I’ve long held the suspicion that the barn at the aptly-named Dairy Farm in Hall Lane, Walsall Wood is one of the oldest, if not the oldest surviving building in Walsall Wood and Brownhills. I think parts of the recently converted barn at Warrenhouse are probably older, but that’s not really Brownhills (but I invite debate on that – we’ve never had a good discussion about the bounds of our territory…)
Recently, top local history wonk the young David Evans has been thinking a bit about Dairy Farm, too. In his own inimitable way he’s been out, got talking to the current owners and taken a whole bunch of pictures giving blog readers access to the building few of us ever have had. What a star.
I’d quite like this to be a starting point. I’d like readers to consider farming in the local area, and Dairy Farm is part of that. It did, after all, provide a clue in my ruminations upon the Black Cock landscape, but there are other lost farms, too, like Sunnyside, Swingbridge, Shire Oak Farm, the two Highfields Farms – and those still extant like Home Farm and Big House Farm.
Come on then, what have you got? These farms once fed us, gave us flour for our bread and milk for our tea. Comments invited, as ever, or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.
My gratitude and best wishes to both David and Mrs. Toms for a great glimpse into another bit of local history.
David Evans wrote:
Hall Lane Farm, Walsall Wood and a jewel of a barn!
I wanted to see what remains of the farm in Hall Lane, Walsall Wood, in 2014. Thanks to the kindness of Mrs. Toms the present owner, I have been able to photograph the beautiful barn and the old farmhouse that lie at this southern edge of Walsall Wood, and whose fields overlook the Coppy Woods, the former Goblins Pit, The farm bordered on the part of the village once called Pepper Alley and Bullings Heath.
British History on Line has this to say in an article from 1974:
’The lord of Shelfield manor was holding two courts a year by 1317, (fn. 14) and in 1632 he was said to possess view of frankpledge. (fn. 15) Otherwise the evidence shows Walsall Wood and Shelfield as part of Walsall manor. (fn. 16) In the earlier 19th century pinners for Walsall Wood and Shelfield were appointed at Walsall manor court. (fn. 17) There was a pound at Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, at the east end of Green Lane, in the earlier 1840s. (fn. 18)
Shelfield formed part of Cannock forest by the later 12th century, and the wood of Walsall was mentioned in 1199-1200. (fn. 72) The woodland was still extensive in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. (fn. 73) By 1843, however, 21 a. at Paul’s Coppice and 6 a. at Goblins Pit were all that remained. (fn. 74)
Early clearance was presumably around the settlement at Shelfield. In 1086 a hide of arable there was waste. (fn. 75) By 1317 there were three common fields. Town field lay on either side of the present Field Lane and was bounded by Mill Lane, Ford Brook Lane, Coronation Road, Spring Lane, and Birch Lane. Another field, called Wadgreve or Wadgrene in 1317, Watgreave or Thorneyfield in 1766, and Thorn field by 1784, lay north of High Heath. A third, Rodbardesfeld, is probably identifiable with the 18th-century Pool field, which lay west of the heath and north of Coronation Road. All three fields were apparently still open in 1766 but had been inclosed by 1819. (fn. 76) The common fields, however, were small, and by the later Middle Ages most farm-land was probably held in severalty. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries farming was mainly pastoral, with stock consisting of cattle, sheep, and some pigs. Rye, oats, and barley were grown. (fn. 77)
By 1576 much of the waste round Shelfield had evidently been inclosed; it then consisted of three commons, Shelfield Green (later Birches Green), Colliers Ford Heath (probably the later Coalheath), and High Heath. At Clayhanger 160 a. of ‘sterile ground’ was held in severalty; the rest of the Walsall Wood area was one large common. Squatting on the waste, however, had already begun. A house and 4 a. at Walsall Wood and a cottage on High Heath were recent encroachments. (fn. 78) In 1617 a shop and 8 cottages stood on the waste; 6 cottages had been built recently. (fn. 79) By 1763 there were 124 encroachments at Walsall Wood, 11 at Coalheath, 10 at Green Lane, Shelfield, and Irondish, and one at High Heath. The waste, however, was still extensive. The southern commons, High Heath, Shelfield Green, Coalheath, and Moss Pit Green to the west of Shelfield, covered 37 a.; Walsall Wood and Clayhanger Commons formed a single stretch of waste of 504 a. (fn. 80) The part of Walsall Wood Common south of Lichfield Road was known by 1805 as Holly Bank Common. There were then some 218 encroachments; 25 were at or near Shelfield and the rest in the north, 99 being on Walsall Wood Common. (fn. 81) By 1843 the northern waste, though still continuous, had been further reduced; Clayhanger, Walsall Wood, and Holly Bank Commons covered c. 365 a. (fn. 82) In 1876 the surviving commons, altogether 350 a., were inclosed under an Act of 1865, partly for agriculture and partly for new roads and houses. (fn. 83)
The area of farm-land was greatly reduced to make way for housing after the Second World War. By 1974 four farms remained. Grange farm west of Green Lane consisted of 177 a. used for dairying and corn-growing. Dairy farm in Hall Lane, c. 70 a., produced beef, barley, and potatoes. Shelfield House farm consisted of 63 a.; 8 a. was under barley and the rest was used for dairy cattle, pigs, and poultry. Vigo farm was a 12-acre small holding. (fn. 84)’
The 1891 census shows that a Mr. Thomas Butler, aged 54 and born in Darlaston was the only farmer in Hall Lane. In the 1861 census a Mr. John Eadon was the only farmer listed in Hall Lane.
I think we can go back in time to the 1750 Tithe Map:
Here we see Hall Lane where it joins Green Lane at Bullings Heath. The straight vertical line is only the join of two pages of the plan. The thick black line seems to indicate the limit of the tithe area and the boundary with Walsall Grammar School land, and has no plots or buildings showing.
The small enclosure ‘11’ shows a’ Mr. Davison’and ‘Rickyard’ – a farmyard where ricks of hay where stored. Is this the site of the barn was built? Did a certain Mr. Henry Rowe keep his hay there, or Mr. Davison?
I would like to thank Mrs.Toms for allowing me to take the photographs of her farm, and Mr. Peter Cutler, researcher extraordinaire, for his invaluable help, too
David Evans, march 2014