Medieval fortified house at Rushall Hall


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Medieval fortified house at Rushall Hall
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Walsall (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 02587 99863

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

The site at Rushall Hall is one of only three known examples of medieval fortified houses known in the West Midlands. It served as a prestigious residence and the provision of a curtain wall and gatehouse clearly served as status symbols rather than practical military defences. Structural remains will survive beneath the ground surface providing evidence for the original layout of the buildings which existed within the curtain wall. Together with buried artefactual evidence, they will also provide information on the economy and lifestyles of the site's inhabitants. The importance of the site is enhanced by the survival of historical documentation relating both to the early history of the site and its occupancy during the Civil War.


The monument is situated on the north eastern outskirts of Walsall and includes the standing and buried remains of a medieval fortified house. It is thought to have been constructed during the late 13th or early 14th century by Geffrey Ive, replacing an earlier hall. During the Civil War, the hall was owned by the Leigh family, supporters of the Parliamentarian cause. It was besieged by Prince Rupert's Royalist forces and captured, but a year later, in 1644, the hall was regained by Parliamentarian troops. It remained in the possession of the Leigh family until 1811. The site is bounded by a curtain wall which forms a rectangular enclosure with external dimensions of 88m east-west and 56m north-south, within which the house was situated. The 0.7m thick curtain wall is built of limestone rubble and is mostly crenellated. In places, the wall survives to its full height of 6.3m. In the central part of the west wall is a gatehouse which provides the main means of access into the enclosure. It was originally a square, three storey structure, of which, the ground floor, parts of the first floor and the south wall of the second floor survive. The gatehouse is built mainly of local limestone rubble with sandstone dressings, although some brick is visible within the fabric. The west wall of the gatehouse projects slightly beyond the face of the curtain wall and its lower courses are battered. The outer and inner gate arches are segmental arches of two chamfered orders and the passage between them is barrel-vaulted. Above the western gate arch is a carved shield bearing the arms of the Harpur family who owned the site from 1430 until 1540. Access to the upper storeys is via a circular staircase in the north eastern corner of the gatehouse. A detailed survey of the gatehouse ruins indicates that it had a complex history and was built over an earlier gateway. Most of the gatehouse structure is thought to date from the late 15th or early 16th century, while the second floor was added approximately a century later. It was partially demolished in 1830-40, but by the late 19th century, the gatehouse had been consolidated and is believed to have been reused as a folly or garden feature. The curtain wall and the gatehouse are Listed Grade II* and are both included in the scheduling. The internal face of the west curtain wall retains evidence that the gatehouse adjoined a range of buildings which were built against this wall. A blocked doorway at first floor level in the north wall of the gatehouse is thought to have provided access to the first floor of an adjoining building. Fireplaces built into the curtain wall, to the north and south of the gatehouse, are further evidence for similar buildings. Similarly, brick-lined sockets, a fireplace and scars within the fabric of the southern curtain wall indicate that structures were also built here. There is little evidence to indicate the character of these building ranges, but their foundations will survive beneath the ground surface. The enclosure formed by the curtain wall is divided into two courts by a wall running north-south through the central part of the site. This wall stops short of the north curtain wall in order to allow communication between the two courts. The western court is thought to have been occupied by living quarters for the hall's inhabitants and the slightly larger, eastern court clearly had a different function; probably containing stables and ancillary structures. The northern part of the western court is occupied by the present Rushall Hall, a Grade II Listed Building. The house, built in the 19th century, is in use as a dwelling and is excluded from the scheduling. The western end of the north curtain wall has been incorporated within the house. It serves as an interior wall and is not included in the scheduling; the ground beneath the house, however, is included. Approximately 14m to the north west of Rushall Hall is a feature which has been interpreted as an Anglo-Saxon burial mound, thought to be associated with the earlier occupation of the site. The burial mound is the subject of a separate scheduling. The present Rushall Hall and its outbuildings are excluded from the scheduling. All fence posts, the surfaces of all paths and driveways and the greenhouses in the north eastern part of the site are also excluded although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Duignan, WH, The History of Rushall, (1882), 6
Duignan, WH, The History of Rushall, (1882), 7-31
Shaw, S, The History of Staffordshire, II, (1801), 66
Wilmore, FW, Records of Rushall, (1892), 63
Baker, N J, 'Transactions of South Staffordshire Historical Society' in The Gatehouse of Rushall Hall, , Vol. 23, (1982), 79-87
Baker, N J, 'Transactions of South Staffordshire Historical Society' in The Gatehouse of Rushall Hall, , Vol. 23, (1982), 85
National Archaeological Record, SP 09 NW 2,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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