A not so royal progress: how to hide a king

Moseley Old Hall Lane 2

In September 1651 Charles Stuart, son of the executed King Charles I and crowned King of Scotland, is defeated in battle by Oliver Cromwell. Fleeing from Parliamentary troops, disguised as a woodcutter; he hid in barns, woodlands and worse. He made his way through a landscape completely different to that which you see today.

Recent research, by our Volunteer Archive Team, has revealed some fascinating insights into  Charles' journey and the farming landscape that surrounded Moseley.

As he and his party of helpers left Boscobel House to go to Moseley by horse they would have used something like a bridal path, edged with trees, through a largely wooded area. They deliberately dismounted at Pendeford Mill, so that they could use footpaths with more cover, especially as getting nearer to Moseley there were other cottages in clearings with pasture and space for crops. They deliberately approached the Hall from behind as the house was on a main road. 

We know that even main roads were often well-nigh impassable at this time, being hard, rutted, very bumpy when dry and deep in mud when wet. It was a wet night when Charles travelled to Moseley, and it must have been a damp and uncomfortable journey. Not like today, and certainly without sign posts. Historian Charles Spencer recently described the landscape; 'It is so distinct, and must have been quite alien to Charles - a good place to hide in, but also quite a troubling setting, to my mind. There’s a dark tone to the area, which is menacing in a subtle way.'

Moseley Old Hall Lane 1

The Whitgreave Account Book tells us how the land belonging to the Whitgreave family was farmed; a combination of arable land for crops and pasture for animals and that some of their neighbours did the same. We know this because the Whitgreaves had to pay them compensation when their own cows broke through fences and damaged those crops. It also refers to areas of rougher land from which gorse and fern had to be regularly cleared to make it suitable for grazing or growing crops.

On the Whitgreave lands, and elsewhere locally, we know that there were ‘pits’ from which clay had been dug. This was used in making daub for walls, or bricks, or for lining the ponds in which freshwater fish were kept for the family’s table. Some of these were deep enough to conceal men, or even horses. Thomas Blount describes how Lord Wilmot’s horses were hidden in one such ‘pit’ when he was sheltering at Mr. Huntbache’s before being brought to Moseley.