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Pensnett, Barrow Hill, The Earl of Dudley.
Just take a short walk from Saint Marks Church, in Vicarage Lane, Pensnett, and you will find yourself on Barrow Hill. The view now, bears no comparison to what could be seen some 100 years ago, and back in time, even less so. From the top of this pile of Dolerite Rock, the remains of a very ancient Volcano formed some 300 milion years ago, the old Earls of Dudley could look out on their vast hunting ground. The name itself conjures up the thought of a man made ediface, the burial site of warriors of old. The word "Barrow" being from the old Anglo-Saxon " beorg". ( a mound raised over a grave) This legend, and one of bloody battles fought on it's slopes, persisted for centuries. In the 17th century, the Chase stretched from Kinver in the south, to near Himley in the north, and had looking after it, the Earls head Ranger, John Carey. He however, having enough to do protecting his Lordship hunting stock, took little notice of the tale. Besides, he was more intent on the money, £6.13s.4d a year, ( 10 marks ) which went with job, and the pick of the local game to grace his table with. The post was held, in 1722, by a relative, Charles Carey, but as the Chase had shrunk somewhat from former days, the reduction in money and perks had left the family a bit poorer. This Carey was a bit on the eccentric side, and he began to believe there really was something to be found under Barrow Hill, so he started to poke around. He did all this in secret, although him being seen digging and scraping away at the Hill did not miss the attention of the locals. They must have all thought him to be mad. He did however find a few rusty old arrowheads, and bits of metal that could have been weapons. ( not suprising on a hunting ground ) Nobody was surprised when he died raving mad the next year, caused some said, by disturbing the bones of the dead. It may also have had something to do with the plant Deadly Nightshade, which could be found growing on the ancient Hill.
53 years later, on the scene appears Captain John Belcher, an experienced seaman, who had moved into Shutt End House. Now why, you may be thinking, would a Naval man want to live in Shutt End. The answer lies in the way the Navy recruited in the 1780s. Captain Belcher had a reputation for being a very efficient " Press Ganger ", one of the " knock um on the yed " brigade. He had them stuffed into a sack, and when they woke up, they found themselves on board one of His Majesties War Ships. Not a nice man was Captain Belcher, who also operated from Dudley, Kidderminster, and Bromsgrove. Always on the lookout for a bit of extra cash, he heard about the supposed riches buried under Barrow Hill, and this time, recruited properly, a local man, William Brettle. to help in the search. Brettle was a previous owner of several mines in Brierley Hill, and had retired to the rather safer envions of Stourport on Severn, but agreed to help Belcher. Secretly, they reputedly dug a few shafts, but finding nothing, Brettle went back to a quiet life by the river. The intrepid Captain however, carried on alone, untill in 1783, he suddenly dashed off to Stourport. He had maybe found something of interest, but again needed the old Mine owners help. He never got to tell his friend what he had discovered, for the next we hear is a report in a local paper.
Captain Belcher of Shutt End near Dudley, died of a raging fever shortly after arriving at at a friends house in Stouport, He had left Shutt End hours before in robust health, but greatly excited, and his sudden demise remains a mystery.
Is there a curse then, on anyone that disturbes this Ancient old Hill ? It never seems to have affected the Miners who ripped up this once pristine area for the Coal and Clay that industry demanded. Nor the many builders of houses, that have since covered the ancient marks of mining with vast estates. From the surrounding roads, you could drive past today, and not even notice there was a hill there, such is the way of progress. There was never much call in the past, for the volcanic rock of the hill, so it still stands today, as complete as it was a million years ago. There are no further reports of any search for buried treasure either, unless of course someone know's something I don't. ( picture in the " Images " album on the Gallery )
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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