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Hiding place fit for a king; Days Out MOSELEY OLD HALL.

Byline: GRAHAM YOUNG

THERE'S always something comforting about a day out with the National Trust, writes GRAHAM YOUNG

It's a bit like visiting an elderly relative when you are a child... you know you'll feel warm in a protective sense, and that there might be an old-fashioned treat if you behave.

Having only had one grandparent still alive even by the time I was born, this is a rather special feeling for me.

But imagine how it was even more so for the fleeing King Charles II, whose father had been executed in Whitehall two years earlier.

Billed today as 'The house that saved a king...', Moseley Old Hall was the place where the young Charles hid after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651.

Charles I had been executed in January, 1649, and, with the Monarchy abolished, he was in exile in France. In the late summer of 1651, he marched south from Scotland only for his army of 16,000 men to be annihilated in batttle outside Worcester.

Five days later, on September 8, the bedraggled warrior sought sanctuary in Moseley Old Hall during a 41-day period when there was a pounds 1,000 bounty on his head.

The Catholic Whitgreave family, who had been fined heavily for their faith by the Parliamentary authorities, gave the king food, dry clothes and a hiding place from a search party which arrived in the road outside.

After finally reaching the safety of France, Charles was later restored to the the throne nearly a decade later in 1660.

His dictated account to Samuel Pepys in 1680 is in the Pepysian Library, Magdalene College, Cambridge (MSS 2141).

Thomas Whitgreave's own account, detailed in Moseley Old Hall's official NT guidebook, says Charles asked him: "Where is the secret place my lord (Wilmot) tells me of?".

On being shown the hide, he entered it "and when came forth, said it was the best place he was ever in".

After entering the house through the door which the king used, you'll see the bed where he slept and the priest hole where he hid.

Upstairs on the second floor is a simple chapel which Father John Huddleston took Charles to see during his stay.

Built by Henry Pitt around 1600, the house was originally known as 'Mr Pitt's new Hall at Moseley'.

Its little-changed outer walls were encased in brick around 1870. But the Elizabethan chimneys still tower above the roofs and, inside, much of the original panelling and timber framing is still visible.

Following the National Trust's acquisition of the property in 1962, the gardens were redesigned a year later.

Mostly containing plants and shrubs recorded in England prior to 1700, they include a modern reconstruction of a 17th century garden with an arbour, Nut Walk and Knot Garden of the type originally designed in 1640 by the Rev Walter Stonehouse for the Rectory garden at Darfield, near Barnsley.

We had lunch in the first floor tea room inside the former coach-house (which also has two tables at ground level).

Several 'old-school' ladies had made some decent tea, a bacon baguette, proper soup as well as ginger and Victoria sandwich cakes which would certainly have been fit for a king who hadn't slept for five days.

Moseley Old Hall has a brown sign just off the M54 (J2).

The initial road to get there features some carbuncular modern houses with the sort of ageing 'Spanish' tiles which are fast becoming the biggest blot on the modern Midlands' landscape.

But, once you quickly leave behind the delight fully named Cat and Kittens Lane, you're out in the country.

More's the pity that the traffic noise from the nearby motorway now invades the tranquility of a house that was once the ultimate haven.

Visitor Info

Moseley Old Hall, Fordhouses, Wolverhampton. Tel: 01902 782808. Email: moseleyoldhall@nationaltrust.org.uk. Open: noon to 5pm Tue, Wed, Sat, Sun in summer; from September 10 - November 2 on Wed, Sat, Sun (noon till 1pm by conducted tour only, then by tour or free flow with friendly, volunteer room stewards able to answer questions); from November 9 - December 21 on Sundays only. Admission: adult pounds 6, child pounds 3, family pounds 15. National Trust members and children under five, free. Facilities include disabled parking, decent outdoor lavatories, picnic areas, orchard and Charles II Exhibition.

FREE ENTRY TOMORROW

VISIT Moseley Old Hall tomorrow and you will get in for free as part of the National Heritage Open Day weekend (see Two Minute Guide to the Week, page 60). Other National Trust properties opening for free in the Midlands on Saturday include: Attingham Park, Baddesley Clinton, Berrington Hall, Biddulph Grange Garden, Birmingham Back to Backs, Brockhampton Estate, Baddesley Clinton, Croft Castle and Parkland, Coughton Court, Croome Park, Charlecote Park, Hanbury Hall, Dudmaston, Moseley Old Hall, Packwood House, Shugborough Estate, Sunnycroft, The Greyfriars, The Weir, Upton House and Gardens, Wightwick Manor. More details from: www.nationaltrust.org.uk or call 01743 708100.

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TOPIARY... Moseley Old Hall was the hiding place for King Charles II (right) after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Sep 12, 2008
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