Your chance to meet a local history legend next Friday!

Gerald Reece flyer

Why not print out a few of these flyers and pass them around?

This is a reminder that this coming Friday, the elder statesman of Brownhills local history Gerald Reece will be giving a talk in Brownhills on the subject. This popular and knowledgable historian last gave a talk in Brownhills in 2012, an event which is very fondly remembered and raised £520 for MacMillan Cancer Support.

Gerald will give his talk at Brownhills Methodist Church in Silver Street, Brownhills on 28th November, 2014… Gerald, of course, wrote that definitive work on our town, ‘Brownhills: A walk into history’, a book upon which this blog has leant quite heavily over the years.

This time, the presentation will be amplified, as I gather a few had trouble hearing last time, and there will also be a visual display along with the talk. The first part of this one will be concentrating on the Manor of Ogley Hay, and the second on the planned Brownhills new town in the mid nineteenth century.

Gerald is a fascinating and engaging man, expert in his field, and from what I can ascertain, has plenty of remarkable and new material to share. Seats for the 7:30pm talk are a snip at £3 a pop, and all proceeds will be going to Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity which I feel we all can get behind in their essential work.

If you’re not sure why Gerald is so highly regarded, read this fantastic section of his book ‘Brownhills:  A walk into history’ about Catshill, and it’s origins. It really is excellent.


From Ogley Road to the Anchor Bridge the area on both sides of the High Street was known as Catshill in Under or Lower Stonnal in the Parish of Shenstone. The Common and Waste lands here were Inclosed in 1811.

A small area of land adjoining the canal on High Street side was known as Catshill in Walsall Wood in the Township of Walsall Foreign. The common and waste lands of Walsall Wood were inclosed in 1876. Shire Oak Common had been inclosed previous to this by John Smyth, Lord of the Manor, with the consent of the freeholders.

Catshill is the oldest inhabited area of Brownhills. Much speculation has been made concerning the origin of its name. Take your pick from the following authoritative accounts:-

  • Catshill or Canutes Hill, here were two barrows (burial mounds) of Roman or British
  • The Tumuli is Prehistoric.
  • Cutha, an Anglo-Saxon Chief, is buriedhere. He was the brother of Caewlin, King of Wessex. He was killed in battle in 594 AD.
  • The brother of Caewlin is buried here,he was killed in the battle of Cutha.
  • Cattshill or Cutteslowe or Catteslowe.
  • Catshill was a hill frequented by cats.

The remains of the ancient inclosure and any burial mounds that may have existed were
destroyed in 1797 when the Wyrley and Essington Canal cut through the area.

At Catshill Bridge the Wyrley and Essington Canal forks. The right branch is the Hay Head
Extension that passes through the Brickyards of Walsall Wood and the Limestone Workings at Daw End before joining the Tame Valley Canal at Rushall Junction. This forms a 21 mile circuitous route via Wolverhampton. Near to Catshill Bridge was the Canal Toll Post. The following charges were suggested when the Canal opened in 1797:

For all Coals, (except Slack or small and inferior Coal for the Purpose of burning Limestone or Bricks), Coak, Iron, Ironstone, Rockstone, Bricks, Tiles, and other Minerals, (except such as shall have been brought from the said Wyrley and Essington Canal, and for which the Sum of Nine-pence per Ton shall have been paid as aforesaid), which shall be carried or conveyed upon the said intended Canal or Cut, and not pass through a Lock to be erected at or near Catshill aforefaid, the Sum of Nine-pence per Ton, and so in Proportion for any greater or less Quantity than a Ton :

For all Coals, Coak, Iron, Ironstone, Rockstone, Bricks, Tiles, and other Minerals, for which the Sum of Nine-pence per Ton shall have been paid upon the Wyrley and Essington Canal, or upon the said intended Canal, and shall afterwards pass through any Lock to be erected at or near Catshill the further Sum of One Shilling and Three-pence per Ton, and so in
Proportion for any greater or less Quantity than a Ton :

For all Coals, Coak, Iron, Ironstone, Rockstone, Bricks, Tiles, and other Minerals, which shall be produced or gotten from or
out of any Lands or Grounds situate below the Lock at or near Catshill and shall be carried or conveyed upon any Part of the said Canal between Catshill and Huddlesford, the Sum of Two Shillings per Ton, and so in Proportion for any greater or less Quantity than a Ton :

For all Slack or small and inferior Coal for the Purpose of burning Limestone or Bricks, Limestone and Lime, which shall be carried or conveyed upon the said Canal or Cut, and not pass through a Lock to be erected at or near Catshill aforesaid, the Sum of Sixpence per Ton, and so in Proportion for any greater or less Quantity than a Ton :

For all Lime for which the Sum of Sixpence per Ton shall have been paid upon the Wyrley and Essington Canal, or upon the said intended Canal or Cut, and shall afterwards pass any Lock to be erected at or near Catshill aforesaid, the further Sum of Nine-pence per Ton, and so in Proportion for any greater or less Quantity than a Ton.

Although it is outside the bounds of Catshill, The Brownhills Brick Works merit a mention. It stood near to the present Clayhanger Bridge and had loading wharves at the canal side. Amongst its products was a building brick with a distinctive impression.

Francis Harry Gordon was the entrepreneur who established the Brick Works here in the 1870’s. He also had other business interests in North Staffordshire. The Brick Works covered an area of 7 acres. The large crater made during the excavation of the clay can still be seen. The clay measure here was 30 ft. thick. The buildings of the works included three drying sheds, the largest one measured 150 ft. x 30 ft. and had a cast iron plated floor.

There were three 7 holed burning kilns, two dwelling houses and an Engine and Mill House. The machinery and plant included a Cornish Steam Boiler measuring 20 ft. X 6 ft. 3 ins. A Horizontal High Pressure Steam Engine with a 16 ins. Cylinder. This had a stroke of 2 ft. 10 ins. And a 9 ft. Ry-wheel. There were also two Capital Cameron Steam Pumps and a Brick Cutting-Off machine. The Brick Works were closed down in 1896, its trade had been undercut by the neighbouring Walsall Wood Colliery Brick Works. After several abortive attempts to reopen the Works as a going concern it was finally sold for its plant and machinery by William F. Gordon, J.P. of Lichfield, he was the son of Francis Harry. Many buildings in the area can be dated from their usage of F. H. Gordon bricks.


The impression on a F.H. Gordon brick, as drawn by Gerald Reece.

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2 Responses to Your chance to meet a local history legend next Friday!

  1. fullilove roger says:

    Hi Bob

    We have exchanged emails before, I am associated with the Fulleloves of Brownshills. I wondered if you might use your blog to mention my WW1 song book, The Sport of Man. Many thanks

    Roger Fullilove

  2. Clive says:

    I`m looking forward to Geralds talk on the local area, save me a seat at the front Dave…lol

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