Bickenhill

Historic County: Warwickshire

St Peter

Work in progress . . . Temporary article - Information taken from British History Online - http://www.british-history.ac.uk

The parish church of S. PETER consists of a chancel, north chapel, nave, north aisle, west tower, and south porch.

The church had a 12th-century nave, with a north aisle of which the arcade of c. 1140 remains in place. The chancel was added or rebuilt about 1300; it had lancet windows, now destroyed, and a priests' doorway, reset in the modern wall. The north aisle was widened about 1330 and another archway inserted east of the 12th-century arcade. Late in the 15th century the north chapel was added, equal in length with the chancel and in breadth with the aisle. The stone reredosscreen with the sacristy behind it is an unusual feature. The west tower was built about the same time; whether the stone spire was coeval is not certain. The 17thcentury dates carved on the tower imply important alterations or repairs, especially that of 1632, which may have amounted to a complete rebuilding of the tower or the addition of the spire. In 1887 a very drastic restoration was carried out, the whole of the south walls of the chancel and nave being rebuilt; the only structural features that were re-used were the priests' doorway and the inner archway of the 12thcentury south doorway. (fn. 64)

The chancel (about 24½ ft. by 17 ft.) has an east window of five cinquefoiled lights and net tracery in a two-centred head, modern or completely restored. On the north side is a late-15th-century archway to the north chapel; it has ogee-moulded shafts in the hollowchamfered responds with moulded capitals and plain bases, and a four-centred head with crocketed hoodmoulds on both faces, having carved stops; on the chancel side they are a harpy with a woman's head with a horned head-dress and wings, and a griffon, on the chapel side a bat-like monster, the other replaced by a plain block. In the south wall are two modern windows, the eastern of two lights, the second a single trefoiled light. The blocked doorway between the windows is probably of late-13th-century date. It has chamfered jambs and pointed head with an external hood-mould with mask-stops. The chancel arch is also modern; it has splayed jambs and a two-centred head of two chamfered orders. The modern roof of two bays has queen-post trusses. The east wall, which has no plinth, is of squared rubble of pink and red sandstone: the north and south buttresses are old, but probably not original. The south wall, rebuilt with similar rubble, has a chamfered plinth.

The north chapel (about 25 ft. by 14 ft.) has the easternmost 5 ft. of space inside cut off by a late-15thcentury reredos-screen of stone about 7½ ft. high to form a sacristy. The east window is of five cinquefoiled lights and vertical tracery in a four-centred head with crocketed hood-moulds on both faces; the weatherworn stops outside seem to have been monsters, and there is a foliage finial: inside, the lower ends have been shortened. The wall is recessed below the sill inside, but the jambs do not coincide with those of the window. North of it is a four-centred fire-place, partly walled up. South of it is a four-centred recess that looks like a blocked doorway, but there is no sign of it outside. Above these and about 3 in. above the silllevel is a hollow-chamfered string-course or 5-in. shelf that passes also along the south wall up to the stone screen. Below it in this wall is another recess, 3 ft. 9 in. wide, with its sill 11 in. above the floor. In the north wall is another four-centred recess, 6 ft. 8 in. wide, down to the floor; the western part of it is 2 in. deeper than the eastern and appears to have been a pointed doorway, not now visible outside. South of the window above the shelf is a plain image-bracket. The north window, farther west, is of three trefoiled ogee-headed lights and half-quatrefoils under a square head: this is a 14th-century window that had a pointed head, the lower curves of which are still visible at the sides, fitted with a late-15th-century lintel. It was probably the east window of the aisle. The west archway to the aisle is modern. The walls are of red sandstone ashlar in large courses up to the eaves-level, above which the gabled east wall is of later rubble and has a chimneystack above the apex. The plinths are moulded and the north wall has a moulded eaves-course. At the angle is a diagonal buttress, altered in the upper stage to a V-shaped face and having a perished gargoyle and the stump of a former pinnacle. There is also a moulded cornice or eaves-course in the south wall above the archway. The roof is probably original and is divided into five bays by trusses with segmental arches below the collar-beams. The side-purlins have curved windbraces, some forming pointed arches in the bays and others half-arches.

The screen has a shallow recess for the reredos, with remains of brattishing over it. It is flanked by small niches with canopied heads enriched with crockets and pinnacles and with pilasters on either side. The imagebrackets, carved as demi-angels, are carried on shafts from the floor. South of it is a four-centred doorway to the sacristy, the hood-mould of which has king and queen head-stops, crockets, and a finial rising above the screen.

The nave (about 48½ ft. by 17¼ ft.) has three modern south windows, each of three trefoiled lights under a square head. The pointed doorway west of them is also modern, but has a reset 12th-century chamfered reararch and hood-mould carved with double billetornament, and impost-stops with cheveron ornament. On the north side are four arches. The easternmost, of the 14th century, has plain splayed responds with moulded capitals and bases, and a two-centred arch of two chamfered orders. The remainder is a 12th-century arcade of three bays. The two pillars are cylindrical with moulded bases and capitals changing from round to square: the eastern is decorated with zigzag lines and a kind of primitive leaf ornament consisting of four groups of beaded lines, rising to a common point at each angle. The western capital has simpler zigzag ornament: the abaci are chamfered. The responds are square with plain chamfered abaci. The semicircular arches, of one square order, have plastered soffits between the voussoirs. The roof of four bays is modern.

The north aisle (about 13 ft. wide) has only one north window, of two trefoiled ogee-headed lights and foiled spandrel in a square head; it is of the 14th century with modern repairs. The contemporary north doorway, farther west, is now blocked. In the west wall is a 14th-century single light with a trefoiled ogee head, and plastered splays and a flat lintel inside. Below it is a late-15th-century doorway with continuous moulded jambs and four-centred head inside, with a hoodmould carved with crockets and finial and having king and queen head-stops. It is blocked and was set rear-arch outwards. The aisle walls are of coursed, rough, red sandstone ashlar with a chamfered plinth and eaves-course. The north wall has an intermediate and two end buttresses, narrow and deep and of two stages. The west wall has some repair in large ashlar courses similar to the blocking of the doorway; and above the window a sloping chase may mark the lean-to roof of the 15th-century vestry or other chamber into which the doorway opened. Other repairs above the slope may indicate a former window.

The roof is gabled and has trusses dividing it into four bays of early-17th-century form of construction with tie-beams and sloping posts under the collarbeams; the side-purlins have straight wind-braces.

The west tower (about 9 ft. by 11 ft. inside) is of cream-coloured Arden sandstone ashlar in one stage unbroken by string-courses and has a chamfered plinth and embattled parapet with pinnacles at the angles. At the west angles are skew-buttresses, against the west wall, of three stages; they change at the top to V-shaped faces, projecting on the west but flush with the side walls, and carry the pinnacles. At the north-east angle is a square north buttress flush with the east wall, also changing at the top. The bottom of this buttress is half cut away for what appears to have been an 18thcentury round-headed doorway (half the arch remaining in the buttress) or skewed passage through the short length of nave-wall west of the arcade. This wall is of red rubble, perhaps 12th century, but the blocking of the doorway, which perhaps led to a former gallery, is of ashlar. At the south-east angle is a stair-vice of halfhexagonal projection reaching to the bell-chamber. The south outer entrance, approached by four steps, has old jambs, perhaps 17th century, and a modern head. Above it is a loop-light and over that are two panels carved with the date 1632 and letters EBRA. The inscription seems to be too pretentious to refer merely to the doorway below and suggests some more extensive repair or rebuilding of the tower walls. The ashlar of the turret courses mostly with that of the main wall. On the masonry of the latter are two other inscriptions in incised letters: one reads: JAMES DOWELL PHILLIP ORTON CHVR: WAR: 1692 and the other, about 2 ft. higher, SAMVELL SMITH THOMAS BROOKES CHVR: WAR: 1667.

The mouth of the tower towards the nave is peculiar and suggestive of alterations to the original design. The two angles projecting into the nave are splayed at 45° and the ashlar splays are treated with panelling in two tiers: the lower have cinquefoiled two-centred heads with rosette cusp-points, the upper have trefoiled heads with voluted pear-shaped cusp-points. At the base of the north upper panel is a tiny human-head corbel. These projections may have been intended to be the responds of a 15th-century archway, but the twocentred arch proper is built 18 in. farther west and dies on the side walls of the tower; it is about 3 ft. thick and of two chamfered orders with large voussoirs. The original inner doorway to the south stair-vice, with twocentred head, is blocked. The west window is of four lights and vertical tracery under a two-centred head; the tracery is a little out of the ordinary: the heads of the lights are well below the springing line; the side lights are trefoiled, but the two middle lights are treated as the two halves of one broad middle light with a subcusped trefoiled ogee-head: the mullion dividing it is cemented, apparently a repair, but an old stump in the sill indicates an original mullion: the foiled tracery above the middle lights includes an embattled transom. The side mullions have on their outer faces square pilasters with moulded bases, gabled heads, and crocketed finials. The symmetrical jambs and arch have hollowed splays and the head has an external hoodmould with crowned head-stops. The bottoms of the main lights are walled up with three courses of masonry above the original sill. The second story has a south loop-light, half covered by a modern clock-face. The bell-chamber is lighted by four-centred windows of two cinquefoiled lights with foiled spandrels; the jambs are like those of the west window. Above it is an octagonal spire of ashlar with three tiers of spire-lights (in four sides) with hood-moulds.

In the third nave-window are reset some fragments of a 15th-century coloured border, a black and yellow wavy pattern with pieces of ruby at intervals in peculiar trefoiled heads from a window that is now non-existent; also some quarries with tendril foliage.

The font, late-15th-century, is octagonal, the bowl being panelled with quatrefoiled circles in squares, the tapering lower part carved with demi-angels holding shields. The stem has trefoiled panels and panelled buttresses at the angles.

A dug-out chest 8 ft. long has a coped lid in two lengths with plain strap-hinges and other iron strapwork with curved arms. There are two locks to one lid and one to the other lid.

An alabaster slab in the floor of the north aisle, 6½ ft. long, has an incised border with an illegible inscription in black letter. Another farther east, also of alabaster, is plain.

There are six bells, the second and third of 1703 by Joseph Smith of Edgbaston, the fourth of 1636 by Thomas Hancox of Walsall, the tenor of 1707 also by Smith. The treble is modern in memory of Rev. Charles Baines, vicar, died 1928.

The registers begin in 1558, but several leaves of the first volume are missing.

ADVOWSON

The church is alleged to have been part of the original endowment of Henwood Priory, (fn. 65) and a bull of Pope Innocent VII (fn. 66) issued in 1404 implies that it was at that date still in the hands of the nuns; but this was certainly not so, as the church of Bickenhill is definitely said to be appropriated to the priory of Markyate (Beds.) in 1291, when it was valued at £6. (fn. 67) The nuns of Markyate proved their right to the church, with its dependant chapels of Kington and Lyndon, in 1329, (fn. 68) and it still belonged to them in 1535, when it was worth £7 17s. 2d. (fn. 69) After the Dissolution the advowson of the vicarage remained in the hands of the Crown until at least 1582, (fn. 70) but by 1605 it had been acquired by Sir Clement Fisher, (fn. 71) and it descended with the manor (fn. 72) until September 1919, when the Earl of Aylesford conveyed it to the Birmingham Diocesan Trustees, (fn. 73) the present owners.

The rectory was leased in 1553 to William Clark for 21 years, (fn. 74) and sold in 1589 to Richard Thakeston and Henry West. (fn. 75) In 1608 Dabridgecourt Belcher held it, apparently in right of his wife Elizabeth (daughter and co-heir of Richard Fisher of Warwick), (fn. 76) and sold it to John Huggeford, (fn. 77) who conveyed it in 1626 to Thomas Waring, (fn. 78) possibly acting for Richard Alcocke. (fn. 79) A later Richard Alcocke was dealing with it in 1662, (fn. 80) but by the middle of the 18th century the rectorial tithes seem to have been acquired by the lord of the manor. (fn. 81)

In 1347 Nicholas de Leecroft and Henry de Aumberlee, priest, proposed to give lands in Marston Culy to endow a chantry in the chapel of that hamlet; (fn. 82) but no licence in mortmain seems to have been issued and no more is heard of the chantry. Nor is there any other reference to such a chapel, but its site is supposed to have been near the present Chapel Farm at Marston Green. A new chapel of St. Leonard, Marston Green, was built in the 19th century and was acquired by the Birmingham Diocesan Trustees in 1923. In 1928 Marston Green was separated for ecclesiastical purposes from Bickenhill and united to Sheldon, (fn. 83) and the chapel has been replaced by a large structure of red brick, consecrated in 1938. Provision has also been made for the union of Bickenhill and Elmdon when next a vacancy occurs in either parish. (fn. 84)

 

Weblinks

This is a Grade I listed building whose record can be found on the

Historic England website - https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1343224.