A Family Dispute

Few records of Tipton survive from the period immediately after the completion of the Domesday Book. Much of what survives from that period is in the form of early court records.

Magna Carta, meaning the Great Charter, was drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to end the squabbling between the unpopular King John and a group of rebel barons. It was signed at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15th June, 1215. It had a rocky start after being annulled by Pope Innocent III, which led to the First Barons' War. King John died in 1216 and was succeeded by his young son King Henry III. The war ended in 1217 when a peace treaty was agreed at Lambeth, part of which was the reinstatement of Magna Carta. In 1225 King Henry reissued the charter in exchange for a grant of new taxes, which was repeated by his son King Edward I in 1297. Thanks to Edward I it became part of England's statute law.

This led to the formation of two main law courts, the King's Bench, and the Common Pleas, which both sat in Westminster Hall. The Court of Common Pleas or Common Bench, dealt with cases not concerning the king, whereas the Court of King's Bench dealt with cases concerning the king. The Court of Common Pleas dealt with actions between individual citizens, which were recorded in the plea rolls, and are now a useful source of historical information.

The plea roll for Staffordshire, for Trinity Term 1279, which ran from Trinity Sunday to the end of July, had an entry about a family dispute in Tipton, which gives us an insight into some of the early inhabitants:

Alice the widow of William fitz Geoffrey sued William de Hondesacre for a third of 2 dwelling houses and outbuildings, about 360 acres of ploughed land, 30 acres of meadow, 100 acres of wood, 200 acres of pasture, and 100 shillings rent in Tipton.

And she sued Alice de Hondesacre for a third of a dwelling house and outbuildings, about 120 acres of ploughed land, twenty acres of meadow, forty acres of wood, one hundred acres of pasture, and 20s. rent in Tipton, which she claimed as her dower. The defendants did not appear, and the Sheriff is ordered to take the dower claimed into the King's hands, and to re-summon them for Michaelmas.

Alice was the widow of William, son of Geoffrey Fitzwarren. The dispute arose when Alice claimed her dower after his death. The dower is one third of the estate that by common law was given to the widow for the duration of her lifetime, or until she remarried. The saga, which continued at the Michaelmas assize, included a number of other local landowners, many of whom would have been related in some way. One of them, Alienora, was the sister and co-heir of William Fitzwarren. She married Sir John de Heronville, lord of the manor of Wednesbury, and had a son, Henry de Heronville.
At the Michaelmas assize, Alice, the widow of William, son of Geoffrey Fitzwarren, sued Henry de Heronville, Stephen de Pret and Letitia his wife, William de Oxele and Alice his wife, Robert de Blome and Isolda his wife, and Alienora, the daughter of Geoffrey Fitzwarren, for a third of 2 dwelling houses and outbuildings, and about 360 acres of ploughed land in Tipton, as her dower.

Henry and Alienora did not appear, and Stephen and Letitia state they only hold 8 shillings and 6 pence rent, and Robert and Isolda the same. And they were ready to render one-third of the above rents as dower, and they say the said Henry had wrongfully withheld their reasonable share of the residue.

Alice was successful in gaining ownership of the land, but more was yet to come. Her name appears in the plea roll for the Hillary Sittings (January to April) 1280. She sued William of Hondesacre and Richard le Wodeward of Berdon for assaulting her at Tipton, and taking property valued at ten pounds. She stated that on 28th October, 1278 he had taken a horse worth 20 shillings, and an ox worth 13 shillings and 4 pence, and killed, and eaten two of her pigs. She also claimed that he had taken brass pots worth 20 shillings, and other utensils belonging to her, and taken them to his house at Hondesacre. She claimed forty pounds in damages, but the defendants did not appear.

William of Hondesacre was forced to appear before the next sitting of the court, where he denied the allegations. The case was to be heard before a jury in the Michaelmas Assizes, but no record survives, possibly because William had died. In January 1293 Alice appears before the court again. She appears to have remarried, her husband now being William de Walton. The plea roll states that:

Alice, formerly wife of William de Hondesacre, and Thomas le Harpour of Hondesacre, were attached to answer the plea of William de Walton and Alice his wife, that they had come with others unknown, on the morn of All Saints (November 2nd, 1278) to the said Alice and had carried away her goods and chattels to the value of £20.
Since the previous hearing, Alice's story had changed. The value of the goods taken away had doubled, and the date of the theft had changed. As before, the defendants denied the charge. The jury stated that William de Hondesacre, his wife, and Thomas, and other servants of William's household unknown, had come on the date named to the house of William Fitzwarren, in Tipton, immediately after the said Fitzwarren's death. William of Hondesacre claimed to be his nearest heir for the tenements in Tipton.

They had stayed there some time until William of Hondesacre was called away to London on business, but Alice, his wife, stayed eight days longer in Tipton, and when she went away took goods to the value of four pounds, 12 shillings and ten pence from the house in Tipton to her house at Hondesacre. Further, that William, on his return from London, went to the house in Tipton and asked for drink, and Alice offered him drink in a glass, but William threw away the beer and handed the glass to a certain esquire whose name is unknown, and in this way he carried it away.

The jury were asked what household goods remained with Alice after the death of her husband, William de Hondesacre, and a few items were listed. They estimated the damages at 20 shillings. William de Walton and his wife Alice then withdrew their plea.

The court records provide us with the only information we have about the early farming community, and the landowners, most of whom acquired their property through marriage. Several parts of Tipton are named after some of the early farming families. Bloomfield is derived from Robert de Blome whose name is mentioned in one of the cases above, and Ryder's Green is named after the Ryder family. Toll End, Princes End, and Todd's End were all apparently named after families. 

A Manor House

It appears that Tipton once had a manor house. Stebbing Shaw in his "History and Antiquities of Staffordshire" from 1798 includes a reference to Tibbingtin Hall, a moated mansion that has long since disappeared. All traces of it are long gone, due to the intense coal and clay mining in the area. It probably stood at Princes End, near to the old Moat Colliery, which was named after it. The colliery was on the eastern side of Upper Church Lane, in the area of St. Mark's Road. Moat Road is named after it.

Another pointer to the possible site of a manor house, is the location of St. John's Church which stands on the site of Tipton's original Parish Church, that was dedicated to St. Martin. The earliest reference to the church is from 1288. It was customary to build a parish church close to the manor house with a straight path leading to it, so the manor house must have been nearby.

The parish stocks stood in Church Lane, opposite St. Martin's Church, and the Pinfold was at the northern end of Toll End road, at the junction of Gospel Oak Road and Leabrook Road.

Until the thirteenth, or early 14th century, the manor of Tipton remained in the hands of the Fitzwarren family, descendants of Sir Jeffery Fitzwarren. The manor then came into the hands of the Wyrley family, probably through marriage, when a Wyrley married the heiress of the Fitzwarrens.

The Subsidy Rolls

The Subsidy Rolls of 1332 to 1333 include the names of individuals assessed for tax. Only the richer members of society were eligible to pay the tax, and although the list cannot be used to calculate population figures, it does provide an indication of the comparative size and prosperity of Tipton and the surrounding towns. The amount of tax paid was based upon the value of movable goods that were owned by each person and the status of the town. People living in cities, boroughs and ancient manors paid one tenth of the value, whereas others paid one fifteenth of the value. People whose movable goods were valued at less than 10 shillings were exempt.

Town Fraction of
value paid
Number of

Total value
of goods

Bilston 1/15th 11 £1.3s.0d. £17.5s.0d.
Birmingham 1/15th 69 £9.1s.4d. £136.0s.0d.
Darlaston and Bentley 1/15th 12 £0.17s.0d. £12.15s.0d.
Tipton 1/15th 9 £1.14s.8d. £26.0s.0d.
Walsall 1/10th 25 £3.16s.0d. £38.0s.0d.
Wednesbury 1/10th 13 £1.19s.1d. £19.10s.10d.
Wednesfield 1/15th 14 £1.10s.0d. £22.10s.0d.
West Bromwich 1/15th 11 £1.12s.0d. £24.0s.0d.
Willenhall 1/15th 16 £1.13s.0d. £24.15s.0d.
Wolverhampton 1/15th 30 £3.0s.8d. £45.10s.0d.
Although Tipton had the smallest number of taxpayers, they were comparatively well-off. Darlaston and Bentley had a third more tax payers, whose value of goods was less than half of those in Tipton. Similarly Tipton tax payers were better off than those in Bilston, Wednesfield, West Bromwich, and Willenhall.

An impression of Medieval Tipton.

In 1348 the Black Death arrived and caused the deaths of between 30 to 40 percent of the population, around 2 million people.

It certainly changed the way the country was run, and eventually led to the demise of the old feudal system.

It is not known what effect  it had on the local community.

An Early Survey

Stebbing Shaw in his "History and Antiquities of Staffordshire" from 1798 includes a copy of an old survey of the lordship of Tipton, belonging to Humphry Wyrley, Esq.,  in 1690:

  Acres Roods Perches  

The Moat Farm (with an old moated house, where the lords of the manor anciently lived perhaps). This is situated eastward of the church, and near the road to Wolverhampton.

112 1 22  
And next beyond it, Mr. Jeaven's farm. 125 0 29  
South-west of the church is Samuel White's farm. 62 3 33  
And adjoining to it John Goodridge's farm. 43 2 7  
At the extremity, north-east Richard Fullward's farm. 24 0 29  
Tipton Green, north-west. 18 2 29  
And other lands. 12 2 24  

And from an elegant plan and terrier surveyed and drawn by James Sheriff, of Birmingham, 1789, for the present lord of the manor, George Birch, Esq. The above farms are seven in number.

Tipton Green," cottages, etc. 31 1 27  
Roads and waste land. 79 2 0  

The mine under Tipton Green, &c, purchased by Mr. Richmond Aston.

14 2 20  
Total belonging to the lord of the manor. 509 0 20  

The Hearth Tax

In 1662 the government of Charles II introduced the Hearth Tax to raise much needed funds. Each householder whose house was worth more than 20s a year, and who contributed to local church and poor rates was eligible to pay the tax. The payment, due twice a year, was based upon the number of hearths in the property and consisted of 1 shilling for each hearth. Large numbers of people were exempt from the tax and they were required to obtain a certificate of exemption from the parish clergyman. The list of taxpayers only gives the number of householders, and like the Subsidy Rolls, it cannot be used to calculate population figures, but does give an indication of the comparative size and prosperity of the local towns. The Hearth Tax for 1665:


Number of

Not Charged


Number of

Darlaston 145 87 58 78
Tipton 115 45 70 122
Walsall 645 345 300 740
Wednesbury 218 84 134 289
West Bromwich 311 117 194 363
Wolverhampton 858 359 499 925

From the above list, Tipton was better off than Darlaston, but not as well off as the other towns.

The Civil War

In 1642 at the outbreak of the Civil War, all males aged 18 and over were required to swear an oath of adherence to the Protestant religion. The names of the individuals were not recorded, or the numbers, if any, of the absentees. Hoskyns in his “Local History in England” suggests that an estimate of the actual population can be made by doubling the figures so as to include women, and multiply the result by 1.66 to include children.

Town Subscribers Rough Estimate of population
Darlaston 150 500
Tipton 160 533
Wednesbury 368 1226
West Bromwich 391 1303

The Civil War must have been a difficult time for the ordinary working families in the area. At the best of times it would have been difficult enough for them to earn sufficient money for food and clothing. During the war, the wealthier families, who had loyalties to one side or the other, imposed taxes on the poor to pay for their troops. This must have been a time of great hardship for the less well off. Local loyalties were pretty much divided between the two sides:

Sir Thomas Leveson at Dudley Castle
Colonel Lane at Bentley Hall
George Hawe at Caldmore
William Hopkins at Oakeswell Hall
Captain Henry Stone and Colonel "Tinker" Fox at Walsall
Sir Richard Leigh at Rushall Hall
Edward Dudley at Green Hall, Tipton Green
Simon Montford at Bescot Hall
Thomas Parkes at Willingsworth Hall

On 12th June, 1644 a large brigade of Parliamentarian horse and foot soldiers descended on Tipton Green at the start of an attempt to take the local Royalist stronghold, Dudley Castle. An account of the battle can be found F. W. Willmore’s History of Walsall, in the form of a letter from a Parliamentarian, dated 12th June, 1644, from Dr. Burney's collection:

The King, who was at Shrewsbury, hearing of the danger which threatened the castle, despatched Lord Wilmot, the Earl of Northampton, and the Earl of Cleveland, with a brigade of horse and 1,000 foot soldiers to raise the siege. The Parliamentary camp was pitched on West Bromwich Common, where traces of the earthworks might be seen. The fight commenced about nine in the morning, that the Royalists were numbered at about 4,000 besides foot, and that the Parliament forces advanced from Tipton Green. The Royalists ambuscaded the hedges and approaches to the castle, but the rebels charging furiously put them to flight, leaving 60 of their number on the field. Lord Denbigh deported himself with much gallantry, leading the foot and remarking that he would rather lose ten lives than one piece of his artillery. The fight lasted from two to five, the rebels losing about 8 men and 20 wounded..... Both the Royalists and the Roundheads claimed the advantage in this somewhat indecisive affray.

The various Royalist strongholds in the neighbourhood were eventually dismantled by the order of Cromwell. Dudley Castle, which had been quietly surrendered to the Parliamentary forces in May, 1646, was 'sleighted' by order of the House of Commons on July 18th.

In 2011 archaeologists from MetroMOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) completed an excavation of a site in Tipton Green in partnership with Birmingham Archaeology who had dug evaluation trenches on a site in Shrubbery Avenue, Tipton, in late 2010. The findings included a substantial wall thought to represent the foundations of Tipton Green Hall, constructed in about 1400 by the Dudley family. The site is believed to have been the location of the Civil War skirmish in June 1644, during which Edward Dudley led a locally recruited band of Parliamentary troops in an attack on the Royalist stronghold of Dudley Castle. When the attack failed, the troops retreated to Tipton and were subsequently defeated in a battle thought to have taken place at Tipton Green Hall.

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