Ugly Ay it?

Today, it’s long overdue that I expand on a thread I commenced some weeks ago; that of Charles Foster Cotterill. You may remember that I raised the question of the man’s history as the named Bankrupt in a sale notice Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler found in the Birmingham Gazette in 1850. If you haven’t read that post, or want to refresh your memory, I suggest you read it now, including the wonderfully expansive comments.


This former flour mill – once, a high tech facility with a steam engine – was the subject of Victorian property speculation. Ogley Hay may have urbanised, but it’s still beautiful.

I have to confess, that when I wrote the article, I wasn’t being completely honest. I knew a fair amount about Cotterill from the wonderful work of local historian and author Gerald Reece. Gerald covered Cotterill in some detail in his authoritative book ‘Brownhills, A Walk Into History’, but being limited for space, Gerald doesn’t go into much detail about how the estate came to be sold off. I had a feeling there was a story there, and was hoping to set readers loose on the topic with fresh minds. It seems to have worked.

Gerald, understandably, wrote me an email the week after the publication, expressing some surprise that I hadn’t picked up the story from his book, but as I explained at the time, sometimes it’s best to throw stuff out and see what comes back. From that, I think we’ve managed to expand on the history a little where Gerald’s excellent work leaves off, and add a little colour in-between.

To that end, and in light of the fact that Gerald has stated his work is unlikely to be reissued, coupled with the rarity of the book, I’d like to take the opportunity to share the excellent sections  relating to Ogley Hay, the Flour Mill and the wheeling and dealing surrounding them. The author’s research is exhaustive and thorough, and remember, this was all in a time before the internet. It remains inspirational.

I’m going to run this as a series of three articles, as they’re large, and it’s a lot to digest. They are 100% the writings of Gerald Reece and I salute his work. Please, if you see a copy of ‘Brownhills A Walk Into History’ – buy it sharpish. I paid a several multiples of the cover price but it’s well worth the money. It remains the best work on Brownhills ever written.

I’m told that Gerald and David Evans may well be cooking up something special for the spring. The last talk Gerald gave here – in Autumn 2012 – was a barnstormer which also raised a tidy sum for MacMillan, so stay tuned.

Gerald wrote:


Early Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map of Ogley Hay from Gerald’s book. I’d say this map is the 1888 edition.


Next to the block of flats that now occupy the site of the once Ogley Hour Mill, is the boundary between the ancient Manors of Ogley Hay and Shenstone. Ogley Hay is the largest of the five areas that form modem Brownhills. Until the 1830’s very little had changed there for 1000 years. Early historical records for Ogley Hay are very limited and the few that do exist relate mainly to the transfer of the Title and the Manor. The population of Ogley Hay was less than 10 in 1800.

In 995 AD the Manor belonged to the Monastery at Wolverhampton. In the ‘Domesday’ return of 1086 Ogley Hay is referred to as: HOCINTUNE 1 Hide waste. A ‘Hide’ was an area of cultivated land that could support a household. Measurement of the area seems to vary between 110-120 acres. The ‘Hide’ referred to here was certain to be the ‘Old Enclosure’ upon which the Warreners Arms now stands. The ‘Waste’ refers to the remaining 90% of the uncultivated Manor of Ogley Hay that lay within the Forest of Cannock Chase.

The spelling of the name changes somewhat over the years. It is referred to as Oggele, Oggeley, Oggleie, Huggeley and Hogeley. One interpretation of the name is Ocgatum, or Ocga’s Town. Another, deduces that Og is British and signifies hurdles and pens and that Hay is also a fenced enclosure. These fences, ‘Hays’ were built to herd deer in a required direction during a ‘Chase’. A rhyme from my school days is as good as any:

When on the top of Shire Hill the
king did stand one day
he gazed out on the scene below
and sighed ’tis Ugly Ay’.

In the 16th Century, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Manor was held by the family of the Lord Stafford. In 1567 the Lord Stafford and his brothers Walter and Richard sold off the Manor to a consortium consisting of Thomas Moreton, esquire. Matthew Moreton, gentleman. Fabian Orme, gentleman and Thomas Taylor, husbandman. In addition to ‘the Custody of the Haye of Oggeley within the Forest of Cannock’, the sale also included ‘the Herbage and Pannage and all manner of Chymnage Waifs and Strays’. These were the ancient rights enabling the Lords of the Manor to levy certain tolls.

In 1590 Henry Taylor, son and heir of Thomas Taylor, sold his share of the Haye to John Reddinge for £3/15/0. This puts the value of the Manor at that time at £15.

During the Civil War in the mid 17th Century the ownership of Ogley Hay was sub-divided and changed ownership several times. In 1668 the Co-Lords of the Manor were Ferrers Fowke and James Fowke with 20 shares, John Jackson with 2 shares, Henry Ward with 1 share and Thomas Worsey with 1 share. In 1668 they leased out the Manor to William Quinton, Yeoman, for an annual rent of £11. Included in this transaction were a lodge or house where John Wayte did formerly dwell. The Lodge appears to have been situated where Warren House Farm now stands. It is shown on Yates County Map of 1775. The area was also the site of Ogley Hay Pound.                                                                             

In addition to leasing the land and the lodge in 1668 William Quinton also received the Rights of the Coney Gree or Free Warren of Coneys in Ogley Hay.

A coney was the 17th Century name for the animal we now call the rabbit. The young coney was then called a rabbit and the adult coney was known as a clapper. From this naming comes the expression ‘Going like the Clappers’.

In 1671 Richard Bull and Edward Persey carried out a survey of the Coney population on Ogley Hay and did testify :

Seven Score couple of Conyes to be within the compasse of the Warrant of Ogley.

In 1709 Thomas Orme, Coppersmith of Wolverhampton leased out ‘for inclosing and sowing with com a certain field being part of the Warren or Coney Gree within the liberty of Oggeley Haye’. Paying 1/- per acre to the Lord of the Manor and 2d for stopping Coneys. At this time 33 persons were claiming the Rights of Common over Ogley Hay.

In 1734 Christopher Wood purchased 23 of the 24 parts of the Manor. After his death his executors sold the almost complete Manor to Richard Gildart in 1765. Richard Gildart also owned part of the Manor of Norton Canes at that time. In 1809 he purchased the elusive 24th part and became sole Lord of the Ancient Manor and Liberty of Ogley. The manor changed hands again on 10th May 1825 when it was purchased by Phineus Hussey of Wyrley Grove for £5,295/15/0d. He assigned it to the use of his friend Sir John Dickenson Fowler of Burton on Trent.


1812 Plan of Ogley Hay from Gerald’s book. Note the meandering line of the canal, and the Watling Street running horizontally along the top. Click for a larger version.

Phineus Hussey died on 29 January 1833. His two children, Fanny Sophia aged seventeen and Phineus Fowke aged eleven, were both too young to inherit from their father’s estate. In his will their father had set the age upon which they could inherit as 24 years. In the case of Fanny Sophia upon her marriage, whichever was the sooner. Both were cared for financially by the Reverend Edward Levett who was an executor to their father’s will. He soon found it difficult to make ends meet. Although Phineus Hussey had owned very large areas of land he had debts of £5,395 13s 6d and he was also long outstanding on repayments of a £17,000 mortgage.

At the High Court of Chancery, on 3rd August 1833, it was ordered that part of the Hussey Estate should be sold to offset debts and legacies. The Reverend Levett set about finding a buyer for Ogley Hay. As it happened a buyer came to him. On 10 May 1836 Charles Forster Cotterill, the ex-Mayor of Walsall, purchased Ogley Hay for £5,500. He was to be the last Lord of the Manor of Ogley Hay. The ancient rights, many of them over 1,000 years old were bargained for for the last time. These included the privileges of Free Warren, Herbage and Pannage, Waifs and Strays, Quarries, Courts Leet, Courts Baron, Profits of Court View of Frankpledge, Goods money and chattels of felons, Felons themselves, Fugitives, outlaws and thieves, Rents quit and Rents charge and many other obscure and dated remnants of a feudal system of administration.

Charles Forster Cotterill also received an income of £22 6s Od per annum from the rent of a tenement, with buildings, called The Warrenhouse in the occupation of William Woodhouse. He also received an income of £8 8s Od per annum from the Wyrley and Essiftgton Canal Company for the waste land taken in the construction of a canal with locks buildings and out buildings upon Ogley Hay.

Unlike earlier lords of the manor, Charles Forster Cotterill had a sound knowledge of the area and he knew the potential of his purchase. Within one year he had sold off or leased out most of the ‘Rural’. On 25th March 1837 he signed an agreement with Thomas and William Middleton of Hammerwich for lands between Lichfield Road and the Watling Street. He also sold a plot of land adjoining the canal to The Wyrley & Essington Canal Company. A thoroughfare was made from Burntwood Road to the land. It was called Mill Street. On the land was built Ogley Hay Steam Hour Mill. On 14th April 1840 the Wyrley and Essington Canal Company merged with The Birmingham Canal Navigation.

Untitled 6

Ogley Hay may have changed, but it’s still recognisable today. Imagery from Bing! maps. Click for a larger version.

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17 Responses to Ugly Ay it?

  1. Clive says:

    Great look into are past History, can`t get anough of it. Many thanks to all involved.

  2. Warren Parry says:

    Loving this, can’t wait to read more.

  3. Pedro says:

    Thanks to Gerald for allowing the insight which now available for all to see. Thanks also to Bob for “throwing” it out and gaining more interesting information concerning CF Cotterill.

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