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.
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.
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.
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.
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