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Title: The Annals of Willenhall
Author: Hackwood, Frederick William
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Annals of Willenhall" ***

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Transcribed from the 1908 Whitehead Bros. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                                                               [COPYRIGHT]



                                   THE
                           ANNALS OF WILLENHALL


                                   —BY—

                          FREDERICK WM. HACKWOOD

                                AUTHOR OF

   “The Chronicles of Cannock Chase,” “Wednesbury Ancient and Modern,”
        “The Story of the Black Country,” “Staffordshire Stories,”
                                 &c., &c.

                                * * * * *

         “I cannot tell by what charm our native soil captivates us,
                and does not allow us to be forgetful of it.”

                                                                  —_Ovid_.

              [Picture: Seal of Willenhall Local Authority]

                              Wolverhampton:
                             WHITEHEAD BROS.,
                    St. John’s Square and King Street.

                                * * * * *

                                  1908.



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER.                                                         PAGE.
I.—Willenhall—Its Name and Antiquity                                 1
II.—The Battle of Wednesfield                                        5
III.—The Saxon Settlement                                           11
IV.—The Founding of Wulfruna’s Church, A.D. 996                     17
V.—The Collegiate Establishment                                     22
VI.—Willenhall at the Norman Conquest (1066–1086)                   27
VII.—A Chapel and a Chantry at Willenhall                           32
VIII.—Willenhall in the Middle Ages                                 37
IX.—The Levesons and other Old Willenhall Families                  41
X.—Willenhall Endowments at the Reformation                         48
XI.—How the Reformation Affected Willenhall                         52
XII.—Before the Reformation—and After                               57
XIII.—A Century of Wars, Incursions, and Alarms                     65
(1640–1745)
XIV.—Litigation Concerning the Willenhall Prebend                   72
(1615–1702)
XV.—Willenhall Struggling to be a Free Parish                       77
XVI.—Dr. Richard Wilkes, of Willenhall (1690–1760)                  82
XVII.—Willenhall “Spaw”                                             90
XVIII.—The Benefice                                                 95
XIX.—How a Flock Chose its own Shepherd                            103
XX.—The Election of 1894, and Since                                110
XXI.—Willenhall Church Endowments                                  116
XXII.—The Church Charities: the Daughter Churches                  129
XXIII.—The Fabric of the Church                                    135
XXIV.—Dissent, Nonconformity, and Philanthrophy                    143
XXV.—Manorial Government                                           148
XXVI.—Modern Self-Government                                       153
XXVII.—The Town of Locks and Keys                                  158
XXVIII.—Willenhall in Fiction                                      167
XXIX.—Bibliography                                                 175
XXX.—Topography                                                    179
XXXI.—Old Families and Names of Note                               184
XXXII.—Manners and Customs                                         187

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

Seal of Local Authority                    Title Page.
St. Giles’ Church                                    v
Rev. Wm. Moreton                                     v
Rev. G. H. Fisher, M.A.                              v
Dr. Richard Wilkes                                   v
Moseley Hall                                        65
Boscobel                                            65
Bentley Hall                                       137
Willenhall Trade Token (farthing)                  166
Borrow, George                                     169
Borrow’s Birthplace                                169
Neptune Inn                                        177
Bell Inn                                           177
Old Bull’s Head                                    177
The Plough                                         177
Tildesley, James                                   185
Tildesley, Josiah                                  185
Pearce, George Ley                                 185
Hartill, Jeremiah                                  185
Austin, John                                       185

     [Picture: St. Giles’ Church (before Restoration).  1755 to 1871]

     [Picture: The Rev. Wm. Moreton (Incumbent of St. Giles’ Church,
                               1788–1834)]

   [Picture: Rev. G. Hutchinson Fisher, M.A.  (Incumbent of St. Giles’
                           Church, 1834–1894)]

                      [Picture: Dr. Richard Wilkes]



I.—Its Name and Its Antiquity


Willenhall, vulgo Willnal, is undoubtedly a place of great antiquity; on
the evidence of its name it manifestly had its foundation in an early
Saxon settlement.  The Anglo-Saxon form of the name Willanhale may be
interpreted as “the meadow land of Willa”—Willa being a personal name,
probably that of the tribal leader, the head of a Teutonic family, who
settled here.  In the Domesday Book the name appears as Winehala, but by
the twelfth century had approached as near to its modern form as
Willenhal and Willenhale.

Dr. Oliver, in his History of Wolverhampton, derives the name from Velen,
the Sun-god, and the Rev. H. Barber, of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, who tries to
find a Danish origin for nearly all our old Midland place-names, suggests
the Norse form Vil-hjalmr; or perhaps a connection with Scandinavian
family names such as Willing and Wlmer.

Dr. Barber fortifies himself by quoting Scott:—

    Beneath the shade the Northmen came,
    Fixed on each vale a Runic name.

                                                        Rokeby, Canto, IV.

Here it may not be out of place to mention that Scandinavian influences
are occasionally traceable throughout the entire basin of the Trent, even
as far as this upper valley of its feeder, the Tame.  The place-name
Bustleholme (containing the unmistakable Norse root, “holme,” indicating
a river island) is the appellation of an ancient mill on this stream,
just below Wednesbury.  In this connection it is interesting to recall
Carlyle’s words.  In his “Hero Worship,” the sage informs us of a mode of
speech still used by the barge men of the Trent when the river is in a
highly flooded state, and running swiftly with a dangerous eddying swirl.
The boatmen at such times will call out to each other, “Have a care!
there is the Eager coming!”  This, says Carlyle, is a relic of Norse
mythology, coming down to us from the time when pagan boatmen on the
Trent believed in that Northern deity, Aegir, the God of the Sea Tempest,
whose name (as he picturesquely puts it) “survives like the peak of a
submerged world.”  This by the way.

Willenhall, however, was situated outside the Danelagh, the western
boundary of which was the Watling Street; indeed, the place nomenclature
of this locality affords very few examples which are really traceable to
the Danish occupation—an almost solitary specimen being the
aforementioned name of Bustleholme, near the Delves.

The etymological derivation which has found most favour in times past is
that based on the erroneous Domesday form, Winehala.  Perhaps Stebbing
Shaw is responsible for this, as in his history of the county, written
1798, he says:—“As Wednesbury is but two miles, and Wednesfield but one
mile from hence, it is probable that this name might be changed for that
of Winehale, from the Saxon word for victory, when that great battle was
fought hereabout in 911.”

Of this battle, and the victory or “win” which the founding of Willenhall
was supposed to commemorate, some account will be given in the next
chapter.  But the hypothesis of Shaw, and those who adopted his view,
apparently involved the supposition that the earliest mention of
Willenhall was of a date subsequent to 911 A.D.; but thanks to the recent
researches of our eminent local historiographer, Mr. W. H. Duignan,
F.S.A. (of Walsall), that position is no longer tenable.

There is in existence a couple of charters dated A.D. 732 (or 733;
certainly before the year 734) which were executed by Ethelbald, King of
Mercia, at a place named therein as “Willanhalch.”

Mr. Duignan says the Mercian kings frequently reside in this part of
their dominions, as at Kingsbury, Tamworth, and Penkridge; probably for
the convenience of hunting in Cannock Forest, within the boundaries of
which Willenhall was anciently located.

Virtually the two charters are one, the same transaction being recorded
by careful and punctilious scribes in duplicate; and their purport was to
benefit Mildrith, now commonly called St. Mildreda, one of the
grand-daughters of King Penda, and probably one of the few canonised
worthies who can be claimed as natives of this county-area.  She was the
Abbess of Minstrey, in the Isle of Thanet, and “sinful Ethelbald,” as he
humbly styles himself, remits certain taxes and makes certain grants to
her newly-founded abbey, all for the good of his soul.  These duplicated
documents were published in the original Latin in Kemble’s “Codex
Diplomaticus” in 1843, by Thorpe in his “Diplomatarium Anglicum” in 1865,
and again in Birch’s “Chartularium Saxonicum” in 1885.

The internal evidence contained in them is to this effect:—“This was
executed on the 4th day of the Kalends of November, in the 22nd year of
my reign, being the fifteenth decree made in that place which is called
Willanhalch.”  Not one of these three authorities, although in the habit
of doing so wherever they can offer an opinion with any reasonable degree
of certainty, has ventured to suggest the modern name and identity of the
“place called Willanhalch.”  But Mr. Duignan, with the ripe knowledge and
almost unerring judgment he possesses in such matters, has no hesitation
whatever in identifying the place as Willenhall.  As he says, there is no
other place-name in Mercia, or even in England, which could possibly be
represented by Willanhalch.

Undoubtedly there is another Willenhall.  It is a hamlet in the parish of
Holy Trinity, Coventry, and its name was anciently spelt Wylnhale.  But
the history of the place is naturally involved in that of the city of
Coventry, as the hamlet never had any separate and independent existence
like that of our Staffordshire township.  Any charter emanating from this
place would indubitably be dated “Coventry.”

The suggestion of Shaw that the name was changed cannot be entertained
for one moment; the Anglo-Saxons were not in the habit of changing
place-names, but they were very much addicted to the practice of “calling
their lands after their own names.”  Dr. Willmore, in his “History of
Walsall” (p. 30) adopts the now discarded derivation of the name of
Willenhall.  He says “After the defeat a great feast of rejoicing was
held by the Saxons at Winehala, the Hall of Victory, and the event was
long celebrated by the national poets.”

To identify the “Hall of Victory” with Willenhall the Walsall historian
proceeds:—“At Lowhill may still be seen the remains of a large tumulus,
while in Wrottesley Park are the vestiges of a large encampment, believed
by some authorities to be of Danish construction, and to have been
occupied by them about the time of these engagements.”

Yet in the next paragraph it is admitted that the Danes never gained a
permanent footing in this locality, and that there is scarce a name of
purely Danish origin in the neighbourhood.

“Willenhalch,” then, may be accepted as signifying in Anglo-Saxon “the
meadowland of Willan,” Willan (not Willen) being a personal name, and
halch being a form of healh, signifying “enclosed land on the banks of a
stream,” as, for instance, on the Willenhall Brook.

Any ancient place-name terminating in “halch” would, in the course of
time, terminate in “hall,” a termination now commonly construed as
“hall,” or “mansion.”  There is nothing inherently improbable in
Willenhall having been a temporary royal residence.  King John in much
later times had his hunting lodge at Brewood.  Bushbury, originally
Bishopsbury, was so called because one of the early Mercian bishops is
said to have made this place his episcopal residence.  Attention has been
called to the fact that in this vicinity a number of place-names end in
“hall,” as Willenhall, Tettenhall, Walsall, Pelsall, and Rushall.  The
inference drawn is that each of these places marks the settlement of some
pioneer Anglican chieftain, or, as Dr. Oliver puts it, the mansion and
estate of some Saxon thane.



II.—The Battle of Wednesfield.


Although it cannot be admitted that the Battle of Wednesfield, or the
great national victory gained on that occasion, provided Willenhall with
its name, the event itself may certainly be regarded as the chief
historical episode which has occurred in this immediate vicinity.  This
was “far back in the olden time” when, says the local poetess—

    The Danes lay camped on Woden’s field.

Dr. Willmore, in his “History of Walsall” (p. 30), quotes an authority to
the effect that the battle fought at Wednesfield in the year 911 “had the
important consequence of freeing England from the attacks of these
formidable invaders.”

This engagement was one of the many which took place between the Saxon
and the Dane for dynastic supremacy.  Even the mighty prowess of Alfred
the Great had failed to give the quietus to Danish pretensions, and his
son, Edward the Elder, was engaged in a life-long struggle with the
Danes, in the course of which the Princess Ethelfleda, who was Edward’s
sister, and Great Alfred’s daughter, erected castles at Bridgnorth,
Stafford, Warwick, Tamworth, and Wednesbury.  Edward the Elder had to
combat Welsh invasions as well as Danish aggressiveness, and hence the
erection of these castles in Mercia, where most of the minor fighting in
that disturbed period occurred.  For nine years Ethelfleda fought side by
side with her husband Ethelred, Earl of Mercia, in the pitiless struggle;
and upon his death, continuing as her brother’s viceroy, she proved
herself one of the ablest women warriors this country has ever known.

In 910 (the Saxon Chronicle informs us) a battle of more than ordinary
moment was fought at Tettenhall.  The Danes were returning from a raid,
laden with rich spoils, when they were overtaken at this spot by the
Angles, on the 5th day of August, and there signally defeated.  It was to
avenge this disaster that the Danes swooped down the following summer
from the north, and met their antagonists exactly on the same day of the
year, and almost on the same ground.  The latter fact may possibly
indicate that there was some strategic importance in the locality.
Wednesfield being almost within hail of Tettenhall; though the better
informed writers, including Mr. James P. Jones, the historian of
Tettenhall, have been led to consider the two battles as one engagement.

As a matter of fact, the exact site of the Tettenhall engagement is not
known, yet one historian has not hesitated to represent the nature of the
conflict as being “so terrible that it could not be described by the most
exquisite pen.”  It seems to have been an engagement of that old-time
ferocity which is so exultantly proclaimed in the ancient war song:—

    We there, in strife bewild’ring,
       Spilt blood enough to swim in:
    We orphaned many children,
       We widowed many women.
    The eagles and the ravens
       We glutted with our foemen:
    The heroes and the cravens,
       The spearmen and the bowmen.

According to Fabius Ethelwerd it was a national and a most memorable
fight which occurred at Wednesfield, where three Danish chieftains fell
in the conflict; in support of which statement it is mentioned that the
Lows, or monumental burial grounds, of the mighty dead are to be found at
Wednesfield and Wrottesley.  But Wrottesley is nearer to Tettenhall than
to Wednesfield.  The number of tumuli which once lay scattered over the
entire range of this district may perhaps be accountable for the
variations in the mediæval chronicles.  As we shall see, while it is well
agreed that the country lying between Tettenhall and Wombourn on the one
hand, and Wednesfield and Willenhall on the other, was the scene of a
great struggle, the details of the conflict vary very materially at the
hands of different chroniclers.  A valuable collection of old records and
historical documents relating to this locality was made by John Huntbach,
of Featherstone and Seawall, near Wolverhampton, nephew and pupil to that
noted antiquary, Sir William Dugdale.  The Huntbach MSS. related more
directly to Seisdon; and it was this collection which inspired similar
efforts on the part of the Willenhall Antiquary, Dr. Richard Wilkes, and
ultimately led to the writing of the Rev. Stebbing Shaw’s “History of
Staffordshire” (1798–1801).

Speaking of the treatment of the battles of Tettenhall and Wednesfield by
the old monkish historians, Huntbach says:—“There is very great reason to
confirm their testimony who say the battle was here fought; for there are
many tumuli or lows there, that shew some great engagement hereabouts,
viz., the North Lowe, the South Lowe, Little Lowe, Horslowe, and
Thrombelow.

“The first four being yet visible, the North Lowe, near in lands to
croft-lodge, the South Lowe near Mr. Hope’s windmill, the great and
little lowe in the heath grounds; but Horslowe is not discernible by
reason of the coal-works that have been here, only it giveth name to the
Horselowe Field, since called Horsehull Field, now Horseley Field.

“And there are not only these, but several others, partly in the way
betwixt this place and Tottenhall, as at Low Hill, near Seawall, a very
large one, and at Hampton Town; and another which giveth name to a field
called Ablow Field, upon which stands a bush now called Isley Cross.”
Ablow Field covered 40 acres of unenclosed ground near Graiseley Brook,
and the tumulus once occupied the site now covered by St. Paul’s Church.

Dr. Plot believes the ancient remains in Wrottesley Park to be “those of
the old Tettenhall of the Danes, who, having resided there for some time,
built themselves this city, or place of habitation, which, in the year
907, was finally demolished by Edward the Elder in a most signal and
destructive victory.  To revenge this fatal quarrel, another army of
Danes collected in Northumbria, and invaded Mercia in the same year, when
King Edward, with a powerful force of West Saxons and Mercians overtook
them at the village of Wednesfield, near Theotenhall (Tettenhall), and
vanquished them again, with much slaughter.”

Another account, given by the aforementioned Dr. Wilkes, Willenhall’s
most eminent son, and no mean authority on such matters, says that:—“In
the year 895, King Alfred having by a stratagem forced them to leave
Hereford on the Wye, they came up to the River Severn as far as
Bridgnorth, then called Quat, Quatbridge, or Quatford, committing great
enormities, and destroying all before them.  We hear no more of them
hereabout for thirteen years, but then they raised a great army and
fought two bloody battles with King Edward.”

The contemporary Saxon annals tell us that the Danes were beaten in
Mercia in 911, but do not say where.  Doubtless from time to time the
whole plain rang with “the din of battle bray,” the shout of exultation,
and the groan of pain; with the clash of steel on steel, and the dull
thud of mighty battleaxe on shields of tough bull hide, all through that
disturbed period.  It would appear from a later account that at the
earlier engagement of 910, which by this writer has been confidently
located between Tettenhall and the Wergs, King Edward was himself in
command of the Saxon forces, and that he not only gained a decisive
victory, but pursued the enemy for five weeks, following them up in their
northern fastnesses beyond the Watling Street, from one Danish village to
another, burning and utterly wasting every one of them as they had been
mere hornets’ nests.

At the encounter of the following year (A.D. 911) the Danes, after a
great pillaging expedition, having strongly posted themselves at
Wednesfield, little advantage was gained by either side after many hours
of hard fighting, till at last the Saxons were reinforced by Earl
Kenwolf.  Victory then fell to the Saxons.

This Kenwolf, who is said to have been the greatest notable of the
locality, and seated on a good estate at Stowe Heath, was mortally
wounded in the fray; and on the opposite side there fell Healfden and
Ecwills, two Danish kings; Ohter and Scurfar, two of their Earls; a
number of other great noblemen and generals, among them Othulf, Beneting,
Therferth, Guthferth, Agmund, Anlaf the Black, and Osferth the
tax-gatherer, and a host of men.  The name of a third slaughtered king,
Fuver, is given by another old chronicler.  It is to the quality rather
than to the quantity of the slain that the locality is indebted for the
number of tumuli on which so much of this superstructure of quasi-history
seems to be raised.

The historians who restrict themselves to “two” kings specify the North
Lowe at Wednesfield as the sepulchral monument of one, and the South Lowe
of the other.  “There was,” says Shaw, the county historian, “a little to
the south of the Walsall Road, half a mile south-west of the village of
Nechels, a great low called Stowman Hill.”

Dr. Plot, writing in 1686, declares “the bank above Nechels, where now is
a stone pit, Stowman Low, now removed to mend the roads, and Northfield,
to be the genuine remains; but the bank where the windmill stood was a
hard rock, several yards below the surface of the earth, and there was
nothing remarkable found upon the removing of Stowman Low, so that all
this is uncertainty.”

Although the precise location of the Tettenhall battleground has always
puzzled the antiquaries, there are, says one authority, “three lows on
the common between Wombourn and Swin, placed in a right line that runs
directly east and west, and about half a mile to the north of them is
another, by the country people called Soldiers’ Hill.  They are all large
and capable of covering a great number of dead bodies.

“There cannot be the least doubt but this place was the scene of action,
for King Edward, to perpetuate the memory of this signal victory, I
presume, here founded a church, called by the name of the place Wonbourn,
now Wombourn; and took this whole parish out of the parish of Tettenhall,
which, before this battle, extended as far as the forest of Kinver.”  It
may be added, for whatever such support is worth, that in times past a
number of ancient weapons have been dug up at Wombourne.

Coming to the latest and most reliable authority, Mr. W. H. Duignan, of
Walsall, here is what he writes in his admirable work, “Staffordshire
Place Names,” under the heading “Low Hill,” which is the name of an
ancient estate at Bushbury:—

“Huntbach the antiquary, wrote in the 17th century that there was then a
very large tumulus here.  Much, if not the whole of it, has been since
destroyed.  The hill is lofty and a place likely to be selected for the
burial of some prehistoric magnate.  In 911 a battle was fought between
the Saxons and the Danes, called in the Chronicles the battle of
Tettenhall, but which was really waged on Wednesfield Heath (now Heath
Town).

“The dead were buried as usual under mounds, which in Huntbach’s time
still remained, and were known as North Low, South Low, the Little Low,
the Great Low, Horselow, Tromelow, and Ablow (many of these names
survive), besides others which had then disappeared.  It is therefore
difficult to say whether the low here was a prehistoric tumulus or a
battle mound.”

Dr. Langford, in his “Staffordshire and Warwickshire” (p. 177), writing
less than forty years ago, says that “a large number of tumuli exist near
Wednesfield”; but the utilitarianism of the farmer and the miner would
make it difficult to find many of these grass-crowned records on the
Willenhall side of the battleground now.  Dr. Windle, in his able work,
“Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England” (published in 1904) gives a
list of existing Barrows and Burial-mounds in this country, including
some nine or ten in Staffordshire, but makes no mention of Wednesfield,
Wombourne, or Tettenhall.

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



II.—The Saxon Settlement


Fourteen or fifteen centuries ago the cluster of places which we now know
as the town of Wolverhampton, and the numerous industrial centres grouped
around it, were then primitive Saxon settlements, each of them peopled by
the few families that claimed kinship with each other.

These embryo townships were dotted about the clearings which had been
made in the thick primeval forest with which the whole face of England
was then covered, save only where the surface was barren hill or
undrained swamp.  Does not the terminal “field,” in such a place-name as
Wednesfield, literally mean “feld,” or the woodland clearing from which
the timbers had been “felled”?  Each settlement, whether called a “ham”
(that is, a home), or a “tun” (otherwise a town), was a
farmer-commonwealth, cultivating the village fields in common; each was
surrounded by a “mark,” or belt of waste land, which no man might
appropriate, and no stranger advance across without first blowing his
horn to give timely notice of his approach.  Remnants of these open
unappropriated lands may be traced by such place-names as Wednesfield
“Heath,” and Monmore “Green.”

At the outset each settlement at its foundation was independent of, and
co-equal with, the others; Saxon society being founded on a system of
family groupings, and a government of the ancient patriarchal type.

All questions of government and public interest were settled by the voice
of the people in “moot,” or open-air meeting, assembled beneath the
shelter of some convenient tree.  Our ancestors were an open-air,
freedom-loving people, who mistrusted walls and contemned fortifications.
In course of time, however, the exigencies of their environment—the
aggressiveness of neighbours and foreigners, the incursions of invaders
and marauders—materially modified their views, and changed their habits
in this respect; and so it came about in the scheme of national defence
that the temple-crowned hill of Woden became Woden’s burh (now
Wednesbury), a hill fortified by deep ditch and high stockade.

Presently the family tie gave way to the lordship, as certain chiefs,
under the stress of circumstances, acquired domination over others, and
hence arose the manor or residential lordship, the head of which took
pledges for the fidelity of those below him, and in turn became
responsible for them to the king above him—a system of mutual
inter-dependence from the head of the state downwards.  Under these new
conditions Stow Heath became the head of a Saxon manor, in which were
involved Willenhall, Wolverhampton, Bilston, Wednesfield, Eccleshall, and
a number of other village settlements.  Some of these, however, were in
the Hundred of Seisdon, and some in the Hundred of Offlow—a “hundred”
being originally the division of a county that contained a hundred
villages.

The unregenerate Teuton was a pirate and a plunderer; the settled Saxon
became an oversea trader and trafficker.  The Anglo-Saxon merchant of
later and more settled times, raised by his wealth to the dignity of a
thane, became a landed man, and a lord over his fellows.  Herein we have
the transition from a free village community to a Saxon manor.

At Wolverhampton was seated one Wolfric, said to have been an ancestor of
Wolfgeat, and a relation to Wulfruna; his manor house was situated on the
slope of the hill between the present North Street and Waterloo
Road—doubtless a large rambling mansion of low elevation, built of heavy
timbers on a low plinth of boulders and hewn stones.

Here at Hantun he kept his state—such as the luxury of the age permitted
to him.  Seated in his great oaken hall, with its heavy roof timbers, at
the close of each day he drank deep draughts with his guests and his
numerous servants, in the flaring light of odorous resin torches stuck in
iron staples along the walls.  The smoke from his fire of logs escaped as
lazily as it might through an aperture in the roof.  The earthen floor
was strewn with rushes, more or less clean as it was littered by the
refuse of few or more feasts.  The only furniture consisted of a long
trestle table, with rude benches of oak on each side; the whole effort at
ornamentation being limited to trophies of war and the chase hanging upon
the walls.  Such, in brief, was the home life of a great thane.

It will be observed that Wednesfield and Wednesbury at least were founded
by the Saxons in their pagan days; that is before their acceptance of the
White Christ, which was towards the close of the seventh century.
Tradition hath it that at the Anglian advent into this district, the
worship of Woden was first set up in a grove at Wednesfield.  Here was
first fixed the Woden Stone, the sacred altar on which human sacrifices
were offered of that dread Teutonic deity, Woden.

It was carved with Runic figures—for was not Woden the inventor of the
Runic characters?  In sacrificing, the priest, at the slaying of the
victim, took care to consecrate the offering by pronouncing always the
solemn formula, “I devote thee to Woden!”

Part of the blood was then sprinkled on the worshippers, part on the
sacred grove; the bodies were then either burnt on the altar or suspended
on trees within this mystic grove.  Later, when some advance had been
made by the hierarchy, the Woden Stone was removed from the Wednesfield
grove to be erected within the temple of Woden at Wednesbury.

There are other evidences of pagan practices to be discovered in
Staffordshire place-names.  Tutbury is said to derive its name from
Tuisto, the Saxon god who gave the name to Tuesday, as Woden lent his to
Wednesday; and Thursfield from Thor, the deity worshipped on Thursday.
There is also Thor’s cave, still so-called, in the north of this county
(see “Staffordshire Curiosities,” p. 159), and other similar reminders of
Anglo-Saxon paganism.

It is not outside the bounds of possibility that a third local place-name
is traceable to the personality of Woden.  Sedgley may be derived from
Sigge’s Lea, and Sigge was the real name of the Teutonic conqueror who,
in overrunning north-west Europe, assumed the name of Woden for the sake
of prestige—he was the founder of Sigtuna, otherwise Sigge’s town, in
Sweden.  In the science of English place-names it is well-known that
while hills and streams and other natural phenomena were allowed to
retain their old British names (as Barr, “a summit,” and Tame, “a flood
water”), towns, villages, and other political divisions were very
generally renamed by the Saxon conquerors, the places in many instances
being called after the personal names of their owners.

Here are some local illustrations of place-names conferred by the Anglian
invaders when they had conquered and appropriated the territory.

Arley, otherwise Earnlege, was “the Eagle’s ley.”

Bilston signifies “the town of Bil’s folk.”

Blakenhall was “the hall of Blac.”

Bloxwich was “the village of Bloc”: as Wightwick was “Wiht’s village.”

Bushbury was “the Bishop’s burg.”

Chillington was originally “Cille’s town.”

Codsall was “Code’s hall.”

Darlaston was once “Deorlaf’s town.”

Dunstall, otherwise Tunstall, was “an enclosed farmstead,” half a mile
outside the ancient boundary of Cannock Forest.

Essington was “the town of the descendants of Esne.”

Ettingshall was “the hall of the Etri family.”

Featherstone seems to have been “Feader’s stone.”  According to a charter
of the year 994 there was then a large stone called the “Warstone,” to
mark the boundary of this place.

Hatherton, or Hagathornden, signifies “the hill of the hawthorn.”

Kinvaston was perhaps “Cyneweald’s town.”  Dr. Olive in his “History of
Wolverhampton Church,” says that being originally a place of consequence.
Kinvaston was placed at the head of the Wolverhampton prebends.

Moseley was the “mossy or marshy lea”: as Bradley the “broad lea”; and
Bentley was the “lea of bent” or reedy grass.

Newbolds, an ancient farm in Wednesfield, is an Anglo-Saxon name, “niwe
bold,” and it pointed out “the new house.”

Ogley Hay, now called Brownhills, was originally Ocginton, or “Ocga’s
town.”

Pelsall may be translated “Peol’s Hall.”

Pendeford was once “Penda’s ford.”

Scotlands were “the corner-lands,” this hamlet being at the corner of a
triangular piece of land, bounded on all sides by ancient roads.

Seisdon was probably “the Saxon’s Hill.”

Showells, or Sewalls, at Bushbury, on the confines of Cannock Forest, was
the place where “scarecrows” (as the name probably means) were set up or
shown on hedgetops to prevent the deer passing from the Forest on to
enclosed or cultivated land.

Stowe, a name signifying an enclosed or “stockaded” place, was another
seat of a great thane; or it might have been the residential portion of
the large manor or lordship already alluded to.

Tettenhall was possibly Tetta’s hall; or, more probably, “Spy hall,”
otherwise a watch tower.

Tromelow, commonly called Rumbelows, a farm on the site of one of the
Wednesfield lows, is a name that may literally mean “the burial mound of
the host.”  The corruption Rumbelow is probably made out of the phrase
“At Tromelowe.”

Wergs (The), through many transformations from Wytheges to Wyrges, is
“the withy hedges.”

Wobaston, an estate in Bushbury, was anciently “Wibald’s town.”

Wombourne was the “bourne (or brook) in the hollow.”

Wolverhampton was at first Heantune, or Hamtun, otherwise the “High
town,” to which name was prefixed soon after the year 994 that of
Wulfrun, a lady of rank who gave great possessions to the Church; and
hence was evolved the more distinctive name, Wulfrunhamtun, since
modified into its present form.

Although some of these names (as Showells, formerly Sewall) may not date
quite back to the Saxon period, most of them may be accepted as
present-day evidences of the great Teutonic descent upon this Midland
locality.  One of the very few Celtic place-names retained from the
previous occupiers is Monmore, which in the tongue of the ancient Britons
signified “the boggy mere.”

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



IV.—The Founding of Wulfruna’s Church, 996, A.D.


After the advent of Christianity, the new religion was gradually advanced
throughout the land by the settlement of priest-missioners in the various
localities.  Where the missionary settled on the invitation, or under the
protection of a thane, or “lord,” that lordship was formed into a parish.
Thus some parishes doubtless became co-terminous with the old manors.
Owing, however, to the many changes of jurisdiction in the course of
succeeding centuries, it is difficult to find instances of parish and
manor of identical area in this locality.  Bescot was a manor within the
parish of Walsall; Bloxwich and Shelfield were anciently members of the
manor of Wednesbury, though now included in Walsall; Bentley, at the
Norman Conquest, was part of the manor of Willenhall, then belonging to
Wolverhampton Church; while Dunstall was a member of the King’s manor of
Stow Heath.  Tettenhall parish originally included as many as a dozen
manors and townships.

England is made up of some ten thousand parishes, each with its parish
church, around which for a thousand years has revolved the social and
political, as well as the whole religious life of the place.  The parish
is our unit of local government, and the history of a town is usually a
history of the parish.

But Willenhall never was a parish.  It is merely a member of a parish—of
the extensive, the straggling, and loosely-knit parish of Wolverhampton.
In Wolverhampton, three miles away, was located the mother church, to
which it owed spiritual allegiance, and there was situated the Vestry for
parochial assemblies, and all else that stood for self-government
throughout the centuries.  And those were the centuries when Church and
State were indissolubly bound together; when a dominant church claimed,
and was recognised as having an inalienable share in the government of
the people.  Hence it will transpire in these pages that for centuries
the story of Willenhall was involved in the ecclesiastical history of
Wolverhampton.

The ancient parish of Wolverhampton lies widely dispersed and very
detached, containing no less than 17 townships and hamlets, all subject
to the collegiate church in matters ecclesiastical, though in many cases
being distinct in matters secular.  How broken the area is may be noted
in the case of Pelsall, which is cut off from the mother parish by
Bloxwich, a hamlet in Walsall parish.

Willenhall is one among several other neighbouring places that, from the
earliest period of England’s acceptance of Christianity, had its fate
inseparably linked with that of Wolverhampton.  In the giving way of
paganism before the steady advances of the new religion, progress in this
immediate part of the kingdom was marked by the founding of Tettenhall
Church (A.D. 966), followed thirty years afterwards by Lady Wulfruna’s
further efforts at evangelisation in the setting up at Hampton (or High
Town) of another Christian church.

This was in the reign of Ethelred the Unrede, which was a period sadly
troubled by the aggressions of the Danes; and it is believed that
Wulfruna (or Wulfrun) had designed to found a monastery, though as early
as the time of Edward the Confessor, or within a century of its
institution, her establishment is found to be a Collegiate Church.

With this accession of dignity, and in grateful recognition of the lady’s
pious munificence, the town became known as Wulfrun’s Hampton, now
modified in Wolverhampton.

Of Wulfruna herself but little is known.  Whether she was sister of King
Edgar, as some suppose, or the widow of Aldhelm, Duke of Northumberland,
cannot be decided.  It is known, however, that she was a lady of rank,
and was captured when Olaf, in command of a Viking host, took Tamworth by
storm.  Hampton did not bear her name until some years after her death.

In founding her noble church at Wolverhampton, Wulfruna endowed it with
thirteen estates, including lands in Willenhall, Wednesfield, Pelsall,
Essington, Hilton, Walsall, Featherstone, Hatherton, Kinvaston, Bilston,
and Arley.  Willenhall being only three miles away from Wolverhampton,
and being also for a long time ecclesiastically incorporated with it, its
history at many points cannot be detached from that of the mother parish.

The wording of the charter by which the gift was made is quaintly
interesting.  It sets forth that: “In the year 996, from the Passion of
our said Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,” Sigeric, Archbishop of
Canterbury, “with the Lord’s flock of servants unceasingly serving God,”
have granted a privilege “to the noble matron and religious woman
Wulfruna,” in “order that she may attain a seat in heaven,” and that “for
her mass may be said unceasingly for ever” in the “ancient monastery of
Hamtun.”

The Charter (inter alia) grants “ten hides of land for the body of my
husband,” and another “ten hides of land” for the offences of her
“Kinsman Wulfgeal” lest he should hear in the judgment the “dreaded”
sentence, “Go away from me,” &c.  A third “ten hides” of land are granted
on account of “my sole daughter Elfthryth,” who “has migrated from the
world to the life-giving airs.”

Mr. Duignan, who has made a close study of the Charter, says “the limits
of the parishes and of the townships included in the grant are now
precisely what they were a thousand years ago.”

The boundaries of the lands conferred by the noble benefactress are set
forth with much precision, as in the noting of brooks and fords, of parks
and woods, of fields and lanes and lands; and in very few cases has Mr.
Duignan failed to recognise the old names and identify them with the
modern appellations of the places meant, among the latter being
Willenhall, Wednesfield, Pelsall, Hilton, Ogley Hay, Hatherton, Cannock,
Moseley Hole, Twyford, Walsall, &c.

The original Charter has not been heard of since 1646, when it was
supposed to be copied by Sir William Dugdale into his monumental work,
the “Monasticon,” assisted by Roger Dodsworth, a joint editor with him.
If it is still in existence Mr. Duignan assumes it is in the possession
of the Dean and Chapter of the Royal Chapel of Windsor, with which the
Deanery of Wolverhampton was united—as will be seen later.  The formal
parts of the deed are in Latin, and the descriptions of the properties
are in Anglo-Saxon, which makes it an interesting study of place-names.

Wolverhampton church, dedicated to St. Mary, was a collegiate
establishment, with a dean as president, and a number of prebendaries or
canons who were “secular” priests, and not brethren of any of the regular
“orders of monks.”

All the privileges which the College possessed in Lady Wulfruna’s
lifetime were afterwards confirmed by Edward the Confessor, and
subsequently by William the Conqueror.

                                * * * * *

The dedication of Wulfruna’s church and its consecration by Sigeric, the
archbishop, have been described in verse by a local poetess.  This was
Mrs. Frank P. Fellows, a daughter of the famous Sir Rowland Hill, and
once resident at Goldthorn Hill.  Her husband was a native of
Wolverhampton, a distinguished public servant, connected with the
Admiralty, a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, an antiquarian and a
scientist.  In a book of his published poems appear portraits of himself
and his wife.

Mrs. Fellows (whose mother, Lady Hill, was a daughter of Joseph Pearson,
Esq., J.P., of Graiseley), also wrote poems—some of which appeared in
“Punch,” some in “Belgravia,” and some in other magazines—and published a
small book of verse in 1857.

It is from one long piece, entitled “Fancies by the Fire,” in which the
long retrospect of Wolverhampton’s ancient history unrolls itself before
the imagination of the poetess, that the following extracts are taken.
After a description of the battle of Wednesfield, we read:—

    The Princess Wulfruna heard the deeds,
    Told by the fire in her stately hall.
       Alas! then said the gentle dame,
       It grieves me sore such things should be.
       Now, by the Christ that died on tree,
       The Christ that died for them and me,
       These heathen souls shall all be free
       From sin, and pain of Purgat’ry;
       In token of our victory,
       Where masses shall be sung and said,
       And prayers told for the restless dead
       That wander still on Woden’s Plain—
       It shall be raised in Mary’s name.

The noble lady with her train, and accompanied by the Archbishop Sigeric,
pays a visit of inspection to the locality she designs thus to honour,
passing beneath the shade of “the forest trees of Theotanhall” on her
way—

    And as they passed thro’ Dunstall Wood,
    And stopped to drink where a streamlet fell,
    Then said the lady fair and good
    Here will I build a wayside well.
    Now Hampton town before them lay.
    But first they sought out Woden’s plain,
    Where lay the bleached bones of the slain.

After the Archbishop had offered up a prayer for the dead—

    At length they stood upon the height
    That rises over Hampton town;
    There, amid knight, and dame, and priest,
    The Princess Wulfrune laid the stone,
    The first stone on the holy fane.

Then solemnly the pious lady removed from her royal brows the golden
coronet that hitherto had graced it, and put in place of it a crown of
thorns, saying—

    It were ill done that I have worn
    A golden crown, while Jesus sweet
    For my sake wore a crown of thorn;
    And here I dedicate my days
    To Him until my life be sped.

Thus far the foundation of the mother church—much more of the town’s
history follows in like strain.

                               * * * * * *

Willenhall was slightly connected with another religious foundation.  In
the year 1002 Burton Abbey was founded by Wulfric Spott, Earl of Mercia.
This establishment was richly endowed with lands, not only in
Staffordshire, but also with estates in Derbyshire and Warwickshire.

The names of the various places included in this munificent grant afford
a very interesting study in Saxon nomenclature.  For instance, in the
Second Indorsement of the Charter conferring the noble gift, we may be
interested to discover that “2 hides of land in Wilinhale,” lying in
“Offalawe Hundred” are among the properties donated to this great
Staffordshire Monastery.



V.—The Collegiate Establishment


We cannot be too insistent on the close connection long subsisting
between Willenhall and Wolverhampton owing to the fact of the former
being a part of Wulfruna’s endowment of her collegiate church.

Wulfruna’s foundation consisted of a dean, eight prebendaries or canons,
and a sacrist.  The dean was the president of this chapter, or
congregation of clergy, whose duly was to chant the daily service.  The
sacrist was also a cleric, but his duties were more generally concerned
with the college establishment.

A prebendary, it may be explained, is one who enjoys a prebend or
canonical portion; that is, who receives in right of his place, a share
out of the common stock of the church for his maintenance.  Each prebend
of Wolverhampton church was endowed with the income arising from the
lands from which it took its name; as, the prebend of Willenhall.  In the
course of time the tithes derivable from these lands became alienated.

Sampson Erdeswick, whose history of this county was commenced in 1593,
says the foundation was effectuated in 970 by King Edgar, at the request
of his dying sister, Wulfruna.

“She founded a chapel of eight portionaries (is the way Erdeswick puts
it) whom, by incorporation, she made rector of that parish
(Wolverhampton) to receive the tithes in common, but devisable by a
yearly lot.  The head or chief of these she made patron to them all, and
sole ordinary of that whole parish.”

The foundation was designated the “royal free church of Wolverhampton,”
the term “free” signifying that it was free of the ordinary supervision
of the ecclesiastical authorities, being exempt from both episcopal
jurisdiction and the papal supremacy.  Indeed, it had been better for the
church had it been less free, for in the time of King John the
debaucheries and gross immoralities of these undisciplined parochial
clergy brought much discredit upon the priestly college.

The dean and the prebends had special seats or stalls in the choir of the
church; the sacrist had no stall, neither had he any voice in the
chapter.  In modern times (1811) the sacrist has become the perpetual
curate of the parish.

It will be noted that the head of this college of seculars was styled the
“sole ordinary” of the parish, which is equivalent to saying he was
invested with judicial powers therein like a bishop in a diocese.  He had
authority cum omnimoda jurisdictione, and was exempt not only from the
episcopal over-lordship of Coventry and Lichfield by express composition,
but also by papal bull from the legates and delegates of Rome for ever.
In fact, so independent was the foundation made at the outset, it
remained for centuries subject only to the royal authority of the Majesty
of England, and under it to the perpetual visitation of the Keepers of
the Great Seal for the time being.

In the year 1338, Edward III. confirmed the charter of the church as a
royal free chapter, giving the Dean the jurisdiction of a Court Leet, and
a copyhold Court Baron, to be called the Deanery Court of Wolverhampton.
About this time, too, the church was rebuilt on more spacious and
magnificent lines.  Mrs. Fellows, in her topographical rhyme, previously
quoted, sings of the erection of the tower

    In the third Edward’s time.

The college then consisted of the ten members of the foundation just
mentioned, augmented by other ministers and officers necessary for
conducting so large an establishment, the prebendaries being officially
mentioned in this order:—(1) Wolverhampton; (2) Kinvaston; (3)
Featherstone; (4) Hilton; (5) Willenhall; (6) Monmore; (7) Wobaston; (8)
Hatherton.

By the fifteenth century Chantries had been founded, and chapels erected
therefor, at Willenhall, Bilston, Pelsall, and at Hatherton; and in
further depreciation of the mother church, King Edward IV., about 1465,
with a desire to enrich the Collegiate Church of St. George, at Windsor,
annexed Wolverhampton to that chapel royal.

In Protestant times the daily services were performed by the sacrist and
the readers, the prebendaries officiating on Sundays in rotation,
according to a set cycle.  The time set out for the prebendary of
Willenhall commenced on the Sunday after Ash Wednesday; till eventually
exemption was purchased by the payment of a small fee to the Perpetual
Curate.

In olden times it was a common practice to carve the choir seats.  The
prebendal stalls in Wolverhampton church were marked with heraldic
shields charged with simple ordinaries, in the following manner:—the
following manner:—

                            ON THE SOUTH SIDE.

1.  The Dean.  On a fess, three roundels.

2.  Prebendary of Featherstone.  A pale cotised.

3.  Prebendary of Willenhall.  A Chevron.

4.  Prebendary of Wobaston.  A Chevron.

5.  Prebendary of Hatherton.  A pale cotised.

                            ON THE NORTH SIDE.

6.  Prebendary of Kinvaston.  (Stall removed.)

7.  Prebendary of Hilton.  A Chevron renversé.

8.  Prebendary of Monmore.  A Chevron.

To assist in the identification of the various estates chargeable with
the provisions of the prebends, or canonical portions, it may be useful
to give here a brief account of a perambulation of the Wolverhampton
parish boundaries made in 1824.

It was a regular Rogation ceremony of “beating the bounds” and occupied
three whole days, so widely scattered is this extensive, far-reaching
parish.  It will be observed that the Hatherton here dealt with is not
the Staffordshire village of that name, two miles north-west of Cannock.
Wobaston, it will be remembered, has previously been mentioned as
situated in Bushbury; while Monmore Green is still a well-known
place-name.  The other names occur in self-explanatory context.  The
detailed account of this perambulation, of which the following is but a
summary, will be found in the appendix to Dr. Oliver’s “History”:—

On Monday, May 24th, the churchwardens and their party assembled at the
Rev. Thomas Walker’s, and proceeded to a cottage near the eighth
milestone on the Stafford Road, and at the well in the cottage garden
there, the Gospel was read for the first time.  (It was the custom at
these Rogation processionings to read the Gospel under trees—especially
those growing near to some reputed “holy” well—located on or near a
parish boundary, hence their name “Gospel trees.”)

From thence a lane near the third milestone on the same road led the
procession to Kinvaston, where the Gospel was read at an Elder in the
fold-yard of a house of a Mrs. Wooton.  Then the procession went to
Hatherton, the seat of the late Moreton Walhouse, where the Gospel was
again read on the site of an old well.  Proceeding to Hilton, the seat of
the Vernons, the Gospelling was repeated within the gates fronting the
house.

Crossing the Cannock Road, the Gospel was read for the fifth and last
time, that day, under an oak tree in the road near the house of Mr. W.
Price, of Featherstone.

On the second day, May 25th, the parishioners assembled as before, and
proceeded direct to Wednesfield, where the Gospel was read in the Chapel,
the clerk being in readiness at the door to receive the procession.
Thence the perambulation was continued to Essington, where the common was
found to be enclosed; the Gospel was read a second time there at the
Goswell Bush, which, standing in the Bloxwich Road, was found to be
surrounded by a new growth of trees.  (Just previous to this period there
had been a rage for enclosing commons—the people’s lands.)  Turning back,
the party proceeded to Pelsall, where the Gospel was read the third and
last time, that day, in the Chapel there.

On the third day, which was Thursday, May 27th, the assembly was made at
the Swan Inn, and the procession was formed there.  The way was led
straight to Willenhall, where the Gospel was read for the first time in
the Chapel, the expectant clerk being there in readiness to perform the
duty.  From thence the perambulation was continued to Park Brook, which
was crossed; returning, the way was taken to Bentley Hall, the seat of
Edward Anson, Esq., where the second reading of the Gospel was taken at
an elder bush at the back of the house.  (Elders seem to have taken the
place of the ancient “Gospel oaks” in this locality.)

From Willenhall the party next proceeded to Bilston, where the third
reading of the Gospel was performed within the Chapel of that township.

From thence a move was made to Bradeley Hall, then in the occupation of
Mr. Nailer, at the bottom of whose garden was the site of an old well,
which had once been a bath, and here the Gospelling was again celebrated.

The procession was then resumed through Bilston by Catchem’s Corner,
Goldthorne Hill, and the Penn Road, to St. John’s Chapel, otherwise known
as the New Church, within which the Gospel was ceremonially read for the
last time.  This concluded the perambulation, and an entry of its various
details were duly entered in the Parish Book, and signed by Tho. Walker,
minister, and Wm. Buckle and Jos. Smart, the two churchwardens.

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



VI—Willenhall at the Norman Conquest (1066–1086).


After the Norman invasion of 1066 it took a number of years to complete
the conquest of the country.  It was not till 1086 that the “Domesday”
Book was compiled—written evidence of a settlement of the land question
which, it was fondly hoped (and expressed in the name), would last till
“Domesday”!

The Domesday Book was a great national land register in which was entered
a record of every acre of land in England, its condition, its ownership,
and annual value at that time.  For on land ownership alone then depended
not only the amount of the national revenue, but the strength of the
national defences.  Willenhall, wrongly written by the Domesday scribes
as Winehala, is returned as being in the Hundred of Offlow, and having an
area of 2,168 acres.

Of this acreage 3 hides belonged to the old domains of the Crown, like
Bilston and Wednesbury (having formerly formed part of the dominions of
the Saxon kings), while but two hides of Willenhall land belonged to
Wolverhampton church.  It is believed that the King’s manorial portion
took with it Bentley, with its 1,650 acres.

Anyway, Willenhall having belonged originally to the ancient Mercian
kings, and having been held in succession by all the Saxon kings of
England to Edward the Confessor and Harold II., naturally passed as a
royal manor, or rather, a portion thereof, into the hands of the
Conqueror, being set down among the Crown lands as of “ancient demesne.”

The Domesday Book also sets down among the possessions of the Canons of
Wolverhampton 2,200 acres in Wednesfield, 1,194 acres in Pelsall, both in
the same Hundred; 3,396 acres in Wolverhampton, 3,912 acres in Arley, and
6,377 acres, a part of Bushbury, are set down in Seisdon Hundred; the
Essington portion of Bushbury, once belonging to the Countess Godiva, is
reckoned in Cuddlestone Hundred, in which are also given the four other
portions of Wolverhampton, namely Hilton, Hatherton, Kinvaston, and
Featherstone.

Since the eleventh century the boundaries of the Hundreds of Offlow and
Cuddlestone have been altered.  As to the Arley estate, that was lost to
the canons ere another century had elapsed—by 1172 had escheated to the
Crown.

The present-day acreage of Wolverhampton parish is no less than 17,449;
made up of 3,396 acres in Wolverhampton proper, 1,845 in Bilston, and
1,650 in Bentley, a total of 6,891 acres in Seisdon Hundred; thus leaving
10,608 acres to constitute Hilton (two manors, since united into one)
Hatherton, Kinvaston, Featherstone, and Hocintune.  The last-named was a
manor which, at that time, probably lay between Hilton and Hatherton,
within Wolverhampton; the name is obsolete.

These ten estates, comprising Wolverhampton, Willenhall (part of), Arley
(part of), Bushbury (part of), Hilton (part of), Pelsall, Wednesfield,
Cote (near Penn), Haswic (near Newcastle), and Hocintune (now obsolete),
were in 1086 held by the Canons of Wolverhampton under Sampson, the
highly favoured royal Chaplain, to whom the Conqueror had presented this
fief.  For the purposes of comparison it may be mentioned that there were
then eighteen holdings in Staffordshire, occupying 567 hides, and valued
at about £516.  Sampson’s fief extended to 26½ hides of this, and was
estimated as being worth £8 2s. a year.

This Sampson, who has been incorrectly styled the first Dean of
Wolverhampton, was a Canon of Bayeux, and though a king’s chaplain, was
not ordained a priest till nine years after the Conqueror’s death, when
Rufus made him Bishop of Worcester.  Bishop Sampson subsequently gave the
Church of Wolverhampton to his Cathedral Monastery of Worcester.  He also
held the neighbouring estates at Bilbrook and Tettenhall as the superior
of the priests of Tettenhall College.

Willenhall, in the great survey, is recorded to have contained, as
previously stated, three hides belonging to the King, and two hides
belonging to the church—a hide of land in Saxon measurement was a
variable quantity from 200 to 600 acres, according to the locality, but
generally it was accounted so much as would serve to maintain a
family—together with one acre of meadow, and a carucate (which was a
measure of about 100 acres of “carved” land) employing three ploughs.
The annual value of Willenhall is set down at 20s.  The population
consisted of eight families, or, as the return puts it, five bordars and
three villeins.

A bordar, or boor, was a squatter living in a hut or cottage on the
borders of a manor, having attached a little patch of land, the rent of
which was paid to the lord of the manor in the shape of poultry, eggs,
and small produce.  A villein, or serf, was to all intents and purposes a
slave, at the absolute disposal of the lord, except that he could not be
detached from the soil on which he was born.  While the bordar, or
cottager, was resident in the manor more or less on sufferance, the
villein was there of right, and was in that sense the superior of the
bordar.  The villein certainly might not go away from Willenhall, nor get
married, nor buy and sell oxen, nor grind corn, without the express
permission of the lord of the manor; yet he was not so badly off as all
this would make it appear to our modern ideas.  People seldom travelled
in those days, money was little used, life was exceedingly primitive, and
wants were very few and very simple.

Staffordshire at that time was in a chronic state of poverty, an
insurrection in the county having been suppressed in 1069 with the
Conqueror’s customary severity, thousands of the wretched hinds having
been slaughtered, the county desolated and the Midlands depopulated.

Bilston was but a cluster of mud huts inhabited by swineherds; and it is
probable Willenhall was a similar little centre of boor life in the next
woodland clearing a little further along the purling brooklet, and near
its junction with Beorgitha’s Stream, as the Tame was then called.  The
entire population of the county was purely agrarian, the villeins and
boors altogether numbering about 2,800; or on an average of one labourer
to each 167 acres of land registered in Domesday Book.  The subsequent
history of the two parts of Willenhall will have to be traced separately.

The two hides set down as ecclesiastical property have remained in the
possession of the church throughout.  Erdeswick, writing his history of
this county in 1593, states that within the jurisdiction of the Dean and
Chapter of Wolverhampton there were then “nine several leets, whereof
eight belong to the church.  The custos, lately called the Dean, is lord
of the borough of Wolverhampton, Codsall, Hatherton, and Pelsall in com.
Stafford; and of Lutley in com. Wigorn; hath all manner of privileges
belonging to the View of Frankpledge (that is, the administration of
criminal justice, &c.), to Felons’ goods, Deodands, Escheats, Marriage of
Wards, and Clerks of the Weekly Markets, rated at £150 per annum, and in
the total is valued worth £300 per annum.

“Each of the other portionaries (continues Erdeswick) have a several
leet; whereof

Kinvaston is reputed worth            £100
Wobaston                              £100
Wilnall                               £100
Fetherston                             £80
Hilton                                 £70
Monmore                                £70
Hatherton                              £40

“And the sacrist to attend them in capitulo, £40”—by no means a poor
salary in those days for such duties as the secretarial and managerial
work to a Chapter.

As to the three hides of Willenhall in the King’s Manor of Stow Heath,
here is its later history as recorded by Dr. Vernon, a historiographer
who made some additions to Sampson Erdeswick’s history:—

    “In Willenhall is a manor called Stowheath, with a court baron and
    court leet.  Several lands there held by copy from that lords
    thereof: four closes, called bundles, held of this manor, and were,
    in 1729, confirmed by John, Lord Gower, and Peter Giffard, lords of
    the manor of Stowheath; which four closes, with four others, were
    sold about 1748 by Mr. Lane to Admiral Anson, together with three
    tenements in Bloxwich, with all the manor lands, tithes, hall, and
    park, &c., called Bentley, adjoining to Willenhall, for £13,500.”

As to the adjoining hamlet, it may be mentioned that Domesday Book
formally recorded the canons of Wolverhampton to possess “five hides of
Wednesfelde; the arable land is three carucates; that there are six
villeins, and six bordars, who have six carucates; and that there is a
wood in which cattle are pastured, half a mile long and three furlongs
broad.”

Such was life in Willenhall and Wednesfield at the Norman period, both
places being then overshadowed in more senses than one by the severely
protected royal preserves of Cannock Forest.  We may picture the few
hinds constituting the scanty population, tenanting cottages which were
mere hovels, and most of them like Gurth—the swineherd of Scott’s
“Ivanhoe”—wearing round their necks the iron collars, which were the
badge of Saxon serfdom, and like him driving their herds into the woods
each morning, and returning at nightfall with their charges grunting and
gorged with beech-mast and acorns.

             While to their lowly dome
    The full-fed swine return’d with evening home;
    Compell’d reluctant, to the several sties,
    With din obstreperous, and ungrateful cries.

The trade and callings of an English serf were as limited as his other
opportunities in life; and others beside the swineherd found it in the
adjacent woodlands.  For there were certainly woodcutters and charcoal
burners; and if the local iron ore were exploited, who shall say there
were not then Willenhall smiths who fashioned bolts and bars, even if
they had not arrived at the intricacies of locks and keys?

Here we are but emerging from the twilight of history.



VII.—A Chapel and a Chantry at Willenhall.


In the earlier centuries of our national existence, the history of a
parish follows that of its church, the ecclesiastical fold into which its
inhabitants were regularly gathered, not only for every religious
purpose, but for every other object of communal interest or of a public
nature.

But, as previously explained, Willenhall was not a parish; it was but one
member of that wide parochial area ruled from the mother church of
Wolverhampton, several miles distant.

Yet at an early period Willenhall seems to have boasted a chapel-of-ease,
for the Calendar of Patent Rolls, under date 1297, contains an allusion
to “Thomas de Trollesbury, parson of the church of Willenhale.”  Dr.
Oliver, in his history of the town, says that Wolverhampton church was
rebuilt about 1342, and he evidently attributes the erection of
Willenhall chapel to the same date, as being the outcome of the same
devout spirit of church building.  But this is nearly half a century
later than the allusion just quoted from the Patent Rolls, and Dr.
Oliver’s reference may possibly be to the founding of a chantry chapel by
the Gerveyse family, who set up one of these mass-houses in Willenhall
about a dozen years after one had been established at Pelsall.

Let it not be imagined that this new church was either a large or a
magnificent structure.  In all probability it was a diminutive chapel
constructed of timber which had been cut in the adjacent forest; some of
its wall spaces, perhaps, were only of timber framed wattle and dab; and
at most any building material of a more durable nature entering into its
construction would be but a plinth of stone masonry, and dwarfed at that.

A chapel-of-ease, be it explained, was often established where the parish
was a wide one, for the “ease” of those parishioners who dwelt at a
distance from the mother church, and found it difficult to attend divine
service so far away from their homes.  Such chapels were intended for
prayer and preaching only; burials and administrations of the sacraments
being always strictly reserved to the mother church.

While a chapel-of-ease was provided for the general good of the whole
community, a chantry chapel was intended for the special glory and
exclusive benefit of some local landed family.  And here is the first
record we have of the Willenhall Chantry; it is extracted from the Patent
Rolls of Edward III., under date 14th February, 1328:—

“Licence for the alienation in mortmain by Richard Gerveyse, of
Wolvernehampton, of a messuage, land, and a moiety of a mill in
Willenhale, co. Stafford, to a Chaplain to celebrate Divine service daily
in the Chapel of Willenhale for the souls of the said Richard and
Felicia, his wife, the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children and
ancestors, and others.”  A fine of 40s. was paid to the King (at
Stafford) for this licence to devote landed estate to the said purposes
of church endowment.

A chantry (or chauntry, a name derived from cantaria), was a chapel,
little church, or some particular altar in a church, endowed with lands
and other revenues, for the maintenance of a priest, or priests, daily to
chant a mass and offer prayers for the souls of the donors, and such
others as the founders of the chantry may have named.  In this particular
instance, as we have seen, the eternal welfare of the Gerveyses is sought
to be assured, and the chantry here was doubtless at the altar of the new
chapel-of-ease—we cannot expect there were two separate ecclesiastical
buildings in so small a place as Willenhall.

The method of procedure in setting up these foundations was first to
obtain a patent from the Crown for the founding and endowing of them; and
then to obtain the Bishop’s licence for the regular daily performance of
Divine service by the appointed chantry priest, to whose stipend and
support the endowment mainly went.

Most of these chantries came into existence in the 14th century, and by
the close of the following century there was scarce a parish church in
the kingdom without its chantry in one or other of its side chapels or
subsidiary altars.  By the time of Richard II.—about the year 1394—at
least four chantries had been founded, and chapels built, within the
outer area of Wolverhampton parish; namely, at Willenhall, Bilston,
Pelsall, and Hatherton.

In connection with the endowments of the Willenhall chantry, it is on
record that at an Inquisition taken in 1397, it was testified on oath
that Roger Levison at that time held on lease from Thomas Browning,
chaplain of this chantry, 12 acres of land in Wednesfield, and 100s. of
rent in Willenhall, for which he had to perform suit and service (of the
usual nature in feudal tenures) at the Deanery Court of Wolverhampton.

In 1409 the advowson of the chapel of Willenhall, together with certain
valuable properties of rents and tenements in Wolverhampton, were granted
by Richard Hethe and William Prestewode, chaplain, to William Bysshebury
and his wife Joan, and settled on them for the term of their lives, with
remainder to John Hampton, of Stourton, and his heirs for ever.

Fourteen years later William Bysshebury (his wife Joan being then
deceased) was sued by certain plaintiffs, on behalf of the said John
Hampton, for wasting these Wolverhampton properties, of which he had the
reversion.  The plaintiffs included Roger Aston, knight, William Leveson,
William Everdon, Thomas Arblaster, and others; while the waste and
destruction complained of comprised the digging and selling of clay,
marl, and stones; the permitting of seven halls, two chambers, two
kitchens, two granges, a dovecot, and a mill to remain unroofed till the
principal timbers had rotted; and also with cutting down and selling a
number of oaks, ashes, pear, and apple trees, the total damage in respect
of all this waste being estimated at a very considerable figure.

The advowson was, of course, the right of presentation to the benefice of
Willenhall; and the Hamptons of Stourton Castle, to whom it passed at
this time, seem to have been a family which originated at
Wolverhampton—and perhaps derived their name from the town.

The ministers who officiated in the local chapels-of-ease were inferior
in official status to the vicar, rector, or beneficed clergyman of the
mother church, and such curates were generally removable at the pleasure
of the said vicar or rector.  Willenhall, doubtless, was served by a
“curate” sent from the Wolverhampton collegiate establishment.

In the reign of Edward IV. local ecclesiastical matters became further
complicated by the collegiate church of Wolverhampton being permanently
united with the Deanery of Windsor, the two deaneries being always
subsequently held together.  It appears that King Edward, desirous of
doing his Chaplain a favour, annexed the “Free Royal Church of
Wolverhampton” to the said Deanery of Windsor, which royal act was soon
afterwards confirmed by Parliament (1480).

The Chantry of Willenhall, in common with all others, disappeared at the
Reformation (this one probably in 1545), when prayers for the dead were
no longer tolerated.  But it is interesting to observe that under the new
Protestant régime attendance at church every Sunday was still regarded as
a duty no good citizen and loyal subject could be excused.

Attendance at church was compulsory in the early days of the Anglican
establishment.  By statute (I, Elizabeth c. I., 23 Elizabeth c. I., and
3, James I. c. 4) every person was to repair to his parish church every
Sunday on pain of forfeiting 1s. for every offence; and being present at
any form of prayer contrary to the Book of Common Prayer was punished
with six months’ imprisonment.  Persons above sixteen years of age who
absented themselves from church above a month had to pay a forfeit of £20
a month.

Protestant dissenters who did not deny the doctrine of the Trinity were
(it is interesting to note) exempted from these penalties in 1689; and
the Roman Catholics were similarly emancipated by law in 1792.  This by
the way.

It was in Elizabeth’s reign, and, of course, under the authority of the
newly-established Protestant Church of England, that Willenhall was
enabled to make a distinct advance in the status of its church.  The
charge of this church became an independent one, and was no longer
subordinated to the canons of Wolverhampton; the incumbent was
thenceforward to be in fact, as well as in name, “Chaplain of
Willenhall.”  But although the incumbent thus obtained his personal
freedom from the domination of the mother church, the Wolverhampton
establishment still retained all the old parochial rights in the shape of
fees and ecclesiastical emoluments.  Beyond levying this money tribute,
however, the Dean and Rector of Wolverhampton no longer held any control
over the internal affairs of the church of St. Giles’, in Willenhall.
The specified duties of the incumbent of Willenhall (as set forth in a
Trust deed of 1603, to which Sir John Leveson is a party) were to conduct
Divine service there, and to have his residence within a mile and a half
of the church.

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



VIII.—Willenhall in the Middle Ages.


Having brought the ecclesiastical history of Willenhall up to the
enlightened days of Queen Elizabeth, to preserve some sort of
chronological arrangement, we leave that section awhile in order to deal
with the social life of the place, so far as this may be gleaned from a
number of fragmentary sources and isolated references.

The result of these gleanings is naturally very scrappy an
disconnected—like the modern periodicals afflicted with the prevalent
“snippetitis.”  Such as they are, however, the local reader may be
willing to accept them as being of some little interest.

In the year 1172 the Pipe Rolls, which come next to the Domesday Book
among our most ancient national records, and contain a full account of
the Crown revenues, return Willenhall, among five other Staffordshire
estates, bringing in the sum of £19 7s. 8d. per annum to Henry II.  This
would represent nowadays a sum twenty times that amount.  These estates
were Bilston and Rowley Regis, being ancient demesnes of the Crown, and
the manors of Leek, Wolstanton, and Penkhull (in the north of the
county), which had escheated at the Conquest from the Earl of Mercia.
Rowley probably brought in but a few pence at that time, when it formed a
part of Clent.

In the same reign (Henry II.) the Canons of Wolverhampton are recorded as
holding two hides of land in “Winenhale”—certainly not more than 400
acres in a fertile locality like this.

During the reign of Edward III., his son and heir, the renowned Black
Prince, hero of Crecy and Poictiers, claimed (after the manner of those
times) the custody and guardianship of Matilda, daughter and heiress of
his old comrade in arms, John de Willenhale.  The heiress of Willenhall
was therefore at this time a royal ward.  The earliest holder of this
manor who is known by his territorial title seems to be Roger de Wylnale,
who (according to Lawley’s “History of Bilston,” p. 132) was flourishing
about the year 1109.

In these earlier centuries of the Middle Ages the machinery the law was
crude and ineffective; as a consequence lawlessness was rampant, and
everywhere might became right.

The nobles, whenever the weakness of a king emboldened them, fortified
their castles, and increased the number of their retainers, whom they
reduced to a condition of complete vassalage; and each baron strove to
make himself a figure in the great national convulsions which, from time
to time, broke out under the malign influences of the feudalism that
dominated the whole land and blighted its every hope of progress.

The Franklins, the inferior grade of gentry, who, under the old Saxon
system were called Thanes, were often compelled by force of environment
to range themselves under the protecting banner of one or other of these
petty kings.  And where authority was systematically set at defiance by
the great and the powerful, inoffensive conduct and dutiful obedience to
the laws of the land afforded no guarantee for the security of either
life or property.

To these disturbing influences must be added the barbarous severity of
the laws of the chase, the vindictive nature of which sometimes made the
heavy feudal chains of the common people almost too grievous to be borne.
As Willenhall was on the confines of the Royal Forest of Cannock, the
oppressive nature of the Forest Laws was not unfelt by the inhabitants of
this secluded hamlet.

In 1306, when John de Swynnerton married the daughter and heiress of
Philip de Montgomery, Seneschal of the Royal Forest of Cannock, and
became Steward of the Forest in customary succession, Willenhall was
officially returned, along with a number of surrounding places
(Wednesfield, Wednesbury, Darlaston, Essington, Hilton, Newbrigge,
Moseley, Bushbury, Pendeford, Coven, and a score more), as appurtenant to
a third part of the said forest bailiwick.

The Swynnerton interest in Willenhall transpires again in 1364, when John
de Swynnerton is found suing two Willenhall men for forcibly and
feloniously removing some of his goods and chattels from that place.

In the previous reign—that of Henry III.—numerous fines for illegal
enclosures of Cannock Forest had been imposed upon landowners in this
locality.  Among them were Stephen de Hulton (or Hilton), and John, his
son, “of Wednesfield,” who had enclosed with a hedge and a ditch three
acres of heath in Wednesfield, which they held under the Dean of
Wolverhampton.  They were fined four shillings each, and ordered
peremptorily to throw down the hedge.

Here is an episode characteristic of the period.  It is a Tuesday evening
in the month of August, 1347, and about the hour of vespers.  The scene
is laid in “the field of Wolverhampton, called Wyndefield, in a place
called Le Ocstele, near Le More Love-ende.”  A body of men, all carrying
arms, are seen to approach their victim, who is described as a clerk, and
therefore presumably defenceless.  He is Roger Levessone, son of Richard
Levessone.  His assailants are Robert le Clerk, of Sedgley, two Dudley
men, a man from Bloxwich, and several others, all duly named in the
records of the law courts.

What the cause of quarrel may have been these meagre records do not
inform us, but on the evidence of a number of witnesses, among whom was
Richard Colyns, of Willenhall, they freely used their spears and swords,
inflicting wounds upon the throat and other parts of the body, till the
unfortunate Roger was despatched.

In 1339, one Richard Adams, of Willenhall, was charged with slaying two
men in that place, one a townsman named John Odyes, and a certain John de
Bentley.  As he was acquitted, probably he did it in self-defence.
Encounters of this character were of frequent occurrence in those lawless
times.

When the offences recorded are of a less serious nature than murder and
slaughter, they are nearly always described as being accompanied by the
violent use of lethal weapons—“vi et armis” is the old legal phrase.
Here are some examples of this kind of lawlessness:—

In 1352, William de Hampton (probably of the Dunstall family of that
name) prosecuted a gang of fourteen men, including a chaplain, the parson
of Sheynton (?  Shenstone), and two men from Tettenhall, for robbing him
of his goods and chattels at Willenhall, Wednesfield, Tettenhall, and
Pendeford.  Of the details of the robberies we are able to learn nothing,
except that they were all perpetrated forcibly, and with a reckless
display of violence.

A similar prosecution was undertaken in 1395 by another member of this
family, one Nicholas Hampton, against Thomas Marshall, of Willenhall, and
for a similar outrage in that place.

A Willenhall man named John Wilson, in 1373, had to invoke the law upon a
desperado who forcibly broke into his house and close at Homerwych
(Hammerwich), and stole from thence timber, household utensils, clothing,
corn, hay, and apparently everything he could lay his hands upon and
carry away.

Twenty years later John Wilson (probably the same prosecutor) charged
John Wilkes, of Darlaston, with stealing two of his oxen, though no
violence is alleged on this occasion.

Two Willenhall men, William Colyns, and William Stokes, were, in 1399,
arrested, and charged with cutting down trees and underwood at Bentley.
Force and violence were used on that occasion; and it must be remembered
that timber was then in much greater demand for building purposes than
now, while underwood was in constant requisition as fuel and for the
repair of fences and shelters.

Sixteen years later (1415) John Pype and a number of other Bilston men
were prosecuted by Sir Hugh Burnell, Knt., for breaking into his closes
at Willenhall, trespassing on his land, and treading down his grass with
their cattle, committing damage to a grievous extent, and all in
undisguised defiance to the law.

Enough has been quoted to illustrate, by incidents common to the social
life of so simple a community as that of Willenhall, the gradual decay of
feudalism, and the steady growth of English liberty by the vindication of
constitutional law.



IX.—The Levesons and other old Willenhall families.


From the same sources, namely from the records of the ancient Law Courts,
as transcribed, translated, and published in the volumes of the Salt
Society, we are enabled to gain a knowledge of the most prominent
families in this locality during the Middle Ages.  There seem to have
been lawsuits ever since there were landowners.

The principal family in Willenhall were the Levesons or Leusons, who are
said to have been connected with this place and the neighbouring parishes
of Wednesbury and Wolverhampton, almost from the time of the Norman
Conquest, eking out a living from the soil, of which their tenure was at
first a very precarious one.

Their pedigree, given by the county historian, Shaw (II. p. 169), shows
the founder to be one Richard Leveson, settled in Willenhall in the reign
of Edward I.  But we find that in the year before this king’s accession,
namely, in 1271, Richard Levison paid a fine of 2s. 3d. in the Forest
Court for being permitted to retain in cultivation an assart of half an
acre, lying in Willenhall; that is, to be allowed to continue under the
plough a piece of land on which he had grubbed up all the trees and
bushes by the roots, to the detriment of the covert within the King’s
Royal Forest of Cannock.

The founder of the family was succeeded by a son, and by a grandson, both
of whom were also called “Richard Leveson, of Willenhall,” although the
last one was sometimes designated as “of Wolverhampton,” to which town he
was doubtless attracted by the greater profits to be made in the wool
trade.

The early commercial fame of Wolverhampton was based on this industry.
Although there were no wool-staplers here in 1340, yet in 1354, when the
wool staple was removed from Flanders, Wolverhampton was one of the few
English towns fixed upon by Parliament for carrying on the trade.  (A
staple, it may be explained, is a public mart appointed and regulated by
law.)  Although the staple was again changed to Calais, it was speedily
brought back to England, and the Levesons were soon among the foremost
“merchants of the staple.”

A Clement de Willenhale is mentioned in an Assize of the year 1338, but
not improbably he was identical with the Clement Leveson mentioned in
another lawsuit in 1356, a party to which was a member of the ancient
local family of Harper—“John le Harpere,” as he is therein called.

Then there is mention in 1351 of the John de Willenhale, who is described
as being in the wardship of the Prince of Wales.  But perhaps the best
insight into the social state of Willenhall at this period will be
obtained from a consideration of its inhabitants liable to pay a war tax
which was levied by Edward III. in order to enable him to carry on a war
of defence against Scotland.  For this popular military expedition,
Parliament in 1327 granted the youthful king a Subsidy to the amount of
one-twentieth leviable upon the value of nearly all kinds of property.
Assessors and collectors were appointed for every town and village, and
they were sworn to make true returns of every man’s goods and chattels,
both in the house and out of it.  The exceptions allowable were the goods
of those whose total property did not amount to the full value of ten
shillings; the tools of trade; and the implements of agriculture.  On the
face of it, these exemptions seem fair and just to the lower orders; but
we find the higher orders were also favoured, and unduly so; not so much
perhaps in the matters of armour and cavalry horses, as in the
non-liability of the robes and jewels of knights, gentlemen, and their
wives, as well as of their silver and household plate.

Here is a copy of the Subsidy Roll of 1327 so far as it relates to

                               WYLLUNHALE.

De                                s.           d.
Adam M—                            —            —
Andr’ atte Mere                             xviij
Joh’e le Bakere                    —            —
Ric’o Odys                        ij
Ric’o filio Radulfi               ij           vj
Joh’e filio Rogeri                 —            —
Ric’o filio Ade                   ij
Will’o filio Roberti             iij
Will’o atte Pirye                 vj
Ric’o Chollettes                  ij
Agnete Odys                      iij
Hugone le Gardiner                             ij
Adame atte Mere                   ij
Joh’e Hopkynes                                xij
Agnete atte Wode                              xij
Will’mo Newemon                               xij
Symone Levesone                                vj
                  Summa       xxviij       vj Pb.

It will be seen that this fragment is imperfect, as the various amounts
set down will not add up to the “summa” or total given, notwithstanding
that it has been audited—the abbreviation “Pb.” standing for probata, or
proved.

But more interest will be found in a brief study of the names of
Willenhall’s inhabitants, who were men of substance seven hundred years
ago.

It will be observed that Simon is the only member of the Leveson family
assessed, and that he pays the least sum, except that paid by the man
Hugh, described as “the Gardener” (the amount paid by “John the Baker”
has been obliterated from the roll).

The strange surname Odyes, appearing twice in this list, occurs in
another record of the year 1422, and seems to belong to a gentle family,
resident in Willenhall, and owning lands in Bentley.

As but few people then bore recognised surnames, we find taxpayers here
officially set down as “Richard the son of Ralph,” “John the son of
Roger,” “Richard the son of Adam,” and “William the son of Robert.”
Besides these named according to their parentage, we have those described
according to their place of residence; as thus, “Andrew at the Mere,” and
“Adam at the Mere”; “Agnes at the Wood,” and “William at the Pear Tree.”
William Newman was probably so-called because he was a new-comer, or was
lately emancipated from serfdom as a “new man.”

From the Patent Rolls of November, 1334, may be gleaned the bare facts of
what seems to have been an extraordinary assault at Willenhall, which was
committed upon John, son of John de Bentley, by no less than thirty
assailants.  Among those implicated may be noted the names of five
members of the Leveson family, namely, Geoffrey, Moses, John, Simon, and
Simon the younger; also the names of William, son of Robert atte Pirie,
Andrew atte Mere, John le Harpere, Richard Coletes, Richard Colyns, and
several others which have occurred before in these pages.  The Leveson
family continue to make many appearances in the records of Willenhall
litigation at this early period.  In 1347, Andrew, the son of Simon
Levesone, of Willenhale, was sued for the treading down and consuming of
the corn of Andrew in le Lone at Willenhale, with his cattle, and by
force of arms, and for cutting down his trees, and beating and wounding
his servant.

In the following year, Geoffrey Levesone, of Willenhale, brought a
somewhat similar charge of trespass against John Oldejones, of
Wodnesfeld.  In 1362, Roger Levesone, of Willenhale, was successful in a
suit for recovering two acres of land at Wolverhampton.  About the same
time Juliana Levesone, of Willenhall, married William Tomkys, a member of
one of the leading families of Bilston.

In 1369, John de la Lone, of Wolverhampton, sued John Levesone, of
Willenhale, for forcibly taking his fish, to the value of 100 shillings,
“from his several fishery in Willenhale.”

In 1394, Roger Liefson (Leveson), of Wylenhale (who has been previously
mentioned in Chapter VII.), was at law with Thomas Colyns, of the same
place, for forcibly taking away from Willenhall twelve oxen belonging to
him.  Immediately after, one William de Chorley was attacked for taking
away from Great Wyrley, also with a display of armed force, three oxen
and two cows, the property of Richard Leveson, of Willenhall.  If these
two cases were not reprisals, they at least show a state of disturbance
and insecurity.

Another exhibition of lawlessness is brought to our notice in 1429, when
Richard Leveson is found suing Robert Dorlaston, weaver, Richard Colyns,
lorymer, William Brugge, and William Bate, yeomen, all described as “of
Wylenhale,” for violently and forcibly breaking into his close at
Willenhall.

A similar case of forcible entry into the close and houses of James
Leveson, at Willenhale, by one Roger Waters, a Willenhale lorymer, was an
outrage which occupied the attention of the law courts in 1433.

Three years later (1436) another law case shows the same James Levesson
suing John Pippard, chaplain, for a messuage and 20 acres of land in
Wolverhampton, which he asserted had descended to him from Richard
Levesson, of Willenhall, who held it in the time of Edward I., in a
direct line, namely, from Richard to his son Geoffrey, from Geoffrey to
his son Roger, and from Roger to his son Nicholas, who was plaintiff’s
father.

By this time the Leveson family seems to have been not only firmly
established in and around Willenhall, Wednesfield, and Wolverhampton, but
to have been very numerous as well.  Originally yeomen of the first-named
place, cultivating their lands within the precincts of the Royal Forest
of Cannock, they gradually grew and prospered, one branch taking
advantage of the greater commercial opportunities offered by the
last-named town, and settling there as merchants and wool-staplers.

Woolstapling was a prosperous trade in Wolverhampton as early as 1354;
and in its ancient market place the Levesons of the younger branch were
to be found bartering wool and steadily accumulating riches until they
were able to marry into the most exclusive of the county families.

Among the Bailiffs of the Staple—which, in the case of Wolverhampton were
wool and woolfel—we find the names of William Leveson in 1485, and Walter
Leveson in 1491.

Members of other old and well-known local families also filled this
office of Bailiff at various times, namely, William Jennings in 1483,
Richard Gough in 1486, Edward Giffard in 1493, Y. Turton in 1496, and W.
Wrottesley in 1499.  If evidence were required of the enterprise of these
Wolverhampton merchants, it would be forthcoming in the fact that a
Leveson and a Jennings, both natives of this place (the latter a
“merchant taylor” in 1508) filled the high office of Lord Mayor of
London.

An Inquisition Post Mortem (one of those feudal inquiries into the extent
of a man’s landed possessions which passed to his heirs) was held on the
death of Henry Beaumont, lord of the Manor of Wednesbury, at Willenhall,
on 28th June, 1472.  Among those sworn of the jury on that occasion were
James Leveson Esq., Richard Leveson, Esq., Cornelius Wyrley, Esq., Robert
Leveson, Ralph Busshbury, Esq., and William Mollesley, all local
magnates.

It has not been possible to identify all the members of this extensive
family.  There were two distinct branches of the Levesons or Luesons.
The elder line were of Prestwood and Lilleshall, and produced Sir Richard
Leveson, of Trentham; the younger branch, descended from William, the son
of Richard Leveson, of Willenhall, produced the Sir Thomas Leveson who
was the Royalist governor of Dudley Castle during the great Civil War
(1643).

The elder line were “of Prestwood” because Nicholas Leveson, in the time
of Henry VI. married Maud, heiress of John de Prestwood.  The Lilleshall
and other properties were fat church lands, purchased by the wealthy
Levesons at the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  It was a Richard Leveson
of the Prestwood branch who acquired the Haling Estate in Kent by
marriage with a Lord Mayor’s daughter, and died in 1539 after being
himself Lord Mayor of London.

Also from this branch came the famous Vice-Admiral of England in Queen
Elizabeth’s days.  This gallant sea-dog, whose romance with the “Spanish
Lady” has been retold by the present writer in his “Staffordshire
Stories” (pp. 22–35), took part in that daring attack upon Cadiz which
has been sung by Henry John Newbolt in his “Admirals All”—

    Essex was fretting in Cadiz Bay
       With the galleons fair in sight;
    Howard at last must give him his way,
       And the word was passed to fight.
    Never was schoolboy gayer than he,
       Since holidays first began:
    He tossed his bonnet to wind and sea,
       And under the guns he ran.

Admiral Leveson’s effigy in Wolverhampton Church stamps him as one of the
heroes of old romance—his career was indeed remarkable, as may be read in
the work alluded to.

The present-day representatives of the family are the Leveson-Gowers, the
head of whom is the Duke of Sutherland.  The Gowers were an Anglo-Saxon
family seated in Yorkshire, and the union of the two occurred about the
time of Charles I., when Sir Thomas Gower, then Sheriff of Yorkshire,
married Frances, daughter and co-heir of Sir John Leveson, of Haling and
Lilleshall.

At the time Richard Leveson was sailing the seas with Essex and Drake,
there was a John Leveson living in Willenhall as lord of the manor, the
site of his residence being still marked by the position of Levison
Street and Moat Street.

In Wolverhampton “Turton’s Old Hall” was originally known as Leveson’s
Hall; this massive old mansion, surrounded by its once deep and wide
moat, is believed to have been erected by John Leveson, a wool merchant,
who was High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1561.

Truly the local record of the Levesons is a long and notable one; and it
is interesting to note that John Leveson, son of Thomas, who had been
Sheriff of the county, and died in 1595, is the last in Shaw’s pedigree
to be described as “of Willenhale,” although in a succeeding chapter we
shall find members of this family still seated on their native soil,
Willenhall, as late as the years of the Jacobite Rebellions, 1715 and
1745.



X.—Willenhall Endowments at the Reformation.


Now to resume the ecclesiastical history of the place.  Willenhall was
affected by the Reformation from two directions; first, through the
mother church of Wolverhampton, of which collegiate establishment it
formed a portion; secondly, through its own chapel and the endowed
chantry established therein.

The great ecclesiastical upheaval of the sixteenth century had its
precursor in the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII.  The
rumble of the coming storm warned the secular or non-monastic foundations
that it would be prudent to set their houses in order if they were to
safeguard their revenues; for every one of the smaller monasteries, with
an income of less than £200 per annum, had been forfeited to the Crown
(1529).

A new valuation of the College of Wolverhampton had but just been
instituted in 1526, from which it will be necessary here to extract only
that portion of the return relating to our subject.  It was to this
effect:—

                       THE PREBEND OF WYLNALL.
                                                   £       s.       d.
William Leveson, Clerk (dwelling in Exeter         3        0        0
with the Bishop), Prebendary there, and
hath in glebe-lands
And in tithes of corn, one year with               3        0        0
another
And in wool and lambs by the year, one             3        6        8
year with another
And in the Easter Book by the year, one            0       13        4
year with another
And in tithes of Herbage, Pigs, Geese, and         0       40        0
other small tithes
                                  Sum total       12        0        0
And thereof he pays allowance for Synodals         0        6        8
every third year, paid to the aforesaid
Dean
And so there remains clear                        11       13        4
The tenth part thereof                             0       23        4

The value of the Deanery, the Prebends, and the two Chantries of
Willenhall and Bilston are all set forth in this Return.  (See Oliver’s
“History of Wolverhampton Church,” pp. 57–60.)

The visitation of the religious houses, undertaken as it was in a hostile
spirit by Henry VIII., naturally alarmed the authorities of a church
where it would appear that irregularities on the part of the prebendaries
had long existed, and not an inconsiderable portion of the church
property had been alienated, to say nothing of the sequestration of the
church communion plate.  Now some hasty attempts were made at
restitution, and more so to escape detection and censure.

Restoration in some sort seems to have been hastily attempted at
Wolverhampton.  In 1529 Nicholas Leveson presented a new chalice of
silver; and the high altar was restored at much expense to its former
magnificence.  The Dean, however, fell into disgrace in the matter of
denying the King’s supremacy, and was committed to the Tower of London in
consequence.  In 1540 bells purchased by the inhabitants from Wenlock
Abbey were hung in the church tower.  Four years later sixteen stalls,
taken from the recently dissolved monastery at Lilleshall, were presented
by Sir Walter Leveson to Wolverhampton Church.

All these precautions scarcely availed to avert the impending doom.  By
an Act passed in the first year of the reign of Edward VI., the
dissolution of Colleges and Chantries was effected.  But the Royal
College of Windsor, of which Wolverhampton was a member, was especially
exempted, and the Wolverhampton Chapter consequently felt secure from
disturbance.

So sure of their position were they that the prebendaries actually
proceeded to lease out their property.  Among the others, the prebendary
of Willenhall granted his lands and tithes to John Leveson, Esq. (who
held several other of the prebendal properties), for a reserved rent of
£6 6s.

Although the various deeds were confirmed by the Dean and Chapter of
Windsor, the legality of the proceedings was questioned; and presently it
was successfully contended that the Deanery of Wolverhampton was a
separate benefice detached from the College of Windsor, and that the
prebends were in the hands of the Crown.

There is extant another valuation of these ecclesiastical revenues in the
Primate’s Court.  The record is in Latin, but it may be Englished thus:—

                                                   £       s.       d.
Canterbury values Willenhall                       5        2        1
It Days to the Dean of Wolverhampton               0        3        3

             (William Leveson, Prebendary of
                                Willenhall.)

The Prebendary of Willenhall is worth per annum:—

                                                           s.       d.
In Glebeland                                               41        0
In Corn tithes                                             40        0
In Wool and Lambs                                          46        8
In Easter dues                                             13       10
In Tithes of Fodder, of Hogs, and Geese and other          40        0
small tithes
Thence is paid, in every third year, to the Dean,           6        8
for the Synod

The valuation of Wolverhampton College which is to be regarded as that of
the Reformation was made in 1551, and one item in which may be quoted
from Oliver’s “History of Wolverhampton Church” (p. 63):—“And for £12 6s.
8d. for the farm of the Prebend of Willnall, with all messuages, tithes,
lands, rents, services, and other profits to the said Prebend belonging,
demised to John Horton, by Indenture under seal of the said College,
dated 4th November, 33 Henry VIII., for the term of 21 years,” &c., &c.

Turning our attention to Willenhall itself, let us see how the Chapel
here was affected.  The Chantry foundation of this Chapel, like all
others, had to go.  Chantries being founded by the pious rich to have the
souls of their dear departed prayed for, could not be tolerated by the
Protestant reformers, and were all rigidly suppressed.  Here is the
valuation formally taken in the reign of Henry VIII. (1526), as before
mentioned:—

                         CHANTRY OF WYLNALL.
Hugh Bromehall, chaplain, hath a house with lands              8 marks
pertaining to the same, value per annum
                                                           s.       d.
And prays to be allowed for rents of assize,                3        3
payable to the Dean
And for Capitation rents, paid annually to William                  10
Leveson, Prebendary of Wylnall
And so their remains due                                  102        7
The tenth part thereof                                     10        3

The Chantry, being regarded as one of the abhorred institutions of
Romanism, thus came to an end under the reforming zeal of our Protestant
legislators in the early years of the reign of Edward VI.

All the possessions of the Colleges of Wolverhampton and Tettenhall, with
their Prebends, together with the Chantry lands of Willenhall, Bilston,
and Kinver, when they passed from the Crown in 1552, fell into the hands
of the notorious John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who contrived to
grab no end of church property in this immediate locality.  When
Northumberland came to the block shortly afterwards, there was a great
redistribution of this property, that of Wolverhampton being once more
annexed to the Royal Free Chapel of St. George at Windsor.



XI.—How the Reformation Affected Willenhall.


As recorded in the last chapter, the Willenhall Chantry, in common with
all others throughout the country, was finally suppressed by Edward VI.
and his Protestant ministers (1547).  It had been in existence upwards of
200 years, the name of its first Chantry Priest being given (1341) as
“William in the Lone.”

The Prebendal lands also, as we have seen, were leased in the fourth year
of this reign to John Leveson, for the sum of £6 6s. per annum.  All the
other lands belonging to the Deanery of Wolverhampton then passed into
the hands of the King, but did not long remain in the Crown, being
conveyed, with much more ecclesiastical property hereabouts, to John
Dudley, Duke of Northumberland.  On his attainder in the reign of Mary
(1553), the Deanery lands reverted to the Crown, to be again restored to
their original use by that most pious queen.

In 1547 the zeal of the Protestant reformers induced the Government of
Edward VI. to send Commissioners round the country to make inquiry in
every parish and every church as to the ecclesiastical appointments used
in ritual, with orders to suppress all that made for “idolatrous Popish
practices.”

The Commissioners for this locality were all men of high standing in the
county, as will be seen from their names.  They were sworn to make—

    A juste, treu, and parfett survey and inventorie of all goods, plate,
    juelles, vestements, belles, and other ornaments, of all churches,
    chappells, brotherhoddes, gyldes, fraternities, and compones within
    the Hundred of Offeley, in the Countie of Stafford; taken the seventh
    day of October, in the sixte yere of the Rayne of our Sovereyn Lord,
    King Edward the Sixte, by Thomas Gyffard and Thomas Fytzherbert,
    knyghts; and Walter Wrottesley, Esquier, by virtue of the King’s
    commissein to them, directed in that behalf, as hereafter
    particularly appereth.

On one hand, they had to put a stop to the embezzlement, concealment, and
appropriation by private persons of the condemned church property, and to
recover as much of it as possible for the King’s Exchequer.  For, under
pretence of a burning zeal for the reformed faith, there had been much
sacrilegious spoliation—church plate finding its way on to the table of
the neighbouring gentry, marble coffins being utilised as horse-troughs,
altar cloths serving as tapestry for parlour walls, and similar
malpractices by those who ought to have known better.  This property was
to be retrieved, and the detected offenders were to be heavily fined.

The Return made for Willenhall Church by the Commissioners and their
official “Surveyor,” or assessor, runs, verbatim:—

                                   WYLNALL.

    Fyrste one challes of sylver with a paten parcell gilte weyinge by
    estimacon viij ounces; iij vestement one of whyte fustian another of
    blacke chamlett and the thyrd of bleu sarsynet; iij alter clothes; ij
    cruetts of ledde; a bucket of brasse; iij candelstyks of maslyn; a
    paxe of brass; a corporas with the case; ij towells; one cheste; a
    lampe of latynn; ij small bells.

    Mem.—That all these parcells before rekened were delyvered unto
    Richard Forsett, Surveyor to the Kynge’s Majesti, as shall appare by
    his acquytance, except ij belles the whyche remayne still within the
    sayd chapell.

A few words in explanation of the above terms may, perhaps, be necessary
for the general reader.  The chalice and the paten were the vessels used
at the Sacrament, the former being the wine cup, which was of silver, and
the latter the bread dish, partly gilt.  The priestly vestments were
those forbidden by the reformed church, and were of different textures
for different parts of the Roman ceremonial; the fustian was a coarse
piled fabric, or kind of cotton velvet, imported from the East; chamlett,
or camlett, was a cloth so called because originally woven from camel
hair; and the sarsnett was a thin kind of silk.  The altar cloths had to
be discarded when the “Mass” was reformed into the “Holy Communion.”  The
cruets were pairs of metal jars for containing the wine and the water
previous to their admixture in the sacrament of the Mass.  The bucket was
for use at the font.  The candle-sticks were for the lighted tapers upon
the altar and in this case were made of maslin, an alloy like brass, but
with a harder grain; latten, of which the altar lamp was made, was a
similar alloy resembling brass.  The pax was a tablet (sometimes of wood,
sometimes of bread, though this Willenhall example was of durable brass),
on which was a figure of the crucifixion; it was presented in the
ceremony of the Mass for the faithful to kiss.  The Corporas was the
cloth placed beneath the consecrated elements in the service of the Mass.
The towels were napkins used in the celebration of the sacred office; it
must be borne in mind that all textile fabrics, as well as metals, were
far more costly in those days, and the chest was to keep all these
valuables in safety.

It is difficult to decide the nature of the “two small bells”; because,
if they were the sanctus bells used at the most solemn parts in the
performance of the Mass, one a hand-bell rung inside, and the other as a
signal outside, they would have been abolished.  So, as they were left by
the Reformers, they were probably small bells in the steeple or turret.

So much for the changes materialistic brought about at this great
religious upheaval of the sixteenth century.  Now let us inquire into the
more serious and essential changes which occurred in the religious life
of the nation at that time.

From a little known Return made in 1586 we are enabled to gather the
conditions of the Church of England, as it was found to exist, only 28
years after it had been by law established.

At the Reformation, after the annulling of all “Popish ordinations,” the
state of the English clergy became very deplorable.  Some of the basest
of the people were permitted to become parish priests, a circumstance
that gave point to the arguments and contentions of the Puritans.

The Reformers were divided upon the subject, Queen Elizabeth expressing
herself as being perfectly satisfied if in each county three or four
clergymen could be found capable of preaching to their congregations.
The Puritans, on the other hand, laid great stress on the admonitory
value and spiritual importance of sermons and homilies.

By 1586 the condition of the newly-formed Protestant Church of England
had become so scandalous in respect of its priesthood that a national
“Survey” was undertaken.  Of the remarkable facts disclosed by this
Return we select from the summaries the following few which relate to
this immediate locality:—

    WOLVERHAMPTON.—A Collegiate Church; impropriate to the King’s
    Majestie or the Dean of Windsor; value of lands belonging to it is
    £600 per annum.  There be seven Prebends and a Sexton under them;
    seven stipendiaries; the allowance for four of them is ten nobles
    apiece; for the other three £6 apiece.  Six of the Prebends be held
    by Sir Gualter Levison; the other is held by another.  The rent
    reserved to the Dean of Windsor, £38.  People 4,000.  Many Popish;
    many Recusants.

    Chappells 3:—

    1.  Pelsall; curate’s stipend £4; no preacher.

    2.  Willenhall; curate hath no stipend reserved; no preacher.

    3.  Bilston; curate hath no stipend reserved; no preacher.

    These curates, especially two of them, Mounsell and Cooper, be
    notorious and dissolute men.

Such was the lamentable state of the local clergy at that time, when the
population of Wolverhampton, with all its outlying parts, is set down at
4,000 only.  A few words of explanation will perhaps be necessary to make
the foregoing extract more intelligible to the general reader.

A “noble” was a coin of the value of 6s. 8d.; a “recusant” was one who
disputed the authority and supremacy of the Crown in matters
ecclesiastical, whether Papist or Puritan; while to “impropriate” church
property was to place it in the hands of a layman.

Four or five more extracts from this interesting Survey, relating to
other parts of this neighbourhood, may not be out of place to quote
here:—

    BYSHBY.—Parsonage, impropriate; worth £40 per annum; vicarage worth
    £30; patron, Sir Edward Littleton; many Popish; many Recusants.
    Incumbent a mere worldling; no preacher.

    TETNALL.—A college dissolved; five prebends and a deane; impropriate
    to the King’s Majestie; worth 300 marks.  One prebend is held by Sir
    Richard Leveson; one by Mr. Gualter Wriotesley; two by Richard
    Cresswell.  Curate’s stipend, 20 marks; no preacher.

    CODSALL.—Prebend of Tetnall.  Curate-prebendary a loose liver; no
    preacher.

    WOMBOURNE.—Parsonage, impropriate, held by Hugh Wriotesley, Esquire;
    worth £40; vicarage worth £26; patron, Edward L. Dudley.

    PEN.—Parsonage; impropriate to the vicars of Lichfield; worth £20;
    vicarage worth as much; patrons, the Vicars of Lichfield.  Vicar —;
    no preacher.

This selection of extracts will serve to enlighten the reader upon two
important points in the history of the Church; the first is the amount of
church revenue which had already found its way into the pockets of the
laity; and the other is the lamentable necessity there was at that period
to provide the English clergy with ready-made Homilies.  These Homilies
were ordered (as the Prayer Book informs us, in the XXXV. Article), to be
read “diligently and distinctly” in the churches by the Ministers.



XII.—Before the Reformation—and After.


It may be assumed that Willenhall Church has been dedicated to St. Giles
from the first, because the period for holding the dedicatory Wake
synchronises with St. Gile’s day (September 1st), making allowance for
the eleven days’ difference effected in 1752 between the Old Style and
the New Style calendars.  As the Protestant Reformers took objection to
non-Biblical saints (West Bromwich Church was altered from St. Clement’s
to All Saints’), a dedication to St. Giles may safely be accepted as a
pre-Reformation one; and as St. Giles was the patron saint of cripples,
he doubtless retained his popularity here on account of the reputation
for healing qualities acquired by the Willenhall “Holy Well”—of which
more anon.  But in addition to its Wake, the town seems to have possessed
in mediæval times a much frequented Summer Fair, held on Trinity Sunday.
Our knowledge of this interesting fact is derived from the records of the
Court of Star Chamber.

This court was established by Henry VII. to deal with routs, riots, and
all other cases not sufficiently provided for by the common law; but the
oppression practised by the unscrupulous abuse of its indefinite
jurisdiction led to its summary extinction in the reign of Charles I.

The case to be quoted is one of an alleged riot in the year 1498 (13
Henry VII.), in which the men of Wednesbury were deeply involved.  These
turbulent townsmen seem to have made themselves notorious for riotous
behaviour at various times; as witness the historic Wesley Riots of 1744,
their march on Birmingham to regulate the price of malt in 1782, and
their attack on the same town during the Church and King Riots in 1791.

It would appear that a company of Mummers, made up of performers from
Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, and Walsall, were regularly in the habit of
going round to the neighbouring Fairs, and performing to the
accompaniment of pipe and tabor a Morris-dance, in which the characters
were dressed up for the then popular dramatic interlude of “Robin Hood,”
including Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and all the rest of them.

    The hobby-horse doth hither prance,
    Maid Marian and the Morris-dance.

It would be interesting to discover why, in this local version, the
character called the “Abbot of Marham” was introduced into the
play—Marham nunnery was situated in Norfolk, a long way from the usual
forest scenes of Sherwood and Needwood.

The money collected at these al fresco performances was applied to
maintaining the fabric of the three parish churches; but, for some reason
unknown, there had evidently grown up a deadly feud between the
Wednesbury and the Walsall contingents.  This was the cause of all the
trouble.

The “John Beamont” mentioned was John Beaumont, Esquire, lord of the
manor of Wednesbury, a benefactor of the parish church there, and a
patron of a Walsall Chantry.  It will be noticed that the quoted document
speaks of the “Church of the lordship,” not “of the parish”; and also,
that the prefix “Sir” was then used to a parson’s name, as we should now
use the prefix “Rev.”

Here is the text of the plaints entered by the terrorised “orators” of
Walsall, together with the affidavits put in as rejoinders; the archaic
spelling is retained only in a few places just to indicate the style of
English then employed in the law courts; and it is interesting to note
that Midlanders had those peculiar vowel sounds in olden times, and
pronounced “fetch” as “fatch,” and “gather” as “gether”—just as the
illiterate among them still do:—

    TO THE KING OUR SOVEREIGN LORD—

    Humbly sheweth unto your highness, your faithful subject and true
    liegeman, Roger Dyngley, Mayor of Walsall; and Thomas Rice, of the
    same town—That whereas your said orators on Wednesday next before
    Trinity Sunday, the 13th year of your reign, were in God’s peace and
    yours, in your said town of Walsall—thither came one John Cradeley,
    of Wednesbury, and Thomas Morres, of Dudley, in your said county; and
    then and there made affray upon the said Thomas Rice, “and hym soore
    wounded and bett” [beat], so that he was in peril of his life.

    Whereupon the said Mayor, with other inhabitants, did arrest John
    Cradeley and Thomas Morres, and there did put them in prison
    according to your laws, there to remain till it were known whether
    the said Thomas Rice should live or die.

    And incontinent thereupon one John Beamonde, “Squyer,” Walter
    Levison, of Wolverhampton, Richard Foxe, priest, of the same town,
    and one Robert Marshall, of Wednesbury, “arreysed” and riotously
    assembled themselves at Wednesbury with other riotous persons to the
    number of 200 men, arrayed in manner of war, that is to say, with
    bows, arrows, bills, and “gleves” [long daggers], with other unlawful
    weapons there gathered and assembled, to the intent to have come to
    have destroyed your said town of Walsall, saying openly that they
    would “fache” out of prison the said John Cradeley and Thomas Morres,
    and destroy your said town of Walsall.

    And thereupon William Harper and William Wilkes, Justices of the
    Peace, charged the said riotous persons to keep the peace upon a
    great pain to be forfeited to your grace.  By reason whereof the said
    rioters for that time ceased from further riot.

    And whereas the said Justices of the Peace, knowing the said rioters
    intended to make more riot, and to execute their malice in doing some
    mischief or hurt to the said town or to the inhabitants thereof, for
    eschewing any riot or breach of the peace commanded the inhabitants
    of Walsall, Wednesbury, and of divers other towns, their adherents,
    that they should not assemble together out of the said town, and
    should not come to a Fair that should be holden at Wilnale on Trinity
    Sunday, then next following.

    And the inhabitants of Walsall the same day kept at home.

    Notwithstanding, came one from Hampton, whose name is William Milner,
    calling himself the Abbot of Marram, and one Walter Leveson with him,
    with the inhabitants of Hampton to the number of four score persons
    in harness [armour] after the manner of war, to Wilnall to the said
    Fair.  And also one Robert Marchall, of Wednesbury, calling himself
    Robyn Hood, and Sir Richard Foxe, priest, with divers other persons
    to the number of 100 men and above, in harness, came in likewise, and
    met with the said other rioters at the said town of Wilnall, and then
    and there riotously assembled themselves, commanding openly that if
    any of the town of Walsall came therefrom, to strike them down, and
    in the said town continued their said riotous assembly all the same
    day; and if any man of Walsall at that day had been seen at that
    Fair, they should have been in jeopardy of their lives.

    Please your highness to grant your Letters of Privy Seal to be
    directed to the said John Beamonde, Walter Leveson, Sir Richard Foxe,
    priest, and Roger Marchall, to commanding them to appear before your
    Council to answer to the premises.

    1st July, in the 13th year, to appear.

    [Endorsed].

Three several letters issued to Walter Leveson, Richard Foxe, and Roger
Marchall, to appear.

    MICHAELMAS TERM IN THE 14TH YEAR.  THE MAYOR AND INHABITANTS OF
    WALSALL AGAINST JOHN BEAMONDE, ESQUIRE, AND OTHERS.  ANSWER FOR SIR
    ROGER MARCHALL—

    The Bill is only “feyned a yenst hym in pure males” [malice] for his
    great trouble and vexation, and loss of his goods.  He did not
    riotously assemble with any persons in arms, nor is he guilty of any
    riot.  As for the coming to the said Fair at Wylnahale “hit hath byn
    of olde tymes used and accustumed in the said Fere day that with the
    inhabitants of sede townes of Hampton, Wednesbury, and Walsall have
    comyne to the said Fere with the capitanns called the Abot of Marham
    or Robyn Hodys, to the intent to gether money with their disportes to
    the profight of the chirches of the said lordshipes,” whereby great
    profit hath grown to the said churches in times past.

    Whereupon the said Roger Marchall and his Company at the special
    desire of the Inhabitants of Weddesbury, come in peaceable manner to
    the said Fair, according to the said old custom, and these met with
    one John Walker, of Walsall, and divers others of the said town, and
    then and there “they make as gud chere unto them as they should do to
    ther lovying neyburs.”  And he denies that they came riotously.

    THE ANSWER OF WALTER LEVESON—

    He heard say at Hampton, where he dwells, that a “rumour and
    mysdemenying” against the King’s peace was had in Walsale, and that
    the inhabitants were riotously disposed against John Beamont.

    Whereupon the said Walter with two of his servants, in peaceable
    manner, and without any harness, came to the said John Beamont to his
    place at Weddesbury, to know how the Mayor and Inhabitants of Walsale
    would entreat him.

    John Beamont said that he knew of no hurt that they willed to him.
    It has been of old time used and accustomed on the said Fair day that
    the inhabitants of Hampton, Weddesbury, and Walsale have come to the
    Fair with such Captains as they have of old time used, to the intent
    to gather money with their disports to the use of the said churches
    of the said lordships.

And this is all we know of that lively “Whitsun Morris” at Willenhall
Fair in the year of grace 1498.  It all reads like a delightful chapter
in the vein of Shakespeare’s Dogberry and Verges; and it will be noted
that the priests are among the captains or ringleaders in this Sunday
revelling.

                                * * * * *

After the Reformation came the Puritans, who severely discountenanced all
Sunday revelry.  And so the lampoon of their enemies ran:—

    There dwells a people on the earth
    That reckons true religion treason,
    That makes sad war on holy mirth,
    Count madness zeal and nonsense reason;
    That think no freedom but in slavery,
    That makes lyes truth, religion, knavery;
    That rob and cheat with “yea” and “nay,”
    Riddle me, riddle me, who are they?

Yet, when religious differencies had brought on civil war, it had to be
confessed of this Puritan people (so says Sir Francis Doyle in “The
Cavalier”):—

    That though they snuffled psalms, to give
       The rebel dogs their due,
    When the roaring shot poured thick and hot
       They were stalwart men and true.

And so the mighty struggle for liberty of conscience against the
pretensions of a dominant Church had proceeded for over century, when we
find the incumbency of Willenhall held by the Rev. Thomas Badland.

Thomas Badland was born in 1643, matriculated at Pembroke College,
Oxford, 1650, and took his B.A. degree, 1653.  He was one of the noble
band of ministers who relinquished their livings on August 24th, 1662,
rather than conform to the requirements of the Act of Uniformity, passed
on the Restoration of Charles II.

On his ejectment from Willenhall, this conscientious Puritan divine
returned to his native city, Worcester, where “he formed a distinct
congregation of Christians, who assembled for worship in a small room” at
the bottom of Fish Street.  His family was an old one in Worcester, the
name Badland occurring in a charter of James I.

According to Noake’s “Worcester Sects,” he was minister of that
congregation for 35 years; but before his death the Declaration of
Indulgence by James II. was made (1687), and immediately thereupon Mr.
Badland’s church was regularly constituted by the adoption of the
Covenants of church membership which had been drawn by Richard Baxter—he
was a personal friend of the eminent divine—in terms sufficiently general
to include almost all denominations who might choose to make it a point
of common agreement.

From Nash’s “History of Worcestershire” we learn that on a monument on
the south wall of the south aisle of St. Martin’s church, Worcester, it
was set forth:—

    Under these seats lies interred the body of the Rev. Thomas Badland,
    a faithful and profitable preacher of the Gospel in this city for the
    space of thirty-five years.  He rested from his labours, May 5th, A.D
    1698, æt. 64.

                             Mors mihi vita nova.

When St. Martin’s Church was pulled down in 1768 this marble tablet was
carelessly thrown aside, and soon got broken into fragments.  Happily the
pieces were rescued and put together again with loving care for erection
in the vestibule of Angel Street Chapel, at the expense of the
congregation worshipping there.  In the new Independent Chapel, which has
taken the place of that older building (registered at Quarter Sessions in
1689 as a Presbyterian place of worship), the memorial has been placed
near the pulpit.

From a MS. history of Angel Street Church, written by Samuel Blackwell in
1841, it would appear that Mr. Badland had as one of his assistants a Mr.
Hand, who had been ordained at Oldbury.  At Fish Street Chapel (the site
of which was occupied in later times by Dent’s Glove Factory), there were
120 Communicants in February, 1687; and the Declaration of Faith drawn up
and signed by the church members that year bears first the name of Thomas
Badland, pastor, and among many others that follow is that of “Elizab.
Badland,” presumably his wife.  Such, briefly, is the life history of the
good man who relinquished the living of Willenhall, and repudiated its
“idolatrous steeple-house,” at the Black Bartholomew of 1662, rather than
stifle the dictates of his conscience.

In Palmer’s “Nonconformist’ Memorials” the Rev. Thomas Badland has been
confused with the Rev. Thomas Baldwin, who was ejected (1662) from the
Vicarage of Chaddesley Corbett, and who died at Kidderminster in 1693,
his funeral sermon being preached by a conforming clergyman there, named
White.  There was also a Thomas Baldwin, junior, who had been expelled
from the Vicarage of Clent, and died at Birmingham; but notwithstanding
such common mispronunciations as “Badlam” for “Badland,” it seems clear
that the facts of the Rev. Mr. Badland’s life are as given here, thanks
to the careful researches of Mr. A. A. Rollason, of Dudley.



XIII.—A Century of Wars, Incursions, and Alarms (1640–1745).


Life in Willenhall, as in many other places during the Stuart period, was
not without its alarms and apprehensions.  The trouble began when Charles
I., by the advice of Archbishop Laud, tried to force the English liturgy
upon Scotland.  The resistance offered to this was the real beginning of
the English Revolution, for the King, in the attempt to carry out his
despotic will, had to enlist soldiers by force.

        [Picture: Mosley Hall.  Photo. by J. Gale, Wolverhampton]

In the year 1640 a special muster was made for the war against the Scotch
Covenanters; the men from Staffordshire consisted of trained bands who
had been employed in the previous year, and 300 men who were impressed
for the occasion.  The service throughout the country was very unpopular,
and in some counties the men mutinied and murdered their officers.
Staffordshire did not escape some riots, and one of the most serious of
them occurred in front of Bentley Hall, a mile and a-half out of
Willenhall.

     [Picture: Boscobel House.  Photo. by B. Williams, Wolverhampton]

This was the last attempt at raising men on the old feudal levies; the
trained bands were armed partly with pikes and partly with the
newly-invented firelock, while the whole of the impressed men were armed
merely with pikes.  The Muster Roll for this immediate locality contains
these names (that of Aspley is cancelled):—

                               Traine.                 Presse.
Tipton                  Thomas Dudley,          —Thomas Winney.  The
                                                L. dnd.

                                                —William Aspley pst.

                                                —John Winspurre in
                                                loco.

                                                —John Husband.

                                                —Joseph Richard.

                                                —William Dutton.

                                                —Richard Rushton: to
                                                be sp: per R. Turnor.
Darlaston & Bentley     Thomas Pye, Willm
                        Turner,
Wednesfield             John Hill,
Willenhall              William Wilkes,

Another Roll dated 1634, but apparently in use at this time, gives among
the names of the “trayned horse” liable as (or for) 2 “curiasiers,”
“Thomas Levison, Esq.,” and “Mrs. Lane and her sonne.”

Within a couple of years Civil War had broken out in England, and
Willenhall had to endure its full share of suffering lying, as it did,
midway between two opposing strongholds—Dudley Castle, held for the King
(under Colonel Leveson), and Rushall Hall, garrisoned for the
Parliamentarian side.

Both sides in turn, as they were in a position to enforce payment, made
levies of money upon the unfortunate inhabitants of the district.  While
Rushall Hall was a fortified position, first under its owner, Sir Edward
Leigh, and afterwards under its military governor, Captain Tuthill,
Willenhall was forced to pay to the support of the garrison there.

Here is the evidence of an official notice:—

    April 8th, 1643.—Ordered that the weekly pay, and five weeks’
    arrears, of Norton and Wirley, Pelsall, Rushall, and Goscote,
    Willenhall, Wednesfield and Wednesbury, shall be assigned to Col.
    Leigh for payment of his officers of horse and troopers

There is a similar military order, dated 22nd June, 1644, by which the
weekly pay of all these places is assigned to Captain Tuthill, governor
of Rushall, though in the parcelling out of contributory areas, Bushbury,
Wolverhampton, Bilston, and Bradley are included in another district.
The other side were employing forced labour for strengthening the defence
of Dudley Castle, and not improbably the Leveson tenants from Wednesfield
and Willenhall were impressed to go up there equipped with spade and
mattock.

Doubtless troops and detachments of armed men were frequently to be seen
passing through Willenhall; while Wolverhampton, owing to the influence
of the Levesons and the Goughs, was almost a Royalist rallying place.
Soon after the skirmish at Hopton Heath, near Stafford, in 1643, Charles
I. found shelter in the old Star and Garter Inn (then in Cock Street),
and to this hostelry came Mr. Henry Gough, who had accommodated Charles,
Prince of Wales, and his younger brother, James, Duke of York, at his
private residence, to proffer the King a willing war loan of £1,200.

The same year the King made the same hostelry his headquarters, dating a
letter which he addressed to the Lichfield magistrates, directing them to
send their arms to join the Royal standard at Nottingham, “Att our Court
at Wolverhampton, 17 August, 1642.”

In 1643, Prince Rupert, after his memorable fight at Birmingham, made an
attack upon Rushall Hall; and notwithstanding the gallant defence of
Mistress Leigh, in the absence of her husband, its lord, took and held it
for the King, putting in as governor Sir Edward Leigh’s neighbour,
Colonel Lane, of Bentley.  With a garrison of 100 to 200 men, he held
Rushall Hall for some months, having some exciting times, chiefly in the
plundering of the enemy’s stores, and the private merchandise of carriers
passing along the great Watling Street over Cannock Chase.

On May 10th, 1644, the Earl of Denbigh, after a vigorous attack,
recaptured Rushall, finding there thousands of pounds’ worth of stolen
goods, and taking among other prisoners William Hopkins, of Oakeswell
Hall, Wednesbury.  It was then Captain Tuthill became commander of the
garrison.

In the same month the Stafford Parliamentarian Committee ordered the
seizure of all the horses and cattle belonging to that staunch Royalist,
Squire Lane, and of all the other cavalier landowners around Bentley.
The seizure was duly made, and realised by sale at Birmingham.  As a
set-off to this it must be recounted that at the beginning of the year
Colonel Lane had fallen upon a Parliamentary escort convoying stores and
provisions to Stafford, routed the enemy, and taken no less than sixty
horses, fifty-five of their packs containing ammunition.  Hence, the
reprisal at this first opportunity.

In the September of the year (1644) a remarkable episode occurred.  The
governor of Dudley Castle, Sir Thomas Leveson, employed one of his trusty
tenants, a yeoman named Francis Pitt, of Wednesfield, to make a secret
attempt to bribe Captain Tuthill to betray Rushall and its garrison into
his hands.  A number of letters passed between Leveson and Tuthill, for
the latter pretended from the outset to fall in with the treacherous
proposal, with the object of recovering some prisoners; which having
accomplished, he seized Pitt, the go-between, and delivered him up to the
Parliament.

Colonel Leveson, unconscious of this treachery, came according to
arrangement to Rushall, but instead of finding an easy entrance, had two
“drakes,” or small cannons, fired upon him, killing a number of his
troops.  The letters of Leveson and Tuthill will be found printed in full
in Willmore’s “History of Walsall.”  The unfortunate messenger, Francis
Pitt, was tried in London by “Court Martial,” and hanged at Smithfield on
October 12th.  It transpired at the trial that he was selected by Colonel
Leveson because he held a farm of him for life, was familiar with Rushall
Hall, and had told him he had to go there to pay his war contributions,
and sometimes to redeem his neighbours’ cattle.  On the one side Captain
Tuthill had promised him £100 of the £2,000 bribe by which it was
proposed to seduce him, and on the other his landlord had offered to
remit seven years of his rent.  Such is the fortune of war, however, the
poor wretch, instead of reward, met with an ignominious death at the age
of 65, after a life of honest toil.

In 1645 Prince Rupert had his headquarters in Wolverhampton, while the
King lay two miles to the north of the town, where tradition says he
watched a skirmish with the enemy from Bushbury Hill.  When Charles I.
fled before Cromwell at Naseby on June 14th of that year he passed
through Lichfield and entered Wolverhampton.  After sleeping the night,
either at the Old Hall, Robert Levenson’s residence, or at a house in Old
Lichfield Street, the unfortunately King passed on the next morning
towards Bewdley.

Some interesting local information during this war time is to be derived
from the literary remains of an officer in the King’s Army, one Captain
Symmonds, who amused himself on his marches by taking heraldic notes, and
noticing monumental inscriptions.  An entry in his Diary thus alludes to
the foregoing facts:—

                                                     Friday, May 16, 1645.

    The rendezvous was near the King’s quarters.  Began after 4 o’clock
    in the morning here.  One soldier was hanged for mutiny.

    The prince’s headquarters was at Wolverhampton.  A handsome towne.
    One faire church in it.

    The King lay at Bisbury.  A private sweet village where Squire
    Grosvenor (as they call him) lives.  Which name hath continued here
    120 years.  Before him lived Bisbury of Bisbury.

Our military diarist next writes:—

    Satterday, May 17, 1645.—His Majestie marched from here to Tong—

and goes on to enumerate the garrisons in Staffordshire at that date,
distinguishing by initials which were “Rebel” and which were the
“King’s”; among them:—

    K.  Lichfield.—Colonel Bagott, governor.

    R.  Russell hall.—A taylor governor.

    R.  Mr. Gifford’s house at Chillington, three miles from
    Wolverhampton.  Now slighted by themselves.

    K.  Dudley Castle.—Colonel Leveson, whose estate and habitation is at
    Wolverhampton, is governor.

“Slighted” signifies dismantled of its fortification; the allusion to “a
tailor” being military governor of Rushall is, of course, a cavalier’s
sneer at the Republican soldiery.

Coming now to the end of the war, when Charles II. was defeated at
Worcester in 1651, the country round Willenhall became the scene of that
fugitive monarch’s most romantic wanderings.  Flying from the battlefield
at the close of that fatal September day, Charles made his way through
Stourbridge to Whiteladies and Boscobel.  Then occurred the episode of
his hiding in the “Royal Oak,” and his concealment inside the house, in
the “priests’ hole” at the top of the stairs, by Mrs. Penderel.

Fearing discovery, the King was escorted by the brothers Penderel to
Moseley Hall, near Bushbury, a timber-framed mansion in the picturesque
Elizabethan style, the home of the Whitgreates, where the hunted monarch
was welcomed and immediately refreshed with some biscuits and a bottle of
sack.  Charles had scarcely departed from Boscobel ere a troop of
Roundheads arrived to search it.  And another narrow escape now occurred
at Moseley, where again a cunningly contrived hiding place was brought
into requisition.  Even after the frustration of the search party, one
Southall, a notorious “priest catcher,” called at the suspected house.

Prudence dictated another secret flight, and taking advantage of a dark
night the unhappy King was taken by Colonel Lane to his own house, and
was next hidden at Bentley Hall.

The story of the escape of Charles II. from Bentley towards the
continent, disguised as a groom and riding in front of Jane Lane’s
pillion, is too well known to need re-telling here.  The episode is
historic; it is the subject of a fresco painted on the walls of a
corridor in the gilded chambers of Parliament.

The whole romance of Boscobel and Bentley is told with considerable
fulness in Shaw’s “Staffordshire” (I., pp. 73–84), and is accompanied by
very interesting engravings of Boscobel, Moseley Hall, and Old Bentley.

As a result of the Revolution of 1688, and with the death of Queen Anne
in 1714, the impracticable Stuarts disappeared for good from the English
throne; but as adherents to their discredited cause, known as Jacobites,
still remained numerous, it may be guessed they were not lacking in and
around Willenhall.

After the Hanoverian Succession there were, in fact, a number of avowed
Jacobites in this vicinity, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to
George I.  Their names and behaviour were kept strictly under notice by
the Government, but for fear of driving them to extremes no active
measures were taken against them or their estates.  A list of these
non-jurors and Roman Catholics was compiled after the rebellion of 1715,
and again in 1745, when the rebellion of the Young Pretender once more
disturbed the Kingdom.  A list of these suspects was published on each
occasion by the Government, with the amount of penalties incurred (but
not exacted) against each name.  In these lists appeared the following
names:—

                                                   £       s.       d.
Charles Smith, of Bushbury, Esq.                  67        0        0
Anne Kempson, of Estington, widow                 11        0        0
Ursula Kempson, of Wolverhampton, widow           39        0        0
John Kempson, of Great Sardon                     41        0        0
William Ward, ditto                                9        2        6
Mary Leveson, of Willenhall, in                   31       10        0
Wolverhampton
John Leveson, ditto                               50       17        6
John Brandon, of Prestwood, yeoman                12        5        6
Thomas Giffard, of Chillington, Esq.            2100        6       6½
Elizabeth Giffard, of Wolverhampton,              58       19        0
spinster
Thomas Whitgreaves, of Moseley, Esq.              73        2        6

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



XIV.—Litigation Concerning the Willenhall Prebend (1615–1702).


The Prebend had little to do with Willenhall, except in name.  However,
as the name of Willenhall was attached to this particular “canonical
portion” in the Collegiate Church of Wolverhampton, and more especially
as the Levesons are connected with its later history, reference to it
cannot well be omitted.

The Leveson family had been dealing with Wolverhampton church property
for centuries, and in the Stuart period were lessees of the greater part
of it at a nominal rent of £38 per annum.  Their standing in the county
may be gauged by this entry which the Heralds made concerning the family
at “Visitation” 1538:—

    Richard Leveson of Willenhall was living in 27 Edward I.  He married
    Margereye, daughter of Henry Fitz Clemente of Wolverhampton.

By an indenture of the year 1613 the Dean and Chapter of Wolverhampton
leased the deanery, prebends, and manor of Wolverhampton to Sir Walter
Leveson, and all the lands belonging thereto in various parts of
Staffordshire and Worcestershire, including those at Willenhall,
Wednesfield, Bentley, &c., with all the mines of sea coal, ironstone,
&c., on the said premises, but specially excepting the patronage and
gifts of prebends, canonship, and all their offices and ecclesiastical
jurisdiction; all at an annual reserved rent of £38, and the quaint
old-world tenure of having “to entertain the Dean and his retinue two
days and three nights in each year.”

The validity of these leases was questioned a few years later in the 13th
year of James I., the lessee having refused to pay the reserved rents
without considerable deductions; and a bill was filed in Chancery by
Joseph Hall, D.D., prebendary of Willenhall, and Christopher Cragg,
prebendary of Hatherton (probably on the advice of the newly installed
Dean, Dr. Anthony Maxey), against the aforesaid, Sir Walter Leveson, who
was then in possession of the property belonging to their two prebends,
as well as other possessions belonging to the College of Wolverhampton.

Although the case was decided against Sir Walter Leveson, the
prebendaries reaped little or no benefit; for Sir Walter died immediately
after, leaving his heir a minor, and a ward of the King.  During the
wardship the King attempted to settle the questions and controversies
which had arisen when he made the appointment of a new Dean.

It must be borne in mind that the Deans of Wolverhampton were also Deans
of Windsor; and Dr. Maxey dying about 1618, there followed a somewhat
quick succession of Deans.  These were Matthew Wren (1628), protege of
Laud, and successively Bishop of Hereford, of Norwich, and of Ely;
Christopher Wren, his brother (1634), father of the famous architect of
the same name; Dr. Bruno Ryes (1660); and Dr. Brideoak, who became Bishop
of Chichester in 1675.

The wardship of young Leveson lasted 16 years, and when he came of age
the prebendaries were glad to come to a composition with him.

By this composition he agreed to pay them £30 per annum each, in full
satisfaction of the several tithes and other profits belonging in right
to their respective prebends; this being over and above the said reserved
rents which had been previously paid.  Arrangements were made at the same
time with the rest of the prebendaries respecting the several proportions
of the tithe belonging to them.

About this time the Dean and Prebendaries successfully resisted an
attempt of the Archbishop of Canterbury to hold a visitation within the
“peculiar”—the church’s jurisdiction within itself.

After the Civil War the Prebendaries found that they had suffered
considerable losses by the acts of their predecessors; so it was
determined by Thomas Wren, LL.D. (son of the aforementioned Rev. Matthew
Wren, Bishop of Ely, whose literary remains include “A Brief History of
the Parish and Jurisdiction of Wolverhampton, from the Time of King
Edgar”) prebendary of Willenhall, and Cæsar Callendine, B.D., prebendary
of Hatherton, to file a bill in Chancery against Robert Leveson for a
discovery of the lands he held which anciently belonged to the
prebendaries of Wolverhampton, and that he might show by what title he
held them.

The hearing was before the great Lord Chancellor of that day, Lord
Clarendon, who dismissed the bill, though without costs.

The Leveson family consequently continued in the undisturbed enjoyment of
the church property, granted to them in fee farm by six prebendaries, as
well as of divers other freehold estates in the parish of Wolverhampton.

The Leveson property in Wolverhampton became much implicated in the
numerous family settlements till, in 1702, Frances, Earl of Bradford,
purchased it of Robert Leveson for £22,000.  Lord Bradford also acquired,
three years later, the estate of the Dean and Prebends of Wolverhampton
which had been leased to the Earl of Windsor; so that the entire property
of the Collegiate Church (except the prebendal houses and some property
which had been set aside for the use of the Sacrist), passed into the
hands of one and the same proprietor.

In the same year, however, the Dean, Prebendaries, and Sacrist filed a
bill in Chancery against Leveson and the Earl for the recovery of the
property.  The plaintiffs were Gregory Hascard, D.D., dean; Prebendaries
John Hinton (Willenhall), Richard Redding (Kinvaston), Thomas Allestree
(Hilton), John Plimley (Fetherstone), John Hilman (Hatherton), Richard
Ames (Monmore), Walter Ashley (Wobaston), and Henry Wood, sacrist.

They contended they were all clerks, constituted one entire body, and
rector or parson incorporate, of the whole parish of Wolverhampton, which
was of very great extent, consisting of 16 or 17 hamlets or villages
besides the large town of Wolverhampton, being in circuit about thirty
miles, in three of which said hamlets there were chapels of ease, the
several cures thereof belonging to the said College or Free Chapel Royal.

In all this litigation it was a question much agitated whether, as all
the prebendaries with the Dean and the Sacrist constituted one entire
body, any single prebendary could demise his annual portion of the said
general tithes without the consent of the whole body.

The defendant Leveson was accused of having contrived secret conveyances
of many parcels of the said tithes and lands for the benefit of his own
family, some of the properties having been sold for large sums of money,
and the church revenues defrauded thereby.  Also that he had so altered
and confounded the buildings, fences, and boundaries of the church lands,
and so mixed them up with his own inherited lands, that it had become
impossible to discern or distinguish which were the original possessions
of the College; possessions which at the Domesday Survey had extended to
3,000 acres, besides the lordship of Lutley, near Halesowen.

Dr. Oliver states that in his time (1836) there remained some “houses and
lands now belonging to the prebendaries and Sacrist, which are leased out
for lives.”

The “corpses” of the six prebends are supposed to have consisted of the
tithes of their respective districts in Willenhall, Hilton, Hatherton,
Fetherston, Monmore, and Wobaston.

The Rev. Richard Ames, Curate of Bilston for 46 years (1684–1730), makes
the following record:—

    1723, December 9th.—The Reverd. Mr. Wm. Craddock, Rector of
    Donnington (Salop), was installed Prebendary of Willenhall, he having
    resigned that of Hatherston.  The mandate for his installmt. was
    directed to me (ye Senior Prebendary) by ye Rt. Hon’ble George, Lord
    Willoughby de Broke, Deane of o’r Collegiate Church of Wolverhampton,
    and of Windsor; I being constituted locum tenens.

    On ye 10th December, 1723, by virtue of an’r mandate to me, directed
    by ye same Ld. Willoughby de Broke, ye same Mr. Wm. Craddock was by
    me put in possession of ye Sacrist’s Stall, both which places became
    vacant by ye death of Mr. Hinton.  He (Mr. Craddock) was also
    constituted principal official.

In 1836, when Dr. Oliver wrote his history of the church, the Chapter of
the College consisted of the Hon. Henry Lewis Hobart, D.D. (Dean), the
Rev. R. Ellison, M.A., prebendary of Willenhall, and the other
prebendaries (of Kinvaston, Hilton, Featherston, Monmore, Hatherton, and
Wobaston respectively), and the Rev. G. Oliver, D.D., perpetual curate
and Sacrist (an Act obtained in 1811 by Dean Legge had constituted the
Sacrist the real incumbent of the church).  The Chapter had it own seal,
which was of proper ecclesiastical design, and of some antiquity.

On the death of the very Rev. and Hon. H. L. Hobart, D.C.L., &c., in
1846, the Collegiate establishment of Wolverhampton ceased to exist, and
its property became vested in the ecclesiastical Commissioners.

Such was the gross abuse of ecclesiastical patronage, the entire income
of the Collegiate Church (except £100 a year for a curate of very
indefinite status) had been absorbed in the payment of a Dean of the two
“peculiars” of Windsor and Wolverhampton, and of some half-dozen
legendary prebendaries who were for the most part unknown, even by name,
to the oldest inhabitant of the parish.

With the suppression of the ancient Deanery, the modern township of
Wolverhampton was divided into thirteen ecclesiastical parishes.

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



XV.—Willenhall Struggling to be a Free Parish.


In the eighteenth century the ecclesiastical history of Willenhall
reached a critical stage.  Long and bitter were the disputes which arose
between the mother church of Wolverhampton and the daughter chapelries of
Willenhall and Bilston; and perhaps the temper of the authorities at the
former had not been improved by the gradual impoverishment of the
residentiaries there, the history of which formed the subject of the last
chapter.

The first cause of the quarrel was found in the fact that these two
places, having become as populous as towns of ordinary status, were
without legal burying-grounds.  When land had been provided there seems
to have been considerable hesitancy on the part of the authorities in
allowing Willenhall and Bilston these ordinary parochial privileges.  The
Rev. Richard Ames, of Bilston, has left it on record that on June 9th,
1726, he waited upon the Bishop of the diocese, while he was holding a
confirmation at Walsall, when “John Lane, Esqre., of Bentley, mov’d his
lordship to consecrate Willenhall and Bilston Chapelyards for
burial-places, wch. his lordship seemed inclinable to do.”

The history of the conflict goes back to 1709, when Dr. Manningham, on
becoming Dean, convened a Chapter at Oxford which was attended by all the
Prebendaries and the Sacrist.  This meeting was specially called to
consider the case of the inhabitants of Willenhall and Bilston, who had
represented to the Dean the great inconveniences which arose in having to
carry their dead from these chapelries for interment at Wolverhampton;
and humbly praying that their respective chapels and chapelyards should
be consecrated for the proper burial of the dead.

The prayer was granted, but it was most carefully stipulated that the
inhabitants of the two chapelries should always pay the customary levies
to the mother church, and also the fees for burials and for the churching
of women, to the respective curates of the said chapels, as well as to
the ministers of the mother church; and that the expenses attending the
desired consecrations should be paid by the petitioners.

A subsequent Chapter, held 10 October, 1718, confirmed this, when the
Ministers and Inhabitants of the Chapelries of Bilston and Willenhall
signed an Agreement to observe and perform the said conditions.  For the
carrying out of the agreement in business-like form the said Ministers
covenanted to pay the said fees half-yearly, at Lady-day and Michaelmas,
transmitting a copy of their respective Registers “without reserve or
fraud” to be transcribed into the books of the mother church.

The fees to be charged each Chapelry were fixed to a scale: tenpence for
“ye churching of every woman”; sevenpence for the burial of each body in
the churchyard, and twice that amount for the burial inside the church:
and so on.

Subsequently (some 30 years after, when St. John’s Chapel, Wolverhampton,
was in contemplation) the inhabitants of the Liberties of Willenhall and
Bilston, notwithstanding the written agreement aforesaid, peremptorily
and finally refused to pay their respective fees for Christenings,
Churchings, and Burials to the Sacrist and Curates of Wolverhampton;
payments whereby the profits of their several offices were lessened more
than half, and the loss was so considerable it was no longer to be borne.

At Bilston the quarrel of 1753 was practically not settled for nearly a
century afterwards.  It was ruled that whatever might be arranged in
respect of fees for other rites no marriages could be legally performed
in the Chapel except by licence of Wolverhampton, which claimed a
“Peculiar” jurisdiction; and as the inhabitants indignantly refused to
pay double marriage fees, no marriage was solemnised in the chapel from
January, 1754, to February, 1841.

The same year—to be exact, the date was April 12th, 1841—the first
marriage was solemnised at Willenhall Church, the Bishop having then
issued a special licence to the Incumbent to marry persons living within
the township.

Almost concurrently with this dispute there was another source of
grievance to Willenhall, Bilston, and Pelsall which had to be strenuously
fought by these outlying places.

This quarrel arose, in the main, through the excessive demands made upon
the inhabitants of the three chapelries for rates with which to repair
and maintain the fabric of Wolverhampton Church.  The levies made
ostensibly for this purpose seem to have been at times somewhat
exorbitant, and the money to have been spent in meeting charges which can
only be described as superfluous so far as the non-residential
contributors were concerned.

About 1738 the chapelwardens of Bilston made a determined stand against
the churchwardens of Wolverhampton.

A “case was stated” in which it was shown that the Collegiate Church of
Wolverhampton consisted of a Dean and Prebendaries, founded by a Royal
Family, and was subject to no visitation but that of the Crown.  It
contained three Chapels—one at Bilston, another at Willenhall, and a
third at Pelsall.

The statement proceeded:—“Every Hamlet and Village in the Ecclesiastical
Parish of Wolverhampton has a Constable and all other parochial officers,
and maintains its own poor as it were a separate parish. . . .”

“The Chapelries of Willenhall and Bilston nominate and maintain each its
own Clergy, and repair their own Chapels, which have been endowed time
out of mind, and were consecrated about thirteen years ago for burying
places.”

Other points of complaint put forward were that the two chapels afforded
every facility to the inhabitants of the respective places for divine
worship and the administration of the sacraments; that formerly Bilston
and Willenhall each paid only £4 a year to the mother church, but that
since 1716 increasing demands had been made till as much as £56 was asked
for; and that all which these chapelries received in return were the
bread and wine used in the sacrament, four times a year, and for which
they paid £4 per annum, the chapelwardens being allowed 3d. in the £ at
Boston and 4d. in the £ at Willenhall for collecting it.

It was also complained that all the rest of the villages had been forced
“to contribute in like proportion with these two towns,” and that these
levies on the out-hamlets had been made for additions to, or improvements
of, Wolverhampton Church, which were quite superfluous in their
character, if not absolutely illegal.

On this opinion (of a learned Sergeant-at-Law) the inhabitants of
Willenhall were invited to join with those of Bilston in a common defence
for their mutual benefit.  On the advice of the esteemed Dr. Wilkes, a
well-known local Antiquary, who was then the leading public man of
Willenhall, the invitation was declined.

Litigation proceeded for several years both in the ecclesiastical courts
and in chancery, but without any definite decision being arrived at.

In 1754 the Earl of Stamford tried to induce both parties to submit a
case fairly drawn up (for the legal work in the preparation of which he
generously offered to pay all the costs) and to abide by the decision.
The people of Willenhall, through Dr. Wilkes, thanked his lordship for
his friendly offer, and declared their willingness to accept it.

The Wolverhampton officials, however, rejected the proposal, in the hope
they would win their case in the ecclesiastical courts.  When the case
eventually came to trial in 1755 an old parish book was produced, which
showed that the exorbitant demands of Wolverhampton were distinctly
illegal.  In it was an entry of 1668, which ran in this wise:—

    “This is the portion of Rates each Chapelry and Prebend shall pay
    towards the repairs of the Mother Church:—

                        £       s.       d.
Wolverhampton          36        0        0
Bilston                12        0        0
Wylnale                12        0        0
Wednesflde             12        0        0
Hatherton               3        0        0
Featherstone            1        4        0
Kinvaston               1        1        0
Hilton                  1        7        0
Pelsall                 2        2        0
Bentley                 1       10        0
Stretton rent           1        6        8
                       83       10        8

A writ of prohibition was forthwith filed to stay all further proceedings
in the Spiritual Courts; and the law costs of the trial, amounting to
£282 1s. 8d., were divided equally between Bilston and Willenhall (1756).

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



XVI.—Dr. Richard Wilkes, of Willenhall (1690–1760).


Willenhall’s most illustrous son was Dr. Richard Wilkes, Antiquary, whose
house still stands on the Walsall Road.  He came of good family of county
rank, and his personal character raised him to the eminence of a
notability in Staffordshire.  His portrait appears in Shaw’s history of
this county of which his (Wilkes’) valuable and voluminous MSS. formed
the nucleus.  Though settled in this locality, adding to their little
patrimony from time to time for 300 or 400 years, the family came
originally from Hertfordshire.

The pedigree of Wilkes, according to the Heralds’ Visitation in 1614,
commences with John Wylkys de Darlaston, who was witness to a Deed of
Roger, Lord of Darlaston, in the time of Edward III. (1331).  There is a
Richard Wylkys, of Willenhall, who witnessed a Bentley Deed in 1413.  To
this Richard and his wife Juliana, daughter and heir of William Wilkes, a
grant of lands in Bentley was made by Humphrey, Earl of Stafford.  The
son of this couple was William Wilkes of Willnall (1505).  Protonotary of
the Court of Common Pleas, 15 Henry VIII.  The family tree is very
complete in Shaw.

One John Wilkes married a widow Parkhouse, _nee_ Margery Garbet, of
Nether Penn; another John, his nephew, was Rector of Lum, and evidently a
Puritan, as his two sons bear the striking biblical names, Ephraim and
Manasses.  Richard seems to have been the favourite name for the eldest
son.  One Richard married Mercy Drakeford, of Stafford (see Salt. Vol.
VIII.); his son, also named Richard, became the father of our Willenhall
worthy, whose mother was Lucretia, youngest daughter of Jonas Astley, of
Wood Eaton, in this county.

Richard Wilkes, M.D., was born in March, 1690, and had his school
education at Trentham.  In his 19th year he was entered at St. John’s
College, Cambridge, and was admitted scholar 1710.  In April, 1711, he
began to attend Mr. Saunderson’s mathematical lectures, and became very
proficient in algebra.  In January, 1713, he took his B.A degree; three
years later he was chosen Fellow, and in 1718 he was appointed Linacre
Lecturer.

It does not appear when or where he took his degrees in medicine.  He
seems to have taken pupils and taught mathematics in college from the
year 1715 till he left it, and to have been engaged thus early in
literary matters, particularly in the collection of material for
subsequent use.  It was by his literary labours, particularly in
antiquarian research, that he made himself a name.

He presently took deacon’s orders, and once preached in the parish church
of Wolverhampton.  He also preached several times at Stow, near Chartley.
However, disappointment in the expectation of preferment in the Church
soon disgusted him with the ministry, and in 1720 he began to practise
physic, for which he seemed to have a natural talent, at Wolverhampton.
In 1725 he married Rachel Manlove, of Abbots Bromley, with whom he had a
handsome fortune, and from that time he dwelt with his father (who died
in 1730) at Willenhall.

About this time he wrote an excellent treatise on Dropsy; and later, when
a dreadful disease raged among the horned cattle of the Midlands, he
published a very useful and practical “Letter to Breeders and Graziers in
the County of Stafford,” and made every effort to assist in stamping out
the plague.  Possibly while at Chartley he had made a study of the herd
of wild cattle preserved there.

His skill as a physician was very considerable, and seems to have been
applied chiefly to the gratuitous relief of his poorer neighbours.  He
led an exemplary life, being an early riser, and an indefatigable reader,
constantly adding to the rich stores of his well-stocked mind.

As previously mentioned, he spent several years of industry in collecting
historical manuscripts, and making antiquarian notes relating to his
native county, of which the Rev. Stebbing Shaw afterwards made such good
use.

For instance, Dr. Wilkes’ account of Roman roads, camps, and other
remains of antiquity is a fairly exhaustive one for a county history, and
shows a considerable depth of research.  It is embodied in the
“Introduction” and the “General History” at the commencement of Shaw’s
compendious work.

Like Pepys, he kept a Diary, which was never intended for publication—he
was a diligent recorder of historical facts.  Here is an interesting note
from it:—

    “The first steam engine that ever raised any quantity of water was
    erected near Wolverhampton, on the right-hand side of the road
    leading to Walsall, over against the half-mile stone.”  (This was on
    the site of the Chillington ironworks.)

The Diarist was too modest to add that the Waterworks which long supplied
Wolverhampton with water were the property of Dr. Wilkes.

Among other projected literary works was a new edition of Hudibras, with
notes, &c.  In the beginning of the year 1747, having a severe fit of
illness which confined him to the house, he amused himself with writing
his own epitaph, which he calls “A picture drawn from the life without
heightening.”  It is as follows:—

    Here, reader, stand awhile, and know
    Whose carcase ’tis that rots below;
    A man’s, who walk’d by Reason’s rule
    Yet sometimes err’d and play’d the fool;
    A man’s sincere in all his ways,
    And full of the Creator’s praise,
    Who laughed at priestcraft, pride and strife,
    And all the little tricks of life.
    He lov’d his king, his country more,
    And dreadful party-rage forbore:
    He told nobility the truth
    And winked at hasty slips of youth.
    The honest poor man’s steady friend.
    The villain’s sconce in hopes to mend.
    His father, mother, children, wife,
    His riches, honour, length of life,
    Concern not thee.  Observe what’s here—
    He rests in hope and not in fear.

His wife dying in May, 1756, he married for the second time in October
the same year Mrs. Frances Bendish (sister to the Rev. Sir Richard
Wrottesley, of Wrottesley, Bart.), who long survived him, dying December
24, 1798, at Froxfield, near Petersfield, in Hampshire, at a very
advanced age.

The learned doctor himself died March 6, 1760, with a return of the gout
in his stomach, and his death was universally lamented by his tenants,
who lost an indulgent landlord; by his servants, who lost a good master;
but more by numbers of poor in the populous villages adjacent and at a
distance, in grateful remembrance of the charitable advice and friendly
assistance they had always enjoyed at his kindly hands.  A somewhat
eulogistic entry of his death appears in the Bilston Registers.

As Dr. Wilkes left no issue, his property passed to the Unett family, the
representatives of his aunt Anne who had married George Unett, of
Wolverhampton.

He was buried at Willenhall in his native soil, where a neat monument was
erected to his memory near the family pew, by his heirs, Captain Richard
Wilkes Unett, and Mr. John Wilkes Unett; the tablet was thus inscribed:—

                               “Near this place
                               Lie the remains
                                      of
                             RICHARD WILKES, M.D.

    Formerly fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge; the last of an
    ancient and respectable family resident at this place 300 years and
    upwards.  He married first, Rachel, eldest daughter of Rowland
    Manlove, of Lees Hill, in this county, esq.; secondly, Frances,
    daughter of Sir John, and sister

                                 of the late
                  Sir Richard Wrottesly, of Wrottesly, Bart.
                      and widow of Higham Bendish, Esq.
                            He died March 6, 1760,
                                aged 70 years.

    [Underneath is the following escutcheon:—

    (Wilkes) Paly of eight Or and Gules; on a chief Argent, three
    lozenges of the second: impaling, 1.  (Manlove) Azure, a chevron
    Ermine, between three anchors Argent; 2.  (Wrottesley) Or, three
    piles Sa. a canton Ermine]

    “The children of the late Rev. Thomas Unett, of Stafford, his
    heirs-at-law, placed this monument an. 1800.”

On the floor of the Lane Chapel in Wolverhampton Church will be found
stones to the memory of the Wilkes family, “seated at Willenhall from the
reign of Edward IV.”; there is also a blue slab to the memory of Mary
Unett, who died in 1767.

The old house of Dr. Wilkes, a good specimen of its type of architecture,
stands back from the main road behind iron palisading.  Part of it has
been utilised as a stamper’s warehouse; had it received the respect due
to its associations, it might flittingly have been a town Museum, or some
such public institution.  It was built by the Doctor’s father, and the
Doctor was born there.

The house has a white stuccoed front, irregularly disposed, the
semi-porticoed doorway with classic columns having three windows on its
left and two on its right, although the shorter side seems to have been
lengthened at a later period by a red brick wing.  Along the line of the
first floor are six windows, whose lights in the Annean period, to which
the building belongs, were doubtless of small leaded panes.

From the tiled roof project three dormers, the centre one having a
semi-circular head, the outer ones pointed.  The chimneys stand out from
each gable end, and in the brickwork of each of their sides is a plain
recessed panel; the chimney-heads being noticeable for the absence of the
usual projecting courses.  Local tradition says that Hall street was once
a stately avenue of trees by which this residence was approached from
Lichfield Street.

On entering the house, the visitor feels a pang of regret that the
venerable building should ever have been degraded to the purposes of
commerce; particularly as the fabric retains many of its characteristics,
thanks to the soundness of the workmanship of two centuries ago.  The
decorations in the form of plaster mouldings that cover the beams, and
the medallion or panel pictures, being partly historical and partly
classical, all exhibit the Renaissance feeling of the early eighteenth
century.

The ceilings of two lower rooms are in a splendid state of preservation,
and contain excellent work.  One room is square with beams across the
middle; the ceiling on one side of the beam representing “The Seasons,”
and on the other side “The Elements.”  The Seasons are severally depicted
as follows:—A young face, with the hair of the head bedecked with
flowers, for “Spring”; a face in the bloom of womanhood, with the hair
bedecked with corn, represents “Summer”; a well-matured face, having the
hair bedecked with fruit, “Autumn’”; while a pleasing aged face, the brow
bedecked with holly, stands for “Winter.”  Painted on the wall over the
fireplace is the Castle of St. Angelo, and the bridge crossing the Tiber
at Rome.  The Elements, (so called by the old alchemists) are also
figuratively, represented by four heads; one bearing a castle, with three
towers and other buildings in the background (Earth); one surmounted by
an eagle with outspread wings (Air); the next with tongues of fire
issuant (Fire); and the other spouting forth a fountain (Water).

The other room is oblong, with beams across dividing its ceiling into
four parts.  In these parts there are four well-drawn figures, one
believed to be Bacon, with beard, moustache, whiskers, and in Elizabethan
costume; two close cropped heads, carried on noble necks, believed to be
respectively Julius Cæsar and Mark Antony; and the fourth is said to be
Homer, with the customary curly hair and beard, but showing a collar of
some sort, and apparently wearing a skull cap.  Over the mantel, painted
on canvas, is the Coliseum, showing the Arch of Titus and a pool in the
foreground.

In the main room upstairs is still to be seen the portrait of Dr. Wilkes,
painted on canvas, over the mantelpiece.  He is depicted as a clean
shaven man with benevolent face, bluish or blue-grey eyes, a good
forehead, nose, mouth and chin well-defined, and wearing a wig.  His
costume includes a high-cut waistcoat, bearing ten buttons, opened in
front nearly all the way down to show cravat and frilled shirt, the
cravat having a buckle—probably jewelled in front.  The outer coat is
without a collar, cut a little lower than the waistcoat, sloping from
above outwards, showing eight buttons, and apparently of greenish-brown
velvet.

The pool which formerly ornamented the garden had disappeared; but the
boathouse is still there, and the room above it in which the Doctor used
to keep his Antiquarian Collection and other artistic treasures.  As to
the lawns, shrubberies, gardens, orchards, and pleasaunces, there is
scarcely a remnant left.

Of the once sweet and pellucid stream, spanned by an ornamental bridge,
which conducted the rambler to the pleasant meads beyond, nothing remains
but the name, “Willenhall Brook”—it is now little better than a dirty
open sewer.

It may not be generally known that a passing allusion is made to Wilkes
in Boswell’s “Life of Johnson.”

In the IV. chapter of Vol.  I. of this monumental biography we read that
in 1740 Dr. Johnson wrote “an epitaph on Phillips, a musician, which was
afterwards published with some other pieces of his, in ‘Mrs. Williams’s
Miscellanies.’  This epitaph is so exquisitely beautiful, that I remember
even Lord Kaines, strangely prejudiced as he was against Dr. Johnson, was
compelled to allow it very high praise.  It has been ascribed to Mr.
Garrick from its appearing at first with the signature G; but I have
heard Mr. Garrick declare it was written by Dr. Johnson, and give the
following account of the manner in which it was composed.  Johnson and he
were sitting together, when amongst other things Garrick repeated an
epitaph upon this Phillips, by a Dr. Wilkes, in these words:—

    Exalted soul! whose harmony could please
    The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease;
    Could jarring discord, like Amphion, move
    To beauteous order and harmonious love;
    Rest here in peace, till angels bid thee rise
    And meet thy blessed Saviour in the skies.

“Johnson shook his head at the common-place funeral lines, and said to
Garrick, ‘I think, Davy, I can make better.’”

The great biographer goes on to state that Johnson, after stirring about
his tea and meditating a little while, produced these lines:—

    Exalted soul! thy various sounds could please
    The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease;
    Could jarring crowds, like old Amphion, move
    To beauteous order and harmonious love.
    Rest here in peace, till angels bid thee rise,
    And join thy Saviour’s concert in the skies.

Suffice it to add that the personage who inspired the lines was an
eccentric genius named Claudius Phillips {88}, on whose memorial tablet
in the porch of Wolverhampton Church were engraved the said lines,
attributed to Dr. Wilkes, who strangely enough is described as “of
Trinity College, Oxford and Rector of Pitchford, Salop”—a clergyman whose
name was John, and who lived a century previously.  We are further
informed that our Willenhall worthy is spoken of by Browne Willis in the
“History of Mitred Abbies,” Vol. II. p. 189—Browne Willis being one of
the most notable antiquarians of that period, and an eccentric individual
withal.

All this points to the fact that Dr. Richard Wilkes was well known as a
writer, and acknowledged as an authority.

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



XVII.—Willenhall “Spaw.”


It is difficult to imagine Willenhall as a health resort; yet it was no
fault of Dr. Richard Wilkes that his native spot did not become a
fashionable inland watering place.

It should be explained that during the eighteenth century there was
almost a mania to discover and exploit wells and springs, and to regard
them as fountains of health to which the fashionable and the well-to-do
might be attracted.  Before the newer fashion of sea bathing was
introduced—which was early in the next century—there was a great number
of these newly-invented places of inland resort.  For instance, Dudley
had its charming Spa on Pensnett Chace; and to show that Wolverhampton
was not behindhand, we take the liberty of quoting from the MSS. of Dr.
Wilkes:

    “A medical spring has lately been discovered at Chapel Ash, in the
    south-west part of this town, which purges moderately and without the
    least uneasiness.  A brown ocre, or absorbent earth, remains after
    evaporation, mixt with salt and sulphur; so that it seems to promise
    relief in all kinds of disorders proceeding from costiveness, and
    alcaline, fiery, and acid humours in the stomach and bowels, attended
    by a flow of feverish heat, eruptions on the skin called scorbutic,
    headaches, giddiness, flatulency, sour eructations, flying pains
    called nervous and rheumatic, the hemorrhoids or piles, asthma, and
    many other disorders which seem incurable by the most powerful
    medicines.”

Truly the Doctor might have earned a good living nowadays by writing the
advertisements for modern quack specifics.

Shaw’s description of the Willenhall Spa says that “the spring arises on
the north side of a brook which runs almost directly from the west to the
east, and so very near to it that a moderate shower will raise the brook
as to cover it.  About 200 yards up this brook, on the same side, are
several springs, one of which was much taken notice of by our ancestors,
and consecrated to St. Sunday, no common saint.  Over it is the following
inscription:—

                            Fons occulis morbisque
                      cutaneis diu celebris, A.D. 1726.”

“Saint Sunday” must have been some local saint; or, more probably, a
jocular embodiment of the sacredness of this day of the week with its
peculiarly pagan name, to the cause of idleness, and so dubbed by the
native wit of Willenhall; anyway, no saint of this name is to be found in
the authorised Calendar of any church.

One of the Wilkes MSS. utilised by Shaw, and dated 1737, records the
following experiment worked by the learned doctor with the local mineral
waters:—

    “I evaporated in a brass furnace 13½ gallons to 3 quarts, then let it
    stand 3 days to settle, and poured the clear water from the fœces.
    This was a light smooth insipid earth of a yellow colour, fat between
    the fingers, insipid and impalpable, which being dried, weighed 93
    grains.  The remaining 3 quarts I evaporated in a brass kettle and
    had from it 53 grains of a very salt glutinous substance which dried
    into a solid mass of a brown colour.  When the water came to a pint
    or thereabout, it began to smell like glew, and continued to do so
    when in a solid substance; it was then also as high-coloured as lye;
    but I am afraid this colour might arise from the brass kettle, in
    some measure, or too great a fire, being perhaps burnt.”

Another of his scientific records runs:—

    “Oct. 9th.—I put into a Florence flask as much of this water as
    filled it up to the neck within 5 inches of the top.  This I placed
    in a sand heat and increased the fire gradually till it boiled; and
    so I evaporated ad siccitatem.  Some volatile sal stuck to the glass
    even up to the top; at the bottom was a small quantity of dark
    coloured matter, like that above, but I could not get together 2
    grains of either.  Here it is plain this sal is so volatile as to be
    raised and fly away by heat.”

In another place he writes:—

    “On the 5th of November, 1737, I filled several glasses with this
    water, and put into them the following simples:—

    1.  Green Tea.  This, in about 24 hours, made it of the colour of
    sack, and, by standing, it became much deeper coloured, like strong
    old beer.

    2.  Fustic; not so deep, more like cyder.

    3.  Red Sanders; almost the same colour in the light; but if I held
    the glass in the shade, it appeared of a blueish green, exactly like
    some old glass bottles I have formerly seen.

    4.  Alkanet; deeper, like old mountain wine.

    5.  Galls; paler than any of the foregoing.  A large blue scum on the
    top, such as we see upon urine in fevers, and standing lakes of
    water, where there are minerals.  With logwood, tormentil, cort,
    granat, etc., there are some spots of this kind, but with none so
    much as with galls.

    “A little below the Spaw (continues our authority), on the other side
    of the brook, they meet with a white clay, full of yellow veins of a
    deep colour, like gumboge when it has been for some time exposed to
    the air.  These two they temper together and make into cakes, which
    they sell to the glovers by the name of ochre cakes, and with them
    they give a yellow colour to leather.

    “Near the surface of the earth the country is for the most part a
    strong clay, which makes good brick, but, for a small compass from
    this Spaw all along the village on the north side of the brook we
    have sand.  Underground the whole country abounds with coal and
    ironstone.”

The glovers’ handicraft, it may be mentioned in passing, was once
strongly represented in olden Darlaston.

The situation of Willenhall is by no means an elevated one, and the whole
plain in which it is situated formerly abounded in Springs, ere the
surface had been so much disturbed by mining operations.

On the edge of the valley, under the shadow of Sedgley Beacon, was the
famous Spring known as the Lady Wulfruna’s, and which gave the place its
name, Spring Vale; from this spot the silvery stream flowed eastwards
into Willenhall, seeking the cool shade of the pleasant woodland there.

The stream, as it came in from Bilston, and ran eastwards through
Willenhall, till it met the Tame, was once called the Hind Brook, or Stag
River.  In Saxon times the Tame here seems to have been designated
Beorgita’s Stream; and Mr. G. T. Lawley, in his “History of Bilston,”
says that the original bed of this brook was discovered in Willenhall
some years ago when extensive excavations were being made.

So far the scientific aspect of this once famous Well.  The popular view
of a much frequented mineral spring which had “long been celebrated for
disease of the eye and skin” opens out an even wider aspect.  As
previously mentioned, the brook flowing past it ran from west to east; a
stream so directed was always accounted by the Druids of old as a sacred
watercourse.  Being thus from the earliest dawn of history within sacred
precincts, there can be little doubt the Willenhall fountain enjoyed the
reputation of a “Holy well” for many centuries.  As such it came in for
the annual custom of “well dressing,” a vestige of the old pagan practice
of well worship.  Respecting this ancient custom, Dr. Plot, writing in
1686 in his “Natural History of Staffordshire,” says:—

    “They have a custom in this county, which I observed on Holy Thursday
    at Brewood and Bilbrook, of adorning their Wells with boughs and
    flowers; this it seems they do at all gospel places, whether wells,
    trees, or hills, which being now observed only for decency and
    custom’s sake, is innocent enough.  Heretofore, too, it was usual to
    pay their respect to such wells as were eminent for curing distempers
    (one of which was at Wolverhampton in a narrow lane leading to a
    house, called Sea-well; another at Willenhall; others at Monmore
    Green, near Wolverhampton; at Codsall and many other parts of
    Staffordshire) on the saint’s day whose name the well bore; diverting
    themselves with cakes and ale, and a little music and dancing; which,
    whilst within bound, was also an innocent recreation.”

Dr. Oliver says the beautiful spring at Dunstall was the favourite resort
of the Lady Wulfruna, and from contact with her sanctity acquired a
reputation for possessing healing virtues of a miraculous character, and
that this fountain was long known among its devotees as Wulfruna’s Well.

Pitt’s “History of Staffordshire,” issued in 1817, gives a long list of
local wells bearing at that time some similar repute for their remedial
waters.  Among them was Codsall Well, near Codsall Wood, supposed in
olden times to be efficacious in cases of leprosy, and adjacent to which
once stood a Leper House, replaced at a later period by a “Brimstone
Ale-house,” so-called because the water was sulphureous.  The waters of
the Monmore Green Well are described as containing “sulphur combined with
vitriol.”  The Sea-well Spring still retained its name as a “Spaw” famous
for its “eye water”; while those of Willenhall and Bentley were said to
yield a valuable remedial sulphur water so long as they “could be kept
from mixture with other waters.”

Folklore not only connected these Wells with patron saints, but
associated their magic precincts and curative effects with beneficent
fairies.  A well like that of Willenhall, which in a post-renaissance
period was honoured with a stone frontal bearing a Latin inscription,
would of a certainty be attended by fairy elves in an earlier and more
primitive era.

    About this Spring (if ancient fame say true)
    The dapper elves their midnight sports pursue;
    Their pigmy king and little fairy queen,
    In circling dances gambolled on the green,
    While tuneful sprites a merry concert made
    And airy music warbled through the shade.

                       [Picture: Decorative design]



XVIII.—The Benefice.


Owing to the meagreness of the record, a complete list of the holders of
the benefice is not to be expected.  Thomas de Trollesbury has been named
as “the parson of Willenhall” in 1297 (Chapter VII.); while we also have
the names of three chantry priests here—William in the Lone, 1341
(Chapter XI.); Thomas Browning, “chaplain of the chantry” in 1397
(Chapter VII.); and Hugh Bromehall in 1526 (Chapter X.); all of them
doubtless nominees of the Deanery of Wolverhampton.

Of course, it was possible, though not often the practice, for the holder
of the living to act as “chaunter” priest as well.  The Chantry
endowments, as we have seen, were forfeited at the Reformation, at which
period the benefice was returned as of the annual value of “£10 clear.”

Either of these notorious evil-livers mentioned in Chapter XI., the
non-preaching “dumb-dogs,” Mounsell and Cooper, may have been the
occupant of the Willenhall curacy in 1586.  In 1609 an improvement in the
intellectual status of the holder had been effected, William Padmore,
D.D., being then incumbent.

In a previous chapter it was shown that the Rev. T. Badland was expelled
from the living of Willenhall in 1662.  It can now be shown that he was
holding the benefice at least as early as 1658—and possibly from the
beginning of the Cromwellian rule and the overthrow of the Episcopacy in
1646.

About 1645–6 ordinances were passed appointing a Committee to consider
ways and means of upholding and settling the maintenance of ministers in
England and Wales.  In 1654 the powers of the Plundered Ministers’
Committee were transferred to the Trustees for Maintenance.  The
Committee took the receipts of all Tithes, Fifths, and First Fruits; and
later on the income of the rectories, bishoprics, deaneries, and
chapters; they sold the bishops’ lands, &c.

It was out of this income that augmentations and advances were granted by
the said Committee to ministers and school-masters.  In the Record Office
at London there is an audited account the Treasurer to the “Trustees for
the Maintenance of Ministers and other pious uses of moneys,” showing
among the disbursements for the year ending 26 December, 1658, one to

    “Thomas Badland, of Willenhall (6 months to 1659, March 25) . . .
    £10.”

In curious contrast with this high-minded clergyman, who sacrificed his
living to his conscience, is his successor in the Curacy of Willenhall,
the Rev. Mr. Gilpin, who had to be seriously admonished for non-residence
and other faults, and was at last, in the year 1674, turned out of the
living altogether.  Not improbably this gentleman was a pluralist, an
example of the class of clergymen by which the Church of England was very
much degraded at that period.

Dr. Oliver’s history printed the following “Dismissal of the Rev. Thomas
Gilpin,” from the original document found in the possession of Mr. Neve,
of Wolverhampton, in 1836:—

    We, whose names are subscribed, the undoubted and immediate lords of
    the Manor of Stow Health, hearing and well weighing the said
    complaints of the Inhabitants of the towne of Willenhall, lying
    within our said Manor, made and brought against you, Thomas Gilpin,
    clerk, Curate of the Chapell there:

    Doe in consideration thereof and in pursuance of an Order made and
    inrolled on some of the Rolls of the Court of our said Manor, bearing
    date 11th day of October in the Sixth Year of the Reign of our late
    Soveraigne, Lord, King James, over England, etc.

    And of our power and authority thereby, Displace and Discharge you,
    the said Thomas Gilpin, from the place, Dignity, and office of
    Curate, Minister, or Priest in the said Chapell.

    And do hereby present and allow John Carter, clerk (a person elected
    and approved by the Inhabitants of Willenhall aforesaid), to be
    Curate of the said Chapell in your place and stead, to read divine
    service there; and to do and perform all such other offices and
    things as shall properly belong to his Ministerial function and
    calling.

    And thus much you, the said Thomas Gilpin, are hereby desired to take
    notice of.

    Dated under our hands and seals this 18th day of November in the year
    of our Lord God, 1674, and in the six-and-twentieth year of the
    reigne of our Soveraigne Lord, Charles II., by the grace of God, King
    of England, etc.

                                                     Walter Giffard.  L.S.

                                                   W. Leveson Gower.  L.S.

After the expulsion of Mr. Gilpin the Rev. John Carter, who was appointed
to succeed him, continued in the Curacy of Willenhall till his death in
1722.  In 1727 mention is made of a Mr. Holbrooke being Curate of
Willenhall.

Soon after the Registers assist in tracing the successive holders of the
benefice.  Here are three interesting memoranda, for instance, bearing
the signature of the Rev. Titus Neve:—

    1748, March 4th.—The faculty for rebuilding and enlarging ye chapel
    of Willenhall, ye then present minister, ye Rev. Titus Neve—(to
    charge and receive certain fees, etc.)

    1750, January 20.—Then it was yt service began to be performed in ye
    New Chapel, after almost two years discontinuance, by Titus Neve,
    Curate.

    1763, February 17th.—Joyce Hill made oath that ye body of Benjamin
    Stokes was buried in a shroud of Sheep’s Wool only, pursuant to an
    Act of Parliament in that case made and provided.—Witness my hand,

                                                               Titus Neve.

(This entry has reference to the Act for Burying in Woollen, one of those
pieces of legislative folly whereby it was sought to bolster up
artificially our decaying trade in wool.)

The Rev. Titus Neve, whose descendants at the present day are a
well-known Wolverhampton family, was born at Much Birch in Herefordshire,
son of the Rev. Thomas Neve, in 1717.  He matriculated at Balliol
College, Oxford, became Rector of Darlaston, 1764, holding the two
livings, together with the Prebendary of Hilton his death in 1788.  He
was buried at Willenhall.

A sermon preached by him in Worcester Cathedral on August 12th, 1762, was
printed in Birmingham by the celebrated Baskerville (see Simms’
“Bibliotheca Staffordiensis”).

His successor was the Rev. William Moreton, who, according to an entry in
the Registers, was “sequestered to the vacant chapelry of Willenhall,
December 4th, 1788.”  Toward the close of his ministry Mr. Neve appears
to have had the assistance of Curates—George Lewis signs the Registers as
“Clerk, Curate” between December, 1778, and July, 1779; and the signature
of Mr. Moreton in the same capacity begins to appear in 1784.  Among the
entries of the last-named is a record that in 1786 he paid the “tax” on a
number of Baptisms and Burials himself, whereas in 1785 he shows that a
“Collector” received it.

                                * * * * *

The advent of the Rev. W. Moreton marks an epoch, and we now turn aside
to consider the peculiar history of the Advowson, or right of
presentation to the living of Willenhall.  In 1409 it is found in private
hands, being then the property of William Bushbury and his wife (see
Chapter VII.).

When the lord of a manor built a church on his own demesne, he often
appointed the tithes of the manor to be paid to the officiating minister
there, which before had been given to the clergy in common; the lord who
thus founded the church often endowed it with glebe, and retained the
power of nominating the minister (canonically qualified) to officiate
therein.  But a chapel-of-ease like Willenhall, built by a resident in
the locality, often had its minister, maintained by the subscriptions of
persons living close around it, and they naturally claimed to elect their
own ministers.  The authorities at the mother church would reserve the
right to approve and confirm, and would see that they suffered no loss of
fees and other emoluments.

An old book in the Registry at Windsor (without date) contains this
entry:—

    The curacy of Willenhall is endowed with land to the value of £35.
    The lords of Stow Heath have, in the last two vacancies, usurped upon
    the Dean and Chapter, and have nominated to it.

Shaw, the county historian, writing in 1798, after stating that whoever
holds the Curacy of Willenhall must have a licence from the Dean of
Wolverhampton, proceeds to say:—

    There has been lately a serious contest between the Marquis of
    Stafford and the inhabitants about the nomination of a curate.

    The gift of the living (says the same authority), or nomination of
    the minister or curate, is in the principal inhabitants that have
    lands of inheritance here.  He is to be approved of by the lords of
    the manor, and admonished by them when he does amiss; and if he does
    not amend in half a year, they may turn him out and nominate another.

This practice is believed to have existed in Willenhall since the time of
James I.

The power of the parishioners to elect their own clergymen, though not
common, exists in various parts of the country; as at Hayfield and
Chapel-in-le-Frith, both in Derbyshire; and in this more immediate
locality at St. John’s Deritend, Birmingham, and at Bilston and Bloxwich,
nearer still.

In London the only example where the elective principle is employed in
the choice of a parish priest is presented by Clerkenwell.  But
wheresoever a vacancy of the kind has to be filled by popular election,
with all the accessories incidental to the turmoil of Parliamentary
electioneering, all the bitterness of party strife, the parish is
inevitably divided into two or more factions; while the clergyman upon
whom the lot eventually falls must for a long time afterwards be regarded
as the nominee of one of them, rather than the spiritual director of the
whole body of the people.  He succeeds to his high office as a victor in
a great parochial struggle which cannot fail to leave behind it those
feelings of rancour so harmful in matters sacred.

The only remedy for this state of things seems to be the voluntary
surrender of their privilege by the parishioners; or the provisions of a
special Act of Parliament.

As to the soundness of the general principle of a people being consulted
in the choice of their spiritual pastor, there can scarcely be two
opinions.  But where the danger lurks in a case like that of Willenhall
is the assumption of our English law—an assumption quite unwarranted in
any country where freedom of conscience exists, and with us one of the
penalties for maintaining an established State Church—that every
parishioner is a Churchman.

Now, as a matter of fact, votes are recorded at these elections by
Romanists, by Dissenters of various shades of opinion, by those who are
unattached to any religious denomination, and by many who never, at other
times, take a great interest in Church of England affairs.  At the last
election even trustees of Nonconformist chapels were empowered to vote if
they were householders, and the trust in respect of which they qualified
had been constituted by a properly executed deed.  So it can scarcely be
claimed that the choice of minister rests solely with those most
concerned, namely, the congregation, the customary worshippers at St.
Giles’s Church.

Resuming the story of the benefice at the election of 1788, it is said
that Mr. Moreton having been elected, the then lords of the manor
declined to present him to the bishop on the ground that they did not
regard him as a fit and proper person.  Litigation ensued, and the High
Court of Justice declared the election void, and ordered a new one.
Meanwhile, the income seems to have sequestrated, probably lying in the
hands of the churchwardens till the new minister should be properly
instituted.

The electors for a second time returned Moreton, and the lords of the
manor then took up the attitude that it was not part of their duty to
live in litigation, either with the electors or with Moreton; they had
expressed their opinion of the man in the strongest manner possible, and
this they considered relieved them from further responsibility; so now at
the electors’ wish they nominated him to the bishop for induction, and in
due course he was formally inducted.

The new incumbent of Willenhall was popularly given out to be an
illegitimate “nephew” of George III.; he bore a strong facial likeness to
the Royal family, and had been at college with the Duke of York.  But
whatever his origin or extraction, he was a typical sporting parson of
the old school, an enthusiastic cock-fighter, and “a three-bottle man.”

It was not long before the old mocking doggerel was applied to
Willenhall:—

    A tumble-down church—
       A tottering steeple—
    A drunken parson—
       And a wicked people!

That this old rhyme fairly described the condition of things we may
venture to believe if we can also accept as true the rhyme oft quoted by
this Willenhall worthy, and which was said to embody his philosophy:—

    Let back and sides and head go bare,
       Let foot and hand go cold,
    But God send belly good ale enough,
       Whether it be new or old.

Of “Parson Moreton” innumerable tales are told, all of them racy, though
not a few of them apochryphal.  There can be little doubt that in the
later years of his life he was a bon vivant, and indulged openly in the
less refined sports of the period, a cockfight above all things having a
strong fascination for him.

And yet, on the plea that “a merciful man is good to his beast,” he
indulged his old grey pony, “Bob,” on which he regularly ambled about,
with a share of every tankard of ale he quaffed on his rounds, till the
knowing quadruped refused to pass any inn along the road for miles around
without stopping for refreshment.

Parson Moreton is not to be judged by modern standards.  At that time the
church was asleep; and Dr. Johnson once declared that he did not know one
religious clergyman.  Though the Parson of Willenhall became noted
throughout the countryside for his eccentricities, he managed to labour
among the rough population, to whom he ministered, with some sort of
success.

Into all his lapses from the conventionalities of clericalism, he was a
gentleman at the core, having a dignified bearing and a commanding
presence.  He candidly admitted his shortcomings as a clergyman, telling
his flock to do as he said, not as he did.  This naturally failed to
satisfy very many of them; and it has been asserted that the strength of
Dissent in Willenhall at the present time is directly due to the
influence of his incumbency.

Of the Rev W. Moreton, it may at least be said that he was a remarkably
fine reader, and his sermons were always well-constructed compositions.
For many years he lived with Mr. Isaac Hartill in the house at the corner
of the Market Place, opposite the Metropolitan Bank; an old house still
retaining its original oak floors and staircase, and its substantial
old-fashioned doors of the same material, although the building is now
made into two shops.

For nearly fifty years Parson Moreton was a familiar figure in the
streets of Willenhall.  His last signature in the Registers appears in
1833, a year previous to which the Rev. George Hutchinson Fisher had come
into the parish to assist him, taking up his residence in the house next
to “The Neptune Inn,” now the Police Station.  He died July 16th, 1834,
and was buried on Sunday the 20th.

When Mr. Fisher came to preach Mr. Moreton’s funeral sermon, the most
notable feature of the oration was the absence of direct reference to the
departed.  Towards the close of the sermon, however, the following
passage was uttered with impressive solemnity:—

    “May every occasion like the present bring instruction and
    edification to your souls.  May the failings which you have witnessed
    and lamented in others urge you to examine and correct your own; and
    when their removal makes you think on the nature of the account they
    will have to render, may you be awakened to scrutinise your own
    stewardship; and instead of recording the sins of the departed, seek
    to be delivered, whilst the Redeemer invites you, from those which
    are a burden to your consciences.”

Truly a charitable and Christian-like obituary!



XIX.—How a Flock Chose its own Shepherd.


The living of St. Giles’s, Willenhall, popularly supposed to be worth
some fourteen hundred pounds a year, the reversion of it was looked upon
with eager eyes by not a few of the surrounding clergy.  Between
Darlaston and Willenhall, particularly, there seems to have existed some
sort of pretensions to a clerical inter-relationship.

The Rev. Titus Neve, who held the living of Willenhall from about 1748 to
1788, acted as Curate of Darlaston in 1760, and became Rector of that
parish in 1764; while his son, the Rev. Charles Neve, was also Curate
there from 1790 to 1793.  The Willenhall record of his ministry and
interment runs:—

    The Revd. Titus Neve, Minister, Curate, or Stipendiary Priest of
    Willenhall Chapelry, Prebendary of Hilton and Sacrist of the
    Collegiate Church of Wolverhampton, and Rector of Darlaston, in the
    County of Stafford, departed this life December 23rd, 1788, and was
    interred in the Chancel.

His successor, the Rev. William Moreton, went as Curate to Darlaston in
1786, and was sequestered to the vacant chapelry of Willenhall, December
24th, 1788, the day following Mr. Neve’s decease.

At the termination of Mr. Moreton’s tenure, the Rev. George William
White, who had been a curate at Darlaston from 1823, made a very
determined bid for the Incumbency of Willenhall; and although, as we
shall see, he was not successful, he was able to console himself, some
nine years later, with the rectory of Darlaston (1843).

It appeared that when the Rev. W. Moreton became very old he neglected
his duties sadly, often keeping funerals and congregations waiting an
unconscionable time, greatly to the scandal of the whole parish.  In
consequence of this the Churchwardens induced the Incumbent, two or three
years before his death, to appoint and pay an energetic young Curate to
assist him in his parochial ministrations.

The Curate appointed under these circumstances, as already mentioned, was
the Rev. G. H. Fisher, who speedily became a favourite, and by most
Willenhall people came to be looked upon as the only possible successor
to Mr. Moreton.

Long before the advent of Mr. Fisher, however, the Darlaston folk had
settled in their own minds that their Rector, the Rev. Mr. White, was to
annex the Willenhall living whenever it become vacant.  Whether they
looked upon it as being appurtenant to the more important office of their
own shepherding cannot be determined at this distance of time; but
certain it is that an intense feeling of rivalry existed between the men
of Darlaston and the men of Willenhall.  The intensity of the feeling may
best be judged by a remarkable incident which occurred some five years
before Mr. Fisher appeared on the scene.

During the earlier months of the year 1827 it would appear that there had
been, from time to time, incursions and alarms between the two towns, and
even rioting that involved hand to hand fighting in the streets.  Never
were such exciting times in these places.  At last the rivalry culminated
in an act of aggression as daring in execution as it was original in
conception—the Willenhall men woke up one fine Sunday morning to find
that the Darlastonians had entered their town in the dead of night and
stolen the cock from the church steeple!

Now the desperate achievement of this triumph over their enemies had a
deeper significance than at first meets the eye.  It must be borne in the
mind that those were the old cockfighting days, when town matched against
town their gamest birds, and sought the glories of a victory in the
cock-pit.  As between these two neighbouring parishes in particular,
there had been much vaunting of birds and challenging to the arbitrament
of the spur; the Darlaston men would take a game cock into Willenhall,
hold him up to show him the weathercock on the steeple, and then give
vent to a roar of defiant laughter when the bird crowed his challenge.

By way of reprisal the men of Willenhall would raid Darlaston, and
pretend to call the cock from the steeple there by scattering corn in the
churchyard, in mocking allusion to an old tale of Darlastonian
simplicity.  No wonder, therefore, that the ridiculed were at last
exasperated beyond endurance, and that the coup de main of stealing the
Willenhall cock was not only projected, but carried to its marvellously
successful issue.

Consternation reigned supreme in Willenhall; it was felt that the pass to
which matters had been brought by the enormity of this latest aggravation
by their enemies could only be met by an appeal to the law, which,
hitherto, both factions had so recklessly set at naught.  So the
following public notice was promptly issued:—

                              10 GUINEAS REWARD.

    Whereas, early on Sunday morning last, some evil disposed Persons did
    steal and carry away the

                                 WEATHERCOCK
                                 from off the
                                   STEEPLE.

    Any Person giving Information so that the Offenders may be
    apprehended, shall upon Conviction receive TEN GUINEAS REWARD over
    and above what is allowed by the Association for the prosecution of
    Felons.  And as more than one were concerned, if either will impeach
    his Accomplice or Accomplices, they shall receive the above Reward,
    and every endeavour used to obtain a free Pardon.

    Willenhall,
       July 24, 1827.

                                THOMAS HINCKS,
                              JAMES WHITEHOUSE,

                                                           Chapel Wardens.

                                  * * * * *

                         Bassford, Printer, Bilston.

The Notice proved totally unproductive of results, for no Darlaston man
was found mean enough to betray the heroes of this daring escapade.
Therefore, as the trophy of Darlastonian valour could not be recovered,
and St. Giles’s tower could not be left in all its nakedness without
being an ever-present reproach to the Willenhallers, a new vane had
forthwith to be provided for the church.

It was some time after the Willenhall pride had been thus lowered that
the old weathercock was accidentally found by some miners who were
re-opening an old coal pit which lay between the rival townships.  Almost
needless to say, the new vane was instantly fetched down, and the old one
once more set up to flaunt itself as bravely as of yore in the eyes of
distant Darlaston.

The good folk of Willenhall, feeling humiliated, did all in their power
to cover up their shame by burying the episode in oblivion; and to this
day Willenhall men will deny that the Darlastonians ever came and took
away their church weathercock.  By way of throwing doubt upon the
historical accuracy of the incident, they point to the fact that the
church at that time had no spire; it is known, however, that a vane
surmounted the church tower, and there is evidence of the Reward Notice,
the loose wording of which is responsible for the use of the term
“steeple” to signify a tower.

The authenticity of the said Notice is always open to investigation, for
a framed copy of it still hangs in the Neptune Inn, preserved as a
curiosity.  (This copy, probably the only one in existence, bears
intrinsic evidence of being a genuine document, and is a treasured
possession of the Baker family, to whom the “Neptune” property belonged,
the paper having been discovered some fifty years ago in a piece of old
furniture, by Mr. Phillips, a connection of his family.)

Resuming the history of the benefice, it may be observed that a doubt has
been raised whether Mr. Moreton had to go through a contested election in
1788, but there can be no doubt as to an electoral struggle in 1834.  Mr.
Fisher soon found himself drawn into the vortex of factional strife, for
he was speedily pounced upon by the home party, and very much against his
will adopted as their figure-head, if not their champion.

When, on the death of Mr. Moreton, the period of Election came within
measurable distance, the excitement became more intense; the patriotic
supporters of Mr. White invading the Willenhall territory day after day.
Such challenging and fighting, such threatenings and retaliations, surely
never were known; one faction had no sooner hurled its defiance at the
other than both incontinently plunged headlong into the melée, and
rioting once more raged fiercely through the public streets.

Cracked sconces, broken noses, split ears and black eyes resulted by the
score; to which list of casualties must be added the number of the
half-drowned who had to be rescued from the canal.  Onslaughts made on
public-houses and other party headquarters led to a considerable
destruction of property, which, however, was borne with much complacency
when it was remembered that the whole Hundred would be called upon to pay
the bill.

Among the candidates for the Incumbency were the Rev. R. Robinson,
lecturer at the Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton, in recommendation of
whom Mr. G. B. Thorneycroft wrote a letter, dating it from Chapel House
in that town, 16 July, 1834; the Rev. John Howells, the Rev. Mr. Rogers,
the Rev. Mr. Gwyther, and the Rev. Mr. Wenman; but the Rev. George
Hutchinson Fisher, who had been Curate two and a-half years in the town,
was recognised as the most formidable competitor.  He was the son of a
headmaster of Wolverhampton Grammar School, and an M.A. (1834) of Christ
College, Cambridge.  He received his nomination from Mr. Jeremiah
Hartill, and there was little doubt of his ability to obtain the
necessary approval of the lords of the manor and the confirmatory licence
of the Dean of Wolverhampton.

At that time the Duke of Cleveland was impropriator, but the tithes had
been leased by his Grace to Messrs. James Whitehouse and Charles Quinton.

As the day of battle approached public feeling ran so high that on the
eve of the poll, which took place on August 5th and 6th, 1834, the
Returning Officer deemed it prudent to issue the following Appeal to the
Inhabitants:—

    It is represented to me, from numerous quarters, that the excitement
    of the approaching Nomination of a Minister to your Chapel renders it
    imprudent to take the Poll at the time and place appointed.

    Gentlemen,—I cannot but hope and believe that such fears are
    unnecessary; and, relying upon your good sense, I have determined not
    to make any alteration in the present arrangements.

    I have no interest in your choice; it is my duty only to act with
    impartiality between all parties.

    For that purpose I shall be at your Church at Ten O’clock To-morrow
    Morning, but unless every person entitled to vote has free and
    Unmolested Access to the Poll, I shall, of course, be under the
    NECESSITY of adjourning it.

    I address myself to the friends of Each Candidate Alike, and
    entreating you to allow the proceedings of the day to take place with
    that moderation which their object and the sacred place in which we
    shall meet so particularly require.

    I am, Gentlemen,
    Your faithful, humble Servant,

                                                         FRANCIS HOLYOAKE.

    Tettenhall, August 4, 1834.

Needless to say, all this rowdyism and disgraceful violence were sternly
reprobated by Mr. Fisher, whose rabid opponents must have come to realise
that their cause was a lost one when they waylaid the polling clerk and
tore his poll-book to shreds.

As to the Magistrates and the Constables, the custodians of the peace
discreetly pursued a policy of the most masterly inactivity.  Perhaps
they felt that the resources of their command were totally inadequate to
cope with an uprising of the dimensions and intensity which presented
themselves to their consideration; or, maybe, they philosophically
recognised that these stirring tumults were the inevitable concomitants
of a parochial struggle of so momentous a character.  Anyway, their
attitude appears to have been justified when everything settled down
quietly after the election, the Fisheries tranquilised by victory, and
the White Boys dejected by defeat.

For the voting resulted easily in favour of Mr. Fisher, though the
validity of his return was challenged in the Court of Chancery for some
three years afterwards, during which time, however, he had no hesitation
in officiating.  He was a fine reader and an able speaker, his delivery
of the Church ritual being a model of correct elocution.

Like his predecessor, he held the living a long time, the tenure of the
two covering a century.  Mr. Fisher resided for a number of years at
Bentley Hall.

In 1887, soon after Mr. Fisher’s “Jubilee” in Willenhall, a public
movement was instituted, in which many Dissenters took part, to
acknowledge his fifty years of devoted service among all classes of the
community.  A presentation was made to him of a silver service and his
portrait in oils—the latter the work of Thomas Hill, a native of
Wednesfield, and which now hangs on the walls of the Free Public Library.

                       [Picture: Decorative flower]



XX.—The Election of 1894, and Since.


Although St. Giles’s Church is known as the Parish Church, and a church
has probably been on the same site some six centuries, the church of
Willenhall is really a Proprietary Chapel of Ease, and its Incumbent
legally nothing more than a Perpetual Curate, or Curate in Charge, though
Incumbent of Willenhall, and receiving in respect of that office a very
substantial “living.”  The official return set forth in Crockford’s
Clergy Directory for 1893 was: Tithe rent charge, £640, net Income,
£1,300.

Strictly, there is no St. Giles’s parish, nor any parish attached to St.
Giles’s Church, and in law the Incumbent might, if he wished, ignore the
so-called parish so long as he performed satisfactorily certain duties in
the church.  The unappropriated district, commonly known as St. Giles’s
parish, includes that part of Willenhall which has not been allocated to
the properly constituted parishes (or ecclesiastical districts) of St.
Stephen’s, St. Anne’s, and Holy Trinity, Short Heath, plus the entire
civil parish of Bentley—the whole being really part of the ecclesiastical
parish of Wolverhampton.

The position is extraordinarily anomalous.  The Incumbent is elected by
the inhabitants of the township of Willenhall being sufficient
householders and having lands of inheritance there; that is to say, the
voters must be freeholders as well as householders.  Litigation followed
the choice of the Rev. William Moreton in 1788, and also the election of
the Rev. G. H. Fisher in 1834.  It is understood that this system of
“patronage” has been condemned by the Privy Council; and that application
has been made for the proper constitution of a St. Giles’s parish, but
the Bishop demands a quid pro quo.

All attempts to create a Parish of Willenhall have, so far, utterly
failed.  The existing system of patronage is always the obstacle, and
nothing will induce the voters either to sell or to surrender their
rights in the Advowson.

To fully realise the position it must be borne in mind that in addition
to the three constituted “parishes” created within the original township
of Willenhall since Mr. Fisher became Incumbent of Willenhall in 1834,
Short Heath is now a separate township, with separate District Council,
and that Bentley has its Rural District Council—so that persons who live
in Bentley parish, Short Heath parish, the three constituted
ecclesiastical district parishes or districts, and the unappropriated
remainder of the township (nominally St. Giles’s parish), have all the
right to vote for the clergyman if they have the necessary other
qualifications of householder and freeholder.

On the death of the Rev. G. H. Fisher in 1894, no less than 23 formal
applications were forthcoming for the vacant living.  The keynote was
given at a preliminary meeting of St. Giles’s congregation, at which Dr.
J. T. Hartill presided, and when the most likely candidates were formally
proposed and seconded for adoption.

The voting (recorded on cards) resulted in favour of the Rev. William
Elitto Rosedale, M.A., Rector of Canton, Cardiff, for whom there were
265, as against 26 given for the Rev. W. L. Ward, of St. Anne’s,
Willenhall.  The Churchwardens consistently directed the procedure at
this public election as nearly as possible along the lines which would be
followed by private patronage; they declined to take any active part in
the circulation of testimonials, or afford facilities for any candidate
to preach in the church, to the possible prejudice of the others, but
they passively acquiesced in each one approaching the electors in any way
which seemed fitting and proper to himself.

The votes recorded on this occasion were:—

Rev. W. E. Rosedale (Canton, Cardiff)             199
Rev. W. L. Ward (St. Anne’s, Willenhall)          157
Rev. J. E. Page (Binfield)                         28
Rev. F. W. Ford (London)                            1

At four o’clock, Mr. Page (who was the son of a local iron-master) and
Mr. Ford retired in favour of Mr. Ward.  The Returning Officer was Mr. R.
N. Hearne, Steward to the Lords of the Manor of Stowheath, the Duke of
Sutherland and Mr. W. T. C. Giffard; and the poll was taken by open
voting, each voter recording his vote orally and within the hearing of
all present.

The result having been forwarded to the Lords of the Manor, they formally
nominated the one at the head of the poll to the Bishop for appointment
and induction to the living.  The successful candidate was a native,
being the son of the Rev. D. Rosedale, to whose exertions the building of
Holy Trinity Church was largely due, and in the Vicarage House attached
to which the said candidate was born.  But he possessed other than local
claims, though these, no doubt, prepossessed many Willenhall folk in his
favour.

There can be little doubt the election of 1894 was conducted with far
more tact and discretion than ever had been exercised on similar
occasions previously.  There was still the old risk of serious public
disturbances; but perhaps more than ever there was, as must generally be
the case in such methods of conducting a controversial matter of this
description, the danger of unseemly and acrimonious squabblings in
public.  It reflects the highest credit upon the Churchwardens and all
others concerned in the election, that not only was nearly all this
avoided, but the possibility always present, of long and embittered
litigation to follow, was also reduced to a minimum.  It required some
firmness and decision to weed down 23 formal applications, and more than
twice that number of business-like inquiries, to workable limits for
taking a poll.

The litigation of 1834 had arisen through the manufacture of “faggot
votes,” which were eventually disallowed, and had to be struck off.  A
difficulty arose in 1894 as to the interpretation of an Act of 1844—would
Lord Blandford’s Act debar from taking part in the voting the residents
in the newly-created ecclesiastical districts of St. Stephen’s, St.
Anne’s, and Holy Trinity, Short Heath?  Although at first dubious on the
question, the authorities answered it in the negative.

                                * * * * *

As previously stated, the earliest record of the Advowson is of the year
1408.  In the Salt Collections, Vol.  XI., p. 218, we find that by a
final concord recorded “on the morrow of St. Martin, 10 Henry IV.,
William Bysshebury and Joan, his wife, acknowledged that seven messuages,
eight tofts, one mill, sixty acres of land, ten acres of meadow, and 24s.
6½d. of rent in Wolverhampton, and the Advowson of the Chapel of
Willenhall to be the right of Richard Hethe and William Prestewood,
chaplain, and the latter granted them to William Bysshebury and Joan for
their lives, with remainder to John Hampton, of Stourton, and Harvise,
his wife, and to the heirs of John for ever.”

Exactly two centuries later, as we shall learn in the next chapter, the
endowments of, and the right of presentation to, the living were placed
upon a definite and legal foundation.  Suffice it here to say that at the
present time there are Trustees appointed by the Charity Commissioners
for the purpose of holding the Trust property belonging to the said
living, and, with the assistance of an official representing the
Commissioners, managing affairs connected therewith.

The Trust, to which Mr. Samuel Mills Slater is solicitor, is under the
full control of the Charity Commissioners, who have to be regularly
supplied with certified copies of all the Trust accounts.

As we shall see presently, the original Feoffees of the Trust property
were appointed in 1608 by a Commission of local magnates and landowners,
consisting of William Overton, Bishop of Lichfield; William, Lord Paget,
of Beaudesert; Sir John Bowes, of Elford; Sir Edward Littleton, of
Pillaton Hall; Sir Edward Leigh, of Rushall; Sir Simon Weston, of St.
John’s, Lichfield; Sir Robert Stanford, of Perry Hall; Sir Walter
Chetwynde, of Grendon and Ingestre; Sir William Chetwynde, of Grendon
(half-brother of Sir Walter); Zachary Babington, Doctor in the Civil Law;
Raphe Snead, of Keele; Walter Bagott, of Blythfield; William Skeffington,
of Fisherwick; Roger Fowke, of Brewood and Wyrley; John Chetwynde, of
Rudge, parish of Standon, and Walter Stanley, of West Bromwich—most of
them justices for the county of Stafford.

By virtue of a provision in the Decree or award of these Commissioners,
the surviving Feoffees were enabled to appoint new Feoffees in the places
of the deceased ones.  In later times, however, by virtue of the
Charitable Trusts Acts, the Board of Charity Commissioners acquired the
power of making appointments of new Trustees, and also of removing
Trustees.

In the year 1889, the number of Trustees had become reduced to one—Mr.
John Davies, then residing at Warwick.  By an Order dated 23rd July,
1889, the Board removed Mr. Davies, at his own request, from the office
of Trustee, and appointed the following gentlemen to be new Trustees:—

John Clark.

Wm. Henry Hartill.

John Thomas Hartill.

Joseph Johnson.

David Wm. Lees.

Jas. Carpenter Tildesley.

Henry Vaughan.

Henry Hartill Walker, junr.

Of these gentlemen only Messrs. J. T. Hartill, Vaughan, and Walker are
now living.

It might be necessary under certain conditions (as, for instance, in any
action connected with the sale of the Advowson) to constitute a body of
elected Trustees (as distinct from the aforementioned nominated Trustees)
of not more than eleven, nor less than five members, duly elected at a
statutory meeting of the town’s inhabitant freeholders.

As a matter of fact, a public meeting of the owners of the Advowson,
convened on the requisition of a memorial to the Incumbent (Rev. W. E.
Rosedale), signed by a number of them, was held in the month of June,
1900, to consider a proposal for the sale of the said Advowson.  A
similar proposal had been discussed in 1898 at a public meeting attended
by some 200 owners, when it was suggested that half the sum realised
should be handed over to the town authorities, while the other half
should be spent on the church and schools.

At this second meeting, over which Mr. T. Nicholls, chairman of the
District Council, presided, the sale value of the Advowson was variously
estimated at sums ranging from £1,100 to £3,000.  The minister’s income
was stated by one speaker to be £539 per annum nett—£508 derived from a
sum of £20,974 13s. 11d. invested in Consols, and with other sources
making a gross revenue of £641 18s. 9d., from which deductions amounting
to £102 7s. 6d. had to be made.

Another speaker gravely cautioned the meeting against over-estimating the
capitalised value of this living by remarking that the present incumbent
was then a comparatively young man of only forty-two, and healthy at
that.

It was given as the opinion of another speaker that the existing method
of electing their parson was undesirable in the best interests of the
church, and ought to be forthwith discontinued.  Also it was contended
that if a sale could be effected, any sum that resulted therefrom might
very advantageously be expended in the town for the benefit of the
inhabitants generally.

One stalwart stickler for “the eternal fitness of things” upheld the
sound principle of the members of every church exercising the right to
choose their own minister, and he deprecated generally the practice of
trafficking in advowsons.

In the end, although those in favour of selling almost threatened to
apply for an Act of Parliament for effecting a sale compulsorily, the
meeting finally resolved by a very substantial majority: “That it was not
advisable at the present time to sell the Advowson.”

So that two well-conducted public meetings, held within a brief space of
each other, were unable to come to any definite decision by which the
position of things would be materially altered.



XXI.—Willenhall Church Endowments.


By the courtesy of Mr. S. M. Slater, of Darlaston, a summarised, but
fairly comprehensive account of the Willenhall endowments, and the
somewhat exceptional parochial privileges connected therewith, may be
given here.

The foundation of the Endowment of the Benefice and the establishment of
the right of the Parishioners, or rather the Parishioners of the Township
“having lands of inheritance there,” may be said to rest upon, or at all
events to have been defined and regulated by, three documents, namely:—

(a) A Decree dated the 27th March in the 5th Year of James the 1st
(1607), made in pursuance of an Inquisition, or Commission, issued by the
King on the 12th February of the previous (regnal) year.

(b) A Deed of the 23rd September of the 6th Year of James the 1st (1608),
entered into between the Lords of the Manor of Stowheath on the one hand,
and Sir Walter Levison and others, on behalf of themselves and the rest
of the Inhabitants of Willenhall, on the other hand.

(c) A Memorandum entered on the Court Rolls of the Manor of Stowheath,
dated the 10th October in the 6th Year of James the First (1608).

Reference to Chapter VII. of this work will recall how a Chantry Chapel
had been founded and endowed in Willenhall by the Gerveyse family.  This
Chantry Chapel would be a “separated place” within the Chapel-of-Ease
specially used to celebrate masses for the departed souls of certain
persons.  Now, one of the earliest signs of the approaching Reformation
was a decline in the belief in Purgatory; and presently Henry VIII. was
empowered by Act of Parliament to seize all lands, tenements, rents, &c.,
which had been given for the maintenance of Chantry Priests, with all
their lamps, candles, torches, and other expensive appointments for what
were declared to be “superstitious” uses.  But a right was reserved to
the King, as head of the Church, to direct such properties to uses which
could be regarded as truly “charitable.”  What became of the Willenhall
Chantry endowments?

It is the opinion of Mr. A. A. Rollason, no mean authority on the
subject—vide his recondite articles in the “Dudleian,” having special
reference to a similar Commission of Inquiry held in 1638 as to the
alienation of lands belonging to Dudley Grammar School—that the
Willenhall Inquisition, or Commission of Inquiry, was brought about, as
was that at Dudley, in consequence of the uncertain state of the law as
to whether the lands, and the income therefrom, came within the
Charitable Uses Act; or whether the gifts were absolutely void.

For while Magna Charta declared “that if any one shall give lands to a
religious house, the grant shall be void, and the land forfeited to the
lord of the fee”—the abbots of old took care to be “lords of the fee,”
usually holding their lands direct from the King—there was a Statute of
Edward III. by which the King was empowered to grant a Royal licence
affording relaxation of lands held under the Statutes of Mortmain.

It seems almost impossible to doubt that the freehold lands belonging to
the Willenhall Chantry had escaped confiscation to the Crown under the
Statute, I Edward VI., if they had been held solely for performing obits
and singing masses for the dead.  Yet it is just possible they may have
been re-granted to aid in the maintenance of the Curate of the
Chapel-of-Ease, in which case they would be recognised as a “charitable
use,” and were consequently safe.

The Willenhall Inquisition of 1607 was addressed by the King (as stated
in the last chapter) to “The Reverend Father in God, William, Bishopp of
Coventrie and Lichfield And to our right trustie and well beloved William
Lord Pagett and to our trustie and well beloved Sir John Bowes, Sir
Edward Littleton, Sir Edward Leigh, Sir Simon Weston, Sir Robert
Stanford, Sir Walter Chetwynde and Sir William Chetwynde, Knights,
Zacharie Baington (Babington), Doctor of Lawe, Chancellor of Lichfield,
Raphe Sneade, Walter Bagott, William Skevington (Skeffington), Roger
Fowke, John Chetwynde, and Walter Stanley, Esquires.”

It set forth that the King, for the due execution of a certain Statute of
43 Queen Elizabeth, intituled an Act to “redress the misimployment of
landes goods and stocks of money theretofore given to charitable uses,”
and having special trust and confidence in their approved fidelities,
&c., had appointed the persons named “to be our Commissions,” and thereby
gave to them and to any four or more of them full power and authority to
enquire “as well by the Oathes of twelve lawful men or more of the County
of Stafford as by all other good and lawful waies and meanes accordinge
to the purporte and true meaninge of the said Statute, What landes, etc.,
have at any tyme or tymes been given by us or any of our progenitors or
by any other well disposed pson or psons, bodies politique or corporate,
for the reliefe of aged impotent and poore people etc.—And of all and
singular the abuses misdemeanors breaches of trusts negligences
misimployments notimployinge, concealinge, defraudinge, misconvertinge or
misgovernment of the same landes tenements rents anuyties pffits
hereditments goods chattels money or stocks of money or any of them
heretofore given lymitted appointed or assigned to or for any charitable
and godlie uses before rehearsed accordinge to the purporte and true
meaninge of the said Statute.  And upon such enquirie hearinge and
examyninge thereof accordinge to the said Statute to sett downe such
Orders Judgments and Decrees as the said landes tenements rents anuyties
pffits hereditaments goods chattels money and stocks of money may be
dulie and faithfullie employed to and for such of the charitable uses and
intents before rehearsed respectively for which they were given limited
assigned or appointed by the donors and founders thereof accordinge to
the purporte and true meaninge of the said Statute.”

The Commission then proceeds:—

    And therefore we commande you that at cteyne days and places which
    you or any foure or more of you shall appoint in this behalf ye or
    any foure or more of you doe make diligent Inquirie and Inquiries
    upon the pmisses and all and singuler the same and all other things
    appointed by the said Statute for you or any foure or more of you to
    doe and execute that ye or foure of you at the least pforme doe and
    execute that effecte in all points and in everie respect accordinge
    to the said Statute. . . .  And the same Inquisicon and Inquisicons
    and everie of them togeather with all decrees Judgments orders and
    proceedinges which you or any foure or more of you shall accordinge
    to the said Statute thereupon make or sett downe that you or foure or
    more of you have before Us in our Chancery with all convenient speede
    . . . under the hands and seals of any foure or more of you. . .  And
    we also command by authoritie hereof our Sheriffe of our said County
    of Stafford that at such times dayes and places as you or any foure
    or more of you shall appoint to him he shall cause to come before you
    or any foure or more of you such and as many honest and lawful men of
    the said County as well within the liberties as without by whom the
    truth in the pmisses may best be known to inquire of the pmisses upon
    their Oathes as you or any foure or more of you shall require and
    command him.

The Decree before referred to was signed by Sir Edward Leigh, Dr.
Zacharie Babington, William Skeffington, John Chetwynde, and Walter
Stanley, and was addressed to the Right Honourable Thomas, Lord
Ellesmere, Lord Chancellor of England.  It set out the Commission and
then proceeded as follows:—

    Wee therefore by verteue of the said Commission dyd award a pcept to
    the Sheriffe of the said Countye to somon foure and twentye good and
    lawfull men of his Baylywicke to be before Us at Lichfeilde the
    xxijth day of Marche laste paste and did also send a precepte to one
    Jane Lane Widdow and to Thomas Lane Esquire that claymed intereste in
    the pmisses to bee before Us att the same day and place to sett forth
    theire and either of theire tytles (yf they had anie) to the said
    pmisses att wch daye and place by virtue of the said pcepte to the
    sayde Sheriffe dyrected as aforesaid a full Jury dyd appeare and
    Councell on the behalfe of Mrs. Lane and the said Thomas Lane dyd
    alsoe appear before Us and thereupon wee pceeded to sweare the Jurye
    who bringe sworne and chardged to inquire of the pmisses after long
    evidence and examinacon of many witnesses on both pts the said Jurors
    gave up theire verdicte in such sorte as by an Inquisition hereunto
    annexed Sealed and subscribed (wch wee doe herewith all ctyfye unto
    yor Lordshippe into the highe Courte of Chancery) maie appear; that
    is to say that a pcell of pasture or land called Marchyhills alias
    Bessalls in Bentley aforesaid, of ye yeerlie value of fyve pounds,
    was before the fourth yeere of Kinge Edward the Sixth given to
    Nicholas Hellyn and Richard Whorwood gent., John Podmore Willm Greene
    Willm Whitmore and William Podmore and their heires to bee Imployed
    to saye devine service in the Chappell of Willenhall aforesaid for
    the ease of the Inhabyants there being farre remoote from their prshe
    Church of Wolverhampton in the said Countye that the pffits of the
    said lands were from Anno quarto of Kinge Edwarde the sixte so
    imployed as aforesaid by the space of dyvers yeeres of the said Jane
    Lane and Thomas Lane and their Tenants  And that the same have been
    misemployed by the space of one whole yeere now laste paste and more
    all wch pmisses considered wee doe order and decree at Lichfeilde
    aforesaid by verteue of the said Comission in manner and form
    followinge  That is to saie that the said pcell of groundes and all
    ye rents revenues yssues and pffitts thereof shall for ever hereafter
    bee imployed and bestowed upon and towards the maynetaynance of a
    Curate or Chaplyne for the tyme being to saie devine service in the
    said Chappell for the ease of the Inhabitants there and that John
    Wilkes of Willenhall in the said Countye gent, Willm Flemynge als
    Greene of Willenhall in the said Countye yeoman, Leonard Tomkis of
    Willenhall in the said Countye yeoman, John Bate of Willenhall in the
    said Countye yeoman, Richard Bate of Willenhall in the saide Countye
    yeoman, Willm Baylie of Willenhall in the said Countye yeoman, and
    Willm Brindley of Willenhall in the said Countye yeoman, theire
    heires and Assignes shall have and hold the said pmisses to the use
    and entente aforesaid according to a former feoffm’t thereof made and
    shewed forth to the said Jury at the tyme of the same Inquisicon
    taken and shall from tyme to tyme and at all tymes hereafter yeerelie
    Imploye and bestowe the full value thereof upon and towards the
    maynetaynance of a Curate or Chaplyne to saye devyne service in the
    said Chappell.

As will be seen, the Decree states clearly that the yearly income of the
Bentley lands was to be used towards the maintenance of a Curate to say
Divine Service in the Chapel; this at once brought it under the
Charitable Uses Act, and removed it from liability to be confiscated
under 23, Henry VIII., c. 10., for perpetuating practices regarded as
superstitious and contrary to Reformation doctrines.  It will be noted
that a “former feoffment” is mentioned—may not this have been a re-grant
by the King, which has been hinted at?  The grant to Nicholas Hellyn and
others in 4 Edward VI. has all the appearance of being a gift from the
Crown to the purposes of the newly constituted Church of England.

The Decree then proceeds, as mentioned in the last chapter, to make
provision for the filling up of vacancies in the number of Feoffees
whenever the number may be reduced to three.

It will be noticed that the Inquisition and Decree, as given above, deal
only with the title to and the application of the income of certain
freehold lands at Bentley.  The Deed of the 23rd September of the 6th
Year of James the 1st (1608), and the Memorandum of the 10th October of
the same year, however, appear to deal with what seems to be the
remainder of the endowment of the Curacy, and with the status of the
Priest or Curate.  The Deed and the Memorandum set forth, in effect, the
same set of facts; and the former may be described as the Contract out of
Court between the parties interested, and the latter as being the
Official Record of the Contract entered upon the Rolls of the Manor.  The
Deed is stated to be made between the Right Worshipful Sir John Levison,
Knight, of Lilleshall, in the County of Salop, and John Giffard, of
Chillington, in the County of Stafford, Esquire, on the one part, and Sir
Walter Levison, of Wolverhampton, Knight, Thomas Lane, of Bentley,
Esquire, Richard Wilkes, and Thomas Tomkis, of Willenhall, Gentlemen, and
William Brindley and William Podmore, of Willenhall, Yeomen, on behalf of
themselves and the rest of the Inhabitants of Willenhall, on the other
part; and after making reference to a “Commission awarded upon the
Statute of 43 Elizabeth concerning Lands given to Charitable Uses,” it
proceeds to state that the lords consent, grant, and decree that the
Copyhold lands therein referred to shall be let in the manner and for the
purpose therein mentioned, and the effect of such consent, as before
pointed out, is recited in the Memorandum entered on the Court Rolls.

Coming to the Memorandum of 1608, it is evident a serious difficulty had
arisen with the Willenhall lands held under copyhold tenure, and which
were probably dealt with by the same Commission.  For there was probably
but one Commission of Inquiry, though there may have been two separate
Decrees.

Lands held by Copyhold tenure are usually subject to fealty to the Lord
of the Manor, and this was doubtless customary in Stowheath.  It seems
conclusive that the King did not take these lands into his own hands,
whereby matters would have been reduced to the absurdity of the lord
paramount being called upon to do homage to his own tenant.

The suggestion is offered by Mr. Rollason that the tenure of the lands
was not precisely a lay one, but partook of a spiritual nature—was, in
fact, not feudal, but what was known as a tenure in frankalmoign or free
alms.

The Memorandum commences with a recital as follows:—

    Whereas by a Commission awarded upon a Statute of 43 Elizabeth
    concerning Lands given to Charitable Uses upon the executinge of wch
    Comission the Inhabitants and Men of Willenhall in the County of
    Stafford have made profe that certaine Copyhold Lands in the Towne of
    Willenhall holden by Coppie of Court Roll of the Manor of Stowheath
    were formerly Surrendered by certain Feoffees or Stateberers Uppon
    Trust and confidence that the yearly Pfitts thereof should be
    imployed for the hyer stipend and wages of a Preist Minister or
    Curate to say Divine Service in the Chappell of Willenhall from tyme
    to tyme for ever for the Ease of the Inhabitants there dwelling being
    two Myles distant from Wolverhampton their Prshe Church and towards
    the repairinge of the said Chappell and the said yearly pfitts
    thereof were soe used and imployed for many yeares togeather uppon
    consideracon of wch said cause and uppon longe debate thereof before
    divse Comissioners in psence of Councell of both ptes ambiguity and
    doubtings arisinge whether the said Copyhold Lands were originally
    given to the maintenance of a Chantery Preist or otherwise to the
    maintenance of a Curate of Preist to say Divine Service in the
    Chappell aforesaid The said Inhabitants are contented to refer
    themselves therein to the consideracon of Sir John Leveson Knt and
    John Giffard Esquire Lords of the Mannor of Stowheath within wch
    Mannor the said Towne of Willenhall lyeth and is pcel wch usadge and
    imploymt of the saide rents and pfitts of the said Lands the said Sr
    John Leveson and Jhn Giffard Esqre well accepting of are willing to
    give furtherance to soe good and charitable an occon And the rather
    for that their Ancestors have formerly given allowance out of the
    same Lands for the same purpose And therefore doe for them and their
    heirs consent and agree that the said Coppyhold Lands shall for ever
    hereafter be let by the consent of four of the Inhabitants of the
    said Towne of Willenhall to be chosen by the greater pte of the
    sufficient Householders of the said Towne having lands of inheritance
    there, and that the said aforemenconed Lands shall be by the said
    four Inhabitants let from tyme to tyme according to the trew and
    reasonable Rate or Valew thereof and the mony pfitts and rents to be
    reserved out of the said Lands to be imployed half yearly hereafter
    in manner and forme following (that is to say) First to the payment
    of eleven shillings yearly for the antient and accustomed cheife rent
    dew and to be dew to the Lords of the said Manor of Stowheath
    Secondly to the payment of Six shillings and eight pence yearly
    towards the reparations of the said Chappell, and thirdly towards the
    maintenance of a stipendary Preist Minester or Curate for the sayinge
    of Divine Service Ministeringe of the Holy Sacraments and doinge all
    such other service in the Chappell of Willenhall as doe and shall
    belong to his Ministerie and Function wch Stipendary Priest Minister
    or Curate shall be fro tyme to tyme chosen nominated and appointed by
    the said Inhabitants of Willenhall for the tyme beinge or the
    greatest pte of them havinge lands there as aforesaid and prsented
    and allowed by the Lord on Lords of the said Manner of Stowheath and
    his and their heir or heires for ever.  And it is further ordered
    that whosoever shall be nominated appointed prsented and allowed as
    aforesaid to supply the place as Preist Minister or Curate in the
    said Chappell of Willenhall shall conforme himselfe to the Govermt
    Eclesiasticall and be resident uppon his cure there, in defalt
    whereof and uppon complainte made by the said Inhabitants or the
    greater pte of the sufficient or chiefest of them, eyther of his
    nonresidence, Insufficiencie, negligence, or any other Misdemenor, to
    the Lord or Lords of the said Manner for the tyme beinge, yt shall be
    lawfull for the Lord or Lords of the said Mannor for the tyme beinge
    to give one halfe yeares warninge to the said Preist Minester or
    Curate to reform himselfe whch if he doe not then it shall be lawfull
    for the said Lord or Lords for the tyme beinge to remove and displace
    him at the end of the said halfe yeare, and to present and allow
    another Curate Minester or Preist there to be nominated and appointed
    by the said Inhabitants or the greater part of them as aforesaid.
    Lastly it is ordered that the said Lands shall at the next Leete at
    Wolverhampton for the said Mannor of Stowheath be granted by Coppie
    of Court Roll to Nine Feoffees or Stateberers and their heires then
    and there to be nominated, uppon wch Grante there shall be Thirteene
    pounds six shillings and eight pence paid for a Fine and Herriotts,
    and that after the death of six or seaven of the said Feoffees or
    Stateberers there shall be sixe or seaven others from tyme to tyme
    chosen by the said Inhabitants or greatest pte of them to whom and to
    the other three or two surviving Feoffees and their heires uppon the
    Surrender of the said three or two Feoffees or Stateberers a new
    Grant shall be made by Coppie of Court Roll of the said Lands
    accordinge to the Custome of the said Mannor.  And soe from when and
    as often there shal be remaininge but three or two Feoffees or
    Stateberers And that uppon every such admittance there shall be payed
    to the Lords of the said Mannor the some of six pounds thirteen
    shillings and fower pence for a fine and Herriotts as often as any
    such admittance shall be as aforesaid.

The disclosure here made, that part of the endowments went to the repair
of the church, gives the key to the probable solution; because this
unquestionably constituted a “charitable use,” and where such was
intermixed with a “superstitious use,” only so much as went to the latter
purpose was subject to confiscation under the reforming Statutes of Henry
VIII.  A generous interpretation would not inquire too closely into the
amount left for a Chantry Priest, and the portion devoted to repairs of
the fabric.  It was to discriminate between the two kinds of uses that
the subsequent Statute of Elizabeth (43 E. Cap. 4) was passed, empowering
the Lord Chancellor to appoint Commissions authorised to investigate the
complaints of aggrieved parties, and to alter the direction of the
endowment funds, where necessary, to make them conformable with the
Protestant religion.  This was precisely the nature and function of the
Willenhall Commission.  All it accomplished was done under the authority
of the Great Seal of England, the Commissions being generally directed by
the Lord Chancellor to the Bishop of the diocese, as in this case; the
judgments arrived at, and the decrees issued were given the full force of
law.  The Willenhall Trust was clearly constituted under this Act of
Elizabeth.

On reading the introductory portion of the Memorandum, it will be
observed that no date is given to the Commission referred to, which
possibly might be interpreted to mean that such Commission was quite
separate from the one above set out, inasmuch as the latter related only
to freehold land at Bentley, while the Memorandum speaks of “certain
Copyhold lands in the Towne of Willenhall” being “surrendered by certain
Feoffees . . .  Uppon trust,” &c.

In the documents before considered no allusion is made to there being any
endowment or provision for the maintenance of the Chantry Priest or
Curate other than the income from the Freehold and Copyhold lands which
respectively formed the subject of those documents; and from this it is
reasonable to conclude that such income formed, or was involved in what
may be described as practically the only permanent provision for the
maintenance of the Incumbent for the time being of the Chapel.

A century ago there appears to have been a prevalent belief that the
income of the Incumbent or Curate was about £1,400 per annum.  An
investigation of what has happened during the last 70 years does not
reveal any foundation for the belief.  After the election, in the year
1838, of the late Rev. G. H. Fisher to the Curacy, it was considered by
him and the Trustees of the Living to be desirable to apply to Parliament
for powers to sell the surface of the lands forming the Endowment, or to
sell or lease any of the mines thereunder.  Accordingly, a private Act of
Parliament (7 and 8 Victoria Cap. 19) granting those powers was obtained.
The Preamble of this Act refers to dealings with the Copyhold Lands
subsequent to the date of the Memorandum before commented upon, there
being recitals that, as appears by a surrender dated the 21st November,
1727, certain Copyhold Lands, &c., in the Town of Willenhall were
formally surrendered to the use of certain Feoffees and were held upon
the trusts already described, and that at a Court Baron held on the 24th
September, 1839, the said Copyhold lands were surrendered to the use of
Thomas Hinks, John Riley Hinks, John Read, William Stokes, John Mason,
Joseph Turner, John Biddle, Jeremiah Hartill and John Davies on the same
trusts.  The Preamble further shows a small further source of income for
the Living, inasmuch as it states that certain Freehold lands in the
Township of Willenhall (as well as those in the Township of Bentley) had
from time immemorial been held and enjoyed in like manner as the said
Copyhold lands and that the said Freehold and Copyhold lands constituted
“one and the same Charity.”  The Preamble further states that there stood
in the name of the Accountant-General of the High Court of Chancery the
sum of £386 3s. 0d. of three per cent. Consols, and that there was owing
from the Birmingham Canal Company a sum of £202 2s. 0d.  These two sums
represented the agreed prices of lands belonging to the Living taken by
the Grand Junction Railway Company and the Canal Company respectively
under their compulsory powers.  The freehold land in Willenhall before
referred to, is comprised (with all the other lands held in Trust for the
Living), in the Schedule to the Act, and consisted of a field called Ell
Park, containing 1a. 3r. 28p., and produced a rental of £5 12s. 0d.

Touching the supposition before referred to as to the value of the Living
being £1,400 per annum, it may be mentioned that the Schedule to the Act
gives the total area of the lands held in trust for the Living at 112a.
2r. 37p., and the aggregate amount of the rentals as being £500 15s. 6d.
per annum.

A further power sought for and conferred by the Act was the power to
raise a sum not exceeding £1,600 to be applied in building a Parsonage
House upon any of the land belonging to the Living, or, in the
alternative, to purchase at a cost not exceeding £1,600, a Parsonage
House, with the consent of the Court of Chancery, if thought more
advantageous than to build one.

In the exercise of the powers conferred by the Act, the Trustees, in the
course of a few years, sold all the lands belonging to the Living situate
in Willenhall, and in recent years a piece of land containing 1 rood and
23 perches, forming part of the Freehold land at Bentley, has also been
sold and there now remains at Bentley, belonging to the Living, nine
pieces of land, containing a total area of 30 acres and 27 perches,
which, for several years prior to Mr. Fisher’s death, produced a rental
of £20 per annum.

The primary provisions of the Act with regard to the moneys to arise from
sales and leases under the powers thereby conferred were: (a) That the
moneys should be let out and invested under the direction of the Court in
the purchase of Freehold hereditaments or Copyhold hereditaments
convenient to be enjoyed therewith; (b) that the premises purchased
should be conveyed unto the Trustees for the time being of the Charity
and held upon the Trusts, upon which the hereditaments sold would have
been held in case the same had not been so sold, and the Act had not been
passed; (c) that until the moneys should be so let out and invested they
should be invested in Parliamentary stocks or Funds of Great Britain in
the name of the Accountant-General; and (d) that the annual produce of
such funds should be applied to the person and for the purposes to which
the rents of the trust lands would have been applicable.

In the exercise of the trust for purchasing lands conferred by the Act,
the Trustees subsequently purchased the property in Walsall Street,
adjoining and near to the Churchyard, including the site of the new
Schools there, and also two Cottages and some gardens and land at
Shepwell Green.  The latter property has since been sold off.

Reverting to the question of the value of the Living, it may be mentioned
that in the year 1886, when the Shepwell Green property and the small
piece of land at Bentley were still in hand, the gross income from the
Living, apart from Surplice Fees, was £792 7s. 9d., made up as follows:—

                                                   £       s.       d.
Rents                                            194        2        8
Dividend from £19,941 16s. 8d., 3 per            598        5        1
cent. Consols
                                                £792        7        9

The effect of the “Goschen” Act of 1888 was ultimately to reduce the
Dividend on the Consols by 1/6th, and, consequently, the gross income of
the Living, apart from Surplice Fees, stood a few years afterwards at
£692 13s. 7d., made up as follows:—

                                               £       s.       d.
Rents                                        194        2        8
Dividend from 2½ per cent. Consols           498       10       11
                                            £692       13        7

This statement brings matters up to date (1907); the tithes are still
impropriate, a rent charge of £540 being receivable by Lord Barnard in
succession to the Duke of Cleveland.  The tithe-owner in Bentley is the
Earl of Lichfield.



XXII.—The Church Charities: The Daughter Churches.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century a Royal Commission was
appointed to inquire into, and put a stop to, the barefaced robbery of
the Church charities, which had been going on for a century or more.
Every parish in England was visited, and the Report on the Willenhall
Charities was published in 1825 to the following effect:—



1.—PRESTWOOD’S DOLE.


    An ancient Instrument was produced to us, purporting to be a
    Deed-poll (without any seals thereto, but with a portion of the lower
    margin torn off, not, however, as it appeared to us, in that part
    where the seals are usually affixed), bearing date 17 August, 1642,
    whereby William Prestwood, of Willenhall, in Co. Stafford, and
    Mariana, his wife, granted to the Wardens and Sidemen of the Church
    or Chapel of Willenhall, aforesaid, and to the Overseers of the poor
    of the said Town, and their successors for ever, all the annual rent,
    profits, and emoluments whatsoever, issuing, renewing, and arising
    from, in and out of a certain Close of the said William and Mariana,
    called Canne Byrch, lying and being in Willenhall aforesaid, between
    Willenhall Field on one part, and the highway leading towards
    Darlaston on the other; to have and to hold all the rent, profits,
    and emoluments arising from the said Close, after the death of the
    said William and Mariana, for ever; to the pious use following,
    viz.:—

    To pay and contribute the annual rent aforesaid to the use and behoof
    of the Poor in the said Town, at the discretion of the aforesaid
    Wardens, Officers, and Overseers of the Chapel and Town aforesaid for
    ever, and not otherwise: And it is further declared that the said
    rent should be annually paid in the manner and form as the said
    William by his last Will should appoint.

    We have no evidence that this piece of land, which is well known, was
    ever in the possession of the Parish Officers.  It is now considered
    as the property of Hervey Smith, Esq., of Castle Bromwich, who has
    lately succeeded to it on the death of his father, the late William
    Smith, Esq., solicitor of Birmingham, and to be subject only to an
    annual rent charge of 20s. to the Poor of Willenhall, which is
    regularly paid by the tenant of the land.  It has been for many years
    in the possession of Mr. Smith’s family, and he produced several
    receipts, the earliest of which is dated 31 October, 1753, and is for
    “£1 due Nov. 1st, 1753, for Prestwood’s Dole.”

    The others are for the same sum, designating it either as
    “Prestwood’s Dole,” or “A Dole payable to the Poor of Willenhall.”

    We do not conceive that, under these circumstances, the imperfect
    Instrument above stated, unaccompanied by possession, can afford any
    ground to the Parishioners of the Township to claim anything more
    than the Dole which has been so long paid.  The 20 shillings are
    given away to 20 Poor Widows on St. Thomas’s Day.



2.—PEDLEY’S CHARITY.


    James Pedley, otherwise Fletcher, by his Will dated 20 May, 1728,
    after the death of his wife, gave to his brother, Richard Pedley,
    alias Fletcher, his heirs and assigns, those two Closes of Land
    called by the name Little Clothers, lying in the Liberty of
    Willenhall, in the Parish of Wolverhampton, on condition that his
    said brother should pay or cause to be paid 30s. a year out of the
    rent of the said two Closes of land, as follows; that is to say, to
    the Minister of Willenhall 6s. 8d. a year to preach a sermon on New
    Year’s Day; and unto Poor Housekeepers 8s. in bread yearly, upon New
    Year’s Day, at the Chapel as the Chapelwardens should think fit; and
    to the Chapelwardens for their trouble 4d.; and 13s. yearly to one of
    the Chapelwardens and to the Overseer of the Poor to be given in
    bread to such Poor Housekeepers as they should think fit, and carry
    the said bread to, from house to house, upon the first day of July;
    and he directed that the Officers for trouble should have 12 pence
    apiece: And in the event of his brother’s death without issue, he
    gave the Closes, paying the aforesaid 30s. yearly as above directed
    to the right heir of the Pedleys for ever.

    The premises charged with this annuity of 30s. are at present the
    property of Mr. George Bailey, in right of his wife, to whom they
    descended as heir to her brother, Charles Pedley, the great-nephew of
    the testator.

    The several payments of 6s. 8d. to the Minister and 8s. and 13s. for
    bread, appear to have been annually made; but the bread having been
    distributed by the Pedley family themselves, or persons deputed by
    them, without the intervention of the Chapelwarden or Overseer, the
    fees of 2s. 4d. to these Officers have been hitherto withheld, and
    are indeed unnoticed in a Will of James Pedley, dated in 1792,
    whereby he devises the Closes in question to the above-named Charles
    Pedley, describing them as subject to the other payments of 27s. 8d.
    only.

    Mr. Bailey has, however, expressed his readiness to supply the
    omission in future, and to pay the bread money, or deliver the bread
    to the Officers of the Township to be distributed by them according
    to the directions of the donor.

    The distributions appear to have been hitherto made respectively on
    New Year’s Day and at Midsummer, among Poor Old Widows and other Poor
    of the Township.



3.—CHARITIES OF JOHN TOMKYS AND GEORGE WELCH.


    At a Court Baron held for the Manor of Stowheath, on 29th May, 1781,
    the lords of the manor, at the request of certain persons being
    Chapelwardens, and certain others being Overseers of the Poor of the
    liberty of Willenhall, and of certain others, being three of the
    principal Inhabitants of Willenhall, on behalf of themselves and
    others, the inhabitants of Willenhall, by the hands of the Steward,
    according to the custom of the manor, gave, granted, and delivered to
    Joshua Fletcher, of Willenhall, and Catherina, his wife, all those
    three Closes or parcels of land, containing together five acres, or
    thereabouts, theretofore enclosed from the waste or common-land
    called Shepwell Green, within the liberty of Willenhall, for their
    natural lives and the life of the survivor, with remainder to the
    heirs and assigns of the said Joshua Fletcher for ever, subject to
    the payment of 20s. on St. Thomas’s Day yearly for ever, to the
    Chapelwardens and Overseers of the Poor for the liberty of
    Willenhall, to be by them paid or applied to or for the use of the
    Poor of the said liberty of Willenhall, yearly and every year for
    ever on St. Thomas’s Day aforesaid, at the Vestry of the said Chapel,
    according to their discretion, it being the interest of £20, £10
    thereof being theretofore given by one John Tomkys, and the other £10
    theretofore given by one George Welch, to and for the use of the said
    Poor.

    These premises are now the property of John Fletcher, by whom the
    annuity of 20s. is duly paid to the officers of the Township.  This
    payment is distributed on New Year’s Day among the Poor of the
    liberty in small sums not generally exceeding 6d. to each individual.



4.—JOHN BATES’S CHARITY.


    This Charity consists of the sum of £5, which appears to have been
    left by John Bate some time before the year 1701; the interest to be
    yearly distributed among the Poor of Willenhall on St. Thomas’s Day.

    The principal was placed at interest on 21 December, 1701, in the
    hands of Joseph Hincks, on the security of his bond; and the interest
    appears to have been duly paid by himself and his heirs successively.
    It is now paid by Thomas Hincks on St. Thomas’s Day annually to
    fifteen Poor Widows of the Township in shares of 4d. each.

The founders of the “lost” Prestwood Charity were doubtless members of
the family mentioned in Chapter VII. as resident in Willenhall as early
as 1409; Prestwood, be it noted, was also the name of an ancient moated
farm and homestead in Wednesfield.  The name of Prestwood is again
mentioned, as are also the names of the other Willenhall benefactors,
Bates and Tomkiss, in the endowment deeds of 1607, quoted in Chapter XXI.
As to the Welch family, their homestead in Willenhall stood in the
location known as Welch End.

Concerning Pedley’s Charity, which has not been distributed these 50
years, the Churchwardens have, as recently as 1895, made earnest attempts
at its recovery.  The lands once chargeable for the dole were identified
as Shares Acres, lying between the canal and the road leading to New
Invention from Monmer Lane.  The property, however, was found to be in
the hands of the Trustees of the late W. E. Jones; and as, through the
remissness of someone, the estate had been sold and conveyed without due
provision for the payment of the annuity once charged upon it, the
Trustees had not power to make such payment.  While the minerals under
this land have been yielding wealth, the Poor have been defrauded from
their rightful share in the same.

Painstaking inquiries for the other “lost charities” have also been made,
but with no success.  For many years the Incumbent and Wardens have
provided and distributed a Dole of 40 loaves, for which there has been no
legal responsibility resting upon them.

In 1881 Jeremiah Hartill gave £200 to the Vicar and Wardens, which was
invested in Consols, and the interest is annually distributed on January
1st amongst twenty poor people of the township.  The Hartill Charity and
the Tomkys and Welch Doles are the only ones now administered.

                                * * * * *

Thirty or more years ago a Mr. Stokes gave the Incumbent of Willenhall
£500 to be applied in his absolute discretion for the benefit of St.
Giles’s School.  The interest until recently was applied by him for that
purpose.  The principal has recently been spent in purchase of an
extended playground for the new Infant Schools, and in the part purchase
of a site for a new Mixed Department, adjacent thereto.

A few years after the passing of Sir Robert Peel’s Act of 1847, advantage
was taken of it to split the populous area of the ancient chapelry into
new district parishes; and by 1855 the said chapelry was divided into
three nearly equal parts, the new parishes of St. Stephen and Holy
Trinity, leaving to St. Giles’s Church Bentley and the remaining portion
of the Willenhall township.  The fourth daughter parish, St. Anne’s, came
a few years later.

St Stephen’s Church, in Wolverhampton Street, was erected mainly through
the exertions of its first vicar, the Rev. T. W. Fletcher, M.A., and
opened in 1854, seven years after its ecclesiastical district had been
formed.  Mr. Fletcher died in 1890, and the living is now held by the
Rev. Herbert Percy Stevens, M.A.  This parish maintains a Parochial Hall
and Mission at Portobello.

St. Anne’s Church, Spring Bank, was built largely as a memorial to his
wife by Mr. H. Jeavon.  It was consecrated in 1861.

Holy Trinity Church (Short Heath) Vicarage and Schools were all built by
the Rev. Dr. Rosedale, the first vicar of the parish, and father of the
present vicar of St. Giles’s.  His labours commenced in a Mission Room at
the Brown Jug Inn, Sandbeds, and he trained several very earnest men for
the ministry, including the Rev. John Bailey, first vicar of the Pleck
Church, Walsall, and the Rev. — Pritchard, vicar of Blakenall Church,
Bloxwich.  The jubilee of the building of the church was held about 1905.
The Rev. — Wood was the second vicar, the Rev. G. W. Johnson the third,
and the present vicar is the Rev. G. C. W. Pimbury.

A Mission Room at New Invention completes the list of Anglican
Establishments in Willenhall.

In connection with St. Giles’s a Men’s and a Junior Men’s Club have
recently been established; and among other projects for further
developments in the parochial machinery is a Mission Room at Shepwell
Green.  This movement was initiated some years ago when the Rev. H.
Edwards was acting as Curate during the illness of the Rev. Mr. Fisher; a
site has recently been purchased, in the anticipation that the Mission in
due time will develop into a new ecclesiastical parish.

Dr. Hartill, as Churchwarden, was instrumental in securing a grant of
£700 from a bequest of £15,000 left for Church objects by a Miss Green,
with which to increase the endowment of Holy Trinity Church, Short Heath;
this was supplemented by another £700 from the Ecclesiastical
Commissioners; while in the following year a further sum of £700 from
each source was also obtained for increasing the endowment of St. Anne’s
Church.



XXIII.—The Fabric of the Church.


As already discovered (Chapter VII.), a church has existed in Willenhall
since the 13th century.  It was at first a small chapel-of-ease, and
seems to have been dedicated in pre-Reformation times to a non-biblical
patron, Saint Giles.

The first edifice, as a mere chapel of accommodation, was in all
probability a very primitive structure, constructed entirely of timber
cut from the adjacent forest of Cannock.  But when it became a chantry
also, the original structure may have been replaced by a more elaborate
edifice, in the style which is generally known as half-timbered.

Soon after the Reformation the mother church of Wolverhampton was pewed
on a plan for the specifically allotted accommodation of all the
parishioners, when the centre aisle was given to the inhabitants of
Wolverhampton, the south aisle was set apart for the people of Bilston,
and the north aisle was appropriated to Wednesfield and Willenhall.  In
those days, as previously explained, the law supposed that every adult
person attended church on Sundays; there was, in fact, a penalty for
absence enforcible by law.

With regard to Willenhall’s timber-constructed church, there is evidence
that in 1660 it was in a deplorable condition through fire ravages.
After the Reformation it became a practice for collections to be made in
the churches throughout the country to provide funds for the repair or
rebuilding of parish churches which had fallen into a state of
dilapidation beyond the means of its own parishioners to make good; or
for other charitable purposes in which the needs of the one seemed to
call for the help of the many.  These collections were authorised to be
made by Royal Letters Patent, through official documents known as Briefs;
and entries of these are to be found in most Parish Registers till the
middle of the 18th century, when their frequency through the complaisance
of the Court of Chancery was considered such an abuse that it was ordered
for the future that their issue should be granted only after a formal
application to Quarter Sessions.  Thus we find records in the Tipton
Registers of no less than seven collections made there between 1657 and
1661 for the relief of distress through fire and other causes in Desford,
Southwold, Drayton (Salop), Oxford, East Hogborne, Chichester, and Milton
Abbey.

Willenhall called for this form of national assistance in 1660, as
entries of a Brief on its behalf have been found as far apart as Chatham,
in Kent, and Woodborough, in Notts, and may doubtless be traced in
various parish registers up and down the country.  Here is a copy of the
Nottinghamshire entry:—

                                                    September ye 23, 1660.

    COLLECTED at ye Parish Church and among ye Inhabitants of Woodbourogh
    for and towards the Reliefe of ye distressed inhabitants of
    Willenhall, in ye County of Stafford, being Commended hityr [hereto]
    by ye King’s Majestyes Letters Patents with ye gorat Sale [Great
    Seal] for and towards their loss by fire, ye sum of 4s. 10d.

    Witness,

                                 JOHN ALLATT,

                                                                 Minister.

                                  JAMES JOB,
                               HENRY MOORELAW,

                                                            Churchwardens.

[It has been romantically suggested by a local writer that the “burning
of Willenhall” was an act of revenge perpetrated by the Puritans of
Lichfield and the vicinity for the succour given at Bentley Hall in 1651
to the fugitive Charles II.; and that these church collections are
evidence of the personal interest taken by that monarch on his
Restoration, in the place which had afforded him shelter in his hour of
direst need.  Two considerations will immediately dispel any such
illusion.  First, the Briefs were very commonplace affairs, as already
shown; secondly, displays of Stuart gratitude were just as rare.  All the
reward commonplace affairs, as already shown; secondly, displays of
Stuart gratitude were just as rare.  All the reward Charles vouchsafed to
the devoted Lanes was the cheap honour of an augmentation of the family
arms, and the scanty gift of £1,000 to Jane Lane.  Allusion has been made
(Chapter XIII.) to the Royal fugitive taking advantage of the
hiding-place afford by the “priest’s hole” at Moseley Hall where Charles
was loyally secreted by Jesuitic and other priestly adherents, though
they might have pocketed a reward of £10,000 by betraying him—yet in
after years this ungrateful prince had no compunction in signing more
than twenty death warrants against Romanist priests, merely for the crime
of being priests!]

                         [Picture: Bentley Hall]

To resume our history of Willenhall Church: What was manifestly a
“restored” chapel was in 1727 consecrated by Edward, Lord Bishop of
Coventry and Lichfield, on the same day that Bilston Chapel was
consecrated; but the building could have been scarcely worth the attempt,
as twenty years later it had to be entirely replaced.

On August 14th of the year 1727, the Bishop having first consecrated
Bilston Chapel, in the presence of a large assembly of the local clergy,
which included the Rev. R. Ames and two other prebendaries; the vicars of
Walsall and Dudley; Mr. Tyrer, curate of Tettenhall; Mr. Gibbons,
minister of Codsall; Mr. Varden, rector of Darlaston; Mr. Perry, curate
of Wednesbury; and Mr. Holbrooke, curate of Willenhall; his lordship
proceeded to Willenhall in a coach and four, where the ceremony of
Consecration “in Latine” was repeated upon what was merely a renovated
building.  After which Squire Lane, of Bentley, gave a splendid
entertainment in celebration of the event.

A “chappel-yard for the Burial of the Dead,” which had been added, was
consecrated at the same time, and, strangely enough—as if the
parishioners of Willenhall were eager to signalise their acquisition of
such a parochial institution as a graveyard—the first interment was made
the selfsame day.

About the middle of the eighteenth century there was a wave of zeal for
church extension, on which we find Wolverhampton carried along rather
freely; for within the short space of ten years, under the auspices of
Dr. Pennistan Booth, the enterprising Dean, the building of four
chapels-of-ease was projected.  These daughter churches were:—

1746—Wednesfield (Advowson of which was vested in Walter Gough and his
heirs).

1748—Willenhall.

1753—Bilston.

1755—St. John’s (the new building was injured by fire, and not
consecrated till 1760).

From the Registers is gleaned the following issue of a writ to release
sequestration of fees:—

    Memorandum.  March 4, 1748.—The Faculty for Rebuilding and enlarging
    ye Chapel of Willenhall authorized ye then present Ministr, ye Revd.
    Titus Neve to charge and receive for Breaking up ye Ground or
    Building a Vault in ye said Chapel ye sum of two Guineas and also one
    Guinea for opening ye same at any time afterwards to him and his
    successors.  The Intention of this Siquise was to prevent frequent
    interments which are a common annoyance to ye Living Votaries for
    whose use ye Chapel was erected.

From the Diary of Dr. Richard Wilkes is extracted the following
illuminative entry—a contemporary record of the state of the ancient
edifice:—

    May 6, 1748.—This day I set out the foundation of a new church in
    this town; for the old one being half timber, the sills, pillars,
    etc., were so decayed that the inhabitants, when they met together,
    were in great danger of being killed.  It appeared to me, that the
    old church must have been rebuilt, at least the middle aisle of it;
    and that the first fabrick was greatly ornamented, and must have been
    the gift of some rich man, or a number of such, the village then
    being but thin of inhabitants, and, before the iron manufacture was
    begun here, they could not have been able to erect such a fabrick;
    but no date, or hint relating to it, was to be found; nor is anything
    about it come to us by tradition.

Willenhall’s rebuilt church was completed in 1749, and had a formal
re-opening on October 30th of that year.  An entry in the Registers
(which has already been quoted in Chapter XVIII.) seems to intimate that
the regular services were not resumed till January 20th, 1750.

This edifice was a fair specimen of the crudities which went to make up
the “churchwarden architecture” of the period; consisting mainly of a
plain, box-like nave, pierced on either side by half a dozen staring
oblong windows, and having in the whole of its hulk not one curved line
or rounded form by which relief could be afforded to the eye at any
single point.  At one end of this unimposing structure was a flattened
scutiform excrescence which served as the chancel; from the others rose
the tower, the only feature by which the building could be recognised as
a church.  The tower, not to put the rest of the church out of
countenance, was equally crude; its window piercings being as debased in
the Gothic style as was its cornice in quasi-classical; and topped as it
was by a low-pitched hipped roof or squat pyramid, from the point of
which rose high into the air the famous Willenhall weathercock—the brazen
bird flaunting itself aloft, as if deriving its defiance from the
aggressive-looking furcated finials which surrounded it at the four
angles.

This church endured only for about a century, being replaced in 1867 by
the present edifice, erected at a cost of £7,000, raised by public
subscription.  The Chairman of the Committee for the rebuilding was Mr.
R. D. Gough, who, with his wife, contributed £1,700.  Other large
contributors were Mrs. Stokes (with £505), and the Vicar and Trustees
(who gave £1,000).

St. Giles’s Church is now a substantial stone building in the Decorated
style, consisting of nave, aisles, chancel and transepts, and having at
the west end a lofty square tower, terminated with a pinnacle at each
angle.  The new fane was soon adorned by the insertion of a number of
stained glass windows; the large east window was presented by Mr. R. D.
Gough; others were given by the Lords of the Manor of Stow Heath
(emblazoning the arms of Leveson-Gower and Giffard); by the Earl of
Lichfield and the Rev. Charles Lane (also heraldically distinguished);
one was put in as a memorial to members of the Clemson family; and
another to commemorate Mrs. Anwell, a connection of the Gough family.

The work of enlarging the church was undertaken in 1897 in memory of the
late Incumbent, Mr. Fisher; and a fine organ was installed in celebration
of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  Also at the same time choir stalls
were introduced, the choristers being brought from the gallery, which
latter feature was rightly removed altogether.  Among the improvements
promoted by the Incumbent and his energetic churchwardens, Dr. John T.
Hartill and Mr. H. H. Walker, of Bentley Hall, were the enlargement of
the churchyard and the scheme for providing a church house.

As the new incumbent, Mr. Rosedale, was a nephew of Mrs. Gough, the
generous contributor to the rebuilding fund of 1865–7, just mentioned, it
was suggested that the house she occupied might fittingly be transformed
to serve as a Parsonage.

                                * * * * *

Almost from the time pews were first put into churches, seats became
appurtenant to certain family mansions, and by custom descended from
ancestor to heir, without any ecclesiastical concurrence.  Instances of
such proprietary pews having been bequeathed by will have occurred in
Willenhall within comparatively recent times.  Here is an extract from
the will of Thomas Hartill, dated June 5th, 1777:—

    I give and bequeath to my Son, Abraham Hartill, the fourth part of a
    seat in the Chapel, No. 4 in B row an all so one 4 part of a seat in
    F row near the Dore. . . . and I bequeath to my Daughter, Phœbe Read,
    one Fourth part of a seate No. 4 in B row and also one Fourth part of
    a seate in the Chapel in F row near the Dore.

Similar testamentary disposals appear in the will of Isaac Hartill, dated
27 May, 1818:—

    I give and devise to my Son, Isaac Hartill, all that my moiety or
    half part of the seat or pew, being No. 10 in the South Aisle within
    the Church or Chapel of Willenhall aforesaid, to hold to him my said
    son, Isaac, his heirs and assigns tor ever. . . .

    I give and devise unto my said Son, Ephraim Hartill, one moiety or
    equal half part of, and in my seat, or pew, being number 4 in the
    South Aisle within the Church or Chapel aforesaid, to hold to my said
    Son, Ephraim, his Heirs, and assigns for ever.  And I also give and
    devise unto my daughter, Mary Atkins, the other moiety or equal half
    part or share of the said last mentioned seat or pew, to hold to my
    said Daughter Mary Atkins, her heirs and assigns for ever.

Of like purport is the following extract from codicil to the will of
Samuel Hartill, dated June 9, 1821; probate Nov. 12, 1821:—

    I give devise and bequeath to my nephew Henry Bratt, all that my seat
    or pew or part or share thereof being number eleven in A in
    Willenhall Church, to hold to him his heirs, executors administrators
    or assigns according to the tenure of the said property.  I give
    devise and bequeath to my Brother-in-law, Isaac Hartill in my Will
    named all my other Seats or Pews or parts or shares of seats or pews
    in Willenhall Church aforesaid to hold to him his heirs executors
    administrators or assigns according to the tenure of the said
    property.

Thus much in witness of the heritable nature of Church Pews; now for
documentary evidences of the trafficking in such properties (all relating
to Willenhall Church):—

    19, Jan., 1750.  Recd. of Tho. Harthil, John Parker and Joseph Wood
    three pound one and sixpence for the seat behind ye Dore in F,
    sixteen shillings and sixpence being allow’d them for 6s. 8d. of
    ground by

                                                            RICHD. WILKES.

                                    A 12.

    6 Jan, 1750.—Recd. of Jos. Clemson, Jos. Chandler.  Jo’n Buttler,
    Jo’n Turner, Jno. Smith, Stephen Perry, the Sum of two Ginnies for
    Wainscots and for 2ft. 3in. of Ground five and sevenpence halfpenny
    by

                                                            RICHD. WILKES.

    £2 7s. 7½d.

    “I hereby acknowledge that I have this day had and received from
    Abraham Hartill . . . the sum of One Pound Fifteen Shillings for the
    full and absolute purchase sale value and Consideration of all those
    my sittings kneelings Parts or shares of and in two different seats
    or pews and standing and being on the left-hand side in the first Ile
    and numbered with the figures 11 and 12 in the Church or Chapel of
    Willenhall aforesaid, and which said sittings kneelings Parts or
    shares of the said seats or pews I do hereby Warrant unto the said
    Abraham Hartill his Heirs Exors Admors and Assigns against me, my
    Heirs Exors Admors and Assigns and that I my Heirs Exors, Admors or
    Assigns shall and will at any time or times hereafter upon the
    request and Costs of the said Abraham Hartill His Heirs &c. . . .
    execute any further or other Conveyances and Assurance of the said
    sittings, &c. . . . unto and to the use of the said Abraham Hartill .
    . . free from all manner of Incumbrances whatsoever and the said
    Abraham Hartill Doth hereby agree for Francis Chandler and Ann his
    wife to use and enjoy that part or share of the above seat or pew
    numbered 11 for and during the term of their Natural lives and for
    the longest survivor of them without expence, but for no other
    privilege to be allowed to any other person Whatsoever.  In Witness
    whereof the said Francis Chandler the seller of the above sittings
    kneelings parts or shares of the seats or pews above mentioned hath
    set his hand this nineteenth day of February 1790.

    Witness

                                                         FRANCIS CHANDLER.

    Wm. Perkin.
    Saml Hartill.”

    “Received January 24 1783 of Isaac Hartill The Sum of Two Pounds in
    full for Halfe a Seat Number 10 in E In Willenhall Chappell

    By mee The Mark X of RICHD. HARTILL.
    Witness Jonah Hartill.”

    “Willenhall April 26th 1791  Received then of Abrm Hartill Thirteen
    Shillings For my Whole Right in a seat in the Chapel No. 12 in A Row.

                                                           STEPHEN PERREY.

    Willenhall April 26th 1791 Received then of.”

Of this last voucher there is a duplicate copy bearing a twopenny receipt
stamp.



XXIV.—Dissent, Nonconformity, and Philanthrophy.


Inasmuch as Bentley Hall lies within the confines of Willenhall, this
place must always be associated with the rise and early history of
Wesleyanism.  The episode of John Wesley being haled by the Wednesbury
rioters before Justice Lane at Bentley Hall (1743) belongs to the general
history of the denomination, and there is no need to repeat the story
here.

The reader may be referred to “The History of Methodism in the Wednesbury
Circuit,” by the Rev. W. J. Wilkinson, published by J. M. Price,
Darlaston, 1895; and for ampler detail to “Religious Wednesbury,” by the
present writer, 1900.

That the evangelical missioning of John Wesley was peculiarly suited to
the religious and social needs of the eighteenth century, and nowhere
more so than among the proletariat of the mining and manufacturing
Midlands, is now a generally accepted truism.  There is no direct
evidence that the great evangelist himself ever preached in Willenhall,
but the appearance on the scene of some of the earliest Methodist
preachers may be taken for granted.  For were not the prevailing sins of
cockfighting and bull-baiting, and all the other popular brutalities of
the period, to be combated in Willenhall as much as in Darlaston or
Wednesbury?  And where the harvest was, were not the reapers always
forthcoming?

According to Mr. A. Camden Pratt, in his “Black Country Methodism,” the
earliest Methodist services were open-air meetings held round a big
boulder at the corner of Monmore Lane.  Then the nucleus of a Willenhall
congregation was formed at a cottage in Ten House Row; outgrowing its
accommodation here, a removal was next made to a farmhouse with a
commodious kitchen at Hill End.

The leaders and preachers came from Darlaston, and it was not till 1830
that Willenhall was favoured with a resident “travelling preacher,” and
the provision of a Wesleyan Chapel—it was on the site of the present
Wesleyan Day Schools.  The cause flourished and grew mightily; chapels
were established at Short Heath and Portobello, on the Walsall Road
(1865), and on Spring Bank.

Mr. Pratt pays a high tribute to the efforts of the Tildesleys and the
Harpers, but with a sense of justice he does not forget the mead of
gratitude always due to those early pioneers from Darlaston, placing on
the same bright scroll of fame the names of Foster, Wilkes, Rubery,
Silcock, Bowen, and Banks.

In the earlier history of local Wesleyanism, one of its chief supporters
was James Carpenter, founder of the existing firm of Carpenter and
Tildesley.  Another pillar of Wesleyanism was Jonah Tildesley, followed
later in the good work by his two sons, Josiah and Jesse, his grandson
Thomas, George Ley Pearce, and Isaac Pedley; and in a lesser degree by
James Tildesley (who married Harriet Carpenter), and the late John
Harper, founder of the Albion Works, now the largest place of employment
in the town.

One outcome of the Wesleyan spirit was seen about the year 1820, when
James Carpenter, George Pearce, William Whitehouse, and other leading
inhabitants made a determined effort to put down some of the coarser
sports by which the annual Wake was celebrated.  Through their
instrumentality many of the ringleaders in the brutal sports were
summoned and brought to justice.  The reformers dared to go even
further—they lodged a complaint with the bishop of the diocese against
“Parson Moreton” for encouraging these barbarous pastimes among the
people.  The bishop, however, professed that he was powerless to deal
with the delinquent, owing to the exceptional manner in which he was
appointed to the living.  But the parson on his part was very wroth, and
from his pulpit he solemnly forbade any one of the name of Carpenter,
Pearce, or Whitehouse ever to enter the portals of Willenhall Church.

It cannot be said the injunction was enforced; but it is a fact that from
that time many church-goers were driven into the Methodist fold.

The romantic side of the evangelisation of the Black Country has been
idealised by Mr. J. C. Tildesley in his “Sketches of Early Methodism,” a
series of short stories founded on fact, and giving most graphic pictures
of the moral and social condition of the neighbourhood at that time.
This little volume may be regarded almost as one of the classics of the
Wesleyan Book Room.

A short history of local Methodism, it may be mentioned, was deposited in
the memorial stones of Wednesfield Chapel in 1885.

The existing Wesleyan Chapels, now under the direction of the Rev. A.
Hann and the Rev. Walter Fytche, are five in number, namely, Union
Street, Walsall Road, Monmer Lane, Short Heath, and High Street,
Portobello.  Though the denomination may be as strong as ever
numerically, it can scarcely hope to rival its old-time membership in
verve and vigour.  In England fighting days never fail to produce
fighting men.

Primitive Methodism first established itself at Monmer Lane, and then
removed to Little London, but did not meet with much success at the
outset, though it has now four flourishing chapels in the township.  They
are all at present under the direction of the Rev. C. L. Tack, and
situated respectively at New Invention, Spring Bank, Lane Head, and
Russell Street.

Nonconformity was first brought into Willenhall from Coseley, the
brethren of the famous Darkhouse Chapel establishing a colony at Little
London, where eventually they erected a pioneer Baptist Chapel.  Of this
chapel the Rev. A. Tettmar is now in charge; a second chapel in Upper
Lichfield Street, at which the Rev. D. L. Lawrence ministers, and a third
Baptist Chapel in New Road testify to the growth of the denomination in
Willenhall.  At one time the Baptists had day schools in the town.

The Roman Catholics first made their appearance in modern Willenhall some
sixty years ago, when they established a small mission at the bottom of
Union Street, afterwards building their resent chapel, which is dedicated
to St. Mary, and of which the Rev. Walter Poulton (in succession to the
Rev. W. P. Wells) is priest.

A mission of the Catholic Apostolic Brethren, served from Wolverhampton,
completes the list of religious agencies now at work in Willenhall.

In the religious and social history of the place mention cannot be
omitted of some few names which have earned the respect of the
townspeople.  Among them, James Tildesley, a large employer of labour,
whose amiability, and kindness of heart exemplified that patriarchal
relationship which once existed between master and men, anterior to the
days of modern limited liability companies; George Ley Pearce, a Wesleyan
of marked personality, and an eminently good man, whose memorial in the
old Cemetery is thus inscribed:—

                                   ERECTED
                    by voluntary subscription in memory of
                              GEORGE LEY PEARCE
                               (of Willenhall),
                        who died December 31st, 1873,
                                   Aged 78;
                    And was buried in the adjacent vault.

                                  * * * * *

     For fifty years he zealously devoted himself to the work of visiting
      the sick and afflicted of this town, whether rich or poor, and was
                        made a great blessing to many.

    His work was the outward expression of that Christ-like charity which
                              pervaded his soul.

                                  * * * * *

The opportunity to do good to our fellowmen comes to all, irrespective of
sect or sex.  One to embrace it with goodwill was Edith Florence Hartill,
daughter of William Henry Hartill, who worked long and steadfastly in
connection with the Bible Reading Union, never relaxing her efforts for
the uplifting of the very poorest and most helpless of the community.

In the Market Place stands a public clock mounted upon a stone pedestal,
having a watering-trough for cattle at its base.  This was erected, as an
inscription upon it testifies, as a memorial to the late Joseph Tonks,
surgeon, “whose generous and unsparing devotion in the cause of
alleviating human suffering” was “deemed worthy of public record.”  The
memorialised, Mr. Joseph Tonks, M.R.C.S.E., L.A.H., was a native of the
town, being a son of Mr. Silas Tonks, of the Forge Inn, Spring Bank.  He
began to practise in Willenhall about 1879, and soon made himself
extremely popular among the working classes, and particularly with the
Friendly Societies, who initiated the movement to provide this public
memorial.

Without sorting into sects and creeds, let it be acknowledged that
Willenhall has been fortunate in the number of its townsmen whose lives
have been usefully and commendably spent in the public service and for
the public good.  Among those whose influence on the social and moral
well-being of the place has not been without appreciable benefit, may be
named Joseph Carpenter Tildesley, R. D. Gough, Josiah Tildesley, Clement
Tildesley, Jesse Tildesley, Isaac Pedley, Henry Hall, Thomas Kidson,
Henry Vaughan, W. E. Parkes, and J. H. James.  Other appreciations will
occur in our concluding chapters, as the names more fittingly happen
under the topics yet to be dealt with.

Having brought to a conclusion Willenhall’s ecclesiastical and religious
history—and the largeness with which the church bulked on the lives of
the people in past times must be held accountable for the lengthiness of
this portion—we may now turn to the further consideration of its civil,
social, and industrial history.

                      [Picture: Decorative pattern]



XXV.—Manorial Government.


Willenhall is a township of some 1,980 acres in extent, carved out of the
ancient parish of Wolverhampton, and situated midway between that town
and the town of Walsall, being about three miles distant from either.
Strangely enough, Willenhall is included in the Hundred of Offlow,
although Wolverhampton, of which it once formed a part, is in Seisdon
Hundred.  Willenhall has never been a civil parish (as previously
explained), nor has it been a market town; the small open market held in
its streets each week-end having grown up by prescription, but never
legally established by grant of charter.

The place grew up as a hamlet on the banks of a little stream, just on
the verge of Cannock Forest.  As a village community it seems to have
been subject, so soon as its outer limits had been defined, to three
territorial lords.  Reference to Chapter VI. will disclose that at
Domesday (1086) three hides of land in Willenhall belonged to the king,
and were part of the royal manor of Stowheath; two hides were the
property of the Church of Wolverhampton, and constituted the prebendal
manor of Willenhall; and a century or two later, the manor of Bentley,
evidently carved out of the royal forest of Cannock, became included
within this township.

Of STOWHEATH MANOR, the portions lying within Willenhall are a small part
of the modern township, together with Short Heath, New Invention,
Lanehead, Sandbeds, Little London, and Portobello.  The remainder of this
manor stretches beyond the Willenhall boundary into Bilston and
Wolverhampton.

To a manor or lordship was usually attached a Court Baron, or domestic
court of the lord, for the settling of disputes relating to property
among the tenants, and for redressing misdemeanours and nuisances arising
within the manor.  The business was transacted by a jury or homage
elected by and from the tenants.

How far the customary officers were chosen every year by the Willenhall
Court Baron cannot now be ascertained.  Doubtless appointments were made
from time to time of such manorial tears as Hedgers and Ditchers, to look
after the highways and byways, a Common Pinner to impound stray cattle,
and Head boroughs or Petty Constables “to apprehend all vagrom men” whose
room was esteemed more highly than their company.

The present lords of the Manor of Stowheath are the Duke of Sutherland,
and W. T. C. Giffard, Esq., of Chillington; the Steward of the Manor is
Mr. W. E. Stamer, of Lilleshall; and the Deputy-Steward Mr. Frederick T.
Langley, of Wolverhampton.  The Court Bailiff is Mr. H. G. Duncalfe, of
Wolverhampton, but none of the ancient customary officers are now
elected; and as most of the copyholds have been enfranchised, no Court
Baron for Stowheath has been held in Willenhall since 22nd December,
1865; till then it had taken place annually for many years at the house
of Mr. George Baker, the Neptune Inn.  Subsequently this manorial court
was held at the Bank, Cock Street, Wolverhampton, and now more privately
at the offices of the Deputy-Steward, in that town, which was anciently
within the jurisdiction of two manors, Stowheath and Wolverhampton.

THE MANOR OF WILLENHALL, which, though prebendal, is impropriate,
comprises the rest of the township; of this manor the Baron Barnard is
the present lord, and the sole recipient of all tithes from Willenhall,
Short Heath, and Wednesfield.

A glimpse of the mediæval village of Willenhall was obtained in Chapters
VIII. and XI.; it is clear the prebendal manor remained always a taxable
area for the mere production of tithes, and it was the royal manor of
Stowheath, when it had passed into the hands of a subject, which
developed into the community in the midst of which the “mansum capitale,”
or manor house, was erected.

By whom or when a manor house was first set up in Willenhall is not
known; but it is not improbable that the lordship of Stowheath, soon
after it passed out of the hands of the King, was acquired by a Leveson,
who seated himself on the estate, reserving to himself the portion which
lay nearest his mansion (demesne lands), and distributing the rest among
his tenants (tenemental lands).

The house in which the Levesons resided, as previously recorded, was
situated on the east side of Stafford Street; the Midland Railway now
runs through the site, but before the line was cut, and whilst the mines
remained ungotten, traces of its ancient moat were clearly discernible.

The residence now known as the Manor House, and occupied by Dr J. T.
Hartill, though it has no connection with the manorial mansion of the
Leveson family, is not without some association with the manorial form of
government.  It appears that upwards of half a century ago, when the late
Jeremiah Hartill (uncle of the present occupant of the house) was taking
his full share in the public life of Willenhall, it was most difficult,
if not next to impossible, to get copyhold land in this manor
enfranchised.

At that time there was a very considerable amount of property in
Willenhall held by this old-world tenure, and this induced Mr. Jeremiah
Hartill to take a very prominent part in the local efforts which were
then being made to introduce the principle of compulsory enfranchisement.
As the result of a national movement in this direction an Act was passed
in 1841 to provide a statutory method of enfranchisement; and the matter
was carried still further in 1852 by another Act, which introduced the
principle of compulsory enfranchisement.

Mr. Hartill had at that time recently built himself a new house (1847),
when, as the local leader in a movement which had been brought so far on
the road to success, he was invited to a public dinner in recognition of
his public-spirited efforts.  One of the speakers at the banquet, in
proposing the health of the guest of the evening, suggested that as Mr.
Jeremiah Hartill had fought so successfully in helping to overcome the
opposition of the Lords of the Manor to this measure of land reform, his
new house might not inappropriately be dubbed the Manor House.  The
suggestion was heartily (no pun intended) approved by all present, and by
that name the house has ever since been known.

The names of the chief residents in Willenhall in 1327 may be gleaned
from the Subsidy Roll given in Chapter IX.; very similar names occur in
another list of the taxpayers to the Scotch War of 1333.  Some few held
land under certain specified rents and free services, and from these came
the earliest freeholders; many more held by the baser tenure of the
lord’s will, and having nothing to show except the copy of the rolls made
by the Steward of the Lord’s Court, were known as copyholders.

The vast importance of these Court Rolls may be gathered from Chapter
XXI.  The Court Rolls of the Manor of Stowheath now in existence commence
on 4 January, 1645; but in the chapter referred to mention of a “Leete”
being held in Wolverhampton much earlier will be found.

The residue of the Manor being uncultivated, was termed the lord’s waste,
and served for public roads, and for common or pasture to both the lord
and his tenants.  Reference to the enclosure of the last remnants of the
“waste” was quoted in the Report of 1825 on the Tomkys and Welch
Charities (Chapter XXII.).

There were two kinds of enclosures, however, all made in the last few
centuries; the enclosure of the open commons or wastes, and the enclosure
of the common fields.  “Willenhall Field,” mentioned in the “Report on
Prestwood’s Dole,” as lying along the highway towards Darlaston, was
arable land, not pasture.  For anciently there was a common field system
in every parish, and “Willenhall Field” was the area cultivated
co-operatively by the whole of the parishioners or group of individuals.

In 1377 the MANOR OF BENTLEY was held “in capite,” that is, direct from
the King, by one who called himself after his estate, William de Bentley.
He held it for rendering to Edward III. the feudal service of “Keeping”
the King’s Hay of Bentley within the royal Forest of Cannock—the Forest
was then divided into a number of “hays” or bailiwicks.  (See “Chronicles
of Cannock Chase,” p. 14.)

The estate seems to have descended to him from his grandfather, to whom
it had been granted in the reign of Edward II.; and it is noteworthy that
his wife, Alianora, was a Leveson.

In 1421 William Griffiths established his right to Bentley, and in 1430
it was conveyed to Richard Lone de la Hide.  Of the family of this
Richard Lone of the Hyde there were afterwards two branches; one, the
Hamptons, of Stourton Castle, and the other, the Lanes, of Bentley.

The halo of romance which grew up around Bentley Hall during the
seigniory of the Lanes is well known.  It was the scene of Charles II.’s
wonderful escape from the Roundheads, under the protection of Jane Lane,
whom he was afterwards wont to call his “Guardian Angel”; it was the
critical scene of John Wesley’s adventure in the hands of the Wednesbury
mob.  The mansion has since been rebuilt.

The Lanes sold the Manor of Bentley in 1748 to Joseph Turton, of
Wolverhampton, and he in turn sold it to the first Lord Anson, ancestor
of the present holder.

The Manor comprises 1,200 acres, none of which is now copyhold.  There
was formerly a Court Leet jurisdiction, but everything connected with
ancient manorial government has disappeared.  The Earl of Lichfield is
sole owner, except for a few acres belonging to the church, and the
portions which have been acquired by the local authority for the Cemetery
and the Sewerage Works.

Bentley is a parish without a church, or a chapel, and until the
Willenhall District Council recently made a Cemetery there, it was also
without a burial ground.

Bentley has but a scant population, and contains not a single inn.  Its
living history seems to have centred almost entirely round the old family
mansion of the Lanes.

In 1660 a tax was levied on the fire-hearth of every dwelling-house, and
the amount collected under this grievous impost in Willenhall was
returned as £9 14s. 3d., representing 97 hearths.  These figures seem to
indicate that in the reign of Charles II. the population of the place,
including the large hall at Bentley, could not have exceeded 500.



XXVI.—Modern Self-Government.


For centuries the Manorial and the Parochial forms of government ran
together side by side in this country, till these two antiquated ideas of
feudal lordship and church temporalities had to give way before the
growing democratic principle of elective representation, and they were
eventually supplanted by the modern methods of popular self-government.

In the reign of Elizabeth—say, half a century after the suppression of
the monasteries which had hitherto succoured the poor—we get the first of
our Poor Laws, accompanied by the rise of the Overseer, and by much added
importance to the office of Churchwarden, or, as he was called in
Willenhall, the Chapel-warden.  The establishment of Church doles goes a
long way to explain how strenuously the community strove to evade its
liability to the poor, and it is probable that Willenhall did not
establish its small workhouse till the eighteenth century.  This was
superseded when the Wolverhampton Union was constituted in 1834.

In 1776 the sum of £294 14s. 3d. had to be collected for poor rates in
Willenhall, a sum which by 1785 had grown to £548 14s. 2d., and which for
some years later averaged upwards of £500.

The Vestry, or public assembly of parishioners, would supplement these
feeble efforts at local government by choosing not only Chapelwardens,
but Parish Constables and the Waywardens.  The custody of the stocks was
entrusted to the former, while the latter were supposed to superintend
the amateur efforts of the parishioners to repair their own highways,
every one being then liable to furnish either manual labour or team work
for this laudable public purpose.

Publicly elected and unsalaried Waywardens were naturally but feeble
instruments to work with; so in the early nineteenth century, when
coaching was at its zenith, this antiquated and ineffective system was
superseded in Willenhall, as in many other places, by an elected Highway
Board, charged with the duty of looking after all highways and common
streets, ancient bridges, ditches, and watercourses.  In a dilettante
sort of way this Board was also a sanitary body.

In 1734 Willenhall is recorded to have suffered from a plague called the
“Bloody flux,” which carried away its victims in a very few hours after
the seizure.  It is stated in the Parish Registers that there were buried
in this year 82 persons, which was 67 in excess of the previous year.
The population then was under 1,000.

Cholera and other epidemic scourges having made it apparent that beyond
preserving the peace and mending the roads, the paramount duty of local
self-government was to protect the people’s health, Willenhall in 1854
showed itself alive to this fact by adopting the new Public Health Acts
and calling into being its first Local Board.

Nothing can convey an idea of the material blessings which resulted from
this better than a glance at the vital statistics relating to Willenhall.
The death-rate per thousand—

From 1845 to 1851 was       29
,, 1851 ,, 1860 ,,          26.8
,, 1861 ,, 1870 „           23.8
„ 1891 ,, 1900 ,,           20.2
„ 1901 „ 1906 „             16.9

It was not till 1866, however, that the Board appointed its first medical
officer of health, Dr. Parke.  He was shortly afterwards succeeded by Mr.
William Henry Hartill, and upon his death, in 1888, the present medical
officer of heath, Dr. J. T. Hartill, was appointed.  The chief executive
officers in succession have been Mr. E. Wilcox (who was not a solicitor),
Mr. John Clark, and the present clerk, Mr. Rowland Tildesley, appointed
in 1894.

In the meantime the population, particularly in the newer outlying
districts, had been growing rapidly.  The population of Willenhall at the
first national census in 1801 was only 3,143, and the growth in the early
decades was slow, as these figures disclose:

In 1811 the population was        3,523
,, 1821                           3,965
,, 1831                           5,834
„ 1841                            8,695
,, 1851                           11,933
,, 1861                           17,256

With the growth thus becoming so rapid, it was thought desirable, in
1872, to erect Short Heath into a separate Sanitary Authority.  The area
allotted to the Short Heath Board of Health was that north of the
Birmingham Canal, but the village of Short Heath itself remained part of
the Township of Willenhall.

The census returns for Willenhall, minus Short Heath, have

1871 it had a population of       15,903
1881                              16,067
1891                              16,851
1901                              18,515

After the passing of Sir H. H. Fowler’s Local Government Act in 1895,
both authorities became Urban District Councils.  Short Heath then as a
separate township had its area extended to take in Short Heath village,
with New Invention, Lanehead, Sandbeds, Lucknow, Fibbersley, in addition
to the former Local Board district, together with a slice from the old
Wednesfield Local Board district added on its Essington side.

No part of what used to be called Stow Heath was in Willenhall Township,
the extreme western boundary of the latter being Stow Heath Lane.

Modern Willenhall, although without public parks or pleasure grounds, and
not yet possessing public baths, is fairly well equipped for its size and
rateable value.  It has its Public Offices, but no Town Hall; it has a
Free Library, established in 1875, and a full complement of efficient
primary schools.  In 1877 it established its own School Board under the
Act of 1870, but under the later Act of 1902 its educational affairs
became vested in the Staffordshire County Council.

Willenhall had its own Waterworks at Monmore Lane as early as 1852; it
now takes its supply from the Wolverhampton Corporation, who purchased
the old works in 1868.  Its old Gas Works in Lower Lichfield Street have
been taken over by Short Heath; and Willenhall is now supplied by the
Willenhall Gas Company, the present system of public street lighting
being that of the very efficient incandescent burner.

The Sewerage of the town was completed in 1890.  There are two public
cemeteries; the Old Cemetery provided about 1851 under the Burial Acts,
and the newer one at Bentley, established under the Act of 1879.

The Police are, as in most townships, under the control of the
Staffordshire County Council; and Petty Sessions are held once a week (on
Mondays).  Seventy years ago Willenhall had a Court of Requests for the
recovery of debts up to £5.

For Parliamentary representation Willenhall formed a portion of
Staffordshire till the great Reform Bill of 1832 made Wolverhampton a
borough, when it became part of that more important urban constituency.

For communication with the outer world Willenhall has had the advantage
of the London and North-Western Railway from the earliest possible
time—since the “Grand Junction Railway” (commenced in 1835) was opened to
public traffic on July 4th, 1837.  Great were the rejoicings, and
prodigious the wonderment when the first train passed through on that
memorable day.  Since the later decades of the last century the Midland
Railway has also tapped Willenhall.

The town is equally well supplied with tramways; the Wolverhampton
District Electric Tramways, Limited, controlling three lines, to
Wolverhampton, to Bilston, and Darlaston respectively; while the Walsall
Corporation afford facilities for communication with their thriving and
go-ahead borough.  It is worthy of note that the old-fashioned carrier’s
cart is not obsolete in Willenhall; this is probably because its staple
industries provide so many small parcels for transmission to
Wolverhampton, Birmingham, and other centres not too far distant.

The Wyrley and Essington Canal for heavy traffic was made in 1792, and is
still a useful highway, particularly to the Cannock Chase Collieries.

                       [Picture: Decorative design]



XXVII.—The Town of Locks and Keys.


Willenhall is “the town of locks and keys”; its staple industry has been
described in such graceful and felicitous terms by Elihu Burritt (see his
“Walks in the Black Country,” pp. 206–214, written in 1868) that the
present writer at once confesses the inadequacy of his poor pen to say
anything new on the subject, engaging as it is.

The great American writer, be it noted, does not fail at the very outset
to pay a well-deserved tribute to James Carpenter Tildesley, as the
foremost authority on the subject, and compliments him on the versatility
displayed in his article on Locks and Keys, contributed to that
co-operative literary work, “Birmingham and the Midland Hardware
District,” which was specially issued for the British Association meeting
at Birmingham in 1865.

The lockmakers of antiquity worked in wood and not in metal, a key
consisting of hard wood pegs being made to turn in a wooden lock of loose
pegs.  The Romans first introduced the iron key with wards instead of
pegs.

The subject is full of interest; for lock-making is among the most
ancient of the mechanical crafts, and has for centuries afforded a wide
and ample scope as one of the branches of industrial art.  As in many
other industrial crafts the religious enthusiasm of the Middle Ages
impelled the artist-mechanic to throw his whole soul into the
manipulation and adornment of his keys, key-hole escutcheons, and other
parts of door-fastening furniture.  With his steel pencil and gravers,
his chisels and his drills, the craftsman of olden times produced an
article of utility which was at the same time a work of art.  Will the
Art Classes of modern Willenhall be able to achieve as much for the
staple industry of the town as did the whole-souled enthusiasm of the
Middle Ages?

The Gothic key, usually of iron or of bronze, was generally plain; but
after the Renaissance the best efforts of the locksmiths’ art were
directed to the decoration of the bow and the shaft, and many finely
wrought specimens of ornamental old keys are still in existence.

On the utilitarian side of our subject, industrial history records that
we are indebted to the Chinese for unpickable locks of the lever and
tumbler principle; and to the Dutch for the combination or letter-lock.
The latter ingenious contrivance contained four revolving rings, on which
were engraved the letters of the alphabet, and they had to be turned in
such a way as to spell some pre-arranged word of four letters, as O P E
N, or A M E N, before the lock could be opened.

Allusion to this complex contrivance is made by the poet Carew in some
verses written in the year 1620—

    As doth a lock
    That goes with letters—for till every one be known
    The lock’s as fast as if you had found none.

Mechanical ingenuity in lock making has also expanded itself along the
line of marvellous miniatures, in the production of toy locks so small
that they could be worn as pendants or personal ornaments.  Allusion will
presently be made to a Willenhall specimen.

Another ingenious variety of locks was contrived to grab and hold the
fingers of pilferers.

The first patent granted in England for a lock was in 1774; ten years
later Joseph Bramah, of London, “the Napoleon of locks,” patented his
famous production, with which he challenged the whole world.  The reward
of 200 guineas which he offered to anyone who could pick his lock
remained unclaimed for many years, till in the Exhibition year 1851 an
American visitor named Hobbs took up the challenge, and succeeded, after
a few days of persevering experiment, in overcoming the inviolability of
it.

The sensation caused by this achievement was almost of national
dimensions; but of more importance was the decided impetus it have to the
inventive skill of lock makers, by demonstrating that Bramah had not yet
arrived at finality in lock making; a great number of further
improvements were soon forthcoming in the manufacture of these goods.

Chubb’s patent was granted in 1818; this inventor declared it was
possible to have the locks on the doors of every house in London opened
by a different key, and yet have a master-key that would pass the whole
of them.  Chubb’s world-famous concern is now located at Wolverhampton.

Dr. Plot, writing of this county in 1686, makes no mention of the trade
being carried on in Willenhall, but gives some account of it in
Wolverhampton; gossiping pleasantly on “sutes” of six or more locks,
passable by one master-key, being sold round the country by the chapmen
of his time; of the finely wrought keys he had seen; of the curious
tell-tale locks which recorded the times they had been opened; and of one
valuable Wolverhampton specimen containing chimes which could be set to
“go” at any particular hour.

A local writer has said—on what authority is not stated—that Queen
Elizabeth granted to the township of Willenhall the privilege of making
all the locks required for State purposes; and argues from that
profitable piece of State patronage the rapid growth of Willenhall, as
evidenced by the fact that in 1660 when the Hearth Tax came to be levied
this place paid on 13 more hearths than the mother town of Wolverhampton.

Dr. Wilkes has recorded that in his time Willenhall consisted of one long
street, newly paved; and he then proceeds to say:—

    “The village did not begin to flourish till the iron manufactory was
    brought into these parts in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.”

This may, or may not, refer to the making of locks and keys, but it
certainly refers to the great devastation of Cannock Forest in providing
charcoal for iron-smelting.  The doctor continues:—

    “Since that time this place is become very populous, and more locks
    of all kinds are made here than in any other town of the same size in
    England or Europe.  The better sort of which tradesmen have erected
    many good houses.”

Some of these “good houses” are still standing; and as to the
“populousness” of the place, there may have been 2,000 inhabitants at
that time.  A return has been given forth that in 1770 Willenhall
contained 148 locksmiths, Wolverhampton 134, and Bilston 8; while nearly
a century later, in 1855, the numbers were Willenhall 340, Wolverhampton
110, and Bilston 2, which shows that the trade grew in Willenhall at the
expense of the adjoining places.  Yet lockmaking was carried on in
Bilston as early as 1590, when the Perrys, the Kempsons, and the
Tomkyses, all leading families, were engaged in the trade.  In 1796 Isaac
Mason, inventor of the “fly press” for making various parts of a lock,
migrated from Bilston to Willenhall.

The Willenhall specimen of a miniature lock is thus mentioned in a diary
of the Rev. T. Unett, “June 13, 1776, James Lees, of Willenhall, aged 63
years and upwards, showed me a padlock with its key, made by himself,
that was not the weight of a silver twopence.  He at the same time shewed
me a lock that was not the weight of a silver penny; he was then making
the key to it, all of iron.  He said he would be bound to make a dozen
locks, with their keys, that should not exceed the weight of a sixpence.”

Before the rise of factories into which workmen might be collected, and
their labour more healthily regulated, Willenhall lock-making was always
conducted in small domiciliary workshops.  Had any one at the close of
the eighteenth century peeped in at the grimy little windows of one of
these low-roofed workshops, and made himself acquainted with the extreme
dirtiness of the calling, he would scarcely have ventured to regard it as
one befitting the dainty hands of the highest personage of the most
fastidious of nations.  Yet that unfortunate monarch, Louis XVI., prided
himself not on his statesmanship, but upon his skill as a practical
locksmith, and his intimacy with all the intricacies of the craft.  He
had fitted up in his palace at the Tuileries a forge with hearth and
anvil, bellows and bench, from which it was his delight to turn out with
his own hands all kinds of work in the shape of “spring, double bolt, or
catch lock.”

    He smokes his forge, he bares his sinewy arm,
    And bravely pounds the sounding anvil warm.

Locks of every variety of principle and quality are produced in
Willenhall; the chief kinds being the cabinet lock, the best qualities of
which range from 10s. to £3 each, while the commoner ones are sold at
from 10s. to 3s. the dozen; the rim lock for doors having two or three
bolts, and opening with knob and key; the stock or fine plate lock,
imbedded in a wooden case to stand the weather when used on exposed yard
or stable doors; the drawback lock for hill doors, with a spring bolt
that can be worked from the inside with a knob or from the outside with a
latch-key; the dead lock, having one large bolt worked by the key, but
not catching or springing like the rim lock; the mortice lock, which is
buried in the door, and may be of the dead, the rim, or the drawback
variety; the familiar loose padlock made in immense quantities both of
iron and of brass; and others less familiar.

The lock-producing centre includes Wolverhampton, Willenhall,
Wednesfield, and some of the outlying rural districts like Brewood and
Pendeford, where parts and fittings are prepared.  In the mother parish
the business is extensive and extending; at Wednesfield, iron cabinets
and till locks, as well as various kinds of keys, are produced in great
numbers, for keys are frequently made apart from the locks as a separate
branch of the trade.

Willenhall produces most of the same kinds as Wolverhampton, except the
fine plate, though oftener in the cheaper qualities; rim locks are very
largely made, all on the Carpenter and Young patent, most of them for
export.  Willenhall locks are all warded, the wards varying in strength
and complexity, known as common, fine round, sash, and solid wards.

It was the Carpenter and Young invention of 1830, making the action of
the catch bolt perpendicular instead of horizontal, which renewed the
vitality of the town’s staple industry.

As registered the patent was entered:—

    “No. 5,880, 18 January, 1830.  James Carpenter, of Willenhall, and
    John Young, of Wolverhampton, locksmiths.  Improvements in locks.”

Mr. R. B. Prosser, a recognised authority on patents and inventions,
records that in 1841 Carpenter brought an action against one Smith, but
the verdict was given for the defendant, it being held that Carpenter’s
lock was not a new invention (Webster’s Reports of Patent Cases, Vol. I.,
p. 530).

Notwithstanding this the lock has always been known, and is still known,
as “Carpenter’s lift-up lock.”

James Carpenter, the founder of the business still carried on under the
style of Carpenter and Tildesley, was not a native of Willenhall.  His
first place of business was in Walsall Street opposite the “Wake Field”;
thence he removed to Stafford Street, occupying the premises now the
Three Crowns Inn; subsequently building and occupying the Summerford
Works (and Summerford House) in the New Road, where the concern is still
carried on James Carpenter, the patentee, was a keen man of business, and
distinguished for great decision of character.  His daughter Harriet
married James Tildesley, who became a partner in the business.  Carpenter
died in 1844, and Tildesley in 1876, and the concern has since been
carried on by the two eldest sons of the latter in partnership, James
Carpenter Tildesley (who is now permanently invalided, and of whom more
anon), and Clement Tildesley.  Mr. Clement Tildesley, who, like his
brother, is a county magistrate, still lives at Summerford House, where
he was born.

Mr. Rowland Tildesley, solicitor, and Clerk to the Willenhall Urban
District Council, is the fourth son of James Tildesley.

James Tildesley’s eldest daughter, Louisa Elizabeth, married William
Henry Hartill, surgeon, and J.P. for the county of Stafford, who died in
1889; his second daughter, Emily, married John Thomas Hartill, J.P.,
surgeon, who filled the office of President of the Staffordshire Branch
of the British Medical Association in 1885, and again in 1907.

With these few biographical details of Willenhall’s chief inventor we
pass on.

Other local patents in this branch of industry on the Register are:—

No. 8543—13th June, 1840—Joseph Wolverson, locksmith, William Rawlett,
latch maker, both of Willenhall.  “Locks and latches.”

No. 8903—29 March, 1841.—James Tildesley, of Willenhall, factor, and
Joseph Sanders, of Wolverhampton, Lock manufacturer.  “Locks.”

No. 10611—15th April, 1845.—George Carter, of Willenhall, jobbing smith.
“Locks and latches.

No. 12604—8th May, 1849.—Samuel Wilkes, of Wednesfield Heath, brass
founder.  “Knobs, handles, and spindles for the same, and locks.”

[There are patents in the name of Samuel Wilkes, at Darlaston,
ironfounder, in 1840, for hinges; and for vices in the same year.  In
1851, Samuel Wilkes, of Wolverhampton, iron founder, took out a patent
for hinges.  In 1845, Samuel Wilkes, of Wolverhampton, brass founder,
took out a patent for kettles.  The Wilkes’ family hereabouts are
manifestly as ingenious as they are numerous.]

At the present time there are some 90 factories and 143 workshop
employers in Willenhall, besides nine factories and 47 workshops in the
Short Heath district.  The most important firms in the lock trade are
Messrs. Carpenter and Tildesley, H. and T. Vaughan, William Vaughan, John
Minors and Sons, J. Waine and Sons, Beddow and Sturmey, Legge and
Chilton, and Enoch Tonks and Sons.  In the casting trades are John Harper
and Co., Ltd. (by far the largest concern), Wm. Harper, Son, and Co., C.
and L. Hill, H. and J. Hill, T. Pedley, H. and T. Vaughan (under the
style of D. Knowles and Sons), and Arthur Tipper.  In this branch of the
industry women are largely employed, and children to a slight extent, in
attending to light hand and power presses.  Female labour is now utilised
in the making of parts of machine-made locks (a method of production
introduced during the last generation), and for varnishing, painting, and
bronzing both the machine and the hand-made goods.

The rate of wages for workmen in the lock trade now ranges from 20s. to
35s. per week, yielding an average of about 29s.  Of the wares produced
there are probably 300 varieties, many of them in several sizes each, the
gross output running into thousands of dozens per week, and so great is
their diversity that they range from field padlocks to ponderous prison
locks, and the selling prices vary from 1d. to 30s. each.  They are
exported all over the world, finding good markets in Australasia and
South Africa.

Tradition forbids that we should omit here the two stock illustrations of
the fact that lock-making ranks among the notoriously ill-paid
industries.  One is the familiar exaggeration that if a Willenhall
locksmith happens to let fall the lock he is making, he never stoops to
pick up because he can make another in less time.

The other is the hackneyed anecdote of the late G. B. Thorneycroft, who
was once taunted with the sneer that some padlocks of local manufacture
would only lock once; and who promptly retorted that as they had been
bought at twopence each, it would be “a shame if they did lock twice” at
such starvation prices of production.  But Willenhall’s contributions to
the hardware production of the Black Country are by no means limited to
this endless variety of locks, some for doors and gates, some for carpet
bags and travelling trunks, some for writing portfolios and jewel
caskets; but extends to lock furniture and door furniture, latches, door
bolts, hasps and keys, hooks and steel vermin traps, grid-irons and
box-iron stands, files and wood-screws, ferrules and iron-tips for
Lancashire clogs; and other small oddments of the hardware trade.

The making of currycombs, though shrunk to somewhat insignificant
proportions within the last quarter of a century, was once a very
prominent industry in Willenhall.  In 1815 James Carpenter, whose name is
now so prominent in the lock trade, took out a patent, which was
registered as follows:—

    No. 3956—23rd August, 1815.—James Carpenter, of Willenhall, curry
    comb maker.  “Improvements to a curry comb, by inverting the handle
    over the back of the comb, and thus rendering the pressure, when in
    use, more equal.”

Another typical industry was the making of door-bolts, now represented by
the firms of Joseph Tipper, and Jonah Banks and Sons.  It is interesting
to note that among the last of the old trade tokens circulating in this
locality, were the Willenhall farthings issued by Austin, a miller,
baker, and grocer, who carried on business at the corner of Stafford
Street (the same now conducted by Joshua Rushbrooke); the obverse of this
coin bore as a design characteristic of the town a padlock, a currycomb,
and a door-bolt, with the legend, “Let Willenhall flourish,” and the date
1844.

                        [Picture: Willenhall coin]

The Currycomb manufacture is now represented by D. Ferguson, and by W. H.
Tildesley, the latter adding to it the making of steel traps.

But whatever loss has been incurred by the shrinkage of this industry has
been more than made up by the enormous growth of the trade in
stampings—keys are stamped—and in malleable castings.

The earliest Willenhall patent was taken out in this branch of trade, and
thus specified: “No. 3,800.  7th April, 1814.  Isaac Mason, Willenhall,
tea tray maker.  Making stamped front for register stoves and other
stoves, fenders, tea trays, and other trays, mouldings, and other
articles, in brass and other metals.”

In the stamping trades at the present time are Messrs. Armstrong, Stevens
and Co., Vaughan Brothers, Alexander Lloyd and Sons, Baxter, Vaughan, and
Co., and J. B. Brooks and Co.  At the works of Messrs. John Harper and
Co., by far the largest in the town, a variety of hardware articles are
produced, besides locks, but the bulk of their trade is in the production
of castings, especially in the form of gas and oil stoves and lamps.  New
developments continue to bring in fresh industries.

                       [Picture: Decorative design]



XXVIII.—Willenhall in Fiction.


A vivid picture of the social and industrial conditions which formerly
prevailed in this locality has been drawn by the masterly pen of
Disraeli, who evidently studied this side of the Black Country at close
quarters.  It occurs in his novel, “Sybil,” the time of action being
about 1837.

The distinguished novelist discovered the well-known fact that many of
the common people hereabout were ignorant of their own names, and that if
they knew them few indeed were able to spell them.  Of nicknames, which
were then not merely prevalent, but practically universal, he gives us
such choice examples as Devilsdust, Chatting Jack, and Dandy Mick; while
in “Shuttle and Screw’s Mill,” and the firm of “Truck and Trett,” we
recognise names significant of the methods of employment then in vogue.

But worse perhaps than the “truck system” of paying wages in kind instead
of in coin, was the prevailing system of utilising an inordinate number
of apprentices; and as these were almost invariably “parish apprentices,”
the output of the local workhouses, the tendency was not only to lower
the rate of wages, but to lower the morale of the people.

How this tendency worked out in everyday life is best seen in the
following extract from “Sybil.”  Under the fictional name “Wemsbury” may
perhaps be read Wednesbury; “Hell House Yard” is evidently meant for Hell
Lane, near Sedgley; and as to “Wodgate,” there can be no doubt about its
interpretation as Wednesfield.  This is Disraeli’s description of life
here seventy years ago, no doubt viewed as it was approached from the
Wolverhampton side:—

    Wodgate, or Wogate, as it was called on the map, was a district that
    in old days had been consecrated to Woden, and which appeared
    destined through successive ages to retain its heathen character.

    At the beginning of the revolutionary war Wodgate was a sort of
    squatting district of the great mining region to which it was
    contiguous, a place where adventurers in the industry which was
    rapidly developed settled themselves; for though the great veins of
    coal and ironstone cropped up, as they phrase it, before they reached
    this bare and barren land, and it was thus deficient in those mineral
    and metallic treasures which had enriched its neighbourhood, Wodgate
    had advantages of its own, and of a kind which touch the fancy of the
    lawless.

    It was land without an owner; no one claimed any manorial right over
    it; they could build cottages without paying rent.  It was a district
    recognised by no parish; so there were no tithes and no meddlesome
    supervision.  It abounded in fuel which cost nothing, for though the
    veins were not worth working as a source of mining profit, the soil
    of Wodgate was similar in its superficial character to that of the
    country around.

    So a population gathered, and rapidly increased in the ugliest spot
    in England, to which neither Nature nor art had contributed a single
    charm; where a tree could not be seen, a flower was unknown, where
    there was neither belfry nor steeple, nor a single sight or sound
    that could soften the heart or humanize the mind.

    Whatever may have been the cause, whether, as not unlikely, the
    original squatters brought with them some traditionary skill, or
    whether their isolated and unchequered existence concentrated their
    energies on their craft, the fact is certain, that the inhabitants of
    Wodgate early acquired a celebrity as skilful workmen.

    This reputation so much increased, and in time spread so far, that,
    for more than a quarter of a century, both in their skill and the
    economy of their labour, they have been unmatched throughout the
    country.

    As manufacturers of ironmongery they carry the palm from the whole
    district; as founders of brass and workers of steel they fear none;
    while as nailers and locksmiths, their fame has spread even to the
    European markets whither their most skilful workmen have frequently
    been invited.

    Invited in vain!  No wages can tempt the Wodgate man from his native
    home, that squatters’ seat which soon assumed the form of a large
    village, and then in turn soon expanded into a town, and at the
    present moment numbers its population by swarming thousands, lodged
    in the most miserable tenements, in the most hideous burgh, in the
    ugliest country in the world.

    But it has its enduring spell.  Notwithstanding the spread of its
    civic prosperity, it has lost none of the characteristics of its
    original society; on the contrary, it has zealously preserved them.
    There are no landlords, head-lessees, main-masters, or butties in
    Wodgate.

                           [Picture: George Borrow]

    No church there has yet raised its spire; and, as if the jealous
    spirit of Woden still haunted his ancient temple, even the
    conventicle scarcely dare show his humble front in some obscure
    corner.  There is no municipality, no magistrate; there are no local
    acts, no vestries, no schools of any kind.  The streets are never
    cleaned; every man lights his own house; nor does any one know
    anything except his business.

                        [Picture: Borrow’s Birthplace]

    More than this, at Wodgate, a factory or large establishment of any
    kind is unknown.  Here Labour reigns supreme.  Its division, indeed,
    is favoured by their manners, but the interference or influence of
    mere capital is instantly resisted.

    The business of Wodgate is carried on by master workmen in their own
    houses, each of whom possess an unlimited number of what they call
    apprentices, by whom their affairs are principally conducted, and
    whom they treat as the Mamlouks treated the Egyptians.

    These master workmen indeed form a powerful aristocracy, nor is it
    possible to conceive one apparently more oppressive.  They are
    ruthless tyrants; they habitually inflict upon their subjects
    punishments more grievous than the slave population of our colonies
    were ever visited with; not content with beating them with sticks, or
    flogging them with knotted ropes, they are in the habit of felling
    them with, or cutting their heads open with a file or lock.

    The most usual punishment, however, or rather stimulus to increase
    exertion, is to pull an apprentice’s ears till they run with blood.
    These youths, too, are worked for sixteen or even twenty hours a day;
    they are often sold by one master to another; they are fed on
    carrion, and they sleep in lofts or cellars.

    Yet, whether it be that they are hardened by brutality, and really
    unconscious of their degradation and unusual sufferings, or whether
    they are supported by the belief that their day to be masters and
    oppressors will surely arrive, the aristocracy of Wodgate is by no
    means so unpopular as the aristocracy of most other places.

    In the first place, it is a real aristocracy; it is privileged, but
    it does something for its privileges.  It is distinguished from the
    main body, not merely by name.  It is the most knowing class at
    Wodgate; it possesses, in deed, in its way, complete knowledge; and
    it imparts in its manner a certain quantity of it to those whom it
    guides.

    Thus it is an aristocracy that leads, and therefore a fact.
    Moreover, the social system of Wodgate is not an unvarying course of
    infinite toil.  Their plan is to work hard, but not always.  They
    seldom exceed four days of labour in the week.  On Sunday the masters
    begin to drink; for the apprentices there is dog-fighting without any
    stint.

    On Monday and Tuesday the whole population of Wodgate is drunk; of
    all stations, ages, and sexes, even babes who should be at the
    breast, for they are drammed with Godfrey’s cordial.  Here is
    relaxation, excitement; if less vice otherwise than might be at first
    anticipated, we must remember that excesses are checked by poverty of
    blood and constant exhaustion.  Scanty food and hard labour are in
    their way, if not exactly moralists, a tolerably good police.

    There are no others at Wodgate to preach or to control.  It is not
    that the people are immoral, for immorality implies some forethought;
    or ignorant, for ignorance is relative; but they are animals,
    unconscious, their minds a blank, and their worst actions only the
    impulse of a gross or savage instinct.  There are many in this town
    who are ignorant of their very names; very few who can spell them.

    It is rare that you meet with a young person who knows his own age;
    rarer to find the boy who has seen a book, or the girl who has seen a
    flower.  Ask them the name of their Sovereign, and they will give you
    an unmeaning stare; ask them the name of their religion, and they
    will laugh; who rules them on earth, or who can save them in Heaven,
    are alike mysteries to them.

    Such was the population with whom Morley was about to mingle.
    Wodgate had the appearance of a vast squalid suburb.  As you
    advanced, leaving behind you long lines of little dingy tenements,
    with infants lying about the road, you expected every moment to
    emerge into some streets, and encounter buildings bearing some
    correspondence, in their size and comfort, to the considerable
    population swarming and busied around you.

    Nothing of the kind.  There were no public buildings of any sort; no
    churches, chapels, town hall, institute, theatre; and the principal
    streets in the heart of the town in which were situate the coarse and
    grimy shops, though formed by houses of a greater elevation than the
    preceding, were equally narrow, and, if possible, more dirty.

    At every fourth or fifth house, alleys, seldom above a yard wide, and
    streaming with filth, opened out of the street.  These were crowded
    with dwellings of various size, while from the principal court often
    branched out a number of smaller alleys, or rather narrow passages,
    than which nothing can be conceived more close and squalid and
    obscure.

    Here, during the days of business, the sound of the hammer and the
    file never ceased, amid gutters of abomination, and piles of
    foulness; and stagnant pools of filth, reservoirs of leprosy and
    plague, whose exhalations were sufficient to taint the atmosphere of
    the whole kingdom, and fill the country with fever and pestilence.

Such were the conditions of life in Willenhall, at least from the
industrial side; for Willenhall and Wednesfield were at that time almost
identical in their industrial, social, and municipal economics.  The
novelist is, of course, incorrect in saying Wednesfield had no church; as
we have seen in Chapter XXIII. it had possessed a small church or chapel
since 1746.

Another novelist who has dealt with the same theme is Louis Becke.  The
hero of his tale, entitled “Old Convict Days” (published by T. Fisher
Unwin), is a runaway apprentice from Darlaston; and Willenhall is alluded
to in this work as “Wilnon.”  Spirited descriptions are given of regular
set fights between the apprentices of the two towns, which took place on
the canal bridge that divided their respective territories near Bug Hole,
and in the course of which drownings have not been unknown to occur.
Allusions are also made to the dog-fighting, human rat worrying, and
other brutal sports with which the populace of these two places were wont
to amuse themselves; and particularly to the haunted Red Barn in which a
murder had been committed.

Willenhall can lay a further claim to classic ground in the realm of
fiction, though the exact spot has not yet been satisfactorily
identified.  It is the place called Mumper’s Dingle, in the works of
George Borrow, the gipsy traveller and linguist, or as he calls himself
in the Romany dialect, Lavengro, the “Word-Master.”

The word “mumper” signifies a tramp or roving beggar; but its slight
likeness to the name Monmer has led certain local enthusiasts to identify
Mumpers’ Dingle with Monmer Lane.  Wherever this particular gipsies’
dingle may have been, it was certainly on the Essington side of
Willenhall, though scarcely five miles out; in fact, the public-house
mentioned in the narrative (“Lavengro,” chapter 89) is generally
understood to be the Bull’s Head Inn, Wolverhampton Street, which is
definitely stated to be two miles from Mumpers’ Dingle.  It must have
been a secluded and romantic spot about the year 1820, and quite a
fitting scene for that interesting episode of the gipsy life described as
being led there by the unconventional Lavengro, in Platonic association
with a strapping Gitano wench named Isopel Berners.

Since George Borrow has come to be recognised as a writer fitting to rank
among our standard English authors, quite a Borrovian cult has grown up,
which has naturally enough fortified itself by a literature of its own.

Our first extracts are the great writer’s own description of the place.
(“Isopel Berners,” by George Borrow.)

    The Dingle is a deep, wooded, and, consequently, somewhat gloomy
    hollow in the middle of a very large, desolate field.  The shelving
    sides of the hollow are overgrown with trees and bushes.  A belt of
    sallows crowns the circular edge of the small crater.  At the lowest
    part of the Dingle are discovered a stone and a fire of charcoal,
    from which spot a winding path ascends to “the plain.”  On either
    side of the fire is a small encampment.  One consists of a small pony
    cart and a small hut-shaped tent, occupied by the Word-Master, on the
    other side is erected a kind of tent, consisting of large hoops
    covered over with tarpaulin, quite impenetrable to rain; hard by
    stands a small donkey cart.  This is “the tabernacle” of Isopel
    Berners.  A short distance off, near a spring of clear water, is the
    encampment of the Romany chals and chies—the Petulengres and their
    small clan.

The place is above five miles from Willenhall, in Staffordshire.

The time is July, 1825.

Our concluding quotation is taken from the “Life, Writings, and
Correspondence of George Borrow,” by William J. Knapp (published in
1899).

    1825.

    On the 21st, he departs with his itinerant hosts towards the old
    Welsh border—Montgomery.  Turns back with Ambrose Petulengro.
    Settles in Mumber Lane, Staffordshire, near Willenhall.  My informant
    of Dudley caused it to be found, and wrote as follows:—

    “‘Mumpers’ Dingle’ still exists in the neighbourhood of Willenhall,
    though it does not seem to be well known, as a native had to make
    inquiries about it.  Willenhall itself is one of the most
    forlorn-looking places in the Black Country, ranking second to
    Darlaston, I should think.”

                       [Picture: Decorative design]



XXIX.—Bibliography.


From the merely allusive in literature, we proceed to the bibliography of
Willenhall, which, though not extensive, is of fair average interest.

Recently (June, 1907) was put up for auction in London a First Folio
Shakespeare of some local interest.  It was the property of Mr. Abel
Buckley, Ryecroft Hall, near Manchester.  This folio appears to have been
purchased about 1660 by Colonel John Lane, of Bentley Hall, Staffs, the
protector of Charles II. after the Battle of Worcester.  It remained in
the possession of the family till 1856, when, at the dispersal of the
library of Colonel John Lane, of King’s Bromley, whose book-plate,
designed by Hogarth, is inserted, it was bought by the third Earl of
Gosford for 157 guineas.

The son of the third Earl of Gosford disposed of it to James Toovey, the
famous London bookseller, for £470 in 1884; and soon afterwards Mr.
Buckley obtained the folio.  It measures 12⅞in. by 8¼in., is throughout
clean, but the fly-leaf and title are mounted and two leaves repaired.
This is the volume’s interesting history, according to Mr. Sidney Lee.

In 1795, Stephen Chatterton, a Willenhall schoolmaster, published a book
of poems of a humorous cast.  One is “An epistle to my friend Mr. Thomas
S—, who was married in July, 1783, to his third wife, on his fiftieth
birthday.”

The bibliography of the Rev. Samuel Cozens, at one time minister of the
Peculiar Baptists’ Chapel at Little London, Willenhall, is rather
extensive if not very interesting.  A full list of his pamphlets and
other works will be found in G. T. Lawley’s “Bibliography of
Wolverhampton,” and also in Simms’ “Bibliotheca Staffordiensis.”  His
first work, which appeared in the “Gospel Standard,” 1844, was “A short
account of the Lord’s Gracious Dealings with One of the Elect Vessels of
Mercy,” and is autobiographical.

From this title, and that of the second part of his life, which appeared
in 1857, “Reminiscences: or Footsteps of Providence,” the attitude of
mind assumed by the writer may be easily guessed.  His was a dogmatic
creed, of stern unyielding Calvinism, which left him always
self-satisfied, and often made him aggressive.  He moved from
Wolverhampton to Willenhall in 1848, where his first book was written, a
scholarly volume in the form of “A Biblical Lexicon.”

Presently his combative nature found expression in a controversial
pamphlet attacking the Primitive Methodists, “John Wesley, the Papa of
British Rome, and Philip Pugh, the modern Pelagius, weighed in the
Balance of Eternal Truth and found wanting” (Willenhall, printed and
published by W. H. Hughes, 1852).  The Rev. Philip Pugh was located at
Darlaston, and made a gallant defence on behalf of his co-religionists;
the Primitive Methodists of Willenhall acknowledging these services by
presenting him with a handsome testimonial.  The pamphlets containing his
rejoinders bear the imprint of Stephen Hackett, Willenhall.  Mr. Cozens
died in Tasmania some years later.

The “Memoirs of G. B. Thorneycroft,” written by the Rev. J. B. Owen, and
published (Wolverhampton: T. Simpson) in 1856, contain local allusions of
minor interest.  The subject of the memoir was the well-known South
Staffordshire ironmaster, who in the earlier part of his commercial
career had some works near the Waterglade, on the Bilston Road.

George Benjamin Thorneycroft, was born August 20th, 1791, at Tipton,
where his grandfather kept the Three Furnaces Inn.  His biographer claims
his descent from the Thornicrofts of Cheshire.  In his youth he was
employed at Kirkstall Forge, near Leeds, returning to Staffordshire in
1809 to work at the Moorcroft Ironworks at Bradley, near Bilston, where,
by his skill and industry he ultimately rose to the management.

It was in 1817 he founded a small ironwork at Willenhall, and seven years
later joined his twin brother, Edward Thorneycroft, in establishing the
Shrubbery Ironworks at Wolverhampton.  The rise of the railways at that
period, and the consequent larger demands for iron and steel, were among
the causes which led to his great prosperity as an ironmaster.

His Willenhall residence was on the site now occupied by the Metropolitan
Bank, in the Market Place: while his works, this first this iron magnate
owned, were located near what is now known as Forge Yard, Waterglade
Street.  It was in this house his son, Colonel Thorneycroft, of
Tettenhall Towers, was born.

                          [Picture: Neptune Inn]

His prominence as a public man may be estimated by the fact that when
Wolverhampton was incorporated in 1848, Mr. Thorneycroft was selected for
the honour of being first Mayor of the new borough.  He was at all times
a generous supporter of every local charity and benevolent institution,
till the old quotation came to be fitted to him:—

    There was a man—the neighbours thought him mad—
    The more he gave away, the more he had.

In the Town Hall of Wolverhampton a statue has been set up to commemorate
the public work of this estimable character.

                           [Picture: Bell Inn]

Although during the greater portion of his career a great supporter of
the State Church, in earlier life Mr. G. B. Thorneycroft had been an
ardent Wesleyan; and in his memoirs (p. 134) it is recorded how he
liquidated the burden of debt on the Willenhall Chapel belonging to that
denomination.  On his death, in 1851, among those who testified to his
public usefulness, and the estimation in which he was held, was the Rev.
G. H. Fisher, of Willenhall (memoirs pp. 263–5).

                        [Picture: Old Bull’s Head]

“The Willenhall Magazine” was the name of a monthly periodical launched
in 1862, “published for the proprietors by J. Loxton, Market Place,
Willenhall,” and having Messrs. J. C. and Jesse Tildesley as its chief
contributors.  The first number appeared in March, and twelve months
afterwards this praiseworthy attempt to establish a local magazine in
Willenhall had completely failed.

                          [Picture: The Plough]

In 1866 appeared a religious novel written by a Primitive Methodist
preacher of this town, and published by Elliot Stock, London.  It: was
entitled “Nest: A Tale of the Early British Christians,” by the Rev. J.
Boxer, Willenhall.  Mr. G. T. Lawley describes it as a well-written story
dealing with the pagan persecution of the early British Christians by
their Saxon conquerors.

A story of direct local interest was Mr. G. T. Lawley’s work “The
Locksmith’s Apprentice; a Tale of Old Willenhall,” published serially
some years ago in the columns of a Wolverhampton weekly newspaper.

Mr N. Neal Solly (of the firm of Fletcher, Solly, and Urwick, Willenhall
Furnaces) wrote the Guide to the Fine Arts Section of the South
Staffordshire Exhibition, held at Molineux House, Wolverhampton, in 1869.
The writer was himself an artist, and he afterwards produced some
valuable Memoirs of David Cox (1873), and of the Bristol painter, William
James Muller (1875).

The most eminent litterateur Willenhall has produced is Mr. James
Carpenter Tildesley, a lock manufacturer, as we have seen, and a
life-long public man in the town.  Reference has already been made to his
writings on industrial subjects, and also to his works on the history of
local Methodism.  As a public man, he is a Justice of the Peace for the
County, a chairman of Willenhall Petty Sessional Division, has been
president of the Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the
Willenhall Local Board, and chairman of the Willenhall Liberal
Association.  Since his retirement to Penkridge he has written a history
of that parish, which was published by Steen and Co., of Wolverhampton,
in 1886.

Mr. J. C. Tildesley was sub-editor of the “Birmingham Morning News” under
the famous George Dawson, and has been a most diligent contributor to the
Press for the last forty years.  It was mainly by his efforts that the
Willenhall Literary Institute was founded, that what is now the Public
Hall was built, and that the Free Library was established.

In recognition of his work in connection with the Literary Institute, a
public presentation was made to him, the inscription upon which bore this
eloquent testimony—“Not to requite but to record services of great value
to Willenhall . . .  January 4th, 1869.”  That Mr. J. C. Tildesley is now
permanently invalided is a matter of regret not only to Willenhall, but
to a wide circle of readers and admirers outside the township.



XXX.—Topography.


There is often a wealth of history to be unearthed from place-names.
Localities often preserve the names of dead and gone personages,
half-forgotten incidents, and matters of past history well worth
recalling for their interest.  Besides the pleasure to be derived from
the right interpretation of place-names and old street names, great
interest often centres around the social associations of old inns and
taverns.  Let us consider a few of the old-time inns and localities of
Willenhall.

The site of the mediæval Holy Well, which in the later fashion of the
18th century blossomed forth as a Spa, was situated between the church
and the present Manor House.  In the remoter age we may imagine it as the
haunt of the lame, the halt, and the blind (possibly the church was
dedicated to St. Giles, the patron of cripples, on this account), and in
the more recent period as the resort of fashionable invalids and wealthy
valetudinarians.

In the Private Act of Parliament, dated 6th August, 1844, for disposing
of the Willenhall Endowment properties, a number of field-names occur in
the schedule which are pregnant with local history.  Welch End is a name
which seems to mark the locality where resided the family of Welch, who
founded the church dole; the Doctor’s Piece was perhaps part of the
estate of the celebrated Dr. Wilkes; the Clothers and the Little
Clothiers are names which are said to indicate certain lands once
belonging to the Cloth-workers’ Company of the City of London; Somerford
Bridge Piece and the Hither Bathing were presumably located near the
brook; while the Poor’s Piece, the Constable’s Dole, and the Dole’s Butty
(query: does the last-named, interpreted in the dialect of the district,
signify “the companion piece to the Dole?”), are names which suggest the
identity of charity lands.

There is mention of a High Causeway, which manifestly indicates the
position of some old paved road; and the Butts, doubtless, named the
field where in ancient times archery was practised by the men of
Willenhall, as the men of Darlaston did at the Butcroft in their parish.

Reverting to the schedule, there are some names for which no explanation
can be offered; as Ell Park, Berry Stile, the Stringes, and the Farther
Stringes.  Many of the properties named in the list are declared to be
“uninclosed lands that lie dispersedly in the Common Fields there,
intermixed with other lands.”  How much, or rather, how little, common
land is there in Willenhall to-day?

And yet the amount of “waste” land in and around Willenhall was once
excessive, as the writings of George Borrow cannot fail to convey (Chap.
XXVIII.).  In Chap. XXII. we read of Canne Byrch, situated in “Willenhall
Field,” lying in the highway towards Darlaston, where perhaps the village
community of ancient times tilled their lands in common; and more
directly of the “waste or common land” called Shepwell Green; a wide
stretch of open land once apparently stretching away towards the
wilderness and solitudes of that gipsy-land immortalised by George
Borrow.

“Willenhall Green” is named by Dr. Plot, writing in 1686, as a place
where yellow ochre was found a yard below the surface, and which after
being beaten up was made into oval cakes to be sold at fourpence a dozen
to glovers, who used it in combination with cakes of “blew clay,” found
at Darlaston and Wednesbury, “for giving their wares an ash colour.”

The old highway between Walsall and Wolverhampton lay along Walsall
Street, through Cross Street, and the Market Place; the new coach route,
or the New Road, as it was called, was made in the early part of the
nineteenth century.

New Invention is a place-name which originated not from any connection
with the local industries, as one might be led to expect, but from
nothing more serious than a nickname of derision.  The tradition is that
many years ago an inhabitant from the centre of the town was strolling
out that way, when he was thus accosted by an acquaintance living in one
of the few cottages which then comprised the neighbourhood, and who was
standing on his own doorstep to enjoy the cool of the evening: “I say,
Bill, hast seen my new invention?”  “No, lad; what is it?”  “That’s it!”
said the self-satisfied householder, pointing up to a hawthorn bush which
was pushed out of the top of his chimney.  “That’s it!  It’s stopped our
o’d chimdy smokin’, I can tell thee!”  And ever after that the locality
which this worthy honoured with his ingenious presence was slyly dubbed
by his amused neighbours the “New Invention,” by which name it afterwards
became generally known.

Portobello, on the outskirts of Willenhall, is said to have borrowed its
name from that second-hand Portobello near Leith, which was named after
Admiral Vernon’s famous victory of 1739.  At the Scottish suburb a bed of
rich clay, discovered in 1765, led to the development of the place
through the establishment of brick and tile works; a similar discovery of
a thick bed of clay outside Willenhall, and its subsequent industrial
development on parallel lines led to the copying of that patriotic name,
more particularly because a neighbouring coal-pit was already rejoicing
in the name of Bunker’s Hill, conferred upon it by local patriots after
the American victory of 1775.  The Willenhall wags, however, have given
quite another derivation.  A man once passing a solitary farmhouse in
that locality, say they, called and inquired if the farmer had any beer
on tap.  The reply was, as the man pointed cellarwards, “No—only porter
below!”

Little London seems to be a locality which attempts to shine by the
reflected glory of the capital’s borrowed name, and is appropriately
approached by a thoroughfare called Temple Bar; but which of these
metropolitan names suggested the other, the oldest inhabitant fails to
recollect.

Among the old inns and taverns of the town the chief were the Neptune
Inn, Walsall Street; the Bull’s Head, Wolverhampton Street; the Hope and
Anchor, Little London; the Bell Inn, Market Place; and the Waterglade
Tavern, Waterglade.  The Neptune, situated on the main road between
Wolverhampton and Walsall, and almost opposite the church, was formerly a
posting-house kept in the 18th and early part of the 19th century by
Isaac Hartill, one of those typical hosts of the coaching period; active,
genial, and obliging, a man of good conversational powers, and one who
instantly made his guests feel at home, and was extremely popular with
all the local gentry and regular travellers along the road.  With the
advent of the railway the character of the Neptune Inn gradually
altered—the railway, by the way, was cut through the crescent,
overlooking Bentley Hall, a property which had belonged to and had been
the residence of the Hartill family since 1704, and part of which is now
The Robin Hood Grounds, used for sports and recreations and other
out-door assemblies.

It was from the balcony above the entry of the Neptune Inn, over which
was then the public drawing-room, that the Right Hon. Charles P. Villiers
first addressed the electors of the newly-enfranchised borough of
Wolverhampton in 1835, and subsequently made many of his fervent Free
Trade speeches; and in fact, from this place all public announcements
were wont to be made.  The room behind the balcony was formerly used as a
Court Room, in which the magistrates administered justice; here too, the
Willenhall Court Leet was held, and to this day Lord Barnard’s agents
receive the tithes there.

The Neptune once served all the purposes of a lending inn as an
acknowledged place of public rendezvous; and when the Stowheath farmers
were accustomed to ride or drive in to attend church, its spacious
stableyard was a scene of animation, even on Sundays.

The Bell Inn, in the Market Place, is perhaps the oldest in the market
taverns, though the date 1660 painted upon its sign can scarcely refer to
the projecting wing which bears it.  The back portion of the house is
unquestionably old; in fact, the family of Wakelam who kept the inn 25
years ago, were identified with this house and the Bull’s Head Inn for
upwards of two centuries.

The Plough Inn, Stafford Street, is less old than the others, and of more
doubtful interest.  It has been completely altered within recent years;
in the old days when prisoners consigned to Stafford Gaol had to walk, it
was the place of the final drink before starting, and marked the limits
of the town till Little London began.

The Bull’s head Inn, Wolverhampton Street, is supposed to be the alehouse
referred to in Borrow’s romantic tale of Romany life, “Lavengro.”

The Waterglade Tavern marked the spot on the road between the two
old-world villages of Willenhall and Bilston, where it dipped to the bed
of the stream.

The Woolpack Inn, at Short Heath, is one of the oldest licensed houses in
that locality.

The First and Last Inn, New Invention, was so dubbed because at one time
it was the first licensed house when approaching from Wednesfield, and
the last when going the other way out.

The sign rhymes of Willenhall belong to the hackneyed type.  The Gate
Inn, New Invention, has the well-known couplet:—

    This Gate hangs well and hinders none:
    Refresh and pay and travel on.

The Lame Dog Inn, at Short Heath, is not very original with:—

    Step in, my friends, and stop a while,
    To help a lame dog over the stile.

Enough has been said on the subject to arouse the interest of patriotic
Willenhaleans.  One reflection in conclusion—in the old days licensed
houses were invariably kept by families of position and substance, and it
is remarkable to discover the great number of professional and well-to-do
men of the present day who were born in public-houses.  It is so with
regard to Wednesbury and Darlaston, and even more so with regard to
Willenhall.

                       [Picture: Decorative design]



XXXI.—Old Families and Names of Note.


To not a few of the old names of those who have lived their lives in
Willenhall, and left their mark indelibly fixed upon its annals,
attention has already been paid in treating of the various matters with
which their respective life-work was associated.  It remains here only to
add a few more names to our list of Willenhall worthies, and to
supplement a few biographical details to those already mentioned.

The index to the names of landowners would be incomplete without that of
Offley.  In the year 1555 Alderman Offley, a citizen of London, acquired
lands in “Willenhall, otherwise Wilnall.”  About the same date this
opulent merchant became lord of the manor of Darlaston.  (See History of
Darlaston, pp. 39–40.)

An important old Willenhall family, as may have been gathered in the
course of these Annals, was that of Hincks.  Their family residence still
stands in Bilston Street, near to the Market Place; a descendant, and
apparently the only representative of the Hincks family surviving is Mrs.
Samuel Walker, of Bentley Hall.

Of Carpenter, Willenhall’s most famous inventor, a few more items of
local and biographical interest are forthcoming.  In early life James
Carpenter was a Churchman, but, as many other Willenhall folk did, became
a Wesleyan in consequence of the scandals caused by the Rev. Mr.
Moreton’s mode of life.  His remains lie in a vault on the east side of
the Wesleyan Chapel in Union Street.  He was a keen supporter of the
Right Hon. C. P. Villiers when he first became a Parliamentary candidate
for Wolverhampton.

John Austin, the tradesman, who first issued the “Willenhall farthings,”
mentioned in Chapter XXVII., was an enterprising tradesman, a man of
handsome presence and of an alert mind.  On leaving Willenhall he went to
live at Manor House, Allscott, near Wellington, at which town he
established artificial manure works, and where he manufactured sulphuric
acid very extensively.

The issue of the Willenhall trade farthings was continued by Rushbrooke,
his successor in the business (1853), though the original date, “1844”
was always retained upon them.  They were sold to shopkeepers and traders
all round the district at the rate of 5s. nominal for 4s. 9d. cash.  When
the new national bronze coinage came into circulation in 1860, large
quantities of these copper farthing tokens were returned on to Mr
Rushbrooke’s hands, but he melted them down without sustaining the least
loss.

[Picture: Josiah Tildesley, Senr.  Prominent Wesleyan and Highly Esteemed
                                Townsman]

The Hartill family has long been settled in Willenhall.  George Hartill
married Isabel Cross, at St. Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton, in 1662.  All
their nine children were baptised at St. Giles’s Church, Willenhall.  The
present Dr. J. T. Hartill is descended directly from Richard, fifth son
of the above, and his grandfather, Isaac Hartill, inter-married with Ann
Hartill, a descendant of the said George Hartill’s second son.

   [Picture: James Tildesley.  Large Employer of Labour, Proprietor of
                            Summerford Works]

The social rank of the Hartills since their residence in Willenhall has
been that of tradesmen or professional men, manufacturers, or small
property owners, but always educated up to the standard of the period in
which they lived.  In 1826 Jeremiah Hartill established himself in
medical practice, joined in 1861 by his nephew, William Henry Hartill,
and in 1869 by the latter’s brother, Dr. J. T. Hartill.  The arms and
crest borne by the last-named were formally granted him in 1896; but the
same coat without the crest had always been used by his uncle Jeremiah,
and that on a claim of inheritance from the ancient lords of the manor of
Hartill, in Cheshire, to whom it had been granted by King John.  These
particular arms have not been officially recorded at the College of
Heralds since 1580, but a very similar coat was used by a member of this
family in 1703.

[Picture: Jeremiah Hartill, Surgeon.  Agitated for Easier Enfranchisement
                              of Copyholds]

The Willenhall Hartills migrated here from the neighbourhood of Kinver,
Wolverley, and Kidderminster.  There are still Hartills of the old stock
resident in the Kinver district, and from them are descended Mrs.
Shakespeare, wife of the well-known Birmingham solicitor; and Mrs.
Showell, wife of the late Walter Showell, the founder of the eminent firm
of Black Country brewers, who was once a Parliamentary candidate for one
of the divisions of Birmingham.  The Hartills of Kinver are related to
the Hartills of Kingsbury, and there has always been a great similarity
in the Christian names borne by the old Kingsbury, Kinver, and Willenhall
Hartills.  The steeple of Polesworth church was built by the last Sir
Richard Hartill, 1377–1379, and below the tower battlements is carved
upon a large shield the arms of this benefactor, which are identical with
those of the late Dr. Jeremiah Hartill of Willenhall.

[Picture: John Austin of the Albion Mill, who issued the Farthing Tokens]

Mr. Henry Vaughan, the founder of the largest business concern in the
town, has done a large amount of public work in various capacities, but
chiefly as a magistrate, a member of the defunct School Board, and more
recently as a County Councillor.

    [Picture: George Ley Pearce.  Prominent Wesleyan and Philanthropic
                                 Worker]

Among the justices who have sat on the Willenhall Bench and possessed
other connections with the place may be mentioned the late N. Neal Solly,
ironmaster, two water-colour drawings by whom hang on the walls of the
Free Library; the late Rev. G. H. Fisher, who was chairman; R. D. Gough,
a brother of the late Colonel Foster Gough, and who married the rich and
benevolent Mary Clemson, daughter of John Clemson, a corn miller, of this
township; while among the most recent appointments are Clement Tildesley,
Thomas Vaughan, and Thomas Kidson.  The present Clerk to the Willenhall
Bench is Samuel Mills Slater, in succession to his father, the late James
Slater, of Bescot Hall.

A memorial tablet to the local men who fell in the Boer War has been
erected at the gateway to the Old Cemetery.

                       [Picture: Decorative design]



XXXII.—Manners and Customs.


The Manners and Customs of the people of Willenhall have been those held
in common with the populace of the surrounding parishes, and which have
been dealt with too fully in the published writings of Mr. G. T. Lawley
to need more than a brief review here.

The seasonal custom of Well Dressing has been alluded to in Chapter
XVII., and of Beating the Bounds in Chapter V.  Other ancient customs of
minor import existed, but space cannot be found to treat them in a
general history.

The social calibre of the people a century or so ago may be gauged by a
local illustration of the custom of Wife Selling.

This practice was once common enough everywhere, and amongst the ignorant
and illiterate in some parts it is still held to be a perfectly
legitimate transaction.  From the “Annual Register” this local instance
has been clipped:—

    “Three men and three women went to the Bell Inn, Edgbaston Street,
    Birmingham, and made the following singular entry in the toll book
    which is kept there: August 31, 1773, Samuel Whitehouse, of the
    Parish of Willenhall, in the county of Stafford, this day sold his
    wife, Mary Whitehouse, in open market, to Thomas Griffiths, of
    Birmingham, value one shilling.  To take her with all her faults.

                                               (Signed) Samuel Whitehouse.
                                                          Mary Whitehouse.

    Voucher, Thomas Buckley, of Birmingham.”

The parties were all exceedingly well pleased, and the money paid down
for the toll as for a regular purchase.

So much for the moral status of the people; now to consider them from the
industrial side.

The older generation of Willenhall men were accustomed, ere factory Acts
and kindred forms of parental legislation had regulated working hours and
otherwise ameliorated the conditions of labour, to slave for many weary
hours in little domiciliary workshops.  Boys were then apprenticed at a
tender age, and soon became humpbacked in consequence of throwing in the
weight of their little bodies in the endeavour to eke out the strength of
the feeble thews and bones in their immature arms.

In those days men worked when they liked, and played when it suited them;
they generally played the earlier days of the week, even if at the end
they worked night and day in the attempt to average the weekly earnings.
In this connection it has been suggested that in pre-Reformation times
Willenhall folk duly honoured St. Sunday and well as St. Monday,
consecrating both days to the sacred cause of weekly idleness.  Or was
Willenhall’s Holy Well dedicated to St. Dominic, and came by grammatical
error to be called St. Sunday?  As thus—Sanctus Dominicus abbreviated
first to Sanc. Dominic, and then extended in the wrong gender to Sancta
Dominica, otherwise Saint Sunday?  Who shall say?  It may have been so.

It is perhaps in their pleasures, more than in their pursuits, that the
character of a people is to be best seen.  Allusion has been made to the
obsolete Trinity Fair in Chapter XII.; but the Wake has remained to this
day, less loyally observed perhaps, but rich in traditions of past
glories.

Willenhall Wake falls on the first Sunday after September 11th, the Feast
of St. Giles, to whom the old church is dedicated.

Among the wakes of the Black Country none are richer in reminiscence of
the old time forms of festivity than that of Willenhall.  Although in
later times the outward and visible sign of its celebration has dwindled
down to an assemblage of shows and roundabouts, shooting galleries, and
ginger-bread stalls, it was once accompanied by bull-baitings and
cock-fighting, and all the other coarse and brutal sports in which our
forefathers so much delighted.

    At Wednesfield at one village wake
       The cockers all did meet
    At Billy Lane’s, the cock-fighter’s,
       To have a sporting treat.

    For Charley Marson’s spangled cock
       Was matched to fight a red
    That came from Will’n’all o’er the fields,
       And belonged to “Cheeky Ned.”

    Two finer birds in any cock-pit
       Two never yet was seen.
    Though the Wednesfield men declared
       Their cock was sure to win.

    The cocks fought well, and feathers fled
       All round about the pit,
    While blood from both of ’em did flow
       Yet ne’er un would submit.

    At last the spangled Wedgefield bird
       Began to show defeat,
    When Billy Lane, he up and swore
       The bird shouldn’t be beat;

    For he would fight the biggest mon
       That came from Will’n’all town,
    When on the word, old “Cheeky Ned”
       Got up and knocked him down.

    To fight they went like bull-dogs,
       As it is very well known,
    Till “Cheeky Ned” seized Billy’s thumb,
       And bit it to the bone.

    At this the Wednesfield men begun
       Their comrade’s part to take,
    And never was a fiercer fight
       Fought at a village wake.

    They beat the men from Will’n’all town
       Back to their town again,
    And long they will remember
       This Wednesfield wake and main.

The site of the Willenhall Bull Ring, it may be added for the information
of future generations, was opposite the Baptist Chapel, Little London,
where Temple Bar joins the Wednesfield and Bloxwich Roads.

Among other Wake observances of the last century were the “Club Walkings”
or processioning of the Friendly Societies, whose members first attended
a brief service in the church, and then spent the rest of the day in
feasting at the Neptune Inn opposite.  Tradition hath it that further
back, well into the Georgian era, and certainly before Mr. Fisher’s time,
another Wake custom was that of “kissing the parson,” a privilege of
which the women were said to be very jealous.

In the year 1857 the Right Hon. C. P. Villiers, Member of Parliament for
the Borough of Wolverhampton, of which this township was part,
inaugurated in Willenhall one of the first exhibitions of fine art and
industry ever held in the Black Country.  It was opened on the Monday in
the Wake week, and Mr. Villiers alluded to the fact that “they met in the
midst of one of those old-fashioned wakes which it was the humour of
their ancestors to establish and be pleased with,” and the right hon.
gentleman proceeded to contrast the present with the past conditions of
Willenhall Wake-time.

A flourishing Free Library—founded like many another in the face of great
local opposition and prejudice—is one of the legacies of that exhibition,
from the date of which may be traced the more rational observance of
Wake-time.

With the advance of science and art and the spread of popular education,
the future prosperity of an ingenious community, like that of the skilled
mechanics and deft craftsmen of this township, is assured.  Impressed
with such certitude it is all but a work of supererogation to echo the
patriotic sentiment of the old-time townsfolk—

                        “LET WILLENHALL FLOURISH!”

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.



INDEX


Ablow Field 7, 10

Agmund 8

Aldhelm 18

Ames 75, 77, 137

Anlaf 8

Annes, St. 110–2, 134

Anson (Lichfield) 128, 139, 152

Arley 14, 18, 27–8

Aston 34

Austin 165, 184

Badland 62–4, 95–6

Baker 106, 149

Barnard 128

Barr 114

Bate 132

Beating Bounds 24–6, 187

Beaumont 46, 58–9, 60–1

Beneting 8

Bentley 17, 25, 27–8, 31, 39, 44, 65, 67, 70, 72, 77, 81–82, 109, 110,
120–1, 125, 127–8, 126, 140, 143, 151–2, 175, 182, 184

Beogitha’s Stream 29

Bescot 17

Bilbrook 28, 93

Bilston 12, 14, 18, 26–8, 34, 37, 40, 51, 56, 66, 77–81, 85, 93, 135,
137–8, 156, 161

Blakenhall 14

Bloxwich 14, 17–8, 25, 30, 39, 134, 189

Booth 137

Boscobel 69–70

Bradford 74

Bradley 26, 175

Brewood 4, 93, 162

Brideoak 73

Bromehall 51, 95

Browning 34, 95

Burnell 40

Burton 21

Bushbury 4, 9, 14, 24, 27, 38, 46, 56, 66, 68–9, 71, 98, 113

Callendine 74

Canals 127, 133, 155, 157

Cannock 2, 19, 24–5, 38–9, 41, 45, 135, 148, 151

Carpenter 144, 147, 158, 161–3, 165, 178, 184

Carter 96, 164

Catchem’s Corner 26

Chartley 83

Chatterton 175

Chillington 14, 84, 121, 149

Chubb 160

Churchwardens 26, 79, 105, 112, 129, 130, 132, 153

Clarke 114

Clement 42, 72

Clemson 139, 186

Clent 37, 64

Cleveland 107, 128

Codsall 14, 30, 56, 93–4, 137

Coseley 145

Cote 28

Courts (Leet, &c.) 23, 148–153, 156, 182

Coven 38

Cozens 175

Cuddlestone 27–8

Darlaston 14, 38, 40, 45, 65, 82, 92, 98, 103, 106, 137, 143–4, 156, 164,
172, 174–5, 180, 184

Davies 114, 125

Dean (of Wolverhampton) 22–4, 28, 30, 34–6, 39, 49, 50–1, 55, 72–9

Delves 2

De Willenhall, John 37, 42

,, Roger 37

Dudley 39, 46, 51–2, 58, 64–6, 69, 90, 137, 172

Duignan 2, 3, 9, 19

Dunstall 14, 17, 21, 39, 93

Ecwills 8

Elfthryth 19

Essington 14, 18, 25, 27, 38, 71, 154, 157

Ettingshall 14

Etymologies 1–5, 9, 11, 13–4

Fairs, Wakes, &c. 57–61, 163, 188, 190

Featherstone, 6, 14, 18, 23–5, 28, 30, 74–6, 80

Fellows 22–3

Fisher 102, 104, 106–111, 125, 127, 134, 139, 186, 189

Fletcher 132–2, 134

Foster 144

Franchises 30

Fytzherbert 52

Garrick 88–9

Gerveyse 32–3, 116

Giffard 30, 52, 69, 71, 97, 112, 121, 123, 139, 149

Giles, St. 36, 57, 103, 105, 110–1, 133, 139, 141, 188

Gilpin 96–7

Goldthorn Hill 20, 26

Goscote 66

Gospelling 25, 26, 93

Gough 46, 66, 137, 139, 140, 147, 186

Gower 30, 47, 97, 139

Graisley 7, 20

Grosvenor 69

Guthferth 8

Halesowen 75

Haling 46–7

Hall 72, 86, 147

Hammerwich 40

Hampton 34, 39, 40, 113

Harper 42, 44, 59, 144, 164, 166

Hartill 102, 107, 111, 114, 125, 133–4, 140–2, 146, 150, 154, 163, 181,
185–6

Hascard 74

Haswic 28

Hatherton 14, 18–9, 23–4, 28, 30, 34, 72, 74–6, 80

Healfden 8

Heath Town 10, 11

Hilton 18–9, 23–4, 28, 30, 38–9, 74–6, 80, 98, 103

Hincks 105, 125, 184

Hind Brook 90

Hinton 74–5

Hobbart 76

Hocintun 28

Holbrooke 97–137

Holyoake 108

Horsley 7–10

Huntbach 6, 7, 10

Industries, Trades 31, 41, 45, 92, 106, 175, 178

Jennings 46

Johnson 88, 101, 114

Kempson 71, 161

Kenwolf 8

Kidson 147, 186

Kinvaston 14, 18, 23–5, 28, 30, 74, 76, 80

Kinver 9, 51, 185–6

Lane, Lone 30, 44, 52, 66–7, 70, 77, 95, 119, 120, 136–7, 139, 152, 175

Lawley 37, 93, 175, 177–8, 187

Leek 37

Lees 114

Leigh 66–7, 119

Leper House 94

Levison 34, 36, 39, 41–52, 55–6, 59, 60–1, 66, 68, 71–4, 97, 121, 123,
149, 150–1

Lewis 98

Lilleshall 46, 49

Little London 145, 148, 189

Little Low 7, 10

Lowhill 4, 9

Lows 6, 7, 9, 10

Loxton 177

Lutley 30, 75

Manlove 83, 85

Manningham 77

Marshall 59, 60

Matilda 37

Maxey 72

Mercia 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 21, 27, 37

Monmore 11, 16, 23–4, 30, 75–6, 93, 143, 145, 156

Moreton 98, 100–4, 106, 110, 184

Moseley 14, 19, 69, 70–1, 136

Mounsell 55, 95

Mumper’s Dingle 172, 174

Nechells 9

Neptune Inn 102, 106, 149, 181–2, 189

Neve 96, 98, 103, 138

Newbolds 14

Newbrigge 38

New Invention 145, 148, 154, 183

Nicholls 114

North Low 7, 9, 10

Oakeswell 67

Ocstele, le 39

Odyes 39, 42–3

Offlow 12, 21, 27–8, 148

Ogley Hay 14, 19

Ohter 8

Oldbury 63

Oliver 1, 24, 50, 76, 89, 93, 96

Osferth 8

Padmore 95

Patent Rolls 32–3, 44

Pearce 144, 146

Pedley 130–1, 133, 144, 147

Pelsall 4, 15, 18, 25, 27, 30, 32, 55, 66, 81

Pendeford 15, 38, 40, 162

Penderel 69

Penkhull 37

Penkridge 2, 178

Penn 56, 82

Pensnett 90

Perry 161

Phillips, Claudius 88–9

Pipe Rolls 37

Pitt 67

Podmore 120–1

Portobello 134, 144–5, 148, 181

Prestwood 34, 40, 71, 113, 120, 129, 132, 151

Prosser 162

Pype 40

Railways 127, 150, 156

Rollason 64, 117, 122

Rosedale 111–2, 114, 134, 140

Rowley 37

Rubery 144

Rushall 4, 66–9

Rushbrooke 166, 185

Ryes 73

Sampson 28

Sandbeds 134, 148, 154

Scotland 15

Sedgley 13, 39, 92, 167

Seisdon 6, 12, 15, 27–8, 148

Sewall, Showells, &c. 6, 15, 93–4

Shakespeare 185

Shenstone 40

Shepwell Green 128, 132, 134

Short Heath 110–2, 133–4, 144–5, 148, 155, 164, 183

Sigeric 20–1

Slater 113, 116, 186

Soldier’s Hill 9

Solly 178, 186

South Low 7, 9, 10

Spa, Holy Well, &c. 57, 90–4, 179, 187–8

Spring Vale 92

Stephen’s, St. 110, 112, 133–4

Stow Heath 12, 15, 17, 30, 99, 112, 116, 122–4, 139, 148–9, 155, 182

Stowman Hill 9

Stretton 81

Sunday, St. 90–1

Sutherland 47, 112

Swynnerton 38

Symmonds 68

Tame 1, 29, 93

Tettenhall 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 15, 17–8, 21, 28, 40, 51, 56, 137

Therferth 8

Thorneycroft 107, 165, 176–7

Tildesley 114, 144, 147, 154, 158, 163–6, 177–8, 186

Tipper 164–5

Tipton 65, 136

Tithes 48, 50, 75, 95, 107

Tomkys 44, 121, 131–2, 151, 161

Tonks 146–7, 164

Tramways 156

Trollesbury 32, 95

Tromelow 7, 10, 15

Tumuli 4, 6, 7, 9, 10

Turton 47

Twyford 19

Unett 85–6, 161

Vaughan 114, 147, 164, 166, 186

Vestry 17, 26

Villiers 182, 184, 189, 190

Wakelam 182

Walker 24, 26, 61, 114, 184

Walsall 2, 4, 5, 9, 17–9, 57–9, 60–1, 68, 137, 140

Wednesbury 1, 2, 5, 12–3, 17, 27, 38, 41, 46, 57–61, 65, 67, 137, 152,
167, 180

Wednesfield 2, 5–13, 18, 31, 38–40, 66, 72, 80, 132, 135, 145, 155, 162,
l67, 172, 181

Welch 131, 133, 151, 179

Wergs 8, 15

Wesley 57, 143, 145, 152, 175, 177

West Bromwich 113

White 103–4

Whitehouse 105, 107, 144, 187

Whitegreaves 70–1

Willis 89

Wilkes 6, 7, 40, 59, 80, 82–92, 120–1, 138, 141, 144, 160, 164, 179

Willoughby de Broke 75

Windsor 19, 23, 35, 49, 51, 57, 74–5, 99

Wobaston 15, 23, 28, 30, 74–6

Woden Stone 13

Wolfric 12

Wolstanton 37

Wombourn 6, 9, 10, 15, 56

Wren 73

Wrottesley 4, 6, 7, 40, 52, 84,–5

Wulfgeal 19

Wulfruna 12, 17, 22, 92, 94

Wyndefield 39

Young 162



Footnotes:


{88}  Claudy Phillips, as he was popularly called, seems to have been a
man of considerable genius, though not without some of the eccentricities
which sometimes accompany it.  He was well known throughout the county,
which he used to traverse dressed at one time in laced clothes, at others
in garments which betrayed the low state of his exchequer.  When drawn to
it by stress of financial embarassment, he was not above playing in the
evening at inns, and throwing himself upon the generosity of his
audiences there.  As to his qualities as a musician, it is said his
_forte_ was in wild and plaintive melody, dictated by the impulses of his
own mind, and subject to none of the ordinary rules of studied
compositions; his manipulation of the violin was also distinguished for a
rapidity of execution unrivalled in those days.  The handsome marble
tablet erected to his memory soon after his death, in 1732, by public
subscription, shows that he must have been held in considerable
estimation by a goodly number of admirers.  Indeed, he must have been
known to some of the most prominent personages of his time, as the
following lines upon him have been variously attributed to Dr. Johnson or
to David Garrick:—

    Phillips, whose touch harmonious could remove
    The pangs of guilty power and hapless love,
    Rest here! distrest by poverty no more,
    Here find that calm thou gav’st so oft before!
    Sleep undisturbed within this peaceful shrine,
    Till angels wake thee with a note like thine!

(See also Oliver’s “Wolverhampton,” pp. 98 and 99.)





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