son John with Anne daughter of Sir John Bridgeman, serjeant-at-law, chief justice of Chester, in 1635 John Winford settled the manor upon himself, with remainder at his death to his son John and his heirs male by Anne. (fn. 48) Anne died about 1636, (fn. 49) leaving an infant son John, and her father-in-law, John Winford, died on 22 May 1637. (fn. 50) His son John succeeded him, and married as his second wife Elizabeth daughter of Sir Henry Williams, on whom he settled the manor in 1641. (fn. 51) John Winford took the Royalist side in the Civil War, and was knighted in 1643. (fn. 52) He was on the commission to raise money to pay the king's forces, but when, on 12 February 1649, he begged to compound for delinquency, he protested that he had never been in arms. (fn. 53) His fine was £703 13s. 8d. (fn. 54) He subsequently fought at the battle of Worcester in 1651, being taken prisoner after its surrender. (fn. 55) He settled Astley in 1673 on his second son Henry at the marriage of the latter with Mercy Cookes, daughter and heir of Sir William Cookes of Norgrove. (fn. 56) He died on 2 July 1682, and was succeeded by Henry, who died in 1685. (fn. 57) Henry Winford was followed by his son Thomas Cookes Winford, who succeeded in 1702 to the baronetcy which was bestowed in that year on his father's brother Thomas, second prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas, under special remainder, in case of failure of heirs male, to the heirs male of Henry. (fn. 58) Sir Thomas was holding the manor in 1725, (fn. 59) but gave it in his lifetime (c. 1731) (fn. 60) to his nephew Thomas Geers of Bridge Sollers, co. Hereford, son of his sister Mary and of her husband Timothy Geers, (fn. 61) and died without issue 19 January 1743, (fn. 62) when the baronetcy became extinct. Thomas Geers took the name of Winford, and by his wife Sarah, daughter of Thomas Lutwyche, left as his coheirs two daughters, (fn. 63) who were holding the manor in 1760 and 1764. (fn. 64) Sarah, the elder, had then married Sambroke Freeman of Fawley Court, Buckinghamshire, but Harriet, the younger, was unmarried when Nash wrote his history about 1781. (fn. 65) Mrs. Freeman died in 1805, her heir-at-law being Sir John Geers Cottrell, bart., (fn. 66) son of Sir John Cottrell, kt., Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1761, and of Anne, only daughter and heir of John Geers of Garnons, co. Hereford. (fn. 67) Before 1809 the manor had passed to the Rev. Denham James Joseph Cookes and Maria Henrietta his-wife. (fn. 68) The trustees of the Rev. D. J. J. Cookes were holding the manor in 1884, but it had been sold before 1888 to John Joseph Jones of Abberley Hall. He was succeeded by his cousin William Jones, and the manor afterwards passed to the Rev. Cecil J. Jones, the present owner.
The fee-farm rent of 52s. 1½d., reserved on the grant of the manor to Sir Ralph Sadleir, (fn. 69) was granted in 1670–1 to Francis Lord Hawley and others, trustees appointed by Parliament for the sale of feefarm rents, (fn. 70) and was sold by them in 1672–3 to Sir John Banks of Aylesford (co. Kent), bart. (fn. 71)
GLASSHAMPTON (Glese, xi cent.; Glassanton, xvi cent.) has been identified with the Domesday 'Glese,' where Drew Fitz Ponz held a hide in 1086 as successor to Wulfmar. (fn. 72) The manor was held in the 17th century of the Crown as of the hundred of Doddingtree, in socage, but by what service was not known. (fn. 73)
An estate here seems to have been held in the 13th century by the Actons, a 'family equalling for continewance any in England,' (fn. 74) for in 1290 Mary Acton received licence to alienate a rent of 42s. in Glasshampton to the nunnery of Westwood, (fn. 75) which in 1535 was receiving a rent of 6s. 8d. from lands in Astley. (fn. 76) In 1538 a grant in fee was made to Robert Acton and Charles Acton his son of all lands in Glasshampton formerly belonging to the nunnery of Westwood. (fn. 77) This estate, afterwards called a manor, may have passed to the Blounts in the same way as Acton in Ombersley, (fn. 78) though nothing has been found connecting Walter Acton with it. Thomas Blount settled it in 1590 on himself and his seconde wife Bridget, one of the daughters of Sir Christopher Broome of Holton, co. Oxon., and their heirs male, with remainder to his own right heirs. (fn. 79) With Astley it was leased by the commissioners in 1600 to John Harris on account of the recusancy of Thomas Blount, (fn. 80) who died not sell it with Astley to John Winford, but died seised of it on 30 November 1624, Francis Blount, his son by his second wife Bridget, succeeding him in the manor. (fn. 81) Before 1641 it had been sold to John Winford, lord of Astley, who settled it on his second wife Elizabeth Williams. (fn. 82) It has since been held with Astley, (fn. 83) and was long the seat of the lord of the manor of Astley.
In 1086 BERROW (La Bergha, La Berewe, xiii cent.; Berwe, Berughe, xiv cent.; La Barrowe, Burroughe, xvii cent.) was apparently included in the lands of Ralph de Toeni at Astley, being probably represented by the hide held of Ralph by the sheriff Urse. (fn. 84) It was held by Ralph de Toeni in 1210–12. (fn. 85) It seems by the 14th century to have been considered a parcel of the manor of Abberley (which passed to the Beauchamps), John de Berrow contributing to the subsidy in Abberley in 1327 (fn. 86) and 1332–3. (fn. 87) In 1614 its tenure was unknown. (fn. 88)
The family of Berrow were probably early undertenants in this manor. The half fee at Beche, returned in a survey of the early 13th century as held by John de la Beche of Ralph de Toeni, (fn. 89) is probably the same as the half fee at Berrow which John de Berrow held of the honour of Clifford. (fn. 90) Parnel, late the wife of John de Berrow, was dealing with a messuage and a quarter of a virgate of land in Abberley in 1327, (fn. 91) and in the same year claimed dower there from Thomas Bulfynch, (fn. 92) and contributed to the subsidy at Abberley, in company with a John de Berrow, who was perhaps her son. (fn. 93) John de Berrow contributed again in 1332–3. (fn. 94) It appears possible that the Berrow interest in the manor may have passed through female heirs to the Bulfynches (a connexion suggested by the previous claim of dower), as Habington states that it was by marrying a daughter and heir of the Bulfynches of the Berrow of Astley that the family of Winford removed into Astley. (fn. 95) The Bulfynches were holding in Berrow in 1379, (fn. 96) and appear in Astley in the 15th century. (fn. 97) Walter Winford and Joan his wife and John his son were holding the manor in 1609, when it was settled on Walter and his wife with remainder to Katherine wife of his son John. (fn. 98) Walter died at Astley on 29 October 1614., his wife surviving him, and was succeeded by this son John, (fn. 99) after whose purchase of the manor of Astley both manors were held together as late as 1809. (fn. 100)
The site of the manor of Berrow is not now to be identified, but it probably lay in the neighbourhood of the Burf, for woods called le Barrave or Burrough were also known as Bearffe or Berffe. A manor-house called Berrington dating from 1614 was burnt down in 1908. (fn. 101)
In 1086 WORDLEY (Wermeslai, xi cent.; Wernesleg, xiii cent.; Wormesley, xiv cent.; Warvysley, Wardesley, xvi cent.; Warsley or Wardesley, xvii cent.) was included among the lands held by Ralph de Toeni, 2 hides paying geld. It had been previously held by Eadwig and Æthelnoth as two manors. (fn. 102) The overlordship passed with Abberley Manor to the Beauchamps. (fn. 103) In 1619 the manor was said to be held of the king, by what service was not known, (fn. 104) but in 1624 it was not held of the king. (fn. 105)
From John de Wordley, who was holding the manor early in the 13th century, (fn. 106) it passed to Robert de Wordley, whose heirs were in possession about 1315. (fn. 107) Parnel de Wordley paid 40d to the subsidy in 1327 (fn. 108) and 3s. in 1332–3. (fn. 109) In 1378 John de Clare and Laura his wife were holding the manor. (fn. 110) In 1507 Richard Shitford sold it to Edward Greville of Milcote, co. Warwick, (fn. 111) of whom it was purchased in the following year by William Mucklow. (fn. 112) In 1527 William sold the manor to John Pakington of Hampton Lovett, Richard Mucklow, son and heir-apparent of William, being a party to the conveyance. (fn. 113) On 15 August 1550 John Palistanton settled in on his wife Anne with remainder to his daughter Ursula and her husband William Scudamore and their heirs. (fn. 114) The manor then followed the descent of Church Lench (fn. 115) until it was granted by Sir John Scudamore, bart., and Elizabeth his wife to Thomas Bell in 1627. (fn. 116) By Thomas Bell it was conveyed in 1655 to Christopher Lowe. (fn. 117) For more than a century its history remains obscure, but in 1771 it was held with Ribbesford by Henry Morley Herbert. (fn. 118) In 1809 it was held by Denham James Joseph Cookes and Maria Henrietta his wife, (fn. 119) and it passed with Astley Manor to the Jones family of Abberley.
In deeds relating to this manor it is described as being in Wordley, Rock, Abberley and Dunley. Its site is probably marked by Wordley Farm, now in Astley, a wood known as Wordley Dingle lying on the boundary between the parishes of Abberley, Rock and Astley.
Two mills worth 10s. belonged to the manor of Astley in 1086, (fn. 120) and one mill belonged to Glasshampton at the same date. (fn. 121) The mill of the demesne of Astley was held by John Wotton, rector of Iwerne Courtney (co. Dorset) in 1404. (fn. 122) A water-mill called Prior Allen's Mill, apparently in Glasshampton, was held by the Blounts in 1627. (fn. 123) A mill descended with the manor of Astley until 1725. (fn. 124) Three fullingmills under one roof, on Glasshampton Brook, were leased in 1720 by Bromwich Pope and Mercy his wife to Richard Pinches, and in 1739 (at which date they were paper-mills) by Nehemiah Jeavens to Arnold Boughton. (fn. 125) There is now a corn-mill on Dick Brook at the western end of the village.
The priory church of ST. PETER consists of a chancel measuring internally 27 ft. 3 in. by 16 ft., north chapel 21 ft. by 11 ft. 6 in., nave 40 ft. 9 in. by 21 ft. 9 in., north aisle 43 ft. 3 in. by 20 ft., south porch, and west tower 13 ft. by 14 ft. 3 in.
The chancel and nave were built towards the end of the first half of the 12th century, a north aisle, since rebuilt, was added c. 1180, while the tower and north chapel date from the 15th century, when the chancel was probably lengthened eastwards to the extent of some 5 ft. In the early part of the 19th century the east wall was again brought back and the north aisle widened and rebuilt; a long wide window was also inserted between the 12th-century lights in the south wall of the nave, and other repairs effected. Recently the fabric, having fallen into a state of considerable disrepair, has been thoroughly restored, the east wall rebuilt on the 15th-century foundation, and the wide window above mentioned removed from the south wall of the nave and replaced by a new window corresponding to the 12th-century lights on either side of it. New windows were also inserted in the north aisle and buttresses added, while the tower responds were restored, the walls generally strengthened and repaired, and a timber south porch erected. The walling generally is of red sandstone ashlar, faced on both sides, with the exception of the north aisle, which is plastered internally. The roofs are tiled.
In the modern east wall of the chancel is a traceried window of three trefoiled lights, and in the north wall is an original 12th-century light with a semicircular head and stepped sill, and a contemporary string-course at the sill level. To the west of this is an arch opening to the chapel, probably a reconstruction of the latter part of the 16th century. The arch is of two plain slightly pointed orders, and rests at the responds upon moulded capitals, which were evidently not made for the purpose, but have been roughly cut on both sides to fit their present positions. At the south-east is a modern window of two trefoiled lights, with some re-used 15th-century jamb stones. Below its sill is a modern piscina and credence. West of this is a 12th-century light similar to that in the north wall; a contemporary double-chamfered string-course at the sill level, beginning at the point where the later willing joins that of the 12th century, is continued westward to the chancel arch. Near the chancel arch is a recess, probably an old blocked doorway, the stonework of which has been repaired. Externally there is a 15th-century buttress near the centre of the south wall and a rebuilt diagonal buttress of the same period at the south-east angle. The chancel arch, which occupies the full width of the chancel, is of the original 12th-century date, and has recently been rebuilt and repaired. The semicircular arch is of two plain orders, with a double-chamfered label enriched with checker-like indents, and is supported on each respond by four large detached shafts with scalloped capitals, chamfered abaci, and moulded bases.
The north chapel has an east window of two trefoiled lights with modern tracery under a twocentred head, and in the north wall is a window of three trefoiled lights, also with modern tracery, but having a four-centred head. The jambs of both are of the original 15th-century date, but the head of the latter is modern. The arch between the chapel and aisle is two-centred and of two plain orders. The east gable has been rebuilt.
The late 12th-century arcade of the nave is of three bays with semicircular arches of two plain orders, having a chamfered label on the nave side; the pillars are circular and have moulded bases standing on square plinths and octagonal scalloped capitals. On the first pillar from the east there is a carved head just below the capital, looking south-west. The west respond was until the recent restoration concealed by the north-east buttress of the tower, part of which has now been removed, and the respond exposed. In the eastern half of the south wall are three roundheaded single-light windows, two of which are of the 12th century, while the middle one is a modern copy. To the west of these is an original Norman doorway of two elaborately moulded orders; the tympanum is plain, and the jambs have detached shifts with capitals and bases, the outer order being enriched with cheveron ornament. This doorway, having through long exposure become much weather-worn, has been considerably repaired. The shaft; with their capitals and bases are modern. To the west of it is a repaired late 15th-century window of two trefoiled lights under a four-centred head. Externally the south wall presents an imposing appearnace; there is a flat pilaster buttress at the east end and the three east bays are divided by two narrow buttresses, designed in the form of engaged shafts, and have a double-chamfered string at the level of the window sills about 10 ft. from the ground. The lower part of each of these two buttresses has the section of two engaged shafts divided by an angle fillet and stands with a base on a plinth; above the string the section changes to a simple semicircular engaged shaft, which is crowned by a capital below the corbel table. The corbel table, which runs the whole length of the wall, has a billeted edge moulding, and is supported at intervals of about 2 ft. by grotesque heads, some of which are modern. The south-east corner of the nave has been rebuilt, the old facing being re-used.
In the south-east corner of the north aisle there is a circular central newel rood-loft staircase, with a four-centred lower doorway, probably of the late 15th century.
The finely proportioned west tower, which is 80 ft. high, is divided by string-courses into three stages and has deep diagonal buttresses, rising to an embattled parapet, and surmounted by modern crocketed pinnacles. The tower arch is of three chamfered orders and is acutely pointed; the south respond, which had been cut away for a west gallery, has been recently restored. In the west wall is a four-centred doorway with modern external stonework and old internal jambs, and above it is an original window of three cinquefoiled lights under a two-centred head with modern tracery. The second stage contains a clock with faces on the east and west, and in each face of the belfry is a window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil under a two-centred head. On the east face of the tower a projecting stone course shows the lines of an earlier and higher pitched nave roof.
The chancel has a modern match-boarded trussed, roof, but the nave has an open timber trussed roof of the 15th century with original principals, collars and spandrel pieces, and modern rafters and purlins, which divide the ceiling into square panels. The trussed roof of the chapel is mostly modern, but has some original timbers re-used.
The sandstone font dates from the 12th century; its bowl, which has a cauldron-like outline, is octagonal, and has two round-headed panels on each side divided by large beads, those at the angles being continued down the stem, which is also octagonal and has plain panels. The upper edge of the bowl is moulded. The base, which has a plain chamfered upper edge, is probably of later date. The octagonal oak pulpit is of the early 17th century. In the south doorway of the nave is a mediaeval studded oak door. There is a small shield of mediaeval painted glass in the north window of the chancel, now mounted with a piece of glass on each side; the charge is indistinct, but appears to be Argent a fesse between three roundels gules. There are some panels of 19thcentury heraldic glass in the north window of the chapel.
On the south wall of the chancel are a marble tablet to Higons James, who died in 1709, and a modern framed plate with a black letter inscription and epitaph in Latin verse to Ursula James, wife of Hugo James, and daughter of Baldwin Sheldon, who died 2 May 1604. There are also mural tablets to Samuel Bowater, who died in 1695–6, and Anne Bowater, who died in 1687. In the north chapel there are two late 16th-century table tombs with recumbent effigies, marginal inscriptions, and some confused heraldry. That near the north window is to Robert Blount, who died 24 May 1573, (fn. 126) and Anne (Davies) his wife, who was still living at the time of the erection of the tomb. Their recumbent effigies are on the tomb, the esquire in armour, and his dame in the dress of the period, both having their hands in the attitude of prayer. Round the sides of the tomb are the figures of their children in low relief, with labels bearing their names: on the north side are Walter and Thomas, and between them a shield of Acton charged with a cheveron between three cinqfoils, on the east Elizabeth, and on the west Margaret, while on the south side are three panels enriched with roses within circular wreaths and divided by pilasters. On the west side there is also a tablet inscribed 'Jhon Gildon of Hereforde made this towmes anno Domini 1577.' The marginal inscription reads: 'Here lieth the bodi of Robert Blonte Esquier who decesed the XXIIII daie of maie An° 1573 and Anne his wife being as yet living desiring God to continew her life.' The other tomb, which is of similar character, is placed under the arch between the chancel and chapel, and is to Walter Blount, who died in 1561, and to Isabel (Acton) his wife, who died in 1562–3. The effigies are similar in style to the last, but the esquire holds a book. On the north side are the figures of their children, Joyce, Elizabeth, and Anne, on the west Isabel, on the east Margery, and on the south Richard and Francis. Between the latter are two panels, one of which contains a badge within a wreath and the other a shield of Blount impaling the cheveron and cinqfoils of Acton. Above the tomb, on the respond of the arch, is a tablet inscribed 'Robert Blount Esquier was the foundor of thies towmbes and the overseers of the same were they whos names arr subscribid Frauncis Blount esquier and Justice of Peax and James Young.' (fn. 127) On the north wall of the chapel is a marble monument to Thomas Winford, bart., who died in 1702. At the west end of the south wall of the nave are two small brass plates, one to Mr. William Amphlett, who died in 1727, and Anne his wife, who died in the same year; and the other to John Amphlett, M.A., vicar of Halesowen, who died in 1731. At the north-east corner of the nave is a floor slab to Bridget Featherstone, who died in 1667.
In the churchyard, to the south of the nave, there is the base of a churchyard cross, probably dating from the 14th century. The upper part is octagonal and the lower square, the sides of the upper part which fall upon the corners of the square having moulded stops. On the upper face is a square socket for the shaft of the cross, which has long since disappeared.
The tower contains a ring of six bells: the treble is inscribed 'Prosperity to this parish 1728'; the second, 'John Rudhall, Gloucester fecit 1806'; the third was recast by Thomas Mears of London in 1838; the fourth, inscribed 'Fear God honour the King A. R. 1728,' is by Abraham Rudhall; the fifth is inscribed 'The gift of Sr Thomas Cooks Winford bart 1728'; and the tenor, also cast in 1728, was recast by Charles Carr, Smethwick, in 1897.
The communion plate consists of a large paten with feet, inscribed 'The gift of Sr Thomas Cookes Winford to the church of Astley 1728,' and bearing the hall mark of 1711; a cup of 1828; and a flagon presented in 1889.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1539 to 1630; (ii) 1670 to 1764; (iii) baptisms and burials 1765 to 1783; (iv) marriages 1754 to 1812 (duplicated 1754 to 1764); (v) baptisms 1784 to 1812; (vi) burials 1783 to 1812.
A church and a priest at Astley are mentioned in the Domesday Survey. (fn. 128) The church was appropriated to the priory of Astley by Bishop Walter Cantilupe. (fn. 129) In 1295 the presentation was made by the Prior of Astley, (fn. 130) and again in 1300. (fn. 131) In 1305 it was made by the bishop (fn. 132); on other occasions, except when the priory was in the king's hands by reason of war with France, the Prior of St. Taurin presented (fn. 133) until the suppression of Astley Priory in 1414. The advowson has always been held with the manor, (fn. 134) except for a short interval after the sale to John Winford in 1620, when it was retained by Thomas Blount. His son James had livery of it in 1627, (fn. 135) but with his brother Francis conveyed it to John Winford in 1629. (fn. 136)
In 1313 the Abbot and convent of St. Taurin were summoned to appear before the bishop for not having provided sufficient maintenance for the vicar. (fn. 137) A portion was appointed in 1316, (fn. 138) but the prior was again warned about twelve years later that he had neglected to supply what was directed. (fn. 139) Astley was still a vicarage in 1379–80, (fn. 140) but must afterwards have been re-endowed as a rectory, for it was returned in 1535 as a rectory, (fn. 141) and so remains at the present day.
The portion appointed for the vicar in 1316 had included a house and gardens on the south side of the church, of which Nash wrote that they still belonged to the incumbent, who was not, however, bound to keep the house in repair, a much better one with a garden and orchard having been given by the Cookes family (fn. 142); the vicar had liberty to fetch water from a certain well in the prior's garden, presumably Prior's Well.
The Free School was endowed by the will of Mercy Pope, proved in the P.C.C. 4 July 1729, (fn. 143) with an annuity of £20 issuing out of land in Astley Wood. The school was rebuilt in 1893 at a cost of £1,500, towards which legacies by the wills of William Green, proved in the P.C.C. 1832, Matilda Jane Glover, proved in the P.C.C. 1862, and John Lowe, proved at London 1871, amounting together to £499 2s. 1d. consols, were applied, and also a sum of £444 1s. 8d. consols belonging to John Staverton's charity. The official trustees hold a sum of £743 5s. 7d. consols towards the replacement of these amounts, under an order of the Charity Commissioners of 1894, during a period of thirty years.
John Staverton's charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 6 November 1866, whereby the income, subject to the payment of £2 12s. for bread, was made applicable for educational purposes (see Free School above). The rents of 2 a. 3 r. of land in Hanbury, amounting to £2 2s. a year, are applied in grocery tickets to poor widows.
The charity of William Green for the poor is endowed with a sum of £260 17s. 4d. consols, with the official trustees, the annual dividends, amounting to £6 10s. 4d., being applicable for the benefit of ten poor families.
This parish is also entitled to an annual sum of 10s. under the gift of Hugh Marshall alias Miller, which, about the year 1593, was charged upon an estate at Hillhampton, formerly paid by Lord Foley's steward.
The charity of the Rev. W. H. Havergal, a former rector, consists of a sum of £172 8s. 2d. consols, standing in the corporate name of the trustees of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. The annual dividends, amounting to £4 6s., are applicable under a scheme of 22 March 1898 in the purchase of Bibles, Books of Common Prayer and hymn books for the parish church, also in the publications of the society either for a lending library or in rewards to children attending the Church of England Sunday school.