Fordhouses: Moseley Old Hall

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Adjacent to the border of Staffordshire, in the suburb of Fordhouses on the outskirts of Wolverhampton, is the charming half-timbered Moseley Old Hall. Thought likely to date to 1600, the Hall was built by Henry Pitt of Bushbury, a merchant of the staple who had purchased the estate in 1583 from a Codsall family. On his death in 1602, it was inherited by his daughter Alice who subsequently married Thomas Whitgreave of Bridgeford, Staffordshire. Moseley Old Hall and estate then passed by direct descent in the Whitgreave line until its sale in 1925. In the late 19th century, the Hall’s dilapidated state seems to have been the cause of the change of name to Moseley Old Hall – in 1600 it was referred to as Mr Pitt’s new Hall at Moseley.

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Until 1870 there appears to have been little structural alteration to the building. The outer walls were rebuilt at this time and the Elizabethan windows were replaced by casements. Much of the original panelling and timber framing within the house still remains and is clearly visible throughout. Despite falling into disrepair and seriously affected by mining subsidence, the Hall remained in use as a farmhouse until the estate was sold in 1925. In 1940 it was acquired by Will Wiggin of Bloxwich but his efforts to repair the building were interrupted by wartime restrictions and were not completed at the time of his death. The Wiggin family transferred the Hall and one acre of land to the National Trust in 1962 and they opened the building to the public in 1963.

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After his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles II was on the run for 41 days with a price of £1000 on his head. On the morning of 8th September of the same year, the King arrived at the back door of Moseley Old Hall disguised in rough woodman’s clothes. Thomas Whitgreave and his priest, Father Huddleston, greeted the King and welcomed him inside. Whitgreave was a Catholic and his mother Alice, who was also in the house, had suffered heavy fines for their faith from the Parliamentary authorities. The King was found a safe hiding place in one of Moseley’s priest holes. By the time he left Moseley two days later, the King had devised a practical plan of escape to France. Those who had helped the King lived in fear of execution for the next eight and a half years until Charles was restored to the throne in 1660. The King dictated his own account of the dramatic six weeks of 1651 to Samuel Pepys in 1680. Thomas Whitgreave became known in the family as ‘the Preserver’ and he described the events at Moseley in a manuscript. The original manuscript still belongs to his descendants but has been reproduced, along with many other versions of the story, in the exhibition about Charles Ii in the Dressing Room.

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The Ante Room walls display five 17th century prints of the Stations of the Cross by Nicholas de Bruyn. Also known as Way of Sorrows or Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross are a series of images that commemorate Jesus on the day of his crucifixion. The room has exposed timbers, uncovered wooden floor and fireplace.

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The corridor on the first floor (above) was constructed in the 19th century to give privacy to the bedroom from which it was divided. The walls display collections of contemporary engravings which depict people and events connected with the King’s flight. Also on display are various Acts and Ordnances issued by the Commonwealth of England, including a document that dates to September 1651 offering a reward of £1000 for the capture of ‘Charls Stuart Traytor’.

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The Bedroom on the second floor has a large oak bedstead which has rope springing to support a straw palliasse or mattress. Similar bedrooms of the period would only contain a bed and possibly a chest to hold clothing.

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The Chapel (above), or Oratory, was originally open to the rafters. The barrel-vaulted ceiling was added following the Relieving Act of 1791 which allowed Catholics greater freedom of worship. The blue and gold star decoration above the altar was executed following the issue of a licence for the Chapel on 14th July 1791. The room was regularly used for services until the 20th century. The Whitgreave crucifix was made in Spain and the room features two carved Yorkshire/Derbyshire chairs.

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The Attic contains much of the original timber framing and the facing wall has an infilling of wattle and daub. The garret is the room in which Huddleston’s three pupils kept watch during Charles visit to Moseley. The adjoining section of the attic is a small hiding place, next to a chute to the Brewhouse on the ground floor. The brewing ingredients were stored here, under the roof, to keep them dry until required for use.

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One of the principle features of the garden at Moseley Old Hall is the Knot Garden. A knot, as it was developed in Tudor times, was a small, usually rectangular, bed upon which was outlined a pattern. The Moseley Knot is worked in the living green of dwarf plants with spaces filled with coloured gravels. The garden follows one of five designs laid out by the Rev. Walter Stonehouse, Rector of Darfield in Yorkshire in 1640.

Moseley Old Hall is Grade II* Listed.

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