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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Roman Roads, Drovers Roads, Oldbury, Dudley, Gornal, Himley, Turnpikes,


Now most folk have come to understand, that the Romans laid out part of road network we use today. Not True. When they arrived, there was an already extensive network of Trackways, Ridgeways, and Drovers Roads. The Romans simply adapted what they found. I was reminded, by a couple of comments, made by a site member this week, that some of these trackways, can still be traced from studying old maps. There's an early mention in the 12th Century, of such a track, " Long Lane, Halesowen ", and a certain " Muchlow Hill ", not far away. The former is likely to be a very old Drovers road, as in an early Census, part of the Lane is discribed as " Long Acre ", a term used to donate the area left for grazing, along a route that would have been about 60 feet wide. Muchlow Hill, or the newer version, Mucklow Hill, derived it's name simply from the old English words, " Micel " the word meaning large, and " Hlew," which means hill. A fairly apt discription, to warn the weary traveller what was in front of him, no matter which way he was going. It was a small part of what was the main route from   Stourbridge, to Birmingham, and what later became part of the Turnpike system where tolls had to be paid. The Romans seem to have ignored the old trackway that came from what would become Birmingham, and passed through Smethwick, Oldbury, Tividale, Dudley, Gornal, Himley, on then on to Bridgenorth, Wenlock, and Shrewsbury. The nearest ( settlement ) seems to be a site between Kinver and Swindon, alongside the Smestow Brook. They must have reached this point, and left it, along some ancient track, on the way to Wroxeter. There is a large Fort and several marching camps near  Green Forge, Ashwood Heath, not far from Kingswinford. There main route of course ran to the north, coming from London passing Tamworth , Wall,  Cannock, modern day Telford, and on to Wroxeter. Nothing much changed for hundreds of years after they left until in the 13th Century, to improve the muddy and rutted tracks, " Pavage Grants " were made to landowners. Most of them spent the money on other things. In 1530, the Parishes through which the road or track passed, were made responsible for the upkeep. Every ablebodied man, had to take a turn digging raking and fetching stone to keep them in good order. They all had to provide their own tools and barrows. It was not a very popular pastime. By 1650, there was really not much improvement, so in 1654, landowners were allowed to charge Tolls. Stage Coach travel became a lot easier, and a bit more comfortable. ( for those who could afford it anyway.) The Great North Road, ( the modern day A1(M) ) came into being in 1663, having Toll Gates every few miles.( they were easy to evade ) Finally, in 1706, The Turnpike Trusts appeared, and almost overnight, every major, (and a lot of minor) routes had a set of Toll Gates. To prevent the dreaded ruts, caused by all the wheeled traffic, it was decreed that wheel rims would be 16 inches wide. It was thought that the wider rims would also help in rolling the road. ( it didn't , and a lot of carriers went back to the more usual 3 to 4 inches.) The Trusts lasted until the last one shut, in 1895, when the responsibilty for the roads became again the Parishes problem, until taken over by the various County Councils.


There are still a few old Toll houses standing today. One in Halesowen, on the old Stourbridge Road, and one on the Bromsgrove Road, near Illey. Several in the area that surrounds Wolverhampton, and a nice one in Smethwick, on the old road thats of interest to the site member. I wonder what the old Celtic-British would make of it all today, apart from being harressed by other Tribes, when passing through their territory, they had enjoyed free passage. Mind you, they didn't travel at 70 mph as if their lives depended on saving a few minutes, and they didn't mind a few ruts in the road either.

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

March 13, 2012 at 5:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Maps, Smethwick, Oldbury Dudley.


It's all so easy today, what with Sat-Navs and GPS positioning systems, but back in time, it wasn't always easy, finding your way around. John Ogilby, in the 1670s, began a series of Maps that would prove of use to travellers. Part of his editon of 1675, which I have  included in the Maps Album, shows the route through what would later become the Blackcountry. The route from Bromicham, ( Birmingham ) through Smethwick, Oldbury, Dudley, and Guarnell ( Gornal ) clearly shows the many grand houses along the way. It also notes the clusters of little houses, a Mill or two, and some place names that exsisted at the time, like Langley Green, Rood End, and Tividale. The entire section was the route  from London to Shrewsbury, which was extend out to Welshpool in this 1675 print. The Map itself, was adopted , and much added to, by Emanuel Bowen in 1720. The quality of the printing was poor, making reading the text quite difficult, but one inclusion, that of Dudley, is clear enough. " Dudley is a market town, and a place of good resort ".  There's a good description of Wenlock, noted for it's Lime and Tobacco Pipes, and the sad death of the encumbant Earl, at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Once again, you will find a sample in the Maps Album. Happy reading.

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

March 30, 2012 at 11:00 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Halesowen Wednesbury, West Bromwich. Stourbridge.


When some of us were a lot younger, ( me included ) we used to explore the countryside both on foot, and latter, by bicycle. In some areas, we came across quaint little country lanes, bordered by high banks and hedgerows. These were actually Sunken Roads, also known as Holloways. They were created by the passage of many thousands of feet, carts, and driven animals over, in some cases, a couple of thousand years. A great many were part of the old Drovers Roads, and are found where the old trackway encountered an incline. Modern road construction has eliminated nearly all of them today, but in places, the name survives. Holloway Bank, between Wednesbury and West Bromwich is one, so is Drews Holloway, on the road from Halesowen, to Stourbridge. in fact, almost every road or street that contains the name, was at some point, way back in time, a partially sunken road. There are still a great many around, but you need to travel at a slower pace in order to recognise them. In the southern part of the country, some of them have been preserved, and all wheeled traffic has been banned, making them an ideal place for walkers and ramblers. It's hard to imagine now, but since Medieval times, food on the hoof was drivern along these lanes. Cattle, Sheep, Pigs,Geese, Horses, all bound for the Markets of the Midlands. Next time you get stuck on a country lane behind a flock of Sheep or herd of Cattle, have a little patience, they could be next weeks Steak, Mutton chop, or pint of Milk.

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

August 7, 2012 at 4:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Toll Roads, Lord Foley. Stourbridge, Stewponey.


Lord Foley's Toll Road.


A famous name in the Blackcountry is Foley, an Ironmaster of great renown. Lord of the Manor, he lived in good style at Prestwood House, an estate, just off the modern Stourbridge to Wolverhampton Road. He had extensive interests in Ironworks, mainly around Kinfare ( Kinver ) and along the stretch of waterway called the Smestow Brook. Transport was not a problem as the area was well served by a Canal. He belonged to an organisation that discussed, and set the price to be paid for Iron, perticulary the rods for the production of Nails and Chain. The group met at a local Inn, famous in Stourbridge, " The Foley Arms ", or its better known name, " The Stewponey ". In 1788, the only road from Stourbridge, was little more than a trackway, and the same was true of the road to Kinver. For a short distance, from the Stewponey, there was a sometimes passable track that led up a hill, passing Stourton Castle, and terminating at a Inn called the " Ridge Top ". ( This would later become the " Foresters Arms " ) The area beyond, was marked on local maps as the Black Forest, from which eminated bridleways and footpaths leading to both Kinver, and Enville. To increase the local trade in Iron, to places where the Canal did not reach, he needed something better than a muddy track. Between 1800, and 1804, he had constructed, a Toll Road, which followed the old route, and finished some way beyond the Ridge Top Inn. This allowed better access for the transport of Iron from his works at the Hyde, near Kinver. Halfway Along this road, he had built a Toll House, ( which is, I believe, still there ) for he knew others would soon begin to use it, and he was right. One user though, driving his carriage along his Lordships road, thought he was immune to the Toll, and refused to pay it. Taken to Court, for it was a criminal offence not to pay, the gentleman was fined £2, a substantial amount in 1806. As a matter of historical interest, just beyond the old Inn, was a signpost that told the passerby that this was the way to " The Round Hill ", allegedly the place where King Charles II rested, in his flight from a severe drubbing, at the Battle of Worcester. The Toll road remained in this condition until at least 1832, when it was extended, as shown on a map of 1835, to the village of Enville, linking it with a road to Bridgenorth. Now I don't know if the next bit is connected with Lord Foley, or one of his clan. On a map of 1836, just a little to the north of Prestwood House, there is marked a " Racecourse ". It is not marked in another map of 1838, but is still there in 1840, and again, on a map of 1847. Can anyone throw any light on the subject, who constructed it, and was it extensively used by the local population. There's a picture of the old Toll House in the " Images from the Forums " Album.

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

November 28, 2012 at 3:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Water Mills, Smestow, Hagley Churchill, Halesowen, Gun Barrel Works, Hayseech.


Water Powered Mills.


From Smestow, through Kinver, and on to Kidderminster, could be seen, during the 18th and 19th century, dozens of Water Powered Mills. The area had an abundance of little streams and brooks, all of which could be used to form reservoirs, with a simple earth dam. Many were recorded during the 13th century, grinding corn for flour. Far more reliable than waiting for the wind to blow at the right speed. As the Iron industry expanded, so too did the mill owners, adapting themselves, and the mills, to working forge hammers, to help the ever growing demand for tools. The area became famous for the quality of these implements, and it was only the arrival of highly efficient Steam Engines, in the 1840s, that put a stop to most of it. The old Water Wheel Mills fell into disuse, or had the wheel removed, and by the 1920s, there were very few remaining in working order. By some miracle, one of these managed to survive right up to 1969, when it too fell into disrepair.


Now hands up, be honest, how many of you reading this, have actually heard of the Ganlow Brook. Not many I'll warrant, so for those who havn't, it has its source in the Clent Hills, and flows towards Hagley, until it reaches a very pretty little village called Churchill. Here the stream flows into a large pool called " Hammer Pond ", before wending its way into Kidderminster. The Pond, and the name is a good clue, was the old reservoir of the Churchill Forge Mill, and there has been a mill on this site for over 800 years. And of course, there still is. Owned by the Bache family for getting on for 300 years, it was world renowned for the production of fine eged tools and other ironwork. The main product was Spades and Shovels, exported around the world, and a nice line in Ladies Spades, used by both the Iron Foundries and Glassworks because of their smaller size. The Forge, recently bought back into working order by the Churchill Forge Trust, and is still in the guardianship of the former owners, now has both of its water wheels in working order. The forge itself is still intact, as is most of the old machinery. Because of financial restrictions, its not open for many days of the year, the next one is due on Easter Monday, and the date is not easy to forget, 1st April, 2013. Do keep you eye open for future dates. Its not the only working forge in the area, there's the old Gun Barrel Works, in Hayseech, Halesowen, but its most certainly the oldest surviving water powered one. They have a website for those interested, and if you can spare the time, and a few bob for a donation, do go and have a look. It will give you a very good insight into just how hard some of our ancesters worked, to put a bit of bread on the table.

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

December 29, 2012 at 4:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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