The mystery over the long lost tramway that is thought to have followed the route of The Parade over Brownhills Common in the 1800s continues today, as I feature another article from Ian Pell, who’s really got stuck in to the subject.
With this one, I really think he might be on to something! I think this might well spark some debate amongst readers.
I love being able to feature articles from local railway historian and expert Ian Pell, who has done so much to expand railway matters here on the blog, and he’s sent a couple of passages on the matter previously that you can read here.
This one seems very likely to me – it hadn’t occurred to me that Chasewater Dam is faced with loose limestone rocks – but it is. That material isn’t available in the immediate locality in volume – and there’s a lot of it – so must have been taken there in a time possibly before the Anglesey Branch was navigable. That would have been a horrendous task by horse and cart. It does make sense.
Ian also gets bonus points for featuring one of my favourite Brownhills quotations, from Charles G Harper – Charles was one of a breed of Victorian writers creating travelogues for the wealthy wanderer and explorer with a wry, often disparaging take on they places they visited – like an early Dalrymple.
Ian Pell wrote:
Limestone to a Reservoir?
Further thoughts on the tramway to nowhere – people of a nervous disposition read no further.
‘We have reached that abomination of desolation called Brownhills. Words are ineffectually employed to describe the hateful, blighted scene, but imagine a wide and dreary stretch of common land surrounded by the scattered, dirty and decrepit cottages of the semi-savage population of nail makers and pitmen, with here and there a school, a woe-bygone chapel, a tin tabernacle, and a plentiful sprinkling of public houses. Further imagine the grass of this wide spreading common to be as brown, and innutritious as it is possible for grass to be, and with an extra-ordinary wealth of scrap iron, tin clippings, broken glass, and brick-bats deposited over every square yard, and all around it the ghastly refuse heaps of long abandoned mines. Finally, clap a railway embankment and station midway across the common (Brownhills West), and there you have a dim adumbration of what Brownhills is like.’
While the above photograph shows the area around Wednesbury Oak, I would suggest that this bleak landscape would not be dissimilar to that of Brownhills Common in the 1800’s.
Having been pondering the ‘tramroad’ across the common, I remembered that a tramroad was constructed to the west boundary of Norton Pool (Chasewater) to aid the stabilisation of a section of the reservoir; its formation can clearly be indentified on the 1884 OS map.
This has set me thinking as to where the limestone for the dam’s inner lining came from after the 1799 dam burst. The original 1797 dam I believe was solely constructed from clay and other materials scrapped from the bottom of the reservoir, whereas limestone was added in the rebuild. The question is therefore where did the limestone come from?
In the immediate area there were few tracks capable of carrying large lumps of limestone, could it be that the ‘tramroad’ was constructed for horse drawn carts (not necessarily railed) from a canal wharf at Brownhills to the Reservoir?
The answer as to where the limestone came from could well be as a result of the opening of the Daw End Canal in 1800. This was initially constructed only as far as Hay Head Limestone Works, Longwood Lane, and Aldridge (south of the Airfield site). The works were closed for a time around this period but were still able to supply limestone of “exceptional quality”. Could this be the source, and was the canal used as part of the transportation?
The ‘tramroad’ is also quite narrow and would appear to be only able to take a single line. This would suggest a hauled tramway of the ‘Main and Tail’ variety where one rope is attached to a rake of wagons.
While I appreciate this is pure speculation on my part, and I am ready to be shot down in flames, is it possibly an answer?
Pedro is quite correct regarding the mists of time, the mine workings and the time frame for the use of this ‘tramroad’. The Anglesey branch of the Wyrley & Essington Canal was indeed un-navigable until 1850 so would have been unable to be able to import stone for the re-build.
Thoughts, greatly appreciated.
I’d like to thank Ian for yet another expert article on railway and local history, which I’m flattered and honoured to feature. It fills me with pride that I can share material of this quality here.
If you have anything to add to this, please do feel free: Comment here, hit me up on social media or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.