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Forum Home > Tale's from the region. > Portway Hall. Rowley Regis.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There must be many thousands of people who still remember the old Portway Hall. It stood just below the present Portway Farm, ( see also Worcestershire Yeomanry ) and as far back as I can recall, it was in a derelict condition. Untended, apparently unloved, it was allowed to decay to wrack and ruin. Started by one Daniel ( Ironside ) Johnson, in 1671, who had fought at Oliver Cromwell's side at the battle of Worcester, during the second civil War. The plaque over the doorway, carried the monogram of the  family, and the date of 1674. The Russell Family, or way back in 1154, The de Rushales, as they were called, may have had a house in the old Manor, for they were granted the Manor of Rowley Regis, by Henry II. The rolls of 1200, show that the claim was ratified by King John. There are records in the archives, that show several Law suits, between 1227, and 1255, over disputes of land with the Somery family. A member of the family, in 1269, complained to the King, that she had been attacked in her house, by a " group of marauders ". Quite possibly the Somery's, and again over a land dispute. Beligerent lot, the early settlers and farmers of Rowley.  In 1293, and this time through a proper court, the Somery's gained control of the Manor. There was certainly a house owned by the Russells in Rowley Regis at this time, but whether it was on the same spot as Portway Hall, is debatable. The family, although still living in Rowley Regis, seem to have taken a drop in status, as the next mention of the name is in 1539. Henry VIII, during his struggle with the Catholic Church, feared invasion, and ordered a survey taken, as to how many weapons and men he could count on, if the strongest nation in Europe, Spain, decided to invade. The men of Rowley, including one Thomas Russell, could muster, Swords, Daggers, Pikes, Billhooks, and a set of Bow and Arrows. The Russells were obvious on the way up again, as only the richer people could afford such items. Mention is made again, in 1660, when a Hearth Tax came in, and one of those assessed, was William Russell, who was living at a place called Portway Hall. Not, I should add, the Portway Hall you and I would remember, for in 1674, just as it said on the doorway. Daniel Johnson built this new Portway Hall. Time stands still for no man however, and many years later, it was remodeled again, on the same spot, and using some of the old stonework. It stayed in the Johnson family until that old problem money, once again became a problem. In the 1840s. it was purchased by Richard Baker, another well connected local name. He died in the house in 1862, leaving the house, in his will to his son, Joseph Baker, who was, at one time, the manager of the Ram Rod Colliery, working for the owner, the Earl of Dudley. They were in residence until at least 1890, when it changed hands again, this time to the Pardoe family. David Pardoe was a man of Industry, and founded his own company which made edge tools, in Taylors Lane, which I believe was in Oldbury. The family sold up in 1952. The house remained empty and unloved, until some enterprising soul gave it a very quick make-over inside and turned it into a nightspot. Much frequented by local males, its main attraction were the many Strippers, who flashed their nubile bodies around its ancient walls.  It has to be said, that the house and grounds, sadly negleted, did suffer from all the mining activities, but it's a shame it couldn't be saved. Pictures in the Image Album, Gallery. ( Not the strippers though )


There's a little legend associated with the old house, concerning an old skull. Legend has it, that someone connected with the family, and who fought at Oliver Cromwells side, remained a true friend, even in death. When the restoration began, in 1661, the mob took Cromwells body and mutilated it at Tyburn. The head was displayed for some years, on a pike, in Londons Westminster Hall. Then in 1688, it was stolen. Rumour has it, that the skull was then transported, in the dead of night, to Portway Hall, and hidden in a bricked up wall cavity. It was reported by some, that in 1774, a certain Theodore Russell, down on his luck, organised a raid on Portway Hall, and left carrying a " Brass Bound Casket ".  Did he steal again, the skull of Oliver Cromwell, stolen 200 years before by his families old enemies? We shall never know, but thats the story, Warts and all.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 6, 2011 at 4:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
Member
Posts: 46

A very interesting piece of history.

July 7, 2011 at 1:50 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Vanishing Skull.


The story of the Skull started way back in 1658, when Oliver Cromwell died. The restoration of the Monarchy soon followed, and poor old Oliver was dug up from Westminster Abbey, his mouldering corpse was hanged at Tyburn, and his head removed, to grace a spike a few yards away. This macabre sight, for some years, greeted those doomed to meet their end on Tyburns tree, until it was removed, and put on exhibition in Westminster Hall. There it remained until 1668, when in the dead of night, it disappeared. Meanwhile, back in Portway Hall, in late 1667, Daniel Johnson lay dying. A staunch and unwavering supporter of Cromwell and the Puritan cause, he called his sons close and made his last wish known. He called on them to " endeavour to retrieve Oliver Cromwell's head, from its place of mockery, and to keep it safe and Holy ". A few months later, the head went missing. There are no records to suggest, that the Johnsons were responsible for the theft, nor is there any proof, that the head ever came to Rowley Regis, but others may have known better. What, for instance, was in the bound box taken from the property by Theodore Russell, in 1774. Whose skull then, did Russell sell to John ( Iron Mad ) Wilkinson in Bilston, in 1787, and if it wasn't Cromwells, why was it kept in a private collection, and then handed to Cromwell's old school. ( Sidney Sussex, Cambridge ) It was reportedly secretly buried some years later in the school grounds. Maybe the Johnsons were glad to be rid of the thing lurking about in Portway Hall, for there were rumours, of the skull appearing at different locations around the house, as a harbinger of bad news. It was said that twice, the skull had been taken into the district, and dropped into deep pools, only for it to reappear on the grand staircase the next day. The only disturbance reported by one owner of the house, Joseph Baker, was part of the ceiling falling on his breakfast one morning, but he put that down to the mining from the Ram Rod Colliery, the main roadway of which passed directly under the old Hall, and then cheerfully set off to his job as the Mines Manager. No fool was old Joe.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 23, 2012 at 3:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

JoRup
Member
Posts: 1

Hi there,

I have found reference to the ornamental tiles that were in the porch of Portway Hall.  Apparently there is a photograph of the tiles at the Sandwell Community History Archives.

Ref No: PHS/645

Repository: Sandwell Community History and Archives Service

Date: 27 Feb 1979

Description: A black and white photograph of ornamental tiles depicting male pheasants, in the porch of Portway Hall, Rowley Regis during the demolition of the hall.

Regards

JoRup

July 17, 2013 at 2:05 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Scoops
Member
Posts: 1
My great great grandfather was David pardoe and my grandmother lived at portway hall as a child
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February 8, 2014 at 6:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

jewels
Member
Posts: 6

I am so glad I came across this as my main project is called Love in an English Republic or Providence and my main character is passionate about her Lord Protector Cromwell.

I now can put a link between my cockney rebels and black country cousins! what a wonderful wifi web we weave:



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http://juliemcneill1.wordpress.com

February 15, 2014 at 9:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Caro
Member
Posts: 1

Scoops at February 8, 2014 at 6:06 PM

My great great grandfather was David pardoe and my grandmother lived at portway hall as a child

My great grandfather was also David Pardoe ( and his father was also called David) and my grandfather also lived at Portway Hall as a young man. Which of my long-lost second-cousins-once-removed am I talking to? 

February 15, 2014 at 4:56 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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