Deforestation? The Chase in 1930


From a forthcoming treat, supplied generously by David Evans, a map of Cannock Chase and surrounds, dating from about 1930. Click for a larger version.

A nice thing here from the young David Evans that I’ve been meaning to share for a while: an unusual Ordnance Survey based map of Cannock Chase and environs in about 1930.

It comes from a 1947 cycling booklet which I’ll share in full another time – but I don’;t want to distract from this wonderful bit of cartographic history. Note that Rugeley challenges Cannock for Size, and the sprawling villages of Chadsmoor, Green Heath and Hednesford yet to be expanded. There are lost names here too, like Furnace Coppice, Bevin’s Lane, Cherrytree Slade and Benty Hill.

But the most remarkable thing is the lack of forestation, and the amount of collieries marked. Little woodland exists around around Sherbrook Valley, Milford, Wolsely Plain or Brindley Heath – it was not until after the Second World War and the Forestry Commission that Cannock Chase was re-wooded.

Have a good look of this, and see what you can find. The more you look, the more you see – it’s a cracker, and I’m really grateful to David for sharing it.

What have you spotted? Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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16 Responses to Deforestation? The Chase in 1930

  1. Geoffp says:

    Thank you Bob and David for sharing that fascinating bit of history. I suppose that the deforestation was due to the demand for timber for pit-props (I have seen a similar thing in South Wales)

    One of the more interesting things that you see when you enlarge the map is the network of railways connecting the collieries with the main lines, although the Littleworth Tramway only runs as far as the Hednesford Basin of the Cannock Extension Canal and not onwards to the LMS main line through Hednesford. The canals must have still been busy with coal traffic in 1930.

    • Pedro says:

      Spotted this…

      In March 1927 a Ministry of Transport enquiry was opened at Wolverhampton into a scheme put forward by the Cannock Chase Coal Owners Association for the construction, at a cost of over half a million pounds, of a light railway for the Cannock Chase coalfields to link with the Great Western Railway.

  2. Pedro says:

    There is an article on the Blog, “This wild land of heather and gorse”, a description of Cannock Chase from 1925…

  3. Pedro says:

    In June 1948 the new-formed Cannock Chase Comrades took a ramble on the Chase. They visited the famous Nun’s Well situated in the Court Banks Wood.

    On the 1930 map above (towards bottom right) Nun’s Wood is shown in Court Bank Covert, and also shown is a site of old Abbey.

    On the the modern map the wood is not named and the Abbey is gone. Nun’s Well is the subject of the latest post on Lichfield Lore…”Soul Sister”….

  4. Pedro says:

    The Love Affair with Cannock Chase, Rainbow Valley….

  5. Keith Bradbury says:

    Written sources say the deforestation of the Chase happened over a long period and was due to several factors. These included charcoal burning, sheep farming ( there was a local breed called the Greyface ) and even rabbit farming. The reforestation began again in small areas in the late 19th Century by pit owners to provide pit props. I have a 1912ish photo of Tackeroo with maturing pine trees to the North. However, much of the Chase remained heathland during the time of the Great War camps as many a soldier wrote home to tell about, what with windy winters and the like.

  6. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Almost fifty years ago, a Ford Transit van, property of South Staffordshire Waterworks, was speeding on its way between Hednesford and Brindley Bank Waterworks. The passenger was an elderly bricklayer whose service with the Company was almost lost in the mist of time, and whose mission, this particular morning was a little light maintenance work on the fabric of the building.
    About a mile or so along Rugeley Road, the old man glanced to his left, to the heavy forest beyond the railway line, adjacent to Brindley Heath, to the trees whose maturity was shown by the distant density, and murmured, half to himself, “Look at them trees, I planted hundreds of them buggers”. And so he had. His story gave an interesting sidelight on the ‘hungry thirties’ and the afforestation programme for parts of Cannock Chase.
    Life had not always been so cosy for old Stan, my passenger. Picked up at his door, taken to his place of work, collected at the end of his working day and deposited back home. His biggest battle seems to be the ‘screws’ which affected many outdoor workers at his time of life. It had not always been so. Zero Contract appeared to be the norm in certain industries in the 1930’s. Stan was employed by the waterworks, but only if they had work for him. Personnel employed within the Company on water duties, e.g. watermen, mainlayers, engine-men, station foremen, waste inspectors, all had traditional job security, but peripheral trades were used ‘as wanted’. The system worked like this:- A waterman would visit Stan’s home to tell him of his next job. It was Stan’s responsibility to get there on the day agreed. Bus fares were paid by the Company, but as Pumping Stations were often remote buildings, quite a lot of walking was required from many bus routes. Stan was paid at a modest hourly rate. After the job was finished he was unemployed until the next engagement, which accounts for his next venture.
    HC Deb 12 June 1934 vol 290 c1523 1523
    18. Mrs. WARD
    asked the hon. and gallant Member for Rye, as representing the Forestry Commissioners, whether the Forestry Commission have any land for planting on Cannock Chase; and whether, having regard to the local demand for timber for pit-wood and the available supply of local unemployed for the work, they will undertake planting in the immediate future?
    § Colonel Sir GEORGE COURTHOPE (Forestry Commissioner)
    The Forestry Commission still have land for planting on Cannock Chase, and will plant a further 160 acres next season.
    Stan registered as unemployed, the only way to keep the wolf from the door, or ‘on the Labour’ as we used to term it. The local M.P. was Sarah Adelaide Ward, surprisingly enough, a Conservative representing a traditional mining area, who lived at the Grange Farm, Green Lane, Walsall Wood. Mrs Ward was understandably concerned about fit men doing nothing to earn the unemployment pittance, hence her question regarding afforestation, and the comments made by my old friend, all those years ago.

  7. Andy Dennis says:

    Very interesting.

    Cherry Tree Slade was part of one of my Dad’s favourite walks. Forgotten? It’s on the map I use: OS Explorer 244 1:25k, admittedly (c) 2004.

    Hospital at Shugborough? WWI?

    • Pedro says:

      There is something on the Blog concerning the Hospital, but I can’t locate it. Maybe in the comments.

      I seem to remember that is was left unused after the War and there was an argument as to the ownership. One of the Collieries won the case, and it was used as accommodation for miners: later degenerating to bad conditions??

  8. jimbob says:

    Pine forests aren’t native to the Midlands our natural woodland is predominantly Oak and the landscape of the Chase today is a product of the interference by 1930s politicians. If nature had been left to take its course then by now great Oaks would dominate and the native ecosystem would be flourishing instead of the Scandinavian pine factory it is today.

  9. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    the ( was this a POW camp in WW2?)..and another camp, near Chapel Hill are intriguing, as are the old butts, which may the butts referred to in a Brownhills soldier’s
    diary of WW1 times.There seems to be some sort of a camp along Marquis Drive, too

    kind regards

  10. Charlie Hutton says:

    Hi Bob,

    I’m working on a landscape project at The White House on the junction of Penkridge Bank Rd & Marquis Drive on Cannock Chase. I would like to use the image to demonstrate the post-war afforestation as part of my report, but I’m wondering if its more of a OS copyright issue?

    Do you have any further information about the pre-1980s building on this site, or indeed, any records of its demise in the fire? My remit is just to gather information about the White House & the surrounding area. I have details of the railway & WW1 camp but any additional or supplementary info or images that I could use would be incredibly helpful.

    The purpose is to develop a more appropriate landscape/garden layout for the existing property. Its a prominent corner & steeped in so mush recent history so would be good to better integrate it into the surrounding environment. Any help or pointers appreciated! Email address below.

    • BrianGrice says:

      Hi Charlie
      I was born on Brindley Village in 1938 and left in 1954 when it was demolished,
      My father was the caretaker on there from 1934 until it closure,
      Remnants are still there if you know were to look,
      The Brindley Village Legacy Group ( started by two ex-Villagers put on an exhibition at the Museum of Cannock Chase in October last year, ( assisted with a generous grant b the Lottery fund,
      I have lots of info “maps and photos “ if you like to look at them,

  11. John Bennett says:

    The Hazel Slade prefabs are on it so must have been very up to date in 1947.

  12. There are lost names here too, like Furnace Coppice

    Anything to do with this?
    “Unlikely as it might seem, it was the Chase and not south Staffordshire which had the first blast furnace in the Midlands. It was built near Hednesford for Lord Paget in 1561. The Rising Brook provided the water power.”

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