I fort so…

Castle Street as it is today, captured by Bing! Maps. Clearly, there has been considerable change over the years. Click for a larger version.

Had a great email yesterday from Tony Turner, an ex-Brownhillian who’s now moved up north. I think this, coupled with the great work from Andy Dennis, pretty conclusively nails the question of ‘The Fort’, and it’s location.

Hi Bob,

I was born at a terrace house in ‘The Fort’ as it was known. Proper name was Castle Street. It is just off the A5 Watling Street west of Newtown bridge

I have a vague recollection that the remains of a fort were shown in that area on an old map you published.

Maybe just a coincidence but hope it helps.

Great blog, having moved north many years ago, reading the blog really helps me to keep up with the history of the Brownhills area as it is uncovered.

Keep up the great work.

Best wishes


Mike Stackhouse, whose query prompted the original post, has also been in touch since publication:

Morning Bob,

I have forwarded your blog on to my brother, he still lives in Brownhills. Not far from the avenues, nearer to The Chase Inn (which he uses).

I have had another look at the census page, but what I said originally is the only information on it apart from grandad. The civil parish being Hammerwich, and his job being a miner holder hewer.

Thank you for your prompt reply, in this regard please thank Andy too. I may be in touch after John has got back to me.



My focus moves more naturally now to how The Fort got its name. I’m thinking, as Andy suggests, that it’s an allusion to Knaves Castle, the long lost earthwork nearby,thought to be a fortification of some sort. In one of those fortunate acts of happenstance, the wonderful Kate from Lichfield Lore has sent me some excellent material on this subject which I shall share later in the week.

Stay tuned, and thanks to all involved!

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13 Responses to I fort so…

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    I’ve not heard Castle Street called The Fort before, but read on.

    As far as the 1911 Census goes there is an unclear distinction between The Fort and The Fault. I have also seen The Fault on old maps where Castle Street is now, just the straight bit from Watling Street.

    Looking at the 1911 Census sequence from William Lewis, Licensed Victualler (could be Queens Head?) there are 32 household where the enumerator has The Fort, but see below. Then 3 at Knaves Castle – the 1880s mapping shows a row of 3 cottages more or less where the end of Dawes Lane is know, east of the old earthwork. Next is 1 Watling Street, 1 Canalside Nr Freeth Bridge, then Anglesey Sidings or New Town and I stopped at Chase Inn, run by one George Shingler (well, I’d worked up a thirst). From this it appears the enumerator was proceeding in an easterly direction …

    The addresses given are what was written on the detailed family page, except the 32 at The Fort, where some residents wrote Fort (14), Fault (9), while others were less precise, e.g. Brownhills (Samuel Stackhouse), Hammerwich or Watling Street.

    Those at Fault (if you will pardon the pun) include Richard Green, who was had up for steeling coal.

    The first record at The Fort is William Price at The Fault, Peace Cottages, Brownhills. Only one household, but plural cottages. Next are Dennis, Brooks, Roberts, Brooks, and so on t The Fort, which suggests the double fronted house opposite Castle Street (Brooks) and neighbours.

    From this it appears that the general area including and east of Castle Street and west of Dawes Lane (as they are today) was known as The Fort.

    The records preceding William Lewis are for Watling Street including a butcher and one Jonah Deakin, Grocer. Deakin’s shop was on the north side of Watling Street between Howdles Lane and Castle Street, so my Queens Head hunch looks sensible (even if untrue).

  2. Barry Carpenter says:

    Its possible that the guy doing the cenus was struggling with the local accent? Often enumerators came from out side the area and could just miss hear a word and write it down as they hear it. The Fort and The Fault are very close as words and with a thick accent?

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    As I understand it 1911 was the first census where the head of household completed the return, so the spelling and understanding of address is theirs, so there is a difference in many entries between householder and enumerator.

    I suspect literacy let down some of the residents, too, but if the address was The Fort, I can’t see why anyone would pronounce or spell it as Fault. From that I infer (and I’m willing to be corrected) that The Fault was part of an area generally known as The Fort.

    I have extracts of OS mapping from 1902 and 1919, which show The Fault, and the same street in 1938 Castle Street. In 1909 there were 28 houses on The Fault; 2 more were added by 1919. The OS names the area on the south side of Watling Street as Knave’s Castle.

  4. Barry Carpenter says:

    I helped transcribe part of the LDS version of the 1881 census. They used locals to the area being transcribed because of the mis hearing problem I talked about above. I came across quite a few problems relating to mistaken or strangely spelt entries, and the way find out the answer was to verbally pronounce the phonetically spelt words with a heavy local accent. With todays mass communication and movement of individuals local accents are being heavily diluted. Our ancestors did not move around as much and very local heavy accents would develop. But if you are saying that the 1911 was the first time that the head of household filled out the form, then maybe something else was going on?

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Thankfully, the 1881 Census transcription is excellent (unlike the 1861 version!) and I thank you, Barry, and others, for a job very well done.

    I checked the 1911 Census website – http://www.1911census.co.uk/content/default.aspx?r=24&111 – which explians that the details were completed by the household, so we are seeing their handwriting. Each record has 2 pages, one with the details of people in the household and the other a sort of cover page completed by the enumerator or another official, showing just the head’s name and address. The covers are all written in the same hand, but the detailed pages differ. Doubtless, there were some households who needed help (as there are even today), but it is a fascinating insight, if not just because the occupations are much more detailed.

    I agree that other censuses and records relied heavily on people doing their best in a non-standard world, but, generally, they were pretty accurate. For the 1861 census transcription, though, there seems to have been little work done on whether the names and places actually match reality. Watch this space!

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  7. Barry Carpenter says:

    Did not some of the later Census returns get transcribed by prisoners run by a private company?

  8. Andy Dennis says:

    The 1911 census is scanned from the originals. However bad or good the transcription the originals are generally pretty clear. The 1861 census is the worst transcription imaginable.

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  12. Mike Stackhouse says:

    Hi Andy, As you Know from earlier my gran was on the census I found as the fort. Well my dads dad was a Samuel Stackhouse and his dad was also Samuel Stackhouse. But charting my family tree is quite complicated as to who is who!. Gran had at least three husbands and a family researcher told us that there was something strange about her marriages as 2 were common and the middle one was church. I gave up on the research as it becomes to expensive. But Fort or Fault she did live by the Castle.

    • Graham Payne says:

      l suggest you google ‘Spear heads found at stonnall’ for the explanation concerning Knaves Castle.

      Graham Payne

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