Report June 2015

Report on evening walk 12th June 2015
More than a score of Kineton and District Local History Group members braved the weather gods’ dire threats of thunderstorms and torrential rain on Friday evening and gathered in a barn at Westcote Manor Farm to see the remains of a once thriving village. In the event the slight drizzle stopped and David Freke led the group around the humps and bumps of one of the best preserved deserted medieval villages in Warwickshire. The only inhabitants now are sheep, a couple of shire horses and sundry wildlife. The big horses were as interested in the group as the group were in the landscape, and they pushed their way to the front when we stopped to view the deep hollow-way which was the medieval way in to the village.
Westcote is border country, at the very edge of Tysoe parish, at the northern fringe of the Cotswolds, close to the national watershed where rain may end up either in the Thames and the North Sea or in the Severn and the Bristol Channel. It is close to the border with Oxfordshire, and the ancient boundary between the Lichfield Coventry and the Worcester bishoprics is one field away. Edgehill is, appropriately, the nearest settlement. The Westcote village houses weres laid out for about 200 metres on either side of a main street on a bench of relatively flat ground beneath the Edgehill woods, where springs still rise to feed the River Dene. The outlines of at least 12 houses, with their property boundaries, gardens and outhouses can still be seen, and in very dry weather the stone footings poke through the turf. Medieval archives held at Magdalen College, Oxford, give some insight into the village, including over fifty field names, and details which show that some houses had a second storey, and that there were vegetable gardens and a dovecot.
The question of why the village, which seemed to have survived the famines and plagues of the 1300s, became deserted by the mid 1400s is not easy to answer, but it was probably because the monastic owners wanted to maximise the profitability of their land, and sheep were more profitable than peasants. This was a common trend in the 15th century, when many Warwickshire villages disappeared or shrank. When monastic land was privatised by Henry VIII in the 1530s Magdalen College in Oxford became Westcote’s new owner, and it stayed in college ownership until well into the 20th century. The cottages on the Edgehill Road have the college coat of arms over a date of 1915 on a date stone under the eaves .
The drizzle began again as the group walked through the old orchard and the new shrubbery to welcome teas, coffees and cakes in the farmhouse, where discussions continued as usual.
Next month on the 17th July the group has an evening guided visit to the new Edgehill Battlefield Hub housed in Radway Church.
DF 14.06.2015