What’s in a name?

Reader David Evans raised a great point with me the other day, and one I’ve been meaning to raise obliquely for a while here on the blog. David’s point is specifically about Green Lane Woods – formerly known as Goblin Wood, and the area it sits in just on the bend of Green Lane, between Bullings Heath and Shelfield, once known as Goblins Pit.

This is an interesting name, and like many local names, has slipped into disuse. Places like Holly Bank, Castle Gate, Bullings Heath, The Slough and Ogley Square are all sliding into the past, and both myself and local history ferret [Howmuch?] are keen to see these names preserved.

To preserve them, though, it helps to know a little about them and their origin. Anyone have any idea why Goblins Pit was so named? Local mining historian Brian Rollins strongly asserts there was never a mine there – although I wouldn’t discount a lime or clay pit possibly. So what do you folks know about this in particular, or other odd local place names? Do you have any that everyone else has forgotten? David’s Walsall Wood quizzes may help jog the memory here.

It was with the post about old maps this week that David noticed the following:

A map from an 1832 Boundary Commission report as shown on Old Maps Online. Note Goblins Pit is recorded as Goblings Pit. Transcription error, or earlier name?

Hi Bob

Your latest post, the old maps link, is fascinating, especially as it shows a ‘Goblings Pit’ along Green Lane Walsall Wood, by the Jockey Meadows.

I would love to know the derivation of this name, whether it is an old spelling of Goblin in the plural, or if Goblings were objects. A pit where objects known as goblings were found…. and if goblings were a spoil, residue, by-product of a process… smelting iron? The odds and ends, slag or speller were left around… Knowing that the verb ‘to gob’ in local slang means to spit, I wonder if the local slang and whatever happened there were linked.

Wikipedia, at least, gives a start and shows this image of a goblin. Perhaps nothing to do with this particular instance, though.

I have in mind scratchings and chitterings, both unusual words in themselves, as the spur to this train of thought, and knowing that nail-making was an important local activity before the days of the coal-mine. I hope that this unusual place, its name and its possible activities from long ago can be clearly and accuratley defined.

I wonder what help your kind blog readers may be able to offer.

with kind regards


So? What do we think, folks? Anything to add? That’s BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or comment here. Cheers…

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24 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Fawlty says:

    Interesting one this. I lived in High Heath for 25 years and this wood was always known to us as Coppice Woods. I have never heard it referred to as Goblin Woods.

    As kids in the early 1960s we used to spend a lot of time playing in the woods and the surrounding fields. I am not aware of any pit remains of any type in the area, but as you say, there is the possibility of long lost workings.

  2. Fawlty says:

    Further to the above, Found this link with some interesting info. It appears that there were old limestone workings in the 18th and 19th centuries. Click on Goblins Pit Wood link for further info. Also click on link Charles Derry of Goblins Pit for some fascinating info.


  3. stymaster says:

    I’ve read in one local book (not the Brian Rollins one) that there was very early mining there. Can’t remember which book though.

  4. pedro says:

    In the Western Mail of 26 April of 1890 there is a coverage of the recent Morfa Colliery accident in Wales that killed 87 men. Part of the article is “The Goblin of the Pit.”

    A week or so before the disaster miners reported strange noises and voices, some were so taken that they stayed off work. They quote a book by Wirt Sikes being “British Goblins” He states that the fairies that haunt the mines are “Coblynau”, the word Goblyn has double meaning of knocker or thumper and sprite or fiend.

    The Goblins are about a yard high, ugly but good natured, and are friendly to miners. Their presence brings good luck.

    Could be an old legend!

    All the best Peter

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    I’ve seen the wood described as Goblin’s Pit Wood. This would suggest the wood supplied timber for mining, such as pit props – Eights Wood at Wimblebury presumably had a similar role for Cannock Chase No. 8 pit.

    The Cornish tin miners also referred to mythical “knockers”, which were generally considered benign, though it was wise not to offend them by, for example, whistling in the mine. The idea that “goblin” is a reference to miner’s superstitions seems spot on.

    There is an interesting biography of a man named Charles Derry who said he was born at Goblins Pit in 1826 – http://www.walsall.foreign.family.history.talktalk.net/id24.htm – which led me to think I could find them in the old censuses, but they seem to have eluded the enumerator! The 1841 census has two households at Goblins Pit, but the Derry story says there were three houses there, a farmhouse, a brick-built house and the thatched cottage where his grandparents lived from the late 1700s to the 1840s and where he was born. The family must have been there because there is a burial record for 1842 at Walsall Wood for Rebecca Littley (Charles’ grandmother), age 94, of Green Lane. There is another burial for 1842 of a William Clews (1 day old) of Goblin’s Pit.

    In 1851 there appears to be no reference to Goblins Pit. The area is given as Bullings Heath. A John Corbett was living there in both 1841 and 1851, so it probably is the same place. It looks like the name Goblins Pit was passing into history even then.

    Nearby there is reference to a Pepper Alley. Any ideas?

    • Hi Andy

      Got to keep it brief as I have to dash out.

      Thanks for that – that exactly the kind of brilliant, fact-laden research we’ve all come to expect from you. Thanks, you’re brilliant. Always welcome and always appreciated.

      Pepper Alley? Can’t say too much, but [Howmuch?] has done a great deal of work on that subject, and I’m midway through compiling the post. It’s a big one. Don’t want to spoil it, but the lad nails it in so many ways it’s brilliant. Look out for it soon. Hoping this week sometime.

      Cheers to everyone else, too – especially Pedro who contributes loads and I rarely get round to thanking.

      Great stuff



  6. Mick P says:

    Interesting stuff. Like Fawlty, I’ve always known those woods as the Coppice or Coppy woods, and my dad, born in 1927 and who used to cut through those woods and on through the fields and across the Ford Brook back to Pelsall, also refers to them as that, so it would seem that the Goblins Wood moniker has been out of use (or used as only one of the names) for getting on for a century.

  7. pedro says:

    For the record The Staffs Advertiser for 27 March 1830 has the sale of 220 oak trees, blazed and numbered, growing in Large Goblin’s Pit Coppice.

    Regards Peter

  8. David Oakley says:

    Interesting to note the different spelling of Goblins (Goblings) Wood. Corruptions over a period of time tend to drop sounds or letters from a name to make a smoother sound, so the original name could well be Goblings, as per the old map. If this was the case the name need have no more significance than being the name of the owner.
    The name Gobling was appearing in national census records in 1841 and The Genealologist.co.uk gives at least 50 possible matches for John Gobling alone. I wonder whether one of the Gobling family could have had their origins in Walsall Wood.

  9. Pedro says:

    I have searched through the newspaper archive for Gobling’s Pit/Wood and cannot find a mention, however at least 30 refer to Goblin.

    I don’t think there was so much emphasis on spelling in them days, and the map could pave been transcribed by a Jasper Carrot type Brummie. Garden/garding…goblin/Gobling!

    All the best Peter

  10. Kate says:

    This is really interesting stuff. While I was reading, it reminded me that walking around Abbots Bromley last summer, someone pointed out a Goblins Wood to me & I think there is also a Goblins Lane over there. Wonder if there are any elsewhere too?

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  12. pedro says:

    Hi Bob,

    At the introduction you say…”Local mining historian Brian Rollins strongly asserts there was never a mine there..”

    The references in the Newspapers do not mention anything concerning coal.

    Regards Peter

    • Hi Pedro.

      Indeed, I remembered Brian’s words badly and quoted them in full in the followup. Local oral legend suggests a coal mine, and Brian states it as an impossibility.

      I really should check that stuff before publishing. Thanks for the searches and supporting material

      Best wishes


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  14. pedro says:

    Just for the record you can read British Goblins by Wirt Sykes on Gutenberg!

    Regards Peter

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  21. Sue Lote says:

    If I remember correctly Pepper Alley was situated off Hall Lane, Walsall Wood by the Canal Bridge (the one on the High Street, not the Black Cock Bridge) – it can be seen on old maps of the area. My great grandad was registered as living there upon his marriage in 1876.
    Goblins Pit is an old name given to areas of Lime Pit workings – I guess they were pretty nightmarish sort of places.

  22. Brian Ansell says:

    I had read this article quite a while back and it has just come to me that there was also an area at the bottom of Mill road in Shelfield by the name of Moss Pits. Moss Pits was situated on the bend where Mill road becomes Ford Brook Lane. There was one big old house that was situated there and as a boy and youth a most wonderful character by the name of Rabbit Abley, (presuming he was a good rabbit catcher), lived there with his sons. If his sons read this article I am sure they can offer up more information. Victor was one son and Trevor was either a son or cousin for whom I know still resides in Shelfield.

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