The Middle Ages in Castle Bromwich

 

The Middle Ages is the time between the Roman period and Modern times. The Anglo-Saxon period is often called the Early Middle Ages; the rest of the Middle Ages runs from the Norman Conquest up to Tudor times. The adjective from Middle Ages is 'medieval'.

 

 

  

The population of England grew after the Norman Conquest and more and more land was taken over for farming.

 

But the people across country soon suffered many disasters. The climate gradually got worse during the Middle Ages so that summers were cooler and wetter and winters always brought ice and frost and snow. This made farming more difficult.

 

In the early 1300s there were a number of bad harvests caused by continuous cold and rain which led to the Great Famines of 1315-1317. Many people died of starvation and disease.

 

This was followed in 1348 by a terrible plague known as the Black Death, which killed a third of the people in the country. Large areas of farmland were abandoned at this time because there was no-one to do the work. It took 300 years for conditions to get back to the way they had been before the Black Death.

 

What was Castle Bromwich like in the Middle Ages?

 

 

Find out by clicking here

 or by clicking the picture. 

Local man killed at Bosworth with Richard III

Walter Devereux dies fighting

1485

King Richard III
King Richard III

In 1444 a marriage took place between two members of ancient and noble families. Walter Devereux married Anne Ferrers of Chartley in Staffordshire. Anne’s father was a man of importance with a number of titles, including the lord of the manor of Castle Bromwich. And Walter’s father was the Chancellor of Ireland.

 

When they were married, Walter was aged 13 and Anne was only 7 years old.

 

Anne died when she was 34 and the lordship of Castle Bromwich passed to her husband, Walter Devereux.

 

These were dangerous times. The Wars of the Roses were being fought across England by two families and their supporters, the Houses of Lancaster and York, as they battled for their leaders to be the king of England. The House of York adopted the white rose as their emblem, the House of Lancaster the red rose.

 

Walter Devereux was on the side of the House of York. He was a commander in a number of battles fighting for the Yorkists. For his bravery on the battlefield at Towton in 1461, King Edward IV knighted him as Sir Walter Devereux.

 

After the deaths of Edward IV and Edward V, another Yorkist, Richard III claimed the throne and Sir Walter joined his side.

 

In 1485 Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster landed with an army in Wales to challenge Richard III for the crown of England. Richard brought his army south from Nottingham and the two forces met for battle near the village of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.

 

Re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth. Photograph by Jim Monk on Flickr reusable under a Creative Commons licence.
Re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth. Photograph by Jim Monk on Flickr reusable under a Creative Commons licence.

The Battle of Bosworth

 

The battle began early on the morning of 22 August. Henry had an army of 5000 men while Richard’s force numbered 12,000. And Richard had the better position on the top of a hill while Henry’s men were in the marshy valley below.

 

However, Henry Tudor had brought a troop of longbow archers from Wales and their deadly arrows killed and injured many of Richard’s soldiers.

 

The battle was fought for three long hours and many were the dead and injured on both sides. Among those killed was Sir Walter Devereux, who had been fighting at the side of King Richard.

 

Richard took a decision to quickly put an end to the battle by killing Henry. He gathered his closest friends around him and his best horsemen - and charged directly at Henry Tudor.

 

King Richard killed Henry's standard-bearer, but Henry's bodyguards surrounded him. Richard came within a sword's length of Henry Tudor when he was killed ‘fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies".

St James' church Dadlington, burial place of Sir Walter Devereux. Image by John Salmon on Geograph reusable under a Creative Commons licence
St James' church Dadlington, burial place of Sir Walter Devereux. Image by John Salmon on Geograph reusable under a Creative Commons licence

With the King dead, the Yorkist army turned and fled.

 

Richard’s crown was found where he fell and, on the field of battle, Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII of England.

 

Richard’s naked body was put on the back of a donkey and taken to Greyfriars' church in Leicester where it was shown to the public before being buried in an unmarked grave.

 

As for Sir Walter, lord of Castle Bromwich, his body was taken with a thousand more to St James' church at nearby Dadlington and there it was buried in a mass grave with all the others. His body lies there somewhere in the churchyard, but nobody knows where.

 

The Chester Road - or was it the Welsh Road?

Sheep being driven through a village (not Castle Bromwich) in the late 19th century.
Sheep being driven through a village (not Castle Bromwich) in the late 19th century.

During the Middle Ages the Chester Road was not called the Chester Road. It was known as the Welsh Road.

 

Welsh farmers would bring their cows and sheep from the mountains of Wales to sell in the Bull Ring in Birmingham. Some farmers took their animals as far as London for sale.

 

The soil in the Welsh hills is poor and does not produce good grass. Cows and sheep from the hills were thin and scrawny, so they were sold in the Bull Ring market to Birmingham farmers who would fatten them up on the rich grass meadows around Birmingham's rivers. And then they would be sold to the butchers for meat.

 

Every spring and every autumn huge numbers of sheep and cattle were brought from Wales to the Midlands, a journey of two or three weeks. Travelling with the cows was very slow, probably only 2 miles per hour. The herds of animals had to stop regularly for the night on the journey. On the Chester Road North near Sutton Coldfield is a place called Welshman's Hill which was one of these stopping places.

 

Cattle from Wales

 

Many cattle started their long walk from the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. The cows were made to swim across a short stretch of sea, the Menai Strait, at low tide. They were sent across 300 at a time. In the year 1794, 14,000 cattle swam across the sea on their way to the Midlands.

 

The drovers then headed for Shrewsbury to follow the ancient Roman road, Watling Street, to Brownhills. Here the Welsh Road left Watling Street to cross the River Tame at Castle Bromwich. There was a wide easy ford here through the river. The river bed here is made up of sand and gravel and the animals could cross without sinking into mud. 

 

The cattle were then driven up the steep hill towards the church (The road has gone now but there is still a footpath). Past the church they went and, at Castle Bromwich Hall, some drovers turned their herds right to go into Birmingham, while others turned left to follow the Chester Road to Bacons End, to Stonebridge and on their way to London. Every year thousands and thousands of cows and sheep were herded through Castle Bromwich.

 

Droving cattle and sheep carried on for hundreds of years, but the greatest numbers of animals were moved between the years 1700 and 1850. This was during the Industrial Revolution when the populations of Birmingham and other English cities began to grow rapidly. By 1800 two million animals were driven along England's roads every year.

 

 

Q.So why did all this droving and herding stop around 1850?

 

A. Hmm. It had something to do with the railways. What do you think?

What do you want to know about Castle Bromwich Church in the Middle Ages?

 

If you want to know about the Lords of the Manor of Castle Bromwich over the past thousand years, you've come to the right place. Click the coat of arms.

Weblinks

The Luttrell Psalter gives you a glimpse of life in the Middle Ages. 

 

This is a book containing the Psalms from the Old Testament of the Bible. It was made in the 14th century for a wealthy Lincolnshire landowner, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell of Irnham. It was copied out by hand, probably by monks in a monastery at Lincoln.

 

It is the most striking book to survive from the Middle Ages. Richly painted, decorated with silver and gold, the illustrations are outstanding. The Psalter is especially interesting because it shows scenes of everyday life in detail and often with humour.

 

But remember: the book was made for a rich man. When you look at the pictures of jolly peasants working happily in the fields, this is how the artist thought Sir Geoffrey would like to see them, and not how they really were.

 

In 2008 Lincolnshire Heritage Filmmakers made a film of the Psalter using local people to illustrate the pictures in the book using 14th-century music of the psalms.

 

Click here to watch the Luttrell Psalter film on YouTube

 

'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.

We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our Castle Bromwich Bell Ringers website if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing.  Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.