Doctor Fell

This is just a quick one, as I thought we needed to get at least a little bit of history in at long last – and this one has piqued my curiosity, as my antenna always twitch when I hear subsidence legends.

This is a request for assistance, and I’m not saying anyone is right or wrong, but I’m curious. Amongst the old guard and rapscallions of the blog contributoria there, has been some low level debate about the pits that existed south of Chasewater and the assertion by Mavis Woodhouse and the Clarice Mayo/Geoff Harrington book that a cottage between White Horse Road and Pool Lane ‘fell into a pit’ at some point.

The coal seam south of Chasewater was very shallow, there’s no doubt about that; and the bell pits there were numerous too. There was also the J.B. Cox pit, at about where the Chasewater Stadium stood; much later, Oscar Johnson built the trotting track on the patch of land in question.

What I’m after is the cottage itself: who lived there and what became of them? Are there any reports of a collapse? Did it actually ‘fall into a hole’, or was it, like the house at the top of Chasewater Dam, a gradual decay caused by subsidence rather than a sudden drop?

There is a historical and social tendency to overstate subsidence as a phenomena in mining communities. Whilst it’s absolutely possible for a cottage to sink into the ground suddenly, was it really like that? If so, one would imagine it made the news in some form.

I decided to go looking. As Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler points out, there is a building that may well be a cottage on the mapping – in this case the 1915 1:10,000 map for the are in question:

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1915 1:10,000 scale map of the area bound by White Horse Road, Pool Road and Watling Street with the missing building highlighted. Click for a larger version.

These buildings are mapped right up until the 1947 edition, although that means little with mapping lag. Then I remembered the aerial imagery supplied by Gerald Reece, date 1948 – there’s clearly no cottage or otherwise there then:

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In this 1948 image of the area, some depressions can be seen to the west of the spot where the buildings were, and possibly witness to the shape of the grounds. Image kindly supplied by Gerald Reece. Click for a larger version.

Then there’s the 1963 aerials from Gareth Thomas at Lichfield District Council, which actually show something very interesting:

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On this 1963 aerial image, the witness of the grounds of the missing building is clearly evident as a tilted rectangle in rough scrub, possibly with a depression on it’s western side. Image generously supplied by Gareth Thomas at Lichfield District Council. Click for a larger version.

I decided to do some Google earth overlay stuff with the 1918 map and the 1963 image, to see how the rectangular witness lined up with the cottage location.

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If you zoom into this image by clicking on it, you can see that the faint outline of the map tallies with the witness in the landscape.

So, the rough rectangle with the depression to the left on the 1963 aerial was the location of the cottage. Just for completeness, where does that fall today?

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So, if you want to find the location of the cottage, it was justly the bottom bend of the trotting track, as this overlay on current Google Earth imagery shows. Click for a larger version.

All contributions warmly welcomed. Comment here, or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers!

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14 Responses to Doctor Fell

  1. Pingback: Doctor Fell | Gaia Gazette

  2. aerreg says:

    RE THE COTTAGE POOL LANE ARE YOU REALTING TO THE ONE DIRECTLY OPPOSITE THE OLD COXS PIT IF SO THE GATE WAY TO WHERE IT STOOD I BELIEVE IS STILL THERE THE BUILDING WHENT DERELCT SUBSIDENCE TOOK PART ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THER POOL LANE PREDOMANTLY NOT THE LEFT GOING FROM WWATLING STREET AER REG THERE WAS A WALK PATH FROM WHITE HORSE ROAD TO THE COOKOO IE THE WATER GUAGE AS I RECALLED WE CALLED IT
    HAPPY DEBATE ARE REG

    • Andy Dennis says:

      Glad to see it’s not just me that remembers it being known as the Cuckoo! It’s not me that is cuckoo, after all.

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    1891 census. “Nr Watling St Old Cottage” occupied by John Jackson, 65, widower, living on own means.
    1911 census. Possible record between Hednesford Road and the Lamb Inn. “The Hollies”, 6 rooms, occupied by Joseph John Wigley, “contractor builder” employer in connection with Oakley & Wigley. From news reports it appears Messrs Oakley & Wigley, builders, were based in Stonnall in 1896, but Brownhills in 1908.
    I will have a mooch round later on, but I suspect little if anything remains.

  4. Pedro says:

    January 1894…Norton under Cannock school board election, nominations…

    RICHARD HICKIN, Wilkin Cottage, Brownhills,

    • Andy Dennis says:

      1901 census Richard Hickin at “Nr Wilkin” not far from Albutts Road.
      1891 census Wilkin Lane Wilkin Cottage Thomas Rowley, 38, checkweighman, then Edward Griffith, 40, coal miner, next Wilkin Inn. OS 1st series shows pair of semis just about where the two bungalows are today.

  5. Pedro says:

    In the article “Old Ground” there is a map supplied by Gerald Reece, pre 1838.

    If you zoom in, is there a structure that could be the very cottage?

    http://brownhillsbob.com/2013/12/08/old-ground/

  6. Ann G says:

    I asked Mavis Woodhouse this evening what more she could remember about the cottage that she tells was there one day and then not the next i.e. disappeared into a hole. She dates this memory as necessarily have been between 1938 and 1944 since she was at the Watling Street School. She says she can recall it was derelict- “in ruins” – but certainly the whole edifice had collapsed into a hole in what must have been only a matter of days given that she frequently walked in this area. She adds that many small (6-8 ft in diameter??) “holes” were always appearing and filling with water – children were warned off walking in the area. She says the holes often had various kinds of marine life in them, and that one day her cousin Pam fell into one of these whilst trying to look at the small fish (? tadpoles?) therein. This gave rise to a real telling off, since no-one was sure how deep these holes were – seems most had sloping edges which gave a false sense of security.. Mavis cannot recall just where the derelict cottage was, and has no recollection of the “cuckoo” nomenclature of any such building. So yes, it would seem that this was subsidence that suddenly the sink hole or gave it’s final wheezing breath and put paid to the creeking ruin above its previously fragile crust.

  7. aerreg says:

    re the cuckoo i gather questions are being asked it was located by te outlet bridge at the brownhills side if the dam it was on the right hand side it was an over flow pool in the centre was a concrete guage to some it was called the nine foot it showed the water levals of the pool the over flow path was made of good old fation blue bricksand led to the canal basin i always knew it from a lad as the cuckoo but i dont know the reason the delapidated house onthe chase side was once a collie managers house there was also a small row of cottages there in bason valley was bloxams cottage i have been asked about coxs pit the subject of safety came up i pointed out the flat caps instead of safety hel mets also the early days no saftey lamps their light was a shucky cosisted of a taller candle fixed to a litle dish by a lump of clay pick and shovel the only tools as there was no electricty in the pit in the those days talking of electricity the cannock colliery company was one of the early pioneers of supply it provided colliery property and miners cottages with a 110 volt supply now you would not have slept tonight if i hadnt told you all that would you god bless from aer reg

  8. aerreg says:

    corection note should read cannock chase colliery up sorry aer reg

  9. Andy Dennis says:

    Yes, the cuckoo was the basin downstream of the nine foot pool. I suspect the origin of the name is lost in the mists of time – my father didn’t know, so I guess his father didn’t pass it on either. There is a Cuckoo Bank beyond Chasewater, but that is obviously unrelated.

    Anyway, I mooched and found nothing that remains of the house. Presumably, it was all levelled when the trotting track was laid out. There is no sign of subsidence today, the infield is pretty flat.

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