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.
The Warrilows have a long history round here (perhaps as long as the Draycott family, which itself 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 that 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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). It’s possible too that the family then resided at Leeshouses which was on the farm estate.
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) – Elizabeth Warrilow’s gravestone (see right) is dated 1889, and 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.
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)