And The Surrounding District

History of Castlemorton

History of Castlemorton up to 1839

Moreton, Mortun, Morton Folet or Castel Morton

Castlemorton is a large parish comprising 3,701 acres, more than half of which is pasture. It is not mentioned by name in the Domesday Survey,however, Malvern or Malferna is referred to as part of the King’s forest.

Castlemorton was known more frequently till the 14th century as Morton Folliott or Folet, taking its name from its early owner. Morton means settlement (tun) by or on a marsh or moor. The Foliat family have been traced back the early 1100’s, when two members were both Bishops of Hereford.

There are about 26 acres of woodland. The soil is loam and clay and the subsoil Keuper Marl. In the east, near Longdon, the surface is rather flat, but the land rises rapidly towards the Malvern Hills, which form the western boundary of the parish. The highest point is Swinyard Hill, about 800 ft. above the ordnance datum.

The west of the parish is occupied by about 600 acres of unenclosed common land, known as Castlemorton Common and Hollybed Common, the last remnant of the once extensive Malvern Chase. 

Early History


By 1235, The Foilot family had their property in Longdon, Morton and Chacely to Richard de Berkyng, Lord Abbot of Westminster who also purchase the Castle. In 1313 the Manor of Morton was assigned to the Papal Nance as security for a loan to the Abbot of Westmionster.  

By the early 1500’s, Westminster Abbey owned 2/3 of the land in Worcestershire.


About 1241 Walter Longdon gave to the priory of Little Malvern all his lands in Hollybed, extending from the wood of Morton to the land of Richard de Muchgros. 

Half the forest which belongs to the manor of Morton was bought by the Abbot of Westminster before 1246.

After its first appearance in the 13th century the manor of Castlemorton followed the descent of the chief manor at Longdon till 1869, when it was transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the present lords of the manor. 

The part of the manor held by the Saltmarsh family (see Longdon) was known as the manor of Castle Morton Grendour, and followed the descent of the land held by that family in Longdon. It was held by the Dowdeswell family for nearly two centuries, until about 1832, when on the death of Lady Pepys, mother of the late Bishop of Worcester, and sister to the late John Dowdeswell, Esq., it reverted to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster; but the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are now the lords of the manor.

The part of the manor held by the Muchgros family descended with Muchgros Manor in Longdon till 1339, after that there is no further reference to this holding in Castlemorton.

A semi fictional account of Malvern Chase written in1881 by W S Symonds, set in the1460’s, says that all the farms in Malvern Chase were held by tenure of military service to the knights, esquires or franklins (landowners of non-noble birth)

The Toney family, who held the Muchgros manor in Longdon in the 16th century, had licence in 1556 to grant lands in Castlemorton to their tenant Richard Bartlett. 

In the 13th century the priory of Little Malvern had grants of land in Castlemorton from Walter de Longdon, son of John parson of Staunton, and from Richard de Muchgros.  By 1291 the prior had acquired an estate here consisting of a carucate (the area of land an oxen team could plough in a year) which was valued at the Dissolution at 57s. 8d. It was granted as the manor of Castlemorton in 1537 to Richard Bartlett, physician to Henry VIII and President of the Royal College of Physicians. 

He died without issue in 1556, at the age of eighty-seven, his estate here having been settled in 1555 on his nephews Richard, Thomas and John Bartlett, sons of Edward Bartlett.  Richard Bartlett the younger, who was bailiff of the Westminster manors from 1552–62, died in 1581, leaving as heir his son Henry Bartlett.  Thomas Bartlett of Castlemorton, probably Henry's brother, was fined for recusancy (remaining Roman Catholic) in 1610.  His son Rowland Bartlett had his house plundered during the Civil War, and in 1654 his estate was sequestered for recusancy.  Shortly after this time the Bartletts acquired a manor at Hillend which became their chief seat.

The 'capital messuage called Bartletts Place,' mentioned in 1732 and 1778 in conveyances of the manor of Hillend, may represent their older holding at Castlemorton. 

The mill of Morton is mentioned in 1277–8. At that date there were two mills in Longdon and Castlemorton. A mill is mentioned here in 1314– 15 and a mill and water-mill in 1329–30.  The 'mill of Newenmill' and the 'mill of Boddyhull' occur in 1374.  A mill is mentioned in 1416–17 

The priory of St. Bartholomew, Gloucester, founded by King Henry III, also held lands at Hollybed, and Prior William in the 13th or 14th century gave a carucate (the area cultivated by one plough in one year and a day, about 120 acres) of this land to John Longdon and his wife Agnes for life with remainder to Robert Longdon and Joan his wife.  John Longdon was alive and holding land here in 1327 and in 1339 Robert Longdon had licence for an oratory (private chapel) in his manor of Hollybed.  Robert was dead in 1376 and before 1451 his land in Castlemorton had passed to Richard Whittington.  At the Dissolution the priory of St. Bartholomew had lands in Hollybed valued at 12s. 3d

In 1585, Thomas Wrenford, or his son Rowland, were farmers of the ‘parsonage’ which had been transferred from the Church into private ownership, by a lease granted to them by William Wrenford, deceased, with a long term yet to come. William Wrenford had the lease from the Dean of Westminster. The curate, Robert Greeenway, stated that there was no glebe land, nor meadow, nor pasture belonging to the Parsonage, nor any rights to keep sheep or cattle. There are two barns belonging to the Parsonage and five rooms and a little close where the barns stand. Greeneway himself has a little house.

Between 1598 and 1601 the Poor Law Commissions reported that a house near Morton Green had for at least 80 years been used as a common and free almshouse to and for the sustenation, maintenance and relief of the poor people of the parish. This might refer to the Old Almshouse.

In 1609–10 there was a serious outbreak of the plague in Castlemorton. 

56 . CIVIL WAR, 1642.

On 21 September 1642 a force of 150 soldiers under Captain Scriven plundered Hillend Court belonging to Mr Rowland Bartlett of Castlemorton. Mr. Bartlett had his house plundered five or six times during the Civil War.  

Mr. Bartlett lived at Castle Morton, a man so popular in his

district that if any other day than Ledbury Fair day had been

selected for a search of his house it is said all the country side

would have come to his defence. As it was everyone was at

Ledbury Fair. Some soldiers from Gloucester and Tewkesbury,

taking advantage of this, came to Castle Morton, secured the

village and road, and surrounded Mr. Bartlett's house. Their

commander, Captain Scriven, was the son of an ironmonger at

Gloucester. On Scriven entering the house, Bartlett inquired

what he came for. Scriven replied to search for arms. Alas!

said Bartlett, you are like to lose your labour, for Justice

Salway (the County Member) has already been here, but

adding, you had better see if you can find any gleanings

after the other has had the full vintage. Bartlett gave them

some beer. While sitting drinking, Scriven saw Bartlett's

sword hanging up on the wainscot, and asked if that was not

arms ? Bartlett replied : —

" No more than is necessary for every honest man to defend himself on the  highway."

Scriven took possession of Bartlett's sword, and also of his son's. When the son came in Scriven noticed a ruby ring on his band string, and took it from him. Scriven then searched Bartlett's pockets, and took all the money he could find, between £2 and £'i,. Bartlett was wearing a scarlet " Gippo.'' Scriven took a fancy to it, and ordered Bartlett to take it off, but he declined, asking that he should not be robbed both of money and clothes. Scriven then asked Bartlett where he kept his money and plate, threatening to kill him if he did not say at once. As Bartlett declined, Scriven's men seized his housekeeper, and to make her tell presented a pistol at her breast, while others of the soldiers pricked her with the points of their swords. As she refused to say anything they searched the house. Scriven began with Mrs. Bartlett's room, took her watch, broke open her trunk and took out of it , all her

linen, money, plate, jewels, bracelets, and amongst other things a " Cock Eagle's Stone, for which 30 pieces had been offered by a phissition and refused." Having got all the plunder he cared for, Scriven allowed his men to take what they liked.

  In a confused tumult they rush into the house, hunt from the parlour to the kitchen, from thence by the chambers to the garrets. Besides Mr. Bartlett's, his wife's and children's wearing apparel, they  rob the servants' clothes, and carry off whatever they can put their hands on. They found Mr. Bartlett's sweetmeats, but scattered them  upon the floor, not daring to taste them, as they feared poison. Except bedding, pewter, and lumber, they left nothing behind them, for besides two  horses laden with the best things — Scriven's own plunder — there being 150  rebels, each rebel returned with a pack at his back. As for beer and perry, what they could not drink they spoilt, pouring it out on the ground. They wound up with saying they had learnt Bartlett a lesson, and left him not worth. a groat."*

Some days after a party of Essex's men from Worcester visited Bartlett and searched his house for arms.

They took away a good store of bacon from his roof, beef out of the  powdering tub, the pots, pans, and kettles, pewter to great value, all the provisions for hospitality and housekeeping, and then broke the spits as unnecessary utensils. They sold his bedding, carried away in carts, which they compelled to work for them, all chairs, stools, couches, and trunks."

Within the next year Bartlett's house was searched three times more for arms. The searchers carried off all his kitchen stuff, five horses, abusing Mrs. Bartlett in beastly, immodest, scurrilous language, offensive to Christian ears."

On one of these searchings the officer in command was asked to join in eating a stubble goose, which one of the soldiers had plundered. He refused, as he could not eat what was stolen, but taking Mr. Bartlett's mare from the stable rode away upon it.

Among the plunder were some partridges, which they were asked to leave as they were kept for a lady about to be confined. They refused, saying if they could get her they would soon make her so she would not need partridges, as they had killed old men, women, and children.

And so," the account continues, " boasting himself in his sin and glorying in his shame, without regard had to the dangerous longings of a pregnant woman if not satisfied, took them away. So truly is that of the prophet verified in these miscreants. ' They declare their sin as Sodom, they hide  it not. Woe unto their souls, for they ha\e rewarded evil unto themselves.' "

Such is a Royalist account of Parliamentary plunderings. How far it is true may be doubtful, but it shews at least that the search for arms was only the pretext — the real object was plunder.

There is also the tradition that a large Roundhead party of cavalry came to the old tithe barn at Webbend for horse corn and fodder. An advance party was at Hollyhead watching the long Mickle Field (extending in those days from Welland Stone to Cutlers). Then these saw a party of Cavaliers coming from the direction of Upton on Severn. While they engaged the attention of the Cavaliers and drew them on to Vamperely Field another party of Roundheads rode behind Zacharias Thould’s farm and down the long Welland Meadow to the rear. When the Cavaliers reached Vamperley Field the Roundheads charged them from the rear. A savage and desperate fight ensued up Wallredding Field. At last the remnant of the cavaliers broke and sought safety in Castlemorton Church until surrender.

In 1687, Thomas Knight, of Castle Morton, was summoned to appear at the Worcestershire Sessions and give evidence against Charles Jakeman for drinking the Duke of Monmouth's health. A mill at Windmillfield is mentioned in 1707, now part of Mill Farm.

Malvern Chase

Malvern Chase was a Royal Chase (land used for hunting) that occupied the land between the River Severn in Worcestershire and extended to Herefordshire from the River Teme to Cors Forest.

The term forest in the ordinary modern understanding refers to an area of wooded land; however, the original medieval sense was closer to the modern idea of a "preserve" — i.e. land legally set aside for specific purposes such as royal hunting — with less emphasis on its composition. When Charles I sold his Royal Forest in the area in 1630, it could no longer be called ‘Forest’ and it was renamed Chase (which meant private property).

Royal forests usually included large areas of heath, grassland and wetland  – anywhere that supported deer and other game. In addition, when an area was initially designated forest, any villages, towns and fields that lay within it were also subject to forest law. This could foster resentment as the local inhabitants were then restricted in the use of land they had previously relied upon for their livelihoods; however, common rights were not extinguished, but merely curtailed

William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066. By the 1080’s he had designated certain regions as Royal Forests.  In his book ‘The Forest and Chase of Malvern’ Edwin Lees describes the origins of the chase. Nothing is stated with certainty as to the ownership of the Forest or Wilderness of Malvern before the reign of Edward I (1239-1307) who granted it as Royal property to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, and it was henceforth called a Chace.

Gilbet’s son, also called Gilbert, married Maude de Burgh. He died having died having had no children by Maude, so his lands went to his sisters, as his heirs, and the eldest, who married Hugh le Despencer the younger, brought them with other possessions into the Despencer family, where they remained till in the third generation, then passing by marriage to Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, a renowned general in the reign of Henry V who was killed in the French wars.

His son, Henry Beauchamp, died in 1446 aged 22. His estates and Malvern Chace among them, as he died without children, passed to his only sister and heiress, Ann, married to the celebrated Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick They had two daughters and they jointly inherited their estates.

One daughter married Edward, Prince of Wales and he was killed in battle. She then married Richard Duke of Gloucester later King Richard III., and had one son Edward who died aged around ten. 

The other daughter married George, Duke of Clarence, who left one son. This son and heir was beheaded in the Tower on pretence of conspiracy in 1478.

The King then unjustly seized upon all the family’s possessions, including the land in Castlemorton.

The 1628 map, Survey of Malvern Chase, shows The Dean of Westminster as the owner of Castlemorton Common. It may be that they continuously owned the Royal Forest from 1246 (as above) until it was transferred to Malvern Hills Conservators in the early 1960’s and it was the rights that were inherited until the King took them back in 1478.

The map shows modern roads: Hollybed Street, Church Road (called Peiry Lane Perry Lane after pear cider - and The Hollow (now Green Lane leading from Gloucester Road, past Rose Cottage to Keyses Farm).

The area west and south of Millpond at Golden Valley, including the properties north of the A438 at Hollybush, is marked as an Assart belong to the Dean & Chapter of Westminster. This means that the King had already relinquished his rights there and the ground had been cleared for cultivation. Here, 80 acres had been granted by lease to John Renford.

By 1630, Charles I was desperate for money to fight a war with Spain and Parliament would not give it to him. He had had the Chase valued and mapped in 1628 (7000 acres in Worcestershire, 600 in Herefordshire and 100 in Gloucestershire). Castlemorton Common is shown as belonging to The Dean of Westminster (who had 1563 acres in Castlemorton) and to have ‘no timber but much underwood’. When the Conservators took over the Common, they took over 700 acres, so the Common was originally more than twice its present size. This can be explained by adding back in the large areas of privately owned land contained within the Common today, as well as the area north of the present Common shown on the 1628 Map. This embraced the properties and fields behind them in Hancocks Lane and the fields behind them.  

The King decided to give up his rights to two thirds of the chase, and keep one third of the land for himself which he could then sell for cash.

A decree was issued in 1632 for the disafforestation of the Chace of Malvern, that is of freeing the lands within the bounds, limits, and jurisdictions thereof, of and from the game of deer there and the forest laws. By this decree one-third part only was to be severed and divided by commissioners, but the other two parts "shall remain and continue unto and amongst the commoners, and be held by them according to their several rights and interests, discharged and freed from his Majesty's game of deer there, and of and from the forest laws, and the liberties and franchises of Forest and Chace, in such sort as by the said decree it doth and may appear."

Besides the tenants and commoners, several powerful landowners, with rights or claims upon the Chace, opposed the execution of this decree.

To end the dispute an order in Council was made in 1632, to explain the former decree, and for "the settlement of the differences" that had disturbed the country. By this it is declared that the third part to be enclosed should not be the best selected, but "indifferently taken, bad and good," and that "the other two parts shall be left open and free for the freeholders and tenants and commons, to take their common of pasture and common of estovers therein "with the restriction that no enclosure shall he made, or woods or trees felled within the two reserved third parts.

On land allotted to the King, some building took place immediately and farms were set up. This may account for the isolated pockets of land within the common and may explain why some buildings date from the mid to late 1600’s.

The rest of The Chase was left open, apart from long established farms and homesteads. Unusually on Malvern Chase, intercommoning was practiced, whereby all the Parishes on the common shared their wasteland.

Land was enclosed from the Wall Redding field at that time by De Calvesthall, now bears the name Calves Tails. Wheat grown on the Wall Redding was said to command a higher price because of it superior milling quality.

Robert Weaver, writing in 1958, claimed that tradition said that the ultimate purchaser of the King’s third proposed to take all the land in one block. When the first fence was erected from Eight Oaks towards The Gullet local people tore it down and burned it. The line of the ditch and hedge mound is clearly visible today. King Charles threatened to hang the fence breakers, but opposition remained and a compromise was reached, saving a two mile stretch of the common for the public today.

King Charles sold his one third to Sir Robert Heath, then Attorney-General, and Sir Cornelius Vermuyden (he bought 4000 acres of land in Malvern Chase and Sedgemoor in 1633 - he was a Dutch drainage engineer who has become a British citizen).  

When the Heath and Vermuyden began to enclose their part of Chace, the commoners and other persons interested disputed their right to do so and several riots and disturbances took place in consequence.

Heath and Vermuyden sold their third to Sir Nicholas Strode of the Inner Temple. He died in 1683. It passed to his son who assumed the name Lytton. Heir William Robinson Strode Lytton passed it on to Mrs Barburton who sold it to Thomas Hornyhold of Blackmore Park in 1732.

In 1664, Charles II agreed to disafforestation started by his late father and signed the Act for the confirmation and improvement of Malvern Chase in 1676.

In the 1700’s and 1800’s, parts of the common land were enclosed, sometimes by locals encroaching into small areas and sometimes by Enclosure Acts. The Chase was thus being  gradually eroded until renewed interest in the Malvern Hills resulted in the Malvern Hills Act 1884 which appointed Malvern Hills Conservators to preserve the hills and govern their land use.

In the 1700’s Castlemorton regularly spent a shilling a year to suppress the wake (the over exuberant celebrations for Holy Days.)

In 1714, a Terrier (a register of survey of land) of the Vicarage of Castlemorton was taken by Samuel Beale, Rob Bartlett and John Bray, Churchwardens and Henry Nott. It comprised the Vicarage House with the garden and orchard, near the church, between the Tenement and ground of William Dowdeswell on the west, north and east, and the road on the south. The Minister was William Need

In 1741 the Foley family bought the Manor of Malvern.

Early 1800’s, from a tribute to John Hill in 1852. “Mr. Hill has resided for fifty years in this parish, and when he first became a parishioner be found Castlemorton just emerging, in common with many other parishes, from a slate of barbarism as it may be said. At that time agriculture was in a very bad state at a very low ebb; the greatest part of the parish still lay in common field; and the roads were in so wretched a state as to be impassable for wheeled vehicles.”

In 1814, a Bill was prepared when the Lords of other Chase Parishes proposed to enclosed the common land. However, Lord Somers addressed the proprietors and freeholders on Malvern Chase saying he had given up all attempts to enclose it as it was impossible to reconcile so manty conflicting interests. (At this time the Dean & Chapter of Westminster owned Castlemorton and had rented it to the Dodeswell family).

A Castlemorton vestry minute of January 1818 records that ‘The timber now growing on the commonable lands called Malvern chase with the said Parish shall be fallen to defray the expenses of the foregoing alterations in and about the said church’ (St Gregory).

In 1820, Lewis’s Worcestershire Directory lists the population as 659, with 124 houses.

In another article, again not specifying any date, Robert Weaver recounts how gangs of four from Castlemorton would go to the Cotswolds at the end of May to help with clover mowing, and then to the Severn side mowing in the hay meadows, then back to the Cotswolds for the corn harvest. The first threshing machine in Castlemorton, powered by four horses, was at the old barn on Broomy Hill. We might date this to the early 1800’s.

Common Fields from Robin Hood through the centre of the parish to Webbend and Thoulds, then to Welland Stone in the north and top the end of the Marsh to the south, were divided and enclosed in about 1830. Freeholds and farms were set round the boundaries as though in defence of the crops. In consequence it is a straggling parish and has been called lost and unneighbourly. (Robert Weaver, 1933).

In 1960, Robert Weaver wrote about the Poor Law, although it is unclear which date he is referring to. He mentions his great grandfather ‘old John Weaver’ - so that could relate to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. There were, he said, 27 voters in Castlemorton responsible to carry out its work. A list was drawn up of the freeholds and farms, one each line were two farms situated at opposite ends of the Parish. For example, Biddles, Bartletts (now Hillend Court), Hollybed, Hurst, Kings, Keyses, The Walk, Hunters Hall. Soon after Lady Day the outgoing overseers attended a special meeting at the church and presented their accounts. The two overseers next on the list took over and the levies were decided and the 27 voters paid up promptly. Evert Sunday, the poor seeking help wold attend church – one week 52 old persons received pay and 92 sick pay or unemployment pay. It might be necessary to make 6 or 8 levies in a year.

To accommodate the old people and the many sent home from other parishes, the parish had 17 free houses. 9 were rented and 7 were owned by the Parish, in addition to the Alms house.

When the seventh pair of overseers took office, the first pair had to serve again as Haywarden and Constable. The Haywarden found work for the unemployed, such as road repair. The constable dealt with poachers and disorder.

Overseers were also expected to take children of poor parents and feed and clothe them until old enough to work or be apprenticed. When the children were 8 years old, their names were put in hat and drawn. Hill End Farm took 4, others 3 or 2 or 1 according to their acreage. The occupier of eight Oaks Farm complained he had two boys and that another had been sent to him – he ought to have had a girl to help his wife. The Constable was ordered to take the boy to Hill End and to find a girl instead. This seems to relate to the 1890’s.