Joyce Rugeley of Moor Hall

Joyce Rugeley must have been born about 1480 and was descended from the Rugeley family of Dunton in Warwickshire. The Rugeley ancestry is somewhat erratically recorded in the contemporary Heraldic Visitations of Warwickshire of 1619 and it is not altogether clear exactly where she fits in. She died and left a will in 1553.  Importantly she married twice and was widowed twice. Her two husbands were wealthy and extremely well connected. This kind of widowhood was in reality the only way a woman in Tudor times could gain important independent social status.

Significant for this website, Joyce was the grandmother of the Pudsey family of Langley Hall and therefore the ancestor of many of the Bendys of Shutt End and ultimately Shaw-Helliers of the Wodehouse in Wombourne.

Her first husband was Hugh Harman of Moor Hall, with whom she had six surviving children. Hugh Harman died in 1528 and was the brother of John Vesey, Bishop of Exeter. Her second husband was Simon Mountford, at one time private servant to Catherine of Aragon, who died in 1537.

The will of her second husband Simon Mountford from 1537 has survived and gives a few further insights. Firstly it indicates what would appear to have been a marriage settlement (jointure) of the Manor of Aldridge in Staffordshire agreed between Simon Mountford and a Nicholas Rugeley and this Manor now passed to the sole control of the widow Joyce. This would likely mean that Joyce’s father was a Nicholas, although possibly it could be her brother. Joyce was named as the sole Executrix. The overseer of the will was no less than Lord Thomas Cromwell himself.  Thomas Harman her first husband’s grandfather had once been Rector of Aldridge way back in 1446, a patronage that had once been in the gift of the Mountfords but was now seemingly in her hands. Simon had one son Francis Mountford by his first wife Anne Longford, daughter of Sir Ralph Longford of Longford in Derbyshire.

The will of Joyce Mountford herself, probate 31 Oct 1553, is a somewhat rambling list of wishes and suggests a woman who wanted to be remembered for her good deeds. One suspects that, from 1537 when she became a widow for the second time, up until her death, she dispensed her power and favour to promote her family and her views in what were extremely turbulent times. Her brother-in-law John Vesey had been a close associate of Cardinal Wolsey and was Bishop of Exeter from 1519 to 1551. His high mindedness was perhaps epitomised by his foundation of Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield in 1527. Joyce too was a ‘catholic’ with a probable Renaissance view on education, literacy and philanthropy. She died a few months after the death of Edward VI, probably before the radical religious ideas promoted by the young king started to be rolled back by Queen Mary.

The will transcribed below has two versions. One is held by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury with probate granted on 31 Oct 1553. There is another version with appended documents held by the Lichfield Record Office. They differ in important respects and suggest a strong dispute between her two sons. These two sons John (d 1555) and William Harman (d 1592) were nominally the heirs of the ageing and childless Bishop Vesey. The lists of the Wardens of Sutton Coldfield, a post set up by Bishop Vesey, to reinvigorate the status and prosperity of the town of Sutton Coldfield is crammed with his relatives. John Harman held the post in 1540 and 1547 and William in 1544.  Bishop Vesey died in 1554 one year after his sister-in-law, having been reunited to his bishopric by Queen Mary. He had effectively been expelled from it under Edward VI in 1551. After Bishop Vesey’s death all the indication is that the Harmans continued to exploit the school and town foundations for their family and personal benefit, whenever they could.

In her will, Joyce is mindful of possible disputes and appears to look to her sons-in-law as a counterweight to her sons. The four sons-in-law Richard Sheldon, Robert Pudsey, George Middlemore and Thomas Wyrley are all significant landed gentry in the area. They are named as Executors of her will but the fifth executor is only one of her sons. In the PCC version it is William. In the Lichfield version it is John. To judge quite how underhand this switch was is difficult, but the bigger battle for the two sons was to gain favour with their ageing Uncle, who under Queen Mary was once again a force in the land.

The will mentions none of her Harman grandchildren by name. Notably it omits Thomas Harman the eldest son of her son John. Thomas Harman was probably already in his early twenties and would appear to have been the favoured great nephew of Bishop John Vesey.

Her son John died shortly after and we cannot rule out that he was already incapacitated in some way. He left a widow Sybil, who remarried Richard Foxall, a wealthy Coventry mercer, but he too had died leaving a will of 1568. In the will of her son, William Harman dated 1592 he states that he is of Moor Hall but confesses that he has lived most his life in Hampton-in-Arden. His perhaps dissolute lifestyle is hinted at by reference to one illegitimate son.  It would appear that Sybil, the widow of his brother, John, was living in Moor Hall with her family and she is named as his sole executor. This perhaps tempers any view of the intensity of the fraternal dispute. It cannot be forgotten that up until 1554 all of this patronage was always under the ever watchful eye of Bishop Vesey.

This dispute between the two brothers is confirmed by a document of the Court of Chancery held in the National Archives (not viewed).  This shows that there were accusations of falsifying Joyce’s will, after her death. One important distinction between the ‘Canterbury’ will and the ‘Lichfield’ will is that the words “and the farm in which I dwell” was added after the pecuniary legacy to William. Apart from getting to the root of the Chancery case, this shows us that Joyce was living in no great house at her death. It also shows us that the Harmans were clearly happy to play fast and loose in order to attain personal gain.

It was because of the flagrant abuse of Bishop Vesey’s legacies that in 1617 a commission had to be set up in order for the trustees of Bishop Vesey’s school to wrest control back from some of Joyce’s Harman great grandchildren.

The Harman’s aside, Joyce’s will does spend time dispensing specific gifts to her named grandchildren by her four daughters, wives of the four named sons-in-law. Philip Sheldon was the oldest son of Richard Sheldon (will 1566) married to her daughter Margaret. Richard is likely to be the first cousin to the wife of Joyce’s nephew John Rugeley, who had married a Joyce Sheldon in 1542. John Wyrley, the son of Thomas Wyrley also receives a bequest. He was the one who first erected the large monument to Bishop Vesey that now stands in Holy Trinity Church in Sutton Coldfield. The epitaph on this monument erected, and later substantially refashioned, dates from around 1610 and states that Joyce Rugeley’s father was a William Rugeley. This probably carries more weight than the published genealogies that have him as a Nicholas.

The will also gives the names of three of Joyce’s Pudsey grandchildren, who would have been all less than fifteen years old. The oldest child was Joyce. The youngest daughter was Eleanor, named after Joyce’s daughter and the wife of Robert Pudsey. It mentions Robert’s oldest son and heir George Pudsey. Significantly it makes no mention of the second son Thomas Pudsey, the key descendant discussed in the genealogy on this site. This is a bit of a conundrum as Thomas has to be less than ten years old. It is fortunate his status is clearly mentioned in the Heraldic Visitations.  For some reason, Thomas Pudsey seems to have spent his life in Longford, Derbyshire. One feels there must be some, at present undiscovered, connection through the family of Joyce’s second husband’s first wife ie the Longfords, which led to Thomas Pudsey’s marriage or land ownership over in the Derbyshire dales some 50 miles away.


  • Will of Joyce Mountford, Probate 31 Oct 1553 PCC
  • Will of Joyce Mountford, Written 3 Sep 1553, Lichfield Record Office
  • Will of Simon Mountford, Probate 30 Nov 1538, PCC (Second Husband)
  • Will of John Rugeley of Dunton, Probate 21 Jun 1557, PCC, (nephew)
  • Will of Nicholas Rugeley of Dunton, Date 3 Jul 1537, Lichfield Record Office (brother)
  • Will of William Harman of Sutton Coldfield, Probate 9 Oct 1592, PCC (son)
  • Will of Richard Sheldon of Spetchford, Probate 12 Feb 1562, PCC, (Son in Law)
  • Will of Richard Foxall, Probate 4 Jun 1568, PCC (Daughter-in-law’s Second Husband)
  • National Archives: C 1/1360/11
    • Short title: Harmon v Harman. Plaintiffs: William HARMON, gentleman. Defendants: John HARMAN and others. Subject: Conspiracy to procure the revocation by Joyce Mountforde, mother of complainant, of a bequest of a farm in Hampton, and to falsify her will. Warwickshire

  • History of the Forest and Chase of Sutton Coldfield (Simpkin Marshall, 1860)
  • Amalgam ‘Transcript’ of Joyce Mountford’s will
    • Will of Joyce Mountford (also Harman, nee Rugeley)
    • In the name of God Amen on the 12th day of September in the year of our lord god one thousand ccccc Liii, I Joyce Mountford of Hampton in Arden in the County of Warwick, Widow, being of good and perfect remembrance thanks be to God make my testament and last will in manner and form following. First I bequeath my soul to Almighty God and my body to be buried within the chancel of the parish church of Hampton aforesaid, and if I dwell there when it shall please God to call me to his mercy(?) where it shall please God to do his will on me, by the appointment of my executors. Item for my mortuary £xAlso I give to George Pudsey my great pot to be a ??standard or principal to his house to remain to him and to his heirs forever, Also I give to John Wyrley my great chest to be a ??standard or principal to his house as beforesaid. Item I give and bequeath to Elizabeth Wyrley my bed that I lie in. Also I give unto Nicholas Bartlet £6 13s 8d in money or stuff. Item I give to Elizabeth Middlemore, daughter to George Middlemore £6 13s 8d in money or stuff, Also to Joyce Pudsey a cow, pair of flaxen sheets and a spoon. Also I bequeath to Philip Sheldon my silver Salt. Item to Martha Sheldon a pair of flaxen sheets and two silver spoons. And also I give a cow to thrive and profit of all the children of my said daughter Margaret. Also I give two kine to go to thrive and profit to the two eldest daughters of John Harman. Also I give to the mending of the front bridge £20. Also I bequeath to any poor householder from the town of Hampton and Lydington, being poor and impotent 11d every house, and to all other householders 4d every house. Item I bequeath to every township hereafter following to be dealt to the poor people by the appointment of my executors and overseers. First to Balsall 2s Item Barston 20d to Knowle 2s Item to Solihull 2s, Bickenall 2s to Great Packington and Little Packington 2s, Merdon 2s, Item Elmdon 20dAlso I bequeath to Joan Essex my old servant for her pains taken 6 sheep. Also I bequeath further to every servant I have at that time that God shall do his will on me 2s. over and beyond their wage.I give and bequeath to the curate of Hampton all that time being for his pains 20d Item to any godchild that I have in Hampton or within two miles of the town of Hampton 4d. Also I bequeath to Joyce Essex a heifer of two years old. Also I will that my executors and overseers do see this my last will to be well and truly performed and fulfilled in every point as the before rehearsed and this to see me honestly bought to the church and buried according to my legation. All the residue of my goods unbenighted and my debts being paid and my legacies being performed and my funeral expenses being discharged, I will they shall be equally divided amongst all my children’s children at the discretion of my Executors and Overseers, provided always that if any of my sons or son-in-laws after my decease do trouble vex, ?shirt or demand of my executors to them or any of them any manner of promise made to them before the making of such demands, I will that the parties of the said children whatsoever ? that trouble or vex my executors the same parts of goods money or chattels shall discharge my said executors against any such demands or further demands being made at any time after my decease.I bequeath to my son William Harman £6 13s 8d [in ready money] [and the farm I dwell in and if my son Mountford will let my son William have a lease of Kingshurst with the demands for years as they can agree and then I will my son Mountford shall have this my farm]. [Item I will that Nicholas Bartlett shall have the mores during my lease]. Item I bequeath to John Wyrley, Thomas Wyrley’s son my best diaper borderclothe. Also I bequeath to Simon Middlemore, George Middlemore’s son two silver spoons, a pair of flaxen sheets and a pane. Item I wish that John Harman my son shall have the five pounds he oweth me if God call me. Item I bequeath to Judith Wyrley a bed and all that belongeth to it and two silver spoons.

      Item I give to Elinor Pudsey, my son Pudsey’s daughter a cow, a silver spoon, and a pair of flaxen sheets. Item I give to my son Middlemore’s daughter, to whom I have bequeathed nothing, two heifers of three years old. Item I give to Joyce Mathew a heifer of two years old.

      And to see this my last will well and truly performed and done I put my faithful trust in my special friends, Richard Sheldon, [Robert Pudsey], George Middlemore, Thomas Wyrley, my sons in law and John [William] Harman, my son whom I make my executors and overseers of this my last will and testament. Witness whereof Richard Bayton, Curate of Hampton-in-Arden, Thomas Wyrley, Nicholas Bartlett, Jane Middlemore, Eleanor Pudsey.