The History of Grafton Flyford
Grafton Flyford has an area of 1,680 acres, of which 372 are arable land, 1,040 permanent grass, and 162 woods and plantations. It is on the Lower Lias formation, and the chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, beans and fruit. In the southeast are Grafton Woods, said to be the finest cover for foxes in the county. The south of the parish, on the bank of the Piddle Brook, is at about 100 ft. above the ordnance datum. To the north the land rises to about 200 ft.
Libbery is a hamlet at the south-western end of the parish. Near it is Ennick Ford on a stream which runs into Piddle Brook.
An Inclosure Act was passed in 1779, the award being dated 15 January 1780.
Grafton Flyford, like Flyford Flavell (q.v.), must have formed part of the earliest endowments of the monastery of Pershore, as five manses here are said to have been restored to that church by King Edgar in 972. They were given by Edward the Confessor to Westminster Abbey and Grafton is entered in 1086 among the manors belonging to the abbot's manor of Pershore, being held as 2 hides less 1 virgate by the sheriff Urse. It was held of the abbey of Westminster, owing suit to the court of Binholme in Pershore, until the 15th century.
Urse had succeeded at Grafton, Alfwine, a free man, and his estate passed with his other lands to the Beauchamps of Elmley Castle, the manor being held of them until it was acquired in fee by Thomas Earl of Warwick in 1350–1. The manor still formed part of the barony of Elmley Castle in 1505.
Urse was holding Grafton in demesne in 1086, but the fact that it was called Grafton Ebrandi in the reign of Stephen suggests that the Beauchamps then had a sub-tenant there who had given the manor the distinguishing name. In 1231 Richard de Amberley was sued by Richard, Abbot of Westminster, for customs in Grafton which he apparently owed the abbot, and Richard Amberley presented in 1268 to Grafton Church. Richard seems to have been succeeded by a daughter Parnel, who married Edmund de Grafton. Edmund presented to the church in 1280, and was holding the manor in 1297–8. Parnel's son John de Grafton was dealing with rent in Grafton Flyford in 1284–5. From this time this manor and that of Grafton near Bromsgrove apparently followed the same descent, both being sold in 1350–1 by Roger son of John de Grafton to Thomas Beauchamp Earl of Warwick. Thomas obtained a grant of free warren in the manor in 1352. His son Thomas forfeited all his estates in 1396, and this manor was granted in 1397 to Thomas le Despencer Earl of Gloucester and his wife Constance. It was, however, restored to Thomas Earl of Warwick shortly afterwards, and descended with Elmley Castle until the death of Henry Duke of Warwick in 1446. Then, instead of passing with the rest of the estates of the earldom, it, as one of the manors which Richard Earl of Warwick had settled upon his daughters, passed to the second daughter, Eleanor wife of Thomas Lord Ros, and afterwards of Edmund Beaufort, Earl, later Duke, of Somerset, and she died seised of it on 4 March 1467. In an inquisition taken 21 June 1506 it was stated that her heir was Edward, Lord Ros, son of her son Thomas, and that the Earl of Northumberland and others had taken the profits since her death, presumably as her feoffees, the presentation to the church being made in 1479 by the feoffees of the duchess, and in 1503 by Edward Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Hereford, Stafford and Northampton, Northumberland's son-in-law. The taking of this inquisition was followed on 27 July 1509 by a grant to Joan Lady Howth, widow of Richard Fry, and daughter of the late duchess, of the manor, then in the king's hands by reason of the duchess's death. The grant was made for life, with reversion to the king, and, after the Lady Joan's death on 11 August 1518, the manor was on 18 October 1518 granted to Sir William Tyler for life. Upon his death it was granted for life to Walter Walshe, one of the grooms of the privy chamber, on 20 October 1527, the patent being surrendered and a fresh grant in tail made to him and Elizabeth his wife on 1 July 1531. In 1538 Thomas Evance wrote to Cromwell, 'Walter Walshe, sheriff of Worcester, is at this hour either dead or past recovery. The office would be meet for your nephew Mr. Richard Crumwell. . . . He has the lordship of Grafton Flevorde for life.' This final statement was clearly incorrect, and the manor was held until her death by the widow of Walter Walshe, who afterwards married Sir Philip Hoby. It was conveyed to her son Walter Walshe by Henry Earl of Rutland in 1557. In 1582 it was granted to Walter Walshe's son William by Richard Shelley and Dorothy his wife, probably William's mother and her second husband. William Walshe, who was knighted in 1603, died on 30 April 1622 without issue male, and his heir was William son of his deceased younger brother Walter. William sold the manor in 1632–3 to Thomas Lord Coventry, lord keeper of the Great Seal. It has since descended with Croome D'Abitôt, and now belongs to George William Earl of Coventry.
The manor of Hill Court or Hull Court (Hulle, xiv cent.; Hulle Place, Hylles Court, xvi cent.) seems to have been originally held under the Beauchamps, having perhaps formed part of the manor of Grafton Flyford in early times. The estate, sometimes called the manor of Hill Court in Woodhousend, is perhaps to be identified with 2 bovates of land in Wodehus and a bovate in la Hull, and a bovate in Uvertorp, formerly held by Wulmer Wodehus, which King John granted in 1203–4 to John Pincerne at a fee farm of a mark of silver. The estate had passed before 1316 to Edmund de Grafton, lord of Grafton Flyford, who was then holding a third of a fee in Hill worth yearly 100s. It evidently passed with Grafton Flyford to the Beauchamps of Elmley, Thomas Earl of Warwick dying seised of it in 1401. (fn. 48) It then followed the descent of Elmley Castle, being conveyed by Anne Countess of Warwick to Henry VII in 1487. It was, however, in 1492 said to be in the king's hands on account of the minority of Edward Earl of Warwick, but passed into the king's possession in 1499 on the attainder of the earl. In 1536 a carucate of land called Hill Place was included in the lands sometime belonging to the earldom of Warwick assured to the king by Act of Parliament. In June 1545 the manor was granted in fee to John Hall of Ripple and Henry Sheldon of Abberton, Hall acting apparently as a trustee, for Henry Sheldon died seised of it in 1558, and was succeeded by his son John, aged four. John died in the same year, when his uncle William Sheldon succeeded, and in the same year received licence to alienate the manor to Richard Gardener and John Baker. Richard and John held the manor in moieties. Richard Gardener's share passed with Parkhall in Hanbury to his granddaughters Anne and Alice. (fn. 58) In 1616–17 they with their respective husbands, James Harley and Peter Warburton, conveyed it to John Baker and Raphael Hunt. John Baker evidently sold it to Edward Waldegrave alias Fleete, who died on 26 January 1640 seised of a moiety of Hill Court, his heir being his daughter Mary wife of John Nanfan. In 1658 John Nanfan and Mary with their son Bridges conveyed their moiety to Andrew Baker, and it seems possible that the two moieties may thus have become united.
The other moiety of the manor passed on John Baker's death in 1577 to his son Francis, who obtained livery of it in 1579–80. Francis was succeeded by his son John, on whose death in 1631 the estate passed to his son Francis. He mortgaged it in 1633 to George Monnox, and afterwards conveyed it in trust to his cousin Mary Guynett, who subsequently became the wife of Henry Brownjohn. Mary afterwards refused to fulfil the trusts, and evidently took possession of the manor, which she and her husband sold in 1638 to George Townsend, attorney of the court of King's Bench. George conveyed it in 1651 to Richard Baker, merchant.
Robert Baker was in possession of the whole manor in 1687. Andrew Baker, son of Andrew Baker of Hill Court, died on 11 October 1703. Robert Baker of Hill Court was one of the commissioners for the county in 1713. In 1777 Edward Baker of Salwarpe was holding the manor, described as the manor of Woodhouse End, with the farm called Hill Court, and he then purchased from Kempe Bridges of St. Paul's, Covent Garden, the reversion on Edward's death without issue male, this reversion being held by Kempe. About 1760 there was considerable litigation between Edward Baker and his mortgagees, and later the mortgagees sold all the interest of the Bakers of Hill Court to various purchasers.
Prattinton, writing in 1812, referred to 'Baker's Isle' in the church of Grafton Flyford, and to the family pew belonging to Squire Baker of the Court in the church of Flyford Flavell.
The church of St. John Baptist consists of a chancel 26½ ft. by 15¾ ft., nave 44 ft. by 21 ft., north chapel, south porch, and west tower 11 ft. square. These measurements are all internal.
The church, with the exception of the 14th-century tower, was entirely rebuilt in 1875, but the old work appears to have been very largely re-used. The modern work is already getting into a very bad state of repair.
The chancel has a 15th-century east window of three lights with a segmental pointed head. In the north wall is a square-headed 14th-century window of two ogee trefoil-headed lights. In the south wall are two square-headed two-light windows and a priest's door, mostly modern. On this side is a single sedile with a cusped head, and near it a pointed piscina with the bowl missing. An internal string-course, largely modern, is carried round the chancel. The chancel arch is of two chamfered orders dying into the wall; the voussoirs are small and regular and are of late 13th or early 14th-century date.
In the north wall of the nave is a pointed 14thcentury arch of two chamfered orders opening into a small chapel with a single-light window on the east and west. Further west is a pointed window of the same date with two lights and a traceried head. In the south wall are two windows, each of two lights and similar to that on the north of the chancel; between them is a plain pointed door. All these features have apparently been restored and reset.
The 14th-century tower is faced with ashlar and three stages high with low diagonal buttresses to the western angles of the ground stage. The tower arch is acutely pointed and of two chamfered orders. This stage rests on a deeply moulded plinth and has a pointed 15th-century west window of three cinquefoiled lights. The second stage is lighted by loops only, but the third stage has a pointed 14th-century window of two trefoiled ogee lights in each face. The parapet is embattled, with carved gargoyles at the angles of the string and panelled and crocketed pinnacles rising above them. From within it rises a low octagonal pyramid of stone capped by a truncated pinnacle set diagonally.
The fittings include a 17th-century communion table with turned legs, a 15th-century semi-octagonal pulpit (on a modern base) having a moulded rail and traceried heads to the panels, and a modern font. In the north chapel is a broken marble monument to Roger Stonehall, who died in 1645. Under the tower are roughly designed paintings on boards of the evangelistic symbols with black letter labels, perhaps of the 16th century; here is also a painted achievement of the royal arms of Charles II inscribed 1687 C.R. In the tracery of the east window are some fragments of 15th-century glass tabernacle work and in the north chancel window are two shields, one with the arms of Mortimer and the other imperfect with those of Beauchamp. In the west window are fragments of white and yellow 15th-century glass in the tracery.
There are five bells, all cast by John Martin in 1676: the tenor is inscribed, 'All men that here my roring sound repent before you ly in ground, M. Robert Baker 1676'; the fourth, 'We wish in heven theer souls may sing that caused us six here for to ring, Amell Doxly, Richard Haynes C.W. 1676'; the third, 'Be it known to all that doth wee see John Martin of Worcester, he made wee 1676'; the second, 'All prayse and glory be to God for ever 1676'; and the treble, 'Jesus be our good speed, God Save the King 1676.'
The plate includes a cup and cover paten, London, 1571, and a plate, London, 1679, inscribed 'Grafton Flyford.'
The registers are in one volume as follows: baptisms 1676 to 1813, burials 1676 to 1812, marriages 1678 to 1777.
The earliest reference to the church occurs in 1268, when Richard Amberley presented. The advowson has always been held with the manor.
The rectory and all glebe lands, tithes, &c., belonging to the same were on 1 October 1554 (fn. 79) leased for twenty-one years at £20 yearly by David Gyttins, parson of the parish church, to William Willettes, Richard Hyde and Henry Okeleye, who on 18 June following brought a suit against his successor, William Kymbarley, to recover the rent of the mansion-house and glebe from him and to compel him to inhabit the same.
At the Dissolution a yearly rent of 12d. out of certain lands and tenements was returned as having been given for the maintenance of certain lights. A rent of 12d. was also given for the maintenance of obits, whereof 4d. was paid to the poor. Land for anniversaries in Grafton Flyford was granted to Thomas Reve and John Herdson on 15 May 1550.
The Charity Estates include the following charities, namely:
- The benefaction of Sir John Grafton, kt., recorded on the church table put up in the year 1731, consisting of five closes, containing 18 a. or thereabouts
- The charity of Rev. Roger Stonehall, a former rector, founded by will dated 1639, consisting of 10 a. 3 r. 16 p. known as the School Closes, 3 r. 20 p. and two cottages
- Allotment under the Inclosure Act in 1813, being 4 a. of land at North Piddle
- The charity of the Rev. George Harris, a former rector, founded by will dated 1719, consisting of 7 a. 2 r. known as Bookey’s Leasow, held for the residue of a term of 2,000 years
The Charity Estates, the original endowments of which have by exchanges and inclosures undergone considerable changes, were in 1819 the subject of Chancery proceedings, whereby heavy liabilities and loss to the charities were incurred.
The charities are now administered under the provisions of a scheme of the Charity Commissioners, 13 June 1899, and by an order dated 29 January 1904 a moiety of the income of Sir John Grafton’s charity and the land known as the School Closes were constituted the Grafton and Stonehall Educational Foundation. One-fourth of the income of Sir John Grafton’s charity is applicable for the repairs of the church and the remaining fourth of the same charity, together with the income of other properties, is applicable for the benefit of the poor. In 1905-6 the income of the Charity Estates amounted to about £50, of which £20 was applied for educational purposes, £4 5s for church purposes, and the balance of the net income for the poor.
In 1721 Andrew Baker, as stated on the church table, by his will gave 20s. to the poor to be paid out of his estate in Flyford Flavell yearly, and given in bread at Easter by the minister and churchwardens.
The other benefactions for the poor also recorded on the church table, namely, William Dugard’s, Bridget Darby’s, and the charities of Mary George and Elizabeth Soley, cannot now be identified; they may have been absorbed in the Charity Estates.
The above details have been reproduced from the Victoria County History of Worcestershire, vol. 4, pages 85 – 9, published in 1924, by kind permission of the Executive Editor.
For explanatory notes relating to the above and for an extensive source of information relating to our local history, visit British History on-line website, www.british-history.ac.uk.
We are extremely grateful to the Institute of Historical Research, London University, for their kind permission to publish the above details from the Victoria County History of the County of Worcestershire.