A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 7, Leek and the Moorlands. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996.
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Rudyard was formerly a township in Leek parish and later a civil parish 1,435 a. (581 ha.) in area. (fn. 1) It extends from a hill called Gun on its east side to Rudyard Lake, a reservoir formed in 1799 by damming the brook which marked the western boundary with Horton. (fn. 2) A hamlet on which the township centred in the 18th century was gradually deserted in the 19th century. It was replaced by the present Rudyard village in Horton, which grew up to cater for tourists visiting Rudyard Lake. Rudyard township was amalgamated with Horton parish in 1934 to form Horton civil parish. (fn. 3) This article deals with the former township.
The land lies at 600 ft. (183 m.) beside Rudyard Lake and rises to 1,000 ft. (305 m.) on Gun. The underlying rock is mostly Bunter Pebble, with sandstone of the Millstone Grit series in the north and west parts of the township. Boulder Clay overlies the Bunter Pebble, and the soil is coarse loam, except on Gun where it is clay and loam with some peat. (fn. 4)
Six people in Rudyard were assessed for tax in 1327 and eight in 1333, (fn. 5) and seventeen were assessed for hearth tax in 1666. (fn. 6) The population was 109 in 1801, rising to 117 by 1831 but then falling to 72 by 1881. It was 81 in 1901 and 1911, and 78 in 1921. It was 112 in 1931, the last time that Rudyard's population was separately recorded. (fn. 7)
Rudyard has been identified as an estate called Rudegeard in the early 11th century. The name is derived from Old English words meaning the shrub rue and an enclosure. (fn. 8) The oldest surviving building is the 17th-century Rudyard Hall. (fn. 9) By the later 18th century there was a hamlet in the south-west part of the township on the road between Leek and Macclesfield. It declined after the road was turnpiked in 1762 with a new line to the east. (fn. 10) There are four farmhouses in the area of the former hamlet, Rudyard Manor (formerly called Green Farm) (fn. 11) and Rudyard House (formerly called Greentree Farm), (fn. 12) both of the 18th century, Highgate Farm on a site occupied by 1677, (fn. 13) and Willgate Farm on a site occupied by 1669. (fn. 14) Hunt House Farm to the north of the hamlet was so called by 1636. The road linking it to the hamlet, formerly part of the Leek-Macclesfield road, was stopped up in 1827. (fn. 15) Barnswood Farm on the township's northern boundary stands on or near a site occupied by the early 17th century. (fn. 16)
The Leek-Macclesfield road was turnpiked in 1762, (fn. 17) taking a new line which ran through the middle of the township east of Rudyard hamlet. A tollgate was set up near a milepost at Packsaddle Cottage in 1764, and a tollhouse was built in 1767. (fn. 18) Under the 1762 Act a share of the tolls from the Packsaddle gate was paid to the trustees of the Ashbourne-Congleton turnpike road because of the joint use of part of the Macclesfield road through Rudyard. (fn. 19) In 1808 the Macclesfield road was again rerouted, the new line leaving the old one north of the tollhouse to run west past Hunt House Farm and Barnswood Farm and rejoining it in Rushton Spencer. (fn. 20) The tollhouse at Packsaddle was replaced in 1824 by one at Poolend, in Leekfrith. (fn. 21) The road was disturnpiked in 1878. (fn. 22)
The North Staffordshire Railway Co.'s Churnet Valley line between Leek and Macclesfield, opened in 1849, ran along the west side of the township. Rudyard station south of Rudyard Lake was opened in 1850. Renamed Rudyard Lake station c. 1925, it was closed for passengers and freight in 1960 and the building was demolished. (fn. 23) A miniature railway follows the old line for nearly a mile north from the site of the station along the side of Rudyard Lake. Its track was laid in the later 1970s and remade in 1985. (fn. 24)
MANOR AND ANOTHER ESTATE.
Between 1002 and 1004 the thegn Wulfric Spot devised to Burton abbey a place called Rudegeard, which has been identified as RUDYARD. The abbey either failed to gain possession of the estate or soon lost it. Before the Conquest Rudyard was held by Wulfmaer. In 1086 it was held by the king. (fn. 25)
By the mid 12th century the Verduns of Alton were the overlords of Rudyard. About 1200 a fee-farm rent of 22s. was owed to Norman Pantun, son of Alice de Verdun. It was still paid c. 1800 to the earl of Shrewsbury, the Verduns' successor at Alton. (fn. 26)
Ulf held the manor in the mid 12th century, and c. 1200 Norman Pantun confirmed Ulf's grandson, Ranulph of Tittesworth, in possession of the vill of Rudyard. Norman's mother, Alice de Verdun, with the agreement of her other son William Pantun, had earlier confirmed Rudyard to Ranulph of Tittesworth with all its liberties in return for a payment of 5 marks, together with fines of 37s. for herself and 20s. for William. (fn. 27) Ranulph was succeeded by his son, Thomas of Rudyard, and Thomas by his son Richard. (fn. 28) Richard was still alive in 1293-4. (fn. 29) Randal of Rudyard, alive in 1302, was lord of Rudyard in 1315. (fn. 30) Ranulph of Rudyard, who headed the list of those assessed for tax there in 1327, and Richard of Rudyard, who headed a similar list in 1333, were probably lords of the manor. (fn. 31) In 1366 the widow of the same or another Richard of Rudyard claimed dower in the manor against John of Rudyard, probably her son. John, lord in 1370, was succeeded by his son Thomas, and Thomas by his son Ralph, alive in 1411. Richard Rudyard was evidently the lord in 1418. (fn. 32)
Thomas Rudyard was lord in 1507. (fn. 33) Still alive c. 1530, (fn. 34) he was succeeded by his nephew Ralph Rudyard, who was lord later in the 1530s and in 1564 or 1565. (fn. 35) He was succeeded by Thomas Rudyard, probably his son, who died in 1572 or 1573 with his son, another Thomas, as his heir. (fn. 36) He was succeded in 1626 by his son, also Thomas. The younger Thomas was succeeded in 1638 by his brother Ralph, and Ralph in 1653 by his son Thomas. (fn. 37) Thomas, sheriff of Staffordshire in 1682, (fn. 38) was alive in 1683 but dead by 1691. In 1695 his son, another Thomas, settled the manor on trustees for the benefit of his four daughters, Margaret, Mary, and Mercy Rudyard and Elizabeth, wife of Charles Gibbons. (fn. 39) Thomas died probably soon afterwards and certainly before 1709. (fn. 40) Elizabeth died in 1716 and Mary in 1717. (fn. 41)
In 1723 Margaret Rudyard and her sister Mercy, by then the wife of William Trafford of Swythamley, in Heaton, sold Rudyard with the manor of Leek to Thomas Parker, earl of Macclesfield. (fn. 42) The earls of Macclesfield retained the estate until it was broken up in 1919. A 418-a. farm centred on Rudyard Hall was then bought by the tenant, Nathan Buxton. (fn. 43) He sold it in 1927 to John Wain. In 1966 the farm was bought by Frank Robinson. (fn. 44)
Rudyard Hall is mainly of the earlier 17th century, and a stone with the date 1635 and the initials TR and MR survives inside the house. The house was assessed for tax on seven hearths in 1666. (fn. 45) A garden wall around the house, with an imposing gateway on the north side, is probably of the late 17th century. The farm buildings include a stone barn dated 1657.
An estate centred on BARNSWOOD FARM probably originated in the grant of land which the lord of Rudyard, Thomas son of Ranulph of Tittesworth, gave to William son of Richard of Rushton in the early 13th century. (fn. 46) William later gave the land to his brother Ranulph, who by 1246 had given it to Dieulacres abbey. (fn. 47) After the Dissolution it became part of Rudyard manor: in 1606 the Rudyard family owned a house called Barnswood and adjoining land in Rudyard. (fn. 48) The farm was sold in 1919 to the tenants, J. and J. S. Fletcher. In the later 1920s it was bought by the family of the present owner, Mr. F. A. Brown. (fn. 49)
Nothing remains of the house at Barnswood which was assessed for tax on four hearths in 1666. (fn. 50) It may have been demolished when the new line of the Leek-Macclesfield road was constructed in 1808: the present house, which lies on the west side of the road, dates from that time.
In 1086 the area known as Rudyard had land for one or two ploughteams. (fn. 51)
When the earl of Macclesfield's Rudyard estate was broken up in 1919 there were six farms: Rudyard Hall (418 a.), Greentree (208 a.), Green, later Rudyard Manor (181 a.), Barnswood (178 a.), Willgate (158 a.), and Hunt House (143 a.). They were principally dairy farms and included 808 a. of pasture and 306 a. of arable. There were also 132 a. of woodland in the township, the main area being 55 a. at Barnswood, still a wood in 1991. (fn. 52)
Fields called Near and Far Rabbit Bank on the east and south-east sides of Rudyard Hall in 1731 (fn. 53) may indicate the site of a rabbit warren.
Rudyard was subject to the overlord's manor court at Alton, where a headborough for Rudyard tithing was sworn at least between 1732 and 1823. (fn. 54) Rudyard remained part of Alton constablewick in 1851. (fn. 55) In 1507 the lord of Rudyard claimed to hold a small court of his own at Rudyard. (fn. 56)
The township was part of the Leekfrith quarter of Leek parish, and in the 1660s its poor were relieved by the quarter's overseer. The township had its own overseer from 1713. (fn. 57) It became part of Leek poor-law union in 1837. (fn. 58)
From the 17th century and presumably earlier people from Rudyard attended the parish church at Leek. (fn. 59)
The Jane Rudyard who was recorded as a recusant in the mid 1590s was possibly the mother of the lord of the manor Thomas Rudyard (d. 1638), who was himself returned as a recusant in 1616. (fn. 60)
Matthew Dale of Rudyard was converted by the Quaker missionary Richard Hickock in 1654, and he established a meeting at his home. The Richard Dale who suffered imprisonment in 1655 for his beliefs as a Quaker may also have lived in Rudyard. (fn. 61) Joshua and Mary Dale of Rudyard were recorded as Quakers in 1708, as was Thomas Finney of Rudyard in 1709 and 1716. (fn. 62) Another Thomas Finney of Rudyard and two members of the Dale family attended the Leek meeting of Friends in 1735. (fn. 63)
Methodist preachers held regular services in the 19th century at Rudyard Hall, the home of a class leader, Robert Needham (d. 1887). (fn. 64)