When Charles II arrived at Moseley Old Hall in 1651, he would have found a delightful half-timbered house remotely situated in dense woodland. Today the Old Hall takes on a very different appearance, with the timberwork having been clad in red brick, and the surrounding area being almost swallowed up by the spreading environs of Wolverhampton.
Built in 1600 by Henry Pitt, it was the home of the Whitgreaves, a local Staffordshire family descended from generations of lawyers and MPs. Mostly Catholics and Royalists, as were so many of the influential families in the Midlands during this period, the most noted Whitgreave was Thomas 'the Preserver'. It was with his assistance that Charles II was able to continue the journey that eventually led to his exile in France for eight years. Following a wet, cold trek during the night from Boscobel House, Thomas greeted a very weary and hungry Charles at daybreak. Offered dry clothes, food, and a proper bed, he was secreted in the priest hole at Moseley Old Hall for two days whilst planning the route for his escape. The original four-poster bed used by Charles stands in the King's room, a room that was formerly occupied by the family's Catholic priest, and an informative exhibition containing books and miscellaneous items in connection with the fugitive King's escape has been set up in the Dressing Room.
Arranged on three floors, there is public access to a large part of the house, and several pictures of Charles II are displayed throughout, constantly reminding the visitor of Moseley Old Hall's vital part in the making of our history. In Mr Whitgreave's room, a portrait of Thomas as a young man is proudly hung over the fireplace, and from his first floor study Thomas watched Charles' devastated, beaten army beginning their retreat to Scotland. The prominence of heavy exposed timbers, dark wood panelling, and hefty pieces of oak furniture, overpower the house in a dingy, but eerily atmospheric way which is relieved only slightly by the brighter attic rooms and the chapel. A lovely view of the reconstructed Knot Garden can be had from the little bedroom window on the top floor.
Descendants of the Whitgreave family owned the house until 1925, and during that time made few structural changes, apart from encasing Moseley Old Hall with brick walls and replacing the Elizabethan windows in the 1870s. After the 1820s, it appears to have been abandoned as the family home, in favour of Moseley Court, a new Regency style house built for George Whitgreave. Used as a farmhouse until the onset of the Second World War, Moseley Old Hall had been stripped of nearly all its contents, and was suffering badly from subsidence and general neglect by the time the National Trust assumed responsibility for the property in 1962. Now fully restored, and furnished with generous donations relative to the period of the house, Moseley Old Hall offers a fair representation of the house that was once visited by Charles II in his desperate hour of need.