TAYLORS

The mortgages on the Grevis properties were taken over by John Taylor in 1766, and two years later he acquired the remaining property including Moseley Hall for œ 9000. He did not move thither, as he had a fine mansion in Bordesley Park which had come to him from his wife's family and which he had greatly improved.

John Taylor was born in London in 1704. He came to Birmingham, where his father Jonathan had lived, probably to work an apprenticeship as a cabinet-maker. Though Hutton referred to his humble beginnings, the Taylors had been armigers from 1674 and his grand manners ( which caused Boulton to dub him 'the Esquire' ) were not those of a mere artisan. His fortune was made from the manufacture and marketing of 'toys', trinkets and trifles of metal. Taylor must have acquired capital or backers to enable him to set up a factory in Corbetts Alley ( now Union Street ) and to use Heaton's machine for making button shanks, Sanders' and Pinkering's covering and stamping presses.

By 1755 Taylor was employing 500 workers, which puts him in the Boulton class : at Soho many of the thousand were renters of space and power not employees. A skilled man might earn œ 3.50 per week at Taylor's, but much of the simple repetitive work was done by women and orphan children from the master's manors.

Taylor got in early on the fashion for metal buttons, adopted japanning when it was the coming craze, and literally gave his own stamp to the trade in patterned snuff-boxes. The secret of his individual swirling patterns in enamel that were his speciality and highly-priced and prized was his own thumb : behind locked doors he would press and turn his thumb-print into the wet enamel - or so he used to claim with a chuckle in later years.

Taylor was forever seeking new markets and products. He established a branch in London, and found outlets for œ800-worth of 'toys' per week. A contract to collect the sweepings of jewellers' floors is said to have brought him œ1000 per year. While Boulton ploughed his profits and the fortunes of two wives back into Soho for new ventures, Taylor invested in land. He bought 330 acres in Sheldon, including the Hall, in 1751. Later purchases included 262 acres in Birmingham, the Alcott Estate of 119 acres, 84 in Lyndon - and became a squire in fact when he acquired the Grevis property in Yardley and its lordship.

With the Allestrey land he had bought in 1760 he now owned 1013 acres in Yardley. An improving landlord, he encouraged his tenants to enrich the soil by digging down to the fertile clay bedrock and spreading it over the sandy drift of the surface. He loaned money for new buildings, including the replacement of old watermills. All the available waterpower in Birmingham was used for industrial purposes, and there was none for corn-grinding. The new mills at Sarehole and Greet (later Titterford) on the Cole were built to grind corn for the town as well as processes as steel-rolling, blade-edging, and rifling of gun barrels.

In 1734 John Taylor married Mary Baker 'of Bordesley Park'. At thirty he had already made his industrial mark and was able to marry into a landed family. The first son, John II, was born at 'The Hinckleys' (site off Queensway) in '38. Living in Lichfield Street (near Old Square Circus) in '56 he became High Sheriff of Warwickshire. The next year œ10,000-worth of work was being done on Brook House in Bordesley Park. Thirty acres were landscaped about the 'elegant costly residence' (site south of Coventry Road 'bus depot). A spring was tapped to bring water to the house, an ornamental pool on the brook below was given an island, bridge, and grotto, shrubs and swans were imported.

Taylor's neighbour in Bordesley Manor was Sampson Lloyd II. His Quaker family had moved to Birmingham after persecution in Wales : they had prospered as millers and ironmasters. Lloyd had bought Owens' Farm and began to build a new family house in 17858. It still stands in Farm Park, empty and forlorn, a gift to the City by Alderman Lloyd after World War I. Having spare capital, both industrialists were willing to lend money to friends in business. They decided to go into banking formally, and after a trial period announced the opening of Taylor and Lloyds Bank in 1765. The first premises were in Dale End, and a blue plaque today marks the site.

In those days the bank sign was a beehive : the black horse was a device taken over with premises in London after the Taylor connection had been severed. There were four partners: Taylor, Lloyd, and their sons and namesakes, John II and Sampson III. It is typical of the trust between these men of probity that there was no deed of partnership. A single set of ledgers was kept and signed annually by all four men. There was no division of profits until '71, then each partner received more than his original investment.

Taylor used to joke that when they began he had the money and Lloyd the experience, but that eventually Lloyd had the money and he the experience ! In fact the venture was as profitable to both as it was harmonious. The Bank loaned money for the building of the General Hospital in Summer Lane, and helped Boulton and Watt. In fact there was no enterprising business project in the town that they did not support. They were 'unerring in detecting sound schemes for lending money to'. Not only their money was involved : merchants and manufacturers were happy to place their assets with the Bank without expecting or receiving interest, knowing that they risked no loss through speculation; at a time when there existed large numbers of banks in the country, many of which collapsed leaving their investors penniless.

Taylor and Lloyd issued their own banknotes which were readily cashable in a period of coin shortage which Boulton was to make good in his Soho Mint. Of the principal partners Hutton wrote that they were 'two opulent tradesmen whose credit is equal to that of the Bank of England......Half of Birmingham is in debt to Taylor & Lloyd'.

In '67 the Streets Commission for Birmingham was empowered, and John I became a Commissioner : few of the many such took an active part in the work, but he did, and he also became a Commissioner for Bordesley and Deritend, advancing œ3000 for road works altogether. When he died in '785, being buried in a vault at St. Philip's for lack of a Unitarian cemetery, he left John II œ200,000 and 2000 acres.

Hutton wrote of him that 'part of the riches, extension, and improvement of Birmingham are owing to the late John Taylor Esquire, who possessed the singular power of seeing things as they really are......He rose from minute beginnings to shine in the commercial sphere....To this uncommon genus we owe the gilt button, the japanned and gilt snuff-boxes, with the numerous variety of enamels.....In his inventions was a decisive elegance and an obvious indication of good taste, that ensured a large sale and good profits....His name was a guarantee of success, and without whose support no undertaking was likely to command public support'. Taylor's wife outlived him by nine years. When John Taylor inherited he was living with his wife of two years, Sarah Skeye of Spring Grove Bewdley, at 65 High Street. He was the only one of the four brothers to marry : Sarah bore him seven children, all of them born at Bordesley Hall. John II proceeded to build a new Hall at Moseley, spending œ6000 on 'an elegant house of brick and stone'. It was a plain classical mansion of three storeys with a Tuscan doorway, low parapet, and hipped roof, facing south. An unusual feature was a single chimney stack along the whole length of the roof-ridge, from which eighteen pots sprouted. Low symmetrical wings with round-headed doorways but no windows terminated in transverse pedimented lodges.

From the south wing a coach-house and stable block extended. The main entrance to the Hall park was opposite the Fox & Dogs Inn (later the Fighting Cocks). Ornamental gates between stone pillars set back from the highway were flanked by walls with doors and uniform lodges : the south one consisted of living room and scullery only, so that the lodge-keeper had to cross the drive to the north lodge which was only a 'sleeping room'.

The drive curved down between plantations to cross Moseley Brook, then up and round to the front of the Hall. Humphrey Repton is credited with the landscaping of the park : a formal garden east of the house may have been a Grevis creations, but Repton's love of the picturesque expressed itself in plantation and selective clearance to provide a seemingly natural succession of delightful vistas.

Strangely, however, he failed to make the most of the valley : the great pool is not his. Only a few rain-filled marlholes and a triangular pond lured fishermen and birds. Of Taylor II's first building period three structures remain : they are the hexagonal dovecote and squarish cattle-shed beside Alcester Road and the underground ice-house east of the pool. The Keeper's Cottage (off Park Hill) is probably early Victorian.

On July 14th 1791 a dinner in a Birmingham hotel was organised by Joseph Priestley, scientist and philosopher, to celebrate the second anniversary of the French Revolution. Many prominent Dissenters and Radical attended. Bigots and business rivals saw an opportunity to despoil them : riffraff from Old Town were brought out, primed with drink and money, to form mobs intent on destroying Dissenters' property. So began the infamous 'Church and King' riots : for four days the self-proclaimed defenders of the Established Church and the monarchy controlled the district unimpeded.

Hutton lost his business premises and his home. One party went to the Ship Inn on Camp Hill where they drank all night at the landlord's expense. Next morning they lurched off to Bordesley Hall, led by one Francis Field. A group of gentlemen hurriedly sworn in as special constables under Captain Carver managed to contain the rioters in the wine-cellars while Taylors' documents and valuables were taken to safety. A larger mob approached and refused Carver's offer of a hundred guineas to spare the house.

'When night set in, flames appeared through the roof, and the beautiful and spacious mansion, the greater part of its superb furniture, its stables, offices, and ricks were totally destroyed'. Like many of the victims Taylor was not at the dinner - indeed he was not even in the district. Oddly, the bank was not attacked, but fearing that it might be the employees removed its assets. Another mob had gone to Fair Hill House, Dr. Priesley's house : he fled to Showell Green, leaving his library, apparatus, and records to be burnt and the house reduced to a shell. Moving on, the mob came to 'Farm'. Incredibly, Sampson Lloyd III, greeting them with bread and cheese and assurances of his goodwill towards the town, was able to persuade them to leave his property intact !

A mob of two hundred went from Fair Hill to Balsall Heath, where a Presbyterian school was set on fire, then approaching Moseley Hall "huzza-ing Church and King" as Taylor's bailiff John Redgrave reported. William Villiers, a Birmingham magistrate who lived in the village, attempted to dissuade the rioters from their declared intention to burn the Hall. Time was given for the tenant, the blind and aged Countess of Carhampton, to leave with all her belongings on four carts. Then, having slaughtered and feasted on live-stock from the estate, the mob set fire to the house, three stables, a brewhouse, and a number of ricks.

Taylor reckoned his losses at Moseley alone as œ 3839, but received only œ 2700 in compensation. The victims of the riot had been unable to bring action against Birmingham, which had no corporate identity, so were obliged to arraign the ancient Court of Hemlingford Hundred. Francis Field was hanged. Both Halls were restorable. John Standbridge of Warwick produced several plans showing alternative designs for Moseley. Wins and stable block were demolished, and transverse two-storey wings were added to the restored central block, whose window mouldings were removed and whose roof was extended.

The symmetrical wings had unadorned pediments. Their first floor fronts were embellished with two Ionic pilasters either side of a tall 'Birmingham window' of three light separated by Ionic pillarets, surmounted by a semi-circular recess. Ground floor windows had Doric pillarets to match the portico, and flatter recesses above. Four pairs of Doric pillars supported a porch built across the three central bays of the house.

To avoid cutting off the southward view across The Riddings, a ha-ha (sunken fence) 276 yards long was made by a local contractor J. Broster (?) along the north side of a track which became Reddings Road a century later. It was actually a small brick wall in a shallow bench, invisible from the Hall.

What happened to the Grevis Hall, and where was it ? On a map of about 1770 it seen to be the same in plan, orientation, and approximate position, as the ugly brick box which stands east of the Hall today. The east wall has crumbling sandstone foundations. Is that all that remains of Sir Richard's mansion ?

John Taylor II moved into the house as soon as it was ready in 1796. In 1801 he forgave Birmingham to the extent of becoming Streets Commissioner. Three years later he bought the manor of King's Norton from George III, and so became Moseley's squire. For the next 48m years Moseley Hall was the manor house. Taylor II died in 1814 at the age of 70, and was buried at King's Norton. His wife outlived him by 24 years.

John Taylor III, his eldest son, succeeded. He was to become High Sheriff of Worcestershire and to acquire an estate in the south of the county. He died at Strensham Court in 1848, unmarried and intestate. His brother James inherited. Moseley Hall was his home, and he added the range of buildings alongside the pool in 1838. It was probably he who had the great pool made during his last years, a vast enlargement of the existing pond created by the construction of an earthen dam across Chantry Glade.

At that time James owned 938 acres in the Yield, the Moseley estate from Edgbaston Lane to Henburies on Kings Heath, and Moor Green from Dogpool to Bourn Brook, the two separated by the long Russell property. In James St. Mary's Chapel had for the first time since Elizabeth's reign a friend in the big house, for he was an Anglican : doubtless he contributed generously to the fund for the chapel's restoration and enlargement by Thomas Rickman in 1823.

As a Captain in the Queen's Own Worcestershire Yeomanry, James used to entertain his troop and exercise it in the grounds. His first wife was his kinswoman Louisa Skeye who bore him two sons and a daughter : of these only the eldest James Arthur survived to adulthood. Louisa died in 1822, and three years later James married Anne Elizabeth Moseley of Winterdyne. Her eldest son was William Francis Taylor, and there were three other children.

In '26 James followed the old Moseley tradition, becoming High Sheriff. He was the last of his line to be involved in the affairs of the Bank. From 1815 - 71 its head office was the house in High Street where Taylor II had lived. The profits of Taylor & Lloyd in the 1840's were œ 20,000 per year.

In '28 James leased a plot of land in Lett Lane for the building of a National Church School, and in '42 he bought the ancient home of the Grevises. Since the building of the first Hall in the Park, the old timbered farmhouse had been let to tenants, and it had been sold before the Taylor purchase. As soon as he had acquired it from Robert Blayney. who owned practically all of the village, James demolished the house and extended the high park wall as far as Park Farm.

James's death in '52 marked the end, not only of the Taylor connection with Lloyds Banks, but also of family residence at Moseley. The eldest son James Arthur lived at Strensham : his half-brother William Francis owned the Moseley estates but lived elsewhere. His son George William of Swaffham in Norfolk, was still lord of King's Norton in 1913. An oddity of the later 19th Century was the name applied to a Stuart-Georgian house opposite the Park gates : it was called 'the Old Manor House'. Was this a fantasy of Henry Salt Brassington, chemist and historian, whose home it was ? The only building which could correctly be called the manor house, other than Moseley Hall after 1804 was and still is the bailiff's house at King's Norton.

The Strensham Taylors acquired a variant of the 1675 arms which are shown in this essay (ermine on a chief indented sable three escallops or). The blazon is 'argent on a chief dansette sable a pale between two escallops of the first charged with an escallop of the second'. James Arthur Taylor of Strensham Court had commercial and agricultural interests. He was M. P. for East Worcestershire from 1841.

His wife from '55 was Maria Theresa Rush. His son Arthur James (born 1857) was commissioned in the Royal Dragoon Guards. He had three sons and two daughters. In 1910 he sold the church school site cheaply to St. Mary's, and three years later put the Yardley estates up for sale. Most were bought then or later by Birmingham Corporation for housing and open space. His eldest son died in 1917 and he himself soon afterwards, being succeeded by his youngest son Arthur (1902-71). It is he who is remembered by the oldest inhabitants of Yardley as 'Squire Taylor'. By his wife Veronica Richardson he had a son Jonathan Arthur born in 1934 and a daughter Anne born in 1940. Strensham Court is demolished and Jonathan Taylor, who has three children of his first marriage, lives with his second wife Maureen at Lower Quinton Hall in south Warwickshire.


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