Just before Christmas, I went to meet an old tree called Noddy. As I was driving over to see him, I was listening to the radio. It was safe to do this since I’d been recently been Whamageddoned when delivering a tub of Heroes. A careless wispa indeed. Slade were playing en-root, and though singing along felt a little hollow this year, given that everybody is probably not having much fun this year, I enjoyed the nominal coincidence.
I’ve been to Colton twice before. Once to show my Mum the erratic boulders that mark the four corners of the bridge over Moreton Brook and once for the slightly more rock and roll reason of a party at Ye Olde Dun Cow.
On the latter occasion, I was having a look at the memorabilia the pub had about the local area. You can find some really interesting things on display in old pubs. I even found a blog post from this amazing local history blog called Lichfield Lore printed out and framed once….Hanging on the wall of the Dun Cow I found a drawing of a massive old chimney stack but more about that later.
The Dun Cow is at the edge of the village and Noddy lives up a nearby country lane called Newlands, an old name dating back to 1339. As I started walking up there, I was almost run over by a delivery driver but he smiled and waved cheerfully and it was a novelty to interact with someone from outside my bubble. On reaching a huge puddle and contemplating how best to cross, I became aware of three men without a boat on the opposite shore. Yes, this puddle was that big. After much ado, Staffordshire’s answer to Compo, Clegg and Foggy reached my side. I decided to play the part of Batty and told them I was looking for a tree. An lo! Glad tidings of great joy they bought as they told me they’d just passed him a short ago. In fact, from this moment hence, they shall be known as the Three Wise Men of Colton.
I was originally introduced to Noddy by an absolute star who helped to fight and win a battle against HS2 to save him. The destruction of old roots for this new route is a huge tragedy and although many other battles have been lost, there is some comfort in knowing that this eight hundred year old oak has survived. Stood beside him, it’s just possible to see the chimney tops of Little Hay Manor House. The current house is relatively modern, built in the 19th century but remember the big old chimney stack I mentioned earlier? It’s all that remains of the Tudor manor house, demolished in 1846 due to the decayed state of its floors. Incredible to think that Noddy would already have been around 450 years old when it was built. According to Frederick Perrot Parker, the Rector of Colton who wrote a history of the village in 1897, on the third day of December each year, the boundaries of the manor of Little Hay were perambulated. I understand that Noddy was part of that boundary and thankfully still is.
I’m reading the rest of the Rev Parker’s history at the moment and it gives such a detailed account of the family trees of Colton gentry that I now feel I know them better than my own relatives. Mind you there are also some interesting snippets such as this intriguing sentence,
‘Hamley House, now belonging to Lord Bagot, is mentioned as Mr Webb’s new house in a vestry book of the year 1707; it has undergone considerable alteration from time to time, and there was probably an earlier dwelling on the same site; traces of an old window remain blocked up in the wall of one of the outbuildings, and the well is said to be curious‘.
I confess that I would have liked a little more about the curious well and a little less of the dry geneaology but the Rev Parker is in my good books for including a drawing of the Tudor incarnation of Little Hay Manor. Besides, it’s good to have some Spring explorations to look forward to…
Parker, F.P. (1870), Some Account of Colton and of the De Wasteney’s Family