Houses of Interest: Staffordshire

The continuing ECW Travelogue miniseries looking at houses/churches and places that have a Civil-War-connection-but-not-tied-to-a-bigger-event continues, this time focusing on Staffordshire. For some reason, rather than looking at the bit of Staffs that is a hop skip and a jump from Château KeepYourPowderDry I've started with the corner of Staffs that is furthest away.

The first entries look at the escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester.

First up is Moseley Old Hall on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, and is cared for by the National Trust. Moseley bills itself as "the home that saved a king" - considering the number of close calls that Charles had during his escape, this isn't really the unique selling point that you might expect it to be. I do wonder how many other houses, along the Monarch's Way could also make that claim?

Built about 1600, the National Trust have recreated a seventeenth century garden on the estate. A rather splendid knot garden being the highlight.

Moseley's role in Charles's escape: Charles is supposed to have turned up at the back door in the early morning of the 8th of September (a problem shared here at Château KeepYourPowderDry, errant royals turning up at all hours is a real nuisance), cold, wet and disguised as a workman. The Whitgreave's gave him a change of clothes, bathed and bandaged his bleeding feet (caused by ill fitting shoes) and fed him.

Parliamentarian troops came looking for Charles later that day, so the family hid Charles in a priest hole.

Thankfully, for Charles, the priest hole didn't have electric lighting as it would have been a dead giveaway
Once the troops had left, Charles was able to come out of hiding, staying at the house for two days before continuing his journey.

For a change, Charles was able to sleep in a bed - this bed in fact.

A young Charles II, he didn't particularly like this portrait

An even younger Charles II and his mother

What's there today?
There are a number of interesting portraits, other than the many of the royal family.

Charles disguised himself as a groomsman to Jane Lane. She facilitated his escape to Bristol, as she had a document allowing her passage to the port. Jane later had to flee to France when her involvement in Charles's escape became known.

A note of thanks from Charles II to Jane for her help in his escape, dated 1652. Later she would be awarded a £1000 pension and a further £1000 to buy a jewel.

Colonel Thomas Lane, Jane's brother, who was instrumental in helping Charles escape Worcester

One of the many Royal Oak images in the Hall

A morion and cuirass

Proclamation requesting information leading to the arrest of Charls Stuart and other Traytors

Northycote Farm is a few miles away from Moseley Old Hall, and is run by the City of Wolverhampton. A Tudor farm 'steeped in history' it is free to visit, and is located on the Monarch's Way, a 615 mile long distance trail based upon the route taken by Charles II when he fled for France after the Battle of Worcester. For those slightly less ambitious with their walking there is a 3 mile trail connecting Moseley Old Hall with Northycote.

What's there today?
Sadly the Farm is vacant, however there is a café on the site that does rather good bacon butties (ample reward for walking there from Old Hall). It does look very pretty though.

Burton-Upon-Trent is now famous as for it's breweries, in the annals of history it was a strategic river of the Rivers Trent and Dove. So strategic that it was fought over in 1322 during the Despenser War. During the Civil Wars it was on the border between Parliamentarian held territory, and Royalist held territory. So you'd think who ever held it would have heavily fortified it; wrong!

Burton changed hands a number of times, before the major battle took place in 1643. Burton by this time was garrisoned by a small force under the command of Thomas Sanders, ultimately under the command of Sir John Gell. Gell had his eye on bigger prizes and was planning to take Stafford with support from Sir William Brereton's Cheshire Army, so had taken his eye off Burton .

Meanwhile Queen Henrietta Maria had landed at Bridlington with a sizeable supply of arms which was destined for Oxford; she had proceeded to Newark, where she awaited a substantial force led by Prince Rupert, who were supposed to clear a path through Staffordshire to enable the Queen and the arms shipment to arrive safely in Oxford. The Queen processed to Ashby de la Zouch before making her way to Burton. Gell hastily tried to muster the Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire Associations to defend Burton - but they refused. So Sanders faced the Queens army alone, knowing that Rupert was advancing from the other side of the river.

The battle was centred around the bridge; the Royalists, led by Thomas Tyldesley, charged their cavalry onto the bridge against Sanders's defenders. The ensuing fighting was described as 'bloody', Parliament decisively beaten in the carnage. The Royalists went onto sack Burton, Henrietta Maria writing  that her men "could not well march with their bundles".

It was claimed that thirty Parliamentarian prisoners were executed, many women were raped and at least twenty civilians drowned in the river, despite the Queen forbidding any violence towards the townspeople.

The old bridge was replaced in Victorian times; there is a plaque commemorating the events located on the western end of the bridge (southern side).

Whilst in Burton, it is worth a minor detour to Sinai Park House this Jacobean House stands on the site of a fourteenth century house, and it is claimed was the site of a minor skirmish during the wars.
Sinai Park House has limited opening so please check before travelling.

St Mary's Church, Patshull is a redundant church in the grounds of Patshull Park Hotel, Golf and Country Club. Access to the church is via a keyholder at the Patshull Park. An eighteenth century church built upon the foundations of a much earlier church it boosts some spectacular monuments. What draws the attention of the ECW Travelogue is the monument to Captain Sir Richard Astley of Henry Hasting, Lord Loughborough's Regiment of Horse. Carved on the monument is Sir Richard in procession, with a cornet flying and trumpeter with a banner. Both cornet and trumpet banner bear a cinquefoil - which is a really useful snippet for those of us wondering how to paint trumpeters.

Walsall Leather Museum: you may be wondering why a leather museum firmly in the West Midlands industrial belt appears in the ECWtravelogue.

Medieval Walsall was famed for its leather working; hence there is a Leather Museum there.

In its collection is an item that possibly/probably belonged to Prince Rupert. A horse's bit.

Does look a bit strange, but if you compare it to Van Dyck's portrait of Charles I on horseback, it makes much more sense

The gold bosses bear the emblem of the Palatinate and the motto of a knight of the Order of the Garter. Given that fact, and our realisation of the bit's age, and comparing the bosses to the stall plate over Rupert`s seat at Windsor, we deduce that it belonged to Rupert.

However, it is possible that it might have belonged to one of his brothers, who were also Knights of the Garter and entitled to use the same arms. So we can't categorically say that it was Rupert`s. In truth, too, the Museum of London argued that the bit was not of high enough quality to have been Rupert's.

The bit is not usually on display, so check prior to visiting. You may even be allowed a private viewing, like I was.

To the north east of Stoke, on the border of the Peak District lie a number of small villages which saw some bloody events.  Bagnall is worth a stop off if you are passing through: there was a Parliamentarian garrison at the rectory house of St Chad's Church, which found itself being used as an ammunition store after nearby Rownall Hall was captured by Sir William Brereton. The fireplace is said to bear the scars of sword sharpening.

The rectory is now a private property, St Chad's House, and is conveniently located next door to the 16th century Stafford Arms. St Chad's itself was rebuilt by the Victorians, with a few remnants of an earlier Tudor church incorporated into its fabric.

John Biddulph of Biddulph Hall was killed fighting for the King at Hopton Heath; Sir William Brereton would use the Royalist cannon, Roaring Meg, against Biddulph Old Hall. It came under siege in 1643 when the east range was destroyed and the house was burnt to the ground. 

Information panel about the siege of Biddulph at nearby Congleton Museum

Cannonballs dating from the time of the siege are often found in the pond of the Talbot Inn, presumably as a result of gunners range finding There is a local pub named after Roaring Meg. Parts of Biddulph Old Hall have been restored and are now a private residence. The ruins can be accessed from via the Bateman Walk at the back of  the Talbot Inn.

Brereton would again use artillery bombardment to good effect in the taking of Rownall Hall, Cheddleton. The Royalist prisoners taken at the Hall were marched south towards Stafford passing through what is now known as Armshead. Armshead is reputedly so called because an event took place here that was so bloody that body parts lay upon the ground. Did the prisoners attempt escape, or were they executed, or were the two events unrelated and an undocumented skirmish take place here? Or a fanciful tale of folklore? Sadly, there is nothing to see at Cheddleton or Armshead, as the Hall is long since demolished and Armshead is now  pretty much a mix of 1960s/1970s commuter estates with a few older farm buildings. 

Charles I visited Stafford not long after the out-break of the English Civil War, staying for three days at the Ancient High House. It is claimed that Rupert shot the weather vane with a pistol: interestingly Birmingham Museum claims to have a weather cock that was shot by Rupert. Did he make a habit of shooting weather vanes, are they the one and the same weather vane, or part of the Rupert myth? The town was later besieged and captured by the Parliamentarians, the town would later fall back into the hands of the King.

The Ancient High House houses a small museum, with a number of themed rooms including an ECW room, and a Stuart bedroom.

Charles II's coat of arms

Behind The Ancient High House is The Collegiate Church of St Mary; that was visited by Charles, and is home to a memorial to Lord Aston.

The area around St Mary's, in particular Church Lane, has many buildings that were present in the town during the siege.

Worth a stroll, if for no reason as to make you wonder what the local planning department were doing in the 1980s when they allowed new developments next to these fine old buildings: the juxtaposition of old and new is jarring to say the least.

Never seen a thatched funeral parlour before

Stafford Castle was held by Lady Isabel Stafford, a staunch Roman Catholic and Royalist. The Parliamentarians had captured the town of Stafford on 15 May 1643, following a brief siege. Some of the town's garrison escaped and reinforced the Castle. Brereton rode up to the castle with some of his men and called upon Lady Stafford to surrender, to which she refused. 

In response "some of the poor outhouses were set on fire to try whether these would work their spirits to any relenting. All in vain, for from the castle they shot some of our men and horses which did much enrage and provoke the rest to an act of fierce revenge. Almost all the dwelling houses and outhouses were burnt to the ground." 
The siege was raised when Royalist Colonel Hastings led a relief column which arrived in early June. Lady Stafford was eventually persuaded to leave, a small garrison remaining to defend the castle against a renewed siege. Finally, in late June, the Royalist garrison fled, having heard that a large Parliamentarian army was approaching, complete with siege cannon capable of overwhelming the small garrison. The castle then fell into Parliamentarian control and was demolished. In December the Parliamentarian Committee of Stafford ordered that the castle be sleighted.."

The Castle ruins were partially rebuilt by the Victorians. There is a visitor centre that has lots of stuff for little (and not so little) ones to try on. Several interpretation boards, models, artefacts and reproduction items. 

Stafford's most famous son, Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler lived in Stone. His cottage can be visited during the summer months. He was as a staunch Royalist, and managed to safeguard one of the Crown Jewels (referred to as the Little or Lesser George) following Charles II's defeat at Worcester. Walton was entrusted with returning it to London from where it was smuggled out of the country to the exiled Charles.

Izaak Walton's Cottage

Tutbury Castle was garrisoned for the King despite the town surrounding it being for Parliament. Unsuccessfully besieged in 1643, Parliamentarian forces returned in 1646, and after three weeks the castle surrendered. The castle would be seriously damaged by the siege bombardment, and would eventually be sleighted in 1647. The castle ruins are open to visitors between October and the 1st of October. Just be careful of the very grumpy peacock that skulks around near the Leopard pub (just below the castle).

Tutbury Castle

Staffordshire County Council Heritage and Archives Service produce a small number of facsimiles of Civil War documents from their collection: available to purchase here.

As Derbyshire and Staffordshire have had a fluid border for some time it is worth checking out the Derbyshire entry too.

Postcodes for SatNavs
Moseley Old Hall, Wolverhampton WV10 7HY
Northycote Farm, Wolverhampton WV10 7JF
Burton Bridge, Bridge Street  DE14 1SY
Sinai Park House Shobnall Road DE13 0QJ
St Mary's Church, Patshull WV6 7HR
Walsall Leather Museum (Day Street car park) WS2 8EL
Talbot Inn, Biddulph ST8 7RY
Stafford Arms, Bagnall ST9 9JR
Ancient High House 48 Greengate St, Stafford ST16 2JA 
The Collegiate Church of St Mary, Stafford ST16 2AP 
Stafford Castle, Stafford ST16 1DJ 
Izaak Walton’s House, Worston Lane, Stone, ST15 OPA
Tutbury Castle, Tutbury DE13 9JF

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  1. Another interesting episode of your travelogue. Thanks!
    Presumably the leather-workers of Walsall is the origin of the football club’s nickname of the Saddlers.

    1. Thanks nundanket. As for Walsall FC, I would think that you are correct there (my footie knowledge is none existent).


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