Getting a barracking

It’s nice to get back to some local history – and this is an absolute cracker from the young David Evans on a topic that gets visited here from time to time, and upon which David has recently been inspired to research: The origin of a local lane’s curious name.

In this piece David has researched Barracks Lane and the derivation of the name, and how it’s altered through time. To do this he’s used a host of evidential material, not least that provided so generously by Gerald Reece, but also census records and other historical documentation.

For more fun and games with Barracks Lane, see this post here, and this one here. It’s a very old topic on the blog after we spotted it was once home to a (thankfully never used) isolation hospital, latterly a plant nursery at Crestacre.

My thanks to David and Gerald for more top work – and I’m sure this will generate a lot of debate. Please do comment: Either on this post, on social media or by email on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks!

David Evans wrote:

In this rolling, but unassuming countryside a gold hoard lay undiscovered for over a thousand years… Image from my 365days journal.

Just on the edge of Brownhills and Walsall Wood lies the boundary with Staffordshire County, running along the A461 it crosses the junction with the A452 at Shire Oak ,and soon passes the junction with Barracks Lane and Cartersfield Lane before continuing to the junction with the A5 at Muckley Corner.

Barracks Lane crosses Springhill and connects Sandhills with Newtown at the Watling Street. One suspects it’s a very, very old road. Imagery from Apple Maps. Click for a larger version.

One of these lanes has an intriguing name, and one that over the years has given rise to much  folklore and myth. Nowadays this lane is called Barracks Lane. Why does this stretch of a long lane, whose first part is Hanney Hay Road and which finishes as Cartersfield Lane at the nearby village of Stonnall have such a seemingly odd name?

In Brownhills we see that one part of the western boundary of that settlement was originally called ‘Palmers Hay,’ and looking through the abstract of title copy deeds for this area, thanks in great measure to the sterling original research of Mr Gerald Reece over thirty years ago we learn  that a ‘Hay’ in the times of Queen Elizabeth I was a clearing, an open land, that was being used for farming.

Originally transcribed research, pre internet, by the remarkable Gerald Reece. The attention to detail, that script! Click for a larger version.

The name ‘Cartersfield’ is the part of the way that leads from the A461 to Stonnall and we see that references  a farming connection.

But, Barracks? This is where the myth merchants and possibly the migrant seasonal agricultural workers at the local farms, may have played a part.

Thanks again in huge measure to Mr Gerald Reece, we are able to see the 1861 and 1871 census for this part of Brownhills/Ogley Hay/ Stonnall for the years 1861 and 1871. Gerald made his own, large- scale accurate copies from  the relevant censuses to create a  unique Census for Brownhills many years ago.

In these two volumes we see that the name for the Barracks lane has varied. More importantly, there is reference to Barrack House… And Barrick in the singular – in these years.

Census entries, painstakingly copied by hand by the great Gerald Reece. Click any one to see a full size version.

So, was Barrick/Barrack  the name of a person? The 1841 census does show a canal boatman, Benjamin  Barick, and his family, living ‘canal side’ in the Staffs-Wolverhampton East district 25. He was born in 1799. But is has not been possible to see where he was born?  An ultimately fruitless line of enquiry, maybe.

Various suggestions have been made for the origin of this name. In the course of research, I found the following on the Name Origin Reaseach database which is worth holding in mind:

Last name: Barrick

This interesting surname is of English locational origin from a number of places e.g. Berwick in Kent and Shropshire, Berrick in Oxfordshire, Barwick in Norfolk and the West Riding of Yorkshire, etc., which are recorded respectively in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Berewic, Berewic, Berewiche, Bereuuica and Bereuuith. All the placenames derive from the Old English pre 7th Century ‘bere’ meaning barley plus ‘wic’ an outlying farm; hence ‘a granary lying some distance away from the main village’. The surname is first recorded in the latter half of the 13th Century, (see below). One Edward Barwyk, appears in ‘The Register of the Freemen of the City of York’, 1463. In the modern idiom the surname has many variant spellings including Barwick, Barrick, Berrick, Borwick, etc.. On December 9th 1651, Mary, daughter of Edward and Sarah Berwick, was christened at St. Margaret’s, Westminster. The marriage of Elizabeth Berwick and William Damerell took place on August 14th 1652, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney. John Berwick married Frances Major on February 9th 1684, at St. Mildred Roultry with St. Mary Colechurch, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Laurence de Berewyke, which was dated 1278, in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’, 1272 – 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to ‘develop’ often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

© Copyright: Name Origin Research 1980 – 2017

courtesy of

More originally transcribed research, pre internet, by the remarkable Gerald Reece. The attention to detail, that script! Click for a larger version.

But perhaps ‘Barrick’ referred to a feature, an object of some sort that may have had a farming connection at some point in history? Lets explore this possibility.

Gerald Reece’s card index shows this item –   ‘barracks – Old English for barley.’

‘Barrick… Derived from the Old English  pre 7th century ‘bere’ meaning barley and ‘wic’ an ‘outlying farm’ hence a granary lying some distance away from the main village’.

Warrenhouse Farm is, I suspect, one of the longest continuously settled sites in Ogley Hay and wider Brownhills. It was a stones throw from the Hoard; William Roberts retired here from the thrumming metropolis of Brownhills towards the end of his life, but found it way too quiet and soon returned. This barn, one of several on the former farm is now a dwelling, but is, I suspect, the oldest local building in existence. Image from my 365days journal.

I think we may still  find such a building in this lane, though perhaps not an original Saxon barley barn, but perhaps the census does indicate that the name for such that has survived down through the centuries until the mid to late 19th century locally.

This just leaves the mystery of the ‘Old Engine House’ shown in the 1861 census.

Now, that’s a new mystery. An engine House? (last line). Click for a larger version. Any ideas? Original document transcribed by Gerald Reece.

I would like to thank Mr Gerald Reece for making his amazing cache of original research notes and documents available  to me and  so making  this further research / clarification possible.

David  Evans
July 2019





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4 Responses to Getting a barracking

  1. Christine says:

    There is a mistake in the transcript of the 1841 census. Benjamin’s surname is Bowater not Barick. Where the family continues over the page it is clearly Bowater and on the 1851 census, Bowater, it states he was born in Wombourne, Staffordshire. Back to the drawing board.

    • BrownhillsBob says:

      Heh. OK. But not necessarily as I learn to the barn interpretation anyway personally.

      That barn and farm were there pre-inclosure. Bere-rick is not a long stretch to Barracks in the local accent


  2. David Evans says:

    Hello Christine

    thank you for your interest and your observation. I think the Lane gets its name from the ( Saxon?) Barick, barn, in this case.

    As an aside, perhaps…

    Some years ago when researching Walsall Wood, through census records, I noted that there was a road that, for a while, was known as” Ingles” Road..with an “Ingles” Row. and an Ingle family lived there at the time.. The road became known after the family, and was pluralised in the process. The family ( of canal workers) moved away and the local name for the road was lost.

    As I found no connection between Benjamin, a boatman, born c 1799 and the canal built c 1798 along Barrack Lane I discounted this and looked to see where the word and name Barrack – Barrick ( in the singular) seen in one of the census details -had come from..

    kind regards


  3. Pedro says:

    Gathering information about Barrack(s) Lane, Warren House Farm and the surrounding area.

    Gerald provides the entries for the 1861 and 1871 census, and the description of the area seems identical for both years. Barrack(s) Lane, and Barracks House are mentioned. However I can’t see Barrack House in the lists.

    Looking in the Newspaper Archives the first mention of Barracks Lane looks to be 1882 when Barracks Lane, Sandhills appears. In 1893 it is described as Ogley Hay, and earlier in 1893 as Brownhills.

    Taking Warren House Farm. In 1869 there is the sale advert for “all the messuage and dwelling house known as Warren House with out buildings, fold yard and gardens, forming Warren House Farm in the occupation of Messrs Bott,” but no mention of Barracks Lane.

    In 1865, Mrs William Smith is giving up the farm, and it is described between Lichfield and Walsall. Earlier in April 1855 Warren House Farm was being sold by the executors of G. Stubbs, and described as Ogley Hay near Muckley Corner. Even earlier the sale of Warren House Farm in 1848 is described as near Lichfield and Muckley corner and owned by a Mr. Stubbs.

    Going back to the Wolverhampton Chronicle of 19 May 1841 the area for sale is described as…Valuable farm, 200 acres in occupation of Mr. W Stubbs together with convenient and well-built farmhouse, and recently erected barn, stable and cowhouse and other requisite out buildings. Could this be the barn that now exists?

    Back to the time of the Inclosure and 1838, there is evidence to an inquiry that the intended inclosure was surrounded by tracts of waste and forest land, and that the population was very small, not more than 50 persons dwelt within 2 miles around. There were no poor people who would be turned out by the Act.

    On the 23rd of June 1838 Notice was given by Peter Potter of the Act for dividing, allotting and inclosing a certain tract of uninclosed Common or Waste Land called Ogley Hay…..

    “hath set out and appointed the Public Carriage Roads and Highways through and over the lands and grounds by the said Act, directed to be divided, allotted and inclosed in the following manner….. a certain other Public Carriage Road from Watling Street, opposite an open road over Cannock Chase, leading from Hammerwich, passing in a southeast direction over the Wyrley and Essington Canal bridge, near the New Warren House, on Ogley Hay aforesaid, and terminating in the Lichfield and Walsall turnpike Road, near to a certain encroachment on Ogley Hay in the possession of John Mathews…”

    If the road above mentioned is the presently named Barracks Lane then it could have come into existence during the inclosure of 1838. The reference to New Warren House may indicate that it predates the road, but was it a recent building or replacing an even older one?

    In looking through all the information there doesn’t seem to be any mention of a name like Barrack. The earliest map of any detail maybe the OS Map of around 1883 and Barracks Lane is not named, although many other lanes are named. It does appear in the 1921 OS Map.

    It may well be that the Barracks Lane could have been a local name and used by a local censor. As it appears in the 1861 census it could have been associated with the appearance of newly formed Rifle Volunteers?

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