Who are the most significant figures in the story of Draycott? That’s the question posed recently by local historian Matthew Pointon.
He asked it because it has become clear that when the developers come to build the Blythe Vale (Phase 2) housing estate at the west end of Draycott, they are open to the idea that some streets can be named after leading local people.
Matthew suggested twelve local names which could be considered, and we’ve added one to his list – so let’s have a look…
Top of the list for Matthew is Fred Wildblood, founder of Blythe Colour Works in Cresswell.
In 1908, Fred took over a small colour-works by the River Blithe and turned it into a world-famous concern that stayed in business for almost ninety years. As well as providing employment for thousands of local people, Fred saw to it that land was purchased for workers’ leisure activities (now used by the current cricket club and sports centre).
Sadly, we don’t know as much about Fred as we should, but it seems he was a formidable man.
(Thanks to Staffordshire Past Track for the picture, right)
Then, there is the Reverend C. Sneyd Kinnersley, rector of St Margaret’s Church, who drove the project to construct the village’s first school in 1839. (The building is long gone now; it was on part of what is now the church car park).
Just before the Rev Kinnersley’s time, the Catholic priest Father Thomas Baddeley was also active. It was he who built St Mary’s Church at Cresswell, with his bare hands it’s said, using his experience of having been a bricklayer in his youth. Sadly, the project, which was finished in 1816, probably killed him – he died soon after aged just 36 – but his building does survive: in fact, St Mary’s recently celebrated its 200th anniversary.
What of the Draycotts? They were the Norman family which owned and ran this district for 600 years from the 1100s. History doesn’t seem to have much to say about them; they were fairly ordinary, bar one (more of him below!).
However, in 1512, the Reverend William Draycott did at least found the charity which still bears his name, the Draycott Dole. Once a year, the ‘poor’ of the parish still receive a few pence because of him at the Draycott Dole Ceremony.
We personally would also like to throw another name into Matthew’s pot: Betty (Bessie) Hammond (see pic right).
Betty is something of a local legend; she acted as the village midwife before the NHS got properly established; she was a war-worker, and a governor at Draycott School (when we had one), a great fund-raiser for community organisations, and a local councillor for thirty years, only retiring at the grand age of 94! She died in 2019 and her funeral was attended by hundreds.
Among quite a few other suggestions, Matthew thought these were also notable…
Denise Morse, who was nationally known for trying to raise awareness of leukaemia disease. She died in 1989.
Stephen Offer, pioneer of the Cheadle Railway and some of the collieries in and around Draycott Cross.
The swimmer Bob Leivers who appeared in two Olympic Games and won two golds and a silver at the Empire Games in 1938. He is especially relevant since he lived in Marsh House, which adjacent to the planned estate.
The Reverend Dr. Charles Healey – who, in 1967, wrote the first history of St. Margaret’s Church, also drove the project to establish a village war memorial, and was a great supporter of Draycott Manor School.
On the wrong side of history
However, one famous local figure is unlikely to make the list – because of the controversy that still surrounds his legacy: Anthony Draycot.
Born at the end of the fifteenth century, at the height of the Draycott family’s fortunes, Dr. Anthony Draycot had a very distinguished career in the law at Oxford. He was rector not just of Draycott but many surrounding parishes and he was also MP for Stafford and chancellor to the Bishop of Lichfield. A steadfast and faithful Catholic, he refused to bow to the new Protestant regime (of Queen Elizabeth) and so was imprisoned until his health broke. He is commemorated by memorials in both Draycott and Checkley churches.
Judging by just those facts alone, he sounds like a good candidate for a street-sign, except that… Anthony was on the wrong side of history, and also had the misfortune to have a very bad press.
In a lurid propaganda publication of the 1560s, “Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs”, which is full of rather sadistic illustrations, Anthony was accused of being one of the worst persecutors of outspoken Protestants, using the law to find and arrest them and then presiding over trials where the accused were sentenced to be burnt at the stake. Antony definitely was near the top of the ‘most-hated’ list for Foxe – and Anthony has never lived down that attack.
Nowadays, we realise that everybody, Catholics and Protestants alike, were at it in the England of the sixteenth century and – apart from some populist historians -, we recognise that they were all as bad as one another. In fact, Charles Healey, in his history of Draycott written in the 1960s, writes quite mildly on the matter: Anthony Draycot “made himself thoroughly unpopular with his Protestant brethren …. in accordance with the spirit of those hard times”.
However, despite our modern understanding of those bad old times, it’s still doubtful if anyone nowadays would put forward Antony’s name as a ‘Draycott notable’.
There are people these days who will bend over backwards to forgive historical figures – even figures who profited from such an awful business as slave-trading – but, even for them, support for an Anthony Draycot street-sign might still be a big ask…
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