Welcome to the third of what was to be a three-instalment series, covering Ogley Hay, the history of Brownhills businessman Charles F. Cotterill and the towns evolution into the place we know today, as written by local historian Gerald Reece, in his remarkable book ‘Brownhills A Walk Into History’.
I’ve decided to split the last article in two as it’s a tad longer than I estimated. The final instalment will appear next week.
In the previous two articles in this series, Gerald has covered the original wastes of Ogley Hay, the Manor of Ogley Hay, the land Inclosure, and the start of industrialisation – Ogley Hay Steam Flour Mill. This section covers the increasing urbanisation of the land, and it’s carving into smaller and smaller chunks.
Remember that this whole thing came to our attention when Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler found the bankruptcy sale notice in the Birmingham Gazette from 1850 – so it seems Cotterill, rather than sloping away, was experiencing some financial embarrassment. I’m sure there’s a tale there.
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.
XV OGLEY HAY FARM LANDS
Shortly after his victory Charles Forster Cotterill set about planning a ‘new town’ that he intended to develop on the site of his acquisition.
The main road through his ‘new town’ would run eastward from the junction of the Old Chester Turnpike Road (High Street) and Wolverhampton Lane (Lichfield Road). The new road would be named after him. Cotterill Road? Forster Avenue? Charles Street? Great Charles Street.
It was called Great because of its width, similar to the Great North Road and other Greats. Wide enough to allow a squadron of cavalrymen to ride in formation abreast. Even today the width is visible along the Council House section of the Street. It then narrows.
For once Charles did not get his own way; he was unable to purchase the small piece of land that would connect Great Charles Street with the Old Chester Turnpike Road. The area known as Brewe’s Comer is just over the Boundary and is in the Manor of Little Wyrley. It was not for sale. Great Charles Street took a sharp right turn and terminated in Wolverhampton Lane (Lichfield Road) instead.
Undaunted by his setback over the course of Great Charles Street, Cotterill set about utilising his ‘New’ lands. The area that he owned measured 160 acres, more or less. It was known as Ogley Hay Farm Lands.
On 1st May 1839 Robert Brewer, a builder from Walsall, bought a parcel of land from Charles Forster Cotterill. It was:
‘An area measuring 2,483 sq. Yards, bounded by the Burntwood Road (Ogley Road) on the west having a frontage of 122 ft. On the south by Mill Street (Mill Road) having a frontage of 181 ft. On the east by First Street having a frontage of 125 ft. On the north by an intended road having a frontage of 125 ft. The piece of land being unoccupied and is intended to be built upon by the said Robert Brewer’.
Seven months later, in December 1839, Robert Brewer had a cash-flow problem and he was unable to make the payment for the land. After bargaining for the cost of the buildings that he had erected upon the site the ownership was returned to Charles Forster Cotterill on the 14th December 1839. The buildings that had been erected comprised of ten dwelling houses facing onto First Street. Complete with brewhouses and outbuildings and in the occupation of:
Thomas Evans John Lander
Henry Tisdale Francis Harvey
Thomas Edward Frederick Howell
Charles Camberlidge Edwin Pool
Thomas Davies Thomas Freeman
Two dwelling houses and a stable fronting Mill Street and Burntwood Road, also 3 stables and 2 messuages occupied by Cornelius Bonell and Charles Evans, also one occupied by … Young. The remainder unoccupied. But perhaps the most remarkable development were the structures that had been built upon the area of land where the present Wheatsheaf public house stands. Here had been built ‘Four covered work-shops’ used as a Foundry and Steam Engine Manufactory and in the occupation of CORNELIUS BONELL & COMPANY. Industry, it seems, had at last arrived in Newtown, Ogley Hay.
The ‘discovery’ of the existence of the Iron Foundry and Steam Engine Works at Ogley Hay has been the most exciting find in my research into the history of Brownhills. I was very sceptical at first but as I found more documents to substantiate my finding I was really knocked for six. Details of the Iron Foundry and Steam Engine Works are very limited because of its very short existence. Thanks to the census returns, taken on the night of 6th/7th of June 1841, it is able to identify some of the employees, their occupations and their family details. Transcribed entries from the census are shown opposite. The census of 1841 also shows just how quickly Ogley Hay was developing. From being a scattered community of less than 20 in 1836 to one of 210 in 1841. Dwelling houses increased during the same period, from 6 to 47 with a further 8 in the process of being built or unoccupied.
On the 4th of August 1840 Charles Forster Cotterill sold off an area of land, measuring 2 acres, to Edmund Arblaster. There was built The Shoulder of Mutton in Church Road.
In September 1840 Robert Brewer, the builder responsible for the Iron Foundry and Steam Engine Works, ventured back into business. This time he purchased a square piece of land measuring 49 yds x 49 yds. situated at the comer of Great Charles Street and Burntwood Road. Price £18. Upon this piece of land was built Ogley Hay Farm House and Buildings. Ogley Hay Farm Lands had been subdivided into fields of various sizes and rented out. Many coal miners from the neighbouring coalfields increased their incomes by becoming part-time farmers.
In April 1841 Robert Brewer leased out part of the farm buildings to Samuel Smith of Walsall, gentleman. The remaining farm buildings were rented out on 5th July of the same year to Thomas Farmer Wood of Walsall, esquire.
The history of the demise of Ogley Hay farm lands is well chronicled from the 1840’s until the 1950’s. As it was sold off the ever decreasing area of land was documented on ‘Indentures’ recording the sale of leasings. ‘Indentures’ are records of transactions written on a sheet of paper, cloth or animal skin. Details are written twice, one inverted, then the material is halved using a scalloped edge cutting. This way the ‘Indenture’ edge can always be matched for authenticity.
Many of these indentures are now held in Local History Centres and County Record Offices. Old indentures are still thought to be worthless by many practices of Solicitors and they are still being ‘skipped’ at an alarming rate. Some even appear at car boot sales and ‘Antique Fairs’ where they can still be bought for less than a fiver. I have in my possession several indentures hand written upon parchment and dating back to the 17th century. When I handle and read a document of that age and I see before me history exposed yet not documented I realise my purpose and determination in writing this history of Brownhills.
The map that I have included shows the fields of Ogley Hay Farm Lands, circa 1860. The original of this map is in my collection.
On 14th June 1842 Thomas Gittins, Clerk, of Wolverhampton bought an area of land measuring 1 acre for £30. It was situated on the comer of Lichfield Road (then the Wolverhampton Road) and the lane leading to Great Charles Street (No. 28 on the map). Three years later Charles Forster Cotterill bought back the land and the dwelling houses that had been erected there, Seven House Row, for £400.
On 22nd May 1846 Charles Forster Cotterill (the last Lord of the Manor of Ogley Hay) sold off his remaining holdings in the area and retired to live a gay bachelor life in London. From an ‘Indenture’ covering the sale we can see the progressive demise of the Ogley Hay Farm Lands already down to 135 acres. Not included in this sale were Seven House Row and the Farm Building on the site of the Warreners Arms. These had been mortgaged to secure a loan from the Birmingham Town and District Banking Company.
Included in the sale was the Iron Foundry and Steam Engine Works, sadly they are stated as being closed. In this section of the ‘Indenture’ Charles Forster Cotterill is referred to as ‘The Ironmaster’. The inventory of the manufatory includes: Cupolas, Workshops, Steam Engine face plate lathe with slide rest and headstock and all other machinery, gearing implements and apparatus affixed. It is still a thrill to realise the existence of this industry in the area.
The estate was purchased by the firm of Joseph Greene & Company of Liverpool. The business was directed by Mary Greene, widow of the founder of the Company, Joseph, and John Nicholson, Businessman. Nothing appears to have gone on between them, Jane Austen wise that is, they even split up after chapter three. Why did they choose to invest their monies in Ogley Hay? Railways? Perhaps.
Two Railway Companies had forwarded plans to Parliament at that time hoping to secure an Act and built a line through the area. In August 1846 they were each granted Royal Assent, then they agreed to amalgamate and form the South Staffordshire Railway Company. Joseph Greene & Company of Liverpool made a very quick return on their investment by selling part of their newly acquired estate to the Railway Company. Why though, has the seemingly astute Charles Forster Cotterill not taken the advantage?