Meriden, or Mereden (St. Lawrence)
MERIDEN, or Mereden (St. Lawrence), a parish, and the head of a union, in the Solihull division of the hundred of Hemlingford, N. division of Warwick, 5½ miles (W. N. W.) from Coventry; containing 1071 inhabitants. This place, anciently Alspath, formed part of the possessions of the Countess Godiva in 1043, and in the 12th of Edward II. was the property of John de Segrave, who obtained for the inhabitants the grant of a weekly market and an annual fair. The parish comprises about 2782 acres, of which three-fourths are arable, 377 acres woodland, and the remainder meadow and pasture; the surface is pleasingly diversified with rising grounds, and hills of various elevation, commanding extensive and richly-varied prospects. The view from the churchyard, and from two houses to the north of it (both the property of James Kittermaster, Esq., M.D., and of which one is called Ryleye House), embraces an amphitheatre eight miles in circuit, sloping gradually towards the village, embellished with plantations interspersed with stately oaks and lofty elms, beech, pine, and poplar of luxuriant growth, and gradually expanding from the south-east to the north-west into a circuit of nearly 30 miles. In the middle distance are seen more than twenty towers and spires of churches, beyond which appear, in bold relief, Bromsgrove Lickey, Birmingham, Bar Beacon, and other objects; and in the extreme distance, the hills of Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire. The soil of the lands is various, in some parts a rich deep sandy loam, in some a sandy gravel, and in others marl, clay, and gravel. On Meriden Hill is an extensive quarry of red sandstone, and near the village was once a quarry of fine hard white freestone, which is now filled up, though a large bed extending eastward is still unwrought.
Meriden Hall, the seat of Charles Digby, Esq., is a handsome mansion, built of white freestone, and beautifully situated in a richly-planted demesne, embellished with a fine sheet of water. The ancient hall of the Walshes, who were lords of the manor in 1400, and Alspath Hall, north-east of the church, are now occupied by farmers; and an ancient moated mansion, once a seat of the earls of Derby, is also a farmhouse. The village is situated on the road from Birmingham to Coventry, and contains several well-built houses, one of which, formerly the Bull's-head inn, a celebrated posting-house and hotel, is a spacious building of ancient date, originally the seat of Sir Clement Fisher, of Packington, and now the private residence of its proprietor, Charles Blakesley, Esq. On the green, at the western extremity of the village, is an old cross of red sandstone, the shaft of which and the steps forming the ascent to it, are in good preservation; and near it is the Swan inn, an ancient house built in 1506, which is now the principal inn.
The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £5. 12.; net income, £268; patron and impropriator, the Earl of Aylesford. The tithes were commuted for corn-rents in 1785. The Hon. and Rev. Charles Finch, rector of Great and Little Packington, is vicar of Meriden, and the duties of the benefice are performed by a curate, who resides in the vicaragehouse, beautifully situated to the south of the church, and to which are attached 42 acres of glebe. The church, seated on an eminence south-east of the village, is an ancient structure, in the early and later English styles, with some Norman details, and an elegant embattled tower. The outer walls were taken down and rebuilt, and two galleries erected, in 1827, at an expense of £1898, of which £242 were raised by a rate, £150 were a grant from the Church Building Society, and the remainder was subscribed; the burial-ground, also, was enlarged. In the aisles are two ancient monuments, one of alabaster, and the other of red sandstone; the one to John Wyard, who founded a chantry in the church, in the reign of Henry IV., and the other supposed by Dugdale to be erected to the memory of the Walshes. A national school for boys, and another for girls, with a residence for the master and mistress in the centre, connecting them, was built at a cost of £522, raised by subscription, on a site given by the Earl of Aylesford, in 1843; they are supported by an endowment arising from canal shares bequeathed by the Digby family, and the interest of £500 by Henry Barnett, Esq., of Hollybury End. The poor-law union comprises 18 parishes or places, containing a population of 11,602. In the clay lands to the east of the church, specimens of fossil wood are met with; and in the gravel-pits at Hollybury End; are found bivalved shells, corallines, and enchrinites. On Meriden common are traces of an encampment formed during the Scottish rebellion, in 1745.