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Forum Home > Living and Working Conditions. > Dudley. 17th and 18th Centuries..

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It's hard. looking around today, to imagine Dudley, as anything other than a Town forged by industrial growth. In times past though, it must have been resembled a quiet pleasant rural backwater. Robert Roades, and his wife Isabell, must have been thankful that it was, as they gazed at their newly born son, John Rodes, after his christening on 29th October, 1655, at Saint Thomas's Church.  Robert was a farmer, not in a great way, but with a sideline in nailmaking. This way of life was carried on by John, and it would appear, quite successfuly as well. Somewhat unusually for the time, he did not get married until he was 31. It's possible, that a woman who matched his standing in the commuity was not to found, or he was much too busy with his business. His marriage to Sara ( Sarah ) Wier, took place on 8th December, 1686, again at Saint Thomas's Church. There is only a record of one child from this union, John, born on 1st January,1692, and christened on 16th of the same month. John Roades, ( same man, name spelled differently ) died, or was buried, on 19 November,1710, aged 55. From a subsequent document, both his wife, and son, seem to have preceeded him to the grave, for of them there is no mention. The document, is a priced list of his possessions, complied by his friends, in March 1711, for presentation to the Church Court at Worcester. ( Probate ) How successful he had been is clearly apparent.

Item 1.  All his wearing apparell and the money in his Purse.                  £4   0   0d

Most ordinary folk would have had to work many months to earn such a sum.

Item 2.  In his dwelling house, one iron grate, one fireshovell and tongues, one

old cupboard, one table, one clock, and other things therin belonging. £2  10.  0d

To have been able to afford a Clock, in 1710 would have stood out a bit, and been a bit of a rarity. I wonder how much such a clock would be worth today.

Item 3.  In the chamber below stairs, one bedstead, one feather bed, blankets, sheets, and

bolsters thereto, two old boxes, one old coffer, and one old chair.           £1   10   0d

Shades of old Shakespeare here, not one, but two beds, and with sheets as well. Not short of a few bob our John.

Item 4.  In the buttery, six little barrells.                                                                    5s  0d

Item 5.  In the wharehouse, four cwt of ordinary iron, in barr and rods,

with other odd things.                                                                                         £3    17    0d.

Nailmaking at this time was a highly skilled job, and the nails were much sort after. The odd

things recorded would have been the tools needed for the job.

Item 6. In the chamber over the dwelling house, one chest, some oates,

and other odd things.                                                                                         £1    10   0d.

Item 7.  In the chamber over the buttery, one old bed and bedding,

one chest, and other odd things.                                                                     £1     4    9d

Another bed, and by now we know that the house was a fairly substancial building.

Item 8.  In a little chamber, one old bed.                                                                  5s  3d.

Item 9. In a little chamber below stairs, one little table and four old chairs.    4s   0d

Item 10.  Brass and Pewter, one iron pot.                                                             19s  7d.

Item 11. In the stables, 15 horses and their halters and geeres,

and all things belonging to them.                                                                     £2   10   0d

Now thats what I call a bargain, 15 horses and gear. It sounds like he was running a haulage

business as well.

Item 12. In the cowhouse three cows and two yearling calves.                 £14   6   0d.

Here is obiviously where he made most of his money, butter, milk, cheese, and selling cattle.

Item 13. Hay in the barn and on a rick, and muck.                                        £20   7   0d

Now who says, that theres no money in muck.

Item 14. Book debts                                                                                            £8    10   0d.

It's obvious that he sold the iron to the locals for nailmaking, and he must have been a generous man, to extend so much credit to his customers.

Item 15. In desperate debts.    ( overdue for payment )                                £2    0   0d.

Item 16. In things out of sight, and unpriced.                                                          5s  0d.

Sum total of John Rodes goods and chattells.                                         £114   3s   7d.

So there it is, a substancial house and outbuildings, which were not valued it seems, perhaps his relatives were still living, and couldn't agree on who got what. The signatures, or marks, are recorded at the end of the document.  John Payton senior, Joseph Finch, Jane Downing, ( her mark ) Mary Davies, ( her mark ) and Elizabeth Davies. ( her mark ) All good friends of John Rodes, deceased member of the Parish of Dudley. Anyone recognise a name??


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

September 14, 2011 at 3:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 1413

It was also from this period that the fortunes of Dudley Castle began to wane as well. Captured by the Roundheads in 1646, the only substancial defensive part within the curtain wall, The Keep, was made inoperative by demolishing most of it. The Hall, Kitchens, and Accomodation units were left as they were, successive Earls of Dudley adding, as time went by. Now here's a strange little fact, The Castle was never actually in Dudley, It was in fact built over the border in Sedgley, and remained so until a boundry change in 1926. The old Earls though, had found a better place to live than a draughty old Castle, they moved to Himley Hall. In 1750, a fire, which burned for 3 days, destroyed what remained of the buildings. The Townsfolk refused to tackle the blaze, believing that a huge stash of Gunpowder was stored in the cellers. The resulting ruin, apart from some restoration work to some battlements, is largely what you see today. The fire did have some benefit to the Town though, it had cleared a space for the start of the famous Dudley Fetes, several days of gaiety and drunkeness. They even purchased some Guns from the Crimean War, and mounted them on the ramparts, where they remain to this day.

When Dudley finally got the Castle, they didn't know what to do with it, it was far too expensive to repair, so they simple made a few safe paths, and the grounds were opened up. Now here's another little less known fact, while digging in the grounds, the archeologists found some ancient Condoms. The earliest know examples of such things, and from reconstructions of the articles, they were found to be effective. ( Don't ask me, I wasn't there ) There would have been a great many more to be found after the grounds were opened up. ( no TV, folks had to pass the time somehow ) In 1937, the answer of what to do next, came in the form of the Dudley Zooloogical Society Trust, when the wholesite, complete with the ruins of the Castle, was handed over. It's had it's ups and downs over the years, but it's now back on track, and they are even putting the overhead cable lift back in. Together with the Black Country Living Museum, and plans to open up the wonderful caverns under The Wrens Nest, ( subject of course to funding, as so many things today are ) Dudley looks to be heading towards a brighter future, as far as tourists go. Sorry they didn't win City Status recently, that would have been a bonus, but I'm sure the folk of Dudley will do what their ancesters did, Roll up their Sleeves and get on with it.


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

March 17, 2012 at 4:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Site Owner
Posts: 1413

Dudley, well at least the personage of The Lords Dudley, began to grow rich during this period of history. In 1701, the estate holdings were producing some rather impressive income. Following on from his father, and as part of the expanding estate, the new Lord Dudley now owned at least three coal mines. The largest was at Knowle Hill, Netherton,  a slightly smaller one at Parkhead, Dudley, and another one at Coneygre, Tipton. He also owned several Iron stone mines, and of course the Limestone Quarries and Works in Dudley. Together with his vast ownership of land, which produced a steady stream of Rents, his yearly income exceeded £5,000. This was a huge sum for the time, and by the time his son took over on his death, in 1725, the estate was valued at £21,110. By 1731, the new Lord Dudley also owned four  Newcomen  Steam Engines, two at Tipton, and one each at Parkhead and Netherton. The first of these, had been erected to drain the Coneygre Colliery of water in 1712, by his father. They also made money, as the mine water was sold to the Canal Company. This was of course a conciderable investment, due to the ever expanding mineral business carried on by Lord Dudley. The really big expansion though, came with the Second Viscount Dudley and Ward, John, who inherited the lot in 1774. With so much influence and power bought by his wealth, he was a prime mover in the 1776 Local Enclosure Acts and Awards. While enclosing all the waste and common land produced an expansion of the Canals, and an increase in industrial activity which meant more work for the inhabitants, it also had some more unsavoury aspects. It granted to the new Lord Dudley, a great deal of extra land, under which was a very great deal of mineral wealth. Not only would he, as Lord of the various manors, have control of the agriculture and rents, but he also had the right to anything below the surface as well. The exploitation of the area had began, the number of mines grew, and the Dudley Estate became possible the richest in the Country. Only for a few though, for the rest of the population would remain impoverished for a great many years to come, as the Estate moved into the Iron Trade as well. They were well placed at the turn of the century, and would remain so, for well over a 100 years, which is more than can be said for the poor peasants.


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

April 17, 2014 at 3:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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