One of the wonderful things Gerald Reece sent me following our recent email exchange is a scan of  a compilation of tithe maps of western Brownhills. I wasn’t actually aware this existed, and it helps clear up a few things, whilst raising many other questions. It’s a scanned from a hand drawn copy, and is a beautiful and fascinating document.

The sources of this plan weren’t maps to enable people to find their way; they were legal documents for use by the church. I’ve featured an enclosure map map before, which is a similar idea.  Up until 1838, Ogley Hay had been extra-parochial – it was outside any parish, and therefore not subject to the tithe, the Parish tax of a tenth of your income to the church. When the parish was declared in that year, a record was needed of who owned which parcels of land, and what they were called. These were drawn up on a tithe map – only loosely to scale, the data being far more important.

The site of Swingbridge Farm in 2007. Was that really five years ago? One of my first pictures on Panoramio.

This map in question is the combination of the 1840 Tithe Map of Brownhills and an 1828 one for Norton parish. It indicates parcels of land – mostly fields – and their names. There would have been a key as to who owned them. Like Brian Rollins’ coal maps of the common, it’s drawn in a n odd orientation, so I’ve included a second image of the same map rotated so that north is to the top.

One question this map does answer is the one about the house and engine sale found by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler a few months ago. You’ll remember that, at the time, I jumped to the wrong conclusion that the subject of the sale was on Engine Lane. Gerald Reece subsequently communicated that he thought the actual property in question might be Swingbridge Farm. This was an interesting proposition; Gerald asserted that the acreages fitted, and the house was of the correct size, yet I remained sceptical.

Swingbridge Farm was the farm (now demolished) that stood on the canal between Clayhanger and Brownhills. A pig farm for it’s final decades, it gave Brownhills a very distinctive smell for years. It never occurred to me that the farm was so old, or had such an interesting history.

If you look at the below fragment of map, this is Swingbridge Farm by the canal bend.

Fragment of Tithe Map covering what was Swingbridge Farm, the old pig farm on the canal between Clayhager and Brownhills. Note ‘Engine Piece’ on the other side of the canal, where the Watermead Estate stands now.

Note the Swan pub, left, and ‘Fore Draught’, a narrow track to swing bridge farm, which still exists through the Watermead and over Cooper’s Bridge today. In those days, access was very probably via a swing bridge, after which the farm was clearly named. If one is to look at the field over the other side of the canal and above, it’s called Engine Piece. This is remarkable.

The only reason that could have been called Engine Piece is that it contained an engine of some kind – and there’s more than one use of the nomenclature on this map. The suggestion is that it was a pump, and the shallow mines alluded to in Pedro’s auction were on the land nearby – what its now the Watermead, and previously the race course fields loaned by William Roberts.

That there may have been shallow mines there may surprise some, but think about it. Coal was opencast at Swan Works in the 70’s, so there’s shallow coal nearby. Both Birch Coppice, which once covered the land where Swan Works is, the common to the north and Swag towards the west and Pelsall were all heavily bellpitted. It’s sensible to think the same occurred on land between the Pelsall Road and the canal.

Below, I include both images of the complete tithe map so kindly supplied by Gerald. The first is as is, the second rotated so that north is up. I’ve placed links below each image for direct downloading.

Please take a good long look at the map, and see what you can find. It rewards close study.

Again, my profuse thanks to Gerald Reece for this wonderful insight into history.

Compilation tithe map kindly supplied be Gerald Reece. Click for a larger version.

1840 compilation tithe map original orientation

Compilation tithe map kindly supplied be Gerald Reece. Click for a larger version.

1840 compilation tithe map north up orientation

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25 Responses to Tenths

  1. Pedro says:

    Many thanks to Gerard, the map will surely be a big bonus to anyone interested in the local history.

    Taking other information provided by Gerard, which can be seen in a previous post, at the time of the map in 1840 the lands were owned by Phineas Hussey and leased to the Hanbury family who were the owners of The Brownhills Colliery Company. It was not until 1849 that the Harrison family came on to the scene.

    A plan is given by Gerard for the pits around 1800.

    The local papers for the Staffordshire area start at around 1831, and that is the first mention of the Brownhills Colliery Company that I can find. It is quite interesting and will paraphrase when I get time.

    Regards Pedro.

    • Pedro says:

      Two years before the map was made, in 1838, the Staffs Advertiser of the 8th December shows the advertisement for the application of shares for the proposed Walsall Junction Canal.

      Capital needed is £15,000 in 600 shares of £25 each, and one of the provisional committee is William Hanbury Jnr.

      It is to be put before Parliament the construction of a navigable canal from the Wyrley and Essington to the Birmingham Canal, the distance only being 860 yards. Many details are given but concerning Brownhills…

      …it will open to the rapidly increasing mining and manufacturing districts in the neighbourhood of Birchills, Bloxwich, Pelsall and Brownhills a direct access to the Stafforshire Iron Works, Birmingham and the South of England.

      • Pedro says:

        At a meeting at the Guildhall in Walsall 27th October 1838 to discuss the proposed Junction Canal, a CF Cotterill seconding the resolution said…

        …the merchants of Walsall were now obliged to convey goods intended for the West Indies in the first instance by Waggoner to Wolverhampton and thence by canal to Liverpool for shipment, this entailing on their manufactured goods nearly as great an expense for the short distance to Wolverhampton, as the amount of the freight from Liverpool to the West Indies…

  2. Barry Carpenter says:

    Bob the first section of the map that you have used, shows an interesting field boundary, the “Northern edge” of fields 340, 347 and 350. This appears to be one continuous boundary that clearly pre-dates the canal. The “lazy S” shape indicates that this boundary relates to the field being ploughed by a team of Oxen, normally 8 to a team. And is possibly Medieval in date.

    To turn the plough team at the end of the field the ploughman would have to swing them through this lazy S to bring them back around to do the opposite direction. The lenght of the team would be quite long, 4 pairs of Oxen plus plough. The plough blade being fixed would mound the soil into a central ridge, resulting in the classic ridge and furrow of a Medieval field system. Interestingly, Ox ploughing still happened into the early part of the 19thC.

  3. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    a very very interesting map/plan. Thanks, please to Gerald.. I think we are all finding things that catch our interest! I wonder what the swingbridge looked like, and if anything remains . Google images show major iron structures!
    The Swingbrige farmhouse was a double fronted building if I remember it correctly..and at a guess would re-date the canal by a large margin.
    Interesting to see the word “engine” in the plural.

    • Pedro says:

      7th July 1899 Lichfield Mercury…

      Reports a fire out in the rickyard at Swingbridge Farm, in the occupation of Mr Howdle. The brigade attended the fire with their steam fire engine and found four ricks of straw ablaze…the canal being in close proximity there was ample supply of water…the cause of the fire is unknown but it is a curious fact that several rick fires have occurred since the fire engine was presented by Mr Roberts nearly twelve months ago, no fires had occurred previously in the district for years.

  4. Pedro says:

    Brownhills Colliery Co (1831)

    There seem to be many groups of miners on strike in 1831, and concerning the local area the Stafford Advertiser for the 10th December reported…

    Billston miners are not back to work, in fact an additional number of men have been compelled to quit their work and join the turnouts…

    …on Wednesday night a number of colliers liberated debtors from the Oldbury Court House…

    …On Friday a great number of colliers went to Bentley Hay, near Walsall, and those in the pit were compelled to ascend, and were very roughly dealt with. Many were ducked in the canal. Two boats, one which contained 20 tons of coal, were sunk, and tram wagons were thrown into the canal…

    …On Saturday morning a large number of Bilston miners visited the mines at Brownhills with the intention of forcing the colliers to join them. The Brownhills men however had got notice of their approach and were on the banks ready to receive them, and telling them that they were quite satisfied with their master and the wages, showed fight in such numbers that the disaffected were glad to make a quiet retreat, and threaten to come another day with a stronger force…

    On the 31st December it reports…

    8 cwt of excellent beef, purchased by subscription in Lichfield was on Saturday last distributed among the men working at Brownhills Colliery for resisting the attempt to force them to strike…after paying for the meat a £5 surplus was left and a good supply of ale was added to the well deserved gift.

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Great stuff again everyone!

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Engine Piece (x2) in Engine Lane and its neighbour Little Engine Piece.

    Some of the other pieces can be recognised on recent maps, for example Explorer 244 Cannock Chase … see, among others:- North west corner 490 and surrounding behind Lew Ways.

    Must be others …

  6. pedro says:

    Amazing this modern tech!

    You can clearly make out from Google Earth the Engine pieces 419 and 424, also Lower Engine Piece 422.

    You can even see where the Wharf 424 was situated. Travel down Engine Lane in Google Street View, and look at a few photos by BrownhillsBob.

    Can this area be accessed by foot? It would be interesting to try to build up a picture of what it would have looked like.

    • Andy Dennis says:

      Engine Lane west of the road, which goes a little way west of the juntion with Coppice Road / Coppice Side is a public footpath through to Lime Lane – though I suspect “foot bath” might be more apposite just now! Even in dry weather there are often serious puddles / soft mud, so substantial footwear is advised.

      A better (permissive) path follows the old mineral railway north / south from the end of the made up bit of Engine Lane. This runs between Apex Road and Albutts Road, over the canal and under the A5 en route. The marshy area towards the A5 is still marshy.

      Anyone know where I can get rice plants? …

      • pedro says:

        Hi Andy,

        I was wondering if you could freely roam around what seems to be woodland, or whether the area was privately owned.

        • Hi folks

          Cheers for all the ruminations – fascinating.

          For Pedro, the land is technically private. But it’s open and I’ve never heard of anyone being challenged.

          If you’re challenged by the Lady from the riding school, tell her Bob sent you!



        • Andy Dennis says:

          Well it is mostly privately owned, but I’ve never had any trouble wandering about and it’s obvious some paths are in frequent use – some by trail bikers, which acounts for the mud and puddles. The land north of Coppice Road is mostly common. I see Bob says more or less the same.

  7. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    so many curiosities! Just noticed “sling” used for pieces of land..transcription error of different to a “slang”? The house in Clayhanger..Andersons'( later a scrap yard)?..The three Froghall pieces….”Liberty”.. a lake at Clayhanger, and two “Plecks”. I would love to learn more about these and the other points already mentioned in the comments above…

    • Pedro says:

      Something that I noticed while searching under the Wyrley and Essinston Canal was the number of sales occurring that mention the field names in part of the sale. This is from 1830 onwards.

      A bit frustrating is that I did not come across any in the immediate vicinity, however you never know as serendipity seems to play a big part!

      Regards Pedro

    • Pedro says:

      Hi David,

      This may be an example from 1830?..

      Two closes of land called Upper Close and Brick kiln Close…situate and fronting on the road leading from the village of Aldridge to Walsall Wood, a short distance from the branch of the Lichfield to Wolverhampton Canal

    • Liam anderson says:

      Hi the anderson brothers scrap car yard was acctually owned by my grandfarther and my two great uncles and they ran this scrap car yard during the 1960s and 1970s and i belive they were very well known in the brownhills and clayhanger comunity

      • Barry Lycett says:

        Hi Liam,
        I new your grandfather and uncles quite well, last family member I met was driving for United Parcels(Collins) Walsall Wood, perhaps you could answer me a question, I am told your family owns a very small strip of land alongside the canal at the head of Collier Close, Coppice Side, is this so ???, Barry, bbarraldo@gmail.com, love to get an answer

        • liam anderson says:

          hi Barry
          i believe there is a strip of land who one of the brothers called bob owns who has past away a few years and also my grandfather Gerald has also past away

          • Fred B Lycett says:

            Hi Liam,
            I believe your grandad Gerald was the one who worked for a short while at United Carriers, which was the last time I met him, the last time I saw Bob was in Taylors Cafe, merry christmas to you and yours, would love to know more on that strip of land,

            Best regards, Barry.

  8. Andy Dennis says:

    The “Clanger Lake” and Lake Piece seem to be near the source of the Ford Brook. It’s not easy matching the tithes to modern locations, but the pool beside the path across the Spot is in about the right place. O’Grady’s Pool and the nearby water are in the area of Clanger Lake, but I had always thought these resulted from old mining activity and was more recent.

    Froghall is one of those mysteries we ought to know more about. Very old maps show it as some sort of big house. It’s close to the junction of Watling Street and Chester Road, so would have been strategically quite important. Maybe there’s an archaeological project for the school.

  9. Clive says:

    Hello Bob, thanks to all involved, and a big thanks to Gerald for providing the map, I have been exploring the map for age`s.
    Nice one. Clive.

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  12. Kenneth Marlowe says:

    Im grateful for the blog.Really thank you! Want more.

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