The past is a different place

Recently, I came across a digitally scanned facsimile of a 1851 guide to the county of Staffordshire, ‘White’s 1851 History, Gazetteer & Directory Staffordshire and the City and County of the City of Lichfield’ which is a kind of combined travel guide, yellow pages and encyclopaedia written for what was then a new generation of upwardly mobile Victorian businesspeople, who had the means and time to travel. It contains lots of fascinating information about Staffordshire during the period, as one would expect, and I’ll surely return to some of that at a later date. I was immediately drawn, however, to the sections about the parishes local to Brownhills in the gazetteer section. I reproduce them here – note that you can see the original page scans in a legible size by clicking on the images within the text.

It’s interesting that several figures I’ve mentioned here before are recorded – notably Phineas Fowke Hussey. The Craddock family was clearly a big name in Brownhills, even in the middle of the 19th Century. Note also that Ogley Hay during this period was far more significant than Brownhills, and that the historic, now long destroyed earthwork Knave’s Castle, is mentioned. I’ve been meaning to detail what I can find out about Knave’s Castle and some of the ancient history of the area for some time, ever since the discovery of the local metal detecting scene by a stash of Anglo Saxon gold way back in the summer. It appears that even in 1851, locals were well aware that the parish in which the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered – that of Ogley Hay – had ancient roots. I’ll return to that soon, I promise. There’s a fair bit of local history stuff in preparation at the moment, so please stick with it.

If there’s any articles you’d like to see posted from White’s, I’ll post them here at your request. I’ve spent hours poring over this fascinating volume, it’s a real treasury of  fascinating information.

A wealth of enthralling information



BROWNHILLS, a scattered village and district in this parish, near the Wyrley and Essington Canal, and the Roman Watling street, two miles S.E. of Norton, and five miles S.W. by W. of Lichfield, has a station on the South Staffordshire Railway, near the south end of Cannock Chase, where there are extensive collieries, belonging to Wm. Hanbury and Wm. Harrison, Esqs. The Independents and Primitive Methodists have chapels here, built in 1820 and 1840.

LITTLE WYRLEY is a manor and hamlet, of scattered farms and a few cottages, on the Pelsall road, It mile S.W. of Norton Canes, and near Wyrley Bank. (See page 455.) Wyrley Grove, the ancient seat of P. F. Hussey, Esq., was obtained by his family in marriage with the heiress of the family of Fowke. The mansion stands at the head of a fine lawn, amid groves of elms and other full-grown trees, and is a noble and picturesque specimens of ancient architecture.


White's 1851, Page 573

Marked 1 are at BROWNHILLS, 2 LITTLE WYRLEY and the rest at NORTON CANES
1 Caddick Miss Mary
Doley Thomas, schoolmaster
Earp Jph., parish clerk and engineer
1 Hanbury Wm. Esq., colliery owner;
h Moreton House
1 Harrison Wm. Esq., colliery owner;
h Norton Hall
Hinton James, tailor
2 Hussey Phineas Fowke, Esq., Wyrley Grove
Lander Thomas, wheelwright
2 Lindop Mr.Jph.& Jph.jun., saddler
1 Martin Thomas, station master
Masfen Wm., gentleman
Spencer Mr. John
Whitehouse Edward, blacksmith
Fleur de Lis, Joseph Mountford
Holly Busb, John Cliff
1 Jolly Collier, Wm. Arblaster
Rising Sun, Elizabeth Latham
1 Swan, Stephen Cooper
Turf Tavern, Robt. Moss, (and maltster, and ale and porter merchant)
1 Turk’s Head, Charles Linford
I Beer-house, Samuel Thacker

White's 1851, Page 574


2 Bamford Walter
1 Beck Edward
Brookes Mary
1 Cooper John
1 Dumbleton Ann
Hulme Wm.
Kendrick –
2 Lindop Edwin
Mann Charles
Meanley Richard
Moss John
Mountford Jph.
2 Parker Robert
1 Simkins John
Smith John
1 Stackhouse Ths.
1 Birch David
Cliff Joseph
Rock Joseph
Arblaster Geo. (& maltster)
1 Arblaster Saml.
Cooper Mary
1 Seedhouse Ths.
Trains from Brownhills Station, four times a day, each way

OGLEY HAY, at the south end of Cannock Chase, betwixt Brownhills and Hammerwich, five miles S.W. by W. of Lichfield, is an extra parochial district of 1070 acres of land, crossed by the Wyrley and Essington Canal, and the old Chester road; and bordering upon the mining districts of Pelsall, Wyrley, and Brownhills. It was an open and uncultivated heath, with only 24 inhabitants, till about 15 years ago, when an act of parliament was obtained for its enclosure; and since then it has been divided into farms, gardens, &c., and brought into a fine state of cultivation. Though it had only five houses twenty years ago, it has now about 100, and about 520 inhabitants, chiefly miners and farm labourers; but the large iron works, erected here a few years ago, are at present closed. P. F. Hussey, Esq., was ‘lord of this liberty before its enclosure, and the farmers of Hammerwich had commonright upon it, but it now belongs to many freeholders, the largest of whom are John Nicholson, Esq., of Liverpool; Wm. Stubbs, Esq., Wm. Middleton, Esq., and Messrs. G. and J. Brawn, who have contributed liberally towards the CHURCH, (St. James,) built here in 1850-’51, at the cost of £1200, of which £500 was given by the Diocesan and Incorporated Societies. It is a small cruciform structure, in the early decorated style, with a chancel and nave, without aisles, terminated at the west end by a handsome bell turret, crowned by a small spire. The turret is to have three bells and chimes, and the church has 388 sittings, all free. The first stone was laid by Viscount Lewisham, August 22nd, 1850, and until the completion of the church, divine service was performed here in the schoolroom, by the Rev. James Downes, B.A., incumbent of Stonnall, through whose indefatigable and pious exertions funds have been raised for the erection and endowment of the church. The ecclesiastical district about to be annexed to it, comprises Ogley Hay and the adjacent parts of neighbouring parishes, embracing about 1000 souls, who are nearly three miles from any other church. Ogley Hay now keeps its poor as a township in Lichfield Union, and the following are its principal inhabitants. On an eminence near Watling street, was a Roman encampment, called Knaves’ Castle, encompassed by three ditches, but the enclosure has swept away all traces of it.

Alldridge Joseph, schoolmaster, &c.
Craddock Thomas, bridle bit maker
Craddock Mary, shopkeeper
Cresswell Thomas, Vict., Shoulder of Mutton
Horobin Henry, farmer
Fox Joseph, beerhouse
Woodhouse Wm., victualler
Seedhouse Edward, beerhouse
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19 Responses to The past is a different place

  1. Stuart Davies says:

    Interested to hear what you have found out about Knaves Castle, I’m trying to research it myself.


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  3. Paul says:

    There’s more information about Knave’s Castle on my website at – hope you find that of interest 😀


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  6. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob

    what an interesting document. I had missed its first appearance in your blog.Thanks for linking it again. Where was the Holly Bush pub? There is no mention in this gazeteer of Frog Hall…erat.. gone by 1851 ?. I wonder what this Frog Hall was, long time ago…and where it stood…opposite the Rising Sun ?
    One definition of a “Frog” had military uniform connections…….civil war?…Roman uniforms..beside the Watling Street..the site of an unrecorded battle in Saxon days?. Interesting possibility !

    With the projected building of a new block of appartments along the High Street, and gradual loss of the name Ogley Hay, perhaps one building could named to remind people, and others to recall the importance of this part of the canal network.
    David Evans

    • Helen Ralphs says:

      Frog Hall. sited on a farm on the opposite side of the Watling Street to Conduit Colliery, was a dwelling house of 4 bays with a stable, 2 barns, cowhouse, foldyard, garden, orchard, arable meadow and pasture land in the township of Little Wyrley.
      (LD16/2/18-35 Lease of Messuage in Little Wyrley)

      Frog Hall, was in the tenancy of John Smith but was one of five owned by the City of Lichfield Conduit Land Trust. Trustees of the Trust were mainly responsible for supplying the City of Lichfield with fresh water and carrying out improvements for the well-being of Lichfield’s residents. The Trust held five farmhouses with lands, two of which were in Norton Canes and one in Little Wyrley. Wardens managed these outlying farms, journeying by horseback on untended roads prone to highwaymen, to see to repairs of buildings and fences, to ensure efficient farming practises and to prosecute in cases of trespass and rent arrears. They would often be seen making the return journey to Lichfield “draped with several couples of fowl” as gifts from tenant farmers.

      A clause in John’s tenancy allowed for the loading, taking and carrying away of trees and the digging, searching, sinking, mining and removal of coal from land opposite, known as the Coal Leasows (later Conduit Colliery). Rent was £37 with an additional £5 per acre; paid half yearly on feast days by knocking on the front door of Lichfield Guildhall. After entering the building John’s money was placed in the old Trust Chest and kept safe under three locks and keys.
      (LD16/2/18-35 Lease of Messuage in Little Wyrley Lichfield Guildhall 1837

      He would then have been invited to attend the Conduit Land’s feast day dinner with a typical menu of boiled beef, boiled fowl with bacon, roasted geese, turkey and duck all washed down with oat ale, cyder and other liquor. (The History of the Lichfield Conduits Lands Trust, Percy Laithwaite) 1743-1760 in addition to the Conduit Lands John held land belonging to the Lord of Little Wyrley and 20 acres belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield including land known as Church House which had been farmed by his parents Richard and Margaret Smith. (D978/12/2 1718 Court Papers)

      Richard had married Margaret Collett in 1697 and were tenant farmers of Frog Hall with its 63 acres of Conduit lands including: the nine Coal Leasows, The Orchard, Blackfield Croft, Moore Corner, Black Field, Conduit Meadow, West Croft, Barn Orchard, Great and Little New Ditch in Little Wyrley. (LD126/5/18 Map of Conduit Lands 1721) There were regular inspections to see whether the farm was being well maintained and in 1718 following one such inspection Richard was fined for not hanging a gate at the bottom of his furlong, for smoking a pit near Church House and pounding up water in his troughs at Finney Green.

      I believe that Frog Hall was unsafe and demolished and the newer Conduit Farm was built as a replacement on land belonging to the hall. It’s demolition is documented in an indenture dated 12th May 1769 between the Trustees of Lichfield Conduits and Richard Smith it said:

      “All that messuage, dwelling house or tenement situate standing and being in Little Wirley and the Parish of Norton Canes”, Richard Smith “doth now inhabit and dwell with the barn stable, cowhouse, fold yard, garden, orchards, courts curtilage and appurtenances to the same belonging and also those several close pieces and parcells of arable meadow and pasture land lying in the township of Little Wyrley.”

      The document lists field names and the 9 parts of the Coal Leasows and states; “All which lands called the Coal Leasows have for many years been occupied with the said messuage or tenement ……. And also ground where another messuage or dwelling house now doth or lately did stand near to the herein before demised messuage in Little Wyrley aforesaid late in the occupation of John Smith but now in the occupation of the said Richard Smith but which being a very old building and not thought necessary to be longer supported hath been agreed to be taken down with such part of the said house the said feoffes shall think fit to leave standing.” (LD16/2/18-35 Lease of Messuage in Little Wyrley)

      Maps survive from this period, these are a must for those researching Conduit Colliery.

      (LD126/5/19 1814 Plans and surveys of Conduit Lands Trust. Lands at Norton Canes, Little Wyrley, Wall and Shenstone) at Stafford Records Office

      (LD 126/5/18 Map of Conduit Lands at Norton Canes, Little Wyrley and Great Wyrley)
      Dated 1721

      • BrownhillsBob says:

        Brilliant – thank you so much!


      • Helen Ralphs says:

        A note about John Smith’s Dole and Frog Hall

        It is recorded on the Benefaction table that John Smith of Frog Hall, left £20 to the poor of the parish of Norton Canes, the interest to be paid on Easter Tuesday, forever. (F.W. Hackwood The Chronicles of Cannock Chase) I believe this to be incorrect, the John Smith who left “ye poore of ye parish of Norton twenty pounds, ye growing in trust to be distributed yearely to ye poore and ye stock to indure for ever to be paid twelve months” died in 1725. He was infact a yeoman farmer of Norton married to Elizabeth but without children. I believe her to be Elizabeth Cesterson married 10th June 1721. (Probate Norton Canes 1725)

        Beneficiaries in his will were:

        Elizabeth “my beloved wife”, the lease of Wilwoods?, land bought from Richard Deakin and possession of “ye house wee now live in and ye comon lands” and all its household goods for her natural life.

        William Smith of Middlestools Farm and son of James, his farm upon Elizabeth’s death. Note WILLIAM SMITH – 1737 had Middlestools plus house at Norton Green. His wife was Ruth.

        George Smith (brother) £30
        Johnathan Smith 5 shilling (John married to Elizabeth Cosbey?)
        Richard Smith of Little Wyrley 5 shilling and to his son John £10 ** These are the Smiths who held Frog Hall**
        William Smith of Norton £5 and his mother Widow Clews £2
        John Clews £5
        Widow Bullock £5 and her son James £10
        James Smith of Brownhills £10
        James Smith senior 5 shilling and his daughter Hannah £5
        William Cottaril of Brownhills £7
        Ann Jones daughter of Ann Jones £1
        William Cestarton £5

  7. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    “the large iron works..presently closed”.. are mentioned in Gerald Reece’s book., perhaps, in Ogley Road, at the corner of Mill Road, where the Wheatsheaf stood..this was a works making steam engine/pumps! Shown in the 1841 census. So it not only made the steam pumps (to Watts design? or Newcomen?) but made the iron first, or just worked the iron?
    How the arrival of the canal began to change the area.

    David Evans

    • No, it wasn’t – it was a general iron foundry and was situated on what is now called Chase Road.It would have been supplying raw metal strip and bar for blacksmith, pit and farm use. Most areas had one similar – think of them as uber smithies, supplying the local metal needs of the area.

      Best wishes


  8. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I wonder if the Mill Road works ( 1841 ish ) closed down because of competition from the Chase Road, or became located at Chase Road, and then closed by 1851?…… Competition from Black Country firms…via the canal? Thanks for your note
    best wishes
    David Evans

  9. I came across mention of a ‘Frog Hall’, shown on a map by Plot 1670, situated between Norton Canes and Brownhills. Do you know anything about it?

  10. Richard B.Smith says:

    Great stuff Bob. I used to visit a cousin who lived near Chasewater in the 1960s. I never knew what stood between Watling Street and the Chester Road as one travels from Watling Street School toward The Rising Sun? There was a football pitch in the middle of the common there used by Rose Villa and Summerfield FCs in the 60’s/70s. There were collapsed brick walls everywhere around that pitch. What was sited there? I never did know.

  11. Suzanne says:

    Hello Katy, i stumbled on this article by accident as i am also trying to do a family tree. I am one of Kate’s great granddaughters. Kate was my mums grandmother. My mums name was June Frost ( daughter of Gladys Bean )just wondered if you knew her?, and was wondering if you have any family history you would be willing to share with me.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hello again Katy, not sure what to say at this time as i am a bit overwhelmed as this means that you are my aunt.I am Junes eldest daughter, I don’t really know a lot of the family and have only known my Uncle John and Uncle Norman in my life.I have known about you all from my mum obviously, and i know she has tried to find out about you all but to no avail. I am a bit confused as my mum said she also had a sister named Marie but you haven’t mentioned her, I would so love to speak to you further either on here or by Email if you have one. My Email address is …
      I look forward to hearing from you again soon
      Take care

    • Amanda Frost says:

      Hello Katy , hope you are well Its Amanda Johns daughter I am also looking into the history of our Family and I was wondering how you were able to to come across KEB brick and if you had any information on Kates’ fathers back ground? :0) i would love to hear from you my email is

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