Coseley, like the surrounding area, was covered by dense woodland, interrupted only by local rivers and streams. It would seem that the area was largely unoccupied until Saxon times, even the Romans left few traces there.

The area was initially colonised by the Anglo-Saxons. They came from France, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Angles and Saxons first reached our shores during the Roman occupation and were mentioned by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, who considered them as barbarians along with the Picts and Scots. He mentions raids in 365. The mid-fifth century Gallic Chronicle mentions a large raid in 410, after the Roman army had departed.

At this time there were frequent raids by continental pirates and many towns employed mercenary soldiers for protection. These soldiers were Angles and Saxons from northern Germany who brought their families with them and were given farmland as payment for their services. Soon the mercenaries realised that they were stronger than their employers and so began to take over the running of many areas. The Anglo-Saxons slowly colonised England, moving northwards and westwards, pushing the native Celts into Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

Anglo-Saxon England was a turbulent country with a number of competing kingdoms, always under threat from European invaders. As the Anglo-Saxons slowly colonised the country, seven kingdoms were established which later became known as the “Heptarchy”. They were: East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex. Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex were in a continuous state of war.

South Staffordshire was a part of Mercia, which was derived from the old English word “Mierce”, meaning People of the Boundaries. It was founded in the 6th century. The kingdom developed from settlements in the upper Trent valley and was colonised by a band of Angles called the Iclingas. Slowly the area was populated and the kingdoms of the Saxon and Angles in the midlands amalgamated to form the kingdom of Mercia, with its capital at Tamworth.

Settlers moving into the area would have found or made clearings in the woodland to build their houses, keep their cattle and grow their crops. It seems likely that early colonisation of the Black Country began in the 7th or 8th century when a tribe called the Anglian Mercens came from the north. Initially they followed the Trent Valley, and began spreading along the valleys of the Tame and its tributaries. They were known as the Tomsaetan (dwellers by the Tame). The River Tame flows through Wednesbury, Tipton and Oldbury. They would have been the first people to settle here, and no doubt made use of the ready-made clearings, and the excellent water supply from the local brooks. One of them, Cockle Brook, flows off the Dudley and Sedgley hills into Wall Brook, and finally into the River Tame.

Evidence for early settlements can be found in many of the names of local towns, which are Anglo-Saxon in origin. The old English word “leah” means a woodland clearing and can be found in the following local place names:

Bentley, Brierley Hill, Coseley (or Colseleye), Cradley Heath, Dudley, Graiseley, Himley, Moseley, Oxley, Sedgley, Wordsley and Wrottesley.

Sedgley means Secg's clearing, Dudley means Dudda's clearing, and part of Darlaston is known as The Leys. The old English word “halh” meaning a pocket of land appears in the following names:

Blakenhall, Ettingshall, Tettenhall and Willenhall, which means the meadowland of Willan.

The old English word “tun” means a settlement and this is found in Bilston, Darlaston and Wolverhampton. Wednesbury is recorded as Wadnesberie. The first part of the name (Wadnes) refers to Woden, the Saxon's god of war, and the second part (berie) is derived from the old English byrig, meaning a burgh, or burh, which is a fort. So Wednesbury means Woden's fort. The old name for Tipton was 'Tibbington'. The middle part of the name 'ing' simply means plural, so the name refers to the settlement of the Tibbs, the surname of the settling family, or their leader.

In 913, Stafford became the capital of Mercia, after it had been fortified by Queen Aethelfaed. Within a few years, the Shire of Stafford was formed. It was divided into 5 'Hundreds', each consisting of an area roughly supporting 100 households. They were Cuttlestone, Offlow, Pirehill, Seisdon and Totmonslow. Part of Coseley was in Ettingshall, with the remainder in Sedgley. Ettingshall in its original form extended from Parkfield to Woodsetton. Both were in the Hundred of Seisdon, which would have been headed by a hundred-man or hundred elder, who oversaw justice and administration in the area, organised the supply of soldiers, and led them into battle. Hundreds were usually named after the place where meetings where held, to discuss local issues, and where trials took place.

Coseley would have had a small farming community that existed for several hundred years. Around one sixth of the land would probably have been cleared for farming, all that was necessary to support such a small population.

The first recorded reference to any part of what is now Coseley and the immediate surrounding area, can be found in Lady Wulfrun’s Charter in 994 which describes the boundaries of the land that she endowed to Wolverhampton Church (Now St. Peter’s, then St. Mary’s). Lady Wulfrun was possibly the sister of King Edgar, and the mother of Wulfric Spot. It includes a reference to Hinde Brook and Ettingshall. Lady Wulfrun is supposed to have had a healing spring near to Spring Vale in Ettingshall and there is a tradition that another of her healing wells, Hollywell, was at Hurst Hill.

Prior to the Norman invasion, both Ettingshall and Sedgley were held by Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his wife, Lady Godiva. They had a son, Algar (Elf-spear), who was appointed Earl of East Anglia by King Edward in 1051, after Leofric had helped to suppress Earl Godwin’s revolt. Algar owned a lot of land in Mercia and became Earl of Mercia on his father’s death in 1057.


After the Norman invasion in 1066, William the Conqueror made it known that he personally owned all of the land in the country. He appointed around 200 barons as tenants in chief, and allowed them to hold large areas of land, in exchange for the payment of taxes, and the provision of soldiers when necessary. The system, later known as feudalism, was the key to the Norman's success.

The Normans were descended from Vikings who had settled in Normandy, married into the local population and adopted the French culture. After the invasion, they quickly gained control of the southern part of the county, but were met with hostility in the north and east.

The Normans held on to the Saxon 'Hundreds', but carved-up the land into areas called manors, each controlled by a Baron, or Norman Lord. They had to take an oath of loyalty to the King, carry-out any required duties, and pay taxes for their land.

Staffordshire came under the control of a Norman baron called Ansculf de Picquigny, who fortified the hill above Dudley. Some time after 1070 he built the first Dudley Castle, a motte and bailey structure, consisting of an earthen mound topped with a timber tower, surrounded by a defensive timber palisade. He was known as the Sheriff of Buckingham, and lived until the mid 1080s. After his death, his son, William Fitz Ansculf, inherited his title and lands. He was in control of more than 80 manors, scattered across several counties and like his father, was based at Dudley Castle. Very little remains of the 11th century buildings, most of what we see today dates from the 14th century.

William Fitzansculph’s holdings included Amblecote, Aston, Birmingham, Bushbury, Chasepool, Dudley, Edgbaston, Enville, Erdington, Essington, Ettingshall, Great Barr, Handsworth, Himley, Moseley, Newport Pagnell, Orton, Oxley, Pendeford, Penn, Perry Barr, Sedgley, Seisdon, Trysull, Witton, and Wombourne.

William’s tenant at Ettingshall was Robert de Thurstan, who was also tenant at some of William’s other holdings, including Bushbury, Moseley, Oxley and Upper Penn.

In 1085 the Danes threatened to invade, and so King William decided to commission a detailed audit of the country, to extract all of the taxes owed to him, and to ensure that the maximum number of soldiers were available to deal with the expected invasion. The survey was so detailed that an entry in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle states that 'not even an ox, or a cow, or a swine was not set down in his writ.' It seemed so invasive, and all-seeing, that it felt as though judgement day had come. As a result it became known as the Domesday Book.

All 400 pages of the book, record in extraordinary detail, how the Normans organised their new kingdom. Everything on the estate would have been owned and controlled by the manor, or the clergy, including property, money, religion, and even marriage. There were labour services to do on the land, and heavy rents to be paid. The majority of food produced, and animals reared were consumed by the lord of the manor and his household. Many families lived off a simple vegetable soup called pottage. The average life expectancy was just 25.

At the time, Coseley, with its tiny community, was of little interest and so is not directly listed in the Domesday Book, which does however include Sedgley and Ettingshall. A team of investigators would arrive in an area where they would meet with the landowner, the local priest and a group of older villagers.

Each manor would include several villages whose inhabitants were called peasants. There were several classes of peasant. The highest was a freeman who was free to pursue a trade. The other classes were owned as part of the land and were not free to move around. They were villeins, bordars, cottars and serfs. A villein offered agricultural services to his lord, a bordar was a smallholder who farmed on the edge of a settlement, a cottar was a cottager and a serf was an agricultural labourer. In return the lord of the manor was supposed to protect and help them. The other major landowner was the church. Bishops and abbots could be tenants in chief or lesser tenants.

The information gathered for Ettingshall was as follows: 9 villagers, 3 cottagers and 2 ploughs. The 12 households meant a population of around 60. There were 4 ploughlands, 2 lord's plough teams, 2 men's plough teams, 5 acres of meadow and an area of woodland occupying 3 by 3 furlongs, approximately 3,642 square metres. The annual rent was 1 pound 10 shillings.

The information gathered for Sedgley was in two entries, as follows: The larger settlement had 45 villagers, 2 cottagers, 3 slaves, one priest and 12 ploughs. The smaller settlement had 9 villagers with 2 ploughs and 2 acres of meadow. The population would have been around 300. The annual rent was 20 shillings.

The Domesday Book was not completed until after King William’s death on 9th September 1087. Today it is the most important source of information about village life in the Middle Ages.

In Saxon and Norman times there would have been just a few single storey timber framed buildings, possibly clad with timber, or even wattle and daub, and covered with a thatched, or turfed roof. There would have been a hearth for a fire, with the smoke escaping through the roof, wooden furniture and a wooden chest for storing valuables. The houses would have been surrounded by farmland for crops, and grazing for cattle.

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