THE HUNTBACH FAMILY OF SEAWALL AND FEATHERSTONE
The Huntbach family who had lived at Seawall, (Sewall or later Showell and Show Hill), since the sixteenth century were tenants of the Levesons. About the middle of the seventeenth century they moved to the other side of the parish to Featherstone Hall, which still stands, as Stabbing Shaw said, on the road from Bushbury to Shareshill. (Featherstone was an additional part of Wolverhampton parish and not in Bushbury). In 1700 John Huntbach of Featherstone bought the manor of Seawall from Richard Leveson. A house stood on a moated site, the last being demolished about 1930. (At the beginning of the eighteenth century the occupier of Seawall was Richard Paddey, possibly a forbear of the nineteenth century local artist.)
John Huntbach (born 1639) was the son of Thomas of Seawall and his wife Anne (daughter of John Astley of Woodeaton). Our knowledge of Bushbury's early history owes much to John Huntbach. Thomas' sister Margery was the wife of Sir William Dugdale, whose 'History of the County of Warwick' was one of the earliest county histories. There seems little doubt that John was influenced by his uncle, and took a great interest in the history of his native parish. His manuscripts were an important source of information for the Reverend Stebbing Shaw writing at the end of the eighteenth century. He also made transcripts from the early Bushbury parish registers until 1637. As the registers were lost in a fire this transcript is all that survives of that early part of the register, although regrettably, as a seventeenth century historian, he transcribed only these entries which were of interest to him, i.e. those of the landowning families. He married Mary, second daughter of John Gough of Oldfallings on October 21st 1658, and was buried at Bushbury on February 13th 1704.
Eight children were born of the marriage, but only one of the four sons, Rupert (born December 16th 1668) married. His wife was Sarah, daughter of Edward Cooke of London. Their only son Fowke, (born at Wolverhampton on April 16th 1712) was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, where he matriculated in November 1729, but died in the following February. Rupert died in November 1734 and has a memorial on the east wall of the south aisle of the church. Fowke and his mother also have memorials on the same wall. The other child of the marriage Sarah (born 1710) who married Samuel Hellier of Wombourne Woodhouse; their son became Sir Samuel Hellier. (There was an earlier connection between the Huntbach family and Wombourne Woodhouse. Mary Huntbach, aunt of Sarah's grandfather, John the historian, married John Woodhouse of Wombourne. He died in 1651.) Sir Samuel Hellier's mother died in 1745, and his father in 1751, but his maternal grandmother Sarah Huntbach lived until 1783.
Among the very extensive collection of family records which survive are many letters of Sarah Huntbach of Featherstone, her daughter Sarah Hellier, and her son Sir Samuel. Young Sarah, newly arrived in London and awaiting the birth of her son writes to her mother on March 2nd 1731:-
Old Mrs. Huntbach, referred to by her grandson as "the old lady", kept a very tight hold on the major part of the family finances from her Featherstone home, although the young man had the income from the Wombourne estate. By the early 1760s he was living in London and complaining that his limited resources prevent him from marrying. He writes to his friend Thomas Hatrell, attorney at Newcastle, Staffs:
November 3rd 1761.
"How can you be so deaf to the charms of the Dear Sex, Sure you are made of stone. I am convinced one hours Chatt. with a truly virtuous woman is preferable to a whole years enjoyment with a whore"
January 2nd 1762.
"There's only Two things worth seeking for in life, a good share of health and a fine elegant Woman. I don't wish to live longer than I have both."
But twenty years later he is still denied the income which would enable him to marry. In a series of letters to John Rogers at Wombourne, (presumably his steward) he continually presses him to ensure that his tenants pay their rents promptly and in coin of the realm, not post dated bills, but also to use all means to try to extract money from "the old lady".
January 17th 1782.
"The old lady being so well pleased with her present now is it time for Mrs. Beech to follow her up close, while she is in the humour, some of her Golden Guineas would be very acceptable."
September 12th 1782.
"Get Mr. Livingstone to make a point of it, and use every possible means whatever to get ye old lady to lend me Sixty Pds. or else to Borrow it somewhere, among her acquaintance. I cannot do without it, my illness lasts so long, and is very expensive, and ye Doctor saies nothing will do any good but Bath water, and to which place I must go within a fortnight from this date." He was suffering from Gout.
September 21st 1782
"The few remarks I shall make upon ye old lady are these that she has a heart as hard as a Rock, of most Tyrranical cruel and uncharitable disposition."
Two months later he turns on Staffordshire people in general:
November 11th 1782.
"The Staffordshire People continue in ye rough uncivilized state they were in when William ye Conqueror subdued them. Enjoy Hatred and Malice and all uncharitable men, but I except individuals, and you amongst ye number who I entertain a very good opinion of."
He requests John Rogers to approach Miss Phillips* of Shareshill to use her good influence with the old lady to send him money.
December 22nd 1782.
"Miss Phillips [presumably Elizabeth, elder sister of Mary] should persuade ye old lady to leave housekeeping and live easy and quiet, with her at Shareshill and give me possession, which would be serving me and herself to."
His long wait was almost over. Mrs. Huntbach died on January 11th 1783. The Bushbury Parish Register says that she gave a silver flagon to the church in 1741, and that her memorial tablet gave her age as 99 years.
T.H.F.Whitgreave says in his diary:
"Today they buried Mrs. Huntbach of Featherstone at Bushbury. My father was at the funeral. A hearse and six horses attended to take her to Bushbury."
Sir Samuel Hellier did not enjoy his inheritance for long, dying on October 12th 1784, (not 1748 as stated in Shaw), and being still unmarried and childless bequeathed the estate to the Reverend Thomas Shaw, son of James Shaw, a Dudley solicitor. On July 18th 1786 the Reverend Shaw took the name of Shaw-Hellier. He lived at the Woodhouse but served as minister of St.John's Wolverhampton and of Tipton and was Perpetual Curate of Claverley. He died in July 1812 and was buried with his wife Mary at Wombourne. His son James was manager of Netherton colliery and one of his sons, Samuel, married Mary Ann Willington of Brinsford at Bushbury on August 7th 1832. In 1841 they were living at Wobaston. James died in 1827; when his wife Elizabeth died in 1835 she was living at Barnhurst. Indirect descendants of James' brother Thomas remain at the Woodhouse and there are several memorials to the family in Wombourne church.