Village History

Items of interest will be published here from time to time – if you have any matter that you think will benefit our community and visitors to the area please let our clerk know.


The information below is reproduced with the kind permission of David Phillips who is helping with our research in approaching Historic England about the “leaning cross of Elmley Castle” with a view to seeing what might be done to remedy/prevent further leaning. He comments as below:

When I first inspected the cross you could still discern a date gouged on the front of the shaft, not expertly, but it seemed to be in the 1660’s.   It was possibly a result of the restoration when Worcestershire proclaimed itself as the ‘Loyal County’.   It is mainly in this county that some of the villages moved their spring celebration from May 1st to May 29th, the new King’s birthday.   To this day we still observe dancing round the maypole on the Friday nearest that date.   The date on the cross is still visible but difficult to determine.
In fact the cross is much earlier than that.   It has been suggested it was a market cross and of course Elmley Castle was granted the privilege of holding a market in the thirteen century.   I have also seen it claimed that the cross was dated 1148, although the evidence for this was not given  (maybe it was from an alternative reading of the date on the front of the shaft.)
However this ignores the most unusual feature of the cross.   It appears to be carved from a single piece of stone.   The vast majority of similar crosses are constructed from two pieces of stone.   A slab for a base and a pillar which is inserted into a hole carved in the slab.   Why is our cross different?   It has been suggested that this was originally a bronze age or even late stone age standing stone.   Very often such stones were used as village calendars.   Used with a distant marker it could determine either the summer or winter solstice.   It has been suggested that from there, one could observe the sun going below the horizon at Titterstone Clee Hill, 53 kilometres away at the summer solstice.   That ignores the rise at Besscap which interferes with the view.   There have been suggestions as to how this was accomplished, but a crucial fact would be to know have far down the base of the cross goes.   If it goes down in excess of a metre it would support the idea that it started off as a standing stone.
We are indebted to Mary MacKenzie for the following information which helps put a date on when cricket was first played in Elmley Castle.:

As I think you all know, I enjoy doing a bit of local history research – the families who lived here etc.  I regularly check the church visitors’ book because from time to time people leave their addresses and requests for anyone who might be able to help with their research into an ancestor who lived in Elmley.

This is how I have come to be in recent e-mail correspondence with a lady who lives in Hampshire, but whose great-great-great-grandfather farmed at Kersoe and great-great-grandfather farmed at Hill Farm, following the death of his uncle Daniel Hawkes in 1846, who had also farmed there when he  and his brother moved here from Buckland in the late 1830s.

In her first e-mail the lady told me that she had a tobacco box, passed down through the family, with the inscription:

“Presented to Mr Daniel Hawkes by the members of the Elmley Castle Cricket Club, as a trifling acknowledgement for his kindness in allowing them the gratuitous use of his ground, whereon to practise their game. 1845.” Picture at foot of page.

The date got me excited since I know this is nearly 10 years earlier than we claim for the foundation of ECCC and I asked if they could send me a photo of the box and the inscription.  These are what I attach for you above.  It is a very handsome box and is certainly elegantly inscribed !  The club must have been going for some time prior to 1845 or they would surely not have had such a special gift made.  I don’t know where the ground referred to was:  the 1843 tithe records the ‘apportioning’ to Daniel Hawkes of quite a lot of land to the right of Upper Hill Lane, the house and garden and considerable land further on up the hill.  Daniel’s lands form a ‘patchwork’ with those ‘apportioned’ to Col Davies (of ‘the Big House’) or one of the other farmers in the parish.  It was much later (at least 50+ years), of course, that the club played at the Big Meadow and the Deer Park courtesy of General Davies.

Mary also received an article from Brian Woodford, the Chair, at the cricket club referring to a game of cricket reported versus Severn Stoke and she wrote as follows:

 The players for Elmley in presumably batting order, are given as:
G Stephens; W Mytton; H Bluck: E Smith; H Rance; W Dingley; T Smith; G Deacon; J Smith; J Shepherd and F Andrews
I can account for some of them as having lived in Elmley as follows:
William Mytton (born 1822 in Great Comberton) had moved to Elmley certainly by the mid 1850s, since he had a son, also William, born in Elmley in 1856; he was a farmer and by 1868 (if not some years earlier) had moved with his family to a larger farm at Severn Stoke !  (I haven’t found him earlier than the 1861 census in Elmley or later than the 1871 one in Severn Stoke.)
Henry Bluck, born 1823 in Elmley, lived here until his death in 1880; he, too, was a farmer and had a son, also Henry born 1854 in Elmley; Henry junior remained at home in Elmley until at least 1871, but by 1881 had moved to Ashford in Kent where he was by that time well established as a miller.
Henry Rance, born 1796 in Suffolk, lived in Elmley from at least 1839 (they had a daughter born here in that year and he had no sons); he seemed to do various jobs, declaring himself as a brickmaker (!) in 1851, a grocer in 1861, a farmer (in a small way) in 1871 and finally as the village postmaster in 1881 (by which time he was 85 !)
Thomas Smith and John Smith, brothers born in Ledbury respectively in 1818 and 1823, moved to Elmley prior to 1839.  They were a farming family and when her husband died  (in 1839) Thomas & John’s mother took over running the farm (one of the Kersoe ones) with the help of her son John, the youngest.  There was a 3rd son, Frederick, and both he and Thomas were tailors.    They became a well-established Elmley family, and when in the fullness of time Thomas, who married the daughter of the other main Kersoe farming family, the Hawkes [surname ring a bell with you all !!], and took over what became The Plough pub, we then had Smiths here until 1942.
I’m afraid the other players are a complete mystery – I can’t find any matches (and have checked all the obvious surrounding villages). There isn’t an E Smith, but if that might actually be F Smith, then he could be Thomas & John’s brother Frederick.
However, for the 5 I have identified, the first thing that strikes you is that they were all farmers or belonged to farming families i.e. they were definitely better off than the majority of village residents !  This is hardly surprising.  William Mytton is the one who puts the strongest time constraints on when this Elmley team was playing Severn Stoke.  It must be prior to the mid-1860s when he moved to Severn Stoke.  Then if we look at Henry Bluck, who was born in 1823, we can probably say this team was not playing much before 1840.  So I’d put money on this being a team from the 1840s or 1850s – could be into the 1860s, but by then some of them are probably getting past their playing days !
Tobacco Box: