The History of Ilmington - Chapter 12

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Houses

The shape of the village with its two greens and other open spaces is shown on map 1.  Inspection of an Ordnance map shows that most of the cottages as well as the farm houses stand in their own closes and these sites are older than the buildings now standing in them.  Most of the cottages are in short rows parallel with the main streets or connecting lanes.  Two short rows of cottages are at right angles to the streets, one leading off Front Street, another off Back Street.  Two small groups of cottages, one on Stock Bank and one at the north end of Upper Green probably originated as squatters' cottages on the waste of pre-enclosure time, of which these greens are probably the remains.  Even the largest houses are of fairly modest dimensions and none are of outstanding architectural merit.

The number of houses now is almost the same as it was in 1871 but this number includes 75 or more built in the 20th century on land not previously occupied by houses.  Therefore this number of cottages and houses has either disappeared, or in some cases several small cottages have been converted into one.  Scarlett Potter writing as an old man in 1910 (1) speaks of the disappearance even of large houses, and older present day inhabitants quickly recalled the disappearance of at least twenty.  Numerous deeds of the 18th and 19th centuries mention houses being divided or cottages joined to form a larger dwelling.  Unfortunately it is seldom possible to identify the building.  The building stone has been re-used many times and this can be done in such a way that after a few years, alterations scarcely show, which makes the dating of buildings difficult.

The old name for Ilmington, Ilmedone, suggests that wood was abundant.  Much of the ground contains clay but rough stone is also available.  It is probable that the early buildings were of cruck construction.  The crucks probably stood on low field stone walls, the remainder of the wall being wattle and daub and the roof of thatch.  A very small cottage with cruck construction was restored some years ago but the crucks were removed.  A very few cottages today show rough field stone as distinct from cut free stone at the base of their walls.  It is unlikely that existing buildings date from much before the early 17th century though some may have older foundations.  The buildings of this date would be of stone, the roof usually thatched, though some of the largest may have had the cotswold stone-tiled roof.  For the latter the walls needed to be strong, as when one of these roofs was repaired some years ago the tiles from one side weighed 25 tons.  The stone for the buildings of Ilmington most likely came from the local quarries on Ilmington Down.  These were still being used when the school (now demolished) was built in 1858 and stone for roads was taken from them until nearly the end of the century.

Because the inventories of the 17th century usually give the rooms in which the goods were contained, some clues to the inside of the houses can be obtained.  However, they are so varied that little generalisation is possible.  The inventories are those of yeomen, husbandmen, a miller, since the mill house is mentioned, and a widow.  The latter dwelling is probably the only representation of a cottage and contained a hall and a bed chamber.  The hall was universal, and a chamber over the hall was mentioned in more than half.  A parlour was mentioned in less than a quarter, a kitchen in about half and half of these had a chamber over it.  A buttery was usual and nearly all these had a chamber over it.  Other buildings mentioned, usually only once, were a brewhouse, a malt house, a mill house twice, a cellar, an entrie with a chamber below it, a cockloft, a garrett, an apple garrett and upper and lower chambers the position of which was not specified.  In only one house was a stair head mentioned and this in connection with the chamber over it.  To summarise, the houses were then, as now, varied, each with its own individuality and by the beginning of the 17th century upper chambers were usual, but these were not necessarily bedrooms in the present sense of the word.

The pitch of a thatched roof is very steep and as the thatch decayed it was replaced in some cases in the early 18th century by the light, cheap and durable Welsh slates.  These can have a much flatter roof and the walls were often raised, sometimes with brick giving clear indication that this is an old building probably at least of 17th century origin.  By the early 20th century tiles were being used.  One small cottage showing these alterations is known to have had its roof tiled in 1912.  Other cottages have quite bright red brick fronts with slate roofs but the ends and backs are of stone.  It seems possible that brick was either fashionable, or cheap, in the early 19th century.  Some entirely brick buildings are found.  The bricks vary, one kind being the yellowish sun-baked brick possibly from Pebworth.  It seems that any evidence of alteration may indicate an older building than one with no alteration, even though the latter may be entirely of stone.  Straight lintels to windows and doors are older than the arched lintel of separate stones, even though the former may be of wood.  Moulded mullions are older than straight ones, though both are often found together in the few houses where they occur.  Hand-cut stone often showing chisel marks is certainly older than the much more uniform machine cut stone.  Five examples of thatch still remain.  Chimneys even on very old buildings are often of brick and some of these protrude on the end of the houses.

 

The materials of 20th century building and alteration reflect no doubt economics, fashion and changing bye-laws.  Brick covered with rough cast was used for the council houses of Washbrook Place in 1919, dark red brick for those of Bennett Place in 1932, brick toning with the village stone for Windmill Close in 1951.  Later additions to Bennett Place beginning in 1956 had stone fronts with toning brick ends.  For a period during the 1960s natural stone was compulsory, but since then wood and reconstituted stone have made their appearance.

Within the last few years the speculative builder has moved in and much building is taking place.  Some is very good indeed, some seems disproportionate to its site.  The general rule in this conserved village appears to be that it should 'tone' with its adjacent buildings.

A number of deeds have been kindly loaned by their owners for the purpose of this study but they seldom prove as illuminating as one might hope.  However, those of a cottage at the top of Grump Street, though only going back to 1828, form a social document of the changes which have occurred in this village in the last century, and which are responsible for a shift in density of population from the older parts of the village, mainly in the southwest to the newer parts in the northeast.

This cottage was sold in August 1828 by Robert Sansom (an Ilmington name for some generations) to a Shipston man 'gent' for £47.  He sold it in November of the same year to its occupant for £67, a not inconsiderable profit!  The cottage was then a two-roomed cottage with a thatched roof.  In proving ownership Robert Sansom refers back to his father's will who in 1799 left 'that cottage now rebuilding or being set up' to his wife from whom Robert inherited.  For the purchase of this cottage the occupant, described as laborer, raised from his master a mortgage of £50.  He was lucky.  He is later described as 'servant' and was ultimately left the £50 so, unlike another laborer who made a similar venture about the same time, was able to pay off the mortgage and retain the cottage.  It remained in his family for forty years, was then sold to a Halford man for £36 and back to an Ilmington man in 1919 for £35.  This man tiled the roof and sold the cottage to a Birmingham professional man in 1937 for £275.  In 1938 it passed to another Birmingham professional man for £200 and in 1946 to a Coventry man for £800.  By 1952 a garage had been added and between 1952 and 1958 the cottage was at least doubled in size and completely modernised inside.  It was then sold to retired people for £3000 and changed hands again in 1967 in a private sale, and is occupied by a widow.  Here is seen clearly set out the decay and rebuilding of the old cottage at the end of the 18th century, its duration with some repair, and occupation by local people, or at least ownership by local people, until the imminence of the second world war.  Subsequently it became the country retreat for the professional townsman and later the peaceful haven for the retired.  This record epitomises the history of many Ilmington houses.

As has already been stated a large number of deeds have been examined but they seldom give a coherent and continuous account of any one house.  From them, however, it has been possible to obtain some dates for the larger houses and a few cottages.  Even so, it is seldom possible to state that these are the earliest dates for a building on that site.

The Manor House has already been discussed in the chapter on the manor of Ilmington.  By 1617 the 'perquisites of Bailiff of Ilmington including the Court Leet' were leased to Nicholas Petty (2) and by his will of 1640 (3) he is shown to be possessed of the 'Mansion House'.  The Pettys had been in Ilmington in the 16th century, since there is a will of a Robert Petty, yeoman of Ilmington, dated 1602.  From the Pettys it probably passed to the French family.  Thomas French appears to have been the first to own the house and in his will (4) left his body to be buried in the tomb 'belonging to the house wherein he dwelt'!  Of this no trace has been found.  This same will left money to his mother Elizabeth Ballard.  Presumably this was her second marriage.  Ballard's house was usually the place where the court baron met.  In 1699 the house was sold to Nicholas Slatter, a yeoman of the district, and for the next two hundred years was occupied by farmers and may even have been subdivided.  It was restored and enlarged in the early years of the 20th century; first by Judge Evans and later by Major Spencer Flower.

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Middle Street.  The Manor before restoration. C.1898?

Of the Dower House little has been determined.  It was certainly a house of importance in the early 17th century and possesses its own dove cote, part of a range of out buildings.  It seems likely to have belonged at one time to the Rose family who left one of the charities to Ilmington and whose daughter married a Green.  Altar tombstones in the churchyard commemorate some members of this family.  Later in the late 19th century part of this house was the post office. 

 

The Hill is certainly one of the oldest houses and probably one of the most interesting.  It has so far proved impossible to obtain any documentary evidence of its history.

Hobdays from Quarter Sessions records appears to have been owned by Edward French before 1701 when it was sold to Isaac Snow (5).  In 1704 (6) an Isaac Snow, younger son of a Moreton butcher also named Isaac Snow, bought half a yard land from Richard Rose.  In 1722 an Isaac Snow was churchwarden but in 1736 (7) an Isaac Snow resigned from being churchwarden as he had been appointed High Sheriff of Worcester.  In 1766 Lucy Snow, widow of John Lambert Snow, married William Hobday.  William Hobday, Lucy, his wife, and Thomas Snow, her son by her first marriage, figure in the Enclosure Award and William Hobday rented the Berry Fields allotment given to the churchwardens for the maintenance of part of the church.  He died the following year but his wife continued the tenancy.  She was the only person in Ilmington to pay a hair tax, i.e. a tax levied for use of hair powder.  In 1750 Susannah, a daughter of Isaac Snow, had married William Horniblow who also figures largely in the Enclosure Award.

Southfield was originally part of the demesne land and was enclosed sometime before the early part of the 17th century.  By 1689 (8) Henry Capell leased a newly erected house at Southfield to Charles Stork.

Cathole is another house built about the same time, again on early enclosed land.  One hundred acres of this land had been sold to Sir Baptist Hicks in 1615 (9).  The house is mentioned for the first time in records so far found in 1700 (10).

Park Farm, or rather the land of Park Farm, belonged to the Guild of Holy Trinity and St George of Warwick in 1544 (11).  Its proceeds formed a charity for 'the poor of Warwick' and subsequently belonged to the Burgesses of Warwick.  The origin of this ownership is unknown.

The Old Rectory along the road to Mickleton replaced in the early 19th century (about 1814) an earlier rectory which at the time of the Enclosure in 1781 stood much where the school was built in 1858.  As is stated in chapter 9 the rector of that time was empowered in the Award to raise a mortgage of £600 and to erect a barn and stables on the land awarded to him, which later received the name of York Farm.  This farm together with Berry Fields farm are the only farm houses known to have been erected as a result of this Enclosure.  The mortgage was paid off in about 1815.

The Fox House was sold in 1736 (12) by William Banbury of Todenham to William Hill of Todenham.  'Mr Banbury's hedges' figure in the Enclosure award.  It was sold in 1775 by Ann Hill to an Ilmington yeoman, in 1828 it was in the hands of Richard Bartlett, a baker.  There are altar tombstones to Bartletts in the churchyard.  By 1848 it was in the hands of Robert Slatter and in 1849 was a public house.  More recently it belonged to the well known Sam Bennett and there are photographs extant of dancing on the little green in front of the old house.

Crab Mill which is a recent name for this house was leased by Richard Eden in 1631 from Sir John Andrewe for 1/- a year and in 1638 (13) he was paying 6d. per half year to Sir Edward Alford.  By the early 19th century it was in the hands of George Underhill.  The history of this house, known at one time to have been a row cottages is obscured by the disappearance of a large stone house between this and Meon Cottage.  This house is on the Enclosure Award map of 1781.  Behind this is another early enclosed piece of land 'recently enclosed ' in the early 17th century during Eden's tenure.

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Overbury House, now Crab Mill.  Probably in the early 20th century.

Myrtle Cottage, near Hobdays, dates at least from the middle of the 17th century and belonged at one time to Samuel Hobday, a retired schoolmaster.

The deeds of a small stone cottage in Back Street throw some light on its history.  In 1737 it was sold by a weaver to Decimus Slatter of Lambcott, near Ettington, and passed to his son also Decimus Slatter the following year.  This deed refers back to a previous sale in 1728.  By 1745 it was being sold again this time by William Tuffloy, an Ilmington yeoman, who was in financial difficulties and his purchase of the cottage does not appear in its deeds.  In a deed of 1772 it is still described as one cottage, but by 1799 was given by Jones of Southfield to his son and to Joseph Slatter and had now been divided into two cottages.  This period is close to the time of the enclosure of the open fields in 1781 and this conversion suggests that at least one farmer had money to spend on building.  The cottage is a solidly built stone cottage, the stone being the irregular hand dressed stone.  In size it is of two bays, i.e. about 15' deep and 20' long, internal dimensions.  At its north end it shares a wall with an adjacent cottage, at its south end it had at one time a small opening which may have been a window adjacent to the open hearth, or an opening into a barn, long since gone.  It had massive stone chimneys inside the house at each end and both were associated with baking ovens, the one at the north end appearing to be much older than the other and still having in 1964 the old block of wood to close the opening.  The main supporting beam of the ceiling showed slight champhering and over the south fireplace was a very old well-shaped beam.  The front of the cottage showed no sign of alteration and with the slate roof which had replaced the thatch, and the curved arches of upright stones over the lower windows and the two doors suggested that it was one of the later buildings of the village.  The wall which divided the two cottages was stripped in 1964 when they were restored and was found to be of very old curved supporting timbers with some filling of rough stone and some wattle and daub.  Its floors were of rough stone flags and one of its doorsteps was a tombstone of 1829 turned upside down.  Possibly this cottage is much older than its deeds, and its relatively modern arched windows and doors are due to its late 18th century division.  This is lent credence by old photographs of two cottages (since demolished) which stood to the south .  The cottage under discussion had two brick lean-tos at the back and a brick addition at the south end serving as a large coal house, with slates of a different period from those of the cottage.  In the early 19th century it belonged for a time to members of the Archer family and was sold at the end of the 19th century as two dilapidated cottages.  This cottage is therefore likely to have had three major alterations, of which it shows traces only of the last undertaken in 1964, when it again became a single cottage.  It has been described at some length because it now shows, less than most, its past history.

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The Manor.  Not later than 1909

Red Lion

  1. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

  2. Warwick Record Office D 19/486.

  3. Warwick Record Office CR 1379 Box I.

  4. P.R.O. B 11/300 C/5347.

  5. Warwick Record Office QS 40/17.

  6. Warwick Record Office D 19/486.

  7. Warwick Record Office DR 20/13.

  8. Warwick Record Office CR 1306.

  9. Birmingham Local Studies Library No. 193157.

  10. Warwick Record Office CR 1306.

  11. Warwick Borough Records W 4/64.

  12. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust ER 3/4434.

  13. Herts Record Office ref. 10653.