The Lords of Cradley Manor, from Saxon times to the mid-nineteenth century
THE LORDS OF CRADLEY MANOR
by N. BIRD
Even in earliest times, Cradley could not boast of being a well favoured residential place for not one of its manorial lords since Saxon times ever made permanent residence here. A steward was left in charge, but no doubt he entertained his lord periodically at the manor house where the rent (in kind) could be 'eaten up' and parties could sally forth to hunt in the park or hawk on the warrens of Lutley, Hagley and Clent.
Wigar, the last of the Saxons was the last lord to live within the manor. His house, which was very likely on the site of the old 'Farther Leys Barn' was no doubt a timber built structure like a barn, his family living at one end while his servants and ceorls occupied the other where they slept on straw.
He was displaced by Pagan, a Norman to whom Fitztzansculf, the First Baron of Dudley entrusted the management of the Manor. Pagan was somewhat more than a steward and probably lived alternately in Cradley and Amblecote where he was also seneschal.
Fitzansculf was succeeded by Fulk Paganel who had married Beatrice the sole heir. Possibly, Fulk was the son of Pagan, the name Paganel not having been recorded before this time. He strengthened the castle with stone walls and his son Ralf held it for Queen Matilda against Stephen.
Gervase, the last of the Paganels supported a rebellion against Henry II, for which offence he lost his title and the castle was demolished. His sister, Howise, however inherited his possessions and her husband John de Somery succeeded to the title in consideration of the latter's handsome contribution towards the ransom of Richard I, who was captured while returning from the 3rd Crusade. John was one of the mission which met Coeur de Lion in his German prison fortress to arrange for his freedom. A little of this ransom might have been raised in Cradley?
During the next hundred years, until 1321, the Somerys lived at Dudley Castle, rebuilding and extending the fortifications. Some of this work can still be seen. The place-name Oldnall (Olden Hall) suggests that there was a manor house thereabouts built of stone. The Somerys did a good deal of building and it is quite likely they were instrumental in having it built. There are two old stone quarries quite near.
The last of the Somerys, another John, died leaving no direct heir, but his sister Margaret inherited the major portion of the estates and her husband John de Sutton acquired the title. His younger sister, Joan, inherited Cradley, Clent and Warley, and from that time Cradley has been independent of Dudley. At different times afterwards we became linked with Lutley, Warley, Hagley, Clent and Oldswinford through the common Manorial lord and with Halesowen as part of the parish.
Joan and her husband, John, Lord Botetourt, enclosed the woodland and much of the common of Cradley to form their demesne and in recompense Lord John possibly founded a Chapel here as he had done at Warley. He was buried in Halesowen Abbey. They left only one child named Joyce who became the second wife of Hugh Burnell, Lord of Kidderminster. He prepared an elaborate alabaster tomb for Joyce and himself in the choir of Halesowen Abbey.
At his death there was a good deal of litigation, after which his three grand daughters shared the greater part of his possessions, while Cradley, Warley and part of Lutley came into the possession of Joan Beauchamp, Lady Abergaveny, who was related to the Beauchamps of Warwick Castle.
The next lord in possession was Joan's grandson, James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde. During the Wars of the Roses he followed the fortunes of the Earl of Warwick (The Kingmaker) and at the Battle of Tourton, while fighting for Henry VI against Edward Duke of York was captured and executed.
The new King Edward IV confiscated his estates and Cradley was granted to Fulk Stafford of Grafton Manor. He died soon afterwards, and Thomas Prout held it until his death when it reverted to the Crown. The Queen then conferred it upon the Abbot and Convent of Westminster where a Chapel was erected for two monks to celebrate masses for the repose of Their Majesties' souls.
Soon afterwards the Manor was restored to Thomas Butler, the beheaded Earl's brother, and from him it passed to his daughter Ann, wife of Sir John St. Leger and aunt of Queen Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated mother of Elizabeth I. By 1535 the Abbots of Halesowen Abbey had acquired the advowson of the Cradley Chapel but this and some adjoining land was appropriated with the rest of the Abbey estates by Henry VIII and given to the notorious Sir John Dudley, whose agents sold it to the St. Legers.
A grandson of Ann, another Sir John St. Leger sold Cradley with Hagley and Clent to Sir John Lyttelton of Frankley in 1564. (The Lytteltons had bought Halesowen Manor four years before from Robert Dudley (who became Earl of Leicester) and two dealers in real estate named Thomas Blount and George Tuckeye). Since 1564, Cradley Manor has been held by the Lyttletons, but during the last 250 years they have gradually disposed of it.
Modern records state that a Court Baron and Court Leet were held at Cradley during the first half of the last century at which the Steward of the Manor acted as judge, assisted by "a jury of respectable inhabitants."
In 1841, the constable of the Manor, as an official, disappears from Cradley's history and we have a policeman for the first time. The beadle, however, continued in his office for a number of years after this date.
Note by Cradley Links:
This article was first published in the Cradley Parish Church Magazine, August 1953.
The author, Norman Bird, took an active interest in Cradley history, and was a regular contributor to the parish magazine. Deputy Head Master at the Cradley Church Schools for more than 20 years, he died suddenly in the school staff room in the late 1950s.