Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 4. Originally published by Staffordshire Record Society, London, 1883.
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Orslow, though often spoken of as a manor, is not mentioned in Domesday. It was then included in the manor of Eaton, where it is required to make up the three hides which were reckoned to it as a knight's fee. It became, as has been shown in speaking of Church Eaton, the subject of litigation between Eva de Longford and her sister Agnes; and by fine levied at Westminster on 20th January, 1203, Eva and her then husband, Walter de Witefeld, conceded, amongst other lands, to her sister Agnes de Stockton half a hide in Horselowe (Orslow), saving to themselves the vivary and mill there, to be held by Agnes and her heirs under Walter and Eva and the heirs of Eva. And in Easter Term, 1208, Robert de Wodecote and Milisant his wife and Agnes wife of Robert (otherwise called Agnes de Stockton), acknowledged at Westminster Hall that, in regard of their villain tenants they owed suit to the mill of Horselawe, as required by Walter de Witefeld and his wife Eva on the strength of a previous fine.
Milisent, the wife of Robert de Wodecote, was probably another daughter of Hamo de Longford and sister of Eva, for Robert de Wodecote was in litigation with the said Eva concerning certain lands in Cheswell, near Longford, at least as early as the year 1193. (fn. 1)
It appears, then, that the suzerainty of Orslow remained with Eva de Brumpton and her descendants, of whom her grandson, Adam de Brumpton, was seised of a knight's fee in Eyton and Orslow in 1240; while the tenancy in fee became vested in the sisters of Eva and their heirs, of whom the Woodcotes seem to have obtained the chief part.
Robert de Wodecote (I.) the husband of Milisent, was lord of the neighbouring manor of Woodcote in Shropshire. He was the son of Richard de Wodecote, and probably descended from Tochil, the Domesday lord of that vill. (fn. 1) At the Shropshire Assizes of 1203 Robert de Wodecot was one of the Knights impanelled in causes of Grand Assize. He probably died about the year 1220 at least we have mention of his widow Milisent and his son Robert in a suit concerning Leighton Mill in the November of 1221. (fn. 2) His grant to Lilleshall Abbey must be taken as the closing act of his life, seeing that it was accompanied by a bequest of his body. It was of certain land in Sakerlaw (Shakerley), which the grantor seems to have inherited from his uncle Robert, who had obtained it by the feoffment of Sir Richard de Beaumeys. His widow Milisent will have been the heiress of Orslow. In her widowhood and liege power, she gave to Lilleshall Abbey, for the soul's health of herself, her ancestors, and successors, together with her body (in burial), a virgate of land in Horselawe, one noke of which was held by Adam White. (fn. 2)
Robert de Wodecote (II.), calling himself "son and heir of Robert de Wudechot," confirmed this grant of a virgate in Horselawe, "which Adam Blundus held," reserving the scutage assessable thereon, unless it should appear that the land had been freed from scutages under the franchises of Lilleshall Abbey. This confirmation the said Robert handed over to the Canons in the full county court of Stafford, in the time of that "noble personage, Henry de Audley, then sheriff." (fn. 3) This serves to date the deed as having passed either between 1218 and 1220, or else between 1227 and 1232. The latter limits are the more likely, because it seems probable that the confirmation passed after Milisent de Wodecote's death, and she was living in 1221. As Orslow was a member of Church Eaton, the charter was confirmed by Sir Adam de Brimton, Lord of Eyton. Between the years 1220 and 1224, Robert, son of Robert de Wodecote, gave a grant of land near Rushton, which his father had purchased from Richard de Constantyn, to Wombridge Priory. About the year 1241 he was second of the jurors who decided the lands of Lilleshall Abbey not to be liable to the custom of "canine expeditation;" and about 1250 he occurs as witness to a grant of Geoffrey Griffin to the Abbeys of Lilleshall and Haughmond. He probably died about 1253, and was succeeded by a son of the same name, who styles himself, in a grant to Buildwas Abbey about that date, "Robert, son of Robert de Wodecote." (fn. 4)
Robert de Wodecote (III.) seems to have had a sister married to Michael de Morton. To Michael, son of the said Michael, and therefore his own nephew, Robert de Wodecote sold the fee simple of Eye. (fn. 5) The said Robert died in 1278, when Thomas de Wodecote his son and heir was found to be 23 years of age and more.
Thomas de Wodecote alienated the mesne interest of all his estates to William Rondulf, a thriving Burgess of Newport, between whose son Geoffrey Rondulf and the Mortons there arose litigation about Wodecote. (fn. 6) But I imagine that the fee of Orslow, like Eye, had passed before this to the Mortons. It was probably soon after the death of his uncle Robert de Wodecote III., that a convention was made between Michael, son of Michael de Morton, and the Lady Isabella, formerly wife of Robert, Lord of Wodecote, whereby the said Michael conceded to the said Isabella the third part of his land in W[odecote ?] with the appurtenances, which said land he had formerly had from his uncle Robert, Lord of Wodecote, to hold for term of his life, the reserved rent being a pair of white gloves. This convention is witnessed by Bertram de Burgo, Michael de Morton, Hugh de Weston, and Richard de Leyeton. (fn. 7)
From the somewhat obscure passage in the Staffordshire Hundred Roll of 1255, already quoted, (fn. 8) I should infer that Michael de Morton had now succeeded to the Wodecote interest in Orslow, less the portion which had been granted to the Abbot of Lilleshall by (his great grandmother) Milisent de Wodecote. (fn. 9)
The first of this family with whom we meet is Hemming de Morton, who held the fee of Morton under William fitz Alan in 1166, by the service of a muntator, or man-at-arms bound to serve on garrison duty. (fn. 10) The muntator's fee of 1166 is found in other instances to have been commuted into half a knight's fee. And accordingly, about 1240, Michael and James de Morton are recorded as holding half a knight's fee in Morton of John fitz Alan. (fn. 11) The same lords were in possession in 1245-5, and Michael de Morton is one of the grand jury of twelve for the Hundred of Cuttlestone summoned to try causes before the Justices Itinerant in that year. (fn. 12)
It will have been this Michael de Morton (as I suppose) who married the sister of Robert de Wodecote (III.), and whose son, Michael de Morton the younger, was enfeoffed by his maternal uncle in certain of the Wodecote estates. This younger Michael will in that case have been the person who held Orslow in the fee of Eaton or Eyton under Adam de Brumpton in 1255.
By a deed which passed about 1261, James, son of Reginald de Morton, grants to Michael, son of William de Morton, the whole of his part which he has in "le Polsiche" to make a fishpond with the whole reflow of water and sufficient land for the same, for which the said Michael gives the whole of his land which he has in a certain meadow called "le Hokmedue," near the watermill of Morton. This deed is attested by Sir William de Caveswall, then Sheriff of Staffordshire and Shropshire, Adam de Brunton, Bertram de Burgo, Henry de Bromlegh, William de Ypestanes, Richard de Picheford, Peter de Coule, Thomas de Onne, Richard de Onne, and others. (fn. 13) James de Morton (the other coparcener) also occurs as witness in a deed of Hugh, son of Mr. John de Weston, which must have passed between 1272 and 1284, concerning common of pasture in Weston.
On Sunday in the Vigil of the Purification of St. Mary the Virgin, 10 Edward I. (1st February, 1282), was a convention between the Abbot of Lilleshall and Michael, son of Michael de Morton, by which the Abbot and his Convent gave the whole of the land they had in Orselowe to Michael de Morton and his heirs. The reserved rent was 4 marks, with powers to distrain on Orselowe and Morton. The witnesses were William de Kaverswell, Adam de Brinton, Hugh de Weston, Robert de Knychteleye, Knights, Roger de Pychford, Roger de Brynton, Henry de Wyverston, Stephen de Wolaston, Robert de Bokenhall, and others. (fn. 14)
The tenure roll of Bradford Hundred, in Shropshire, of about the year 1284, gives Michael de Morton as William Rondulf's feoffee of the vill of Eye. (fn. 15) And the nearly cotemporary tenure roll of Cuttlestone Hundred (1282–7) states that Michael de Morton and Walter de Morton hold Morton of Richard fitz Alan for half a knight's fee. (fn. 16) On the close roll of 26 Edward I. (1298) the Sheriff of Staffordshire is ordered to restore to Michael de Morton a messuage and one bovate of land in Horselowe, (fn. 17) formerly held by John, son of Fraunceys of Horselowe, outlawed for felony, the tenement having been held of Michael, and having been in the King's hand a year and a day. The writ to the Sheriff to inquire into this matter was issued at Alnewyk on 29th June, 1298, and the inquisition was held at Stafford by Robert de Wyston, Ralph de Marisco, Henry de Caverswelle, William de Wolaston, Robert de Bradelei, Thomas, son of William de Eyton, William de Wotton, Philip Banastre, John de Knowsale, William Hewett, Robert atte Wode, and Richard de Onne. (fn. 18)
On Ascension Day, 28 Edward I. (19th May, 1300), a convention was made by which Michael, son of Michael de Morton, demises to William Wardecors, for a term of thirty-two years and 30s. in hand paid, a messuage with a curtilage and half a virgate of land in the village of Morton, which the said William formerly held, paying annually for the same 6s. (fn. 19)
On the day of the Nativity of John the Baptist, 29 Edward I. (24th June, 1301), a convention was made by which Michael and Walter de Mortun, the Lords, grant to Robert, son of Hugh de Orselowe, common of pasture in the fee of Morton for all kinds of animals. (fn. 19)
I suppose it will have been two sons of this Michael de Morton who, as William, son of Michael de Morton, and John his brother, witnessed a deed of (their aunt) Helena, daughter of Robert, formerly Lady of Wodecote, about the year 1290, whereby she grants to Simon, son of William Rondulf of Newport, a parcel of land in the field of Wodecote, which she had by the gift of her brother Robert. (fn. 20)
I suspect that Michael de Morton (the second or third of that name in succession) died about the year 1301, and that his estates were divided between his sons William and John; for I think it must have been soon after this that John, son of Michael de Morton, granted to Robert, son of Richard de Wilbruyghton, a messuage with land adjoining, which William del Brok held in the fee of Morton, and one acre of land in Brademedewe, to which were witnesses Adam de Morton, Edmund de Morton, Robert de Couley, Peter de Joneston, William de Lye, &c. (fn. 21)
I infer from this that John de Morton inherited a portion of the vill of Morton. William de Morton, who, from his precedence of his brother John as witness to the deed of Helena de Wodecote in 1290, I take to have been the elder brother, had a son Edmund; and it was probably before the year 1316 that "Edmund, son of William de Morton," (fn. 22) recovered by process of law two-thirds of Wodecote against Geoffrey Rondulph. Hence it would be that, in that year, 9 Edward II., by writ tested at Clipston on 5th March, Edmund de Morton is certified as one of the Lords of the township of Woodcote in the county of Salop. At the same time John de Morton is certified in like manner as Lord of the township of Moreton in the county of Stafford. (fn. 23) It would appear from this that Moreton and Woodcote were now in different hands, and I have met with no evidence to show which branch of the family retained the fee at Orslow.
By deed dated at Moreton on the Thursday next after the Feast of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul, 10 Edward II. (30th June, 1317), John de Morton grants to Robert Brydd, of Orselowe, and Matilda his wife, the whole part of one meadow which he has in Moreton called "le Turnymershe," to which are witnesses John de Ipstones, Richard de Picheford, Adam de Moreton, Peter de Joneston, Richard, son of John de Orslowe, &c. (fn. 24)
At a somewhat later date Edmund de Morton acquired the forfeited estate of Archibald Douglas in Wilbrighton, which was conceded to him by King Edward III. in the fourth year of his reign. (fn. 25) The said Edmund de Morton died in 1341 seised of a messuage, half a virgate of land, a certain wood, and a vivary in Wilbrighton, which he held of the King in capite, as also of a messuage and half a virgate of land with the appurtenances in Wodecote, which he held of Master Henry de Percy. John, son and heir of the deceased, is his next heir, and was twenty-six years of age on 24th June, 1341. (fn. 26) No mention is made in the inquisition of Orslow, or of any lands at Morton or elsewhere.
In the Trinity Term of 18 Edward III. (1344) John de Morton, son and heir of Edmund de Morton, gives 20s. for his relief of one messuage and a moiety of one virgate of land, a certain wood, and one vivary with the appurtenances, in Wilbrighton, in the county of Stafford, which the said Edward [Edmund] held to him and his heirs of the King in capite on the day of his death by the service of rendering 20s. yearly to the King's Treasury, and which were formerly held by Archibald Douglas, as the same John acknowledged by his attorney Henry Stretford. (fn. 27)
From the account here given of the Mortons, it will be seen that I have no direct evidence of Orslow being held by the family after 1298, when Michael de Morton incidentally occurs as Lord of Orslow. There are some slight indications that they continued to have an interest here, such as the grant of common of pasture in the fee of Morton by the joint Lords of that fee, to Robert, son of Hugh de Orslow, in 1301; but if it remained in their possession, I am unable to give an opinion as to which branch it was held by. I shall here put down what more I know of the family, though my information about them is very imperfect.
In 48 Edward III. (1374) John de Knyghteley sues in person Michael de Morton, John de Weston, Peter de Weston, and others, for taking by force Thomas, son and heir of William de Chilterne, out of his custody at Ronton, the marriage of Thomas belonging to the said John de Knyghteley. (fn. 28)
In April, 1397, Michael de Morton and James his brother are witnesses to a deed of John Salewey, of Kancke, to Sir Adam de Peshale, of Weston, Knight, touching lands in Weston. (fn. 29)
In 21 Richard II. (1397–8) Michael de Morton is returned in a fitz Alan feodary as holding half a knight's fee in Morton under the Earl of Arundel. (fn. 30)
Michael and James de Morton both occur as witnesses to a quit-claim of Sir Fulk de Penbruge to Sir Adam de Peshale in December, 1399, (fn. 31) and Michael de Morton to a deed of Sir Adam de Peshale in 1406. (fn. 31)
On 5th December, 1422, the usual writ was issued after the death of James de Moreton. The inquisition states that he held no lands in capite of the King, but was seised in demesne as of fee of the moiety of the manor of Moerton, half a virgate of land in Chatwall, and eight solidates of rent in the county of Stafford. There is no mention of Orslow, nor yet of Blymhill where the family also held lands. The said James died on Monday next after the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, 9 Henry V. (October, 1421). James, the son of Thomas de Moerton, son of the aforesaid James (named in the writ), is his kinsman and heir, and is of the age of three years and more. (fn. 32)
James de Moreton, whom I suppose to be the other portionist of Morton, and perhaps identical with James the brother of Michael of 1397, died a few years previously. A pedigree in the Hadfield MS. describes him as Lord of Moreton and Wilbrighton, and states that the inquisition after his death was taken in 1 Henry V. (1413–14). He left a son and heir, but his name is not given in the MS.
I should here mention a fine of 22 Henry VI. (1443–4) between Michael Selman, complainant, and Agnes, who had been wife of Richard Selman of Morton, defendant, concerning eight messuages and tenements in Morton, Orslow, and Wilbrighton, in the county of Stafford; two messuages and tenements in Woddcote, Brokton-juxta-Longford, Newport, and Welyngton, in the county of Salop, the right of Michael, of the inheritance of Agnes. (fn. 33)
This is the first mention I have met with of Orslow after 1298. The inference is plain from this fine that certain tenements there passed with other Morton lands to the Selmans, and but for the strange manner in which the Morton inheritance seems to have passed, which makes a conjecture the more hazardous, I should have certainly inferred that Agnes, wife of Richard Selman, was the heiress of one branch of the family.
James Moreton occurs as a witness to a deed of Robert Badenhall, Rector of Blymhill, to Thomas Noell, in December, 1463. (fn. 34)
After this we have a James Moreton (probably the same and doubtless the head of one branch of the family) who presented to the Rectory of Blymhill in 1485 as one of the patrons for that turn. (fn. 35)
Another James Moreton was apparently Lord of Wilbrighton in 1527; and James Moreton (probably the same and then described as of Turnehill, Esq.) was one of the joint patrons of Blymhill Church for that turn in 1544. This last James Moreton was the son and heir of Matthew Moreton (of Moreton and Wilbrighton, Esq., in 1504) by his wife Isabel, daughter of Robert Knightley, of Engleton, in the parish of Brewood. (fn. 36) Thomas Moreton, Esq., the son and heir of the last mentioned James Moreton, died in 1582, seised (amongst others) of lands in Moreton, Wilbrighton, and Blymhill, and of divers messuages in Church Eyton and Wood Eyton, which last were held of the Baron of Stafford by knight's service; but no specific mention is made of lands in Orslow. Adam his son and heir was twenty-eight years of age at the date of the inquisition. (fn. 37)
The said Adam appears to have made away with many of his estates. He died 3rd March, 1614–5; and according to the inquisition taken after his death, in which he is described as of Moreton, gent., the only estates of which he died seised were the manor of Moreton, and lands in Moreton and Wilbrighton. He left no legitimate issue, and his cousin Edward Moreton, gent., son of Matthew, son of Thomas, second son of Matthew Moreton, Esq., great-grandfather of the said Adam, was found to be his heir. (fn. 37)
If the estate at Orslow remained with the Moretons till the time of Adam Moreton, it may perhaps have been sold by him to the Skrymshers, who first appear in possession of the chief estate there about this time.
Thomas Skrymsher, (fn. 38) of Aqualate, Esq., died seised of the principal estate at Orslow in or about the year 1595. The inquisition states that he held a certain capital messuage in Orselowe with the appurtenances and four messuages, 600 acres of land, 200 acres of meadow, 50 acres of pasture, and 40 acres of wood with the appurtenances, in Orselowe, Church Eaton, and Fenton. These estates, together with certain lands and houses in Blymhill and Brineton, he settled upon himself for life without impeachment of waste, with remainder to his wife Martha, for her life, with remainder to his third son John Skrymsher (being his eldest son by the said Martha his second wife).
The said John Skrymsher (3rd son of Thomas and brother of Sir Thomas Skrymsher of Aqualate) was of Orslow, gent., on 6th April, 1663. and then in the seventieth year of his age. (fn. 39) He married Jane, daughter of Walter Littleton, of Bednall, co. Stafford (younger son of Sir Edward Littleton, of Pillaton Hall, Knight, by Alice Cockayne his wife), by whom he had two sons, Walter and Richard, and two daughters, Jane, wife of Thomas Broadhurst, of Lilleshall, and Eleanor, wife of Thomas Pigot.
Walter Skrymsher, of Orslow, gent., the eldest son, was in the forty-eighth year of his age on 6th April, 1663. He married first, Margaret, daughter of . . . . Muchell, of Somerford, co. Stafford, by whom (who was buried at Church Eaton, 10th December, 1663) he had three daughters, Mary, born in 1653, Hannah, born in 1659, and Sarah, born in 1661. He married secondly, Mary, daughter of Thomas Fowke, Esq., of Brewood, (fn. 40) by whom (who was buried at Church Eaton, 18th April, 1693) he had no issue. Sarah, (fn. 41) one of the daughters of Walter Skrymsher, was married, 18th October, 1678, to the Rev. Walter Jennings, Rector of Church Eaton, by whom she had two or more children. Of these Elizabeth was married to John Jervis, Esq., and Maria was second wife to Abraham Bracebridge, Esq., of Atherstone, by whom she had two sons, Abraham and Walter, of whom Abraham, the eldest, was father of the late Charles Holte Bracebridge, Esq., of Atherstone, co. Warwick, who died without issue in 1872. In Church Eaton Church there is a monument "In memory of Mrs. Elizabeth Jervis, the widow of John Jervis, late of Darlaston, in this county, Esquire, deceased. She was the eldest daughter of Walter Jennings, Clerk, late Rector of this Church, by Sarah, one of the daughters and co-heirs of Walter Skrymsher, Esq., heretofore of Orslow, in this parish. She died on the 14th day of May, 1770, in the ninety-first year of her age. Abraham Bracebridge, her nephew and heir, caused this monument to be erected." Mr. Walter Skrymsher, of Orslow, was buried at Church Eaton on 15th July, 1702, and as he had no male issue, the landed estates at Orslow, Brineton, and Blymhill descended to his nephew John Skrymsher, son of his brother Richard Skrymsher. The said Richard Skrymsher was of Brocton Grange, in the county of Stafford, in 1663, and then in the 40th year of his age. (fn. 42) He was living 19th November, 1688. (fn. 43) By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Comberford, of Bradley, in the county of Stafford, he was father of the above-mentioned John Skrymsher, who was born about 1662, and other children.
In 1707 John Skrymsher, being then described as of Shrewsbury, gent., suffered a recovery of his estate at Orslow, and on 2nd December, 1709, a settlement was made in consequence of a marriage then to be had between himself and Elizabeth, only daughter of John Fownes, of Onslow Hall, co. Salop, Esq. She was his second wife, and was dead before 23rd January, 1722, the date of a settlement whereby in the event of his own decease and that of his only son John without male issue, certain portions were to be raised for his two daughters Jane and Mary, subject to which the estates were to pass to his brother Francis Skrymsher for life, with remainder to Richard Skrymsher, the eldest son of Francis, and the heirs male of his body, with remainder to the second and other sons of the said Francis, and the heirs male of their bodies, with further remainder to the said John Skrymsher and his right heirs. (fn. 44) The said John Skrymsher of Orslow and Salop, gent., who was Clerk of the Peace for the county of Salop, died in 1737, in the seventysixth year of his age, and was buried at St. Chad's Church, Shrewsbury, (fn. 45) leaving a son and heir, John Skrymsher, of Startlepool, gent., and two daughters, Jane, wife of Richard Davies, of Shrewsbury, Doctor of Physic, and Mary, afterwards the wife of Richard Corbet, of Shrewsbury, Esq., all of whom were by his wife Elizabeth Fownes. He had also married, in or about the year 1722, a third wife Diana, who survived him, but by her he had no issue.
By various deeds bearing date in 1739, 1741, and 1742, the said John Skrymsher of Startlepool, gent., mortgaged his Orslow estate to one Robert Baskerville, and by deed dated 28th and 29th September, 1743, it was sold by the said John Skrymsher, now styled of Startlepool, Esq., Robert Baskerville, of Shrewsbury, gent., Richard Davies, of Shrewsbury, Doctor of Physic, and Jane his wife, Mary Skrymsher, of the same place, spinster, and others, to Orlando Bridgeman, of Blodwell, in the county of Salop, Esq. (afterwards Sir Orlando Bridgeman, Baronet), for the sum of £3,550, to hold at a peppercorn rent, if demanded. In the subsequent deed of enrolment in the Court of Chancery it is described as "all that manor or reputed manor of Orslow, with the farm and premises thereto belonging, in the possession of Humphrey Webb and Richard Perkes," &c.; and on 7th February, 1773–4, Richard Corbet, of Shrewsbury, Esq., and Mary his wife, one of the daughters of John Skrymsher, late of Shrewsbury, released to the said Orlando Bridgeman, Esq., their interest in the said estate. (fn. 44) This estate has since passed, with the neighbouring manors of Weston and Blymhill, to Sir Orlando Bridgeman's descendant and representative, the present Earl of Bradford.
Before I conclude my account of Orslow, I should mention that in 13 Edward III. (1339) there was an assize to try whether John Child and Robert de Stockton had unjustly disseised Adam Child of his free tenement in Orselowe, namely, of one messuage and 36 acres of land there. The said Robert answered as tenant of a moiety of the messuage, and said that he entered into that moiety through the said John Child. A jury was impanelled, but the cause was made to stand over until the following Easter; (fn. 46) and I do not know the result. From this it may perhaps be inferred that the Stocktons retained some interest in Orslow, though the Woodcotes were certainly the principal holders.
At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, the Priory of Ronton had a small estate here—possibly the same—which was then valued at 12d. per annum. (fn. 47) This was granted on 1st May, 1540, to Sir John Giffard, of Chillington, in the county of Stafford, Knight, being then described as one croft, one parcel of land, and meadow, with its appurtenances, in Orslowe, late belonging to the Priory of Ronton. This property remained in the possession of the Giffard family for more than 300 years. It was included in the settlement of June, 1778, made on the marriage of Thomas Giffard, Esq., with the Hon. Charlotte Courtenay. In June, 1835, it was mortgaged by Thomas William Giffard, of Chillington, Esq., to Mr. Humphrey Webb, of Orslow. The said Mr. Humphrey Webb died on 5th February, 1842, and his son, the late Mr. Humphrey Webb purchased the property on 11th June, 1851. The last mentioned Humphrey Webb died 11th December, 1873, having sold the said estate in his life time; and the sale was carried out by his executors on 25th March, 1874, by a conveyance to Messrs. Butler and Bayliss, who shortly afterwards conveyed it to the Earl of Bradford, who is now the owner of the whole township.