Chartley on the Stafford-Uttoxeter Road (A518) is deeply mysterious – there was once a medieval market next to the castle, but the usual signs of an English village – a church or pub – cannot be seen in Chartley. It is easy to think nothing has ever happened here despite the medieval castle, as there is so little to see. The one legend told about the place is that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the Castle but that is wrong – she was kept in the Old Manor, which burned down in 1781. Nowadays Chartley is largely deserted and as Tim Cockin says in the Staffordshire Encyclopaedia* it is “an extremely dispersed hamlet in undulating country” (p129), in fact there are so few houses it hardly counts as a hamlet. It is hard to believe that before the Civil War two Queens visited and three Earls** lived in the Manor House.
There was once a mediaeval village next to the castle, but the usual signs of an English Village – a Church or Pub – can be seen in Chartley. When the castle was built the Lord gained a charter on 26th September 1221 to hold a market there every Thursday. After the Wars of the Roses the castle like all castles was out of date, cannonballs could knock the walls down, so the Village vanished. By 1500 the market had disappeared.
When visitors came in the late Tudor period it was to the Old Manor, which remains mysterious as it was totally isolated apart from the abandoned castle and did not even have a Church or chapel – the church for the people of the Old Manor was at Stowe by Chartley The Devereux family had moved to the Old Manor House next to the castle. The Devereux family worshipped at St John the Baptist’s church in Stowe By Chartley, where the tomb of one of the Lords of Chartley stands with monuments to him and his two wives. When a de Ferrers daughter married a son of the Devereux family in 1446, named Walter as many Devereux sons were, her husband became a Lord Ferrers in 1461, but he was still not a top member of the nobility.
One of the reasons Chartley was never very important was that after the Earl of Chester built the castle only minor Lords lived there – the Earls of Chester died out and the Castle passed to the Earls of Derby who had a much more important castle at Tutbury. Chartley Castle was a prize to be captured in the wars of the Middle Ages, but the Barons who lived at the castle from 1299, as Lord de Ferrers, were not high-ranking aristocrats.
The Devereux had come over with Duke William at the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the Devereux men were always at the King’s side – but never as advisors or ministers. While the Devereux were valued as good soldiers and loyal followers, they were not the sharpest tools in the Royal Tool Kit. The First Lord Ferrers was a good example of this, as he died fighting for the King in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. A smarter man might have noticed that Richard III was about to lose the battle and switched sides, as the Stanley family did. This Walter Devereux did not and died in a lost cause.
The victorious Tudor King Henry VII had no time for The Devereux family and ignored Walter Devereux’s son John who died in 1501. Henry VIII took a different view as the Wars of the Roses were now over and the Devereux family did not pose a threat and employed the latest Walter Lord Ferrers in his army. This is the Lord buried in Stowe church promoted by Henry to be Viscount Hereford. This was a clear sign the Devereux family was on the way up – but it made no difference to Chartley, which was largely unknown though Elizabeth 1 visited her cousin Lettice Knollys there in 1575. After Mary Queen of |Scots left for her trial at Fotheringay no one important apart from the Devereux family ever visited Chartley again.
Chartley Moss is probably better known than Chartley itself. A old ice age bog this is extremely dangerous – 70 feet deep and covered in peat and moss three metres deep, and many people have been drowned in the bog. A ghostly apparition of a horseman and hounds has been reported riding over the moss, perhaps a real hunt was drowned riding over the surface and plunging into the depths. Oddly, it is said a bulldozer and railway engine are believed to have sunk in the bog (Cockin p131). Perhaps a bulldozer is possible but the old railway line is over half a mile away- so how could a railway locomotive sink into the bog?
Certainly, no ghosts have been said to walk at Chartley, and it is easy to think nothing much has happened there. This is not true, and it clear that the Devereux family made their bid for fame from Chartley. Walter the First Viscount Hereford started their power surge and his grandson and two more Devereux became Earls of Essex. Their story has still not been fully told.
* Tim Cockin The Staffordshire Encyclopaedia Malthouse Press 2000
** Walter 1st Earl of Essex 1540-1576 (Earl from 1572)
Robert 2nd Earl of Essex 1566-1601
Robert 3rd Earl of Essex 1591- 1646