Great Witley – 1855 Snapshot

The following is a snapshot of the village in 1855, taken from a local directory published in the same year.

Great Witley village and Parish is delightfully situated 11 miles N.W. from Worcester, and 11 E.S.E. from Tenbury, halfway on the main turnpike road between those towns, and contained a population of 408 inhabitants in the year 1851; and Redmarley 48 inhabitants.

One of the chief objects of interest in this parish is the princely mansion of Witley Court, now the residence of Lord Ward, but previous to 1846 for some years the abode of the late Queen Dowager, whose numerous acts of benevolence and kindness will cause her name to be long remembered with feelings of lively gratitude by the poor of this neighbourhood.  Witley Court was in the possession of the Foley family for about two centuries, and the late Lord Foley greatly improved the gardens, and made several new approaches.  The Park consists of upwards of 400 acres, well stocked with deer, and studded with gigantic oaks, one of which (now in decay) measures 30 feet in circumference.  Tradition also says that on the borders of this parish formerly stood the oak under which St. Augustine held a conference (A.D. 603) with the Bishops, relative to the proposed introduction of the Romish ceremonies into this country.  Selden considers that it took place on the western borders of Worcestershire; but the site of this oak, like other points of ancient history, is disputed by many authors.  Lingard says that the meeting was held at a place afterwards called Austin’s Oak, in Gloucestershire; Sir H. Spelman thinks that it stood at Alfrick; and Nash and others are of the opinion that the oak did not stand in this county at all.

This parish is said to have formed a portion of the territory of the Silures, over which the famed Caractacus ruled: and on the summit of Woodbury Hill is an ancient fortification, supposed to have been a British camp.  That it was the scene of an engagement at a later epoch there can be no doubt; balls, some of them 7lbs weight, having been found buried in the hill, and one of which has been presented to the Worcestershire Natural History Society by the worthy Rector, in the museum of which society it may be seen.

The Church, dedicated to St. Michael, adjoins the mansion, from which it has a private entrance.  The porch is of the Doric order, but the general style of decoration is Saracenic.  It was built in the beginning of the last century, by the first Lord Foley.  The interior is gorgeous in the extreme, with numerous paintings and gold panellings.  The paintings, said to be Italian, were purchased by the second Lord Foley, from the celebrated Duke of Chandos, having been brought from the chapel at Cannons, when misfortune befell the noble Duke.  The windows, painted by Price, represent the Annunciation, the Birth of Christ, Peter Walking on the Sea, the Resurrection, &c.  We must not omit to mention the monument placed in the recess on the south side of the communion table, to the first Lord Foley and his lady; it is by Rysbrach, and is generally considered to be one of his best productions, the proportions of both figures being perfect.  Taken as a whole this church is one of the most magnificent in the county.  The living is a Rectory, in the patronage of Lord Ward.  Rev. Thomas Pearson, Rector; Rev. Thomas Morgan, M.A., Curate; Miss Emma Holmes, Organist; Mr. Thomas Brooks, Clerk.  Service – 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Great Witley Parochial Schools were erected by Lord Ward, for the education of the children of Great Witley, Shelsley Beauchamp, and Hillhampton.  These school are principally supported by Lord Ward and the Rev. Thomas Pearson, and are for the instruction of both sexes.  Mary Giles, Mistress.  Number of scholars, 50.

The Monthly Petty Sessions are held at the Hundred House, in this parish, on the last Thursday in every month.



Hornblower The Misses

Morgan Rev. Thomas, M.A., Curate

Pearson Rev. Thomas, Rector, Rectory

Ward The Right Honourable Lord, Witley Court


Arthur John, victualler, farmer, maltster, and hop merchant, Hundred House family and commercial hotel and posting house, licensed to let flies, phaetons, and post horses

Attwood George, Police Officer, Police Station

Beeson Joseph Hill, farmer and butcher

Brooks Thomas, Parish Clerk

Cadwalladar Thomas, farmer, The Farm

Davis John, wheelwright and carpenter

Goodwin William, tailor and woollen draper, and Constable for Great Witley

Greensill and Barnett Messrs., surgeons

Hillman Thomas Henry, farmer, Hill House; also of the Yelds

Hooper Ann, shopkeeper and Sub-Postmistress

Horton Sarah, farmer, Redmarley

Knowles Thomas, shopkeeper and road surveyor

Lander John, gardener to Lord Ward

MacQuie James, bailiff to Lord Ward

Morris Joseph, miller, Witley Mill

Norman John, shoe maker

Parrock William, baker and shopkeeper

Piper Elizabeth, blacksmith, Witley Cottage

Potter Sarah, farmer, Fox Hold

Southall Thomas, farmer, Walsgrove

Taylor Sarah, Superintendent of Police, Police Station


Post Office – Miss Ann Hooper, Sub-Postmistress.  Arrival, 9 15 a.m.; despatch, 4 p.m.

The Ludlow and Worcester Coach runs through this parish daily, to Worcester, at 10 15 a.m., and returns to Ludlow at 4 p.m.


Source: Billings Directory of Worcestershire 1855

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