Wootton Wawen

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Wootton Wawen
Wootton Warwen Church-1.jpg
St Peters Church, Wootton Wawen
Grid reference: SP153630
Location: 52°16’0"N, 1°46’43"W
Population: 1,246  (2001)
Post town: Solihull
Postcode: B95
Dialling code: 01564
Local Government
Council: Stratford on Avon
Website: http://www.woottonwawen-pc.gov.uk/

Wootton Wawen (wutən wɔ:n) is a small village in Warwickshire. The village is found on the A3400, 20 miles from Birmingham, two miles south of Henley-in-Arden and 6½ miles north of Stratford-upon-Avon. It is characterised by the houses and cottages and shop along the main road, over which lies a broad green rising up to the Parish Church. Southward along the road is Wootton Hall, a large Palladian house and estate.

The scenery is attractive, the land being well wooded and undulating, rising from about 200 feet. in the south to 488 feet. in the north-west at College Farm, above Forde Hall. Near here is Mockley Wood, which, with May's Wood in the centre of the parish and Austy Wood near Edstone, is one of the larger blocks of woodland.[1] The older part of the village straddling the A3400 is designated as a 'Conservation Area' because of its open, rural character and many fine, old buildings.


Wootton Wawen has always primarily been a farming settlement, but over the centuries industrial activity has included milling, two are mentioned in the Domesday Book. Early in the 19th century there was a mill used for papermaking, as it probably was a century earlier, William Martin, 'paperman' of Wootton, occurring in 1717.[2] but there has also been a fulling-mill for the production of hemp and flax on Wootton Green, and a dyehouse at nearby Blue Hole. There was also a hurdle-making industry in the village for a time. Now the area is largely agricultural with many residents commuting to nearby cities for employment.

The soil is a strong clay and some arable crops are grown, but the land is mainly in pasture. The common fields were inclosed in 1776, but some inclosures had already been made about 1623.[2]

Name of the village

Its name is pronounced Woot'n woe'n with oo as in wood meaning "farm near a wood, belonging to Wagen", Wagen or Waga being a Scandinavian name.[3]


Wootton is first mentioned at some time between the years 723 and 737 when Æthelbald, King of the Mercians, the Earl Æthelric an estate containing 20 hides of land (around 2,000 acres) for building a minster. The first wooden church was built at Wootton as a direct result of this charter. The first church, dedicated to St Mary, may have been burnt and pillaged by Viking invaders, but between about 970 and 1040, Wagen, an Anglo-Danish landowner, established the present church. This land was in the district of the Stoppingas near to the River Alne.[1]

The Domesday Book records, "in Pathlow Hundred in Wotone 7 hides. Land for 9 ploughs. 23 villagers with a priest and 22 smallholders who have 6 ploughs. 2 mills at 11s and 8 sticks of eels; woodland two leagues long and one league wide. Value 4 pounds. Waga held it freely."[4] This may have been the same Waga who was one of the witness's to Earl Leofric's foundation of the monastery at Coventry during the first year of the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042/3). His lands extended beyond those at Wootton Wawen, but, following the Conquest, Wootton was bestowed by the conqueror on Robert de Stafford, descended from the de Tonei family and who had fought stoutly with William the Bastard against King Harold. He made Stafford his principal seat, where he had a strong castle and assumed his surname from thence.[5]

Not long after the Norman conquest, Robert de Stafford gave the church of Wootton with a hide of land nearby and another hide at 'Doversele' to the Benedictine Abbey of St Peter de Castellion of Conches in Normandy which had been established in 1035[1] by his father, Roger de Tonei [1]. They established a small priory here, a prior and one monk constituting its community, and the church was re-dedicated to St Peter in Chains. In 1398 Richard II gave the priory to the Carthusians at Coventry, but the grant was reversed soon after by Henry IV and the monks re-established.

Despite its being a small cell, life was not all peaceful. At the start of the reign of King Edward I, Peter de Altaribus was prior, a man of loose life. The prior became involved in a brawl which brought him to the attention of the bishop. The circumstances are related with considerable detail in the episcopal registers of Bishop Gifford of Worcester. An inquisition was held at Warwick on Tuesday after Palm Sunday, 1281, to hear the dispute between Peter de Altaribus, and brother Roger his monk. William the vicar of Wootton, had been summoned to the priory to stop the brawl, and on arrival he met the prior coming out of the hall door whilst inside he found brother Roger sitting in a chair with his nose bleeding. The prior accused Roger of wounding himself in his nose with his own finger; whereas Roger claimed the prior had hit him on the nose, which was corroborated by others who added that Roger did not return the blow. The argument was over Peter's withdrawal of distributions to the poor, lack of hospitality, wasting the priory's goods, and drunkenness. Both were found guilty and excommunicated which after appeal they were absolved and recalled to the monastery of Conches, to receive punishment from their abbot. It is exceptional to find an alien priory subject to diocesan visitation, but this small priory was also visited by Bishop Giffard in 1269, 1284, and 1290.[6]

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the lands were bestowed with all its possessions on 12 December 1443 upon the Provost and Scholars of King's College, Cambridge, and on 30 November 1447 the Abbey of Conches released all title to the Priory to the college, in whose hands the manor still remains. No trace of the priory buildings remains but they stood between the churchyard and the ancient fishpool which lies near the Henley Road.[1]

Parish church

St Peter's Church, Wootton Wawen

St Peter's church is of great interest as it has the most pronounced Anglo-Saxon work in the county and is the oldest church in Warwickshire, although much dates to later times. From the outside the church looks like a typical late Gothic structure, but the inside is another matter, the later mediæval parts having been added to a much earlier structure. As it stands today, St. Peter's represents almost every stage of English architecture.

The church contains The Saxon Sanctuary Exhibition, exploring the history of the village.

The Sanctuary is opened with a remarkable Anglo-Saxon arch, for this part is the original Anglo-Saxon structure, dating from the tenth century or earlier.

The church's chancel has a South chapel, nave, South aisle and on the North the tower embattled and pinnacled. There are also North and South porches the east jamb of the south porch has several votive crosses scored into it.[7] The base of the tower and the first two stages are Saxon with four doorways, the top of the tower is 15th century as are the clerestory, the nave battlements, the north doorway and porch, the middle arch of the arcade, the west window with busts of a king and queen and the east window with a leaf frieze The tower is the earliest part of the church, preserved in the middle despite restricting views of the chancel from the nave[8] here, is the current site of the altar. The font is a plain octagonal bowl resting on eight sculptured heads similar to others in the county at Snitterfield and Lapworth whilst the old oak pulpit and choir screen is 15th century.[7]

The church has a small chained library of 17th century theological works and some notable monumental brass particularly the altar tomb of John Harewell and his wife Anna (1505).[7] There is a ring of six bells: the treble by Henry Bagley of Chacombe in 1742 (cracked and bolted with iron); the second of 1591 with an alphabet inscription (by Watts of Leicester); the third by J Rudhall of Gloucester 1803; the fourth of 1784 (probably also by a Rudhall); the fifth of 1761 by Thomas Rudhall (bound by an iron band around the inscription); and the tenor of 1719 by Richard Sanders of Bromsgrove. All canons have been removed and replaced with bolted iron joists for ringing. The 16th-century oak frame with pits for three bells still exists: the posts have moulded corbelling at the tops and are strengthened by curved struts. It has been altered to take four bells, the treble and second being hung to the north of it.[1] On, 31 December 2009 these bells rang in the New Year.

The vicar at the time of the Puritan Survei of the Ministrie in Warwickshire of 1586 was described thus:

mascall (John Mascall 1580-1642) vicar a precher thogh he be growen Idle negligent & slouthfull. a man defamed & of tainted life he hath two charges beside Wooton videlicet, Henley & Ownall (Ullenhall) he supplieth by his hirelinges : whereof one vpon a rumor of change of religion in mounsiers daies did shave his beard. (Indicative of a reversion to Romanism) Value xl yearlie.[9]

During the Black Death, bodies from Coventry were transported to the churchyard for burial in an area which has become known as the "Coventry Piece".

Wootton Hall

Between the mill and the church is Wootton Hall, a large stone building in the Palladian style, mainly built in 1687 but incorporating parts of an earlier, probably Elizabethan, house. It was originally the home of the Carington family. Outbuildings behind the house are possibly the remains of the earlier manor-house.[1] At the end of the Second World War the Hall was in a dilapidated condition and threatened with demolition but was bought in 1958 by Mr Bill Allen, of Allens caravans,[2] who developed the grounds into a mobile home park. This development rescued and restored the Hall and revitalized the community.[10]

Noteworthy buildings in the village

Other notable buildings include the Bulls Head Inn, situated at the south end of the street, being an L-shaped low building of timber-framing, probably of the 16th century. Inside are wide fireplaces, one with a lintel inscribed M 1697 TH, and open-timbered ceilings, however there is a stone giving the date of the building as 1317. Three of the buildings north of it on the same side, and 'The Cottage', facing the south end of the village street, have remains of 17th-century framing. In a short lane south of the church is the old Workhouse, now a dwelling-house; it is a small timber framed building covered with rough-cast cement and has a gabled north end with a jettied upper story.

The Manor Farm, at the north end of the village, is built of early-18th-century brick, but the chimneystack of diagonal shafts looks earlier. The west front, slightly recessed between gabled cross-wings, has a doorway with a semi-domical hood carved with palm leaves and a basket of fruit and flowers.[1]

The Monarch's Way

The Monarch's Way, a long distance footpath which approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, passes through Wootton Wawen.[11] Here, the king, disguised as the man-servant of the daughter of one of his supporters, Jane Lane, met with a party of Roundhead troopers:

before we came to Stradford upon Avon we espied upon the way a Troop of Horse whose riders were alighted, and the Horses eateing some grass by the wayside, staying there (as I thought) while their Muster-Maister was provideing their Quarters; Mrs Lanes Sisters Husband (who went along as far as Stradford) seeing this Troop of Horse just in our way, sayd that for his part he would not goe by them, for he had once or twice been beaten by some of the Parliament Soldiers, and he would not run the venture again. I heareing him say soe begged Mrs Lane softly in her Eare that we might not turne back but goe on, for that Enemy would certainly send after us to enquire who we were if they should see us turne. But all she could say in the world would not doe, but her Brother in law turned quite round and went to Stradford another way the troop of Horse being there just getting on Horse-back about twice 12 score off, and I told her we did meete the Troop just but in the Towne of Stradford.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 3
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wootton Wawen, its history and records, William Cooper (1936)
  3. A Dictionary of English Place-names A. D. Miles, p. 370, Oxford University Press (1991) ISBN 0-19-866191-6
  4. Domesday Book for Warwickshire, Phillimore edited by John Morris ISBN 0 85033 141 2
  5. William Dugdale, the Antiquities of Warwickshire,1656
  6. 'Alien houses: Priory of Wootton Wawen', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 2 (1908),[URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=36525]
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Old Warwickshire Churches, W Hobart Bird 1936
  8. The Old Parish Churches of Warwickshire, Mike Salter 1992
  9. Survei of the Ministrie in Warwickshier 1586
  10. The Saxon Sanctuary, Donald Graham, 1999 ISBN 0 9537 349 0 0
  11. "The Monarch's Way". The Quinton Oracle. 2005. http://www.qlhs.org.uk/oracle/monarchs-way/monarchs-way.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  12. Pepys Transcription of the Kings Account of his Escape, Charles II's Escape from Worcester, Edited by William Matthews 1966

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