Rowley Regis, Rowley Village, history, black country, jew's harp, Sandwell. Blackheath, Old Hll, Cradley Heath, Whiteheath,Rowley Hills, West Midlands, South Staffordshire.Rowley Regis parish Church, St Giles,Great War Memorial. Rowley fallen.



Henry Adcock and a strange use for Rowley Rag

Rev George Barrs - Curate of Rowley Regis.

 The Journals of the Rev George Barrs 

The poet W H Auden and his family " Rooted in Rowley" 

George Smith - Hangman

Even a Hangman has feelings

Tommy Smart - Aston Villa and England 

Anecdote on a Portway resident

Paul Shelving - Stage Designer.

Sir Frederick Bridge and the rebuilding of Rowley Church

Benjamin "Britannia" Bolton and the Britannia Inn Rowley village

Lt Col.Rev Francis John Cheverton

Henrietta Mary Auden and the St Giles Parish Registers.

Daniel O'Connel and a bit of Irish blarney

Daniel Matthews and the strict Baptists of Bell End 

The Beasley Family of Rowley

Daniel Russell of Portway Hall and Oliver Cromwell's head

The Gaunt family of Rowley 

Stainton, Price and Noott, Three Rowley families.  

 Family Vaults under St Giles. Haden; Barrs; Sheldon; Hill; Russell and Orm.

James Woodhouse poet of Rowley

Samuel Lewis and the nailers riots of 1842 

The lineage  of the HADEN family 

George Barrs - The man with a message from God.. 

George Aldridge - A Travelling Preacher. 

 The 1914-1918 War Memorial in St Giles Churchyard.

John Charles Reynolds.

John Troman and Elizabeth Bennett 

Noah Harris and the Vine public house. 

Leah Whithalls of Club Buildings and a cross stitch sampler.

 Rev Christopher Stephenson

The death of Mary Carter

John Attwood and Josiah Parkes - Sympathy for the poor of Rowley (or lack of same)

O'd Troman

The Tragic Tale of Mary Smith and her Twin Boys.


 Rowley Rag, Henry Adcock and Chance Bros.

 The strangest use of dolerite?
In the early C19th when geologists were trying to understand how magma produced igneous rocks several experiments were carried out. “How do you prove that these hard crystalline rocks came from molten rock?” The answer chosen was “Heat up a sample to a melt and let it cool and crystallise back into a solid”. The result looked a bit glassy, but quite similar to the original.

For a short time in the 1850s dolerite was used to produce artificial stone. Chance Bros, glassmakers, of Smethwick, allowed Henry Adcock to experiment with dolerite. Glassworks have crushers, furnaces and moulds which use silica [quartz] sand as the main ingredient for glass. Dolerite was crushed, heated to melting point in a coal-fired furnace and poured into moulds of various shapes. For just three years Chance Bros produced …


slabs for steps, window-heads and -sills, string [damp-proof] courses, mantel-pieces, doorways, columns and capitals, besides a number of objects suitable for internal decoration, slabs for tables and sideboards, door-plates and knobs etc” …[2]


… but production costs were too high!!

"In the year 1851 Mr. Henry Adcock, a civil engineer, of Old- bury, took out the first patent for the production of bricks, tiles, pipes, &c. from the fused trap of Rowley Regis. This gentleman had been led to the application of this material from experiments which he had commenced in the year 1834. He then fused some Rowley Rag in a common kitchen fire; and being much impressed with the beauty of the black glass, as it fell on the hearth, he perceived that it possessed a probability of great practical value. He obtained the use of a reverberating furnace, and conducted his experiments upon a larger scale. In 1851 a patent was obtained, in which the inventor claimed for his discovery in melting the stony material, known as Basaltic Trap, Rowley Rag, or Whin- stone, and running the same when in a fluid state into moulds. The materials were heated in a reverberating furnace, either at the bottom, or in crucibles, and then cast into cast-iron moulds, put together with iron cramps. The fused trap was run into the moulds, when both were brought into a state of white heat. If it were intended to give a polished surface to the casting, the cast iron mould was highly polished and coated with plumbago, also highly polished. If the fused materials were allowed to cool at a gradual and slow rate of cooling, the result was a hard stony rock, scarcely to be distinguished from the original trap from Rowley Regis; but a less degree of heat, with a quicker rate of cooling, caused the materials to assume the appearance of a mixed marble; and a rapid rate of cooling produced a black glassy substance, quite opaque, unless it was cast very thin, and then it became semi- transparent. If it were desired to run the fused materials more quickly, a flux, such as soda, effected such a result.The practical utility of this invention became widely known, and an extensive application of it was made in ornaments of an architectural character, mantel pieces, window sills, window heads, string courses, capitals of columns, and monumental slabs, which were all cast from Rowley Bag: and these, from the almost imperishable nature of the material, are likely to endure for ages. For reasons which it is not necessary to state the works did not long continue, and have since been taken down."






Edgbaston Vestry Hall, now used by a stationery firm, has wonderful examples around the windows and doors. Unfortunately they have been painted white!

There is a photo of Windows and Window sills in Edgebaston Vestry Hall in the photo's section




A 19th Century Curate (The Reverend George Barrs)


by Peter Barnsley from The Blackcountryman volume 1, issue 4

One man whose local influence and importance have very much diminished in the 20th century is the parish priest. In 1800, when the Reverend George Barrs became curate of Rowley Regis, the clergyman's authority was much stronger and he could greatly influence the lives of his parishioners. Barrs was born in Caldecote, Warwickshire, in 1771, and, before he came to Rowley, had spent a year as a curate in Norfolk after being ordained in Ely Cathedral.

In 1801, Barrs married into the Haden family (who were then very important locally) and thus armed with influential relations and his "plain and powerful" preaching style, was well-equipped to tackle parochial problems, both lay and clerical. According to his son, Rowley Regis was then

"scarcely in a state of common civilisation. The management of parochial affairs was in every possible sense the most corrupt and profligate."

Barrs took into his own hands "the whole direction and control" of Parish affairs, stamping out all abuses, and reputedly gave Rowley an administration, which was the envy of neighbouring parishes.

George Barrs was energetic, purposeful, narrow-minded, humourless, blinkered and very brave. He was frequently insulted on the highway and even pelted with stones, cinders and dirt. On one occasion he dispersed a hostile mob, armed with bludgeons and bayonets on sticks, who had attacked a bakehouse. His physical courage on this occasion is commendable, but he seems not to have considered, even remotely, that there was anything wrong with a society which drove men to such desperate extremes of hunger. Indeed, in his journals, he complacently described England as a "free and enlightened" country. Those who in the early 1830s were clamouring for elementary civil rights, were seen by him as

"the vulture group which long to prey on the property of others, and thirst for riot, rapine and blood."

He was an avowed Conservative, but much of the opposition to him locally was not political. He was determined to build a new church and this was strenuously opposed in the parish, seemingly because many feared it would mean a rise in the rates. Rowley church had stood since the reign of King John, had an outer wall of Rowley rag, and in the curate's own words, was "a cold, damp, ruinous, gloomy, dilapidated dungeon." Its floor was bare earth and in wet weather the curate was over his ankles in mud when he walked down the aisle. The roof leaked like a sieve and the wooden pews were warped and crooked. Eventually, in 1840, only a few months before asthma killed him, he laid the foundation stone of the new church. At his death, its walls were only 3 feet high. Ironically, this church failed to see the century out; it became unsafe through mining subsidence and was pulled down.

His main preaching preoccupation - in sermons which never lasted less than an hour, and which, from 1805, were always extemporised - was to attack the Roman Catholic Church in terms far more colourful and explicit than would be used by any modern parson. " .... judgement must come on the mother of harlots ... but how many more kings and nations of the earth may first be drunk with the wine of her fornication, none can tell." The Catholic Emancipation bills, which were passed during these years, were strenuously opposed by him, and he foresaw a return to the days of burning at the stake if the Catholics gained political power.

He didn't think much of dissenters, either. "He was seduced among the Baptists," he wrote of one of his acquaintances, pursuing his apparent fondness for sexual metaphor. He was threatened with prosecution for attacking the "Baskerville Bible" from his pupit (it contained annotations of "the Unitarian stamp"), but such threats had no effect upon him.

In the journals which he left, Barrs gave glimpses of life in Rowley Regis in the early 19th century, which prompt the wish that he had written more.

He described the "disgusting yells" of a bull-baiting mob and reported an outbreak of cholera, which spread from West Bromwich, Tipton and Dudley in 1832. 52 people had died between July and September - nearly all young. In one 3-day period, 18 were buried; on several occasions people attending a funeral were brought back next day to be buried themselves. In his own immunity, the curate saw the hand of heaven, but if only 52 died out of an estimated population of about 8000, heaven's hand was evidently busier than Barrs thought. He also reported a visit with members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science to the caverns in the limestone rock at Dudley Castle. "they were lighted up in a very spendid style, by direction of the trustees of the late Earl of Dudley." This must have been a rare relaxation as well as unusual company for Barrs, who noted that the biblical account of the formation of hills and rocks differed from "the notions of modern geologists," but was sure that

"Scriptural geology will stand when all that man has invented shall be lost in the confusion and imagination from which it sprang."

Barr's journals do not reveal him as a man with much sympathy for the suffering of his fellow human beings, although during his lifetime, spent almost in the heart of the Black Country, he must have been surrounded by such suffering. Those were the days of long hours, little pay and execrable working conditions, but he mentioned none of these things.

His attack on the Whigs' New Poor Law of 1834 was based rather on his realisation that it would involve raising the rates, than on his concern at the probable harshness of its operation. Under the old law they had managed to reduce the rates and this, for Barrs, was sufficient recommendation.

He performed his duties, lay and clerical, as long as he was able, frequently dragging himself to church when he was in no fit condition to go. He was unflagging in his zealous propagation of his Calvinist views but he lacked that basic human sympathy, which a minister should have. His essentially patrician instincts are implicit in his revealing aside on his daughter-in-law, whom he praises for her "kindness to her domestics, without verging towards undue familiarity." And on the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales in November, 1817, he caused the funeral bell to be tolled each minute throughout the day, with a muffled peal following at 10 o'clock at night. He was learned; he read Greek and Hebrew (he thought the latter was essential to anyone who wished to understand the bible), but his reading was limited to the Bible and biblical commentaries.


His portrait hangs in the vestry of the present (4th) Rowley church. It shows a high-browed countenance with long sideboards and aprominent nose. But the most significant feature is the mouth: with its thin lips pressed tight in a cruel line. It is a mouth which is as rigid and uncompromising as the Reverend Barrs undoubtedly was himself



 The Journals of the Rev George Barrs

“It was at this time that he commenced a journal which he continued to write until his death in 1840.

(After his death, these journals were divided between his family. At least eight of the 48 annual volumes have survived and are safely kept in two of the local archive collections in the Rowley Regis area.)”

The Gospel Magazine Mar/Apl 2002

If anyone knows the whereabouts of these 48 annual volumes please contact the webmaster.


A Comment on Rowleys most influencial curate


I think the Black-Countryman article is a liitle unfair to the Rev George Barrs as he undoubtably did a great deal for Rowley Regis and its people, the following is extracted from the book by a grandson of George Barrs which is in the archives at Dudley it will help the reader make his own mind up.

Diary, Sept 11, 1800. Soon after the Rev Barrs arrived in Rowley.

“This morning while engaged in the study of God’s word, I was informed a mob had attacked a house in the village. Grieved, but not alarmed I went out to look, when near a hundred of the rioters came to me. I expostulated with them, and pointed out the ill consequences sure to arise from such proceedings and the heinous guilt they were incurring thereby. At length after heavy complaints concerning their hardship they agreed to go home. This success induced me to try what could be done among the great body of these deluded creatures, accordingly I went, made my way into the midst of some hundreds, who had broken into the house of a baker, and carried off a quantity of dough, just as it was ready to be put into the oven, and addressed them, sometimes my voice could be heard and sometimes not. Many were armed with bayonets fixed on long sticks, others with rusty sword blades, others with instruments resembling long knives; others with bludgeons etc. I was among them nearly two hours, talking with, and persuading them to disperse. Some cursed, others threatened; some were in tears, but not a hand was laid upon me. Something was thrown at my head but it did not touch me. All this time my mind was calm and collected and I was wonderfully supported by Him who always keeps His in safety, even where dangers seem most imminent. Though every endeavour was used to irritate me, I felt not the slightest indication to passion. I endeavoured in such plain language as I thought an English mob could understand to show them their civil and moral guilt. As God enabled, I spared them not at all, nor flattered heir iniquities. At length hey began to disperse, and in the space of three hours all was peace. They however did not go without leaving me their blessing, for they threatened, with oaths and curses, to stone me to death when I go to preach at Cradley, but I feel not the least fear.2

Diary Entry..Sept 15th 1800

“Felt much aggrieved, and in some degree angry when I saw great numbers of people engaged in that unmanly cruel and devilish sport, bull baiting. Their shouts which I suppose were expressions of their fancied pleasure, somewhat resembled in my idea, the horrid triumphant yell which resounded through hells dark caverns when Satan betrayed our first parents into sin. I have had my ears torn many times by the shout of mobs but never heard such disgusting yells as these before, they made my very heart bleed and drew tears from my eyes. Oh that men were wise1 Great God have mercy on these beastly wretches and let them see how they are led captive and baited by Satan even as they chain and bait the bull. In the afternoon being the Wake Monday, read prayers and preached to a large and very attentive congregation, just as I was concluding prayer, before sermon, I heard the horrid yell of the Bull baiters, very near to the Church, blessed be God, he kept my mind and suffered not their noise to disturb my thoughts.”

The memorial to Rev George Barrs in Rowley Church reads;

“Rev George Barrs M.A, of Magdelan College, Cambridge, 40 years Curate f this Parish.

Born Caldecote, Warwicks,  August 30th 1771 and died Haden Hill August 26th 1840.”



 1814 Diary entry.

“Multitudes of enemies have risen up against me, but hitherto I am delivered from them all; but my deliverance has been in some instances almost miraculous. Not only my reputation and property have been aimed at, but even my life. Many have used every effort in their power to do me injury, any way and every way, and their mortification is, that they have failed in the points they were most anxious to accomplish”

The preface to 2nd edition of sermons and memoirs of Rev George Barrs by James Ormiston,( Old Hill vicarage November 1879) stated.

“Nor may a contrast be overlooked, when comparison is made between the Rowley which his 40 laborious years left behind and the Rowley of today”


George Barrs was the eldest son of Robert Hawes Barrs and Elizabeth of Caldecote Warwicks the second of thirteen children. His father owned a valuable farm and wanted George to follow in the same business, but at the age of seventeen he became interested in religion and until twenty one attended the church of Rev R Hemington five miles distant, despite opposition from his parents.

When he was twenty one he quitted his father’s roof and went to live with Rev Samuel Knight of Wintringham, Lincs and under his tuition was prepared for university.

Entered Magdalen College, Cambridge and took B.A degree January 1799.

His father resolutely denied all pecuniary assistance towards what he accounted his sons “mad project” but providence interfered on his behalf in the death of a relation who left him just enough to carry him through, both at Mr Knights and the University.

Sunday March 17th 1799, he was ordained Deacon in Ely cathedral.

His friend and spiritual mentor Rev Mr Hemmington accidently hearing of the vacancy of Rowley Regis wrote to him advising him to apply.

He arrived at Rowley on Saturday May 3rd 1800.

After some obstacles raised by the vicar, who’s sentiments and views were diametrically opposite to those of his proposed curate, he entered the curacy at a salary of £40 per annum and surplice fee.

In the first seven years he preached three full sermons and conducted three services each Sunday.

In 1801 he married Mary daughter of the late John Haden Esq of Haden Hill, they produced two sons and a daughter, two of them married in his own church with him officiating

In 1800 the Parish of Rowley Regis was in a deplorable state “scarcely in a state of common civilization” Sunday schools only recently being established. Lower classes were extremely ignorant and wicked. Vice and immorality abounded. Management of parochial affairs were corrupt and profligate. In many places public highways were utterly impassable, even on horseback. Desecration of the Sabbath was as awful as it was notorious, there was a church of “but a small remnant, indeed it was out of the vast surrounding population.”

There was a church of brick and stone “if such a damp cold ruinous gloomy dilapidated dungeon as then stood there ought to be honoured with the name”

Bull baiting, Cockfighting, and bear baiting abounded.

His Marriage into a prominent Rowley Regis family gave him influence in the parish.

He attacked general open profanity of the Sabbath and drunkenness.

Magistrates and Special Constables were appointed.

He established a new system for the administration of Parish affairs, despite no small opposition from interested parties. It took 20 years to establish the new system until in the end the parish was held up as an example of one of the best parishes in the kingdom.

Gearge Barrs set about the rebuilding of “one of the most disgraceful and ruinous buildings in the empire” Rowley church.

He built up Sunday schools and established a Girls school in the village.

“30 years ago few places were more deeply infected with Jacobinical and revolutionary views and sentiments than Rowley Regis, of which proof might easily be adduced; at the time of his death, it was, and had been for several years, famed for its conservatism.”

At the beginning of 1840 his strength failed and on the first Sunday in the year he preached his last sermon.

“reduced to a mere skeleton by the disease which had for years preyed upon his vitals, long had he literally lived, as it were ,a dying life, and now utterly exhausted and broken down.” He spent many weeks in bed then rallied, and on Easter day officiated at the Church. On the following Friday he layed the first cornerstone of the new Church. He saw work begin but then died on the 26th August. 3000 parishioners attended his funeral, during the procession from Haden Hill to Rowley church, shutters were closed and blinds let down. While the procession was in the temporary church a sudden and unexpected storm came on and rain fell in such torrents that for nearly an hour the coffin could not be removed to its final resting place in the church, the walls of which were not then raised to more than half their height.”


Extracts from his journal re the cholera outbreak in 1832.

1832 August 15th

“The dreadful pestilence (cholera) has now reached this parish, for several weeks it had been in the adjoining parishes of West Bromwich and Tipton and Dudley. Along the borders of this parish it seems to have got a firm footing. Eleven persons who were each carried off by it in a few hours were buried in the churchyard here yesterday and today besides two on Monday and two on Tuesday morning making fifteen in four days.”

1832 Sept 1st

“The month just ended has been eventful indeed to multitudes in this neibourhood. In this parish not fewer than forty six of its victims have been interred within the month and six during the latter part of July making a total of fifty two. They were nearly all young and in the meridian of life, perhaps very few of them had even entertained an idea that death was within many years march of them. The intelligence of this pestilence making ravages in different places was by many of them disbelieved, by others treated with ridicule and contempt.

In that part of the neibourhood where it was found most victims the people seemed to grow more hardened as the news of its approach was more frequently and fully confirmed. The infatuation which has long been evidenced among hem seemed to become tenfold more strong and awful to such a degree that many could be convinced of their delusions only by feeling the attack which speedily numbered them with the dead. Eighteen were buried in three days, so malignant was the disease that in more than one instance persons who were attendants at funerals were seized on their return from the church and rendered unable to reach their abode without help and bought next day to be buried.”

1832 Sept 30

“The month of September has ended and with it I hope the tremendous visitation is almost gone in this neibourhood, three funerals only have occurred from its attacks in this Parish since the tenth instant. No sooner had the violence of the disease abated than many who under the state of alarm appeared among the worshippers in the congregation and heard the word preached seemed to have fallen into their old state false peace and security for they are seen no more in the congregation.”



W H Auden and Rowley.


The Audens: Rootedness

Dr. Auden enthusiastically imbued his son with a "Nordic" myth of his family origins and it was a belief sustained by his son throughout his own career. He commented near the end of his life: "My father brought me up on [the Icelandic sagas]. His family originated in an area which once served as headquarters for the Viking army." Doubts have occasionally been cast on the validity of this genealogical narrative. "Family Ghosts", based as far as possible only on reliable documentary evidence, neither confirms nor refutes Dr. Auden's claims about Viking ancestry. However, the earliest Auden we have been able to trace is William Auden (1726-1794) who was born and who died in the Midlands village of Rowley Regis (the "Regis" indicates that the area was originally owned by the King) not far from Birmingham. Ancestors with different surnames living in the same town or general area can be traced much further back.

In "Letter to Lord Byron" Auden alludes to this base in middle England: "My father's forbears were all Midland yeomen | Till royalties from coal mines did them good." The most striking demographic characteristic of Auden's ancestors on the paternal side is their profound rootedness in one particular, not very large area of the English provincial world, even their immobility there in the "Black Country".

There had been Audens, or families who were or would become relatives of the Audens, in the Midlands since the 16th century. The first such traceable ancestor is Margaret Woodhouse (1540-1615) who died in Rowley Regis, Staffordshire, a town in which Audens and their relatives would later live for centuries. The hard rock of Rowley had been known as far back as the Roman period, and there were many quarries in the vicinity. Here is Anthony Andrews: "In the 18th century, Oldbury and Rowley Regis began to expand, the main reason for this being the construction of canals and the exploitation of local deposits of coal and iron. Industries sprang up, such as Phosphorous Works, Chemicals, Tar Distillers, etc. All landowners retained their Mineral Rights. Among other items produced were boilers, bricks and [eventually] even first World War tanks. By 1880, there were over fifty collieries and four blast furnaces in Rowley Regis." These remarks are in perfect alignment with what one tourist website mentions, commenting that: "The town's first industries were nail making and coal mining, which started in the 13th century, by the 19th century chain making… was also a major employer." (The town is mentioned in Auden's 1932 poem beginning "O Love, the interest itself in thoughtless Heaven": "upon wind-loved Rowley no hammer shakes | The cluster of mounds like a midget golf course.") A love of geology, which had such a profound impact on the imaginations of both W. H. Auden and his brother John B. Auden, who was one of the greatest geologists of his generation, contained a long-held familial aspect. The Audens had been involved with exploitation of rock and fossils for at least two centuries; and the family's identity was tied up with mining.

Margaret Woodhouse was the great-great-great-great-grandmother of the poet James Woodhouse (1735-1820). (The latter was Auden's first cousin four times removed: James Woodhouse's cousin Phoebe Woodhouse (1758-1828) married John Auden (1758-1834) in Rowley Regis in March 1782 and this couple were Auden's great-great-grandparents.) James Woodhouse was born on a farm which had been in his parents' family since the 1530s. Even after attaining a measure of renown in metropolitan literary circles, Woodhouse remained a distinctly provincial figure to his more sophisticated, or effete, contemporaries. According to his grandson, the Rev. R. I. Woodhouse, when Woodhouse had begun to move in London circles, his "clear sonorous voice, and his primitive haths and doths and his hast thous and wilt thous" were still notable.

Both in being involved with cultural pursuits and in moving to London as an adult, James Woodhouse was an anomaly in Auden's family background. As far back to the Nicklins, Audens and the Woodhouses of Auden's great-great grandparents' generation — the one born in the last half of the 18th century — the vast majority of Auden's ancestors on his father's side came from, and lived in, Staffordshire or Derbyshire.

The first person with the surname "Auden" who is known to have been born in Rowley Regis was William Auden (1726-1794), who in 1753 married Esther Sorrell (1734-1804) from nearby Halesowen. This pair formed one set of Auden's great-great-great grandparents on the paternal side. It is almost certain that William Auden made the money which allowed him to buy his family a coat of arms from the mining industry in Rowley Regis. Another set of great-great-great grandparents, Samuel Nicklin (1795-1866) and Phoebe Auden (1797-1856), both died in Rowley Regis. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Auden's relations on his father's side remained extraordinarily rooted in the Midlands, principally in the area just to the west of Birmingham (Rowley Regis) and then from the mid-19th century to the south-west of Derby (the Rolleston/Burton-upon-Trent/Church Broughton/Repton area).

It was at the latter period that two Auden brothers, the Rev. John Auden (W. H. Auden's grandfather) and the Rev. William Auden, moved across the Midlands to marry two sisters of the wealthy Hopkins family of Dunstall Hall, Staffordshire. The Rev. John Auden married Sarah Eliza Hopkins in 1859 and the Rev. William Auden married Mary Jane Hopkins in 1861. William and Anne Hopkins, the parents of the Hopkins sisters, were landowners in the Dunstall area, and they were rich enough to provide local Church of England livings for both of their sons-in-law, for John in Horninglow and for William in Church Broughton. It seems likely that it was Sarah Eliza Auden who, after her husband's death, purchased "Danesgate", a house in Repton, probably sometime in the early 1880s, which has remained in the Auden family until the present time. It is also probable that the combination of mining royalties from the Rowley Regis area from the Rev. John Auden's family and of money from houses and land from Sarah Eliza Auden's family sufficed to provide modest private incomes for the seven children of John and Sarah Auden who survived into adulthood. George Augustus Auden, W. H. Auden's father, may have used his to supplement the probably somewhat meagre municipal salary he received as the Chief Medical Officer of Birmingham. W. H. Auden's parents were unconventional in many ways, but their independence of mind was buttressed, at least in part, by the profits canny businessmen and administrators had accrued in the not far-distant family past.

Auden's ancestors -- "Auden side"

Auden's grandparents were Rev. John Auden (1831-1876), born in Rowley Regis, and Sarah Eliza Hopkins (1838-1925), born in Rolleston. The Rev. Auden became the Vicar of nearby Horninglow, Staffordshire, where Auden's father was born. Indeed, Dr. Auden was one of eight siblings, seven of whom were born in Staffordshire (and five of whom, including Dr. Auden, were born at Horninglow). Mrs. Auden died in Birmingham, and at least five out of Dr Auden's generation of eight (including Dr. Auden) died in either the Rowley or Rolleston areas, which are, in any case, less than 30 miles apart. Thus, when Auden's father took a job in Birmingham in 1908 he was in essence returning, like a prodigal son, to his family roots. Solihull, where Dr. and Mrs. Auden settled in 1908 is about 12 miles from Rowley Regis.

This earlier deep rootedness is all the more striking then when one sees how profoundly (and typically) the 20th century changed demographic patterns for the family. All of Dr. and Mrs. Auden's three children spent significant amounts of their adult lives abroad (Bernard Auden in Canada; John Auden in India, and Wystan Auden in the United States) and none died or was buried in the Midlands.

Though provincial, rooted, and having a few working-class relatives, such as the young James Woodhouse, the Audens were by and large not poor. Indeed, William Auden (1726-1794) owned or leased mines in the Rowley Regis area and purchased a coat of arms for the family, entitling them to a listing, which has reappeared in subsequent editions up to the present day, in Burke's Landed Gentry. Like all of his brothers and sisters, Dr. George Auden had a modest private income. And one of Dr. Auden's older brothers, T. E. Auden, a solicitor, enjoyed a kind of "Huntin', Shootin' and Fishin'" existence, blasting away at stag each year on Mull in the Hebrides.

This contrasts strongly with Auden's own need to make money, and also makes his propertylessness for most of his life, until 1957 when he bought his cottage in Kirchstetten, more striking. (In this, he was strangely similar to T. S. Eliot, who though a promulgator of settled life in a rural world, was a city-dweller who, as far as I know, never owned any real estate.) But, then in the early 20th century Auden was a freak within the Auden family in many ways. The poet James Woodhouse aside, until Dr. Auden's own generation, when, for example, he and his brother, Dr. Harold Auden, both joined the "Viking Club", an organization devoted to the study of Viking civilization in Britain, the Audens' connections with a wider intellectual and cultural life appear to have been limited or virtually non-existent. The side of the family with multiple artistic, mercantile or social connections, the side which had left a mark on national cultural and political life, was Mrs. Auden's

From the W H Auden Family Ghosts website.


Tommy Smart - Aston Villa & England


Tommy Smart legendary barrel chested full back for Aston Villa and England who played a massive 413 games for Aston Villa and who the story has it named his house “Aston Villa”
Birthdate: 1896-09-20 in Blackheath (Died: 1968-06-10) aged 72
Position: Full-back
Playing for Villa: January 1920 - May 1934
Previous clubs: Rowley Regis Schools, Blackheath Town, Army football, Halesowen Town, Aston Villa, Brierley Hill Alliance
League: 405 matches - 8 goals
Cup: 46 matches - 0 goals

International: England A (1921-29, 5 - 0 goals), England Trials (1921-29)

More info:
Smart and Thomas Mort his full back partner at Aston Villa were known as "Death and Glory".








First team

15 - 0 goals
42 - 0 goals
45 - 0 goals
43 - 0 goals
45 - 0 goals
32 - 0 goals
33 - 1 goal
30 - 0 goals
39 - 4 goals
36 - 1 goal
25 - 1 goal
25 - 0 goals
39 - 1 goal
2 - 0 goals


After he retired Tommy lived in a house at the edge of Rowley Village opposite Mackmillan Road next to the existing Bride shop looking towards Blackheath, his local was the Robert Peel.


              Tommy Smart


George Smith - Hangman b Rowley Regis 1805

Oakham's most famous resident was George Smith, known as the Dudley Hangman [1]. He was born in nearby Rowley Regis in 1805. In 1840 he became assistant to the executioner William Calcraft before being appointed as executioner for Staffordshire in his own right. He became notorious for entertaining customers in Black Country pubs with gruesome stories of his work. There was a pub in Oakham, now demolished, called the 'Hangman's Tree' which was named in George Smith's honour.

 George Smith,  was born in Rowley Regis, in 1805. In later life, he lived at Oakham. A man of low intelligence, as was his contemporary fellow executioner, William Calcraft. Executions of the period were the responsibilty of the High Sheriff of the area, in which sentence of death had been passed, and George Smith, Smith started as assistant to Calcraft, who was a renowned bungler of executions, and Smith was to follow in his mentors footsteps. The fee for a Hanging, was a Guinea, although for a Hanging outside the area, the fee was between ten and fifteen pounds. George Smith rarely travelled far. Never very popular were Hangmen, and some of the stories about botched jobs, are truely horrific.

William Calcraft was an exponant of the short drop method, sometimes as short as a foot. Calcraft was once asked if being a Hangman ever bothered him. ' No, not a bit. Why should I be, I am only doing my duty.' When asked, How, as it was a dreadful duty,could he do what most men would not, and have a clear concience, he replied thus. ' Kill a man!, who kills a man? I never killed a man, they kill themselves. I merely put a rope around their necks and knock away the platform beneath them. I don't kill 'em, it's their own weight that does it'. His short drop method, very rarely did.
George Smith used exactly the same method, and produced the same results, death by slow strangulation. On most of his executions, like Calcraft, he would have to descend the gallows, and apply his own weight to the poor victims legs, to shorten the suffering, unless beaten to it, by the poor victims relatives. He was not a very well employed Hangman, was George. His most famous " job ", was the hanging, at Stafford, of Doctor William Palmer. So bad was his bungling, that the crowd grew hostile, thinking that they would be cheated of a days sport. Palmer, in the end, died very slowly, which pleased the crowd, but infuriated the Authorities, the good Doctor wasn't entirely happy either. George Smith, who had a few brushes himself with the Law, had a lot more later on, He never made any profit from the Hanging game, and died a pauper.

You can imagine the more infamous murderers drawing enormous crowds. One such occasion helped to bring the phrase 'money for old rope' into the English language.

It was the execution of the notorious British surgeon William Palmer, accused of murdering his younger betting companion, John Parsons Cook. His rope was made an extra 30 yards longer than normal, and for many years after the executioner George Smith was still selling off pieces of the 'rope that hanged Palmer'.



August 7th
William Collier – Whiston Eaves, Staffordshire

Botched hangings in the mid-Victorian century were not at all uncommon, and generally resulted in terrible agony during the condemned man’s last moments.
When poacher William Collier, 35, was due to be hanged outside Stafford Prison on Tuesday, August 7th, 1866, the rope did not arrive until 8.30 p.m. the night before.
By that time prison officers had become so agitated that they made a new one from what remained of the rope used in the last execution, five months previously. They made a bad job of it, but for some reason it was the one that hangman George Smith decided to use.
When Smith pulled the lever the makeshift rope slipped off the beam and Collier fell with a sickening thud into the pit. A cry went up from the crowd, “The rope’s broken!” There was dismay, said the Times report, both on and below the scaffold.
The unfortunate Collier was staggering round in the pit in a daze, semi-conscious, with blood-red marks around his neck, and the hangman wondering what to do next. The officiating Roman Catholic priest buried his head in his surplice, exclaiming, “God help me!”
Amid the confusion one prison officer had an idea – he ran off to fetch the new rope. The execution ritual was carried out again, and this time Collier was hanged successfully, although everyone on the scaffold was booed and hissed by the crowd of 2,000, because even an execution audience didn’t like watching a botched job.
Collier was hanged for the murder of Thomas Smith, who besides being a gamekeeper was the son of the local lord of the manor. Smith was shot, then beaten to death with the gunstock.
Collier, a well-known poacher, was the obvious suspect, and the murder weapon was found hidden in a drainpipe near his home At his trial the defence suggested that the murder was committed by gypsies passing through and they had planted the gun. The gun was clearly Collier’s, however. Its ramrod was also found near his home, and a witness told the court he had sold the weapon to the poacher. 




Even a Hangman has feelings......

 I had conceived the idea of a series of articles on our civilisation,

in which the writer should deal with the sores and oddities of it, and

into this work I plunged with all the splendid vigour and avidity of

youth, I chose the hangman as my first theme, because I happened to have

had an acquaintance with a gentleman of that profession, and to have

been engaged in some personal dealings with him. His name was George

Smith, and he lived about midway between Rowley and Dudley. I

held that property in trust for my infant daughter, and the rents were

collected for me weekly by a little lame clockmaker named Chesson. At

one time my business often led me along that road, and I was familiar

with the figure of a great, sprawling, muscular-looking, idle fellow,

who, whenever I passed him, was leaning across the garden-gate in his

shirt sleeves and smoking. He seemed to have no sort of employment, and,

though I did not notice it at the time, it occurred to me afterwards,

when I knew the truth about him, that I had never seen him exchange so

much as a passing salutation with a single human creature. The rents

came in regularly for some time, and then it was reported to me that

my idle tenant had not paid. Time went on, and the idle tenant _never_

paid. I determined to look into the thing myself, and I set out with the

lame clockmaker to interview the man. He was sprawling over the gate as

usual when we reached his cottage, and, to my surprise, the little lame

man lagged some yards behind and refused to approach him. I explained my

errand to the idle tenant, and he lugged out a handful of half-crowns.

"That cove," he said, indicating the clockmaker "'as never been a-nigh

me this four months. The money's always bin 'ere for 'im if 'e'ed a-come

for it. What d'you take me for?" he asked savagely. "I ain't a wild

beast, am I? It's Government work, and somebody's got to do it." It

turned out upon inquiry that my collector had actually paid three or

four weeks' instalment out of his own pocket, rather than face the

hangman, after he had discovered the nature of his trade. I am not

writing melodrama, but it is a simple fact that I have never seen a

man more profoundly distressed. The hangman's speech was broken and

obstructed, his face worked strongly, and there was an actual glint of

moisture in his eyes. He and my collector had been cronies until his

dreadful secret was surprised, and had shared many a friendly half-pint


His ostracism seemed to have hit him hard. Even a hangman, one supposes,

has some sort of human feeling.

From a magazine of the period.



Anecdote on a resident of Portway hamlet



At a hamlet called Portway, in the parish of Rowley Regis, in the county of Stafford, are now residing a Postdiluvian pair, the husband upwards of one hundred years of age, and the wife more than ninety. They have been married more than threescore and ten, and have had six sons, all now living. The person who vouches for the authenticity of this fact, is one of those sons, and now a broker in Birmingham: but what conduces to crown the anecdote is, that this very son, who though but fifty years of age himself, has brothers bordering upon seventy, and was in the state ot wedlock twenty years with one of the largest women in England, who never bore him a child; but during the lapse of his matrimonial state, he has had' no less than ten illegitimate bantlings sworn to him as the father, and he takes no little pride in proving that he himself has not been brought into the world without fulfilling the first great commandment, " increase and multiply."

sporting magazine 1796


Could this be the man? - Brookes, William, of Rowley Regis, Staffordshire, died 1796, aged 106.

records of longlivity 1896


Paul Shelving 1888 to 1968

Paul Shelving was the son of Frederick William North owner of the Rowley Hall Colliery. Paul was born at Rowley Hall in 1888.


Paul Shelving was the resident designer at Sir Barry Jackson's Birmingham Repertory Theatre and was responsible for the set and costume designs for all the Malvern Festival Productions from 1927 to 1939, including many plays by Bernard Shaw. He also designed for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon and for many of the London theatres. In a long career, he designed, painted and costumed more than 300 major productions. The last production design by Paul Shelving to be seen in Malvern was 'Caesar and Cleopatra' which transferred from Paris in 1956 and subsequently played the Old Vic Theatre in London.

Shelving Paul, 1888 to 1968; Artist and Designer,born Rowley Regis, Staffs,son of William Frederick North and his wife,Elizabeth (Stewardson) educated City of London school,studied art in London,scenary and costume designer.




Sir Frederick Bridge and the rebuilding of Rowley Regis Church

      Rowley Regis Parish Church Magazine from May 1923.

This magazine featured details of Sir Frederick’s forthcoming return to the place of his birth, when he opened a special garden party on 23rd June 1923 at Lench’s Park, given to raise funds to complete the rebuilding of St Giles’ parish church. The church, the third to have been built on that site, was destroyed in a fire on 18th June 1913. For ten years the parish of over 6,500 inhabitants, described in the magazine as “one of the poorest parishes in the Black Country” was without a church. By 1923 the rebuilding was complete and the service of re-dedication and re-opening took place that year on St Giles’ Day, 1st September. The garden party in June, which Sir Frederick attended, was in order to raise the final £2,600 needed to complete the work: £600 was needed to complete the tower and install bells, and there were building debts of £2,000.
As you can see, the cover of the magazine featured a picture that Sir Frederick had sent to the parish. Inside there were extracts from a letter he had written:
“The only thing that I remember about Rowley Regis is the old farm, and if I can see it again I shall be really glad. And it will be a pleasure to me to come to assist in a small way to re-build the Church. The portrait I send is considered a good one – it was done last year for the Jubilee of Trinity College of music.”


Sir Frederick Bridge was born in 1844 and was a well known and respected musical personality in London and the Provinces. He combined composing with writing, conducting and was the organist at Book, published in 1904. Westminster Abbey. "Among his other activities he served as musical editor of the Wesleyan Methodist Hymnbook published in 1904.  He included a number of his own hymn-tunes, including ‘Crossing the Bar’ and also some specially composed for this book. Among the latter was one called ‘Oldbury’. I am not sure what we should make of the fact that he set it to a hymn of Isaac Watts which begins: ‘Plunged in a gulf of dark despair, We wretched sinners lay, Without one cheerful beam of hope, Or spark of glimmering day.’
"However, it is a remarkable tune which cleverly changes from a minor to major key after three verses, reflecting the change of mood of the hymn from despair to rapture.
"Today, it will be his tune ‘Spean’ to the Epiphany hymn ‘Brightest and best of the sons of the morning’ that will be best known, but mainly, I fear, among Methodists.


Abridged from the Black Country Bugle



Benjamin “Britannia” Bolton and the The Britannia Inn – Rowley village

The Britannia Inn Rowley village is reputed to be named after a famous circus strongman "Britannia Bolton the Staffordshire Hercules. The Britannia still stands at Bell End in Rowley village fronting Britannia Park, the original building was a farmhouse owned at one time by the Dobbs family who reared cattle and also were involved in nail factoring. A row of terraced cottages which once stood above the Britannia were known as Dobbs buildings to the late 18th century and the ground on which they stood, Dobbs Bank, which sloped down from the top of Ross and the Maltings.

N.B The Dobbs family are mentioned as landowners in Rowley as early as the 17th Century when John Dabbs (Dobbs Bank) is listed as a landowner in a Rowley Somery survey in 1676. Dobbs Bank is shown on the 1861 cencus as being at the top of Ross where the Maltings a row of old terraced cottages stand today and not the row of cottages which stood above the Britannia in the village itself, these were known at least at the time of the 1851 census as "Bostons". In a pamphlet issued by Rowley Regis council at the opening of Britannia Park in 1932 it is stated that the Britannia once belonged to the Macmillan family who came to Rowley from Birmingham around 1790. The Macmillan family were Button manufacturers and were responsible for the origin of the Endowed school, they are commemorated by Macmillan road which is below the Robert Peel and opposite where the Endowed school stood.

The farmhouse possessed a beer house license and a provision shop or Tommy shop used in the truck system in connection with the nail factoring. The Dobbs family were “foggers” who sold iron rods to village nail makers and paid for the finished product in tokens to be spent in their provision store or tap room.

N.B. The Beer House act which paved the way for the multitude of beer houses which opened in Rowley during the industrial revolution did not come into force until 1830 and the Dobbs family would seem to have been replaced by the Mills before then

In the early 1800s the Dobbs family left and the farm came into the possession of the Mills family based in Tipton who were butchers and owned land in the Waterfall lane area, Public houses and two butcher’s shops. The beasts were fattened for slaughter at Rowley.  At the time Bull baiting was a cruel but popular pastime in Rowley and two generations of the Mills family organised Bull baiting at the annual Rowley wake which took place 1 September, it was generally believed, erroneously, that this process tenderised the meat.

N.B. We can find records of the Mills family as living in Waterfall Lane in the 1851,1861 and 1871 census carrying on the trade of Butchers in High St Blackheath, there is also a Mills listed at the Blue Ball (Brades) in 1821.

The Rev George Barrs curate from 1800 to 1840 deplored Bull baiting and had several confrontations  with the participants; he referred to in his journal clashes with “wild barbarians” and “horrid bull baiters”. He was particularly vexed that the beasts being prepared for this “hellish ritual” were not only pastured not a stone throw from his church but were also led past it to Rowley Wake which was held in a field virtually next to the church itself.

Benjamin Bolton or Boulton of Rowley was connected to the Mills family by marriage, in the 1780s he was a circus strongman, billed as “Britannia Bolton the Staffordshire Hercules” a great patriot who wore a costume of red white and blue. He was also a “whipper out” at prize fights – ejecting ruffians from ringsides reserved for the gentry. He was described by Pierce Egan (1772-1849)a great sports writer of the time as “Brit Bolton scourge of ringside ruffians, the living image of mighty Tom Cribb ( a bare knuckle world champion) in frame and physiognomy whose strong right arm has guarded my old bones on sundry occasions


 N.B. We have searched the St Giles and Clent  registers for the name Bolton or Boulton and found the following entries;

 Benjamin Bolton and Sarah Handen married 20.06.1782 St Leonards, Clent. Benjamin son of Benjamin and Sarah Bolton bapt St Thomas Dudley 11/05/1783.                    John a son of Benn Boulton buried 27/06/1785.                                                                           Mary a daughter of Benn and Sarah Boulton buried 04.01.1789                                                     Joseph a son of Benn and Sarah Bolton aged 15mths baptised 27.12.1791.                                     A child of Benn Boulton buried 07.12.1792.                                                                                       Ann daughter of Benj and Sarah Bolton baptised  01.01.1794.

A Benjamin Boulton is listed as a Rowley village Hinge manufacturer in the Parsons and Bradshaw trade directory of 1821 and Benjamin Bolton a hinge manufacturer was among the prominent Rowley people responsible for the foundation of the early Rowley building society in 1792. 

When he retired Ben returned to Rowley and took over Dobbs beer house as Publican and keeper of butcher Mills prize bullocks. The Beer house was renamed the “Britannia” in honour of Benjamin “Brit” Bolton around 1820.

N.B. We are unable to verify when the beer house became the Britannia but as previously mentioned the Beer House act did not come into effect until 1830,we cannot actually find a record of the Britannia in a trade directory until 1896 when a John Haden is listed as ‘Beer Shop and farmer “Britannia” Bell End.’ previous to this it had been listed as a beer shop, there is an earlier trades directory mention of a Britannia Inn in Rowley Regis but this proved to be in Tividale. the first census entry for "Britannia Inn" is on the 1871 census when it is occupied by William Taylor described as farmer of 33 acres and beerhouse keeper. Joseph Taylors “Britannia Work”s up from Bell End on the other side of the Road was listed in an 1865 directory so it is likely that the name "Britannia came into existence between 1861 and 1871 and was named so by the Taylor family who would seem to have been prominent industrialists in the village and could indeed have used the Britannia as a "Tommy shop"


When the land at the rear of the beer house was converted into a public park, opening in 1932 it was named Britannia Park as was an estate of social housing built around the same time named the Britannia Estate.

     ***  Under a banner of "reducing public drunkenness" the Beer Act of 1830 introduced a new lower tier of premises permitted to sell alcohol, the Beer Houses. At the time beer was viewed as harmless, nutritious and even healthy. Young children were often given what was described as small beer, which was brewed to have a low alcohol content, to drink, as the local water was often unsafe. Even the evangelical church and temperance movements of the day viewed the drinking of beer very much as a secondary evil and a normal accompaniment to a meal. The freely available beer was thus intended to wean the drinkers off the evils of gin, or so the thinking went.[13]

Under the 1830 Act any householder who paid rates could apply, with a one-off payment of two guineas (equal to £158.64 today), to sell beer or cider in his home (usually the front parlour) and even brew his own on his premises. The permission did not extend to the sale of spirits and fortified wines and any beer house discovered selling those items was closed down and the owner heavily fined. Beer houses were not permitted to open on Sundays. The beer was usually served in jugs or dispensed directly from tapped wooden barrels lying on a table in the corner of the room. Often profits were so high the owners were able to buy the house next door to live in, turning every room in their former home into bars and lounges for customers.                                                                                             .                                                             

Compiled from various sources but mainly the Black Country Bugle, we have tried to verify the facts and our findings are expressed in the notes between paragraphs, any comments would be appreciated.k to add text, images, and other content



Rev. Francis John Cheverton Vicar of St Giles 1920-1931

The Rev Cheverton  a retired army officer was appointed vicar of Rowley in 1820. As George Barrs had done before him, “he set about raising the money to rebuild the church in a positive state of mind induced by a war won, laying stress on the idea that four churches had been built on the site, although in fact much of the 1904 church had been saved. The tower, retained from the 1840 church and possibly containing some part of the earlier tower had to go, though the bells had strangely survived. A smaller tower more in keeping with the new brick building was designed. The Parish magazine for the next few years is full of Chevrton’s efforts to acquire the money needed for the new project. He fostered links with the new diocese in order to support his aims and bit by bit the money came in, an enthusiastic congregation refused to be beaten. Cheverton was also assiduous in preserving other pieces of local history, making a plea for the retention of the village pound and depositing documents in Birmingham archives. In 1931 however he took a second retirement moving to Byfleet in Surrey.”

(From Edward Chitham.)

N.B As far as we can ascertain he did not retire to Byfleet and in fact became Rector of Byfleet before dying, we think, in 1948. In any case Rowley owes him a huge debt both for his efforts in getting the church rebuilt and his concern for the preservation of the history of the parish.

Facts about the Rev Cheverton seem hard to find but Cheverton House in St Marys Church of England school Byfleet is named after Lt. Col. Rev. F.J. Cheverton (b1868 died1948 Hailsham Surrey), who was Rector of St Marys, Byfleet, and had commanded? the Durham Light Infantry in WW1. Previous to Byfleet he was vicar of Rowley Regis 1920 to 1931. He was ordained at Durham in 1911 and was curate  to St Marys Gateshead from 1911 to 1914, His son Lt Stanley Campbell Cheverton of the Border regiment was killed in France during  the Great War in 1917 and is recorded as being born in South Africa which perhaps gives a clue to the whereabouts of the family before  1911.

Rev Lt Col Francis Cheverton and the controversy regarding rededicating the newly built to St Michael and all Angels instead of St Giles. - Parish magazine September, 1924

The fourth church was dedicated to St Michael and All Angels in 1923. In April 1923 the date for the opening of the new church was fixed for 1st September 1923 – St Giles day. Unfortunately building operations got behind and the opening was unavoidably postponed to  St Michael’s day 29.09.1923.

This gave our Vicar (Rev Cheverton) a new vision of renaming the church from St Giles to St Michael, the parish council did not approve the change and it retains the name of St Giles. The vicar addressed his parishioners in the parish magazine;

 “ Doubtless it will do this for centuries to come (retain the name of St Giles) , perhaps the same question may be discussed in council, it may be considered indiscreet that I should continue this subject but I must tell you of a curious coincidence. When on a short holiday in the spring of this year I visited the ancient parish church in which I worshipped as a boy and there upon the wall was a tablet recording that the name of the church had been changed when it was rebuilt and rededicated in the 19th century. Then even more curious still within 24 hours I read in the Times that a new Anglican church was being dedicated on the site of an old one in Monte Carlo and that the opportunity would be taken to change its name. It was quite a common practice in past centuries to rename churches when rebuilt.

As you know I unreservedly expressed my views when the matter referred to in the official records was debated. I feel that the highest kind of Christianity as understood in our day is not that represented by any recluse who buried himself in a desert place to lead a holier life. We may not run away from life even to find God. True when our church adopted St Giles as its patron saint (probably in 1199) such a type as the French hermit st Giles was considered as expressive of the highest ideal of Christian life – a hunger for fellowship with god himself and for holiness in his service. Today however we surely recognise that the Christian life is a warfare to be fought out in the dust of the public street and market place, I am quite sure too that the devil will climb over the wall of any monastry and track down any Saint sheltering from the strife of life in forest or cavern.

Mow St Michael was a bonnie fighter both with carnal and spiritual weapons and my spirit finds a more invigorating message from a contemplation of the fifth panel of our east windows than from the second pane, beautiful as that is a work of art and as rightly preserving our ancient association with St Giles.

Just what I want to say is this, let us enter into the spirit of the beautifull collect and scripture appointed for St Michael on our Church birthday and above all let us show more appreciation of this great day – on the Monday as well as on the Sunday – by a larger attendance at Holy Communion. There were but two present at Holy Communion on St Giles day (ist September)!!!

Forgive me one more indiscretion, Percy Dreamer in his Parsons Handbook points out that the dedication festival of a church (ours is St Michael and All Angels) is a distinct feast from the patronal festival (ours is St Giles) and that “preachers should not confuse one with the other” Well let us enter into the spirit of our dedication festival with holy joy and the happiest memories.

It is surely a unique circumstance that four permanent parish churches have stood on one site within remembrance of one life. As reported in the parish magazine June 1924 William Thompson who was buried in Rowley churchyard April 1924 attended the first parish church as a Sunday school scholar his mortal remains were taken into the fourth parish church. This but illustrated the tragedy of the history of Rowley church building. Surely no congregation has greater difficulties to overcome in connection with church building than have the parishioners of Rowley. Not only have three new parish churches had to be built in a little over eighty years but also two temporary churches. “

Ironically perhaps, In  2009 a new secondary school opened in Rowley Village, it is St Michaels Church of England school having transferred from an obsolete building at Whiteheath, it is now affiliated to St Giles Church the current vicar being the official padre.


Miss Henrietta Mary Auden and the St Giles parish registers.

ClMiss Henrietta Mary Auden (1862-1965)

Henrietta Mary Auden was born 20/06/1862 in Dedham, Essex, she died aged 102 at Church Stretton, Salop She was the eldest daughter of Rev Thomas Auden(1836-1920) of Rowley village and Anne (Hopkins)of Rolleston, Staffs and the Aunt of the poet W H Auden. Thomas was born in Rowley viilage near Siviters lane the son of William Auden and Hannah Nicklin. William died in 1836 and on the 1841 census we find Thomas at the farm house of his uncle Samuel Nicklin  on the site of the present day Britannia Inn. In 1851 he is still living with his uncle, now described as a Iron Mills proprietor, on the corner of Siviter’s Lane although his mother Hannah is living just up the road with the rest of his siblings. The Audens’ were proprietors of land, houses and mines in the Rowley area and were related to the Woodhouse family. Thomas went on to St Johns College, Cambridge at 18 to complete his education and he subsequently became headmaster at Wellingborough Grammar school  (1863-1869) when he became a clergyman, he died in Church Stretton at the age of 84. Henrietta never married and became a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1909.

 She transcribed the St Giles parish registers, the first part of which were published in 1912, the registers contain a detailed history of Rowley researched and written by Henrietta. At the time of the fire in 1913 some of the originals had been returned to the parish chest with disastrous consequences, luckily the parts not yet transcribed 1760 - 1812 were still in her possession, the introduction to the published registers contains the following :-

When the iron chest containing the registers was opened early in the morning of the day succeeding the disastrous fire of June !8th 1913, it seemed as if all that was left of this wonderful series of registers was a pile of wet charred fragments. With considerable difficulty these fragments have been identified, but the paper leaves are so brittle and blackened and the parchment leaves so shrunk and stuck together that it is often almost impossible to decipher the entries.

It is a matter of great thankfulness that the whole series has been transcribed and printed for the Staffordshire Parish Register Society, to whom and in particular to Miss Auden and her father Rev Thomas Auden, Rowley Regis owes a debt which can never be adequately acknowledged.”

The Audens’ retained their links with Rowley although there was no Auden listed as living in the village after the death of Hannah in1867. The executors of Samuel Nicklin (died 29.08.1866) and Joseph Beasley(died 26.01.1870) who both married Auden sisters were the Revs Thomas and William Auden. Hannah is buried in the St Giles churchyard along with husband William and their daughter Phoebe who died in 1836 aged 5 years... In 1901 Henrietta aged 38 and single is living at Condover, Salop, where her father is Vicar. Household is; Thomas 64, Anne his wife 65, younger daughter Amy Marion 25 single and two servants Elizabeth Smith 67 cook and Jessie Gwilliam 21 housemaid. Also listed on the census is a visitor Georgina Wilkes 28 from Chelsea. When Thomas died in 1920 he left £44,366 a not inconsiderable sum.



Daniel O'Connel and a bit of Irish blarney.

Daniel O’Connel and a bit of Irish blarney.

Even the work hardened chain and nail making women of Rowley were susceptible to a bit of flattery, Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847)the Irish MP for County Clare had the three greatest qualities of an orator, (1) a commanding figure — his words came from above you; (2) a voice which could be heard by everyone, without which the entire audience cannot be moved; (3) the sagacity to say things which most interested those who heard them.  O'Connell, besides a majestic stature, had a three-fold voice: one of persuasiveness in the law court, one of dignity in Parliament, another of resounding raciness on the platform.  He told his listeners at a meeting in London how the birth-rate in Dublin had decreased 5000 a year for four years, adding, 'I charge the British Government with the murder of those 20,000 infants who never were born.'  He saw nothing absurd in it, nor under his magical voice did his hearers, until the next day.  An Irish schoolmaster, of Birmingham, who was present, was more self-possessed.  Mr Sam Timmins told me that the discerning schoolman prodded a friend near him and said, 'That is worthy of my countrymen.'

   At the August 6, 1838 Chartist meeting arranged by Thomas Attwood addressing the Newhall Hill meeting in Birmingham, at which 200,000 persons were computed to be present, O'Connell observed a compact mass of 400 women from Rowley Regis, who had marched to Birmingham in the early morning.  Grim and stalwart, with lusty arms, they maintained their position against the pressure of the vast throng.  O'Connell's quick eye rested upon them for a moment and began his oration, exclaiming, 'Surrounded as I am by the fair, the gentle, and the good.'  They might be 'good' — the Black Country industries did not make women 'fair,' and had they been 'gentle' they had never been in that turbulent throng, but the intrepid compliment told.  The women cheered, and cheered afterward everything he said.  The men cheered because the women did, and the crowd behind cheered because those before them cheered, and so the fortune of the great oration was made. 


Daniel Matthews and the strict Baptists of Bell End.

 Strict Baptists owed their origins to Rowley and the preaching of the Rev George Barrs. Rowley Regis parish church had George Barr’s as incumbent between 1800 and 1840, his forceful ministry was unlike any Anglican before him in Rowley. He bought about a change throughout the parish, raising moral standards, restoring law and order, getting rid of abuses and building up believers, he was vehement however against “believer’s baptism.” This led to some of his congregation check it out in their bibles – and found only believer’s baptism to be there!

 In his History of the Strict Baptist Chapels of England, Ralph Chambers tells us that George Barrs was a

"warm advocate for Scripture searching".Two of those who were members of the

Congregation of St. Giles Church were a Daniel Matthews and a Joseph Smith.

They listened to George Barrs' sermons on Infant Baptism and by searching the

Scriptures on their own became convinced in their own minds that baptism by immersion for believers only was the only baptism which Christ had given. This lead to a separation from the Church of England and eventually to

the formation of the congregations which became Strict Baptist churches. They

saw eye to eye with Barrs on the grand Scriptural truths of Covenant Redemption

but could not agree with his position on baptism.


Such men eventually started 3 strict Baptist churches within the Rowley parish which then included Old Hill and Blackheath. Including the churches which arose from them they gave the area more strict Baptist chapels per square mile than anywhere else in Britain.


In 1823 other Baptists opened a rented chapel in Bell End Rowley village and formed a church of seven members. Daniel Matthews had a choice between this new local Baptist group who’s ministry had “a mixture of faith and works” and the more Calvinistic chapel in Bartholomew St Birmingham which was not Baptist, at first he chose the latter. One day Matthews revisited the Rowley Baptists “to see if they had altered” No preacher arrived so Daniel was persuaded to preach. His emphasis on mankind’s “fallen and ruined condition” and on the need for a new birth seems to have upset them and many started leaving. They never asked him again. However in 1828 the chapel closed and the owner immediately offered it to Matthews.

a warehouse at Rowley Regis registered for Protestant Dissidents by Daniel Matthews of Rowley, Rivet maker on 14/05/1829


Matthews was an extreme isolationist, he never mixed even with other strict Baptists, he never preached anywhere else and never invited anyone else to preach at Rowley. This went on from 1828 to his death in 1888. He was viewed with derision by some inhabitants of the village, local hooligans often showered him with mud, stones and bricks on his way to or from chapel, once they put a heavy stone on the roof joists but mercifully it did not break through the ceiling until he was leaving the pulpit. A purpose built chapel replaced the original on a new site in Bell End, Rowley village in 1876, the original being now too small, it still exists today.   


Strict Baptist means what it says, there were no trimmings inside the chapel and no organ, the music was provided by musicians who played violins, piano and brass instruments as interpreted from the Bible. After Matthews death the minister from 1888 to 1923 was Alfred Dye and Matthews iron rule would seem to have been relaxed and in 1895 a group of worshipers under Joseph Ruston split when an organ was installed which was for them a step too far, they went on to form the Ebeneezer (Rustons) chapel at the top of the village in Hawes Lane.


The Beasley Family.

Joseph Beasley Iron Master and the Beasley doctors of Rowley.


The Beasleys of Rowley originally came from Cradley where they were operators of Hayseech Mill, later known as the gunbarrel works, In 1828 Benjamin and Joseph Beasley and William Farmer took out a lease on Hayseech Mill with tenure of fourteen years until 25 March 1842. The new masters and tenants were two brothers from one of the Cradley Beasley families and their brother-in-law William Farmer.  Over the next fourteen years Beasley and Farmer manufactured gun barrels, spectacle glasses, nails, chains, spades and shovels.

They were associated with the Parish of Rowley before 1828. Benjamin and his sisters Elizabeth and Frances married in 1810, but their weddings were in Clent rather than Rowley. At first sight this seemed a rather odd venue for Rowley folk. However, at that time Rowley was a chapelry of Clent and the Rev. Lyttleton Perry was the vicar of both Clent and Rowley. Perry's flock included all the iron workers on his side of the Stour and he insisted that they married in Clent to save himself the journey to Rowley. The three siblings were therefore working and living in Rowley Parish.

William Farmer came from Tamworth and married Frances Beasley. William could only make a mark in the marriage register, but Frances and her siblings could all write their names.  Joseph Beasley, was the youngest son of the Cradley family. He lived and worked in Hayseech until his marriage in 1838 to Ann Auden of the prominent Rowley Audens, at which point he moved to Siviters Lane, Rowley village and lived for many years in Mountford House Siviters Lane.


The description of part of the 1841 census for Rowley village reads “Thence taking the south side of the village including Joseph Beasley and tenants” The Beasley’s lived at what would become Mountford House a little along Siviters Lane where Mountford Close is today. The 1841 census describes the occupants as;

Joseph Beasley 40 gun barrel maker

Ann Eliza (nee Auden) 40

Elizabeth 15 (a daughter from his ist wife Rosannah Griffin)

Hannah Darby 20 Female servant.

On the 1851 census he is still described as a Gun Barrel maker employing 70 men, but in an 1851 trades directory as “iron master”


Shortly before the Beasley and Farmers lease was due to run out on Hayseech Mill the mill and two plots of land were advertised for sale by auction on 6th January 1842 at the white Horse Hotel in Birmingham. The tenants did not renew their lease and moved their operations to the district iron works in Brasshouse Lane, Smethwick.


We found this anecdote relating to the district iron works.


Boiler explosion. at Beasley and Farmers.

June 1854. Current events for the year 1854 a monthly supplement to Household Words by Charles Dickens.

“There was a boiler explosion at Beasley and Farmers Iron Works in Smethwick in the Black Country in the early morning of the 16th,The engine worked by the boiler had been stopped for repairs, just after the engine was again put into motion the boiler gave way at the ends with an explosion of terrific violence. Many of the buildings around were shattered, one piece of the boiler weighing about six tons ploughed through brick walls as if they were paper, fortunately most of the workpeople were absent but three men and three boys were dreadfully scalded, the boiler had been examined recently and pronounced safe.”


Joseph and Ann Eliza had no children of their own but by 1871 the Beasleys are joined by their grandson James Griffin Beasley aged 14 years a child of Elizabeth, Joseph’s daughter from his first marriage. James did not follow in his grandfathers footsteps as an industrialist but opted for a medical career in which he was very successful in Rowley.


Joseph Beasley died in 1870 aged 69 and Elizabeth in 1888 aged 88 yrs, both are buried in st giles churchyard.


After Joseph Beasley died in 1870, Mountford House came into the possession of Dr James Griffin Beasley his aforesaid grandson and his wife Elizabeth who ran a thriving medical practice in Rowley for many years. His son Joseph Howard Beasley succeeded his father in the practice and they worked together in a partnership with Dr William Freer, until Dr James retired in 1921. The partnership was dissolved in 1923 whilst Dr Joe continued to practice.

1871 Census for Rowley village, Siviters Lane.

James Griffin Beasley    head   24   General Practitioner   Smethwick

Elizabeth Beasley           wife    25

Lizzie Starkey?               niece   3

Sarah Jane Evans          Serv    15   Domestic Servant

Next door, in the coach house? is the widow of his grandfather

Ann Eliza Barnsley         Head   Widow  76

Fanny Farmer                 Niece   unmarried 43 Annuitant

Emily Reynolds               Serv     unmarried  15 Domestic servant.                                                

Dr James Griffin Beasley.

 Mountford House was a lovely Victorian house on the site of Mountford close today it was built from blue brick with stable block and coachman’s house, a large garden and tennis courts The local Methodist society which later became the Causeway chapel first met in a loft of the coach house of Mountford house under the auspices of this Doctor

“Notice is hearby given that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned James Griffin Beasley, William Leacroft Freer and Joseph Howard Beasley carrying on business as surgeons at Rowley Regis and Blackheath under the style or firm of “Freer and Beasley” has been dissolved by mutual consent as and from the 30th June 1923. All debts due to and owing by the said late firm will be received and paid by the said William Leacroft Freer and Joseph Howard Beasley – Dated this 2nd July 1923.”

“Dr James Griffin Beasley who died on March 25th 1930 at Rowley Regis at the age of 84 was the first medical officer of health to the Rowley Regis Urban District Council, a post which he held for nearly 50 years, he was also police surgeon to the local division, medical officer to the education authority and Poor Law and vaccination officer for the Dudley Union. Dr Beasley who qualified in 1868 celebrated his golden wedding in 1920 and retired from a large practice in the following year owing to failing sight. He was for many years a member of the BMA.”

From the Dudley Herald 6/12/1879.

“The medical officer for Rowley Regis Dr James Griffin Beasley of Siviter’s Lane, Rowley village reported that 48 deaths had occurred in the area during the last month (Nov 1879) with an average dth rate of 23 per 1000. Of those deaths 7 had occurred from zymotic desease. An outbreak of typhoid fever had been reported in the new street leading from Powke Lane to Waterfall,(Terrace or Tory Street?) the cause he attributed to unclean water used at these houses.


Daniel Johnson of Portway Hall and Oliver Cromwells Head

Daniel Johnson and Oliver Cromwell.

In 1658 Oliver Cromwell died, the Monarchy was restored under Charles the second in 1660. Shortly after the restoration the body of Cromwell was dug up and hanged at Tyburn.

The patriarch of the Portway Hall Johnson family of Rowley had fought at the side of Oliver Cromwell during the Battle of Worcester in the English civil war.

As a staunch supporter of Cromwell it was reputed that Daniel was aghast at Cromwell?s head being displayed on a spike in Westminster Hall after the Lord Protector?s exhumation and ?execution?.

He demanded of his sons that they retrieve the head and remove it from its undignified position at the end of a wooden slat.

In 1688 the head was indeed stolen, who stole it was never discovered but bizarrely a party who raided Portway Hall in the 18th century were said to have left with one particularly gruesome relic ? a human head!

It was rumoured long after that the decapitated body of Cromwell roamed Rowley Regis looking for its missing head!


The Gaunt family of Rowley


Richard Gaunt 1730 – 1830 Lay Clerk and Schoolmaster of Rowley.

In 1818 a digest of parochial returns was made to a Parliamentary select committee appointed to inquire into the education of the poor, the entry for Rowley contained the following resume;

Lady Elizabeth Monins in 1703 left an annuity of £10 for the instruction of 24 children of the poor in Rowley, but the minister cannot ascertain who the trustees are, although the money is regularly paid to the parish clerk, as master, and has been for the last 40 years, but he does not teach half the children above named.

The poor are without sufficient means of instruction and the minister states it has long been the wish of the inhabitants that Lady Monin’s annuity should be given to the village school, but as the parish clerk is upwards of 80 years old they have thought it best to let him have it while he can teach, and the minister doubts whether there is sufficient authority to divert the charity into another channel, though it certainly would be more likely to serve the doners purpose.”

The daughter of Richard, Hannah Gaunt Bp 24/12/1797 Married William Finney 04/02/1833 Died 07/07/1870, both are buried in St Giles churchyard.

Hannah Gaunt together with her father and mother (also called Hannah) kept a Dame school in Rowley village and Shenstone’s “The schoolmistress” might have been inspired by Hannah Gaunt mother or daughter.


In every village mark’d with little spire,

Embower’d in trees, and hardly known to fame,

There dwells, in lonely shed and mean attire,

A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name

Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;

They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,

Aw’d by the power of this relentless dame,

And oftimes on vagaries idly bent,

For unkempt hair, or task unnconn’d are sorely shent.

Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow

Emblem right meet of decency does yield;

Her apron, dyed in grain, as blue, I trow,

As in the harebell that adorns the field.”


William Shenstone (of the Leasowes), Halesowen) 1740.


Hannah’s father Richard Gaunt b 1740, d 25/01/1830 aged 90 years was for 40 years Clerk to Rowley Regis parish church, he was the Parish Clerk when George Barrs came to Rowley in 1800, their relationship was not harmonious, he was known as “Lay Gaunt” because he was Lay Clerk of the church.


Richard his wife and later his daughter kept a school in Rowley from 1783 to 1830,


it was in the village opposite the present church school in Hawes Lane , now occupied by the school caretaker.This would have been before the present church school was built in Hawes Lane in 1848.” ( Parish Magazine 1927)


The Lady Elizabeth Monnins by deed 1703 gave £10 a year to teach poor children of the parish of Rowley Regis “to read and write and be instructed in religion, and five pounds to buy books”


It was on this benefaction that the Gaunt family, father mother and daughter kept school. In 1823 the Charity Commissioners produced this report;


Richard Gaunt Clerk of the Parish and who keeps a school there received £10 a year from the agent of Alexander Blain Esq prop of Brindlefield Hall Farm, Tividale, which is understood to be derived from Lady Monnins gift and to be charged on this farm.


Gaunt who was a very old man was appointed school master on this foundation, as he informs us, about 40 years ago by the then Lord Dudley.


The School master states to us that he has regularly received into his school 24 free children, pursuant to the provisions of Lady Monnins grant who are taught to read and write. If they learn accounts they pay 2p per week. The girls are taught by his wife and daughter to sew knit and mark.


We have reason, however to think, from the testimony of other parishioners, that this school does not at present answer very adequately the apparent intentions of the benefactress, This has been intimated to Lord Dudley Ward with a recommendation that when a proper opportunity arises, steps should be taken in concert with the parishioners to place the charity upon some more beneficial footing”


The proper opportunity probably came in the year 1830, when Richard died, or in 1833 when daughter Hannah married, although the school was apparently still in existence in 1834 (Whites)


The Gaunt family were an influential family in Rowley, deriving from Thomas Gaunt priest of Rowley in 1549. Both Richard Gaunt’s father (john Gaunt) and grandfather (Jeremiah Gaunt) were Lay Clerks of Rowley before him.




Stainton, Price and Noott; Three Rowley families.


Stainton, Price and Noott; Three Rowley families.

In February 2012 one of our members contacted us with news that she had in her possession a rare photo of Rowley Hall, a family photo of the last tenants of the Hall, taken in the grounds and a sampler/berlin work by her great, great grandmother in 1858. She said she was a direct descendant of three prominent familes of Rowley village in the 19th and early 20th century, Matthew and Honor Stainton who kept the Ring O’ Bells and Ward Arms  in the village, the Price family who were the forebears of A S Price manufacturing chemists and owners of the Double Yolk custard factory of  Blackheath and the Nootts, the last tenants of Rowley Hall. We decided to try to trace this connection and see what could be found.

There is a large family vault near the Church in St Giles graveyard inscribed as follows;

“Phebe wife of Matthew Stainton who departed this life 09.01.1832 aged 32 years.

Also of the above Matthew Stainton who departed this life 20.08.1843 aged 43 years.

Elizabeth daughter of Matthew and Honor Stainton died 08.02.1865 aged27 yeas.

Honor Stainton (relict of Matthew Stainton) fell asleep15.10.1881 aged 77 years.

James Henry Price of the Hawthorns Rowley Regis who died 05.04.1910 aged 66 years.

Sarah beloved wife of the above who died 15.09.1917 aged 76.”

Matthew Stainton was baptised 18.05.1800 at St Johns, Deritend and Bordsley (Birmingham) the son of Joseph and Ann Sta(i)nton. He married Phebe Giles 27.06.1823 at Aston Juxta, sometime between this date and 1834 he moved to Rowley Village and became landlord of the Ring O’ Bells at the top of Rowley village almost opposite the parish church of St Giles..According to the Parsons and Bradshaw directory in 1821 the landlord of the 10 Bells is one Edward Bridgewater, by the 1834 Whites it is known as the Ring O’ Bells and the landlord is Matthew Stainton. The inn was a small establishment likely converted from a private house, it was double fronted with the main entrance in the middle at the road side, over the door was a sign depicting eight bells all named. There were two rooms downstairs, a kitchen, inglenook fireplace and settles, at the rear of the inn were various stalls and lofts.

Here is a description of the Pub, taken from the "Rowley Rag"  a publication issued by the Rowley Local Interest Group,  "The Ring o Bells stood at the top of Rowley Village opposite the Ward Arms and the Church I had to travel to Tividale today so I nipped into Blackheath library to see if there was any information on the Ring of Bells public house. I didn't realise that the local history group had produced a wonderful magazine called The Rowley Rag. Lo and behold in one of the issues there was an article entitled "Another Mystery Solved" in which, Mrs Margaret Owen, an elderly resident of the village, was asked the question "where was the Ring of Bells?" Here is her reply: "....possibly about 1937-38, numbers 18-19 and 20, Church Road were condemned, and we all moved. Aunt Elizabeth from Number 20 moved to the lower end of Hanover Road, we moved to Portway Road, I think Mr & Mrs Cole went to live in Springfield, but by 1939 we moved back to the village into the Ring of Bells. When my family lived there it was no longer a licensed premises, the front door into this house was on the pavement at a slight angle. My brother Major remembers the sign over the front door, it had been painted over, there were eight bells and Major believes there was a connection with the bells in the church and the bells were all named. Downstairs there were two rooms plus a kitchen, but it still had the old settles in and also an ingle nook fireplace. The rooms were partitioned off as they were quite large, the cellar was still there as were the sills where the beer barrels were stored. The kitchen had the usual things, sink, copper and some quite long ovens, I remember father telling me at sometime it was a bakery? Possibly it was Sefton's from Old Hill or Cradley Heath. Upstairs there were two rooms, one was quite a large room, possibly an assembly room, because it had a clothes closet in the corner and both rooms had fireplaces. At the rear of the house there were stalls and lofts, and also the toilet." A priceless description of the old pub and hats off to the local historians who asked the all-important questions"

The union of Matthew and Phebe produced two children Joseph (1825) and Samuel (1831) but Phebe died in 1832 aged 32 years. Matthew then married Honor Mason 13.03.1834 at St Giles church, Matthew is described as widowed.

By 1842 the family are still at the Ring O’ Bells, the census entry reads;

“Matthew Stainton (40) Publican; his wife Honor (37); children Joseph (15); Samuel (13); Ann (11); Phebe (6); Caroline (5); Elizabeth (4); Sarah (1); with one servant Mary Hodgtts (15) and Ann Stainton widow(70), Matthews mother.”

Matthew Stainton died 20.08.1843 but Honor carried on at the Ring O’ Bells, the 1851 census entry reads as follows;

Honor Stainton Head, widow, (47) Inn Keeper; Samuel, son, unmarried, butcher, (23); Ann, daughter, unmarried (21) dressmaker; Phebe, daughter, unmarried, (16), pawn broker; Caroline, daughter, (15); Elizabeth, daughter (12); Sarah, daughter (11).

Inns in Rowley village often operated multiple businesses from the premises, which is perhaps why Samuel is described as a butcher, Ann a dressmaker and Phebe a pawnbroker. They were often operated by “foggers” or middlemen who sold iron to the nailers then bought the finished product often paying wages in the inn for obvious reasons, or paying in kind or with tokens that could only be spent on the premises thus enabling them to exploit poorer families in the village. We do not know whether this applied to the Stainton family or whether it was just a case of economic survival. In any case by 1855 G Hadley is Inn keeper at the Ring O’ Bells and Honor and daughter Ann are at the Ward Arms adjacent to the church and almost directly opposite their former premises.


The top of Rowley village showing the Ward Arms, the Ring O Bells would be almost opposite.

The Ward Arms, named after the Earls of Dudley and previously named Lord Dudley’s Court House was a larger establishment again double fronted with bay windows and a large wagon entry to the left. Because of its closeness to the church and the fact that it was frequented by the congregation after service the Ward arms was once dubbed the “well of Bethlehem” by the Vicar. Honor is shown as licensee in trade directories from 1861 and 1865 but by 1881 the licensee is Hannah Stokes, widow aged 42 who is operating the Ward Arms with daughter Sarah Taylor. Honor now aged 76 is living at 52 Hawes Lane with daughter Phebe (46) son in law William Whitehouse, the registrar of Rowley Regis (46), granddaughter Phebe (8) and two servants, Honor is described as “Lady” of independent needs.

Honor died later in 1881 leaving a personal estate of just £269, her executors were sons in law,  William Whitehouse and James Henry Price ,who is described as a “mining engineer.”

With the death of Honor the name Stainton came to an end in Rowley village, both sons had left the district, Joseph became schoolteacher at the workhouse in Stone, Staffs, in 1851 Marianne Taylor is a schoolmistress at the same establishment aged 42 and a widow, they eventually married and by 1861 thy are living at School St, Wolverhamton, still school teachers, Joseph died 10.12.1863 leaving no issue. Samuel the other son, is described as a parcel porter of Park Lane Tipton in 1871 with his wife Ellen, he would also seem to have retained some connection with the pub trade in or near Dudley Port station. Samuel died in 1883 aged 55.

Sarah the youngest daughter of Matthew and Honor Stainton had married James Henry Price a mining engineer, around 1875, in the 1881 census the family are living at 53 Rowley Village with sons Arthur Stainton Price (6); James Henry Price (4); Percy Matthew Price (1) and Sarah Parkes (23) a female servant. Another Son, Frank was born later in 1881.


The Sampler worked by Sarah Stainton in 1858.

On the same census at Ross cottages, Rowley is recorded the family of Alfred Hickman Noott (27) a commission agent (chiefly gunpowder) his wife Sarah (21) and daughter Sarah Ellen (0) with servant Sarah Hobbiss (56). Alfred Hickman Noott was the second son of Edward Henry Lane Noott who originated from Cardigan and was the long standing vicar of St Johns, Kates Hill, which is on the Dudley side of the border with Rowley Regis near Oakham There is a dedication on the font of St Johns which reads;

“This font is dedicated by Parishioners and friends to the Glory of God and to the loving memory of the Reverend EDWARD HENRY LANE NOOT M.A. Vicar of this Parish 1843 – 1905.”

There is also a window linking the church with the Price family;

November 9th 1933
   "To the Glory of God and in loving memory of her Father, THOMAS PRICE, died 22nd
    October 1916, her Mother, SARAH PRICE, died 17th December 1922, her Brother,
    THOMAS HENRY PRICE M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. died 20th May 1908 and her sister
    SARAH EDITH PRICE died 26th February 1930, this window is dedicated by
    'In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk'."

In 1891 Alfred Hickman Noott is living at Turners Hill, still described as a commission agent, and in 1901 at 114 Dudley Road, Rowley Regis with his by now very large family;

Alfred H Noott, hardware merchant, (41) working on own account; Sarah, wife,(41); Sarah, daughter, school teacher,(20); Ada, daughter, school teacher (19); Ada, Daughter, school teacher,(19); Edward, son, warehouse man (16); Arthur, son, (13); Sidney, son (10); Stanley, son (7); George,son (6); Maud, daughter (4); John, son (2); Nora, daughter (1)

Alfred’s daughter Sarah Ellen was to marry Frank Price son of  James Henry and Sarah Price

By 1911 Alfred Hickman Noott became the tenant of Rowley Hall, by this time it would no longer be a working farm as it was in the time of John Beet, squire of Rowley who renovated and rebuilt part of the ancient manor house in 1808, its lands had been decimated by the Rowley Hall colliery and the Rowley Hall quarry which eventually reached the very walls that surrounded the grounds of the house. Inside the walls were two large houses, one, a large red brick Georgian gentleman’s residence, facing what would become Newhall Rd which was rented to another family and the other ancient part attached to the back where the Nootts resided, together with vegetable gardens, pig styes, stables and orchards and four retainers cottages.


Rowley Hall showing the quarry which by now had reached the very walls surrounding the house.

Around 1913 Alfred Noott obviously proud of his large family and social standing, perhaps obtained by becoming the tenant of Rowley Hall, had the following family photo taken within the grounds of the Hall.

The Noot family in the grounds of Rowley Hall; Back Row:Stanley Noott, Sidney Noott, Edward Noott (cameo: Ada Gwendolen -in Armerica) Alfred Hickman Noott, Ada Lilian Noott,Arthur Noott

 Middle Row: Sarah Ellen Noott, Maud Evelyn(Ella)Noott, Sarah Annie Noott, George Frederick Llewellyn Noott

 Front Row: Norah Helena Noott, John Hickman Noott

 Taken in the garden of Rowley Hall c 1913.


The Nootts remained tenants of the Hall with John (Jack) the last person in the picture, who married Florence Dunn of MacMillan Rd in 1927, being the last occupant when the Hall was finally and unfortunately demolished in 1970.







Family Vaults under St Giles. Haden; Barrs; Sheldon; Hill and Russell.


There were (are?) five vaults under St Giles church,

1 The Haden family of Haden Hall, the vault is under the chancel – entrance being within the church just outside the chancel – built by Henry Haden who died in 1675 and was buried in the vault, his wife Mary followed in 1717, the last Haden to be interred was John Haden in 1796.

2 Rev Georg Barrs – built by himself on south side of chancel, large enough to hold six coffins, the vault contains Elizabeth the wife of his son Frederick, himself in 1840 and wife Mary in 1844.” Rev George Barrs died on 26.08.1840 and was buried in the family vault which now lies in the south transcript on 02.09.1840 aged 69 years. His widow Mary was also buried in the same vault 26.03.1844 aged 79 years. Both died at Haden Hill.”

3 Mr Dan Hill – only occupant – stone bore no date – Daniel Hill was a Farmer and Iron Master of Rowley village, he lived with wife Nancy in a farmhouse next to the church they farmed 66 acres one of the largest farms in Rowley. They had two daughters Ann Elizabeth and Mary both of whom married sons of the Rev George Barrs, Ann Elizabeth to Alfred Haden Barrs 20.07.1840 and Mary to Frederick W G Barrs, Frederick and Mary are buried in the Barrs vault. Daniel Hill died aged 51 in 1831 of a burst aorta, his wife Nancy remained in Rowley until her death in 1875 when she was not able to be join her husband in the family vault as burials within church walls was forbidden after 1853. She was interred in the vault of her son in law Alfred Haden Barrs.

4  Thought to be of The Russell family of Rowley – The Russell family or as they were originally known De Rushales were granted the manor of Rowley regis by King Henry II in 1154 but eventually lost out to the Somery family (see Rowley time line). A Thomas Russell is on a muster roll from 1539 and a William Russell of Portway Hall on a hearth tax list from 1660 William Russell an iron monger rebuilt Portway Hall. It is not known which of the family is interred in the vault

5 Possibly the Sheldon family of Rowley – A very old Rowley family associated with Brindlefield Hall ,Tividale a Richard Sheldon lived at Rowley as early as the 14th century, together with sons Maurice and Richard, a grandson John moved to Beoley in Warwickshire. A descendant Lady Monins who founded the first school in Rowley in 1703 was certainly buried at St Giles.

All vaults are completely enclosed with strong walls of brick and mortar and were many feet below the surface of the church floor, all interments were in lead coffins.

In 1853 an order was passed forbidding further interments within church walls, the Barrs family considered this a personal affront to their family and petitioned the then Home Secretary in 1856 to no avail.

In 1862 the vault of Alfred Haden Barrs son of George Barrs was built it measured 7.6” by 6.6” and eleven feet high, it eventually contained

Eliza Ann Barrs – wife of Alfred Haden Barrs 1875

Mary wife of Frederick Barrs 1904

Alfred Haden Barrs himself 1877

Frederick W G Barrs, his brother 1875

 Ann Eliza Haden his half sister 1876

Mrs Hill (Nancy) his wife’s mother 1875?

When the third church was built a faculty was obtained to extend the walls to cover this vault and so bring it within the church building. What happened within these vaults when the church was the subject of mining subsidence at the end of the 19th century is not known. It is believed that the headstones for the Haden vaults were kept at Haden Hall after the Rowley church fire and not included in the new church building.

There was possibly another grave or vault within St Giles, when Stebbing Shaw visited Rowley in preparation for his History of Staffordshire, published in 1798, he noted that there was a white marble slab within the church with just three letters carved upon it, unfortunately he did not say what these three letters were and the marble slab does not survive but it could mark the grave within the church of one William Orm a prominent Rowley landowner with holdings in both Rowley Regis and Rowley Somery who’s will stated that he desired to be buried “in the Churche of Rowley under the marble stone” at his death which occurred in 1611. (Edward Chitham)




James Woodhouse Poet of Rowley


James Woodhouse “Shoemaker Poet” 1735 – 1820 from Rowley.

 “Peter's the People's Bard, but I'll be more; 

Unpension'd Poet-Laureat, of the Poor.”

“Begone, ye blockheads! Heraclitus cries, 
And leave my labours to the truly wise.”


Woodhouse has always been a significant name in Rowley, it is first mentioned in the St Giles registers in 1602. One bearer of the name who rose to unlikely prominence in the social and literary circles of England in the 18th century was James Woodhouse. James was born in 1735 and raised at Knowle in sight of St Giles, the original Rowley Church which had stood at the top of Rowley Hill since at least 1188. His father and mother Joseph Woodhouse and Mary (Bridgwater) were evidently small yeomen farmers who could trace their line back many generations in the same place. Studying the St Giles registers it seems possible to trace the line back to one Thomas Woodhouse,baptised 19.07.1615, son of Humfrey and Ann Woodhouse (Wodehouse or Widdhowse) who came to Rowley from Wombourne the family seat perhaps in the early 1600s .  Knowle is between Cock Green and Springfield on today’s Dudley Rd and a Knowle Farm is shown on old maps, it is reasonable to speculate that this is where James was raised. The surrounding area and his upbringing were to have a long lasting impression on his life and on his poetry.  It must be noted Rowley and the Rowley Hills were at the time (pre-industrial revolution) a sparsely populated rural idyll traces of which can still be seen on the Rowley Hills today. Rowley Village, the Rowley Hills and nearby hamlets were surrounded by green meadows, farmland and the odd large house and estate. The landscape at Knowle was dominated by the Hail-Stone, a massive rising outcrop of Rowley Rag, so large it could be seen plainly from Clent and miles around and which stood astride Turner’s Hill and Hailstone Hill where the quarry is today.

The Hail-stone
“This curious rock, adjoining to the highest of the chain,
presents a bold feature on the western frontier. It consists
of a vast cubical pillar abutting against a lofty acclivity. (i)
Surrounding it on all sides, and scattered in great profusion
through the coppice which spreads over the slope, and strewed
in multiform fragments at it base; are innumerable blocks of
the constituent substance forming the subject of this memoir.
Dr. Plot in his History of Staffordshire considers this stupendous pillar as a work of art,
resembling the wonderful masses exhibited in the ancient
structure of Stonehenge.”
Taken from: Stourbridge and its Vicinity by William Scott : 1832

James Woodhouse left school at the age of 7 or 8 and from then on was self educated through the medium of magazines. He became a village shoemaker or cordwainer , supplementing his income by teaching others to read and write. Always being interested in poetry and literature he is described as balancing his cobbler’s work on one knee whilst composing verse in a book on the other.

When around 24 years old and already married to Hannah the Daphne of his poems (James Woodhouse/Hannah Fletcher, St Giles 07.01.1760)  he met and sent verses to William Shenstone, creator of the Leasowes Estate and ornamental gardens in Halesowen (recently partly restored by Dudley council) who was a well-known poet and moved in literary and society circles. Upon hearing that the general public  had been banned from the Leasowes, due to their penchant for picking the flowers and vandalising the grounds rather than admiring the landscape, he wrote an elegy to Shenstone which contained the following lines: “Once thy propitious gates no fears betrayed,/ But bid all welcome to the sacred shade;/ Till Belials sons (of gratitude the bane)/ With curs’d riot dared thy groves profane:/ And now their fatal mischief I deplore,/ Condemned to live in paradise no more.” Shenstone was suitably impressed and allowed James Woodhouse access to his grounds and more importantly his extensive library.Presumably Woodhouse was able to add to his education here and five years afterwards in 1764 a collection of poems by Woodhouse was issued under the patronage of Shenstone and others. This began his rise to fame as the “Shoemaker Poet” At the time it was thought that literature and art were the product of breeding and education and an uneducated “rural” poet was therefore the subject of great curiosity as the lower classes were not thought capable of such composition. His first published work “Poems on Sundry Occasions” was published, under subscription, to some critical acclaim in1764 . He went on to gain a modicum of fame and popularity under the patronage of Shenstone and met many influential people including Dr Johnson, the literary giant of the day.

After the premature death of Shenstone in 1765, Woodhouse was eventually taken under the wing of Elizabeth Montagu a “blue stocking” and patron of the arts and in 1767 became bailiff of her husband’s Sandleford estate in Norfolk until he fell out with his employers in 1778 for a period of three years and returned home to Rowley. There is an entry in the St Giles register 21.02.1779 recording the death from smallpox of Martha Woodhouse daughter of James and Hannah aged nine years . In the collected works of James Woodhouse there appears a long poignant poem dedicated to his daughter written in Rowley 1779:


 He later made it up with his former employers the Montagus perhaps from financial necessity and acted as House Steward for them at their London home and was instrumental in its extensive renovation... It is not clear when he left Rowley the second time but a James Woodhouse is still listed as a land tax occupier in upper Rowley in 1781. Whereas Shenstone had treated Woodhouse as a “natural genius” he now found himself treated by Elizabeth Montagu as a work of moralising charity, expected to show deference to his betters and behave according to their perception of his place.  Eventually Woodhouse became dissolutioned by a life of subjection and servitude which left him little time to write, in his own words he found himself “growing grey in servitude and poorer under patronage unable to provide adequately for an ailing wife and children”, he became a dissenter, an evangelical Methodist and increasingly critised and resented his betters, their way of life and patronizing attitudes and treatment of the lower classes  This resulted in a final falling out with  ElizabethMontagu and in 1788 he parted company with his patron for the last time and opened a bookshop in Brook St near Grosvenor Square, London with the help of his publisher James Dodsley enabling him, finally, to achieve financial independence. In his later years he was the subject of a portrait by society painter William Armfield Hobday. A pen picture of Woodhouse, in later life, published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 1829 shows him as follows:

“However, I can fancy I see James Woodhouse,—tall, erect, venerable, almost patriarchal, in his appearance—in his black-velvet cap, from beneath which his grey locks descended upon his forehead, and on each side ot his still line face,—his long, black, loose gown,—and his benignant air—issuing from his little parlour with a stately step, as the tingling bell which hung over the shop door gave notice of a customer, when it was opened. And then his cordial greeting, and his kind smile, and his clear, sonorous voice—and his primitive haths and cloths, and his hast thous and wilt thous—and the pleasing, to my ears, at least, mixture of a provincial accent, which he still retained in his speech



 Woodhouse was also described by Robert Southey in his “Lives of the Uneducated Poets”1831, as: “ only  being six feet six inches tall and possessed of tremendous strength having once confronted a ferocious bull with a stick making it lay down and fairly cry for mercy.” Woodhouse continued to write and publish poetry and throughout the early 1790s was at work on an epic 28000 line autobiographical poem which he entitled “The Life and Lucubrations of Crispinus Scriblerus” only finally published in its entirety in 1896, over seventy years after his death.  In the preface he described himself and his intent  as “ Peter’s the Peoples Bard but I’ll be more, unpensioned Poet- Laureate of the poor” referring to popular satirist of the day Peter Pindar. He obviously never forgot his roots or his upbringing in Rowley and was immensely proud of both. The poem opens with description of his birthplace and upbringing:

1. “ High, on those Hills, whose scarce-recorded Name,
2.Has weakly whisper'd from the trump of Fame;
3.Just to announce, distinct, the simple sound,
4.O'er other swarming heights, and hamlets, round—
5.Unless like Name of Bristol's ancient Bard,
6Among the tuneful tribes may meet regard,
7.Which hapless Chatterton's prolific lays
8.Wreath'd round his brows with never-fading bays;
9.Or poor Crispinus', oaten pipe, alone,
10.Might serve to raise the sound one semitone.

11.There 'mid the Cots that look o'er southern lands,
12.Near the blest spot where Heav'n's fair temple stands,
13.Once dwelt an humble, but an honest, Pair,
14.Of manners, rustic, but of morals rare!”

 Rowley is cryptically named in line 5 Crispinus (Woodhouse) has taken as his inspiration “name of Bristols ancient bard” this relates to Thomas Chatteron, famous at the time as writer or “discoverer” of the “Rowley Poems” who wrote in an antique style in the name of Thomas Rowley and aroused interest in ancient poetry and inspired others. This had in turn inspired Crispinus to write about himself and his birthplace which itself is an ancient place, and raise it and his profile in the literary world.

Line 9 “Crispinus oaten pipe alone” refers to Woodhouse and his rustic origins.

Lines 11 and 12.”There 'mid the Cots that look o'er southern lands,/
Near the blest spot where Heav'n's fair temple stands” refer to his parents’ home high on the Rowley Hills near St Giles.

Lines 1 and 2 refer to Rowley as a place “barely known; there are musical allusions in this first verse which could refer to the Jews Harp which along with nail making and Rowley Rag was the area’s “barely known claim to fame;

Trump is the old English word for Jews Harp, other musical allusions are; “distinct the simple sound” a Jews harp is the simplest of instruments; “tuneful tribes”; “raise the sound one semitone”

The rest of the extract goes on to describe his parents’ attributes, their outlook on life, work ethic and morality: although from the lower classes and of yeoman origins, they are as good if not better than anyone, whatever their station in life.

This extract mentions Knowle, an area between Cock Green and Springfield which was evidently where Woodhouse originated: as evidenced by “natal Knowle”:

“Come, then, my Muse! pourtray, with strictest truth,

The sentiments that swayed his early Youth;

 While full experience fills the ample page

With pious practices which crown'd his Age:

Nor longer let his natal Knowle remain

The slighted landmark of each neighbouring plain. “


The following extracts mention the describe the natural beauty of the Rowley Hills,  the unrivalled view from them, the mighty Hailstone and the sound of “the clanking hammer and the humming wheel”:

“Swell the domestic Steep's extended Mound,
With all its groups of convex hillocks crown'd.
Reveal each vision, fair, in prospect spread,
O'er ample plain, and azure mountain's head

 With all expressive pow'rs of shade and light;
The bordering objects bold, distinct, and bright,
Of shape, size, tints, and attitudes, and dress,
That round the raptur'd eye, profusely, press!

Those more remote, whose hues, and figures, fade,
With weaker colours on the canvas laid;
Faint, and more faint, till character decay,
Clad, all alike, in knapless garments, gray.
Remoter, still, let hazey hills appear,
Like misty meteors, rising in the rear;
While endless dales dissolve before the view,
With Heav'n's arch bent, in soft celestial blue.

“Rear high the towering Hailstone's rocky crest—
Stretch fair festoons across its kerchief'd breast—
Let its white shoulders o'er the woodland shine—
Show vassal rocks low shrinking, near its shrine— “

“Let throngs of humble Artists ply, with zeal,
The clanking hammer, and the humming wheel,
Chaunting, on every side, some rustic song,
To lull their cares, and course their hours along;
While Toil surveys her stores, with calm content,
Irriguous rising o'er each bold Ascent.”

Before this vision is dismissed as unrealistic as it certainly is in terms of today it should be remembered that the Rowley Hills once boasted the highest agricultural farm in England, an area known as “Cloudland” on old maps at the top of Turner’s Hill and a hamlet opposite Perry’s Lake on Portway was identified as “Heaven”. Here is a contemporary word view of Rowley during the days of the industrial revolution taken from “All around the Wrekin” by Walter White (1862). The photograph is a postcard of the period showing Warren’s Hall farm and looking towards Dudley:

“Gradually we come to flourishing hedgerows, 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, with manifest 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 the thump-thump of hammers in nearly every house, make us aware of having arrived among the nail-makers, The whole village resounds with the stokes, and each cottage has its little forge occupying the place of the wash-house.”                                                                                                              







The poem goes on to describe the following landmarks in the surrounding near and far area: Dudley, Himley, Wrekin,”Cambrias high crags”(Wales), Clee Hills, Alverley, Malvern, Enville, Kinver Edge, Stourbridge, Oldswinford, Hagley, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Bar-Beacon, Wednesbury , Walsall and “Derby blue capped peaks” all of which can, arguably, be seen from the highest point of the Rowley Hills on a clear day. His description of the Blackcountry in the midst of the Industrial revolution with its total disregard for workers’ wellbeing is telling “ Deep, sullen sounds, sounds thro’ all the regions roll./ Shocking with groans and sighs each shuddering Soul!/ Here clanking engines vomit scalding streams…Obtruding on the heart, each heaving breath,/ some vengefull fiend, grim delegate of death.” Most of the poem, however, deals with the life of Crispinus (Woodhouse) as a warrior in his struggle against social injustice, hypocrisy and the prejudice of those who would deny him a literary voice:

 “'Tis meritorious to attempt a Plea

When Tyrants trample on the low Degree—

To urge with warmth, a Sufferer's full defence,

When Falshood, Wealth, and Wit, flout Innocence—

Where Candour dares not in Pomp's Court appear,

To start, in Virtue's cause, a Volunteer;

And stand, with Truth and Justice on her side, “

Against base mobs of Prejudice and Pride,”

Critics of the day were largely dismissive of Woodhouse's talents. Samuel Johnson wrote “Such objects (uneducated poets) were to those who patronised them, mere mirrors of their own superiority. They had better furnish the man with good implements for his trade than raise a subscription for his poems” Southey the Poet Laureate wrote that Woodhouse's patrons “had the satisfaction of knowing that if the talents which they brought into notice were not of a kind to produce under cultivation, extra ordinary fruits, a deserving man was raised from poverty and placed in circumstances favourable to his moral and intellectual nature.” In later life, however, at least according to the introduction to the collected works, Johnson is said to have revised his opinion of Woodhouse’s poetry and it must be said that at the time prejudice against the uneducated man was extreme. Looking back at the Poem from today’s standpoint it would seem almost impossible that a man who left school at seven on or eight could produce such work without an incredible will to improve and the talent to go with it. This is belatedly being realised some 200 years after his death.


Much of the language and many of the sentiments expressed in Woodhouse’s work would seem extreme but this has to be seen in the context of his life and times. The 18th century was a time of great change, well known for political corruption, “man’s humanity to man”, harsh justice, little or no education for the masses, who had to be kept in their place, and corpulent self -satisfied state sponsored religion. The doctrine of “laissez- faire” expressed tolerance of any evil as long as men would endure it and encouraged freedom of competition which gave to the unscrupulous the satisfaction of gratified selfishness.

Into this came the likes of evangelical preachers the greatest of whom was John Wesley, he preached the doctrine of love to the paupers the sick and the generally wretched and taught that all men were equal in the sight of God thus giving them back their self respect and encouraging sobriety and propriety. The contrast between “equality before God and inequality before men” eventually turned some Methodists, Woodhouse amongst them, into biting critics of the social order. Here is his view of the evangelical preachers and the established church:

“Did Whitfield, or did Wesley lounge at ease

Their pride to pamper, or their flesh to please;

And send their Understrappers far from home,

To find some field, or providential dome,

Where they might preach to ignorant Age and Youth,

Christ's gospel doctrines, back'd by moral truth?

Can any Christian, like these lazy Clerks,

While Conscience keeps alive Heav'n's holy sparks,

Appoint Inferiors to fulfil their trusts,

While they indulge their idleness and lusts;

From Primates, downward, to the very least,

Town-starving Curate, or pinch'd country-Priest?



 Wesley preached in the Blackcountry many times during Woodhouse’s lifetime, often as near as Dudley, only two miles from Knowle and it is likely he witnessed open air meetings at first hand. Wesley was stoned at Wednesbury in 1743 but such was the effect of his continued efforts that Wesley would write “in 1764 I rode to Dudley, formerly a den of Lions but now as quiet as Bristol”.

Woodhouse desperately wanted to improve his situation and be accepted as a poet in his own right but found himself patronized at first benevolently by Shenstone and Dodsley and then exploited by the Montagus and rejected by the literary establishment who regarded him as a curiosity because of his background, at one point he described himself as akin to a performing monkey. For all his efforts he found himself trapped by servitude and still unable to provide adequately for his family. This, Methodism ,and the experience of moving from the insulated society of rural Rowley to the heart of London with all its social evils left its mark on his poetry which changed from early eulogies to nature and elaborate praise of his benefactors to diatribes against the establishment and the social condition of the poor in his later works.  Between these extremes, however, he was still able to show his humanity and produce a poignant and heartfelt ode to a late lamented, much loved, child.

James Woodhouse died in 1820 at the age of 85, having given up his successful bookselling business sometime before his death, at his home in Euston Square followed an accident in which he was knocked down by the pole of a carriage whilst crossing the road near Oxford St in London, He was buried in St Georges chapel ground near Marble Arch. Thanks to his efforts in business after forsaking patronage he was able to leave various lands and valuable timber in Rowley and the surrounding area to his sole surviving daughter, Elizabeth.


The Rowley Hills today, photograph by the author.


Woodhouse would be scarcely known in his native Rowley today, there is no blue plaque to mark his birthplace, but his reputation and worldwide fame is strangely growing. His works are now studied by academics and students alike and he is recognised as one the best and most interesting of the uneducated “rustic” Poets. Thanks to the internet the whole of his works long out of print including his 28000 line epic poem are available for all to read. He is the subject of a currently in print academic book and various articles by his particular champion, Steve Van Hagen, lecturer in English at Edge Hill University in Lancashire who has studied the poem in depth and argues that Woodhouse’s  “social and political significance is great: but the scale of his aesthetic achievement and the place he should occupy in the pantheon of 18century labouring poets if anything even higher.” The work can be studied as a social document of the time, an autobiography, a work of literature and even a study in 18th Century agricultural methods. James Woodhouse certainly lived though turbulent times and would have been witness to great changes both economic, political and social, also because he had such a long life and was socially mobile he was perhaps in a unique position to reflect on them, so really he becomes a more and more fascinating figure and it’s a pity more is not known of him not least in his native Rowley.

One might say that the works of Woodhouse are not relative today but the following extract shows that actually very little has changed:

May not the Swain, who, slides thro' noiseless Life,

Remote from fame and flattery, trick and strife,

Pattern more pure, more useful facts, display,

Than Kings who scourge the World with sovereign sway?

Statesmen, whose Systems base, and Spirits blind,

Thro' Pride, and Passion, ruin half Mankind?

Or Heroes, who both Mind, and Might debase,

By murdering millions of the human race?

More Piety than impious, proud High-priests,

Who look like Cherubs, but who live like Beasts?

Teach others how to live, and how to die,

But act, themselves, as tho' 'twere all a lie!

May not his Penury purer lessons give,

Than Wealth, which scarce on kingly Incomes live?

Than courtly Commoner, or pension'd Peer,

Who pinch on twenty thousand pounds a Year!

Who, ruin'd by their Pride, and Lust, and Sport,

Become base Beggars, cringing round a Court?”

Extracts from ;- “The Life and Lucubrations of Crispinus Scriblerus, a novel, in verse written in the last century.”

The collected works of James Woodhouse edited by his (great?) grandson the Rev R.I. Woodhouse was published by Leadenhall Press 1896.


(FOOTNOTE: Steve Van Hagen, the academic

who has studied Woodhouse extensively,

is anxious to learn if there are still direct descendents

of Woodhouse in the area who could

perhaps shed any light as to the whereabouts of

the original manuscript of the epic poem, which

has unfortunately disappeared since the publication of the collected works in 1896).

















Samuel Lewis and the Nailers riots of 1842


Samuel Lewis and the Nailers riots of 1842.

In 1842 after the Nailers riots at Rowley Regis and Dudley a Parliamentary committee was set up to investigate the cause of the riots. Samuel Lewis of Rowley Regis gave evidence against the Truck system which was prevelant at the time in the nailing industry and presented as a reason for the riots. Samuel Lewis and his family lived in Hawes Lane, Rowley village and later at the Hollies in Siviters Lane, the Firm of Samuel Lewis still exists today making lifting equipment at Powke Lane. Samuel Lewis who was one of the Nail masters taken by the nailers to Dudley during the riots, presented himself as a good employer, which he may indeed have been, but there were beer shops, grocers and inns and Taverns in Rowley village owned by nail factors who may well have operated the truck system and exploited the many nailers working from their homes in the village so his evidence is useful as an insight into social conditions in Rowley during the nineteenth century.

 Report from the Select Committee on Payment of wages

 Minutes of Evidence, 1842.

(Lord Ashley was Chairman, Cobden, a member).Samuel Lewis, nailmaker of Rowley Regis, after apprenticeship took over an old business. He could not make much profit just then, and said, in competition with those paying truck, he was at a disadvantage. Paying by truck was an old custom, and apparently increasing near Dudley.

1078. 'Will you state the effects you have observed produced upon the working classes? - When they bring in their nails, those truck masters,generally speaking, buy an inferior quality to that "which the money-paid master buys.” The men are paid generally in money in the warehouse, but then their beer shop, grocer's shop or huckster's shop, as it is called, is on the premises adjoining; or close to it.'

1080, 'Have you ever heard the amount of the loss to the working man from his being obliged to take payment in goods instead of in money?- Yes.'

1081. 'At how much'/ - I should say, speaking of butter, bacon, cheese,and such like, it varies from Id to 3d a pound,.,....'

1084. 'Have they (i.e. workmen employed by Lewis, but once on the truck system) stated that it is not only a loss to them in point of money but that it is a source of great trouble and inconvenience to them - Yes,very much indeed.'

Causes of discontent. 1086. 'The (discontents) that occurred lately have been in a great measure from that cause (truck), and they may be attributed also to nails which are made by machinery, which have very much hurt us.'(he described how he had had his clothes torn on his premises, and how people who rioted usually went several miles to do it).

1090. 'In the present case, people who lived in my neighbourhood, if they were active in the riots, would go a mile or two off where they were not known, and others came to me. On the morning of Monday, the 25th of April at my residence at Rowley Regis, there were as many as 500 people assembled in the front of my home, and it extended for a considerable way down the lane, which is as wide as a common street in London. I showed myself at the window, and I told Mrs. Lewis and my family that they need not be at all afraid of any riot, ....because they were friends of mine, for Ihad been a friend to nailers, and consequently one or two saw me at the window and turned their heads away and took no notice at all, but went away; the bulk of the people very likely knew me anyway; the bulk of the people very likely knew me; then upon that I went down to the warehouse, which is perhaps a mile and a half off and they were joined in about two hours, or two and a half, by a great number morej many hundreds; I saw from 500 to 1,000, and I may guess, for I could not see them all; it was said there were from 2000 to 3000 of strangers and disreputable characters generally, whose object, I think, was plunder and they collected the nailmasters; they had got two substantial masters,and very honest men of the trade, before they came and took me, and they had another .small buyer, not much in repute.

Why? 1092 the reduction of wages which was necessary to take place.'(The men did not know the real cause of the reduction,- Lewis believed truck had a lot to do with it. Non-truck manufacturers paid the same as truck masters. The wages were always agreed locally by the main manufacturers (usually not truck men) and posted and adhered to. At a meeting of Isaac Badger, Edward Guest, W. Whitehouse -and Sons, Joseph Cox and Sons, Joseph and Thomas Pargeter, Thomas Perrins, W. Cooksey and Sons, Hartel Dudley, Elwell and Willetts, James Nock, Thomas Jones, Boaz Bloomer, Samuel Lewis, Richard Mountford ....' pledge themselves to use every effort to put down the truck system, and to employ such workmen as shall lay information against their masters for paying them in truck, or who shall be discharged for refusing to take truck.

1108. 'They do keep up the semblance of paying in money? - They generally pay them in money, but it is well known that if they do not go and expend it in the shop, they will' not have their work another week.

1111. '......These are many highly respectable nail-ironmongers, who,instead of employing single hands as I do and always have done, buy from what we call " factors" the vulgar, degrading name of foggers, and they commonly go by that name; those factors exist all over the country, the same as little hucksters' shops do, as we term them; they are so much less than the grocers' shops; many masters buy from those factors; and those factors are very oppressive indeed, they cheat men in every direction.

1112 ......those factors are generally bad characters; ....their weights and scales wrong and they pay in truck,

1114. 'I believe there is a law in your country by which no workman can buy iron to whom you supply nail-rod'? - Yes; I keep the iron and deliver itout to them,'

1115. 'You give out nail rod they take that, and make the nails of a certain weight, and you charge them with the nail-rod? - Yes.(Lewis kept his men in full work).

1119. 'They (the factors) pay for them in truck? - yes; but the people are badly disposed, idler, dilatory, drinking, and so on; and they will go to those people because they are in their immediate neighbourhood instead of carrying their work half a mile or a mile. I have some of my workmen come to me two or three miles.'

1122. '...I am sorry to say that the bad nails do sell.' (London people wanted better nails than people would buy elsewhere).

1133. 'Has the system of paying by truck been at all abated since the disturbance?- It was for a week or two, and they went on gently, but it is now practised '(Would a new law help? It would be like a law against robbery).

.1141. 'Do factors pay invariably in truck? - They do, and they cheat in two or three directions  'they have

""T.I42.  what "articles do they pay in truck? - Chiefly in flour, butter, bacon, cheese, etc.' (n.b. the flour would be baked into bread and be the main article of diet).-3-

1143. 'Have you any means of knowng what the qualities of those articles then upon that I went are that they supply? - They are generally inferior.'

1147. (Why do workmen sell to factors?) - 'They are generally a dilatory,idle, and ill-disposed sort of people; a nailer is very much given to idle away his time for a great number of hours; they have gone the rule of playing (ite. -not turning up for work) on the Monday, and then after that 'during the week, instead of having an hour after their work, they will lose two or three hours; and then hammer away at the nails, and not more than half make them.' (as there were so many bad nailers around, carpenters were turning to machine nails).

1150. Your system of work is this, that you give out a certain quantity of iron on a Saturday, and on some day afterwards the man returns with a certain quantity of nails, and he charges at a certain rate, and you deduct from him the amount of iron, and pay him the balance? - Yes.'

1151. 'Do you allow for any waste? - Yes.'

1152.. 'If he has wasted more than that, how do you settle that? -  it goes into the book. The way the trade is conducted is, that the quantity of iron is deducted, and that leaves the clear gets, as it is called; there is that money, to be paid the man in the shape of wages.'

il53. : 'The only reason you keep an account is, that the man may not waste, much of that .iron? - Yes*' - (Lewis had often protested at. buying from factors as it encouraged truck*Magistrates met after the above riot and put up a placard against truck).

1171. 'In no case do you find the men, tools or anything else, but the work is done at home; they find their own shops and their own tools? -Exactly*'

-(Factors usually made men working for them find their own iron.) Sometimes people were forced to take more truck than they wanted and had to sell it to pay rent. Lewis gave an example). '

If -the system was adopted of giving the men a certain price for the .nails, without reference to the price of iron, would it not work better? There is not a farthing off, do it which way you will; it is a complicated business .but there is not a farthing profit in the iron.'

1198. 'In case of a man brought you a large number of nails than could be made from the. iron which you delivered out, would you accept the surplus nails at the same price? - Just the same.'

4199. 'You would expect him if you did so to take the difference in iron?not unless he says I do not want the iron, then I would say, you must but at, the market price,

1200, 'Then you .sell it to him at the real price? - Yes.(only Cobden appears! to have seen the drift of this. 'Thick committee members frequently asked the same simple questions repeatedly.) Guest could not see the meaning, and so ....

1205 There is no profit "upon the iron. May I be allowed to explain it. If a man comes to me and brings one bundle of nails, I give him the price as though the iron were worth 11s. (i.e. a cwt), and then deduct that, and he has so much gets, and I owe him a bundle of ,iron, and if he says,."I have no use for this iron, I have iron for my use, and I will sell it;,,, how .much will you give me? Suppose iron 6s. a ton, I say, "I will give you 3s. for it,' Now, on the other hand, .suppose this man takes two bundles of iron, perhaps he brings one in and he says, "I have a .better job than nailing, and I have brought in only one of the two bundles, do you insist upon my working the other, or shall I pay for it then-I- say, "it is not material, you shall pay

me  for it . " then charge him 3s out of his gets; so that 11s. is altogether nominal.

1.226. 'The cutting of nails by machinery has been lately on the increase- Yes.

1227. 'Then you consider that the prevalence of the truck system has been partly increased by the necessity of meeting the machines on the market?

- No, not the truck,

1228. 'You state that the masters would not be able to pay the same rate of wages in money, on account of the machinery which interferes with them?-Yes.' (Truck was just dishonest, said Lewis, and not to do with machines).

1235. (Cobden). 'Is there much export trade for nails? - There formerly was a great deal, but now" there is not much;- they;export from Germany hammer-made nails, (in Dudley the nail industry alone paid by truck).

1246. 'Do you know the number of nails one of those machines will make in a day? - Many thousands; a hammer nail-maker would make 1,000 a day and those machines would make many thousands.

1247. 'Ten-thousand do you think? -'Perhaps they may; but I am not able to judge; I do not know whether they would make 10,000 to 20,000.'

1248  Is the quality of the article inferior made by machine? – Very inferior; but it depends upon the purpose which they are used for. If I want to drive a machine nail into wood it will hold fast; and as much light wopd is made now, it easily drives in; but if you want to nail wooden boards together it will not do.

 (The best nails still came from Dudley at a price).

1281. 'Can you state what an industrious nailer will earn? - I have had nailers that will earn from 10s, to 20s. a week; some common people say an old man of 70 cannot get above 7s„ or 8s.; the commoner the nails the less sum they get, because there is not much ingenuity required; a moderately skilled man must work well to get 15s. a week.'

1283, 'How many hours a day? (to get 15s.) - I should say not less than 14 hrs. a day.


 (The nailer brought in nails on, Saturday; 'probably did not work in the afternoon; and I consider another half day will be expended, upon the average, in looking after their fire and tools", and different things, which they must of necessity do;  -I think a nailer cannot work" more than five days)......'I think coals and tools would, take 2s., a week.

11286. 'And if he had his goods from the truck shop, where they charge at the rate you have mentioned, it would reduce it to 7s.6d.; though a man may be receiving 12s. a week, yet there would be 4s.6d. deducted from him for coals and tools, and the profit of the truck shop? - I should not say so much as 4s. 6d.; if we include rent of the house it will be more than that.' (The rent of the house was about 2s.; tools, bellows and shop and shed 4s.).

Rev. H; Pountney, a Wolverhampton clergyman, was examined about the truck system. He found.people had no money because of it.  People could use truck tickets for beer, or sell 10s ones for 7 or 8s.

2614. 'Are the wives of men often obliged to barter the goods which they get at the truck shops? - Frequently,

2616. 'It makes the poor perfectly reckless, when they find they have no power of laying by anything for the future, and they become quite careless as to what becomes of them.

2621. 'Are the goods which they take out in payment of wages sold at higher prices than at other shops? - Certainly.' (He had evidence, in frontI of good-witnesses, from 22 colliers. Bacon was 6s.6d. Ib, but in truck shops- 9 or 10d

1Truck rose when trade was bad. People were paid eight day a week in good times: a day  6.0 a.m. to 3.0 p.m. In general miners received truck,' mechanics, wages.

2658* 'I know they have no money; an instance occurred last year which came under my notice; at that time were giving soup away at a penny a quart, and I remember a ticket was refused by one of the colliers and the reason given was that he had not a penny to pay for it.(He found it difficult to get payment into a Provident Fund at 4-d. a week).

2663. 'I believe colliers generally do not belong to the established church, a great many of them are dissenters. No, I should say not; a great many of them will not go to church, because they have no clothes in which to appear at church and I should think they go nowhere; I am sorry to say, if you call them church people, it is only when they receive a visit of myself or the curate. (Only one of his congregation practised truck; and his works were outside the parish).

2690. 'You say you have examined a considerable number of persons, among the work people as to the injurious effects of this system? - I have.'

2691. 'And they have all told you that it was really injurious? - Invariably.

2692. 'Now are you aware that any of these people have been compelled lately by masters to sign a petition in favour of the system'! - They have; at least so they have told me;,

2693. '.....It was put to them whether they would submit to a reduction of wages or have a continuance of the truck system, and they chose the truck system if the goods should be sold at the same prices as at the other shops.(Since the enquiry began prices in truck shops had been reduced almost to shop prices).



The Lineage of the Haden family

The lineage of the Haden family of Haden Hall.


Although there were many historic houses in Rowley Regis only one of great importance still stands today, Haden Hall in Haden Hill Park. The Haden family were closely associated with Rowley church although they did not live in the village but in Haden Hall at Haden Hill about two miles away. Many of the family were baptised and married at St Giles, the family vault was built within St Giles and many of the family were buried within from centuries ago, Hadens were churchwardens and parish officials through the centuries and the Rev George Barrs married into the Haden family when he married Mary widow of John Haden in 1801. Although earlier Hadens figure in the ST Giles registers we can with certainty trace the lineage from the following.

Thomas Haden 1555; his son Thomas born between 1576 and 1600 (we can’t be sure of the date because of a gap in registers) and his grandson another Thomas b1608.

Thomas Haden b 1608 had at least three daughters and two wives and a son Henry (d1675) who married Mary Bloomer they had eleven children, the eldest son Henry (b1658 d 1736) inherited estate and married Elizabeth Fullwood of Studley, when Henry died in 1736 Elizabeth was still alive. His eldest son another Thomas, who was born at Studley inherited.

Thomas Haden (1634 – 1766 had eight children, five died in infancy, his second son Thomas was run over by a wagon – when Thomas died in 1766 he left one son John (1723-1796) aged 33, two daughters, Elizabeth who was married to a Mr Minurs and Mary who was unmarried.

John Haden (1723 – 1796) married when he was 65 to daughter of his first cousin Elizabeth Kendrick. He married Mary Kendrick 27.08.1788 at Clent, Mary was 19 years old, they had one child Ann Eliza b 1790. John died 07.02.1796 he left the estate to daughter Ann Eliza and her issue, however if his wife Mary remarried the estates were to pass on the death of Ann Eliza to any children of the second marriage.

Mary married five years later to the Rev George Barrs.

After Ann Eliza died in 1876 the last of the direct line, unmarried and with no issue, aged 86, the estate was inherited by her half brother Alfred Haden Barrs who died soon after in 1877 and the estate was then inherited by his nephew George Alfred Haden Best who died in 1921 without issue. After his death the Estate, Haden Hill House and Haden Hall was put up for sale and purchased by the then Rowley Regis Urban District Council who opened Haden Hill park for the benefit of the community, 



George Barrs, the man with a message from God


In the Gospel Magazine of 2002 we find an article entitled:

George Barrs - THE MAN WITH A MESSAGE FROM GOD By J. E. NORTH, which shows that even today the life and thoughts of George Barrs still have a relevance, at least in certain Christian circles. We reprint the article in its entirety as it gives an insight into the man, his legacy and the environment in which he found himself during his ministry in Rowley . We have tried to contact the Gospel Magazine to obtain permission to post the article on this website and if possible to contact " J E North" to find out the source of the information in the article i.e does he know the whereabouts of the Journals of George Barrs but so far to no avail. 

"GEORGE BARRS, although a minister of the Church of England to his dying day, is credited as being the founding father of the Strict Baptist Chapels in the Black Country.In this article I want to look at the life and ministry of the Rev. George Barrs and also to look at something of his Christian experience. I also want to undertake a short appraisal of his ministry. A short biography was compiled by his son Frederick and published shortly after his death. This made great use of his journals. I will be quoting extensively from those journals as they give us an indication as to the measure of the man.


Come with me, then, in your imagination, to the Black Country in the English Midlands. The Black Country, so called, because of the heavy industry and the pollution that industry caused. The year is 1800. It is before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and although there is some industry, it is still mainly an agrarian area. The town is Rowley Regis. Rather, it is a large village. In his history of Rowley Regis, Malcolm Warby tells us that: ”The beginnings of settlement in Rowley are lost in the mists of history.This part of the country, like much of the surrounding area, consisted mainly of dense forest, interspersed with patches of heath and moorland on which the soil was not rich enough to allow much cultivation to take place. The name Rowley is probably derived from the words "Rough Lea" indicating a crude clearing or lea, in the woodland, in which few dwellings existed.” Alfred Dye, Strict Baptist minister of Bell End, Rowley Regis, tells us that "Rowley Regis was a forest, and called King's Rowley, because it was used by some of our old kings as a hunting chase; hence Rowley Regis. And a place called 'The Throne' is supposed to have been where King John once resided." The old parish church to which George Barrs made his way in May 1800 was probably built sometime between AD 1199 and 1216. Its construction was of local stonework. The walls were constructed without the use of mortar, "each stone was placed together, each wall formed by two outside shells of 'Rag' stones placed at a considerable distance from one another and the space filled with rubbish." This building was still in use when George Barrs commenced his ministry, by then very much dilapidated, leaking when it rained and most certainly not conducive for the public worship of Almighty God. The Memoir also tells us that "there was also a Church, a visible Church, a Church of brick and stone ... if such a cold, damp, ruinous, gloomy, dilapidated dungeon, as then stood there ought to be honoured with the name." Barrs himself writes in his journal: “With regard to the building; the once animated dust of the inhabitants. has accumulated into such a mass around it, that the floor is very much below the surface of the exterior ground. The interior of the church is perpetually wet, cold and dirty.” He makes further description:” I have literally been obliged to wade along the middle isle, nearly to the tops of the shoes in mud and water, to get to the desk; when there, my clothes have been wet through torrents of water from above. Many times has it been necessary to ladel and mop water out of the seats before persons could enter them for worship. “...

The Puritan vicar of Clent with Rowley Regis was one William Turton who was

ejected by the Act of Uniformity in 1662. In the times of persecution that followed Turton continued to preach the Gospel as a non-conformist. He was probably an Independent, although he became the minister of a Presbyterian congregation in Birmingham in 1687 when  James 11 granted further indulgence to Non Conformists. Whilst it was called a Presbyterian congregation, James Angel lames says: "They had but little of the Presbyterian about them - except that they ruled church affairs by trustees and elders, and shut out the suffrages of the congregations." This congregation seems to have descended into Arianism and from which the predecessor of Carrs Lane Church. which was described a "true Calvinist Church" seceded.

Alfred Dye, in the Christian's Pathway, quoting Barrs' Memoir, tells us that "the Gospel had previous to 1800, for about forty years (with a few interruptions) been preached in the church". He does not give any names of ministers who preached a free grace Gospel, but among the list of curates who ministered at Rowley Regis is Christopher Stephenson who was afterwards the Rector of Glney in Buckinghamshire and a successor to John Newton, the great Evangelical preacher and hymn-writer. Coal was mined at Rowley from the days of Charles 11 and the other main industry apart from agriculture was that of nail making. Barrs tells us that: “A great majority of the "manufacturers" (nail makers) are very poor, and their families frequently appear clad in rags, as if they could obtain but a slender pittance of life's comforts, or even necessaries. This, however, is not to be attributed to their being destitute of the means of procuring those comforts in a degree unknown to other "manufacturers", but their want of frugality, domestic economy and good management. Their work is laborious, but they can generally earn wages which, if discreetly applied, would furnish them with comfortable competence, Unhappily, however, many, from their very youth, contract habits of idleness and prodigality, and these are a certain and fruitful source of rages and wretchedness. Since that 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 comfort has much improved. Such is the degraded and grovelling condition into which many of the nailers are sunk, that, during the late war, when wages were high, those, who could not earn another two pence, when they might, by no great exertion, have earned twice two shillings per day. The wretchedness that results from their conduct is indeed an undeniable proof of its criminality and of the enormous evil of such perversions.”

The Rowley Regis of 1800 to which George Barrs came was a place of utter corruption and profligacy. "In many respects," writes his son, Frederick, "it was scarcely in a state of common civilisation.... Vice and immorality bore an unbounded sway. Instances of the most tremendous and horrid depravity are found recorded in his writings.... The management of the parochial affairs was in every possible sense the most corrupt and profligate. The public highways were in many places utterly impassable, even on horseback; and as for a carriage being seen, such a thing was accounted little less than a prodigy. The desecration of the Sabbath day was as awful as it was notorious."

The moral state of the people was no better. The quotation above reflected the state of people after the widespread availability of beer. In 1800 the state of the inhabitants was described as follows:

“The horrid practice of bull-baiting here prevailed, with all its revolting aggravations; and to their shame be it recorded, received countenance and support from many, who considered themselves above the vulgar rabble. Cock-fighting, bearbaiting, and every other species of wickedness formed the popular amusements of the day; in a word the powers of darkness appeared to reign with unlimited and undisputed sway, and there was nothing to induce a stranger to cast his lot in the place.”

It was, then, to this place that George Barrs made his first journey at the beginning of May, 1800. But who was George Barrs? We must retrace our steps a little before we can take up the story.


George Barrs was born at Caldecote in Warwickshire His father owned a farm and sought to encourage George to follow him as a farmer. Later in life he was to record an early providential deliverance.

1st February 1807, he writes in his journal: “This evening was buried Elizabeth Willets, a girl about six years of age. She was scalded to death, by some boiling water being spilled upon her head, which ran into one, or both her ears. This brought to my recollection a very narrow and providential escape which I had, when a boy, from a similar danger. While stooping down in my father s kitchen, one of the servants took a kettle of boiling water from the fire, and in attempting to carry it over me, spilled nearly the whole of it on my head. Though I was dreadfully scalded, yet not a drop found its way into my ears. It could not be accident, but Divine appointment that stopped my ears. Thus I escaped, while the above poor girl lost her life when, apparently, in no great danger. 0, my soul, how many are thy mercies!”

In 1819 while reflecting upon his mother's death he writes:

“Were it not better to recall some of the numerous, endearing, instructive scenes which passed when I, in youthful days, spent almost all my hours beneath her kind and watchful eye? A deep impression still, I feel, was made in my bosom by what I heard and saw her do, on many a Sabbath eve. With tone, slow, solemn, plaintive, sweet, and like one whose very soul felt what she read, would she sit and read the Word of Life; her children round, but not always listening with half the care that marked her expression, or that the subject demanded. Even then the word seemed to flX itself in my heart, and I frequently felt what I little understood, till since it pleased heaven to open my eyes, and give me understanding to know him that is true. This I record, to the honour of my departed mother, to the glory of lehovah, and as an instance of his owning his word, and making it beneficial to a child when read by a parent.”

It seems that he was awakened to see his need of a Saviour when he was about seventeen years old. He commenced attending the ministry of a Rev. R. Hemmington at a church some five miles from his home. For this attendance he "endured no small share of severity and persecution". This would seem to indicate that his family were outwardly religious and apparently attended the Church of England services but had no love for the Evangelical truths that he had come to love through the ministry of the Rev. Hemmington. We have to remember that this period of time was at the latter end of the Evangelical Awakening and that the Methodists (both within and without the Establishment) were a despised and persecuted people. When he was twenty-one years old (in 1792) he left his father's house and went to live with the Rev. Samuel Knight. Under this minister's instruction he prepared and studied for university entrance. It was at this time that he commenced a journal which he continued to write until his death in 1840 (After his death, these journals were divided between his family. At least eight of the 48 annual volumes have survived and are safely kept in two of the local archive collections in the Rowley Regis area.) When he was 21 years old he was brought into Gospel liberty and committed himself to the work of the ministry of the Gospel. He writes: “Thou had’st compassion on me, even when I was living in open rebellion against thee; yea, when I was cast out, to the loathing of my person, mercy was shown unto me. I had lost all inclination to good, and have neither will nor power to do what is acceptable in thy sight; but, blessed for ever blessed be thy name, "for when we were without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly". 0 Lord!  through the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, will devote the remainder of my days unto thee. I lament that I have lived one-and-twenty years, and known so little of my God. How painful the reflection, to have spent seventeen long years in the service of Satan, in bondage to sin and every lust! 0 Lord! pardon, for the sake of thy dear Son, pardon all the offences of my past life. "Let the time past of my life be sufficient for me to have wrought the will of the Gentiles"; and make me truly willing to "give myself wholly to God". Succeed the important work I have undertaken, and accept my unworthy services.”

 GEORGE  BARRS  entered  Magdelen  College,  Cambridge,  in the autumn  of 1795 and took his degree in  January 1799. Whilst at Cambridge he sat under the ministry of Charles Simeon of Trinity Church, Cambridge. Simeon was the scourge of ungodliness in that university town. He himself was persecuted for his Methodism and any ministerial candidate attending his ministry was often refused ordination on the grounds of enthusiasm. George Barrs was reprimanded for his Methodism and was positively forbidden by the college authorities to attend Trinity Church. He also attended the weekly meetings at Charles Simeon's rooms to receive instruction relative to the ministry of the gospel and the other duties required of a faithful minister of the Word of God. Notwithstanding his attendance at Trinity he was ordained a Deacon of the Church of  England on  Sunday, 17th March  1799, at Ely  Cathedral. At  his ordination he would have been required to make attestation of his beliefs in the doctrine of  the Church of  England. There is no doubt from his journals that George Barrs was a true Calvinist. He would therefore have had no problem in assenting to the doctrine of the Church of England as enshrined in the 39 Articles and the Homilies when asked by the Bishop. These are the days before the Oxford Movement and Puseyism. There would have been no equivocation or mental reservation on his part. Neither would he have placed the 39 Articles within an historical context as has been done by many Anglican Ordinands in recent years. There would have been an honest statement that he wholeheartedly held to those doctrines as being a true statement of belief and teaching of the Holy Scriptures. The same evening of his ordination he preached at Mr. Simeon's Church, Trinity, Cambridge from the Text of Scripture, Hosea 5:4:

"They will  not frame their doings to turn unto their God." The sermon has not been preserved. He then took the curacy of All Saints Church, Wareham, in Norfolk. He was then recommended by Mr. Hemmington to conduct the services at Rowley Regis Church, which curacy was vacant. Barrs resolved that he would visit  Rowley. When it was known by his parishioners at Wareham that they could lose him, a memorial or petition containing nearly a  hundred signatures was presented to  the Vicar requesting him to prevent, if  possible, George Barrs from leaving them, but to continue with them.

And so it was that George Barrs made his way by coach to Birmingham and from thence by foot to Rowley Regis in May 1800. He found the village in a deplorable state. He conducted worship on Sunday, May 4th, in St. Giles' Parish Church. let us view the scene: “The interior  of the building  is, if possible,  in  a worse  condlition  than the shell. From one end to  the other it presents nothing but one continued 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.”

And so he continues to describe the church.

He takes the desk dressed in his white surplice and reads the order for Morning Prayer. After Morning Prayer is concluded the congregation sing a Psalm during which George Barrs leaves the desk goes into the vestry where he dis-robes himself of the surplice. He then re-enters the main body of the church building and ascends the pulpit stairs dressed in his black degree gown. After singing of the Psalm has been completed and the congregation seated, his sonorous voice speaks clearly and announces his text,

"I have a message from God unto thee" (Judges 3:20). All  ears are strained. What is this message from God? He goes onto speak of the Counsel of God:"The Judgements of God are unsearchable, and his ways past finding  out." and his 'counsel shall stand"  (Psalm 33:11). And first,  generally, Iet me say to all, "l have a message from God unto you";  I  come not like Ehud,with  a  nuo-edged dagger under my raiment to  assassinate you. I  seek neither your lives nor your fortunes; my errand is of a more kindly nature.I  am "come among you in weakness, and in fear and in much trembling". All  I  have in view is the glory  of my great and adorable Master who has committed to  me  the "ministry of  reconciliation",  and  made me  his ambassador unto men to beseech them to be reconciled to him; my aim is the salvation of your souls.So he continues to expound the Word of God, to speak of the new birth and the"means appointed by  God for  the accomplishment of  this preparation in  his chosen was Jesus Christ". He then addresses  himself to the types or conditions of the hearers that were in the congregation -(i) to the person who turns a deaf ear to all these   things, (ii) to the hypocritical professor of religion, (iii) to the person who is hoping for  salvation from  something he can do, (iv)  to the lukewarm professor, (v)  the person who was walking in  heaviness before his God, and (vi) to the person who was going on his way rejoicing in God. To each of these he had a message  from God, pointing out that the "message from God unto thee" was of Christ and His salvation. The sermon, his biographer says, "was heard with  general satisfaction, and referred to by many with delight to the latest hour of their lives". Barrs himself said, "The desire for my staying at Rowley seems pretty general".

Notwithstanding the opposition of  the local vicar of  Clent, with  which the Parish of Rowley was then united, who was opposed to Barrs' doctrine, George himself  was licensed by the bishop to undertake the cure of souls within  the parish of  Rowley Regis. So commenced a ministry that was to  last for  upwards of forty  years and that was to  change the whole of  life  within  Rowley Regis.For undertaking this ministry he received the princely sum of £40  per year plus surplice fees.

Barrs married the widow of John Haden of Haden Hill  in 1801. By her he had lwo sons and a daughter. Marrying the widow of one of the local gentry gave him some prestige in the community, but this did not prevent his being continually persecuted  for his Methodism and his Calvinism. In his journal he reflects on his ministry at Rowley. He writes: “Seventeen years have now passed since I first  preached the everlasting gospel in this parish.  This is the anniversary of my ftrst  efforts among the people. . . . During  my residence here I  have met with  various fteatment from  the inhabitants. Persons of almost all descriptions have pursued those measures towards me which their views and sentiments dictated. Much has been done with a view to injure me, and not a little with the opposite design. If  I  have had foes, I  have also had friends. I  am not conscious of having done anything to excite hostilities, besides pursuing the path of duty; nor to conciliate esteem, beside persevering in the same course. And even if I had done what I  ought in  every respect, I  could have no claim  to merit, but would say, I am an unprofitable servant!  Twenty-nine years are now completed, since the hand of heaven directed me ftrst into this parish. During  all that period with the exception of a few Sundays in  1808, have I  preached the everlasting gospel to the people, generally twice on Sunday in  the church, and once in  the week at  the schools. . . . What Jehovah has wrought is not for  me to pretend to say, but whatever good has resulted He has done it.Thirty-nine years  are  now  complete, since I first  lifted  up  the Gospel standard in the church of this parish. Wonderful, indeed, are the ways of Jehovah, and great things he has done. His faithfulness has kept me, still holding fast the doctrines, all the doctrines of his Word; and according to my strength, proclaiming them, with zeal and delight not less that at first.”

On the final anniversary of his coming to Rowley, some few months before his death, when he was no longer able to conduct public worship and preach the gospel, he writes: “In  the midst of great weakness, unfitness, and unworthiness, often have I been ready to faint,  but still  was kept pursuing. If judged on the ground of having done all I  ought, and as I  ought, I must inevitably be found guilty. But He, whose blood cleanses from  all sin, and whose righteousness fully justifies the soul, is my Surety, in these respects, as in all others. To Him my soul flies, as my Advocate, Justifier Saviour! “The journals give us a fascinating insight into the life of this man, and .also the divine ministry he undertook at Rowley. we obviously cannot consider every aspect of his life, the providential deliverances, the persecution, the administration of the parish in which he was to turn the corruption into a model of high principle which was admired throughout the area and which became a model that was imitated by other parishes. We do not have time to consider his desire for the reconstruction of the old Parish Church and for which he suffered not small opposition, save to say that, near the end of his life he did lay the foundation stone of a new parish church. I do, however, want to consider some aspects of his ministry which we will do after we have considered his death.

 I WANT to move very quickly to the latter end of his life. How did this man die? It is in that area that we can tell the reality of a man's religion. Words that J. C.Philpot wrote in respect of John Warburton are equally applicable here. "In life he (that is, John Warburton) stuck by a feeling religion and in death a feeling religion stuck by  him."  In  life  and ministry  George Barrs  stuck  by  a  Covenant, Experimental, Feeling Salvation and in death these things stuck by him. 1840 commenced with his writing in his journal that he rode to church with great difficulty  and that he was unable to  articulate because of  the pain he suffered. He preached from 2 Corinthians 4:16: "But though our outward man perish, yet the inward is renewed day by day." This was to be the last time that he preached in the parish church. After preaching he conducted the ordinance of the l,ord's Supper. "The  impression that it was the last time we should be partakers together of the communion of the body and blood of Christ in this ordinance much affected me," he wrote in his journal. "When all was over I bade a silent adieu to the guests and the place; and rode home, quite exhausted and broken down in bodily strength." He was not to be able to attend public worship again until Easter when he was again able to partake in the administration of the ordinance His final sermon was preached at the annual meeting of the trustees of Reddal Hill  School on  24th June, 1840, when he was able to  preach from  the text I  Timothy L:5: "Now the end of the commandment is love, out of a pure heart,and a  good conscience, and faith  unfeigned." His  outline being firstly,  the commandment, secondly, the end of it, thirdly, whence that end is attained, or proceeds.” He then, as was his habit, recounts the general outline of the sermon. The final entry in his journal is dated 25th June. "To all,” says his biographer, as George Barrs approached death, "it was sufficiently apparent that a calm, solid, heavenly peace filled his soul; and, that in patience and faith, he waited the solemn moment which was to usher his spirit, when  separate from  the flesh,  into  the tremendous presence of  the Almighty Judge." He  expressed to  a  friend that he longed for  the happy hour of  his dismissal. "He knew and felt, and the Spirit bore witness with his spirit, that all those sins were borne by Christ, in His own body on the tree, and the guilt of them all washed away in His atoning blood; and that clad in the wedding garment . . . the Imputed Righteousness  of the Lord Jesus Christ, he stood complete in Him." The 26th August was his final day upon earth. He died without a struggle or groan at ten-fifteen in the evening to be "absent from the body, present with  the Lord". The funeral took place the following Wednesday  conducted by the Vicar of Clent with  Rowley - there had by then been a change in vicar, one who was not opposed to him as had been the vicar when George Barrs was installed as curate of Rowley. He was buried within the precincts of the new church which was then in the process of construction. The simple tombstone has the following inscription:

Waiting the coming of the



"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,of whom I am chief."

I want now to try and appraise  the ministry of this headings:

1. His preaching

2. His pastoral concern

3. His Protestantism

4. His politics

5. His praise

6. His posterity

I.  His Preaching

His  son, Frederick tells us that "not more than thirty  of  my  father's earlier sermons, written  at  length, are in  existence; indeed from  the very  first,  he occasionally preached without the aid even of a note". However, in his published journal he often mentions the texts upon which he preached and gives us the outline of his sermon. Four sermons from the early days of his ministry at Rowley were published in the Memoir. The outlines and the published sermons display that his preaching was both doctrinal and experimental. His doctrine was clearly Calvinistic. He poured scorn on those who held to the Arminian system of theology. He gloried in the doctrines of grace. He gloried in God's covenant of  everlasting grace. Listen to the following  extracts from his journal: On Calvinism

1st January, 1810

-“ I can now, with heart-felt satisfaction, and without the smallest degree of  hesitation, subscribe to the doctrines of  everlasting love; etemal, unconditional, election, the everlasting covenant between the Aleim (Hebrew for the LORD of Hosts), for the salvation of all their chosen; the completed salvation by  Jesus Christ; free justification by his  imputed righteousness; the Divine  and invincible agency of  the Holy Spirit on the soul in the work of conversion, moulding it into the Divine likeness, preserving it unto the end, and conveying to it spiritual nourishment and comfort; the total insufficiency of man; the absolute imperfection and defilement of all human performances;  the impossibility of  being saved but  by  being regenerated  and made experimentally acquainted with  the three Divine persons in their official capacities of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” . . .


1st May, 1808

-This text (John 15:2,

"Every branch in me that beareth not fruit  he taketh away") is often produced by the Arminians for the purpose of  confirming their mistaken notion, that a real believer may finally perish. The notion is evidently the offspring of pride and self- sufficiency.  It  betrays 'a supp&ed  power  of  self-preservation  and cherishes the leaven of conditional grace. And I am clearly of the opinion that it has no advocates but such as are unwilling to be saved entirely by Jesus Christ. However, this text is far enough from  even seeming to countenance a notion so gloomy to the sinner who is born of the Spirit, and so dishonourable to  Jehovah. Men may pretend that they are in Christ, but if that be the case he also is in them, and they must bring forth much fruit;  such branches shall never be taken away; but  the great Husbandman will  purge and make them more fruitful. But where such pretensions are mere outside work,  these self-created branches are nominally in Christ, yet not really so, neither is he in them: of course they will be taken away, not dis-united, or broken off from him, for they were never made one with  him;  but  removed from  their  pretensions and hypocrisy, to receive the just demerit of their own beloved deceivings. All this is very plain when the first six verses of this chapter are understood.”

On Experimental Salvation

8th October, 1820

“-  Speaking of believing on Jesus Christ in the morning discourse, I  took  occasion to  state the  difference between merely crediting the gospel statements, and receiving the substance of  those statements into the heart or soul. This latter I denominated believing on Jesus Christ, because then only it is that the soul relies on him, flies to him for refuge, and trusts in him for the whole of salvation. The effects of such believing will be of a holy nature.On the Covenant of Grace”

18th March, 1827

“- I was led to this passage (2 Samuel 23:5, "Yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure.") . . . The blood of Christ is the purification of  souls. Here is a reference to the covenant; but it was not made with David, for how coulda creature be a covenanter with  the Creator? The Covenanters are the D ivine Three . . . they made the covenant on behalf of their chosen.”

His  son sums up the whole of  his preaching as follows: "He ascended the pulpit, not in his own strength, not to perform an irksome task . . . [not to] read apre-composed  piece of dry  formality, in which neither the hearts nor affections of the performer nor spectators are engaged! No, nor yet to call upon dead sinners to quicken their own dead souls, nor to puff  up proud self-righteous sinners by telling them, that God stands looking, and longing, and wishing to save them, if they, magnificent worms of earth, will  but allow the 'God of the spirits of all flesh'to fulfil the counsels of His own sovereign will with respect to them! but faithfully and fearlessly to preach the 'whole' counsel of God, to proclaim theonly way of salvation for lost sinners, and simply to point to Him who says, 'I am the wav. the truth and the life.'' 'Offers of grace is a very  ambiguous expression. If  it  means,' says George Bans himself. "that the favour of God is offered to men. under circumstances rn which it is entirely optional whether they will  avail themselves of it or not, I:hould say, no such offer was ever made."

2. His Pastoral Concern

Examples could be given from his journal how George Barrs dealt with members of his congregation. I  would just highlight two  things that he did. Firstly he preached consecutively through various books of  the Scriptures in  which  he covered the salient points of doctrine and Christian experience. He preached, for Instance, 109 sermons on Galatians in which he dealt with the position of the law, the believer's conduct. holiness etc. The other item I would mention is that he was not aloof from his congregation. He invited members of the congregation to bring rheir questions to his notice in order that he might preach about them to the good of the whole congregation. Of course, he had certain rules that had to be followed hut this was to prevent frivolity  and time wasters. Again, this was in the time honoured manner of the Puritans who would preach on their cases of conscience.

3. His Protestantism

George Barrs was a High Church Anglican. He was not Puseyite. He was not an Anglo-Catholic. He  lived  and ministered before those deceivers were in  the Church of England. He was a son of the Church of England and lived and died within her pale and regarded her as the very epitome of Christ's Church. As such he was a Protestant. He rejected the very idea of the doctrine of the mass. He, as a faithful son and minister of the Church of England accepted both Article 28 (Of the Lord's Supper) and Article 31 (Of the One Oblation of Christ) of that Churchin which it  is stated that transubstantiation "is repugnant to the plain words of scripture", and that "the sacrifices of Masses . . . were blasphemous fables, and dangerous  deceits". In his journal he makes reference to the Popish doctrine of the mass calling it a “nonsense”.When preaching from Galatians  4:24,25 on 18th August, 1838, he says:” If we admit the expression of Christ, "This is my body", to be intended literally, then why not take literally the expression  in the text, "This Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia"? As  well  may that woman be literally the mountain upon which the law was given, as the bread be literally the body, blood, and bones of Jesus Christ. . . . For me it is quite sufficient,that the bread, in the Sacrament, is a symbol of Christ's body, and that Agar was a figure of the law”. Again, on 12th May, 1839, he preached  from Hebrews 10:12, 13 and says: “This sweeps away the whole doctrine and doings of the Popish Mass, and proves it to be nothing better than a blasphemous and a damning device - of hell, to uphold a system, which, if embraced and followed, inevitably leads to everlasting perdition. And we note that the doctrine of the mass is still the central doctrine of the Church of Rome. It has not changed in this respect one whit.” George Barrs opposed the Catholic Emancipation Act  which was passed in1829. Ever thereafter he preached a monthly sermon upon Protestant subjects and against the Church of Rome. He preached an extensive series of sermons from the Book of the Revelation in which he clearly identified Rome as the Babylon of the Apocalypse. Numerous, in his journals, are the outlines of those sernons. It was a great consolation to him that during his time at Rowley Regis there was never a Roman Catholic Chapel erected.

4. His Politics

I  am not  concerned here with  what are called "Party Politics" but  how  his Calvinistic outlook affected his outlook on national life. As I said earlier, George Barrs was a High  Church Anglican. He was, therefore, most concerned with any event or Act  of Parliament which he considered to be in conflict with the Protestant nature of the constitution of the United Kingdom.

He not only opposed the Catholic Emancipation Act, but he also opposed the Great Reform Bill  of  1832. Looking back over 170 years we would perhaps consider that his opposition was misplaced. Who, for instance, could justify the maintaining of the Rotten Boroughs and not welcome an extension of suffrage? But there was more to the Reform Bill  than that. Tithes were abolished, the University of London which did not restrict admission to communicant members of the Church of England was established, the power of the House of l,ords was under attack. The whole of  the Protestant Church of  England Establishment seemed to be under threat. He, along with many other Anglican Clergy, opposed the Reform Bill. What would it lead to? They had seen the repeal of the Test and Corporation Act in 1828. They had seen the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.They had seen the establishment and funding of a Roman Catholic Seminary at Maynooth near Dublin by the Irish Parliament in  1795 which was later to be permanently endowed by  the British  Government. What  was coming next? Opposition was therefore called for. When preaching from I  Peter 5:8, 9, "Your adversary the devil", etc., he said:” My object was to show, in various instances, how Satan seeks to destroy souls. For this purpose, his numerous devices on the subject of religion were adverted to. .  .  . The impositions, frauds, cheats extortions &c practised in trade and commerce were brought forward, nor were political evils  which  have produced revolutions abroad, and threaten similar 'results in our own country, overlooked. . . . The murmuring, insubordination, and clamour, for what is called reform (but which actually me revolution), now heard from one end of the land to the other were noticed. By all such means, Satan seeks to deceive and destroy souls.” But having said all this, Barrs was a loyal subject. He abhorred and lamented the assassination  of the then Prime Minister, Spencer Percival, by Bellingham in 1812, preaching from Genesis 49:6,

"O my soul come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man", on May 24th. I came, he says, to speak of the times. But I thought I discerned in some. . . an air of disdain. . . . Whoever approved, or disapproved, I know not.I spoke what I judged to be the real facts. On the accession of Victoria to the throne on 20th June, L837 (William IV had died on that day muttering  "The Church, The Church"), he records that his desire or the youthful Queen Victoria was that she "may be a follower of young Josiah, and purge away all the abominations, in all lands belonging to Great Britain; and cause all that are found in those lands to serve the In the  God of Hosts."

5.  His Praise

Frequently his journal  tells us that he read prayers and preached. He followed services in  the Book of Common Prayer  As was the custom in those days he would conduct the Liturgy from the desk dressed in a surplice and then preach in his black degree gown. The normal practice of the Church of England was to sing Psalms. He introduced the singing of hymns into Rowley Parish Church. I just want to quote one of the many hymns that he composed. Many of them were composed for Sunday School Anniversaries. Alas, none seem to have ever found their way  into  any  of  the Free Grace hymn  books, and in  these days of Charismatic doggerel they are not likely ever to be used in public worship.

"Once more,  tune my voice to praise,

Once more, my tribute bring,

To Him who fills the throne of light,

Where hosts of seraphs sing.

And will  He hear, and will  He own

The artless notes I raise;

For if He deigns t'inspire a soul,

He deigns t'accept the praise.

My wond'ring thoughts retrace His deeds,

Ere worlds began to move;

His sov'reign choice, His plan to save

The children of His love.ans And since He built my breathing frame,

How kind His dealings are!

I'm  taught while young; though poor I've friends

He makes my life His care.

But most Iprize  the Gospel's sound;

By this the Saviour's known:

When He gives faith to trust the Word,

That Saviour is mine own.

Be He the portion of my youth,

The hope of growing years;

My stay, when life declines in age,

The solace of my fears."

6. His Posterity

What happened after his death?

As I said at the beginning of this article, George Barrs is credited as being the founding father of the Strict Baptist congregations that were to spring up in the Rowley Regis and Old Hill  area of  Staffordshire. In his History of the Strict Baptist Chapels of England, Ralph Chambers tells us that George Barrs was a "warm advocate for Scripture searching". Two of those who were members of the congregation of St. Giles Church were a Daniel Matthews and a Joseph Smith.They listened to George Barrs'sernons on Infant Baptism and by searching the Scriptures on their own became convinced in  their own minds of  Believer's Baptism. This lead to a separation from the Church of England and eventually to the formation of the congregations which became Strict Baptist churches. They saw eye to eye with Barrs on the grand Scriptural truths of Covenant Redemption but could not agree with his position on baptism.

Within the Church of England, Alfred Dye, writing in the Christian Pathway in  1912, tells us, Rowley  Regis was "favoured  with  an  able godly, sound clergyman for a few years, but since his death there has been no soundness,  and since I came here, in 1888, there have been four vicars, and all rather Ritualistic, and but few worshippers. And remarkably enough, nearly all who love and adhere to the doctrines of grace the Rev. G. Barrs preached are Strict Baptists." He also goes on to say that "there is a good, firm,  Protestant [,ow Church clergyman at Trinity Church, Old Hill, where many hundreds attend". This would have been the Rev. James Ormiston. He it was who wrote the preface to the second edition of Barr's Memoir. George Rose speaks in his autobiography,  Remembered  Mercies Recorded, of his mother attending this man's ministry at Old Hill Church. He was a faithful Calvinist warrior who was to later become the editor of the English Churchman -  a paper he purchased from the Anglo-catholic wing of the Church of England. He was also the editor of  the Gospel Magazine, succeeding D. A. Doudney and George Cowell in 1895. Both of these papers continue as Protestant and Calvinistic journals.

How then can we sum up the Life and Ministry of George Barrs? I feel I can do no better than conclude with the following quotation from James Ormiston in his preface to the Memoir of George Barrs: He (that is, George Barrs) was richly owned unto the awakening of sinners and the establishing of believers. In these days, when "Christians" are made and unmade by "the will of the flesh" and "the will of man", it is no ordinary proof of a sound work of regenerating grace to find souls that have stood in the "Old Paths" for forty years upwards. The writer of this preface ... has frequent opportunities of observing the permanent results of that uncompromising Gospel and Protestant witness which characterised the pulpit of the old Parish Church. . . . Romanism, Socinianism, and Arminianism, those three chief delusions of Satan against which he so unweariedly lifted his powerful voice, have ever found the soil of his parish uncongenial to their growth. Thus his Scriptural method of both preaching Christ and opposing Antichrist has openly received the seal of his divine Master's approval. Thus to, the Lord encourages those who still are found in the ranks of the Church militant to follow his courageous example.


George Aldridge - A travelling Preacher

George Aldridge – A travelling preacher.

The Travelling Preachers were always popular, taking the Gospel to wherever it was needed. ( Whether they wanted it or not ) A whole variety of aids were used to attract a crowd, mobile pump organs, musical instruments, large bells, in fact anything that made a noise. Starting out in life as a miner, and a hard drinking one at that, George Aldridge was often seen in the pubs of Rowley Village. It was a custom at the time, around 1900, for Church members to go round these dens of iniquity, and give out pamphlets decrying the demon drink. George read one of these, was impressed, and went to the Wesleyan Chapel, in Hawes Lane. He soon became a lay preacher, then, really getting the bug. an Evangelist. Supported by the West Midlands Federation of Free Churches, he then went on the road for the next 10 years. His cheerful disposition, and  the fact that he could play a Concertina, made him very welcome around the Hop-fields of Worcestershire. To help him along with his religious weekly meetings, he aquired a Magic Lantern, and a collection of slides. His mode of transport consisted of a sturdy Horse, a Gypsy-style Caravan decorated with his message, and proclaiming he was a Converted Collier. It's was a hard life on the road, and George's health began to fail, so sadly, in 1916, he had to give it all up. Undaunted, he next set up a shop in Rowley Village, helped by some of his admirers, amongst them George Cadbury. He carried on with some church work, and, to his delight, in 1921, was appointed Sub Postmaster of Rowley Village. This Post he held for the next 25 years. He remained a staunch supporter of the Free Church movement up until he died, aged 86, in 1962

From the website Black Country Muse – see links page for details



 Men of Rowley Parish who died in the Great War and are commemorated on the St Giles War Memorial.

Much has been written about the great war and its heroes but one can only imagine the horror the reality must have been to the young men of Rowley who enlisted or were conscripted into the War. In 1914 Rowley was still an insulated Society, famiies had remained here for hundreds of years and most were barely educated, they knew nothing of the outside world.




 The man responsible for the St Giles Great War Memorial was Lt Col the Rev Francis John Cheverton Vicar of Rowley 1920 - 1931 and himself a veteran of the war who also lost a son in France in 1917, The names on the memorial have eroded and are no longer readable, we have tried to reserch the names, where they lived in Rowley Regis and the battles in which they died, our findings are listed below in chronological order, the project is ongoing but will hopefully be finished by 11/11/2012.

 Francis John Cheverton was born on 1st July 1868 at Cowes, Isle of Wight. He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 24th September 1884 and was commissioned on 5th February 1902. He was married on 19th July 1889  and his wife was called Clarissa May, but I do not know her maiden name. 

He served with the Royal Field Artillery in South Africa from 1892 -1898 and retired with the rank of Captain in December 1908. He then entered the Church and was ordained Deacon in 1911 at Durham and Priest in 1912. He was curate at St Mary’s Gateshead from 1912.

When WWI broke out he was on the reserve list, returned to a khaki uniform and eventually became the Lt.Col of the 87th Reserve Training Battalion (Durham Light Infantry). This was a home based unit and he seems to have worked extremely hard. He was replaced as the unit's C.O. in November 1917, probably because he had not had any recent fighting experience.  He had two sons Who served in the Gt War it is worth recounting in full the circumstances in which his second son perished;

Lt Stanley Campbell Cheverton. Ist Battalion Border Regiment, son of Lt Col the Rev Francis John Cheverton, Vicar of Rowley Regis 1920 to 1930, Killed in action during attack on Landwerh trench, Guillemont, the Western Front, 27/01/1917, aged 20. Buried at the Quarry cemetery, Montauban.

 “1st Battalion saw the old year out at Hangest. By the opening of the new year, 1917, they were still very much engaged in training until the 12th January when they moved onto Bresle via train and then march. Their stay was a short one as they soon packed up and moved again, this time by march again to Meaulte, Carnoy and finally to Guillemont on the 17th. Here they remained for 10 days before being ordered to take positions alongside the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to attack an area just south of Le Transloy, particularly the Landwehr Trench. This attack, which commenced in the early hours of the 27th was seen through to success and as a result of the first stages, 117 German prisoners had been taken and passed back behind British lines. Each of the objectives had been achieved, a further 45 prisoners had been captured shortly after and by mid morning so had another 75 prisoners. The ground that had been taken was however difficult to consolidate owing to a combination of shelling, sniping from the enemy, and the frozen ground before them did not make matters any easier.

Their work was not over and fortifying the area was taking time. Some wire had been laid around a strong point, which at that time was still being dug and several Lewis Gun emplacements were put into positions across Sunken Road to the right of that position. It took until 2pm before the area was secure under such conditions. The success of their efforts for that day were reported in congratulatory messages, which started coming through shortly after 4pm, one being from the Commander-in-Chief: “ ‘Congratulate the 29th Division warmly, and in particular the 1st Border Regiment and 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, on the success of their operations carried out this morning’. In forwarding this message the Army Commander wishes to add his congratulations to the 29th Division on their most successful enterprise”.[3]

The 1st Battalion alone (from a total of 6 officers and 355 unwounded other ranks) captured 4 officers and 200 men along with three of the five machine guns captured during the day. It was the gallant actions in the capturing of these machine guns that Sergeant E.J. Mott, of the 1st Battalion Border Regiment, was awarded the V.C. Amazingly, even though he was wounded in the eye, he single-handedly made a dash for the enemy gun that was holding up his company and fought with the gunner to a conclusion that led to his capture and that of the deadly machine gun. It was also around this time that the retrieval of an enemy map showed just how accurate they were in plotting British headquarters, dumps, batteries and railway lines. All was not lost though as this map, detailed to the last, also showed all the enemy positions of equal value and so upon reaching those in higher command would have been put to some use. After the action here the Battalion marched back to Carnoy, taking up camp where the officers and men were personally congratulated by the Divisional Commander. The losses the Battalion sustained were high and totalled 137 all ranks including Lieutenants W. de H. Robinson, M.C., S.C. Cheverton, W.L Beattie and Second-Lieutenant A.M. Clark along with 12 N.C.Os. Those wounded came to 87 including Second-Lieutenant H.T. Thompson, while there were still 33 unaccounted for, missing.”

After Francis John Cheverton was relieved of his command he obviously thought he still had a part to play in the war,  the death of his son in 1917 may have influenced him in this, his application to become an Army Chaplain was accepted in April 1918 and he went to France as a Chaplain (4th Class) - equivalent to the rank of Captain.

There were two other sons, Francis Penn Cheverton (b1894) who served as a lieutenant in the Tyne Electrical Engineers and survived the war and Reginald Leslie (b1902)

After the War Lt Col. the Rev Francis John Cheverton became a notable Vicar of St Giles for 11 years from 1920 to 1931 before taking the post of Rector of St Mary’s Byfleet Surrey. He died in 1948.

The fallen of Rowley parish. 

 Pt Frederick William Davies 8227, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, Parents and address at present unknown, Killed in action France and Flanders at the Ist Battle of Ypres 25/10/1914, he is buried at Pont-Du-Hem Cemetary, La Gorgue. The 2nd battalion was transfered 12/10/1914 as part of the 19th Infantry Brigade-III Corps under the command of Lt General William Pulteney- Took part in the !st Battle of Ypres 19/10/1914 to 22/11/1914. Pulteney was not highly regarded being described by one of his subordinats as "the most completely ignorent General i served during the war." We have not been able to identify Frederick William Davies as we do not know his age at death which would have been useful, there is a possible on the 1911 census for the village, at number 2 Church Rd Rowley Village resided Frederick William Davies, a plasterer aged 27 with his wife of 3 years Annie Davies and daughter Annie Lilian aged one and a half, Anni Davies is shown in later Kellys Directories as a Draper at the same address. 

The battle in which Frederick died was described as "The First Battle of Ypres took place on October 19th, 1914 and ended on the 22nd of November in 1914. It was the first major battle where the British attacked the German forces alongside their new allies France. The Belgians opened the sluice gates of the river Yser to let the sea in so that the German armies could not advance due to flooding. It was a great idea because the Allies were greatly out numbered. Both sides could not move so they dug in and readied for trench warfare. Soon the town of Ypres was destroyed by constant shelling and air strikes. The first battle of Ypres was also called "The Massacre of the Innocents" because of the heavy casualties of many young enthusiastic students who volunteered for the war. Both sides saw almost an equal amount of casualties with the Allies totalling 108,000 casualties and the German's totalling 100,000 casualties. "

Stoker Frank Welding. HMS Monmouth Son of William and Elizabeth Wilding, 37, Tory Street, Blackheath, killed as a result of direct enemy action 01/11/1914, aged 26- body not recovered.

The sixth HMS Monmouth of the British Royal Navy was the lead ship of a class of armoured cruisers of 9,800 tons displacement. She was sunk at the Battle of Coronel in 1914.

Built in 1901, with her heaviest guns being fourteen 6 inch quick-firers, she had a weak armament for an armoured cruiser. In addition, most of the casemate 6 inch guns were situated so close to the waterline that they were unusable in all but the calmest weather. Her armour was also much too thin for an armoured cruiser and could be easily penetrated by artillery shells. These problems would prove disastrous for her thirteen years later at Coronel. She served on the China Stationbetween 1906 and 1913, before being put in the Reserve Fleet in January 1914.

On the outbreak of the First World War she was reactivated and sent to the 4th Cruiser Squadron (the West Indies Squadron) of Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. She participated in the Battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile on 1 November 1914. Outmatched and with an inexperienced crew, she was quickly overwhelmed, being unable to use many of her guns due to the stormy weather. Early in the battle, a 21 cm (8.2 inch) shell from SMS Gneisenau penetrated the armour of the forward 6 inch gun turret, destroying it and causing a massive fire on the forecastle. More serious hits followed, and she soon could no longer hold her place in the line of battle. When it was clear that Monmouth was out of action, Gneisenau shifted fire to HMS Good Hope. A short while later, drifting and on fire, Monmouth was attacked by the newly arrived light cruiser SMS Nürnberg under the command of Kapitän zur See Karl von Schönberg, which fired seventy-five 10.5 cm (4.1 inch) shells at close range. Monmouth and Good Hope both sank with a combined loss of 1,570 lives. There were no survivors from either ship.


Pt John Haywood. 8963 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Thomas and Mary Haywood, 15 Dudley Road, Springfield.Killed France 12/02/1915 aged 26 during the winter operations of 1914/1915 at what became known as  "The affairs of Cuinchy "on the western front ,he is buried at nearby Bethune Town Cemetary. The conditions endured by the "2nd Worcesters during the time John was killed are described as follows, "Three days later the Battalion returned to the same trenches, and in bitter cold and slush took up once more the thankless task of improving the defences. Frost and rain were doing their work only too well: everywhere the parapets were collapsing and the communication trenches were falling in. All work had to be done under a constant sniping fire and casualties were frequent."

Pt Joseph William Mullett, 15406,Worcestershire Regiment 4th Battalion,son of Joseph Mullett a widower, 37 Dudley Road, Springfield, Killed in action 02/05/1915 aged 19 at Gallipoli.Commemorated at the Helles Memorial, Turkey. The following is a description of the action in which Pt Joseph was killed. His regiment had sailed from Avon Mouth 21/3/1915, landed at Cape Helles Gallipoli 25/04/1915, Joseph survived barely one week in the Hell of Gallipoli.

"Liman - an attached German officer in command of Turkish forces on the Gallipoli peninsular - had received a firm directive from Turkish war minister Enver Pasha requiring him to organise a night attack against the combined British and French beachhead at Cape Helles.

Consequently at 10pm on the night of 1 May 1915 a concerted attack was launched by 21 Turkish battalions directly following a brief artillery bombardment.  The British in particular had however been well drilled to prepare for just such a night attack and consequently manned their positions rapidly.

Nevertheless breaking through in two locations the Turkish infantry were subsequently thrown back by the arrival of timely Allied reinforcements.  The line to the right, manned by French Sengalese troops, caved in and required assistance from the Royal Naval Division and 4th Worcesters.

Turkish infantry losses were accordingly heavy as the British cut down troops advancing across open country in waves.  The French under General d'Amade suffered some 2,000 casualties (and the British rather fewer)."

Pt Mesach Dyas 15407,Ist Battalion Worcestershire Regiment,son of William and Mary Ann Dyas of Doulton Road, Springfield, missing believed killed 09/05/1915 during battle of Aubers on the Western front ,aged 22, commemorated at the Plogsteert Memorial. The first Battalion of the Worcestershire regiment was attached to the 24th Brigade, 8th Division (IV Corps) under Lt General Sir Henry Rawlinson. On the ninth May 1915 it took part in the Battle of Aubers to capture Aubers ridge.The battle resulted in 11000 British Army casualties, the vast majority cut down within yards of their own front line trench while attempting "over the top" British artillery failed to weaken the German defences and many men were the victims of knee high sweeping machine gun fire whilst attempting to cross no mans land.. 4682 men of the *th Division were killed Mesach amongst them, the casualty rate was one of the highest rate of loss during the whole war. 

Pt William Woodhouse 21432, Ist Battalion Worcestershire Regiment died of wounds 12/05/1915 as a result of being involved in the same battle, we have yet to ascertain more details about William Woodhouse.Buried at the Merville Community cemetery.

Pt Harold Hackett 19851 Worcestershire Regiment 2nd Battalion, Husband of Bessie Smith (formerly Hackett) of 39 Hackett Street, Blackheath, Died of wounds 14/05/1915 aged 23 as a result of same action as Mesach and William above. Buried at Bethune Ceremony.

Pt Samuel Parkes,19973, 2nd Battalion Worcesrtershire Regiment, Son of Azariah Metzer Parkes a widower of 45 High St, Rowley Village, Missing believed killed 15/05/1915 aged 22. Killed in first wave of offence during the battle of Festubert which took place between 15 and 25 May,1915. The battle of Festubert was the second phase of the recent failed attack on Aubers Ridge. Commemorated at Le Touret Memorial.

The battle of Festubert unfolds

13 May, 1915
The British bombardment opens with a total of 433 guns and howitzers firing on a 5000 yard front. The 36 six-inch howitzers would fire on the enemy breastwork parapet, to blow gaps through which the infantry could pour; the 54 4.5-inch would hit the German support lines, as would a portion of the field guns. The majority of the 210 eighteen-pounder field guns aimed at the German wire, firing shrapnel which was known to be an ineffective weapon for this task - but there was no High Explosive available. The bombardment was observed in detail: even early on there were reports of a high proportion of dud shells failing to explode - especially the howitzers. Firing day and night, more than 101,000 shells were fired.

15 May
10.00pm: all units of the attacking battalions are reported to be in position. On the left, the 2nd Division has 6th Brigade (attacking with 1/7th King's, 1/Royal Berkshire and 1/KRRC) and 5th Brigades (attacking with 2/Inniskillings and 2/Worcestershire) in front.

11.30pm: the first-line platoons of infantry leave their trenches and move out into No Man's Land, as the artillery lifts beyond the German support trenches. The advance of the 6th Brigade, West of the cinder track running from Rue du Bois to Ferme du Bois, is completed with few casualties. They occupy the German front and support trenches and begin to consolidate. On the left, between the track and almost as far as Port Arthur, the 5th Brigade runs into a more alert enemy and is hit by heavy machine-gun fire. Some men of the Inniskillings reach the German front line, and Brigade despatches the 2/Ox&Bucks in support. The same thing happens to the Gharwal Brigade of the Meerut Division (attacking with 2/Leicestershire and 39th Gharwal Rifles), which is advancing to conform with the 5th Brigade; they were to form the defensive flank, but they were also cut down in No Man's Land

More than 16,000 casualties were sustained in the attack at Festubert.

The battle reinforced the view that the BEF had a serious deficiency of artillery, particularly heavy weapons, shells, (especially the high explosive type that was required to destroy trenches and strong points) and trench weaponry especially bombs. Most infantry units reported that they did not have the full complement of machine-guns available due to losses in action.

On 15 May 1915 an article appeared in The Times, written by military correspondent Colonel Repington and based on information given to him by an exasperated Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French. The latter also sent copies of all correspondence between him and the Government on the question of the supply of ammunition to David Lloyd George, Arthur Balfour and Bonar Law, MP's. The scandal that broke as the public read that Tommies were losing their lives unnecessarily as a result of the shortages proved to be the downfall of the Liberal Government under Asquith..

Pt Thomas Jarvis 7299, 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment Son of Thomas and Mary Jarvis of Rowley Village ? missing believed killed at the battle of Bellewaerde Ridge 16/06/1915. Commemorated at Ypres (Menin Gate) memorial.

 The attack on Bellewaerde.

The 3rd Worcestershire left their bivouac at Busse Boom on the evening of June 15th, marched forward by Kruisstraat and the Lille Gate of Ypres and reached the assembly trenches south of Witte Poort Farm just before midnight. The Battalion was to be in the fourth line of the attack. In front of them the H.A.C. were in immediate support of the 9th Brigade.

At 2-50 a.m., after three hours of silent waiting in the darkness, came the blaze and thunder of the preliminary bombardment; to which the enemy's guns swiftly replied. At 4-15 a.m. the battalions of the 9th Brigade advanced to the attack. As dawn broke over the battlefield the H.A.C. moved forward in support, and the Worcestershire moved up from their reserve positions across the Cambridge Road into the original British front line. In front of them a confused struggle was in progress. The attacking battalions had stormed the enemy's front trenches but after that the leading troops, pressing on too eagerly into the tangle of defences about Bellewaerde Farm, had been shelled by our own artillery. Around the Farm some fierce fighting was still in progress, but the bulk of the 9th Brigade had fallen back to the original German front line, which now was crowded with intermixed men of several battalions. All through the morning the struggle raged, as German reinforcements pushed their way into the fight. The enemy's gun-fire grew heavier every hour, and the 3rd Worcestershire, although not as yet actively engaged, suffered many casualties under the rain of heavy shells. 

Midday came and still the issue of the fight on the Bellewaerde Spur hung in the balance. At 3-15 p.m. came orders for the Worcestershire to advance
The two Worcestershire companies went forward in extended order across the old "No Man's Land" and the captured German front line, making their way as best they could through the crowd of wounded and of disorganised troops who blocked the trenches. Beyond the captured trenches the two companies met a storm of fire. Both the company commanders were struck down and most of their men  The remnants were forced to the ground, and took cover among some shattered trees to await support. 

No support came. The crowded trenches behind the Worcestershire companies were further congested about 5 p.m. by the arrival of two new battalions sent up from the 14th Division (the 14th Division had just arrived in France), but those reinforcements could not advance. Success was impossible in face of the superiority of the German artillery, which now dominated the situation. From east, south and north the German batteries which ringed the Ypres Salient switched their fire on to the front of attack; and the upstanding Spur made an easy target. The seven thousand troops crowded in a space not more than a thousand yards square were pounded incessantly by heavy shells: and the losses were terrible. As sunset approached the German gunners 'redoubled their fire, as if determined to destroy the attackers before they had a chance to reorganise under cover of night. From 7 p.m. till 8-15 p.m. the German bombardment was intense, and observers counted an average of 90 shells a minute crashing down on the Spur. Before the bombardment ceased at nightfall, more than half the attacking troops had been killed or wounded

That final slaughter was needless, for by 6 p.m. orders had been issued that the attack was not to be continued; the German front line had been gained and would be consolidated by fresh troops; the attacking battalions would be withdrawn. Those orders reached the firing line about 7-30 p.m. The troops were reorganized so far as was possible, and arrangements for the withdrawal were made. The confusion and the terrific bombardment made the relief very difficult, and it was not until 11 p.m. that the positions held by the 3rd Worcestershire were taken over (by the Royal Scots of the 8th Brigade). The survivors of the Battalion reassembled near "Hell-fire Corner" and marched back down the Menin Road through Ypres to Vlamertinghe "men very exhausted," records the laconic Battalion Diary. 

"The result of these operations" says the Brigade Diary "was the gain of 250 yards of ground on a front of 800 yards. Over 200 prisoners and 3 machine-guns were taken, and the enemy suffered severe losses"; but any losses the enemy may have suffered must have been light beside those of the attacking troops. The nine battalions of the 3rd Division lost more than 3,800 officers and men; and what such casualties meant may be realised when it is remembered that the whole operation did not cover a space of more than a thousand yards square. The 3rd Worcestershire alone lost over three hundred; nearly half the Battalion's strength, including the Commanding Officer, Second-in-Command and Adjutant.

Pt Elijah Capewell 19992, 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of David and Elizabeth Capewell23 Dudley Rd, Springfield, killed 28th July 1915 Western front, france and flanders. Buried at Voormezeele. We do not know how Elijah died but the following may give a clue.

From the closing May 1915, days of the Battles of Ypres and Festubert, until the September  1915 opening of the Battle of Loos and the French attacks in Champagne, there was no general change in the situation on the Western Front. It was a period of static warfare, where the Army suffered average losses of 300 men a day from sniping and shellfire, while they continued to gradually improve and consolidate the trenches.  

 Pt Richard Plant 19993 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Henry and Hannah Plant of 77 High Street, Blackheath, missing believed killed,aged 22, during attack on Helles front, Gallipoli, 06/08/1915. Commemorated at the Helles Memorial, Turkey.

Pt David Stevens 17206, 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, parents unknown at present (in 1911 he was lodging at Hill Top Arly in Coventry) landed at Anzac Cove 3-5 August 1915 and took part in battle of Sari Bair 6-10 August, missing believed killed 12/08/1915 aged 25, during attack on Kabak Kuyu (foot of Hill 60) Gallipoli,Commemorated at the Helles Memorial.

Cpl Charles Tandy, 15764, 6th Battalion South Lancs Regiment, son of William and Ann Tandy, Tory St , Old Hill,killed 27/08/1915, aged 23, during battle of Hill 60, Gallipoli, buried at 7th Field Ambulance Cemetary, Turkey.


The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.

The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915; the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac. On 6 August, further landings were made at Suvla, just north of Anzac, and the climax of the campaign came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on all three fronts. However, the difficult terrain and stiff Turkish resistance soon led to the stalemate of trench warfare. From the end of August, no further serious action was fought and the lines remained unchanged. The peninsula was successfully evacuated in December and early January 1916.

Conditions on Gallipoli defy description. The terrain and close fighting did not allow for the dead to be buried. Flies and other vermin flourished in the heat, which caused epidemic sickness. In October 1915, winter storms caused much damage and human hardship, and in December, a great blizzard - followed by cataclysmic thaw - caused casualties of 10% (15,000 men) throughout the British contingent, and no doubt something similar on the Turkish side. Of the 213,000 British casualties on Gallipoli, 145,000 were due to sickness; chief causes being dysentery, diarrhoea, and enteric fever.

 "General Sir Ian Hamilton's Despatch on the fighting of July and August:-  "Major-General F. C. Shaw, commanding 13th Division,(in which Charles Tandy fought and died) also rose superior to all the trials and tests of these trying days. His calm and sound judgment proved to be of the greatest value throughout the arduous fighting I have recorded. As for the troops, the joyous alacrity with which they faced danger, wounds and death, as if they were some new form of exciting recreation," 

Lance Corporal Howard Taylor, 12077,6th Battalion Duke of Cornwalls light infantry Son of Joseph and Mary Taylor a Bolt and Rivet Manufacturer of "The Grange" Church Road, Rowley Village. Died aged 24 as a. result of enemy action,at Yprs, Flanders, 12/08/1915, he is buried at Ypres Resevoir Cemetery.

 Howard Taylor died on the 12th August 1915 aged 24 along with 20 others whilst sheltering in the cloisters of St Martins Cathedral in Ypres, they had recently survived the infamous "liquid fire at Hooge" in which the Germans used flame throwers for the first time in the War.

No 12077 Lance Corporal Howard Taylor, (born Rowley Staffs, enlisted Birmingham, Warwick, resident Rowley) of the 6th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry killed in action 12th August 1915.

St Martin’s Cathedral in the centre of Ypres was often used by troops billeted in or passing through Ypres. On the 10th August 1915 the Battalion had come up from Vlamertinghe on its way to the front line and in common with other battalions had made use of the many cellars in Ypres for billeting purposes. It was discovered that the cloisters of the Cathedral were still in good condition and untouched by shell-fire and C and D Companies were detailed to rest there. At 0615 the Germans began to shell the cloisters and Place, the men in the cloisters thinking they were safe did not move. The enemy guns after a few shots got the range of the cloisters, the first direct hit brought down most of the west end of cloister ceiling and buried several men. The enemy continued to fire for five hours putting in 17 inch shells at first every 15 minutes and then every 30 minutes with smaller shells and shrapnel. Many of the men who went to rescue their comrades were themselves buried and when the warning was conveyed to Battalion HQ Major Barnett and the adjutant Lieutenant Blagrove ran over to the cloisters to endeavour to get the men out but were instantly killed by the explosion of a very large shell which fell in the open square north of the cloisters. The gun which had shelled the cathedral was firing from Houthoulst Forest over ten miles away and had been directed by the pilot of a German aeroplane who had spotted an observation post in the Cathedral tower. Rescue attempts were partially successful but these are the graves of the 16 soldiers killed in this incident and buried together.

Ypres Resevoir Cemetary.  In Plot V, Row AA, are the graves of 16 officers and men of the 6th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, who were billeted in the vaults of the cathedral and killed on 12 August 1915 by shelling from the "Ypres Express" firing from Houthulst  Forest. The survivors were rescued by the 11th King's Liverpools, but these bodies (Howard Taylor amongst them) were not recovered until after the Armistice.

Cpl Albert Harrold,10843, 5th Battalion Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry son of William and Mary Ann Harrold and husband of Sarah Jane, Bell End Rowley. Missing believed killed aged 32, 25/09/1915 during second attack at Bellewaarde. Commemorated at Ypres Menin Gate.

The 14th(light)Division was attached to 42nd Brigade V Corps and took part in the Battle of Hooge coming under attack from German flame throwers and the following action in which Harold met his end;

"The most important, however, of all the subsidiary attacks was that which was carried out to the extreme north of the line in the district of Hooge. This attack was made by the Fifth Corps, which had changed both its general and its divisions since the days of its long agony in May. It was now commanded by General Allenby, and it consisted of the Third Regular Division (Haldane), the Fourteenth Light Infantry Division of the New Army (Couper), and the Forty- sixth Division of Midland Territorials (Stuart-Wortley), the fine work of which at a later stage of the operations has already been described. The first two of these units bore the brunt upon September 25. The advance, which was across the old bloody ground of Bellewaarde, was signalled by the explosion of a large mine under the German position in the trenches immediately south of that Via Dolorosa, the Ypres-Menin road.

The attack upon the left was made by the 42nd Brigade (Markham), all four battalions, the 5th Oxford and Bucks, 5th Shropshires, 9th Rifle Brigade, and 9th Rifles being strongly engaged. The German trenches were reached and occupied, but after some hours the counter-attack proved to be too strong, and the brigade fell back to its original line.

Two brigades of the Third Division attacked in the centre in the direction of Bellewaarde Lake. The 7th Brigade upon the left ran into unbroken wire, before which the leading regiments, the 2nd Irish Rifles and the 2nd South Lancashire, sustained heavy losses while making no progress. The 8th Brigade to the south of them had better fortune, however. This brigade, strengthened by the 1st Scots Fusiliers, made a fine advance immediately after the great mine explosion. Some 200 prisoners and a considerable stretch of trench were captured. A redoubt had been taken by the 4th Gordons, and was held by them and by the 4th Middlesex, but the bombardment in the afternoon was so terrific that it had to be abandoned. By evening the original line had been reoccupied, the division having certainly held the Germans to their ground, but at very heavy cost to themselves. As these various attacks from the 5th Brigade at the La Bassée Canal to the Fourteenth Division at Ypres never entered into the scheme of the main fight, it is not to be wondered at that they ended always as they began. Heavy loss of life was doubtless incurred in nearly every case. Sad as it is that men should die in movements which are not seriously intended, operations of this kind must be regarded as a whole, and the man who drops in an attack which from the beginning has been a mere pretence has enjoyed as heroic an end as he who falls across the last parapet with the yell of victory in his dying ears."

The Gt War – The British Campaign in France and Flanders vol II. Arthur Conan Doyle.

L.Cpl Sidney Taylor 10163, 2nd Battalion Worcstershire Regiment, son of Emanuel and Fanny Taylor from Lye, husband of Amy, lived in Siviters Lane Rowley, killed, aged 28, 26/09/1915 at Battle of Loos whilst attempting to retake the Hulluch Quarries

The action in which Sidney died is described as follows.

 "26/09/1915, 7.00am: A composite Brigade (consisting of 1/KRRC, 1/Royal Berkshire and 2/Worcestershire, under command of Lt-Col. B. Carter and now called Carter's Force) arrives from 2nd Division, with orders to assist a I Corps attack on Cite St Elie. Corps instead sends them to recapture the Quarries. There is much delay in preparing for this attack, during which the Berkshires are detached and sent to assist 9th Division and 73rd Brigade at Fosse 8." 

4.00pm: Carter's Force finally makes its attack on the Quarries. Progress is slow, despite the regular units using 'fire and movement' tactics. They reach a position 200 yards short of the Quarries and halt after heavy casualties."

Midshipman Frank Reginald Allen. Armed Merchant Cruiser HMS Ebro. Son of Richard and Ann Allen of7 Siviters Lane a perambulator manufacturer. Frank died of wounds at home 19/10/1815 aged 16 after an accident off Shetland, the Pulpit and organ screen of St Giles are dedicated to his memory. Presumably he is buried in St Giles churchyard.


Company Sergeant Major Alfred Woore 1298, "2nd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, son of H.J.Woore 61, Ruston St Birmingham, a greengrocer, husband of Gertrude who later lived at 13 June St South Langley.Killed France 02/04.1916, aged 25, buried at the Citadell Cementary, Fricourt. We do not know Alfreds connection to Rowley.

Alfreds Battalion occupied front line trenches at Ypres in !916, he was killed in April 1916. Allthough the main battle of the Somme did not begin until July 1916 the men of the Britiah Army were in a state of constant trench warfare with their German counterparts.

“Some sectors of the front saw little activity throughout the war, making life in the trenches comparatively easy. For example when the I Anzac Corps first arrived in France in April 1916 after the evacuation of Gallipoli, they were sent to a relatively peaceful sector south of Armentières to "acclimatise". Other sectors were in a perpetual state of violent activity. On the Western Front, Ypres was invariably hellish, especially for the British in the exposed, overlooked salient. However, even the quiet sectors still amassed daily casualties through sniper fire, artillery, disease, and poison gas. In the first six months of 1916, before the launch of the Somme Offensive, the British did not engage in any significant battles on their sector of the Western Front and yet suffered 107,776 casualties. About 1 in 2 men would return alive and unwounded from the trenches.”

Pt Leonard Smith 200813, 1/5th Battalion South Staffs Regiment, Son af Sidney Vicarage Rd, Blackheath, husband of Martha 6 Birmingham Rd, missing believed killed Arras in Spring of 1916 aged 32, commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

Staffordshire brigade in 46th Midland Division landed at Le Havre 03/03/1915 and were engaged in trench warfare prior to the Battle of the Somme.


Pt Richard Mainwaring 325720, Queens own Worcestershire Hussars (Worcester Yeomanry) Missing believed killed Palestine 23/04/1916, commemorated at the Jerusalem Memorial.

"The 13th of April is Katia Day, the biggest day of the year for the Queen’s Own Worcestershire Hussars. It commemorates the day eighty-five years ago when the Regiment was nearly wiped out in Egypt, where they served during the First World War. On the 23rd of April, 1916, the Regiment - only about 420 men strong - were on outpost duty guarding the Suez Canal, when they were attacked by an overwhelming force of 3,000 Turkish infantry. Despite the heavy odds, they dug in the best they could at Oghratina and Katia. They were hoping to hold off the Turkish attack for as long as possible, until help could arrive from the main garrisons along the edge of the Canal. Help never did arrive, and after hours of fighting in the hot sand under the burning sun, they were forced to surrender or face annihilation."

Corporal A. G. Dabbs recalls: 

"It was just about midday, terribly hot lying on the sand … Suddenly I saw the right flank beginning to fall back and saw that the Turks were in amongst them. Then the Turks opposite us leapt up shouting ‘Allah, Allah’ and charged us. I stood up and fixed my bayonet and waited for the end, hoping it would come quickly. I felt very miserable to think that I had to die, especially in a hole in the desert like this, and I wondered how my people would get to know of it and who would be alive to write and tell them. I wondered which of the advancing Turks would kill me and if I should be able to kill one or two before I was done in. We had almost stopped firing and the Turks too and it was strangely quiet except for their shouting.

Then the Colonel suddenly said "It’s no good, boys, throw done your rifles." Very gladly I obeyed although feeling very cheap and very much conquered as I held up my hands."

The prisoners faced a harrowing march across the desert without proper supplies of food or water to Beersheba and on to Jerusalem. It was the start of an 800 mile journey deep into Turkey, where they would spend the rest of the war in appalling conditions. Many would die from ill-treatment, disease or malnutrition. In Jerusalem they were received in style - they were believed to be the first Christian prisoners marched into the city since the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Corporal Dabbs described the scene:

"Suddenly we rounded the corner of a hill and came upon Jerusalem, a beautiful sight, the city within the walls being all white houses with flat roofs and scarcely any windows - very Oriental looking, and the whole place full of churches of every style and of mosques.

Here evidently our coming was expected - flags were flying everywhere, a red carpet was down on the platform and many high officials were waiting to meet us. Also, what we found very interesting was a large stage erected above the platform and crowded with Turkish ladies - the wives of the officials below - all in black with black veils. As their lords and masters were below them and could not see possibly them many of these ladies became very free, throwing back their veils and smiling and waving their hands at us.

Then we were marched out of the station into the hot, sun-steeped road and formed up in two’s in order that we should look a longer line. There were hundreds of spectators lining the road … They all looked very sorry for us and we certainly looked very extraordinary objects for some had lost their helmets and had tied handkerchiefs around their heads, others had lost their jackets and marched in their shirt sleeves, and none of us had shaved for a fortnight."

At Katia nearly 250 men were taken prisoner, and over 100 were killed or died of wounds. Afterwards, the Regiment could muster only 54 men fit for duty. Their sacrifice held the Turkish attack long enough for a proper defence of Suez to be organsied, though, and the Canal - Britain’s supply life-line to India and the rest of the Empire - was kept open.

 Pt Obadiah Law, 19941, 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, lived at number 6 Rowley Village with wife Fanny, daughters Florence and Elsie and son Levi, killed in action 15/05/1916 at Vimy Ridge on the western front aged 35. The 3rd Battalion had been at Vimy Ridge since the beginning of April 1916 assisting in mining ops while constantly being attacked by the enemy. This was a very unpleasant warfare, of which the dominant feature was mining and countermining on the slopes of the famous Ridge, with incessant small attacks and counter-attacks

 Pt Henry Houghton, 3842, 1st/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Henry and Hannah of Gill St., Derby, husband of Eliza Jane who later lived at 32 Springfield Terrace, Dudley. Missing believed killed in action prior to the battle of the Somme,  29/05/1916,as part of 144 brigade South Midland Division. Connection to Rowley is not clear.

 Pt John Harris, 200956, 1/5 battalion South Staffordshire regiment, part of 137 Brigade 46th North Midland Divsn,lived at number 30 Rowley Village, son of Alfred and Ellen, missing believed killed on first day of the Somme 01/07/1916, aged 21, during the attack on German front lines at Gommecourt. Commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial.

 Going over the top at Gommecourt on 1st July 1916

“In the trench leading to the front line, the sights I saw are impossible to properly describe. The trenches were literally running with blood. The dead and dying lay in heaps at the bottom of the trench. We had to climb over them as we went on. The shells were bursting everywhere, overhead, in front, and behind us Fritz was blowing our trenches flat. At last we got to the jumping off place, with about half the number of men who started. In the trench was the same scene of blood and death. I should think in about an hour over 600 men were killed and wounded in the trenches alone. The 6TH North was practically wiped out when we got to them. We rested a few seconds or two, and then came the order. “Fix Bayonets.” The bullets were zipping just over the top of the trench and in No Mans land whiz bangs and shells were bursting in hundreds No one expected to come back again. The Officer shouted at the top of his voice. ‘One.Two.Three.’ Over we went with the best of luck.”


From Tommy at Gommecourt Alan Higgins.

 Pt Arthur Palmer,18782, 2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers, Son of Phoebe a widow of Hawes Lane Rowley Village, husband of Ada, killed 01/07/1916 aged 30, during the attack by 29th Divsn on Y Ravine, 1st day of the battle of the Somme. Commemorated at the Y Ravine cemetery, Beaumons Hamel.

“The offensive was launched at 7.30am on July 1, 1916, ten minutes after the Hawthorn mine was blown to the left of the British positions.

 The Germans had suffered minor losses during the attack from the British artillery which had been shooting constantly for the previous seven days as they found refuge in their bunkers and caves.

 They had repositioned in their trenches as soon as the artillery fire had stopped shortly before the Allied assault was launched.

They had manned their machine guns and were waiting...

 The 29th Division rushed out of their trenches and sadly became easy targets.

 They were systematically shot down as they progressed down the slope towards the German trenches and machine guns.

 The first wave suffered massive losses, as did the Newfoundland Regiment who rushed out of their trenches at 9.00am.

 Men were shot down as they exited the trenches; those who managed to climb out fell while coming down the slope. Too many died and too many were wounded before getting any close to the German front line…

 The site where this tragic offensive took place has become a vast burial ground as many of these men still lie in the earth”


“There were so many casualties that the Germans allowed a temporary truce for the British to clear their dead and wounded from No Man's Land.

The 4th Division suffered 4692 casualties (making it the 5th worst-hit Division out of 16 used on the day) and the 29th suffered 5240 (the 2nd worst-hit Division).”




First day of the Somme 01/07/1916 – “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valor and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further “

- GOC 29th Division: Major-General H de B de Lisle who obviously survived!


 Sgt Alan Thomason, 240479, 1st/7th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, son of David and Isabell of 25 Dudley Rd, Springfield. Missing believed killed ist day of the Somme 01/07/1916,aged 20, during attack at Gommecourt commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial.


"Before the blackness of their burst had thinned or fallen the hand of time rested on the half-hour mark, and all along that old front line of the English there came a whistling and a crying. The men of the first wave climbed up the parapets, in tumult, darkness, and the presence of death, and having done with all pleasant things, advanced across No Man's Land to begin the Battle of the Somme."


On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

 The opening day of the battle saw the British Army suffer the worst day in its history, sustaining nearly 60,000 casualties. Because of the composition of the British Army, at this point a volunteer force with many battalions comprising men from particular localities, these losses (and those of the campaign as a whole) had a profound social impact.

 The British had suffered 19,240 dead, 35,493 wounded, 2,152 missing and 585 prisoners for a total loss of 57,470. This meant that in one day of fighting, 20% of the entire British fighting force had been killed, in addition to the complete loss of the Newfoundland Regiment as a fighting unit. Haig and Rawlinson the British commanders did not know the enormity of the casualties and injuries from the battle and actually considered resuming the offensive as soon as possible. In fact, Haig, in his diary the next day, wrote that "...the total casualties are estimated at over 40,000 to date. This cannot be considered severe in view of the numbers engaged, and the length of front attacked."

 Pt David Harold Burchill 30018, 9th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, missing believed killed, the Somme 04/07/1916, commemorated at thr Theipval Memorial. Unable at present to trace Rowley connection.but possibly son of Benjamin and Martha Burchill of Powke Lane, recorded on the 1911 census as Harold Burchill aged 18.

Lance Cororal William Harris 13179, Ist Battalion South Staffs Regiment, missing believed killed the Somme 14/07/1916, commemorated at the  Theipval Memorial. Possibly son of Eliza Harris a widow of Darbys Hill, Oakham.

 Pt George William Pratt 20342 “B” Company 9th (Pioneer Battalion) South Staffordshire Regiment, son of George William Pratt of 3, Rowley Village, killed 29/07/1916 during Battle of Pozieres aged 19, buried at Flatiron Copse Cemetary.

Pioneer (Military)  = “One of a body of foot-soldiers who march with or in advance of an army or regiment having spades, pickaxes etc., to dig trenches and clear and prepare the way for the main body. “

The Oxford English Dictionary definition given above sets out the role of the Pioneer in a war of normal movement. On the Western Front in the Great War, Pioneers had even greater role in the static underground warfare of the trenches that persisted for most of the conflict.i.e Tunneling and the laying of underground mines.

On the battlefront itself, much of the role of the Pioneer was undertaken as part of the 'fatigue' routine common to all British battalions. This meant that in addition to their fighting duties, squads of infantrymen were routinely set various tasks that included: trench digging; installation of barbed wire entanglements; moving of supplies and munitions and any other pioneer type duty that had to be carried out. This fatigue routine became established as an essential part of the infantryman's role and, regrettably, it often took precedence over rest periods, training for new offensives and rehearsing tactics. It was the cause of much physical decline and depression of morale amongst the troops of the infantry battalions. To some extent, or other, the practice of fatigues persisted throughout the whole period of the Great War since the chronic manpower/labour problem was never fully resolved.

 Pt Levi Law 19925, Ist Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, Son of Joseph and Eliza of 12 Rowley Village, killed in action 12/08/1916 aged 32, buried at Vermelles Communal cemetery.


Corporal Samuel Hill 2061, 1st/7th  Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, possible son of Mary Hill, widow of 16 Perrys Lake, missing believed killed 21/08/1916 aged 24, commemorated at Thiepval Memorial.

 From history of 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment Aug-Oct 1916. "On July 30th the Battalion moved forward to the line and took over trenches at Cuinchy fron the 2nd Middlesex. The 8th Division (6th/7th July) had taken over (14th/15th July) the line immediately south of the La Bassee Canal—the line in which the 2nd Worcestershire had held their place during the earlier part of the year. Now the 1st Battalion came into the area which the 2nd Battalion had quitted, and for the next two months and more the 1st Worcestershire were engaged in different parts of the line, between the canal on the left and the Hohenzollern Redoubt on the right. When out of the trenches the Battalion was billetted in Bethune or in the neighbouring villages of Fouquereuil and Labourse. On August 7th, while the Battalion was billetted in Bethune, the town was heavily shelled and the troops suffered several casualties (1st Worc.: 1 killed, 3 wounded). Shortly afterwards, while in the front-line trenches north of the Hohenzollern, an enemy raid on August 12th against the battalion to the left (2nd West Yorks.) brought on a heavy bombardment (Casualties, 1st Worc.—3 killed, 2 officers [2/Lieut. C. E. Fisher and 2/Lieut. H. D. Baker] and 16 men wounded.). After that, not much of note occurred. Except for those mentioned above the total casualties of the 1st Worcestershire from July 30th to October 14th were 1 officer (2/Lieut. C. W. A. Muller on October 5th) and 19 men killed, 53 wounded.Sniping, bombing, and steady work, in weather which became increasingly wet and stormy, continued with little interruption until well into October. Then, on October 11th came news that the 8th Division was to move back to the main battle front." 

Rifleman Thomas Bowater R/14944, 9th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps,lived Shepherds Fold, Died of wounds 01/09/1916 at the end of the Battle of Delville Wood,one of the bloodiest battles of World War 1,  buried at St Sever Cemetery, Roen. .

Pt William J Law, 14253, 10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, possible son of Richard and Charlotte of Shepherds Fold, killed in action 04/09/1916 aged 28, buried at Dranoutre Cemetary.

Pt Herbert Payne, 6032, 1st/5th battalion York and Lancs Regiment, son of Richard and Louisa Payne of Springfield Road, Killed in action France 07/09/1916 aged 25, buried at Lonsdale Cemetry, Anthuille.

Pt Daniel Millward, 13366, Infantry Machine Gun Corps, 64th Brigade, Son of Thomas and Hannah, 31 Dudley Road, Springfield, killed in action France 26/09/1916 aged 23, buried at Heilly Cemetary, Merricourt.

Pt Samuel Davies, 30176, 9th Battalion Devonshire Regiment, son of John and Sarah Davies, Walton View, Dudley Rd, Springfield, killed Flanders 15/10/1916 aged 22, buried at Tancrez Farm Cemetary.

Pt William Woodward, 26296, 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of William and Eliza of 17 Shepherds Fold, missing believed killed France 18/10/1916 aged 19, commemorated at Theipval Memorial.

Pt Wilfred D Dunn, 17274, 2nd Battalion Worcstershire Regiment, son of Thomas and Ann of 25 Dudley Road, Springfield, Missing believed killed 05/11/1916 aged 21, commemorated at Thiepval Memorial.

Albert Macefield, 23725, 7th Battalion Kings Shrpshire Light Infantry, son of James and Elizabeth 25 Oakham Rd, Tividale, missing believed killed France 13/11/1916 aged 20, commemorated at  the Thiepval Memorial.

Pt William Devonport, 31329, 7th Battalion South Lancs Regiment, son of James, widower of 97 Rowley Village, missing believed killed France 18/11/1916 aged 20, commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial.

Pt John Thomas Jones, 3911, 2nd/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Edward and Mary Jane of 14 Lower Chapel Street, Tividale, missing belived killed, the Somme  02/12/1916 aged 21, commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial.

Pt Andrew Dunn, 2004, 1st/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Eliza Dunn, widow of 12 Rowley Village, killed France 28/12/1916, aged 20, buried at Etretat Churchyard

 Pt Arther Thurman, G/14338, 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers, son of Thomas and Alice of 14 Dudley Road. Missing believed killed France 28/02/1917, commemorated at the Thiepval memorial.

  Pt Samuel Taylor 201753, 7th Btln Worcestershire Regiment, son of George and Phoebe Ann of Perrys Lake, Rowley, killed Flanders 01/04/1917 aged 26, buried at Epehy Cemetery.

 Rifleman Enoch Dingley R/901, !2th Btln Kings Royal Rifle Corps, son of George Henry and Helen of Whiteheath Road, Killed France 03/04/1917 aged?, Buried at Lebucquire Cemetery..

 Pt William Henry Brown 200934, 1st/5th Btln South Staffordshire Regiment, Son of John Thomas and Maria, husband of Emily, 3 Cross Street, Blackheath, Died of wounds France/Flanders 05/04/1917 aged 24, buried at Valenciennes Cemetery.

 Pt John Thomas Britton,200886, 1st/5th Btln, South Staffordshire Regiment, son of Joseph and Matilda of 15 Bell End Rowley, died of wounds at home 14/04/1917 aged 19.

 Pt John Millington, 40992, 1st Btln Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) son of John Millington 24 Dudley Rd, Springfield, Missing believed killed 14/04/1917 aged 20, France, commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

 Pt William Portman 31884, 8th Btln South Staffordshire Regiment, son of Sarah Ann Portman, widow of 100 Springfield Lane, missing believed killed France 23/04/1917, commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

 Albert R Evans, missing believed killed France 28/04/1917. No other details found so far.

 Pt John Paget 203086, 10th Btln Lincolnshire Regiment, son of Richard and Sarah Ann of 29 Doulton Rd, killed France 08/05/1917 aged 23, buried at Etables Cemetery.

 Pt Edward John Smith 241078 5th/6th Btln Camronians (Scottish Rifles) son of George and Emma of 6 High St Old Hill, missing belived killed France 21/05/1917, commemorated at the Arras Memorial.

 Pt Herbert Edgar Clifford 16357, 2nd Btln Worcestershire Regiment, son of William and Ellen of 47 Hawes Lane, missing believed killed France 21/05/1917 aged 21, commemorated at the Arras memorial.

 Lance Corporal Joseph Handel Stringer 202039, 1st/7th Btln Worcestershire Regiment, Son of Mary Ann, widow of Joseph of 5 Bank St Old Hill, Killed France 04/06/1917 aged 23, buried at Grevillers British Cemetery.

  Sgt Roger Hillman 30690, 70th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps, son of Roger a widower of 146 John Street, Blackheath. Killed Flanders 07/06/1917 buried at Railway Dugouts, burial ground.

Pt Samuel J Foster, 242546, 1st/6th Battalion South Staffs Regiment, husband of Agnes of 59 , Hawes Lane, Rowley. Killed France aged 37, buried at Loos British cemetery.

Cpl Samuel Blakeway 12594, 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. Missing belived killed France 31/07/1917, commemorated at the Ypres Menin Gate memorial.

Pt Alfred Woodhall, 308068, 1st/7th  Battalion Duke of Wellingtons (West Riding) Regiment) son of William and Annie of New Buildings Perrys Lake, Rowley. Killed Flanders 09/08/1917 aged 27, buried at Coxyde cemetery.

Pt James Hobley, 30814, 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellingtons (West Ridin g) Regiment, husband of Elizabeth, son of James and Isabella of 6 Gadds Green, Oakham, Killed France 10/08/1917 aged 26. Buried at Dozinghem cemetery.

Pt William Haywood, 201901, 1st/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of George and Mary Ann of 66 High Street, Old Hill. Missing believed killed Flanders 26/08/1017, commemorated at the Tyne Cott memorial.

Pt Frank Aaron Payne, 325776,1st Battalion, Royal Scots, husband if Harriet, son of Mary Jayne of 93 High Street, Blackheath. Missing believed killed France 26/08/1917 aged 35, commemorated at the Thiepval memorial.

Pt William C Tibbetts, 242260, 1st/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Killed Flanders 27/08/1917, buried at the Poelcapelle British cemetery.

Pt John James Wothers, 39837, 1st/9th Battalion Hampdhire Regiment, husband of Sarah Elizabeth, son of Joseph and Selina of Powke Lane. Missing believed killed France 12/09/1917 aged 29, commemorated at the Kirkee memorial.

Pt John William Beddard, 228419, !st Battalion London Regiment attached to 20 battalion Royal Fusiliers, son of George and Pricilla of 11 Tipperty Green, Rowley. Missing believed killed during battle of Passchendaele 26/09/1917 aged 21, commemorated at the Tyne Cott memorial.

Sgt John Thomas Hadley, 5391, 64th Brigade, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) Husband of Dinah,  97 High St Rowley village, son of Daniel and Mary of number 1 Tipperty Green Rowley. Killed Flanders 03/10/1917 aged 26, buried at Tyne Cott cemetery.

Pt John Davies, 201529, 2nd/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, son of Soloman and Ruth of Holden’s Building, Springfield Lane, Knowle. Killed at Passendale aged 24, buried in joint grave at Doual cemetery.

Pt S Cooper, 400273, 3rd Field Ambulance, Canadian army Medical Corps, son of Mr and Mrs Cooper of 134 Springfield Road. Killed Flanders 13/11/1917 aged 30, buried at Dozinghem cemetery.

Pt Daniel Watson, 37883, 2nd/6th Battalion, South Staffs Regiment, son of Henry and Annie Elizabeth of 4 Springfield Lane. Killed France 03/12/1917 aged 19, buried at Grevillers British cemetery.

Pt Samuel Smith, 31211, 2nd/6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, son of Isaac and Hannah of Siviters Lane Rowley village. Killed France 05/12/1917 aged 20, buried at Etaples military cemetery.

Pt Joseph Cole, 235051, 2nd/4th Battalion, Gloucester Regiment, son of John and Elizabeth of 24 Spring Row, Rowley village. Killed France 05/12/1917 aged 23, buried at Honnechy British cemetery.

 Able seaman Alfred R Thurman, R5521, Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Married to J, lived at 9 Tipperty Green, son son of Thomas and Alice of 6, Dudley Rd, Missing believed killed as a result of enemy action,France 21/01/1918 aged 25, commemorated at the Theipval Memorial.

Pt Harry Wassell, 200994, 1st/5th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment. Son of Penelope (widow) of number 6 Birmingham Road. Killed in action France 20/02/1918 aged 18. Buried at Lapugnoy military cemetery

Thomas Pagett, son of Mr and Mrs Richard Pagett of 29 Doulton Road, Springfield. Killed France 21/03/1918.

Rifleman William Howard, R/18267, 8th Battalion, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, son of William and Helen of Hawes Lane, Rowley. Missing believed killed, France, 21/03/1918 aged 22, commemorated at the Pozieres memorial.

Pt Job Henry Woodall, 29788, 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards, son of William and Rebecca of 102 Wrights Lane, Old Hill. Killed, France, 21/03/1918 aged 20. Buried at Bac-du-sud British Cemetary.

Pt Samuel Joseph Guest, 36334, 2nd/6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. Son of Esther Alice (widow and Grocer) of 14 Turners Hill Missing believed killed France 27/03/1918 aged 25, commemorated at Ontario cemetery.

Lance Corporal John Shaw Robinson, 52026, 1st squadron, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) son of Alfred and Olive, husband of Ruth May of Marlow Street, Blackheath. Killed France 05/04/1918 aged 23, buried at Crucifix Corner cemetery.

James Albert White, East Yorkshire Regiment, son of James and Myra of 74 Hawes Lane, Rowley, missing believed killed France 06/04/1918 aged 19.

Pt Joseph Bennett 58382 Infantry Machine Gun Corps, Son of William and Elizabeth Bennett, 37 Rowley village,missing believed killed Flanders 12/04/1918 aged 26, commemorated at Ploegsteert Memorial, Mainaut, Belgium.

Lance Corporal Thomas Box, 16750, Coldstream Guards, son of Mr and Mrs Box of number 2 Darby’s Hill. Missing believed killed 12/04/1918 aged 22, commemorated at Ploegsteert memorial.

Able Seaman William Keightley, R/2837, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, husband of Elizabeth, son of Samuel and Emma of Springfield Lane the Knowle. Killed France 25/05/1918 aged 31, buried Martisart British cemetery.

Pt Herbert Ruston, 45746, 4th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment.Son of James and Selina of number 12 Hawes Lane, Rowley. Missing believed killed France 27/05/1918 aged 19, commemorated at Soissons memorial.

Pt Thomas Hacket, 46564, 10th Coy, Linconshire Regiment transferred to Labour Corps, husband of Phoebe, son of Meshach and Hannah of 94 High Street Blackheath. Killed France 28/05/1918 aged 39, buried at Vignacourt British cemetery.

Pt James Davies, 8025, 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, husband of Bertha, son of James, of 54 Springfield Lane. Missing believed killed Flanders 15/06/1918 aged 34, commemorated at the Ploegsteert memorial.

Pt Jesse Hill, 9491, Worcestershire Regiment transferred to Labour Corps 587083, lived at 91 Rowley Village, son of Isaac and Dora of 43 Rowley Village. died of wounds 02/07/1918 at home, buried in St Giles churchyard.

Pt Percy Brookes, 25764, 2nd Garrison Divsn,Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.Possible son of William and Anne of Olive Lane, Blackheath. Killed France 17/07/1918 aged 21(?), buried at Picquigny British cemetery.

Pt Benjamin Tibbetts,15th/17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, son of Thomas and Ann of Gospel End Sedgley. Killed France 19/07/1918 aged 19, buried at Merville Communal cemetery.

Pt Benjamin Armstrong 42776. 11th Battalion Essex Regiment, son of George and Mary Jane Armstrong a coal miner 19 Mincing Lane, died of wounds 01/08/1918,aged 18, buried at Esquelbecq Cemetary, Nord, France 

"A regiment of 900 soldiers would have 32 stretcher-bearers, which meant 16 stretchers, two men to each stretcher.

"You can see that if you have three or four hundred wounded lying out in front of the regimental position – out in no-man's-land – and the Germans did in effect, once the attack stopped, let the British collect their own wounded.

"There was no official truce even if they were afflicted by the sight of the holocaust – and you can see that 16 stretchers aren't going to save many lives. So the great difficulty was to get the wounded to the point of first aid, to the regimental aid post, and then to the casualty clearing station where the doctors would begin to treat them.

"The doctors were overwhelmed too.

"There are these terrible descriptions of these tented casualty clearing stations completely surrounded by men lying on stretchers, or simply lying on the ground, waiting their turn. And their turn not coming that day, or perhaps not even the next day. The doctors did their best.

"... triage wouldn't work in conditions like the Somme.

"There was a system called triage, or 'choosing' (a French word). But triage typically divides people into three classes: the hopeless, the seriously wounded, and those who will probably recover without much treatment. It focuses attention on the middle group. There were simply too many casualties and too few doctors – too few anybody." 



Pt Joseph F Homer, 39888, 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, husband of Eliza possible son of Joseph and Jane of 22 New Street, Old Hill. Killed in action, Mesopotania (Iran), 14/09/1918 aged 18, commemorated at the Terhan memorial

Cpl Alfred Samuel Westbury, 201565, son of Alfred and Louisa of 97 Dudley Rd. Killed France 24/09/1918 aged 23, buried Villers Hill British cemetery.

Pt Joseph Jones, 49792, 2nd Battalion South Staffs regiment, possible son of Benjamin and Lizzie of Lawrence Lane Old Hill. Died of wounds 28/09/1918, France, aged 19, buried at Grevillers British cemetery.

Pt John Hipkiss, 29387, 1st/5th Battalion Border Regiment, son of David and Annie of 62 Dudley Road, Springfield. Died of wounds, France, 11/10/1918 aged 19, buried at Tourgeville military cemetery.

L/C William E Cooper, 30441, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, son of John and Rosetta of 6 Holt Road, Blackheath. Killed France15/10/1918 aged 21, buried at Quievu communal cemetery.

Pt Samuel Hacket, 32033, 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment, son of Shadrick and Mary Anne of Rowley village. Killed France 27/10/1918 aged 19, buried at Valenciennes cemetery.

Pt William Allcock, 52958, 1st/8th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. Son of John and Mary Ann of 195 Dudley Road, Tividale. Died of wounds France 17/12/1918, buried Seine Maritime cemetery.

 There is another war grave in Rowley churchyard, that of Able Seaman J C Hill who died 18.11.1918 aged just 18, a crew member of the battleship HMS Resolution, his death being as a result of illness, thought to be a victim of the world Spanish Flue pandemic.



St Giles church war memorial project. Published on 25th January 2013 

Rowley Regis residents and parishioners will get the opportunity to hear about the proposed restoration of a memorial to the men from Rowley Village who lost their lives in the Great War of 1914-18.The memorial in St Giles Churchyard is badly eroded. Sadly, the names on it are no longer readable and the base and surrounding area is damaged and worn.Concern was raised at the local Rowley Regis Forum where it was taken up by lead member Councillor Barbara Price who have now gained funding for restoration work to take place.A working group, comprising of local church wardens, Sandwell Council and the church's vicar Rev Ian Shelton, has now resulted in a commitment to restore the memorial to its former glory and preserving the names of the fallen on more durable granite slabs.Councillor Price said: "We are delighted that Sandwell Council and St Giles Church have been able to work together on this project."It is so important to honour the names of these young men, some who were barely out of their teens, who lost their lives nearly 100 years ago." Rev Shelton said he was delighted at news of this imaginative project.He said: "It will honour not only those locally who bravely served their country in the past, but those who today, and in the future give their lives so we might live in liberty and freedom." A public information session that will give details of the restoration will take place at Rowley Regis Church Hall, Hawes Lane on Tuesday February 5 from 10am to 7pm.





John Charles Reynolds of Radnor cottage, Hawes Lane, Rowley village.

This shot of joking Black and Tans and Auxiliaries was taken outside the London and North Western Hotel, North Wall, Dublin as they surveyed the damage after an I.R.A. attack on their quarters. Written on the mount of this photo was "Tans glad to have escaped the bombs thrown at their headquarters in Dublin".

The next day's Irish Times started a long report with these paragraphs:
"... the hotel, which is at present occupied by Auxiliary police, was attacked shortly before eight o'clock yesterday morning by a party of men with bombs and rifles. The police returned the fire, and one of the attackers was seriously wounded and has since been taken to George V. Hospital. Two other men were also wounded and are now patients in the Mater Hospital.
Another account from an authoritative source says that twelve bombs were thrown at the windows of the hotel, which is occupied by members of the Auxiliary police force employed on duty at the docks. Six men fired revolvers at the windows. Fire was returned by the police and one man was killed in the act of throwing a bomb, and one cadet was slightly wounded..."

Date: Monday, 11 April 1921


One of the men in this picture is John Charles Reynolds who was born in 1898, grew up in Rowley village, son of the village policeman, before enlisting in the British Army at the start of the 1914-18 war. After the war he joined the Auxiliaries attached to the Royal Irish Constabulary where he reputedly passed information on his comrades, most of them ex army officers, to the IRA which enabled them to be targeted for assassination. At the end of the Irish war of independence he joined the Irish Free State Army and later the Guardia. Eventually he returned to Blackheath where he lived until he passed away in 1972. There is a lot more to his story which could be written here but it is currently being researched by relatives who still live in the area, the first part of his story is available at the Halesowen Roots website so if you wish to know more please visit. (see links page) Other information is available on the internet if you google “John Charles Reynolds”

John Reynolds is in the centre of the picture leaning on the parapet, he has a dark uniform and a tam o' shanter. Picture is courtesy of the Irish National Library and can be seen here;




John Troman and Elizabeth Bennett

Heres a stange notice which appeared in the Birmingham Gazette dated 16th May, 1825;


 We love the description of John Troman having a "profligate appearance" which means "licentious, dissolute or reckless", his appearance apparently echoed what the writer of the notice thought of his character. Elizabeth is described as "lusty" so how could John fail to fall for her ! The notice didn't work however, maybe the descriptions didn't fit or the official who married them was not a subscriber to the Birmingham Gazette because in the Parish registers of St Johns just over the borders of Rowley Regis in Halesowen we find the following entry; "John Truman and Elizabeth Bennett married 17/06/1825.

Unfortunately we can find no further details as to what happened to the couple but maybe someone out there knows the outcome

Noah Harris and the Vine public house in Rowley village.

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, Alice Harris brother, Alice was Whithall before her marriage.

This picture is of my mother and her brother Cliff Harris they are standing on Johnny Whitall's field, he ran a smallholding and kept chickens a horse etc.

In this picture the gentleman on the right of the bride is Noah Harris the publican of The Vine and the The Kings Arms The bridesmaid to his left is Doris Whithall the Bride is his daughter Ethel the groom is William Southall the best man is Tommy Harris my mother Mary Harris and Polly Westwood {they owned and ran the Chip shop on Oldbury road.


The man on the right with the buttonhole flower is John Harris the son of Noah. Jack his nickname and known by all, was a trained blacksmith who worked at the Austin’s during the war and then resumed nail making after the war. He had his workshop on the top of Rowley. Behind the properties in the picture below


Bill and Ethel Southall lived in the right of the large entry and for a time Jack and Nellie Harris lived to the left and Jack’s foundry was housed at the back of these terraces.


Cliff Harris originally lived in the boarded house but moved up one, Why it was boarded up I’m not sure.

This is Jack Harris who was the son of John Harris grandson of Noah Harris at work in his father’s foundry. A skilled blacksmith; nails were the basic bread and butter of this trade.

The family contributed greatly to the community in a variety of ways. Cliff Harris was a keen scoutmaster; Jack and his dad keen anglers. Uncle Johnny a keen pigeon fancier. Mom and her two brothers must have danced all over the local area and they

all belong to the Conservative club in Long Lane.

The gentleman on the right and standing with medals on his watch chain is Uncle Johnny the rest I have no info about.

My great granddad Noah and his brothers plus my Granddad John (Jack) Harris were founder members of the Rowley Angling Society. This arose from the success my grandfather Jack had in catching a huge carp from out of The Quack (known officially as the Rowley Hall Pool)

This society originally met in the 1920’s at The Vine

John Harris (Jack) With his Airedale Tex




I hope this will be of some interest to your members, my mother has fond memories of Rowley and has enjoyed your web pages, its given us some good discussions over the last couple of weeks and we hope it will prompt others to share their memories.  

Leah Whittalls of Club Buildings and a cross-stitch sampler

We recently received a enquiry about a cross stitch sampler, produced in Rowley in 1839, together with a picture which shows a fine example of the art. We were able to find certain facts about Leah Whittalls who produced the sampler at the age of 13 although other questions remain unanswered. We post the query on the website in the hope of filling in the gaps.

I have inherited a sampler by Leah Whithalls,  Rowley Regis, 1839. I have attached a photo here. Do you think that someone on your site might be interested in purchasing it? I would love to know more about Leah Whithalls. The sampler was found in my great-grandmother's closet when she died 41 years ago at the age of 97. My family believes it might have been from a suitor of hers. Interestingly, she was not a Christian. Please let me know if you have any information about Leah Whithalls and/or a possible buyer. B”


Hi B, thanks for your inquiry, i've had a look for Leah and this is what i found;

In 1841 she is living at Club Buldings, Rowley Village, just off Hawes Lane past St Giles church. The houses no longer exist, they were a row of two up two down cottages with a nailors outhouse at the back and were built in 1799 by a forerunner of the Rowley Regis building society, there is a picture of Club Buildings on the website, just before demolition,and an article about how they came to be built.
Leah is living with father Benjamin, mother Mary and siblings William, Joseph, and Mary (note the Biblical names), and grandad James aged 85. Benjamin, like many in Rowley, is a nailer. Leahs age is given as 15 so she must have been around 13 when she produced the sampler.
In 1851 she is married to William Johnson (24) a labourer and they have a baby son Charles aged 2 months. Leah is a dressmaker which shows she has put her talents to good use.
By 1861 the family are at Birmingham Road, Blackheath, just outside the village; William, Leah and Charles are living with her brother Joseph and her mother who is now a widow, her husband William is described as a groom. William and Leah went on to have at least 3 other children.
I don't have the 1871 census but by 1881 Leah is now a ,still living in Blackheath. Her age is given as 52 and she is a dressmaker, in the same household are her son William aged 24, his wife Sarah (25), and Leahs daughter's Sarah, unmarried (24) dressmaker and Mary, unmarried (17) a milliner.
In 1891 things have taken an interesting turn, Leah is @ Hoditch Old Mill Cottage, Knutton village,in the parish of St Mary, Wolstanton, she is living with her daughter Mary and her son in law Daniel Whitehouse (23) a labourer, next door at Holditch Old Mill is Daniel Whitehouse (56) a Bricklayer and Farmer with wife Elizabeth and sons David (19), Joseph (14), Isaac (13), and nephew Dudley Plant (24). The elder Daniel is obviously the youngers father.
I would guess that Leah was a relation to your great grandmother and the sampler was kept for sentimental reasons. From the above information you may be able to work out the relationship and then you may wish to keep the sampler in the family.
Plse let me know if the above helps solve the puzzle.

Hi ,

Thanks so much for all the info that you sent. It was very interesting. I appreciate all the research that you did. I still have no idea of any connection to my family. This side of my family was Jewish. Anyway, I am still interested in selling the sampler. Do you know of anyone with a Rowley connection who might be interested?

Thank you again for all your help,, B

If any reader has any further information please contact the website.


Rev Christopher Stephenson


Another cleric who had a great influence over Rowley was the Rev Christopher Stephenson who held the curacy for 24 years and was responsible for the founding of the Mackmillan’s Charity school at Reddal Hill and the Endowed school at Rowley. This was not the first school in Rowley, there was a school run for many years by the Gaunt family in Rowley village, this school was founded in 1703 when Lady Elizabeth Monins left £10 annually for the education of poor children. This school was inadequate, it only catered for 24 children, and according to inquiries at the time it often did not reach this figure. Rev Stephenson made it his mission to provide education in Rowley and when he died, then the vicar of Olney in Buckinghamshire, he left the not inconsiderable sum of £300 for its continued upkeep.

As far as we are able to ascertain Christopher Stephenson was baptised at Rotherham 10/07/1747 the son of Christopher Stephenson and Elizabeth (Hoare), his father , his grandfather, and his great great grandfather before him were vicar of Rawmarsh in Yorkshire. He lost both parents before the age of 16. We now let his obituary in the Christian Guardian take up the story,

  No principle of religion was at, that time formed in his heart. So little disposition had he for a serious life, that though the Marquis of Rockingham kindly sent to him at the death of his father, to say that the valuable living of Rawmarsh, which his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, had possessed in succession, should be held for him by one of his Lordship's chaplains, he declined it, aa thinking himself unqualified for the church by the gay turn of hi9 mind. Refusing this friendly offer, and preferring active business, he was in consequence to be placedin a situation by no means favourable to the formation of religious principles. But behold the covenant love of God! He who had been the God of his parents, and of their parents before them, did not refuge to become his God. His arm unseen conveyed him through •the slippery paths of early life, and led him up to manhood: it did more for him; it led him to the knowledge of Jesus Christ the Saviour: from a heedless, though amiable youth, it transformed him into a devoted Christian. By the grace of God he was what he was; and his grace, which was bestowed upon him, was not in vain,

No sooner did Mr. Stephenson taste the sweetness of the love of Christ, than he felt its constraining influence. He gave up amusements which he had eagerly pursued; gave up lucrative prospects which his address and good cenduct had opened to him ; and uninfluenced by any hope of preferment, he determined to devote himself to God in the ministry of his Son.”


In 1775 around the time of his “conversion” he married Elizabeth Ibbotson at York at the relative late age of 28, Elizabeth was 27, they went on to produce 7 children all born in Rowley, the Christian Guardian continues;

 Entering a gentleman commoner at Worcester College Oxford he took his degree of A. B. in the year 1777. Then going into orders, he sat down on the curacy of Rowley Regis, Staffordshire. The situation has few or no worldly recommendations, and scarcely afforded a stipend of twenty pounds per annum. But Mr. S. had higher objects; and in these objects he succeeded: he' was made a blessing to an uncultivated and populous parish. • He built and established large and handsome schools (Reddal Hill and the Endowed School Rowley village) He got souls for his hire; and, fully repaid by this blessed recompense, the place became most dear to him, and he continued there for twenty-five years. Providence at length directed him to another and more improved part of the vineyard.— In the year 1799 the good Earl of Dartmouth, as' a kind testimony of his sense of his worth, presented him to the living of Olney;

We also found a letter, in the same publication, written by a resident of Rowley after the obituary was published;

To the Editor of the Christian Guardian. Sir,

      Lately observing in your valuable publication some remarks on the preaching of that amiable man, the late Rev. C. Stephenson, Vicar of Olney, whose memory is still dear to many in this parish, I recollected that, a few years before he left us, he published a small tract, which contains the substance of what he taught amongst us about twenty-five years, a copy of which he gave to me: the same, Sir, I have sent for your inspection, humbly requesting, should it meet your approbation, you will take an early opportunity of inserting it, or such part of it as you may think best, in your excellent work; and you will oblige, Sir, one of your well-wishers and constant readers,

J E s.

Rowley-Regis, Staffordshire,
May 1, 1815. 



I have now resided among you near twenty years. I trust my ministry has not been altogether in vain; that some of you are witnesses of the saving efficacy of the Gospel I have preached unto you, and that others are praising God for it in heaven. Yet, alas! with regard to many of my dear people, I have lamentable cause to take up the words of the Prophet—" Who “of God himself? And is it not most reasonable, that God should forsake those who forsake him ?—■ Consider the consequence: and may that gracious Being from whom cometh every good and perfect gift grant you true repentance!

Others of you sit before God in his house, as his people, while your hearts are devoted to the world, to covetousness, or to some secret sin. Be assured, my poor fellow mortals, your sin will find you out. Happy it will be for you if it is before a dying hour, or a day of judgment: I have warned most of you in public, and many of you in private; yet, though your consciences could not but approve my faithfulness, and witnessed my only having your good in view, your hearts remain unchanged, your lives unreformed. What must I do? Must I give you up as for ever lost? (i Knowing the terrors of the Lord," must I cease my endeavours to persuade you? Knowing the mercies of my God, must I cease to "beseech you to present yourselves a living sacrifice unto him as your most reasonable service ?"—No; God forbid! By his grace, so long as I continue your Minister, whether you hear, or whether you forbear, I will be instant to stir you up to seek after "the things which belong unto your eternal peace:" that, if you finally perish, I may be clear from your blood. (Ezek. xxxiii. 9.)

Hoping to pluck some of you as "brands from the burning," looking to God for his blessing, I will now lay before you several of the most important truths I have preached, and to each subjoin an application for you to make to your own breasts. And, O remember, my dear brethren, that God knows your hearts, and will not be mocked, that " as you sow, so you shall also reap." Your everlasting state in heaven or hell depends upon your serious reception or trifling neglect of the truths which I have constantly made known, and now declare unto you ;

First, that by nature we are all sinners (Rom. iii. 10, and nine following verges), under the wrath and condemnation of an holy God, without any power to help ourselves from suffering the just vengeance of eternal fire. Reader, ask thyself, Am / realty convinced of this humbling truth, and crying out day by day with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner.'"

Secondly, Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and save the lost; satisfying the divine justice, making the law honourable by his infinitely meritorious life and death, he hath opened the kingdom of heaven to all true believers, and become the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him. (HeL. v. 9.) Here ask yourself, Havel as a lost sinner, fed for refuge to Jesus Christ, as a Savio?ir? (Heb. vi. 18.) Do I thankfully depend on the merit of his sufferings as my onlytitle to heaven? (ICor. iii.11.) And, am I living in obedience to his will? (John, xv. 14.)

Thirdl is that the will of God is our sanctification; that we should go forward, "perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord." Now inquire, Am I crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts? (Gal. v. 2+; vi. 13.) Am I growing in grace (2 Pet. iii. 28), in the use of all appointed means, reading my Bible, self-examination; diligent, private, family, and public prayer, regidar attendance on the house of God (Heb. x. 25), and his table?

Fourthly, that a sincere desire of glorifying God will make men very attentive to all the duties they owe their fellow-creatures. Do I do unto all men as I would they should do unto me? Do I behave myself lowly and reverently to all my betters, kindly and tenderly to my equals and inferiors? (Col. iii. and iv.)

Fifthly, that Christianity teaches its professors to do all the good they possibly can to all mankind— even to their enemies. Put the following questions to your consciences: Am I using my time, my strength to labour, my money, my influence, and whatever abilities I have, for the good of my family, my Christian brethren, my poor ignorant neighbours, and of' the enemies to me, to God, and his church? remembering that all I have is from God (1 Cor. vi. 20), and that I am base and vile indeed, if I seek not to employ all for him; yet, that when I have returned him all, I must confess I am an unprofitable servant, and must be saved by divine grace alone? (Eph. ii. 8, 9, 10.)

Sixthly, that the main spring, the governing principle of a real Christian's conduct, is faith in the whole revealed will of God, contained in the Bible: the promises, the threatenings, the doctrines, the precepts, the examples, the warnings, the directions for his certain good in this present life, and his infinitely greater good in the life to come. Do I fully believe, and gladly receive, all Scripture as given by inspiration of God? and therefore profitable for every meansby which I may live happily, die comfortably, and triumph eternally in the friendship of my Saviour and my God?

Seventhly, that the Bible directs all its sincere readers and bearers to seek the aid, the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to enable them to understand and apply its sacred truths. Have I with all serious diligence, at home and at church, faithfully sought the influence of that divine Instructor? If I have not, I have fancied myself Wise enough, therefore I deserve to perish in the greatness of my folly, for supposing myself capable of comprehending the mysteries of InFinite Wisdom, or of reconciling and rendering myself agreeable to Hon to God's determined plan of salvation.

Eighthly, " that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive for the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor. v. 10.) Am I living "soberly, righteously, and godly (Tit. ii. 12, 13), looking for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ?" (Heb. ix. 27, 28.)

Ninthly, that God has mercifully commanded one day in seven to be especially appropriated to his own service, not only for his own glory, but for our present and everlasting benefit, that we may consider it "as £. sign of his favour towards us;" enjoy, by sweet anticipation, something of the rest which awaits true believers in heaven, and obtain a greater ineetness for heaven, by obtaining an increase of knowledge and grace, in the experience and strength of which we may be enabled increasingly to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, through the other six days of the week, and to regulate our lives according to his will. Conscience, tell me faithfully, do I esteem the blessed sabbath as the holy and most honourable day of the Lord? Do I seek to enjoy in it a rest from sin, a foretaste if heaven, an increase if divine knowledge and grace, that I may live the remainder of the week more to the glory of God, and to the real good of my neighbour and myself?

Tenthly, that all blessings for time and eternity may be obtained by the prayer of faith, in the name of Jesus Christ. Am I constrained by conscience to acknowledge, that I have been a stranger to prayer } and that I have been ignorant as to any real experience of the great truths I have just read (or heard)? By the help of God I will begin to pray now ; for, if I do not Infinite Holiness by a method of pray to-day, God may justly refuse my own devising, in proud opposi- to hear me to-morrow, and in righteous judgment give me up to a hardened reprobate mind, till my condition is unalterable.

O most gracious Lord God Almighty, my Creator, Preserver, constant Benefactor, and righteous Judge! thou hast spared me to this hour, though by my sins I have been provoking thee to destroy me! For the sake of thy dear Son, by thy Holy Spirit so deeply convince me of the sin of my nature and practice, that I may never find comfort but in flying to Jesus Christ as my perfect Saviour !— Teach me what a great and willing Saviour he is—that he has satisfied thy justice, and obtained thy favour for me—that he has purchased the Hoty Ghost to sanctify my nature, and capacitate me for the enjoyment of thy presence. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief. Give me grace, that my delight may be to learn and to do thy will; and enable me to make it appear that I am thy servant, by a conscientious discharge of all'the duties of my station; by loyalty to my King, respectful submission to those'who are in authority under him, affectionate attention to my Ministers, lowly behaviour to all my betters, kindness and gentleness to my equals and inferiors, love to all my Christian brethren, by whatever name they are distinguished, and good-will to all mankind. Teach me, O Lord, to regard thy sabbaths as thy own gracious appointment to fit me for heaven; and may I faithfully seek so to enjoy and improve each succeeding sabbath, in private and public means of grace, as shall be to my well-instructed soul a clear evidence that I am a week nearer to heaven, as I shall be a week nearer to eternity. May I prepare and be prepared for death and judgment! May an holy fear of offending thee, my God, evidence ro myself and Fellow-christians , that I am thy child 1 May it remove that "fear which hath torment!" Being the fruit of faith, may it assist me to live and die in the sweet enjoyment of thy favour, and assure me the blessedness of eternally dwelling in thy presence, through the alone merits of my dear Redeemer!

Reader! is this the prayer of thy heart? If it is not, think for a moment what thy state is; and again, I beseech thee, think what thy state will be in the eternal world to which thou art hastening! —Remember, that if thou art lost once, thou art lost for ever! But, that I may not leave even thee without hope, the Scripture exhorts the wicked " to forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and to turn unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon him." (Isaiah, lv. 7.) Pray, therefore, in the excellent form of the Church: "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit; that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy' name, through Christ our Lord." Nor is this prayer less suitable for such of you as do run well the Christian race.

Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, let me exhort you to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high, calling of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. iii. 13, 14-.) Rest not satisfied with any degree of grace, but earnestly seek after a greater measure. Remember, "the path of the just shirieth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov. iv. 18.) What Jesus said to his disciples is applicable to all true Christians: " Ye are the light of the world; let your light, therefore, so shine before men, that they may see yeur good works," your self-denial, your firm resistance of your natural wrong tempers and besetting sins, covetousness, &c. your devotedness to God, your benevolence to men: and glorify your Father who is ill heaven, by seeking to be themselves possessed of the same divine principle of faith from which you act. Your pious conversation, your exemplary conduct, will best serve to convince unbelievers of the reality of religion; to reclaim the careless, to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. See, then, my beloved, "that ye walk worthy of your high calling"—" that ye adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things"—and that, by your heavenly lives, you prove you are looking for his second appearing to judge the world in righteousness. That you may then be accepted of him, and hear your Judge pronounce that blessed sentence on each of you, " Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou yito the joy of the Lord," is the earnest prayer of your Minister, who desires "to watch for your souls, as one who must give account." (Heb. xiii. 17; 1 Thes. v. 12, 13.)

C. Stephenson. May 29* 1795.


The following description of the schools built by Christopher Stephenson and the Mackmillan brothers is taken from a contemporary gazetteer;

“The Old School at Rowley Regis was endowed in 1703, by Lady Elizabeth Monnins, with £10 a year out of Brindlefield farm, in Tividale, for the education of 24 poor children, and £5 a-year to buy them books. The late Earl Dudley was the trustee.”

 “A school was built by subscription in 1790, on land given by Viscount Dudley and Ward, under the auspices of the Rev. Christopher Stephenson, for 24 years curate of Rowley-Regis, who left the interest of £300 for its support.

Mackmillan's Charily Schools, one at Rowley Regis, and the other at Reddal Hill, were endowed with £20 a-year each, by George Mackmillan, in 1792. The latter school was built in 1790, and has since been augmented with .£300, left by the Rev. Christopher Stephenson, and £10 left by Phoebe Parkes and both of them have an equal share of the interest of £42 bequeathed by Edward Chillingworth. These sums are in the hands of the Birmingham Canal Company, at 5 per cent. The School at Reddal Hill is the largest, and derives a large portion of its support from annual subscriptions. It has upwards of 100 free scholars of both sexes. The master and mistress have a yearly salary of £75, with £10 for an assistant, besides allowances for coals, books, &c. making the total annual expenditure about £120. The School at Rowley Regis was built by the founder's brother in 1794, on land given by his will, and has no support but the endowment, (£21. Is. per annum,) for which, and the use of the house, the master and mistress teach 40 poor boys and girls. An upper room was added to this school in 1811, at the expense of the "Sunday-school Fund," and the master's house was built by subscription in 1818.”


The Rev Christopher Stephenson died in 1814, he was taken ill whilst at his sons home and never recovered;

“At his sons, Lympsham, Rev C Stephenson, vicar of Olney, late minister of Rowley Regis – few ever possessed more fervent and habitual piety or warmer and more diffusive benevolence”

“”On Advent Sunday 27/11/1874 he said “ I’m on the wing – I’m on the wing; and on the night following, his spirit took its flight to the bosom of Jesus.”


His wife Elizabeth survived him until 5/07/1829 when she died, at Bishop’s Hull, aged 82.



 The death of Mary Carter.

A tragic story told by the Vicar of St Giles; Rev George Barrs

The following entry is found in the journal of the Rev George Barrs;
NOVEMBER 4th 1835, WEDNESDAY,   This day was buried Mary Carter, one of the Sunday Scholars, a girl about fourteen years of age.
On Thursday evening last, her clothes took fire, and she was so dreadfully burned, that she died on the Sunday morning.
It appears, she was nursing a babe of a few months old, and had reclined on a bench near the fire, and it is supposed, there fell asleep. A sister, about six years of age, was the only person present. She observed Mary's clothes on fire, and told her. The terrified girl rose up, ran out of doors, and was quickly enveloped in flames. The neighbours were alarmed, and, with some difficulty, the flames were extinguished, but not till all her clothing was consumed. All proper assistance was had for the poor sufferer, as soon as possible, but not a hope of recovery could be entertained. Her whole body, arms, and hands were scorched to a cinder : but her head, face, and even her hair, wore untouched.
During the short time she survived, her mind was employed, almost exclusively, on eternal things. She spoke frequently of Jesus, as her' Saviour, and was much in prayer. The last words she uttered were, " Glory to the Father, to the Son, and -to the Holy Ghost;" and, to use her father's expression, she seemed ready to jump out of the bed.
Who can say, in that momentous crisis, that she was not, like Stephen, favoured with a sight of the opening heavens, and of Jesus Christ, in his own glorious kingdom



According to the St Giles registers Mary Carter was born 12/10/1821 at Trumpeters Bank near Haden Hill. She was the daughter of James and Nancy Carter and was baptised at St Thomas Dudley, 06/10/1822. Again according to the St Giles registers she was one of at least 6 children; John, bp 24/10/1820; Thomas bp 23/01/1825; Sarah bp 16/03/1828; Hannah bp 08/04/1832 and Elizabeth 08/03/1835. The first three children were born at the hamlet of Perrys Lake on the edge of Rowley village.


Elizabeth would have been the babe in arms when the accident occurred in November 1835, having been born the previous March, Sarah aged 6 would have been the sister who raised the alarm.


On the 1841 census for Rowley we find, at Trumpeters Bank, James Carter aged 50 (rounded) a labourer with his wife Nancy aged 45 (rounded) and children Sarah (13); Hannah (9) and Elizabeth (6). Trumpeters Bank is not far from Haden Hall where the Rev George Barrs lived with his wife Mary until his death in 1840. On the 1841 census we find his widow Mary aged 70 with daughter Ann Haden Barrs aged 50 and a male servant Thomas Carter aged 15. Thomas Carter is the son of James Carter and sister of tragic Mary, it maybe that the accident had some connection with Thomas being taken on by the Barrs family, at any rate he seems to have done rather well out of it because we can find him on the 1881 census for Eastfield and Overseal, Leicestershire, where he is described as a Farmer of 106 acres, aged 56, employing 2 men and a boy. Living with him is his wife Ann and children Ann Eliza (25); Thomas (18); and James (16), both parents were born in Rowley Regis.


John Attwood and Josiah Parkes - Sympathy for the poor of Rowley (or lack of same)


In 1825 several mine owners and lessees tried to avoid the poor rate imposed by the overseers of the poor by arguing that the rate should not be levied until all the expenses of sinking the mine had been recovered by the output, Considering the poor state of the general population in Rowley and the extent of “distress” at the time this shows just how far employers cared about their fellow man.

 Rex v. Attwood, and Others

,On the 29th day of March 1825, the churchwardens and overseers of the parish of Rowley Regis, in the county of Stafford, made a rate for the relief of the poor, in which the above John A ttwood was assessed as owner and occupier, and Thomas Devey Wightwick, John Jones and Joseph Fereday, and Josiah Parkes, were assessed as lessees and occupiers of certain coal mines then at work.

 Upon an appeal to the Midsummer general quarter sessions for the county of Stafford, the rate was confirmed, subject to the opinion of this Court upon the following case:

The appellant, John Attwood, was the proprietor and occupier of the coal mine upon which the above rate upon him was made (which mine is situate in the parish of Rowley Regis, in the county of Stafford), and had expended upwards of £10,000. in planting the mine and setting it to work. The mine had been at work one year and a quarter. The value of the whole of the coals which had then been raised from the mine did not exceed £5,0001. The full value of the annual produce of the mine in question, after deducting the current expenses of working the same, amounted to the sum of £428. 9s. Upon that amount the appellant was rated.

The appellant, T. D. Wightwick, had been for five months prior to the said 29th day of March 1825, lessee of the coal mine upon which the rate upon him was made, and which is situate in the said parish of Rowley Regis; and during the five months that he had been lessee he had paid £785. 14s. in royalties for coals raised; he had also expended in the purchase of the lease and setting the mines to work, £5,020. During the five months that he had occupied the mine, he had to the amount of £3,825. 2s. 8d. The appellant, T. D. Wightwick, was rated upon the sum paid for royalties, the sum of £785/. 14s. being considered by the respondents as the annual value of the royalties paid by him.

The appellants, John Jones and Joseph Fereday, were the lessees of the coal mines, upon which the rate upon them was made, and which are situate in the said parish of Rowley Regis. Sir Horace St. Paul, the owner and lessor of the mines, sunk the pits and made preparations requisite for working the mines, and then let them to the appellants, Messrs. Jones and Fereday, at a certain fixed royalty, not a specific proportion of the amount of sales: £492. 12s. 8d. was the amount of royalties paid to the lessor during the last year. The lessees had expended £600. in permanent erections on these mines. The appellants, Messrs. Jones and Fereday, were rated upon the supposed amount of the annual sums paid for royalties

 The appellant, Josiah Parkes, had been eight years lessee of the mine upon which the rate upon him was made, and which is situate in the said parish of Rowley Regis, and had expended £2,500. in planting the mine and setting it to work. During the last year he had raised coals to the value of £2,500., and during that period had paid £585. in royalties, and was rated upon the supposed amount of the annual sums paid for royalties.

 The questions for the consideration of the Court are, first, whether under all the circumstances of this case Mr. Attwood was properly rated at the sum of £438. 9s. in respect of the said coal mine, such sum being the full value of the annual produce of the mine after deducting the current expences of working the same? and, secondly, whether the said T. D. Wightwick, John Jones and Joseph Fereday, and Josiah Parkes were rateable in respect of their occupation of the said coal mines to the full amount of the sums paid for royalties upon the coals raised from such mines?

Abbott C. J. “We are all of opinion that the owner and occupier of a coal mine should be rated at such sum as it would let for, and no more. As to the other points, the first was, that the rate should not be imposed upon the coal produced, because that was part of the realty. It is the first time that such a proposition has ever been submitted, although many coal mines in various parts of the country have constantly been rated, and the argument in support of it is wholly untenable. The legislature has expressly made coal mines rateable, and they must be rated for what they produce, viz. the coals. Slate quarries and brick earth are also exhausted in a few years, but nevertheless the rate is always imposed upon that which is produced.

The other argument was, that the rate could not be imposed until the expense of planting the mine had been recouped. But I cannot discover any distinction between expenses incurred in bringing a mine to a productive state and in building a house. The attempt to distinguish them is perfectly novel, and if a house is to be rated as soon as built and occupied, it must follow that a coal mine is rateable as soon as it is set at work and produces coals, although it may happen that the expense of sinking it may never be recovered. If the tenant of a mine expends money in making it more productive, that is the same as expending money in improving a farm, or a house, in which cases the tenant is rateable for the improved value.”


Luckily for the poor of Rowley the judgement was made for the poor rate as imposed by the Parish overseers and justice was done.

O'd Troman

Troman, not to be confused with “Truman”, is a name once unique to the Black Country, it is an occupational name originating with the manufacture of the Jew’s Harp or old English “Trump” once synonymous with Rowley Regis, Troman later turned his hand to all Black Country metal trades. It is still a common name in the Black Country and all with the name are surely related.  Rowley once belonged to the king, hence the Regis, and the area is the centre of the Black Country, despite what others would have you believe and we make no apologies for stating this. The following poem started life as a tribute to O’d Aynock of Aynock and Aylie fame but we feel Troman would be more fitting.


 O’d Troman bay quite jed,
Nor never ull be,
O’d Troman bay fergot,
Nor never con be.
Tek a sank round Blackheath,
Or down the Tump an' in't o'd 'Ills.
Stond amungst the Cross fer 'arf-an-hour
Just t'watch the folk en all goo by.
Yoh'll see 'im the'er as big as life,
O'd Troman.

O’d Troman left 'is mark,
Yoh cor mistaike it, see?
Is 'ommer prints bin 'ere
An always ull be.
Just look in all the nail shaps,
If some bay the'er that meks no odds.
See that ooman scruven up the gledes?
That's 'er wot fashions all the nails,
Thee cost bet 'er mon ay fer away,
O'd Troman,

O’d Troman med big chains
(Is ooman med small).
See them the'er big anchors?
O’d Troman med 'um all.
In Cradley Heath yoh'll find 'im
Round any chain shap in the day,
Or if it's night look in the pubs
(Yoh'll see 'um nustled 'gainst the cherch)
O'd Troman

No o’d Troman bay quite jed,
Nor 'e niver ull be,
O'd Troman bay fergot,
Nor niver con be.
'Ast ever sid a Jews 'Arp?
'E med 'um all be Rowley Cherch,
Stond atop Hawes Hill an' look a'down
See all them lights amungst the cut,
He used to puddle iron the'er
O'd Troman


So o’d Troman bay quite dead,

He stonds on Rowley ‘ill,

Whe’er the ‘ailstone used to be,

The country bay so black now,

An the ommers they’m all but silent’

But Troman an his like they’m still the’er,

Stondin proud as ‘is ferther did

An ‘is ferther before im

No!  o’d Troman bay quite dead

 an never ull be.


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 The Tragic Tale of Mary Smith and her Twin Boys

14th March 1865


As Mary Smith was walking across the Rowley Hills from Dudley to Rowley Regis, she suddenly went into labour and gave birth to twin boys. Leaving the babies on the hillside, she made her way to the nearest public house. There she sent for her uncle Aaron Vaughan, who stayed with her for just five minutes before saying he could not help her and leaving.

Meanwhile labourers Charles Archer and Reuben Wood were walking across Rowley Hills when their dog found what seemed to be freshly turned earth. Archer prodded the soil with his foot, scraping it back about an inch and revealing a childs leg. As Archer's foot touched the infant, it began to cry.

Archer made no attempt to extricate the baby but sent Wood for a policeman, who removed the infant from beneath its thin blanket of soil, finding a second baby underneath. One child was dead, the other still alive, although he died within minutes. Post mortem examinations revealed no marks of violence on either child and surgeon Mr Cooper determined that the child found dead was killed by exposure to the cold, his brother dying from congestion of the lungs and exposure. Mary Smith was quickly traced and charged with two counts of wilful murder. She appeared at the Stafford Assizes in July, where it was shown that she had prepared for her confinement and had made baby clothes. The defence insisted that when Mary gave birth, she was frightened, weak and in pain. The babies were not buried but merely lightly covered with soil and Mary admitted leaving them, insisting that she had hurried as fast as was physically able to the nearest pub for help. Although she had heard one of the children crying, she believed they were dead when she left them.

The jury found Mary not guilty and she was discharged from court. Mr Justice Byles expressed his regret that he could not punish Aaron Vaughan, who stated in court that he could not say whether or not he was the father of the children, and refused point blank to help a poor woman in distress who, if not his lover, was indisputably his niece.


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