, (or Aulster), a parish in the Alcester division of the hundred of Barlichway, in the county of Warwick, 8 miles N.W. of Stratford-on-Avon, 13 miles to the S.W. of Warwick, and 103 miles from London. Its name, position, and the Roman remains found near it, point it out as the ancient Alauna, one of the stations on the Roman road named Iknield, or Ryknield Street, and vulgarly, Ickle Street. It was a large and important town in the time of the Saxons, and became a seat of their kings. A synod is said to have been held here in the 8th century. It was constituted a free borough by Henry I.
About the middle of the 12th century, Ralph de Boteler founded a monastery of the Benedictine order here, which in the 15th century was so poor that it was made a cell to the abbey of Evesham. Enclosed by the river Arrow and a moat, it received the name of the Church of our Lady of the Isle. Its revenue at the Dissolution was £102, and it was granted by Henry VIII. to the Grevilles. Roman urns, coins, and pavements have been dug up in and near the town, and in one spot some ancient foundations have been traced.
The town is situated in a pleasant valley on the river Alne, near the junction of the Arrow with it, each of these rivers being crossed by a stone or brick bridge. The surrounding hills are well-wooded. The town has one principal street, with a market-place from which smaller streets branch out. It has several ancient houses. It is lighted with gas, and well supplied with spring water. There is a handsome town-house and market, supported on arches, in Priory Place, in which the courts of the manor are held. A corn exchange has been erected in High-street, in 1857, at the cost of £2,000. The manufacture of needles, which was formerly carried on here, is now removed to Redditch; but there are still extensive implement works and brickfields. The chief occupation of the inhabitants is agricultural.
The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Worcester, value £259, in the patronage of the Marquis of Hertford, who is also lord of the manor. The church was rebuilt in 1732, and is dedicated to St. Nicholas. It was previously dedicated to St. Andrew. The ancient tower, with battlements and pinnacles, still remains. The roof of the church rests on Grecian columns of the Doric order. Here are the tombs and effigies in alabaster of Fulke Greville and his lady, and tombs of the Beauchamps, who had a seat in the neighbourhood; also a marble figure of the Marquis of Hertford, by Chantrey.
The Quakers, Wesleyans, Unitarians, and Baptists have chapels here. The parochial charities amount to £270. Of these the principal are the free grammar school, founded in 1592 by Walter Newport, the school for twenty-four boys and girls endowed by Bridges in 1780, and an almshouse for eight poor men. The Marquis of Hertford gave the ground for the national school which was established in 1844. There is a savings-bank, and two other banks. A county count and petty sessions are held in the town. Tuesday is the market day.
Fairs are held on the Tuesdays before the 29th January and the 25th March, the third Tuesday in April and May, the last Tuesday in July, the third Tuesday in September, the Tuesday after the 16th October, and the first Tuesday in December, for the sale principally of cattle and cheese. On a hill a short way from the town, there are remains of the walls and terraces of Oversley Castle, the seat of the Butlers, one of whom was executed by Edward IV. for a treasonable saying on the king having shot his favourite buck.
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]