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Forum Home > Halesowen and Hasbury History. > Halesowen's Ghosts.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There were some turbulent times, at the start, and indeed, all through the short reign of George II. ( 1727-1751)  Not only was there trouble in Scotland, a call for social reform, amongst which, was agitation from the Quakers, for the abolition of the Slave Trade. ( which did not arrive until 1807)  They should have begun nearer home. Some practice's, prior to, and during, the expansion of the Industrial Revolution, were little more than slavery. The other social reforms, did little to improve the wretched conditions of the bulk of the population either. So, into all this was born, about 1726, in the little Village of Oldswinford, near Stourbridge in Worcestershire, Sarah Penn. Her parents, agricultural labourers, were both poor, and, as the records suggest, not very healthy, as they both died while she was very young. Sarah, having no other relatives in the area, then became the responsibility of the Parish, and it's Funds. These funds were raised via a rating system, and as the only ones with enough assets to tax were the Gentry, Landowners, and Businessmen, how they were spent, was always the subject of keen debate. There was scope though, in the Poor Law Regulations, to " offset ", some this expense, and most Parishes took full advantage of the Law.


It was perfectly legal, under the Law, to virtually sell a young child into slavery, simple by calling the excercise, an " Apprenticeship ".  It was of course, no such thing. One only has to read Dickens, or one of the many reports about this practice, to come across tales of untold cruelty, and barbaric and brutal treatment, involving these young children. Sarah penn was "apprenticed ",  to one such individual, John Roachly, a Baker, who resided in Stourbridge. Beaten, half starved, chained up, and forced to work long hours, merely for her food and lodgings, she was paid no wages. Sarah endured this treatment for some years, under the so called tutorage of this sadist, and his wife, until one day, luck smiled on her. At least she must have thought it had. A man, one of the regular Waggoners who called at the Bakery, saw her one day being ill-treated. Nothing unusual for him, but for some reason, this time, he summoned up the courage and went to the local Magistrate. Sarahs condition at this time must have been dreadful, for the Magistrate immediately cancelled her apprenticeship, and publicly castegated John Roachly for his appalling treatment of the young woman. There are no records of him being punished however, for hadn't he, after all, saved the Parish years of expensive payments.


Now you could be forgiven, for thinking that would be the end of Sarah Penns problems, it wasn't. The Poor Law, as it stood, delivered a nasty shock. Oldswinford Parish, now free from supporting her, refused any help. This left Sarah, who had nowhere to live, and no job that paid money, only one option, to go and live with her grandmother in Hasbury, which was not of course, in the same Parish. Showing the same kind of compassion as Oldswinford, good old Hasbury enacted the " Law of Settlement ". This regulation called for the payment of a ' Bond ' , the sum being £40, just in case, at some future date, Sarah should have cause to call upon Parish funds. It should come as no surprise to anyone, that neither of them had such an amount in which to pay the 'Bond'. Now comes the really cruel twist to the tale. The Parish, made an application to the Court, to have Sarah Penn declared to be a " Rogue and a Vagabond ", which was duly granted, and also ordered, that should she not leave, she would be whipped out of the Parish by the Bailiff. The Bailiff, John Walker, not being a man prone to good intentions, ( see Foul Murders ) would possibly have enjoyed that, but poor Sarah left without needing his help.


Where, you may ask, did that now leave Sarah Penn. She could not obtain relief in her own Parish of Oldswinford, and risked arrest and a flogging if she was caught in Hasbury. Even, if she was only visiting her aged relative. Harsh punishment indeed, for the only crime she had committed, was of being poor. More or less condemned to roam the road between the Hasbury and Oldswinford, her only help, for the next few years, came from the kindness of others, and the work offered to her by the Line Prop makers of Uffmoor Woods. It's a matter of record, that she did work for the Prop Makers, but for how long, it's difficult to say, as the record is the one concerning her tragic death. In 1852, when she would have been 26, she was run down and crushed by a Drag Cart, which was the type used by the Prop makers, to haul the wood. As to where she is buried, given that she had been rejected by both Parishes, I have no idea. Just one, amongst many live's ruined, for want of a bit of common sense, and a few shillings. It couldn't happen today, could it ?


It's been said, that Sarah Penn is the source of the apparition, that's been reported near to the Gypspy's Tent, several times, on the Hagley Road near Hasbury. The locals call it the " Wayside Waif ". I don't know if It's true or not, I don't believe in Ghosts, but if I did, I wouldn't blame her at all.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 9, 2011 at 3:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
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Posts: 46

Aren't we lucky not to have lived in those times.

April 10, 2011 at 1:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now while I am, so to speak, in Hasbury, I can't resist putting on this odd tale as well. It doen't fit into folklore, so here will have to do.


The Coley's are a long established family in this area, although they originated from nearby IIly. So far back indeed that the name is contained in the Rent Rolls for 1500. The Hacketts, are also long time residents of the area, from at least 1700, I should think as they are mentioned if mid century records as being of the town of Halesowen. Both family names are in my family tree, hence the interest, and this bit of history. The Hacketts, at one time, were quite prominent in the town, being Carters, Hauliers, and the owners of the Mail and Stage Coach line, that linked both Stourbridge, and Birmingham, with Halesowen. The coming of the Canal, caused a downturn in business, but nothing like the coming of the Railway, which proved fatal. Casting around for how to keep food on the table, the family purchased a farm, not just any old farm mind, but one with a history. Boggs Farm, to be honest, was a bit of ruin when they bought it, but with a bit of hard graft, they made money. Not a fortune, but enough not to starve. When the son, Samuel Coley, got married, he took his bride, Frances Coley, to live there. Neither of them really settled and when, some years later his parents died, Samuel sold up, and moved on. What made them unsettled you may ask. I did say the place had a history. It was reputed to be haunted, by a few restless spirits, and had, since 1843, been cursed by an old gypsy woman, Old Mother Meakins. This came about following the arrest for sheep stealing,( a hanging offence ) of John Hughes, a Tinker, who resided at Lye Waste. The incident had been reported, by Jethro Willetts, the sheppard at the Farm, and William Wragg, who was the landlord of the " Fox Hunt ". Hughes, when visited at his home in Lye, was found to be in possesion of a freshly killed sheep. Caught red handed, as they say. Members of Hughes family were, to put it mildly, understandable miffed at this. The Police took away their dinner after all. Mother Meakins, by all acounts, fitted the discription much beloved by all pantomine audiences, of a witch-like hag. She proceeded to curse everyone involved, including the Prosecutor, the Judge, and the Jury. Now whether this had any effect, is impossible to tell, but John Hughes was found guilty. The Judge however, and you will need to keep an open mind, handed Hughes a sentence of just one years gaol. It would appear that Mother Meakins, refused to lift the curse, and shortly afterwards Jethro Willetts, hanged himself in the farms barn. It has been suggested that his ghost, together with one who roamed the celler, a naked lady who hung from the rafters, and a crying spectre in the farms yard, have all been seen over the years. It's all gone now of course, and as I said before, I don't believe in ghosts.Of course, if they do exist, they must still be there, but could they cope with a big housing estate ?

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 17, 2011 at 4:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

George Harper, although born in Oldswinford around the 1730s, had strong connections with Rowley Regis. The family had moved there after his birth, his father having rented a small farm, where they kept Cattle, Pigs, and a few sheep. The soil was however, fairly poor for growing crops, and they built up a modestly profitable milk business. Young George, not wishing to spend his life as a Cowman, was soon heading off to London, to study the Law. ( paid for by his father ) His was moderatly successful, and came back, from time to time, to deal with the family business. By the time he reached 61, most of his clan had died, but he still had a niece in Rowley Regis. While recovering from an illness, he received an invitatation from her, to recuperate at her home, so in February 1792, he set off on a Mail Coach. While in the area, he also planned to visit an old friend he had been to College with, the current Vicar of Halesowen. Now George was an amiable man, and arriving early for the visit, he decided to partake of some refreshment at one of Halesowens many Public houses. He enjoyed the company so much, he stayed longer than he planned, and took at room at the Pub, prior to having supper with the Vicar. Just as it is today though, someone had seen he had money with him, and someone decided to take it. The men who crept up the backstairs of the Pub, William Bird, and Samuel Coley, were expecting an easy enough job, the man was old, and they were both young and strong. What a shock they got. Bird, who had been born in Belbroughton around 1774, was a stocky nailer, and Coley, the mastermind of the plot, a native of the town, a big strpping 24 year old Gun Barrel maker. George Harper was not going to give his money up easily, and in the struggle, he managed to strike several heavy blows to both his assailents. Enraged, the young bird felled the old man and then gave him what would be described today as a " good kicking ". Snatching what they could find, they then fled down Little Cornbow, and disappeared into the night. For some reason, the badly injured Harper, left the Pub and made his way towards the Vicarage, staggering down Birmingham Street, and then up Church Lane. He never reached the top, collapsing outside the old cottages, which are still there today. His weak cries of " Murder, murder ", were soon heard, and a crowd quickly gathered. He had time to gasp out most of what had happened, before expiring on the cold cobbles.


For the time, information came in thick and fast, first came news that two men had been seen running towards the Hagley Turnpike Road. Horses were quickly procured, and a party set off in pursuit. Then came news that one of the men had been indentified as Samuel Coley, a party then set off to search his fathers house in Hasbury. Then the other culprit was named, and with this, also the information, that his relatives lived in Belbroughton. Meanwhile, the first of the horse had reached the Hagley Toll Bar, the keeper swearing that no persons answering the discription had passed through. Coley was not at his home either, and both parties returned to Halesowen. It was decided to wait for first light before commencing a more intensive search, and then an armed party set off for Belbroughton. There were of course several directions the murderers could take, so the party split at Uffmoor Lane, the rest going on towards the lane that ran alongside Hagley Woods. On reaching Belbroughton, they quickly found that William Bird had lived up to his name, he had fled the nest on a borrowed horse. It was reported that his right arn was damaged, and that he had left with the stated intention of seeking medical aid in Stourbridge. Off went the main party, one rider being told to go via Clent Village, and call off the search in that direction. It was this party that had the luck, although not with the outcome expected. They were almost back on the Toll Road, when they were hailed by a Clothes Prop Maker, who told them there was a body, about 50 feet in the woods, just off the road. And so there was, Samuel Coley would do no more robbing, he had several vivid bruises to the head, the result of George Harpers stubborn refusal to give up his money. And of course, dead from bleeding of the brain. Despite a county wide search, William Bird was never found, and the whole sorry saga faded into just memories. Or did they.


Shortly after, there began a series of whispered stories. Strange cries, and shadowy figures, seen at the sites of both the murder, and the body in the woods. Chapel Lane became a place to avoid in the dark, and folks put on an extra burst of speed when passing Uffmoor wood. Supersition was woven deeply into the minds of these simple folk of yesteryear, and there's nothing like a good old murder to chill the blood, or frighten the children into behaving. It all settled down to the anniversary of the deed, and on that night, many of Halesowen's inhabitants stayed indoors. The last recorded report of anything unusual, was way back in 1952, when two Church cleaners, on their way home toward s the Stourbridge Road had a bit of a fright. They were passing the top of Church Lane, when one saw a staggering figure, which fell to the ground near the old cottages. Being good souls, they hurried forward to help, only to see the figure vanish before their eyes. They searched the lane but found nothing, and a bit shaken, hurried away from the scene. There continues to be the odd report about the other site though, the groans and cries it would appear, of a dying man. I'm surprised anyone could actually hear anything above the roar of modern day traffic, it's a busy spot, even in the early hours. Perhaps I'm not sufficiently  " tuned in ".


Post Script.

It was of course, long suspected, that William Birds relatives hid him from public gaze, and smuggled him away when the fuss died down. Even so, he must have gone a conciderable distance from the area, and possibly changed his name. It could be, that given the passing of a great number of years, he came back into the County. The reason I say that, is because in 1821, a 46 year man, was sent to the Worcester Assizes, on a charge of house breaking. He gave his place of birth as Belbroughton, and after questioning, his name as William Bird. He had sinned many times before, and whether or not the court connected his name with a 29 year old murder, he was condemned to death for Burglary. There was no last minute confession either, that would have meant he was liable to be Gibbetted, and no criminal wanted that. He was taken to Red Hill, in 1821, just outside Worcester, and hanged by the neck until dead. If it was the same man, he finally got his just deserts, even if the Judge hadn't realised who the man was.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 22, 2012 at 11:45 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Hasbury, Halesowen, 1895.


Now while doing the research on the Old Nailers Cottage in Hasbury, I came across this interesting little item. Where the Hagley Road passes through Hasbury, was always known as Spring Hill, and along it's length there were several Pubs, one of which was The Beehive Inn. It had, for many years, along with a farm nearby, been in the family of the name of Withers. The licencee at the time of this tale, was one Hannah Withers, and, so the story goes, was on her last legs following a not very successful operation in Hospital. She was  47 years old, and worth a few bob was Hannah, perhaps never having married had a lot to do with this, for many, in her chosen trade, had worked hard, only to see the men drink, or gamble away any profit. Calling her relatives close, she told them, that if they argued and fought over what was left, she would, in her own words, " come again ". It's a well known fact, that dispite all the goodwill shown at a funeral, it doesn't take long for the arguements to start, and it's always about money. Not even the threat of a haunting it seems, made much impression on the warring sides. Six months after Hannah Withers had been laid to rest, her relatives were at it hammer and tongs, over who should get what, and then someone took a Photograph. Why this was done is anyones guess, but on the photograph, standing at an upstairs window of the Beehive, and looking forlornly into the road below, was what relative described,  as the spitting image of the late Hannah Withers. Nailmakers, like Miners, were a superstitious lot, and soon terror gripped the area, and everyone, after dark, retired to their beds early. Speculation about the picture was rife, and soon several hundred people were to be seen each day, gawping at the old Beehive. This only increased the sightings of the Ghost of Hannah Withers, news of which reached some of the National Newspapers, and even more turned up. Worried neighbours, at least those with small children, began to beg the relatives to come to an agreement about the estate, which in the end was achieved. And then, as the story goes, Hannah Withers, finally at peace with the World, left  Hasbury for Heaven. Now this isn't a made up story, it appeared in many places up and down the land, and if anyone has a copy of that 1895 photograph, I would love to see it.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 14, 2013 at 3:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Lord Lyttleton, as Lord of The Manor of Hales-owen, must have had some strange requests in his time, but this one, in August 1860, was surely the daddy of them all. Unable to interest the Officers of the Law, or the Magistrates, in his complaint, Edward Jones, landlord of the Wagon and Horses'. then enacted an ancient custom and petitioned Lord Lyttleton. Known as " Ye Last Resorte ", it gave him the right to put his case and seek redress from his Lordship. Lord Lyttleton, not liking this one little bit, set up a Committee of Enquiry, headed by the Commander of the Towns Militia, Captain J.P. Hunt. And the reason for all this? Edward Jones was complaining that his business was being ruined by the alleged rumour of Ghosts on a footpath at the rear of his Pub, known as ' Gibbet Gullet '. ( Gibbet Lane ) He alleged that a penny pamphlet, written by one Samuel Salt, ( a local who fancied himself as an author ) had so terrified his customers, that they wouldn't go near the place after dark. To help deal with the matter, Capt Hunt recruited, William Hollies, a Butcher, George Hands, a Druggist, Mr Lomax, a Teacher, Mr Kendrick, a Surgeon, and Mr Wright. a Solicitor. The enquiry convened at The New Inn, which of course didn't overly please Edward Jones, for he had an eye on a bit of extra business. He told the Committee, that Hales-owen was alive with stories about the ghosts, two of who appeared almost naked, and the third one without his head. He had not himself seen the apperitions, but several of his customers were badly frightened by these tales, spread he stated, by the Pamphlet written by Samuel Salt. The effect he said, had been ruinous to his trade, and he was on the brink of penury. ( almost broke in modern language ) He accused Salt of trying  boost the sales of his pamphlet with the story, mainly to line his own pockets. Salt replied that it was in the History of the Town, that a dreadful murder had been committed a 100 years ago, and he was simply reminding folk of the incident at Fatherless Barn. A witness, William Bache, a wheelwright, said that he had actually seen the apperitions, and been so terrified, he had been unable to work for several weeks. He also said he had given up strong drink and was now following the path of a good Christian. After hearing several more witness tales, Capt Hunt called an end to the enquiry, and the Committee withdrew to concider it's verdict. I would love to seen the look on Edward Jones face when Capt Hunt announced that what they heard was total Balderdash, and he found it hard to believe that the good folk of Hales-owen could be so stricken with fear that they would be put off from enjoying a quiet drink. Just in case the inhabitants should still be afraid of Ghost and Goblins, he promised that he would have the supposed " Haunted footpath " patrolled by the Militia. The case against Samuel Salt, was of course dismissed. Mind you, if you see Joseph Darby, ( The one without his head ), or his two nearly naked sons, ( Gibbeted near the pub ) you will drop me a line won't you.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 30, 2016 at 5:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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