Moreton, Outwoods, Bromstead, Wilbrighton & St. Mary's Church History
By the year 1800 much of the hamlets of Moreton, Outwoods, Bromstead & Wilbrighton were enclosed. Common land was fenced and the ancient manorial lands split up and bought by the new generation of landed gentry with their industrial based fortunes.
The hamlet of Moreton was tiny, only 4 or 5 cottages, mainly situated around the farmsteads of Moreton Hall and Moreton Park. Smallholders were scattered around the area, with greater concentrations in the Outwoods and Bromstead. As the Century progressed new hardships took their toll on the lives of the majority of the village inhabitants. The Napoleonic wars brought times of great hardship. Massive unemployment together with several bad harvests made poverty and desease widespread. Corn laws were passed to prohibit the importation of cheap grain, thus raising the price of British grain. Several years of poor harvests together with severe weather conditions had left farmers bankrupt. Parliament hoped that by artificially raising the price paid to British farmers, agriculture would survive. This unfortunately caused the price of flour and bread to soar beyond the means of the majority. The number of people dependent on poor rate increased dramatically, and social disorder threatened to break out on a large scale. This so called “bread tax” had left all but the wealthy near to starvation.
The average life expectancy of an adult was only 30 years and one in every three children died before the age of six years. Wasting diseases like tuberculosis were widespread due to the effects of malnutrition. The common diet would have consisted of bread, beer, and the occasional salted meat or bacon. Wages at the turn of the century were about 10d or 1 shilling a day. Overseers of the poor regarded 4s or 5s as the minimum sum, per week, needed to keep a pauper alive. Some essential food items cost an average price of:-
Bread: 1s – 4d per 1lb
Meat: 3d per 1lb
Cheese: 2 pence halfpenny a 1lb.
Food was not cooked but eaten cold, the only cooking facilities were the open fire in each cottage. Vegetables grown on smallholdings supplemented the diet but during times of poverty they were the only food consumed.
Beer was the common beverage as tea was very expensive. With the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 came reforms and greater prosperity. As the Empire grew, wealth from overseas trade especially the East, allowed industrial Britain to flourish giving the new generation of squires the opportunity to improve their estates.
This in turn reflected in the lives of their workers. An amendment to the poor law in 1834, compelled parishes
to form unions with appointed officials and guardians of the poor. These were to replace the parochial
relief methods previously practiced which were both unpopular and ineffective.
Moreton and the surrounding area was, at the beginning of the Century, in the parish of Gnosall. The parish officials of Gnosall were appointed as: Church wardens: Responsible for meeting the expenses of the Church.
Constables: To uphold and administer Law and Order. Surveyor of Highways and Turnpikes: Responsible for raising rates to pay for repairs to roads and footpaths, organising the local population to do the work themselves.
(All landowners were required to work three days a year on road maintenance.) Overseer of the poor: All members
of the population paid a poor rate to their parish of origin for the maintenance of paupers. The parish of Gnosall stretched some 11 miles in length and clearly struggled to administer its duties over such a scattered community. Parish officials if proved negligent of their duties could face trial at the quarter sessions.
2. ST MARY’S CHURCH MORETON 1838 - 1988
In the year 1835 Bishop Henry Ryder raised upwards of £1000 by private subscription for the building of a Church at Moreton. The Architect Thomas Trubshaw was commissioned to draw plans for the Church, a parsonage and a school. Trubshaw was a local man, one of five generations of Architects. The family were much favoured by the Diocese of Lichfield with commissions for the construction of New Churches under the Acts of 1818 and 1825. Trubsaw's local reputation was considered to be `roguish'. The Church of St. Mary's Moreton was finished in 1838 and consecrated by Bishop Ryder's successor, Bishop Samuel Butler, on 3rd September in that year. It is described
as being "Neo-Norman" in design. Consisting of a Chancel, Nave with gallery above, North and South Transepts and a squat `Italianesque' Tower. The Building had seating for 360 persons. This would seem surprising considering the present building, but from evidence found in the parish records, additional galleries were situated over the North and South Transepts similar to that now above the Nave. These galleries were removed in 1870 at a cost of £18, the reason for their removal is unclear. Seating was in high-backed, doored pews but in 1903 during a major `facelift' the original pews were replaced with pitch pine seats. The Tower housed a solitary bell to summon parishoners. Heating was installed in the Church in 1870 using "Cockle" stoves situated under the Chancel and in the south Transept. A large chimney stack was built and parishioners were required to draw coals on a rota system. The chimney stack was demolished in 1952 and the heating system was replaced with electric wall heaters. Electricity had arrived in time for the centenary celebrations in 1938. The East window, presented in memory of Mr. Charles Bishop, was a gift to the Church in 1945, a carillon of bells purchased and the original bell sold. Further gifts to the Church were made including the altar rail, prayer desk, vestry screen, lecturn, and pulpit. A new Altar was purchased in 1958 and a new font in 1963. A succession of organs have been used in the Church the first small hand pumped harmonium to the modern electronic organ now used. On the outside of the Church a stone cross once sat above the east window but this was damaged by building alterations and wrongly replaced over the west door.
Churchyard extensions were made in 1915 and again in 1937. Some of the older yew trees were planted by the parishioners of Gnosall Church when St. Mary's was consecrated in 1838. Bishop Butler provided the money for
the erection of a parsonage house begun in 1838 and completed early in 1839. Local rumour suggests that stone
for all three Trubshaw buildings came from a quarry situated behind the Church and owned by Sir John Cotes Esq. of Woodcote. Certainly William White's "A History Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire" published in 1851,
would support this theory. Moreton was not granted independence from its mother parish of Gnosall until 1845.
The inhabitants of the parish of Gnosall numbered 2360 at this time. This led to a further daughter Church being built, to a Thomas Trubshaw design, at Knightley in 1840-41.
"In pursuance of an order received from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners a meeting of the inhabitants and householders of this district will be held in this Church on Thursday next, the 21st day of August instant, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, for the purpose of choosing Church Wardens for the district Church ." John Nunn. Incumbent Minister of Moreton. Moreton in the Parish of Gnosall August 17th 1845.
Joseph Johnson & Thomas Shuker were duly elected to serve as Church wardens for the ensuing year. Prior to 1845 St. Mary's was now licensed for the solemnization of Marriages. Burial services and Baptisms would have all been carried out at Gnosall. Moreton was a curacy or district chapelry from 1838 -1845 and although services would have been held in the Church no legal offices were permitted. The graveyard, however, had been consecrated and parishioners could be buried in Moreton following the services at Gnosall.
Centenary Celebrations 1938
In 1938 celebrations were organised in the village to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Church's
founding. Both the Bishop of Lichfield and the Bishop of Stafford conducted services of thanksgiving. During the service on September 25th, attended by the Bishop of Litchfield, the electric lighting was used for the first time. A fund was opened to raise money for the construction of a Church Hall for village use.
JOHN NUNN 1845 – 48
FRANCIS TIPPING 1848 – 51
THOMAS BURNE 1851 – 69
B. RISING 1870 – 1902 32 Years
JOHN LAWRIE GENTLES 1902 – 09
JOHN BENOY 1909 – 45 36 years
JAMES CROOK 1946 – 49
LEONARD CHIDLEY 1949 – 50 2 months
W. GRAVES 1950 – 53
W. G. BAKER 1954 –76 22 years
WILLIAM B WOOLEY 1976 – 82
LEONARD H MAYES 1982
During the last 150 years St. Mary's has 3 incumbents serve over 20 years in the paris. Rev. John Benoy celebrated 50 years in the ministry shortley before his retirement from Moreton in 1945. Mrs Benoy was both deaf and dumb
so village children at the School were encouraged to learn sign language. Rev. W.G. Baker was the last incumbent
to live in Moreton. The parish was amalganated with the parish of Church Eaton and Bradley in 1976 and the living transferred to Church Eaton. The Rectory was sold and 4 new houses built in what was the vicarage orchard.
Parish Life 1846 - 1900
Village inhabitants in 1845 would have been mainly engaged in the service of one of the three landowners in the district or by one of the bigger tenant farmers.
Sir John Cotes of Woodcote had lands in and around Moreton and Walton fields. Sir Thomas Fenton Boughey of Aqualate had land stretching from Wilbrighton through to Moreton and on towards Church Aston. William Tayleur of Buntingsdale still held a small area of land in Bromstead - a legacy from a marraige settlement with the Skrymshers of Sutton and Mere Manors.
(In 1661 Letitia Skrymsher married John Tayleur of Rodington at Forton Church. John Tayleur became sherrif of Shropshire in 1691.) Of the larger farmers in the area Henry Green of Moreton Park, Thomas Shuker and Joseph Johnson of Walton Grange were the most prominent. Smallholdings were of an insignificant size to provide a little extra income and food in times of hardship.
The Majority of the population followed land based skills e.g. wheelwrights, blacksmiths, grooms, waggoners, labourers, etc. When Harvest time came, not only the women of the village but all children over the age of four would be employed in the fields. In Moreton the blacksmith, could be found below the Church and the wheelwright had a cottage off Middle Lane. Other occupations practiced in the village would have included the shoemaker, lamptrimmer, rat-catcher, and dressmaker. The women of the village would have made lace or gloves as well as helping in the fields when needed. During the 30 years or so following the building of the Church, the cottages in the district were gradually rebuilt, stone replacing the one roomed wattle and daub structures at the turn of the Century. The Church had been built in what was originally Bromstead but as more cottages and smallholdings gradually spring up, so the centre of the village shifted towards the Church. Great Chatwell was included in the parish and cottage services were held there during winter months until 1934 when following boundary changes it was taken into the parish of Blymhill.
The Parish Boundaries in Mid century (1850's) extended from Coley at one end through to Walton fields at the other end over to Great Chatwell. Some 3,487 acres in total. Most of the parish officials' time was spent in organising road repair, administering poor relief and collecting taxes and rates to keep the Village going.
In 1854 application was made by the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company to Sir Thomas Fenton Boughey to purchase land through which a railway, serving Stafford and Shrewsbury, could run. The line would link up with the growing network of railway companies whose lines stretched to London in the south. Manchester and Liverpool in the north.
A steep cutting was required through Broadhill the route continuing on skirting the Outwoods and on beyond to Newport. Digging the cutting by hand would have required a massive migrant work force and school numbers rose significantly during the years of the railway's construction in the 1870's. Notable improvements to village life at
this time consist of a more constant water supply to feed the School and Vicarage, resulting in the present day village landmark outside Keepers Cottage in Pooley Lane. In 1881 Henry Green of Moreton Park Farm offered to
find a spring to providea constant supply of water for the School. A spring was located in the vacinity ofKeepers Cottage. A pipe was laid to a cistern chamber and well dug in glebe landopposite the School. Pipes ran from the
well to feed the School and Vicarage. An overflow pipe was laid by the path through Hildon Meadow. With help
from the Vicar and Trustees of Gnosall, the Church wardens were able to find the work which was completed in 1886. Mr.Green was then able to use the overflow pipe in 1893 to provide a public drinking fountainsituated in the wall in Pooley Lane. After Mr Green's death in 1895 Mr.Hussey bought the land and built Hildon Villa diverting water from the overflow pipe to feed it. Further houses obtained their supplies from the cistern until 1931, when Gnosall Parish Council planned to use the supply to feed new Council houses in Pooley Lane. After many problems and objections by village inhabitants, a different supply was found to feed the Houses finally built. During Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June 1897 tea was served to the children and the parents in the School by favour of the managers. Afterwards the party ajourned to Hildon, were a very enjoyable evening was had by all. By 1900, the village had almost tripled from its size in the year 1838. Life had considerably improved and epidemics associated with poor water supplies (e.g. Typhoid & Cholera) became less frequent. Housing had greatly improved and some sanitation was now available. Village amenities included shops, a shoemender, post office, and two blacksmiths. Water was still the main problem in the village or rather the lack of it. Children were constantly sent home from School by the Head Teacher because "Their skins were caked with stale dirt, and their clothing greasy and ragged even after having repeatedly asked by parents to send them clean and tidy." Washing facilities in many homes were almost non existant. As a consequence the new epidemics forcing the School to be closed were Impetigo and Ringworm.
5. Moreton Church Of England School 1845 – 1982
Under a new Act in 1842, provision was made for the donation of land to build a charity school to educate the children of the poor. William and John Tayleur of Buntingdale, donated land situted off Church Lane what was then called Dykes Lane. The Trubshow design was executed by stonemason and builder Charles Madeley of Gnosall and Haddock and Brown, Glazers, Plumbers and Painters of Great Chatwell. The school was under the auspices of the National Society for promoting the Education of the poor in the principles of the established Church and conducted according to it's principles towards the advancement of it's end and design. The Committee of management were subscribers of an amount not less than 20/- annually and resident within the district. This Committee had the power to appoint and dismiss masters and mistresses and to inspect the school at any reasonable time.
A grant was made to the School by the National Society, who in return, inspected the school and examined educational standards. The School opened in 1846, however, the early years at the School were not documented and so we are unable to discover the numbers of children attending or what instruction was received. In 1870 an act of parliment made it obligatory for provision to be made for all children to have elementary education. Problems in finding the necessary subscribers able to provide sufficient funds for the running of the scool led to the following notice being displayed on the Church door:-
"We the undersigned, after careful consideration of the late act of parliment for compulsory work of National Schools, do hereby agree to supply until further notice by a voluntary rate such working expenses of Moreton National School as may be agreed by the Committee appointed for management of the said School."
All rate payers in the parish of Moreton paying more than £6 in rates annually had to pay the School rate. In the event of a rate payer refusing to pay their share of the school rate their landlord was applied to for the deficiency. Together with the grant from the National Society enough money was collected to run the school. This method of supporting the running of a school was to cause problems only a few years later in 1883, when following disagreements between the school managers, the Vicar and the school master, parishioners refused to pay their School rates. The Vicar played an important role in the School supervising teaching and instructing the children in the principles of the established Church. Educational instruction consisted of scripture, reading, arithmetic, sewing and dictation. Attendance was now compulsory for all children between the age of 5 years and 12 years. Pupil teachers could be apprenticed for up to 5 years at a salary of £10 per year. Floggings were common for truancy and petty offences and this was a source of much unrest in the parish in 1876. Educational standards were falling as were attendance figures. Of the 90 children on the role in 1883 average attendance was more like 24. Following a damming report by school inspectors in 1883, the grant given to the School by the National Society was reduced by one tenth. Coupled with the refusal of the rate payers to pay their School rates. Moreton School was in imminent danger of closing. Happily a compromise was reached and the School continued. The following advertisement was placed in the Newport Advertiser & Wellington Journal in 1883.
"Wanted by September, a certified Master for Moreton day and Sunday National School - Wife to teach Needlework. Salary 50d with unfurnished house and small garden. Average attendance 50 children."
Over 50 letters of application were received for the post. In 1902 the National Schools were abolished and Staffordshire County Council took over responsibility of Moreton School. The School managers were presented with a long list of improvements necessary before the County Council would accept the School. As there were no funds available it seemed that the school would have to close. An appeal was made in the local press in 1907 for help and donations. A total of £100.3s.0d was donated enabling the repairs to be carried out and a surplus figure of £9.14s.9d. left for future needs. The School continued on and with the help of local scholarships pupils were able to receive secondary education.
During the war years of 1939 - 45 ten "evacuees" from Hereson Road School, Ramsgate arrived in Moreton. Air raid shelters were not judged to be necessary in country areas like Moreton so the children practiced evacuating the School taking cover under the hedge in the field behind the School. This operation was practiced and completed in
2 minutes 40 seconds. All the children were instructed in the operation of a stirrup pump and how to use their gas masks. In 1952 the L.E.A. assumed full responsibility for the School until its closure in 1982. Having ceased to be used for Educational purposes, the building was recently sold under the "Reverted to sites Act 1987."
1863 - 1870 Mr Hotchkiss
1870 - 1874 Mr Davies
1874 - 1877 Mr Woodward
1877 - 1883 Mr Masi
1884 - 1897 Mr Hetherington
1897 - 1900 Mr Bevan
1900 - 1901 Mr Rowland
1901 - 1907 Mr Tew
1907 - 1916 Mr Flamank
1917 - 1918 Miss Barry
1919 - 1936 Miss Myatt
1937 - 1940 Miss Fackrell
1940 - 1942 Mrs Wilkinson
1942 - 1948 Mrs Bray
1948 - 1951 Mrs Mason
1951 - 1967 Mr Parker
1967 - 1970 Mr Oakes
1971 Miss Lear (temporary for two terms)
1971 - 1977 Miss Metcalfe
1977 - 1979 Mrs Wilson (tempory for two years)
1979 - 1980 Mr Thomas
1981 Mrs Cliff (Temporary for two terms)
7. WAR YEARS 1914 - 18 & 1939 - 45
Moreton has seen two world wars this century with many of the young men of the village serving overseas in H.M. Forces. During the first world war (1914-1918) over 80 young men served in France and Egypt. 22 were killed in action or died as a result of their wounds. Their names are recorded on the roll of honour by the war memorial in the Church. Rev. John Benoy's son, John, was present at the delivery of the Peace Treaty to the German delegation
In 1917 a plane landed in one of the meadows in the village and the children from the school were allowed to examine the monoplane at close quarters. The war was not the only difficulty, the village sustained a further blow with an outbreak of Typhoid in 1918. 25 cases were recorded and 3 died in the early part of the year. The School was closed from February to August during the epidemic and the vicarage used as an isolation hospital with a full-time nurse in attendance.
The second world War followed close in the centeneary celebrations of the parish in 1938 and is memorable in that the Vicar who had seen out the first war in Moreton was still incumbent for the duration of the second. When war broke out in September 1939 Rev. John Benoy was still in Moreton after nearly 30 years. On July 3rd 1939, gas masks were issued to the village and the Church bell and School bell ordered not to be rung. The bells were only to be rung as a warning of invasion or air raid.
The School was used as a central distribution point for ration books and coupons. Scarves, mittens and sweaters were knitted by all the villagers and sent to Gnosall for the war effort. Money was raised in the "wings for Victory" week (£151) and over £3,000 in the "salute the soldier" week for the R.A.F. benevolent fund and the overseas "tobacco leage". Services of Thanksgiving were held in the Church on each anniversary of the outbreak of war and also on the occation of the allied victory in North Africa. Travel during war time was still by pony and trap, there were perhaps only 4 or 5 cars in the village during the 30's. The army were stationed in Aqualate Park the R.A.F. at Little Onn.
After the war ended in 1945 the village children were taken on a victory outing to Rhyl. Following the war a nissan hut from Tettenhall was purchased to serve as a Church Hall and erected in the Village on glebe land in 1947. Plans for the Hall had been made in 1937 and a fund begun during the centenary celebrations.
8. VILLAGE LANDMARKS OLD & NEW
Some of the village landmark's familiar only 50 years ago have now vanished.
The Plough Inn (now Plough Cottage)
A corrugate bungalow, home of Mrs Richards, infant teacher 1912 - 1937 situated just above the church hall.
W.I. hut on top of the bank opposite Moreton Bank Cottages.
Plague stone from the verge side on the Wilbrighton - Moreton road.
Coach house opposite the Church used for housing pony & trap used by the Vicar.
3 Village shops, 2 in Moreton and 1 in Bromstead Heath.
The village post office.
New addition to the Village include;-
Church Hall built in 1947.
Six Council houses were built in Pooley Lane in 1934.
Two in Heath Road (1938)
Four in Post Office Lane (1954).
The housing development in Post Office Lane was the first major development in the village in 1977.
Mains water was installed to the village following the end of the war; electricity
had arrived in time for the centenary celebrations in 1938.