BUSHBURY IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
The parish before the Civil War
Except for the Roman Catholic minority in the parish, by 1600 the religious changes of the previous century seem to have been accepted in Bushbury. For the majority of the parishioners the Church of England was personified by the vicar, Francis Colley, whose extremely long life was commemorated, together with that of Thomas Leacroft, one of his parishioners, by the gift of a bell to the church in 1619. In 1625, the year before he died, he endowed a charity to the poor of the parish of £1-13s-4d per annum, from the rent of a cottage and land. Thomas Leacroft had established a similar fund in 1624.
The few surviving records of the parish are mainly concerned with the land and its use, so giving some information on daily life. The landscape was changing, as more and more woodland was cleared. Three entries in the list of rentals collected by the lord of the manor, Jonas Grosvenor on Lady Day 1608 illustrate this:
At this time the western, lower part of the parish was still undrained and we find references to Beverford Pool at Coven, and Alleycroft:
This area can be seen by walking north along the towpath of the Staffs. & Worcs. Canal from Forster Bridge in Wobaston Lane. After an area covered by tipping we come to a low marshy open space with reeds and bulrushes. These places were rented out no doubt for their fishing value, when fresh water fish were an important part of the local food supply.
The rental for the "Greenfields" was allocated for "the towne of Hampton strites" i.e. the repair of Wolverhampton streets.
Jonas Grosvenor also owned the manor of Rushall, for which Sir Edward Lighe (Leigh) paid annually a pair of gilt spurs or twenty shillings. This continued into the next century.
We catch a glimpse of the common man's relaxation, when in 1599 John Shenton was licensed to keep an alehouse at Moseley, followed by Widow Newton in 1605. A little later, Edward James (Gent) and Sampson Eggington of Brinsford were also licensed.
The parish in the Civil War
In the Civil War, which started in 1642, most of the landowners in the parish, whether Protestant or Catholic, supported the King, although undoubtedly there were men from the parish fighting on both sides. A list of serving soldiers from Essington has survived. Royalists were Walter Alexander, Robert Lownes, and Richard Sleigh, all labourers, and in the Parliamentary Army were John Edgington and John Kendrick.
In October 1642 Charles I stayed overnight in Wolverhampton at the house of Madame St. Andrew, a relative of John Gough of Oldfallings. He was the wealthiest man in Bushbury, (and probably in Wolverhampton). The two royal princes stayed with him at Oldfallings. A public collection was made for the royalist cause, but Gough refused to contribute. That evening however he went to Charles, and in a private meeting donated a sum, said to be £ 1200. The King offered him a knighthood, which he refused, but after the Restoration Charles II accorded the honour to his grandson.
By 1643, Staffordshire was governed nominally at least by the Parliamentary Committee at Stafford, and their Order of August 29th 1644 on Walter Grosvenor, lord of the manor of Bushbury, illustrates their attitude:
By April 1645, we find the Committee addressing
The Royalist garrison at Dudley Castle collected their funds from all members of the community. The commander Thomas Leveson writes to the Constable of Bushbury Thomas Huntbach:
For the month of May 1644 the Constable raised £14-1s-6d plus a further 39s for the provision of hay, oats and carriages. Contributions ranged from Walter Grosvenor for his land 30s, Mr. Burne the Vicar 3s-9d, Elston Hall Mill 30s, Gorsebrook Mill 3s-9d, down to Widow Phillips 7d.
When in the late Spring of 1645, Charles moved part of his army north from Oxford, and encamped in the Beckbury area on the night of May 15/16, the King and his immediate staff came to Wolverhampton and were offered the hospitality of Bushbury Hall by Walter Grosvenor. A member of the King's staff, Captain Symonds, records the day in his diary:
It was an eventful twenty four hours. During the morning of Friday May 16th, a detachment of Royalist horse was attacked by a troop of Parliamentary cavalry, who killed sixteen men and captured twenty six horses and most of their riders, without loss to themselves. One report says that the King watched this action from Bushbury Hill. We do not know exactly where the skirmish took place, only that "the King's quarters (i.e. Bushbury Hall) was not two miles off." Because the Bushbury Parish Register for this period is missing we do not know if these sixteen men were buried here. At St. Peter's Wolverhampton one soldier of Col. Bagot was buried but there is no mention of sixteen, (nor at Tettenhall, Codsall, Brewood or Penkridge.) Could the triangular `Plantation' to the west of the churchyard be their grave? There have been many theories about its origin, including a Saxon burial mound but in the article about Bushbury 'A Salute to Old Mr. Judge' by L.F.Gregory in `Country Life' of July 23rd 1964, there is mention of a tradition that the Plantation was connected with the Civil War. On May 16th 1645 we can well imagine the haste for the Royalist force to move on. It would have been easier and quicker to dig one large grave outside the churchyard than sixteen individual graves within it. (Incidentally, the `cairn' of stones on the plantation was only placed there about 1950 when the stones were moved there from the top of old School Lane. They had presumably been unearthed over the years during the making of foundations for the church and excavating graves etc.)
The events involving Charles II at Moseley six years later (see the section on "The Whitgreaves of Moseley") are much more widely known, but the visit of his father in May 1645 must have had much more effect on the life of the parish. The episode at Moseley Old Hall in 1651 was by its very nature secretive, and involved only a handful of people, whereas everyone in the parish must have been very much aware of the presence of Charles I and his army. He was not to know that within a few weeks his hopes would be finally dashed by a crushing defeat at Naseby, followed by capture, trial and execution.
The Parish during the Commonwealth
We know very little about life in the parish during the Commonwealth period. The new vicar William Chandler from Brewood, had taken up his appointment on August 7th 1641, but the man he replaced, Hamlet Bourne (or Burne), known still as vicar, was still in the parish in 1644 when he paid his 3s 9d to the Garrison at Dudley. We do not know if he stayed in the parish or was given another living after the Restoration.
The parish after the Restoration
Charles II's ever pressing needs for additional income provide us with the next source of information on life in the parish. Between 1662 and 1689 the nation was taxed several times for the number of hearths in each house (except for the very poor). The record for one of these taxations for Bushbury has survived. Forty seven homes were taxed and a further twenty two were excused in 1666. (Appendix III). If we allow an average of five people per house a total population of about three hundred and fifty can be estimated. Although it is headed "Bushbury and Moseley Constablewick" it includes Showell Manor but there is no mention of Elston, Oxley, Wobaston or Essington. Nor does Thomas Whitgreave appear; was he perhaps engaged in his duties at Court in London?
The list does however throw light on several points. John Gough at Old Fallings had the largest house, (ten hearths), followed by Mrs. Margaret Grosvenor at Bushbury Hall, John Huntbach at Seawall, Mr. Moseley at Moseley Hall, John Astley, and the "Lady Clifton", all with seven each. Incidentally, where were the last two people living? Is it possible that Lady Clifton was renting Moseley Old Hall? She was a Catholic, widow of Sir Cuthbert Clifton of Westby near Lytham, Lancs. Her father was George Smith of Ashby Folville, Leics. and Wooten Wawen, Warwicks, and her mother Anne, was the youngest daughter of Sir Thomas Gifford of Chillington. (The elaborate tomb of George and Anne can be seen in Ashby Folville church). Sir Cuthbert Clifton had died in 1634, (she was his second wife), and three of their four sons had died in the Royalist cause. She died in 1672, intestate, and letters of administration were granted to her son in law Walter Littleton.
From about this time the Bushbury Manor papers mention the process of enclosure which had been slowly taking place in the parish as the smaller landowners sold some of their strips or "selions" in the common fields to the more wealthy men. In 1671 Musket and Taylor sold two acres in the common fields of Bushbury Manor to Jonas Grosvenor, followed by Emsworth's sale of two parcels of land in Saltmore (see map of Oxley Farm) to Grosvenor. In 1700 the process of `tidying up' land ownership continued with an exchange of lands between Thomas Whitgreave and Archibald Grosvenor, so enabling each man to concentrate his areas of land into larger fields.