Astley is a parish on the west bank of the Severn, about 2 ½ miles S. W. of Stourport, 10 N.W. of Worcester, and surrounded by Areley Kings, Abberley, Witley, Shrawley, and the river; it is in the western division of the county, Lower Doddingtree hundred, Martley union, Stourport petty sessional division, Kidderminster highway and county court district, Hundred House polling district, Worcester diocese and archdeaconry, and West Worcester rural deanery. The area of the parish is 2,958 acres, 1 rood, 15 perches; assessed to the county rate at £6,170. The population in 1861 was 864; in 1871, 838; inhabited houses, 198; families or separate occupiers, 220. The trustees of the late Rev. D. J. J. Cookes are lords of the manor and principal landowners. The greater portion of the land is of first-rate quality for barley and turnips. Astley Enclosure Bill was passed in the present century. There is a ferry across the Severn at Hampstall. A priory was founded here in Norman days by Ralph de Todeni, and richly endowed with lands in the parish which after the Dissolution came in succession to the Actons, Blounts, Winfords, and Cookeses. The Prior’s well, at the entrance to the burial-ground, is looked upon by antiquaries with great interest. Redstone rock, by Severn side and within a short distance of Stourport, is a very ancient hermitage, and was formerly “a place of great resort for devotees of high renown in Papal history.” Habingdon says, to show how great men have valued this place, that “many who traded on the river gave, as they passed in their vessels, portions of their commodities to this hermitage.” Nash also says, “this hermitage was anciently the inheritance of Sir T. Bromley, and was sold by the late Lord Montfort.” It originally had a chapel, with an altar in it, over which was represented an archbishop saying mass. It appears that hermits were buried here, although the stone is very hard, as several bodies were dug up during the early part of last century. There appear in the front of this hermitage the arms of England; also those of Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and those of Mortimer; but they are now nearly effaced. There may still be traced parts of a religious edifice in the excavations. The entrance is through the chapel, to the left of which is a passage on an incline, partly arched over, with openings at the side, which seems to have led to the dormitories, which would be on a level with the roof of the chapel. This portion has been converted into dwellings, and is now quite unconnected with the chapel. Tradition says that a subterraneous passage once existed from the hermitage to the priory, near the site of the present church; and it is also stated that a passage may be traced from the river for a considerable distance. The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, contains some good Norman work, and a peculiar arrangement of a bay on the south exterior of the nave; corbel table of grotesque heads, some coupled together; rood stairs in the north pier of chancel arch, and remains of rood screen worked into the seats; chapel north of chancel containing splendid altar-tombs of the Blounts three centuries ago, and many quaint inscriptions. There is a fine tower with a good ring of six bells; also a curious Norman font. The register begins with the year 1539. The living is a rectory, annual value £750 with house and glebe, in the patronage of the trustees of the late Rev. D. J. J. Cookes, and held by the Rev. Henry Winford Cookes, B. A., Worcester College, Oxford, who was instituted in 1842. There is a free school called Pope’s charity school; it was founded by Mrs. Mercy Pope in 1717. A schoolroom, to hold 100 children, was built in 1876 at a cost of £400. The charities of the parish produce £11 annually. A lecture-room was erected a few years ago by the late Thomas Zachary, Esq. Andrew Yarranton, a famous projector and airy castle-builder, was born in this parish; the family took its surname from Yarhampton, alias Yarron. Great Yarhampton, which belongs to the Cookeses, is a remarkably fine specimen of the old black and white timber-house in vogue three or four centuries ago; the chimneys are unique. Some of the Winfords represented the county in the last century. Adjoining the river Severn is the Seed Green Estate, the property of J. W. Z. Wright, Esq., who, however, resides at Barton fields, near Canterbury, Seed green being let as a farm-house. Woodhampton House is the residence of John Russell Cookes, Esq., J.P., D.L. Glasshampton was the site of the former residence of the Cookes family, but the mansion was accidentally destroyed by fire. A man named Lee was then employed at the mansion as a carpenter, whose tools being burnt in the fire, compelled him to seek for aid, whereby he became known to Archdeacon Corbett; the carpenter’s attainments as a linguist became known, he was sent to Cambridge, and afterwards became professor of Arabic and Hebrew there. Astley Hall is the residence of Mrs. Jackson; Oakhampton, of Henry Crane, Esq.; and The Pool House that of Mrs. Haines; the latter dates as far back as 1662. Astley Town is to the N.; Wood Green and Wood End are half a mile S.E.; Solhampton is half a mile E.; Syntley half a mile N.
POSTAL REGULATIONS. – Letters are received through Stourport. The wall letter-box, Astley cross, is cleared at 6 p.m. on week-days only. Stourport is the nearest money-order and telegraph office and post town.
Parish Church (St. Peter’s). – Rev. Henry Winford Cookes, B.A., Rector; Messrs. Robert Green and Thomas Banks, Churchwardens; Charles Wedgbury, Parish Clerk.
Pope’s Charity School. – Mr. George Bennett, Master; Mrs. Bennett, Mistress.
Carrier to Worcester. – Gregory Goodman, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Baugh Col. F. W. (Her Majesty’s Indian Army), Bull hill
Cookes Rev. Henry Winford, B.A. (rector), The Rectory
Cookes John Russell, Esq., J.P., D.L., Woodhampton house
Cookes Thomas Henry, Esq., J.P. (late M.P. for East Worcestershire), The Hill; and 10 Cambridge place, Victoria road, Kensington, London, W.
Crane Henry, Esq., Oakhampton
Haines Mrs., The Pool house
Jackson Mrs., Astley hall
AGRICULTURAL & COMMERCIAL.
Banks Thomas, farmer, Syntley
Bennett George, master of endowed school and assistant overseer
Brown John, King’s Arms Inn
Brown John, stonemason, Burff
Clarke Thomas, fruiterer, Town farm
Cockayne Charles, Hampstall Inn
Cook James, drillman and machine propr.
Cound Jeremiah, farmer, Wood green
Eaton Saml., farmer, Little Yarhampton
Elliott E., builder & grocer, Astley cross
Etheridge Edward, farmer
Goodman Alf. C., beer rtlr., Astley cross
Goodman Charles, shopkeeper
Goodman Gregory, carrier to Worcester
Greaves Walter, farmer, The Pound
Green George, boot and shoe maker
Green R., fmr. & butcher, Sandhampton
Hancox James, blacksmith
Harrison Jas. W. & Son, grocers & prov. dlrs., Astley cross; and at Stourport
Howell Henry, boot and shoe maker
Humphries John, farmer, Weatherlow
Jones William, farmer, Wordley
Lawley George, farmer, Seed Green farm
Miles Job, lock-keeper, Lincomb lock
Nott John, farmer, Great Yarhampton
Oakley John, collector under Severn navigation commission, Lincomb lock
Overton Arnold, miller, Astley mill
Pearman Richard Beach, farmer, Church House farm
Preen F., saddler & harness ma., Dunley
Price Charles, market-gardener
Redfern John, farmer, Larford
Tomkins Thomas, wheelwright
Wedgbury Charles, parish clerk
Source: Littlebury, Littlebury’s Directory and Gazetteer of Worcester & District, Third Edition. Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. 1879.