The early life of Haden Old Hall.
Haden Old Hall also known as The Tudor Hall stands in Haden Hill Park on top of Haden Hill next to Haden Hill House, a Victorian addition to the site dating to the 1870s.
If you look at many publications or old newspaper reports you will see that the site has been the home of the Haden family since medieval times when Hadens came over from Normandy with William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Some publications will have you believe that the Hadens were the local Lords of the Manor or I have even heard that there was a fort on top of the hill!
The Old Hall has also long been known as the Tudor Hall and thought to have been the home of local gentry.
….but is this well told and retold story what really happened on top of Haden Hill and when is a Tudor Hall not a Tudor Hall? In the case of Haden Tudor Hall it is when the building is neither Tudor or a Hall.
There is no evidence at all for the Haden family coming to England from France with William the Conqueror, and in fact we now know that the family invented a grand history for their Haden predecessors in Victorian times. But before you start tutting at their fraudulent activities this wasn’t uncommon. Many families did something very similar creating long histories to inflate the importance and wealth of their ancestors stretching back many generations.
Victorian historians also had a bit of a tendency of filling in gaps and making assumptions where there was no actual evidence. These stories are then re-told by others and taken as fact until someone decides to go back to the original primary sources (original documents from the time) and re-visit the story. So it has taken some time to pick apart the evidence and get to the real story. The real story of the Haden family is no less fascinating than the made up one!
Is the hill named after the Hadens or the Hadens after the hill?
The earliest reference to the possible presence of Hadens in Rowley Regis is a document from 1270 which mentions Walter atte Hauedene (which probably means Walter at the place of the steep slope). Early references suggest that medieval Hadens were probably local farmers of modest means and that they were named after the place rather than the family giving their name to the site. Whoever the Hadens were at this time they certainly weren’t knights or Lords of the Manor. We know this because we know exactly who were Lords of the Manor in the Rowley area at the time and how the estates were being run.
A Hall is the name given to the building at the centre of a medieval manor (an estate) where the Lord of the Manor would have lived as well as being the centre of administration for the local area. For example another one of our museum sites, West Bromwich Manor House was once known as ‘Bromwich Hall‘ or may have just been known as ‘the Hall’ or ‘so and so’s Hall’. This building and the the other buildings which would once have made up the manor house complex were at the centre of a medieval administrative estate or a manor. Haden Old Hall never was a manor building so it isn’t a Hall and there is no evidence in the current building that there was an earlier medieval building on the site, although that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one of course.
We then jump to 1547 when the marriage of Alys Haden is recorded in the Rowley Regis parish register. It is clear there were Hadens living in the Rowley area but we don’t know if they lived at Haden Hill or somewhere else. We haven’t found any evidence to prove it either way.
Not a Hall but a 17th century posh farmhouse!
It is most likely that the Hall roughly as it stands today was built in the later 1600s (or rather it is a heavily restored/ reconstruction of the 17th century house). Certainly it is clear from the strange uneven floor levels, scarring and variety of bricks on the building that it has been much added to and altered over the years. Its long story is written all over it!
It seems the wealth of the Hadens grew gradually and the Hall started life as a farm house; home to a wealthy farmer (known as a yeoman). However in the middle of the 1600s Henry Haden the elder married Mary Bloomer of Halesowen who brought with her a dowry of £600 (a huge sum of money at the time) and his son Henry the younger in 1683 married Elizabeth Fullwood of Studley who brought £650 and quite a lot of land as her dowry. This helped propel our family up the social ladder and probably helped pay for the building or extension of this rather large and smart house, which would have been one of the biggest and best houses in the area.
A document from March 1660 shows that Henry Haden the elder was describing himself as a yeoman but by 1672 he was calling himself a gentleman and Henry Haden the younger acquired a coat of arms. The Hadens had been buying up parcels of land in the local area for some time and renting it out, gradually increasing the wealth and social status of the family. The 1600s were a good time for the middling sort when many were able to gain wealth, prosperity and position. This is echoed in the story of the Turton family at the Oak House in West Bromwich who started the 1600s as yeoman and by the 1650s were calling themselves gentlemen having extended and added to their smart house.
In 1661 a land tax shows that Henry Haden was assessed as being worth 14s and 7d while the next highest assessed individual was worth 6s and 8d. This illustrates the wealth of the family in comparison to others locally. However, this was modest wealth. It is probably fair to say that they were big fish in a very small pond – well maybe even a medium sized fish in a puddle.
When Henry Haden died in 1675 he was buried in a family vault in St Giles’ church, Rowley Regis –not bad for a family whose origins were as modest farmers!
Haden Old Hall is open as part of National Heritage Open Days on
• Saturday 14 September: 2pm-5pm,
• Sunday 15 September: 12pm-4pm
The Old Hall will also be open at various times over the festive season for visitors to look around.
Entrance is FREE
Learn more about Haden Old Hall with our mini doc at https://youtu.be/Ks87MY3DQec
Enjoy some Tudor music at the Old Hall at https://youtu.be/yurhGPgbUO8