After our exploration of Wightwick Manor as part of our National Trust day, Kate and I drove to Moseley Old Hall near junction two of the M54 in Wolverhampton.
A Little History
Moseley Old Hall was built in 1600 and owned until 1925, by the Whitgreave family. The family lived in the house until the 1820s when they moved into the larger Moseley Court, which was later demolished.
The Whitgreave family made relatively few changes to the house during the course of their ownership, though one major change they did make, was to encase the building’s Elizabethan facade with brick to prevent the house falling into further disrepair.
From 1925 until the Second World War, Moseley Old Hall was used as a farmhouse before falling into state of disrepair. In 1962 the property was taken over by the National Trust, who then restored the house and opened it to the public a few years later.
During the English Civil War, the forces of King Charles II fought against those of Oliver Cromwell and the English Parliament. On the 3rd September 1651, Charles and his forces were defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester, Charles fled north to Shropshire and Staffordshire in the hopes of finding a way to Europe.
In the early hours of the 8th September, Charles arrived at Moseley Old Hall from Boscobel House, where he had stayed for three days. On arrival at Moseley Old Hall, Thomas Whitgreave gave the king dry clothes, food and a place to sleep, whilst the family’s Catholic priest bathed and bandaged the king’s feet. The room where Charles slept is now called The King’s Room.
During the Charles’s two-day stay at Moseley Old Hall, parliamentary soldiers arrived at the house accusing Whitgreave of fighting in the Battle of Worcester. Mr Whitgreave was saved from arrest only after neighbours vouched that he had not left the area, due to injuries he sustained at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. The soldiers, though accepting Mr Whitgreave had not fought at the Battle of Worcester, beat him whilst Charles was hiding metres away in the house’s priest hole. Thomas Whitgreave managed to convince the soldiers to leave without searching the house and accompanied them as they left, returning only when he felt secure that they would not return.
After this, Moseley Old Hall was deemed unsafe for the King and plans were made for the next stage of his journey. On the 10th September, Charles left Moseley Old Hall for Bentley Hall near Walsall, home of Colonel John Lane. John Lane’s sister Jane had secured a permit to travel to Bristol with a servant, providing Charles with a means to escape, albeit one where he would have to pass himself off as a servant.
When Charles managed to escape to France, Jane Lane was eventually forced to flee England also, after her role in his escape was revealed. After the Restoration of the monarchy, King Charles II, deeply grateful for everyone who helped him escape England, rewarded Thomas Whitgreave, Father John Huddleston and Jane Lane. Whitgreave was granted a pension of two hundred pounds per year, which is still paid to his descendents today, though not index linked. Father John Huddleston was appointed as chaplain to Queen Catherine and heard the King’s confession on his deathbed in February 1685. Jane Lane was granted a pension of one thousand pounds per year for the rest of her life in honour of the danger she put herself in helping Charles to escape to France, as well as one thousand pounds granted to her by Parliament for the purchase of a jewel.
On entering the Garden and walking up the path you come to a sort of crossroads, to the left is the visitor entrance to Moseley Old Hall and to the right, the entrance to the garden and tea shop.
One of the main features of the garden is the Knot Garden. Knot gardens were developed in the Tudor period and consist of a rectangular bed with a design outlined with box hedges.
Next to the Knot Garden is the Timber Arbour, I love walkways such as these, they’re so pretty. Trentham Gardens in Staffordshire has some particularly lovely arbours.
Past the Knot Garden and Arbour, is the Front Garden with a gate leading to the road. From here you can see the front of Moseley Old Hall at it’s best angle.
Turning right from the garden crossroad and you come to the a path lined with lavender. I love lavender, there is a recipe for lavender shortbread which I long to try, however have not got round to buying culinary lavender, and the only lavender bush we have at home is French. At the end of the path is the entrance to the Moseley Old Hall Tea Room, where Kate and I enjoyed a cream tea before leaving.
After exploring the gardens, which were much smaller than those of Wightwick Manor, it was time for our second guided tour of the day.
The entrance for the guided tours of Moseley Old Hall, is the same entrance used by King Charles II when he travelled to Moseley from Boscobel House.
The first room on the tour was the Brewhouse. The brewhouse now houses a variety of reproduction objects used by children to make bread.
The King’s Room
Moving on from the Brewhouse, up some very old spiral stairs and you come to the King’s Room. This is the room Charles II slept in during his stay at Mosley Old Hall. There is a door in the corner of the room, next to the fireplace, leading to the next room. In the passageway between the rooms, you can see the priest hole Charles was forced to hide in whilst Parliamentary soldiers attacked Mr Thomas Whitgreave.
The bed, which is the very same bed Charles slept in, was at some point sold and purchased by the Mander family, who later gave it back to Moseley Old Hall.
In the room next to the King’s Room, there is a display of objects of historical value. Included in this mini exhibit is a letter from King Charles II after the Restoration, to Jane Lane.
Mr Whitgreave’s Room
Walking down the corridor which was not original to the house (the rooms originally fed off each other), entering the first door on the left and you’ll be in Mr Whitgreave’s Room.
On the wall next to the entrance (you can’t see it in the photo), there is a painting of Charles I’s children the Prince of Wales (later King Charles II), Mary and Duke of York (later King James II). In the painting the Duke of York is wearing a dress like his sister, this is because breeching; when between the ages of two and eight, boys began wearing breeches, was seen as a rite of passage, where a father takes a more active role in a boy’s upbringing. Because breeches often had complicated fastenings, younger children would have found it too difficult undo them when needing to use the toilet and so dresses were worn. Other reasons for young boys wearing dresses include the cost of clothing; dresses provided more space for growth and so were more cost-effective. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Genevan philosopher during the eighteenth century, preached the benefits of boys having free movement in dresses on growth, as underwear had yet to be invented.
The Attic Chapel
Moving on from Mr Whitgreave’s Room and up the staircase at the end of the corridor and you will come to the Attic Rooms. The Attic rooms, as well as being used as sleeping accommodation for servants, were used for storage and in secret, a chapel. The above photo shows part of the attic turned into a chapel with an altar. The room is decorated to give a three-dimensional impression of wooden panelling and the ceiling painted to depict the night sky, decorated with stars. During Charles’ stay at Moseley, the room would have been used for storage with many of the religious objects hidden in case the house was searched; Catholic’s in this time were still highly persecuted.
The Dining Room, Kitchen & Entrance Hall
Walking down the stairs to the ground floor, you arrive in the house’s dining room, kitchen and entrance hall. The table, purchased by the National Trust after they took ownership of the house in the 1960s, is thought to be the same table that was sold and removed from the house years earlier.
The master of the house would have sat at the head of the table with his guest of honour sat next to him. The further down the table people were the less important they were, and lesser quality food was given to them. Food would have been cooked in the fireplace, we were shown a long-handled frying pan, which would have been held at a distance to prevent clothing being set alight by the fire.
The last room on the tour was the Parlour, on the wall next to the door is a painting of Jane Lane, the lady who risked her life helping Charles II to escape to Bristol masquerading as her servant. The Parlour is one of few rooms where wooden panelling was not ripped from the walls and sold due to its high value. Above the fireplace is a painting of Charles II, you will notice around the house there are numerous paintings of the Stuart family, in the King’s Room for example, opposite the bed is a painting of Charles II’s mother Henrietta-Marie.
We were quite impressed with our tour guide (appropriately named Mr Bennet), he was very enthusiastic about the history of Moseley Old Hall and regaled us with many anecdotes. Below are a few other photos from Moseley Old Hall.
After visiting Moseley Old Hall, shopping for some shoes and enjoying a friend’s birthday, Kate and I spent the following morning watching the BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, allowing her to swoon over Dan Stevens, the actor famous for playing Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey who was Edward Ferrars in the Jane Austen series.
Next week we plan to visit Attingham Park near Shrewsbury, a stately home I have yet to visit despite living just a few miles down the road for the majority of my life. I hope the weather holds out.
- http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/moseley-old-hall/ – Official National Trust Webpage