Tag Archives: Anthony Draycott

Draycott’s ‘notables’

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…

Wildblood Street?

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.

Bessie Hammond

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.

Others

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.

Grave of Dr Healey
The Revd Charles Healey is buried in Draycott churchyard

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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Draycott and dragons

It’s a curious fact that the animal most associated with Draycott-in-the-Moors is… a dragon.

English: Picture of St. Margaret of Antioch co...

St. Margaret and the dragon. (Photo: Wikipedia)

According to legend, the last-ever dragon was slain here; the word Draycott has often been deliberately punned in the past with the Latin word for dragon, ‘draco’; and the symbol of our church’s patron saint (St Margaret) is … a dragon.
It’s all very intriguing!

Horse?

But, the animal that really should be most identified with Draycott is the horse. Not only is it believed that the Romans had stabling facilities here (near where The Draycott Arms is now) 2000 years ago, but Draycott was once famous for its horse-races.

And the origin of the word Draycott in fact suggests a dray-horse. The most usual explanation of the name is that it comes from Old English ‘draeg’ (meaning to ‘drag close by’) and ‘cott’ – a dwelling place. In other words, a place where you (or your horse) had to drag heavier items up and over a stream or hill…. (probably right outside The Draycott Arms where the stream goes under the road and where the big hill starts).

But it’s dragons that appear most in our history.

In fact (maybe!) there is an alternative old spoken-language connection, this time between Draycott and dragons.
Some historians of old name-places have speculated that the word ‘Draycott’ could have come from the language of the old Britons – and dragon in old Welsh is draen, Old Irish draigen, old Breton drean. The suggestion is that these could have ‘evolved’ into Draycott.
The trouble with that suggestion is the name-place ‘Draycott’ does not appear until the twelfth century.

Legends

It’s hard to pinpoint the legend which says that Draycott is the place where the last dragon in England was slain, but the reference to it does come in a very scholarly journal – the Transactions of The North Staffordshire Field Club (1908).
The Reverend Thomas Barns wrote a piece for the journal back then describing the Anglo-Saxon myths surrounding this area, and, in that article, says that the legend was still current among older folk at the time. Unfortunately, the Reverend Barns says no more on the subject than just that!
So, where the myth comes from will need a lot more research.

However, the fact that the dragon is the symbol of St Margaret Of Antioch (the patron saint of the parish church) is easier to verify. The main legend around this 4th Century saint is that she was swallowed alive by the Devil (who had taken on the appearance of a dragon) – but she escaped through his mouth when the Devil coughed up the crucifix she was carrying…!
In St Margaret’s Church you can see evidence of this legend. The carving of her on the outside of the church shows her emerging from the dragon’s mouth.

Draycotts and the Dragon

The family that lorded it over the village for more than 500 years (having arrived with the Normans) was French in origin.  But when the branch of the family that took over the local estates in the 12th Century decided they needed an English name reference, they chose the place where they were based, i.e. Draycott.

However, it was not until centuries later that the dragon symbol came into play for the family – when Anthony Draycott became its head, in the sixteenth century.
Anthony was quite the intellectual, and seemed to like the way that Draycott sounded like ‘draco’, the Latin for dragon, and he adopted the symbol.

Anthony was rector of both Checkley and Draycott Church, and he did a lot of renovation works in Checkley Church. You can still evidence of the works – including the bench-ends there carved into his symbol, a dragon’s head..

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Strangely enough, these things persist and persist as part of tradition – even through to today.

The church at Draycott remained in the ‘patronage’ of the Draycott family for many years, and the small enclosed chapel at the church is still known as The Draycott Family Chapel – even though the main Draycott branch died out centuries ago.
But the dragon symbol itself carries on into the present day: at St Margaret’s Church you will still see some strange tall poles at the end of some of the pews. These are traditional ‘churchwardens staves’, carried by the wardens as an ancient sign of their authority. At the top of the staves are medallions of enamelled metal. And what is depicted on the medallions?
You guessed it: a dragon.

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Thanks to Sarah Beardmore for all the research for this article.
If you too want to write an article for this blog, just email us.

We’d appreciate any more information too. Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.
(The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment

Sign of the dragon for Draycott…

Here’s an idea: how about a ‘village sign’ for Draycott… in the shape of a dragon?  The money is available to have it carved, so why not?

After all, village-signs are now very popular – neighbouring Fulford has had a very smart one since 2013. And we have the ideal site for it – on the roadside bank down from the church cemetery…

The money is available too.  A community projects fund has been set up by the Draycott Council out of a grant from the Lower Newton Solar Farm, and, so far, there are only a few ideas of what to use the money for.

Dragon-Draco-Draycott

But why a village sign in the shape of a dragon?
Well… here we have to examine the murky past of the village – and we find out that dragons have been associated with the village for a very long time!

There is the legend of an appearance of one in the village back in olden times, the second dragon connection comes through St Margaret of Antioch, the patron saint of our parish church as the dragon is her symbol…

And a big dragon connection with the village comes through the Draycott family, because a pun the Latin word for dragon (‘draco’) fitted the family name nicely! The most famous member of the family, Anthony Draycott, even had the symbol of a dragon-head carved on his own memorial church-pew.

To read up on the whole dragon & Draycott connection, read our article: Dragons & Draycott

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Dragon sign

So, dragons do have an association with Draycott – but, is a dragon a suitable sign for a quiet village?
Well, dragons are not just devouring monsters, they are in fact known as guardians. The famous Welsh Dragon is a defender of the country, as well as a symbol of the inhabitants’ great spirit.
So, a dragon could be seen as the village guardian…

And what of the practicalities?
Well, we do have a local wood-sculptor who might be persuaded to carve a figure. Anthony Hammond is his name, and he is well-known to most of us in Draycott, being both a local man and someone who pops up regularly to show off his skills at the Draycott Summer Fayre.
Well… the community fund money does have to be spent on something, so it’s a thought, isn’t it?

Fund

If you too have ideas for what could be done with the Draycott Council Community Fund, just contact the council clerk; or come along to any council meeting – the public section starts at 7.30 – and make your suggestion to the councillors.


Reference: The story of the dragon that appeared in ancient Draycott appears in an article by Rev Thomas Barns entitled ‘On Some Ancient Sites in North Staffordshire’ which can be found in the Journal of the North Staffordshire Field Club Volume 42 (1908)

Cresswell’s hidden heritage

One of the highlights of the St Mary’s 200th History Exhibition earlier this year was the display at it of the church’s extraordinary 600 year old clerical vestments.
St Mary’s, the Catholic church in Cresswell, was celebrating the anniversary of the opening of the church back in 1816.

A strange history

Vestments such as the ones that displayed in the exhibition are worn by priests during church services.  They are different colours on different days to mark the significance of each day in the church calendar.
As such, they are very precious to church-goers, and can be highly decorated.

So …imagine the surprise when, back in 1846, the owner of Rookery Farm in Cresswell discovered a wooden chest, full of ancient vestments, bricked up behind his chimney!!
Local historians quickly concluded that the chest had been secreted away by local Catholics during the Reformation 500 years ago.  This was the period when the old Catholic religion was being replaced by the new Protestant religion; and many churches were very worried about having their property confiscated by King Henry VIII and sold off.

The chest was taken by the farmer to St Margaret’s Anglican Church, the rightful possessor in law.
Very generously, St Margaret’s decided that the vestments should be ‘returned’ to local Catholics, so they were passed to St Mary’s – although St Margaret’s decided they would keep the chest itself!! (You can see the old chest in St Margaret’s even now).

Old chest at St Margaret's

Old wooden chest at St Margaret’s – thirteenth century

Some local historians have surmised that it was the famous Anthony Draycott, the local priest of the time, and a member of the local gentry family, who was responsible for taking away these treasured items to his family home of nearby Paynsley Hall and hiding them there.  A hundred years later, during the Civil War, it is thought they were transferred again, this time to Rookery Farm.

Vestments

Although we talk of “vestments” being found, actually what was found were ‘orphreys’ – as the cloths to which they were attached had virtually rotted away.  Orphreys are the thick (quite heavy), decorated panels attached to priestly vestments.  They can have beautiful needlework, full of gold thread and coloured silks, and often show scenes from the Bible.

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The most fascinating of the Cresswell orphreys (see examples, above) is the green one. Historians now believe this was probably brought over from Spain, as part of the baggage brought with her by Katharine of Aragon, a devout Catholic and the first wife of Henry VIII.  They believe this because it resembles so much one at Oscott.
The others are thought to be fourteenth-century.

Father Patrick MeagherAs you can imagine, the orphreys were not in a great state when they were found.   Father Meagher, Cresswell’s priest sixty years ago (see pic, right), decided they should be restored (with the encouragement of his curate Father Bailey, who was also one of this area’s great historians).
They were restored, and mounted on new cloth, by nuns at Oulton Abbey.
Unfortunately, one nun did decide to add a few embellishments, which historians are annoyed about (!), but nearly all of the orphreys are as-original, and now attached to modern cloths, making them better for display.

Following advice from the Victoria & Albert Museum, it was decided that one of them however was too frail to be repaired. This is in store in Leek; but the rest can still be seen at Cresswell.

Although Fr Meagher did wear them a few times during a Mass shortly after they were repaired, they are not used nowadays.

Exhibition

It is hoped that before this 200th anniversary year is over St Mary’s will have a second history exhibition. Unfortunately, the church is without a priest at the moment, so things are a bit in flux at the parish.
But, if the parishioners do have another exhibition this year, no doubt the orphreys will take pride of place!

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References:
‘Cresswell Church Vestments’ – article by Albert E Doran
‘A History of The Parish of Draycott-en-le-Moors’ (2006) by Matthew E Pointon
Painsley – A History of Cresswell’s Roman Catholic Community’ (1973, reprinted 2005) by Fr Philip Bailey SCJ.