I love it when I ask an innocent question here that I think is throwaway, and through some mistake I make, or some side debate, a whole new historical vista opens up – and this has been the case this week the the history of Sandhills, Shire Oak, and the Brawn and Lane family dynasties.
If you don’t follow comments on articles, it’s worth paying a visit to this growing thread. It all started when I posted a newspaper article about air raid emergency exercises in 1940, and I got the location of Sandhills House utterly wrong; my correction article the following week took off like a rocket.
By way of overlapping connections, the young David Evans has been paying close attention. In the following article he prepared yesterday, David explains his interest and hopefully expands the topic a little further.
I thank David for a lovely, lovingly-researched article, and I commend readers to explore the links within. Yet again, I have been humbled by the readers and contributors.
Long may it continue. Thanks to you all.
David Evans wrote:
The stretch of the Lichfield to Walsall road, the A461 at Sandhills, Shire Oak has always intrigued me. I got to know it as a schoolboy passenger on my way to and from King Edwards Grammar School in Lichfield, aboard the trusty blue no 16 double decker bus… initially one equipped with slatted wooden seats in the upstairs.
Crossing from Shire Oak revealed a panorama unlike that I had known until then. Fields, beautiful beech trees, gently rolling slopes, and in the distance the three spires of the Cathedral in Lichfield.
The beautiful lodge and long driveway down to the large Victrorian house brightened my morning ride as I began to imagine what life for the farming community was, and had been in times long since passed.
I started to research the history of the area – often called Sandhills – a long time ago.
As time went by I got to know the family that lived in the cottage pictured above. I wrote an article about Jenny, which Brownills Bob kindly published in February 2012 (‘Tools for the job’) and with the kind help of Julian Ward Davies of the Stonnall History Group, obtained part of the 1850 Tithe plan for this little hamlet, Sandhills.
So I was truly delighted to see that Brawns farm and estate appeared, in the blog article last week ‘Never forget the Tools‘ in which our two researchers par excellence, Peter Cutler and Andy Dennis, plus several other helpful readers have assisted me in ways I would not have been able to manage by myself. We have really been able to expand this story.
There had been another cottage, (Plot 103) which intriguingly was not there in 1850. Jenny called this cottage Brawns cottage so when I saw reference to it in the information I received in private e-mails from the Andy and Peter, my eyes lit up. This cottage was unlike the others along the road, only one of which remains.
It was a fine building which stood back from the road a little, It had a high roof which sloped down just above the downstairs window level. There was a central porch, a bay window at the side. The tile pattern to the roof showed a mark of quality and design. Some tiles were diagonal pattern, I remember.
The wide drive at the left hand side led round to an attached large barn/stable with large doors. The was a verandah to the kitchen. I knew that the kitchen had a large range or Aga cooker, and unusually there were stairs leading upstairs from the kitchen.
Who lived there, and when? This is what the readers found for me, and what I delighted to present the following news clipping:
Did the cottage ever have a name? Jenny recalled an elderly lady and another lady who lived there ‘for many years’…
Caroline C. G. Brawn died 4 July 1935 age 74 at Oldhams Hall, The Schools, Shrewsbury, the home of her daughter Ethel.
According to the Lichfield Mercury 12 July 1935 Mrs Brawn was interred at Stonnall and was the last surviving granddaughter of Thomas Pavier Jackson of Hammerwich Hall. Floral tributes were many, but included: ‘All at Spinney Cottage; Miss Arrowsmith and Miss Lane’
It seems the cottage contents were sold six moths later.
Then, very recently, I was shown this beautiful Victorian silver locket and chain which had been given to a young girl who lived nearby, by the kind old lady who lived in Brawns cottage. The locket has remained a treasured childhood memory, by the girl,who is now in her 80s.
Oh yes, and what about Jenny ,who lived in the cottage at plot 102?
The little farming hamlet with its simple cottages, farm labour and then collier community has largely faded away over the years, and with it a way of life.
Like the Brawns, Jenny is also buried in the cemetery at Stonnall Church, though in a more modest, plain grave.
I would like to thank all those whose background research and kind help has enabled me to compose this article
David Evans, September 2015