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St Edith's Church
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Monks Kirby is located around one mile east of the old Fosse Way, around 8 miles north-west of Rugby, seven miles north-east of Coventry and six miles west of Lutterworth. Administratively it forms part of the borough of Rugby. One of the largest and most important villages in this part of Warwickshire from the Anglo-Saxon to the early modern period, by the nineteenth century Monks Kirby had become a small farming community. Monks Kirby is today an attractive, wealthy commuter village with many residents working in Coventry, Birmingham, Leicester and London.
Monks Kirby is dominated by the priory church of St Edith, a site of Christian worship since at least the 10th century AD. The priory is long since gone but the church remains, seeming out of proportion to the size of the village.
Monks Kirby has been inhabited since at least Roman times, with evidence (Roman urns and bricks) found around the Church suggesting either a Roman cemetery or villa on the current Church site.
The good soils, strategic location (near the meeting point of the Fosse Way and Watling Street) and size of the parish suggest it was the dominant village in this part of Warwickshire before the Norman Conquest. The pre-Conquest church of Monks kirby was the mother church for the surrounding area, connected to the important aristocratic estate of Newnham.
In the tenth century the village was on the frontier between the Viking controlled Danelaw and Anglo-Saxon Mercia. "Kirby" is a Norse place name roughly meaning "church town" but the village is just on the west (Anglo-Saxon) side of Watling Street, which was the formal frontier.
At the time of the Norman Conquest, the neighbouring estate of Newnham Paddox was owned by Leofwin, nephew of Leofric, Earl of Mercia (husband of Lady Godiva). After the Conquest, the land around Monks Kirby came into the ownership of Geoffrey de la Guerche, a Breton knight who married Aelgifu,Leofwin's daughter. Geoffrey rebuilt the Anglo Saxon church and gave it as a priory to the Benedictine Abbey of St Nicolas in Anjou in France, naming it in honour of the Virgin Mary and St Denis. Unusually, the text of the founding Charter for the Priory survives: the dedication took place on 1 July 1077 and the Charter tells us the names of the first monks – Geoffrey, Ranulf, Stephen, Maurice, Roger and Herman.
In 1266 Henry III granted the monks a fair at Midsummer and a weekly market. The church was substantially rebuilt in around 1380 and in 1415 Henry V transferred the priory to the Carthusians of the Isle of Axholme, Lincolnshire. The 100 years war with France also caused the dedication of the church to be changed to St Edith of Polesworth, a Warwickshire Saint (the connection with St Denis was revived in the 19th century for the chapel of St Denys, built in the neighbouring village of Pailton). The church was again altered in the late fifteenth century, and an octagonal spire added: this blew down on Christmas night, 1722.
In the reformation, King Henry VIII confiscated the assets of the priory, granting the manor of Monks Kirby to the Bishop of Ipswich,and the rectory and the advowson of the vicarage to his (the King's) foundation of Trinity College Cambridge in December 1546. The manor then changed hands several times over the following eighty years until the powerful Buckingham family passed to it to the Feildings who had been lords of neighbouring Newnham Paddox since the fifteenth century (see below).
The Feilding family (elevated to the aristocracy as Earls of Denbigh) owned most of the village and the land around it until the mid-twentieth century (see below). Trinity College retains the benefice and continues to be involved in the church's affairs today but divested itself of substantial landholdings around Monks Kirby following the Second World War.
Up to the industrial revolution and the coming of the railways, Monks Kirby was one of the most important villages in this part of Warwickshire. Early in the 17th century the hundred of Knightlow (one of the county's main administrative divisions, which included all of modern-day Coventry) was reorganised on a basis of four High Constables' divisions – Kenilworth, Monks Kirby, Rugby, and Southam. Monks Kirby retained its high constable until 1828.
The ecclesiastical parish of Monks Kirby still includes several neighbouring villages and hamlets: Pailton, Stretton-under-Fosse, Newbold Revel, Copston, Brockhurst, Street-Ashton and Easenhall. Historically, there was also a further hamlet in the parish of Monks Kirby: the village of Cestersover, abandoned in the Middle Ages.
Roman Catholic Community
Monks Kirby has been a local centre for the Catholic faith since the conversion of the 8th Earl of Denbigh to Catholicism in 1850. St Joseph's convent and girls school/orphanage were established in the village in the 1870s and in the 1980s was converted into the first congregation of Mary, Mother of the Church (now called "Mater Ecclesiae") by Sister Catherine Mulligan as a new convent for mature women looking to enter religious life. In the early 2000s the Mater Ecclesiae congregation moved to Street Ashton House in the neighbouring hamlet of Street Ashton, where it was based until recently. Over the next few months the Jesuits will move into the former convent which will become a temporary house of formation
The old convent buildings in Monks Kirby have now been converted to housing but a new church, St Joseph's Church, was built in the 1990s to a design by the architect John Holmes. This church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, on 11 July 2012, the feast of St Benedict. St Joseph's continues to be a vibrant worshipping community today. A daily Mass is celebrated and a large congregation gathers on Sunday from the parish which spreads well beyond the small village of Monks Kirby. There is an active children's liturgy group, Christian Prayer and Meditation Group, Justice and Peace Group, Union of Catholic Mothers Group and a St Stephen's Guild for Altar Servers. St Joseph's is committed to maintaining good relationships with the Revel School and also with the Revel Churches Together which includes the Anglican and URC Churches. Masses and pastoral visiting also takes place at St Mary's Nursing Home and Ben Town Thornes (a residential home for the elderly) which are situated in the parish.
Highlights during the year include the well attended Annual May Procession when the parish process in honour of Our Lady ending with the crowning of the statue and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. There is also a Corpus Christi procession in June from the Village Green to St Joseph's.
In July 2018 St Joseph's fitted a new bell system which allows the Angelus to be rung at 12noon and 6pm as well as calling the faithful to Mass. At special times of the year and at the end of the school day Hymns are played on the automated carillon.
The present parish priest is a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Ordinariate Use of the Mass (Divine Worship)m is celebrated weekly and St Jospeh's has become a focus for members of the Ordinariate from the Leicestershire and East Warwickshire area. Evensong and Benediction are celebrated monthly. Details can be found on the Leicester page of the Ordinariate website. Mass in the Extraordinarily Form in celebrated each Thursday at 6:30am.
Plans are well underway for a new parish room and welcome space on land at the rear of the Church.
The cemetery on the outskirts of Monks Kirby is a Roman Catholic burial site, originally a private graveyard for the Feilding family. Today the Catholic cemetery is used for burials from St Joseph's.
The Revel School
Children from Monks Kirby and surrounding villages attend the Revel School, which is possibly unique in that it is a Church of England school with Catholic provision and Catechesis. Children from the school regularly visit the Church for worship and are prepared through the school for their First Holy Communion. Both the Rector and Catholic Parish Priest lead worship in the school. School Masses (within St Jospehs) take place regularly.
The Earls of Denbigh and Monks Kirby
The Feilding Family have been Lords of Newnham Paddox since 1433. In 1622 James I made William Feilding first Earl of Denbigh: Feilding primarily owed his rise at court to his brother in law, the Duke of Buckingham, who was the King's confidante and lover. The Buckinghams also purchased, as a gift for the second Earl of Denbigh, the manor that had belonged to the pre-reformation priory of Monks Kirby.
Despite almost certainly being of Warwickshire origin, in the middle of the seventeenth century, following their elevation to the peerage, the Feilding family began to claim descent from the European royal house of Habsurg, a claim that has been ridiculed and debunked several times in the subsequent centuries. The Habsburg double-headed eagle appears on Denbigh coats of arms and as a symbol around the village of Monks Kirby.
In 1754-68 Lancelot "Capability" Brown built a large mansion house for the fifth and sixth Earls (perhaps incorporating some elements of an earlier, 16th century house). At the same time, Brown laid out landscaped garden. The house, which was further substantially developed in the nineteenth century (in a French style and including an ornate Roman Catholic chapel), was demolished in 1952 after receiving water damage resulting from the thawing of frozen pipes at a time when the family was hit by heavy death duties. The grand gates, stables and Brown's landscaped gardens remain and the current Earl still lives in a twentieth century, wooden house in the grounds.
The Denbigh family have - since the mid-twentieth century - steadily sold off most of their local land holdings (most recently selling 2,500 acres in 2014/15).
Monks Kirby has one pub, the Denbigh Arms which is next to the church.
- "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
- "Information for record number MWA4241: Site of Possible Roman Settlement by Church". Warwickshire County Council. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
- Greenway, Diana (1996). "Conquest and Colonization: The Foundation of an Alien Priory, 1077". In Blair & Golding (eds.). The Cloister and the World: Essays in Medieval History in Honour of Barbara Harvey.
- Graham Jones. The origins of Leicestershire: churches, territories, and landscape. p. 9.
- The Seventeenth century historian of Warwickshire, Dugdale, cites the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and claims that the Church was built by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great in 917 (William Dugdale (1656). The antiquities of Warwickshire illustrated : from records, leiger-books, manuscripts, charters, evidences, tombes, and armes : beautified with maps, prospects, and portraictures. p. 50.). However, the reference to Ethelfleda building a fortification in Cyricbyrig is today taken as referring to a fort built in 915 in the similarly named Staffordshire village of Chirbury("Anglo Saxon Runcorn".), and the fact that Danish settlers (who arrived in the 9th century) found a church already in the village suggests an earlier date for its foundation.
- "Archaeological Resource Assessment of the Aggregates Producing Areas of Warwickshire and Solihull" (PDF). Warwickshire County Council. 2008. p. 66.
- K. S. B. Keats-Rohan. The Making of Henry of Oxford: Englishmen in a Norman World (PDF). p. 302.
- K. S. B. Keats-Rohan. Domesday People: Domesday book. p. 53.
- (The text of the charter survives but the manuscript has been lost. Dugdale and others reproduce it from a manuscript in the Cotton Library which has since been lost or destroyed.) William Dugdale (1655). Monasticon Anglicanum: A History of the Abbies and Other ..., Volume 6, Part 2 (in Latin). p. 996.
- "House of Carthusian Monks 30. The Priory of Axholme (reproducing text from "A History of the County of Lincolnshire, Vol. 2", Page, pub 1906)". British History Online. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
- A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6, Knightlow Hundred. 1951.
- "'The hundred of Knightlow', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 6: Knightlow hundred (1951)". British History Online. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
- J H Round (1901). Studies in Peerage and Family History. p. 216.
- Historic England. "Nenwham Paddox (1001191)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
- "Red Button: Coventry landed gentry downsize as death duty bill arrives". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
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