The Civil War

At the outbreak of war in August 1642, Dudley Castle was a Royalist stronghold, with a large number of troops, commanded by Colonel Thomas Leveson, a major supporter of the king.

It was besieged by Parliamentary forces in 1644 when the castle was briefly attacked by Parliamentarians who were successfully overcome by a Royalist relieving force from Worcester. During the war, troops from the castle constantly harassed the enemy. By June, 1645, the King’s last field army had been decimated at the battle of Naseby, leaving the Royalist garrisons isolated and vulnerable. In 1646 Thomas Leveson clearly felt the vulnerability of the castle and so he ordered the demolition of St. Edmund’s Church to deny his enemy any cover. After demolition, the site of the church was left empty and much of the stonework lay around in large piles.

Towards the end of April, a band of Royalist troops, commanded by Sir William Brereton, arrived at Dudley and the Royalists panicked and set alight to five houses in Castle Street which began to look like a war zone. The people of Dudley ignored the inferno, possibly, because of random firing from troops in the castle. Leveson's troops began to drive cattle from the market place to the castle, but gave this up when the remaining cattle in the market place were terrified of the flames and the noise and possibly began to stampede. Brereton's troops damped-down the fires and rounded-up the remaining cattle before returning them to their owners.

Brereton decided to keep the Royalist troops in the castle and built a stone barricade from the end of Castle Street to the Priory ruins, using much of the stone from the demolished church to keep the Royalists there and act as cover for his men. The garrison at Dudley Castle finally surrendered to Parliamentarian forces led by Sir William Brereton, on the 13th May, 1646, after a siege lasting two weeks.

Knowing that the King’s cause was lost, Leveson surrendered his garrison of 40 officers and 300 men who were given safe passage from the town after leaving their weapon’s and a year’s supply of provisions behind. In 1647 Parliament ordered the destruction of the castle’s defences, which left the keep and the gatehouse in ruins.

The people living in the castle during the Civil War must have lived in comparative luxury. Archaeological digs in the mid 1980s discovered a lot of material from that time that had been thrown into the chutes from the toilets. The toilets in the keep consisted of chambers constructed within the thick walls, which were connected to stone chutes that dropped 30 feet from the upper floors into pits. The pits gradually filled with excrement and other refuse. The lower chute was later emptied, but not the upper one. Ashes from the keep and kitchen annex were also dumped in this area, which provided a rich deposit of finds including large quantities of pottery the remains of glass vessels. There were glass bottles, beakers, urinals and drinking glasses.

There were many food remains that give an insight into the garrison’s diet. It seems that the occupants stocked-up with large quantities of food, some of which was possibly grown within the castle or nearby. Large quantities of wild strawberries were consumed, some possibly in the form of jam, as well as raisins and dried figs. Many apple cores were found along with a few pips, that could have been consumed in the form of raw fruit or cider. Animal bones revealed that most of the meat eaten was mutton and rabbit, along with smaller quantities of pork, venison, and beef. There were cereal grains, used in bread, as well as traces of hemlock, which may have been used as an anaesthetic, which would have been extremely dangerous and potentially lethal.

In the mid 17th century, there was no toilet paper and so people cleaned themselves with leaves. The garrison began to suffer from a leaf shortage and so in desperation, fine garments, furniture upholstery and even beautiful tapestries were cut into small squares. Also found in the remains were reusable condoms, made from sheep gut, which were the oldest condoms found anywhere in the world.

After the destruction of the castle’s defences in 1647, some habitable buildings remained and were occasionally used by the Earls of Dudley, who by this time resided at Himley Hall.

Read about
Dudley Castle


Dudley Town Centre

After the Royalists’ defeat at the castle, there must have been a vast amount of clearing-up and building work to be done in the town centre, before life could return to some kind of normality for the locals. On the 30th September, 1648 it was decided that both parishes (St. Thomas and St. Edmund) should work together to repair St. Thomas’s Church, where they could both worship. Work included enlarging many of the windows, rebuilding the north entrance and giving the church a more classical appearance. The tower itself was untouched.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, there was much poverty in Dudley. In 1585, Sir Amias Paulet, an English diplomat and Governor of Jersey, described Dudley as one of the poorest towns he had seen in his lifetime. In 1617 the inhabitants petitioned for a collection in the county for their poor because of an epidemic. Things greatly improved after the Civil War as can be seen from the Hearth Tax returns in 1662, when 228 people were eligible for the tax.

In the early 18th century, the parish church of St. Edmund, known as 'bottom church' was rebuilt. The new church was paid for by two brothers, Richard and George Bradley, and by subscriptions from the parishioners. It was built of red brick with stone dressings, and has a chancel, a nave, aisles, a south porch and an embattled west tower. The new church opened in 1724.

Read about
Dudley Priory


The Ward Family

Lord Ward, born in 1614, died on the 14th October, 1670 and his son, Edward, became the 2nd Baron Ward. Lord Ward’s wife, Frances, died on the 11th August, 1697. Edward’s grandson, also called Edward Ward (1683–1704), became the 3rd Baron Ward in 1701. He was educated at Rugby School and married Diana Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, Teller of the Exchequer. Edward died of smallpox in 1704 and was buried at Himley. At the time of Edward’s death, Diana was pregnant with their only son, who became Baron Ward at his birth in 1704.

He was succeeded by his son Edward and died in 1731, having never married. His heir was his uncle, William Ward (1685-1740), who became the 5th Lord Ward. He also never married and on his death in 1740, the baronies became separated, the Barony of Dudley descended to his nephew, Ferdinando Dudley Lea (1710-1757), whilst the Barony of Ward, together with Dudley Castle, were inherited by John Ward (1704-1774), who became Viscount Dudley and Ward in 1763.

Ferdinando Dudley Lea took his seat in the House of Lords in 1740 and inherited Halesowen Grange from his father, William Lea. He did not inherit the ancestral lands of the Barons Dudley and Ward, which were passed-on to John Ward. Ferdinando died at Halesowen Grange on the 21st October, 1757 and the title of Baron of Dudley fell into abeyance between his sisters.

John Ward (1704-1774), was the son of William Ward. His mother was Mary, daughter of John Grey, younger son of Henry Grey, 1st Earl of Stamford. John Ward inherited the Willingsworth estate and the rest of the manor of Sedgley, on the death of his father in 1720, and a portion of the Dudley estates on the death of his cousin William Ward, in 1740.

John was a Tory Member of Parliament for Newcastle under Lyme from 1727 until 1734 and became 6th Baron Ward of Birmingham on the 20th May, 1740, then in 1763 he became 1st Viscount Dudley and Ward. He married twice, firstly to Anna Maria, daughter of Charles Bourchier, in 1723. They had a son, John Ward (1725-1788), but sadly Anna Maria died on the 12th December, 1725. In 1745, John Ward married Mary, daughter of John Carver. They had two children: Humble Ward, born in 1747 who died in infancy; and William Ward (1750-1823), who later became 3rd Viscount Dudley and Ward in 1788. John Ward died on the 6th May, 1774 at the age of 70.

John Ward and Anna Maria’s son, John (1725-1788), was educated at Oriel College, Oxford and in 1754 was elected as a Member of Parliament for Marlborough, a seat he held until 1761 when he became Member of Parliament for Worcestershire. He represented Worcestershire until 1774. In 1775 he succeeded his late father as 2nd Viscount Dudley and Ward, and entered the House of Lords.

John Ward married Mary, daughter of Gamaliel Fair, gardener and seeds-man, who died on the 17th December, 1758, at the age of 69. He later lived-with, and had a child with Mrs. Mary Baker, whom he later married. Their child, Anna Maria Ward (1778-1837), was well looked-after by her parents and married Sir Horace St Paul in 1803. John Ward died in October 1788, at the age of 63. Because he had no sons, he was succeeded in the viscountcy by his half-brother, William Ward (1750-1823), who became 3rd Viscount Dudley and Ward.

William Ward was elected to the House of Commons for Worcester in 1780 and held the seat until 1788, when his half-brother died and he became 3rd Viscount Dudley and Ward. In 1780 he married Julia Bosville, younger daughter of Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite, Yorkshire. He died in April 1823, at the age of 73 and was succeeded by his son John William Ward (1781-1833), who was created 1st Earl of Dudley in 1827.

John William Ward was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, followed by Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He became a Member of Parliament for Downton in 1802, then from 1803 to 1806 represented Worcestershire, followed by Petersfield from 1806 to 1807, Wareham from 1807 to 1812, Ilchester from 1812 to 1819 and Bossiney from 1819 to 1823. In 1827 he was appointed Foreign Secretary, a post he held until May 1828. In 1827 he was created Viscount Ednam, of Ednam, in the County of Roxburgh, and 1st Earl of Dudley.

John William Ward inherited estates in Jamaica from his grandmother Mary and also inherited land with coal and limestone workings and furnaces in the Black Country. His mineral agent Francis Downing, signed an agreement with James Foster, a local ironmaster in 1827, for the building of a railway line from John William Ward’s coal mines to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. The line opened in June 1829 and was operated by the early steam locomotive Agenoria. This line was later connected to several railways owned by Ward's successors, which became known as the Earl of Dudley’s Railway.

John William Ward died unmarried on the 6th March, 1833, at the age of 51. His two viscountcies and the earldom ended on his death. He died a wealthy man, leaving £350,000 in his will.

In 1653 a market hall, called the Town Hall, was built next to the market on the site now occupied by the fountain.

It was built of brick with stone parapets and had a clock tower near the front, facing High Street.

It survived until 1860 when it was demolished after falling into a sad state of repair.

The arches provided a useful space beneath for use by market traders.

It was later used as a police station and a magistrate’s court, but eventually it became an eyesore.

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