Any road up?

Chasewater: It’s history keeps throwing up surprises.

I’ve been busy with real-world work most of this weekend, so apologies for the reduced power in transmission, but here’s the first of two interesting articles I’ve had in from Ian James, both regarding the history and physical geography of Chasewater.

In the past, there have been several discussions and articles here about the old roads that existed prior to the modern urbanisation we have today – Gerald Reece and Andy Dennis have both speculated about the lie of the land with regard to the old highways, as can be seen in this article by Gerald and this one by Andy.

Before Chasewater existed (or to give it it’s original name, Cannock Chase Reservoir when it was created in the late 1790s) it appears an old road ran through it: The Coventry Road.

Here, Ian looks at the mapping evidence using one of Gerald’s maps and other resources, including this 1963 aerial photo to investigate what may be a visible trace of the old road.

Thanks to Ian for this – it really is a great spot.

What do you think? Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at googlemmil dot com.

Ian James wrote:


For some reason or other I was looking over old maps of the Chasewater area.

I found the 1760 (about) map before the reservoir was built.

Gerald Reece’s original map. Click for a larger version.

The map is labelled ‘Fig 3: Manuscript plan about 1760: Reece, p91.’

I rotated the map so north was pointing upwards and added annotation where I could make out the handwritten original text.

I remembered the articles where the shadows in the field from aerial views were looked at for evidence of mines and other buildings.

Then I compared the 1760 map with the 1963 aerial map on your website.

A section of the 1963 aerial image from Lichfield District Council: Does it show a trace of the old Coventry Road. If so, is it still discernible? Click for a larger version.

If you look at the path running NNW from where the Parade meets the A5 and compare it with the rotated 1760 map there is a good match.  But if you enlarge view of the field south of Chasewater, you can see the a continuation of the path as a faint shadow in the field.

The line is a good fit for the 1760 “Coventry Road”.  A well trodden path would not have left sufficient evidence in the field for the aerial photograph to pick up that level of detail so it is more likely a historic feature such as a road.

I overlayed the very old map with one from before the M6 Toll and Burntwood Bypass to check for correlations.  There is a trivial amount of stretching required to get the lining up of main features but that is consistent with printing and copying discrepancies that may have crept in.

The 1790 plan overlaid with pre-M6 Toll mapping. Image Kindly supplied by Ian James. Click for a larger version.

I wondered if there was any interest from an archeology point of view.

Work in the area since 1963 may have wiped out the surface view but some evidence within a spade ot two is likely to be there still.

Ian James

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3 Responses to Any road up?

  1. Brian Edwards says:

    Okay. Maybe this is some form of folklore, but as child in the 1950’s I can remember walking along what seemed as a road from the corner of where the Whitehorse pub stands or stood toward Norton Pool. The road ran at an angle and every so often there were indentations each side of the road as if the land had collapsed. I was told that this was due to subsidence and each indentation was where a house had originally stood. Whether this has any baring on this story I have no idea but it was “just a thought” as Bluebottle would say.

  2. aerreg says:

    chasewater there is a legendary true story of brownhills bog as it was many years ago there was a highway man well known for holding up stage coaches by the crown finger post his escape route was a path through the bog to chasetown sadly the law of that time had no knowlege of its where about but knew where they find him his plee of not guilty was he had been in hostilery hours it could not have been him they had had to go the road way to chase town he was never caught NOT A MITH sadly a very old historian now past on used to tell me many facts and figuers of many local locations i beged him to write them down sadly he never did god bless

  3. andkindred says:

    Hmmm. Interesting.

    This is a valiant effort, but I believe two things have been overlooked: the 1818 plan (Reece p93); and the migration of the north pole. These two things can be brought together to suggest a modification.

    1. 1818 plan. This clearly shows “Old Ironstone Road” along the line of the manorial boundary, which ran about 150 feet west of and parallel to Howdles Lane. This is covered by my piece on “Old Roads” referred to in the post (thanks, Bob!) By that time the Coventry Road, or Blake’s Road, was disused, but the 1760 plan shows that road diverging from Watling Street at the junction with Ironstone Road (now Howdles Lane). There is another source for this in Old Roads.

    2. Migration of north pole. On the 1818 plan the line of the manorial boundary is approximately 25 degrees east of north. On a modern map it is about 3 degrees west of north. Therefore in just about 200 years north had moved approximately 28 degrees westward, about 0.14 degrees per year on average.

    The main difficulty is that back in 1760 mapping techniques were nowhere near as sophisticated as they were by the early nineteenth century, when standards began to approach what we recognise through the Ordnance Survey today. If you measure the variance between the Ironstone Road line and the north point on the 1760 plan (Reece p91) you get only 17 degrees, but I suggest this is a fault of mapping technique (not an error by Gerald Reece, I hasten to add).

    However, if the annual change is produced backwards to 1760, a further 58 years, the north point should be a further 8 degrees west, that is about 33 degrees west of current north. The composite map appears to be anchored at the common known location of Five Ways at Heath Hayes. If you draw a line on that composite map from Five Ways to the junction of Howdles Lane and Watling Street, you will find an angle of 34 degrees from north, which I suggest is close enough.

    So, to get at the true relationship between 1760 and the present, the 1760 plan must be rotated by about 34 degrees anticlockwise, centred on Five Ways.

    I appreciate this is a topic fraught with technical difficulties, but hope that this approximation gets somewhere close.

    Andy Dennis

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