Frankley

Historic County: Worcerstershire

St Leonard

Much of the present parish of Frankley is rural and lies beyond Birmingham City boundary. The base of a Saxon cross in the churchyard is evidence of Christianity here perhaps as early as 700 AD. The fabric of this small country church dates largely from the 15th century and was restored at the end of the 19th. 

Image of St Leonard's, Frankley viewed from the south-west by Lambert on Geograph SO9980 licensed for reuse under Creative Commons licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image of St Leonard's, Frankley viewed from the south-west by Lambert on Geograph SO9980 licensed for reuse under Creative Commons licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

St Leonard's Church website

The church's own website  - http://www.frankleychurch.co.uk/.

See also A Church near You - http://www.achurchnearyou.com/frankley-st-leonard/.

 

You might also be interested in - A History of Birmingham Places & Placenames . . . from A to Y Birmingham - http://billdargue.jimdo.com/placenames-gazetteer-a-to-y/places-f/frankley/.

 

Press function key F5 to refresh the map.

Frankley Church drawn by D Barnes in the Gentleman’s Magazine 1813 Part II p 417 available from Google Books - http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oiM3AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.


The parish of Frankley lies 3 miles south-east of Halesowen and was a subsidiary chapelry of St John the Baptist, Halesowen parish church, probably from Saxon times. There only ever was and still is a tiny hamlet clustered around the church.

 

Perhaps the earliest surviving record of the chapel is a document, written in Latin and dated c1220, which records the grant of a rent of four shillings per annum by Simon, lord of the manor of Frankley to the church and canons of Hales to pray for the souls of his wife and his mother, Rose and Elicia respectively. One of the witnesses was Ralph, chaplain of Frankley.

 

With its mother church it came under the jurisdiction of Halesowen Abbey probably sometime during the 11th century. Although churches with extensive parishes were happy to set up chapelries which had a certain degree of independence, one of the privileges most jealously guarded by the mother church was the right of sepulchre, the right to bury the dead of the parish and to receive the consequent dues.

 

A deed of 1236 records a meeting of the Dean of Kidderminster and the Chapter to adjudicate in a dispute between the Abbot of Halesowen and Ralph, the chaplain of Frankley, who admitted that he had wrongly to buried a parishioner in his chapel to the detriment of the church of Hales. He swore he had never done it before and would not do it again, and returned to the Abbey the offerings made by relatives of the deceased.

 

Until 1844 Halesowen was a detached part of Shropshire lying geographically within Worcestershire; Frankley, however, was in Worcestershire. In the late 13th century a dispute arose between the Abbot of Halesowen and the Prior of Dudley as to the jurisdiction of Frankley chapel; for Halesowen’s status was mirrored by that of Dudley, which was a detached part of Worcestershire surrounded by Staffordshire. This was further complicated by the fact that Dudley Priory and the adjacent Castle were declared by the Pope in 1238 to be part of Staffordshire. Confirmation was made by Emma de Frankley in 1275 that the chapel was subject to Halesowen. But it was not until 1297 that Dudley gave up the case and admitted the legitimacy of Halesowen’s claim. The case had run for over 20 years.

 

The base of this cross on the south side of the church dates from the Saxon period and is probably older than the church itself
The base of this cross on the south side of the church dates from the Saxon period and is probably older than the church itself

The base of a Saxon cross in the churchyard at Frankley marks the establishment of a Christian site here as at Halesowen. The Kingdom of the Hwicce, which included Worcestershire, had converted to Christianity by the year 700 AD.

 

The present stone building probably dates from the 12th century, although little medieval evidence remains discernible. The church is built in grey and red sandstone, the latter locally available at Holly Hill quarry, now the site of New Frankley. Although some of the church was restored at the end of the 19th century, substantial parts of the fabric, the west window, the south-eastern window of the nave, and both the chancel roof with its moulded arch-braced tie-beams and the barrel roof of the nave date from 15th century. At the west end the part dressed coursed sandstone rubble wall is presumably old.

 

The 15th-century west window in the tower. Note the rubble wall below the window.
The 15th-century west window in the tower. Note the rubble wall below the window.

The 15th-century rebuilding was certainly at the instigation of one of the Lyttleton family, lords of the manor, who lived at Frankley Hall almost opposite the church, a moated site probably dating to the 13th century. It is likely to have been Sir Thomas Lyttleton 1422-1481 who achieved considerable national fame as a judge. In 1471 Sir Thomas summoned the Abbot of Halesowen to explain why he had not supplied a priest during all the time Sir Thomas was at Frankley, the Abbot of Halesowen being obliged to find a priest three days a week to perform divine service in St Leonard's chapel.

 

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII c1536, Frankley was served by a perpetual curate, who was provided with a stipend of £10 at their own expense by the Lyttelton family.

 

There were formerly two bells; one being cracked was given as a school bell about 1865. The remaining bell bears the inscription 'Sir Iohn Littilton 1588.' 

The remains of Frankley Hall moat; Frankley Beeches in the distance
The remains of Frankley Hall moat; Frankley Beeches in the distance

Another Sir Thomas Lyttleton 1593-1650 was lord of the manor during the Civil War. An ardent Royalist, Colonel of the Worcestershire Horse & Foot for the King, he was taken prisoner at Bewdley in 1644 and imprisoned in the Tower of London. His hall was occupied by Royalist troops under Prince Rupert who burnt it when he left in 1645 to prevent its use as a Parliamentary garrison. Close to the church part of the large moat is still filled with water and significant earthworks point to a building of some size and status. 

 

The hexagonal pulpit  with its ornate relief carving dates from the 17th century, as does the baptismal font with its octagonal basin with triangle frieze and its large turned stem, though this may have been reconstructed at some later date. 

The graveyard dates from the early 18th century.
The graveyard dates from the early 18th century.

In 1738 yet another Sir Thomas Lyttleton 1686-1751 enclosed land round the chapel for a cemetery, and with the bishop's permission it was used as a burial ground for the parishioners of Frankley. The chapel itself was in a poor state of repair and Sir Thomas was responsible for its restoration. The dressed stone from the ruined hall was used to rebuild the church tower, which had previously been a wooden structure. Under the royal arms over the chancel arch Sir Thomas had an inscription placed:

 

"Anno 1750, this Church was ceiled and beautified. Anno 1751, the Tower was erected. All the new timber contained in it was given by Sir Thomas Lyttleton, bart., Lord of the Manor. Also the sum of Fifty pounds, which was assessed on his Tenants towards defraying the expence of building the said Tower. J. Rowe, C.W."

 

On the front of the gallery at the west end was placed another inscription:

 

"This Gallery was erected in the year 1752. The South end by a subscription of the present Society of Singers, and the charitable contributions of their Neighbours, which end is appointed for the use of the succeeding Society for EVER ; the North end for the use of the purchasers. Psalm xcviii., 'Sing to the Lord a new-made Song.”

 

St Leonard's become a parish church in its own right in 1866. 

 

The east window of the chancel was restored in 1873.
The east window of the chancel was restored in 1873.

The church was again restored c1873. The three-light east window of the chancel was replaced, though using the 15th-century jambs, the stops to the external label being carved with butterflies. The five windows in the side walls were all remade, as was the chancel arch. The nave has lit by three two-light windows with square heads in the north wall, and two similar windows and one single light in the south wall. All were remade in the late 19th century, except for the jambs of the south-eastern window, which date from the 15th century. The 18th-century ceilings were removed exposing the woodwork of the roof.

 

The nave was extended westwards alongside the tower, on the south side replacing a small room above the porch. The 18th-century porch was rebuilt; the head stops on the hood mould of the pointed archway depict Queen Victoria and the Bishop of Worcester. Stone crosses were placed on the apex of the roofs at the east end of the nave and chancel. The decayed sandstone of the nave and chancel was faced with coursed sandstone ashlar, presumably from the original quarry, and additional buttresses were erected on the wall of the nave. The altar rails and panelled organ gallery date from the 1873 restoration.

 

Click to enlarge the images below.

Bateman's vestry is on the left of the photograph.
Bateman's vestry is on the left of the photograph.

 

 

Following a fire in the tower in 1931 the Castle Bromwich architect, C E Bateman was called in to make repairs. The gothic-style tower arch is his, the hood mould ending in head stops depicting King George V and Queen Mary. Also by Bateman is the strangely proportioned north-east vestry. Further damage was caused by another fire in the tower in 1947. 

 

Frankley Church described in 'The Gentleman's Magazine' 1813

From the article it may be assumed that D Barnes, who wrote it and drew the picture at the top of this page, was brought up in or near Frankley, but was living in Shrewsbury by 1813. The article appears in The Gentleman's Magazine 1813, Part II p 417 which may be downloaded from Goggle Books - 

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oiM3AAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

The view of Frankley Chapel, which accompanies this (See above), was taken in June, 1812, a scene which I was very partial to when a boy, but which I had not seen for thirty-two years. Being in that neighbourhood, I was desirous to visit a spot once made respectable by the residence of the Lytteltons, and which still gives the title of Baron to that respectable family.

 

The hall was partly demolished in the Civil Wars in the time of King Charles I. and now not a vestige remains. Parts of the moat may be traced, which awake to recollection the eminent men (Sir Thomas Lyttleton, the famous English lawyer and judge, was born here in 1403) who once inhabited the spot it enclosed. . . .

 

Frankley is situated in the lower division of Halfshire Hundred, co. Worcester. It was anciently a part of the parish of Hales Owen, as may be seen from a deed of gift, 4 Edward I., from Emma de Frankley to the Abbot and Convent of Hales-Owen, of a yearly rent of 2S. " una cum Capella df Fraunkel que sita est in parochia de Hales". The chapel is now strictly parochial, but wholly exempt from Episcopal jurisdictions, being a donative in the gift of Lord Lyttelton.

 

The chapel being much decayed, Sir Thomas Lyttelton, in 1751, contributed to the general repair ; the tower was rebuilt with stone from the ruins of the hall. The interior is plain and neat ; it consists of a middle aisle and chancel. In the east window of the chancel are the following arms in stained glass : Argent, a chevron between 3 escallops sable ; impaling, Argent, a lion rampant sable, de- bruised with a fesse counter-corn ponee azure and or. This, with the letters tl)t and C fH in different parts of the window, is all that remains of the ancient stained glass. The King's arms are placed over the arch which divides the chancel from the body of the chapel, and under the arms is the following inscription :


"Anno 1750, this Church was ceiled and beautified. Anno 1751, the Tower was erected. All the new timber contained in it was given by Sir Thomas Lyttleton, bart., Lord of the Manor. Also the sum of Fifty pounds, which was assessed on his Tenants towards defraying the expence of building the said Tower. J. Rowe, C.W."

 

On the front of the gallery at the west end is the annexed inscription :


'This Gallery was erected in the year 1752. The South end by a subscription of the present Society of Singers, and the charitable contributions of their Neigh-bours, which end is appointed for the use of the succeeding Society for EVER ; the North end for the use of the purchasers. Psalm xcviii., 'Sing to the Lord a new-made Song.'

 

At the west end is an ancient stone font; the upper part is ornamented with simple chevron work. The tower contains two small bells. From the appearance of the most ancient part of the architecture it may be as old as the time of King John. Although there has been interment within the chapel for a great length of time, yet there is not any memorial worth transcribing. The cemetery was given by Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Bart., in 1738, and railed in at his expense. There are several tombs and headstones, but not of any particular note. One shall suffice :

 

" In memory of Henry Welch, Gent., late of Frankley, who died Feb. 10, 1763, aged 66."

“Courteous Reader, here doth lye

A Man of truth and honesty,

A helpful neighbour, a good friend,

And so continued to the end.

He was by all good men approv’d,

And as he liv’d, he dy’d - beloved,

A faithful friend to rich and poor:

The Lord receive his soul therefore!”

 

The Chapel-yard is finely shaded by trees of various foliage; and being in a spot so pleasingly retired, seems where “Contemplation loves to dwell.’

 

Images below 'All Rights Reserved' are used with the kind permission of Alice_T on Flickr and should not be reused without her consent. 

Left: window in memory of Mary, first wife of the 4th Baron Lyttleton, who died in 1857; she bore him 12 children.  

Right: Memorial window to the 4th Baron, George William Lyttleton who tragically committed suicide at Hagley Hall aged 59 in 1876. 

Weblinks

Much of the information here is derived from Parishes: Frankley', A History of the County of Worcester: volume 3 (1913), pp. 120-123 available at British History Online- http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43096.

 

A variety of useful information about Frankley may be gleaned from Julian Hunt's local history site -  http://www.julianhuntlocalhistory.co.uk/index.php

 

William Dargue 13.02.2012