STOURBRIDGE AND ITS VICINITY (1832) Written by William Scott in 1832, “Stourbridge and its Vicinity” includes this survey of the history of Cradley, starting from 1086.
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This manor is situated in a part of the county of Worcestershire, formerly in the barony of Dudley, and hundred of Clent, but now of Halfshire, in that tract of peninsular form which branching from Churchill, extends in a northern direction, and is bounded both by the mainland of Stafford, and its insular district of Clent and Brome ; and also by the Salopian district of Halesowen.
It is thus spoken of in Doomsday: (q) - "William Fitz-Ans-culph holds Cradlei, and Pagan under him. Wigar held it."(r)
Descending in the same line as the demesne of Warley, to the Lady of Sir John Bottecourt, baron of Weoleigh ; on the decease of Sir John, 9th of Richard II. 1385, Joyce his grand-daughter, wife of Sir Hugh Burnel, knight, became seised of the manor.
She dying, Jan 1st, 1405, and leaving no issue, the manor of Cradley, instead of passing to her heirs at law, came into possession, (together with Northfield, Clent, Old Swinford, and Weoleigh castle,) of Sir High Burnel, in consequence of a fine levied by Joyce.
Joan Beauchamp, Lady Bergavenny, by purchasing the rights of Sir Hugh, and several parties, became possessor of two thirds of this manor, to whom grants were confirmed by deeds signed by him, dated Weoleigh castle, 5th Henry V. She becoming invested with this domain, (to take place on Burnel's decease,) conveyed the same to trustees, who by a joint deed, dated 15th Hen. VI. enfeoffed James Butler, (s) son and heir apparent of James, Earl of Ormond, (t) and grandson to Lady Bergavenny, of the same, which was confirmed to him by her last will and testament. Butler, afterwards created Earl of Wiltshire, retained the property after several contests, till 32d Henry VI. 1454, when he agreed with Maurice Berkley, to divide the lands in question ; on which occasion, Cradley, Clent, Old Swinford, and Hagley, were assigned to the said Earl. (See those articles.)
This nobleman, during the unhappy contests between the houses of York and Lancaster, adhered steadfastly to King Henry VI., and on Edward, Duke of York, gaining the crown, he was beheaded at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, anno. 1461, whereby his lands were forfeited to the crown, and soon after divided among the friends of the dominant party. Edward IV. in the first year of his reign, granted this manor to Fulk Stafford, who dying without issue, the king granted two-thirds of Cradley, and the remaining third, (after the demise of Stafford's widow,) to Thomas Prout, Esq.
13th Edward IV. A grant occurs of two-thirds of this lordship, with reversion as before, to his beloved consort Queen Elizabeth and her assigns for ever.
The queen having built a chapel, dedicated it to Erasmus, adjoining to the abbey church of Westminster, endowed it with the manors of Cradley and Hagley. At the same time the King granted to the convent free warren, return of writs, &c. &c., and also a court leet for two manors. But the abbot and monks of Westminster enjoyed these manors for a short time only, for Thomas Butler, (r) younger brother of the earl of Wiltshire, becoming a favourite at court, procured the restoration of Cradley, and other forfeited lands.
"Ample compensation," adds the historian, "was doubtless made to the church of Westminster, for the resumption of this grant."
Thomas Butler, afterwards created Earl of Ormond, after encountering much opposition, obtained an award made by Lord Treasurer Dynham, Lord Daubigney, and the two chief justices, whereby the several lands in question were confirmed to him on paying to his opponent Sir Hugh Willoughby, &c. the sum of £800. (s)
The Earl dying, August 3d, 1515, his daughter Anne, wife of Sir John Seyntleger, of Annary, Devon , inherited Cradley and some other manors.
In 1564, her grandson, Sir John Seyntleger, sold it, together with Old Swinford, Hagley, and Clent, to Sir John Lyttleton, of Frankley, Knight, whose lineal descendant enjoys it at the present time.
This manor and township, containing about 766 acres, may be considered as divided by Homer-hill, into two parts, usually denominated Overend and Netherend ; both flanked by the river Stour on the north, which separates it from Rowley and King Swinford.
Overend has for its eastern boundary Drew's brook, falling into the river, and parting it from the Shropshire portion of the parish.
Ludley is the southern limit, and the remaining part of Cradley bears towards Old Swinford, its western point. The ancient town or vill, bearing the name of Cradley, is situated in a deep ravine, at the eastern base of the hill, contiguous also to several minor eminences which intervene between it and Overend, proper, the utmost limit of the district.
Intervening between Overend and the limit, are Colman-hill and Bell-vale. To resume our description of the site, as viewed from the commanding eminence alluded to, Homer-hill (t) completely overlooks a wide range of country, possessing a very numerous and dense population ; and animated by manufacturing industry. (u)
Embosomed in extensive woodlands, the principal lake in the vicinity, New Pool, appears to peculiar advantage, and presents a pleasing contrast to the busy scenes of the surrounding tract.
The populous tract just mentioned contains Cradley proper and Overend, in the former was an ancient mansion, of the family of Hickman, (v) now completely despoiled of its antique exterior by modern alterations.
On the opposite bank of the Stour, the tract subjacent to the long range of Rowley-hills, with the continuous district of Netherton, and extending along the banks of the canal, reaches to the town of Dudley.
The soil is general is a rich clay, fertile in grain and pastorage. To the north and west of Netherend, coal and ironstone abound.1
In a southern direction, a tract of arable land extends towards Ludley, still remaining the appellation of Cradley field, though completely inclosed. Numerous specimens of woodstone, have at different times been found on this spot, as also marine shells and other petrifications ; in some situations, lime, supposed to be a continuation of the Dudley strata, makes it appearance. (w)
Netherend, so designated from its relative situation, both with respect to the hill and the river, extends to the borders of Old Swinford, and is intersected by the turnpike road from Stourbridge to Halesowen. Netherend proper is a village near to the base of the hill.
Another part of Cradley is situated at the base of the eminence of which Cradley field forms a part. (w) At the descent of the hill, (following the course of the public road,) a pleasing and well-built village presents itself to view, principally known as the site of Colley Gate, once the boundary of the second Stourbridge district of turnpike roads. Park-row and Park-side extend from hence to the west.
At the distance of less than half a mile to the west, the traveller is suddenly introduced to the sequestered woodlands of Cradley Park, occupying a considerable tract of land, (x) and bounded by several adjacent copices.
Several rivulets wind their way through this tract to the Stour, which is known by the name of Salt-brook, though its water is not known to be impregnated with that mineral. A very minute rill, tributary thereto, issuing from an exhausted coal mine, is strongly chalybeate, but has never attracted notice.
Cradley Park, with a part of the surrounding lands, was once the demesne of the family of Butler, who were ennobled under the title of Ormond, alluded to in the descent of property, at the commencement of this article.
Several antiquities are recorded in history, as appertaining to this park and its environs. - A mansion house, with a chapel annexed, (y) is related to have been situated here. (z) An adjoining house and field still bear the appellation of chapel house and leasow, residence of Joseph Priestley, Esq.
A moated hillock is still visible near to the eastern extremity of the work, which has sometimes been considered as an entrenchment. It appears to be uncertain at what time these structures fell into decay, but the lands were not disparked 12th Henry VIII. when a lease occurs granted by dame Anne Seyntleger, to a person of the name of Forrest. (a)