Miles of steel over wood

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:

Landowners, Lessees and Occupiers index 7.9 meg (might take a while to download)

Plan of proposed route from the existing line at Norton Junction – just by High Bridge on the Pelsall Road – over the Slough (towards what would be now the Old Cement Works bridge, just off the plan). Image drawn and supplied by Gerald Reece. Click for a larger version – well worth saving the image and printing out.
Here, the line crosses the canal at the Old Cement Works bridge, Engine Lane and on towards the Watling Street. Note the canal arrangements, tramways, Marklews Pond and what appear to be pumping arrangements. Image drawn and supplied by Gerald Reece. Click for a larger version – well worth saving the image and printing out.
This one is hard to visualise at first. It starts south of Watling Street (on the left), then crosses the old Roman road before passing the pit at Brownhills West and off to Norton. Image drawn and supplied by Gerald Reece. Click for a larger version – well worth saving the image and printing out
Brownhills colliery lines as shown on Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 sheet SK00 from 1948. The Norton Branch discussed here is the central line heading north through The Slough from the sidings centre bottom. The line was built in 1858. The branch to the Grove Colliery wasn’t added until later. Click for a larger version.
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  • Pedro

    Many thanks to Gerard for allowing access to his book via the Blog; it is unfortunate that copies are so rare. The parts that have we have seen show for themselves the work that was needed to compile the book. It is an excellent basis for anyone who is interested in the local history of Brownhills.

    I hope that Gerard gets pleasure from anything that can be added.

    Regards Pedro.

  • Readers might also like to immerse themselves in the “Rules and regulations for the conduct of the traffic, and for the guidance of the officers and men in the service of the South Staffordshire Railway Company.” available as an eBook free from Google Books. Page 119 onwards mentions Norton Canes and Brownhills.

    • I have read this book a while back through Google books and it is indeed facinating

      • Pedro

        For anyone that does not know there is a free App for mobile devices called “Google Play”. This lets you read and search the books in a very friendly fashion.

        Regards Pedro.

  • Peter

    Bob, Please put me down for 2 tickets for the Gerald and David Road Show, potentially, at the end of the year. Cheers. Peter

  • pedro

    If you take the Norton Branch map in conjunction with the PDF, most of the land is owned by Phineas Fowke Hussey.

    Colour coding the fields it can be seen that about 75% is leased out to William Harrison, and 24% to William Harrison and Elijah Stackhouse.

    If you rotate the map 90 degrees to the left to bring it to point North, there is one small field, number 33 that is leased by Mathew Webb and occupied by Thomas Marklew. It is termed a Garden Ground.

    William Markew has mentioned in another post.

    Comparing this to the Tithe Map of 1842 it is interesting to see that this field (33) has Engine Piece to the north and then Engine Lane. To the south is the Canal and then Lower Engine Piece.

  • ian

    Hi Bob, Trying to send email regarding the drawings. Email address not recognised. Can you please advise.

    • Hi Ian

      I got your emails, old chap. Thanks, was going to feature in the next couple of days.

      the e-mail address is BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot come (replace the at with @ and dot with .)

      Cheers for your contribution


  1. Face to face « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog  July 21, 2012

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  2. Down the lines « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog  July 22, 2012

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  7. The wind blew up the Watling Street | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog  June 8, 2014

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