Matma, Matme (xi cent.); Mathum, Mathene, Mathermayn (xiii cent.); Mathonaching (xvi cent.).
The Worcestershire part of Mathon, now known as West Malvern, forms a parish on the west side of the Malvern Hills. Mathon was formerly partly in Worcestershire and partly in Herefordshire and most of the original parish is now the parish of Mathon Rural in Herefordshire. By a Local Government Board Order of 1894 the parish was divided into two parts, Mathon Urban and Mathon Rural, the former comprising the part in Malvern Link urban district. By Local Government Board Order of 8 May 1897, confirmed by the Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 10) Act, 1897, (fn. 1) Mathon Rural was transferred to Herefordshire. By the Malvern Link Extension Act of 1896, (fn. 2) which came into operation 31 March 1897, part of Cradley was transferred to Mathon Urban, and the whole was renamed the civil parish of West Malvern. (fn. 3) West Malvern is still in the registration county of Hereford. (fn. 4) It was constituted an ecclesiastical parish out of Mathon and Leigh in 1844. (fn. 5)
The present parish of Mathon has an area of 3,038 acres, most of which is devoted to agriculture. (fn. 6) West Malvern contains 631 acres. There are many apple and pear orchards for cider and perry, and large crops of grain and hops are also grown. The parish has given its name to a well-known kind of hop of fine quality known as 'Mathon Whites.' The cider and perry of the Mathon district have long been famous and are mentioned by Camden. (fn. 7) The soil is loam and the subsoil chiefly Old Red Sandstone, but part of West Malvern lies on the Ludlow Beds. In the north-west the land is comparatively low-lying, but it rises to the east and south. The western part of the parish consists chiefly of farms. Here is Moorend Cross, whose name occurs in the 13th century. (fn. 8) This district is drained by Cradley Brook, which is joined at Mathon by another brook from the Malvern Hills, and flows north to Cradley. The parish is well wooded.
The village of Mathon is on the high road to Cradley. The parish church stands in a secluded valley near the road. Near it is Church Farm, which has the remains of a moat. There is a pound by the roadside. Mathon Court, lately the seat of Mr. William Croxton Vale, is near the village; to the south of it is South End, probably 'la Suthide' of the 12th and 13th centuries, which belonged to the fee of Hanley and was given by Robert son of Robert de Hanley and Eva his mother to the abbey of Pershore. (fn. 9) There is a disused Wesleyan chapel here. Still further south are Smith's Green and Ham Green; near the latter are the remains of a moat. North-east of Mathon, on the Cradley boundary, is Netherley Hall, now a farm-house.
About 1½ miles east of Mathon village, in a beautiful situation on the slope of the hills, lies West Malvern. Here are situated the Royal Well, the property of the Royal Well Mineral Water Company, and the Royal Malvern Well Hall, which was closed in 1885. Near the church of St. James is St. Edward's Orphanage for Boys founded in 1876. It stands in the same grounds as the Clergy House of Rest, the latter established in 1874. A chapel for the two was built in 1880. Further south at the Dingle is a Congregational chapel built in 1860; there is also a Wesleyan chapel built in 1866. South of West Malvern is Mathon Park, in which is Mathon Lodge, the seat of Mr. Theodore Kensington. Near by is a chapel on the side of the Worcestershire Beacon. To the north of West Malvern is Cowleigh Park, one of the most beautiful parts of Malvern. The population of West Malvern parish in 1901 was 1,406. (fn. 10)
In the 14th century the inhabitants of Colwall and Mathon paid 8 qrs. of oats yearly to the lord of Malvern Chase for having common in the Chase. (fn. 11)
The following place-names occur: Remner's Stocking, Esselond, le Fether, Hopesbroc (fn. 12) (xiii cent.); Shepynground, (fn. 13) le Hamend, Redefild, Le Gnabe Furlong (fn. 14) (xvi cent.); the Dead Water Closes, the Dog Pitt Meadow, the Aytes (fn. 15) (xvii cent.); the Dean and the Hold, Mundine (fn. 16) (xviii cent.).
Ethelred II in the year 1014 gave to a certain ealdorman Leofwine 'a district containing 4 mansae in the place which is called Mathon.' (fn. 17) By the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of MATHON, consisting of 5 hides, of which 3 paid geld and one was in Herefordshire, had passed to the abbey of Pershore. (fn. 18) Henry III in 1251 granted to the abbot free warren in his manor of Mathon. (fn. 19) In 1291 the abbot was returned as holder of a carucate of land here worth 2 marks a year, (fn. 20) and at the dissolution of the abbey the manor of Mathon was of the clear yearly value of £26 13s. 4½d. (fn. 21) It was granted in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of' Westminster, (fn. 22) by whose successors it was held till 1869, (fn. 23) when the manorial rights were vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the present holders.
The Dean and Chapter of Westminster have Court Rolls and deeds for Mathon and various leases of the manor after the Dissolution. (fn. 24)
Dean And Chapter of Westminister. The arms of St. Edward with a chief or and therein a pale of FRANCE and ENGLAND between two rases gules.
Half a hide of land in the manor of Mathon which lay in Herefordshire was held in 1086 of Roger de Lacy by a tenant Odo; it had previously been held by Mereuin, a thane of Earl Odo. (fn. 25) This may possibly have been the manor of COWLEIGH (fn. 26) (Couley, xiv cent.). Henry de Cowleigh witnessed a deed in 1287, (fn. 27) and in 1351 William de Cowleigh gave to the vicar of Great Malvern lands in Cowleigh and Cradley. (fn. 28) It first appears as a manor in 1385, when two parts of the manor of Cowleigh next Malvern in Herefordshire and a third of the manor of Cowleigh next Malvern in Worcestershire were settled on Richard Ruyhale and Elizabeth his wife and their heirs. (fn. 29) Habington says that this manor belonged to the Corbetts of Impney, (fn. 30) and though no deeds have been found connecting the Corbetts with this estate, it belonged in the 16th century to the heirs of this branch of the family. It probably passed with the heiress of the Cowleigh family to her husband, a Corbett, (fn. 31) and followed the descent of Impney to the Harewells, for Edmund Harewell died seised of half the manor in 1532. (fn. 32) He was succeeded by his son Thomas, whose grandson Sir Edmund Harewell (fn. 33) in 1604 sold the site of Cowleigh Manor to Rowland Berkeley. (fn. 34) Of his son (fn. 35) William Berkeley the manor was bought in 1624 by Sir Walter Devereux of Leigh, (fn. 36) who had licence to make a park in Leigh, Cowleigh and other places in 1625. (fn. 37) Cowleigh was sold by the Devereux family about 1646, (fn. 38) probably to the Lechmeres, Edmund Lechmere being lord of the manor in 1674, (fn. 39) and it afterwards descended with Holdfast in Ripple in the Lechmere family. (fn. 40) The site of the manor was retained by the Devereux family after they parted with the manor. It was in the hands of Price Devereux in 1723, (fn. 41) but was acquired before 1811 by the Lechmeres, (fn. 42) of whom the manor was purchased by Frederick sixth Lord Beauchamp. (fn. 43) His son the present Lord Beauchamp is now theowner.
Three virgates of land in the manor of Mathon were held by Urse in 1086, (fn. 44) while Walter Poer (Ponther) held a virgate of waste land. (fn. 45) At the same time Adelelm, tenant of Drew Fitz Ponz, held half a hide in Herefordshire previously held by Alward, a thane of Earl Odo. (fn. 46) The further descents of the estates held by Urse and Drew have not been traced, but Walter Pocr's land is probably to be identified with an estate at FARLEY (Ferlegh, Farle, xiii cent.; Farnely, xiv cent.; Farelowe, Fareley, xvixviii cent.), afterwards held by the Poer family. It probably followed the same descent as Battenhall in St. Peter, Worcester, for in 1274 William Poer was presented at the assizes for making a warren in Farley and other places, (fn. 47) and in 1287 the Earl of Gloucester impleaded him for inclosing a park there and making a deer leap, to the detriment of Malvern Chase. (fn. 48) It was then shown that William father of William Poer had made the park, and the father of the Earl of Gloucester had given him deer to place in it, but at the time of the plea they had almost all been destroyed by wolves. (fn. 49) In 1305–6 John de Morton and his wife Elizabeth (probably a member of the Poer family) conveyed to Richard le Mercer, his wife Margaret and their son John 2 virgates of land in Farley. (fn. 50) Robert Bracy was dealing with rent in Farley in 1316. (fn. 51) There is no mention of a manor here till 1507, when Thomas Lygon of Madresfield died seised of the manor of Farley, which he held of the manor of Hanley Castle. (fn. 52) . From this date the manor descended with Brace's Leigh (see Leigh) till 1652, when it was sold by Henry Bromley and Edward Penell to Thomas Dangerfield, Susan Fawke, Anne Fawke and George Wood. (fn. 53) Thomas Dangerfield 'of the Park' died in 1705, succeeded by a son Thomas, who died in 1735. He left a son Thomas and a daughter Anne, who married Edward Holder. Thomas died in 1742, (fn. 54) and in 1780 Edward and Anne Holder conveyed the manor of Farley to Samuel Wharton, clerk, and Robert Dangerfield, possibly a son of Thomas. (fn. 55) In 1884 Benjamin Bright was lord of the manor of Farley. (fn. 56) He died leaving an only daughter Phoebe, who married Mr. Cave, the present owner. (fn. 57)
The park of Farley contained 150 acres in 1633. (fn. 58)
There was a mill on the abbot's demesne in 1086. (fn. 59) It is probably to be identified with Mathon Mill mentioned in the 16th century, when there was also a second mill here. (fn. 60) In 1650 'the milne river,' 'the milne close,' 'the milne meadow' and 'the mill croft' are mentioned. (fn. 61) There was a water-mill and tan-house in Mathon in the tenure of Henry Wood in 1686, (fn. 62) and in 1735 a mill-house and the millcroft were leased to Allan Cliffe. (fn. 63)
There was also a mill attached to Cowleigh Manor in the 17th century, (fn. 64) but it seems to have disappeared before the end of that century.
Plan of Mathon Church
The church of ST. JOHN BAPTIST (fn. 65) consists of chancel 22 ft. 6 in. by 19 ft. with organ chamber on the north side, nave 66 ft. 8 in. by 19 ft., west tower 10 ft. 6 in. by 11 ft., and south porch 12 ft. by 11 ft., all these measurements being internal.
There is no structural division between the nave and chancel, the north and south walls of the building being unbroken throughout their full length, though the chancel roof is slightly lower than that of the nave. The chancel and nave are of 12th-century date, but all the windows with the exception of those at the east end and one on the north side of the nave are modern copies or restorations of 14th-century openings. The tower was added in the 15th century, and the existing roof of the nave was probably erected about the same time. The porch may be a little later than the tower, perhaps c. 1500. The organ chamber is modern. The church was partially restored between 1849 and 1868 and again in 1897.
The church throughout is built of rubble masonry, formerly stuccoed, and the roofs, which overhang at the caves, are covered with modern red tiles. The plaster remains at the east end below the string-course and on the north side of the chancel, but the antiquity sometimes claimed for it is doubtful. When the external plaster was removed from the north and south walls some herring-bone masonry was discovered. This occurs between the second and third windows of the nave just below the eaves on the south side and also to the west of the porch and along the greater part of the north wall at the same height. A vertical joint in the north wall about 10 ft. from the west end may possibly indicate a lengthening of the nave when the tower was added, but most likely only a rebuilding of this portion of the wall when the new roof was erected.
The east end has two round-headed windows high up in the wall resting on a flat string-course, the top edge of which is slightly chamfered. This and another string across the gable are almost the only external architectural features of the 12th-century structure, the walls being without plinth or buttress. The sills of the two east windows are more than 8 ft. above the ground, and the openings, which are 12 in. wide and 4 ft. 10 in. apart, are slightly chamfered all round externally. Above, in the lower part of the gable below the upper string, is an original circular window, but the upper part of the gable has been rebuilt. On the south side the chancel is lighted by a window of two trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in the head, and there is a similar window on the north side rather more to the west. Both these windows are modern, but are apparently restorations or copies of 14th-century work. The rear arch of that on the north side is shouldered, and the sill is formed of a mediaeval grave slab, with incised cross, part of which is cut away to fit the jamb. In the usual position in the south wall, below the window, is a 12th-century round-headed piscina recess, with plain sunk bowl; opposite in the north wall is another recess of similar type, but probably an aumbry. (fn. 66) The priest's doorway is original, with a semicircular head. The door is new. Internally the walls are plastered, and the modern boarded roof is separated from that of the nave by a modern framed principal of ornamental design partly filled in with lath and plaster forming a kind of chancel arch.
The nave is lighted on the south side by four modern two-light windows, one of which is to the west of the porch, all apparently copies of 14th-century originals, and there are two windows on the north side. The easternmost of these, which is a squareheaded opening of two trefoiled lights, was originally further to the east, but was removed to its present position when the organ chamber was erected. It is apparently of 15th-century date. The head of a mediaeval sepulchral slab is built into the sill inside. The other window, which is placed about the middle of the wall, is an original 12th-century opening lengthened at the bottom and the head roughly cut to a pointed shape. The jamb stones remain below the head, but the lower part has been simply cut through the rubble. The north and south doorways are about 20 ft. from the west wall and that on the north side is built up. It has a square lintel, the edge of which is ornamented with a cable moulding, and the upper jamb stones set in about 1½ in. on either side, forming a kind of trefoiled or shouldered arch. Internally it has a plain semicircular head. The south doorway is of the same type, but the head forms a plain tympanum flush with the walls inclosed by a semicircular arch. The lower edge of the tympanum has a plaited moulding, and the upper part of the opening, which is wider than that on the north side, is again contracted. The door is new, but the ironwork is ancient.
The nave roof consists of seven bays and is a good piece of 15th-century oakwork, having plain collared principals with curved pieces on the under side. The six western bays have purlin braces, the upper plain and the lower cusped, while the easternmost bay has trussed rafters only. Two original tie-beams remain in the middle of the third and sixth bays, and the whole of the roof timbers are continued some little distance down the walls, where they stop against a plaster moulding. The roof has been restored and is plastered between the rafters.
The tower is of four stages with a vice in the north-west corner, but only the upper or belfry stage is marked externally by a string, below which the walls are unbroken to the moulded plinth. The walling is of coursed grey rubble, different in colour from that of the nave, and there are diagonal buttresses of four stages on the west side going up the full height of the tower. On the east side there are square buttresses facing north and south, forming in their lower stages the termination of the nave walls and setting back below the belfry string, where they give place to diagonal buttresses, awkwardly corbelled out, similar to those on the west. The buttresses all terminate abruptly at the top of the belfry stage, the embattled parapet and angle pinnacles, which are set back from the face of the tower, being apparently of later date. The belfry windows are of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in the heads. The west doorway has a four-centred moulded arch without hood mould, and the window above is of two cinquefoiled lights with perpendicular tracery much restored There is a plain pointed light on the north and south sides to the ringing chamber, but the lower stages are blank. The buttresses have each a sunk tracery panel in the second stage. The tower arch is of a single hollow-chamfered order dying out into the wall on the west side, but continuous towards the nave.
The porch is timber-framed with tile filling on a low stone base and has a double two-light window on each side, but the tracery which once existed in the openings has disappeared. (fn. 67) The porch was restored in 1897 and trefoil cusping inserted. The four-centred outer doorway, however, retains its original carving in the spandrels and the timber work generally is ancient.
The font is modern and of stone, but the oak pulpit is a good example of Jacobean work on a modern base. It has four carved sides and an open back, each side having two tiers of panels, the upper of the usual round-headed type and the lower lozenge shaped.
The seating of the nave is modern, but three old oak seats, apparently of 17th-century date, remain at the west end. The walls are wainscoted to a height of 3 ft. 9 in. with woodwork from the old pews. In the vestry is an oak chest with two locks and good fleur de lis ironwork, on the lid of which is cut the date 1698 and the names of Io. How and H. Dangerfield. Against the wall on the north side of the chancel is an early 17th-century tomb of rather coarse Renaissance design with kneeling figures of John Walweyn and his wife and daughter. The daughter is by the side of her mother, who kneels at a prayer desk facing her husband. Below, along the ledge of the base of the monument, is the inscription, 'HIC IACET IANA VXOR IOHIS WALWEYN GENR FILIA PARIDIS SLOVEGHTER ARMIGERI QUAE OBIJT 2O oct: AO DNI 1617.' Below this are three panels with the arms of Walweyn, Slaughter, and Walweyn impaling Slaughter. The arms of Walweyn with crest and mantling occur again at the top of the monument. There are also mural monuments and two flat armorial slabs in the chancel to members of the Cliffe (fn. 68) and Dangerfield families. In the nave are tablets to members of the Barrett, Dangerfield and Vale families. A tablet within the built-up north doorway records the name of Canon Loraine Estridge, vicar (d. 1903), 'mainly through (whose) energy and ability this church was restored to its present state of beauty, A.D. 1897.'
There is a ring of six bells cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1760, (fn. 69) and also a sanctus bell by John Martin dated 1675.
The plate consists of a chalice, paten and flagon of 1849–50, given by Miss Vale in 1852, and patens (1848–9 and 1850–1) given in 1851 by the Rev. Archibald Douglas, vicar. There is also a pewter bread-holder inscribed, 'Be ready to give, glad to distribute, For with such sacrifices God is well pleased. 1 Tim. 6, 17. Heb. 13, 16,' a pewter flagon, and a brass repoussé almsdish of Flemish make.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) baptisms 1631 to 1808, burials 1631 to 1807, marriages 1631 to 1753; (ii) baptisms and burials 1808 to 1812; (iii) marriages 1754 to 1812.
The churchyard is entered through a modern lychgate at the south-east corner. To the south of the porch is the base of a churchyard cross and further east a fine yew tree.
The church of ST. JAMES, West Malvern, was originally built in 1841 and rebuilt in 1871 under the direction of G. E. Street. It is of stone in 13th-century style and consists of chancel with aisles, nave, aisles, south porch and tower with gabled roof at the east end of the south chancel aisle containing two bells. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.
The church of ST. PETER, built in 1876, stands near Cowleigh Park, and gives its name to an ecclesiastical parish formed in 1876. (fn. 70) The building is of stone in 13th-century style and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, north porch and eastern bell-turret. The living is a vicarage in the gift of Earl Beauchamp, who gave the site for the new vicarage-house built in 1894.
There was a priest in Mathon at the time of the Domesday Survey. (fn. 71)
The church is mentioned about 1193 (fn. 72) ; the Abbot and convent of Pershore presented to it in 1285 (fn. 73) and it continued in their gift till the Dissolution. In 1512 the church was appropriated to the abbey, (fn. 74) the vicarage at the Dissolution being valued at £8 a year. (fn. 75) The rectory and advowson of the vicarage were granted, with the manor, in 1542 to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, (fn. 76) and are still held by their successors.
About 1193 an arrangement was made between the patrons, the Abbot and convent of Pershore, and Peter, rector of the church, by which the abbot and convent received two parts of the great tithes and the rector the remainder with all the small tithes and the tithes of Farley. (fn. 77) This agreement was confirmed by Henry Bishop of Worcester (fn. 78) and by Hubert Archbishop of Canterbury. (fn. 79)
In 1548 the sum of 6s. 2d. was produced from a toft and a parcel of land which had been given for the maintenance of lights in the parish of Mathon. (fn. 80)
William Burford, who died in 1795, as appeared from the church table, gave by will the yearly interest of £48 to be equally divided amongst six of the poorest widows on St. Thomas's Day.
William Woodyatt, who died in 1823, by his will bequeathed £20, the yearly interest to be applied for the benefit of poor impotent persons.
In 1873 James Cruse, by his will proved at Worcester 23 May, bequeathed £200, the income to be applied for charitable purposes connected with the parish or inhabitants.
The same testator bequeathed a further sum of £100, the interest to be applied for educational purposes connected with the Church of England.
The legacies, less duty, are represented respectively by £193 0s. 7d. consols and £96 10s. 4d. consols, with the official trustees, producing together £7 4s. 4d.
|1||Local and Pers. Act, 60 & 61 Vict. cap. 75.|
|2||Ibid. 59 & 60 Vict. cap. 72.|
|3||Census of Engl. and Wales, 1901, Worcs. 13, note b; Herefs. 23.|
|4||Ibid. Worcs. 25.|
|5||Lond. Gaz. 7 June 1844, p. 1956.|
|6||Statistics from Bd. of Agric. (1905).|
|7||Camden, Brit. (ed. Gough), ii, 369.|
|8||William son of William de la Morende held land of the abbot in the 13th century (Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. lxi, fol. 52). Philip de la Morend occurs in 1276 (Lay Subs. R. Worcs. c. 1280 [Worcs. Hist. Soc.], 97) and William atte Morende in 1332-3 (ibid. 1332–3, p.3).|
|9||Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. lxi, fol. 53 d., 54.|
|10||Census of Engl. and Wales, 1901, Worcs. 25. The population of Mathon Rural was 387.|
|11||Cal. Inq. p.m. 1–9 Edw. II, 328; Chan. Inq. p.m. 23 Edw. III, pt. ii (1st nos.), no. 169; 33 Edw. III (1st nos.), no. 42.|
|12||Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. lxi, fol. 47, 53b.|
|13||Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 259.|
|14||Ld. Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxiv, fol. 384– 94.|
|15||Close, 1650, pt. xxvii, no. 10.|
|16||Exch. Dep. Mich. 31 Geo. II, no. 7.|
|17||Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. lxi, fol. 54b.|
|18||V.C.H. Worcs. i, 305.|
|19||Cart. Antiq. II, 42; Cal. Chart. R. 1226–57, p. 365.|
|20||Pope Nich. Tax. (Rec. Com.), 230.|
|21||Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 259. The Mucklow family were lessees of a manor in Mathon for some years during the 16th century (Feet of F. Worcs. Hil. 7 Hen. VIII; East. 7 Hen. VIII; Chan. Inq. p.m. [Ser. 2], 1, 158). It was possibly the glebe land, for in 1550 William Mucklow agreed to make his house a vicarage (Deeds of D. and C. of Westm. no. 21681), and in a survey held during the reign of Edward VI Richard Mucklow is given as holder of a capital messuage called the Hall Court (Land Rev. Misc. Bks. clxxxiv, fol. 388b). At this date Thomas Nevill was lessee of the site of the manor of Mathon (ibid.). In 1550 a lease of Mathon Manor was granted to William son of John Mason (Deeds of D. and C. of Westm. no. 21636).|
|22||L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, pp. 392, 394–6.|
|23||Lond. Gaz. 13 Aug. 1869, p. 4524. It was sold in 1650 to Henry Pitt (Close, 1650, pt. xxvii, no. 10).|
|24||Deeds of D. and C. of Westm. no. 21631 et seq.|
|25||V.C.H. Herefs. i, 331.|
|26||The manor was held of the Abbot of Pershore (Chan. Inq. p.m. [Ser. 2], liii, 31).|
|27||Duncumb, Hist. of Herefs. ii, 60.|
|28||Anct. D. (P.R.O.), C 2491.|
|29||Feet of F. Div. Co. 8 Ric. II, no. 26.|
|30||Habington, Surv. of Worcs. (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), ii, 27.|
|31||Ibid.; Visit. of Worcs. 1569 (Harl. Soc.), 71.|
|32||Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), liii, 31. The other moiety apparently passed with half the manor of Impney to the Rotseys and Colleys (Feet of F. Herefs. Mich. 34 Hen. VIII), but it probably became incorporated in Cradley Manor in Herefordshire before the middle of the 16th century.|
|33||See Besford above.|
|34||Close, 2 Jas. I, pt. iv; Feet of F. Div. Co. East. 3 Jas. I.|
|35||Feet of F. Herefs. Mich. 22 Jas. I.|
|36||Recov. R. Mich. 22 Jas. I, m. 116; Feet of F. Worcs. Mich. 22 Jas. I. Thomas Moore and his wife Anne, one of the daughters of Rowland Berkeley (Visit. of Worcs. 1569 [Harl. Soc.], 12), were parties to this fine.|
|37||Pat. 1 Chas. I, pt. ix, no. 24.|
|38||Feet of F. Div. Co. Trin. 17 Chas. I; Worcs. Mich. 22 Chas. I.|
|39||Ibid. Div. Co. East. 26 Chas. II.|
|40||Recov. R. East. 5 Geo. II, m. 236; Mich. 4 Geo. III, m. 391; Hil. 51 Geo. III, m. 254.|
|41||Feet of F. Worcs. Mich. 10 Geo. I.|
|42||Recov. R. Hil. 51 Geo. III, m. 254.|
|43||a Inform. from Mr. J. W. Willis-Bund.|
|44||V.C.H. Worcs. i, 305.|
|46||V.C.H. Herefs. i, 340.|
|47||Assize R. 1026, m. 35. Adam de Farley was a landholder here about 1280 (Lay Subs. R. Worcs. c. 1280 [Worcs. Hist. Soc.], 97) and Richard de Farley in 1332–3 (ibid. 1332–3, p. 9).|
|48||Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 214b, 222b, 283b.|
|50||Feet of F. Worcs. 34 Edw. I, no. 15.|
|51||Ibid. case 259, file 16, no. 15 (10 Edw. II).|
|52||Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), xxi, 19.|
|53||Feet of F. Worcs. East. 1652.|
|54||See Prattinton Coll. (Soc. Antiq.) for this pedigree of the Dangerfields.|
|55||Feet of F. Worcs. Trin. 20 Geo. III.|
|56||Local and Pers. Act, 47 & 48 Vict. cap. 175.|
|57||a Inform. from Mr. J. W. WillisBund.|
|58||Pat. 8 Chas. I, pt. ii, no. 4.|
|59||V.C.H. Worcs. i, 305.|
|60||Land Rev. Misc. Rks. clxxxiv, fol. 385; Pat. 3 & 4 Phil. and Mary, pt. v; 2 Eliz. pt. xi; Deeds of D. and C. of Westm. no. 21691.|
|61||Close, 1650, pt. xxvii, no. 10.|
|62||Deeds of D. and C. of Westm. no. 21600.|
|63||Ibid. no. 21659.|
|64||Recov. R. Mich. 22 Jas. I, m. 116; Feet of F. Div. Co. Mich. 22 Chas. I.|
|65||Bacon, Liber Regis, 978; Ecton, Thesaurus Rerum Eccl. 1742 and 1754. Nash (op. cit. ii, 174) says the invocation was to St. Margaret.|
|66||There is, however, no rebate to the jambs. The opening is 23 in. wide by 24 in. high and 15½ in. deep; the sill is 2 ft. 5 in. above the present sanctuary floor. The height of the sill of the piscina above the floor is only 15 in.|
|67||Assoc. Archit. Soc. Rep. (1893), xxii, p. xxxiii.|
|68||There are three monuments: (1) to William Cliffe, d. 1684, and Robert Cliffe, d. 1691 (buried at Oxford), with arms, helm, crest and mantling; (2) Henry Cliffe, d. 1767, Mary his first wife, d. 1744, and Frances his second wife, d. 1755; (3) a monument erected after 1754 to Henry Cliffe, d. 1695, and other members of the family.|
|69||The inscriptions are: (1) 'Peace & good neighbourhood, 1760'; (2) 'Glory to God 1760'; (3) 'Fear God honour the King 1760'; (4) 'God preserve our Church & State 1760'; (5) 'Prosperity to the Town 1760'; (6) 'The living to the Church I call and to the grave J summon all 1760.'|
|70||Lond. Gaz. 29 Feb. 1876, p. 1667.|
|71||V.C.H. Worcs. i, 305.|
|72||Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. lxi, fol. 105b.|
|73||Reg. G. Giffard (Worcs. Hist. Soc.), 254.|
|74||L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 3208; Worc. Epis. Reg. Silvester de Gigliis (1498– 1521), fol. 80.|
|75||Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 247; Deeds of D. and C. of Westm. no. 21681.|
|76||L. and P. Hen. VIII, xvii, pp. 392, 395.|
|77||Aug. Off. Misc. Bks. lxi, fol. 105b.|
|78||Henry de Soilli, 1193–5.|
|79||Hubert Walter succ. 1193.|
|80||Chant. Cert. 60, no. 58.|
Extract taken with kind permission from “'Parishes: Mathon', A History of the County of Worcester: volume 4 (1924), pp. 139-143. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42869” many thanks to the British History Online Project.
Ralph Spencer's Histories
This book is about Mathon people of the twentieth century, told as nearly as possible in their own words.
Mathon Church choir (1907)
Although a century is not a great span in history it is not very easy
to think ourselves back to the year 1900. We must imagine a world
without aeroplanes, cars, tractors or the electricity which powers our
beloved household appliances. Even the power failures caused by violent
storms give us only a momentary taste of this vanished world then the
power is switched on, the lights return, the refrigerator hums again,
and we heave a sigh of relief as we are returned to our troubled but
comfortable 21st century.
The countryside, at the beginning of the last century was a quiet world with the lowing of cattle, the bleating of sheep, birdsong and the clatter of hoofs the only sounds to disturb the quiet of the fields. The occasional train might be heard, and perhaps a steam engine but these were rare occurrences. Now only in the most remote country are we free from the noise of plane, car, chain saw, tractor and other signs of our times.
England was a prosperous country, secure in its power and empire and still enjoying the lead obtained by being the first into the Industrial Revolution but not too much of this wealth had penetrated to the countryside. Nor had much changed in Mathon since 1826 when Robert Ravenhill provided a dinner at the Cliffe Arms on Easter Monday for the paymasters of the parish, the expenses not to exceed £5.
Apart from the steam engine, the only power to assist the farmer was still that of animals, the horse, and sometimes the ox, donkey or mule. The housewife’s daily routine was such as most modern women would find unacceptable. On wash days, water was drawn from the well, which supplied most houses, and in some cases still does. Some families did not even have a well, and had to fetch buckets from the nearest source. Clothes were boiled or scrubbed, dried outdoors, and ironed with a flat iron, heated at the fire, and which always seemed to be too cold or too hot and leave burn marks on the clothes.
Also very trying for a community which produced most of its own food, must have been the lack of any means of preserving food apart from salting or smoking. Even tinned food was some years away from common use.
The village looked much as it had for years. The new brick vicarage was the exception to the black and white timber framed cottages which housed most of the people. Almost all these houses which are now occupied by one family were then two or three dwellings, and since families were large, it must have been difficult to find room for everyone. For example. The 1901 census shows that 9 people were living at Lane End, 12 at Parkers, and 9 at Ravenhill. When all resources for sharing a small house with a large family had been exhausted parents must have been glad to see their elder children employed and accommodated as servants at a farm or large house. Colonel Thurlow employed 5 servants at Mathon Court. Most of the girls who went into service, would already have had experience of cleaning, cooking, and looking after small children in the family when their mother had a new baby and their pay small as it was would be a great help to their parents, when the girls unselfishly sent part of it home, perhaps also with some cast off clothes from their employer.
Boys also found employment as grooms or general farm servants taking their meals in the back kitchen and sleeping in the attic bedrooms of the farmhouse, as Leslie Lawrence did in the nineteen twenties at South Hide. Leslie was the farmer’s son but he shared the meals and sleeping quarters with his fathers hired men.
The village smelt of wood smoke and lamp oil in those days, and in summer the lanes were beautiful with the blossom of fruit trees which lined the village street from the church to Lane End. Most food was produced locally and there were few families that did not have a productive vegetable garden and a pig. Sons and daughters writing home, would enquire about the pigs health, so important was it to the family economy. Nothing provided by nature was wasted and mushrooms and blackberries were picked, and occasionally a trout was caught. Sometimes these small luxuries had to be sold to provide for winter coats and boots.
The 1901 census shows that families were still large. Several families had 5 or 6 children, and one had 9. Even then, some families managed to find room for an aged parent, or at some farms an old servant was given shelter. Some young men were boarders, preferring this to renting one of the houses which stood empty. Most of the work in the parish was still centred on the land. Of the men described as “Head of Household” 42 were farm workers, 14 more worked with horses, 4 more with cattle, and 9 were gardeners.
Owing to better travel facilities, many more men were now willing to travel to seek employment, higher pay, or a better cottage, and though nearly half the fathers of families were born in Mathon, or villages within 5 miles, the rest came from more distant places and Cheshire, Oxfordshire, Radnor, Gosport, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire Manchester, and Birmingham are all given as places of birth. It is clear that change was taking place however slowly.
Mrs. Minton’s essay which follows illustrates the life of the village in the 20th century.
I was born on Dec. 21st 1905 at the above address. This is a black and white cottage, now 400 years old. The cottage had a thatched roof but this was soon removed and slates put on. The living room ceiling had been tarred but that too had to be changed to a white calico ceiling, the tar evidently hung in drops in warm weather. I still live in the cottage with my husband.
My father bought the cottage before I was born. He was the local tailor. He worked at home sitting on the table cross-legged. He got lots of work from the adjoining villages and some from abroad, people having lived in Mathon and had now gone abroad. My father was a cripple, he could not walk without two walking sticks. His boots had to be made and the soles built up. He was a very happy man and was very fond of his family life with his two sons and myself. He loved to walk with me and told me all the names of the flowers and footpaths He died at the age of 58 years in a flu epidemic.
I attended Mathon School from the age of 5 years and left at 14 years Mathon School was built in 1861 by public subscription and closed in the early 1950s owing to a shortage of children in the parish. During school holidays my mother and I would go hop-picking near the church for the farmer who kept Church Farm It was like a holiday especially on nice days but usually at that time of the year the mornings are frosty.
During my last years at school I learnt to play the piano and also the organ in the Mathon Church Mathon Church is 800 years old.
After leaving school I worked for West Malvern Post Office, delivering telegrams to the Wyche, Mathon and West Malvern. For this I was paid 5 shillings (25p) per week. While I waited for telegrams I did housework and mending for the Post Mistress. As I got older, I was able to learn the work of the Post Office, including the weekly accounts., which was very interesting as I was then allowed to go to another office as relief when required. After about 4 years, I was offered another Post Office to go to. That was at Sawbridgeworth and I went to find out all the details but decided it was not for me. A factory seemed to be the next best thing. Schweppes Colwall Springs. I worked there for 16 years before getting married.
In 1923 Mathon Parish Hall was built and used for meetings, dancing and men’s’ clubs. Mathon WI were allowed to have their meetings there, this was formed in 1924 I joined in June 1924 and have been a member ever since. I was also Clerk of Mathon Parish Council for several years and a member of that council for 40 years.
Monday was washing day, but before you could start the water had to be pumped up from the well in buckets to fill the copper, then a fire had to be lit to heat the water, the same procedure was done on Saturdays for the weekly bath. The toilet was at the end of the garden path usually hidden from view by a huge laurel or some other evergreen bush. It had a wooden seat with holes in, and a bucket into which was put some chemical which dissolved the contents which had to be emptied into a hole dug in the garden.
Winter evenings round the open fire, playing games of cards, draughts, ludo etc. Sometimes my brothers and I Would spend hours cutting strips of material from worn –out garments. These our parents would peg on to pieces of hessian to make warm rugs for the hearth.
In summer everyone had to help in the fields. Hay-making time the men would start to mow at 4.30 a.m., first the horses had to be fed and watered before being harnessed to the mower.
Hay-making and harvest time was a community effort, neighbour helping neighbour, lending each other machinery and labour, even the children had to do their share after school. My brothers would help to shake up the hay and rake it into “wallies” ready to be loaded on the wagons and taken to the farm to be made into ricks which were then thatched to keep the rain out. My job was to carry huge baskets of food; bread, cheese and huge lumps of fruit cake; cans of tea and home-made ginger beer to feed the workers. Harvest followed much the same pattern except that a road had to be cut round the edge of the binder so that no corn was wasted. This was done by hand with a wooden crook which gathered the stems together and then cut with a hook, these were then tied into sheaves with string, they were then stacked in groups of 5 or 6 wig-wam shape, the left in the field to dry before being carted to the barns ready for threshing time.
After harvest came hop-picking, families would arrive in the village from Dudley and other places in the Birmingham area. They would arrive loaded down with pots and pans. They stayed in the barns which were cleaned out ready to receive them. Hop-picking was a jolly time with much fun and laughter, although it was hard work. I think we were paid about 1 shilling (5p.) per bushel. The farmer would pay you at the end of the picking. This money went to buy winter clothes and fuel.
Public Elementary School erected 1861 for 60 children.
Average attendance 38. Edward J Chetwynd master.
|Douglas Rev. W.A.K. M.A.||Mill Farm|
|Lawrence Robert||Hollings Hill|
|Orr-Ewing Malcolm Hart||Parkwood|
|Potter Rev. George Walpole M.A.||The Vicarage|
|Vale William Croxton||Mathon Court|
|Alford Alfred||Tailor||Lane End|
|Brant James||Blacksmith||Ham Green|
|Deeper Albert||Farmer||Netherley Hall|
|Edwards Edward||Farmer & Hop Grower||Moorend|
|Farrell Lavender Hudson||Farmer||Ham Green & Mathon Lodge Farms|
|Hehir Henry||Baker & grocer||Badgers|
|James Charles||Farmer||Lane End|
|James William||Farmer||Smiths Green|
|Jones George Henry||Cliffe Arms|
|Lloyd Thomas||Farmer||The Elms|
|Lock Henry||Farmer||The Bank|
|Newman John||Farmer & Hop Grower||South Hide|
|Nutt Harriet Mrs.||Farmer||Moat Farm|
|Powell Alfred||Farmer & Hop Grower||Church Farm|
|Simmonds William||Farmer||Rose Farm|
|Smith Timothy||Farmer||Old Country|
|Thomas Emma Mrs.||Beer Retailer|
|Thomas Sarah Mrs.||Shopkeeper|
|Wall Charles||Farmer||Dobbins Croft|
|Wall William||Farmer||Town House|
Mathon Village 1905
A dramatic account of a fire which swept the Malvern Hills on Sept. 16th 1902 appeared in the Malvern Gazette. “So extensive was the space that eventually became ablaze that the flames and smoke could be seen miles off, especially in the Mathon and Cradley districts,” reported the paper.
The fire apparently began when a small patch of gorse above the Workmen’s Institute in West Malvern was set alight. The local policeman, P.C. Mann suspected schoolboy mischief, but could not prove it. “There was a strong north-easterly breeze blowing at the time and the fire soon spread until the hill was entirely aflame” the paper continued “A walk round to the Lamb Inn revealed an extensive fire tearing up the side of the hill, burning all before it and leaving in its train smouldering gorse and ferns.”
When the fire was first noticed, P.C. Mann proceeded to the spot and endeavoured to extinguish the burning bush, but his efforts were fruitless so strong was the breeze. The fire provided fine sport for the children who, armed with sticks rushed up the hill to do battle with the foe. PC Mann was the commander in chief, and under his direction they set to work to extinguish each patch of grass that had caught fire. By 6 o clock the wind had increased and so had the smoke and flames. The former was so dense that it enveloped the whole of the North Hill and it was impossible for those in the midst of it to see a yard on either side. As the evening wore on the spectacle became a weird one. The lurid glare of the flames and dense clouds of smoke and dust rose in the air, and all around was a scene of destruction.
PC Mann and his youthful army were reinforced by another contingent of boys and following them came PC Ellison who remained until the last burning embers died away” The 1891 census shows PC Mann living at Stockton. He and his wife had 9 children of their own, so possibly the little regiment he commanded were his own. In any case, he had plenty of experience of dealing with children.
Two photographs from about 1905. The “Cliffe Arms” and “Badgers” which was owned by Henry Hehir, a baker. His donkey cart was used to deliver the bread.
Leslie was born at South Hide Farm in 1912. He had seven brothers and sisters and began work on the family farm as soon as he was big enough. His father had one of the largest farms in the parish, and owned other land as well. All the family worked on the farm, and several men were also employed, taking their meals in the back kitchen and sleeping in the top rooms of the three storey house, where Lesley joined them when he left school and started work. However, long before that, he had milked a cow before going to school and another when he came home, just as the Fitzers did. One night one of the hired men went to sleep leaving a candle burning on a wicker chair beside his bed, and woke later to find the chair in flames, fortunately before the house was on fire.
Leslies father kept a milking herd, and would drive the morning and evening milk down to Colwall station to catch the evening train to Birmingham. They kept 6 horses at South Hide, and as they bred their own, there were always foals. At that time Colwall had a race course, and Leslies father kept a few race horses. The family seem to have slightly resented this, because the race horses got the best of everything, and produced nothing.
As a boy, Leslie used to catch moles, and sell their skins, shopping round to find the best bidder when he sold them. We both remembered the Sikhs, who in the 1930s travelled around with a suitcase full of articles, selling at the door.
After the days work, his father liked to sit on a large wooden box which held tools, and stood near the back door., and his friends would find him here when they called in and enjoyed a mug of cider with him. It was here that Leslie looked for him, when on Sunday evening, the weeks work done, and after his bath and shave he would hope to get his pay. The agricultural wage at that time was 30s. (£1.50) Leslie got 2s.6d. (12-½ p.) and even then it was a battle of wits, because if his father could disappear into a barn or garden before Leslie got there, he would.
Leslie joined the Territorial Army, so in 1939, he was called up, and though his father tried to get him released, he failed to do so. Leslie would of course have been in a reserved occupation, but probably the fact that he was by now a trained soldier decided the issue. He joined the Shropshire Yeomanry, a medium artillery regiment which had 5.5inch guns. He was in this country until 1942, and then served in Iran, Iraq, and Italy. He fought at the Battle of Cassino, and considers himself very lucky to be alive, having had friends killed on either side, and a dud shell which landed at his feet. He was mentioned in despatches for rescuing wounded men from between the lines, and received the oak leaf award for a repeated act of bravery. He was discharged with the rank of Sergeant.
Coming back to peaceful Herefordshire must have been a strange experience. He remembers the feeling of lost comradeship, and a slight loss of security. Italian and German prisoners of war were still working in Mathon. Leslie, a life-long bachelor, had no time for the Italians –“Ladies men” He had much more respect for the German prisoners., but it must have been strange to be working alongside men against whom he had been fighting in such a bitter battle.
He now decided to take on contract work, for farmers who had not bought the machinery for mowing or threshing, and were glad to have the work done quickly instead of employing men with scythes. But like most men who worked on the land, he says “There was no money in farming till the war”
South Hyde House 1917
South Hyde House 2003-04-29
In Mathon Church is a memorial giving the Roll of Honour for the village, and showing 13 names. We can suppose that probably 2 or 3 times that number of young men answered Kitchener’s call for volunteers inspired by patriotism and what they considered their duty. Some of them were probably encouraged by friends, always a powerful incentive with young people, and we know that later the military authorities took advantage of this by forming friends’ battalions. Some of them may have falsified their ages adding a year or two in order to stay with their pals. Others will have felt the call of adventure, a chance to “see the world”, and to be sure of food and clothes, for there was much poverty in the countryside. Agricultural wages at that time averaged 13shillings (65p.) per week, assuming that a tied cottage was provided rent free., and it was not until the submarine campaign became so effective , and it was essential to produce more of our own food that wages rose substantially . It was also due to the shortage of young men left to work the farms that Land Girls were now working beside the men. Not that this was something new. Women had worked in the fields since time immemorial., sometimes with a baby in a sling.
As early as 1915 when the Parish Council discussed the possibility of holding a Recruiting Drive in the village, they concluded that so few men were left that there was no point in doing so.
It was in 1915, that the W.I. came into being. This was certainly more than an opportunity for countrywomen to sell dressed poultry, eggs and jam at the markets, and supplement their incomes, welcome though that was. It was much more closely allied to the suffrage movement which their town sisters were concerned with, and a general tendency in time of war to look at one’s way of life and contemplate improvement. Mathons W.I. was founded in 1923. and has been well-attended since
In 1920 Mathon Court, which had been owned by the Abbaye Notre Dame de Bon Secours at Blauvac in France was sold. The abbaye had owned the house since 1912, using it as a “refuge”.
Why they needed a refuge in faraway Mathon is one of the puzzles of local history, and complicating matters still further is the presence in Hereford Record Office of a sale sheet for Mathon Court by the executors of W.C Vale on June 11 1914. At all events the nuns were here and it was John Pound’s first task to clear the rather neglected roads and paths when they left.
Michael moved with his parents, Hubert and Beatrice (Beaty) and his elder sister, Hazel from Storridge to Little Southend Farm in 1936.He says conditions were primitive, and electricity was not installed till 1952 when they had left. Hubert later became a churchwarden and his name appears on one of the bells which was re-cast. Michael went to Mathon School, first milking a cow, then walking the mile to school. Hazel did the same. Later, Michael attended Cradley School, then Ledbury Grammar. Two more cows waited to be milked when he got home. There was lots of learning by rote at Mathon School, chanting of multiplication tables, learning by heart, and plasticene modelling. There was a hymn at morning prayers, but no other music, and the only games were the cricket and football they organised for themselves at lunchtime. Discipline was enforced by a slap on the leg, and for more serious offences, the vicar, Mr. Forrest was summoned to cane the offender. At school, they used slates and slate pencils quite frequently, and we both remembered what a terrible noise you could make with a slate pencil if you tried really hard.
Michael, aged 6, helped to drive cattle by road from Southend to Storridge , about 2 miles. He says not many sheep were kept then, but there were many small milking herds, and the milk money was the farmers principal income. Miss Hodges, their neighbour, had a herd of Ayrshires which were milked by Fred Jones. Fred arranged with Hubert to have a 28 gallon barrel of cider kept for his own use, and he paid for it when it was empty. After finishing the milking he came to the Fitzers door, and drank a pint of cider there and took two full quart bottles away with him. By the end of the month he had emptied the barrel. Sometimes in winter, he sat by the fire heating a poker to red and plunged it in the cider to take the chill off
He watched the barrel carefully and one day complained to Beaty that someone had been interfering with it. Beaty denied this, but what she did not know was that a small boy from nearby had been fiddling with the tap, and produced a few drops which he had tasted, and confided to Michael, “I likes cider”
Bath night at the weekend involved taking down the tin bath from the wall where it hung, and heating the water in the boiler. A bucket of hot and a bucket of cold, and you had your bath, Michael first because he was youngest.
Beaty plucked and dressed the poultry and had won prizes for her dressed poultry. She also delivered it to Malvern. Cider-making was Huberts task and also the salting of pigs which were killed when there was an R in the month, never in the warmer weather. Michael grew up, like most farmers sons with the sounds and sights of pig-killing. Then there were the great feasts, shared with neighbours who had sent them meat when they had killed their pig., the making of 3 pound pork pies, faggots, black puddings, hams, bacon, roasting joints and all the rest. These pigs realised up to 480 pounds of meat. No wonder sons and daughters working away from home enquired about the pigs health. The pig-killing was done by Jervy Jones, the son of the landlady at the “Cliffe Arms”, but when he was old enough, Michaels job, as Christmas approached was to kill the turkeys.
“The Fitzers gave great parties” but in the family the joke was that as soon as the first guests arrived the order was given “Cover the milk” The ceilings were whitewashed and when a large number of people began walking about or dancing, flakes fell into the open vessels in the dairy, unless the milk was covered.
The agricultural wage at that time was 30shillings (£1. 50) per week and although there were opportunities to supplement this, they too were poorly paid. Beaty was an expert hop-picker but two hours work, filling five big baskets was only worth one shilling (5p)
Little Southend had its own well observed, but friendly ghost. Michael says “We would be sitting, playing Ludo, or cards, while Mother was out at a meeting, and would hear the sound of footsteps and think she had returned, but nobody came in” Kath Blood, a neighbour, says “Light tapping footsteps going along the lane” Everyone who encountered her agrees that there was nothing malevolent about this ghost. When an uncle was staying he claimed that she appeared in the room where he was sleeping, but this seems to have been her final appearance.
The family moved to Hoe Farm in 1951, and Michael stayed in farming until his early thirties, but then deciding there was not much future in small farms went to work in a plastics factory in Malvern Link.
Tea Party at Mathon Court - Beaty Fitzer standing, Mrs. Thorburn at the far end of the table.
Beaty Fitzer , Gladys Daw, and an unknown lady run a fund-raising stall at Mathon Gymkhana. Beaty was a marvellous saleswoman. When you looked at her stall, you thought nobody would buy that lot, but at the end it had gone. Much to your surprise, you had probably bought something yourself.
Everyone who lived through the troubled years of the 1930s saw the inevitable approach of war, only temporarily postponed by the Munich crisis of 1938. In order to safeguard food supplies the government made farm work a reserved occupation though some men such as Leslie Lawrence and John Hehir served in the forces. Before war broke out, the parish records tell us that 6 air raid wardens were appointed and an instructor for anti-gas precautions, followed by a billeting officer and two more air raid wardens. The parish became the owners of a single stirrup pump and Mr Forrest, the vicar, organised a small auxiliary fire service to man it! Mr. Forrest was also arranging the collection of waste paper and scrap iron which was delivered to the vicarage, and probably became a considerable nuisance before it was finally disposed of. There was even a song on the radio at the time called “Up housewives and at ‘em”, one line of which ran “Save your paper, and keep your eye on, rags bones and any old iron” Well we know now that most of that scrap iron was useless and finished at the bottom of the sea.
There now began the great social experiment which seemed so necessary at the time, the evacuation of mothers and children from the cities to the country, to escape the expected bombing. The one thing that became clear was that neither city nor country people had any idea how the other lived. Mrs. Minton wrote, “ When the war broke out, the evacuees came, anyone with a spare bedroom was compelled to take some in. We had a young mother with three children under five years. On arrival the first question they asked was “Where was the pub and the chip shop?” On being told the pub was two miles away, and the ‘chippie’ the other side of the Malvern Hills five miles away, they nearly returned to Birmingham. One day when ours had been with us several weeks, I had to go out, and on returning in the late evening, was surprised to find the house in darkness and not a sound to be heard. On entering the living room I found one terrified lady with three sleeping children huddled in a corner. I had filled and trimmed the oil lamps before leaving but it hadn’t occurred to me that she hadn’t a clue how to light them. The eldest little boy was quite a chatterbox. One morning when I was dishing out the cereals for breakfast, he looked up at me and in his Brummy accent said “Where do ya keep getting the food from, lady? Ya never goes out but ya keep on getting it.” I had to explain that my groceries were only delivered once a fortnight so I had to get a supply in to last”
Being an evacuee was probably hardest on the very young. Some boys who came to the village enjoyed country life. And as for the people who were made to take in unknown women and children we only have to put ourselves in their place to imagine what it must have been like.
When the war ended and the servicemen came home, a public meeting was held to ask what improvements the village people would like to see. Their requirements were modest enough:
Things move slowly in the country and it was many years before these improvements happened.
In July 1939, the parish council in answer to an invitation from the RDC decided to apply for 4 council houses to be built in the village. Suitable sites were discussed, and the vicar offered the glebe land but that was thought to be too damp. The houses were finally built in 1950.
Mr. & Mrs. Ray were in the churchyard tending her parents grave. They were George and Marjorie Botfield, who died within a few months of each other in a nursing home. Joan’s daughter became interested in clairvoyance, and at a meeting the clairvoyant told her that a grumpy old man was trying to get in touch with her to ask why no one came to clean their gravestone. She replied that he was not grumpy, but following this news, Joan and Alec made the journey to Mathon and the gravestone was cleaned.
Joan and her brother Tony were born at Virginia cottage at the bottom of Harcourt Road., and lived in Mathon until she married Alec Ray, who worked as a civil engineer for the Port of London Authority. They lived in Tottenham until 1963, then Enfield for 20 years then South Mymms. Mathon to Tottenham was quite a change. Joan says “I must have been in love”
Joan’s father George had various jobs. He was a good gardener, a popular man who liked a drink at the “Old Bell”, sang in the choir, worked at Ballards, then at the Wyche Quarry, then for Mr. Davis at Ham Green Farm driving what must have been one of the first combine harvesters seen in these parts. He did contract work, and advertised the service at the Three Counties Show.
Joan remembers wartime very well, and the glow in the sky from distant air raids, and the occasional bomb (South Hide) One or two evacuees stayed with them from Birmingham, but seemed to expect to be waited on, or thought city life with bombs was better than country life without. Joan remembers her absolute terror when she saw her first black Americans, and how she fled into the house.
War time food was quite good. There was often a pheasant or rabbit available and not too many questions were asked about the provenance, and berries, nuts, apples and pears were always available.
She remembers Captain Harrison well; a tall military figure. His wife was the daughter of a baronet. Joan’s mother worked at Mathon Court, and Joan found herself cast in a play, and included rather unwillingly in games of whist, of which she had no experience and dreaded being scolded for making mistakes. Old fashioned dances were popular, and at Colwall Village Club, a penny entrance fee made you eligible for table tennis dancing and refreshments.
Joan attended West Malvern Primary School, Ledbury Grammar then worked in a Ladies Hairdressing Salon, a career choice that got her a scolding from her Headmaster, who “thought she should have done better” Joan had been told to have nothing to do with soldiers, so it was well that when she met Alec who was on “Z” reserve training, he had changed into “civvies” for the evening. When she was driven down the village street to be married “everyone stood at their doors. You knew everybody.”
Betty’s parents kept the “Old Bell” Her mother ran the pub, which sold only beer, cider and soft drinks, no spirits. Like many country pubs it had its comical moments. There were times when the policeman would come to check on closing time, only to be invited in for a drink or two. Closing time became elastic, and once he fell off his bike when riding home.
Betty’s father worked on farms, and later when they left the pub, became bailiff at Church Farm. He was a Much Cowarne man, and was a special constable like Bob Wood the village blacksmith who lived at Smiths Green., and who enjoyed a drink at the Bell.
Joan’s mother had seen one of Mathon’s ghosts in one our old houses and the experience had been so frightening that she was very reluctant to talk about it. Betty and Joan Botfield were friends and Joan often had a lift in the Mellings family car on her way to work.
Irene came from Blackheath village on the fringe of London for holidays in Mathon in 1940. She stayed at Church Farm, at that time in the care of Mr. Powell. She was glad to be away from the London blitz, then at its height. She met her future husband and married in 1942, and they lived for a time at Parkers, when it was two cottages before Tom Richardson converted it. Most of the village people had accepted her, but she knew she was really one of them when on her way to help with the decoration of the cottage she was finally spoken to by the vicar Mr. Forrest. Later they lived at Fernhill, just over the border in Cradley parish. Irene had a son and a daughter, but sadly her husband died when his son was 9. Irene is a qualified teacher and taught History and Geography at local secondary schools. She also gave some voluntary help at Mathon School when the Headmistress needed assistance. She ran a library at the school, and organised play-readings and current affairs talks in wartime. She was a member of the parish council.
When the vicar, Rev. Forrest left to take a parish in Lancashire, he was succeeded by Rev. P. Thorburn. Irene remembers how good he was with children, whom he liked, and who returned his affection His lessons with them were better than his sermons for adults.
During the war there was a Prisoner of war camp at Eastnor, and Italian prisoners were sent, under guard, to work on farms. They were not accustomed to the type of farm work needed in Herefordshire, but were friendly, and glad to be out of the war. In many cases they were fine craftsmen and they did a splendid job at Church Farm in cleaning, renovating and improving the farm buildings One of them, Joe Palmieri and another man from Rome returned to Italy after the war, and finding no work available wrote to Mr. Twist who was now running Church Farm, asking for help, and Mr. Higgins found work for them. They both married English girls, and Joe and his wife lived in West Malvern.
German prisoners were more of a mixture, some Nazi and unfriendly, some cooperative, and those who were, being more used to Northern European farming methods were useful farm workers.
Captain Harrison and his wife had a large oil painting, “Flight into Egypt” which neither of them liked and they presented it to the church. Pevsner mentions it in his Penguin book” Buildings of Herefordshire” It seems the P.C.C. did not like it either, because it was sent to Sothebys and sold to pay for improvements to the heating system.
Tony was born in 1940. As a small boy he was fitted with a red Micky Mouse gas mask. He went to West Malvern Primary School, and Ledbury Grammar. He remembers the end of the war and returning soldiers, and the Home Guards rifles, tin hats, and greatcoats. He played football, cricket had a bicycle and worked. He learned to drive a tractor, and says you found out why you had been allowed to drive; so you could work with it! He helped his father feed the cattle and sheep, and went rabbiting with him with ferrets and snares, and later with a shotgun at the age of 10. There was a bounty on grey squirrels of 2s. (10p) per tail.
Tony was not much impressed by the combine harvester which his father drove for Mr. Davis-“more of a curiosity than much use” It was towed by a tractor, and must have been a very early model. Perhaps the Jaguar motor car which Mr. Davis also owned was more impressive.
Tony enjoyed the entertainments provided at Malvern Winter Gardens. Big bands were then very popular, and “groups” were just coming into being. He “rather admired” Mr. Hinks, Betty Mellings grandfather, who lived at “Hillview” and had a horse and trap. He also remembers a local farmer (who had better be nameless) who turned his car over on a bend on more than one occasion, after having too much to drink.
Another nameless farmer often seemed to be racing to catch up the departed milk lorry.
George was very much against his son having a career in farming, so in spite of that early taste of country life, Tony had a career in Electronics.
Dennis George James Fairfax (1914—1989) was born in Mathon, in a black and white thatched roof cottage at Smiths Green. His father, Thomas Brace Fairfax was a postman who had to retire at 39 due to a serious heart complaint, so he decided to start a poultry farm, a dream of many men in those years. He was not entirely committed to the venture, and was perhaps unduly concerned by what the doctors had said about his future health. Since he lived to be eighty, they may have been too pessimistic. He had a donkey cart and sold some poultry in Malvern, but the family income was low, and his wife, in order to supplement it walked over the hills to clean the Post Office in Malvern
Dennis and Iris (b. 1916) met when they were 19 and 17 respectively and when they married they lived and worked in Worcester. Dennis was determined to live in Mathon, and Iris says “If I had disagreed, he would have dropped me like a stone” Would they have persisted if they had known how long it would take?
Thomas and his wife had found it difficult to bring up and educate their five children in the thatched cottage and Mary moved to Worcester and opened a boarding house for the theatrical profession, while Thomas stayed on in Mathon, being visited regularly by the family. After a time, he joined them in Worcester and the Mathon cottage fell into disrepair., having been unoccupied for some time. When Thomas died in 1947, the cottage was in a ruinous state, and Dennis and Iris realised that they would have to re-build.
They did not of course know, at this stage what a battle they were about to begin which would occupy their attention for years, Iris typing out endless letters of appeal to overturn refusals of planning permission. It is an experience which has become familiar to others who have sought to build in this village, but few can have shown the persistence of the Fairfax family. They visited the cottage frequently, travelling first by bus, then on foot, taking a picnic with them, and getting a cup of tea from a friendly neighbour, Mrs. Fox. The children enjoyed the day in the country. In 1953, the acquisition of a car made the journey less tiresome.
The cottage was quite uninhabitable, and the chimney was so dangerous that it had to be demolished. When planning permission was finally given, a 93 foot borehole had to be sunk to provide a water supply before building could begin. Building progressed to the plastering stage, and the family were living in a caravan on the site, and maintaining 6 paraffin heaters to protect the new plaster. They finally moved in in 1964. The children were 20, 19 and 17.There were pear trees on the site, and a cider mill, so the house was named “Perrymill”
Cradley, Mathon & Storridge Home Guard
Robin (Bob) Wood, Blacksmith & Special Constable at Mathon Gymkhana
Mathon seems to have a rather fine collection of ghosts, though it is easier to find people who have been told about a ghost by someone else than to encounter the person who has actually seen one. Are the folk who see the apparition in a rather special class, and would some of us be so insensitive that we would not recognise a ghostly spirit if it appeared to us?
The ghost at Little Southend, which has already been mentioned, is well authenticated. A number of people saw and heard it. They all agree that there was nothing malevolent about it; a friendly ghost. That was not so with another phantom, which appeared on the staircase of one of the old farmhouses. Little is known about it, except that it was so unpleasant that the two ladies to whom it appeared were unwilling to discuss it, and one of them only told her daughter about it very late in her life. The Southend ghost ceased to appear after a time, and there have been no more reports of the other less pleasant one. It is as though they appear for a limited time and almost for a specific purpose.
One late evening a few years ago, a farmer was driving through the village, on his way home, after attending a meeting, at which he was careful to say, nothing stronger than coffee had been served. As he approached the “Cliffe Arms” he saw a ghostly figure cross the road between the houses and the pub. He noticed particularly that it did not appear in the rear view mirror. When he reached home, he said “I’ve seen a ghost”, and his appearance was such that he was believed.
The same man was told about an unusual experience by his maternal grandfather who was a clockmaker. He had ridden to Colwall on his bicycle to deliver a clock, and was returning home along the lane by “Old Country” Farm. At a point where there is a gate on opposite sides of the lane, a ghostly horseman came through one gate and entered the other in front of the cyclist, who arrived home shaken by the experience, and later, by the discovery that he was missing the ten shilling note that he had been paid for the clock. He rode back to the place where he had seen the apparition, and found the note on the ground.
Finally the area near the back entrance to Mathon Court, known in the past as the “Blue Gates” is also said to be haunted.
Football Team 1920
Football Team 1957
Ivor was born at Bodenham and was fifteen when he came to Mathon., with his employer who was taking over the farm. They drove the cattle and horses from Upper Sapey, a distance of perhaps 12 miles. Ivor said “They were frisky when we started but they were not frisky by the time we got here” Imagine driving cattle along the road from Bromyard to Mathon nowadays. Gladys lived in the cottage close by. Ivor cycled to Hereford each Saturday afternoon to collect his wages from the owner, Mr. Thomas.
Later he worked for Percy Grundy, a man who was never forgotten by those who met him. He was either a New Zealander or a returned emigrant, and was a man of great strength, even among the farm workers of that time, who were no weaklings and were accustomed to lift bags of grain weighing 2 ¼ cwts. When men assisted each other, as they did at harvest and haymaking, it was an ordeal to keep up with Percy. He was about six feet tall, with rather wild hair, and was held by the village boys with respect and a little fear. The corner near the farm was known for some years as Grundys Corner.
He owned a white bull, which was so fierce that even he took a pitchfork with him when he entered the field. It sometimes escaped and “You could be out for a walk and turn a corner and there was Grundys bull out again.” Once the bull got stuck in the mud so Percy hitched a rope round its horns and pulled it out. We do not know whether he then had to seize the pitchfork quickly. One snowy day, he needed to take some grain to Heathmill Farm to have it ground. It is about a mile away, and he did not want to bring a tractor or horse out so he hoisted the bag on his shoulders, and set off. He had a rest at the bridge then continued to the mill. He brought the flour, in three bags back the same way, one under each arm and one on the back of his neck
In time he bought a tractor, but the locals teased him because he had bought a small one. He replied that he reckoned if it got stuck in the mud he could pull it out. Perhaps he had the episode with the bull in mind. Anyway it did get stuck in the mud so his sister, who lived with him, got behind the wheel, he hitched a rope to the tractor and pulled it out.
One day, his old horse died, and Ivor was given the task of digging a hole to bury it. It needed a large hole, but eventually the job was done, and the horse was in its last resting place. However, it had stiffened up and its legs stuck up in the air, so Ivor asked Grundy what he should do. “Cut em off” was the reply. This story seems sufficiently original, perhaps unique, but surprisingly in one of Fred Archers splendid books about life in the Vale of Evesham, he tells a similar story, but this time about a donkey, and in this case, the farmer proposes to grow runner beans up the donkeys legs.
Everyone who lived through it remembers the great snowfall of 1947. Villages were cut off, trains unable to run and fuel scarce. Mathon was cut off for some time and Mr. Boyce who farmed at Mathon Court at that time was unable to get his milk out so the Mintons had free milk for a week or two.
Near their cottage, at Mill House lived one of two distinguished soldier brothers who owned the house in succession, Brigadier R.H.H.Scott (1900-1972) of the 5th Bttn. (Pathans) Punjab Regt. who gave a standing invitation to the children to watch childrens television in his house any day and to play in the garden with its grass, trees, shrubberies and mill pond so exciting to children.
But then the family had a real stroke of luck. Gladys bought a football coupon, one of the kind where you tear off the milled edge, and open it to see which team you have drawn. She won £587, in todays (2003) equivalent say £8000. They had an Austin Ruby car, a television set and a holiday. They invited the elderly sisters Misses Meek who lived nearby in Clyde Cottage to come and watch the 1953 Coronation., and they sat spellbound. These two ladies had no well, so they paid the Mintons 5s. (25p) a year to share their water supply but they only came to the well after dark. One of them took in sewing, and the other kept a drapers shop in Malvern and was known to the village children (who had a nickname for everybody) as Meek the Antique
After Brigadier Scott died, his brother and his wife came to live at Mill House. He was Brigadier R.B. Scott, D.S.O. Croix de Guerre of the Rajputana Rifles (Outrams), a distinguished soldier, artist, and gentle man, who with his attractive wife spent the rest of their lives here.
Ivor and Gladys have died, having both passed 90 years of age They are remembered with affection, and the family still live in the village..
Joan’s father, John, was Farm Manager at Mathon Court in the 1920s and 30s, when it was owned by Captain Harrison. Joan and her brother, Philip and mother, Ellen lived in a bungalow in the grounds. Mathon Court had been occupied by a group of nuns, and the gardens were overgrown and neglected, and Johns first task was to cut roads through the shrubberies. Captain Harrison and his wife ran a small residential school for secondary girls and Joan was encouraged to join in with their activities, which seem to have been quite progressive for the time. Joan attended Mathon School, but in the evening and at weekends she was able to join the girls in some of their activities. They had dancing lessons, a boat on the lake, ponies to ride, percussion band, and piano lessons. Mrs. Harrison was a keen botanist and the girls were taken for nature walks. They also walked down to church on Sunday. For their formal lessons they were taught French by a Frenchwoman from West Malvern, and History by Mr. Hughes who lived near the “Old Bell”.
Joan stayed at the village school until she was 14. The older girls taught the young ones and had cookery lessons using vegetables supplied by the farms and milk from Burford Farm. They ate the results.
When war broke out, two evacuees, boys, arrived from London and loved their life at South Hide farm, but some mothers and children who came from Birmingham never settled and soon returned to the city.
Joan remembers the fun of hay-making, and threshing, and how men would go from farm to farm when many hands were needed to complete some of these big tasks. She also remembers stored apple crops, cider-making with the horse turning the mill, and her mother making the strong-tasting farm butter. When the pig was killed (always when Joan was at school) John made the bacon (usually a mans job) and her mother flavoured the lard with rosemary.
The W.I. were busy knitting for the forces and making jam when they could get the sugar, cooking in the village hall on 4 burner paraffin stoves. There was a village “hop” which was so successful that people came from Malvern, Cradley and Bosbury. There was an American camp at Eastnor and the presence of black soldiers created a lot of interest among people who had never seen a coloured man before. Also strangers to the village were a number of Italian prisoners of war. They were quite popular, glad to be out of the war, and some of them were excellent craftsmen. By now England was short of all kinds of manufactured goods and one prisoner made good slippers. One of the Italians, known as Joe, who worked at Church Farm, was so happy here that he stayed for the rest of his life.
John and Philip were in the Home Guard which met at the village hall, and practised firing at West Malvern. In their photograph they look a great deal more formidable than “Dads Army”
In 1945 the roof of their bungalow caught fire and though many people rushed along with buckets of water the roof burnt out
About this time the Harrisons left and Mr. Boyce took over Mathon Court. He kept Ayrshire cattle and some sheep and John and Philip stayed on to work with him. The herd was known as the “Moon Hill herd”. The family moved to Cradley in 1953 and then to Newland. Joan worked on a fruit farm and then in Colwall, then Worcester, cycling to Finchers Corner and catching the bus. She sometimes walked along the country lanes at night but says she always felt safe, and perhaps the most alarming thing was the call of a vixen.
At Mathon Court, coal, fish, bread, newspapers, groceries and milk were all delivered by horse-drawn vehicles until the 1940s when motor vehicles were used. John had horses to look after too. The Harrisons kept two hunters, a heavy horse for the farm, and the girls ponies. Mangolds were grown for feed, and bracken cut for bedding.
Joan had been trained as a secretary, but there was no great pressure to work far from home when there was plenty of work locally. In particular, Kia Ora Schweppes at Colwall had a very good reputation as employers. Philip worked in farming most of his life.
At that time, Mathon had a Post Office run by the Misses Wall at Brook House, and several people remember the rather casual way it was run. There was always a candle on the table, but never a whole one, always a stump which smoked in the draught, and the knife needed to slit open an envelope seemed to have been used to spread butter.
John Pound, and his daughter, Joan.
Ray was a Leicester man who came to work here in wartime and has enjoyed living in Mathon and stayed ever since. Kath is one of a family that has lived here for hundreds of years. She has always taken an interest in village history, has saved photographs and newspaper cuttings, and although over 80 has a memory good enough to name the children on a school photograph taken 70 years ago.
The 1891 census shows her grandfather, Charles Jones at Tan House, his wife, Emma, his sons Thomas and Albert, (Kath’s father) and Charlotte Calder, his mother in law. Ann Calder is shown on the Tithe Award of 1840, farming Old Country, with 150 acres.
Charles Jones was a farmer and sand merchant, who owned Chapel Cottage, built the house called “Nidus” where Ray and Kath live, and rented Dobbins Farm from the Church Commissioners.
Albert, and Percy who was born three years later, joined the army in the First World War. They both returned in 1918, but sadly Percy was so badly wounded that his life was cut short. Charles persuaded them to work for him and Percy moved to Dobbins. Tom, an elder brother had been sent to work in the mines in South Wales instead of joining the army, and was killed by a runaway truck. Later Percy died at Yew Tree.
He was 59, and the family were sure that he would have lived much longer but for the war wounds
One early memory is the great flood of 1924. Sydney James lost his pigs
which were washed away, and Nurse Pitt had to abandon her bicycle and travel by horse and cart, to deliver Kath’s baby brother..
Sydney and his wife had a bakery, and village shop, and Kath remembers him riding down Southend Lane on his mare, with a huge basket on his arm full of fresh baked bread. Kath was a frequent visitor to the shop. One of her father’s men sent her to buy 5 cigarettes in a paper packet for 2d., Woodbines or Park Drive.. The trouble was that he would often want another packet the same day, and Kath wondered why he couldn’t buy two packets at the same time. The shop supplied all kinds of domestic needs. Block salt for preserving was often asked for then but rarely needed now. And many children must have come in and asked “What can I have for a ha’penny Mrs. James?” Sydney had suffered a very serious head wound in the war, and sadly his life too was cut short., a reminder that the war continued to add to its victims after 1918.
Some years ago, the W.I. asked members to write essays describing their village, and entitled “Within living memory”. Kath’s essay was chosen, and published in the book titled “The Herefordshire Village Book”
Kath Blood’s brothers, Tom & Albert, and a fine litter of piglets.
Mrs. Ada Jones, her son, & Mr. And Mrs. Davis hop picking
Rev. A.E.Forrest was Vicar of Mathon from 1929 to 1943. He was a High Churchman and he set about transforming the village church paying for some of the work out of his own pocket, and without consulting anyone at all, or obtaining the faculty which is necessary before starting any work on the church. The altar was removed and in its place was set up a tabernacle and baldachino, a lady chapel was constructed and many other alterations which changed a Herefordshire village church into something one might find in a Catholic country in Europe. At least that was the opinion of some folk, though others thought it a great improvement, and perhaps, needless to say, clergy and laymen were included in each group, those for and those against.
As a result some village people stopped attending, but others came to services from Cradley, West Malvern and other places. When Mr. Forrest left, his successor, Rev. Philip Thorburn refused to be inducted before the church was restored to its former state. A huge fund-raising effort was required, and this enabled the work to be completed. A full account of all this has been made by Mr. C. L. Danks entitled “Matters of Interest” and is in Hereford Record Office.
Peter was the vicars son. He was a firm friend of Archie James, and lives in Colwall, so they are still able to keep in touch. They are both now in their eighties. Peter was educated at home by his father, and this probably gave him a fair amount of free time, which enabled him to become an unpaid extra labourer at Church Farm, and he accompanied Fred Layton in hedging, ditching building ricks and thatching them and having a swig from the small barrel of cider that Fred took with him. Church Farm was run by Charles Powell, his two sons, and several other men including Jim Botfield and Frank James, the cowman. There were 3 horses, Prince, Blossom and Violet.. Peter and another boy, Ernie Botfield, were using a Blackburn Oil Engine to cut chaff, when Ernie had a miraculous escape from death or serious injury.. His jacket was caught in the machine, but mercifully it was stripped off his back and chewed up and he was unharmed.
At lunch time, the boys organised football games on the glebe land behind the church, or had a run up the wooded Rowburrow Hill.A favourite game was to throw pebbles at the school bell and Peter found a catapult useful for this. He also liked to accompany Jervie Jones when he followed the hunt, and learned how to set a snare. He never caught anything, and attributes this to the fact that the strong-smelling carbolic soap which was popular then , and with which he washed his hands, could be detected by the rabbits on the wires. He got into serious trouble at home one night when Jervie had taken them so far from home (Crumpton Hill probably) that Peter did not know the way back and had to wait till Jervie was ready to go
Peter used to ride the James’s family mare round their field and sometimes borrowed the Pugh’s donkey. The church tower made a good point from which to take pot shots at birds with his Diana air rifle and there were so many birds then that every boy thought a few would not be missed.
In 1932, an advertisement appeared in the “Church Times” for a “Trojan” motor car for sale to any country parson for £10. The address was in Babbacombe, Devon, so after a family conference they set off to buy it. This was a remarkable car which was originally advertised as “Can you afford to walk?” It had a 4 cylinder 2 stroke engine started by pulling an internal lever, the chassis was pressed steel, the gearbox 2 speed and the bonnet housed the petrol tank and carburettor. The engine was underneath the front seats. Trojan became more famous for their vans than their cars, and the Brooke Bond tea van, in bright red, was seen in most villages.
Peter learned to drive this car at the age of 13, traversing the gravel in front of the vicarage. “When I got tired of going forward, I did it in reverse”. He now began to collect churchgoers from other villages, and bring them to Mathon for the service. In church he swung the censer, sometimes delighting his young friends by rotating it through a full circle, “to liven it up”
He also drove the car to Bromyard, when someone had to be taken to the workhouse, and to Folkestone where the family took their annual holiday.
When not farming, following the hounds, or rabbiting he found time to pummel a punchbag with Tom Richardson for hours on end. His friend, Archie James had a motorbike, so in the field they rigged up a contraption with petrol tins and planks to make a ramp to ride the bike up and down.
Peter has visited the village frequently and some years ago, he encountered Mrs. Minton. After a long hard look, she said “I know you. You’re Peter Forrest, and what a little devil you were !”
Philip was a member of the Ballard family of landowners, farmers, and engineers who have lived in the area, mainly in Colwall for hundreds of years. He graduated in Mathematics at Cambridge University and devoted himself to a life of gardening and farming varied with some mountaineering and foreign travel at a time when such interests were not so popular as they are now.
He worked first with his father at the nursery in Colwall, and developed a knowledge of plants which lasted a lifetime. But his real ambition was to farm, His mother died young, and he inherited money which enabled him to buy Old Country Farm and have drainage work done, always an expensive business. His farm workers came from Old Country hamlet across the fields on the Bosbury – Cradley road. Their names were Bill and Tom Nutt, and Mr. Oliver. The names of the farm and hamlet suggest that there may be a long-standing connection.
Mr. Oliver once confided that when he wanted to cheer himself up in wartime he cycled to the wood and listened to the nightingales.
Philip had known a girl called Helen when they were 14 and 13 and there must have been a mutual attraction, because when they met again, years later, Philip married Helen who had two sons by a previous marriage, and in the course of time, two more children were born, Philip, and Sarah. The parents shared a love of travel and took a holiday on their own every year, always to Italy.
Philip had a dairy herd of Northern Dairy Shorthorns, which was very successful and won various awards, but then they contracted brucellosis and he had no insurance, a bitter blow. Helen had poultry, and made butter and cheese, and also had a productive vegetable garden. Philip’s farming had its ups and downs. He bought Stonehouse, and three fields, and set up a sand quarry in an effort to improve finances. During wartime, they had Italian prisoners of war helping on the farm who were able to work with the two horses which were still kept. A German prisoner was less cooperative. Electricity was installed in the cowshed in 1954, but not in the house until a year later, perhaps a fairly typical farmer’s priority. Mains water was not laid on until the 60s.
One summer day, some young men working at the quarry at Southend constructed a raft and launched it. For a time all went well, but then it began to sink. One of them got off and reached the bank safely, but another lad went under and could not be pulled out. A third young man, a strong swimmer, summoned to help, dived in on the other bank to swim across and help but he too drowned, probably chilled by the cold water, a terrible tragedy which shocked the village. The police had great difficulty in recovering the bodies, and Philip who had diving experience, went to help, and was later sent a letter of commendation by the police.
Philip had made cider for years, mainly because farm workers appreciated receiving it as part of their wages, a custom dating back for many years. His interest later seems to have concentrated on perry, and while the must fermented, he amused himself writing in chalk on the brick walls of the barn quotations from books he had read on cider-making They are still there. At some stage there were no horses left on the farm to turn the ciderpress, so he used an electric motor, and bought an old motorbike and harnessed them to the mill. This too still stands in the barn., and by kind permission of the editor I am able to reproduce the article which appeared in the “Ledbury Reporter”
Philip’s solutions to problems could be a little unorthodox, but they seemed to work. He bought a Dutch barn, and when it was erected decided that it was in the wrong place, so he got the blacksmith, Jack Hales, to make four short legs with wheels on the end, and bolt them to the legs of the barn, and then towed it to the new site with his tractor
Helen’s gardening skills had now become so productive of new plants, especially hellebores that Philip encouraged her either to open a nursery, or set up a mail order business, and the latter plan prospered to such an extent that people frequently asked the way to Old Country Farm to buy plants. The magazine “Country Life” published an article about Helen’s house and gardening.
Fruit growing proved to be a successful and profitable venture, especially raspberries which were so good that they were sold at Covent Garden. Even so, there was such a surplus that raspberry jam, surely the best of all preserves was on the table so often that it became unpopular in the family.
Late in his life, Philip produced more cider than could be used, and he placed an advertisement in the “Malvern Gazette” that his cider was ready and free for collection by anyone who brought his own container. What an opportunity!
Old Country Farm
The cider press and graffiti
Mark was Rector of Cradley and priest-in-charge of Mathon, Storridge and Fromes Hill from 1972 to 1982. Before that time two of the four parishes, Mathon and Cradley had their own priest, and this, when coupled with Mark’s choice to live in Mathon Vicarage were innovations which challenged both priest and parishioners.
He was, at that time, a young man who had worked out exactly what he considered important, made great personal sacrifices, and shaped his life accordingly. It was also a time of change for the church and clergy, as it was for the secular community and it is a small but significant point that Mark was the first vicar to ask to be called by his Christian name.
It is not unusual to find priests who have an affection for the stage; after all there are certain similarities between the professions, and come Christmastime, the annual pantomime found him the star of the show.
Mark was a little eccentric and liked to take his exercise by swinging from the lychgate or vaulting over the gravestones. But it was his love of the internal combustion engine which made him distinctly different. In addition to his bicycle and motorcycle he had a car , usually a Citroen, which he considered “broke the mould” and to keep them on the road, he filled the stone building in the vicarage grounds , known as the “studio” with spares for his own vehicles and for others standing by the vicarage..
None of this interfered with his pastoral duties which he conducted in fulfilment of the Gospels, and on one occasion, when in Worcester he felt compelled not to pass by on the other side when he saw an unkempt homeless man in the street and brought him back to Mathon for food and lodging. There was a P.C.C. meeting in the church that night, and deeming it unwise to leave his guest in the vicarage, he brought him to the meeting, where prayers were said for the guest, who was rather bemused.
Mark was generous too with his care for seriously ill or bereaved folk, and had been known to stay with them until 2 a.m. His wife said she never knew when he would come home.
It is true that he offended some parishioners as young men have offended their elders since time immemorial. Some did not like the election poster which appeared in his garden, particularly as it favoured the Liberal party. But his sermons were eloquent and challenging and it was generally felt by parishioners that here was a man of a strong faith , as they listened to his words and found in them a personal message. They felt they were lucky to have known him, here in Mathon.
Believing he had to follow a new path he left for a different environment, working in a London Transport garage, where he hoped “to be a genuine co-worker on the shop floor, and still a priest”
Later he moved to Craven Arms and opened a motorcycle repair shop appropriately named “Rev up” He is now retired but still takes some services in local churches as a non-stipendiary priest.
Harry was born at Burnage, Lancashire. In 1940 he joined the R.A.F. as a wireless operator, and after training became a member of the force known as Y service, highly secret then. This work was later taken over by G.C.H.Q. Cheltenham, and consisted of tracking enemy bombers by listening to their radio messages which were in Morse Code. By triangulating with another R.A.F. radio station, it was possible to find their position, and alert Fighter Command. The call signs of the aircraft were recognised, and their home bases were known. Harry remembers that on one occasion, he picked up the call sign of Hitler’s personal aircraft. It was D 2600.
After serving in this country, he took part in the Tunisian campaign, then southern France, landing at St Raphael, and on to Avignon, Marseilles, Rome, Naples, Capri, Foggia, Bari Ancona and Loretto.
When the war ended, Harry volunteered to server 2 more years as a civilian in the same work. He had been writing to Pat while he was overseas, and they were married in 1947. He was working at Whitchurch in Shropshire and while they were visiting family in Herefordshire, they walked past the cottage, Mason’s Meadow, where Harry now lives. It was for sales, and they bought it, and Harry gave up his job which paid £11 per week, and worked at Pullen’s Farm for £7. He says that going from a sedentary job to manual work on the land, nearly killed him. However he stayed there for seven years.
He then felt the need for a change, and Mr. Higgins, a churchwarden at Mathon who owned a factory in Worcester gave him a job as a progress chaser and for a time Harry exchanged the quiet of the fields for machine noise, but then he began to long for the open air, and worked for Stephen Ballard as foreman at his farm in Colwall. This lasted for three years until Stephen retired. He had owned Groves End, Bank Farm and Pitlock Farm. When his daughter married he gave her Hope End as a wedding present. This was the site of a house owned in the past by Mr. Barrett, the father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Harry followed this with working as a postman for six months, and then as groundsman at Chase School, though he was now handicapped by hip pain and went into hospital for a replacement. His last job was as assistant storekeeper at Broads of Malvern, which ended when the owner said to him, “Well, Harry, you’ve had your chips.”
So that was the beginning of Harry’s retirement. When Harry and Pat first lived at Mason’s Meadow, they had no car and used to walk to churches at Acton Beauchamp, Suckley, Evesbatch, Fromes Hill, Cradley, Mathon and Storridge. Rev Thorburn was Vicar of Mathon at that time, and they liked him immediately, especially when they found that his daughter had worked alongside Pat in Manchester. So they settled at Mathon Church, and he became churchwarden, ran a Scout troop, and took many services when the church was temporarily without a vicar. He has that rare gift of being able to be on goods terms with anyone as soon as he meets them.
He took the Scouts for camping holidays in the Lake District, New Forest, Gower Peninsula, Peak District, and to a jamboree in Wales. He met Lord Baden-Powell.
In retirement he became a skilled painter in oils, and for many seasons missed few county matches at Worcester. For years he would take services in churches when they had no parson, and on one of those visits, he was told by a lady in the congregation that one of their services had been taken by Rev. Mark McCausland. “Oh I know Mark,” Harry replied, “he was our vicar some years ago.” “Well, weren’t you lucky!” she replied.
Harry gets a medal for service to the Boy Scout movement
George Honour was born at Bristol and joined the Royal Navy when war broke out in 1939, serving in small ships in the Mediterranean. He volunteered for hazardous duties, which proved to consist of commanding a midget submarine. These vessels had a 4-man crew, were powered by the same Gardner diesel engines used in London buses, and must have been one of the most uncomfortable craft ever devised. For rest, the crew used in turn a single narrow bunk, and if they turned over carelessly in their sleep, risked electrocution. The only means of heating food was in the control room, where the contents of a single tin could be heated..
In this alarming vessel, George Honour and his crew were submerged for 64 hours off the French coast, just before D-day, their vigil increased by the 24-hour postponement of the invasion ordered by General Eisenhower because of rough weather. Their task was to act as a navigation marker off Sword beach, and required them to erect an 18 foot high navigation beacon on the casing of the submarine in rough seas and in full view of the German defences. Incredibly they survived, and Honour was awarded the DSC, his citation concluding that his report of proceedings “was a masterpiece of understatement reading like the deck log of a ship in harbour in peacetime”
George Honour lived for some years at Pemberton Cottage, Mathon.
Brigadier Robert Scott was born in Calcutta. He was commissioned from Sandhurst and after attachment to the Manchester Regiment in Jubbulpore, India was gazetted to the 4th battalion Rajputana Rifles. His military career began with action on the Northwest Frontier in the Waziristan campaign. For three years he served with the Waziristan Scouts and was mentioned in dispatches.
After the outbreak of the Second World War, his regiment was part of the famous 4th Indian Division which with the British Army defeated a much larger force of Italians at Sidi Barrani. The regiment, of which he was now second in command, was sent to East Africa and took part in the Battle of Keren. After that they moved to Syria to fight alongside the Free French, and Scott was awarded the Croix de Guerre, but was captured by the Vichy French. His time as a prisoner was short and following an agreement he was restored to the Allies in Beirut.
He returned to his regiment and took part in Auchinleck’s battle to relieve Tobruk . When Rommel attacked with superior force in May 1942, the Rajputs , now commanded by Scott were part of the 8th Army, which was pushed back until in July it stood firm at El Alamein. In November, under General Montgomery, they attacked in the great battle which drove the enemy out of Libya. Entering Tunisia, the Rajputs were involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the war against the German armour around the Mareth Line and Scott was awarded an immediate D.S.O. for his “personal courage and outstanding leadership”. The citation went on to remark that he had been in continuous active operations since 1940.
Moving to Italy, he commanded the regiment at the Battle of Cassino. When the war ended he was in command of the 14th Parachute Brigade of the Indian Airborne Division, and in 1947 the brigade was at Lahore, with the Punjab Boundary Force, whose melancholy duty was to supervise the division of India and Pakistan.
From 1952 to 1961, he held the post of District Assistant, Northern Rhodesia Government. He and Peggy spent their retirement at Mill House, Mathon where they were visited by old comrades. This distinguished soldier was in old age a gentle kindly man who was always more interested in his visitors than in recalling his own outstanding career.
Memories of the past are often those of childhood when adults are large, and sometimes frightening and whose mannerisms and speech are alien to children. But that is surely not the only reason for the stories of strange behaviour that are passed down. Some people would blame the media, which has made us more aware of each other, and more likely to conform., and so regard the behaviour of previous generations as strange.
The village children seem to have had a nickname for everyone. “Meek the Antique” has been mentioned already. One man named Jones who lived at Parkers Cottages, actually had the distinction of two nicknames. He was known as “Sounder” for the amount of volume his voice produced. When he walked to the “Cliffe Arms” with his dogs, he carried a big stick, and if the dogs ran in front of him, he bellowed “All dogs down and under” in a voice that could be heard two hundred yards away. He shouted at his pigs too. Sounder married three times, and perhaps there was some disapproval involved in the choice of his second nickname which was “Sounder the bounder” The young Margaret Fitzer provoked another explosion from him, when passing him in the lane, and not knowing but what it was his real name, she greeted him politely “Good morning Mr. Sounder”
Whistling Jinnie was a lady who lived in Southend and whistled wherever she went. She also had long conversations with her hens. The children would lie on their tummies and peep through the garden hedge to watch her feed them, and say “Come along, come along and have a bit of tea. Now say “Thank you” “
But far stranger was the behaviour of another lady known locally as “Mad Ellen” who would walk down her garden, climb a tall tree, and shout at the top of her voice, “They’re coming, they’re coming”. Nobody ever found out who the poor woman thought were coming.
Mr. Tandy worked at the sewage farm and supplemented his income by selling rabbits. He had a special word, known only to himself to describe the way he got the rabbits out of their burrows. He said “I pithered him out” He also sold tomatoes, but only to people who did not know where he worked. Mr. Tandy was another man who liked to create a lot of noise. He sang loudly all day.
It is impossible to find a reason for some of the nicknames. “Pubbles” Noble lived at Lane End and kept a flock of guinea fowl. And “Jervy” or “Gervy” Jones was not exactly an eccentric but a considerable character. He was the son of the landlady at the “Cliffe Arms”, was the pig-killer, sheep dipper, grave digger, worked in the sand quarry, and did a bit of rabbiting, and the children loved to watch him dipping the sheep at the bridge and even getting a sip from his cider bottle.
“We had a rather disreputable mongrel called George. He had not been castrated and was for ever looking for the opposite sex. We did our best to keep him in, but when he had escaped yet again I was angry and pursued him shouting ‘George, George’. I was astonished to get a reply because he did not usually answer back. George, from the neighbouring farm, who was working over the hedge was equally surprised to hear an angry voice calling him.”
“They had a very quiet wedding, almost secret, so hardly anyone knew about it. When they went to bed, they did not bother to pull the curtains, and the men who were drying the hops saw them and thought the worst. They told the vicar, and he wrote to the convent, and suggested that the nuns who often came to the farm for a holiday, should no longer visit”
“The horses were often difficult to catch. They knew why you wanted them. But my mother knew how to catch them. She took a bucket out to the field with the hens’ food in it, and the horses came along to get their noses in it.”
“I was talking to him in a field one morning, and we heard footsteps in the lane and saw an old hat moving above the hedgerow. ‘My God,’ he said, ‘ that’s X. I must get back to the farm, or I shall have no cider left’”
“She wore stockings with so many holes, that someone said she must have had lessons from a flute player to put them on”
“ In wartime, the shop in Malvern got some sugar which as a result of a mishap, had pepper mixed with it. She bought some to use for chutney, and that was all right, but it got into something else as well, marmalade I think.”
“We sometimes walked across to the village and called at the “Cliffe Arms”. My father asked Mrs. Hatch if it was all right to bring me into the bar, as I was under age. ‘Quite all right’ she said. “the constable’s in the other bar””
“My father was short of cider to give the men, but he had some home
-made wine, so he mixed the two and gave them that. He had to go out on an errand, and when he got back they were all asleep.”
“There were two flitches of bacon and two hams hanging in the kitchen, and when they started to diminish, you looked at the next pig.”
W.R.Karslake Lt. Temporary Captain Pembrokeshire Yeomanry
Wlliam Jones Corporal Worcestershire Regiment
Henry E, Jones Lance Corporal South Wales Borderers
Frederick Wall Sergeant Canadian Mounted Rifles
Alexander Wall Corporal Worcestershire Regiment
William T. Drinkwater Lance Corporal Welsh Regiment
Ernest George Gunner Royal Garrison Artillery
Charles W. Powell Private Grenadier Guards
Arthur H. Ward Private Kings Liverpool Regiment
S. Harold W. Jones Private Kings Shropshire Light Infantry
Robert Wood Private Welsh Regiment Pioneers
Noble Vale Private Wellington Mounted Rifles - New Zealand
I wish to thank them for their help, and for their patience with my
enquiries, and apologise for any factual errors which may have occurred:
John Drummond, whose photographic skill has done so much to preserve the history of the parish.
The Editor, Malvern Gazette for kind permission to use extracts from the newspaper
The Old Community
|Mathine||1251||Calendar of Charter Rolls|
|Madine||1275||Hereford Episcopal Register|
|Matheme||13c.||Lay Subsidy Rolls|
|Maham||1315||Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem|
|Mathon||1332||Lay Subsidy Rolls 1484|
|Matham||1467||Calendar of Patent Rolls|
“The study of rural settlement history shows that villages only appear, and are only sustained by special favourable circumstances. Rather than being permanent and inevitable, they are both vital and vulnerable.”
Visions of the Past Christopher Taylor & Richard Muir 1983
I wish to thank the people of Mathon who have given me information and encouragement, and the staff of Worcester and Hereford Libraries and Record Offices for their patient help and guidance.
Looking westward from Worcester Beacon, the highest point of the Malvern Hills, the parish of Mathon is spread below. The two tree-crowned hills, Rowburrow and Bagburrow overlook a land of quiet fields and deep narrow twisting lanes between ancient hedges, well-wooded country where sheep graze the steep hillside fields. From early times Mathon was the only Worcestershire parish west of the hills, until in 1897 the old parish was divided, part of it becoming West Malvern, and the larger portion now known as Mathon Rural, becoming part of the County of Herefordshire.
Mathon is not one compact village, but rather a collection of dispersed hamlets, which grew up round the important farms, in what were clearings in the dense woodland. Settlers felled trees, burnt undergrowth, and broke the soil to increase the area available for crops, and all this was done unaided by any kind of mechanical power. Groups of dwellings grew up at Moorend Cross where the cultivated land ended and the moor began, at Southend, South Hide, Lane End and Ham Green. In all they contain as many houses as the village itself, and there may have been a tendency at times to regard themselves as a separate community.
The oldest building is the parish church, originally dedicated to St. Margaret and dating from the 11th Century. In this building the people of Mathon have celebrated the Christian festivals for nearly a thousand years, and it still plays an active part in village life. Opposite, to the south, is Church Farm, which was a demesne farm, an ancient site which may be older than the church, in the past having a moat, which as well as having some defensive value against thieves and vagrants, also served as a fish pond to supplement the monotonous winter diet of medieval times. Church Farm is referred to in old documents as Parsonage Farm, and was one of the houses used by Vicars of Mathon.
A few yards north-west of the church is the fish pond which belonged to the Lord of the Manor. It is now much over-grown, but in the past, when kept clean and well-stocked, must have provided a useful adjunct to the moat. Adjacent to the church is the school, now used as a private dwelling. It opened in 1861, and closed in 1948 when the child population fell.
Behind the school lies Pigeon House Meadow, in which at one time must have stood the building which housed the lord’s flock of pigeons which provided a supply of eggs and fresh meat in winter, when there were few alternatives to salted meat. Since these flocks could number hundreds of birds, they were unpopular with the villagers, as they devastated their crops. It is likely that a favourite illicit meal was one of these birds.
Opposite the school leading from the church car park, is the hollow way or green lane known in the village as the “Roman Road”. A few yards on the right up this track, the map shows where a saw pit was located, and where the top sawyer and his mate in the pit below laboriously cut the hard home-grown tree trunks into boards by hand.
In the village street are the timber-framed houses, mostly built in the 17th Century in that prosperous period between 1570 and 1640. Many of these houses, which were originally thatched, have been extended and improved, and sometimes two or three dwellings made into one. Only about half the village houses have been built in the last two hundred years for the population has grown slowly except for a period in the 19th Century when improvement in medical practice ensured the survival of more children.
On the right is the Old Vicarage, built in the time of Canon Douglas. The 1861 Census shows that he was living here with his wife Octavia, their four children aged 3 to 6, Isabella Douglas, a visitor, Hannah Daniel, a cook, Martha Walker, a nurse, Amelia Webb, a housemaid, Harriet Archer, a servant, and a 14 year old groom named Eli J. Butler. The Old Vicarage, now Mathon House, is privately owned, and the Vicar lives in a new house in Cradley, having responsibility of both parishes, and Storridge.
Nearby stands the “Cliffe Arms”, named after the family which flourished in Mathon between the end of the 17th and middle of the 19th Centuries. For many years the inn must have been a convivial meeting place for the Mathon people. It was here in 1826, at the end of their year of office, that the twelve paymasters1 of the village recorded their luncheon on Easter Monday, “the expenses not to exceed £3”. It was here that the bell ringers came on the 5th of November each year, after ringing a special peal, for their ale, provided by the parish, costing 6 shillings. Perhaps we should hope that it was not this inn that Luke Staunton kept, when he appeared at Worcester Quarter Sessions in 1634, for “suffering the parishioners of Mathon to be continually drinking at all seasons, whole nights and days together”.
Though much remains from the past, change has inevitably taken place in Mathon. Two inns and two shops have closed, and there are few successors to the many tradesmen who worked here in the 19th Century. At that time, there were in the village, blacksmiths, bakers, shoemakers, glovers, joiners, tailors, wheelwrights, as well as grooms , ploughmen, and general agricultural workers - an almost completely self-supporting community. Now, most of the skilled men have to go outside the village to work, and there is no shop of any kind in the parish.
Most of the Mathon farms practise mixed farming. The “Mathon White”, the hop named after the parish is no longer grown here. Similarly the acres of fruit trees, producing the gallons of cider and perry, which the County historian, Nash2, describes, have been uprooted. Within living memory, and confirmed by large scale Ordnance Survey maps of the time, orchards stretched from the church to Lane End, a magnificent sight in Spring. What is the reason for their disappearance - a change of climate, the vagaries of international trade, or a change in customers’ tastes? The cider stones which ground hundreds of tons of apples serve as seats or as homes for Alpine plants in Mathon gardens, and the hop kilns remain decorative, but idle, awaiting conversion to country homes.
The name Mathon is believed by Professor Ekwall3 to be derived from the Old English word meaning “treasure, or gift”. Laird4 says “it has long been a superstitious opinion with the people of the neighbourhood that great quantities of treasure have been deposited in times past in this range of hills”. He goes on to say that a quantity of silver coins had been found in Mathon, but that the location and quantity had been concealed for fear of losing them. However, perhaps it is more likely that the name may derive from a gift of land in such a fertile district.
Whatever else was buried at Mathon, it is certain that in 1910, Mr. Hodges found in the sand pit, on his land at Southend Farm, what proved to be a Bronze Age cemetery. Fifteen interments were found, fragments of cinerary urns, two bronze lance heads, and a 5 inch bronze disc, possibly the central boss of a shield. Twenty or more interments had been removed before the experts arrived. Brian Smith5 suggests that the site was used for an exceptionally long period, probably a thousand years. Unfortunately, this archaeological discovery was not professionally excavated, or valuable information might have been obtained about these inhabitants of the district over 3000 years ago. The 1904 Ordnance Survey map shows a small group of “stones” by the stream below Warner’s Farm. One of these remains in the undergrowth near the brook. The others have disappeared, probably removed to avoid hampering farming operations. It is grey and about the size of a milestone. It may or may not be significant that the stones lay in a straight line between the Bronze Age cemetery and the church.
The parish has footpaths in plenty, between hamlets and farms, but there is no main road, no canal, and a railway which was planned in the 19th Century, between Worcester and Hereford, passing through Netherley, was never built. The River Rundle or Cradley Brook is fed by several springs and streams, and the plentiful supply of pure water, and the fertility of the soil no doubt had much to do with the choice of site of the village many years ago.
‘The Cliffe Arms’, a social centre for many years. ‘Also it is agreed that it shall be a dinner provided at Thomas Ravenhill at the Cliffe Arms Inn on Easter Monday next (1826) for the 12 paymasters of the parish, the expenses not to exceed £3’.
You will pay a little more now.
In the absence of written records, fixing the date of the founding of a village is never easy. We certainly cannot assume that the site was continuously occupied from the Bronze Age, through the Iron Age and Roman times. A hoard of Iron Age bars, the basic working material for tools and weapons, was found in 1856 near the Wyche, and it is now known that the Iron Age communities were far more widespread, numerous and advanced than had previously been realised. J. & M. West1 estimate the Iron Age population of Herefordshire at 30,000. The Romans too are known to have been near here, at Stretton Grandison for example, where there was a fort and settlement, as well as the Roman road cutting straight across country from the south-east. Recent aerial photographs have revealed the existence of a Roman marching camp in the neighbouring village of Cradley, created by troops in transit, when they made a defensive rampart around their camp for the night. Also Roman coins have been found in the parish, but neither they nor the Iron Age bars are sufficient evidence to assume continuity of occupation during these years, though some day, excavation may reveal the presence of people living in this area at the time. Lacking archaeological evidence of this, we must look for indications of habitation during the Anglo-Saxon period.
The village itself has an Old English name, and Rowburrow and Bagburrow take their names from the Anglo-Saxon ‘bearu’ - a wood. Names ending in ‘ley’ (from ‘leah’) such as Netherley, Overley and Farley suggest that the village was probably founded during these years. The names signify clearings made in the forest by the settlers, Netherley the lower, and Overley the higher clearings and Farley the fern clearing on the high ground of Mathon Park.
The reasons for the choice of site are not hard to see. The soil is fertile, and due to the streams, springs and wells, water is pure and abundant. Some householders still use the wells which have served for hundreds of years. Serious flooding is rare, so that dry sites for houses could readily be found. William Cobbett2 had a great deal to say about how much better off labouring people were in well-wooded districts like Herefordshire where wood was easily available for fuel. But he could also have pointed out the benefit of a good water supply, rather than having to walk to a distant well or pond, where both supply and cleanliness were of doubtful value.
The church contains Norman work of the 11th Century, and though there is no church listed for Mathon in Domesday Book, a priest is mentioned, which is usually taken to mean that there was church. Also it has been suggested that the remains of an apse3 were found below the present chancel. If this is so, it may be that a previous Christian or pre-Christian building existed on this site.
In 1086, when the Domesday Book was compiled, Mathon was one of the many manors owned by Pershore Abbey. The abbey had been re-founded as a Benedictine Abbey in 972 and land in Worcester and Gloucester was given to it by a charter of King Edgar. This charter was signed by the king, by Archbishop Dunstan of Canterbury, Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester, and Oswald, Archbishop of York and Bishop of Worcester. The abbey had a stormy early history, having been plundered by the Danes and damaged by fire. In spite of these hardships, the black-gowned monks led their lives of poverty, obedience and chastity, worked in garden, field and mill, built churches, and acted as missionaries to convert the heathen. They travelled around the countryside preaching the gospel, often in the open air at preaching crosses. There is a stone near the South Porch of the church, said to be the remains of a preaching cross4, and this may be where the monks held their service before the church was built, having made the long journey from Pershore through the wild heavily forested country. The magnificent yew tree which stands close by certainly dates to mediaeval times. King Edward I encouraged the planting of yews in churchyards.
The ecclesiastical parish boundaries were laid down before the Conquest. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury began to divide the country into dioceses and parishes in the 7th Century. Mathon’s boundary started from the hills and followed the stream westward down the hillside by the edge of Park Wood, along the course of an ancient track which Brian Smith5 says has been used since Anglo-Saxon times. It came from the river crossing at Clevelode and the Rhydd, along Wood Street, and over the hills and down the Purlieu Lane into Herefordshire, the line of an old salt road. The boundary crosses Brockhill Road and continues still by the stream and through the woods to cross the Mathon-Colwall road. At certain places as was the custom, the 1904 6 inch Ordnance Survey map shows prominent trees, usually oak, no doubt for their longevity, to mark the boundary at that point. At its other extremity as the boundary returns to the hills, it includes the district which was known as Mathon Urban, now West Malvern.
In 1014, Ethelred II granted to Earldorman Leofwine 4 mansae (lodges) in Mathon, “free from every yoke of service, three things excepted, to wit, national military service, the construction of fortresses and the building of bridges”. Unfortunately there is no information on the boundaries of this estate, but we do know that it was of 4 hides (480 acres).
Domesday Book gives the first solid information about the parish. We know that much of the land belonged to Pershore Abbey, that there was a priest, a reeve6 and a smith. The infamous Urso d’Habitot, ancestor of the Beauchamps and Sheriff of Worcester for 20 years, held three virgates of land (90 acres). He had stolen so much church land that Ealdred, Archbishop of York said of him “Highest thou Urse, have thou God’s curse”. This land was in Doddingtree hundred.
One hide was in Radlow hundred in Hereford. Before 1066 this land had been held by Alfward and Merwin, thanes of Earl Oda, but after the Conquest, they lost their freedom and the land was held by Aethelhelm and Odo, the tenants of Drogo, son of Poyntz and Roger de Lacy respectively.
Walter Ponther (or Poer) held a virgate of land (30 acres), all of which was waste. Victoria County History7 considers that this is Farley manor in Mathon Park. William Power, a member of this family, was presented at the Assizes in 1274 for making a warren in Farley, and in 1287 the Earl of Gloucester sued him for enclosing a park there to the detriment of Malvern Chase. William was able to show that his father, also William, had made the park, and that the father of the Earl had given him deer to stock it, but by 1287 they had all been eaten by wolves. This was apparently a late date for wolves to be found in England, so perhaps the deer had also suffered from two-legged predators.
Domesday Book has another entry, under ‘Bagburrow’, which concerns Mathon. Some entries in Domesday cannot be directly related to existing villages. At the time that the report was made, what William’s officials were describing was a loosely knit farming district of houses and farmsteads. This is exactly what Bagburrow was and still is. The land was the property of the Canons of Hereford and was in Winstree hundred. There were 5 hides, 2 mills, and a share in a salt house in Droitwich. The share in the salt house, a very valuable perquisite, is considered to have been obtained by manors which provided firewood for drying the salt, and so obtained the supplies essential to health and for the preservation of meat for winter.
In all Domesday Book lists three water mills in the parish. One mill, represented by the present Mill House, was working in the 19th Century, and a mill house and mill stone are also in existence at Hall Court, an 18th Century house which stands below Bagburrow Hill and only a quarter of a mile away from the Mill House. Another mill site can be identified below Warner’s Farm at Horsehole, where the 1840 map shows a field named Mill Field, and part of the stream Old Mill Race. Similarly near Old Country Farm, there is a field named Mill Meadow. The mill was a most important part of the medieval economy. The lord insisted on having all corn ground at his own mill, and taking his quota, while the miller was suspected of doing the same without official blessing.
The little streams which mark the parish boundary, or which drove the mills, now look too small and weed-choked for their task for most of the year. In medieval times, they were kept thoroughly weed-free, in accordance with their importance to the farming system of the time. The mills themselves were very small. Professor Hoskins8 has compared their power to that of a small motor car but as he says, they were the only medieval tool which did not rely solely on human or animal muscle power.
At this time, there seem to have been, in the parish, 17 villagers, or villeins, and 16 small-holders or bordarers. It is thought that the villeins farmed about 30 acres each and the bordarers 5 acres. They all had duties to perform for the lord of the manor, in this case represented by the reeve, who allocated the daily work. Ploughing the lord’s land, washing and shearing sheep, carting loads or manure and harvested crops were typical tasks, and very irksome they must have been to men who had been free before the Conquest and now had to leave their own land to work for the lord.
The open fields of the village can still be identified from the 1840 Tithe map. They lie between Church Farm, Moorend Cross, and the Old Country Farm, and are named Red Field, Broad Field and Butt Field. These are the fields where the villagers had their strips of land, scattered throughout the field so that each had his share of the best soil. Each man’s long strip of half an acre or acre was called a ridge or land and was turned by the plough into a raised rounded shape and separated from his neighbour’s by a ditch to drain off the water. For several days a week, he worked under the direction of the reeve, on the church land, and the first vicar, Thomas de Badminton probably worked beside him. The meadows for hay or grazing were shared out in a similar way. It seems likely that Red Field, the largest of the three, (60 acres) would have been used for arable crops, the others for hay or grazing. The villagers ploughed with their ox teams, gathered their crops at harvest time, and from them paid their tithe to the parson for the maintenance of the church. In 1840, Red Field was still divided into strips, and although the owners were still large farmers, one or two smallholders still owned land there9.
Mathon is one of the parishes where there were those officials known as ‘radmen’ or ‘radknights’10. They were found mainly on the Welsh border, and were of superior status, owing light services to the lord, as carriers or mounted escorts.
There are several ‘hollow ways’ in the village, unmade roads where the surface has been carried away as mud on the wheels of waggons, the hooves of horses, or men’s boots. Some of them appear on the 1840 Tithe map to have been of equal importance to the roads which were later surfaced and became our modern lanes. One of these hollow ways runs from the village street by the house called “Parker’s” heading directly up Rowburrow Hill in the direction of West Malvern. This is by village tradition, a salt way. Another, called ‘Quab Lane’11, starts near the back entrance of Mathon Court and goes north-west to Overley Cottages and Netherley Farm, passing through the small field called Nobody’s Acre, which from its name, must have been disputed land at one time. At the edge of the field is an imposing hedgebank, which may have been a farm or estate boundary. Another hollow way leads from Warner’s Farm to the stream near Horsehole, which was for many years, the site of a smithy. It is not hard to imagine the horses being led down the lane to drink at the stream and be shod. From the same place, yet another hollow way leads from the stream up the hill to Red Field.
Leading from the church car park is the hollow way known as the ‘Roman Road’. It begins in a southerly direction for a quarter mile, then meets a footpath from Moorend Cross which continues over the stream and up the hill to Warner’s Farm. The hollow way is so straight and broad for the first quarter mile, that it is easy to see how it acquired its name. It is certainly a very ancient track, and only excavation could determine its age. It leads directly to Red Field, the village arable field, to which heavy loads of bulky manures had to be transported, and harvested crops brought to the village, so it is not suprising that the wagon wheels cut deeply. After meeting the footpath from Moorend Cross the hollow way continues south as a wide and much over-grown ditch along the edge of the open field. It could possibly in the past have been a much more direct route to the important farms at Southend, South Hide and Old Country. One of the largest farms in the parish, Shipping House, mentioned in the 14th Century12, was situated at South Hide, and was owned by the Cliffe family, until it was burnt down in the 19th Century.
Church Farm and Moat Farm were moated sites. These are not uncommon in England, and are found as frequently in East Anglia as in the West Midlands so there is no connection with marauding armies of Welshmen. However they may have been useful against some of the thieves and vagabonds who were common in these lawless times. The sites are usually associated with heavy land and the moats may have been helpful for drainage purposes. It has been suggested that they were popular amongst prosperous farmers who wished to copy the nobility with their moated castles - a mediaeval status symbol. They were mostly made in the 13th Century and it is thought that few were constructed after 1500.
After the Norman Conquest, King William seized for his own use great areas of forest in which he and his nobles could enjoy the hunting of the deer which was their delight. Severe laws applied to these forests, and anyone harming the king’s deer was subject to death or mutilation. Farmers living in the forest area must not allow their hedges to grow higher than the armpit of an inspecting verderer, nor could they drive off the deer which jumped the hedges to feast on their crops. The gathering of wood for fuel or building was strictly controlled as was the grazing of farm animals in the forest. Dogs were inspected, and “such dogs as are found that may or will not be drawen through a strap of 18 inches and a barleycorn in length and breadth shall be hombled”. Part of the foot was cut away so that the dogs might not injure the deer by clawing them.
In 1290, the Red Earl, Earl of Clare, Hertford and Gloucester married Princess Joan d’Acres, daughter of Edward I, and received as part of the honour of Gloucester, a gift of Malvern Forest and the smaller forest of Cors adjoining it. As only the property of the king could be described as a forest, they were immediately disafforested and from that day ranked as chases, but unhappily for the inhabitants forest laws were still enforced. The chase was said by the monk, William of Malmesbury to be “so much overrun with wood as to be a wilderness”. Its boundaries are not known in detail, but we are told that it extended in length from the River Teme in the north, to Cors Forest in the south, and from the River Severn on the east to the top of Malvern Hill on the west. The administrative headquarters of the chase were at Hanley Castle. Soon after the land was acquired by the earl, a great quarrel broke out between him and the Bishop of Hereford about their boundaries, and the earl caused the ditch known as the Shire Ditch or Red Earl’s ditch to be made along the crest of the hills to divide their lands and to mark the boundary between the shires. It is said that he made the ditch on the slope of the hill in such a way that the deer could readily leap over it into his land but only with great difficulty jump back into the Bishop’s. Mathon was one of the thirteen parishes with land in the chase, and the forest laws must have restricted the breaking of more farming land and house-building for hundreds of years. However, as people always have, the villagers must have learned to make the best of it. They were able to gather fallen wood for fuel, and they had rights of grazing for their cattle on the common land in the chase. For this the Townships of Mathon and Colwall gave 8 quarters of oats and all the customary tenants did 383 bendrips in Autumn (extra reaping for the lord of the manor).
In 1327, Edward III, a boy of 15, who depended on his mother and her lover, the scheming Marcher lord, Mortimer for guidance, needed to re-coup his finances after an unsuccessful campaign against the Scots. He ordered a tax to be collected which was called the Lay Subsidy, and we gain a valuable glimpse of the village from the people who paid it.
|Lay Subsidy Rolls||Edward III 1327|
|De Rogero de Hanley||XIId.|
|De Stephano att Well||XIId.|
|De Willelmo Le Blake||Xd.|
|De Alicia Farleye||XIId.|
|De Johann Le Mercer||IIIIs.|
|De Ricardo Hug||IIs.|
|De Galfrydo Dobyn||VIIId.|
|De Johanne Le Blake||Xd.|
|De Ricardo in the Home||Xvd.|
|De Willelmo Hed||IIs.|
|De Johanne atte Egge||Xd.|
|De Henrico atte Toune||XVIIId.|
|De Ricardo de Bictheleye||VId.|
|De Adam de la Mor||IId.|
|De Willelmo de Putlewyke||VIId.|
|De Willelmo de Farleye||VId.|
|De Ricardo atte Mulle||XIId.|
|De Johanne de Blake||XIId.|
|De Willelmo Fabro||VIIId.|
Unfortunately these records are not considered reliable as a population guide, since so many people were too poor to pay the tax, and others avoided paying, a situation which six hundred years later still seems oddly familiar. It is interesting to note that there are two people named Farley. Farley juxta Mathon, to give its full name, was a manor in the Mathon Park area. By 1840, it had almost disappeared - all that remained was a pound in which stray animals were kept until claimed. This was located on Harcourt Road, opposite Mathon Lodge.
Ricardo in the home was the owner of the farm at Ham Green, and Henrico atte Towne held Town House Farm, Ricardo atte Mulle was the miller, and Adam de la Mor farmed Moorend. Johann Le Mercer was the wealthy man of the village, having paid 4 shillings tax. He owned a virgate of land in Farley in 1305. There was obviously a range of wealth in the parish. Galfrydo Dobyn seems to have had a descendant who in 1684 witnessed William Cliffe’s will. His name was Robert Dobyns. If it is the same family, this is an exceptionally long time for a family to survive in a parish, the more usual period being 3 or 4 generations. It is probably the same family that gave the name to the present Dobbin’s farm and to the fields called Dobbins meadow and Lower Dobbins on the Tithe Map. Willelmo Fabro was the Smith, that vital member of every community until 1900, at least.
For much of its history, Mathon gives the impression of going quietly on irrespective of outside events. But during the 16th and 17th Centuries two events did have a profound influence on the village. The first was the Reformation and the second the disafforestation of Malvern Chase.
Mathon Church was originally dedicated to St. Margaret by its 11th Century builders. The County historian, Nash, writing in the 18th Century, says “The church of Mathon, which is dedicated to St. Margaret, with the portion of Chokenhall, were appropriated to the Abbey of Pershore 19th June 1512, and the Vicarage appointed”. Appropriation means that the abbey received the tithes of the Manor of Mathon, and the right to appoint a vicar, in return taking the responsibility of providing a vicarage and maintaining the Chancel. It would have been a valuable addition to the Abbey’s finances. There were three vicars in the year 1512, and we can guess that the first of them, Johannes Russell did not meet with the approval of the abbey, but why their nominee, Hugo Myles should have been so quickly replaced by Roger Hughes, we cannot tell.
Pershore Abbey was not to enjoy the financial advantage of the Appropriation for long however, as King Henry VIII had begun systematically depriving the church of its wealth, a process which he continued until death took him “where kings can steal no more”!1 In doing so, he may have abolished some practices by abbots and monks that were unworthy of their saintly vocation, but he also swept away the wonderful hospitality which monasteries provided for travellers and the poor, and their influence on literature and learning. During this period, the dedication of the church was changed to St. John the Baptist. There are two possible explanations. The first is that it was an attempt to hide thefts of Church lands and rents, so that if anyone asked what had happened to the rents of St. Margaret’s, Mathon, he would be told that there was no such church, and that Mathon Church was dedicated to St. John. The second, more likely explanation is that the new dedication was more in keeping with the spirit of the Reformation, and with the tendency to move away from the Church of Rome, and foreign influence, and place increased importance on scriptural tradition. When Pershore Abbey was dissolved, Mathon Church and Manor passed into the hand of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and in the 19th Century to the Church Commissioners, who still own much of the parish.
Some idea of the wealth of small country churches can be gained from the following inventory of the possessions of Mathon Church made in 1536:-
Mathan Aug 9 1 chalys of sylver and gylte weying XX unces, a pyx of sylver weying IIJ (3) unces, IJ (2) copies of redd velvett, a chesable of blew velvett, with albes thereunto, a crosse of copper, a censer of copper, a lampe of latten, IJ (2) candlesticks of latten, a tennacle of brasse, IIIJ (4) bells in the steeple, a saunce bell, a lyche bell, a sacryng bell, item.; they say they have J other chalyce weying VII unces, and remaineth in the hands of Ric. Cave in gage for XXs. of him borrowed and bestowed upon harness (armour).
Will Packer Vicar
After the theft of the monastery wealth, and following the death of Henry VIII, it was obviously thought worth enquiring what additional valuables might be taken from parish churches. It will be noticed that the church still retained various articles connected with the previous membership of the Catholic church. The reference to the steeple is either a slip, or a figure of speech. Mathon never had such a steeple.
The loan of twenty shillings, a considerable sum in those days, made by Richard Cave to the church, suggests that the parish had experienced difficulty in providing a soldier and arming him, and had been obliged to ask for help from a wealthy parishioner, who had retained the chalice which had provided surety.
The second event to affect the village occurred about one hundred years later. Malvern Chase, during the 13th Century the property of the Red Earl, had reverted to the crown, and in 1628 King Charles I, anxious to raise money without calling Parliament, had the Chase surveyed, and decided to give up his forest rights and take one third of the common land in lieu. The rest of the land was intended to be available to all in perpetuity, and local people could retain their grazing rights which they had held for centuries. The king sold his one third of the land immediately, and some farms and cottages were built there. This was a prosperous period in which many houses were built or re-built in the countryside, and which is known to historians as the “Great Re-building of Rural England”. The parish records contain an interesting description of the vicarage at Church Farm, in two glebe terriers dated 1585 and 1616. Glebe terriers were descriptions of houses and land belonging to the church, and not only do they give a description of the vicarage, but they also tell us something about the local farmhouses, which were similar.
The 1585 terrier reads: A True Presentment of the Glebe land of the Parsonage of Mathon with all houses thereto belonging.
In primis, a fair mansion house, viz, a parlour, a hall, a kitchen with chambers, and divers (several) other houses adjoining to the same, all within the moat and one little house without the moat on the north side.
Item. A large barn, a stable and a fair large sheepin so called, a gatehouse upon the bridge.
Item. Two meadows being 7 acres or thereabouts, two closes of pasture being 5 acres or thereabouts, two other closes now arable land being 22 acres, all adjoining to the Parsonage house or mansion place, and all inclosed adjoining together.
The sheepin is the word variously written as shippon, shippen or shipping meaning a cattle shed. It is likely that this house was many years old when it was described in 1585, and was in fact the house which belonged to William Mucklow, and which he agreed to make into a vicarage in 1550. This is how the house was described in 1616.
One hall, one parlour, one kitchen, one dey house (dairy), one water house, one lower chamber near unto the parlour, one boulteinge house (boulteinge - a machine for separating grain and bran) one chamber over the hall, one chamber over the parlour, one chamber over the kitchen, one closet over the deyhouse, one chamber over the buttery, one chamber over the parlour chamber, one chamber behind the kitchen chimney, two draughts (draught - a privy or cess pit). One new barn containing three bays, one stable thereunto adjoining, and one poultry house.
By 1616, the vicarage had either been re-built or extensively improved. The earlier terrier makes no mention of upstairs rooms, and the house may have had an extra floor built in, creating bedrooms, and a flight of stairs provided. This was a favourite way of improving a mediaeval hall type house. Alternatively, it may have been at this time that the house was re-built outside the moat, which in more settled times, probably proved to be unnecessary for security, and rather restricting.
The document also gives a description of the glebe land - “To the Broad Field on the north side, to the piece of pasture ground called the Long Leasow on the east side, to the Lower Stallockmore or Stall Meadow and on the west side to the highway going from Mooreens (Moorend) Cross to Hackneels Cross (Hackney Cross). By 1840, the Tithe Report mentions only Broad Field. The other names seem to have gone out of use.
A great deal of building was done in the parish this century. Parker’s, a timber-framed house in the village street bears the date 1610 carved on the front, and most of the other buildings and cottages have been dated to the 17th Century, with the exception of Bank Farm, said to be 16th Century. Green wood was used for the main framework of the houses. Heavy baulks were required to minimise twisting as the wood dried out. The Cliffe Arms, and Town House both have cruck end frames, bent trees halved along their length and used to make an ‘A’ frame for the gable end. Crucks were thought to be very ancient and were dated to the 13th Century, but it is now known that the system continued for another three or four centuries. The framework was made by the carpenter in his yard, and the heavy timbers mortised and tenoned together dry, then each joint marked with chisel-cut Roman numeral for later assembly on the site, when the joints were pegged with heart of oak. Neighbours were called in to erect the frames, often with lavish expenditure of food and drink. Most of the houses were named after their first owners. Badger’s is a particularly interesting name, since a badger, as well as the familiar animal, was also the name of a licensed dealer in grain. There was a John Badger living in the village in 1619, who may have built the house, and who may have been such a dealer, and whose name may have been acquired from an ancestor in the corn trade.
For a village in a county which suffered as severely as Worcestershire did during the Civil War, Mathon seems to have escaped fairly lightly. However, there is a strong tradition in the village that a skirmish took place on Red Field, which is sometimes known locally as the ‘Field of Blood’. The dead are supposed to have been buried where they fell. I have been unable to find any mention of this action in written records, but that does not mean that it did not take place. There were large numbers of troops in the area, some of whom were quartered in Mathon. Disputes between soldiers and those upon whom they are billeted are frequently reported, arising from stolen and damaged property. The parish records contain the following list of village people claiming damages against the unpaid Parliamentary army of Scots who were billeted here.
Thomas Dangerfield 8 men and 10 horses 4 days £2 8s. 0d.
Edmund Whittington “and lost more by some of the Parliamentary forces in taking commodities out of my house and two horses from me”.
William Briane By Capt. Badger’s men, in taking commodities out of my houses and breaking my glass window.
Edmund Poole Losses by the Scots, 22 lambes and 2 wethers valued (at the least) at £4
Thomas Godfrey Plundering of apparell
Richard Willmoore Apparell and other commodities
William Thomas 1 horse valued at £4
James James Bacon, beef, and other commodities. A gun valued at 12s.
William Hall Beef, bacon, cheese apparell and all kind of household stuff £30
Signed by all the above, (some made their marks) and also by Thomas Adams, Richard Taylor, John Falkes, John Rosse, Richard Hodges, Peter Hartland, Edward Harbert, William Collins, John Green, Willian Vobe. Whether these men ever succeeded in their claim, the parish records do not reveal. Thomas Dangerfield seems to have supported the Parliamentary side, for he ends his claim with “besides what satisfaction I had in it.”
The Worcester Quarter Sessions Rolls for 1591 - 1643 suggest that Mathon was on the whole a law-abiding community. There are not a great many entries but some of them give some idea of the village people of that time.
1637 Roger Robinson, shoemaker, was indicted for selling 230 pairs of boots made of horse hides, instead of the customary cow hides.
1620 Permission was given to the Vicar and inhabitants of Mathon to collect alms for a poor man, Nicholas Taylor, who lost his house and goods by fire.
Permission had to be sought for a cash collection of any kind. In this case, Nicholas seems to have suffered a misfortune which was probably not uncommon in the timber-framed houses of the 17th Century, with their open fires.
1634 Roland Hope, gentleman, of Mathon, for not working in the repair of the highways on the appointed days, and making default with one small cart with oxen, horses or other beasts.
Since a ‘gentleman’ was not normally expected to work with his hands, perhaps Roland’s omission was in not sending the small cart. It is also interesting to notice the reference to oxen as draught animals.
1608 Two persons sell ale without licence in Mathon.
1609 Richard Sadler, the younger, of Mathon, tanner, to keep the peace towards Thomas Sadler, of Leigh. Was this a family quarrel?
1610 Indictment of Henry Whooper, of Mathon, clerk, for breaking and entering the close (field) of Richard Case of Mathon.
1615 William Vobe, yeoman, indicated for grazing horses, cows and sheep on the close of Anthony Sydnall and Anthony Halle. (The Grove)
Both these charges suggest that the land may have been enclosed quite recently. Perhaps there was some resentment by Whooper and Vobe.
1619 14 men and one woman indicted for riotously assembling and assaulting three bailiffs of William Berkeley. Was this an eviction which was resisted by the villagers?
1619 3 Mathon men indicted for riotously assembling and assaulting Richard Turner. (Not a true bill)
1627 Another riotous assembly and assault.
1629 John Harbert - a theft from Richard Unet.
1633 Indictment of William Thomas of Mathon, yeoman, for disseizing Celia James of the possession of her dwelling house at Mathon.
1634 Luke Staunton, victualler, drinking at unlawful hours, and for inordinate terms on festival days. By standards of English country life in those times, Luke must have been on a considerable celebration to have been taken to court.
1634 John Gregg, Constable of Mathon, reported that watch and ward had been kept, that the highways and bridges were in good repair till the last sudden rain, that none harboured rogues, and that there were no (unlicensed) taverners, vintners, butchers or bakers.
This was all part of the routine report that the Constable was required to make as part of his yearly duty.
1634 Roger Robinson, Constable of Mathon, that Luke Staunton keeps an alehouse without licence.
The Constable was chosen yearly. It was an onerous duty, and one that everyone seems to have tried hard to avoid, though a refusal to officiate meant a considerable fine. Roger himself was charged three years later with making boots from horse hides.
1636 Presentment of Luke Staunton, vitualler of Mathon, for suffering the parishioners of the same town to be continually drinking at all seasons whole nights and days together.
1636 Edward Harbert of Mathon, husbandman, for his appearance at Sessions to answer for not appearing at monthly meetings, he being Constable of Mathon.
At the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Mathon must have been a green land, the primitive roads lined with fruit trees, and oaks still plentiful.
In the Civil War, a London militiaman gave “testimony of the high reputation of the county, (Worcs.) for fruit, and spoke enthusiastically of the loaded apple and pear trees overhanging even the public highways.”2 Cider, which had already been enjoyed for hundreds of years was made, and the surplus which was not consumed on the farm, usually as part of the men’s wages, was sold. The red-streaked apple discovered by Lord Scudamore growing wild in a field near Holme Lacey, was a favourite cider apple, and the Barland pear, named after a field in the neighbouring parish of Bosbury was the choice for perry, made since the 14th Century. Both varieties of fruit gave their names to fields in Mathon.
At the end of the 17th Century, Celia Fiennes3 wrote “On the other side (of the Malverns) is Herefordshire, which appears to be a county of gardens and orchards, the whole county being full of fruit trees. It looks like nothing else, the apple and pear trees are so thick, even in their corn fields and hedge rows”. It was also famous for its oaks, which stretched for miles, and for the Herefordshire school of woodworkers, who were responsible for such craftwork as the Mathon church roof. It was probably at about this time that hops, imported from the Low Countries in the 15th Century, began to be grown in the parish. They were increasingly used for beer, which was replacing in popularity the old English ale, and farmers were tempted to grow them by the high price which they fetched in the market. Mathon Whites were the hops which perhaps made the parish name more widely known than anything else in its history. Hops were planted 5-8 feet apart, allowing a plough to be used between rows. Poles 13-16 feet long, probably grown on the farm’s ash bed, were used to support them, and the bines were tied with rushes or grass. At harvest time, hop-picking provided the women with the chance to supplement the family income, which must have been welcome, because even allowing for the low prices of those days, wages seem incredibly low. These are the average wages for the district4.
1663 Bailiff £4 per annum
Labourer 3d. to 6d. per day (with food and drink)
Women 4d. per day
Thatcher or Carpenter 6d. per day
Maidservant £1 10s. per annum
Fortunately, the whole country was becoming aware of the need for legislation to provide care for the poor and elderly, and various well-meaning efforts were made to ensure that the necessary help was given, and that paupers did not have to live on charity alone. In 1662, an Act of Parliament had provided for the appointment by the men holding the two ancient offices, the Constable and Churchwardens, of Overseers for the Poor, who were empowered to levy a parish rate for that purpose. The parish books commencing in the 17th Century, contain accounts of these parish officers or paymasters as they sometimes called themselves. The Act of Parochial Settlement laid down that anyone residing 40 days in a parish should be regarded as belonging to it, and therefore became a charge upon the parish if he fell out of work. Parish officials were charged with ensuring that “no vagrants were harbouring” and because of this anxiety to incur no extra expense, mobility of labour was almost non-existent for almost 200 years. Under the 1691 Act, a man could claim a settlement in a parish by birth, by living in a tenement with a yearly value of £10, by paying parish rates, by serving a year in a public office, by completing an apprenticeship, or by obtaining a hiring. In practice, employers hired for a few days short of a year to avoid a claim for settlement. A woman could claim settlement by marriage.
The Overseer’s Account for 1681 gives an idea of the number of people in the parish who were being given assistance, and how much they received.
John Corbett 48 weeks @ 6d. per week
Thomas Mason 48 weeks @ 9d. per week
Widow Bayliss £2
Widow Balding 26 weeks @ 1s. 6d. per week
Widow Falks 44 weeks @ 9d. per week
Widow Onions £1 4s. 6d.
Widow Harbert 48 weeks @ 1s. per week
Thomas Mason 4s. 4d.
An old man at Widow Bayliss’s house 6d.
John Farmer 1s.6d.
In 1691, charges for building a house for John Farmer amounted to £6 4s. 4d.
The parish registers suggest that Mathon fared reasonably well in the plague-ridden Tudor and Stuart times. Yearly deaths never rose higher than 14, and the average age was 7. It was a time when there were many cases of poverty and hardship which defied well-meaning charitable efforts, and sometimes resulted from the tendency to hurry paupers, unemployed or sick people on to their own parishes, in order to avoid a mounting parish rate for people who themselves could not afford to pay more. Some of the Vicar’s comments, in the Register of Deaths shows his kindly feeling for these poor folk.
‘A poor parentless lad’ ‘A poor traveller’
‘A poor strange wandering boy’
1. G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History
2. Quoted in R. C. Gaut, History of Worcs. Agriculture & Rural Evolution 1939.
3. Celia Fiennes, The Journeys of Celia Fiennes , ed. Trevelyan 1947.
4. Gaut, as above.
The Cliffes and Dangerfields were two families of typical Midland yeoman, some of them aspiring to that much-loved rank of Old England, a ‘gentleman’, and bearing coats of arms. Both families had branches in nearby towns, the Dangerfields in Bromyard and the Cliffes at Great Witley, the home of Alan Cliffe, who was High Sheriff of Worcester in 1692. The memorial tablets in Mathon Church exhibit their coats of arms. The Cliffe pedigree had been inspected by the Heralds in 1634. Whether the two families made an appearance when the Heralds re-visited in 1660 is not known. The purpose of these officials was ‘to correct and reform all arms, crests, cognizances and devices unlawfully borne and assumed’. It seems that sometimes, as at Oxford, in 1669, the gentlemen had lost interest in establishing their claim to gentle birth and pedigree, preferring to attend a horse race that was being run nearby.
Both families were living in the village early in the 17th Century. They held the various offices of the parish, and were present at each other’s family occasions. Both families used a few well-tried Christian names and had the habit of naming sons after fathers, which makes tracing relationships difficult. There was a wide range of education and wealth in each family, their signatures ranging from elegant italic handwriting to those of men more used to holding a hoe than a quill pen. In the Hearth Tax returns of 1662, where hearths were used as a measure of wealth, the number of their fireplaces ranged from 4 to 1. Both families prospered during the 250 or so years they lived in Mathon. In 1684, William Cliffe had not very much to pass on to his children when he wrote his will, but he remembered the village folk among whom he had spent his life.
“In the name of God, Amen. I, William Cliffe, of the parish of Mathon, in the County of Worcester, gent., doe make and ordeyne this my last will and testament as followeth. In primis, I give to my daughter, Pitt, five pounds, item, I give to my son William Cliffe of Dod Oak, five pounds, item, I give to my grand-daughter (unnamed) the wife of William Cliffe of the parish of Astly, five pounds, item, I give to the poor of the parish of Mathorne, where I live, and where I intend to be buried, five pounds, and I constitute and appoint my son, Henry Cliffe, who liveth with me, my sole executor ....
Witnessed by Robert Dobyns, John Chandler, and another whose signature is unreadable.
William’s possessions amounted to £84, but this was about average for a yeoman farmer of this period.
In 1652, the Manor of Farley was sold by Henry Bromley and Edward Pennell to Thomas Dangerfield, Susan Fawke and George Wood. The manor stayed in the Dangerfield family for almost two hundred years. Thomas Dangerfield, who died in 1735, had many possessions and farm stock amounting to more than £500, and the inventory of his goods fills several pages, closely written. Some of the Dangerfields are described on their memorials as ‘of the Park, gent.’, some as ‘of the Spout (farm) gent.’ Most of the family farmed land in the Ham Green, Harcourt Road, and Mathon Park area, and it was in this district that the Spout Farm, now no longer in existence, was located, near Mathon Lodge.
Three of the Dangerfields, George, Henry and William were involved in the bitter quarrel with the Vicar, Tychicus Whiting, whose memorial tablet is placed above the South Door of the Church, as though still surveying those who enter and weighing them in the balance. He himself was the subject of a long letter of complaint sent by the parishioners to the Bishop of Worcester in 1745, listing “crimes and enormities committed by him.” He seems to have been a very quarrelsome man, who flew into a violent temper on the least excuse, and on numerous occasions “used threatening words of battery against some of the parish, and assaulted one man in the churchyard, Joseph Boneale by name.” Quarrels seem to have occurred in the church and in the churchyard before during and after service. However, although fifteen outraged people signed the letter to the Bishop, the signatories including Abraham Crouch, himself a previous Vicar of Mathon, (1681 - 1703) Tychicus survived it all, and remained vicar until 1772.
Two of the Cliffe family were ordained, Allen, who was one of the parish officials in 1805, and William, (1717 - 1742) whose name appears on a memorial in the church, and who is buried in Westminster Abbey.
By 1840, the only surviving members of the Dangerfield family who owned land in the parish were Mary and Margaret, who held 79 and 103 acres respectively, most of which was farmed by Hannah Jones and Thomas Wood.
The Cliffes, on the other hand, had reached the summit of their power by this time. Nash1, writing in 1782, said that the “Beauchamps, Barons of Powick, had antiently lands and a park in this parish, which is the partition of the lands of Sir Richard Beauchamp, the last Baron Powick, among his daughters, came to Anne, who married Richard Lygon and continued in the family of Lygons of Madresfield till sold by them. The principal landowner is now Mr. Cliffe.” William Bateson Cliffe is described in the parish book (1823) as Lord of the Manor. The Tithe Report of 1840 shows that he owned 491 acres, mostly around the family home, Shipping House, near the present South Hide Farm, and was also lessee of the 218 acres owned by Westminster Abbey and farmed by John Jauncey, a member of another family which had lived in the parish for at least 150 years. The reference to William Cliffe as Lord of the Manor must have been a mistake, or intended as a courtesy to the largest landowner, because the manor belonged to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, as it had since the dissolution of Pershore Abbey.
At about this time, one of the Cliffe daughters, Eliza Wilhelmina, (1810 - 1848) became friendly with Elizabeth Barrett, who lived with her redoubtable father at Hope End near Ledbury, and who later married Robert Browning. Eliza was a talented amateur painter, and made a portrait of Elizabeth, and it was on a visit to the Cliffes at Shipping House that Elizabeth had the following experience, which she described in her diary2, “Talking of bulls, as we proceeded on our way to Mathon, we met one coming to meet us in a narrow lane, and with a bellow. Out of the carriage we all three jumped, and took refuge in a field close by. But one gate seemed to me by no means as satisfactory go-between for us and our enemy; so I climbed a very high railing with a rather deep ditch at the other side. At last a man came to our rescue, and drove away the bull, and we got miraculously safe through the frying sun, and over the earth-quaking roads to Mathon.”
After William Bateson Cliffe died, Shipping House was burnt to the ground, and a rambling party from Malvern, which visited the place in 1861 found nothing but ruins.
Parker’s, a yeoman’s house in the village street, which bears the carved date 1610, and the initials R. M. G.
The parish books, containing the accounts of Churchwardens, Constable, Overseers of the Poor, and Surveyors of the Highways provide a window on the life of the parish, but a window which sometimes mists over at critical moments, giving an exciting glimpse and then blurring again. Sometimes what is revealed is comic, occasionally tragic, but most often a view of the everyday lives of the people of this village. The books themselves are stained with damp, and the ink is faded brown, but the writing is usually neat, and if the spelling is sometimes eccentric, they rarely fail to make their meaning clear.
One of the books contains the following inventory of the possessions of the late Thomas Turner, taken by Robert Dangerfield, Thomas Smith and John Spencer, on Feb 7th 1761, as was customary on a person’s death.
In the Kitching
Two stools, one screen, one table, one great chare, one looking glass, one salt box, three earthen platters, one spit, one toaster, one frying pan, a littlebrass kettle, a pair of hand irons, fire shovel and tongs, seven fire hooks, three tranchions, a glass bottle, a bacon crack, a candlestick, a pair of bellows.
In the Pantry
A half hogshead, a washtub, two cupboards, a lanthorn, two pails, two wooden bowls, a ladle, two hogsheads, three tubs, a pair of bedsteads, one bed, three blankets, two pair of sheets, one coffer and a trunk.
One axe, one bill, one thacker, one pike, one spittle, one knife and one ladder.
Wages in the 18th Century were still very low. Gaut1 gives these figures for Pershore, and Mathon’s were probably similar. Unfortunately they were to rise very little, while prices greatly increased towards the end of the century, lowering farm workers’ standard of living.
Day labourer 10d. per day with beer in winter
Carrying hay 1s. per day with board
Harvesting 30s. per month with board
Reaping 2s. 6d. per acre
Mowing 8d. to 1s. per acre
Threshing 1s. to 2s. 8d. per quarter
Yearly earnings Labourer £15 - £16
With wages so low, it was inevitable that any misfortune could make a man and his family a charge upon the parish. In fact, during the period between 1776 and 1803, the Poor rate in England rose from £1.5 million to £4 million2. In 1765, the parish book says that rates were so burthensome that it was decided that the children of those supported by the parish should be apprenticed to the local farmers, who in return were relieved of their share of the rates. The names were drawn out of a well-shaken hat, a gamble for both child and employer. No doubt the results were as varied as the range of human behaviour, and amongst a majority of kind employers, there must have been some who were hard and grasping, just as there must have been some lazy and rebellious children. What seems so sad to us today, is the age at which these children were taken from their homes - from seven years of age. Perhaps some were better fed and housed at the farms than their parents could have done, living as many did in primitive cottages and often with insufficient food and fuel. Mary Stead evidently found her place not to her liking in 1807, when she fled homewards, causing her father to receive a note, that unless he immediately returned her to her employer, his weekly allowance of 3s. 6d. would be stopped by the Overseer of the Poor. In 1765, Susannah (14), Margaret (10) and Elizabeth Dovey (8 years) were apprenticed to three different farmers, a mile or two apart. How did these children feel, leaving their homes, parents and sisters at such an early age? There would be no chance of Susannah acting as a substitute mother, and comforting the younger children as she might have done had they been together. And how did the parents feel, losing their family under the influence of poverty? Sarah (8) and Nancy James (7), Richard Nash (7) and Eleanor Jones (7) were other children apprenticed at this time. Older people will remember that this system sometimes continued in families into the end of the 19th Century. Young children were taken supposedly as a favour to them and their parents, whose homes were over-full, to live with relatives and work in their shop or on their farm as unpaid servants.
Perhaps the most poignant of the indentures in the parish records is the following:
An Indenture of 18.11.1800, sealed and delivered in the presence of Mary Dangerfield, William Jones, William Symmonds, Ann Bosley and Philip Ballard.
Between John Woodyatt of Netherley and William Jauncey (Chwdns) and William Jauncey and Henry Dangerfield (Overseers of the Poor) and Joseph Lloyd, Chimney Sweep, of Dymock.
“do put and bind Joseph M, a poor boy of this parish, (Mathon) being of the age of 9 years or thereabouts, to be apprenticed to the said Joseph Lloyd to learn the Trade, Art, Business and Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper ... and with him to serve during the term of seven years ... his secrets keep, and his lawful commands everywhere gladly do and perform. He shall not haunt ale houses nor gaming houses, nor absent himself from the service of his master day or night ...
Whereas it is necessary for the boys employed in climbing to have a dress particularly suited to that purpose, the said Joseph Lloyd is covenanted to find such suitable dress, and over and above one whole and complete suit of clothing, with suitable linen, stockings, hat and shoes... and further that the said Joseph Lloyd shall once in every week cause the said apprentice to be thoroughly washed and cleansed from soot and dirt ... nor shall Joseph Lloyd require or force the said apprentice to climb or go up any chimney which shall be actually on fire .... but shall in all things treat him with as much Humanity and Care as the nature of the employment of a Chimney Sweep will admit of ...”
Lord Shaftesbury’s Act of 1875 finally put an end to the infamous practice of using small boys instead of long brushes to sweep chimneys.
In the 1760’s 9 people were being supported by the parish, and a work house was established at the Brays, a farmhouse near Old Country. This was a radical change in the way of helping the poor, from the system of ‘outdoor relief’ i.e. helping them to continue to live their own homes, to ‘indoor relief’ - establishing a central house where they could live and partly support themselves by working. The parish accounts contain frequent references to food and drink, and materials for the occupants to work with.
1763 Mr. Smith for hauling a hundred of faggots for the work house.
Bridget Mathuce (Mathews ?) for looking after the work house for 6 months £6 10s.
For ale at Mary Jones’ berring 3s.
A peck of oatmeal
A hogshead of cider for the workhouse
Beef for the work house
Paid for mending shoes
Paid for a spade
Bread for the use of the work house
For work house - malt hops, cider, beef, cheese, wheat
Making clothes for the boys at the Brays
To be allowed for spinning done at the work house
Paid for half a stone of flax
But perhaps most interesting of all, is a tiny scrap of paper written probably by Mrs. Matthews: “Sir, there is a great complaint at the Brays for wood, beef and salt.”
As always, the parish officials were grappling with the problem of providing adequately for the poor, without making the workhouse more attractive than working in the fields in all weathers. Work house conditions probably varied greatly about the country, but in general the kind of work required was stone-breaking, oakum picking, gardening and household work. Probably the most irksome feature for the inhabitants was the loss of independence involved.
The records contain a document which gives some idea of the difficulties of obtaining a settlement in a parish in which a man wished to establish himself. John Ravenhill is almost certainly an ancestor of Thomas, who in 1840 owned the ‘Cliffe Arms’ and the cottage still known as ‘Ravenhill’, and land at Smith’s Green. Before he could settle in the village he had to satisfy the parish officials of his ability to support himself.
The examination of John Ravenhill, now an inhabitant of the parish of Mathon is the said county (Worcs.), Tailor and Staymaker. Taken upon his oath, the 5th of May 1756.
This examinant saith he has heard and verily believes he was born at Middleton in the County of Hereford, and when about 8 or 9 years old went with his father, Richard Ravenhill, who purchased a freehold estate at Kimbolton, value seven hundred pounds, where his father has ever since and now resides, and lived with him about six years, during which time he worked for him in the art of tailor and staymaker, and then left him, and went to work for William Webb at Colwall in Herefordshire by agreement at two shillings and eight pence a week, and to part giving a month’s notice to each other, and worked for him upwards of two years pursuant to such an agreement, and has not, to the best of his knowledge gained any settlement subsequent thereto.
It is interesting to notice that John, who came from a prosperous family, and who was a qualified tradesman, still had to be examined, and we may wonder how much more difficult it might have been for a labourer to gain a settlement.
The Constable’s Accounts are also to be found in the parish book. His year of office was an arduous one as he arrested criminals, moved on vagrants, inspected ale-houses, certified that no tobacco was being grown for sale (and it was a favourite crop) and supervised those drawn by ballot for the militia. He was responsible for the collection of rates and the enforcement of church attendance. Not infrequently he travelled on parish business, and then the expense item, ‘me and my horse -- 1s. 6d.’ appears in the account. ‘The apprehending of George Hill 15s.’ must have involved a considerable journey, and on another occasion in 1759, is the entry, ‘Expenses of meeting the Crowner at Great Malvern upon the account of the man that hanged himself.’
Towards the end of the century, England was at war with revolutionary France, and a legal obligation was placed on parishes to, find men for the Navy, and this was the occasion for an unusual entry in the Constable’s account. ‘A journey to Severn Stoke to procure a Sailor’. Parishes were authorised to offer monetary bribes to recruits, and probably Severn Stoke was thought to offer a better chance of finding an impecunious sailor, working on the Severn, who might be willing, for the sake of a few pounds, to enlist in the Navy of Nelson’s time. Men from the parish were also liable to be drawn for the militia, but they at east were liable for service only in the British Isles, and sometimes not outside their own county. Substitutes could be sent, often men who were out of work. One spring of nobility (not in this parish) who had been drawn in the ballot, sent as substitute, his 40 year-old butler. In 1826, the Constable of Mathon, Richard Gardiner, had to report that in spite of lengthy searching, he had been unable to find Thomas Caswell, who had been drawn for the militia, and had evidently decided that a soldier’s life was not to his taste.
Unfortunately the 18th Century ended in a black period for working people, and Mathon must have shared in this. Wages had hardly risen at all in the period 1780 to 1800, at least in the counties unaffected by the Industrial Revolution, where there was competition for labour. In Herefordshire 6s. to 7s. per week and two dinners and cider was the average pay at the turn of the century, yet prices had doubled, and in some parts of the country there were riots over the price of bread. During this time, the percentage of the working population employed in Agriculture fell from 45% to 35%. It must have been a difficult time for everyone who hoped to make a living from the land.
1. R. C. Gaut, History of Worcs. , 1939
2. W. E. Tate, The Parish Chest, 1946
Old Country Farm — Hopkilns reached the West Midlands in the early years of this century, and the first ones were round; later they were built square to house simple machinery.
The difficult times of the late 18th Century were succeeded by a period of high prices during the Napoleonic wars, when farmers prospered but after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, there was a farming collapse, prices tumbled, and farms bought at high wartime prices were sold at a loss. There is no sign of these events in the parish books. Life as ever seemed to go on its usual quiet way, and the main concern of one of the first meetings of the century of the parish officials chaired by the Rev. Allen Cliffe was that all the people who owned land adjoining the highways should ‘cleanse and scour their ditches and lay and plaish their hedges, and crop their trees’. A new list of apprenticeships was drawn up, and a surgeon, Mr. Henry Beale appointed at a fee of £6 6s. to care for sick people in the parish who could not afford his fees. Midwifery and surgical operations were however excluded.
The reputed father of Elizabeth P’s male bastard child was to be ‘called upon in the regular way to recover the sum already paid, and insure the parish against any further expense.’ John H was to take care of his grandson, James for two years at the sum of one pound ‘except in case of broken bones or any other misforting to indemnyfy the parish from all other expenses.’ John C agreed with the Churchwardens and Overseers ‘for the house I now live in at Pemberton at the yearly rent of ten shillings for year for myself, Dolly D and Mary B to live in.’ The workhouse at the Brays does not receive any further mention, but the parish did own several houses in addition to Pemberton’s Pitch, including cottages at Smith’s Green. The parish officers were obviously in some difficulty at this stage, and in 1828, presumably as a temporary measure, the Vicar of Mathon, who owned Netherley, and lived there, rented the vicarage to the Churchwardens at £10 per annum for the use of the poor. The following year, they agreed to sell the parish houses by public auction, and build a workhouse with the proceeds opposite Pitt’s Cottage, and to enclose a piece of waste land on the opposite side of the road to use as a potato garden. None of this appears to have happened, as the parish houses were not sold for another seven years and the Vicarage was used for six more years. The provision of satisfactory housing for these poor folk must have been a most difficult problem for the unpaid parish officials, and one that local councils later found far from easy to solve. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, brought the end of outdoor relief for the poor, and set up the system of workhouses with several villages grouped together (hence ‘Union’) to share the cost of facilities. Mathon’s poor were sent to Ledbury Union Workhouse. It is sad that this well-meaning measure inaugurated a system which was dreaded by many working people for a hundred years, a miserable end which lay in wait for hard-working folk after a life of toil. The separation of man and wife, the uniform, the monotonous food, are too well known to be discussed here. It was almost certainly to fund their share of the Union workhouse that the parish sold the houses that they owned, three at Malvern Hill, two at Pemberton’s Pitch, two at Smith’s Green, and one at Moorend Cross. Mrs. Mary Ann Layton bought two houses for £70, and Peter James two more for £60. The two houses at Pemberton’s Pitch were also on sale at £60.
At this time the parish officials were concerned that 28 people had attempted to enclose land on Malvern Common, and the Hayward, Richard Woodyatt, who lived at Parker’s and earned a salary of £5 for his post, was ordered to ‘throw open and remove all encroachments.’ Legal proceedings were started against five of them. Richard was also to be ‘put upon his duty to impound any stray animal and levy a fine before releasing it.’ He was allowed to pocket the money for his trouble. If the animal was not claimed within ten days, ‘it must be cried in the churchyard, and by the Town Crier of Ledbury and Worcester and if not claimed, sold at the market to defray expenses’. He was also instructed to impound any horse, mare, gelding, mule or ass suffering from Riff, Mange, Glanders, Snitch, or any other infectious disease. He had to apprehend anyone cutting or stealing trees, brush, hop-poles, vegetables or fruit. A pound had been built at this time near the present church car park and they obviously wanted to put it to good use. The Hayward’s was clearly an important appointment, at a time when there was much interest in improving farming practice, and perhaps when fences and hedges were not so good as they might have been. The hayward might be thought to have deserved a higher salary but it was probably assumed that he would have another occupation - many men had.
For hundreds of years, people had paid one tenth of their crops and increase of live-stock to maintain the church and the parson. Rectors had been entitled to the great and small tithes, and vicars to the small tithes only. The great tithes were corn, hay, and wood, and the small tithes other crops, but especially wool and the increase of livestock, and it was to store these crops that the magnificent Tithe Barns were built, like the one at Bredon. But now, in 1836, the Tithe Commutation Act provided for tithes to be paid in cash instead of crops, and as a result, the parish, like many others, was surveyed, and a large scale map produced, measuring some 8 feet by 5 feet, showing every field; its use, whether devoted to arable, pasture or coppice; its name, its area, who owned it, who farmed it, and how much it should pay as a tithe. It was in fact, the most complete picture of the area which had ever been produced, and a splendid source of information to anyone who is interested in the parish in 1840, and containing far more information than can be condensed into the present chapter.
Perhaps the most important is land ownership. William Bateson Cliffe with 491 acres was the largest landowner, the Dean and Chapter of Westminster owned 210 acres (Church Farm) but five other people owned more than 200 acres each, four owned between 100 and 200 acres, and 26 people owned from 2 to 100 acres, so there was a good distribution of land. The largest of the mediaeval shared fields, Red Field, of 60 acres, had become no less than 26 fields, owned by 9 people. Of these nine, John South owned 4 acres of land in the parish, William Reece 11, and Thomas Hendrick 22, and the other six owned between 44 and 210 acres, so most of this common field had been acquired by the large farmers.
The land was divided roughly in halves between arable and pasture, (1404 and 1278 acres respectively). There was 108 acres of hops, so evidently local farmers thought they were a profitable crop, unlike W. Pitt1, writing in 1813, who considered they were ‘a very precarious crop, subject to changes so sudden as to baffle all human care or foresight.’ Blight and mildew were hazards, for which at the time there was no known remedy, and if that was not enough, Pitt says, they were an expensive crop to grow. At all events, hop-picking provided work for the women, who were paid 8d. per day and breakfasts (or 9d. without food) and 3 pints of beer or cider per day.
One of the few omissions of the Tithe Report is any information about fruit growing. The fields having ‘orchard’ names are shown, but it cannot be assumed that all of them were growing fruit at that time, nor that there were no fruit trees in the other fields. However, contemporary accounts make it clear that vast quantities were being grown. John Chambers2 wrote in 1816, ‘The country lying on the west side of the Malvern Hills is remarkable for the large plantations of apple and pear trees and the consequent production of cider and perry, particularly the latter, which in general is rich and of fine taste.’
There is so much in Mathon’s history in praise of cider, that it is interesting to find the following conversation recorded:3
“Master, what horses shall I take to drive cider mill?”
“D---n the cider, and the mill too; you waste one half of your time in making cider, and the other half in drinking it. I wish there was not one apple in the whole county. You all think of cider, no matter what comes of plough.”
The Census returns of the mid-19th. Century show an increasingly organized, complex and prosperous society developing, and the occupations given in the returns make interesting reading. They show a society which had not yet become dependant on the mass production of clothes, so the village had its own tailor, and some of the farmers’ wives describe themselves as ‘dressmakers’, ‘seamstresses’, or more humbly ‘plain sewing’. There were also in the village several ‘cordwainers’ (shoemakers) and we can guess that anything their shoes lacked in style, they made up for in strength. Several women were ‘glovers’ which had long been a country occupation in this area as well as in Oxfordshire, Somerset and Devon, and children began to learn the trade at seven or eight. It was said that in 18644, 3s. 6d. was paid for making up a dozen pairs of ‘best men’s gloves’, and a mother and two daughters could make up 6 pairs a day. Such occupation, along with hop-picking, the cold winter job of stone-picking in the fields, harvesting, mushrooming, and blackberry picking often meant for many village mothers and children, the difference between a basic existence and a very little comfort.
The Victorian period, like those before it, was dependent on the horse for transport. By 1900, the horse population had reached a surprising figure of 3.5 million. At the local level, in 1881, at the sale of Church Farm when Mr. Charles Oakley was ‘declining farming’, he kept 11 working horses, and had a trap and a phaeton. A whole range of occupations was centred round the horse, and many of them were represented in the parish. There had been several blacksmiths since early years. William Watkins who lived at Tadpole Cottage in 1871, Joseph Hickox born at Bosbury, who lived and worked at Horsehole, and whose name appears in the records as Ecock, Heacock and Hickok, James Brant at Ham Green, William Saice, and Henry James were among them. There were several men practising the highly-skilled craft of wheelwright: John Price, William Jones and George Price who lived at Pemberton in 1851 were some of them. There were also grooms and waggoners. Several carpenters lived in the parish, including George Pitt who lived at the cottage of that name, and Samuel Archer, who lived at Twynings House, and repaired the church gallery. A thatcher was still finding work in the village, as indeed he might have done into the next century, and there was still a miller. The Vale family, at Mathon Court, the Vicar, and some of the farmers employed servants of various kinds, cooks, housemaids, grooms, washerwomen, parlourmaids, gardeners. Rev. William S. Vale, who lived at Mathon Lodge with his wife and two children, employed a cook, nurse, housemaid, kitchen girl, groom and page. There were bakers, shopkeepers, a victualler, beer retailers and a gamekeeper. One man describes his occupation as ‘profession of drawing’, and one man simply as ‘pauper.’ The most common occupation was still agricultural labourer, despite the national statistics which show a steady decline in the number of people employed on the land. The large farms were great employers of labour for most of the century. Richard Wall, at Church Farm in 1861, employed 30 men, 2 boys and 2 women, and John Jauncey employed a similar number at Hollings Hill. There was now more movement of men from village to village in search of suitable employment and a better cottage, as the family grew. The 1851 census shows that men who were ‘head of Household’ were more likely to have been born in a village a few miles away than in Mathon itself. Thirty-three men were born in other villages and ten in Mathon. This was probably due to the system of hiring farm labour in use at the time. Men went to a central point in the village, sometimes to a ‘Mop Fair’ in a nearby town, and were hired for a year less a day or two, in a process which was much disliked by some people, who compared it to a cattle fair. There is a stone slab near the church, which is said to be a hiring stone, on which deals were struck between master and man, and a small sum of money was handed over to seal the contract. Perhaps the proximity of the church was intended to convey the binding nature of the agreement.
William D., a Mathon man, who worked as a labourer on farms in this parish, in Coddington, Great Malvern, Bromsberrow and Leigh, served two years in the militia, and worked in Hanley Castle and Leigh before returning to Mathon on old age. Not many men travelled as far as Vincent Bosworth who farmed Ham Green at this time. He was born in Northamptonshire, but we cannot tell what prompted him to travel so far in search of his farm.
A similar analysis of the wives’ places of birth shows that most of the men married girls from Mathon or Cradley. The wanderings of the family in search of a better job or accommodation can often be followed by referring to the birthplace of the children. John Hill, who farmed Bank Farm in 1851, was born in Upton, his eldest son in Upton, his daughter and next son in Munsley, and his two youngest sons in Mathon.
The practice of working on two or more jobs, ‘moonlighting’ as it is now known, is not a new phenomenon. The census returns show that it was not unusual in the village in the 19th Century. Peter James, who has already been mentioned when he bought two houses at Smiths’ Green, was a cordwainer by trade, a shopkeeper, was the parish clerk for many years, and when in 1834, the church replaced the bass viol, which with a clarionet and bassoon was used to accompany the hymn singing, it was put into his care. Thomas Ravenhill, who kept the ‘Cliffe Arms’, like his ancestor, John was a tailor and owned 22 acres of land, and Elisha Thomas, describes himself as a grocer, but found time to farm 6 acres. Those who are interested in ‘Women’s Lib’, would perhaps be surprised to see how many women were farmers, though of course some of them were widows, who continued to farm with the help of a bailiff, to supervise the daily work. In general, the need to own a little land, and produce some if not all their own food, seems to have been common amongst all who were able to do so.
The Vicar of Mathon, George Reece, farmed Netherley at this time, and in doing so, was repeating the practice of his Anglo-Saxon predecessors, who worked alongside the village people on the glebe land. Whether the vicar ploughed or supervised, evidently it was a healthy occupation. He was vicar for fifty years, and died aged 78 in 1848.
The directories published in the 19th Century such as Billings’, Kellys’ and Littlebury’s give some useful information about English villages. This is what Billings’ Directory of 1855 said about Mathon.
Rev. A. J. Douglas Vicar Pitt Robert Shoemaker
Rev. P. H. Lee Curate Price George Wheelwright
Archer Samuel Carpenter Price John Wheelwright
Atkin John Tailor Racester Ann Farmer
Bennett Thomas Farmer Racester John Farmer
Southend Mathon Lodge
Calder William Farmer Rutter Edward
Downing John Farmer Saice William Shopkeeper and
Mathon House Blacksmith
Ecock Joseph Blacksmith Shapland John Farmer
Graves John Farmer Smith Robert Farmer
Holyoake Mrs. Farmer South John Farmer
Croft Farm Netherley
James Peter Shopkeeper and Thomas Elisha Shopkeeper
Janucey John Farmer Thomas William Beer Retailer
Hollings Hill ‘The Case is Altered’
Jauncey Robert Farmer Trigg William Victualler
Church Farm ‘Cliffe Arms’
Johnson Charles Carpenter Wall William Farmer
Jones Frederick Shoemaker
There was a small parochial school, supported by contributions and the children’s payments. Number on roll 40 Mary Ann Cohen Mistress.
William Thomas was the grandson of Thomas Ravenhill, and the inn he kept, at the present ‘Elms’ farmhouse was remembered by a Mathon resident, the late Mrs. Pollard. It had a most unusual name, ‘The Case is altered’, sometimes abbreviated to ‘Case Alter’ or just ‘Case’. The name came from a title used by Ben Jonson for a high 16th Century comedy, and refers to a story about an eminent lawyer, Plowden, who was once asked what ground there were against the owner of pigs which had invaded the complainant’s garden. “Very good grounds,” he replied, but when told that the pigs were his own, he said, “Then the case is altered.” Evidently it was a joke which was much appreciated, and passed into the collection of pub names. As there was another inn at what is now Lower Harcourt Road. ‘The Old Bell’ and a cider mill nearby, and also a beer house at Moorend Cross, there was no shortage of places where a thirsty man could find refreshment, when he had the money.
1. W. Pitt, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Worcs., 1813
2. John Chambers, A General History of Malvern, 1817
3. John Clark, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford, 1794
4. Mingay, Rural Life in Victorian England, 1977
1 Cottage John Night Richard Weaver
2 Twynings House John Night Samuel Archer
3 Tything House William Jones
4 Mill House Thomas Bayliss John Baskerville
5 Cottage Thomas Bayliss unoccupied
Cottage Thomas Bayliss William Wilcocks
6 Lane End Cottage Thomas Hendrick
7 Lane End Farm William Vale
8 Town House Farm William Symonds John Hall
9 Yew Tree Cottage Peter Pullen
10 Warner’s Farm Joseph Shapland James Blisset
11 Cottage Edward Smith
12 Pitt’s Cottage John Pitt James Hill
13 Old Lands Elizabeth Roberts
14 Parker’s Thomas Bowers
Parker’s Cottages Thomas Bowers Richard Parsons
15 Elms William Spurrier Thomas Ravenhill
16 Brook House John King
17 Cliffe Arms Thomas Ravenhill
18 Ravenhill Thomas Ravenhill Henry Smith
19 Badger’s unoccupied
20 Cottage William Bullock
21 Cottage Rev. G. Reece Sarah Love
22 Cottage William Smith
23 Smithy W. B. Cliffe Edward Smith
24 Church Farm Dean & Chapter of John Jauncey
25 Overley House Rev. G. Reece
Since 1840, 12 houses have been built in the area of this map, but the houses numbered 11, 20, 21 and 22 have disappeared, and some of the other houses are one dwelling converted from two, with perhaps 2 people living where 8 did previously.
When the church was built at Mathon towards the end of the 11th Century, it was a time when more castles and monasteries were being built rather than churches. If, as there is good reason to think, the village had been in existence for several hundred years, it is likely that the building was a replacement for an earlier Christian church, perhaps a wooden one. The new building was a simple one of rubble masonry, having an earth floor to the nave and sanctuary, and with no seats for the congregation, who stood or knelt for the daily Mass or the Sunday services. There was no pulpit, and no sermon, as preaching did not become popular until the 15th Century. The Mass was celebrated in Latin, and though many attended, they took the sacrament infrequently except at the major festivals, when attendance was almost universal. The stone altar in the sanctuary and the Norman font have not survived, and may have been destroyed, as many were at the Reformation. There was no glass in the windows of this early church, as it was scarce, expensive, and could only be obtained by wealthier churches and monasteries. This small building was the centre for the greatest events on the life of the village, the great festival of Christmas in the darkness and cold of winter, the Palm Sunday procession, the joy of Easter ushering in the Spring. The church and its grounds were used also for those rejoicings which enlivened a hard-working existence, such as Miracle Plays, churchyard fairs, parish ales and morris dancing. Our ancestors saw no harm in using the church for such pleasurable activities. In the days when few could read or write, the church with its wall pictures and Bible stories, and later in the Middle Ages, its stained glass and music gave an opportunity for the village people to be temporarily transported above their everyday lives.
The dimensions of this early church are shown by the characteristic herring-house masonry which can be seen on the outside South wall, of the nave, to the right of the porch, and which was revealed when the stucco was removed during a Victorian restoration.
Late in the 12th Century, the Chancel was re-built and the nave extended eastward and westward. The priest’s door in the South wall of the chancel is of this period, and so is the window on the west side of it. Close to the door is the original piscina, used for the washing of Communion vessels. The two round-headed East windows and the round window above them are of this time. The roof of the chancel is mediaeval, but would be of a later date, when there had been an improvement in woodworking skills. Also part of the first church is the South door with its plaited rope mouldings, a North door opposite, now blocked, and the window next to it which was later enlarged and lengthened.
The West Tower was built in the late 14th or early 15th Century. Its main purposes was to house the bells, but for many years it was a place of refuge for the village people when a raiding party approached. For this reason some towers were built without stairs, or even erected separately from the church (as at Bosbury) so that they could be more strongly constructed against attack.
The South porch and the nave roof were added during these years and are examples of good Herefordshire woodwork. There are six 17th Century bench seats, and the pulpit is Jacobean carved oak. The parish records show that there was a gallery in the church in 1850 when Samuel Archer, a carpenter who lived at Twynings House, made some repairs to it. Many village churches had such galleries, and one can still be seen in Stokesay Church in Shropshire. The musicians, who provided the accompaniment to hymns were seated in the gallery, a clarinet, bassoon and bass viol were the instruments, but they were now near the end of their tenure as the organ was installed in 1866 and the gallery was removed in the restoration of the church in Victorian times. It was probably at this time that the old pews were used to panel the sides of the nave, and new ones installed.
There is an oak chest bound with iron straps and made to hold the parish records. Its bears the names on the lid of the churchwardens, Jo. How, gent, and H. Dangerfield 1698.
Mathon has a ring of six bells, cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1760, and the Sanctus bell by John Martin in 1675. In 1950 the oak frame had to be replaced by an iron and steel one. The work, carried out by John Taylor & Sons of Loughborough, cost £700, which was raised by public subscription and local fund-raising efforts. One bell was re-cast at this time, and bears the names of the vicar, Rev. P. B. Thorburn, and the churchwardens, M. F. Higgins, H. Fitzer. This was the E flat bell, number 2.
1. Treble, F: 4cwt. 2qrs. “Peace and Good Neighbourhood”
2. E. Flat: 4cwt. 2qrs. 19lbs. “Prosperity to the Town”
3. D. Flat: 4cwt. 3qrs. 18lbs. “God preserve our Church and State”
4. C. 5: 5cwt. 1qr. 1lb. “Fear God, Honour the King”
5. B. Flat: 5cwt. 3qrs. 8lbs. “Glory to God”
6. Tenor, A. Flat: 7cwt. 2qrs. 23lbs. “The living to the Church I call, and to the grave I summon all”
Perhaps some of the ringers were sometimes reluctant to leave their beds, because on the Ringing Chamber hangs the following rhyme:
MATHON December 24 1819
You ringers all that do ring here
Ring carefully with hand and ear,
Let everyone observe his bell,
To ring it right and rule it well.
For ‘tis indeed a shame to him
That takes a bell and cannot ring,
It’s better for him to stand off,
Than that Men should at him laugh.
For he that interrupts a peal
Shall surely pay a quart of ale,
Or ring with glove, spur or hat,
Must pay the like, be sure of that.
These rules let’s all observe and use,
That neither bells nor ropes abuse.
In silent order play your part,
For ringing is the best of Art.
A full architectural discussion of the church building can be found in the Victoria County History - Worcestershire or in the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments - Herefordshire East 1931 in Hereford Library.
Incumbents of Mathon Church
In 1840, Mathon Court, the large house near Lane End was owned by the Vale family who lived in the village for sixty years or more. The present house, which is probably two hundred years old, was the site of an ancient farm. The Victoria County History says that Richard Mucklow was the owner of a ‘capital messuage (house and land) called Hall Court in the time of King Edward VI. (1547 - 1553)’. Near the house there is an 18th Century barn and a mill house and mill stone, and there is said to be a date towards the end of the 18th Century incised in one of the chimneys. In front of the house, stands a mulberry tree, thought to have been planted over three hundred years ago in an attempt to produce silk. In 1669, in the reign of James 1, encouragement was given to plant mulberry trees, with the intention of establishing a silk industry. A thousand trees were delivered to each county town for sale at 3/4d. each. In the reign of Charles II planting was again encouraged. However, it seems that the mulberry was the wrong variety, and the venture was unsuccessful.
William Vale (1785 - 1842) had served in the Royal Navy, and reputedly was fortunate to be awarded a large sum of prize money as the result of the capture of an enemy vessel. When he left the service, he used the money to buy property in Herefordshire, and as well as Mathon Court the family at one time owned Mathon Lodge and Coddington Court. In 1840, William Vale owned 262 acres, and he and his wife Catherine were living at Mathon Court and employing a groom, housemaid, cook and parlourmaid,
Their eldest son, William Scarlett Vale, (1821 - 1869) lived at Mathon Lodge in 1861 with his wife and two children. His younger brother, Martindale, is listed in the Census as a barrister, not practising. In 1880, Major Martindale Edward Vale was drowned at sea.
William Croxton Vale (1859 - 1910) and his wife had three children. They seem to have been an unlucky family, for none of the children lived to the age of 25. Albert died in 1906, aged 17, Noble, aged 24 was killed at Gallipoli in 1915 while serving with a New Zealand regiment, and Edith Marie was interred in Switzerland, aged 22, which suggests that she may have been sent for treatment for a respiratory ailment.
In 1881, the family had left Mathon Court and Lodge, but Henry E. Vale occupied Coddington House, with his wife Frances, and 19 year old son Octavius. Mathon Court was by now the property of John Smith, a retired postmaster, who lived there with his wife and large family of six daughters and three sons and Mathon Lodge was occupied by Henry Tebbitt.
I am indebted to Dr. C Phipps, the present owner of Mathon Court for most of the information about the house.
The oldest field names in the parish are those of the mediaeval fields - Red Field, Butt Field and Broad Field. The name Stallockmore or Stall Meadow which is mentioned in the Glebe Terrier of 1616, seems to be no longer used. Fields were named for their shape, (Harp, Sling, Pick) for their good qualities, (fertile, sunny, productive) and sometimes for their bad ones (hungry, starving, cold). They were named for the plants that grew there (broom, aspen, birch) for birds and animals (magpie, fox, snake, doe), for the building erected there, (Pigeon House, Brick kiln, Lime kiln), for farmers long departed and for other reasons for which no explanation is apparent. The names sometimes changed over the years in a way that reflects that they were more often spoken than written eg. Brace ( 1840) is now Brays. Copper Orchard (1840) became Cooper Orchard (1926).
Asping Coppice Aspen trees
Bagburrow Wood Bagga’s Wood
‘Badger’s’ There was a man called Badger living in the village in 1619, and he may have built the house, which is of about that period, but a ‘Badger’ was also the name of a licensed dealer of corn.
The house was a Grocer’s shop and bakery at one time.
Badham Green Badham is a family name in Mathon
Barland Orchard Barland was a favourite variety of pear.
Barley Orchard An orchard next to, or on land previously used to grow a crop of barley.
Birchley Leasow Meadow land on which birch trees grew.
Blackway Old Horse Pasture
Usually refers to land where buildings stood, or where ground has been blackened by burning.
Bosberry Field Another spelling of the neighbouring village of Bosbury.
Broom Hill, Brooming Orchard
Land where the broom grew
Butt Field One of the three mediaeval fields. Land formerly irregularly shaped, the end pieces of a common field. Sometimes means a field used for archery practice.
Burford Farm Edmund Burford was a churchwarden in 1690
(Upper) Canada Fields were sometimes named after distant places
Cockshot Hill A ride cleared in the woodland to enable game birds to be shot
Colwell Mill Orchard Another spelling of the nearby village of Colwall
Copper Orchard A variety of apple?
Court Piece, Court Furlong
Near Mathon Court
Dead Water Meadow The River Rundle, or Cradley Brook flows sluggishly here.
Dobbin’s Farm Galfrydo Dobyn is mentioned in the Lay Subsidy Rolls, and Robert Dobyns was a witness to William Cliffe’s will in 1684.
Doe Fields Coppice Named for the female deer which must have been common on the hills of Malvern Chase.
Dog pit rough Perhaps connected with the so-called sport of dog-fighting (18th Century), but may refer to the plant-dock.
Double Pole Hopyard A windy field where the hops had to be particularly well supported?
Five Acres Names like this rarely seem to represent an accurate estimate of the size of the field, probably because in the course of time, pieces have been added or taken away. This one is 3 acres.
Golden Vale Sunny and productive
Goose Foot Meadow Goose Foot is a weed in grass land
Gorst Hill Gorse
Great Ground 9 acres - a large field for the parish in 1840.
Ham Green Mentioned in the Lay Subsidy Rolls - 13th and 14th Century - an enclosure.
Harcourt Road Named after the owner of Mathon Park at the end of the 18th Century- Robert Harcourt.
Harp Acre Shaped like a harp.
Home Spout Meadow Spout is the local name for a spring.
Horse Nuts Chestnut trees?
Hungry Croft An unproductive field.
Littley A small field - 2 acres.
Magpie Coppice Self-explanatory.
Mill Meadow, Mill Field
There are three sites in Mathon with names suggesting the earlier existence of a mill - at Warner’s Farm, Old Country Farm, and at the present Mill House, near Mathon Court.
Moat Farm There is the remains of a moat here, usually attributed to the 13th Century.
Netherley Farm ‘The lower cultivated clearing in woodland’.
Ney’s Meadow There was a Napoleonic general of this name. It is possible that the field was named after him, as he was much admired.
Nobody’s Acre Small field, the ownership of which was contested.
Old Country Farm One of the most important farms in the parish.
Old Lands Cottage Until comparatively recent times a shop and bakery. This name, and the name ‘Old Country’ suggest the mediaeval fields, which lay between the two houses.
Orles Meadow Alders grew there.
Overley Cottage ‘The upper cultivated clearing in woodland’.
Ox Leasow A meadow used for ox pasture.
Oxen were used as draught animals before horses became popular.
Parker’s A yeoman’s house in the village, bearing the date 1610. Probably the name of the first owner.
(The) Pick A field coming to a point like the head of a pick.
Pigeon House Meadow
A field behind the church which must have been the site of the pigeon house belonging to the Lord of the Manor and which provided him with a supply of eggs and meat in winter. Some mediaeval pigeon houses still survive in the county. They were unpopular in those times, as the flock often numbered 200, they fed on the village crops, and only the Lord of the Manor was allowed to keep pigeons.
Pleck A small plot, often waste land.
Powick Ham Named after the nearby village.
Quabb Cottage, meadow, lane
Rails Nap A fenced plot on a hill-side.
Ravenhill Cottage Thomas Ravenhill owned this cottage and the ‘Cliffe Arms’ in 1840.
Red Field The largest mediaeval arable field.
Red-streaked Orchard A favourite variety of apple.
Rook (sometimes Ruck) Row Farm
May be named after a farmer rather than the bird.
Sling Shaped like the leather part of a sling, narrow and often curving.
South End The hamlet south of the village.
South Hide The south hide of the village. A hide was usually said to be 120 acres.
Spout Farm No longer in existence. It was owned for many years by the Dangerfield family, and old maps show that it was near Mathon Lodge. Locally a spout is a spring.
Smith’s Green Near South End. For many years a smithy stood here and may have provided the name.
Stockton Farm John Stockton lived in Mathon in the mid 17th Century.
Stubby Plot Land where trees had been failed, and the stumps left in the ground.
Sun’s Hall A sunny field.
Sweet Meadow A good productive field.
Three lands in Inchley Field
Probably a very old name - ‘lands’ is the name for strips in the open arable field.
Town House Farm Mentioned in the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1275 and 1327.
Tynings Enclosed land.
Tythings Cottage The taxes levied on produce to support the church.
Vale of Evesham A favourite variety of wheat.
Whistle Hill Open to strong winds?
Now try your hand at these. Probably some are named after previous owners.
Peter’s Park, Big Blunts, Little Berrets, Little Hadmans, Hill Out Coppice, Butler Well Coppice, Moundings, Hockett’s Meadow, Sexton’s Meadow, Crutchett’s Meadow, Edcott’s , Ediott’s, Mondings, Long Mondene, Cheese Cake and Little Have a Care
The turn of the century found even the quiet villages of England concerned with the last and greatest of its colonial wars, the Boer War. Rev. G. W. Potter, the vicar, and Colonel Thurlow, the owner of Mathon Court, attended a meeting at Cradley to set up a recruiting drive for Rifle volunteers from Cradley Mathon and Storridge, and at the end of the meeting, 24 recruits enrolled. In Malvern, there were frequent ‘patriotic concerts’, which almost always contained Rudyard Kipling’s verses, ‘The Absent-minded Beggar’, intended to raise funds for the families of reservists called to the colours for service in South Africa.
Mathon was not greatly altered from earlier years, and the discovery of the internal combustion engine had not yet had the effects on farming and village life which were to come later. The roads were by modern standards, primitive, dusty in summer and muddy in winter, and of such a surface that the early motorists and their passengers wore white overall coats and goggles. The population was much the same as today. a little over 300, but the village had a school, with a Schoolmaster, Mr. Capewell who played the organ for church services, a resident policeman, and a well-developed and organised community which did much of its shopping in Mathon itself. There was a baker, a grocer, two inns and a Post Office at the present Brook House. There was a tailor, Alfred Alford, whose family still live in the village, and James Brant shod the many horses still found in the district and no doubt repaired many farm and garden tools at his smithy at Ham Green.
Steam engines had made some impact on farming practice, and in 1884, Thomas Clarke, followed in 1889 by John Bullock owned a threshing machine at Lane End Farm. Church Farm, South Hyde, and Moorend Farms were growing hops, and the early Ordnance Survey maps show that hundreds of acres of fruit were grown. However momentous events and discoveries were afoot, and the folk who were born at this time were to see more change in their lifetime than had happened in the previous hundreds of years. This quiet village had lived through them all, and we who live in Mathon hope and trust that it may survive for hundreds of years to come.
The will of William Cliffe, 1684
Entry from Kelly’s Directory, 1892