Remembering Old Rushall

June 1, 2017 in Books, Features, Rushall by Stuart Williams

Rushall Central Club and Coffee House, where the library now stands, 1930s.

Rushall Central Club and Coffee House, where the library now stands, 1930s.

By Stuart Williams

Senior Archives/Conservation Assistant

The village of Rushall, near Walsall, is first mentioned in Domesday Book (William the Conqueror’s survey of 1086).

The name means ‘a place in marshy ground where rushes grow’.  Its first church was a chapel of Walsall, but the independent-minded lords of Rushall soon secured a parish.  In 1440 John Harpur rebuilt Rushall Church on the chapel-site next to his Hall.  It was rebuilt 1854-6, the old square tower remaining until 1867.

St Michael's Church, Rushall, before 1867 (pic copied by W.B. Shaw)

St Michael’s Church, Rushall, before 1867 (pic copied by W.B. Shaw)

Rushall Hall today dates largely from the 1800s, incorporating earlier walls.  When the fortified gatehouse and walls were built in the 1200s and 1300s, the house itself was probably timber.

Rushall Hall with Mr Greatrex standing outside, 1894.

Rushall Hall with Mr Greatrex standing outside, 1894.

The Leigh family succeeded the Harpurs in the mid 1500s.  At the start of the Civil War in 1642, Edward Leigh, MP, opposed the King.  He fortified the Hall and became an army colonel.  His wife could not hold the Hall against Prince Rupert in 1643.  The royalists were subsequently ejected after a short siege in 1644.  During the 1700s, the Leighs became absentees as were the Mellish and Buchanan families.  The estate was sold in 1945.

Park Lime Pits, early 1900s

Park Lime Pits, early 1900s

Limestone at Rushall was exploited by the Romans and through the Middle Ages for building and agriculture.  During the Industrial Revolution mining expanded greatly due to the use of limestone in smelting iron.  A new settlement grew up at Daw End.  The quarries in Rushall Hall’s park flooded, becoming Park Lime Pits.

Rushall Square, c1900

Rushall Square, c1900

At the start of the 1900s, Rushall was a thriving village with Anglican, Methodist and Congregational chapels and had its own Police Station and Court.  Since 1945, however, Rushall Square has lost much of its character to road development and new housing has increased the population.

I Remember Rushall by Vicky Rimmer

I Remember Rushall by Vicky Rimmer

Historical and geographical facts are, of course, fascinating, but the tale of any village is nothing without the story of the people who lived there.  Fortunately, Rushall is well-served in this regard by a fascinating and evocative book entitled I Remember Rushall, compiled and edited by Oral Historian Vicky Rimmer of Walsall Local History Centre from voice recordings of the memories of Rushall folk.

It is available for £7.99 (sale price £6.99 at time of posting) at the Centre, and is packed with memories of life, work, religion, shopping, schools and leisure in the village, as well as photographs and maps.

Stuart Williams