The 1843 tithe map gives an idea of how the area would have looked. The windmill was at the top of Dorsett Road.

The peasants' houses would have consisted of a wooden floorless building, with a thatched roof and wattle and daub walls. They would have had an unglazed window, with a hole in the roof through which the smoke from the fire escaped. Many of them included an area for stabling cattle.
In contrast the manor would be a comfortable stone built house, possibly surrounded by a moat. Often these were two storey buildings, the ground floor being used for storage.
Early references to Darlaston are few and far between. The earliest possible one is from the Rolls of the Exchequer that contain accounts of Royal income relating to the imposition of fines and other matters. Pipe Roll 13 of Henry II records that Alan de Nevill visited Darlaston in the autumn of 1166 and informed William of the manor of Darlaston that he had to pay a fine. Unfortunately no surname is given and the reference could in fact be to the other Darlaston near Stoke.

The de Darlaston family

Stebbing Shaw in his "History and Antiquities of Staffordshire" from 1801 states that William de Darlaston was Lord of the Manor in the first half of the 13th century, Thomas de Darlaston was lord in 1306 and Roger de Darlaston was lord in 1402.

Bentley Mill Way is named after a water mill that was built in the middle of the 13th century to produce flour. In 1239 Thomas de Darlaston granted William de Bentley the right to establish a mill and mill pond, and divert all of the local waters for the purpose. In 1408 the mill became the property of the Lane family.

Shaw mentions a number of grants of land that were made by the de Darlaston family. Unfortunately it's impossible to determine the exact whereabouts of most of the plots, but the recipients were probably inhabitants of the town and so it's possible to make a list of some of the more important residents at the time:

Year Resident
1240 William Pyre
1240 Nicholas de Wilenhale (Willenhall)
1240 Wiliam Trumwyne
1292 Henry de Wytton
1340 John de Acton
1340 John Le Harpur
1370 Roger de Pype
1370 John Wylkys (Wilkes)
1404 Nicholas Longley
1404 Roger Hillary
1404 Thomas Rysston
1404 John and Thomas Harper
1404 Roger Molleslaye
1406 John Costernoght was parson of Darlaston church

The de Darlaston family were tenants of the king. The last of the male line, Roger de Darlaston died in 1421 and was married to Idonia. They had one son Thomas who married Alice. Unfortunately he died before his father and was childless. When Roger died Darlaston passed into the hands of King Henry V. A year later Henry VI came to the throne and in 1434 he gave Darlaston to Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford, as a gift.

Several references to the de Darlaston family can be found in 13th and 14th century judicial records. The Court Leet, a type of manorial court, first appeared in Saxon times and is still held in some places today. The court came under the control of the Lord of the Manor under a franchise from the crown. The principal functions of the court were to preserve the rights of the Lord of the Manor and deal with breaches of the peace and criminal affairs.

As Darlaston was still a part of the Manor of Sedgley it did not have its own Court Leet, but Wednesbury did, and many of the court records still survive. One of the officers at the court was the steward, who supervised the estate, organised its economy and maintained justice. In 1344 the steward is listed as Henry de Darlaston.

In 1293 William de Darlaston claimed that he had been deprived of the possession of his right of common in Wednesbury. His claim came before the court but was dismissed because Wednesbury was seen as an ancient manor, whereas Darlaston, where the tenement to the alleged right of common was situated, was not.

A final reference to the de Darlaston family is from 1365. Two families, the Heronvilles and the Hillarys quarrelled for many years over their rights to Wednesbury water mill. In a brawl about the mill Robert de Darlaston struck William Wolrych on the head with his sword. Four days later William died and Robert was accused of his murder. It seems that Robert was Roger Hillary's agent and luckily for them, they were both pardoned for the offence.

The Subsidy Rolls

The Subsidy Rolls of 1327 and 1332 to 1333 include the names of individuals assessed for tax. Only the richer members of society were eligible to pay the tax and so the list cannot be used to calculate population figures, but does provide an indication of the comparative size and prosperity of Darlaston and the surrounding towns. The amount of tax paid was based upon the value of movable goods that were owned by each person and the status of the town. People living in cities, boroughs and ancient manors paid one tenth of the value, whereas others paid one fifteenth of the value. People whose movable goods were valued at less than 10 shillings were exempt.

Subsidy Rolls - 1327

Tax Payers     Amount Paid
William de Darlaston     4 shillings ¾d.
Agnes de Darlaston     2 shillings ½d.
John de Pipe     1 shilling 10½d.
Henry de Wytton     2 shillings ½d.
Nicholas the Bond     1 shilling 6¼d.
Thomas Lovet     2 shillings 0d.
Richard son of Robert     0 shillings 7d.
Total Amount   14 shillings 1½d.
     

Subsidy Rolls - 1332 to 1333

Place fraction of
value paid
No. of taxpayers Amount paid Total value of goods
Darlaston and Bentley 1/15th 12   £0.17s.0d.   £12.15s.0d.
Wednesbury 1/10th 13   £1.19s.1d.     £19.10s.10d.
Walsall 1/10th 25   £3.16s.0d. £38.0s.0d.
Willenhall 1/15th 16   £1.13s.0d.   £24.15s.0d.
Bilston 1/15th 11 £1.3s.0d. £17.5s.0d.
West Bromwich 1/15th 11   £1.12s.0d. £24.0s.0d.
Tipton 1/15th 9   £1.14s.8d. £26.0s.0d.
Wolverhampton 1/15th 30 £3.0s.8d.   £45.10s.0d.
Wednesfield 1/15th 14   £1.10s.0d.   £22.10s.0d.
Birmingham 1/15th 69 £9.1s.4d.   £136.0s.0d.
         


St. Lawrence's Church.

The original church built by the de Darlaston family is said to have been made of rubble. In the middle of the 15th century it was rebuilt in oak, the trees being given to the town by the Baron of Dudley, from his forest of Kinver.

The earliest documentary evidence of the church, states that John Costenought was Parish Priest in 1406.

In 1606 the wooden tower was rebuilt in stone after becoming unsafe, but a few years later the whole church was destroyed by fire and reconstructed using odd pieces of stone that were to hand.

Roger Wilkes became tenant of Darlaston in 1434 and his tenancy quickly passed on to William Wilkes, presumably his son. In the same year William gave up his right to Darlaston and his land at Yardley, Worcestershire in return for 200 marks in silver paid by the Earl of Stafford at Westminster. William's land in Darlaston consisted of 40 acres of land and 6 acres of meadow.

Shaw also states that in 1435 the Earl of Stafford had 29 tenants in Darlaston including:

John Harper, Thomas Harper, John Harper de Rushall, Thomas at Hoo, Henry de Hoo, Robert Marshall, Roger Mollesley, John Pipe, Roger Wilkes and Thomas Wilkes.

The annual rent amounted to £7.16s.10d. and included £1.3s.4d. for the manor house and 2 crofts, paid annually by Thomas Harper and Roger Moseley. In 1543 Edward Hayes who was Lord Stafford's steward lived at the manor house, then called the Great Croft.

In 1563 Bishop Bentham of Lichfield sent a return of all the parishes in his diocese to the Privy Council. The figures listing the number of households can be used as an indication of the relative size of each parish. It is suggested that a rough estimate of the actual population can be made by multiplying the figures by 6

     Parish 

Number of Households in 1563 Estimated population
Darlaston  42  252
Walsall 290 1740
Wednesbury 132 792
West Bromwich 116 696
Wolverhampton 323 1938

The fortunes of the Stafford family soon declined and Darlaston was acquired by Sir Thomas Offley, the successful Merchant Taylor who became Lord Mayor of London in 1556. Thomas died in 1582 and his eldest son Henry succeeded him. Henry died on 3rd September, 1614 and was succeeded by his eldest son Sir John of Madeley (Madeley in Staffordshire).

In 1642 at the outbreak of the Civil War, all males aged 18 and over were required to swear an oath of adherence to the Protestant religion. The names of the individuals were not recorded, or the numbers if any, of the absentees. Hoskyns in his “Local History in England” suggests that an estimate of the actual population can be made by doubling the figures so as to include women, and multiply the result by 1.66 to include children. The list for some of the local towns is as follows:

      Town Subscribers Roughly Estimated population
Darlaston  150 500
Tipton  160 533
Wednesbury 368 1226
West Bromwich 391 1303

The Hearth Tax

In 1662 the government of Charles II introduced the Hearth Tax to raise much needed funds. Each householder whose house was worth more than 20s a year, and who contributed to local church and poor rates was eligible to pay the tax. The payment, due twice a year, was based upon the number of hearths in the property and consisted of 1 shilling for each hearth. Large numbers of people were exempt from the tax and they were required to obtain a certificate of exemption from the parish clergyman. The list of taxpayers only gives the number of householders and like the Subsidy Rolls, it cannot be used to calculate population figures, but does give an indication of the comparative size and prosperity of the local towns.

Hearth Tax 1665

Town

Number of
Householders

Householders
Not Charged

Householders
Charged

Number of
Hearths

Darlaston 145 87 58 78
Wednesbury 218 84 134 289
Walsall 645 345 300 740
Wolverhampton 858 359 499 925
Tipton 115 45 70 122
West Bromwich 311 117 194 363

The Leveson-Gower family

In his "History and Antiquities of Staffordshire" Shaw mentions a link with the Leveson-Gower family of Wolverhampton:

In this manor the Lord Gower hath two tenements, for which he pays 1s.7d. yearly to John Offley esq., lord of the manor, as a chief rent.

Shaw also includes another link with the Levesons:

Some parts of the lands in Darlaston were chantry lands and purchased by William and Edward Leveson.

Note:
Chantry lands were the site of chapels that were built to house the Chantry Priests who were paid to sing masses for the salvation of souls. Chantries were dissolved in the mid 16th century as a result of several Acts of Parliament that were Passed by Henry VIII.

Shaw also includes an early mention of coal mining in the area:

There being good coal mines in the manor of Darlaston, some of which lay in the grounds of Sir John Leveson Gower, bart., he came to this agreement with Mrs. Offley, June 15th, 1698, for £20 fine, and a good oak timber tree out of Madeley Park, that Mrs. Offley and her assigns should enjoy all the coals within such boundaries for 200 years, doing no damage to the tenants or my Lady Gower's land, rent a peppercorn yearly.

Note:
A peppercorn rent is a nominal rent intended to demonstrate that a property is leasehold and not freehold.


Pinfold Street in the early 1970s.

This view of Pinfold Street shows the old Wesleyan school on the left and the Black Horse pub on the right. The shops were all open for business and the buildings were in good repair. The shops to the left of the pub (R to L) were as follows: Wolverhampton Steam Laundry, Smith's Fish & Chips, Toppers, Bayley Photographer,
Mitchell's Pram Shop, Mitchell's Cycles, a greengrocer, Mitchell's TV and Radio, Mitchells Fashion and Boynton's butcher's shop.

Frederick Hackwood in his book "A History of Darlaston" published in 1887 describes an old custom of the Leveson family that took place in Darlaston:

With regard to their mining and other property in Darlaston, it may be remembered by some of the older inhabitants that up to about 40 years ago the Leveson-Gowers regularly gave an annual rent dinner. One of the last dinners was held at the Swan Inn, Moxley.

He goes on to say that:

No property is now held in Darlaston by this family; when they disposed of it the local families of Mills and Addenbrooke purchased the bulk.

In 1801 accurate population figures were available for the first time thanks to the first national census. The figures for Darlaston and its neighbouring towns are as follows:

    Town   Population
Bilston  6,914
Birmingham  73,670
Darlaston   3,812
Tipton 4,280
Walsall   10,399
Wednesbury 4,160
West Bromwich  5,687
Willenhall   3,143
Wolverhampton 12,565

The connection with Crewe

Darlaston also had a link with Crewe. John Offley married Anne, the sole heiress of John Crewe of Crewe. Their eldest son, also called John, took the name of Crewe in 1708 and his grandson John became Lord Crewe in 1806.

The Crewe family continued as lords of the manor until the mid 19th century. St. George's Church was built in 1851 on what remained of Darlaston Green, after a battle between neighbouring landowners who had previously extended their land onto the Green and erected fences around it. They were jealous of each other's illegal acquisition of land and many arguments and squabbles followed. Fences would be torn down at night and the situation began to get out of control. The proposal to build a church and graveyard on the disputed territory was welcomed by all as a solution to the problem. Everyone agreed to relinquish their claim if Lord Crewe would agree to relinquish his mineral rights in the area. The Crewe family made little profit from their rights and so Lord Crewe had his manorial claim valued. The value was 19 guineas and on receiving this sum from the locals he relinquished his rights and immediately returned the sum as a donation towards the building fund. So ended the manor of Darlaston.

Hackwood also mentions:

"suit and service" were owed to the Lord of the Manor of Sedgley. The Darlaston manorial officers who comprised of two Constables, one Crier, and one Pinner were annually elected at Sedgley Court Leet, up to a period so recent as twenty years ago.

Suit and Service was an old feudal law which stated that it was the duty of landowners to attend the courts of their lords or superiors in time of peace, and in war to do military service. The Court Leet was granted by the monarch to the manorial lord giving him legal authority over the landowners. The fact that this was still in use in the mid 19th century shows the close ties that still existed between Darlaston and Sedgley. When the annual elections ended in about 1860 the post of town pinner ceased to exist. The pinner was responsible for rounding up stray animals which were kept in an enclosure called a pinfold, until reclaimed by their owners on the payment of a fine. The pinfold, which soon closed was situated in Pinfold Street.


   
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