Richard Foley of Dudley, died 1600

Richard Foley of Dudley died and left a will written 28 May 1600 and granted probate at Worcester not long after. He was probably baptized on 30 Jan 1547 in Rowley Regis. He was importantly the father of the wealthy ironmaster known as Richard ‘Fiddler’ Foley, latterly of Stourbridge. This son was a significant burgher in Dudley and was instrumental amongst his many good deeds, in resecuring the finances of Dudley Grammar School. It is the early relations with the Shaw family of Dudley that are of particular interest on these pages.

After naming his son Richard Foley as sole executor, Richard (senior) names his two overseers of this will,  as firstly Richard Shawe of Dudley and secondly his brother John Foley. John Foley (probably baptised 8 Feb 1552 St Giles,Rowley Regis) was married to Christian Russell the daughter of Thomas Russell of Rowley Regis. Her brother was John Russell. The Russells, Shaws and Foleys are all variously described as ‘nailers’ from the mid 16th century and reflect the birth of the iron trade in Elizabethan Dudley and its environs.

Richard’s first wife was Margaret Bennet, married 24 Jan 1574 in St Giles Rowley Regis, but she died and was buried in St Thomas, Dudley in 28 Feb 1587. It is possible that Richard took a second wife Agnes Munday married in All Saints, Sedgley on 17 Sep 1588. Speculatively she could be a sister to Richard Shawe, but there is no mention of her in the will of 1600.

Richard Shawe nonetheless is listed first amongst those to whom the testator owes money. He is both an overseer, witness and appraiser to the will. When Richard Foley (junior) sorts out the feoffees of the Grammar School members of the Shaw family are all prominently listed.

The Shaws were probably better connected at this stage than the Foley’s. They are recorded as landowners before the Dissolution and as the century 1540 to 1640 evolved both families rode the powerful forces of change. Both Richard Shawe (senior) and Richard Shaw (junior) would appear to have married into families who worked directly for Lord Dudley. The patronage of the Lord Dudleys was powerful yet increasing erratic by 1600. Whilst the Shaws were probably more adept at exploiting former Church lands and former Dudley lands, Richard Foley (junior) was able to build wealth through his mastery of the industrial process of ironmaking. Whilst the Shaws remained in Royalist Dudley during the Civil war, latterly as burghers, mercers and shopkeepers,, Richard Foley decamped to Old Swinford and Stourbridge, drawn first by Hyde Mill that he set up in 1629.

So 1600 was somewhat of a pivotal moment because nail making was still a cottage industry and the Shaw and Foley families were to go different ways.

Returning to the detail of the will of 1600. Richard Foley’s children are identified as follows

  • Katherine Robinson alias Mason (bap 24 Dec 1577, married 8 Oct 1594, St Thomas)
  • Richard (bap 28 Mar 1580)
  • John (no baptism)
  • Edward (bap 13 Dec 1584)

The section concerning debts owed by the testator is barely legible with some pieces missing but there are four people listed

  • Richard Shawe 40 shillings – whereof 20s is to be paid to his wife
  • John Russell (his presumed brother-in-law) £ 12
  • Thomas Shawe (Richard’s oldest son recently married to Mary Turner) £4 6s 8d
  • Henry Jugley or Ingley (?) 10s

The list of people who owed money to the testator is also interesting.

  • Simon Ryder 20s (Not the one of West Bromwich who wrote a diary)
  • Thomas Addenbroke 30s (another Dudley family that moved to Old Swinford area for ‘industrial’ reasons
  • Leonard Milton 8s
  • Nicholas Paston 6s (Vicar of Kingswinford – buried 13 Mar 1622)
  • Thomas Hill 10s (Nailer)
  • John Atkys
  • Adam Pershouse  33s 3d
  • William Smythe £3 (Vicar of Dudley – buried 16 Apr 1604)
  • Lettice Southole 14s

The inventory appraised on 1 Jun 1600 adds a further list of debtors. Perhaps significantly the list of appraisors appear in this order – Richard Shawe, John Foley, William Tomlinson, John Russell and John Shustock. Could this William Tomlinson be the father of Lord Dudley’s mistress who does not die until 1608?

Taken in the round, the list of debtors and creditors does not indicate much evidence of a particularly active business. This should be compared, say, with the will of Henry Finch of Dudley 1573, that has a long list of coal transactions.

Sources and notes

  • Will of Richard Foley Folio 117 1600, Worcester Record Office
  • Will of Richard Foley 1657 PCC (Son)
    • Cites the full list of names as feoffees of the Grammar school (including Richard Shaw (junior), Gilbert Jellians, Henry Finch etc)
  • Will of Thomas Russell, 1614, Worcester Record Office
    • John Russell, his son, (Will PCC 1636) was married to Joanne Chambers als Ireland, granddaughter of Edmonde Darby
  • Edward Chitham: The Story of Dudley, History Press, 2014
    • Holders of ‘Our Lady’s Lands’ and Richard Foley junior’s role.
  • If the William Tomlinson, who is involved in the appraisal of this will is indeed the ‘base collier’ father of Elizabeth, it brings the whole circle a little closer to Himley Hall where Lord Dudley had set up his second household for his children by her, including of course Dud Dudley (born about 1599). This is interesting but highly speculative. Oliver Shaw the great grandson of Richard Shaw goes on to marry into the Jellians family. Gilbert Jellians was very much part of the Tomlinson household.
  • Richard Shawe (senior) married Joanne Harrison (1571) and Richard Shaw (junior) married Margaret Hamnett (1601). It is believed both Fathers-in-law – William Harrison and Richard Hamnett worked on the Dudley estate as game keepers and servants.




Last updated on 24 September 2023 by JJ Morgan