Archive:Whitney Church

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Whitney Castle > Whitney Church

See also Archive:Whitney Parish Church.

Archaeologia Cambrensis, published by the Cambrian Archaeological Association, Fifth Series. Vol. XIII, No. L. April 1896

Dawson, M. L., "Notes on Border Parishes. Whitney Church."

From Google books.

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The village of Whitney lies on the south-western borders of Herefordshire, and at the time of Domesday was included in the Hundred of Elsdune, but was nevertheless considered to be in the Marches of Wales until the reign of Henry VIII. An Act of Parliament was then passed by which Whitney, together with other neighbouring parishes, was united to the county of Hereford, and incorporated into the newly-formed Hundred of Huntington, "having hitherto been part of the Marches of Wales."

The present church stands on the right of the road leading from Hereford to Hay, and is a comparatively modern edifice; but the original churchw as situated to the left of the road, near the ferry, on the banks of the river Wye. No record remains to tell us when or by whom it was erected, nor have we even any architectural proof from which to judge of its probably date, for it was washed away in the great flood of 1735, and its site now lies beneath the Wye. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary we may fairly assume that it owed its origin to Eustace de Whitney, the first Norman lord of Whitney, or one

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of his immediate descendants, and its dedication to SS. Peter and Paul is what might have been expected from a family so deeply attached to the great Monastery of St. Peter's as were the Whitneys. Anyhow it is certain that Whitney Church was in existence in the thirteenth century, for the following notice of it occurs in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas, cir. 1291: "Eccl'ia de Wytteneye, 5:0:0 0:10:0 T.M.T."

About the same time a dispute arose between the Abbess of Elstow, in Bedfordshire, and Eustace de Whitney concerning the right of presentation to Whitney Church. A law-suit followed, and the case was duly tried at Westminster. Silas Taylor says that "they quarrelled for long, till they lapsed their presentations, and soe the Bishop presents." This was in the time of Bishop Swinfield. In connection with this claim we may mention that Ullingswick, near the Whitneys' other estate of Pencombe, Herefordshire, is also said by Duncumbe to have belonged to Elstow, its original name, Helenswick, being derived from its connection with Helenstow (Elstow).

But the chief interest of Whitney Church lies in the fact that it was a stronghold of the Lollards, and that here William de Swynderby and Walter Brut preached their novel doctrines much to the indignation of the Bishop of Hereford. "Swynderby1 was the most eloquent of the immediate followers of Wycliffe...He came into the diocese of Hereford early int he year 1390, and taking no notice of an inhibition served upon him at Monmouth, he preached in the churches of Whitney, Almeley, Croft, Leominster, and Kington, and took up his residence in the Forest of Deerfold. In 1391 a process was issued by Bishop Trefnant, of Hereford, against William Swynderby, which is given at full length in the Hereford Episcopal Register for that year...In the same year Swynderby had the high tribute paid to his eloquence of a special inhibition


1 Arch. Camb., Oct. 1873

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from Archbishop Courtney, 'lest any one should presume to listen to the preaching of William Skynderbye." Walter Brut was also a leading Lollard preacher, and

"Being stirred up against the Pope and his clergy by the unjust condemnation of William Dwinderby, his friend and companion, and the impudent pardons and indulgences granted by Pope Urban to Henry Spencer, Bishop of Norwich, became a zealous preacher of the reformed doctrines, as taught by John Wickliffe, in the diocese of Hereford, at several places, viz., at Whitney Church; in a certain dester called Derwalswood; in a chapel at Newton Park, near the town of Leyntwardin; and many other places, of which, when John Trevenant, Bishop of Hereford, had information, he caused divers articles of accursed heresy, as they were then called, to be drawn up against him; and having summoned him to appear in the parish church of Whitborne, required his answers to them, which were as follow: -

"1. That the Bishop of Hereford and his assistants did naughtily, wickedly, perversely, and unjustly condemn the answers of William Swinderby, chaplain, because he avouched and affirmed that the said conclusions were true and catholick. "2. Concerning the Sacrament of the Altar, that after the sacramental words there remains very Bread, and that there do not remain Accidents without the Substance after the Consecration. "3. That the Pope is very Antichrist. "4. That it is not lawful Christians in any case or for any cause whatsoever, to swear either by the Creator or any creature. "Walter Brut wrote a long defence of these articles, and exhibited it to the Bishop, but his answers not being thought sufficient, he was summoned to appear before the said Bishop in the Cathedral Church of Hereford, and there by threatenings and promises was wrought upon to make his submission to the Church's determination and the correction of the said John, Bishop of Hereford, and so he escaped their hands for that time."

But his submission seems to have been short-lived, and his influence became so great that two years later the King was called upon to interfere in the matter, and on the 22nd of Septmeber 1393, he issued the following manifesto:-

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"Richard, by the grace of God, &c.,&c., to his beloved and faithful John Chaundos, Knight; John Eyenford, Knt.; Renold de la Bere,Knt.; Walter Deveros, Knt.; Thomas de la Bare, Knt.; William Lucy, Knt.; Leonard Haklut, Knt.; and to the Mayor of teh City of Hereford; to Thomas Oldcastell, Richard Nassh, Roger Wyggemore, Thomas Wallewayn, JOhn Skydemore, John Up-Harry, Henry Morton, and the Sheriff of Hereford, sendeth salutations:

"Forasmuch as it is advertised us that one Walter Brut and other such children of iniquity have damnable holden, affirmed, and preached certain articles and conclusions, being notoriously repugnant against the Holy Scriptures", &c., &c.,

it calls upon them to make proclamations everywhere to forbid their assembling together in concenticles, and to arrest, imprison, and punish all who do so.

Walter Brut has been immortalised in the Vision of Piers Ploughman, where the poet says:-

"Behold upon Walter Brut,
Whom bisiliche their persue den,
For he said hem the sothe."

The Lollardism of Whitney may be easily accounted for when we remember its vicinity to Almeley, the home of Sir John Oldcastle, with whom, moreover the Whitneys were connected by marriage, as one of the family married his neice, Jane Oldcastle. Another proof of the Lollard tendencies of the Whitneys is found in the will of Lady Peryn Clanbowe, 1422, sister of Sir Robert Whitney. Among her legacies she mentions a "boke of Englyssh, cleped 'pore caytife'." The "pore caytife" is a collection of religious tracts against abuses in the Romish Church, and formerly attributed, though wrongly, to Wycliffe; but whoever was its author, its Lollardism is undoubted.

The next notice we find of Whitney Church is contained in the Valor Ecclesiasticus of Henry VIII's reign:- "Rectoria de Whytney.
"Valet in gross' p' scrutin'& exa'i'aco'em s.d.
commissionar' com'unib'annis . -- cxv viij
Inde in

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Rep's vz s. d. s.
P'curac" arch'i quotit' anno . vj viij)
Sinagio . . . — xij j ••
Et valet clare comunib' annis . . — cviij —
Xma p's . . . . . x ix ob' 9"

The following document of the year 1557 gives some insight into ecclesiastical matters at Whitney at that date:—

"In perpetuam rei memoriam." The copy of a composition as appeareth, made between Roger Laurence, parson of the parish of Whitney, in the County of Hereford, and the inhabitants of the said Parish, concerning the payment of their by them unto him." The original whereof is now in the custody of Charles West, one of the Inhabitants of the said Parish. " Be it known to all true Christian people to whom this present writing shall come, &c., &c., That I, Roger Lawrence, of Whitney in the County of Hereford, Clerk, parson of the parish Church of Whitney foresaid, know ye me, the said Roger, for certain good & lawful considerations me moving, have consented & agreed with the Patron & the whole Parishioners of the said Parish of Whitney, whose names are underwritten in manner & form following, that is to wit, as considering in times past the said Parishioners, every of them, did pay unto my predecessors five cheeses of every house & dwelling & inhabiting within the said Parish, having any kine within the same, in that in those days my predecessors had not a competent living to maintain him to live thereupon, for in those days there was no of corn within the said Parish; & at that time the said Parishioners did give & grant, of their own good will, to my said predecessors, eighteen cheeses of every house yearly for to maintain the living of my said predecessors : And whereas the said Parish not being well replenished with corn, where in those days there was but wild grounds & woods. And also considering the great need & scarcity of the poor Inhabitants of the said Parish, for lack of whitemeat for the maintaining & bringing up of their children & servants for to maintain their good husbandry — I, the said Eoger, for me & my successors, parsons of the said Parish, by these presents have released & for ever the foresaid parishioners & every of them of the foresaid former of eighteen cheeses, to my predecessors granted. And the said Parishioners have promised for them

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& for either of them to pay unto me the said Roger & unto my successors six cheeses yearly of every household or householders, or any other that grazes any leasows within the said Parish, according to the foresaid To be paid in manner & form following ; that is to say, three at the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, & the other three at the iirst day of August. And the said Parishioners & every of them shall bring or cause to be brought the said cheeses yearly, at the days above limited, to the Parish Church of Whitney aforesaid, good & sufficient in the sight of indifferent & honest men of the said Parish."

In witness whereof I the said Roger have subscribed my name & put my seal the xxvi day of April in the year of our Lord God a thousand five hundred fifty & seven (1557)."

Robert Whitney, Knt.,


Roger Laurence, Rector of


John Duppa David Gryff
Charles Jones John ......
Owen ...... James Robert
James Edmonds Watkin ......
John ...... John ap Thomas Parishioners."
John Pritchard Richard ......
Wm. Harry Thomas John
Rees ...... ...... Edmond
Robert ......
Owen Frees.

During the early part of the last century the river gradually undermined the church, and the great flood of 1735 completed its ruin, when, as tradition relates, coffins were seen floating down the river. The present church was erected in 1740, by the same William Wardour who re-built Whitney Court, and who, no doubt anxious to escape the repetition of a similar catastrophe, chose for its site some slightly rising ground on the opposite side of "the King's highway". It consists of a square tower, nave and chancel, and many of the stones of which it is built were brought from the ruins of the old church, but the jambs of the doors and windows are of a curious purple stone, which must have been brought from a distance, as nothing of the kind is to be found in the neigh-

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bourhood. The interior is paved with gravestones from the old church, but, unfortunately, they are placed with the inscriptions downwards. At the west end is an oak gallery for the singers, the pews of the nave are of the same material, and originally belonged to Cusop Church, but were bought for Whitney when Cusop Church was restored. The chancel is fitted up with some handsome old carved oak. There are but two relics left of the old church where the Lollards preached and the parishioners brought their cheeses ; these are a massive Norman font with claw feet, and a handsome marble monument to the memory of Thomas Williams, of the family of Gwernyfed, who was connected with the Whitneys by marriage.

The inscription runs as follows : —

"Here lyeth the body of Thomas Williams of Cabalva in the County of Radnor, Esq: who married Elizabeth, 3rd daughter of Edward Holford of Cerleby in the County of Lincoln, Esq.; by whom he had Issue Elizabeth, his onely Daughter. He died the 29th of May, 1698, in the 39th year of his Age.
"Here lyes his body mingled wu' y° dust, Whose life was Holy, humble, good & Just."

The church also contains several monuments and some stained-glass windows to the Dew family. The east window was erected to the memory of Captain Roderick Dew, C.B., a distinguished naval officer, and near it is a monument to his brother, Captain Armine Dew, of the Royal Artillery, who was the first to fall at the battle of the Alma. The bells are six in number, and bear the following inscriptions : —

Treble, or 1st bell. "Come let us sing for Church and King." W. E. 1740.
2nd. "Wiliam Evans cast us all." 1740.
3rd. "Peace and good neighbourhood." W. E. 1740.
4th. "William Blews & Sons, Birmingham." 1869.
4th, original bell. Inscription missing.

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Tenor, or 5th. "Wm. Warder, Esq. A good benefactor to Church and Bells." 1740.

The weight of the tenor bell is about 11 cwt., its note is G sharp. The fourth bell was cracked, and recast in 1869. The original 4th had on it the names of the two churchwardens in 1740. The registers, which are very well preserved, commence in the year 1591, and contain many notices of the Whitneys; one of the earliest being, "Robert Whitney ye sonne of Eustance (?) Whitney, esquier, was born 23rd day of September, & died 1592." Among other entries worthy of notice are the following : —

"Morrice Berkley was Buryed Decem. 16, 1714.
"Catherine Gravenor was Buried March the 18th, 1709.
"Barnaby, the sonn of John Prosser, clerke, & of Anne his wife, was borne uppon St. Barnabas day in the morning, & baptized uppon the 4th day of July 1702.
"Bridget, the daughter of Sir Robert Whitney, Knight, & the Lady Anne his wife, was baptized October the eleventh 1629.
"Mr. Thomas Rodd1 & Mrs. Anne Whitney were marryed by licence, January 17, 1634.
"Bap., Beatrice, daughter of Tim. Geers, Clerk, & Beatrice his wife, Xbr. 17, 1731."

In the churchyard are some old tombstones to the Weale family and to the Hancorn family; on the latter the arms are given, two cocks. The new church appears to have been dedicated to St. Paul alone, instead of its original dedication to St. Peter and St. Paul; and in 1759 there was a house in Whitney called St. Paul's House, which still exists. But the old well is still known as St. Peter's Well. Whitney Feast was held on the first Sunday in August, and old people can remember the gathering of neighbours from the adjoining villages, and the "wrastling" and other diversions on the village green, with which it was celebrated.


1 The descendants of this marriage ultimately became the owners of Whitney Court.

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As the old Rectory of Whitney also disappeared during the last century, it seems probable that it was swept away in the same flood which destroyed the church and court. The only account we have of it is contained in a parochial document of the year 1636, entitled : —

"A true & perfect Terrier of all the Glebe lands, tithes, & other Grants belonging to the Rectory of Whitney in the County and Diocese of Hereford, taken by the Minister & Inhabitants of Whitney aforesaid, whose names are underwritten, the 29th day Sept in year of our Lord 1636.
"Imprimis. The parsonage house containing of all sorts, little & great, seventeen rooms.
"The Barn & other outhouses, containing of all sorts, great & small, seven rooms.
"The Garden, Orchard, hopyard, & fould, containing in all half an acre.
"The Glebe Lands, being some parcells of pasture, containing in all fifteen acres, more or less, & being all within one hedge between the lands of Sir Robert Whitney, Knt.; John Duppa, Gent.; the foresaid hopyard & fould & the green in Whitney on the south, the King's highway on the west, & the

lands of the said John Duppa on all other parts.

"One parcell of common in Whitney Wood, by agreement enclosed, containing four acres & a half, more or less, and lying between the parcells of the said common belonging to John on the west, Howell Williams on the south, & the said Sir Robert Whitney on all other parts.
"All tithes in kind, except these that followe pay for according unto custom : —
"Vid* for milch kine, six cheeses an house; three at Midsummer & three at Lammas; for calves killed & sold, pence a piece; for calves stored, halfpence a piece; for colts, pence a

piece; for Gardens, pence a piece; for every hen, two eggs, & three for; for one corn mill, ten groats.

"Offerings. Two pence a piece for every communicant at Easter; four pence a piece for every woman that is churched; six pence for every marriage.
"Mortuaries according to the statute & or according to the value of the grounds."
"Christopher Harvey, Rector Eccl'se.
"Roger Jones and John Edmonds - Churchwardens."

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The enclosure of the common above alluded to took place during the incumbency of the same Rector, Christopher Harvey, and we give a copy of the deed concerning it: —

"In perpetuam rei memoriam.
"The copy of a made by the Lord and Tenants of the Manor of Whitney, in the County of Hereford, for the enclosure of a parcell of common there called Whitney's Wood, at the Court holden for the same Manor. The original whereof was lost, with other records of the said Court in the hands of one Grove, steward of the said Manor.
"At this Court we, whose names are underwritten, the Lord & Tenants of Whitney in the County of Hereford, for divers good considerations us thereunto moving, have mutually covenanted, concluded & agreed, & do by these presents covenant, conclude & agree for us, our heirs, successors & assigns in manner and form following.
"Viz. that the Common called Whitney's Wood, situate, lying & being within the said Manor of Whitney, and containing 295 acres or thereabouts, shall be indifferently divided between us surrounding, to the several proportions of land whereof we are seized within the said Manor, occupied by ourselves or our under Tenants, to be inclosed or used in by us, our heirs, successors & assigns, as the portion of common of right appertaining unto our said lands, until such time as by general & joint-consent in like manner it shall be us, our heirs, successors & assigns that the said Enclosures shall be thrown open again & occupied in common as before. And the said division shall be made to us & every in such sort as have been already expressly limited & bounded according to the Map of the said common drawn & planned to that purpose.
"And that during the time of the said inclosure all the woods & underwoods, Quarries of Stone & Tile, houses, rents, & all other profits & commodities whatsoever, being & arising off the premisses (the Royalties only reserved to the Lord) shall be freely unto whom the said portions are allotted to dispose as they please, under such suits & services only as heretofore have been accustomed, or otherwise of right have been due upon the said common. And that we and every of us, in lieu of the said portions of common severally allotted to ourselves, have & do by these presents quit & disclaim our right & title in the other parts udring the time of the said enclosures; And shall &

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will from time to time permit & suffer the quiet & peaceable possession of the said other parts by them unto whom they shall be allotted whatsoever by us or by any other by our privily assent, consent, or pronouncement.

"In witness whereof we have hereunto put our hands the day & year above written.
"Robert Whittney, D'no Manarii
Christoph: Harvey, Rector Eccl'lae
John Duppa
Eustace Jones
Charles West
&c. &c."

Another parochial memorandum relating to a mortuary is interesting: —

"In perpetuam rei memoriam.
"Memorandu that in October a° Dl 1637, I, Christopher Harvey, Rector of the Parish Church of Whitney, did question John West for a mortuary due upon the decease of his father, Charles West, having witnesses to prove that my predecessor, Mr had received mortuaries upon the death of old David Griffiths.
"The following extract from the Patent Rolls gives us some idea of the unsettled state of the Border in the reign of Henry VIII : —
"John ap Hoell, alias ap Hullyn, of Byrley,1 along with Thos. Fryson of Michelcherche, Marches of Wales, fuller, broke into Whitney Church, in the lordship of Whitney, Marches of Wales, & stole a chalice.
"How they were punished does not appear; but a pardon was granted to Margery, verch (daughter) Richard of Bryley, Marches of Wales, widow, convicted of entertaining and abetting the thieves. (See Pat., p. 2, Henry VIII.)


1 Brilley.

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Simon de Braos pro hue vice 1277 Name not given
Bishop of Hereford (by lapse)1 1284 Richard de la Sele
Patron not mentioned 1328 Adam Lowe
Eustace de Whitney 1345 Thomas de Whitney
Ditto 1349 John Rees
Sir Eobert de Whitney 1373 Philip de Almely
Bishop of Hereford (by lapse) 1393 John Hales
Nobilis ver Eobertus Whitney, Eques 1417 Reginald Lane
Ditto 1428 John Hare
Ditto 1429 Richard ap Howell
Ditto 1435 Richard Griffith
Sir Eobert Whitney 1479 James Eston (vacated)
Feoffees of Sir Robert Whitney2 1503 Owen Pole3
No Rector given from 1509 to 1544
The King, owing to the minority

of Robert, son of Sir Robert Whitney

1544 James ap Hopkin (deprived)
Bishop of Hereford (by lapse) 1555 Roger Lawrence
Sir Robert Whitney 1560 Thomas Grosvenor4
Eustace Whitney 1574 James Popkin
Sir Robert Whitney 1607 Matthew Huddleston
Ditto 1632 Christopher Harvey5
1640 Jonathan Dryden
Civil War 1645
Thomas Whitney, Esq. 1662 Daniel Wycherley, D.D.
Thomas Geers, Esq., S.L. 1677 Thos. Mallett, M.A.
Elizabeth Geers 1678 Thos. Hitchcock, M.A.
Elizabeth Geers, widow 1690 Samuel Hall, B. C. L.
Patron unknown 1702 (cir.) John Prosser
Tamerlan Hords, Gent. 1727 John Powell
1731 (cir.) Timothy Geers6


1 The fact that in 1284 the Bishop of Hereford (Swinfield) presented by lapse seems to confirm Silas Taylor's statement as to the dispute between the Abbess of Elstow and Eustace de Whitney concerning the right of presentation to Whitney.

2 Viz., Simon Milborne, Walter Baskerville, James Scudamore John Breynton, and Simon Herring.

3 Owen Pole was also Treasurer of St. David's Cathedral 1472; Prebendarv of Hereford, 1496; Treasurer of Hereford Cathedral, 1506. To him is attributed the beautiful roof of the nave at St. David's, which has been described as "of almost Arabian gorgeousness"; and he also built the Treasurer's house at St. David's. His will was dated Dec. 10, 1509, and proved March 8 following.

4 In 1569 James Whytney of Whytney, Esq., granted to Thomas Gravenor, Clerk, a lease for fifty years of house and lands in Whitney near the Bridge end. His descendants appear to have lived on at Whitney for some generations, as the burial of Catherine Gravenor is recorded in the Register on March 18, 1709.

5 Christopher Harvey was a poet of no mean ability. A complete volume of his poems was published in 1872, edited by the Rev. A. B. Grosart.

6 Brother of John Geers, of Garnons, co. Hereford. He was born in 1693,

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Tomkyns Wardour, Esq., 1746 Edward Cranke, M.A.
Elizabeth Wardour, widow 1763 Edward Edwards, M.A.1
Executors of T. Dew, Esq. 1806 John Thomas Stuart
Tomkyns Dew, Esq. 1834 Richard Lister Venables
Tomkyns Dew, Esq. 1843 Henry Dew


and married in 1728 Beatrice, daughter of Thomas Dunne, Esq., of Gattey Park, by whom he left a daughter, Beatrice, wife of Mr. Napleton. He died in 1746.

1 Also Rector of Cusop.

Transcribed by Adrian Benjamin Burke, Esq.

Copyright © 2008, Adrian Benjamin Burke, Esq., and the Whitney Research Group.

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