What follows is a description of Tettenhall that was published in October 1904 in “The Wolverhampton Journal”, a monthly magazine published by Whitehead Brothers, St. John’s Square, and King Street, Wolverhampton.

The article, written by local historian James P. Jones includes the early history of Tettenhall, and the history of the Wrottesley family who lived in Wrottesley Hall. The photographs were taken by James P. Jones, who also owned the engraving. The section about the Wrottesleys is both interesting and informative. It describes the family’s struggles, and involvement in many wars. I have included the original illustrations, and a few adverts from the magazine.

Bev Parker

Few busy towns of the size and importance of the "Metropolis of the Black Country," can boast of such a wealth of charming rural villages in close proximity as does Wolverhampton. Strangers who are carried through the town by the various railways have the impression that the town and district are equally "black." Those more fortunate, who stay, are delighted with the picturesque country they discover. The transition from town to country is so sudden, the discovery so unexpected, that the beholder is inexpressibly charmed and finds that which gives pleasure to the eye and relief to the mind.

Few English villages possess a more picturesque locality than Tettenhall, which is prettily situated on the slope of an abrupt hill, rising above the valley of the Smestow. This cliff, which terminates in a large plateau at Tettenhall Wood, forms a natural barrier between town and country.

The scenic beauties of the village are undeniable, it is a haven of rest after the heat and burden of the day, and its freshness and charm are enjoyed and shared alike by the toiler and dweller in the slums of Wolverhampton and the civic magnates who have made it their home. Its peaceful charm led an enthusiastic admirer to pen a few lines on "The beautiful village of Tettenhall," his poetical effusion closes with the following rapturous eulogy:

Tettenhall, thy still engaging scenes conspire
To wake the, sages and the poets fire,
From noisy town, with worldly cares replete
To ease the mind; lo! this the choice retreat
Here Hampton's sons in vacant hours repair
Taste rural joys, and breathe a purer air.

These lines, though written a century ago, do not today exaggerate its charms of peaceful beauty.

Tettenhall Church (south west view).

The history of the village is attractive and interesting, for it can boast of a greater antiquity than many English villages. It is first mentioned in history 150 years before the date of the Norman Conquest. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle under date A.D. 910 says: This year the army of the Danes and the Angles fought at Totanheale on the eighth of the Ides of August (6th August) and the Angles obtained the victory.

There are other versions of the battle recorded by the various monkish chroniclers, but all agree that it took place at Tettenhall, Staffordshire. Collating the evidences which are extant I am forced to the conclusion that two battles were fought in this district A.D. 910-911.

The records show that a Danish force landing on the East coast, came down the River Trent and sacked Lichfield, while it is proved that another Danish force came up the Severn as far as Bridgnorth. These two forces effected a junction at Wednesfield, where they were defeated, and falling back upon Tettenhall were caught between the armies of the West Saxons and the Mercians and totally defeated. There is no doubt the battle was fought along the valley of the Smestow and ranged from Autherley to beyond Wightwick. The Danes after their defeat at Wednesfield would naturally fall back upon Tettenhall, as the position is just such a one as a retreating force would take up. They probably found that the commanding ridge at Tettenhall was occupied by the West Saxons, and so caught between the two armies their defeat was certain.

The presence of some large tumuli at Wightwick indicate the burial place of the slain, as well as the site of the battlefield. Some years ago I obtained permission from the late Colonel Henry Loveridge to explore the largest tumulus, but owing to the lack of funds, and worse still, an entire lack of interest in archaeology locally, the project had to be abandoned. I have always regretted the failure, as I am convinced the results would have been of considerable value, not only to Tettenhall, but to the county of Stafford.

The parish of Tettenhall, in area, as distinct from the village, is considerable. It measures in length 7½ miles, while its greatest breadth is nearly 4½ miles. Within its boundary are included Tettenhall Regis, Tettenhall Clericorum, Perton, Wrottesley, Pendeford, Wightwick, Compton, Bilbrook, Aldersley, Barnhurst, Trescott, and the Wergs. Of these the first eight names appear in the Domesday Book, A.D. 1086.

At the date of the great survey of England in A.D. 1086, Tettenhall was almost entirely forest and woodlands, what are now main roads and byeways were then simply trackways made through the woods from one settlement to another, but, as the country became more populated, fresh settlements were made, and communication between places widely distant became easier; clearings were made in the forest and the trackways were widened into passable roads.

These clearings formed the centres of the village life, and usually consisted of the church and priest's house, the manor house within the demesne lands, and next in importance the village mill, usually placed on the banks of a stream in order to use its water power. Grouped around these were the homesteads and cottages of the tenants, most of whom inhabited the principal street or road in the village, called Lower Street.

In all villages with any claim to antiquity, interest is more or less centred on the church. Tettenhall church is built upon a gentle acclivity rising from the Smestow Brook where "bosom’d high in tufted trees" it overlooks the village green and street, and seems to breathe a spirit of quiet guardianship over its peaceful graveyard, where so many of the village fathers sleep. Nearby, some ancient yew trees, believed to be coeval with the Church, form a sombre background to the eastward sloping graveyard, brightened by promise of early dawn.

From the summit of the cliff above the Church an extensive panorama is obtained of the surrounding country for many miles. Looking to the East a fine view is obtained of Cannock Chase, the borders of which touched Tettenhall parish. Further South is to be seen the town of  Wolverhampton with its forest of tall chimneys breaking the skyline. To the South West will he seen Sedgley Beacon, Penn and Wombourne; farther West still lies the village of Pattingham, with the horizon bounded by the deep purple of the Wrekin and Clee Hills.

The history of the fine old Church is as equally interesting as that of the village. It was founded by King Edgar, and was a collegiate church with a dean and five prebendaries as early as A.D. 960. No traces of the early Saxon church exist, but the Norman church which sprang into being later was built upon its site. This in turn gave place to a later church, which forms the greater part of the present edifice. The most interesting portions of the present building are the nave, chancel, north aisle, the tower, and south clerestory. The Pendeford Chapel has a fine lancet window, but the gem of the building is the east window with its curious arcade of slender columns, a pure example of early English work, probable date, 1207.

Wrottesley Hall, built 1696, destroyed by fire, 16th December, 1897.

In front of the Wrottesley Chapel the beautiful oak screen of fine perpendicular work is a feature of the building, while the private chapel of the Wrottesley family contains some very fine monuments, particularly an alabaster slab with a gracefully drawn effigy of Richard Wrottesley and his wife, A.D. 1521. The village greens at Tettenhall are among its most prominent features; here in olden times rude sports were indulged in, and at the annual wake, the Lower Green was usually a small reproduction Wolverhampton fair.

In the days when bull baiting and other sports of a similarly degrading character formed the chief amusement of the people, it is recorded that some enterprising men from Wolverhampton came to Tettenhall and stole the bull, thereby spoiling the sport of the Tettenhall men.

In the still more distant and lawless times of the Middle Ages, even the Church was powerless to cope with the lawlessness which prevailed, for it is recorded that one man killed another before the door of Ralph, the Canon of Tettenhall; while at the Wergs a band of mercenaries attacked a cottage, killed the husband, burnt his cottage, and threw his child on the dungheap! Excommunication was the most powerful weapon of the Medieval Church, but even this extreme course had but slight effect.

There was at Wrottesley a letter from Sir John Notyngham, Dean of the King's Chapel at Tettenhall, to the chaplains of Tettenhall and Codsall, ordering them to excommunicate certain persons for stealing wheat and beans out of their neighbour’s barn or field, unless they gave satisfaction.

It appears that Adam Taylor, a tenant of the Dean's Manor at Bilbrook, had been robbed of eleven sheaves of wheat and six sheaves of beans, and that suspicion of the theft had fallen upon his neighbours, William Colett and his son John and his daughter Margery, and these last, suffering under the imputation of theft, had appealed to the Dean for protection. It seems an absurd thing to excommunicate nameless persons, but the letter probably had the effect of stopping the defamation of the character of the accused. It is a curious relic of the power of the Medieval Church, and the following is a translation:

The Comissary of your venerable lord John Notyngham, Dean of the King's Chapel of Tetenhale to the chaplains of the parishes of Tetenhale and Codeshale, Greeting in the Author of Salvation.

We have received the grave complaint of William Colett of Brydbrok (Bilbrook) and of John his son and Margery his daughter, to the effect that certain sons of iniquity, of whose names they are entirely ignorant, had wickedly and maliciously defamed the said William, John, and Margery, respecting goods and .... that the said William, John, and Margery had carried away eleven sheaves of wheat and six sheaves of beans from the grange or field of Adam Tayleur their neighbour, against the will of the same.

We therefore command you by virtue of your obedience, firmly enjoining you, after the third monition from the day of the receipt of this, and within fifteen days, to excommunicate al1 and singular defamers of this nature with the ringing of the bel1, candle lighted and extinguished, and cross and banner held erect in hand, unless they give testimony respecting the premises and until … but then be cited nevertheless so that they may appear before us in the Church Tetenhale at the next following Chapter .... those things which the said John William and Margery may legitimately bring against them to do or receive .... testimony of which the present seal of our office is appended to these presents. Dated at Wolverhampton, the Wednesday after the Feast of St. Martin the Bishop and Confessor, 1387.

In the original, some of the words had become so faint that it was impossible to make them out, but there was sufficient left to enable the meaning of every sentence to be gathered. This document was destroyed in the great fire at Wrottesley Hall in 1897, and the above copy is the only one in existence.

Tettenhall Church, with a distant view of Wolverhampton.

Among other interesting historical features in the village, the Barnhurst must not be omitted. It is the ancient home of the Cresswells. Formerly the tithe barn of the Cannons of Tettenhall, it was sold to the Wrottesley family, from them it passed by purchase to the Leveson family, ancestors of the Dukes of Sutherland, and was then sold to the Cresswell family, who were merchants of the Staple in Wolverhampton.

The Cresswells are of very ancient descent, and helped to found what in later years became a great market in Wolverhampton; even now, long after the market has died out, traces of it survive in the names of the various folds of the town, such as Townwell Fold, Wheelers Fold, Farmer's Fold, etc.

A member of this family married Joan, the daughter of John Dyott, Esq., of Lichfield, a monument to whose memory is still preserved on the north wall of the chancel in Tettenhall Church. She was a relative of the famous "Dumb Dyott" of Lichfield, the Royalist who shot Lord Brooke, during the siege of that city in 1643 by the Parliamentary Army.

The remains of the old Manor House at the Barnhurst consist of a gateway tower, some portion of the moat, and the ancient columbarium or dovecote, this latter, a rare privilege granted to lords of manors. The tower is a finely preserved remnant of early Tudor architecture, and although not now used as a dwelling house, is a valuable relic of domestic architecture. The dovecote, octagonal in shape, is in excellent preservation and has provision for some hundreds of birds. The Barnhurst estate was purchased the Corporation of Wolverhampton about 1872-3, who now utilize it as a Sewage Farm.

The present representative of the Cresswell family is Sackville Cresswell, Esq., of Hole Park, Rolvenden, Kent. The hamlet of Perton is frequently mentioned in history, and was given to the Abbot of St. Peter's, Westminster, by King Edward the Confessor. This grant is still preserved in the Record Office; the following is a translation:

Eadwarcl King greets Leofwine Bishop and Eadwine earl and all my thanes in Staffordshire friendly; and I tell you that I have given to Christ and St. Peter at Westminster the land at Pertune and all the things that thereinto belong in woods and fields; with sac and socne, as full and as free as it stood to myself in hand, in all things, to feed the abbot and the brotherhood that dwell within the Minster; and I will not permit any man to oust any of the things that thereinto belong.

                                                                                                                                     God preserve you all.

The Bishop Leofwine, mentioned, was the last Saxon Bishop of Lichfield, and the first Abbot of Coventry. From his death, in 1066, until 1836, no other bishop took title only from Lichfield, but held the dual title of Lichfield and Coventry.

Perton during the Middle Ages was the battle ground of the rival families of Perton and Wrottesley. Owing to a disputed ownership of land in the Manor of Perton, a family feud had long existed between them, which finally culminated in the death of John de Perton by Sir Hugh de Wrottesley, K.G., in an affray near Tettenhall. In after years, owing to the Perton family becoming extinct, the estate passed into other hands and was finally bought by the Wrottesley family, the present owners.

Perton can also boast of being the birthplace of a man who became Lord Mayor of London in A.D. 1644. It would be difficult to find in the annals of any municipality a more romantic history than that of Sir John Wollaston, who began life as a farmer’s son at Perton and ended as Lord Mayor of London. His name is perpetuated by the following bequests, To the poor of Tettenhall, Co. Stafford, where I was born, £5 and Whereas my uncle, Henry Wollaston, of London, draper, hath formerly given fifty two shillings per annum to the poor of Tettenhall aforesaid, I now make up the sum to £10 per annum.

For many years before the disastrous fire on December 6th, 1897, which destroyed the mansion and the priceless treasures preserved here, Wrottesley Hall from its commanding position on the summit of a thickly wooded slope, was a conspicuous object from many points of view in the village, it was the last of a series of houses extending over a period of seven centuries.

Lower Street, Tettenhall.

The Wrottesley family has been identified with the village of Tettenhall for many centuries and has owned the estate from A.D. 1160. The history of the family is of great interest, and many of the present Lord Wrottesley's ancestors played a prominent part in the making of the history of England.

In the long struggle between King Henry II and the Barons, led by Simon de Montfort, in A.D. 1260 to 1268 Hugh de Wrottesley adhered to the party of Simon, and was present at the Battle of Evesham in August, 1265. As a result he was a fugitive and was disinherited of his estates. But in 1267 Parliament passed an award, known as the "Award of Kenilworth," by which all those who had taken arms against the King and had been disinherited, could receive back their estates on payment of a fine equal from one to seven years' income, according to the degree of their guilt.

Hugh de Wrottesley paid a heavy price to regain his estates, for he was fined 60 marks, equivalent in modern money to £3,000. On the 10th of May, 1300, William de Wrottesley and two other Staffordshire knights, were appointed by letters patent, justices, for the due observation of the articles contained in the Great Charter and the Statute of Winchester, in the county of Stafford, and to hear and determine plaints thereon. In this way William de Wrottesley became associated with one of the great landmarks of English Constitutional history.

On 22nd May, 1306, there was instituted the famous Order of the Bath, and William de Wrottesley's eldest son William, was knighted with great solemnity before the high altar at Westminster, with Edward, Prince of Wales, and 267 others, the eldest sons of earls, barons, and knights. Of these, sixteen were eldest sons of other Staffordshire families. This William de Wrottesley was the father of the most famous of all the Wrottesley's, Sir Hugh de Wrottesley, K.G.

I can only briefly sketch the career of this remarkable man, who by his prowess and skill in arms played an important part in the warlike reign of Edward III. He was educated in the Abbey of Evesham, and gave early promise of that brilliant career which placed him on the highest pinnacle of chivalry, for it is remarkable that he was a knight and in possession of his estates when only twenty years of age. He had won his spurs on the field of battle, and was one of those knighted by the King in Scotland in A.D. 1333, on the eve of the Battle of Hallidoun Hill.

In 1334 Sir Hugh was making preparation to join the Crusade under Philip de Valois the French King, and King's Letters of Attorney for three years were granted to him whilst on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The departure of the Crusaders was fixed for the Spring, 1334, and was afterwards postponed to 1336, but the hostilities which broke out between France and England prevented the execution of the design. Just about this time some suits of law in which Sir Hugh was involved, afford a glimpse of the family feud between the Wrottesleys and the Pertons, lords of the neighbouring manor.

The dispute appears to have arisen over the ownership of some land which had been given as the marriage dowry of a daughter of the Pertons who had married a Wrottesley; and the Perton family were suing Sir Hugh for its recovery. Numerous suits at law were instituted by the Perton family against Sir Hugh de Wrottesley and his tenants for trespass and assault, until it became unsafe for either party to go abroad unless they were attended by a considerable retinue of servants.

Sir Hugh had been absent fighting for the King in Scotland, and during one of his visits home to Wrottesley, he with a party of his servants had met John de Perton, and some of his friends at Tettenhall, where the two parties came quickly into collision, with the result that John de Perton was so severely wounded that he died a few days later.

Sir Hugh de Wrottesley and his friends were arrested and put in prison at the Marshalsea, Kingston-on-Thames. The Marshal of the Court at this time was the famous Sir Walter de Manny, who being a friend of Sir Hugh, connived at the escape from prison of Sir Hugh and his friends, who went with the Marshal to France. For this offence the Perton family, through the influence of the Chief Justice, obtained a sentence of outlawry against Sir Hugh.

While abroad, however, Sir Hugh's prowess won such favour with the King that he obtained a full pardon for all offences committed by him. In spite of this, on his return to the country, the sentence of outlawry was enforced, and he and his friends were cast into prison again, and brought before the Chief Justice, Sir William de Shareshull, of Patshull.

Sir Hugh and his friends were now in great peril, for by a recent enactment they had lost their right to a trial by jury, and could be sentenced to death without further trial. These proceedings contrast so strongly with the usual dilatory procedure of the Law Courts, as to suggest animus on the part of the Chief Justice, who was connected by marriage with the Perton family. Luckily for Sir Hugh, he was able to produce in Court the King's pardon, and so frustrate the conspiracy against him. To meet his expenses for the expedition to France, Sir Hugh had mortgaged part of his estates, and a daring exploit recorded of him is equally illustrative of his bravery, and his enterprise in obtaining a ransom to pay off this mortgage. 

It seems that while in France, Sir Hugh taking with him a party of armed men from the English Army, made a sudden raid upon the French Camp, and captured as prisoners, Ralph de Montfort and other nobles, and with the ransom he obtained from them paid off the debt on his estates. While in France he also received a Charter from the King to make a Park at Wrottesley. The Charter is dated 23rd November, 1347. Two years later on St. George's Day, 23rd April, 1349, was founded the famous Order of the Garter. The original Companions numbered 26, including the King and his son, 12 knights on the King's side, and 12 on the Prince's side. Amongst whom appears the name of Sir Hugh de Wrottesley, whose banner now hangs in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, amongst the banners of the original Knights of the Garter.

Sir Hugh afterwards spent several years in France, serving under King Edward III. and the Black Prince, and died early in 1381 in the 67th year of his age.

The next member of the family who distinguished himself was Sir Walter Wrottesley who was head of his house from A.D. 1464 to 1473. He was made Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1460, by Edward IV, and was knighted the same year.

The year before had marked the beginning of that long and bitter strife, known as the "Wars of the Roses," and Sir Walter was a close follower of the fortunes of Richard, Earl of Warwick, the famous Kingmaker. From the Earl he received many honours, and was appointed Sheriff of Glamorgan, and was at Cardiff in 1464. When the Earl of Warwick decided to restore King Henry VI to the throne in 1470, he appointed Sir Walter Wrottesley, Governor of Calais Castle. In April of the following year, the Battle of Barnet was fought and the Earl of Warwick killed.

On hearing of the death of the Earl, and the complete defeat of the Lancastrian cause, Sir Walter made the best terms he could for himself, and the garrison at Calais. He obtained a free pardon for himself and his friends, and regained his estates. He died in London two years latter and was buried in the Grey Friars Church. The next event of any importance is the purchase of the Collegiate Church of Tettenhall with all the spiritual and temporal rights, by Walter Wrottesley, Esq., in 3rd Edward VI, 1550. By this purchase, Walter Wrottesley and his successors became Secular Deans of Tettenhall and as it was a Royal Peculiar, exempt from all Episcopal supervision, the wills of the parishioners were proved and registered in his Manor Court for many generation's afterwards, until the abolition of the Peculiars in the early part of last century.

In 1642 the country was convulsed by the disputes between the King and Parliament, and both sides endeavoured to secure the support of Walter Wrottesley, the then head of the family. The Earl of Essex, who had been appointed Lieutenant of Staffordshire, by the Parliament, appointed Walter Wrottesley, Deputy Lieutenant, but he declined the honour, for shortly before, he had been created a Baronet by the King at Shrewsbury, on 22nd September, 1642. There is no doubt his personal sympathies were enlisted very strongly on the King’s side, for on the 5th January, 1643, he sent to Shrewsbury nearly the whole of his plate to be melted down and coined for the King's use.

In spite of this Sir Walter seems to have changed his mind afterwards, and determined to maintain a neutral position in the Civil War. He refused to obey the imprests made upon him by Colonel Leveson, for the King's garrison at Dudley Castle, and a detachment of this garrison sallying out, carried off all his cattle, and burnt his granaries and barns, which were outside the defences of Wrottesley. He estimated his losses from this cause at £2,000.

In his Composition paper, he describes Wrottesley as very strong and moated, and that he had taken into his house several of his tenant's sons and neighbours to form a garrison, for as he says he stood on his guard, there was so much plundering.

At the close of 1645, the King's cause was hopeless, and Sir Walter Wrottesley surrendered to the Parliamentary Forces. A troop of horse, and a company of foot were sent to occupy Wrottesley, and it must have formed a very respectable military post at this period. The same martial spirit which is such a marked characteristic of the Wrottesley family is exhibited in Sir John Wrottesley who served with distinction with the Guards during the American War, and subsequently attained the rank of Major General. He was also Equerry to Edward, Duke of York.

His son, also Sir John, was M.P. for Staffordshire in several parliaments, and served with the 16th Lancers in Holland, and France, under the Duke of York. He was raised to the Peerage in 1838, and was grandfather of the present Peer. Shortly before midnight on the 16th December, 1897, it was discovered that a fire had broken out in Lord Wrottesley's dressing room at the Hall. It was found impossible to locate the source of the fire, and in spite of the heroic attempts of those on the spot it was soon realized that the mansion was doomed. The plate and most of the more valuable pictures and heirlooms were saved, but the valuable library, and the contents of the muniment room, with its unique collection of deeds and historical manuscripts were entirely destroyed.

The old engraving of Tettenhall Church, with a distant view of Wolverhampton, A.D. 1796, is interesting as showing the great changes made in Wolverhampton during the last hundred years. At that time, only two churches could be seen, i.e., St. Peter's, and the "New Church," St. John's. The smoke from the building in the centre of the picture indicates the site of the "Old Hall," now, occupied by the New Free Library. What a contrast the same view presents today! Without the aid of this old engraving, it would be difficult to imagine that the densely populated district between Tettenhall and the town was once green fields and gardens.

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