|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 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 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 800-worth of 'toys'
per week. A contract to collect the sweepings of jewellers' floors
is said to have brought him 1000 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 10,000-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
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
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 3000 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 200,000
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 6000 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
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
Taylor reckoned his losses at Moseley alone as 3839, but
received only 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 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
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
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.