After the Norman invasion Penn was still heavily wooded but its character was slowly changing. The trees were cleared by the small number of tenants who cultivated the land and developed small farms. There were two Manors, Over Penn and Nether Penn (Upper Penn and Lower Penn), separately governed by their own courts that were convened by the Lord of each Manor. Within a generation of the Domesday book Lower Penn belonged to the Buffor or Buffery family and for a time was known as Penn Buffor to distinguish it from Upper Penn.

The landowners of the Buffery family and approximate dates of ownership were as follows:
William Buffery I   Lord Thomas Buffery 1327 - 1381
William Buffery II          1166 - 1199 Lord William Buffery 1378 - 1382
William Buffery 1199 - 1227 John Buffery 1412 - 1423
Roger Buffery 1253 - 1269 William Buffery 1423 - 1443
Robert Buffery I 1272 - 1315 Joan Buffery 1442
Lord Robert Buffery II  1323 - 1327    

Some of the land was owned by the Burnett family and also the Warine (de Penne) family, also called the Warin of fitz Warin. They appear in the 12th century and were probably related to the ancient Wolverhampton family of Waring of the Lea.

Like Lower Penn, Upper Penn would have been cultivated by a relatively small number of families. In 1291 there was a Penn Wood Farm that was run by one of Henry de Bushbury’s tenants. At the time the open-field system of farming was used. A farmer would cultivate strips that were scattered across the open fields and would share the common pasture with his neighbours. There were also freeholders who had a right to use the common land.

As time progressed the farmers might purchase their own croft and some of the cultivated strips, but farming was strictly under the control of the Lord of the Manor via the Manor’s court. The court could decide what crops were planted and when the harvest would take place and such things as the erection and dismantling of temporary fences. If a farmer was late with the harvest, his neighbour’s cattle could be turned onto his land to devour what was left of the crop and his profits would be gone.

Under the feudal system that prevailed at the time, the Lords who were the landowners of the day had to provide the King with manpower for the army as and when required. In 1316 King Edward II was concerned that he was not getting sufficient men from Staffordshire to fill the ranks of the infantry for the defence of the country. He asked William de Wrothesley to look into the matter and contact Henry de Bushbury, Lord of Bushbury and Upper Penn and Robert Buffery, Lord of Lower Penn.

The possible layout of St. Bartholomew's Church in the 13th century.
Penn received its first church in about 1200 when the original part of what is now St. Bartholomew’s Church was built. After the Norman Conquest Penn was owned by William Fitzansculph, Lord of Dudley. His tenant was Robert who owned Bushbury, Oxley and Ettingshall. Robert's descendants became Lords of Penn and Bushbury, and one of them, Sir Hugh de Bushbury, built churches at both Penn and Bushbury.

There is a story that the churches were built as an act of penance after Sir Hugh de Bushbury killed a man in a quarrel. It is probable that this is untrue because there is no historical record to verify it, and in about 1300 one of his descendants was charged with the murder of the Lord of Swynnerton and later acquitted, so the story may stem from that.

The first church could well have been a wooden building that was later replaced by a more permanent stone structure. The stone building occupied the northwest corner of the present church and would have been quite small by modern standards, about 14 metres by 7 metres. Some of the original stonework can still be seen in the north wall of the church and the first two pillars in the northwest part of the nave are thought to be from that building.

In early documents the church is referred to as the Parish Church of Penn and was possibly dedicated to St. John. In 1533 John Smith of Lower Penn made his will in which he requested to be buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist at Upper Penn. The chief witness was Robert Jackson who was the vicar at the time and so the information must be correct. The earliest documentary evidence for the modern name of St. Bartholomew dates from 1801 and it is uncertain when and why the name was changed.

When the original church was built Sir Hugh de Bushbury gave all of the tithes in Penn as an endowment and so the first ministers were Rectors (a tithe is one tenth of the produce of one’s land or annual income and was paid as a contribution to the church or clergy and a Rector was the person who owned all of the tithes in the Parish). 

The first Rector was John of Wolverhampton and a tithe barn would probably have been built near to the church. 

A plan of St. Bartholomew's showing the relationship of the early building to the modern church.

The location of old footpath known as the "Barnage".

There is still an old footpath that runs across the field by the former vicarage to Chamberlain’s Lane that is known as the “Barnage”. 

In those days a church was not just a place of worship, it was also a community centre. Travelling players would perform there and some churches were used as a barn in which to store the tithes of grain.

In about 1228 Sir Hugh de Bushbury, son of the founder of the church married his cousin. This was forbidden by church law and in order to pacify the Bishop of Lichfield Sir Hugh gave him the living of Penn as a bribe. This meant that all new Rectors would be appointed by the Bishop instead of Sir Hugh. The next vacancy for a new Rector came in 1242 when the Bishopric was vacant. As a result King Henry III appointed Adam Rogus, but Sir Hugh claimed that the living was still his because the Bishop had no right to accept the bribe. The case went to court and the judges decided in the King’s favour, and so the appointment remained valid and future appointments were made by the Bishop.

When the fourth Rector, Robert of Clipston was appointed by the Bishop in 1321 the de Bushbury family again attempted to appoint their own candidate as can be seen from the following entry in the records at Lichfield:

“after this a certain Henry de Bushbury, claiming to be Patron of Penn himself, had appointed the living to someone else”.

Rectors of Penn:
1216     John of Wolverhampton
1242    Adam Rogus
1292 Richard Walrand
1315 Robert of Clipston. Also Cannon of Lichfield
and Rector of Lutterworth.
1321 William of Wykingston
1344 Richard of Lichfield
1345 Nicholas Teynterel

Vicars of Penn to 1500:
1350 Ralph of Sutton
1353 John Hunt
1358 Richard Brown
1371 Thomas Smith
1390 Hugo David de Clone
1391 William Tye
1392 William Lynchewyk
1393 Simon Preston
1404 John Hopkyns
1454 John Moy
1499 William Norlaston

A reference to the church can be found in the Duke of Sutherland’s 'Lord of the Manor Deeds' that relates to an ordination that took place on 8th June, 1318. The priest was ordained by Walter de Langton who was Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield at the time.

“Be it known unto all men that we, Walter, by Divine permission Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, on Ember Saturday in the vigil of the Holy Trinity, a.d. 1318 in the Parish Church of Penne in our diocese did then and in that place ordain our beloved in Christ John de Casseheo, deacon of our diocese to a sufficient title in the priesthood with which he reckons himself content. Whereupon we have caused these our letters to be made patent.”

There were many disputes about land in Upper and Lower Penn. Sometimes the disputes went to court and the resultant records give an insight into life at the time. The records also give the names of the people involved and where they lived. On 4th April, 1305 a case about a land dispute was heard at the Lichfield assizes between Thomas Creye of Crumpton against Richard Walrand, the Rector at Upper Penn and William and Emma de Fynchenesfield (Finchhfield). The dispute continued for many years and William and Emma featured in a number of law suits concerning the land. 

St. Bartholomew's Church.

Things really got out of hand in 1356 when Richard de Fynchenesfield (possibly William and Emma’s son) was charged along with Roger de Walle of NetherPenne and Henry, son of Edward of Netherpenne of procuring William, son of Hugh de Penne and Thomas Buffery, Lord of Netherpenne to kill John Matheu at Whytewyk (Wightwick) within the Manor of Tettenhall.

Also in 1386 Roger Pecok, chaplain; John son of Thomas Le Walkere of Humeley (Himley) and Roger from the Lane at Trescott were accused of stealing goods and chattels to the value of £20, a large sum of money at the time. They were also accused of stealing linen, woollen cloth, brass and wooden bowls and other utensils for the house, costing £40. The case was adjourned and not heard again.

At the end of the medieval period Penn was growing slowly and some of the local families were making an extremely good living from the land. One of the ways that King Henry VI raised money for the crown was by selling Royal favours. He appointed Commissioners who, under the Calendar of Fine Rolls oversaw the selling the favours. There was sufficient wealth in Penn for at least one Commissioner, Richard Sharesmyth of Penne. It is possible that John Mychall of Mychall was another.


1).      Investigating Penn, W.E.A. Wolverhampton Branch, 1975.

2).      E. Hartill, Vicar of Penn, The history of Penn and her Church, The British Publishing Company Limited, 1968.

3).      Penn. The Story of its Church and Parish, 1981.

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