A few weeks ago I posted a remarkable and very popular post by the young David Evans about a lost Methodist Chapel that was located in Catshill – possibly the first such place of worship in Brownhills – that provoked a large amount of discussion about the Catshill area itself.
I’ve been meaning to post ever since this rumination on the area by noted local historian Sir Gerald of Reece, who wrote the definitive work on our town’s history, ‘Brownhills, a walk into history’ – it’s a small piece that raises as many questions as answers about Catshill and I think it’s a great discussion piece for a Sunday.
Gerald here has actually corrected a misconception of mine – I always thought FH Gordon was the brickworks at Walsall Wood Colliery, which is clearly incorrect – so we do indeed learn something new every day.
If Sir Gerald is reading this (and I hope he is) thanks for a great article from what is a wonderful book and I hope you’re keeping well. There will always be a pint in the Hills for you old chap, and I can assure you the debating society is still going strong and as purse-lipped as ever, whatever the weather.
I’m sure some of you will have something to say – particularly on the Cutha postulation. This is persistent through local folklore and was even immortalised in the Brownhills Urban District Council Crest, the orgins or which are somewhat… open to debate.
You know the drill – comment here, or mail me: BorwnhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.
Gerald Reece wrote:
From Ogley Road to the Anchor Bridge the area on both sides of the High Street was known as Catshill in Under or Lower Stonnal in the Parish of Shenstone. The Common and Waste lands here were Inclosed in 1811.
A small area of land adjoining the canal on High Street side was known as Catshill in Walsall Wood in the Township of Walsall Foreign. The common and waste lands of Walsall Wood were inclosed in 1876. Shire Oak Common had been inclosed previous to this by John Smyth, Lord of the Manor, with the consent of the freeholders.
Catshill is the oldest inhabited area of Brownhills. Much speculation has been made concerning the origin of its name. Take your pick from the following authoritative accounts:-
- Catshill or Canutes Hill, here were two barrows (burial mounds) of Roman or British
- The Tumuli is Prehistoric.
- Cutha, an Anglo-Saxon Chief, is buriedhere. He was the brother of Caewlin, King of
Wessex. He was killed in battle in 594 AD.
- The brother of Caewlin is buried here,he was killed in the battle of Cutha.
Cattshill or Cutteslowe or Catteslowe.
- Catshill was a hill frequented by cats.
The remains of the ancient inclosure and any burial mounds that may have existed were destroyed in 1797 when the Wyrley and Essington Canal cut through the area.
At Catshill Bridge the Wyrley and Essington Canal forks. The right branch is the Hay Head Extension that passes through the Brickyards of Walsall Wood and the Limestone Workings at Daw End before joining the Tame Valley Canal at Rushall Junction. This forms a 21 mile circuitous route via Wolverhampton. Near to Catshill Bridge was the Canal Toll Post. The following charges were suggested when the Canal opened in 1797:
Although it is outside the bounds of Catshill, The Brownhills Brick Works merit a mention. It stood near to the present Clayhanger Bridge and had loading wharves at the canal side. Amongst its products was a building brick with a distinctive impression.
Francis Harry Gordon was the entrepreneur who established the Brick Works here in the 1870’s. He also had other business interests in North Staffordshire. The Brick Works covered an area of 7 acres. The large crater made during the excavation of the clay can still be seen. The clay measure here was 30 ft. thick. The buildings of the works included three drying sheds, the largest one measured 150 ft. x 30 ft. and had a cast iron plated floor.
There were three 7 holed burning kilns, two dwelling houses and an Engine and Mill House. The machinery and plant included a Cornish Steam Boiler measuring 20 ft. X 6 ft. 3 ins. A Horizontal High Pressure Steam Engine with a 16 ins. Cylinder. This had a stroke of 2 ft. 10 ins. And a 9 ft. Fly-wheel. There were also two Capital Cameron Steam Pumps and a Brick Cutting-Off machine.
The Brick Works were closed down in 1896, its trade had been undercut by the neighbouring Walsall Wood Colliery Brick Works. After several abortive attempts to reopen the Works as a going concern it was finally sold for its plant and machinery by William F. Gordon, J.P. of Lichfield, he was the son of Francis Harry. Many buildings in the area can be dated from their usage of F. H. GORDON bricks.