Here’s a fantastic bit of research history from local historian and author Gerald Reece. Following our recent communications about the question of pumps and mining in general in the area of Brownhills Common and Engine Lane, Gerald sent me the following remarkable plans and documentation.
In short, when the South Staffordshire Railway Company proposed the branch line to serve the burgeoning colliery traffic in the area, they had to negotiate the route, and settle with all those parties who then owned and leased the lands around it they needed. This was no small undertaking, and plans were drawn up, not dissimilar to the Tithe and Enclosure maps we’ve seen before, but with a far more technical purpose. These plans and key are dated 1854; the line was built in 1858. One can only imagine the speculation, profiteering and horse-trading that must have occurred to make this line a reality in an economically booming, gold rush-like climate.
These maps are now held in relevant archives, and are works of art: Last week, I purchased two similar ones at a map dealer from 1888 which I shall feature when I can get them scanned. Gerald Reece, however, copied these painstakingly by hand. He not only produced wonderful facsimiles of the original drafts, but created a beautiful key index of who owned what to go with it. I’ve scanned that too, and posted it as a PDF booklet.
I will warn you here and now that these maps can be difficult to locate at first; they are not drawn in north up convention. It may be necessary for you to print out copies and hand orient them to a map yourself (I’ve included a fragment of relevant map so you can do so). The last one, of Brownhills West, is particularly tricky.
I’m sure these materials will fuel yet more healthy debate, and I’d like to express my deep gratitude to Gerald for such a wonderful, personal and generous contribution to the discourse and local history record available on this ramshackle blog. We should not lose sight of the fact that Gerald put a huge amount of work into this for his book, the long out-of-print ‘Brownhills: A Walk Into History’. If you can, get a copy. Read it. Mine is already falling apart. It’s a wonderful work, and Gerald has been very kind, too.
A little bird tells me that Gerald has been making arrangements with top blog ambassador David Evans to stage another talk on Brownhills history in the town towards the end of the year. When more information is known, I’ll announce it here. Such an opportunity should not be missed by anyone interested in our communal past.
The index for these maps can be download here: