Of King and Council

Some years ago, I featured an article here from a local paper believed to be from the early 1960s, when Brownhills Urban District Council were making moves to turn Chasewater into a pleasure park, the end result of which was significantly different to the lofty ambitions outlined here.

The Council Crest – I believe a variant of this may have been used by Brownhills Comprehensive or another local school in the 70s. Click for a larger version.

One of the points mentioned in the article – scanned from a clipping held by the wonderful Audrey Proffitt and kindly shared with blog researcher and local historian David Evans – was about the Brownhills Urban District Council seal – it was an interesting design as seen here.

Now, the seal is based heavily on the legend that Saxon King Cutha was buried on the Stonnall side of Shire Oak Hill and this, while this is clearly enough to dampen the underpants and stimulate the creative juices of some local historians, the myth seems to have little basis in fact.

The myth has been skirted around previously here with the coverage of the Lost Stonnall Hoard and my slightly misplaced derision over some of the wilder guff spoken about the Staffordshire Hoard.

I just can’t help feeling that had there been a ‘Battle of Shire Oak’ (and not just the crush at closing time in the pub) leading to the burial of a king we’d all be a teeny bit more aware of it.

The original report carried the following explanation:

I found the council’s intricate seal particularly intriguing. It depicts the Saxon chieftain Cutha, who was buried after being killed in battle at Shire Oak. The Staf­fordshire Knot is incorporated, and the figure 1894 denotes the year of inauguration of the urban district council, which adopted the seal in 1930. Aptly the motto reads, ‘No turning aside.’

David has been delving into the minutes of Brownhills Urban District Council, and has found the following passage which sheds more light on the myth as it was believed at the time:

From Brownhills Urban District Council Official Minutes, Volume 21:

At a meeting of the Council in Committee, held 2ndJuly 1930
Present Messrs T Cox(chairman), J Baker, E Birch, J Blakemore, S Breeze, H Cliff, H Emery. HJ Holland, R Humphries, F Peake, H Simmonds Dr J Stewart
 
page 36, minute 166
Council Crest. The Chairman, Mr Holland and the Clerk were authorised to prepare a design for a Council Crest
 
page 54,  minute 247
At an ordinary meeting of the Council held on 13thAugust 1930

Council Crest and Motto. The Clerk submitted a design for the Council Crest and a suggested Motto, as prepared and approved by the Chairman, Mr H J Holland and himself.
 
It was resolved that the words ‘Nemo Nos Aversos Videbat’ (no stepping backwards) be adopted as the Motto, and that the Crest be a representation of Cutha the Saxon Chieftain whom history records as having been buried in the year 584 A.D. near Catshill on the slope of the Shire Oak hill on the Chester Road. Further that this device be adopted as the Common Seal of the Council
 
volume 23
At a meeting of the council held on 8thFebruary 1933
Present; Messrs HV Emery (Chairman) J Baker, ST Breeze, H Cliff, F Peake, HJ Simmonds

minute 540
Common Seal. Mr H Peacock (Additional Sanitary Inspector) presented the Council with a representation in colours of the Council’s Common Seal. The Chairman expressed the Council’s appreciation and it was decided that the framed design should hang in the Council Chamber. 


So it seems that ‘history recorded’ Cutha was buried at Catshill, on the slope of Shire Oak Hill near to the Chester Road. Remarkable.

You know what I’m going to ask, don’t you?

It’s the mid-Christmas lull. I’ve caught up with things just about. The food is lying heavy on the tum like a royal corgi. Researchers, roustabouts and the commentariat: Where was this recorded, if anywhere, and is there any justification for it whatsoever? Contributions from the village on the far side of the hill welcome. Double barrelled contributions will need to get permission from their mum and make a significant monetary contribution to the running of the blog before posting – everyone else welcome.

If you have a view, please share it. Comment here, hit me up on social media or drop me mail: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

I include the original post below for completeness:

The young David Evans has been doing sterling work of late, talking to the Proffitt family about Councillor William Henry Proffitt, who was a highly respected member of Brownhills Urban District Council for many years. William was part of the Hyla John Holland era of the authority, believing in good social housing, health, sanitation, slum clearance and open spaces for all.

The Proffitt family have offered some stunning material, like the news clipping below, detailing the plans for Chasewater, newly renamed from Norton Pool. They are clearly ambitious, and didn’t quite come to fruition. In these cynical days it’s easy to knock – but these were optimistic people in an enlightened time when public spending was perceived to be for the public good.

I’d like to thank David and the Proffitt family for their generosity and hard work that has enabled some remarkable history to be uncovered. Please stay tuned for more.

I have no information as to the date or source paper for this, but I suspect early 1960s Wasall Observer or Express & Star. Clipping from the Proffitt family collection. Click for a larger version.

The council in session

By William V. Jolly,
our municipal correspondent 

NOT content with the valuable. contributions which its rich coal seams have made to the county’s wealth in the past, Brownhills urban district has far-reaching plans for welfare and recreational facilities for the people of South Staffordshire.

Breaking ambitiously into the field of public enterprise, members of the council have obtained control of one of the largest stretches of water in the Midlands area and aim to turn it into a pleasure centre for the young and old.

The scheme, estimated to cost £54,000 in its initial stages, would transform Chasewater (formerly known as Nor­ton Pool) into a Mecca for sailing, rowing and motor boating, swimming and paddling – not to mention the tennis courts and putting greens, against a background of embank­ment and ornamental gardens.

Within a very few years the council considers there would be days on which something in the region of 50,000 people would seek pleasure and recreation there.

Council ownership would pre­vent trashy and undesirable fea­tures, such as merry-go-rounds, sideshows and skittle alleys.

The scheme has already captured the imagination of many sporting organisations, who are bound to back the council’s request to Staf­fordshire County Council for financial support.

OPEN SPACES

Parks and recreation grounds, however, have always had a prominent place in the plans of this urban district council and the area, happily, is now well served by open spaces.

This has proved to be an important asset in the council’s development plans – plans which include dwellings to house overspill families from Walsall and Birmingham.

In 1931 the council embarked on direct labour scheme policy and to date more than 1,145 homes ihave been erected by the department.

The council now owns 2,280 houses, 877 of which have been built… [Last line of clip missing] …Walsall overspill scheme 112 houses have been completed already, and and building will continue at the rate of 55 houses a year. Starting next year, there will also be 50 houses a year for the people from the congested areas of Birmingham.

New industries are being attracted to the area, the council having developed 26 acres for this purpose since the war. Another site of 26 acres is being prepared.

Brownhills U.D.C. seal, as described in the article.

Meanwhile, the council is pressing ahead with slum clearance schemes which, in the next five years, will add 600 houses to the total of 189 already demolished. More than 1,000 people living in slum dwellings have already been rehoused.

CIVIC CENTRE

When the credit squeeze is relaxed the council hopes to put in hand redevelopment plans for the High-street area which will include a new civic centre.

Improvements have been carried out to the district’s sewage disposal works and new plans ‘on the drawing board’ include one for the Clayhanger area, estimated to cost up to £40,000.

The council is responsible for 50 miles of roads and the majority of these have been improved by the installation of new lighting systems.

I found the council’s intricate seal particularly intriguing. It depicts the Saxon chieftain Cutha, who was buried after being killed in battle at Shire Oak. The Staf­fordshire knot is incorporated, and the figure 1894 denotes the year of inauguration of the urban district council, which adopted the seal in 1930. Aptly the motto reads, ‘No turning aside.’

There are 14 members on the council, the longest serving coun­cillor being Mr. S. T. Breeze, who was first elected in 1928. The chairman  Councillor William Henry Proffitt, is also a county councillor.

Mr. Norman Waine, clerk to the council since 1929, was formerly at Sandown, Isle of Wight.

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6 Responses to Of King and Council

  1. Rob Sollom says:

    A version of that seal was used as the badge for Shire Oak Grammar School, the subsequently the Shire oak School when it went Comprehensive in the early 1970’s I think I still have it on the front of my old report book.

  2. Patrick Hall says:

    Rob i still have it on my old school cap

  3. andkindred says:

    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records: Ceawlin and Cutha fought the Britons at the place called Feathanleag. Cutha was killed; Ceawlin took many towns and countless spoils of war, and in anger turned from there to his own place. According to Wilipedia Feathn leag is thought to be near Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire. No record of a burial place has been found. Bearing in mind how long it would take to get from just this side of Bicester (near M40 J10) to Catshill, it seems unlikely that he would be buried there, even if his body was being taken to Tamworth, seat of the kings of Mercia. The battle was a defeat for the West Saxons, so their official accounts record few, if any, of the embarrassing details. Andy

  4. Reg Fullelove says:

    its a shame they didnt have the control of the water levels when they were making the plans for the future cajse water facilitys it became a bit of a white elephant after a while so sad

  5. Neil says:

    Hi bob great article…sadly we can never know the truth about these legends, all the money spent researching the Staffordshire hoard never really told us how it ended up in that field. We can’t even agree what happened here locally in WW2 (home guard, ARP or tank training) let alone over a 1000 years ago! Keep up the good work. Cheers.

  6. Pingback: Cutha and the crest | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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