Dead ground?

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Barnetts Lane cemetery isn’t as old as many folk might think. Imagery from Bing! Maps.

I’ve had an interesting enquiry from Laura Watkins, about the cemetery in Barnetts Lane, Brownhills, and it’s a little unusual in nature. I think it’s best if I let her explain in her own words.

Hi Bob

My husband and I are looking to buy a house on second avenue, Brownhills.

I came across your very detailed blog as i was trying to research the area of Brownhills and Barnett’s Lane cemetry, as the house we are looking to buy, backs on to this cemetery. I noticed you are very passionate about the history of Brownhills and have lots of information, so I was just wondering if you could help us.

Do have any infomation on the cemetry? as the house is no 12 on the avenue and it is at the very end of the cemetry, where very old graves are, there is a grave stone very close to the garden fence, I just need to be assured that that house is not built on any graves or indeed in the garden! Or failing that do you have any information as to where i can find this out?

Any information you have would be a great help.

Kind Regards
Laura Watkins

Well, Laura, for starters, building on a cemetery has been illegal in this country for a very, very long time, and the procedure for disturbing graves for any reason is legally very complex for obvious reasons. Such grounds – even very, very old ones have a huge amount of legal protection and it’s unlikely you’d find a house built on one, or with bodies interred in the grounds (unless it was a converted church – there are a few locally).

If this is the case, the graves and their position have to be notified by law.


Postcard showing the Avenues Estate just after construction.

Second Avenue was built by Brownhills Urban District Council in the 1930s, and was in the process of being built, or was very new when the 1938 1:10,560 scale mapping of Brownhills was drafted in 1938 (the fact that the houses there are outlined means the Ordnance Survey knew of them, but they hadn’t yet been surveyed accurately).

Note the lack of a burial ground behind:

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Ordnace Survey 1:10,560 map fragment of The Avenues Estate and Daisy’s Field (centre right) from 1938. Note the lack of burial ground to the West of Second Avenue. Click for a larger version. Map from the National Library of Scotland archive site.

There’s an interesting meditation on ‘The Avenues’ – once described as ‘Garden City, Brownhills’ in this post from last year.

Barnetts Lane cemetery – created from land that used to be called Daisy’s Meadow or Field by my generation, was constructed in the early 1950s and opened in 1954.

The history of St. James Parish Church states the following:

[1952] The new Barnetts Lane burial ground was purchased and laid out at about this same time. Although ready, it was not consecrated and could not be used until the new Bishop of Lichfield had arrived in the Diocese. With burial space at a premium some graves in the Great Charles Street Cemetery had to be dug in every available space in the already full graveyard. Visitors will notice that graves were placed wherever room could be found, many in pathways and some not facing in the traditional easterly direction This situation was to last until July 1954.

At last and with great relief to the Parish, Barnetts Lane cemetery was consecrated for burials on the 1st July [1954].

So the cemetery didn’t come into existence for 20 years after the adjacent houses were built.

I hope this puts Laura’s mind at rest, and should your purchase come to fruition, welcome to Brownhills!

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22 Responses to Dead ground?

  1. This comment, from Kathy Bull, was left on a different post, but intended for this one.

    Kathy wrote:

    hi iam trying to send a message to laura the lady enquiering about the barnets lane cemetary well i lived at no 12 second avenue from 1950 to 1970 when i got married growing up with a cemetary was a bit scarry as a youngster but i can say it was the best years of my life when you drive down barnets lane and the houses on the right have been there for years but when i was little there was an old house by where the gates to the cemetary are and i visited the old lady all the time she was called miss barnett when a funeral was on she would open and close the gates,she new my mom and dad she was a lovely old lady she made me laugh if her tea was hot she would pour it in the saucer and blow on it ,her kitchen was an old scullery with just a cold water tap but i loved to go and visit ,i would go through the bottom of our garden ,well if you do move into no 12 i hope you are as happy as i was all those years ago all the best [kathy bull ] was cooper then .

  2. Jenny Parry comments on Facebook:

    I lived in 2nd avenue then 3rd avenue from 1950 until I got married, my dad and his family lived on the corner of 2nd & 3rd avenue at no 3 from when the houses were built. My grandfather used to take me walking over the field where the cemetery is now it was a meadow , we used to pick mushrooms on that field there were horses grazing , it was a lovely field with buttercups and clover , and lots of other wild flowers. In the far corner at the bottom of Barnetts lane there was a wood cutter , if I remember correctly he had a big saw in the open air and used to cut logs. At the bottom of Barnetts lane there were a row of cottages , my mom used to take me visiting her friend Shella Williams who lived in one of the cottages , they Had toilet at the bottom of the garden the toilets were emptied by the night soil men. I have lots of happy memories of that field , my parent’s are both buried in the cemetery so are lots of lovely people I have known through my lifetime and they were all lovely people

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you Kathy, Jenny and to Bob for taking the time to reply! You have all helped me a lot! And put my mind at rest So nice to hear you had happy memories living in that house Kathy, and in the area Jenny. Also thank you for the well wishes!

  4. mickysix says:

    HI BOB,
    as you know i was bought up in number 5, which is just off the cemetery. We used to cut thru Bentons garden into Barnetts Lane and to cross the rail lines to get to the park. There were plans for the cemetery, but no cemetery was there at that time so it probably mid 60’s when it started. I am sure that Jen and Kathy will remember better than I as to when it opened, certainly not when i was in the choir as St James was still in use at that time.
    P.S Thanks for retweeting my blog Mike

  5. rob says:

    I remember an old lady with geese living in a cottage about where the car park is in barnetts lane,one the geese died and she buried it with a head stone,my father was buried there in 1961 his grave is about the 7th row from barnetts lane so it must have opened mid 50’s

  6. mickysix says:

    I have put in a request to the church as to when Barnets Lane opened, Let you know as soon as i receive a reply

    • Mick, it’s listed in their documented history, linked above. That’s a direct quote from the St. James history book, available from the church website.

      They are the operators, they know this stuff in and out; Gt. Charles Street was absolutely rammed and they started using Barnetts Lane as soon as they could.

      Sometimes our memory is not linear. As you write more of your history and think more about it, you’ll begin to discover what w all do; some of the stuff we hold as a timeline is horribly distorted by our own memory.


  7. kathy bull says:

    hi its kathy here i wondered if jenny parry could tell me her maiden name as we may no each other ,also laura i have looked at mom and dads old house no 12 it looks lovely so modern and fresh i hope you really enjoy your time there .

  8. Carl says:

    As I live in Barnetts Lane itself I have found this topic very interesting, particularly the story of the old lady with the Geese having a cottage next to the car park, Mine is the house adjacent to the car park and was wondering which side the cottage was and what sort of period are we looking at when the lady lived here?

    • kathy bull says:

      hi its kathy like i said our house was 12 second avenue we backed onto the cemetary i remember the houses being built in barnetts lane because the fields were all dug up i was only about 9/10all the houses in our row were over run with mice my mom[granmar] would put traps down every night it was xmas and we got up and they had half eaten the chocolate santa well fanny barnetts old cottage was the oppositt side right were the gates are i thought the world of her and visited nearly every day to this day i have a wooden sewing box that was hers it has about 5 layers of cloth on it any way hope this helps in a little way .

  9. rob says:

    Carl,ican remember the old lady and the cottage from about 1959/60 when the houses were built in barnetts lane, the cottage as I can remember was opp the last orig semi’s at the bottom that’s where barnetts lane ended at the cemetery gates

  10. mickysix says:

    Thank you for info Bob, I cannot believe that i did not look at the actual copy of this which I have, WHAT AN IDIOT I AM.

    • Mick

      You’re certainly not an idiot. I do this kind of thing myself – we all do. Part of the fun of our common foraging into history is when we confront stuff we would swear is true, but doesn’t fit with the evidence.

      We all have a built in impartiality called ‘confirmation bias’ which leads us to subconsciously favour evidence that supports our already held view. Exploring that bias is challenging and fun.

      I’ve a history of overlooking things, forgetting them and missing massive clues; but the readers help and it all adds to the fun.

      Read a post I published a couple of years ago called ‘Echoes’ (can’t link from this device, sorry) and it explores this.

      The History of St. James is a terrific work which I always forget to check myself

      Take care

  11. mickysix says:

    Thanks Bob,
    I much appreciate your words, i will look up your post ECHOES write soon Mike

  12. Chris says:

    Hi There, my gran was one of the first burials in barnetts lane, right up in the corner, but too poor for headstone. Her name was Hayward.I’ve tried to find out where but no luck. I think Willenhall lawn cemetry have records.

  13. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Do we know why the lane is called “Barnetts” ?..I understand that one of the youth club’s leaders there was a certain Bill Barnett, some..many.. years ago… Have I missed something in an earlier post, please.
    kind regards

  14. mickysix says:

    Not kept up on this blog but yes there was a Club leader called Bill Barnett and also a Church Sunday schoolteacher called Helen Barnett and I have forgotten where she lived!

  15. Lisa says:

    Me and my husband brought a house on the avenues 11 years ago and I have often wondered some of it’s history, thank you for this, it was really interesting 😃

  16. Does anybody know if no:12 second avenue is haunted because we did hear it was??

  17. kathy bull [nee cooper] says:

    hi its Kathy don’t no how old the ask from the lady is but as I said before I lived at no 12 second avenue and no it wasn’t haunted at all,just the opposite a happy house especially when all the family were in together we would go to the old club then called breezes [middleton house ]have a sing song a bottle of vimto or a ricky back to our house for cheese and onion cobs ,we weren’t well off but always lots of laughs and love, I no its changed and I have lived in cornwall for 34years but I still get tingles when I read stories about it I will allways be a Brownhills girl.

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