History of St Giles
We are greatly indebted to Vicky Airey who has provided most of the history of the Church. Vicky has been working during the whole of the pandemic on the long-promised book on the history of Bubbenhall. There is some way to go yet, but the first draft has just been completed at Christmas 2022.
The church has an unusual dedication - to St. Giles. St. Giles was born of a wealthy family in Greece but gave all his money to the poor, and went to live in a cave in France as a hermit, and God sent a hind to nourish him with her milk. One day a royal hunting party was out shooting deer, but wounded Giles in the leg instead. He died in France c. 710-724. He is patron saint of beggars, cripples, lepers, blacksmiths, etc.
The Church Building
The building is mainly from the 13th and 14th centuries: e.g. the chancel with its red sandstone lancets, and the two late 13th century Green Men as head corbels of the old Baptistry arch. The beams in the church porch are dated 1616 and the initials of the then-churchwardens are carved on them.
In the 1860s the restoration of the church included new pews, neo-medieval encaustic tiles, a rebuilt East end and altarpiece and a vestry; also a new pulpit, and two new arches on either side of the chancel arch. The font is late Norman and was restored to use in 1865, having disappeared and according to hearsay been used as a drinking trough at the mill. A marble font was in use for many years before the return of the font. In the 1950s the Victorian pulpit and lectern were taken out and subsequently a new wooden pulpit was put in.
In 1998 work was started on the building of a new extension on the North side of the Tower, to include a kitchen, toilet, and access to the tower. This was completed in 2001.
In conjunction with the restoration of the bells in 2000, work was begun on the renovation and re-decoration of the baptistery and the rear of the church. The BBC made a documentary programme for BBC1 about the ongoing improvements in the church, concentrating on the renovation of the bells but also including the re-location of the font and the creation of an activity area.
In the churchyard there are many interesting early eighteenth-century red sandstone tombstones of a type found in the churchyards of the Avon valley, i.e. quarried from local stone.
Bells and Bell Ringing
Until recently the church had only three bells, dated c.1580-1600 (cast by Newcombe), 1670 (cast by Henry Bagley) and 1813 (cast by Thomas Mears).
The three bells were eventually not able to be rung because they were hung in an early seventeenth-century timber frame. In the 1950s they were converted for chiming by having ropes attached to their clappers. They were then operated from the baptistery instead of, as earlier, in the belfry.
The old tenor bell by Thomas Mears II, London, 1813 was used for its metal in the casting of four new bells, whilst the largest of three bells from the redundant church of St. Bartholomew at Little Packington became the fifth bell. The old second bell of the original three at Bubbenhall by Henry Bagley I, c. 1670, became the tenor in the new ring of six bells. The old Bubbenhall treble bell by Newcombe of Leicester, c. 1580-1600, has been retained in situ, but is not in use at present.
The bells were installed in the first week of September 2000. The work was carried out by J. Taylor (Bellfounders) Ltd Loughborough. The first quarter peal on the new ring of six bells was rung on 27th January, 2001, in memory of J.Trevor Sykes, Vicar 1968-1999.
In the early 19th century the bells used to be rung every year to commemorate “Gunpowder Treason” and the anniversary of the king’s (George III’s) coronation.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the bells were rung on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and sthe ringers used to scratch their names in pencil on the whitewashed walls of the belfry.
The first recorded mention of the church clock is in 1813.
The Prebendal System and Church Reforms
The two prebends of Bobenhull and Ryton were founded in 1248 after the churches had been granted to Bishop Weseham of Lichfield (1245-56) by the Prior of Coventry. This was confirmed by the bishop in 1255. The Prebend's stall in the Cathedral Choir at Lichfield still carries an old spelling of the name of the parish, "BOBENHULL".
The Prebend of "Bobenhull" was endowed by that diocese in 1255. In 1321-2 and 1337-8 a grange is named, and in 1387 a Rectory. The farm, the land, and tithes from parishioners provided an income for the absentee senior clergyman, the prebend, whose priest performed the actual ecclesiastical duties in the parish. The grange land (the prebendal estate, also known as the glebe) was in the open fields and common meadows, and would have varied over time.
In the late seventeenth century the prebendal estate was administered by impropriators, gentlemen farmers who, in return for a fixed rent, farmed or sub-let the land and exacted the tithes. Most of the tithes were commuted at the time of Parliamentary Enclosure of the parish (1726), but the increased amount of land granted to the prebend in lieu of tithe contributions continued to be farmed by lay people – Sir William Bromley of Baginton Hall, Speaker of the House of Commons, had become the new Lord of the Manor in 1717 and almost immediately took on the lease of the prebendal estate. The Bromley family continued as lessees until the 1830s. The “mansion house” as it was often called in eighteenth and nineteenth century documents i.e. an actual farmhouse, was also in the hands of the lessee.
From at least the first half of the eighteenth century the clergy who now served the parish as perpetual curates were from neighbouring parishes. They were paid a pittance, the lessee of the prebendal land being obliged to pay them on behalf of the prebend. By this time there was no accommodation for them in the parish. The prebendal system throughout the country officially came to an end in 1840, and in 1844 a Rectory was built after much effort by the incumbent, the Rev. Charles Joseph Penny, assisted by the former prebend, now Chancellor James Thomas Law of Lichfield Cathedral. The prebendal lands became glebe land and the rental from that land was now used to add to the stipend of the parish priest. In that same year the benefice became a rectory. At about the same time, in 1837, the parish of Bubbenhall was transferred to the Diocese of Worcester along with all other parishes in the Archdeaconry of Coventry. In 1918 the new Diocese of Coventry was created. If you go to Lichfield Cathedral, however, you can still see the prebendal stall, with the old name, Bobenhull, in the choir.
Bubbenhall Parish Registers and Diocesan Archives
These are available at Warwickshire County Record Office, Priory Park, Warwick. The Births Registers begin in 1698, the Marriages and Deaths Registers in 1662. These registers can be read on microfiche at the Record Office. However, among the Staffordshire and Diocese of Lichfield Collections at the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service are to be found Bishops’ Transcripts of the earliest church registers for Bubbenhall, dating from 1558.
Digitised Parish registers up to 1900, Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry wills and probate records, 1521-1860, and marriage allegations and bonds (for North and North-east Warwickshire, 1636-1847) can also be found on the website findmypast.co.uk – Staffordshire and Diocese of Lichfield Collection, 1538-1900.