CRADLEY is very fortunate in having early surviving rolls from its manor court. These give fascinating glimpses of life in the community in Tudor and Stuart times when members of the Lyttelton family were lords of the manor.
Incidents involving fighting were quite common. One of these, in 1575, involved the Mansell family, who lived at Netherend, and the Homer family, who farmed on Homer Hill. There was a dispute over land ownership and Thomas Mansell refused to accept the jury's decision. He responded with an angry tirade: "I care not for the 12 men. They are false harlots and cut-throats and so be reported of by men of other parishes also!"
Margery and George Mansell attacked William Homer with a shovel, drawing blood. William retaliated with a ballista/large catapult price 10 shillings. The court ordered that the weapon be delivered up into the hands of John Lyttelton under penalty of £10. It didn't pay to cross the Mansell family.
Ten years later some of them assembled with arms and assaulted Henry Wall and Juliana Jurden, inflicting wounds that caused her to bleed to death. William Mansell fled to escape trial and punishment and became an outlaw in London. All his goods, cattle, land and four houses were confiscated by the lord of the manor. They were valued as being over and above £73.
Lesser offenders were humiliated in the stocks which immobilised the feet. These were located at the village end of Blue Ball Lane. It was reported in 1627 that Cradley didn't have a pillory. Joanna Shaw's constant scolding and reviling of her neighbours in 1594 provoked the jurors to order the constable to cause a gomstole (ducking stool) to be made, at the taxpayers' expense, so that she could be ducked in the Stour. She, too, was a Mansell before she married Thomas Shaw in 1578.
Extracts such as these will be featured in an illustrated free talk I am giving on the Court Rolls of Cradley Manor 1565-1642 at Overend Methodist Mission, Banner's Lane, on Thursday, October 27 at 7.30pm. All are welcome.