Keep out of Cotterill’s road…


These disputed fields shaped the town we live in today.

Welcome to the second of a three-instalment series, covering Ogley Hay, landowner Charles F. Cotterill and Brownhills’ evolution into the place we know today, as written by local historian Gerald Reece in his remarkable book ‘Brownhills A Walk Into History’.

Last weekend, I pointed out that I had previously broached the subject of the ex Walsall Mayor, Charles F. Cotterill to see what readers could turn up, knowing that Gerald Reece had previously written beautifully about the man’s activities as major landowner in Brownhills. I felt the story had more yet to be discovered, and I’ve always had the feeling that Cotterill was possibly a little on the sharp side.

This was amplified when Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler found the bankruptcy sale notice in the Birmingham Gazette from 1850.

In this second piece, Gerald explores the Steam Mill whose building still stands by the canal at Catshill; in it’s day a high tech flour production installation. This leads to the reshaping of Ogley Hay as it was then laid out, and the emergence of the current street pattern we now recognise.

I will reiterate that these pieces are 100% the writings of Gerald Reece and I salute his  brilliant, informative and influential 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.

Gerald wrote:


The 1838 Ogley Hay Inclosure Act, from ‘Brownhills A walk into history’ by Gerald Reece.


The Mill could process wheat, corn, barley and an array of pulses. The mill machinery was supplied by Charles Lampitt, Engineer and Millwright, Vulcan Foundry, Banbury. The dressing and bolting machines and the upright smutter were supplied by Varley & Sedgwick. There were four pairs of French grinding wheels. This was the finest grinding stone of the period, they were made from pieces of hard quartz that had been mined along the River Mame near La Ferte sous Jouarre in the Paris Basin region of France. The pieces were keyed together and iron bands shrunk around them. There was also a mechanical bean splitter. The machinery was driven by a 35 HP steam driven engine with Cornish boiler. In 1841 the national census shows that there were four millers working at the mill. They lodged at Old Warren House Farm with William Woodhouse. They had all come from outside the county to work in Ogley Hay. One of them, Deerling Whittle, had come from Ireland. He was the only Irishman living in Brownhills in 1841. By 1851 there were 22 people of Irish birth living here. That number had risen to 48 by 1861. They were mainly adults working as farm labourers, they lived in a close community near to Muckley Comer.

Thank God in all his mercy Who brought us safe this day From Erin’s bitter harvest To green fields of Ogley Hay.

Others of overseas birth living in Brownhills at the time of the 1861 Census were:

Edward Priestland    Bom on the High Sea
John Meeson             United States of America
Sarah Meeson            United States of America
Mary North                Italy
Nicklas Coe                Italy
Annie Hodgkins        Australia

By the end of 1837 Charles Forster Cotterill had recouped his initial expense in purchasing The Manor of Ogley Hay and he still had lands left to sell, or so he thought.

Whether intentionally or not Charles Forster Cotterill had, in his haste to sell off his property, overlooked the Rights of the Commoners. They still claimed a right of way across the new farm-lands and the right to graze their cattle and sheep upon the ‘Common Grounds’.  Claims that could not be proven nor disproved… Charles Forster Cotterill looked to the law of the land for a solution to the problem.


Ogley Hay’s roads and tracks beforeCotterill got his way. From ‘Brownhills A walk into history’ by Gerald Reece.

For six hundred years, since the Statute of Merton in 1236, Acts of Parliament had been introduced for the inclosure of common or waste land. Usually these were for farmed lands where the commoners had small strips of allotment. In the case of Ogley Hay it was the right of way and the grazing rights that were in question.

On 30th March 1838 an Act of Parliament, one of the first to be given the Royal Assent by the then uncrowned Queen Victoria, was published. It came out in favour of Charles Forster Cotterill.

Paragraph XLV of the Act stated that Charles Forster Cotterill, as Lord of the Manor should be granted ‘first refusal’ to purchase any or all of the disputed lands by private contract. The area in question was one of 172 acres and is shown below. Although in reality Charles Forster Cotterill already owned the lands he was asked to pay another £2013/6/4d for the privilege. He bargained, his offer of £1907/10/4d was accepted. An Indenture dated 30th January 1839 completed the transaction.

The Commoners had the right of appeal but the Act was so worded that anyone who wished to lodge an appeal stood the chance of losing all their possessions and chattels if they lost such an action. No Courts of Appeals were convened. The Commoners forfeited all their ancient rights of grazing upon the waste lands.

As if to rub salt into the wound Paragraph XXV of the Act deprived the Commoners of many of the ancient rights of way. The Commissioner, Peter Potter, after deliberation with Charles Forster Cotterill drew up a list of intended road alterations and closures. As directed by the Act copies of the list were affixed to the outer doors of the Parish Churches in Shenstone, Norton Canes and St. Michael’s, Lichfield for four consecutive weeks. On 2nd July 1838 The Staffordshire Advertiser carried, on its front page, the details of the proposed closures. In all 11 paths, trackways and roads were to be closed, many of them had been in existence since time immemorial. They were ordered to be closed off, fenced in and dug up ‘ and forever stopped’, all within the space of one month. Perhaps the most important road to be closed was the southern section of the once Coventry Road. It being:

A certain track or carriage road commencing on the Wading Street Road near to Ogley Bridge leading in a southwardly direction and terminating in the Old Chester Turnpike Road near to the ancient enclosure belonging to Charles Forster Cotterill, Esq.


The disputed lands of Ogley Hay. From ‘Brownhills A walk into history’ by Gerald Reece.

The face of Ogley Hay was changed dramatically. I was indeed very lucky to discover a copy of the Pre-1st Edition O.S. map that show the ancient ways prior to their closure. It was housed in a most unlikely archive. A paper that I wrote in 1986 that gives full details of the road closures is lodged at Walsall Local History Centre.

Although the Act stipulated that the closures should be enforced within one month it was not until 14th December 1840 that two of Her Majesty’s Justices, Edward Qrove and John Shawe Manley did declare before Thomas Adlam Tonks, Clerk to the Justices, at a special session at Shenstone that they had so been done.


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15 Responses to Keep out of Cotterill’s road…

  1. Clive says:

    Yet again very intresting, looks like its sod the peasants i want more money! Big thank you to Gerald Reece and Bob.

    • Pedro says:

      1845 shares issued for Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley Railway Company.

      CF Cotterill is mentioned as also being a Director of the South Staffs Junction Railway.

  2. Pedro says:

    (Note that there is the alternative spelling of Cotterell, both seem to be used)

    September 1842…

    The Magistrates of Walsall having received information that a mob of colliers were proceeding to Bloxwich to attack the colliery of Messrs Dudley, whose men were at work, they lost no time in assembling the police force, armed with their cutlasses, and the troop of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, stationed at Walsall….under the orders of…and C.F. Cotterell Esq, Borough Magistrates…

    …The mob, however, took to their heels, after destroying wheelbarrows and other implements lying about the works. Many of them took shelter in a neighbouring wood, where they were surrounded by the Dragoons, and five of them were captured.

  3. Peter says:

    Fabulous article and many thanks to Gerald for his original works! The pre OS Map is a local historians Gold Mine! Tonnage House and The Machine House get the old inquisitous minds going? Any thoughts? I presume the Tonnage House was a facility for the Canal? Machine House maybe for repairs, an early garage if you like?
    Would love to hear more?

  4. Clive says:

    Hi Peter, I believe the tonnage house is where the canal is narrow and they measure how deep the boat is in the water, then they can work out how much tonnage of coal etc is on board. then they now how much to charge them for using there canal.

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  12. Pedro says:

    The Ogley Hay Flour Mill, much the same as Gerald describes it, was up for sale in June 1863.

    It had two whaves to the canal for loading and unloading. Also, all that substantially-built residence adjoining, replete with every convenience for a respectable family, comprising entrance hall, parlour, sitting-room, kitchen, brew-house, pantry, cellars, four bedrooms, and two dressing-rooms; entire yard, garden, labourer’s cottage, coachhouse, stabling for five horses, cart sheds, piggeries &c….

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