THE HISTORY OF BAGINTON
Over Two Millennia
The story of the village, hall and the church revolves largely around the three families which held the manor for long periods of time - the Ensors and Herthills, the Bagots and the Bromleys. All three families have left something important still to be seen in the church. The Domesday book, although recording Baginton under the name of "Badechitone", does not mention a church. Although there is an indirect reference in a grant of land about 1150, it is first mentioned specifically in the reign of Henry Il (1154-1189) as a chapel attached to the church at Stoneleigh, when that church was given to Kenilworth Priory.
Nothing of this chapel (or earlier buildings) remains and the present building was built (or reconstructed) in the thirteenth century. The village suffered various setbacks in the Middle Ages. In 1205 it was pledged to the Jews of Northampton and it seems to have required royal influence to restore it. Later it was the scene of an early strike when the bakers of Coventry "contumaciously refusing to be ruled by the Mayor's order, with one accord departed from the city and took refuge at Baginton, leaving the people destitute for bread". ln the thirteenth century the manor included 12 villeins and 12 freeholders, that is 24 families excluding the castle.
In 1730, there were 27 houses in the village, and 5 on the "waste" (or common). In 1285, when the Lord of the Manor Thomas de Edensor (or Ensor) died, he left his lands (which included Baddesley Ensor) between his sister Amice and his grand nephew Richard de Herthill. Amice, then aged 50, and married to Andrew de Derlye, took the manor of Baginton. In the same year the first parish priest whose name we know, Thomas de Dunton, was appointed by the Prior of Kenilworth - a list of incumbents, recorded by Dugdale, in his Antiquities of Warwickshire, first published in 1656, is given on the wooden tablets in the chancel.
The north aisle was built in the late 13th century and in 1292 Amice de Derlye dedicated a chantry to St. Thomas the Martyr; for some time this was a separate incumbency. It was recorded in the endowment granted with the licence of the King and of Will Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, that the priest "was to sing mass daily for the health of her soul, the souls of her ancestors and successors and for the soul of the said W. Beauchamp, Maud his wife and their children and of all the faithfull deceased". Amice also gave land to provide lights and torches in both the church and the chapel.
On Amice's death in 1302 the manor passed to the Herthill family, who sold it to Sir William Bagot, probably in the 1380's. Sir William's career is described in the comments on the early fifteenth century brass memorial to him and his wife Margaret, which is one of the important monuments of the church.
After a variety of other owners, including the Earls of Warwick and St. Mary's church in Warwick (and for one year during Bagot's disgrace, the Bishop of St. David's), the manor was sold in1618 to the Bromley family whose principal representative, William Bromley (1663 - 1732), Speaker of the House of Commons, completely refurbished the interior of the church and gave the plate. The Bromley family ceased to live in Baginton in the 1820's, when the direct line ended with Mrs. Lucy Price, neé Bromley, who was responsible for endowing the village school in Baginton in 1814. Long associated with the church, the school was closed in 1976.
The old parsonage house had been sold in the sixteenth century and it was not until 1628 that Mrs. Katherine Bromley (grandmother of William Bromley the Speaker), whilst guardian to her son during his minority, returned the tithes to the Reverend Mr. Gibson who was then rector and `suffered" him to live in a house near the church called Underhill's Farm. This house, the present Old Rectory, now a private house, was given to the rectors by her son, Sir William Bromley, in 1675, when he also gave twenty shillings for "some worthy orthodox Divine" to preach a sermon in pious commemoration of his father and mother.
The advowson (the right of presenting the living to a rector of the owner's choice) had been owned since long before Amice's time by the Priory of Kenilworth. In 1535 the church was definitely styled a parish church (it had earlier been attached to the church at Stoneleigh) and was then worth £8.1s 8d. in addition to annual pension to the Canons of Kenilworth. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, it passed through various hands, including the Underhills, until it was acquired by the Lords of the Manor in 1574. During the fourteenth century the Herthills and the Bagots continued to support the separate chantry of St. Thomas, but the last appointment of a priest recorded in Dugdale was in 1398; all chantries were abolished at the Reformation.
In the nineteenth century Baginton was typical of many South Warwickshire villages. It derived its income mainly from agriculture. Where perhaps it differed, was having a large and imposing hall. Baginton Hall had been home to the Bromley family for several centuries. The family had included a former Speaker and Secretary of State and hosted a visit by Queen Anne.
Lucy Price was the last of the Bromleys and her death in1822 meant that continuity came to an end. However the Hall continued with to a succession of tenants. These included the younger brother of the Prime Minister Robert Peel. The brother and members of his family are buried in the churchyard.
In 1889 Baginton Hall was destroyed by an enormous fire. Thus by the end of the century the Hall had gone and with it the focal point of the community. The village had also lost what had once been its main employer. Only the Church and Corn Mill remained to give evidence of what was a distinguished and ancient community. To replace it, the only significant new building that took place during the century was the School Hall (now the old School House) built in 1873 and the Row built for Agricultural Labourers in 1877.
With the hall ceasing as a major employer and with the growing industrialisation of Coventry where wages tended to be higher, it is unsurprising that over the course of the century the population declined from 300 at the time of the first census in 1801 to just 174 people 100 years later.
In many ways the beginning of the twentieth century marked the low point in the history of the village and it might soon have become just another suburb of Coventry, its much larger neighbour, located just 3 miles away.
However, it did survive. Although agriculture continued its decline into the new century, improved transport links allowed people to seek jobs elsewhere, but to continue living within the village, thus preserving its identity.
Transport improved as the century progressed in 1913 there was just one bicycle within the village, but between the two wars a bus service was introduced with private car ownership beginning in the 1930s. With villagers no longer moving away to find employment it became worthwhile for new services to be provided. The Oak was opened as the first Public House in 1926, with the Post Office following close behind in 1929. Most importantly for the future was the opening of Baginton airport in 1935. With the employment that this created the village soon became a net importer of workers from elsewhere. This quickly created a market for new housing and the decline over much of the 19th century was reversed.
The sale of the Bromley estate in the 1920s led to much of the land being bought up by property developers and ensured that a steady supply of new housing came on the market over the remainder of the century. In addition it provided employment in building, quarrying and industrial development.
The second half of the century Baginton started to lose many of the services that were fast disappearing from most small rural communities. The school closed in 1976. The last rector at Baginton Church left in 1960 and the village policeman left soon after. Baginton currently continues as a community proud of its past and secure in its future. It has ceased to be the isolated rural community of former centuries but it has remained an identifiable community and looks set to remain so in the 21st century.
From 1981 Baginton parish was part of the combined benefice of Stoneleigh with Ashow in the Deanery of Kenilworth then, from 2002 was combined with Ryton and Bubbenhall in the Rugby Deanery and the patron of the combined benefice is now the Bishop of Coventry and Lord Leigh jointly.