Friday, September 22, 2017

The lost chapel of St James, Crutch

Crutch comprises an area of about 300 acres of farmland immediately to the north of the town of Droitwich. Historically it lay between the parishes of Dodderhill on the east and Hampton Lovett on the west, but was described as ‘extra parochial’ and did not pay tithes, though coming under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Worcester. Its early history was linked with that of Westwood Priory as it was included in the lands given to endow this in the time of Henry II (the middle of the 12th century).

Evidence for a chapel in Crutch dates from 1335 when a bequest is recorded to the ‘altars of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St.Katharine in Le Crouche’*. These would be chantry chapels – small altars within the main building, the dedication of which was to St.James. In the records of the Priory are numerous references to Crutch, including candles bought for St. James’s day costing 9d.

At the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 Crutch was listed among the possessions of Westwood Priory, and became the property of King Henry VIII, passing by sale to Robert Acton of Elmley Lovett. The last Prioress of Westwood was Joyce Acton, a relation of Robert. The site of Westwood Priory went to John Pakington, and in the family records a document states that Robert Acton held the chapel of St.James in ‘Croiche’.*

The most recent mention so far found of the dedication is from the time of King Charles I in 1639 in a deed. This involves much land in several places but includes ‘all those the several manors or lordshippes of Elmley Lovet and Crouch als St.James.’*

There is no sign of a chapel in Crutch now, and its site is completely unknown. The brook bordering Crutch on the east is called Capel Ditch which may be a hint, and a farm which stood until the early 1900s just over the brook was said to have ancient sandstone blocks in its foundations. But we have no definite knowledge of the last four hundred years of the story of St. James’s chapel in Crutch.

* Spellings quoted are as used in the documents.

For more information on the extra-parachial area of Crutch click here

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