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.