Uncovering a mystery in St Barnabas Church Drakes
Why is there a carving of the coat of arms of Pershore Abbey on one of the capitals in the church in Drakes Broughton ?
This was a question any self respecting heritage detective would want answered so we dug around, asked questions and made a discovery.
This church and the land on which it was built was once part of the enormous Parish of Holy Cross in Pershore. So what you might retort! Well for more than a thousand years this was very important for the people living and working in the little settlements at Broughton, Caldewell, Walcot, Thorndon, Chevington, Caddicroft and Allesborough. The land in their parish was actually part of the estates of the monks of Pershore Abbey, most of these people would have worked for the abbey in some way; probably they worked on the land or they provided services to the monastery. Others would have paid their rent to the abbot. All would have worshipped God in front of the altar of the Holy Cross in the nave of the great abbey church. There they would have celebrated the great festivals of the Christian Year in fact their whole lives would have been tied up in some way with the abbey.
Young heritage detectives are encouraged to ask questions about what they see around them. They are helped to find out more and if possible fit them into some sort of context. The job of the Heritage Knight is to keep one step ahead of the questions and try to create the context into which diverse pieces of information can be fitted in order to make sense of a place and its story.
In this case they asked a onetime church warden about the origins of Drakes Broughton Church. She told us that while preparing to celebrate the centenary of the church building in 2007 she had consulted the church archives and discovered the original conveyance of the land on which the church was built. Lord Coventry had conveyed the land for the church out of his vast estate around Pershore and he was the patron of the church.
The Heritage Knights, who believe that land ownership and patronage have contributed to local distinctiveness in the Pershore area, began to ask more questions. Why did he do this? What was happening at the time? Did Drakes Broughton people not have a church before this time?
The 19th century was a time of population growth and prosperity for many. People were leaving the countryside for towns and even in our part of rural Worcestershire things were changing. An Act of Parliament made it possible for people, who could prove a need for a church, to petition for one. This happened in Drakes Broughton but the church that was built was a chapel of ease and not a parish church. The people had somewhere local to worship but they remained a part of the ecclesiastical parish of Holy Cross in Pershore until 1922 when Drakes Broughton and Wadborough were hived off and merged with the ecclesiastical parish of Stoulton.
Civil parishes did not exist at all until the late 19th century. The civil parish of Drakes Broughton and Wadborough in the Rural District of Pershore was a product of this time. By this time the school had opened, the Pershore plum had been developed (in Drake Broughton!) and the railway had revolutionised the way local farmers and fruit growers did their business. There was a station on the Stoulton/ Drakes Broughton boundary and daily opportunities to take local produce to meet the trains that would transport it to markets in the expanding towns of the West Midlands. Change was in the air but not yet on the ground. A comparison of the parish on a map of 1832 with the one issued in 1949 showed very little change; the Coventry Estate was sold in the 1980s and the real changes began!