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Between the small place called Darby End, and the little hamlet of " Springfield, just a pace or two on the road to Dudley from Rowley Village, could be found an old Farmhouse. This was Bullfields Farm, the home in at least the early part of the 17th century, of the White family. They were an ancient Rowley presence were the Whites, indeed, one of the oldest names in the surviving records. The Farm, and family, were mentioned in the plot to blow up Parliament in 1605, and it's likely they were there from the mid 1550s, if not before. Today, nothing remains, except in a few names, like Bullfields Bridge, which spans the Canal, and a nearby road. It saw many changes in it's time, and generations have come and gone, some it would appear, were rather reluctant to depart this world, for the next.
The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, shook the country, and produced a great Hue and cry across the land, part of which finished up in what would later become the Black Country. Religion played a large part in the end of the saga, for with the plotters being mainly Catholic, there were few places they could seek refuge in the countryside. One place, which still stands today, was Holbeache House, Kingswinford, which was intended to be the hideout of some plotters, but they had been hotly pursued, and after a brief and futile fight, the survivors were forced again to flee. Two of them, Robert Winter and Stephen Lyttleton, sought shelter in a friendly house, Christopher White's Bullfields Farm. Like many large house's of the period, it was a rambling building, many parts having been added as the years rolled by, and a search failed to find them. The pair were then moved between other houses, the Holyheads and Smarts near to Rowley Village, and then in late1605, to the large house called Hagley Hall. It was here they were betrayed, the lure of the reward money to much of a temptation for some. They were both executed on 27th January, 1606. Meanwhile, the Government spies had uncovered those that had assisted the escape, and Holyhead and Smart, arrested and charged, were hanged at High Green, Wolverhampton. ( Now called Queen Square ) Christopher White disappeared, he seemed to vanish into thin air, and no amount of searching in Rowley produced a result. Maybe suspecting that White was concealed in a secret place in the house, the local magistrates ordered it to be fired. The house was totally distroyed in the blaze, and if White was inside, in hiding, he would have suffered a dreadful, if more private end, than swinging on the end of a rope. It was in the 1650s, that the family, recovered from the shame, and again with a bit of money, rebuilt the house on the same spot. Rowley folk were a superstitious lot, and it didn't take long for the stories of haunting to start. Servants heard the sound of dragging footsteps in the dead of night, doors opened and closed without human aid, and apparitions of a man were seen on the many staircases. These stories persisted down the years, non of which prevented the old house being purchased by another old Rowley family, The Darbys. Unlike the Whites, the Darbys had extensive holdings in both Mining and Quarrying, and were not so prone to believe, that things that went bump in the night were ghosts. The reason being, that deep beneath the meadows of Bullfields Farm, ran the subteranean tunnels of two collieries, The Thistle, and Warrens Hall colliery, and further up the hill, the huge gaping hole of Darby Hill Quarry. Even nearer, were the remains of an old mine shaft, that had actually been sunk inside the old barn. Nevertheless, many in the Darby family had dreams in which the overwhelming theme was Fire. Nothing happened though until 1910, when a young lady of the family was burned to death, after a candle she was carrying set fire to her dress. The old farmhouse continued to be declared haunted by the locals, and few would have accepted an invitation to stay the night. The house was finally vacated by the family in the late 1950s, and one member, having a dream, again of fire, was mortified to be told that it had indeed, again, been burnt to the ground. Whatever spirits were haunting Bullfields Farm, together with it's outdated plumbing, and oil powered lighting, seem to have all been consumed by the conflagation. Unless of course you live nearby and know something different.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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