St James the Great


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1 - 2  The exterior of the church - the North porch - the south side from the SW.

The church is Norman, Early English, with later additions. The arcade in the south chapel is 18th Century, and there is a timber bell-cote, box-pews, two-decker pulpit with tester, Jacobean screen and Communion rails, and a west gallery.  

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3  - The Sanctuary and Chancel, with panels of texts either side.



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4  -  The west gallery, as seen from the pulpit.

5  -  The staircase to the gallery, made from quarter tree-trunks.

6  -  Two rows of pews and a central harmonium in the gallery.


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8  -  The two-decker pulpit, as seen from the gallery, adjoining the 13th Century chancel arch.  The third tier, the reading desk, is in fact part of the adjoining pew for the singers(?), shown in 9 & 10.


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11 - 13  -  Three further views of the pulpit. 

That in 12 is taken from the "Vestry", in the south aisle, which doubles as a further reading desk, as the book rest is formed from the top of the hinged half-door to the vestry; this is in fact the Rectory pew, with the Manorial pew immediately to its west.



The 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.


History 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.  


Idlicote House

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 the Parish.  

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 Church

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

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14  -  The coat of arms of the Etherington branch of the Underhill family, in the south transept chapel.  A daughter of that family married her first cousin, William Underhill of Idlicote. The bells  represent the Porters of Mickleton, a daughter of which family also married into the Underhill family at Elkington. The other quarters relate to the Underhills who initially were of Wolverhampton.



Map reference

The church is at the end of a short drive, having passed through the entrance gates to the adjoining House, having turned off the minor road between Whatcote and Nonington, and about five miles south-west of the mid-point of the road between Stratford-upon-Avon and Banbury. (March 2002)



Photographs: © Edwin Macadam



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