Feeling the bumps

There’s quite a void in the woodland to the north of Coppice Lane; it’s the depression in the tree canopy central in this drone shot by Pete Hummings.

As I’m catching up (and I really am now, so folks waiting for articles to be posted – hang in there, especially Lynn Lynn who’s been very patient indeed) I’m getting more local history stuff up here at last, which after all, is why most of you are here, and it’s been a long time since we did any historical physical geography.

To this end, I’ve had this remarkable article in from long term friend and contributor  Andy Dennis, whose own blog is turning in some remarkable and wonderful articles – please do check it out here – but this one examines the genesis of a deep void on Brownhills Common that I’m sure many locals have debated for years.

Brownhills Common – particularly the stretch between the old railway embankment and Marklews Pond hides it’s secrets and remarkably undulating landscape well, and I often wonder if it isn’t ripe for some decent LIDAR imaging or small-scale archeology. There’s real history there (The publicly available LIDAR mapping sadly has a gap just where we’re interested – see here.)

This is a great article raising some fascinating points and I thank Andy for it.

OS 1:25,000 mapping shows the hexagonal nature of man-made ‘Teezer’s Spinney’, highlighted.

Andy talks about the curious hexagonal copse the other side of the Chester Road near the site of the old Midland Railway station, and christens it ‘Teezers Spinney’, which is ace. The wood was clearly man-made during the conifer planting on the common in the post-war period – but in the 1970s, I’m sure that somewhere near that woodland was a shallow, gravel and sand lined pool, fed by a drainage pipe coming out of a slope to one side.

The pipe I remember being about a foot in diameter, and light blue, coming through a brick or concrete bulkhead, and it trickled with clear water. The pool was shallow, and had frogs and toads in it.

What’s puzzling me its that today, I can find no trace of it at all. Did it really exist, or am I having a recovered memory moment? Does anyone remember this pool? If so, where did it go and can traces be located still? Why did it dry up?

Comments on this or Andy’s wonderful article below are welcome – comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

The void itself is deep and will have taken a lot of work to create. Image kindly supplied by Andy Dennis.

Lumps and bumps on Brownhills Common

A short way to the east of Marklews Pool is a deep hole. On the OS 1:25,000 mapping (Explorer 244) it is outlined by a 150m contour about 75m by 60m. I guess it is about 12-15m deep. I always assumed this was a collapsed bell pit and, perhaps, the earliest mining on the Common. The give away is the ring of spoil at the perimeter, which is classic shape of a collapsed bell pit, but it is far too big.

In Brownhills A Walk Into History, by Gerald Reece, there is a plan on page 98 (R98) showing the location of various pits around 1800. It seemed likely that number 1, towards the SW corner was in about the same place.

A map of early mines on the common, as featured in ‘Brownhills a Walk into History’ by Gerald Reece. Scan kindly supplied by Andy Dennis.

On the face of it, comparing R98 with a modern OS map ought to be straighforward. I began by measuring the base lines on R98 and this gave me an average scale of approximately 1:4,960. Next I printed out an OS map to the same scale. The most prominent features on the common are the conifer plantations and some old 1:10k mapping suited. But when I placed one over the other there was a clear mismatch.

The OS map was too narrow, east-west, and too short, north south, by more, and the Chester Road simply did not fit. This was no great surprise. Although theodolytes had enabled reasonably accurate triangulation, the reference points were not set against a national grid as they are today, so most maps before the 1820s will not match modern ones.

I should mention here that the north point on R98 is a few degrees west of OS, but anyone who knows about using maps for navigation understands that magnetic north migrates over time. Rotating R98 makes no difference to the fit.

There is no error by Gerald, it’s just the way of things.

I rebooted my somewhat antique notebook to access a long superseded version of Photoshop Elements. This would allow me to use the OS as a base layer and overlay it with R98, which crucially, I would be able to distort to get some kind of match. And here is the result.

The map overlay created by Andy from Gerald’s plan and modern day mapping.

The lighter area is my distorted version of R98. I have maximised saturation of the OS map so it shows through better. I admit it could be tweaked a bit, but I think it allows reasonable comparison of the locations of old pits on R98 and the stands of pines today

Now I appreciate Gerald Reece wrote that the mines were filled in, but it was worth wondering whether there are sill visble signs. I’ve never found anything compelling, but there are some undulations in places that fit some of the old pit locations. The most obvious of these is ‘Teezer’s Pits’ coinciding with the hexagonal plantation just north of the Chester Road. I am tempted to dub this Teezer’s Spinney.

Teezer’s Spinney has always fascinated me – but do you recall a shallow pool near here? Image kindly supplied by Andy Dennis.

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6 Responses to Feeling the bumps

  1. ” I’m sure that somewhere near that woodland was a shallow, gravel and sand lined pool, fed by a drainage pipe coming out of a slope to one side.
    The pipe I remember being about a foot in diameter, and light blue, coming through a brick or concrete bulkhead, and it trickled with clear water. The pool was shallow, and had frogs and toads in it.”

    I remember the pool just as you describe – probably from the 1980s – and as you say, with never much water in it.

    I picture it nearer to the school and roughly equidistant from Watling Street and the Parade. BUT I don’t have the best of memories!

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I wonder if this is where Watling Street schoolchildren used as an air raid shelter in WW2 and referred to by Mavis Woodhouse in her articles some while ago
    A big thanks to Andy for this amazing article
    kind regards

  3. Tony Thacker says:

    I remember this place, I have tried to work out where it was but have had no luck in locating it. Perhaps it was filled in when they planted all the trees 50 years ago.

  4. Pedro says:

    Looking at the OS 1:25,000 to the NW and across the footpath from the hexagonal plantation, there is another plantation set up like a spanner….did someone have a sense of humour?

  5. aerreg says:

    on the subject of ginny pits there was the bostid onion between the midland bridge and the rising sun it was on the left hand side on a small hillock GEORGE JONES tried to reopen it without success later i think he opend a pit by the rising sun by the way before ime hung at the old finger post the term bostid onion was a name the old locals used sorry about the gobbly goo but it may bring a history smile another point it was said water was also pumped from the green pit to top up brownhills reviera norton pool thnks for the memory god bless the boffins

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