Rushall in 1817
Description from A Topographical History of Staffordshire by William Pitt (1817)
Rushall is an ancient manor and village, situated on the road to Lichfield, between one and two miles distant from Walsall, on the north-east. At the time of the Conquest, a Saxon family called Neel, of Rushall, had been long settled here, and its representative did fealty to the Conqueror, and his descendants remained in possession of the manor for some generations afterwards.
The Leigh family have been in possession of Rushall for more than two centuries. The ancient mansion, which is now in ruins, is described by Erdeswick as "built about with a wall, and a gatehouse of stone, all embattled castlewise." This castellated mansion was strongly fortified during the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster; and in the war between Charles the First and the Parliament, it was defended by a numerous garrison. A Mr. Pitt, of Wolverhampton, endeavoured to bribe Captain Tuthill, governor of Rushall, to betray the garrison for £2000; but the captain discovered the treachery, and Pitt suffered death for it in the year 1640.
There are two cannon-balls shewn here, as relics of the Civil war. One of these, twelve pounds weight, was found in a piece of timber; the other, only three pounds, was found at Ryecroft, on the opposite side of the road.
This fortification, which is now in ruins, was built of rough limestone, and encompassed about one acre of ground; near the centre is a detached building, containing a large room on the ground-floor, and a bedchamber over it, adorned with several family portraits of the Leighs. The offices on the north side are now inhabited by a tenant. The extent of the manor is about 1500 acres, part in tillage, and part grass. It is in general too cold for barley, but is excellent wheat land. By a singular agreement with the lord of the manor, the tenant is bound to manure with lime only for corn crops, and to lay all his compost on grass-land. The consequence has been a great improvement of the estate, and the circumstances of the occupier.
A Roman fibula, with several ancient coins, were found by some workmen in May, 1795, who were employed in making a pit for burning limestone, on an estate called Linley-farm, belonging to Mr. Leigh.
The most memorable individual of the family of the Leighs, was Edward Leigh, who was educated at Oxford, and in 1623 obtained the degree of MA. He finished his education in the Middle Temple, London, and was the author of Critica Sacra, and several other useful books. He was chosen member of the Long Parliament in the time of the Civil wars: but at the mandate of Cromwell, he was confined, with many other members, at the King's Head, in the Strand. He lived till the year 1671, and was buried in the chancel of Rushall Church.
On the ruins of Rushall, a singular plant, with a beautiful flower, grows in great profusion. It is the Antirrhinum majus, or Snap Dragon, and is in full bloom about Midsummer.
Rushall Church is a vicarage, dedicated to St. Michael, and appears to have been a chapel of ease to Walsall. On the south side of the chancel there still remains the aperture of a confessionary, and vase for holy water. It is an ancient and mutilated fabric of rough stone in the pointed style of architecture, and contains monuments of the Leighs and other families. The steeple contains five bells. In the south part of the cemetery stands the base of an ancient cross.
According to the population returns in 1811, there were 324 males and 289 females, making the total inhabitants of Rushall amount to 613. The Leigh family, or their successors, are lords of the manor, and patrons of the church.