The Warrilows of Paynsley

There are many long-established family-names in this district, whose members have formed the warp & weft of the history of Draycott-in-the-Moors – the Vavasours, the Shelleys, the Perrys, the Bostocks and so on.
Another one of these is the Warrilow family, and there has been some recent research on them – which we have now pulled together here.

Though the Warrilows were not rich, they are very old, were rebels of a sort, …and they stored hidden treasure…!
But they are also rooted here. In the 1891 census, Staffordshire had the highest population of Warrilow families of any county.

Disappeared hamlet

The Warrilows have a long history round here, perhaps as long as the Draycott family itself, which goes back to Norman times.
In fact, in his book on the history of Draycott, Matthew Pointon reminds us that in medieval times, there was a hamlet called Warelow here, part of the manor of Paynsley (i.e. in southern Cresswell).  We don’t know where it was though, and whatever settlement was there is now gone of course.

We also know there were Warrilows round here then because another of our local historians Lev Wood found one in an old tax record. He tells us: “Adam Warrilow was living in the vicinity of Draycott in 1327, where he paid 2 shillings in tax for the Scottish War Levy.  And Adam is still there in 1332 paying the same in the Subsidy Roll.” (See these rolls at the bottom of this page).

But in the 16th century, misfortune hit this family.
Basically, King Henry VIII decided Catholicism was no longer to be the state religion, and anybody who decided to keep the ‘old faith’ would suffer.
As we know, the lords of the manor here, the Draycotts, were fiercely Catholic, and indeed, they did suffer, mostly through large taxation and ‘exclusion’ from public life. (See: the story of Anthony Draycott).
The Warrilows however, it seems, decided to stick with their lords; and they did not convert to the new Anglican religion, but stayed with the old Catholic faith.

The seventeenth century

The local Warrilows pop up again with mention of a John Warrilow in Draycott, dated 1607. And also, in the 1666 Hearth Tax, several families by the name of ‘Worriloe’ are recorded as living in the parish. (Spelling was often erratic up until modern times!)

The word ‘Warelow’ also gets a mention in a brass plate which can be seen in St Margaret’s Church to this day.

Tickeridge inscription at St Margaret's Church

Tickeridge inscription – as recorded by NADFAS historians

The old plate remembers Thomas Tickeridge who “departed this life at Warelow House in ye parish of Draycott” in 1658.
Warelow House no longer exists, but we do know that Thomas also lived at Paynsley Hall (in southern Cresswell) for a time, so, presumably, this house was one of the smaller houses on the Paynsley manor… and had clearly got its name from the Warrilows.

More ominously, Warrilows figure in 1641, when an official count of recusants (old Catholics) was made (with Philip Draycott at the top of the list).
This was not a list you wanted to be on.  By this time, most people had converted to Anglicanism and Catholics were regarded very suspiciously – almost as potential terrorists – so the list of recusants was small, only twenty-six long for the whole parish. But among these names was… John Warrilow.

Catholic centre

By the seventeenth century, the connection between the Warrilows and Cresswell gets even stronger.

We know there was a Joseph Warrilow (died 1764) who lived at ‘Leeshouses’ in Cresswell. (Leese House Farm still exists today – and has an interesting story of its own – see article).
It is this Joseph who is one of the characters in a story of treasure – see this story further down this page!

Paynsley 1880 survey map

The 1880 map of southern Cresswell. In the top left is Rookery Farm (mistakenly called Leese House Farm), just down from that is Leesehouses,  and in the bottom right is Paynsley Hall & Farm. The thick grey line is the main railway. (Double-click this image to enlarge it)

Remember that the land in Cresswell round Paynsley was all part of the estate of the aristocratic Langdales (and then the Stourtons), who had succeeded to it when the Draycotts had died out – so the Warrilows would have been tenant farmers to them. And the Stourtons were also Catholic.
So, interestingly, Leese House becomes a sort of semi-secret centre for Roman Catholics. By this time (the mid eighteenth century) Catholics are just about tolerated, though still not allowed to practise openly or hold public office.

Hidden treasure

By the early nineteenth century the Warrilows are also farming from a site 100 yards from Leese House – at Rookery Farm. (There is nothing left of this today except a cattle-shed behind Rookery Crescent in Cresswell). However, in 1846 a startling discovery is made at Rookery Farm: hidden treasure!

During repairs to the farm, a recess inside the chimney is uncovered and in it is an oak chest. This chest contains valuable church silver and some ancient priestly vestments.
It turns out that, back during the Reformation of the sixteenth century, royal officers were ransacking churches for anything valuable, so the Draycott Catholic faithful at St Margaret’s had secretly taken away such things and hidden them – probably in a chest at Paynsley Hall to start with.
However, when Paynsley Hall is sold in 1751, the local Catholic priest takes the chest with him to Rookery Farm; and asks Joseph Warrilow, a good Catholic, to hide it.

After the chest is found, the silver and vestments are given to the Catholic community at Leese House, but the chest itself is returned to St Margaret’s, where it can be seen to this day.

Old chest at St Margaret's

Old chest – now returned to St Margaret’s where it can be seen today

The farming Warrilows leave

The tenancy to Rookery Farm stays with the Warrilows; and another Joseph farms there until 1863, when his son John takes over – at which time Joseph and his wife retire to Eccleshall (near Stafford).
But there, sadly, the story of the farming connection apparently ends. John and his wife Ann die young, in 1871, and their orphaned children go to Eccleshall to be with their grandparents.

However, other local Warrilows of course do go on.
Their steadfastness in the Catholic faith is seen in the Warrilow gravestones at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Cresswell (which was built in 1829, shortly after Catholics were granted freedom of worship in this country) – William Warrilow, who died in 1901, is one of the last of the family-name to be buried there.

Further down this page, see lots of comments on this article. If you too have comments, please scroll down and use the message box at the bottom of the page.

++ References
If you want to walk to see the sites of Rookery Farm, Leese House and Paynsley Hall, a public footpath connects them all. See Cresswell Footpath.
You can see the 1880 map more clearly by clicking here.
The survey of St Margaret’s Church carried out by NADFAS is available to buy. See St Margaret’s publications
More Warrilows can be found in the ‘Draycott Parish Registers 1669-1900’ publication.
Fourteenth Century taxation rolls are pictured below –  thanks to Lev Wood for finding them.  (Adam Warrilow is listed here, but his name is spelt Warylowe) Draycott roll 1327

9 responses to “The Warrilows of Paynsley

  1. In the course of tracking my Warrilow ancestors of Leeshouses (who were staunch Catholics) in Cresswell, I found that the Joseph Warrilow who died in 1764 was a Catholic Priest educated at Douai Catholic College in France, born in 1680 at Draycott,and ordained in 1702.
    As mentioned in a previous thread he lived in London, which is where he passed away.
    Also there is a William Warrilow, born 1738 at Draycott and studied at Douai before preaching in Newcastle Upon Tyne up to his death in 1807.
    On another note, i have studied the Draycott parish registers and have found about 60 burial records for the Warrilows, the majority listed as “popish” and buried on the northside (of the church). However there are no gravestones visible in the churchyard which is unusual.
    David Gregson

    ++ REPLY from Website Editor
    Hi David. As you say, Catholics were buried on the northside of the church, especially after the Reformation of the 1600s. The northside was traditionally the ‘less favoured’ point in a churchyard.
    One reason that there are few signs of Catholics buried here is that they were buried on the extreme northside, which later was developed as the church car park! The Catholics lie under the car park believe it or not.


    • Buried under car park

      REPLY from Website Editor
      Hi David. As you say, Catholics were buried on the northside of the church, especially after the Reformation of the 1600s. The northside was traditionally the ‘less favoured’ point in a churchyard.
      One reason that there are few signs of Catholics buried here is that they were buried on the extreme northside, which later was developed as the church car park! The Catholics lie under the car park believe it or not. Whether this was a deliberate act of anti-Catholic bias is hard to know.


  2. Another local family with Catholic connections were the Howe family of Leigh and Tenford
    stephen howe


  3. Thankyou to this website for the article! Always love hearing about the Warrilow connection.
    My 4x Grandparents were John Warrilow 1799 & Ann Wood, children Mary, William, Joseph, George, Jane, Harriet, John, Teresa and Mary Ann. My 3x Grandmother Mary Warrilow married Robert Fairbanks. I have John born 1799 to parents John and Ann but that’s as far as I get, major brick wall!
    Would love to hear from anyone connected to this family or have any further information.
    Nari Fairbanks



  4. More Warrilows

    Has anyone connected the Warrillows of Draycott to the Warrillows of Brewood/Moseley/Bushbury in south Staffs?
    The furthest i go back to is Francis Warrillow 1753 – 1826. He died leaving £600 and is mentioned as a regular Catholic for decades. See:

    On another track I am looking at the family tree of J.R.R Tolkien’s wife who traces her family back to the Warrilows of Stone. Is there any connection there?
    Marie Griffiths


  5. Joseph Warrilow x 2

    I have a copy of a will for Joseph Warrilow (alias Horton) who died 1764, who lived at Leeshouses (Draycott) and had lived at Standon, Herts and St George’s parish in Middlesex. His estate is shared between the families of his brothers, William of Leeshouses and Thomas of Moseley. A copy is available to purchase on the National Archives website.

    Unfortunately I have not managed to pin down William’s family to my own Warrilow ancestors (yet!). I suspect that my Joseph (1758 to 1829) is the 18th century Joseph’s great nephew but Catholic church records don’t start until 1780 in Cresswell, so there is a “brick wall” at the moment.
    I am the gggg grandson of Joseph Warrilow who died in 1829. His grandson John took over the farm upon his marriage to Ann Lovatt. Joseph and Olive nee Bowers and their other children moved to Eccleshall.
    Sadly as we know, John and Ann died young leaving their 3 children orphaned in 1871. The 3 including my ggrandad John were brought up by their grandmother Olive in Eccleshall.
    David Gregson


  6. John Warrilow family

    Was Teresa’s father John and her mother Ann? Brothers William, Joseph, George and sisters Harriet and Mary?
    David Warrilow


    • Leese House Warrilows

      Hi David, this sounds like my lot.
      I have a record of nine children, Teresa being one of them born 1835, to parents John and Ann. They were living at Leese House from 1841 to 1861.
      Nari Fairbanks


  7. Fairbanks & Warrilows

    My Fairbanks ancestors were from Sharpley Heath (on the road between Cresswell and Hilderstone) going back to the 1700’s. My GGG Grandfather Robert Fairbanks was married to Mary Warrilow.
    Nari Fairbanks


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