Martley A Potted History.
The Parish of Martley is situated in the county of Worcestershire. It is approximately seven and half miles north west of Worcester City, from which it can be reached via the B4204. Part of its western boundary runs along the river Teme.
Martley’s name is thought to have been derived from the old English word for a Pine Martin. Although many different references to the name have been found over the centuries including Martin, Martelai, Marteley, or just Martel.
The parish has acreage of 4,421 and the soil is varied. Rock formations occur in some areas, where quarrying has been carried out in the past for building and road making.
Martley had a settlement before Domesday, and there are still traces of earthworks on nearby Berrow Hill that rises over 600 feet (183 meters) above the River Teme.
The population in the parish in 1881, according to the general census carried out that year, was 1,093. In 1901 it was 1,050 though by 1960 this had dropped to 950 residents. Martley consists mainly of scattered farms, around ten hamlets, and the central part of the village where there is an estate of private houses, with accommodation for senior citizens.
Close to the centre, at the junction of the B4204 and the B4197, situated side by side, are the Post Office, the General store, the Garage and the Crown Inn. On the opposite side of this commercial centre are an old weighbridge, a bus stop and a few yards up from the junction of the roads towards Worcester, a local coach station. Within a few hundred yards on the B4197 towards Knightwick, situated close to the estate, is the Martley Memorial Hall and playing fields used for cricket, football, etc. Martley has several societies and clubs using the facilities of the building, with a strong tradition of musical events. The Memorial Hall fields are also home to the Martley Annual Show, which was first started in 1894. Moving further south, along the B4197 towards Knightwick, lies a small industrial trading estate, which contains the headquarters of the countrywide haulage firm, ‘Taylors of Martley’. The buildings, which used to house the old Lusty’s factory, (Lloyd Loom) still remain.
The only other public house in the parish, the ‘Admiral Rodney’ is situated at Berrow Green also towards Knightwick. Going out of the village towards Great Witley a busy sawmill can be found.
In Victorian times the Red House, run by a Board of Guardians, stood on land now occupied by part of the modern estate. It had it’s own separate chapel where part of the premises was used by the old Martley Rural District Council as a store. The 1881 general census lists the ‘Union Workhouse’ as having 24 occupants, with ages ranging from 11 to 88 years. Three were described as ‘Idiots’ and one as ‘dumb and imbecile’! If you wish press here to go the Union Workhouse site.
Other chapels in the district were situated at the Newtown and Hillside hamlets.
The Parish Church of St Peter is of Norman origin with several later additions. Built mainly of local red sandstone it has a square tower which houses the six 1673 bells –the oldest complete ring of six in the country. Medieval wall paintings and the tomb of Sir Hugh Mortimer are amongst many interesting features inside the building. The interior was restored in 1909 with the original clock of 1680 now housed in the Science Museum, London. A mass dial on the South East buttress has all but gone. Currently funds are being raised for a wall sundial as a memorial to a local man, Basil Haines, who wound the present clock for 23 years. For the Millennium a new stained glass window was installed in the church, to celebrate the year 2000 by the parishioners.
Near to the church, on Martley Court land, is a spring known as St Peters Well, where baptisms took place in the early centuries of Christianity. Below the church were small Almshouses, a couple of ancient ponds and a Worcestershire Black Pear tree.
Near the top of the churchyard, on the B4204, stood an old building, which had various uses, including a school. The headmaster in the late seventeenth century was the Rev Anthony Mogridge. In 1846 it was replaced by a new stone building, opened by Queen Adelaide, then living at nearby Witley Court, home of the Earl of Dudley.
The then Prince of Wales shot in Martley woods when staying with the Earl. In times gone by, the Earls of Dudley owned most of Martley parish. Queen Edith held the manor in 1055, and the long list of Lords of the Manor comes down to the present day with James Hyslop of Brook Court, Martley.
There have been ten schools over the centuries in the parish. The present Chantry High School, which has about 700 pupils, most travelling daily from the surrounding areas, gets it’s name from the Chantry originally connected to the church.
The old school, situated opposite a new large community Sports Hall, built recently in present school grounds, has been converted to private apartments.
One of the oldest houses is the Old Hall, a former rectory. A list of incumbents can be seen in the church, beginning in 1290. Many rectors originated from the same families, the Vernons providing three and the Hastings five (from 1795-1958). From this family came Sir Charles Hastings, founder of the British Medical Association (BMA), Admiral Sir Thomas Hastings, who escorted Napoleon to Elba and Admiral Francis Decimus Hastings. Other Martley men who achieved fame were John Doughtie, who held a Prebendary at Worcester Cathedral, buried in Westminster Abbey, Francis Jukes the Engraver, the poet Charles Stuart Calverley and Thomas W, Sanders, who became editor of Amateur Gardening and wrote many books on the subject.
In the surrounding countryside there are many well signposted footpaths to follow. The Rodge Hill walk, an old packhorse track, having spectacular views over the Teme valley. The flora and fauna are many and varied, rare Orchids growing in places and Kingfishers living on the Laugherne brook. Farm crops are mainly corn, roots, fruit trees and grassland. The Hop yards, of which there were many, have now gone. Pedigree Hereford cattle graze in the Horsham fields and Red Devon’s were bred at Hope House Farm in the last century.