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The History of the hamlet of Wooliscroft 1200-1850 | Williscroft, Woolliscroft, Wolliscroft and variants Onename Study
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The History of the hamlet of Wooliscroft 1200-1850

There are several references to the place name amongst the Charters & Final Concords (fines) for Staffordshire in connection with Robert Fitz Payne and his descendants. Robert Fitz Payne, the grandson of the original Robert Fitz Payne mentioned above died without male heirs in the 1200's. The land, including Willanes-croft (Wooliscroft), passed to his three daughters Agnes, Petronella and Joan. Thus the manor of Aston was subdivided and records that have survived show that Joan and Petronella had inherited land at Willanes-croft. Agnes married Richard le Mareschal, Petronilla married Geoffrey de Walton and Joan married Geoffrey's brother Ivo de Walton.

Joan de Walton, the granddaughter of Joan Fitz Payne, married three times, firstly to Thomas Venables, then Roger de Pulesdon and finally John de Hinckley. John brought further land at Willanes-croft from Gilbert de Aston prior to his death. Joan’s son William Venables inherited his mother’s estate in Willanes-croft. The remainder of the estate remained with the Hinckley family until 1420 when the estate was sold to William Lee.

In the 15C the spelling of the place name changes it begins to be referred to as Wylascroft this coincides the purchase of the estate of John Hinckley by William Lee in 1420. William Lee was still alive in 1442 when a fine was presented in which William and his wife Matilda's ownership of land including Wylascroft was recognised. Following William's death the Manor of Aston passed to his son Sir James Lee. James daughter Ellen married Humphrey Stanley and inherited the Manor of Aston following her fathers death. Their daughter Isabel married Walter Moyle and the estate devolved to Mary Moyle, Walter & Isobel's daughter, who married Erasmus Hevingham. So the Manor of Aston came into the Hevingham family's possession. The property passed to Erasmus' son Walter and then his son Christopher. However, ownership of Wooliscroft appears to have passed to James Harvey in 1580 from Humphery Wolveston (Willowescroftes otherwise Wollascroftes) and then the Tryven family in 1606 (Wollascroft, Willowescroftes, Wyllerscroftes). 

The place name is mentioned in another three fines during the 1500's. In 1549 it was called Weylescrofte when Robert Makley sued William Stanley, amiger and his wife Margaret. In 1555/6 it was referred to as Waylescroft when Richard Richardson and John Berye sued John & Elizabeth Hercy and Humphrey FitzWilliam. In 1564 it was referred to Willescrosse when Hugh Dicken sued Robert Collyer for 2 messuages, 2 gardens, 60 acres of land, 40 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, 12 acres of wood, and 3s. of rent in Hilderston, Stone, and Willescrosse, and of common of pasture for all beasts in Hilderston.

From my understanding William Lee only purchased John Hinckley's portion of the Manor of Aston. Wooliscroft itself appears to have been subdivided and is mentioned in other fines in connection with the original heirs of Robert FitzPayne. For this to happen it must have been quite a substantial place between the 13C and 15C. There is an interesting Feoffment recorded in 1311 by Gilbert, son of Geoffrey de Astone who was married to Petronilla FitzPayne, of John de Cressewall in all his land at Wilardiscroft, which Henry son of Walter of Wilardiscroft held of Gilbert; paying for 36 years from 18 Oct 1311 a red rose; thereafter 20s. Consideration: 10 marks of silver. This is the first first reference I have found to the place name possibly being used as a surname. It suggests that Walter was possibly a sub-tenant of Gilbert’s however, it is my opinion that it is possible Walter was a younger brother of Gilbert's and Henry was Gilbert's nephew. More excitingly it may mean that Walter is the forefather of some present day Williscroft’s & Woolliscroft’s. Over a hundred years later, in 1438 Robert Marchall received a 100 marks of silver when he remitted his lands and rents in several place including Wylascroft to Roger Clerk. Robert Marchall was most likely a descendant of Agnes FitzPayne one of the original co-heiresses.

During the 1400's there are other references to Wooliscroft that do not 'fit in' with what is known about how the estate was devolved. I think it very possible that these are references to sub-tenants. The Plea Rolls of 1464 mention Willascroft when John Delves, armiger, sued Robert Massy, late of Crosley, Cheshire, armiger, for fabricating and publishing false deeds with a view of disturbing him in his possession and title to the manor of Walton, near Stone, and divers lands in Aston, Burgeston, and Willascroft. The Delves family was closely associated with William Lee. In 1481 Nicholas Everdon sued William Mere, late of Wollescroft, Stafford, yeoman, for breaking into his close at Wollescroft and taking his goods and chattels to the value of 60s.

The first reference I have to Wooliscroft as being a farm is in a document dated the 2 March 1803. It refers to a messuage, farm and lands called Willascroft. This was left by Samuel Leacroft to his daughter Mary and she had applied to have new trustees appointed. She was married to Thomas Dicas. In 1834 three fifth of Wooliscroft (Wollascroft, Woolascroft) was mortgaged to Mary Povey. In 1839 another document (first part of contract of sale by Lease and Release) refers to “a messuage with 100 acres of land called Willascroft or Wooliscroft when members of the Leacroft family are selling the property to Viscount St Vincent.

During my research I have considerer other variations in spelling of the place name including Werlescroft. In a document dated 1358 referring to the Manor of Stow Heath and it's boundaries it mentions the lane from Werlescroft to Wednesfield. In the Plea Rolls of 1430 Warlescroft is mentioned as the place where Thomas Buschebury lived in a case against husbandman William Green. In my opinion these refer to Werlescroft which was situated at Bushbury in Staffordshire and is now known as Westcroft. More

I have also found references to ‘Williscroft’ as a place name in Surrey and Hertfordshire. Wylliscroft is found in Devon. However, I have not found any references to people with the Williscroft or Woolliscroft surname in these areas.  

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