Here is the last instalment of my exploration of the land upon which my old house stood in Howdles Lane, and the surrounding area.  It all began here.

The earliest information about land ownership in the area is probably the Domesday survey of 1086 and its references to who owned land at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066.  The area is in the section about the manor of Lichfield, which was held in both 1086 and 1066 by the Bishop of Chester, see below.

domesday hammerwich
Extract from the Domesday Book.

In the two Hammerwiches five caracutes and Norton Canes and Little Wyrley four caracutes.  The land was all waste. 

Essentially, there are two Hammerwiches today, the main part of the village around the church, mill and former school and the Lion’s Den area beyond the old railway station.

A caracute was an area that could be ploughed with an eight-ox team; equivalent to a hide, which was enough land to support a household.  Waste refers to land which did not render dues, either because it had been physically devastated, the dues had been attached to another manor or they had been withheld.

As the house is between Hammerwich, Norton Canes and Wyrley it seems likely to have been included in the Bishop’s holding.

Hammerwich Mill and Spire
Hammerwich Mill and Spire

Henry VIII

The see had returned from Chester to Lichfield in the twelfth century, but by Henry’s time the see of Coventry and Lichfield was based in Coventry. In about 1536-40 Henry confiscated the church lands and subsequently distributed much of it to friends and supporters. Presumably, this is how land transferred between church and Paget.

“The [Brownhills] Common was once part of the Cannock Forest where herds of deer roamed. During the 15th and 16th centuries the Forest was felled. Heather spread from areas that had been cleared 4,000 [400?] years earlier for sheep grazing. Encouraged by more sheep nibbling its new shoots and the sandy soil, the heather spread. A vast area of lowland heath was created.”

“In the Tudor period its woods were depleted to provide fuel for the smelting of iron-ore …”

As I understand it much of England’s oak woods were cut down to provide for the Royal Navy as it sought to defend the kingdom against invasion, notably in 1588 when the King of Spain (not Ashley Giles!) sent an armada to meet up with an army in Holland and invade.  We all know how well that turned out!

“After the Norman Conquest the whole of this region became royal forest – primarily a royal hunting ground but one that was also pastured by the tenants of the surrounding communities. This helped to keep the woods open and made hunting, whether on foot or horseback, easier. Most of the core of Cannock Forest was to be given to the Bishop of Lichfield, becoming a private Chase (Cannock Chase), while Sutton Chase was given to the Earls of Warwick. The hays of the forest, however, continued to be maintained by the royal officials throughout the middle ages.”


From Lichfield Mercury Friday 27 February 1903:

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries the richly endowed Abbey of Burton-on-Trent had nearly escaped the confiscation of its property by being constituted a collegiate church. But a few years later Henry VIII forced the dean and chapter to surrender the whole into his royal hands; whereupon he bestowed the fat lands and rich emoluments of the despoiled foundation upon his favourite secretary, Paget, whose descendants to this day remain in possession of them.

Hackwood later writes that this took place within four years after 1542 when Chester was taken out of the see and became a separate diocese.

After a period of imprisonment and disgrace, the penalty for embezzlement, Queen Mary restored his titles and lands in 1553, which Hackwood says included: “Also the Forest and Chace of Cannock, otherwise called Cannockbury, otherwise called Canckchace, otherwise called Canckwood …” and “Free Warrens … Norton and Wyrley, … Homeriche, … Cannok, Cannokbury, Canck, …”

Perhaps these warrens included Coney Lodge and Ogley Hay?

From Paget the inheritance passed down to the Marquis of Anglesey, and his lease to George Howdle rounds off the tale.

More information about the history of Howdles Lane can be found in Old Roads.






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