8th – 16th century: Evesham Abbey and Morton Abbatis
Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, Abbots Morton used to be a country retreat for the abbots of Evesham; the remains of their moated manor house can still be seen near the church. The site of the manor house was acquired by Evesham Abbey in the 8th century, and a building existed on the site before the Norman conquest.
Abbots Morton (Morton Abbatis) was one of the parishes entangled in the dispute between Evesham Abbey and the Bishops of Worcester: both parties claimed control over the churches in the Vale of Evesham and the surrounding area. After 200 years, the dispute was finally settled in the middle of the 13th century when the abbey was given jurisdiction over all the churches within the Vale apart from one: Abbots Morton.
16th-17th century: the Hoby and Kighley families
After the Dissolution, Abbots Morton passed into the hands of the Hoby [Hobby] family, who acquired many of the properties originally belonging to Evesham Abbey. In 1600 ownership of the manor appears to have been disputed: documents held at the Worcestershire Records Office include “Letters Patent of Elizabeth I being a licence for alienation from Richard Hobby [Hoby], esquire, to Richard Mottershed, gent., and Ralph Hodges of the manors of Badsey and Abbots Morton” while the Records of the Kings Remembrancer in the National Archives show “Philip Kighley of Broadway, gentleman to Thomas Edgeok of Broadway, gentleman: Demise, indented, for 3 years, of the manors of Badsey and Abbots Morton,”.
Philip Kighley had married Elizabeth Hoby, Richard’s daughter, in 1597 which is presumably how the manor of Abbots Morton passed into the hands of the Kighley family. After Philip’s death at the beginning of the 17th century, Elizabeth married Charles Ketilby who sold the manor a few years later. The Records of the Kings Remembrancer for the first decade of the 17th century (held at the National Archives) include “Inquisitions as to the possessions late of Sir Philip Keighley, (Kettleby v. Bond, Edgiock, and Hodges)” referring to properties within the Vale of Evesham. Is “Kettleby” Charles Ketilby, and “Edgiock and Hodges” the Thomas Edgeok and Ralph Hodges mentioned in the documents from 1600? Perhaps ownership of the manor of Abbots Morton was also part of the enquiry?
18th century: the Throckmorton family of Coughton Court
By the beginning of the 18th century, much of the land around Abbots Morton appears to have been acquired by the Throckmorton family of Coughton Court. Papers deposited in the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive record 500-year leases of “rights of common” granted on lands of Sir Robert Throckmorton; and a century later John Throckmorton was disputing the tithes of Abbots Morton.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Abbots Morton like this:
ABBOTS-MORTON, a parish in the district of Alcester and county of Worcester; 6 miles N by E of Fladbury r. station, and 7 WSW of Alcester. It has a post office under Bromsgrove. Acres, 1,420. Real property, £2,091. Pop. 245. Houses, 57. The property is all in one estate. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Worcester. Value, £146. Patron, G. J. A. Walker, Esq. The church is good.
The church houses the WW1 war memorial to the village’s only casualty of the conflict, Private Philip Collins, who served with the local Worcestershire Regiment in Mesopotamia. Thankfully there were no local losses during the second world war but one considerable gain and someone who was to become one of the village’s most memorable residents, Dorothy Kennedy.
She had joined the Land Army and in the early 1940’s found herself working on the farms in Abbots Morton. Here she laboured milking cows and driving tractors. She loved the village so much that after the war she stayed and became the local post mistress a position she held for many years.
It was her cat “Lucky” that foiled a post office raid in 1981 by attacking the would-be raiders. He became an international celebrity and received a bravery award as well as being a guest along with his owner in the BBC’s children’s TV programme Blue Peter. Lucky’s luck ran out a few months later when he was knocked down and killed outside his home.
Dorothy’s involvement with the village didn’t stop, she became active with the village hall, was instrumental in replacing the old hut with a wholly new building in 1998 and was a long standing member of the Parish Council. Each Easter she looked forward to seeing the local children involved in the Easter Egg hunt and took great pleasure in hiding several eggs around her own garden.Dorothy died in 2008 aged 95, the bench on the village green is dedicated to her memory.
For the early part of the century Abbots Morton became known as Muddy Morton due to the poor roads and properties falling into disrepair. By the 1970’s things started to change, properties began to transfer into individual ownership and were renovated rather than pulled down, this lead the local council to call the village its “Golden Gem” and making most of the village a conservation area.
School children were brought out to see what village life was about. In the last 50 years only four properties have been built on open ground in the village that being the old village allotments. Sadly the local shop was lost as was more recently the Post Office, Mrs Kennedy being the last Post Mistress.
The village hall was rebuild in 1998 and alongside St Peter’s church the two are now the focal points of the village’s life holding many successful events.