Map of Rowley Village dated 1890
Description of the parish of Rowley Regis dated 1831
Rowley Regis from Whites 1834
Extracts from the parish register of St Giles
Rowley Regis Coat of Arms.
Description of the Parish by Rev Gearge Barrs 1831
The original church of St Giles, Rowley
The Parish Registers of Rowley Regis
Rowley Regis a Royal Hunting Ground by Clarice Hacket.
Description of Rowley Village 1862
Rowley Regis and Rowley Somery.
Under the Rowley Hills - The canal tunnel a marvel of Victorian Engineering.
The charnel cave in the St Giles churchyard
The origin of Bell End ?
Old Rowley Pubs - The Ward Arms and the Church Tavern.
Pioneers of social housing - the Rowley Building Society 1792.
Rowley and the Devil's footprints.
Memories of Hawes Lane by Derek Siviter.
The Evans family and the Robert Peel
In the early part of the 20th Century there were 12 shops and 8 public houses directly in Rowley Village the main part of which which straggled down the hill from the Church to Bell End, and on to the Robert Peel which marked the beginning of the Village, most of these shops with the addition of a few others lasted until most of the the older buildings in the Village were demolished in the 1970s. The buildings were numbered, The Robert Peel number 1, Tibbetts at the corner of Curral Rd being number 70, the numbering continued up to the Ring of Bells at the top of the village and then after Church rd down the hill on the opposite side, Downings being number 78 ,and Joseph Taylors Rivet works just before Bell End number 104 and on across Bell End to the old endowed schools opposite the Robert Peel. A carefull look at the numbers and the map above will enable you to place the positioning of the various buildings
. At the top of the Village towards Hawes Lane, the Church wall is on the right, Ward Arms is next to the wall, The Ring of Bells and Mary Wyles grocery shop would be on the left.
The Ward Arms nestled next to the Church on the brow of Rowley Hill technically in Hawes Lane. It appears in the !850 Post Office Directory as the “Ward Arms”- proprietor Thomas Parish and in the 1861 census H. Stainton. It is evidently named after Dudley Ward the Earl of Dudley who was Lord of the Manor of Rowley Regis. In the 1818 and 1821 Parsons and Bradsaw directory there appears a “Court House” or “Lord Dudleys Court House” – Landlord, John Hadley. This is thought to be the same Public house later renamed as the Ward Arms, it may have originally been the Court House at which Lord Dudleys justice was administered in Rowley. Because of its closeness to the Church and the fact that it was used by some of the congregation it was once dubbed “the well of Bethlehem” by the Vicar. Other known licensees were Honor Stainton a Widow who had previously run the Ring o Bells on the opposite side of the road with her husband Matthew, she ran the pub with her daughter Ann and is shown on the 1861 census, she died in 1881.In the 1912 Kellys the licencee is Thomas Lowe and the address is given as 89 Hawes Lane. Arther Gilbert was the licensee for many years during and after the 2nd World War.
From an original watercolour of the first church by David Parkes a Shrewsbury artist.
At the top of the Hill opposite the Church was a small grocers owned by Mary Ann Wyle, this shop was certainly not there in the 1950s as these buildings had already been demolished and the land between the church and the old quarry in Currall Road was an open area. William Wyle is listed as the shopkeeper in the 1912 Kellys.
Rowley church viewed from the old quarry behind the buildings opposite the church.
Also in this row, towards Hawes Lane stood the Ring of Bells eventually converted into an ordinary dwelling. The pub had a sign over the front door depicting 8 bells each one named. It had two downstairs rooms with settles, an inglenook fireplace and a Kitchen, out the back were lofts and stalls. It is not known when it became a private house but it was such in 1939 and does not appear in the 1912 Kellys. It was run in 1834, 1841 and 1851 by Matthew Stainton and his wife Honor later of the Ward Arms, it may be they owned both premises. In 1855 after Honor had moved to the Ward Arms George Hadley was in occupation and he appears in the 1861 cencus. In Jones Commercial directory of 1865 however, the licencee is listed as George Haines. the building is believed to have been demolished in the 1950s.
The end of Church Rd looking down the Village with old nailmakers cottages and T P Molyes on the corner, opposite is possibly the original Post Office on the corner of Curral Rd.
On the corner of Church Road opposite the entrance to the Church at the top of the hill stood the largest shop in Rowley at the time, number 1 Church Rd, this was the shop of Thomas Phillip Molye and served as the main grocery shop in the village,It was there as early 1908 and sold general groceries and dry goods, it appears in the 1912 Kellys along with a Drapers shop at number 2 Church Rd owned by Annie Davies. Outside the shop certainly in the 1950s was a blue Police Box.Joseph Connop from Halesowen previously owned the drapers shop on the corner of Church Row and Rowley village, he eventually sold the shop to Thomas Phillip Moyle and moved to a large shop built on the corner of Halesowen St in Blackheath, later known as Connops corner. Along Church Rd at the top of what is Park Avenue today was the Village pound where stray animals were kept until claimed by their owners, this survived in some form until Park Avenue was develloped in the 1930s. The Rev Cheverton tried to save the Pound as a piece of the history of Rowley but to no avail. Opposite this and next to the church wall was the former farm house of the Verger and grave digger built in part of Rowley Rag and sometime used as a Sunday school, this house was occupied for many years by George Beese, said to have an encyclopeadic knowlege of the inhabitants of Rowley village, he died in 1965 having served the church and three vicars for a total of 43 years.Alongside the house was a long, gloomy walled driveway to the Vicarage, the bricked up entrance can still be seen today. The encumbant in 1912 is the Rev Alban Francis Dauglish.
The same view from a little further up the road.
Below Currall Rd between Tibbetts and the Swan stood , number 58 Rowley Village,this was the village Sub Post Office an earlier post office, the first?, had been on the upper corner of Currall Rd , the sub post mistress early in the 1900s was a Miss Fanny Tryphena Underwood who is shown in the 1912 Kellys. When she retired the post office later moved down the Village past Siviters Lane and finally next to the Britannia Inn at Bell end, it closed finally in 2004.
Another view of Church Rd, showing two up two down cottages, looking along the Rd from Moyles or its predessessor, towards The Grange and Rowley Hall the Church wall is on the left.
On the corner at the entrance to Currall Rd stood Tibbetts newsagents at number 70 and further downTibbetts hairdressers number 57, both owned by Benjamin Tibbetts (newsagent) and Benjamin Tibbetts Jnr (hairdresser) both are listed in the 1912 Kellys but not in the 1861 cencus although there is a Henry Bennett grocer and provision dealer in Hawes Lane and a Absolam Bennett, shoemaker in Rowley Village at this time who may be related.. The newsagents, which also sold many othe goods, survived until the 1970s and was still operated by the Tibbetts family, three generations being involved in the 1960s.
Looking down the Village, the Swan is on the right with the sign hanging outside directly opposite can be seen the frontage of the Kings Arms lying back from the road before this is the double frontage of Downings.
A little further down the hill at number 55, and opposite the Kings Arms, was the White Swan or the Swan Inn where the Rowley Building Society was founded in 1792, an agreement to establish a building society, the 15th in the Country, and purchase land in trust for the members, was made by five men – John Mackmillan, gentleman; Anthony Miller, butcher; William Bridgewater, yeoman; Benjamin Bolton, hinge-maker; and John Auden, blacksmith . plans for the building of Club Buildings off Hawes Lane were decided and land purchased.. The landlord at the time was John James. Members of the Society met regularly until 1800 often over a good meal until it was disbanded in 1800. Other Landlords included William Adams,1818; Thomas Glaze 1834; Suzanna Adams 1851 and R Hinton 1861, Samuel Tromans is the licencee in 1912 Kellys when the pub is listed as the Old Swann. It is not known when the Pub ceased but it was still there well into the 20th Century.
At number 51 Rowley Village according to the 1912 Kellys there is a Thomas Clayton, Sadler.
Looking up the Village towards Siviters Lane, the second Post Office is on the left.
After the first world war a Butchers shop opened opposite Currall Rd and Tibbetts shop it was owned by Albert Taylor and joined by a stone arch to a building converted into two dwellings which was originally said to be a coach house and thought to be named the Church Tavern. This became the main butchers shop in the village for many years
Albert Taylors butchers shop opposite Currall Rd note the Rag stone Arch the substantial building on the left and old cottages joining Downings on the right.
On the opposite side of the Road to Tibbetts, before the Kings Arms public House, stood Downings who sold wallpaper and paint, in the 1912 Kellys this is number 78 Rowley Village operated by John Nicholls paperhanger, next to this at number 79 was a Fish shop belonging to William Horton, At the back of the fish shop was a coal business owned by the same William Horton.
Below this was the Kings Arms finally demolished in the 1970s Not much is known of this bbuilding except the walls were clad in brown shiny tiles, It was for a time the headquarters of the Rowley Angling Society. In 1912 the licencee is Samuel Blakeway, John Tromans is a Rivet Maker and licencee in the 1865 Jones Commercial.
Here is a rare picture,recently sent to us, of the butchers shop down to the the Kings Arms, unfortunately just before demolition so the buildings are not shown at their best, this is however the only picture of the Kings Arms we have ever seen which shows the whole of the frontage and we are very grateful for permission to publish it.
At 97 Rowley Village lived Jethro Siddaway a boot and shoe maker who was baptised in the first church by the Rev George Barrs and lived to see all four churches.
Lower down the Hill below Tibbetts and on the same side of the Road at number 45 Rowley Village, stood a double fronted shop, one window displayed crockery and hardware, the other drapery. They also sold paraffin, this shop was owned by Azariah Melzar Parkes in 1912 it survived into the 1970s. At the back of the shop was another coal business operated by his brother Edward Parkes who also owned fields around the Village, kept cows and was a supplier of milk in the area.
Looking up the Village with Goodes general store on the corner of Siviters Lane and Parkes hardware and drapery a little further up.
On the corner of Siviters Lane at number 42 Rowley Village was a Grocery Store owned by Fanny Goode. In the 1960s we can remember a man often standing outside this shop haranging the passers by which must have been bad for business !
On the other corner, just in Siviters Lane, Alice Oakley ran another Grocery store, she baked her own bread and sold Lardy cakes. John Oakley is listed as the shopkeeper in 1912 Kellys, the address being given given as Siviters Lane
In this vicinity also was The Malt Shovel public House, it is not known when this pub disappeared but it is not remembered by the author,It is shown on a map dated 1901, there is a pub of the same name in Blackheath so maybe the licence was transferred, when Blackheath grew and Rowley declined. Does not appear in trade directories to 1861 or the 1912 Kellys.
Above is a picture recently sent to us of what must have been The Malt Shovel on the corner of the village and Siviters Lane, lying back from the road, next to it looking up Siviters Lane is Mrs Oakleys grocery store with an advertising hoarding on the side and bars at the windows. To our knowledge this picture has never been published before and we are most grateful to be able to publish it.
A little lower down the Village below Mrs Oakleys and near the Vine was the Village butchers shop owned by Fred Levett. George Alridge preacher at the Endowed Mission became owner of this shop in 1916 when it was operating as a grocers the butchers having transferred to Arthur Taylors. In 1921 this became the sub post office when the post mistress retired and the previous post office closed. George Aldridge became the new Sub Post Master and remained so for the next 26 years. In 1865 the butcher is listed as Joseph Walters who also appeared to be landlord of the Vine.
The Village post office with George Aldridge outside.
Here also stood the Vine which is also not remembered, but there is again a Vine in Blackheath and maybe the Licence was again transferred. It appears on a map of the village dated 1901. Landlords of the Vine included John Walters in 1861, the pub isn’t mentioned in trade directories previous to this. Noah Harris is the landlord in 1912. We have recently been sent details of the Vine public house which greatly adds to our knowledge, many thanks to the contributor, we have other information on the Harris family which will be inserted under "Rowley people" shortly. " I had been involved in researching family history and came upon your web site and noticed some discussion about The Vine Inn that was thought to have been part of Rowley. I would like to shed light on this and also provide you with some memories my Mother; Mary Clarke, nee Harris has been sharing with me recently.
Noah Harris was the landlord of the Vine Inn, which was to be found above the Britannia Inn and opposite what was know as Bell End. According to Mary, The Vine was at the end of a number of terraces that were set back off the road above the Britannia and below the Chip shop and Post office I have enclosed the following diagram. Mary did say that The Vine was sold in about 1932 and became a dwelling for some years before being demolished and a detached house built on the plot where it had stood
Noah Harris was a tenant Landlord and the owner was a Billy Williams and owned a number of pubs in the area.The Vine closed in the 30’s and Noah and his wife Alice took over the running of the Kings arms which was higher up the hill and on the opposite side adjacent to fields some owned and some rented by Johnny Whithall"
.Looking up the Village from above Siviters Lane and the Parkes shp, note the old nailers cottages on the left
Over the road opposite Siviters Lane where the car park to the Endowed church is today stood the group of buildings pictured above.
Opposite The Vine was and still in operation today The Endowed Mission Church established after the original Endowed sSchools opposite the Robert Peel closed as an educational establishment
Originally below the Mission and next to the Britannia Works the were these cottages
Below the Vine was a later opened (after the great war)a Fish and Chip shop owned by Dan Bennett for many years, He lived In the houses opposite.. his shop “the village chippy” still exists.
Next to DanBennetts were three nail makers cottages.
Opposite the Fish shop and a little further down the Village stood the Britannia Rivet Works owned by Joseph Taylor who in 1912 was living at the Grange in Church Rd a relative Frank Talor was a tenant at Rowley Hall, Josephs son Herbert Taylor was amongst the Gt War fallen in 1915.
Below this and the only other shop in the Village at the turn of the Century was on the corner of Bell End at number 1, Bell End this was owned at one point by Betsy Mallin and sold sweets, tobacco, cigarettes and ginger beer. In the 1912 Kellys the shopkeeper at number 1 is Sarah Clay.
Bell End in the 1950s, looking towards Mincing Lane
On the other side of Bell End still standing today next to Britannia Park, is the Brittannia Inn, previously a farm house and Beer House, Stile House Farm which encompassed land where the Britannia Rd Estate is today, what later became Brittania Park was also part of the Farm and contained a fish pond where the paddling pool was situated when the Park opened.
The Britannia Inn at Bell End
The front entrance to Britannia Park.
The Park in full bloom.
At number 14 Rowley Village between the Robert Peel and the Britannia, and listed in Kellys 1912, lived Job Siviter the Sexton and Town Crier.
Further down at the official start of the Village stands The Robert Peel (number 1 Rowley Village) previously thought to be the Village goal, hence the name but at some time a Blacksmiths and later a Beer Shop (from about 1850). For many years on the side of the building was a large realistic painting of a man on a ladder depicted painting the wall itself, many a child walking to Blackheath wondered why it took so long.The mid 19th century establishment was a beerhouse, in other words it sold only beer, not spirits and provided no lodgings. Beerhouses were often side lines for men in other trades such as carpentry, slating, building or working as a blacksmith
The Sir Robert Peel
Opposte the Robert Peel and Macmillan Rd, the old Rowley Endowed day school which ceased to be a day school in 1903 when pupils transferred to the Siviters Lane mixed and infants.The buildings continued to be used as a sunday school until they were demolished in the 1930s. The schoolmasters house was next to the school.
The Endowed day school at the bottom of the Village with the schoolmasters house next to it.
In addition to the above shops the author can remember certainly in the 1950s and early 60s,
A prefabricated building (wooden shed) next to the Ward Arms which was a shoe repairers.
Hawes Lane Garage (Barnsleys) on the opposite side of the road at the top of the Hill.
In Hawes Lane there was a Co-op, another Post Office and a Grocers on the corner of Club Buildings.
Mid way along church rd past Hanover Rd , near to Rowley Hall, on the site where the flats are today stood the large Grange Pub, previously a private House, at the back were French doors overlooking a garden, the pub lasted until 2006 when it became a victim of the recession.
Aises grocery store at the top of Park Avenue in Church Road, his brother had a greengrocers business in a converted garage at the side of the property.
Near to this business in Church Road before Moyles was a Fish and Chip shop.
There was a small clothes shop below Tibbetts newsagents in what was a private house.
In Bell End toward Mincing Lane was a butchers shop, Harrolds and Horace Shaws barbers shop.
A Co-op store stood next to the Britannia Inn where The Tesco store is today.
A Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, 1831:
ROWLEY-REGIS, a parish in the northern division of the hundred of SEISDON, county of STAFFORD, 8 miles (S.E.) from Dudley, containing 6062 inhabitants. The living is a perpetual curacy, annexed to the vicarage of Clent, in the archdeaconry of Stafford, and diocese of Worcester. The church is dedicated to St. Giles. There is a place of worship for Baptists. Lady Elizabeth Monnins, in 1703, founded a free school, with an endowment of £15 a year, for the education of twenty-four children; and in 1790, George Macklinnan gave a rent-charge of £21, which is applied to teaching thirty children. Coal is obtained in the vicinity.
Rowley Regis from Whites 1834
ROWLEY-REGIS (st. Giles), a parish, in the union of Dudley, Northern Division of the hundred of SeisDon, Southern Division of the county of Stafford, 3 miles (S. E.) from Dudley, and 7 (W.) from Birmingham; containing 7 438 inhabitants. This parish, which is situated in a rich mineral district, abounding with clay, coal, and iron-stone, is bounded on the south and south-west by the river Stour, which separates it from the parish of Hales-Owen, and from the counties of Salop and Worcester; on the north and north-west, by a rill which rises among the hills, and after forming a spacious reservoir for the Dudley canal, and passing through New Pool, separates it from the parish of Dudley, in the county of Worcester, and from King's-Swinford in the county of Stafford: another rill rising to the north and near the summit of the hills, after passing under the Birmingham canal at Tividale, falls into a nameless river which separates the parish on the northeast from the parishes of Tipton and West Bromwich, and from the manor of Oldbury in the parish of HaltsOwen. The surface, comprising nearly 3550 acres, is very uneven, and divided into numerous small enclosures, of which scarcely any two contiguous portions form one common level: the soil in the hilly parts is light and open, but in the lower grounds stiff, cold, and generally unproductive. At the extremity of the parish, towards Hales-Owen, rises a ridge of hills, which, from their height at the town, are called the Rowley Hills; they extend in a northerly direction to the opposite extremity of the parish, and consist of a peculiarly hard • rugged angular stone called the Rowley Rag, which in some part rises nearly to the surface, and in others considerably above it. On the western side of the hills, and not far from the town, a compact mass of this stone, about 7 or S feet square, rises to the height of S or 9 feet above the summit, and from 50 to 60 feet from the base of the hill, which, from time immemorial, has been called the Hail Stone; the upper surface, though from its extreme hardness impenetrable to any tool, is worn perfectly smooth by time and the action of numberless feet of persons who have climbed upon it. These hills, which supplied materials for paving the town of Birmingham, and most other towns in the vicinity, are said to have an elevation of 900 feet above the level of the sea, into which the waters issuing on the eastern side are conveyed by the Trent, and those on the western by the Severn, at opposite extremities of the kingdom. The fences of the enclosures were formerly constructed with the Rowley rag-stone, laid together in blocks varying from a ton in weight downwards, without cement, from three to five feet in thickness, and from four to five in height; some of these are still remaining, and in removing one near the Hail Stone, about 40 years since, an earthen vessel nearly full of Roman silver coins, some of which were of Antoninus and Faustina, was found deposited in the foundation of the wall. The principal proprietors of land are the representatives of the late Earl of Dudley, the Duke of Sutherland, the representatives of the late John Haden, Esq., and the British Iron Company. Of the ancient mansions in the parish, Rowley Hall has entirely disappeared, and a modern farm-house has been erected near the site; Warren's Hall has some portion remaining, but scarcely distinguishable from common farm-buildings; Brindlefield Hall, in the hamlet of Tividale, the residence of the Sheldon family, in the reign of Edward III., retains no vestiges of its former importance, or indications of its great antiquity; and the mansion at Haden Hill, the residence of the Hadens for many centuries, though retaining something of its ancient character, is chiefly remarkable for the beauty of its situation in grounds in some respects little inferior in picturesque beauty to the Leasowes, in the adjoining parish of HalesOwen, celebrated 'as the residence of the poet Shenstone, and for the romantic character of its scenery.
The parish comprises a considerable number of hamlets, of which the principal are the Brades, Tividale, Oakham, the Knoll, Tipity Green, Windmill End, Old Hill, Reddal Hill,Cradley Heath, Lawrence's Lane, Lomy Town, Corngreaves, Hayseech, Gosty Hill, and Blackheath, with various clusters of houses in other parts, all of which are principally inhabited by persons employed in the collieries and different works in the parish, and upon the river Stour, which rises within two miles of the place, and within a distance of four miles from its source gives motion to no less than nine mills and forges, of which several have overshot water-wheels of very large diameter. The iron trade appears to have been introduced here at a very early period; and previously to the introduction of steam, all the mill power employed in it throughout this district was derived from the Stour and one or two tributary streams, to which, in his " England's Improvements," published in 1677, Yarrington says that all the iron from the forest of Dean was brought for the purpose of being manufactured. The stratum of coal lies at a depth of from 80 to 200 yards below the surface, and varies from ten to thirteen in thickness; in nearly all the lower grounds the mine is good, but wherever the foot of the hills is approached, it is found not only to be disturbed and irregular, but also of inferior quality; whether the stratum is continued under the hills has not been ascertained: there are at present eleven or twelve collieries in full operation, and several others are about to be opened. The Brades Iron and Steel Works were erected about 50 years since, by Mr. William Hunt, and are now continued under the firm of William Hunt and Sons: the principal articles manufactured are tools and implements of all kinds made of steel, particularly saws, scythes, hay-knives, hoes, trowels, and other articles; the steel of which they are made is here converted from the iron, smelted in crucibles, cast into ingots, and rolled into plates suitable for the purposes to which it is applied: these works, in which is a powerful steam-engine, afford constant employment to130 persons. The Windmill-End Works, the property of Sir Horace St. Paul, were erected about 25 years since for the making of pig-iron from the iron-stone, which is calcined in large heaps, and smelted in powerful furnaces. The Corngreaves Works, for converting bar-iron into steel, are among the oldest in the neighbourhood, but the exact time of their establishment is not known; they contain powerful furnaces and several forges, which are driven by the water of the river Stour. The Cradley forges are now chiefly for converting pig-iron into bars and rods: in these works the experiment was first made of manufacturing iron with pit coal instead of charcoal, which had been previously used for that purpose; and in the 19th of James I., Mr. Dudley, at that time proprietor, obtained a patent for making iron with pit coal, or sea coal, of which in the preceding year he had manufactured many tons. Mr. Dudley met with much opposition in carrying his purpose into effect, an account of which he published in 1665, in a work called "Metallum Martis." Of these forges, one is situated on the river Stour, within the county of Worcester, and the other on the opposite side of the river, worked by the water of New Pool, and by a powerful steam-engine. Near Corngreaves some very extensive iron and steel works were erected in 1818, by Mr. John Attwood, consisting of forges and rolling-mills, capable of manufacturing 300 tons of bar and rod iron, and 20 tons of various sorts of steel, per week; they are worked by four large steam-engines, and, together with the collieries connected with them, afford employment to about 500 persons. In 1825, these works, together with the Corngreaves estate, comprising about 250 acres, of which 205 are in this parish, and the remainder in the township of Cradley, in the county of Worcester, and also certain other works and mining property in the contiguous parishes, were, with the exception of the mines under 75 acres in this parish, reserved by the enclosure act to the lord of the manor, purchased by the British Iron Company, for £550,000; after paying a part of which, proceedings were instituted in the court of Exchequer by the Company, to set aside the contract, which, after a trial of twenty-one days, was annulled by Lord Chief Baron Lyndhurst in favour of the Company, but on an appeal to the House of Lords this judgment was reversed. The manufacture of nails, in which nearly all the women and girls are employed, is extensively carried on; the making of chains of various kinds, and of gun barrels, affords employment to a considerable number of persons; and the manufacture of Jews' harps is also a source of employment to many. The Birmingham canal enters this parish at the Brades, and passes through Tividale for about a mile; and the Dudley canal at Gosty Hill, through which it is conveyed by a tunnel nearly 500 yards in length, and passes first on the south and then on the west of the Rowley Hills for nearly two miles. A small part of the parish, of which the Duke of Sutherland is lord of the manor, is still called the Somery; but the distinction is now so little regarded that few persons can define its extent. Henry VIII., in the 16th of his reign, granted to the men and tenants of the manor of Rugley, alias Rowley, in the county of Stafford, being of the ancient demesne of the crown, a char ter exempting them from Stallage, Pontage, Pannage, Murage, Lastage, and other duties, and from serving upon juries, unless within the court of the manor or lordship. This, charter, which was renewed by Mary on her ascending the throne, has hitherto been little regarded by the inhabitants. The parish is within the jurisdiction of the Wolverhampton court of requests, for debts under £5.
The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, ed J.H.F.Brabner, 1895:
Rowley Regis, a village and a parish in Staffordshire;. The village stands near the Birmingham and Dudley Canal, 3 miles SE of Dudley, and has a station, called Rowley Regis and Blackheath, on the Birmingham and Stourbridge extension of the G.W.E. and L. & N.W.R., and a post, money order, and telegraph office under Dudley. The parish contains also the villages or townships of Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, and Tividale. Acreage, 3828; population of the civil parish, 30,791; of the ecclesiastical, 4857. The parish is governed by an urban district council, and is divided into five wards - Old Hill, returning four members to the council; Cradley Heath, four; Rowley Regis, three; Blackheath, two; and Tividale, two. It is the head of a petty sessional division; the offices of the council and the sessions-house are at Old Hill. The Rowley Hills diversify the surface, rise to an altitude of nearly 900 feet, and send off streams in opposite directions toward the Trent and the Severn. Coal, ironstone, building-stone, and excellent clay abound. Ironworks, steelworks, collieries, potteries, hardware manufactories, nailworks, agricultural implement works, tile-kilns, and malting establishments in various parts, give employment to the greater part of the population. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Worcester; net value, £432 with residence. Patron, the Lord Chancellor. The church was originally Early English, and was rebuilt in 1840, the tower being rebuilt in 1858. The nave was condemned as unsafe in 1894, and the church closed for worship. It is situated on the top of Rowley Hill, and contains a Norman font. Blackheath, Old Hill, Reddall Hill, and Tividale form separate ecclesiastical parishes. There are Baptist, New Connexion, and Primitive Methodist and Wesleyan chapels.
Rowley Village lies clustered round the church on the southern approach to the Rowley Hills. During the 19th century, most of the villages were engaged either in the traditional Black Country trades of nail- or chain-making, or in the peculiar local craft of making Jews' harps: "All the Jews' harps in the world were once made round Rowley" [Drabble]. Houses usually had a small forge in place of a wash-house and much of the work was carried out by women, or by children. only whose fingers were delicate enough to work on fusee chains.
Until the 19th century, Rowley church was a chapel of ease belonging to the parish of Clent. The distance between the two (some 9 kilometres) gave rise to much inconvenience, particularly with the growth in the population of Rowley. They were separated by a Private Act of Parliament in 1841, largely through the efforts of George Barrs, the curate of Rowley Regis. Barrs was also responsible for the replacement of the original 13th century church with a larger building in 1840, and the selling-off of the glebe lands, leading to the development of Blackheath. The second church was badly affected by mining subsidence, and had to be closed in 1894; although part of the tower was incorporated in the third church, opened in 1904. This was destroyed by fire in 1913, arson being suspected, and suffragettes blamed. Proof was not forthcoming, and the fire remains a mystery.
Prior to the 1840s, Blackheath or Bleak Heath as it was more commonly known, was a place of little significance, living up to its name. It was the site of a few farms and the meeting point of several roads. The sale of the glebe lands, however, led to a growth in coal and ironstone mining, brick-making, and other industries, and a population surge. The businesses were mostly in the hands of enterprising locals; such as Joseph Hackett, who turned his farmstead into the George and Dragon public house, and aquired an interest in the coal mining and brickmaking industries. Many of the labourers in the new industries had been agricultural labourers, but they were soon joined by immigrants, particularly from the South Wales coalfields. By the time St Pauls Church was built in 1869, the population had grown to some 5000. As F W Hackwood, the local historian, observed: "Blackheath, the daughter, has far outstripped Rowley, the parent".
Blackheath had the appearance of a typical industrial town, with long streets of well patronised shops, and cramped rows of cottages where most of the population lived. A draper named Joseph Connop built a large house and shop on the corner of Halesowen Street and High Street in 1865, on the site of a saw mill on the edge of the heath. The area is known today as Connops Corner.
The Stourbridge Extension railway, from Galton Junction in Smethwick to Old Hill, opened in 1867, completing a through route from Birmingham to Worcester. The line reached its summit near Blackheath, passing through the 896 yard tunnel beneath the southern reaches of the Rowley Hills before descending to Old Hill.
ARMS: Gules on a Pale Ermine between two Lions' Faces Or a Human Leg couped at the thigh a Chief Azure charged with a Lion passant Or.
CREST: On a Wreath Argent and Gules a Castle of three Towers Or issuant from the battlements a demi Lion queue forch�e Vert holding between the paws an Anchor and charged on the shoulder with a Fleur-de-Lis Or.
SUPPORTERS: On the dexter side in front of an Anvil a Man habited as a Smith holding in the dexter hand a Hammer and on the sinister side a Man habited as a Miner holding in the sinister hand a Pick resting on his shoulder and a Safety Lamp hanging around his neck.
MOTTO 'loyal and Industrious'.
Granted 20th September 1933.
Iconography: the Pale Ermine echoes the Bend Ermine in the arms of Lord Dudley. The Human Leg shows the connection with the Haden family, whose ancestral home was Haden Hill Hall. The Azure lion passant come from the arms of Somery. The fork-tailed lion in the crest is from that of Sutton, Lord Dudley, who held the Manor in the sixteenth century, and the Fleur-de-Lys is a reference to the arms of Halesowen Priory. The ancher in the crest, and the two supporters, are symbols of local industry
Notes on Rowley Regis by the Reverend George Barrs
In 1831 The number of inhabited houses in the parish was 1366, the number of families occupying them 1420 made up of nearly 7500 individuals, an equal number of each sex, within a very few, the males predominating by only 7 or 8. 82 homes were then without inhabitants and only 5 building. Since then the state of trade has considerably improved, many houses have been built or are in progress but few unoccupied.
Of the above number of families 140 were occupied in agriculture and 909 in manufacture, trade etc. Many however who are ranked as agriculturists are frequently engaged in some branch of trade or manufacture. A very large proportion of the manufacturers are nail makers and nearly all the women and girls; that being the chief persuit of the operatives in this and surrounding parishes. Here chains of various descriptions and the making of gun barrels especially in time of war, find work for many hands. Here also the manufacture of Jews Harps is carried on and some times employs a considerable number of persons.
A great many of the manufacturers are very poor and their families frequently appear clad in rags, and as if they could obtain but a slender pittance of life’s comforts or even necessities. This however is not to be attributed to their being destitute of the means of procuring these comforts in a degree unknown to other manufacturers but in their want of frugality, domestic economy and good management. Their work is laborious but they can generally earn good wages, which, if discreetly applied would furnish them with a comfortable competence. Unhappily however many, from their very youth contract habits of idleness and prodigality and these are a certain and fruitful source of rags and wretchedness. Since the national pest the “Beer Act” came into operation in 1830 their manners have become more dissolute, their morals more corrupt, their habits more idle and unthrifty and of course neither their personal appearance nor their domestic comforts has much improved.
Such is the degraded and groveling condition into which many of the nailers are sunk that during the late war when wages were high those who could make a miserable living by earning 2 shillings a day would not earn another 2 pence when they might by no great exertion have earned 2 shillings a day. Of all descriptions of individuals these appear most anxious to observe to the very letter that maxim of holy writ “take no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself” The wretchedness that results from their conduct is indeed an undeniable proof of its criminality and of the enormous evil of such perversions.
For nearly 34 years has the present curate alone and unassisted performed these duties with un wearied diligence zeal and faithfulness. In the parish are several families whose earnings at the nail block have exceeded the remuneration by him for his labours.
George Barrs was obsessed with rebuilding the Church, he regarded the building which he inherited as unsuitable for its purpose and perhaps unsuitable for his legacy. He succeeded agaimst great opposition in having it rebuilt but never lived to see the completion. It was very unusual for a church to be demolished and completely rebuilt, as is the case with the original Rowley Church, and surely it is a crime to destroy a building which has stood for at least 800 years. In a way George Barrs did a disservice to Rowley, he may have built a spanking new church more suitable to house the parishioners but he destroyed its heritage and Rowley's sense of history, who is to know that a church has stood on the spot for over 800 years, people love old churches even if they are not religious, and they provide a sense of identity to local inhabitants through the generations and even present Rowley people go back many generation. Very few Rowley people even know that the present church is not the first, not to mention that there have actually been 4 churches, in all, on the site! the village has also been destroyed and Rowleys place as an ancient settlement is not recognised even within the black country, if you look around the church yard it soon becomes obvious that the graves predate the church but anyone passing or driving past is not able to see that the church and its surrounding village date from ancient times.As part of his campaign to rebuild the Church George Barrs wrote this account of the state of the church building when he arrived in Rowley, we do not know if he exaggerated the state of it but it would certainly have suited his purpose to do so. Parishioners wanted the church repaired and portraits of the church do not really bear out the curates description, but George Barrs was a very determined man and had his way in the end.
"With regard to the building: The once animated dust of the inhabitants has accumulated into such a mass around it, that the floor around is very much below the surface of the exterior ground. Though so elevated, the situation is extremely damp. When graves are opened in the churchyard, particularly at the East end of the building, a considerable quantity of water is soon collected in them. On these accounts the interior of the Church is perpetually wet, cold and dirty. I have literally been obliged to wade along the middle aisle, nearly to the tops of the shoes, in mud and water, to get to the desk; when there my clothes have been wet through by torrents of water from above. Many times has it been necessary to lade and mop the water out of the seats before people could enter them to worship: of course they must be places of great comfort and safety for people to occupy two hours at a time, especially for weakly constitution, and women just recovered from confinement. And who can doubt that such a situation must be extremely favourable to the feelings and sentiments of devotion, particularly if it be admitted that mortification is a powerful assistant in, and a requisite qualification for, acts of divine worship! The galleries are so low as not to admit of the floor being raised. And the roof is so low that if the galleries were raised, apertures must either be made through the ceiling and tiles for the heads of several of the congregation, or be content to kneel all the time they are there, To be sure the attitude of kneeling is not improper for worship; but then to see persons in a place of worship crawl on all fours into their places, like dogs into their kennels, would be as awkward an appearance as it would be to see a number of heads thrust through the tiling on the outside, like so many culprits condemned to stand two hours in the pillory.
The roof is long and ponderous and so sunk on both sides, that if a line were stretched from the eaves to the ridge, the tiles would be found to lie several inches below it, about the midway between these extremes. The timbers in general are in a bad and decayed state; almost every rafter is lined, that is, has had a piece nailed to it nearly of the same length as itself; one of the side pieces is actually held together by iron-work, and several of them are so sunk in the middle that, as seen in the inside of the church, they resemble, in form, a segment of a rainbow inverted. The natural result of this is, some of them have nearly lost their bearings at the ends and the roof is actually supported by props.
The walls are chiefly made of what are called Rowley rags; they are rough stones abounding in angles of every form, and so hard as to bid defiance to any tool but a sledge. Of course then they are not very well calculated for building. When used for this purpose they were laid together in the form of something like a thick wall, the interstices, or spaces, by which they could not be brought to touch each other, were filled up with either clay or a very course mortar and a coat of plaster daubed on the outside. Such is the construction of the walls of this church. And they have another property which cannot add much to their strength and durability. Instead of being cemented throughout, and forming one solid mass, each wall is formed by two outside shells of rag-stones placed at considerable distanc4e from each other, having little or no connection beside that of standing on a common foundation, and being held together by the freestones which stretch across both these shells, and the intermediate space to form the apertures for the windows and doors. That intermediate space is eighteen inches, or perhaps, in some parts two feet, is filled up with any kind of spoil or rubbish that could be conveniently had, thrown in loosely and not at all cemented. Whatever may be their thickness, everyone knows that such walls cannot boast much of firmness and strength. And these need not be very closely examined in order to ascertain their weakness and shattered condition. That on the south side inclines outward till it is nearly five inches out of perpendicular. The north wall has given way so as to be nearly eight inches out of perpendicular; it is also much cracked and shattered at the end towards the Church.
In consequence of this expansion of the walls the joists which support the west gallery are drawn from the beams so that about four years ago it was found necessary to support the floor by props on which it now actually rests. On the north side the wall which formerly touched the wainscot on the ? below has retired and set back at a distance of several inches from it. The greatest probability it must be stressed is that the wainscot has retired from the wall but in this instance the fact is otherwise.
With regard to the interior of the building this is, if possible in a worse condition than the shell From one end to the other it presents nothing but one continual spectacle of decay and ruin. The greater part of the pews on the ground floor are laid with nothing but earth. Many of the seats are so much lower at one end than the other that sitting on them is like sitting on an inclined plane, where you are perpetually sliding downwards towards the lower end. In several parts the framework is completely decayed and the wainscot of the pews completely broken down and has bid farewell to the place. The same fate has befallen the doors of some pews and of those which remain many drag on the floor, so that the opening and shutting of them requires no small degree of violence, and makes no little disturbance. Upstairs things are in a very similar condition, particularly in the west gallery. Instead of being raised towards the back, the floor lies horizontally. At the back, however, a few pews, it is presumed they once were (to find an approximate name for them now would puzzle a lexicographer) are raised above the rest. Several of them rest on posts placed in the form of props, and the stairs, by which you ascend into them, are very elegantly formed of loose pieces of stone and blocks of wood piled one on another. He who is to ascend and descend these stairs had need to have no other care on his mind than how he can escape without broken limbs.
In addition to this, the pews and seats are so arranged in almost every possible variation of form so that the countenances of the congregation, when seated, instead of being directed towards the reading desk, look towards almost every point of the compass. If the place were intended for a watch tower, and the congregation were set there to act the part of sentinels, this circumstance might contribute somewhat to their advantage, as it would afford them n opportunity of descrying the approach of an enemy, from whatever quarter, without the trouble of standing and facing about. But it cannot certainly be very decorous nor yet contribute very greatly to devotion and edification, when the congregation, in a place of worship and public instruction, are obliged either to stand or to look over their shoulders, or not to direct their countenances towards him who officiates. Besides all these irregularities and incongruities, similar ones are very prominent in the height of the pews, and in the material of which they are made. Some are twelve inches higher than others, or more, and some of every height between the highest and the lowest. Some are formed of pane work, others without. Of some, the materials are two inch planks in slats, while others scarcely exceed brown paper in thickness. Some are curiously wrought with carved figures of various kinds while others are totally destitute of ornament, and have never experienced the operation of the smoothing plane.
Such is the actual state of the ancient fabric in 1812. – and is such a place fit for a place of worship? Would it not be impossible to find such a mass of ruin, inconvenience, deformity, and danger, heaped together in any other fabric serving for a place of worship throughout the
The church is a very ancient kind of Saxo-Gothic structure. The walls are chiefly of Rowley- rag about three quarters of a yard in thickness. Whether they at some time imbibe moisture and at others exude, though covered with proper coats of plastering, and there are two fire stoves in the church, they very frequently stream with water in summer as well as in winter. After being cleaned and white-washed they are soon again covered with a greenish coat intersected thickly from top to bottom by furrows formed in the descending moisture.
The principle aisle is rather nearer the north side than the middle of the church and continues from the entrance near the west end to the communal rails. Near the north side is a narrower aisle all the length of the church. Proof of the churches Roman Catholic origin lies in the existence of a Gothic niche or grotto used by the papists, about three feet high and four from the ground, once used for holy water. Towards the east there remains a flat white marble stone about six feet in length on which there are carved three letters in old church characters. Across the west end is a gallery upwards of eighteen feet deep erected under a faculty granted by the Consistory of Worcester in 1699 by Zachariah Downing, John Parkes, Henry Haden and John Turton, gentlemen, for themselves, their tenants and other persons of their respective familes at their own proper costs. On the south side is another galley about twelve feet deep from the west end to the chancel.
The whole number of sittings after all does not exceed 300, that is one sitting and a half to every ten persons in the parish, but they are all private property"
The First Church of Rowley.
In 2007 The Staffordshire Parish Registers Society (SPRS) published its transcription of the St. Giles, Rowley Regis, Parish Registers Part 4 covering the period from 1813 to 1849. The three earlier volumes of the registers were published by the SPRS in the period 1912 to 1916. It was extremely fortunate that the Society, founded in 1900, had chosen to transcribe these particular registers early in its existence for St. Giles suffered a fire on June 18th, 1913 and was burnt down. Most of the original parish registers were in the Parish Chest and suffered badly from fire and water damage. The damage to these registers makes anyone interested in church, local or family history cringe. Part 3 of the printed registers gives some indication of the condition that the registers were found in after the fire. For example, the earliest volume covering the period from 1539 to 1624 is described as "Shrunk to exactly half its former size. Number of leaves complete but barely legible owing to damage by fire and water". Another register was described as "So soaked in water that in spite of all efforts to preserve it, it rotted away and had to be destroyed". Two registers survived intact for they were at the time of the fire in the custody of the Parish Register Society, being transcribed. Fortunately, the SPRS had transcribed all of the registers up to 1812 so at least the contents of the registers were made readily available for future local historians and genealogists. The latest volume now to be published by the SPRS covers the period from 1813 to 1849, as stated above. Because most of the registers for this period are not in a fit state for inspection or use, the transcript is mainly based on the so-called Bishop's Transcripts. In 1598, all incumbents of the Church of England were instructed to henceforth make a copy of the entries in their Bishop which, in the case of Rowley Regis, was the Bishop of Worcester. Whilst the Bishop's Transcripts were supposed to be faithful copies of the original registers this was not always the case. However, for Rowley Regis, these Bishop's Transcripts remain the only full original record of the Rowley entries for that period. Some of the original registers, although badly damaged, have survived from the fire and are held at the Sandwell Library. One or two of the volumes have been restored when possible. Each page had to be divided into two separate sheets by professional restorers and a strengthening sheet inserted before the front and back sections of the page were reunited. During the period covered by this current transcription, Rowley Regis was a Chapelry to St. Leonard's Church at Clent. Thus from 1776 to 1816, Lyttleton Perry was the Vicar of Clent with Rowley Regis, being followed by Joseph Sharpe in 1816. On his death in 1825, Adolphus Hopkins took over until he died in 1855. These Vicars were essentially based at Clent, whilst the day-to-day running of the Rowley Regis Church was vested in a Curate. The Curate of Rowley Regis in the early part of this period was the Rev. George Barrs who held that office from 1800 to 1840. For the next five years there were a sequence of incumbents, namely E.J. Burke, Frederick Foot, J.H. Sherwood and T. Massey. William Crump became Curate of Rowley Regis in 1846. It had long been realised that the linkage of Rowley Regis to Clent was outdated, since at this time, Rowley Regis was a populous community expanding rapidly with the development of industry, whilst Clent remained a fairly small, mainly agricultural parish. At the time of the 1831 Census, Rowley Regis was recorded as having a population of 7,438 and increasing rapidly whilst Clent was only a mere 922 which was fairly static. It was thus agreed by the Ecclesiastical Authorities in 1845, that on the death of the then Vicar of Clent with Rowley Regis, the two parishes would be split into two distinct parishes. The Rev. Adolphus Hopkins died in 1855 and from that date Rowley Regis was elevated to a parish in its own right. The registers transcribed cover the baptisms, marriages and burials for the period 1813 to 1849. The original registers were of a pre-printed format and hence required only certain specific information on the parties concerned. However, fortunately, one or two of the Curates of Rowley did provide more information than the minimum required. To take a few examples from the Burial Register for 1813, we have on the 21st March the burial of Sarah Lovell aged 60 "a gipsey woman who with the others of the same fraternity had resided in the parish during the winter" and John Slater "very poor but truly believing in Jesus Christ". On the 7th April the burial of Sarah Bennett aged 20, "A dwarf and dumb idiot and a dwarf of not much above three feet high". The register is rather unusual in that although there was no column in the register for the cause of death, the incumbents at the time obviously thought it useful to record this for posterity. Taking 1820 as an example, 106 people were buried. The most frequent cause of death, claiming nineteen lives, was said to have been "decline", a condition that seemed to affect people of all ages since the youngest to die of this cause in that year was aged just three months whilst the oldest was aged 54. That children's complaint, measles, was the next largest cause of death with some 14 children dying from it in that year. This was closely followed by smallpox which claimed 12 lives. (How fortunate we are to live in a period where both of these diseases don't carry the same risk). "Bowel complaints" came next, presumably a reflection of the quality of the water and of the food people ate. This was followed by "natural decay", a rather graphic description of the effects of old age. Another facet was the risk of bearing a child with four women dying in this year during child birth. The modern scourge of cancer didn't really figure, with it being the cause of death in only two instances. We mustn't think that everyone in this period was doomed to a short life. There were many residents of Rowley Regis who lived to a ripe old age. Many made it into their seventies and eighties whilst some five over the period covered, from 1813 to 1849, made it into their nineties. The oldest death recorded was of Thomas Brooks of the "Town" who was buried on the 20th January 1837, aged 101. His cause of death was that graphic phrase, "natural decay"! We have seen that measles and small pox caused significant deaths but perhaps the most feared of all was cholera. In common with many other Black Country towns, Rowley Regis was hit by the cholera outbreak in 1832. The first death from this cause was recorded on the 16th July when Rhoda Davis, aged 22 was buried. From then on, over the next two months, there were continual burials due to cholera. It seemed to peak in mid August when on the 12th there was one such burial, two on the 13th, six on the 14th and five on the 15th. One can but imagine the horror and fear that this wave of deaths caused. The disease continued through into August, by which time a total of 72 people had died from this cause. Rowley Regis was by no means an isolated area for these attacks. They were prevalent during this period throughout the Black Country. Whilst Rowley Regis suffered 72 deaths in its population of about 7,500, bear a thought for Bilston which suffered 741 deaths in a population of only twice that size. The registers also give an insight to the occupations carried out by the residents of Rowley Regis at that time, since there was a requirement to enter the occupation of the father when baptising a child. Again looking at the entries for 1820, a total of 88 of the entries gave the father's occupation. Way at the top of the list was "Nailer" with 45 entries, meaning that half of all the fathers were engaged in the manufacture of nails. The next nearest occupation given was "farmer" which perhaps was a surprising second with ten fathers giving this as their occupation. Next were labourers at eight, after which we were down to one and possible two of a variety of occupations. These included "Collier" (1), "Blacksmiths" (4), "Tool mender" (1), "Tracemaker" (1), and "Pincer Maker" (1). Standing out from all, was the one entry for the gentry class, namely William Eagles Johnson who was described as a "Gentleman" of Portway.
ROWLEY REGIS. A ROYAL HUNTING GROUND.
It has been a long time since the craggy hills of Rowley Regis were the hunting ground of Mercian Kings. Their wildness has been tamed by the hand and machine of man. They are not as craggy as they were, extensive quarrying has seen to that.
Towards the end of the seventeen hundreds, due to the creation of McAdam and Telford’s new roads, there was an urgent demand for a durable roadstone, and Rowley Rag, a hard basaltic rock was in great demand.
The quarries are still there, but the forty odd pits in and around Rowley at that time have long been closed. Some of the quarries have been filled in by masses of waste from nearby Birmingham, proving that a large hole in the ground can be a lucrative possession for a district council, the land has been reclaimed and grassed over. Parts of Rowley’s hills are looking green again.
The region was inhabited in pre-Roman times. Celtic burial mounds have been discovered. So also have Roman coins bearing the head of Galba who reigned in the year AD 68-9.
My grandmother was born in Rowley Village. When she was a child, 150 years ago, she did not go to school, but spent her time making nails. Most of the children at that time in Rowley did this unless they worked in the pits. The main trade, quarrying, was actually considered too tough for even these hapless children.
I lived within the sound of blasting which took place in the quarries. People set their clocks to the time of day when the ground was rocked by thunderous blasts and earth shaking tremors. Many people were injured by falling rock. The name Hailstone Quarry is metaphorical. The blasting charges sounding like the crack of doom, sent several tons of rock exploding high into the air, to come hailing down again onto the unprotected workers underneath.
Turners Hill climbs to a height of over two thousand feet, and is logged on some old maps of the area as ‘Cloudland.’ Once it was noted as being the highest agricultural point in the British Isles, because there was a farm on top of the hill. It was also said that on fine days one could see the Bristol Channel from this point. Another fact, which was frequently stated, was that should one throw a boomerang eastward from the top of Turners Hill it would touch nothing until it reached the Ural Mountains in Russia.
What else can I say about Rowley Regis? Until now nobody except the natives have found it a very interesting place. Like most Black Country towns it tends to ooze over and merge with its neighbour. Once it filtered through to Blackheath on one side. Now Blackheath is no longer on the planner’s maps. Its name has been taken away and part of it was designated to Rowley and part to Halesowen. On the other side Rowley melts into Old Hill, except that Old Hill has been taken off the map too and now half is in Cradley and the other half in Halesowen.
Rowley Regis was one of the many places that made the Ironmasters and Pit owners rich. Their great houses are still to be seen in the green of the surrounding countryside.
Eastwards, looking from the top of the hill, lies the sprawling urbanity of Birmingham while Westwards is a glorious vista of the hills and valleys of Shropshire, Worcestershire, the Malverns and Clees, and in the distance the mountains of Wales.
Rowley is definitely in the Black Country but there are still farms to be see, relics of the pre-industrial revolution. It is a region full of marl holes, canals, pubs pitshafts, and chapels. The new merges with the old as the past continually raises its head.
You won’t find much about Rowley except in specialist books written by people who loved the place. Another shift of boundaries and it may well be forgotten altogether. Maybe someone will at times recall that it once supplied the whole world with ‘Jews’ Harps,’ those strange musical instruments on which people wrecked their front teeth. And of course its Ragstone. As long as there are roads to be built this tough shiny blue-green rock will be needed, and when in the far off future al this has been worked out, and the great wounded gashes on the hillsides are grassed over, peace will descend, and once again it could become a place of sport and recreation. A playground fit for kings.
Gradually we come to flourishing hedge rows, and wheat-fields, and the lower slope of the Rowley Hills, a range nine hundred feet in height, whence the view over the region of darkness is singularly striking in contrast with sunshine and verdure. From the visible portion of the landscape we can easily infer the beauty that must have pervaded the whole country before it was subjugated by havoc and smoke, when every slope had its wood, every hollow its rill, bordered by pleasant pastures; when Dud Dudley was making experiments, and proving that iron could be smelted with coal, withmanifest economy to woods and forests. He would not recognise the landscape now; but the hills rise above it, and refresh the eye with pleasant scenes, interspersed with quarries, from which is dug the blue basalt, the Rowley Rag of builders.
The higher we go the more rural is the way, till we come to the village of Rowley Regis, whose church is as conspicuous from miles around as that of Harrow, and here the click-click, and thump-thump of hammers in nearly every house, make us aware of having arrived among the nail-makers.
The whole village resounds with the strokes, and each cottage has its little forge occupying the place of the wash-house. We look into one after another and see none but women at work, three or four together, assisted in some instances by a boy or girl. The fire is in common; and one after another giving a pull at the bellows, each woman heats the ends of two slender iron rods, withdraws the first, and by a few hammer-strokes fashions and cuts off the nail, thrusts the end into the fire, and takes out the second rod, and gets a nail from that in the same way. So the work goes merrily on; the rods growing shorter, and the heap of nails larger. " It ain't work as pays for men," answers one of the women in reply to my inquiry," " and 't ain't much better than clem- min' for women." To make a pound of ' fine clout' requires three hours, for which the pay is threepence- halfpenny : so it is hard work to earn a shilling a-day. The woman being a comely body, I ask her why she had not married, to which she replies " I hanna seen my mate yet; and 'tis better to do 'ithout than have a bad un."
In another cottage two women are busy over ' countersunk tips,' for which the pay is two shillings a pound; but the nails are small, and the heads must all be eone-shaped, hence, " 'tis good work to make half-a-pound a-day." One of the two lamented that the days were past when she could begin on Tuesday and earn thirteen shillings a-week. Poor woman! she had to come to the anvil the day after her baby was born, because her husband had long been out of work. She sits down to comfort herself with a pipe of tobacco while we talk, and says : " We be poor foak here, and mun dew what we can."
The founder of the Foley family was a nail-maker of this neighbourhood. He went to Sweden twice with his fiddle, where he cunningly made himself acquainted with processes of the manufacture then unknown in England, and thereby on his return achieved fortune. Now women make nails for a penny an hour, and are conquered by machines, which pour out a stream of nails in tons upon tons every week.
lick The above is a plan of the manor of Rowley Regis in Medeival times showing the manor of Rowley Somery within it. Rowley Regis belonged to the Lords of Dudley and Rowley Somery to the Duke of Sutherland, Duke St in Rowley Regis once part of Rowley Somery is named after the latter. The tracks or roads bear great resemblance to the roads today and we also show the present day name of the lanes within the manor so that you can relate the plan to the present.More detail of these manors are in the Rowley time line. We have compiled this information, with permission from "Rowley Regis a History" by Edward Chitham
Portway Hall which was on the corner of Throne Road and Portway.
The date of erection of this house (1671) is on a tablet over the main entrance. It originally belonged to a family of the name of Johnson, who were apparently yeomen farmers, and resided there. the owner at the date of the Rowley Regis Inclosure Act and award (1799) was Daniel Johnson, who is described as of Portway (Farmer), and he had allotments made to him by that Award in respect of his Portway Hall Estate. The house at that time was an old half-timbered house, built according to the fashion of houses in the 16th century.In the early part of the 19th century the old house was cemented over, added to, and converted into what it is at the present time. It was after its alteration inhabited for some time by the owner, William Eagles Johnson, who was a son of Daniel,. it was subsequently occupied by Mr Phillip Williams, grandfather of the present Mr Joseph William Williams, whose family resided there until the sale thereof to my family, in the year 1837. After such sale the mines were opened and worked, and the hall has been let to various occupants.
The seam of thick coal was worked immediately under the hall, as well as all around under my superintendence. I have before me now a tracing of the working plan, and it shows one of the largest “sides of work”, pounds, that I ever saw in the thick coal district. One of the pillars, small as compared with the house, was exactly under the drawing room, and I remember this pillar was wholly extracted before the closing of the said pound; and as the seam here consisted of one mass of coal 27 to 28 feet thick, all taken clean out, one would have expected the house shattered to pieces. There must have been good work men and good materials when the old hall was built. Of course we had it well girded with iron bars and bolts in preparation for the expected shock of the removal of coal. Mr Job Taylor, Mining Engineer, lived in the hall, which he was very loath to leave until the very latest moment, not withstanding the various warnings by cracks in the walls and noises as well as the palpable sinking of the ground around. I went one morning very early to the house to give him my final and decided opinion that he must move at once, telling him what was done at not more than a depth of 160 to 170 yards underground, immediately below. He invited me to breakfast. I can recollect some of the viands, although nearly fifty years ago. As we sat at table the lady of the house was expressing her fears as to the noises she had heard in the night. Mr Taylor said that I was as bad as his wife. In the moment of his railing a large centre piec with adjoining ceilng fell down upon and covered he table, and each of us who sat around it. I need scarcely say this put a stop to the railing and to the breakfast, but mightily accelerated the flight. All the furniture was removed the same day, and when the next morning came around it was found the house had sunk down to a depth of six feet, and later it ent down much more. S.S.
From “Picturesque Oldbury” 1900, reflecting on events 5o years before
Rowley Hall was the Manor House of Rowley Regis, it was a walled residence at the top of what is now Newhall Road just around the corner at the end of Church Rd not far from St Giles. Photographs of the Hall are very hard to find.The original house or messuage dates bck perhaps as far as the church circa 1199 but was rebuilt during the 16th Century and again in the 19th, it was finally demolished in the 1970s.and replaced by social housing.
Below is a plan of Rowley Hall and the Rowley Hall estate in around 1800 before the house was rebuilt for the last time.The last occupants of Rowley Hall(from around 1900 til 1970) were the Noot family, during the fifties and sixties i lived in Newhall Road and often went to Rowley Hall to buy apples from the orchard, i remember Mr Noot as an old man (to my young eyes at least) who habitualy wore bib and brace overalls and was often unshaven, so they would appear far from posh as previous occupants had undoubtably been. There was a high wall around the majority of the house with the entrance at th top of Newhall road, the wall extended up church road along a passage next to the Grange Inn and around the back of the grounds of the house to a row of cottages perhaps four or six, presumably built and occupied occupied by past estate workers when it was a working farm, then the walllcontinued to a further path which snaked around the grounds in a circular direction. At the edge of the track on this side the ground fell away in a sheer drop the result of quarrying right up to the wall boundry. As I remember it the House was in two parts, the fontage shown above faced Newhall Road,the Noots did not live in this part of the house and to my recolection it was empty and then sub-let. to the left was an entrance in the wall, there were no gates, Inside the entrance there were trees on the left and the out buildings used as pig styes on the right at the rear of the frontage was another part of the house with a separate entrance where the Noots lived, to my recollection this part of the house was far older than the Georgian frontage. The only part of the house I went into was the kitchen which i remember as being enormous with high ceilings, wooden tables and sides of bacon hanging from hooks, at the moment this is about all i can recollect and i regret not taking any more notice of my surroundings. After the house was demolished i remember seeing Peter Noot around Blackheath so the family may still be in the area and it would be good to hear their recollections.
Facts about the Hall are sparce, set out below are facts as known, there are obviously large holes in the story of Rowley Hall and as more facts are uncovered they will be added to the story.The Hall is first mentioned in an inquistion (which was a questioning of ownership) in 1327 as "a messuage (significant house) in ruins" At this time the Regis Manor belonged to Phillipe de Rushalle held in capite from the King.
Rowley: lease for 40 years by William Wyrley of Hampstede (Staffs), Elizabeth his wife and Thomas their son and heir apparent, to Henry Grove of Handsworth (Staffs), bloom smith, of a hall in Rowley (Staffs) called the Old Hall, lying beside a highway leading from the church towards the White Heath, with closes and open field land (described), dated 6 March 5 Ed. VI.(1552). Henry Grove had previously worked for William Wyrley controlling an Iron works at Perry Barr.
During the 16th Century the Grove family gained extensive lands in Rowley Regis and for many generations played the part of Gentry in the area.
In the St Giles registers for 1643 there is an entry which states "Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Willetts, Hall, baptised" We know the Groves had other properties in Rowley, notably Staresmore Hall near Old Hill and Turners Hill house , so they may have sublet Rowley Hall at this time or Thomas Willetts was more likely a live in servant.
The following exchange of land within the north field at Rowley in 1672 indicates that Thomas Grove inhabited Rowley Hall at this time, The north field was next to Rowley Hall and presumably part of it belonged to the Rowley Hall estate, previously having been a communial field now divided into plots,
"Exchange between Thomas Grove and William Russell, of lands in the North Field at Rowley Regis, Staffordshire.
Indenture of exchange between Thomas Grove of Rowley Regis, Staffordshire, gent, and William Russell of Rowley Regis, ironmonger, whereby Grove conveys to Russell a parcel of ground containing half an acre in the North Field in Rowley Regis, in exchange for another parcel of ground containing half an acre in the same field, in consideration of 20 shillings received by Grove from Russell.
17 Jun 1672 "
In 1692 on the 14th July, Samuel Lea of Aldridge son and heir of Thomas Lea married Mistress Katherine Grove daughter of Thomas Grove, Samuel and Katherine had two children baptised in Rowley church, Rachael-Maria, 9/5/1693 and Thomas 5/9/1694. Being the heir of Thomas, Samuel would have eventually returned to Aldridge.
Thomas Grove died in 1693 being succeeded by his son John.
The Grove family still occupied the Hall in the early 18th century , John Grove son of Thomas practised hunting and owned silver plate. Mary Grove his sister married Franceis Eld in May 1703, according to Edward Chitham they lived at the Hall at first and some of their children were baptised at St Giles. the St Giles register reads "Francis Eld Esq and Mary Grove married 20/05/1703" They had two children baptised at St Giles, John 04/04/1704 and Mary 25/11/1708 at the latter date Francis is recorded as a J.P.
In 1705 there was a dispute as to the ownership of the Rowley Hall Estate between John Grove, James Grove, Samuel Leigh, Francis Eld and John Rawlins of Perry Barr the outcome of which resulted in the estates being divided in four parts between the Groves,Elds and Leighs.
In 1714 John Turton of Rowley Hall (Tenant?) left £10 in his will to the poor of Rowley.
In 1746 John Eld of Windsor (son of Francis Eld)is recorded as taking the Justices oath of qualification in respect of his estates at Rowley, He did not own Rowley Hall itself because this part of the estate was still in the hands of the Leighs of Aldridge through the marriage of Katherine Grove to Samuel Lea. When their son now known as Thomas Fetherston Leigh died around 1755 his daughters Katherine Fetherston Leigh and Mary Leigh sold their estates in Rowley, (including Rowley Hall) to pay his debts, John Eld was the purchaser for £1800. At this time the tenant of Rowley Hall was Thomas Danks.
Francis Eld died in 1760 being described as "of the middle temple" according to Edward Chitham the Hall was not occupied at this time and there was no Squire in Rowley.
According to Cradley Links, "In 1796 John Eld died and his estates in Rowley were to be sold to set up a trust fund for his Grandsons, the Elds Family's principal estates were in Seighford near Stafford though John's parents lived in Rowley parish at one time and John was born there."
There is a gravestone in St Giles church yard to the memory of John Walter "formerly of Rowley Hall "and Mary his wife,erected by his second son Arnold Spilsbury Walter, of Birkenhead Chester, he died 27.11.1830 aged 62 and she 18.02.1817 aged 43, they had 7 children all baptised at Rowley: William 1792; Mary Ann 1794; Arnold Spilsbury 1798; Eliza 1800; John Henry 1803; Joseph 1806 and Sarah 1808. There is no record of the Marriage of John and Mary in the St Giles register but a William Walter is a witness at weddings before the birth of William the son of John, he is likely to be Johns father on the basis that Johns first born son is a William. We have traced a John Walter son of William and Sarah bapt 28.04.1769 at Haughton, Stafford and a marriage of John and Sarah at St Phillips Birmingham in 1792 but no more is known of this family or when exactly they resided at Rowley Hall.
Around 1804 John Beet a businessman who's occupation is given as butcher bought and lived at Rowley Hall he rebuilt the original Hall and turned the estate into a working farm. He married his first wife Sarah (nee Higgs)19/11/1818 and his second wife Margaret in 1828 Sarah having died in 1821 shortly after the birth of their daughter Elizabeth (20/7/1821). John Beet died in 1844, his widow was still at the Hall in 1851 cencus. All are buried in St Giles church yard.
The following information was posted on our forum by Jules64, "My g.g.g.grandfather John Blakeway worked for about 50 years (between abt 1820 and1870) at Rowley Hall for John Beet (‘Squire’ Beet) and his family. During his time there, he was a labourer, farmer, gardener, manservant, footman, coachman and groom"
When John Beet died in 1844 Rowley Hall and the estate passed to his only daughter ( Elizabeth)who was unmarried. She married the Rev William Abiah Newman, a widower,curate of St Georges Wolverhampton, in May 1848, they did not live at the Hall but in Cape Town S.A until 1855 and then at Warfield Hall, Warfield, Co Bucks. As stated above Margaret Beet widow and stepmother of Elizabeth was still at the Hall in 1851.It was stipulated in the will of John Beet that she should be able to live at the Hall for her lifetime. The will also stated that should Elizabeth marry the estate would pass to her husband, should she predecease him, and then their children. Should there be no children £3000 should be raised from the estate and given to the Grandchildren of John Beets cousin Richard Beet. This will was contested by William Abiah when Elizabeth died in 1855 but judgement was found in favour of the 4 grandchildren of Richard Beet so presumably the £3000 had to be raised from the estate and paid to them.
By around 1860 and until at least 1866, the tenant of Rowley Hall was one Nicholas H Chavasse his wife Mary and son Thomas, Nicholas was a partner in Knowle Brickworks with a John Jennings and later moved to Granville N Carolina where he appears in the 1880 cencus as a farmer.
The Rev William Abiah Newman died in 1864, his wife Elizabeth having died in 1855, they had no children.The Rev William Alexander Newman, who was William Abiah's son by his first wife, inherited the Hall and the estate but again he and his wife Bertha did not live at the Hall but at Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset where he was Rector. He leased the Coal and ironstone rights on the estate to Messrs Wright and North of Wolverhampton in 1865 and 1868 along with the Hall and four cottages, (presumably those behind the Hall). Rowley Hall colliery opened in 1869 and the manager Frederick North lived at Rowley Hall, William appears to have sold part of the estate in 1871. The opening of the colliery and extensive quarrying would have spelt the end of Rowley Hall and the estate as a gentlemans residence. William Alexander died in 1885 aged 44, his widow Bertha was involved in the passing of the lease for Rowley Hall colliery from Wright and North to Bassano and Hawkes between 1892 and 1894. She also leased Rowley Hall quarry to ?? around 1890.William and Bertha had 2 daughters Ethel and Laura it is not clear whether they inherited the estate or whether it had been sold. These details have been obtained from Newman family papers at National archives.
By the end of the century there was extensive quarrying around the hall coming as far a the walls around the house, this quarry was not filled until the 1950s and 60s being finally built on during the seventies. The estate was further decimated by the Rowley Hall colliery operated by Frederick North, it flooded during the Pit strike of 1921 and never reopened.I
In the 1901 census @ Rowley Hall, now described as two dwellings,is Samuel Dimmock (35) described as a mining engineer and wife Julia, the other occupant is Samuel Mills (31) Secretary to ?, and wife Martha
The Hall was finally demolished in 1970 being occupied by the Noot family since around the turn of the century.. In the 1912 edition of Kellys there are two people (families?) listed at Rowley Hall, they are Alfred Hickman Noot a Commission Agent and Frank Taylor, in the introduction to Rowley Hall above it was recollected that in the 1950s the Noots only lived in the old part of the Hall and the Victorian Frontage was let to another family, this 1912 entry would seem to support this.
You proceed towards Kidderminster, until you arrive at the toll gate, two mile and a half distant, when the right hand road leads to this village where in all probability there are more Jews Harps manufactured than in all Europe beside.
The admirer of nature,(for no art has ever been practised here) may be gratified with various extensive and luxuriant views. There is not anything either in the church or in the village deserving of notice, but there is, not far distant, a rude rugged, misshapen mass of stone, which is situated on the summit of a hill, and projects itself several yards higher than the ground adjoining; it is by the inhabitants denominated Rowley Hail-Stone and when at a considerable distance from it, on the foot road from Dudley, it has the appearance of some considerable ruins.
From this spot the views are more extensive than can be easily imagined over a beautiful and romantic country, Birmingham being very visible.
From “A description of modern Birmingham” Charles Pye 1908
Netherton Tunnel A Victorian engineering miracle
Underneath the Rowley Hills, betwixt Tividale and Bumblehole, there lies hidden one of the engineering wonders of the Black Country; the Netherton Canal Tunnel. Why it is named the Netherton canal tunnel is not known, it is located under the Dudley Rd Rowley Regis and emerges in Tividale, it should, surely, be known as the Rowley canal tunnel.
It is a landmark construction on a grand scale but one completely hidden from view except for its cavernous entrance and exit, and extends for 3,027 yards, which roughly translates into 1.72 miles. This miracle of Victorian engineering was constructed using 26,584,615 bricks, all manufactured locally at Oldbury, Tividale and Old Hill, and with each brick measuring roughly 9 inches in length, if they were laid end to end, the total distance covered would exceed 3,776 miles. To complete a journey along the line of bricks would be the equivalent of travelling through the tunnel no less than 2,196 times. And if every narrow boat journey along its course lasted half an hour, the amount of time spent travelling through the tunnel would be in the region of 46 days.
Of course, statistics become meaningless when you take them to extremes, but collectively they help to emphasise how incredible a feat of engineering it was to undertake the construction of this tunnel, 153 years ago.
During the latter half of the 18th century and early part of the 19th, canal construction was reaching its peak, making these inland waterways the motorways of their time. They became an indispensable means of transporting goods as the level of manufacturing increased, and the canal companies were continually on the lookout for ways of improving their own networks. In 1785 an Act of Parliament was obtained to build the Dudley Tunnel, a 2,904 yd. long underground construction that would link the canals of the east Black Country to those in the west. It was finally completed and opened after seven years and become an instant success. A survey conducted in 1841 registered an incredible 41,704 boats had passed through the Dudley Tunnel during a twelve month period.
As the years progressed it was obvious that improvements had to be made for the Dudley Tunnel to remain viable. It had been built only 8 feet wide and had no passing places, so boats were only allowed through in convoys, four hours in one direction before the tunnel was cleared and the direction changed. The boats were moved by men lying on their backs and pushing with their feet, a practice known as legging, and inevitably huge traffic jams built up at either end. But there was a huge stumbling block preventing the Dudley Tunnel from being modified. The Black Country's manufacturing infrastructure relied on the tunnel so much, any call for its closure to implement modifications were totally rejected. The only answer was to build a new tunnel, and the principal canal operator at the time, BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigations), decided to employ James Walker, one of the most eminent engineers of his time to save the day. His solution to this unique Black Country problem was courageous in the extreme. He drew up plans to build a super highway, a tunnel so large boats could pass with ease along its entire length, and include not one towpath but two. His idea was extraordinary and made the Dudley Tunnel look like a narrow country lane in comparison. With the growth of railways picking up momentum as a much preferred means of transport over the canals, the tunnel had to be built in double quick time. In the end it took two years and seven months to complete, from the first sod being cut by the Earl of Dudley on 31st December 1855 to its opening on 20th August 1858.
Abridged from the Black Country Bugle 2008.
Stone Pillar Worship (Vol. vii., p. 383.). —The Rowley Hills-near Dudley, twelve in number, and each bearing a distinctive name, make up what may be called a mountain of basaltic rock, which extends for several miles in the direction of Hales Owen. From the face of a precipitous termination of the southern extremity of these hills rises a pillar of rock, known as the " The Hail Stone." I conjecture that the word hail may be a corruption of the archaic word holy, holy ; and that this pillar of rock may have been the object of religious worship in ancient times. The name mayliave been derived directly from the Anglo-Saxon Haleg stan, holy stone. It i3 about three quarters of a mile distant from an ancient highway called "The Portway," which is supposed to be of British origin, and to have led to the salt springs at Droitwich. I have no knowledge of any other place bearing the name of Hail Stone, except a farm in the parish of West Fetton in Shropshire, which is called " The Hail Stones." No stone pillars are now to be found upon it: there is a quarry in it which shows that the sand rock lies there very near the surface. Dr. Plot, in his History of Staffordshire (p. 170.), describes the rock on the Rowley Hills as being " as big and as high on one side as many church steeples are." He relates that he visited the spot in the year 1680, accompanied by a land-surveyor, who, ten years before that time, had noticed that at this place the needle of the compass was turned six degrees from its due position. The influence which the iron in basaltic rocks has on the needle was not known at that period, and the Doctor makes two conjectures in explanation of the phenomenon observed. First, he says, " there must be in these lands that miracle of Nature we call a loadstone;" and he adds, " unless it come to pass by some old armour buried hereabout in the late civil war." The sonorous property of the rock led him to conjecture "that there might be here a vault in which some great person of ancient times might be buried under this natural monument; but digging down by it as near as I could where the sound directed, 1 could find no such matter."
Plot docs not mention the name by which this rock was known. It is not mentioned at all by either Erdeswick, Shaw, or Pitt, in their Histories of Staffordshire. N. W. S.
The St Giles charnel Cave.
In 1797 Shaw the Staffordshire historian wrote of the St Giles Rowley churchyard, “ There is a charnel cave left open in te graveyard containing a great number of human skulls and bones to serve I suppose as a “memento to mori” to the villagers and tell them to what complexion they must come at last”
A charnel house is a vault or building where corpses and/or bones are stored. They are often built near churches for depositing bones that are unearthed while digging graves.
Often, where ground suitable for burial was scarce, corpses would be allotted a certain period of temporary interment following death. This enabled the relics to be collected and the ground re-used for further burial. This especially occurs in particularly rocky or arid places.
William Crump vicar of St Giles postulated in 1854 that the cave could perhaps be attributed to mass burials, maybe the great plague of the 17th century or the “awful pestilence” which struck the village during 1728 and 1729. The Great Plague avoided the Rowley area but looking at the burial registers there were 45 burials recorded in 1669 which was double the average and from 1727 to 1729, as can be seen from the following statistics, there were also a large number of deaths perhaps swamping the abilities of the sexton at the time; 1725(54); 1726(60); 1727(110); 1728(174); 1729(168); 1730(103); 1730(103); 1731(102); 1732(48); 1733(45)
We also found the following anecdote referring the to St Giles charnel House.
“in 1791 the good people of Kingswinford were saved from the activities of a serial bodysnatcher and murderer thanks to an argument over a broken needle.
William Hawkeswood was born in Pedmore where his father was an undertaker. After receiving some schooling William obtained a job as ’dispenser to Surgeon Fox’ in Kingswinford but after he accused the good Mr Fox of using broken needles when sewing up his patients Hawkeswood returned to live with his parents.
The next year, however he was caught “secretly stealing sundry skulls and bones from an open charnel grave at Rowley Church in the borough of Rowley Regis”. Worse still was that he was found to have constructed a complete skeleton from the stolen bones.
As a result the business of Hawkeswood’s father suffered and the family moved to Swindon, near Wombourne. William managed to get employment with a Mr Parker of Chasepool Lodge as a coachman.
However, bodysnatchers became active in the area and—not surprisingly—William Hawkeswood was amongst the first to be interviewed. This caused a row between him and his employer who was found dead the following day having been poisoned.
William ran off to Worcester but was captured and brought to trial on 4th April 1808. He was found guilty and executed on 6th April.
Afterwards the body was cut down and delivered to surgeons (including Surgeon Fox) for dissection. The unwanted parts of the body were then buried at Trysull crossroads.”
Compiled from various sources.
The origin of the name “Bell End” has been lost in the mists of time and has been the subject of much debate, but maybe the following gives a clue
Bell End Colliery. This colliery was owned by the Rowley Hall Colliery when it opened new shafts were sunk on the site of a former un named mine, (possibly the site of an old Bell Pit) it survived until 1932 the last working mine on the southern slopes of the South Staffs seam, the others having succumbed to flooding in the 1920’s
“Medieval mines were usually drift mines or shallow bell pits. The bell pits were dug down from the surface and then out into the coal seam in the shape of a bell. Coal and miners were hoisted up and down in the manner of a bucket in a well. Mine roofs only collapsed if the 'colliers' burrowed too far outwards”
“The Bell Pit was one of the earliest forms of underground mining where a central shaft was sunk into the seam. The miners then worked outwards from the pit shaft until the pit roof was in danger of collapsing whereupon the bell pit would be abandoned and a new shaft would be sunk nearby. The materials would be hoisted up on a wooden rope winch or windlass with a basket attached to it.”
Bell End Pit.
"Bell End Pit had two shafts with rope, one shaft had a tank which filled with water, the other shaft was for a cage in which the miners were transported up and down to and from the coal face.
The water for the tank came from a pool at the side of the pit called the “wimsey pool” fed from a stream from the Rowley Hills and perhaps a legacy of the old “bell pit”. When the tank was at the surface and the miners cage at the bottom of its shaft a door in the tank automatically opened and the water went into a brook which flowed in the direction of Oldbury Rd.
The pit workings were quite high as though on stilts and one could easily walk underneath them. The coal came up in square metal tubs on wheels, ten were chained together the first tub was clipped to a steel wire and the tubs were pulled on a pit railway which ran from Bell End to Rowley Hall colliery on the “Quack” at the top of Mincing Lane and on to Cold Blow pit around Portway and eventually to find its way to the canal."
Pioneers of Social Housing - The Rowley Building Society, 1792.
"If your family name was, or is Darby, Deeley, Auden, Edwards, Ingley, Bissell, Westwood, Hawkswood, Bowater, Haysall, Tetley or even Ruston then your ancestors may have helped to make history and alter the way in which we live.
"It all started during the Industrial Revolution when great numbers of people left the countryside and moved to the areas where there was work in the mines and factories. Housing on a huge scale had to be provided for these workers and their families. Thousands of homes were quickly built, usually the back-to-back type, one up and one down with a shared brewhouse and toilet all around a common yard.
"For a while that type of cramped living was acceptable though many men and women wanted something better - but how could they afford to do it on their own? Wesley and another Methodist, Whitfield, were preaching the idea of self-help by groups joining together and forming societies, and pooling their resources, which members could draw upon in time of need. These groups were called friendly societies and they were very successful in times of sickness and unemployment (see Bugle 718 and 721 for recent features on friendly societies).
"Soon the idea of adopting the principles of the friendly societies and using them to provide houses began to take shape. You can imagine where all this would be talked about – in the local inn, because that was a common meeting place for most folk. The innkeeper would naturally join in the discussions, as would local businessmen and traders. The scene is set, and out of the smell and smoke and beer of the Golden Cross Inn in Birmingham in 1775 we had a Mr Richard Ketley appeal for subscribers to a “building society.” Notice how they had adapted the friendly society title.
"The idea that those building society pioneers had come up with was that members should subscribe to a share in the society with a value equivalent to the cost of building a house, which was around £60. The subscriptions would be at a rate of 10s. 6d. per month and as soon as the subscribers had raised enough funds land was bought and building commenced. Then, when the first house was ready, lots would be drawn and the lucky winner would be allocated the house. The procedure was repeated with everyone paying their subscriptions until everyone had a house. Members would be handed the deeds of their houses and the society would be terminated, its work done, and so these societies were known as terminating building societies.
"After the first society was formed in 1775 in Birmingham a second society was formed in Dudley on 17th February, 1779. 1781 saw three more societies started in Birmingham and in 1785 there were two more formed there, and one was established in Leeds. Very slowly the idea was catching on and beginning to spread when it could be seen how successful these schemes were. On 13th April, 1786, the ninth known society, called the Dudley Arms Building Society, was established to 'erect and build an Inn with suitable and necessary offices and conveniences thereto, and also a Market Place and Shambles.'
"All this activity was being noted by the good folk of Rowley, who were anxious to improve their way of living. On 24th October, 1792, an agreement to establish a building society, and purchase land in trust for the members, was made by five men – John Mackmillan, gentleman; Anthony Miller, butcher; William Bridgewater, yeoman; Benjamin Bolton, hinge-maker; and John Auden, blacksmith. They were all from Rowley Regis, except for Bridgewater, who came from Dudley. Land was duly bought on the 22nd and 23rd March, 1793, situated off the main road to Dudley, opposite where the Rowley Regis Grammar School used to be, and known today as Stanford Drive.
"On Wednesday 9th April, 1794, all the gentlemen mentioned so far met for the inaugural meeting of the Rowley Building Society at the Swan Inn, situated half way down the hill on the right hand side going towards Blackheath, and whose landlord was John James. This was the 14th building society ever.
"It is apparent from the records of the society, which are held by the William Salt Library in Stafford, that difficulties soon arose. Members had to be reminded to pay their subs or be fined and on two occasions, appeals for extra funds were made.
"Houses were built however, thirteen in all. Some land was sold off, probably to provide much-needed cash, and the members continued to meet regularly at the Swan Inn. Occasionally, especially after the sale of some land, the members agreed 'to have at their next meeting 20lbs of Beef and a leg of mutton and supper'. Another time they agreed to have 'a bed of beef cooked the next Club night for the workmen and members as a Rearing, with Cabbage to it, to be ready at 7 o’clock.' Hearty builders with hearty appetites!
"In spite of its ups and downs the society continued to meet regularly during 1795, 1796 and 1797, although the numbers of members attending some of the meetings fell to as low as three or four. Perhaps after being allocated a house some members didn’t feel it necessary to go to meetings, although they had to carry on paying their subscriptions.
"The minutes of the meetings are very variable, some being quite informative while others are quite sketchy. In 1795, on 10th February, there is recorded a long minute which is an agreement with a Jesse Taylor to build four houses, four nail shops and four necessary houses, plaster them down and to finish them by the 10th June next for £31 10s, or on default thereof forfeit £5! Mr Taylor also agreed to sink a well in the building, at 10 shillings per yard and as deep as the committee thought proper. Nothing further is noted about the project so presumably it was completed as agreed, although in July a Thos. Wilkes was instructed to sink a well 10 yards deep at 11 shillings per yard!
"The society was, however, having difficulty in fulfilling its original ideals and on the 20th September, 1797, the remaining 14 members agreed to sell all the shares of the club providing the members had all the money paid to them which they had put into the treasurer’s hands.
"We are not told who the new members were but presumably all the shares were sold because somehow the society still carried on and on 3rd January, 1798, the committee was strengthened by the appointment of John Mackmillan as treasurer and Edmund Darby, clerk. It was recorded that the society would continue till otherwise agreed. It seems that there was something of a power struggle going on.
"Meetings continued to be held throughout the rest of 1798 and 1799 but not much was recorded in the minutes except for the names of those present and the sale of the odd share; such as the widow of Jos. Edwards (who had last attended a meeting in November 1796) selling her share to Edmund Darby. On 18th July 1798 a Samuel Darby, senior, of Long Lane, Blackheath, had bought from Samuel Darby, junior, one share. That is the first mention of the address of a member and of a relationship between members.
"During 1800 the end came into sight. Some land was sold, the members were asked to provide an extra contribution of £1. 1s. and John Mackmillan was instructed, at a meeting held on 10th September, 1800, to give Mr John James orders to take a Distress of three of the tenants belonging to the society, viz. David Lowe, James Whittall and Joseph Parkes. Also at that meeting it was decided to hold the next general meeting on Wednesday, 8th October, 1800, (still at the Swan Inn) at 10 o’clock in the morning and 'to have a good dinner provided at the expense of the said society.'
"And then silence. Although the minute books tell us a great deal about the Rowley Building Society there are many gaps. For instance, we are not told much about the members’ addresses or their occupations, except in one or two instances. John Auden, who was a founder member and attended every meeting, was a blacksmith. Benjamin Bolton was a hinge-maker. Six of the members signed documents by making a cross. Whether they could write or not they made their contribution to a brave effort to improve their lot and helped make history.
From an article which was published in the Lawrence Lane Church magazine in 2006 written by Mr Thomas Cookson of Cradley Heath, it deals with a brave effort by local Rowley people to form a building society, the 14th ever founded. It is, of course, more than likely that the founders may have descendants still living in the area.
The Ward Arms and the Church Tavern.
The Church Tavern appears in old records of Rowley Village until the name disappears soon after 1851. Funny how things turn up unexpectedly, for some time we had been trying to work out ,from the 1841 and 1851 census, the position of The Church Tavern in Rowley village which at first we thought later became known as the Ward Arms. According to the census of 1841 the Church Tavern was at the top of the village up from the Kings Arms on the north side of the village and next to Thomas Smith the draper on the corner of the village and Church row. We at first thought it could be a building on an island between the church and Smiths as shown on the old map of Rowley circa 1830 on this website. Maybe this had been knocked down and replaced by the Ward Arms next to the Church in Hawes Lane. However we were soon able to discount the Church Tavern and the Ward Arms as being the same because they both appear on the 1841 census although not named. On the 1841 census at the top of the village listed as next to Smiths drapers is a dwelling with Daniel Bridgewater named as a licenced victualler, on the 1851 census the same buildein is occupied by Zacharia Partridge, in trade directories of the same time he is listed as the licencee of the Church Tavern. On the same census next to the church we have Widow Hadley aged 60, victualler, in the 1818 and 1834 Trade directory Jno Hadley is licensee of Lord Dudley’s Court House, therefore the Ward Arms or Lord Dudley’s Court house and the Church Tavern must be separate establishments.
Recently we attended a presentation at the Rowley Regis local interest group the topic of which was Worcestershire and during the presentation we were shown a picture of a Coaching Inn, it was a 3 storey building with a door in the middle and windows either side. Immediately we saw the building it reminded us of a large 3 storey house next to Smiths (later to become T P Moyle) at the top of Rowley. We then remembered a passage from the excellent book on Rowley by Irene Davies “A pocket full of memories” in which she describes the house she lived in as a child in Rowley village:
“ we shared a house in the village with Aunt Polly, Uncle jack and their baby Arthur. After the first war this house was to become a butchers shop owned by Albert Taylor, cousin to Aunt Polly and Dad, his brother being a brother of Granny Hadley. The shop window faced right across Currall Rd, but this was an alteration. The original house looked out over the village, down the hill to Blackheath. It was a large rambling house which I think must have been the lodge or coach house to the big house next door. I say big because when it was new it must have been one house. Indeed I understand that at one time it was a coaching inn. At some time a second front door had been added different to the original and it made two houses, Mr Frank Taylor, Albert’s brother lived in part and he said on his deeds that it was a coaching inn” (Reprinted with permission of the Kates Hill Press)
This passage would seem to pinpoint the position of the Church Tavern without much doubt.
The Church Tavern converted to two private houses.
Zacharia Partridge is at the Chuch Tavern in 1854 with Honor Stainton being at the Ward Arms. Zacharia would seem to have been the last occupant of the Church Tavern before it was converted to a private house because by 1861 the Church Tavern is no longer listed as such and Zacharia is living in Blackheath. Zacharia is also a good example of multiple occupations or inaccurate census, In 1841 he is at what would become the Malt Shovel on the bottom corner of Siviters Lane described as a Maltster, his apparent father Thomas is next door also a maltser, by !861 he is in Blackheath described as a labourer and in 1871 he is an ex maltster aged 76, in 1881 he is at 79 High Street Blackheath aged 86 with wife Mary, 76 and described as “formerly a nailer”.
Malting, an important task.
There were at least two Maltsters in Rowley Village one on the corner of Siviters lane next to what would become the Malt Shovel and one next to the Ring O Bells at the top of the Village, The Malt House was first built in Tudor times and was originally used as a stable or barn. Whatever it’s original purpose, it was being used for malting barley by the 18th century. This was a process which turned the locally grown barley into beer.
A skilled craftsman was required to oversee the malting process. Once threshed, the barley was taken by cart to the Malt House where it was steeped (soaked) on the ground floor for at least two days. After this the grains were spread out on the first floor where they were left to germinate. This part of the process which took between ten and twenty days required that a constant temperature be maintained.
The germinated barley was moved up another floor where it was left to dry for four days, during this time it was regularly turned.
Once dried, the barley was fed down a chute onto the curing floor – above the kiln. Here it was spread out on perforated tiles, a process which gave the grains a lovely aroma and flavour.
In the last part of the process the kilned grains were put into sacks . In the Brewhouse, hops and yeast were added to make beer.
In the past, beer was an important drink for ordinary English people. We still talk about ‘small beer’ as being something which is of little importance but in the past, it was far from being unimportant. Small beer, which is produced from a second and third use of the barley was drunk by everyone from labourers in the fields to their children. This was because water was often unsafe to drink, unlike the beer which contained enough alcohol to kill harmful bacteria.
We may not normally associate Rowley with the supernatural but we found the following newspaper article from 1855 describing the strange case of the Devil’s footprints at Higgs field on the site of the Eagle colliery between the Dudley Number 2 canal and Powke Lane, near to the junction of Garretts Lane and Moore Lane.
Here is a modern picture of the site of the Eagle Colliery.
Here's what we found during our investigation of the area !!
If you stand on the site of the Devil’s Footprints and look towards the Rowley Hills, Hailstone Hill comes into view. The Hailstone itself is long gone, demolished in 1879. The Hailstone was also associated with the Devil and was said to be cursed, there is a story that the Devil threw stones at the Rowley hills from Clent which landed on Hailstone Hill and formed the mighty Hailstone, a huge outcrop of basalt rock from which he could survey his kingdom. There are also tales of the Devils footprints being found in the vicinity of the Hailstone and the local quarries; some said it had to be destroyed because of its evil associations. When it was finally destroyed by dynamite in 1979 two men died in the process, fulfilling the curse of the Hailstone
Here is another account of a similar phenomena.
I"in the Black Country, in January 1855, cloven hoofmarks, similar to those of a deer, were found on the vertical walls and roofs of a number of pubs, starting with The Cross at Old Hill in Rowley Regis. Elizabeth Brown, landlady of The Lion pub, suggested a supernatural explanation for the mystery, telling a public meeting that 'her house was mainly frequented by quarrymen and the tracks were nothing new to them. Similar hoofmarks were to be seen burnt into the rock at Pearl Quarry, on Timmins Hill, and trails of them led from that place to the Hailstone.' Since the Rowley hoofmarks appeared nowhere but on the walls and roofs of pubs, however, it seems at least as likely that the Lion marks were made by local chapel 'ranters' who wanted to make a point about the pernicious effects of alcohol "
We were pleased to receive the following memories which are published with permission, we hope this will prompt other readers to contact us;
"My name is Derek Siviter and all my family originate from Rowley.I have traced ( with help from a friend ) my family tree back to Richard Siviter ( born 1620 ) and his wife Sarah (born 1618 ) I believe that they or their offspring, lived in a cottage in Siviters Lane built in 1663 and demolished in the 1960's.
My Grandfather had a Hauliers business in Rowley Village about halfway down the hill between Coral Rd and Siviters Lane on the Right going down the hill, at No 10. Some of my Great Uncles lived in the cottages opposite the Church.I was born in St Giles Avenue behind The Bulls Head and lived at 49 Hawes Lane until I married.You are correct that the houses were compulsary purchased for road widening which never happened There are new houses there at present.At the top of the hill on the same side of the Church there was Thomas Phillip Moyle's grocery shop and just below Mr Taylor kept a Butchers shop. He was a Methodist local preacher. Opposite his shop was a newsagent combined with a Mens Hairdresser,where I used to have my hair cut as a lad.On the brow of the hill opposite the Church another Mr Taylor had a shoe shop where he also repaired shoes.I believe the shop was run later by Mr Bert Westwood another Methodist local preacher,who had thirteen children.In the lower part of Hawes Lane towards the Bulls Head,we had the Co-op,a Strict Baptist Church ,a Weslyan Chapel and a General Store run by Mrs Barnsley whose family also had a vehicle repair business at the top of the hill opposite the Kings Head P.House.Just past the Co.op there was a smallholding run by Mr Hill who also had a hauliers business halfway down Doulton Rd.Across the road from there was a large house lived in by the Manager of the local quarry Justpast the Conservative Club on the bend ( is it still there? ) lived Miss Hayward the local District Nurse and a little further on was a News Agents run by Mr Bert Beddows.Next door was the local Bobby ,Mr Huyton.
When I think of my youth in Rowley I remember such events such as the Winter of 1947 when the snow was 5ft deep across the road outside our house.Everything stopped but unlike today life went ,on.children went to school,people went to the local factories,ie Lenches,Doultons the quarries etc.Buses could not get up Rowley Hill so everyone walked.When a delivery of bread was made to the Co-op or coal to the Coal Yard in the village people could be seen pulling sledges loaded with their purchasesI could go on but enough for now.I hope this will be interesting and usefull for the archives? My Grandfather married three times and so I lost track of my Step relatives.If anyone reading this has knowledgs of the Siviter clan please get in touch."
The Robert Peel, circa 1850 to the present.
Named after Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel (5.02.1788 – 2.07.1850) The Pub was unlikely to be named after him during his lifetime and so presumably became a licensed house after 1850,.This is borne out by the fact that it does not appear on the census as the Robert Peel until 1861, it therefore follows that it became a pub after 1851, the date of the previous census, and before 1861. Sir Robert Peel died prematurely, in a riding accident, in July 1850.
On the 1861 census it is occupied by Daniel Bowater (28), his wife Rose Hannah (27), and a house servant , Ann Maria Cole (24). Daniel is described as a victualler, this is the first mention, on any census, of the Robert Peel.
Bowater is a notable name in Rowley Village. Richard Bowater is listed at the Kings Head, Rowley Village, as a victualler and Jew’s harp maker in trade directories of 1820 and 1834 and his father Mark Bowater is described the same in his Will of 1813. Joseph Bowater a butcher and victualler kept the Bulls Head at the opposite end of the village for many years.
On the 1881 census Rose Hannah is now a widow, aged 47, operating the pub with a female servant Jane Mullett. Rose Hannah died in 1889, there were no children, and in her will she left property in Rowley to either her brother Edward Southwick or her sister Mary Walker. It could be that, at this time,. the Robert Peel was sold to the Evans family who, as we shall see, had previously occupied the property before it became a public house.
An article in the Black Country Bugle on the Evans family who operated the Churchbridge Brewery in Oldbury stated that “In 1902 the Robert Peel was owned/run by William Evans.” This is interesting because William Evans was the son of John Evans who was born in Rowley Village in 1841. The Robert Peel is situated at the start of Rowley Village and was previously at the beginning of Lillypot Row, a string of around 14 houses and cottages which stretched up the road almost as far as the Britannia Inn.
On the 1841 census the first house in Lillypot Row is occupied by William Evans (30), a shoe maker, with his wife Phillis (35), and sons John (2), and Joseph (1mth). Next door but one is John Matthews (40), nailer, with William Evans (6), Sarah Evans (9), and Elizabeth Evans (11). The latter three were children of William and Phillis, John Matthews is believed to be the Brother of Phillis. A little further up Lillipot Row on the same census we find another family member, brother of William Evans, namely, Joseph Evans (43), a nailer, his wife Deborah (39), and children Joseph (16), Edward (10), Ezara (8), Henry (5), Eliza (3), and John aged 2mths. It is this John who founded the Church Bridge brewery.
By 1851 Joseph Evans had moved from Rowley Village and between 1851 and 1861 William Evans and John Matthews relocated to Blackheath, it is around this time that the Robert Peel came into being.
John Evans married Eliza Lenton, 7.12.1862, and lived at Church Bridge Oldbury carrying on the business of grocer and wheelwright, they had three children Joseph, William, and Ann Eliza.
In the London Gazette of December 1869 we find the following notice:
“John Evans now and for two and a half years past residing at the Vine Inn, Whiteheath Gate, retail brewer, grocer and wheelwright and previously thereto at Church Bridge, Oldbury, grocer and wheelwright, having been adjudged bankrupt on 15/12/1869.”
John’s sister Eliza had married Henry Whitehouse in 1858, the Whitehouse family were Black Country publicans who owned, along with other pubs, the Vine at Whiteheath Gate where John lived in 1869.
John Evans fortunes must have recovered because he later moved to the New Inn Birchfield Lane Oldbury and founded the Church Bridge Brewery, supplying the Vine and the Gate in Whiteheath, the Navigation in Wolverhampton Rd, the Fountain at Langley and perhaps the Robert Peel at Rowley.
John Evans died in 1901 and his sons carried on the Brewery with William at the Robert Peel and Joseph at the New Inn.
By 1911 William Evans is no longer at the Robert Peel, it is now occupied by Walter Willetts (39), a licensed victualler and dealer, his wife, Clara Jane (38), assisting in the business, children Reginald (15), Herbert Walter (13), Mary (11), Clara (8), Lawson Joseph (4), and Emma Downing (21), a general servant.
The Robert Peel is described as having 10 rooms (count the kitchen as a room but do not count scullery, landing, closet, lobby, bathroom nor warehouse, office, shop)