The Cape crusader

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On the lower flanks of Shire Oak Hill, The Cape. But where, exactly, was it? Imagery from Bing! Maps.

It’s been a long time since I featured a big article by the young David Evans, and I intend to correct this shameful deficit in coming weeks, as the backlog of articles by the top Walsall Wood historian is becoming huge and every one is a gem.

David recently wrote this remarkable piece, and it does suggest a solution to a thorny question that’s persisted for a while: where was ‘The Cape’? I’ve heard a number of theories, and tend to favour the one that says the old cottage on Friezland Lane and it’s environs are it.

I believe the cottage there that still survives – perpendicular to the lane – is old, possibly one of the oldest buildings in Brownhills. I think there was a farm there long before Brownhills and Walsall Wood existed, and early maps show Friezland Lane existing merely to serve it.

David’s discovery seems to reinforce this idea. Like Bullings Heath, the name seems to have died out, but I think we’ve rediscovered it and recorded it’s existence for posterity.

Thanks to David for his patience and hard work – I’m very proud to be able to feature work like this here on the blog.

More to come over the next few days and weeks.

David wrote:

Christmas 5 - Version 2

Some local names persist, some are lost. The Castles has mutated into Castlefort, I guess. A wonderful postcard scan from Ruth Penrhyn-Lowe.

Walsall Wood and ‘The Cape’.

The village of Walsall Wood has seen many changes over the years. The construction of the canal, the sinking of the coal mine, and the urbanisation of the cluster of former hamlets into the present-day Walsall Wood.

Some of the names of the original settlements and features have survived, some have been lost in the mists of time. The Vigo, the Castles, the Brook, Lovers Lane, Bullings Heath, the Wood (now the High Street!) the Tank Tracks, Vigo Pool, the Cutting, the Fold, Streets Corner, Craddocks Corner, Ingles Row, The Coppy Woods, the Playing field, but among all of these the name that always intrigued me most was The Cape.

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An iconic aerial view of Walsall Woo looking up the High Street to the North East, taken by Aerofilms in 1926. Image supplied by David Evans.

My grandparents lived in their cottage in Brownhills Road, opposite the schools, and some of my classmates lived in Occupation Road, which was sometimes described as being near the Cape, but more usually ‘past Ruddocks Corner and round (sometimes up) The Cape’, by my grandparents who had lived in this cottage from 1900 to 1964.

In the 1926 aerial photo of the village you can see Brownhills Road running from left to right in the top quarter of the image, and running parallel to this, and above the slope, a small lane which does a left dogleg turn. There is a cottage on the bend here, and a few houses further along this Occupation Road, and this lane leads to Friezland Lane. This is the area in question.

The Plan is from the 1871 Inclosure plans. I pay thanks to Hilary Little for her sterling work in photographing the whole document and to Brownhills Bobs blog for kindly publishing this in its entirety in the blog.

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From the 1871 Enclosure supplied by Hillary Little.

What is shown as ‘Catshill Lane Road’ on this plan is actually Friezland Lane, and the ‘Aldridge Road’ is Brownhills Road. The narrow lane that completes the rectangle of lanes has dwellings along it, and one building is shown as ‘ Walsall Wood Club’. This lane is now called ‘Commonside’ and is the part of the lane that has Shire Oak Academy’s sports fields to the Northern side of the lane.

So, perhaps this may be the area, or house, or lane, or feature that was called ‘The Cape’. Is there any other document that may support this assertion?

Very recently I was delighted to be able to view the deeds to one of the pre-war houses that are built along this part of that lane, and on the same side of the lane where ‘Walsall Wood Club’ and the few other dwellings once stood, and which can just be discerned in the 1926 photo.

The house was built in the 1930s.

The abstract of title includes reference to the large piece of land on which 12 houses stand, including the one whose documents I was allowed to view. I thank the kind houseowner and his good wife for their kindness and generosity.

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A segment of the 1876 Walsall Wood Inclosure map, showing the Cape area. Streets Corner is centre, bottom, and Anchor Bridge would be just off the top and to the right.

The Abstract is a typed copy of the history of transactions for their property and the land on which it is built. I was keen to see the address details! In the part of the document that is dated 16 December,1948 these two sentences appear ;-

‘ALL THAT messe or dwlghse with the outbldgs and appurts thrto belong sitte fronting to and Nod.XXX (I have omitted the number) Occupation Rd The Cape Brownhills in the Cy of Stafford Togr with the land frmg the site and curtilage throf.’

And in the same schedule, also of the same date this sentence;-

‘ALL THAT messe or dwlghse with the outbdlgs and appurts thrto belong sitte fronting to and Nod XXX Occupation Rd The Cape Brownhills in the Coy of Staffrd…’

Also included in the documents I was shown, a letter from Brownhills Urban District, dated 19th January 1961 informs the owner of a change of house number and road name. This part of Occupation Road was changed to Commonside, Brownhills.

The house retains the number and Road Name to this day.

I think we can now place ‘The Cape’, which seems to have been a small settlement which included a dwelling called Walsall Wood Club in 1871.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the kind local gentlemen and his wife who so readily have allowed me to view these documents.

David January 2015

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19 Responses to The Cape crusader

  1. Graeme Fisher says:

    The postcard at the start of the article with a view of the Castles; always known as that by this Son of Stonnall born in 1960. Where is Castlefort? I don’t know that place……

    • peter says:

      Hi Graeme, in the blog archives there are many references to Castlefort and the location of the “Fort”, in trying to tie up Stonnall and Castlefort, search in the archives on this blog for “The lost post of Stonnall”
      This post describes and illustrates how the Chester Road at the junction of the Chester Road changed course and direction over the years but some of the mapping shows the location of the fort, there is still some evidence today of it’s location although I think it is on private land???
      All the best
      Peter

      • I think there’s a chance that Graeme was being humorous!

        Cheers
        Bob

        • peter says:

          oh dear me…….. how silly, still, gave me a chance to re-read through the article, had forgotten some of the information and enjoyed the article again……………..

          Keep up the good work……..

          Peter

  2. Ann Riddell nee Marlow says:

    This brings back lots of memories. Les Jackson lived in the bungalow in the 1950’s. Les and Edna Jackson ran a grocers shop up Shire Oak Hill, between Streets Corner and Holly Lane. Bates was on Streets Corner and Lakins on the corner of Holly Lane. Do you remember a wooden construction/ hut where Mr. Yeomans used to charge the accumulators? I think it was next to Mrs. Blakemore’s wool shop. As a child I always thought a murderer had lived in the big house on the left down The Castles near the junction with Chester Rd. My grandad used to take me a walk round the Tank Tracks when I was small.

  3. PorkTorta says:

    My nan always referred to the Friezland Lane half of Occupation Road as The Cape. Mom still does, and that’s what we always called the area growing up.

  4. Christine says:

    Occupation Road runs from opposite Oak Park past what was Ruddicks house and pig farm and it stops at the last bungalow which was also owned by Ruddicks. Commonside then starts and this area was always known as The Cape. I have a friend who lived in Commonside as a child long before the school and new houses were built and she always calls it The Cape. When you cross over Friezland Lane and continue down Commonside on the left hand side is Cape Close. ??

  5. snatchmo says:

    We used to play in the area behind the houses opposite websters shop in Friezlsnd lane ,which had a large mound ,which we called the”Cape” many happy days there.

  6. peter says:

    The young David Evans has clearly been keeping out of mischief, and putting his time and effort into some fantastic research, quietly ferreting away in the background talking to the right people about the right things. A long running question within the Local History section of this blog has been “Where is / was the Cape” a bit like Pepper Alley. David has certainly discovered evidence to show properties that were within the Cape, but why was it called “The Cape”?
    The word Cape would immediately bring to mind a cloak, a sleeveless overcoat or suchlike, but what about the word Cape meaning a headland or promontory? One origin of the word Cape can be found in the Latin word “caput” meaning head. Could the “Cape” in this context mean the outlying headland or promontory? Bob himself states that Friezland Lane may have existed only to reach the old cottage at the junction of Commonside and Friezland lane, long before anything else was there, could this have been considered the outlying headland?
    Just a thought!
    Congratulations to David for his original research and digging up the evidence to support his theory.

    All the best

    Peter.

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Many thanks for weaving your wand and turning notes in to this super presentation…now, Lovers’ Lane…..!!
    kind regards
    David

  8. Trev says:

    Why was Occupation Rd named?

  9. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Over a cup of tea , slice of home-made fruitcake,and a chat..some families who lived in the dwellings by, the Walsall Wood Club in the Cape;- the Davies family, the Curley family, Mrs Holt, the Smith family and the Dufty family. I wonder if any of their relatives may know how the settlement gained its name. We may also find out why Occupation Road is so called.
    kind regards
    David…and the cake was delicious!

  10. Elizabeth Ashford says:

    I was born in the cape next door to the smiths our name was Tonks 1948

  11. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob,
    and another name, courtesy of David Oakley. A gentleman named “Jotter” who lived in a caravan in the field by the bend at the Cape. Ring a bell,anyone?
    cheers
    David

  12. David Evans says:

    Hi Peter
    I think Roger Mosedale’s comment in the Friezland Lane WMC articles gives us an answer, why is it called The Cape….originally Caperneum Road!..
    David

  13. Stephen charles says:

    I think it was jimmy davis who lived in the caravan up the cape he was always fighting rastus clenton up the station hotel I lived in 98 commonside from 1967

    • James Davies says:

      Hello Stephen, my name is Jimmy Davies, great to here from someone who new some of the people from the Cape. First of all I want to put the record right I lived at 66 the Cape known as Occupation Road in the Farm House over the road from Rudducks bungalows. I was born their in 1947 i grew up knowing most of the people who lived their,went to the school on street corner, Mrs clenton was my teacher Barrys mom great lady, left the cape 1956 to live in Brownhills, the farm house was knocked down for new builds never lived in a caravan, ok my friend Jimmy Davies

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