History

History of Offchurch

Offchurch is a village parish three miles east of Leamington Spa.  On the north and west it is bounded by the river Leam, and on the south by a small stream running close to the Grand Union Canal and joining the Leam near Quintonhill; this was called the Queensbrok in 1411.  The Fosse Way crosses the parish diagonally from the south-west to north-east, and another ancient highway, the Welsh Road, crosses the Fosse Way more or less at right angles in the centre of the parish.

Dugdale quotes a tradition that “this hath been a town of no small note in the Saxon times” and Offchurch is one of the few places in Warwickshire mentioned in the Saxon Chronicle.  In the nineteenth century, an Anglo Saxon burial ground was uncovered, and several weapons and ornaments, dated at about 650 A.D. are listed the Victoria County History as being found there – a shield boss, spearheads, a knife, two crucifixion brooches, some beads and a buckle.

According to Dugdale and Camden, the Saxon king of the Mercian’s, Offa, had a palace here, on the site of the present Bury.  Indeed, the modern form of Bury derives from the Saxon word Burh, which means fortified place.  Today at Offchurch Bury, there are still traces of what may well be early defence works.  The whole site forms a strong position, well defended by the river.

Camden, in his book Britannia, further records that King Offa’s son, Fremund, “a man of great renown” was murdered somewhere between Long Itchington and Harbury, and was buried at his father’s palace.  The Saxon Chronicle records this account, and states that Offa founded a church here, in memory of his son.

In the time of Edward the Confessor, the church and village belonged to Leofric, the fifth Earl of Mercia, and husband of the legendary Lady Godiva.  Rights of possession were granted by him to the Benedictine Priory of St Mary in Coventry.

In the eleventh century the Normans conquered England, and it was under the Normans that much of the present church was built – between 1110 and 1120.  Offchurch remained in the possession of the monks of Coventry until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, when it was granted to one of the King’s Commissioners – Sir Edmund Knightley, whose descendants were in possession of the Bury house and its surrounding lands until 1919.

4 thoughts on “History”

  1. Offchurch House was bought by the Sisters of Mercy in October 1941. St Joseph’s Convent and school had relocated from Gosford Green in Coventry to Stoneleigh Abbey a year before and the convent building in Coventry was destroyed beyond repair in the April 1941 blitz. “In December [1941] five sisters with the senior girls went there to start a boarding school. The rest of the sisters with the junior pupils remained at the Abbey…” “The schools as Stoneleigh and Offchurch grew … but Offchurch was not large enough to house the entire Stoneleigh and Offchurch schools and community.” “In January 1945 Crackley Hall became St Joseph’s Convent, Kenilworth.” A neighbouring property, The Gables was purchased by the community in March 1946. “In May 1949, it was decided that Offchurch should be separated from Crackley Hall and have a separate Superior.” The source for this information gives no further information about Offchurch. I am a former pupil of St Joseph’s Convent School and know that the convent in Kenilworth was closed and the sisters left in c.1991. The Gables building was demolished for housing in the early 2000s, but Crackley Hall remains as a school and is part of Princethorpe (more information may be obtainable from the Princethorpe archivist)(Source material: ‘Sisters of Mercy of Great Britain 1839-1978’, edited by Sister M Imelda King MA, Published by Sisters of Mercy).

  2. Does anyone have any information about the convent which moved into the village at the beginning of WW2 and what happened to it later?

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