History of Church Lench Parish

Situated on a ridge at the edge of the Avon valley, the parish of Church Lench forms part of the northern boundary of the Vale of Evesham. The parish includes village of Church Lench, also the neighbouring hamlets of Ab Lench, Atch Lench and Sheriffs Lench. The parish church of All Saints' is situated in the middle of the village of Church Lench.

Village website: www.thelenches.co.uk

Images of Church Lench

11th-13th century: Circhlenz or Lench Roculf

Church Lench was listed in the Domesday Book in 1086 as "Circelenz", and in other contemporary manuscripts as "Chichlenz", or "Chyrchlench", indicating that a church already existed in the 11th century. The manor formed part of the lands belonging to Evesham Abbey, and was assessed at 4 hides in the Domesday survey. By the end of the century the manor was granted to Urse d'Abetot, Sheriff of Worcester. His descendants, the Beauchamp family, held the manor throughout the 12th century, and may have continued as overlords until the 14th century.

During the 13th century Church Lench was held by the Roculf family, which led to the parish's alternative name of "Lench Roculf". Documents in the Birmingham City Archives show that during the 13th century Roger Rokulf (or Roculf), Lord of Chirchelench (or Chircheleng) gave the "Church of the Blessed Mary of Hales" (the abbey of Halesowen) three separate grants of land, also a serf named Luke "with all his chattels and his suit, messuage and garden".

14th-18th century

From this point the land at Church Lench appears to have become divided. The original manor may have been held by Thomas Serchesdene sometime during the 15th century, but then disappears from the records. Meanwhile the portion of land owned by Halesowen Abbey was surrendered to the king in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. By the end of the 16th century the land had passed to the Scudamore family of Holme Lacy, then to the Keyt family of Ebrington and Upper Norton who held it until the middle of the 18th century.

19th century: the Chafy family

During the 19th century land around Church Lench seems to have been held by the Chafy family from Sherborne. A description of All Saints' church in the second half of the 19th century mentions that many of the stained glass windows were "inserted at the cost of Mr Chafy-Chafy [the Revd W.K.W. Chafy - see Rous Lench], a local landowner", and a county directory of 1876 lists him as lord of the manor and principal landowner. In 1905 a list of the estates of the Revd Dr W.K.W. Chafy mentioned both Rous Lench and Church Lench.

Church Lench school, which opened in 1864, was commissioned by the Revd W. Chafy, and built by Frederick Preedy. The inscriptions on the walls read "Laus Deo"; "Feed My Lambs"; "From All False Doctrine Heresy And Schism Good Lord Deliver Us" and "One Body One Spirit One Host One Baptism".

Ab Lench

Images of Ab Lench.

Also known as Abbots Lench and Hob Lench in the past, Ab Lench lies to the west of Church Lench. Originally part of the parish of Fladbury, it was incorporated within the parish of Church Lench in the 1860s and shares the parish church of All Saints. The name "Ab Lench" is thought to have derived from a personal name "Aebba" or "Haebba" to give "Habbe Lench", rather than from the title "Abbot", and that the name "Abbots Lench" may be an 18th century corruption of the original name.

Unlike Church Lench, Ab Lench does not appear to have been part of the Evesham Abbey estates, but to have belonged to the abbey church of St Mary, Worcester. In the Domesday Book of 1086 "Abeleng" is recorded as being held by Urse d'Abetot, Sheriff of Worcester, from the bishop. Urse's descendants, the Beauchamp family, continued as overlords of Ab Lench for the next 500 years.

Throughout the 14th century, the manor of Ab Lench belonged to the le Bruyn family, before passing by marriage to the Burdett (or Burdet) family early in the 15th century. The Burdetts and their heirs held the manor until it was acquired by the Rous family of Rous Lench in the middle of the 16th century.

Atch Lench

Images of Atch Lench.

From the 8th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, the hamlet of Atch Lench formed part of the estates of Evesham Abbey, although some of the surrounding land belonged to the manor of Cleeve Prior. The Domesday Book of 1086 has two entries for Atch Lench: "Achelenz", assessed at 4½ hides, belonged to the abbey, while "Lenc", part of the manor of Cleeve Prior, belonged to the Bishop of St Mary's, Worcester. The name "Atch Lench" may have derived from an Old English personal name Aecci; another interpretation is "East Lench", Atch Lench being the most easterly of the five villages in the Lenches.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, ownership of Atch Lench passed to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and then to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. From the late 18th century the manor was occupied by the Bomford family; a well known local family of farmers and manufacturers of agricultural machinery.

Sheriffs Lench

Images of Sheriffs Lench.

Sheriffs Lench, also known as "Shreveslenche" was part of the lands originally owned by Evesham Abbey but seized by Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (half-brother of William the Conqueror) sometime in the middle of the 11th century.

In the Domesday Book of 1086, Sheriffs Lench, identified as "Lenche" and assessed at 4 hides, is recorded as being held from Bishop Odo by Urse d'Abetot, Sheriff of Worcester. The abbey does not appear to have recovered the land as Sheriffs Lench was passed to Urse's descendants, the Beauchamp family, who were hereditary Sheriffs of Worcester. This is probably the origin of the name "Sheriffs Lench" or "Shreveslenche".

The Earls of Warwick and George, Duke of Clarence

From the Beauchamp family, the manor passed into the hands of the Earls of Warwick, to whom they were related by marriage, finally passing to George, Duke of Clarence through his wife Isabel Neville, daughter of the 16th Earl of Warwick. When, in 1478, Clarence was convicted of treason and executed, his son was still a minor and his estates, including the manor of Sheriffs Lench, passed to the crown.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries the ownership of the manor of Sheriffs Lench is uncertain. During the first half of the 16th century it seems to have been held by the Dineley family. The Shakespeare Centre Library holds a copy of Letters Patent granting the manor to Nicholas Throckmorton in 1560, while another (unverified) Letters Patent in 1588 or 1589 refers to the manor "late in the tenure of William Dineley" and grants it to "William Tipper and Robert Dawe". However, the Birmingham City Archives have a copy of an indenture issued in 1682 between "Sir Edward Dineley, of Charleton, knt., the Hon.Lady Frances Dineley, his wife, and William Heekes of Church Lench, yeoman, concerning land within the manor of Sheriffs Lench" implying that the Dineley family still held the manor in the second half of the 17th century.

19th century: the Chafy family

In 1829 the Revd W. Chafy, Master of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, bought an estate of over 500 acres at Sheriffs Lench; on his death in 1843 this was inherited by his grandson the Revd W.K.W. Chafy who later purchased Rous Lench Court. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, members of the Bomford family (see Atch Lench) were farming at Sheriffs Lench.