When it was all different

After a frighteningly busy few weeks which have left me tired and unable to do as much as I’d like on the blog, it’s nice to get back onto a bit of local history, which let’s not forget, is the primary reason this blog exists!

I have lots of great stuff coming up, so please stay tuned. Now winter is with us, I’ll have more time to get the posts written and edited, so if you’re waiting patiently for some local history, hang in there!

Here’s a great one for a Sunday afternoon, and raises an awful lot of questions for me. David Evans is still exploring the huge amount of material donated to the blog by Gerald Reece, probably the finest local history writer to ever cover our area. In this material, David has found a book covering local entries in the Domesday Book, and also a document covering the boundaries of the Manor of Little Wyrley in 1743.

Mapping like this six-inch (1:10,000) from the 1880s clearly belies many older place names. Please click for a larger version. Image courtesy the National Library of Scotland Archive.

At first glance these items may seem unrelated, but hold up a second: many of the old names in the 1743 document are closer to terms in the Domesday Book, and the landscape bound by the manor would be closer to the post-invasion surveyors than the landscape that would forever be massively changed by the coming industrial revolution. Many of the names, watercourses and so on described would be lost, forever.

Except maybe not: I invite readers to consider and digest the text, to have a look at modern and old maps and see what remains, and what clues there are. I’m astounded by the place names that do still exist.

It really is quite astonishing!

Middlestools particularly interests me: I have heard this name Middle Stools Coppice somewhere. Can you help? A stool is, in coppicing terms, the remnant of a tree cut back as part of coppicing. So why middle? Half grown? Half way between?

Please do have a gander and shout up with anything you spot – you can mail me on the usual BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, comment here or find on social media. Thanks to David for a remarkable find,, and of course to Gerald who so diligently worked to do the research in gathering this material in the first place.

David Evans wrote:

Gerald Reece, local historian extraordinaire hugely enriched our local history commonwealth by spending a huge amount of time researching the enormous number of documents held in Stafford Record office over many years, from which he was able to write his book ‘Brownhills: A walk into History’.

In the last year or so he has passed me all his materials, and it is immediately apparent that his ongoing   research was thorough and extensive. There is so much material that he was not able to include in his book, and slowly but surely I have the pleasure of reading and enjoying this.

Two documents, among the many I am studying, open a previously unrecorded part of our history…

Image kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

In Gerald’s copy of this reprint of part of the Domesday book  of 1086 AD we find some  reference to local places that caught my eye…

Image kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

PELESHALE ( Pelsall; land for one plough, waste ) and HOCINTUNE ( Ogley Hay, 1 hide waste)

Image kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Humerwich (the two Hammerwiches, 5 carucates of land) Nortonne (Norton Canes) Wereleia (Wyrley, 4 caracutes of land)… Rouueleia (Rowley) … all these land are waste

So, in 1086AD there was no mention of Brownhills, just Hocintune and Wyrley.

Now we leap forward in time to the 1700s and two documents bring more intrigue…

This is a copy of a 1743 document that Gerald has mounted on cloth. Is it important, then> It measure 3 feet by 2 feet 6 inches and refers to Little Wyrley Manor. Some peoples names have been underlined, as have some place names…all within the Manor of Little Wyrley….

Hilkin Wilkin, Middlestools, Little Brownhills. What and where we these?  Is it possible to identify and locate them?

Another  of the numerous documents in Gerald’s collection , a transcription of an original document, also dated 1843 may help…I have typed this out to make it easier to read.

Boundaries of the Manor of Little Wyrley            Copy of 1743

sheet 1

Item. We present the true ancient boundaries of
this manor   at the Corner of a hedge of the pasture
called Colman fields in a Common high way called
Watlinge Streete over against a Cross digged by
us in the said high way  over against the Corner
of the sd hedge and from thence goeth along the sd high way
called Watling Streete unto O stley pitts and so goeth
still along the said way to a place where a Cross
did formerly stand near Knaves Castle and where we have also
digged a Cross in the ground as a mesure and from
that Cross goeth Southward by a Certain
unto a Common high way called
Hampton way where we have also digged a Crosse
for a mesure from thence goeth down a Certain
place called Groves Glade (with correction Slade above) under Catstone Hill
unto the head of the spring called Earthenbrigg Well at the upper end of Clayhaenger – like and from
thence goeth down a certain watercourse thence
westward unto a certain Pasture called Ryders
Heye and so goeth down by the sd watercourse unto

sheet 2

a place in the sd Ryders heye where two Oaks did
formerly grow but are now cut down and gone
where a certain watercourse is and hath been
heretofore and so goeth into another watercourse
falling from Hampton high way and thence beyond the
sd high way unto a certain oak formerly growing
in the hedge of a certain pasture called Long Lee
which is likewise now cut down but the stump
thereof still remains  and we dig there a cross for a mesure
and from that Oak to a certain mesure –stone lying in
that piece of the sd Long Lee  next to the
common high way called the Lyme ways and from
that stone decending in to a certain ancient watercourse
in a certain pasture called Dean’s Heye and so following
the same watercourse so unto a certain high way
called the Lyme ways at Walsall waye and thence
into a pit called Stockings pitt and so into a certain
ditch of a parcel of land called Wirley Haye at Spratts
Crofte and so decending that ditch between a parcel of land
called Crofte hitchins and a pasture called Sey fields

sheet 3

unto the upper end or corner of the pasture
afsd called Sey fields by a certain  S    h  thence  as
the water falleth into a certain meadow called
Cowbry (pencil correction Cow hey) meadow and so going down that watercourse by
and beyond that meadow called Cawbry (pencil correction hey) meadow  unto a
certain brook called  Bulfield brook at Fishey brook
and so down that brook unto Gaynes brook and so down
Gaines unto and in a parcel of land called the
Slewers and from thence unto and in a certain brook
called Horsley brook and so by Horsley brook unto
and in Banndale brook and so along the sd brook
unto Keye pool and so by  a certain watercourse
from Key pool unto a certain brook called Whitfield (at Whitall)
brook and so by that brook near unto a certain
way leading from the Town of Norton towards Knaves
Castle through a certain place called a Valley under
the Corner of a pasture called Glives valley (pencil correction Groves Hurst) and thence
along in and by the upper part of a Certain pasture or
parcel (of ) land called Hilkin Wilkin and so inclosing Hilkin Wilkin and following along
a small watercourse or thence unto a pit

I would like to thank Gerald Reece for his endeavours in researching our history, and especially for making his notes and materials available for further study.



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4 Responses to When it was all different

  1. andkindred says:

    Wow! This suggests that the manor of Little Wyrley was once much bigger than might have been supposed. I will have to look at this in more detail, but the cross referred to in: “a place where a Cross did formerly stand near Knaves Castle” is something I came across in my exploration of Old Roads, which you kindly published some years ago (link below).
    But what of the manor of Norton Canes?!
    I also notice the continuation … a Cross did formerly stand near Knaves Castle and where we have also digged a Cross in the ground as a mesure and from that Cross goeth Southward by a Certain unto a Common high way called Hampton way where we have also digged a Crosse for a mesure from thence goeth down a Certain place called Groves Glade (with correction Slade above) under Catstone Hill ” (My underlining.)
    Presumably, this refers to a new cross or marker where near Knaves Castle (could this be the mile post that now stands near the top of the Black Path?), originally marking the road to Wolverhampton (“Hampton way”), but this was on the course of Lichfield Road? So where does “Catstone Hill” come in? Was that Catshill? At least Ryders Hayes and Lyme Lane fit with the idea of Wolverhampton Road.
    I will have another look at this and see if I can map the boundary.


    I am surprised this has not aroused comment.

    Best wishes

    • David Evans says:

      Hi Andy
      yes, I think that this is a major find….and possibly would have been Geralds next book….I hope a detailed investigation will be undertaken….it does seem that Gerald was on to sometbing.
      kind regards and thanks for your valuable comments, as always

  2. Hilary says:

    Might image number 5490 on the Walsall Wood inclosure help here? It mentions Little Wyrley common at a spot that looks like the bend in the canal by Ravens Court.

  3. andkindred says:

    Thanks, Hilary. You are right – it also says Manor of Little Wyrley. Do we know where Hilkin Wilkin was? I thought I had seen it on a map somewhere, but can’t find it now. Andy

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