Early Days: Farm and Forest

We cannot know when Pendeford started.  At some time during that period which Historians have called the Dark Ages a group of people, moving away from an established and growing settlement and fired with the need to find a new place for themselves, cut down trees, built shelters and cleared land for a few fields.  The name they gave the place was Pendeford.  They did not know how to write it down  but perhaps it was named after their leader, Penda, or maybe they simply described their place by a track crossing over the tiny river Penk.

Whatever its beginnings, the name has survived.  It was Pendeford when William the Conqueror's surveyors rode through and collected information for his great Domesday Book which recorded the worth of England.  Pendeford is unusual in that the name is spelt exactly the same now as it was back in 1086, unlike nearby Totenhale, Bilbroch and Codeshale.  Wolverhampton at that time was Hantone.

At the time of the Domesday survey, Pendeford was worth twenty shillings. For comparison, Lichfield was valued at £15 and Oxley at 15 shillings.  It had been held by Ulstan and Godwin, two locals, before the Battle of Hastings, but was now part of the land granted to William Fitz Ansculf, a Norman knight, as his reward for serving William the Conqueror.  Fitz Ansculf built his castle at Dudley and held several other local manors including Aldridge, Trysull and Moseley.  Almar held the land for William, running the manor from day to day.

Staffordshire wasn't a rich county in the eleventh century and Pendeford was probably little more than a cluster of poor huts.  Its site was possibly near to where the old Roman road crossed the little river Penk - to the north of the present Lower Pendeford Farm or maybe on the high ground where Pendeford Hall and Upper Pendeford Farm now stand.  Domesday Book tells us that there were two hides : a hide was originally the amount of land needed to support a family but by 1086 it had changed its meaning and usually represented an area of about 120 acres.  Part of the land, the demesne, was farmed by the Lord of the Manor or his agent, in Pendeford's case Almar, with compulsory help from the bordars (cottagers who may have had some land of their own but mostly worked for others) and villeins (men who held more land than the bordars and who could support their families from it).  At Pendeford there were three serfs working on the demesne.  They were little more than slaves who could not leave the manor or even marry without the Lord's permission.

With a population of maybe sixty souls, Pendeford in the eleventh century certainly wasn't bursting at the seams - the land wasn't even being used to capacity for although there was enough for three ploughs, only two were being kept busy.

If they wanted to get to the nearby manors of Totenhale and Bilbroch the local folk would have had to follow thin tracks through thick woods while a visit to Biscopesberie on the hill would have involved skirting the marshes around Alleycroft Lake.  A trip to Cove may have been easier for the course of an old Roman road followed what may have been a grassy ride through Coven Lawns.

The Manor of Pendeford, though a part of Tettenhall Parish, was included in the Royal Forest of Cannock, whose western boundary followed "the road to Pendeford", possibly Lawn Lane, from Coven. The borders of the forest of Cannock were described in various documents as …ascending by that river (Penk) as far as the bridge of Coven below Brewood Park, and then by that road as far as Pendeford, and thus from Pendeford ascending through the middle of Fossemor next to the syke as far as Oxeford, and from Oxeford as far as Wolverhampton…

A Royal Forest was not necessarily fully wooded but was a hunting reserve which was governed by a strict set of laws. In theory, though not in practice for a fine raised more revenue, ordinary folk could lose parts of their body if they were caught poaching in the forest and several Lords of the Manor of Pendeford were fined for trespassing.

It is possibly about this time that the village of Pendeford was deserted.  Thousands of villages in England were deserted by their inhabitants during the Middle Ages, some because of plague or war, many because of changes in the local economy.  In the case of Pendeford it seems possible that the situation of the village, where Cannock Forest met Brewood Forest, led to the desertion.  Forest law could well have made life difficult for farmers within its bounds.  Another possibility is that the village was deserted in the seventeenth century when the hall was rebuilt.

What we hear of Pendeford through the rest of the Middle Ages is largely from accounts of various court cases where the locals were breaking Forest Laws. The name "Pendeford" was adopted by local families who took on positions in the Forests.

Similar namings happened in other parts of the area and we hear of Alfred of Barnhurst in the late thirteenth century.  In 1377 a John Barnhurst was a poll tax collector for Tettenhall.

In the early 13th century one Robert de Pendeford appeared as a witness on local deeds as did his son of the same name.  Records from the Royal Forest of Cannock tell that John de Pendeford was fined 2 shillings for clearing  half an acre of forest land for his own use.  Forest laws were in the background of all their lives and the de Pendefords, who acted as verderers or forest guardians, seemed to live precariously on both sides of the law and were occasionally  in dispute with their neighbours.

In 1272 it was recorded at Lichfield assizes that John de Pendeford and a John Mouner (miller) had had a disagreement in which de Pendeford had struck the other man over the head with a stick.  In retaliation Mouner had stabbed de Pendeford fatally, fled and was outlawed.

Four years later another John de Pendeford is mentioned, for in 1276 -  It was presented that on the Thursday before Easter a certain buck was driven from the park at Brewoode and followed by a greyhound which caught it in the fields of Coven, within the forest; and one Hugh de Pendeford came up, who is now dead, and took the greyhound away and retained it without warrant.  And John de Pendeford, who was at that time a verderer of the forest, came up and caused the buck to be skinned and carried to his house at Pendeford, and shortly afterwards he sold all his land and other goods he held within the county, and went beyond the sea and has never returned.

It was this John de Pendeford, elected as a verderer by the knights and sheriff of Staffordshire in full court to serve the king, who, in 1278, sold the manor to the Prior and Monks of St. Thomas's near Stafford.   He seems to have lived abroad for several years for it was not until 1293 that his widow, Agnes, claimed dower out of his lands.

There was a shepherd at Pendeford in 1278 and he may have been the same man as Richard the Shepherd (Richard le Bercher) who, in 1304, had the right to pasture 6 oxen, 12 cattle with their young, 2 plough beasts, 24 sheep, and two sows with their young though the young had to be moved off when they were a year old.  This is revealed through a county court case involving accusations of over grazing of the common land.

It seems that farming went hand in hand with a little banditry for in 1343... The Prior of Duddeleye sued William de Pendeford and Matilda atte Greene for taking his goods and chattels at Tresel to the value of £10.  The defendants did not appear, and the Sheriff returned they held nothing.  He was therefore ordered to put them into exigend, and if they appeared, to produce them, and if they failed to appear, they were to be outlawed.

After the sale of the manor to St. Thomas's, there were still instances of crime reported for in 1387 ...The Prior of St. Thomas the Martyr sued Walter, son of Richard del Wytheges (Wergs), Nicholas, son of Thomas del Wytheges and John le Glovere of Compton, for forcibly breaking into his house at Pendeford, and taking timber from it, and other goods and chattels, to the value of £20.  The defendants did not appear.

This may indicate that the Prior was an absentee landlord and the Wergs gang simply broke into an empty house.

An inquest held in 1408 on one John Geffery, servant to the bailiff of   Brewood, concluded that he had been unlawfully killed.  Thomas Dyle of Pendeford was involved and was later indicted with others as an accessory to the crime.  Together with John Gyffard of Chillington, Thomas Dyle surrendered and produced Letters Patent of the King dated January 25th, 1415 pardoning them from all treasons, felonies etc. perpetrated before December 8th 1413.

Nobody likes paying taxes and in the fourteenth century the good people of Pendeford no doubt grumbled about having to cough up for the Subsidy Roll of 1332.  This tax was granted by Parliament to pay for the war being fought against Scotland by Edward III.  People in the counties had to pay one fifteenth of the value of all goods that they possessed inside and outside the house.  Local tax collectors, with the help of the most loyal locals, assessed what everyone had and charged them accordingly.  There were exemptions from the tax - armour, saddle horses, jewels and robes of knights and gents and their wives and vessels of gold and brass.  Everyone was allowed one set of clothes tax free !  All the goods belonging to lepers were exempt, for fairly obvious reasons!

Fortunately (or unfortunately) most people in Pendeford didn't own anything worth ten shillings which was the lower limit for taxing and so only the following inhabitants had to pay.

Joh'ne Bercano  
Will'o de Croukewall  
Joh'ne le Warde
Nich'o del Kannoc  
Hug' Atewall  
Henr' Attewall  
Will'o de Bradeley  
Henr' de Chekeleye  

The monks of St Thomas's held Pendeford until Henry VIII closed down the monasteries.  It was granted to Rowland Lee, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield in 1539 for services rendered.  Lee had married Henry to Anne Boleyn even though his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was still alive and Henry's divorce from her was not recognised by the Pope.  So Pendeford played its small part in the Reformation of the Church of England.

The bishop died three years later and the manor of Pendeford came to James Fowler, MP for Stafford, who held it for 42 years until his death in 1585.  At that time the manor covered 1020 acres and contained two tofts or homesteads and a watermill.

The estate passed to his son Walter, who died in 1647.

In the seventeenth century, for local government purposes, Pendeford was a Constablewick within the parish of Tettenhall.  The Staffordshire Quarter Sessions Rolls of 1605 name William Eggington as Petty Constable.  He didn't have much to do, apparently, for there were no Ale Houses to supervise and he only arrested two wandering rogues - Thomas Smyth and Ann Huett.  It could have been unfortunate for the beggars themselves as the Poor Law of the time stated that they could be whipped until bloody and then returned to their native parish.

The population of Pendeford was still small - a Poll Tax assessment of 1641 mentions 48 people in the constablewick - and not especially rich - twenty four years later only nine inhabitants were paying hearth tax which was based on the number of fireplaces in a house.

During the Civil War, places were made to pay taxes to one side or the other and occasionally to both sides at once.  The Order Book of the Staffordshire Parliamentary Committee details that on May 20th, 1643, moneys were assigned  to Captain William Gough for the weekly pay of his officers and soldiers.  Captain Gough had to report back to the Committee at the end of each month, giving accounts of his use of the money.  Of the £8.6s.0d weekly pay collected from Codsall, Penford, Perton, Trescott, Patshull and Wrottesley, £1.9s.5d was to come from Penford.  A marginal note of £10.18s.2d next to this entry may indicate that someone on the Committee thought that the area wasn't pulling its weight!

A mention in the Order Book on October 29th 1644 re-assigns the pay from much of Seisdon Hundred - these Townes hearunder written ly moste of them in the Enemies quarter,  to Captain Jackson who had been alonge time without any assignation.  We also hear that Captain Wagstaffe's Troops had taken three horses from Mrs Woodhill at Pemford.  She was willing for them to keep the middlemost of them upon the propositions.  Captain Wagstaff was ordered to return the best and worst of the three to Mrs. Woodhill.  On 16th December, 1644, the whole of the weekly pay of Seisdon Hundred was assigned to the Captains and Officers of horse belonging to the Stafford garrison.

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