The Moat House
Written by Mabel Swift
“Tamworth For The King.” That was the declaration from the loyalists, William Comberford from his home at the Moat House in Lichfield Street. In that year of grace, 1642 King Charles I had fled the capital and raised his standard at Nottingham thereby defying the parliament which sought to curb his regal power and beginning the Civil War. 30 years earlier, the Comberfords had entertained Charles, then the Prince of Wales, while his father, King James, stayed at the castle during a royal visit to the town. Now the Comberfords pledged their support, sent £10,000 to the royal cause and garrison Tamworth in the name of the King.
The Moat House must have been of ancient foundation, for in medieval times, ‘Motehallzende’ appears in local records. It was in 1572 that Walter Harcourt brought the site in Lichfield Street and there built a fine Tudor Mansion with mullioned windows and fine chimneys. He married Mary Comberford and, after the couples death, the property passed to her family. They were all Catholics and it was whispered that the oak panelling inside the house hid more than one ‘priest’s hole’. It was important to the Comberfords that they displayed all loyalty to the crown, but they were to pay dearly for it. After only one year Tamworth was captured by the Parliamentarian army. The people, it appears, favoured Cromwell. Comberford escaped, but his magnificent home was ransacked from its gabled roof down to its walled garden. Out at the country village, which bears his name, the manor was sacked. When the war was finally lost, and the proud and foolish King beheaded, the Comberfords had to sell the family property. Ironically it was bought by Thomas Fox, a Roundhead Captain and one of their bitterest enemies for £160. The Comberford family never recovered from those grievous times and retired to exile in their old estates in the Champagne district of France.
The Moat House passed into the possession of the families of Boothby, Littleton, Wolferstan, Abney and later the Marquess of Townsend. On the latter’s death, it was acquired by Dr. Robert Woody, who in 1863 opened it for the local horticultural show. Over 2000 people trooped through the avenue of lime trees to admire the display of flowers, fruit and vegetables. There was archery, dancing to the strains of the Warwickshire Militia Band and a fleet of pleasure boats on the waters of the River Tame at the foot of the gardens. Thereafter, the house was used as a private nursing home for the mentally ill. These people were often well to do, but eccentric old ladies who went out in the landau round the town streets to shop, bestowing largesse on the shopkeepers and errand boys who ran out to serve them.
In the 20th Century the Moat House passed to another well-known practitioner, Dr. Lowson, who on giving up the nursing home on his retirement, offered the Moat House as a free gift to Tamworth Corporation. After much discussion the council foolishly decided that they could not afford to look after it and refused the offer. Highly indignant, the doctor quite rightly sold the mansion and since those days several restaurants have operated from the beautiful building.
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