Mind the Gap

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It’s not in Watford, but it is a gap. With landscape amplified 9x for clarity, the Gap component of Watford Gap becomes clear. Imagery generated from Ordnace survey Landranger 1:50,000 mapping. Click for a full-size version.

The enquiry about the local Watford Gap sparked way more interest than I expected, to be honest, so this morning, I decided to test the theory postulated by Andy Dennis that the area really was in a ‘gap’ between the hills of north Sutton.

I threw the map at the contour model for the area, then amplified it for clarity. It’s abundantly clear that the Cross City rail line follows the valley out of Sutton, and traverses such a contour profile to Lichfield as far as possible.

Note that the stream that goes on to form the Footherley/Bourne/Black Brook crosses Blake Street at the railway, and I would agree with Andy that this spot may have been the original location of Watford Gap, before it was adopted for the junction.

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Carisbrooke is the dutch-looking house centre-right. It’s one of the most stunning houses locally, and a wonderful building. There have been some odd assertions made about it’s history.

This map also puts to bed the frankly bizarre assertion of a certain local ‘historian’ that Carisbrooke, the house near the corner of Ashcroft Lane and Raikes Lane in Chesterfield, just south of Wall, was built as a railway station but never used. I said at the time that taking a railway there would be ridiculous as it would hit the bluff of Harehust Hill in Wall, and this shows that would happen.

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Carisbrooke is circled in red. The theory that this may have been built as a station was apparently corroborated by the idea that both this house, and Shenstone Station, were aesthetically similar. Imagery from Bing! maps.

What it does illustrate is that I think the railway was built around the difficult side of Shenstone. I’ve always suspected that the natural route would be to the east of the village on the hill – and so it would. The curves and profile would be softer, but it’s also the side of the village where the upper classes lived; Shenstone Court and Shenstone Park were on the east, and I’ve always wondered if the occupants, in a fit of Harrison-esque nimbyism, caused the track to snake around Shenstone and cross the marsh to the north west, at the Little Holms.

There’s a little bit on speculation online, but I think we can say that Watford Gap is a very old name, and that Andy Dennis has, in all probability, nailed it.

Thanks, everyone.

 

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11 Responses to Mind the Gap

  1. pedro says:

    “where the upper classes lived”…The Earl of Dudley screened the South Staffs Railway from his little house at Himley with lines of Corsican Pines!

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/35937984?tag=Staffordshire%20Walks

  2. Bob, you kindly got this one going for me and I’ve been thrilled with the responses and learned something along the way. Andy did get it right! Love the OS map 3D thingy…wow! Really brings them to life. As an aside, how much does the programme cost?

  3. Pedro says:

    Tamworth Herald, 9 Feb 1924, reports sale of farms by Winterton and Sons since the New Year.

    Amongst the farms sold were Hammerwich Hall Farm, Queslett Farm and Grange Farm, Walsall Wood.

    Amongst the private residences were Yew Tree House, Streethay, a pleasant residence on the outskirts of the city of Lichfield, and Carisbrooke, Chesterfield, with an area of about 2 and a half acres.

  4. Clive says:

    Like the contour map Bob, you can`t miss the gap on that work of art. Cheers.

  5. Mick_P says:

    That contour map is utterly fascinating Bob. Yet another jaw-dropping post.

  6. WarsawPact says:

    Fantastic map, Bob!
    The bit I’m particularly interested in (sorry to go off topic) is the hill north-east of Shenstone – follow the yellow road over the Toll Road, dog-leg over the green road, then up to the top of the hill where it disappears from view. Just to the left of the road at the top of the hill was a tumulus called “Offlow” (there’s an aerial shown on the OS plan but you can’t see it on your view), after which the Offlow Hundred is named after.
    In Anglo-Saxon times, each county was divided into “Hundreds” for administration purposes (Staffordshire was divided into 5). The Offlow Hundred covers an area from Oldbury, through West Brom, Walsall, Bloxwich, Hammerwich, Lichfield, Tutbury, Burton, Alrewas, Hopwas, Little Aston, Harborne.
    From an article in British Archaeology magazine: “Open upland spots form a further significant group of meeting places. These tend to be close to major routeways, if not right next to them, and to command good but not dominant views over surrounding countryside…) which fits this location to a ‘T’.
    The meeting places were used for negotiations, oath-swearing and dispensing of justice.

  7. Pingback: Gorgeous curves | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  8. Peter says:

    A thumbs up for your enhanced Watford gap map

  9. Amy says:

    Hi Bob, is there any chance you could look at the heritage of court drive & court manor, shenstone? I can’t find anything about it!

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