Cercehalle (xi cent.); Chirhulle (xii cent.).
The parish of Churchill, containing 954 acres, of which 721 acres are arable land, 160¾ permanent grass, and 8 acres woodland, is on the Staffordshire border, about 3½ miles north-east of Kidderminster. It is generally known as Churchill near Kidderminster or Churchill in Halfshire to distinguish it from Churchill near Worcester in the hundred of Oswaldslow. In 1306 it was referred to as ‘Churchill in the forest of Kinver,’ and some years later was amerced with neighbouring townships for non-attendance at the court of the regarder of that forest. It was still described as in Kinver Forest in 1604.
An Act for inclosing Churchill Common was passed in 1773.
Churchill is watered by ‘a quick and clear stream,’ which rises in the Clent Hills and forms the eastern boundary of the parish, occasionally artificially widened into pools; about 2 miles from Churchill it flows into the River Stour. The land slopes upwards from the valley of this stream, and at its lowest level towards the west and north is 211 ft. above the ordnance datum, while near the northern boundary of the parish it attains a height of 400 ft.
The village of Churchill stands on the right bank of this stream, and consists of one rather straggling street continued southward as a branch road joining the main road from Kidderminster to Halesowen near Blakedown. At the north of the village three roads diverge, going respectively to Cookley, Kinver, and Stakenbridge.
The nearest station to Churchill is at Blakedown.
The hamlets of Blakedown, Stakenbridge, and Harborough in the civil parish of Hagley were in 1888 transferred to Churchill for ecclesiastical purposes by Order in Council. In Blakedown is a chapel of ease to the parish church.
The subsoil consists of Bunter Pebble Beds; the surface is very dry and is mostly sand. The parish is mainly agricultural, wheat, barley and green crops being raised, but there are spade and shovel works on a small scale in the village. It is said that during the 18th century Churchill so abounded in damsons and plums that all the neighbouring markets were supplied from it.
At the time of the Domesday Survey the manor of CHURCHILL was held by Walter of William Fitz Ansculf, the lord of Dudley; it had formerly belonged to Wigar, who had also held the adjacent manor of Cradley.
The overlordship followed the descent of the barony of Dudley until the partition of John de Somery’s lands in 1323, when it was assigned to his younger sister Joan de Botetourt, but from that time it appears to have lapsed. The manor was held of these overlords for the service of a fourth of a knight’s fee.
About the middle of the 12th century Agnes de Somery bequeathed half a hide of land at Churchill ‘and the rest of that vill’ towards the foundation of the monastery of St. James at Dudley, desiring to be buried there. She was probably related to John de Somery, who had married Hawise, the sister of Gervase Paynel. Her gift was confirmed before 1161 by Gervase as lord of the fee, and afterwards by Pope Lucius III in 1182.
At the Dissolution the possessions of Dudley Priory in Churchill included assize rents amounting to 17s., which were granted in 1541 to Sir John Dudley, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, and after his attainder to Thomas Reve and George Cotton. The latter are said to have sold the rent to Humphrey Dickens, but this seems improbable, as the estate of Dudley Priory in the manor passed to the Lytteltons, being forfeited by John Lyttelton in 1601 and restored to his widow Muriel two years later. Thomas son of John purchased the manor in 1605–6, when the fee-farm rent would have lapsed. A rent of 6s. 8d. appears to have been reserved by the Crown on one of these grants, for in 1635–6 6s. 8d. yearly from the vill of Churchill was granted to William Scriven and Philip Eden and their heirs.
Shortly after the grant of Gervase Paynel, the Prior of Wenlock, to which Dudley was a cell, gave the manor to Robert de Hurcott (Hurchote), probably of the adjoining parish of Kidderminster, for a rent of half a mark yearly to the monks of Dudley. Robert seems to have been succeeded by Adam de Hurcott, who conveyed Churchill to his son Robert. It was probably this Robert de Hurcott who in 1234–5 dealt with the adjoining vill of Hurcott. A few years later he granted ‘the land of Churchill’ with the advowson of the church to Hugh Drugel in free marriage with his sister Margery.
John Drugel or Drobul, who was possibly the son of Hugh and Margery, presented to the church in 1298 and again in the following year, when he was described as being of the manor of Suckley. Probably therefore he did not reside at Churchill, and he seems to have leased the land to one John de Melford. John Drugel afterwards conveyed the rent of 60s. 8d., payable by John de Melford, with the advowson, to the family of Bastenhall of Suckley. Giles de Bastenhall presented to the church in 1340 and had been succeeded in 1350 by Joan widow of John de Bastenhall. In that year Joan conveyed the advowson and the rent of 60s. 8d. to Edmund de Dunclent and his wife Joan, apparently for three lives. It was probably this Edmund de Dunclent who presented to the church in 1361 and who was succeeded by his son John, lord of Churchill in 1368. Churchill was settled in 1397 on John de Dunclent and his wife Joan, with reversion to John Wythall and his wife Alice and their heirs, and remainder to Elizabeth the daughter of John de Dun lent. John Bilington was lord of Churchill and presented to the church in 1422, but before 1429 the manor had passed to Thomas Dickens of Bobbington, co. Stafford, but whether by sale or otherwise does not appear. Thomas Dickens seems to have been succeeded in Churchill by his second son Thomas, who occurs as lord of the manor in 1471. Thomas had died leaving a son Richard before 1483, when his widow Elizabeth held the manor. In the following year she granted an annual rent of 20s. from lands in Churchill held by Thomas Willot to her son Richard.
From this time until 1561 the history of the manor is a blank, but it probably reverted to the elder branch of the Dickens family, as Hugh Dickens held it in 1561, and granted it in that year to a younger son Thomas Dickens and his wife Philippa in tail-male. Richard Dickens, who succeeded, and held the manor in 1601, may have been son of Thomas and Philippa. He had been succeeded before 1605–6 by John Dickens, who conveyed the manor in that year to Thomas Lyttelton.
From that date it has descended with the manor of Hagley , and now belongs to Viscount Cobham.
At the end of the 18th century a court was still occasionally held for the Crown at the Bell Inn. There was no court leet, and the court baron of the Lytteltons was then falling into disuse, ‘there being no copyholders within the manor.’
A mill held by the lord of the manor by payment of 20s. yearly to the lord of Hagley is mentioned in the 13th century. A blade-mill and mill pool at Churchill are mentioned at the end of the 16th century.
There is now a mill at Churchill about a quarter of a mile to the south of the village.
The church of ST. JAMES is a modern building, and consists of a chancel with a north vestry, above which is the tower, and a nave with a wooden south porch. The material of the building is red sandstone, and the design is in the style of the early 14th century. In the nave is a modern octagonal font.
In the church was formerly an ancient parish chest rudely hollowed out of a single block of oak.
There are two bells. The treble bears the name of John Cox, churchwarden, and the date 1722; the second is by John Martin of Worcester, and bears his stamp.
The church plate consists of a three-legged salver hall marked for 1808, a cup with a cover of the usual Elizabethan type on which the hall marks are obliterated, a modern glass flagon with a silver top and handle and a modern chalice, gilt inside, with the Birmingham hall marks for 1861.
The registers before 1812 are as follows: (i) all entries 1540 to 1712; (ii) all entries 1715 to 1813.
The advowson of Churchill apparently followed the descent of the manor until 1561. It seems to have been retained by Hugh Dickens when he granted the manor to his younger son Thomas, as Hugh presented to the church in 1571. It passed from him to his grandson William, son of his eldest son Humphrey.
William Dickens presented in 1584, and the advowson probably passed at about the same time as the manor to Thomas Lyttelton, as he presented in 1618. From that time the advowson has descended with the manor, Viscount Cobham being the present patron.
Richard Penne, by his will dated 1470, desired to be buried in the churchyard of St. James the Apostle of Churchill and left 12d. to the high altar, two torches and 4 acres of land and a tenement in Kidderminster.
The charities of Richard Penne and Roger Bennett (1602) are comprised in a scheme of the County Court of Worcestershire holden 24 September 1856, supplemented by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners 29 May 1894. The trust property consists of school with site, 1 a. 2 r. 2 p. near St. George’s Church, Kidderminster, let at £6 10s. a year, £2,712 10s. 9d. consols, and £267 14s. 9d. Local Loans 3 per cent. stock, producing together £75 16s. 8d. in annual dividends.
The sums of stock are held by the official trustees, and arise from sales in 1872, 1874 and 1876 of lands, houses and cottages, and of the Britannia Inn in 1881, and from accumulations of income.
By an order of the Charity Commissioners 5 December 1905 the portion applicable for educational purposes is to be designated ‘The Penne and Bennett Educational Foundation,’ the remainder being applicable for church purposes.