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Halesowen, Hawne, Old Hill, Attwood, Corngreave Castle, Engine House, Water Mill.
Halesowen and its neighbour, Old Hill, have a long association with the famous Attwood Family. Heavily involved with the local Iron Trade, which stretched out along the banks of the River Stour, and which formed the boundry between the two, they built houses on opporsite sides of this rather sluggish little stream. Before their time, there was another well known family in this area, the Rushalls, who are the reputed builders, or owners, of Corngreave Castle. The " Castle ", if indeed there ever was one, is shrouded in mystery, and now lost in the mists of time. Local Legends suggest it was surrounded by a moat, which was kept topped up by the river, and was a formidable fortress designed to protect the families many interests, including some early Iron working at Belle Vale, Halesowen. Stories have it that it was abandoned well before the 1790s, when the Attwoods came to prominence in the area. The Halesowen poet Shenstone, writing in 1762, ( from his sheltered estate The Leasowes ) penned that the river had " shed its noble qualities a few hundred yards from his Estate, and become a common labourer for the new Industrialists." He went on to add, that casting, forging, rolling and slitting Mills, had turned this sylvan litlle river into the boast, "That It has more Ironworks upon its banks, than any other single River in the Kingdom ". Strangly, in all his writings, he never mentions the Legendary mighty fortress of Corngreaves Castle, so did it ever exsist at all??? James Attwood, around 1790, built the present day castellated house known as Corngreaves Hall, possibly to rival his brother Matthias Attwood, who lived in some opulence, at Hawne House, which overlooked Belle Vale. James had first of all to clear the site, for there was indeed a building on the spot he had chosen, but exactly what it was, is a bit of a mystery. Whatever it was, it was solidly built, for it contained a great many sandstone blocks, remarkable similar to those you can still see, alongside the gently meandering old river.
Local Legends and Myth now go into overdrive about the ancient " Castle ", during the demolishing of the old eddifice. The workmen supposedly found a great deal of Oak paneling fixed to parts of the " Castle ", and proceeded to tear them down. It was during this process, the legend asserts, that a secret room was discovered, and a terrible sight met their eyes. Standing upright in the space exposed, were " Two Skeletons, locked in mortal combat, each having, in its boney right hand, a rusting, bloodstained dagger ". One can imagine the reaction of the supperstitous locals on hearing this news, the nodding of wise old heads, relating that the " Castle " had always had a bad reputation for hauntings, and other queer goings on. Another old legend was dragged up about two murders, reputedly carried out within its old walls, information of which, had been passed from father to son for generations. The story goes on to tell that James, fearing that work on his new house would be delayed, called in an Antiquarian, ( an old name for an Archaeologist ) who proclaimed, that the Skeletons were at least 150 years old, and that rotting clothing found on the leg of one,indicated that it was part of a Cromwellian Army Uniform. It was then postulated, that following the Battle of Worcester, the Roundheads had raided the old " Castle ", and a member of the royalist supporting Rushall family ( Cavaliers to a man ) had fought a bitter little skirmish, and walled up the evidence. It has to be said, that the Rushalls, around this period, because of their support for the King, fell out of favour and moved from the area. Legend has it that James then had the Skeletons buried in a specially built vault in the grounds of his new home, had the daggers cleaned up, mounted, and displayed on the wall in his " great hall " . They seem to have disappeared.
There's no doubt that there were many buildings erected in the area, mostly for industrial use. The ruins of the old " Castle " are likely to be an old Water Mill used for rolling metal, and the moat simply a millrace to supply water to the wheel. Many owners dressed up their building to make them a bit more attractive, as James Attwood did with his Corngreaves Hall, giving it castellations resembling old fashioned battlements. Some of the old sandstone blocks have indications of industrial use. His brothers Hawne House, which also was repaired with some of these blocks, has of course long gone, leaving behind the little bridge, constructed to facilitate passage between the two houses. Recently refurbished, following fears that it might also suffer the same fate, Corngreaves Hall has least a future, which is more than can be said of another relic of the area, Hawne Colliery's old and crumbling Engine House.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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