BILSTONS JEWEL IN THE CROWN

The Greyhound & Punchbowl as it is now named , stands out majestically from the surrounding buildings in Bilston Hight Street in 1973.
The Greyhound & Punchbowl as it is now named , stands out majestically from the surrounding buildings in Bilston Hight Street in 1973.

  Local Bilstonians pass this building today with hardly a second glance as it has just been an integral part of the High Street scene throughout their life times..    

PIC-002-A Pen & Ink drawing by A.Arrowsmith shows this building of early Tudor Architecture dating from the latter half of the 15th century.
A Pen & Ink drawing by A. Arrowsmith shows this building of early Tudor Architecture dating from the latter half of the 15th century.

The Wars of the Roses would seem to mark the period of this ancient house, formerly the home of the De Mollesleys. and built by John De Mollesley who married the daughter and heiress of Edwin de Bilston. When the commissioers of Henry VIII came to Bilston to enqure into the state of St Leonards Church , they stayed in this house.The house was sold during the Civil war to John Green, Gent, whose son was a Captain of Cavalry in the Royal Army and fought in the battle of Worcester in which he was slain.

The site adjoining the heath of stow was surrounded by thickly wooded country, here the oak was felled for construction, and nearby the stone was quarried for its foundation walls and massive chimneys for open fireplaces measuring in one place as much as ten feet by five feet at the base, these with the walls were according to custom built first.

Bilston then was one of the largest villages in the Midlands, rich in timber house’s with many overhanging gables and some with octagon bays as at Moreton Old Hall . Cheshire. `its prosperity owed much to its position on the Watling Street the Old Roman Road from London to Holyhead.

 

A High Street scene the 1960's Of the remains of this old house much has been written, the west wing seen above is the only portion of the original building left, but the restoration by William Butler & Co in 1936 bought to light some hitherto unknown and very interesting features.
A High Street scene the 1960’s Of the remains of this old house much has been written, the west wing seen above is the only portion of the original building left, but the restoration by William Butler & Co in 1936 bought to light some hitherto unknown and very interesting features.

 

 

The Booklet produced by William Butler on the restoration of The Greyhound and Punchbowl Bilston in 1936.
The Booklet produced by William Butler on the restoration of The Greyhound and Punchbowl Bilston in 1936.

The work of restoring the old and carrying out the new additions has been well executed by the staff of W. Butler & Co., Limited under the direction of Mr J A Swan F R I B A . The following story is taken from the above booklet.  

The Gable end facing high Street Foremost of these interesting features is the overhanging gable of the south-west angle, hidden for more than 120 years by some additions made when the house was converted into an Inn named “The Greyhound and Punchbowl.”
The Gable end facing high Street Foremost of these interesting features is the overhanging gable of the south-west angle, hidden for more than 120 years by some additions made when the house was converted into an Inn named “The Greyhound and Punchbowl.”

The traditional form of plan for this house would appear to have been adopted, the main front facing nearly due south, its size was comparatively small and was divided broadly into three blocks, the west wing containing the principal living room and the east wing for kitchen and servants, these two wings being connected in the centre by the hall. A passage at the end leading to the main entrance door would give access to the staircase and upper rooms in addition to the two main floors. The small gable windows show there were lofts on the roofs. From some English and French coins discovered in the floors these would appear to confirm the period of George III and Louis XVI. of France. In the excavations part of the main wall of the centre hall was exposed, the present new gable facing the High Street has been built in front of this, and occupies the site of the original recessed front of the old hall, this was known as bibblefold (paved with pebbles) and used at a later date for cattle and pigs on market days. The construction of the main foundation walls when uncovered showed the old method of damp proofing below ground, with banks of puddled clay on both sides as a precaution of low lying ground.  

 The recessed entrance court.
The recessed entrance court.

 

It will be noticed that the level of the High Street is some three feet above the original ground line which has been excavated and paved on the south and west sides, forming a sunk court and passage.

The west front is now a complete example of timber framing, from a derelict building it has been renewed and is now well worthy of study.

The oak trees for the main posts were only worked on the exposed faces with axed surfaces, the inside faces being left with the bark removed.

The construction of the south-west angle post is particularly interesting, it is all hand -worked with the natural shape of the wood retained.

 

One of many oak pillars Inside the entrance hall part of an oak tree forms one of the pillars supporting the building No trace of the original stone fireplace’s has been found., they have been replaced in the traditional style of the period.
One of many oak pillars Inside the entrance hall part of an oak tree forms one of the pillars supporting the building No trace of the original stone fireplace’s has been found., they have been replaced in the traditional style of the period.
Richly carved panelling and plaster worked ceiling in Smoke room.
Richly carved panelling and plaster worked ceiling in Smoke room.

 

 

Below on the ground floor is the principal room of the house, adapted to present day requirements without losing its old-world appearance. Its chief glories are a splendid example of plaster worked ceiling, panelled walls mostly original and parts removed from the room above , and a delicately carved mantel piece showing the earlier type of panels with shaped arches .

Of the ceiling with its mellow colouring of old age retained, it can be said this is the original, hand worked in situ and done by a master craftsman; it has been wrongly described Arabesque.
The design is an all over pattern based on a vine stem which was first applied, the leaves, fruit and birds being added after-wards.

There can be no doubt this work is of the Tudor period great care having been taken to preserve it intact. A portion of this ceiling now in the passage has been reproduced .
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This former Manor House a worthy and extremely valuable piece of mediaeval work which still adorns the town, a last reminder of its historic associations, has been allowed to deteriorate over the last 20 years its outside appearance has become very shabby and neglected.

I wonder if this Grand old building has much future left?

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