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New research reveals secrets of Selly Manor’s hidden past

A bailiff, a bankrupt merchant and a pub landlord were amongst the former residents of a 500-year-old Birmingham Tudor house – fascinating new research into its history has revealed.

Little was known about Selly Manor in Bournville until Bournville Village Trust, which manages the house, teamed up with building historian George Demidowicz to uncover its hidden past.

Now research has discovered that the three-storey Grade II-listed house was home to a host of colourful characters, including the Setterford family who lived there for 50 years, but not the Lord of Selly Manor as previously believed.

Head of the Setterford family, and one of the house’s first residents, was attorney and bailiff John Setterford, an employee of the Lord of Selly William Gower, who bought the Selly estate and house in 1517.

Strangely after John’s death in 1587, his widow Felice, who would have been 70 years old at the time, was accused of breaking and entering into a property in Harborne with her son William.

Despite a brief brush with the law, Felice continued to live in the house, which remained prosperous and well-kept, until her death in 1608.

Later residents and owners of the house, which originally stood on Bournbrook Road, ranged from a bankrupt merchant, trader, doctor, cow-keeper, an 84-year-old carpenter and an ironmonger.

In the 19th century, the timber building – which slowly fell into disrepair before being saved and re-built by chocolate-maker George Cadbury – was split into three small cottages, housing 21 people in cramped conditions.

Nicki Lupton, Learning and Interpretation Officer at Selly Manor Museum, said: “Before we undertook this research very little was known about the inhabitants of Selly Manor or the exact history of the building itself.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic to uncover the intriguing and eccentric stories of the many residents who in the 15th and 16th centuries lived in the house, which we now know was called Smyths Tenement.

“It is also clear that whilst the house was a prosperous one on land owned by the Lord of Selly, and was painted by famous Birmingham artists David Cox and Alan Everitt,  it wasn’t the manor house for Selly.

“We believe that the actual manor house was situated where the Bournville estate later developed and we will be doing some trial archaeological excavations at the site with the help of residents and volunteers.”

George Demidowicz, said: “It is always exciting to discover the lost history of a medieval house, but we also managed to find the original site of the Selly manor house.

“By amazing coincidence, it is only about 400m from where in 1913 the house was moved and saved by George Cadbury.”

Selly Manor, now a museum accredited with Arts Council England, features an array of interesting artefacts, including Tudor-style costumes and armour, and rooms for visitors to explore.

The museum, which recently received £29,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, also features Minworth Greaves, a medieval hall which is believed to be 750 years old.

Selly Manor will host an archaeological dig, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, around the site of the Museum and nearby homes on Saturday 11th April 2015 and is inviting local residents and volunteers to take part.

For more information about volunteering for the archaeological dig, call Nicki Lupton, Learning and Interpretation Officer, on 0121 472 0199 or email nickilupton@bvt.org.uk

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