Great Wyrley has a long history. Together with Little Wyrley and Norton Canes, it grew as the trees of Cank forest were cut down from the Watling Street to Wyrley near the present Cannock- Wolverhampton Road at Lodge Hill. Its name is Saxon in origin deriving from Wir Leah “the bog myrtle glade”. In the Doomesday Book, Wereleia was said to consist of four carucates of cultivated land and was held by Almicas of the Bishop of Chester.
Following the Norman conquest a large tract of forestland, originally belonging to the Bishopric of Lichfield was absorbed into Cank Forest to make Royal chase and was transferred from Offlow Hundred to Cuddlestone Hundred.
Wyrley gave its name to a family which later acquired land at Hampstead and Perry Barr, near Birmingham. People who have noticed a Wyrley Street on the way to Villa Park at Aston may have wondered if there is any connection with W yrley. The Wyrley family held large tracts of land to the north of Birmingham. It is on record that Adam, son of Robert, bought the land in Wereleia in 1154 and styled himself de Wereleia.
The ancient family of Wyrley had a continuous existence for 600 years. In the latter half of the eighteenth century the family came to an end with an heiress who married into a family of Birch, of Leacroft, Cannock. Birch assumed the name of Wyrley so that the family name should continue.
Mark Wyrley was M.P. for Lichfield in 1554. William Wyrley was amanuensis to Erdeswicke when he wrote his survey of Staffordshire in 1597. Sir John Wyrley, knighted in 1641, was a devoted Royalist, unlike the people of the village from which he took his name, for they were predominantly Roundheads.
The arms of the Wyrley family were an azure shield on which an argent chevron was engrailed between three bugle horns sable. The bugles were stringed to plants which may be bog myrtles, The crest was a ducal coronet and the family motto was, “A Plesance”
As stated earlier ‘Wyrley grew through the centuries as the trees of the Cank Forest were cut down and the wastes were cultivated. Little remains now of the glory of the forest, but in the Old Gosse Field in Hazel Lane there is a copse of oak trees which, on a summer’s day, give in miniature what the whole parish looked like in those days the Great Stones of Landywood stood overlooking the valley of Wyrley Brook, and constituted the temple of the Druids.’
Today, Great Wyrley is a sprawling mix of different types of development which is still, surrounded by the ruins of old mining works and the motorways leading anywhere else in the country. In the 19th century, it looked very different. It was smaller for a start, with clear divisions between Old Wyrley, Wyrley Bank, Landywood, Little Wyrley, Churchbridge and Cheslyn Hay.
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