Prestwood Shout! (12th October 1592)

by Carl J. Higgs Jan. 2005

Lord Edward rode forth
from his high castle tower,
In the dead of night,
at the darkest hour;
With his band of retainers
to the tune seven-score,
He skirted the town -
all tumble-down poor;
And the clatter of hooves
on stone cobbles rang out,
As the hothead young lord
and his levies gave shout;
"A Dudley! A Dudley!"
Their cry rose on the air -
But the townsfolk lay dreaming,
devoid of all care.

Through the deer park they cantered,
past old Russell's Hall,
By Himley and Holbeach
with never a fall;
More riders joined them
at each place they passed -
Some kin of the Baron…
no questions asked;
Dudley and Sutton,
Bagley and Jewkes,
Jevon and Persehouse,
Fellows and Fowkes;
Plus countless others -
loyal yeomen at heart -
All rode then as brothers,
each playing his part.

Then onto the heath
and the old Worcester Road,
Lay their way ahead, south
through the dark and the cold;
Still onwards Lord Edward,
his men did he lead,
As they galloped along now,
gathering speed;
And if any folk heard
or were roused from their sleep,
No latch was raised,
for no-one dared peep;
Only prayed that the tumult
was of Earth, not of Hell…
Little knowing the Devil
was listening as well.

To Prestwood, Lord Edward -
with furrowed brow set -
Came spurring his steed,
a prize for to get;
This fair-seated house,
that his father had sold
To the Lyttelton clan -
and which they now did hold -
The Baron, in haste, thought
should be his by right,
So sought he much vengeance
and itched for a fight;
How he longed for the days
of his youth spent at sea,
'Gainst the Spanish Armada -
Far cry from Dudley!

Then leaving their mounts
on the mist-shrouded heath,
The lord's men drew nearer -
armed to the teeth;
They'd been promised booty,
and land by indenture,
For backing His Lordship's
dubious venture;
But on entering the grounds,
they all looked dismayed…
No signs of resistance…
Lord Edward was swayed;
Still, the intrepid company
crept quiet as a mouse,
And afore they'd been seen,
they'd surrounded the house.


"A Dudley! A Dudley!"
yelled all seven-score…

Squire Lyttelton fell out of bed
on the floor,
With fright, from the shock
of being waked from his slumber -
So rudely at night by such din -
like old lumber.
Three dogs began howling,
four servants came running
With torches, and pitchforks -
the house almost humming;
Yet nowhere Lord Edward
or hirelings were seen,
As they watched from the trees
and the shadows between.

By the time that Squire Lyttelton
ceased having fits,
No more noise from outside
did bedevil his wits;
He'd clearly heard whence
had issued that cry,
And he raised a clenched fist
up into the sky;
As, cursing, he stood in his
green dressing-gown,
Till the air turned quite blue
over poor Dudley town;
But, in spite of his calls of
"Black Dudley is come!"
Lord Edward and party
had already gone.

On seeing the paltry
response to his taunt,
Lord Edward decided
against any 'jaunt'
That would have meant bloodshed -
(on either side);
So, mounting his horse,
and swallowing his pride,
He promised his followers
alternative sport,
And to neighbouring Ashwood
they went with a snort;
There to take eight fat oxen,
a bull and some cows,
Of Lyttelton's stock
from under his nose.

These were soon rounded up
and, like thieves in the night,
The raiders made ready
to put them to flight;
Back over the heath,
without fear of battle,
But now steering a herd
of bellowing cattle;
This strange entourage -
now more like a zoo -
Stampeded past Himley,
o'er bridge - all askew;
Through woodland and park,
till they came within sight
Of the castle's stark outline,
perched on its height.

And, just as before,
if the locals did wonder,
Then what they heard now
they supposed distant thunder,
Or perhaps noise of war
from afar on the breeze…
But the Devil was laughing -
how ironic the 'wheeze'!
And as day began dawning
an autumnal brown,
Lord Edward and host
once more bypassed the town;
Plague-ridden old Dudley,
where the stench ne'er stopped rising
From streets filled with filth,
and the townsfolk… still dreaming.

Up into the courtyard
both beasts and men filed,
Amid ribald scenes,
unseemly and wild;
How they bragged and they boasted
of deeds done that night…
But Lord Edward was thinking
there'd be no respite;
In the Court of Star Chamber
he'd face Lyttelton's fury -
With the Squire's stock impounded,
now he'd need a good jury!
But then he felt better
at thought of another,
There in that place also -
not wife, but lover.

None there had seen,
save one pair of eyes,
As the young lord glanced up
to the cloud laden skies;
Beth Tomlinson, she
whom Lord Edward did love,
Looked on from the door
of her chamber above;
And as their eyes met
for one moment, so brief,
No doubt was there felt
betwixt either, no grief;
Only a feeling
of longing prevailed -
Each for the other -
set firm as iron nails.

The End

email the web master Mick Pearson: