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The Percivals of Broadmeadow   
(Circa 1510 to the early 1600s) 

The Victoria County History of the Staffordshire Moorlands states that Hugh Sleigh acquired Broadmeadow through marriage into the Riley family.[1]  Certainly previous research, as part of Peeling Back the Layers, found that in September 1573 Hugh and Ellen Sleigh had surrendered ‘Broadmedowe’ into the hands of the queen and it had been granted back to them and their son Richard.  It was also discovered that a Roger Percival took over the tenancy of Broadmeadow in 1581, and that his father, another Roger Percival, had held it before him. It remained in the Percivals’ hands until 1600 when a Roger Percival gave up the tenancy of Broadmeadow to Richard Sleigh. Additionally, it was found that an Ellen Woolley also claimed a third of a moiety (a half) of the farm. As Dr Simon Harris mentions it is curious that both the Sleighs and the Percivals, along with the Woollys, seem to have been living at Broadmeadow during this time. He suggested that a multi layering of tenants was probably occurring and that the Percivals may be sub-tenants of the Sleighs. (Peeling Back the Layers: The Final Historical Report 2016 by Dr Simon Harris.)

Further research now shows that a branch of the Percivals was living at Broadmeadow from, at least, the 1530s and it was held by three Roger Percivals, rather than two.  It is still not clear why both the Sleighs and the Percivals are referred to as holding Broadmeadow, though another possibility is that Broadmeadow was held by the Percivals but then divided into two holdings with the Sleighs acquiring first one half and then the second half in the 16th century.


[1]   Victoria County History: A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 7, Leek and the Moorlands A P Baggs, M F Cleverdon, D A Johnson and N J Tringham, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 7, Leek and the Moorlands, ed. C R J Currie and M W Greenslade (London, 1996), British History Online


Hugh and Joan Percival: living in Sheen and Broadmeadow c. 1510 to 1552 or after


Records from Sheen manor courts show that a Hugh Percival was living somewhere within Sheen manor from, at least, October 1510 when he appears as a juror.  Ongoing research shows he regularly appears as a juror until c. 1545.[2]   The same jurors’ names do tend to recur regularly in the manor court with the role being given, usually, to the relatively better off members of the manor i.e. husbandmen and yeoman farmers rather than labourers or cottagers.

The first time we can link Hugh and Joan Percival to Broadmeadow, however, is when they appear at Hartington Manor court in 1534-1535.  Hugh Percival comes and surrenders the moiety, ie a half, of a messuage in Sheen called ‘le brode medow’ to the use of Ellen Ryley, the daughter of John Ryley.  As was the custom, three separate proclamations were to be made to ensure that any objections could be heard and Hugh’s wife, Joan, objects. She states that she should be able to live there after Hugh’s death ‘as before’.  The court allows Ellen to have the moiety and she is accepted as tenant.  But then she comes back to the manor court and surrenders the same half of the messuage to Hugh Percival for the term of his life![3] 

Making it even more complicated, at the same court comes John Ryley, the father of Ellen, and surrenders a quarter of a messuage lying at and around the Brund, in Sheen, to the the use of Nicholas Percival, the son of Hugh and Joan Percival, after John’s death.  This time it is John’s wife, Margaret, who objects stating she has the right to continue to live there after John’s death as her dower.  The court allows Nicholas to have the messuage and he is accepted as tenant. However, he then comes to the same court and surrenders the messuage to John Ryley for the term of John’s life. 

There is obviously some arrangement between the families to ‘swap’ lands but it isn’t clear why. What we also haven’t found out is whether the Percivals had held all of Broadmeadow at this time as only half of the messuage is being passed on to Ellen Ryley, who presumably goes on to marry Hugh Sleigh.  Though we cannot be certain it is looking as if following Hugh Percival’s death the family continued to be tenants of half, of Broadmeadow and possibly they were tenants in their own right rather than subtenants of Ellen Ryley and the Sleighs. 

Hugh Percival was still alive in 1552-1553 when he was an appraiser of the inventory of his neighbour, William Horobin. Also in 1552, when the commissioners of Edward VI visited Sheen to remove church ornaments, as part of the religious changes, they were in the hands of Rich. Mawkyn, priest, and Hugh ‘Persyvall’.[4]  They are likely to have removed the church ornaments from the church, as would have been ordered, rather than hiding them, as Richard Mawkyn was a survivor who served Sheen variously describeds as priest, vicar orclerk from the end of Henry VIII’s reign to the earlier part of Elizabeth’s, outwardly following the various religious changes.[5]  Hugh may have been the church warden at the time.

We do not yet know when Hugh Percival dies but from October 1566 Hugh Sleigh’s name appears as a juror which seems to imply he was now living in Sheen - having taken on half of Broadmeadow following Hugh Percival’s death?[6]


John Ryley probably died around 1540 as a ‘John Ryle’, of Sheen, is recorded as having made a will at this point.  Unfortunately, this is now lost.


Nicholas Percival and branches of his family will continue to live at the Brund for over 200 years.


[2]  The National Archives (TNA) Sheen Manor Court records: e.g. DL 30/49/594 October 8 Henry Vlll. Examples  also include with others: Sheffield Record Office  Hartington Manor Courts  ACM/100/31  14& 15 Henry Vlll; TNA  Sheen Manor Courts DL 30/41/431 24&25 Henry Vlll  and  DL 30/50/611  31 May 37 Henry Vlll  (1545)

[3] Sheffield City Archives: ACM D100/33

[4]  William Salt Archaeological Society : Collections for a History of Staffordshire: Walter N. Landor, Staffordshire Incumbents and Parocial Recpords, p230  1915 

[5] Recorded in Sheen probate documents during this period

[6] TNA DL 30/50/626


Roger and Katherine Percival of Broadmeadow and Whitle to c. 1580  

So far, the first reference to Roger is when his name appears as a juror for Sheen in the Manor Court Rolls of 1543.[7] We have not yet established his relationship to Hugh but both were serving as jurors over the next 4/5 years, possibly implying separate residences, but definitely indicating Roger was regarded as an adult.  He continues to be a very regular juror at the Sheen manor courts which may be an indication of his status or reliability.[8]  He was probably married by the mid 1550s, if not before, and would have nine children who survived him. 


From October 1566 Hugh Sleigh starts to appear as a juror implying he was now living within the manor of Sheen. [9] It is feasible that this means Hugh Percival had died and Ellen Ryley, with her husband Hugh Sleigh, had taken over the her half of Broadmeadow as had been agreed previously.  It is possible that Roger Percival was farming the other half Broadmeadow.   During the next few years both Hugh and Roger appear regularly as jurors at the manor court  with Roger's name finally appearing in 1574, the year after Hugh and Ellen Sleigh’s surrender and repossession of Broadmeadow. However, research as part of Peeling Back the Layers found at that the time of Roger’s death, (1580-1581), he held a mesuage at Broadmeadow which would transfer to his son, who is also called Roger Percival.   (Peeling Back the Layers: The Final Historical Report 2016.)

But, to confuse the situation, a Roger Percival is referred to in two wills written in 1578. In June 1578 when John Shore writes his will he names a Roger Percival, of ‘Whittyll Banke‘, as a supervisor of his will. [10] As Dr Harris points out place names varied or were used generically so we do not know whether he was living at Broadmeadow or elsewhere in Whitle or if it refers to the this Roger or his son.  Interstingly, John Shore also specifies that Roger should help decide which goods should go to some of his sons.  Similarly, Richard Botham of Whitle, who had written his will a few months before, also asks Roger Percival and William Horobin, to dispose of the remains of his goods to his children.  Whichever Roger it refers to, we have a glimpse of a man who was respected and trusted to make appropriate decisions.

Between June 1580 and October 1581 Roger dies.  His will is written on June 6th 1580 showing he was married to Katherine and had at least 9 children who survived. By 1580, four of his children had married with two of them marrying into the Bestwick family. On November 1st 1577 his daughter Grace had married Richard Bestwick at Alstonefield followed by his eldest son, Roger, marrying Helen/Ellen Bestwick 17 days later. [11]

Roger's will and inventory give the impression he is a small scale husbandman typical of this area with a small flock of sheep, a few cattle along with his own ox and ploughing equipment. Butter and cheese, along with meal amd malt are likley to be for his families own use as well as for sale. In his home some furniture is described; an ark for storing grain, an 'amborey', which was a type of cupboard, and a dish board.  There is no mention of bed sticks or bed steads, nor of any chairs, stools etc. Though they may have been included in the ‘wooden ware’ it is possible some of the family may still have had to sleep on the floor until older children moved out.  

Roger’s will and inventory provides evidence that weaving, as a cottage industry, was occurring in the area with a younger son, Richard, being a webster by trade.  His father’s sheep would not have provided enough wool to make it a viable occupation implying there was some form of organised system to distribute the wool, sell the cloth etc. It has been suggested that cloth production was based on rural fulling mills.  Ludwell fulling mill was nearby so it may be linked into this organisation. Wood comments that the home woollen cloth manufacturing industry grew from the 14th century and notes that pre mechanisation ‘flax was grown and processed by many householders on the Staffordshire side of the Peak District’. [12]   This is evidenced by the 1592 survey of Warslow and Longnor which indicates farmers and cottagers having hemp plots/fields. Richard’s own inventory of 1591 not only mentions he has one pair of weaving looms and 13lbs of wool but also a pair of hooks to make ropes. So far this is the only evidence we have seen about rope making occurring in this area and it is unclear if this was just for the local market or as part of a wider manufacturing system.


[7] TNA DL 30/50/609  10 April 34 Henry VIII

[8] For Example: TNA DL 30/50/612   24 November 38 Henry VIII; TNA DL 30/51/622 April 2 Elizabeth 1; TNA DL 30/51/624 29 September 5 Elizabeth 1 

[9] TNA DL 30/50/626 16 October 8 Elizabeth 1

[10] Dioceses Of Lichfield And Coventry: Wills And Probate 1521-1860 John Shore , Longnor, June 12 1579

[11]  Staffordshire Record Office:Alstonefield, St Peter's, Parish Records November 1st and 18th 1577. 

[12] Eric Wood: The South West Peak:  A History of the Landscape, Ashbourne, 2007   P87-88

Roger and Ellen Percival of Broadmeadow c. 1580 - 1590   

Ellen Woolly (Percival - Bestwick) tenant of Broadmeadow c. 1596 - c. 1616? 


From previous research, in 1581 a second Roger Percival came to Sheen manor court requesting to have the messuage and all the lands which his father, the Roger above, held on his death, which was called 'le Broadmedowe'. Following the younger Roger’s death his widow, Ellen, will later be given a third part of half a messuage at Broadmeadow which seems to indicate that they had held half of Broadmeadow by the time of death and possibly  from 1581. (Peeling Back the Layers: The Final Historical Report)


The younger Roger had married Ellen Bestwick of Alstonefield in 1577 and seems to have had at least one son.  Despite taking half of Broadmeadow, whether due to illness, injury or some other cause his last year(s) shows a family that are finding it hard to survive.  Roger dies young in 1590 or just before.  He does not leave a will but an inventory of his goods is made on May 8th 1590 by four men, including his neighbours, Hugh Sleigh and William Horobin. What is clear is that he was struggling. Though he has 7 cattle, along with some corn and hay, there are no references to sheep, 2 of the cattle are calves and, despite them being left to him by his father, no ploughs, harrows or other ‘husbandry’ ware.  If the pig and two hens are for their own use there is no indication of any other possible sources of income or trade.  It feels that this is a family living on the poverty line. Interestingly Roger’s name never appears as a juror.  As there isn't a will we don’t know for definite if he had any children but it is likely that the next Roger Percival is his son. 


Ellen seems to struggle after his death. By the following year she owes her brother-in-law 9 shillings. In 1596 she marries Lawrence Woolly, on the same day as her son Roger marries Margaret Manifold.[13}

An administration bond for Roger’s goods is only obtained in June 1597 by Ellen Percival 'alias Woolly', Roger’s ‘relict’ ie widow, even though the inventory had been written in 1590.  Against the record a note has been written which states the Inventory was shown at Lichfield in October 1598. Though it was not unusual to have wills and inventories proved some months after a death- seven years is an exceptionally long time. It may have been related to both Ellen and Roger marrying in 1596 and the need to clarify entitlement to goods, cattle etc.  


In October 41 Elizabeth 1, (1599), Roger Percival surrenders a third part of half of one messuage called ‘ le brod meadow’ to his mother and step father though it implies that they were already living there.  It specifies they are to have:

  • one close called ‘le Midle ffeilde’

  • one parcel of land called ‘le further hey’ 

  • one croft called the small croft under the cote 

  • and one garden wiith appurtenances which were in the tenure of Lawrence 'Wulley' to Lawrence and Helen 'Wulley'.  [15]

 This is ratified the following year.

In 1616 Ellen Woolly is buried in Sheen on the 13th of December.  She is described as the wife of Lawrence Wooley, implying he is still alive. No record has been found of Lawrence’s death. [16]


[13] Staffordshire Record Office: Sheen, St Luke's, Parish Registers  24 May 1596

[14] TNA DL 30/52/648   24 October 41 Elizabeth 1

[15] Staffordshire Record Office: Sheen, St Luke's, Parish Registers  13 December 1616

Roger and Margaret Percivall of Broadmeadow c.1590 to c.1600

Tenants in Whitle c. 1600-?

Though there is no concrete evidence, it is likely that the Roger Percival who comes to Sheen Manor court on the 7th May in 1600 was the son of Roger and Ellen Percival. He would still have been a child when his father died so probably would have lived at Broadmeadow with his mother Ellen until their marriages in 1596. 


But from 1599, if not before, Roger starts to give away his lands. We don’t know when Ralph Sleigh originally was given use of ‘the great ffeilde’  but in 1599 Roger surrenders it to the use of Ralph Sleigh for 21 years. [16] At the same court he also hands over a third of a half of Broadmedaow to his mother and stepfather presumably related to her widow's third.  The following year Roger then decides to surrender his tenancy of Broadmeadow to Richard Sleigh. Strangely he comes again in December 1600 to surrender the messuage at Broadmeadow to Richard Sleigh but this time Margaret his wife is questioned on her own as to check if she agrees. (Peeling Back the Layers: The Final Historical Report)

It is not known why Roger and his wife hand over Broadmeadow. Possibly he was struggling to exist farming a smaller area, especially as the 1590s had years with poor harvests and animal diseases.  Additionally his father had passed on very little. 


Roger and Margaret seem to have remained in Whitle initially. Hugh Manifold of Whitle, gives Roger and Margaret Percival a parcel of his land called ‘the milner stitch’ for 1d for 9 years.. The 1d implies it is a nominal amount.   It is feasible that Margaret Percival (previously Manifold) was Hugh’s daughter, or at least a relation, and he was trying to support them or they decided to help Hugh farm his lands.   

No records have yet been found of Roger or a Margaret Percival being buried, nor any reference to children being baptised but a Margaret Percival marries John Gillman, in 1614, at Sheen. But as she has her last child in 1628,  it is more likely to be from another branch of the family. [17]

[17] TNA DL 30/52/648   24 October 41 Elizabeth 1

[18] Staffordshire Record Office: Sheen, St Luke's, Parish Registers   31 August 1614

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