Medieval fortified manor house.
Situated just northeast of Walsall, Rushall Hall has an interesting and long history.
This is a quadrangular shaped site measuring 91m by 53m. Civil War bastions are beleived to have been added but there is now no evidence of them or where they once stood.
The site was surrounded by a high curtain wall and a wet moat. The curtain wall did not include any towers or wall walk. The wall survives up to 6.4m in some places. A postern was located at the site on the opposite side to the gatehouse. Internally the area was separated into two distinctive enclosures.
Rushall Hall was surrounded by a wet moat and a nearby stream gave the site its water source. The enclosing moat was once wet, and this is mentioned in documents from the English Civil War. Now it stands dry and measures c.9m wide and 07.m deep. A section of the moat has now been filled in.
There is scant information regarding the Hall itself, but we do know it was square and had three storeys. The early Hall would most certainly have been constructed of timber, and with a park surrounding it, there would have been a plentiful supply of timber for any repairs that would have been required over time. The exact location of this original building is also not known, however it is believed that the New Hall may have been partially built over the footprint of the first. Clearing out the centre of the courtyard, many old foundations were uncovered. These could possibly be the remains of the original building, which would make sense as it once stood at the centre of the site.
A Saxon Hall may also have previously stood on the site (Willmore, 1892), only a thorough archaeological investigation would be able to show if this is correct.
The thirteenth century gatehouse gave access to the site and was rebuilt in the fifteenth century. When the gatehouse was rebuilt the Coat of Arms of the Harpur family were placed above the archway. The Harpurs had come into possession of the site when Eleanor Grobbere, heiress, married John Harpur. The Harpur family held the site between 1430-1540.
“Coat of Arms le Harpur, argent, a lion rampant, gules, within a bordure engrailed, sable – the old escutcheon of the Rushalls” (Parker, 1859).
Located near to the enclosing wall was a large barn and a church. The church was originally a chapel which served the Lord of The Manor, the Lords Rushall. The chapel eventually became the local church and was rebuilt a number of times. During the English Civil War (1642-1651) the church tower was garrisoned by Royalists. The church was attacked and damaged through cannon fire and had to be rebuilt following the war. The local people partitioned Parliament and held them responsible for the damage they had caused to their local place of worship.
During the Civil War the site was garrisoned by both sides – the Royalists and Parliamentarians – but it was Parliament, as always, that did the most damage. They showered it with cannonball, and these remained in situ for many years to come.
“The castle forms a spacious quadrangle within. The embattles walls, in many places mutilated by time and open violence, are mantled with a sturdy growth of ivy, the rude stems of which form natural buttresses to the eastern range. Upon the centre of the lawn within the quadrangle is a pile of cannon shot taken from the ruins. The courtyard is converted into an orchard and a garden.” (Willmore, 1892).
Here is an example of the ammunition provided to the garrison,
A description of the site at the time of the Civil War is given as follows,
“The house watered round about, admirable works where are four forts at each end of the house one; from the water to the top of the works is some four or five yards high, besides the breadth of the trench, which is answerable to it, and a stone wall within the works much higher, beside a very strong drawbridge, and but only one passage through the stone wall into the house, which is as strong as art can make it, and within the wall, in the yard, they have made galleries for their better defence, and great stones laid thick round about the works, which upon any assault would have done as much execution as the muskets” (Willmore 1892).
There is evidence of buildings, and some makeshift structures, that were around the courtyard during the English Civil War. These possibly housed the garrisons which were housed there. Shot from the Civil War can still be seen in the walls of the site. An in-depth archaeological investigation would give us more answers regarding the attack and defence of the Hall during this period of history, and possibly a detailed record of where the attack started and how it progressed across the site.
It was thought that the original building was made of red brick, as some was found when the Old Hall was demolished by Geoffrey Ive in 1405, however, this is still to be proven.
Timeline for the site –
1066 Lands held by Nigellus de Rushale, also known as Neel de Rushale.
* Nigellus de Rushale’s son, Osbertus Rushale inherited the Manor.
1086 Mentioned in the Domesday Survey.
* Richard de Rushale, son of Osbertus Rushale, served in the household of Henry II.
1164-1165 Henry II Pipe Rolls – “William de Ruisahale owes five marks for holding the custody of the children of Gervase of Benetley and of their lands and ministerium” (Willmore, 1892).
1166 Manor held with the Barony of Dudley by Peter de Burmingham.
1191 Thomas Osbert, descendant of Nigellus de Rushale, was still living.
1193 William Osbert, second son of Thomas Osbert, died.
1196 The manor was held by Hugh fitz Peter, the son of Peter de Burmingham.
12th C First recorded.
1200 Richard Rushale, son of Thomas Osbert, and holder of the Manor, died.
1220 Chapel mentioned.
1227 The mill and lands held by William of Walshale.
1230-1346 Held by the Boweles family who fortified the site.
1240 Richard Rushale, Richard the Marshall, held part of the Manor, including the Hall, possibly under tenancy.
1240 In the Testa de Neville – “Hugh de Boules holds half a knights fee in Rushale of the Barony of Roger de Someri” (Willmore, 1892)
1255 The Hundred Roll names Hugh de Boel as holding the lands under the Barony of Dudley, which in turn was held by Roger de Someri.
1271 Sir Hugo de Boweles, husband of Alice, died. The Manor went to their son, William de Boweles.
1271 Hugh de Boweles died, he left the Manor jointly to his wife, Alice, and his son, William de Boweles, who had married Isabella.
1271-1307 By: The manor had been granted to Roger de Someri.
1286 Hugh de Cave held 2 acres of the fee of William de Boweles.
1291 Roger de Someri died, and the manor was then held by Ralph de Biscebury, under William de Burmingham.
1292 Dating from: Held by William de Boweles.
13th C Gatehouse.
c.1300 Curtain walls.
1306 William de Boweles (1) died. His eldest son, William (2), inherited the Manor.
1308/23 John Wetales attacked the site when Robert Esinton was given refuge at the Old Hall.
1321 John de Someri, who held the Manor, died. The Manor passed to his sister, Margaret, who was the wife of John de Sutton.
1327 Held by William de Boweles (2).
1334/1335 William de Boweles (2) died, his son, William (3), inherited the Manor.
1346 William de Bowles (3) died of the Black Death. His daughter Katherine inherited the Manor. Katherine had married, secondly, Robert Grobbere.
1364 Katherine died and the Manor passed to her son, William Grobbere.
1395/1400 Golfride Ive of Henley, father of William’s new wife, Alice, pulled down the Old Hall and set about building a new one.
14th C Wall and moat.
1400 Katherine Walshale died. The Hall had passed to William Grobbere, also known as William of Rushall, her husband, who later married Alice, the daughter of Golfride Ive of Henley.
1405 New manor house built on the site after the Old Hall was demolished by Geoffrey Ive.
1421 A member of the Boweles family still lived at the Hall.
1429 William of Walshale died and John Harpur held the site.
John Harpur had married William Grobbere’s daughter, Eleanor, and held the manor as Lord of Rushale. William’s son, James, had died at a very young age leaving Eleanor as the sole heir.
1430-1540 Owned by the Harpur family. Their crest is above the gateway.
1440 The local church was built on site of the old chapel. It was consecrated on St. Walston’s Day.
1443 “Freewarren at Rushale, and also view of Frankpledge in Rushale and Guscote” (Wilmore, 1887).
1444 Church rebuilt. A member of the Boweles family still lived at the Hall.
1455-1487 Wars of the Roses: Defended and garrisoned – believed to have been a Lancastrian stronghold.
1464 John Harper, Lord of Rushall, died and his son, William inherited the Manor and became Lord of Rushall, he married Margaret Cook. They had seven children. He was also a Knight of the Sepulcher.
15th C Rebuilt by the Grobbere family including a new gatehouse. It was square, stood two storeys high and access to the floors was by a spiral staircase. There were fireplaces on each floor and a garderobe chute on the northern wall.
c.1500 Gatehouse built onto thirteenth century gatehouse.
1519 John Harper established an Almshouse for the poor.
1521 John Harper died and his son, Robert succeeded him. Robert married Helen, daughter of Richard Lyttleton.
1535 Robert Harper died. He was succeeded by his daughter Dorothy, who had married Sir Anthony Kingston, heir to Sir William Kingston, Captain of Henry VIII’s Guard, Lieutenant of the Tower of London.
1540-1546 Leland: “Built about with a wall and a gatehouse, all embattled castlewise.”
1548 Dorothy died childless, and the Manor passed to her Aunt Elizabeth, who had married William Leigh. The start of the Leigh family ownership of the Manor.
1558-1603 During the reign of Elizabeth I, Sir Anthony Kingston was Provost Marshall of Elizabeth I’s Army.
16th C Middle: Held by the Leigh family.
16th-17th C Late – early: Another storey was added to the gatehouse and used as a residence.
c.1600 Windows and second floor added to the gatehouse.
1642 Fortified by Edward Leigh, MP, for Parliament. He left his wife in charge to defend the Hall against the Royalists, whilst he was away fighting.
1643 Henry Hastings, 1st Baron Loughborough, set up a garrison in the Hall for Charles I.
1643 Prince Rupert took the Hall from Mrs. Leigh.
“Mistress Leigh, in Colonel Leigh’s absence, valiantly defending it with credit” (Dent & Hill, 1896).
1644 28 May: Sieged. Retaken by Parliament. The Earl of Denbeigh set out with Stafford Horse and part of the Stafford Regiment of foot to capture Rushall Hall which was being held by a garrison and Colonel Lane. The church was also held by a Royalist garrison.
“Next morning our cannon played upon them [the garrison at Rushall Hall] until 9o’clock, when I sounded a parley and summoned them to surrender up the house, promising fair quarter, but the Governor returned answer that he had orders to keep it for his sacred Majesty, and, therefore, if I desired to prevent the shredding of blood I must depart, for he would maintain his Majesty’s commands to the loss of his dearest blood, upon which answer I gave orders to the gunners to give fire, and presently made a great breach in the wall through which eight might go abreast, and continued to fire until 4 pm playing upon the garrison in the church which was kept by Capt. Gravener, and reported so strong that the taking of it by assault would be less feasible than the house, whereupon I ordered to make trial whether it could be battered by turning the cannon against the steeple, which fired it and made the church too hot for those within. By advice of the Council of War I resolved to storm it and the house that night, which was most cheerfully received by all the officers and soldiers. While we were preparing, they sounded a parley and required hostages, which I consented unto, and dispatched Capt. Tuthill to them and they Capt. Dibdall. The negotiators here named were appointed on either side, but being unable to come to terms all returned to their quarters. During the parley we viewed their works, which were as good as most in the kingdom, and not to be stormed with the loss of many lives. This knowledge drew from me better conditions than were offered at first, and after long dispute the Governor rendered up the house upon our mutual signing of the enclosed articles, which I was content to give to save the great effusion of blood”. (Hamilton, 1888).
* Prisoners were exchanged by both sides, “To writ to Capte. Fox for the release of two troupers he took of Col. Lanes, for Capt. Gunes, Sargent, and a trouper of Colo. Browes, which are at Rushall Hall.” (Willmore, 1892).
1658 May: A petition was given by the locals regarding the destruction of their church during the Civil War and were seeking compensation – “A petition from the inhabitants of Rushall, Staffordshire, presented in May 1658, to the effect that ‘during the late war, Rushall Hall was a garrison for the Parliament, and Capt. Tothill, the governor, was obliged to demolish the parish church’” (Tatham, 2014).
1671 Sir Edward Leigh died at the New Hall.
1795 Two silver and copper coins, two pieces of metal believed to be fibulae were found near the site – all Roman items.
1811 Held by the Leigh family.
1813 Francis-Harriet, the daughter of the Rev. William Leigh, of Rushall, married the Earl of Caithness.
c.1830-1840 Partially demolished. The upper floors of the gatehouse were demolished.
1845 Most of the gatehouse was slighted and demolished, including the residence above the archway.
1854-1856 The church was rebuilt.
1858 The west side of the original moat was filled in.
1867 The remains of the original fortified house were demolished.
19th C The New Hall was built and incorporated part of the original stonework. The gatehouse was partially demolished with the remains left as a folly.
1974 Field Investigation.
1976 Field Investigation.
1989 Aerial photographs.
1990 Metal detected.
2011 Watching Brief.
This unassuming site has such a rich history. I leave you with the words from Willmore, writing in 1892,
“Never forfeited, never deserted, never vacant.”
Further Questions –
References & Bibliography.
a Wood. A., & Bliss. P. 1817. Athenae Oxonienses: An Exact History of All the Writers and Bishops who Have Had Their Education in the University of Oxford: to which are Added the Fasti Or Annals of the Said University. Volume 3. Nichols & Son.
Black Country History. 2023. Rushall Hall; Leigh Rd. Available at https://www.blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WAHER_MBL1547.
Bull. S. 2008. ‘The Furie of the Ordnance’: Artillery in the English Civil Wars. Boydell Press.
Chitham. E. 2014. The Story of Dudley. History Press.
Coates. B. 2017. The Impact of the English Civil War on the Economy of London, 1642–50. Taylor & Francis.
Court Guide & County Blue Book of Warks, Worcs & Staffs. 1902. n.d. Charles William Deacon & Co. https://jstor.org/stable/community.30136357
Dent. R. K. & Hill. J. 1896. Historic Staffordshire. Midland Educational Company.
Emery. A. 1996. Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300-1500: Volume 2, East Anglia, Central England and Wales. Cambridge University Press.
Emery. A. 2006. Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500: Volume 3, Southern England. Cambridge University Press.
Erdeswicke. S., & Salt. W. 1844. A Survey of Staffordshire: Containing the Antiquities of that County. J. B. Nichols & Son.
Hamilton. W. D. 1888. Calendar of State Papers: Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles I, 1644.HMSO.
Hemingway. J. 2022. Medieval Birmingham: People and Places, 1070-1553. Archaeopress Publishing Limited.
Heritage Gateway. 2023. Rushall New Hall. Available at https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=329433&resourceID=19191.
Heritage Gateway. 2023. Wolverhampton and Walsall HER – Rushall Hall; Leigh Rd. Available at https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MBL1547&resourceID=1025.
Historic England. 2023. Gatehouse and Curtain Walls at Rushall Hall, Leigh Road. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1320329?section=official-list-entry.
Historic England. 2023. Medieval Fortified House at Rushall Hall. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1013153?section=official-list-entry.
Howard. C. 1965. “The Man on a Tricycle”: W. H. Duignan and Ireland, 1881-5. Irish Historical Studies, 14(55), 246–260. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30005525.
Hutton. R. 2012. The Royalist War Effort 1642-1646. Taylor& Francis.
Larkham. P. J. 1984. Moated Sites in South Staffordshire. South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society. Vol. 24, 1982-1983, pp. 8-65.
Niven. W. 1882. Illustrations of Old Staffordshire Houses. Cheswick Press.
No Author. 1823. Encyclopaedia Britannica; Or A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature, Volume 11. Archibald Constable & Co. p.752.
No Author. 1856. Obituary – The Earl of Caithness. The Gentleman’s Magazine. Volume 45. (January to June, 1856), pp. 182-183.
O’Hart. J. 1887. The Irish Landed Gentry when Cromwell Came to Ireland. Dalcassian Publishing Company.
Page. W. 1908. The Victoria History of the County of Stafford. Constable.
Parker. J. H. 1859. Some Account of Domestic Architecture in England, from Richard II to Henry VIII. J. H. and J. Parker.
Pennington. D. H., & Roots. I. A. (Eds.).1957. The Committee at Stafford 1643-1645. Manchester University Press.
Pettifer. A. 1995. English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Boydell Press.
Pevsner. N. 2002. Staffordshire. Yale University Press.
Smibert. T. 1850. The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland. James Hogg.
St. George. Sir. R., & Dugdale. W. 1885. The Heraldic Visitations of Staffordshire Made by Sir Richard St. George Norroy, in 1614, and by Sir William Dugdale, Norroy, in the Years 1663 and 1664. Mitchell & Hughes.
Tatham. G. B. 2014. The Puritans in Power: A Study in the History of the English Church from 1640 to 1660. Cambridge University Press.
Walford. E. 1871. The County Families of the United Kingdom. Robert Hardwicke.
Wasson. E. 2017. List of Parliamentary Families. In K. Michalak & Ł. Połczyński (Eds.), The British and Irish Ruling Class 1660-1945 Vol. 1 (1st ed., pp. 5–822). De Gruyter. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctvbkk18g.8
Wilmore. F. W. 1887. A History of Walsall and Its Neighbourhood. W. H. Robinson.
Willmore. F. W. 1892. Records of Rushall, County Stafford With a Transcript of the Old Parish Register and Extracts from the Churchwardens’ Accounts. W. Henry Robinson.
Worton. J. 2022. ‘Coursing the Tinkerley Fox’: Tactics of Garrison Warfare in the West Midlands during 1643 and 1644, Midland History, 47:1, 38-56, DOI: 10.1080/0047729X.2021.2024660.
Youngs. S. M., & Clark. J. 1980. Medieval Britain in 1980. Medieval Archaeology 25. Vol 25, pp. 166-228. ttps://doi.org/10.5284/1071664.