A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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ROCK or AKE
Le Aka, Roke, Hac (xiii cent.); Oke (xiv cent.); Rooke (xv cent.); Acha alias Roch, Akenborough alias Rock (xvi cent.); Aker alias Rock (xvi-xvii cent.).
This extensive parish, about 20 miles in circumference, is situated on the right bank of the Dowles Brook, on the north-western boundary of the county, and is crossed by the Tenbury and Bewdley branch of the Great Western railway. The road from Cleobury Mortimer to Bewdley runs through the parish, meeting the road from Tenbury to Bewdley at Finger Post. The north of the parish is very well wooded, being in Wyre Forest, and the whole must at one time have been dense forest. The woodland of the manor of Alton (q.v.) was entered in the Domesday Survey as being 4 leagues long and 2 leagues wide, and was the subject of many law-suits as to hunting and timber rights in the 13th, 16th and 17th centuries. The parish is very hilly; its scattered farms are well watered by the Dowles, Lem, Tanners, Dumbleton, Dick and Gladder Brooks and their tributaries, which flow through the parish or form its boundaries.
The ground is irregular, rising to over 700 ft. at High Clows Farm on the western boundary, and to 600 ft. at Conningswick Farm and elsewhere. The parish has an area of 8,772 acres, of which 1,697 acres are arable, 5,528 permanent grass, and 1,263 woodland. (fn. 1) The eastern portion of it lies on Old Red Sandstone, the west and north on Coal Measures, and there are several coal-pits here. The soil is clay and red marl, producing crops of wheat, oats, barley and fruit.
Rock contains several interesting old houses. The church stands 582 ft. above the ordnance datum, and its tall tower is a prominent landmark for many miles around. (fn. 2) The old rectory, immediately north of the church, is an L-shaped house of about 1600, built of halftimber and brick and roofed with tiles. This building is now converted into two cottages and the present rectory, a much larger square brick house of the 18th century, is situated half a mile to the north. Outside the churchyard wall on the north are the stocks and whipping-post; the former, which is said to have been used within living memory, has six holes, and the whipping-post, found by the late rector in a cottage garden near by, has a double iron clasp, to fit the hands of either male or female offenders. About 50 yards southeast of the church is a square piece of ground of about an acre, possibly the site of a cattle inclosure. It is inclosed by a low bank on the north and west and by a moat on the south and east and is entered from the west where there is a break in the bank. The school built in 1806 to take the place of the free grammar school which had then died out, stood at the cross roads near the church, but the buildings have now disappeared.
Bower Court Farm, a quarter of a mile east of the church, is a 16th-century half-timber and plaster twostory house with tiled roofs. The south and east sides are faced with 18th-century brickwork and modern additions have been made on the west. The plan is L-shaped, with the main entrance at the re-entering angle on the north, the kitchen on the west, and some living apartments in the east wing. The kitchen and one room in the east wing have good original moulded oak ceilings, and in another room is an 18th-century panelled oak cupboard. A moat surrounds the house except on the south side, where it has been filled in. Deaseland Farm, in Deaseland Lane, a mile north of Heightington Chapel, comprises two interesting old houses; the 'new house' is an L-shaped half-timber and plaster two-story building with a central hall. The lower part of the house, which is constructed of heavy timbers with curved struts springing from the ground, dates probably from the 14th century, but the upper story was added early in the 17th century. On the west side is an open timber porch with oak mullioned sides. On the lintel is the date 1611, while on the strut above are the initials G.W. In the hall is a part of the screen and some early 17th-century panelling. The 'old farm' to the north, a half-timber and plaster L-shaped house, probably of the 16th century, now disused as a dwelling, is considerably dilapidated, but retains much of the original work, including the oak entrance door with its iron hinges.
Rock was evidently at one time more important than at present, as in 1328 Henry de Ribbesford had a grant of a weekly market on Wednesday and of a yearly fair on the feast of St. Margaret and two days following. (fn. 3) Among the manuscripts which were destroyed when Stanford Court was burnt was one recording that 'here was anciently a large town fit for receit, it may seem to have been a mercat.' (fn. 4)
Two miles north of the church is the hamlet of Alton, inclosed under an Act of 1816, (fn. 5) the award being dated 1820. (fn. 6) Other districts are: Blissgate, Lye Head, Cross Bank, Callow Hill, Gorst Hill, Pound Bank, Far Forest and Buckeridge. Heightington is a chapelry to the west. Far Forest, or Bewdley Far Forest, is an ecclesiastical parish formed on 11 July 1845 from Ribbesford, (fn. 7) Rock, and Stottesdon. (fn. 8) There is a Primitive Methodist chapel at Callow Hill.
ROCK does not appear in the Domesday Survey, (fn. 9) unless it is to be identified with one of the two berewicks of Kidderminster called Ribbesford. (fn. 10) Rock, (fn. 11) which appears for the first time in 1210–12, (fn. 12) was afterwards a member of the manor of Ribbesford, (fn. 13) and followed its descent, being held under the Mortimers of Wigmore by the Ribbesfords, and passing to the Earls of Warwick. (fn. 14) It descended with Ribbesford until the death of Anne Countess of Warwick in 1448–9. It then probably passed to her aunt Anne, wife of Richard Nevill Earl of Warwick and Salisbury, whose claim to the estates of the Earls of Warwick was set aside, after the death of Richard at Barnet, in favour of her daughters. Rock was assigned to Isabel wife of George Duke of Clarence, and passed on his death in 1478 to his son Edward. (fn. 15) During Edward's minority it was in the king's hands, (fn. 16) and, as he was attainted in 1499, it is doubtful whether Edward ever came into possession of the manor, which remained in the Crown until 1524, when it was leased for twenty-one years to Sir Humphrey Coningsby. (fn. 17) It was granted in 1533–4 to Catherine of Aragon, (fn. 18) and a lease for twenty-one years after the expiration of Sir Humphrey Coningsby's lease was granted to Humphrey Orme in 1542. (fn. 19) Two years later a grant of the manor in fee was made to Richard Andrewes of Hailes and George Lisle, (fn. 20) who in 1545 sold it to Sir Robert Acton and Margery his wife. (fn. 21) Sir Robert Acton settled it in 1557 for a term of years on his daughter Fortune, whose interest was later the subject of a Chancery suit, both William Childe and William Bayllis claiming that Fortune had sold her interest to themselves. (fn. 22) From Sir Robert Acton the manor passed to his son Henry, who died in 1563 and was succeeded by his son Robert. (fn. 23) Robert sold the manor in 1606 to John Churchill, (fn. 24) who on 2 November 1607 bequeathed two-thirds of the manor of Rock and Snead to his cousin Ellis Churchill for providing for his younger children, and died two days later, when he was succeeded by his son John. (fn. 25) In 1613 John Churchill and his wife Elizabeth sold the manor to John Newce, (fn. 26) who married Anne daughter of Francis Roberts of Willesden, Middlesex, and on 9 January 1617–18 settled it on her at their marriage. (fn. 27) John Newce died in 1633 and was succeeded by his son John, (fn. 28) who died, a minor and unmarried, in 1641, his sisters, Mary wife of Edward Partington, clerk, and Edith wife of Charles Cornwallis, being his co-heirs. (fn. 29) Edward Partington and his wife Mary dealt with her moiety of the manor in 1641 (fn. 30) and 1668, (fn. 31) and in 1695 it was held by their grandson Edward Partington. (fn. 32) The moiety of Charles Cornwallis and his wife Edith was conveyed by them in 1649 to their son Francis, (fn. 33) and passed from him before 1692 (fn. 34) to his son Thomas, who sold it shortly after to Thomas Winford. (fn. 35) In 1695 a partition of the manor was made between Thomas Winford and Edward Partington. (fn. 36)
The history of the manor during the 18th century is obscure, but it had passed before 1786 to Sir Walter Blount. (fn. 37) In 1815 it was conveyed by Joshua Harris to Thomas Bury. (fn. 38) Joseph Jones purchased it in 1868, (fn. 39) and it has since descended with the manor of Elmley Castle, the present lord being Mr. James Arthur Jones.
The manor of ALTON (Alvintune, xi cent.; Alvinton, xiii cent.; Alveton, xv cent.; Alvington, xvi cent.) was the principal manor in Rock. It belonged to the church of Worcester until Brihteah Bishop of Worcester granted it with Sapey, with the consent of his convent, to a man who had married his sister; but Agelric, the bishop's kinsman, seized Alton into his own hands, and soon after gave it to his son Godric. From him Ralph de Barnack wrested it by force, but was ousted before long by Ralph de Toeni. (fn. 40) This Ralph de Toeni is no doubt the Ralph de Conches, son of Roger de Toeni, (fn. 41) who, wishing to make amends for having assisted Ernald de Eschaufo in burning the town of the Abbot and monks of St. Evroul, granted to the abbey of St. Evroul Alton with its church and all Ralph's forest of Wyre, saving his inclosure (haia) at 'Beitone.' (fn. 42) Mr. Round dates this charter c. 1080, but Ralph de Toeni is returned in 1086 as holding Alton as successor to Godric, a thegn of Earl Ælfgar, (fn. 43) and there is no mention of any grant to the abbey. The grant, therefore, probably took place after 1086 and before 1101–2, when Ralph died. (fn. 44) Roger grandson of Ralph (fn. 45) was holding 2 hides at Alton in the time of Stephen, (fn. 46) probably as overlord, as the manor seems to have remained in the possession of the Prior of Ware, proctor of the abbey of St. Evroul in England.
The abbot's wood at Alton seems to have been a constant source of contention between him and the Toenis. Ralph de Toeni tried to disseise him in 1225 of 300 acres, and Ralph grandson of Ralph renewed the claim in 1292, though the case had been settled in 1264 in favour of the abbot, (fn. 47) whose successors retained possession of the manor until the reign of Henry V. (fn. 48) As an alien abbey it was then deprived of its property in England, which was bestowed in 1415 on the priory of Sheen. (fn. 49) This priory held the manor of Alton until the Dissolution. (fn. 50) It was granted in 1541 to Sir Philip Hoby, (fn. 51) who died seised of it in 1558, when his heir was his sister Mary wife of Brian Carter. (fn. 52) In the following year she with her husband conveyed the manor to Sir George Blount (fn. 53) in consideration of an annuity of £12 4s. 8½d. from it. (fn. 54) In 1561 this rent was granted by George Anderson and Mary his wife, possibly the widow of Brian Carter, to Humphrey Hill of Silvington, co. Salop., (fn. 55) who had possibly already bought the manor from Sir George Blount, as in 1588 he settled it in tail-male on Richard Hill, son of William Hill of Bickley, co. Worcester, and Ursula Hincksman, with remainder to the said William, and to John, Francis, and William Hill, nephews of Humphrey. (fn. 56) The death of Humphrey was followed by a disputed succession owing to the fact that Ursula Hincksman married John Hill instead of Richard, with the result that Richard sued her in 1608 to recover possession of the manor on the ground that she was only entitled to hold it as jointure if married to himself. (fn. 57) John and Ursula remained in possession, (fn. 58) and the former died seised of it in 1625, (fn. 59) when he was succeeded by his son John. John Hill sold the manor in 1658 to Thomas Hill, who in the same year, with William Watts, conveyed it to John Hammond and Anthony Wem, in trust for Cole and Powell. (fn. 60) For nearly a century the history of the manor then remains obscure. Before 1752 it had passed to Charles Baldwyn. (fn. 61) His son or grandson William assumed the name Childe, (fn. 62) and was succeeded in 1824 by his son William Lacon Childe. (fn. 63) The manor remained in the possession of this family until 1893, when it was sold by Capt. Charles Baldwyn Childe to Mr. William Corbett. (fn. 64)
Ralph de Toeni, when granting to the abbey of St. Evroul 'all his forest of Wyre,' saved to himself his inclosure (haia) at 'Beitone.' (fn. 65) This wood, afterwards known as Alton or Wyre Woods, became part of the Toenis' manor of Abberley, though it was situated in Rock parish. In 1292 Ralph de Toeni was in conflict with Edmund Mortimer, lord of Wyre Forest, (fn. 66) as to hunting rights in Alton Woods. Ralph claimed 2,000 acres of woodland at Alton, but Edmund maintained there was no such vill as Alton in Worcestershire, that the wood, only 1,000 acres in extent, was in Bayton, Rock, and Carton, and that Ralph had never had hunting rights there. (fn. 67) The jury, however, upheld Ralph's claim, (fn. 68) and Alton Woods followed the descent of Abberley Manor. In the 16th century great confusion arose between the woods which had been granted to the abbey of St. Evroul and belonged to the manor of Alton, and those which formed part of Abberley Manor, both being known as Alton Woods. (fn. 69) From one of the numerous commissions appointed to settle the ownership and right to timber, it appears that both were in Wyre Forest, that they did not adjoin, and that lords of the manors of Abberley, Alton, Shakenhurst, Bayton, Tymberlake, Linden, the Bower and Cheney's More had housebote and timber. (fn. 70) The bounds of each wood are given, but it is difficult to gather who were actual owners. The wood which belonged to Abberley (fn. 71) seems to have remained in the Crown until 1610. It was reserved from the grant of the manor of Abberley to Sir William Walshe in 1609, (fn. 72) but a lease for sixty years was granted to him on his petition (fn. 73) in the following year. (fn. 74) The wood was granted in 1624 to Edward Ramsay of Hethersett, co. Norfolk, and Robert Ramsay of London, in trust for John Earl of Holderness at a rent of £24. (fn. 75) This fee-farm rent was granted in 1664 to Queen Catherine. (fn. 76) Sir William Walshe's lease was assigned by William Walshe to Sir John Farewell (fn. 77) and in 1670–1 the fee-farm rent was paid by George Farewell, who was presumably then in possession of the woods. (fn. 78)
The manor of MORE or CHENEY'S MORE (Cheniesmore, xvi cent.; Cheney Moor, xviii cent.) was held as two manors by Ralph de Toeni in 1086. Of these Grim had held one (fn. 79) and Leofnoth the other. (fn. 80) In the first, 1 hide paid geld, in the second 1 virgate. In the 12th century the two estates were united under the name 'Mora Hugonis,' and were held as a hide and a half by Roger de Toeni. (fn. 81) More descended in the Toeni family (fn. 82) as half a fee held of the honour of Clifford until the 13th century, (fn. 83) but the overlordship is not again mentioned until 1559, when the manor was said to be held of Testa de Nevill by knight service, (fn. 84) the same tenure being given three years later. (fn. 85)
John de la More held half a fee in More under the Toenis about 1235–46. (fn. 86) A third of 2 virgates of land in More, granted in 1230 to John de Bance and Cecily his wife by Robert son of Nicholas and Maud his wife, may have been part of John de la More's estate. It had belonged to William son of Robert, father of Maud and Cecily. (fn. 87) Five years later Hugh de Brakspere and Alice his wife granted a third of 2 virgates of land in More to John de Bance and Cecily. (fn. 88) It was possibly this property which Tristram de la More granted in 1259 as a quarter of a carucate of land in Rock, at the instance of Robert de la More and Christina his wife, to Roger Mortimer, to hold of Tristram and his heirs for the rent of 1d., Roger agreeing to keep Nicholas, son of Robert and Christina, and Clementia his sister, for their lives, and to pay yearly to Robert and Christina 2 marks of silver and 8d. sterling at their house at Rock. (fn. 89) Henry de Bance settled a messuage and 2 virgates of land in More in 1275 on Stephen de la More and Cecily his wife. (fn. 90) The manor probably passed in the same way as the rangership of Bewdley Forest from the Mores to the Cheneys, though little has been found to connect either family with the manor. John de la More paid 2s. to the subsidy under 'More et Colingwyk' in 1332–3, (fn. 91) and in the reign of Henry VIII William son of Humphrey Cheney held the reversion of the manor after the death of William Thurkill and his wife Eleanor. (fn. 92) William and Eleanor sold it in 1528 to Humphrey Coningsby. (fn. 93) The manor then descended with North Piddle (q.v.), being sold by Fitzwilliam and Humphrey Coningsby in 1657 to Sampson Wise. (fn. 94) It was one of the manors which Humphrey Coningsby afterwards recovered, and was conveyed by him and his sister Philippa Langhorne and others in 1670 to George and Richard Johnson. (fn. 95) The manor seems then to have passed to the Gorges, Ferdinando Gorges being a party to the sale of 1670. Ferdinando died in 1701, when his son Henry succeeded. (fn. 96) Henry died in 1718, (fn. 97) his son Robert being then an infant. Robert probably died while still a minor, (fn. 98) his brother Richard succeeding (fn. 99) and dying in 1749. (fn. 100) His son Richard held the manor until 1786. (fn. 101) In a rent roll of the estates of Richard Gorges at that date it was entered with the note, 'there is a reputed manor called Cheany Moor at the Rock, but it does not appear when any court was held,' and Sir Walter Blount, lord of the manor of Rock, owed nineteen years' rent for the estate. (fn. 102) It was in the possession of Sir Walter Blount in 1795, (fn. 103) and followed the descent of Sodington until 1816. (fn. 104) The manor now belongs to Mr. James Arthur Jones, who holds regular courts. (fn. 105)
The manor of LINDEN (Linde, xi cent.), previously held by Ethelward, a thegn of Earl Æltgar, was held in 1086 by Ralph de Toeni. (fn. 106) This estate at Linden followed the descent of Abberley, (fn. 107) of which it eventually seems to have become a part. (fn. 108) A second estate at Linden, known as Linden Coudray, (fn. 109) was a member of Ribbesford, (fn. 110) and followed the descent of the manor of Rock, both estates at Linden thus passing to the Earls of Warwick. Though only one manor of Linden is mentioned during the 15th century, the two estates seem to have preserved their separate identity, and in 1613 Sir William Walshe and Sir Thomas Coningsby were disputing the possession of certain lands called Vernalls (or Twyfornells) in Upper Linden, (fn. 111) the former claiming it as part of his manor of Abberley and the latter as part of his manor of Bower. Linden does not again occur as a separate estate, and the two parts probably became merged in the manors of Bower and Abberley respectively.
The manor of BOWER (le Boure, xvi cent.; Bower in the Rock, Bower in le Roche, xvii cent.) was held of the manor of Abberley by service of being bailiff of that manor. (fn. 112) According to 17th-century tradition Roger Toeni bestowed the Bower upon his chamberlain, and his heirs 'to be free-bailiffs of Abberley,' and it passed by an heiress to the Coningsbys. (fn. 113) It may possibly have been the property held by William Coningsby of Rock in 1351. (fn. 114) Habington states that it belonged to the Frenes, and passed to the Coningsbys from them. (fn. 115) Sir William Coningsby married Benedict daughter and heir of Ingram de Frene, (fn. 116) and is probably the William Coningsby mentioned above. A pedigree of this family is given in the Visitation of 1569, and, though no deeds have been found to prove that they held the manor of Bower, they probably continued to do so. Thomas Coningsby was buried in the church in 1498, (fn. 117) and his son, Sir Humphrey, was holding the manor or chief messuage called le Bower at his death in 1535–6, and left directions that the tabernacle of our Lady, lately erected in the south aisle by him, should be goodly painted and gilt, and likewise the image of St. George; and that the image of St. Margaret in the Lady chapel should be dressed and repaired. (fn. 118) The manor descended with Cheney's More (q.v.) to the Gorges of Eye, and was included in a rent roll of the estates of Richard Gorges in 1786. (fn. 119) The manor was purchased about 1869 by Sir Edward Charles Blount, and now belongs to his nephew Sir Walter de Sodington Blount. (fn. 120)
The manor of HOLLIN (Hollim, xi cent.; Holine, Holyne, xiii cent.; Holyn, xvi cent.) was held in 1086 by Drew Fitz Ponz, and had been previously held by Wulfmar. (fn. 121) The overlordship had passed by the beginning of the 14th century to the Mortimers of Richard's Castle, (fn. 122) and followed the descent of that honour until the 15th century. (fn. 123)
In 1308 Henry de Ribbesford was holding Hollin with Rock and Ribbesford, with which it evidently descended. (fn. 124) It is probably to be identified with the messuage and carucate of land in Rock held by Walter de Ribbesford at his death in 1365 of John Talbot of Richard's Castle, (fn. 125) the manor of Rock being held of the Mortimers of Wigmore. In 1370 there was some controversy as to the tenure of this manor and the guardianship of the heir, the estate having been returned in 1366 as held of Thomas de Louches, (fn. 126) and after of Geoffrey de Cornwall. (fn. 127) It was decided in 1370 that John Talbot was overlord. (fn. 128) Before 1507 Hollin seems to have been granted to the priory of Westwood, of whom land in Hollin and Stildon was then held. (fn. 129) It was held by the priory until the Dissolution, (fn. 130) and was granted in 1538 to Robert Acton and Charles Acton his son. (fn. 131) It passed with Ribbesford to John Churchill, who succeeded his father in 1608, (fn. 132) but does not afterwards appear as a manor. It is probably to be identified with Holling Farm mentioned in 1695 as part of the manor of Rock. (fn. 133)
The manor of STILDON (Stilledune, xi cent.; Stillendone, xvi cent.) was held by Drew Fitz Ponz in 1086. Ulchet had held it, and could depart from his lord Wulfmar. (fn. 134) Stildon probably shared the early history of Hollin, though little is known of it. It was taxed with 'Sned Holmee' in the 13th century (fn. 135) and with Hollin in the 14th, (fn. 136) but no further mention of it occurs until 1507, when with Hollin it belonged to the Prioress of Westwood. (fn. 137) From this date until 1608 a manor of Stildon was held with Hollin (q.v.), but after John Churchill succeeded to Stildon and Hollin in that year Stildon seems to have been repurchased by the Actons. The chief messuage called Stildon was settled by Thomas Acton and Margaret his wife on 2 November 1619 on their son Robert and Fortitude daughter of Samuel Danvers, (fn. 138) and Robert Acton died seised of it on 4 February 1632, when he was succeeded by his son George. (fn. 139) Land in Stildon was purchased of Henry Acton by John Newce, lord of Rock Manor, and passed with that manor to his daughters Judith wife of Charles Cornwallis and Mary wife of Edward Partington. (fn. 140) It seems to have passed with Rock Manor until 1692, (fn. 141) but in 1710 Stildon belonged to Francis Walker. (fn. 142) Four-twelfths of the manor of Stildon and Clows was conveyed in 1741 by Francis Herbert and Mary his wife, Richard Knightley and Elizabeth his wife, Samuel Powell and Elizabeth his wife, and John Freeman to Richard Fleming and John Woodhouse. (fn. 143) Richard Clutton and Mary his wife two years later conveyed the manor of Stildon and Clows to John Woodhouse, (fn. 144) and in 1752 Thomas Wright and Martha his wife conveyed seven-twelfths of it to Adam Ottley. (fn. 145) These conveyances seem to have been connected with a mortgage which was in 1771 the property of Francis Walker, nephew and heir-at-law of Mary widow of Richard Clutton, John Woodhouse and the Rev. Thomas Severne, executors of Richard Clutton, the manor being then held by Sir Walter Blount and his wife Mary, one of the daughters and co-heirs of James Lord Aston, upon whom settlement was made at their marriage in 1766. (fn. 146) It has since remained in the Blount family, the present owner being Sir Walter de Sodington Blount. (fn. 147)
Two water-mills at 'le Orchard' in this parish, called 'Neumulne' and 'Willemulne' were held in 1311 (fn. 148) and 1315 (fn. 149) by Walter Blount, who in the latter year also held a third mill called 'Housemaynesmulne' at Linden, (fn. 150) still held by the Blounts in 1424–5. (fn. 151) In 1716 a water-mill was held by Elizabeth Holmes, widow. (fn. 152) At the present day there is a corn-mill, Forest Mill, on the eastern boundary, and another, Worrall's Mill, on Dick Brook.
The church of SS. PETER AND PAUL consists of a chancel 34 ft. 3 in. by 18 ft. 6 in., small north vestry (now used as a heating chamber) 10 ft. 3 in. by 7 ft. 9 in., south chapel 35 ft. by 16 ft. 6 in., nave 56 ft. 6 in. by 27 ft. 3 in., south aisle 57 ft. 9 in. by 12 ft. 9 in., and west tower 15 ft. by 14 ft. 10 in. These measurements are all internal.
The nave and the western part of the chancel were built in the first half of the 12th century, the chancel being extended 10 ft. eastward and a north vestry added during the 14th century, while the south chapel, south aisle and west tower were built by Judge Coningsby in 1510. (fn. 153) The church was restored in 1861 and the tower in 1881, but the whole fabric remains much in its original condition. The nave and early part of the chancel rank with the best work of the period in the county, while the lofty and bold west tower and the well-executed south aisle and chapel are valuable as dated examples of early 16th-century building. The church and tower are built of squared rubble and ashlar sandstone, the walls being faced both inside and out.
The chancel has an open-timber trussed roof which probably dates from the 14th century. The original wall, which is nearly 4 ft. thick, is preserved on the north side from the west end to a point about 10 ft. from the east wall. In this part are two windows, the easternmost an original round-headed light with a stepped sill and shafted jambs inside and out, the other a two-light 14th-century window with modern tracery, placed much lower down in the wall and blocking an original window, the head of which can be seen on the outside above it. Externally this portion of the wall is divided into two bays by a pilaster buttress, and is crowned by an original corbel table; a second buttress, probably the clasping buttress of the original north-east angle of the chancel, is partly buried in the west wall of the later vestry. The east window is of three trefoiled lights with reticulated tracery under a two-centred head; the jambs and arch, including the outside label, are of the 14th century, but the tracery is modern. On either side of the window is a restored niche. The south wall, with the exception of 2 ft. at the east end, is occupied by a 16th-century arcade of two bays opening into the chapel. This arcade has fourcentred arches of two chamfered orders and rests upon a central octagonal column with concave sides and moulded capital and base; there is a semi octagonal eastern respond, but the western arch dies into the wall. The small 14th-century vestry built against the eastern part of the extended north wall has a lean-to roof and diagonal buttresses. It is now converted into a heating chamber and the original doorway to the chancel has been blocked. There is a single pointed light in the east wall with a small loop light above, and in the west wall is a modern doorway.
The chancel arch is a very elaborate and well-preserved example of 12th-century design. It is of three richly carved orders on the nave side and two on the east, the inner order being supported by half-round shafts and the outer order by slender detached nook shafts, all with carved capitals and abaci and moulded bases. The carving on the orders of the arch consists of varieties of cheveron pattern within an engrailed and billeted label; the capitals and abaci are enriched with ornament in low relief composed of grotesque figures and formal foliage, and the bases of the halfround central shafts supporting the inner order are enriched with leaf ornament. Originally semicircular, the arch has spread somewhat at the springing line, and this has occasioned the depression of the crown and the fracture of the wall above, as may be seen by the cracks on the west side.
The south chapel is lighted from the east by a window of three cinquefoiled lights with restored tracery under a four-centred head, and from the south by two windows, each of two lights with tracery under a pointed head. At the south-west is a doorway with a four-centred head. The arch between the south chapel and aisle, which takes the form of a flying buttress, appears to be mostly of modern stonework; this is supported on the outside by a 16th-century buttress, and the chapel walls are further strengthened by a straight buttress between the windows on the south and a diagonal one at the south-east.
The north wall of the nave remains practically in its original condition. It is divided externally into four bays by pilaster buttresses, and is pierced by three round-headed windows, one in each of the two eastern bays and one in the westernmost bay, the intermediate bay being occupied by the north doorway. The windows, set high in the wall, have splayed jambs and stepped sills, and jamb shafts with moulded bases, capitals and abaci. Externally each of the two eastern windows is coupled with an answering niche which repeats its head and shafted jambs. There is a string-course continued along the wall at the level of the sills both inside and out, which is broken by the doorway and the buttresses; the latter are reinforced at the corners of the nave, and rise to a corbel table below the eaves. The doorway, a particularly fine example of the Norman style, projects 1 ft. 10 in. from the external wall face. The head is of four orders enriched with varieties of cheveron and embattled ornament and is inclosed by a billeted label, returned horizontally above the springing line and surmounted by a restored gable. The outer order is broken only by the abaci and is enriched on the jambs by cheveron ornament, but the three inner orders are supported by detached shafts with carved capitals, chamfered abaci enriched with running foliage, and moulded bases; the tympanum is plain. Below the original window in the eastern bay is a restored two-light window of the 14th century, the internal jambs and mullion of which are rebated for shutters in the manner of a low-side window. The iron staples for the shutters remain. The south wall, which was rebuilt in 1510, opens into the south aisle by an arcade of four bays. The arches are four-centred and of two chamfered orders, and the columns are octagonal with concave sides, and moulded capitals and bases. The respond on the west repeats the columns, but the eastern arch dies on to the face of the wall. Some 12th-century carved stones, probably removed from the original wall, are built into the face of the north wall opposite. Over the arcade are four clearstory windows, one of two ogeeheaded lights under a square head, over each column, and a single square-headed light, evidently designed to give light to a rood-loft, at the east end of the wall. The nave has an open-timber trussed rafter roof of the 14th century, strengthened by three large cambered tie-beams, which were probably added when the south wall was rebuilt.
In the south wall of the aisle are three two-light windows. The two eastern are of the 16th century with restored tracery and have two-centred heads; the other, a restored 14th-century window with modern tracery, was probably taken from the original south wall of the nave. To the east of this is a 16th-century doorway with a four-centred head, and in the west wall is a three-light window of the same date with restored tracery. The roofs over the south chapel and aisle are modern.
The west tower is substantially built, its walls being 5 ft. 6 in. thick, and rises from a bold plinth in three stages divided by string-courses and crowned by a moulded cornice and embattled parapet. Diagonal buttresses at the angles ascend in weathered stages to the cornice, and there is a turret stairway at the north-east angle. The tower arch is of two orders, the inner order being carried by flat semi-octagonal responds with concave sides and moulded capitals and bases. The outer order of the arch is moulded with a wide casement, while the inner order follows the concave-sided, semi-octagonal plan of the responds supporting it. To the north of the arch is a blocked doorway to the turret stairway. In the west wall of the ground stage is a large window of four uncusped lights with tracery under a pointed head, the mullions of which have been renewed. The intermediate stage is lighted by windows of two cinquefoiled lights, and the bell chamber by windows of four trefoiled lights with tracery under four-centred heads.
The stone font dates from the 12th century, and has a circular bowl, the surface of which is enriched by formal foliated and strap ornament in low relief. The stem is composed of a central and four engaged shafts with scalloped capitals and moulded bases.
There is a monumental stone slab against the south wall of the south chapel, on which is incised in outline the figure of a vested priest with rude canopy work and an inscription now in part illegible. This slab was formerly in the chancel, and Nash gives the full inscription as follows: 'Hic jacet Dominus Ricardus Smith, quondam rector hujus ecclesiae, qui obiit 24 die mensis Aprilis 1554. Cujus animae propitietur Deus. Amen.' At the north-west of the chapel is a rectangular table tomb with a flat top slab and moulded base. Round its sides are six quatrefoils inclosing shields, the charges on which are now indecipherable, though some traces of colour remain, and on the top slab is the incised outline of a canopy. The inscription, which has disappeared, is given by Nash as follows: 'Here lieth Thomas Coningsby, esq., who deceased A.D. 1498, father to Sir Humphrey Coningsby, knt. and one of the justices of the king'sbench, who built this isle and steeple of the church, A.D. 1510, at his own charges. He died at Aldnam, in the county of Hertford, 1551, and is intombed in that church. Of this Sir Humphrey was descended Sir Thomas Coningsby of Hampton-court, in Herefordshire, who caused this monument to be renewed, A.D. 1589, and now is re-edified by his son Fitzwilliam Coningsby, esquire, A.D. 1637.' He also gives the shields as those of Coningsby and its alliances. On the south wall of the chapel is a mural monument to George Corbin of Aston, who died in 1742, and on the south wall of the south aisle is a monument with shield of arms and Latin inscription to Mary Walls, daughter of George Karver of Butthouse in King's Pyon, Herefordshire, who died in 1707. There is an ancient oak chest in the church, which dates probably from the 13th century, and is composed of a single rectangular block, bound with iron straps and studded with nails; the central portion only of the log is dug out, and this is fitted with three locks and has a slit in the cover for coins. The present hinges are of a later date.
The tower contains a ring of six bells: the treble, the second and the fourth were recast by W. Blews & Sons of Birmingham in 1867, and the fifth is by Mears of London, 1853; the third is inscribed 'Fear God Honour The King 1738,' but the date is reversed in the casting; and the tenor (same date as last) 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.'
The communion plate consists of a cup of 1732 inscribed 'Ex dono Edwardi Boylstone,' a flagon of 1740, a large salver of 1728, and a plated paten.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1548 to 1641 with fragmentary entries for 1653 and 1654; (ii) all entries 1678 to 1721; (iii) all entries 1721 to 1754 and baptisms and burials to 1766; (iv) marriages 1754 to 1812; (v) baptisms and burials 1766 to 1802; and (vi) baptisms and burials 1802 to 1812.
The chapel of ST. GILES at Heightington is a small rectangular stone building of the early 13th century, measuring internally about 45 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 8 in. A square bell-turret, probably of the 17th century, projects from the west face, and there is an 18th-century brick south porch.
The walls are of uncoursed rubble with 17thcentury and modern brick quoins, and are all plastered internally. The east window is a modern single light. In the north wall, near the east end, is an early 13thcentury lancet, and to the west of this are two square windows with 18th-century brick jambs and wood frames. In the south wall are two windows, each of three ogee-headed lights under a square head; these are very rough, but probably date from the 14th century. Between them is a lancet coated externally with cement, so that its date cannot be ascertained. Two old principals of the trussed roof, probably of the 14th century, remain, and the beam of the third has been lowered to support a west gallery. The small oak altar with turned legs is of the 17th century, and some oak carving of the 16th and 17th centuries is worked into the reredos. The west gallery, which was probably erected in the 17th century, has been modernized, but retains the original oak newel stairs and some 17th-century panelling. The turret contains one bell by Richard Sanders, 1736.
There was a priest, and possibly also a church, at Alton in 1086, (fn. 154) and Ralph de Toeni when granting the manor of Alton to the Abbot of St. Evroul gave it 'with its church.' (fn. 155) Mainard, Abbot of St. Evroul, when quoting this charter in 1292 in defence of his claim to Alton Woods, stated that it was a grant of 'Auvynton cum ecclesia de Hac,' (fn. 156) which seems to show that the church of Alton is identical with the present church of Rock, and not, as supposed by Habington (fn. 157) and others, a separate structure since removed. The church of Alton is not referred to after Ralph de Toeni's grant, and the church was known as that of Rock (del Ak) in 1223–4, when Henry de Ribbesford challenged the abbot's right in it. (fn. 158) Though Henry gave up his claim in 1223–4, he still seems to have been hindering the prior's right of presentation in 1302. (fn. 159) The advowson then descended with Alton Manor, the presentations being made either by the Abbot of St. Evroul or the Prior of Ware, except when the advowson was in the king's hands by reason of war with France. (fn. 160) It passed in 1415 to the priory of Sheen and was granted with the manor of Rock and Snead to Richard Andrewes and George Lisle in 1544. (fn. 161) The presentation was made in 1560 by Thomas Green, who was holding the advowson for one turn only by grant of the Prior of Sheen before the suppression of that house. (fn. 162) Thomas, however, presented again in 1565, (fn. 163) and after this time confusion seems to have arisen as to the true patron. The advowson was apparently claimed both by the lords of Rock and the lords of Alton. According to the deeds relating to Rock Manor it descended with Rock and Snead from the grant of 1544 until 1675, (fn. 164) but it is also included in conveyances of Alton Manor from 1559 until 1625. (fn. 165) Unfortunately the names of those who actually made the presentation are not recorded between 1565 and 1672, with the exception of one case, when Anthony Croft presented Edward Partington in 1648. (fn. 166) Anthony was not the owner of either Rock or Alton, but was evidently acting as a trustee for John Newce, lord of Rock, who had died in 1641, for in the survey of the living taken in 1655 it was returned that Edward Partington, then incumbent, had been presented 'by the right and title of John Newce, late lord of the manor of Rock.' (fn. 167) There was evidently at that time some doubt as to the true patron, for the jury returned that the patrons at that time 'as wee conseave' were Edward Partington and Charles Cornwallis, who had married the daughters of John Newce. (fn. 168) The lords of Alton do not seem to have claimed the advowson after this date, and it remained with the Cornwallis family until 1675, when Charles Cornwallis and Richard Chase sold it to Sares Boyleston. (fn. 169) John Meysey of Shakenhurst married Anne daughter of Sares Boyleston and the advowson thus passed to the owners of Shakenhurst, (fn. 170) with which manor it descended to Anna Maria Meysey Wigley. (fn. 171) She seems to have given it to her younger son Charles, (fn. 172) on whose death without issue in 1830 it passed to his sister, Anna Maria wife of John Michael Severne. (fn. 173) The advowson remained with the Severnes until 1861–2, when it passed to J. H. James of Kingswood, co. Hereford, (fn. 174) who held it until 1870, when it was sold to Mrs. Reiss. (fn. 175) It was purchased of the Rev. Frederick Augustus Reiss in 1914 by Mr. Walker. (fn. 176)
The chaplain of Heightington (Huythindone) is mentioned in 1325. (fn. 177) In 1655 the curate in charge was allowed by the rector of Rock all the tithes belonging to the hamlet to the value of £30. (fn. 178)
In 1510 (fn. 179) Sir Humphrey Coningsby founded the chantry of our Blessed Lady and St. George in the chapel which he had lately built in the church of Rock, and endowed it with lands for one priest to say mass and for a free grammar school. (fn. 180) The incumbents continued to carry on the school until the Dissolution, but the endowment was granted in 1550 to John Bellowe and William Fuller. (fn. 181) The priest's house and land were in 1573–4 granted to John and William Mershe, (fn. 182) and in 1587–8 to Edward Wymarke and others. (fn. 183)
Land from which 10s. yearly was paid for obits and 3s. 4d. to the poor came to the Crown at the suppression of the chantries. (fn. 184) A cottage and parcel of land called Bullefant's given to superstitious uses were in 1562–3 granted to Cecily Pickerell, widow. (fn. 185) A messuage given for obits was granted in 1585–6 to Christopher Hatton. (fn. 186)
The school (formerly the grammar school) is endowed with a sum of £176 13s. 10d. consols, with the official trustees, representing the redemption of an annuity of £5 2s. 4d. settled upon the school by Edward VI. The annual dividends, amounting to £4 8s. 4d., are applicable in exhibitions to the most proficient and meritorious scholars.
The official trustees also hold a sum of £110 3s. 10d. consols derived under the will of John Nott, proved in the P.C.C., 21 April 1832, the annual dividends, amounting to £2 15s., being applicable in books, or in any other way beneficial to the Church of England day school.
The almshouses erected and endowed by the Rev. George Walls, D.D., by indentures of lease and release, dated respectively 27 and 28 August 1724, for the support and maintenance of six poor distressed widows, are regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners of 24 November 1891, as varied by a scheme of 30 June 1891. The endowment consists of a rent-charge of £20 issuing out of a farm called Upper Aston, in the parish of Knighton. A sum of £100 consols is in course of accumulation by the official trustees as a repair fund.
In 1732—as stated on the church table—Richard Nott gave to the poor decayed labourers and widows of Linden 20s., to be paid on every Christmas Day for ever, charged upon lands called Bellybands.
Mary Mence by her will, date unknown, left £55 for the poor, now represented by £59 18s. 4d. consols with the official trustees, producing £19s. 8d. yearly, which is applicable under a scheme of 10 May 1867 for the general benefit of the poor in one or more of the modes therein specified.
In 1832 William Green by his will, proved in the P.C.C., 8 May, left a sum of money, now represented by £235 2s. 4d. consols with the official trustees, the annual dividends, amounting to £5 17s. 4d., to be applied for the benefit of the school at Rock Cross, erected by the Rev. David Davies.
Heightington.— John Hinchliff, by deed 23 June 1902, gave £20, one-half of the income to be applied in keeping in good repair the boundary fence and paths of the graveyard and the other half for providing prizes and rewards for the encouragement and improvement of singing amongst the choir of the chapel. The gift was invested in £21 6s. 9d. consols with the official trustees, producing 10s. 8d. yearly.