The Etymology of the Name Blithfield

The first part of this name is just an alternate spelling of Blythe, coming from Old English blitha meaning 'gentle'. The second part comes from Old English feld, which originally meant 'open or accessiblle land', although by the time Blithfield took its name, it could just as well be interpreted in the modern sense of 'field'. (Gelling & Cole, p.275; Poulton-Smith, p.19)

Prehistoric Blithfield (c.10,000B.C. - A.D.1066)

There are no physical remains from Blithfield which date to this period of history, the first documentary evidence for its existence being found in the Domesday book of 1086.

Domesday Blidevelt (A.D.1086)

"Land of Earl Roger ... [In Pirehill Hundred] BLIDEVELT (Blithfield). Roger holds from him. 1 hide. Land for 4 ploughs. In lordship 2 ploughs, 4 slaves. 7 villagers with a priest and 1 smallholder have 2 ploughs. Meadow, 6 acres; the woodland has 3 furlongs length and 1 furlong width. Value 20s. Edmund held it; he was a free man." (The Domesday Book, 1086, 8.27)

The Domesday settlement of Blidevelt was the property of Earl Roger but he sub-let the tenancy to a Norman lordling also named Roger. The tax assessment for the village was one hide, which seems to be a pretty standard amount for this part of the country. There were four 'ploughs' of arable land which amounts to an area of 480 acres, half of which was retained by the lord of the manor, Roger de Blidevelt, and farmed for him by four slaves and their families. The other half of the manor was farmed by seven land-owning villeins and a single smallholder who rented land off someone else, probably the lord of the manor himself. All of these farmers could muster only two plough-teams of oxen between them so roughly half of the land was uncultivated. Mention of a priest suggests that there was a Saxon church or chapel of ease at Blithfield but no evidence for such an edifice has been found as yet. To the village was attached a meadow of six acres and a small piece of woodland amounting to some 30 acres. The entry concludes with the annual tax levied by the Crown from the manor which was 20 silver shillings or one pound, and we are told that the former landowner (i.e. prior to the Norman invasion of 1066) was a Saxon freeman by the name of Edmund.

Click here for more information on The Domesday Book in general

Medieval Blithfield (A.D.1066 - 1540)

The Deserted Medieval Settlement of Blithfield

The late-Saxon settlement documented in Domesday was destined not to last, however, and the final documentary evidence for the village of Blithefield was recorded in 1334. The site is now classified as a Deserted Medieval Village (DMV) with no visible surface remains but the site probably lies within the grounds of Blithfield Hall (SK0424). (AHDS)

Blithfield Hall

The original moated mansion was established on this site (SK 0451 2393) by Sir John Bagot in the 1390's, but the Lord of Blithfield was seemingly unhappy with some of the work done, for in 1398 he sued the carpenter Robert Stanlowe to the tune of 40 marks, presumably for faulty workmanship. Nothing of this period remains (perhaps upholding Lord Blithfield's complaint) and the moat has now disappeared, although a small part of the surviving west range may be dated to the 16th century, the present hall dates mostly to two building periods of 1740 and 1822. (Salter, tCaMMoS, p.15)

Saint Leonard's Church

The Church of Saint Leonard at Blithfield is detached from the modern village of Admaston which it now serves, and lies about one kilometre to the north-west, just west of modern Blithfield Hall (SK 0442 2399). The nave and the four bay arcades of both aisles were built in the late-13th century, the base of the western tower with diagonal buttresses, the three-bay chancel to the east and the windows in the outer walls of the aisles are all 14th century, and the clerestory above the nave was added in the 15th. The upper part of the tower is thought to be contemporary with the stained glass in the west window which depicts Sir Lewis Bagot and his wives c.1525. The rest of the church dates to the 19th century; the octagonal chapel-cum-vestry to the north of the chancel was added in 1829-30, restorations were made to the chancel in 1851 by Pugin, the south porch was added in 1860, the north porch somewhat later. The fabric of the church is ashlar with a slate roof to the chancel. The remains of a 13th or 14th century cross may be seen in the churchyard (SK 0442 2398). (Salter, tOPCoS, pp.22-3; AHDS)

Post-Medieval Blithfield (A.D.1540 - 1900)

There is nothing of note in post-Medieval Blithfield, although it has been noted that Rectory Farm which lies about a kilometer to the west of Blithfield Hall, the name of which may itself be indicative of an ecclesiastical past, is also accompanied by a modern field name of 'Upper Friars Meadow' (SK 0345 2318) which also lends credence to there being some type of religious house in the area that has otherwise gone undocumented. (AHDS)

Modern Blithfield (A.D.1901 - present)

The most obvious modern construct in the area is that of Blithfield Reservoir which was opened by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on Tuesday 27 October 1953. The project was designed by the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company (now known as South Staffordshire Water PLC) who, in order to effect the plan, were obliged to purchase 2,350 acres (952 ha) of land in the Blythe Valley, much of it from Lord Bagot the owner of Blithfield Hall, which was included in the original land deal but later sold back to the Bagot Family. The reservoir itself only covers an area of about 790 acres (320ha) but the purchase of the adjacent farmland was required in order to ensure that the farming methods employed on the effected land be carefully controlled to avoid contamination of the water supply. The building of this man-made reservoir was originally planned to start in 1939 but was postponed due to the onset of World War Two until 1947, after which the 0.6 mile long (c.0.9km) concrete dam backed by a substantial earthwork bank was constructed across the shallow valley of the River Blythe over the following six years. The causeway carrying the B5013 road was built at the same time, which effectively divides the waters of the reservoir into two unequal parts, the shallower section to the north-west was reserved for fishing, the deeper section closer to the dam on the south-east being the preserve of sailing boats. The north-western end of the man-made lake is divided into two sections formed by the valley of the Blythe to the west and by the valley of one of its tributary streams, the Tad Brook, to the east. Between them, on the resultant peninsula now surrounded on three sides by the waters of the reservoir, is situated the Blithfield Education Centre, which was built upon the site of the Stansley Wood Sawmill by South Staffs Water and opened by the former comedian turned ornithologist, Bill Oddie in May 1996. (WEB)

Click here for information about the Blithfield Reservoir SSSI

www.streetmap.co.uk
www.BlithfieldEducationCentre.co.uk
Blithfield Reservoir from www.WestMidlandBirdClub.com
Blithfield Sailing Club
Blithfield Anglers


Bibliography

Domesday Book - Staffordshire Ed. by John Morris (Phillimore, Chichester, 1976);
Staffordshire Place-Names including The Black Country by Anthony Poulton-Smith (Countryside, Berkshire, 1995);
The Old Parish Churches of Staffordshire by Mike Salter (Folly, Malvern, 1996);
The Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire by Mike Salter (Folly, Malvern, 1997);
Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1998);
The Landscape of Place-Names by Margaret Gelling & Ann Cole (Shaun Tyas, Stamford, 2000);
Domesday Book - A Complete Translation Ed. by The Alecto Domesday Editorial Board (Penguin, London, 2002);

This page was last modified: