following notes are taken from the 1998 Guide Book and History of
the Parish, which is on sale in the Church at the price of £2.50.
of the village, estate and early church
The Domesday Book records that there
were 29 "Heads of Families", indicating a
population of perhaps 120 - 150. Before th Norman
Conquest the Manor belonged to the Saxon families of
Anegrin and Ordec. William I accepted the
surrendered lands and gave them to Robert de
Stafford. After further changes of ownership the
lands eventually passed to the Canons of Kenilworth
Priory, who in turn had to surrender them to Henry VIII
at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Henry granted the estate to Thomas
Cawarden, his master of the Revels, whose job it was to
organize the pageants and masques beloved of Tudor
monarchs. He died without heir and Queen Elizabeth I
granted the Manor to one Ludovic Greville who in 1567
sold it to William Underhill.
Underhill's son, also William, owned New
Place in Stratford, and in 1597 he sold the latter to a
more famous William Shakespeare. But his own life
ended in tragedy, for he was poisoned by his eldest son,
Fulk, who was only 18 years old. One account says
that Fulk was hanged for the crime, another that it only
came to light after his death five years' later.
Fulk was succeeded by his brother
Hercules, and the Manor remained in the Underhill
family, although not without incident.
A Sir William Underhill was fined
£1,500 for wounding one Devereux with a pistol, and
upon his refusal to pay, his house and lands were
confiscated in favour of Devereux, but am party of Sir
William's men made a forcible entry and ejected
Devereux's men, killing one of them.
The main block of the house is attributed to Sir John
Soane (1753-1837), but portions of a moat which existed
till the 1960s and subterranean passages leading
originally from the extensive cellars to the church and
to the Hornington and Halford roads indicate a much
earlier building of some substance.
The Underhill ownership of the estate ended in 1755,
though Mrs Margaret Underhill in a will of 1780 left
£100 to the Rector and Church wardens for the poor of
During the greater part of the nineteenth century the
house belonged to the Peach and Peach Keighley
families. In 1900 it was bought by Lord
Southampton, and in 1936 by an American, Mrs Horton.
The house has been a boys' prep school, and was also
used to house members of the Women's Land Army during
the Second World War.
The list of known Rectors goes back to1301, and there
has been a church on this site for well over eight
centuries or more. Inside it remains almost the
same as it did in the eighteenth century, with box-pews
and a three-decker pulpit.
The walls of the nave are 12th Century, with a Norman
doorway which dates from around 1200. The chancel
was rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century - see
the chancel arch - and the south aisle was added at the
same time. This contains the Manorial and Rectory
pews. The west gallery was inserted in the seventeenth
century, and the south chapel was built in the latter
part of the same century as a mortuary chapel for the
Underhill family. It contains a carving of the
Underhill Arms (14).
The pulpit with its tester, the communion table and
most of the pews are of the 17th century; the door of
one pew is hung with late 16th century cock's head
hinges; the panelling of the manorial pew and communion
rail are early 18th century work. The plain font
is mediaeval but is hard to date. It has a late
17th century oak cover with six ogee-shaped brackets
with nail-head or jewel ornamentation.
The south chapel also contains a number of memorials
to the Peach and Peach Keighley families, some of whom
died in the service of the East India Company