A lovely one here from 1862, spotted by the wonderful David Evans, who I’m glad to hear is now getting well back into the swing of things.
It seems that in 1862 – over 150 years hence – people were moaning and driven to take legal action over the state of local roads, so it seems little has changed. Interestingly enough this case didn’t succeed, but it does raise some very interesting points about locations and place names.
Note also the familiar names here: Charles Forster Cotteril was the ex-Mayor of Walsall and Victorian wideboy who carved up the manor of Ogley Hay, basically to pay his gambling debts, and is absolutely the man responsible for the modern shape of Brownhills – but I think his father may also have been alive in 1862, so I’m a bit puzzled here. Can anyone shed light on that please?
Was the Charles Forster here a rich man engaging in mischief?
If you have any comment, please feel free, as ever – comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. you can even give me a shout on social media.
David Evans transcribed:
A charge against the surveyors of highways for Walsall Wood
At the Rushall petty sessions on Tuesday last before J E Bealey and Charles Forster Esq, Mr Barnes, of Lichfield appeared on behalf of Joseph Cooper to prefer a charge against the surveyors of highways for Walsall Wood, for having neglected to keep in good repair about 704 yards of the road leading from Walsall to Aldridge and also about 544 yards of the same road at another point. Mr Barnes produced a plan of the road in question, with the portions neglected to be repaired marked off, and called witnesses to prove the case, and the liability of the surveyor to make the repairs.
William Horton, Upper Stonnall, bricklayer, aged about 70, said he had resided at Stonnall all his life. When young he was apprenticed to John Simcox, who kept the Tiger Inn, Stonnall. He knew the Castle-lane and was in the habit of going along the lane till its junction with a road leading down the common across Shorter’s Row, past Holyhead-House, also a house occupied by James Hood, keeping close by the hedge till it reached a point on the turnpike road between the Boot and the Jockey public houses. Sometimes he passed along this road three times in a week and other times not above those times in a month, and never either going or returning was he stopped by any one. He had also seen other parties drive along the road. In those days the road was much better than now, there not being so much traffic along it as now.
Cross-examined by Mr Ebsworth – The road crosses the Walsall Wood common. There is another road, but not quite so near. The time he referred to was about fifty years ago, but had not used it for many years. There was a gate put upon the end of the Castle lane about thirty years ago. There is a cottage beside the gate. The cottage was built about twenty years ago, and a person named Hood, who resided in the cottage, kept the key of it. About fifty years ago the common was not so cut up as it is now, and he drove where he thought proper.
By Mr Wilkinson – The gate was put up at the end of Castle lane for the purpose of keeping the cattle grazing upon the common from trespassing upon the land in the occupation of the farmers whose fields adjoined the lane. Samuel Swan, Aldridge, labourer, aged about 68, said he was born in the neighbourhood of Stonnall and with the exception of two years had resided there all his life. He had been in the habit of going and returning from Walsall by that road. The road which was by the side of the common was a bad road, but he had driven horses, carts and waggons along it, which was the direct road from Stonnall to his uncle’s farm at Pelsall.
Cross-examined – It was a bad road. Had turf all over, and he used to drive where he thought proper. There was no proper road.
By Mr Bealey – I did not always take the same track. I varied it like others.
By Mr Wilkinson – I never knew the road to be repaired by any one
Re-examined – It was when the track was bad I left it and went with my team upon the common.
By Mr Wilkinson – The road on one side separates the common from private property, and there are several gates from these premises communicating with the road.
At this stage of the proceedings the Bench suggested that evidence should now be called as to the repairs of the road. Mr Barnes accordingly called Ann Beardmore, aged 67, widow, Norwoods brick-kiln. She said her husband, Henry Cooper,was surveyor of the Walsall Wood district about forty years ago and did some repairs to that portion of the road which passed their farm, which lay between the Aldridge Road and the canal bridge.
Cross-examined – I knew did repair the road, because I saw him do it.He put a cart-load of stones upon it in the ruts caused by the wheels of the carts. The materials were got off his own land.
Re-examined – I cannot say where the stones were got from. I know we collected the stones off our fields and piled them up in a rick upon the common. He may have taken those.
By Mr Wilkinson – about 300 yards were all that was repaired
Frances Hood,wife of James Hood, Holly-bank cottage,aged 73, said she had lived in Holly-bank cottage fifty-one years last Lady Day. The cottage was one the side of the road, but there was no proper road. She remembered Henry Cooper being surveyor. She refused to pay the highway rate till the road was repaired, and Mr Henry Cooper repaired the road. He did the repair on two different days, and then she paid the rate.
By Mr Wilkinson – she never on any other occasion refused to pay the rates till the road was repaired
Cross-examined – I have paid every one who was surveyor until an arrangement was come to by my landlady, Miss Billston. I am not aware Mr Green is assistant way warden. I know Mr Arblaster. Yes, I have paid him highway rates. Mr Arblaster – you never did. The stones you threw in to the ruts by Mr Cooper may be seen to this day
John Leadbetter, aged 64, now an inmate of the Walsall Union, said for about nine years previous to last Christmas said he had done certain repairs just to the edge of the common, but not a shovelful was put upon the common.
This being the case for the application, the Bench consulted for a short time, and said the case had so signally failed that the Bench did not think it necessary to require the opposition to call witness.”
Walsall Free press and General Advertiser, 06 September, 1862