The state of the church and vicaridge of Kenilworth in the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry and in the County of Warwick from the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign 1558 to this present year 1716.
The case of Kenilworth Church as it was drawd up by Will.Best vicar Anno.Dom. 1716. The manor of Kenilworth being in the glorious Crown Queen Elizabeth of ever glorious memory granted the Castle Abbey Rectory as Impropriate Tythes writed all the appertenances belonging to the said manor to Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester and to his assigns for ever so yet the fee simple and behoof was in him and he had an absolute power to settle and dispose of it as he saw good.
In the 12th of the said Queen about the year 1570 the said Earl entered into competition with the inhabitants of the parish of Kenilworth for their Right of Commons in those woods parks and chases which He then developed for his own use and pleasures and in lieu thereof gave them one hundred acres of ground called Priors Field and the liberty and privelidge to enclose about 200 Acres of ground to make then two common fields for the village now called Priors Field and Furzons Field. And at the same time endowed the vlcaridge with the great as well as with the small tythes of all the free holders and copy holders estates being the old common fields and enclosures within the said manor.
In his time the said Earl repaired and beautified the chancel belonging to the parish church. Took down the roof which was then an high roof and made it flat covering it over with lead and raised battlements round it and put up the crests of his Coat of Arms the Bear and Ragged Staff at the end of the said chancel which remains to this time and wanscothed the inside of the chancel round with good oak which likewise still remains.
The said Earl likewise gave a silver chalice with a cover, gilt with gold, for the Holy Communion whereon is engraved his crest the Bear and Ragged Staff which is still preserved safe.
What this noble Earle allowed the vicar out of his own estate is not certain but the vicaridge was then so considerable that the incumbent kept a curate. First one Richard Kelly who resided upon the place Anno.Dom. 1573 and then Timothy Delanie 1603 as appears by ye church reg.
The said Earl dyed the 4th. of Sept.1588.
Earl Robert Dudley his illigitamate son (as was pretended) succeeded him in the manor of Kenilworth and hath a daughter born in Kenilworth Castle baptized duchess June 5th.1600 as appears by the church register.
The said Earl Robert met with a great deal of trouble about proving his legitimacy and at last left the kingdom and went into Germany, having as it was previously contracted for the manor of Kenilworth with Prince Henry eldest son to K. James I.
But soon after the said Earl Robert was outlawed and a Bill of Attainder passed against him. Then the manor of Kenilworth reverted to the Crown. In the year 1617 King James I came to Kenilworth to view the said manor.
In the year 1619 Prince Henry came to Kenilworth.
In the year 1621 his highness came again to Kenilworth.
About this time the Lord Cary after Earl of Monmouth had land or lands granted him from The Crown of the manor of Kenilworth and in the year 1623 he gave consent to the inhabitants of Kenilworth to plow the meadows and common fields a ??????? fine caring arose betwixt him and the inhabitants about the same. In the year 1624 the Prince came a 3rd. time to Kenilworth. - In this year the Right Honr. Alice Duchess Dudley wife of the said Earl Robert Dudley according to the trust in her imposed by Aluzia her daughter gave settled and confirmed by letters patent under the Great Seal of England bearing date 14th day of September 1624 certain lands in Mancetter in the County of Warwick at the yearly rent of twenty pounds to John Best then vicar of Kenilworth and to his successors the vicars of Kenilworth for ever; which said lands according to ye value are enjoyed by the present vicar. - This Augmentation the said John Best vicar gave to a curate Mr. Walker and after him Mr. Springson ( ? ) to assign himself and keep the great and small tythes belonging to the vicaridge of Kenilworth (as settled by Robert Earl of Leicester before mentioned) in his own hand and Thomas Laplworth John Burden were his servants or tything men. In the said John Bests time one Thomas Law and free holder in the parish of Kenilworth having lands in three parcels in Priory Fields (settled upon him and his heirs for ever, by the said Robert Earl of Leicester, in lieu of former lands the said Thomas Law held in the Chase) refused to pay tythe corn of the three parcels of land to the said John Best vicar and thereupon the said vicar fined him and by right of Law recovered Tythe corn of him for yet land and the same has paid tythes ever since.
The vicaridge in the said John Bests time as declared by his two said servants was valued at eighty pounds per annum besides the Augmentation of twenty pounds of Mancetter.
In the year 1638 the said Alice Duchess Dudley gave to the church of Kenilworth for the use of the Blessed servant only one large gilt flagon and gilt bread board with a cover. One gilt chalice with cover valued at threescore pounds all which said plate is preserved safe for the said uses.
In the year 1639 Lord Cary Earl of Monmouth came to Kenilworth.
In the year 1640 the Lord Bishop of Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry visited Kenilworth Church and held his council there.
In the year 1642 King Charles I came to Kenilworth.
In the year 1643 John Best vicar died and was burled September 8th. 1643.
In the year 1644 The Kings Army came to Kenilworth and lodged in the church.
In the year 1644 is recorded a gift of the Countess of Monmouth to the church of Kenilworth for the wine at the service a large high silver chalice with a cover gilt with gold - which is preserved safe for that use.
So that the communion table in the chancel of the Parish Church of Kenilworth is adorned each communion day with plate to the value of fourscore or a hundred pounds.
In the year 1645 Cromwell's army visited Kenilworth and lodged in the church.
In the year 1648 Jan.30 that Good King of our glorious memory was barbarously murdered - soon after the Usurper Cromwell gave the manor of Kenilworth to his officers belonging to his army viz. Colonel Hawksworth Major ????? Capt. Phipps Capt. Ayres Capt. Smith Capt. Matthews Hope Palmer Clark and Coles - These now lords of the manor tyranlze and govern the parish as they might. They pull down and demolish the castle, cut down the Kings Woods, destroy his parks and chases and divide the lands into farms amongst themselves and build houses for themselves to dwell in. Hawksworth seals himself in the Gate House of the Castle and drains the famous pools consisting of several hundred acres of ground. Hope and Palmer enclose a fourth part of the commons called the Kings Woods from the inhabitants and take it as their own free of rents.
In the year 1657 these silly lords with some of the inhabitants of the parish took a ??? ??? in an estimation of all the lands within the liberty of the said manor and in the following year 1658 June 14th they in great pomp and ceremony took their perambulations and their procession round the borders of the parish.
But what is very remarkable during the 20 years rebellion and usurpation, these repacious vermin never once seized on the noble plate belonging to the communion table nor ever attempted to ingross themselves or alienate the tythes from the church. But from time to time set up ministers and allowed them to have and enjoy all the tythes the said John Best vicar dyed possessed of according to the endowment of the said Rob. Earle of Leicester. The names of these ministers were Daniel Bourn, Edward Barron, WiIl. Morice, Anthony Woodhlll and John Maddocks. And for the proof of this, there is a lease extant under the hand of the said Anth. Woodhlll (who lived 12 years amongst them as their minister) bearing date the 3rd. of July 1656 wherein the said Anth. Woodhill grants to Robert Best and Joseph Drury all the tythes whatsoever yearly coming, rendering and growing within the township parish and lands of Kenilworth for and under the yearly rent of four and thirty pounds.
In the year 1660 May 29th. King Charles the 2nd. was restored to his crown and came to enjoy his own dominions, and among other lands the manor of Kenilworth - Then these lord soldiers soon scampered away and the daughters of the said Lord Cary Earle of Monmouth intercede and prevail to hold the said manor as their father did before them by lease or leases from the Crown and with other fines they alledge they gave then £300 for the Rectory and great tythes in ??? now the Rectory is the Abbey, there being now others which together with the Castle was the five estates of the said Robert Earl of Leicester.
As to the great tythes of corn, there were none paid in the whole parish but yet the small part which the vicar received without any interruption till this time according to the endowment of the said Robert El. of Leicester and his aforesaid enclosures of the commons. And altho the manor of Kenilworth reverted to the Crown upon the Attainder of El. Robert Dudley the son yet the tythes settled upon the vicaridge by the Earl of Leicester the father, in his lifetime, can not revert to the Crown, so yet the Attainder of the son should null the act of the father and therefore the Crown itself had no powers to sell or alienate those tythes, so long after, from the vicaridge to the Rectory nor can it be presumed so to do for those reasons because this was never insisted upon when the Lord Cary Earl of Monmouth took his lease of the manor of Kenilworth soon after the Attainder of Earl Robert from the Crown nor ever pretended to these great tythes during his time tho his grant doubtless was on as several and inherited terms as his daughters could have. 2ndly these great tythes did not then belong to the Rectory, yet is the Abbey, because the soldiers (as also all the lands of the manor as any) who were for engrossing all they could and had strong notions of tythes and no love for the church which if there had been the least pretence, would greedily have swallowed up these tythes as impropriate, but they never laid any claim to them. 3rdly this fine of £300 for the Rectory could not be supposed to be for these great tythes the vicar hitherto enjoyed because it was not more than a valuable consideration for the great tythes, which then became due to the Rectory for other lands in the parish then converted into village for whereas there was very little corn found in the parish of Kenilworth till those soldiers came and divided it into farms, then as ever since there has been some thousands of acres sowed the tythe whereof would yearly amount to a great value and must belong to the Rectory - now these farms falling to the daughters in this manner as the soldiers left them converted into village, whereas they were nothing but woods chase and parks in their fathers the Earl of Monmouth's time and they receiving these near £2000 per anno. for that probably he did not receive once; the £300 fine was not given for the Rectory otherwise the Rectory must have commanded the tythes of the Estate if any person had purchased them but by virtue of their purchasing the Rectory, they sold leases of the said farms to all their tenants tythe free not only of great Rectorial but likewise of small vicorial tythes; whereby they advance the yearly rent of these farms and the whole estate is become worth £2000 per anno. but add not one farthing to the vicar.
And yet this will not suffice but these ladys by virtue of this £300 fine will have from the vicar make him renounce his title to that portion of the great tythes (valued as rented but at sixteen pounds a year) by taking a lease from them of these tythes which his predecessors enjoyed as their own right, valued as rented but at sixteen pounds a year. Accordingly by them it has been transacted.
In the year 1664 James Chapman was presented by the Lord Chanc. Hyde to the vlcaridge of Kenilworth and Instituted into same by the Lord Bishop Hackett both which Nobel Lords did assure him (as he declared under his hand) that the vicaridge was endowed with these great tythes and yet, if these ladys of the manor did oppose him he should contest it with them. The said James Chapman applied himself to the said Alice Dutchess Dudley wife of the said Robert then living and she told him (as he has declared as before) she did believe these tythes did belong to him as vicar.
But yet however the ladys of the manor did very ill thus to deal by the church yet whereas there had so to be given 20 a year as an Augmentation, to it, they gladly offer to take as much from it thereby in offset destroy her charity and frustrate her good design. But after all the application made by the said James Chapman to the said Ladys of the manor they insist upon it and oblige him to take a lease (the paper of which is still] to hand) from them of the said tythee, paying six pounds yearly out of them to the poor of the parish as they should direct. But to make amends the said Lady Mary Cary (now countess Dowager of Denbigh the only surviving daughter of Henry Earl of Monmouth) then living of the Gate House of the said Castle took the said James Chapman to be her chaplin and tutor to the Rt.Hon.Bazill Fielding now the present Earl of Denbigh and allowed him £20 a year salary and gave him besides a copyhold estate in Kenilworth for the lives of his children.
In this manner the church continued till the year 1679 and then James Chapman left Kenilworth and Eustace Craddock succeeded him as vicar. He likewise held the said tythes as James Chapman did before him paying six pounds yearly to the poor. Robert Edrnonds succeeded hln in the year 1684. He likewise held the tythes in the yearly same manner the ladys stopping six pounds out of the rent they were then set for by the said Robt.Edmonds to give to the poor whereas the whole rent of all the tythes together both great and small (for they were never yet separated) was then but £29 a year as appears by the lease of the said Robert Edmonds granted by him to Joseph Drury and Joseph Mallory for three years bearing date March 15th 1687 which said lease is yet extant. And this £29 together with the Augmentation of the Duthchess Dudley 20 was all this poor man had in the world to maintain himself a wife and 3 children and to repair a ruinary vicars house. But out of this the Ladys of the manor will have six pounds to be charitable to the poor.
In the year 1689 the said Rob.Edmonds dyed and was buryed August the 17th.
James Dingly succeeded him as vicar he stayed but a little time at Kenilworth but with a great deal of difficulty he got his proportion of the tythes from the Ladye according to his immediate predecessor had done and left Kenilworth ado: 9th.1690. Then the present vicar Will.Best succeeded him, being recommended by the Rt.Hon.Lawrence EarI of Rochester (of our glorious memory) to the Rt. Hon. John ??? , once of the Lords Commissioners for the Broad Seal for the presentation to the vicaridge of Kenilworth accordingly it was granted him and he was instituted by the Lord Bishop Wood Bishop of the Diocese, had letters mandatory for induction from the Reverand Doctor Addison Dean of Lichfield and Archdeacon of Coventry and was inducted by the Reverand Doctor Banks afterwards Dean of Lichfield. At the said Will. Bests first coming to the church of Kenilworth the chancel of the said church was very much out of repair ???? yet the roof was forced to be taken wholely down and now laid, the charge whereof came to about fourscore pounds which sum did belong to the Ladys of the manor to discharge as having a grant of the Rectory but upon this these Ladys demurr and they will not pay anything of it out of their own estate (as the Earle of Leicester had done before out of his) but that portion of great tythes the vicar enjoyed should go to pay the said sum. This the present vicar Wll.Best thought very hard yet such an expense should be thrown upon him at his first coming and he made to suffer for former neglects. But they the said Ladys resolved it should be and accordingly ordered their steward Mr.Henry Gough to seize upon the said great tythes, to seperate then from the small tythes (whilst were never before divided) and to leave them to the vicar to live upon valued at about ten pounds a year and to sell the great tythes to Joseph Drury an old olivarian soldier for sixteen pounds a year and therewith to pay the said sum of fourscore pounds for the repairs of the chancell as the rent of the said portion of great tythes should become due. But withall to have the tythes barn consisting of three bays of building 24 feet high to the vicar it being then in so ruinous a condition yet it was ready to fall but hitherto the tythes had alwavs been put into it and if the tythes did belong to the Ladys the tythe barn must too but the Ladys would not meddle with it because it was so rulnary and did indeed joyn to the vicaridge house, But He the vicar then had no manner of use for it having nothing to put in it the tythes being taken away, yet of dilapidation the vicar was forced to repair it at his own cost and charges which cost him about six pounds to put it in tolerable repair and is still a constant expence to him. So yet the Ladys would have done him a kindness if they had took yet likewise.
But to prevent this Alienation of the said portion of great tythes wholly from the vicar the said Wm.Best offered to pay down all the said charge of the chancell, if he might be allowed to enjoy the said tythes as his predecessors had done. But this would not be granted. Then he petitioned yet he might rent the said tythes and offered to give £20 per annum for them, rather than they should fall into the hands of such a dissentor from the church. But the Lady objected she would not be put to such a reason then the vicar offered to pay her Ladyship for land rent; but all was rejected that portion of the great tythes she would have and she would pay herself as she thought good out of them for the said repairs. As to the small priory tythes she was pleased to declare she did not pretend to any right to them and yet the vicar might take them as he saw good, but lf he would let the same man hold them yet rented her great tythes, as she called them, she would allow the vicar ten pounds a year for his small tythes. This the vicar thought them he had no reason to consent to, but would take them as kind himself. But when he came to demand of her Ladyships tenants tythe of wool lamb and flax etc. they declared they had taken their farms free from paying any manner of tythes neither would they pay any. Tis true there was never before any small tythes demanded from these farms because the vicars always took and received that portion of great tythes of the old common fields and enclosures belonging to the freeholders and copyholders in lieu of small tythes of all lands which were the new enclosures and the proper estates of the manor. But if these great tythes be subtracted from the vicar there is no reason why these farms should not pay small tythes to hlm the church being a vicaridge and at least entitled to all small tythes. This their ladyships steward Mr. Gough represented to them and told them, as the Duchess yet he did believe, if their ladyship took away these great tythes, they ought to let the vicar receive those small tythes of these farms. For either ye portion of the great tythes was in lieu of all manner of small tythes accruing from thence or else there was nothing paid towards the support of the established minister in yet great parish out of an estate of £2000 per annum. greatest part of which never did belong to the Abbey nor was from thence by any money paid to the vicar. And if sixteen pounds per annum in great tythes was reckoned by as a valuable consideration for the vicars small tythes before these enclosures, in Earl of Leicester's and in the Earle of Monmouth's time it might be thought much less so now as the estate is advanced to such a yearly value.
And whereas there are but few instances or none to be given whereupon enclosing, the revenues of the church are not advanced to the incumbents, there is no reason they should be so much less and have but ought at worst to remain the same as they did before.
But what is very unaccountable, these great tythes of corn, which John Best vicar recovered of his own cost and charges of Thomas Low for his three pieces of ground in Priors Fields before mentioned which without doubt he had a right to, or he could not have received them, the Lady of the manor taking away these very tythes from the present vicar and sets them with the other at the yearly rent of sixteen pounds. Under these pressures the vicar the said Wm. Best could never have supported and maintained himself and family had it not been for the bounty and charitable annual allowance of his most noble very good Lord the Rt. Honourable Lawrence Earl of Rochester which is as generously and charitably continued by the present Lordsp. the Rt. Hon. Henry Earl of Rochester his son for whom and all his noble family, the said vicar as is duty bound doth pray etc.. He likewise applyed himself to his Rt. Revd. Diocesan, now the present Lord Bishop of Worcester afterwards he was recommended by Baron Lochmore to councillor Dodd of the Temple the late Lord Chiefe Baron of the Exchequer and he was pleased to give it the vicar under his hand in these words: The vicar (prima facia) is intitled to the small tythes, yet being the usual lndowment as the receipt of the same small tythes in the parish is an evidence of his right to the rest but upon the case it seems to me yet the vicar hath a right to yet portion of great tythes which his predecessors used to receive and the receipt will be a good evidence of the Endowment and of his right, for in all cases usage will explain the Endowment and preserve the Rlght of the Church.Sam Dodd.
Upon this the vicar was advised and encouraged to pursue his Bill in the Exchequer against two of her Ladyships tenants for small tythes and against two of the other parishioners for yet portion of great tythes yet either He might have the one or the other But tho her Ladyship had declared yet she did not pretend to any right of the small tythes yet then she defended her tenants against the vicar and carryed on the whole suit at her own costs and charges. But withall was pleased to declare yet as soon as she was reimbursed for the repairs of the chancel she would allow the present vicar out of the great tythes as she had don his predecessors.
Upon this the vicar (considering he had too great a person to contend with and seeing the extravagances and corruptions of the tenants answers to his Bill and withall having a numerous family of his own to provide for and depending upon her Ladyships declaration of her favours in a short time) let the suit drop which he had no sooner done but her Honour came upon him for cost and forced him to pay it. And withall contrary to the plain custom of the manor and known rights and principles of the copy holders, the vicar having bought of Samuel Watson one life in a copyhold estate and offering to fill up the said copy at the next court with the lives of three of his own children paying her Ladyship down her full demands for a fine in yet case yet she would not suffer him to renew at all but utterly deprived his children of yet copy to the manifest violation of their rights and the great loss and damages they paid thereby. So far she was pleased then to carry her resentments and for almost 12 years together continued her displeasure not only in not allowing the vicar anything of yet portion of great tythes or anything for small tythes out of her estate but likewise hindered him aIl she could to provide for his family, tho he had then a wife and eight children to take care of. But in the year 1704 August 5th. the said Lady of the Manor Mary Countess Dowager of Denbigh was pleased to order her steward to pay to the said vicar Wm. Best twenty pounds towards putting one of his children on Apprentice and likewise gave him then five pounds and so has continued to do so five pounds every halfe year out of yet portion of great tythes to this present year 1716.
(These are plain matters of fact and cannot be denyed by her Ladyship or her stewards.)