History of Staffordshire

Mow Cop Castle on the Staffordshire Moorlands

Staffordshire is a landlocked province in England’s West Midlands. It borders Leicestershire and Derbyshire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, Worcestershire and the West Midlands County to the south, Cheshire to the northwest, and Shropshire to the west.

Iron Age and Roman Empire

Early British remains survive in various parts of the territory. Many barrows have been opened in which urns, human bones, stone hammers, fibulae, pins, armlets, pottery, and other articles have been discovered. In the neighborhood of Wetton, near Dovedale, on the place called Borough Holes, no fewer than23 barrows were opened, and British embroideries have been discovered in Needwood Forest, the district between the angle of the Trent and the lower Dove to the south. Numerous Roman camps also remain, as at Knave’s Castle on the mysterious Watling Street, beside Brownhills.

Anglo-Saxon

The province symbol, the Staffordshire Knot, is observed on an Anglian stone cross that records from around the year 805 CE. The cross still stands tall in Stoke churchyard. Thus the Knot is either

  1. an old Mercian symbol or 
  2. A symbol adopted from Irish Christianity, Christianity, was introduced in Staffordshire by Irish priests from Lindisfarne about 650 CE.

The country which is now Staffordshire was attacked in the 6th century CE by a tribe of Angles who settled around Tamworth, afterward famous as a home of the Mercian kings, and later made their way past Cannock Chase, through the passages provided by Watling Street in the south and the Sow valley in the north. 

The province probably first came into being around ten years after the year 913 CE; that being the date at which Stafford – the important military fording-point for infantry to cross the Trent – became a guarded fortified stronghold and the new capital of Mercia under the then Queen Æthelflæd.

The county is first quoted by name in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1016 CE when Canute harried it.

Norman Conquest

The resistance which Staffordshire resisted William the Conqueror was punished by unmerciful confiscation and harrying, and the Domesday Survey supplies proof of the impoverished and depopulated condition of the county, which at this period contained around 64 mills. In contrast, Dorset, a smaller county, had 272. No Englishman was permitted to retain estates of any value after the Conquest.

Hundreds of Staffordshire

Later middle age

In the 13th century CE, Staffordshire formed Stafford’s archdeaconry, including the deaneries of Newcastle, Stafford, Alton and Leek, Lapley and Creigull, and Tamworth and Tutbury. In 1535 CE, the deanery of Newcastle was linked with that of Stone, the deaneries remaining otherwise unaltered until 1866 CE, when they were raised to twenty. The king formed the archdeaconry of Stoke-on-Trent in 1878 CE, and in 1896 CE, the deaneries were raised further to their present number; the archdeaconry of Stafford comprising Himley, Handsworth, Penkridge, Lichfield, Rugeley, Tamworth, Stafford, Tutbury, Trysull, Wednesbury, Walsall, Wolverhampton, and West Bromwich; the archdeaconry of Stoke-on-Trent comprising Cheadle, Alstonfield, Eccleshall, Leek, Hanley, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Trentham, Stoke-on- Trent, and Uttoxeter. In the battles of the reign of Henry III., most of the royal families of Staffordshire, including the Ferrers and the Bassets, backed Simon de Montfort, and in 1263 CE Prince Edward destroyed all the lands of Earl Robert Ferrers in this province and smoked Tutbury Castle. During the Battles of the Roses, Eccleshall was the HQ of Queen Margaret, and in 1459 CE, the Lancastrians were routed at Blore Heath.

Civil War

In the English Civil War of the 17th century CE, Staffordshire backed the parliamentary cause and was kept under Lord Brooke. Lichfield, Tamworth, and Stafford, however, were kept for King Charles, and Lichfield Cathedral withstood a siege in 1643 CE. In that year, the Royalists were triumphant at Hopton Heath but lost their leader, the Earl of Northampton. In 1745 CE, the Young Pretender moved as far as Leek in this county.

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