St.Benedict Biscop Parish Church
Crane at Pumping Station Steam Rally
Toll Office at Bratch Locks
Iron Railings on Bridge at Bratch Locks
Giggety Wharf and Narrowboat
Lock Keeper's Cottage at Bratch Locks
Footbridge at Botterham Lock
Engine at Bratch Pumping House
Bratch Locks Upper Pond
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In Saxon times, Wombourne formed part of the Seisdon Hundred in the Kingdom of Mercia and like Kinver, there were two mills in existence by the time of the Domesday Survey making the village an important settlement. Indeed, the parish fell into the Royal Forest of Kinver which was a popular hunting ground. The forest was visited often by the monarchy and there are records of King John staying at Stourton Castle three times in the early 13th century.
The church at Wombourne was already established by the time of the Domesday Survey when the manor was owned by William, the son of Ansculf. It is thought that there may have been a church in Wombourne as early as 910 although the oldest parts of the present structure dedicated to St. Benedict Biscop date from the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Interestingly, it is the only church dedicated to St. Benedict Biscop in the whole of England. He was a 7th century Northumbrian bishop and builder of the monasteries at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth. The oldest parts of the church are the pink sandstone tower, the north-west corner and a section of the north wall. The attractive spire of Hollington stone was added in the 14th century.
The church was enlarged during a complete restoration between 1862-7, the work being supervised by George Edmund Street. The stained glass is mostly by Kempe with other windows by Clayton and Bell. St. Benedict's features a remarkable sculpted relief of the Good Samaritan brought here by Sir Samuel Hellier. One of the monuments in the church is a large tablet by Sir Francis Chantrey to Richard Bayley Marsh of Lloyd House.
The aforementioned Samuel Hellier once resided at Wodehouse, partly a Jacobean building with a name meaning 'house in the wood.' It is quite a remarkable structure that has been extended over the years. The heart of the house is thought to be a timber-framed building dating from 1350. The later additions were restored by G. F. Bodley in 1872 and, between 1896-8, the house was provided with additional external ornament by C. R. Ashbee and his Guild of Handicraft. This included the replacement of five gables with a parapet featuring a most peculiar baluster bearing the motto "Domum Dulce Domum" or "'Home Sweet Home."
Wombourne's village character has, to some extent, been maintained by retaining the old village green. The land and surrounding properties was acquired by Colonel T. B. Shaw-Hellier of The Wodehouse at the Lloyd Estate Sale in 1901. The catalogue for the sale described it as 'The Heart of Wombourne' although the ancient name for this part of the village is Dovecote Close. Soon after the sale, Shaw-Hellier rented much of the ground to the cricket club and a pitch was subsequently laid out. The surrounding lime trees were planted shortly after this and formed a most delightful scene.
The village green was featured in The Times newspaper on July 1st 1935. The article read "High Summer, a cricket match in the Midlands... on village greens all over the country cricket was played in ideal conditions on Saturday. A picture showed the match at Wombourne in Staffordshire south of Wolverhampton, between the village team and Blakenhall, in a truly English setting." The photograph later appeared in several publications including a book entitled 'Beautiful Britain', and later as an advertisement for Triumph cars in which the advert read "The church clock chimes three... the bowler makes his run, a quick stroke from the batsman, the soft slap as the wicket-keeper reaches out and holds the ball... critical eyes assess the play... a Saturday afternoon scene as true and as typical of our country as the craftmanship that goes into the products of the Standard Motor Company, representing as they do in every detail of their design 'all that's best in Britain.'
The Wombourne Institute is based in a fine 19th century building. Commissioned by Mrs. Sarah Dalton of Lloyd House, it was constructed in 1833 to be used as a day school. It was eventually replaced by a new school built in 1863 and became the meeting place of the Mutual Improvement Society. This organisation was led by the village vicar but somehow by the end of the Victorian era, the building was known as the Men's Institute and billiards was played here. By the 1930's it had changed use again and was the first clinic in Wombourne. There is a motto painted on a blank window which reads 'Let's go hand in hand together, not one before another.' It is a building which has seen much history and village life.
Just to the northwest of Wombourne is The Bratch where there is perhaps the most photographed lock-keepers office in the country. The Bratch Locks are one of the engineering triumphs of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Originally said to have been built as a three lock staircase, the flight takes the canal through a vertical interval of 30 feet. Fragments of the original work can still be seen but the staircase was converted at an early stage into three conventional locks separated by 'ponds.' Two very large side ponds accept the diverted excess water produced from the upper two locks, and in 1927, when much reconstruction work took place, a large weir was built. A striking visual element in the scene at The Bratch is the small toll house [see gallery above], an octagonal building with an additional ornamental central chimney. Until recently, the toll house and Upper Bratch Bridge [No.48] were painted white but it has been returned to bare brick.
Just across the road from the locks is the Victorian Bratch Waterworks building. They just don't construct buildings like this anymore. What a bold statement the Bilston Urban District Council were making with this spectacular building. Completed in 1895 it features little corner turrets which give it the look of a Gothic castle. The pumping engines in the waterworks were fired by coal brought by canal, an explanation that accounts for the location of this and other water pumping stations along the route of the canal and the presence just below Bratch Bridge [No.47] of a wharf. The town of Bilston was first supplied with water from the pumping station in July 1886 and the works were formally opened on August 12th, in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year 1897, by R. A. Harper, Esq. J.P., Chairman of the District Council.
The Bratch was once where the trains stopped and served Wombourne. The railway station has since been converted into a footpath and cycleway. The station still operates - but now as a tea shop. It's worth wandering inside even if you don't fancy a cuppa because there are many fascinating frames displaying old black-and-white photographs from the station's halcyon days and even images of when it was constructed. There is also a timetable for the service which ran through here.
Although planned for many years, the line did not open until May 1925 due, in part, to the First World War. A branch of the Great Western Railway, the line was officially known as the Wolverhampton and Kingswinford Railway, but became generally known as the Kingswinford Branch. Other stations on the line included Tettenhall, Compton Halt, Penn Halt, Himley, Gornal Halt, Pensnett Halt, Bromley Halt and Brockmoor Halt. Passenger services ceased just seven years later on October 31st 1932. The line continued to serve goods trains until the mid-1960's.
Lloyd House lies about a mile to the north of the village and is an splendid late 18th century ashlar building facing to the south-east. The house has nine bays and a central porch with Tuscan columns. The interior has many of the original eighteenth century features, including a staircase with an ornamental wrought-iron balustrade with a wooden wreathed hand rail.
There are some attractive houses at the top of Gravel Hill where the road joins the High Street and Maypole Street. This was once the site of the Bull Ring where bull-baiting took place. Netley House is a grand building, once the home of a maltster. The maltings were located to the rear of the property. By the end of the 19th century the house was occupied by an industrialist named Henry Hadley. During the inter-war years Netley House was occupied by the schoolteacher Harry Joseph England. Originally from Tutbury, he had moved to the village from Enville. His wife Elizabeth also worked as a teacher.
Just down from Netley House, and looking down to the old bridge across the
brook, is Gravel Hill House.
In 1851 this mini-mansion was the home of the Spencer family. Hailing from
Bilston, Joseph Spencer was recorded as an engineer and iron founder in the
census of 1851. He lived at Gravel Hill House with his wife Charlotte and a
young son named Herbert. The couple employed a nurse, housemaid and groom.
During the inter-war years Gravel Hill House was occupied by Norman Kynaston.
"A sad accident occurred at Wombourne, near Wolverhampton, on Friday and
resulted in the death of Edith six years old, the daughter of Joseph Blewitt of
that village. The child, with number of young friends, was in a field gathering
buttercups, when she ran for shelter beneath a tree to escape a storm. The
violence of the wind, however, caused the tree to fall, and the child received
internal injuries, which ended in death in a short time. Several other
companions, who were also sheltering, had narrow escapes.
"Mr Henry Hill, maltster, of Wombourne, near Wolverhampton, and a member of the
Albrighton Hunt, died in Shifnal Infirmary late on Sunday night as the result of
an accident in the hunting field.
"Yesterday an inquest was held at Wolverhampton on the body of Catherine Brown,
a middle-aged woman. It appeared that on Saturday the deceased was returning
from Wombourne, when she had an apoplectic fit, and also an attack of paralysis.
A surgeon saw her, and had her placed on an omnibus with a view to her removal
to the hospital. Two police-officers got into the omnibus, and it was alleged
that they dragged the unfortunate woman out of the vehicle, and locked her up on
a charge of drunkenness. She remained in the cell until five o'clock on Sunday
morning, when, her illness being at length recognised, she was removed to the
hospital, where she died. The jury returned a verdict of "death from natural
causes," and censured the police officers, whose conduct, it was stated, would
be reported to the Watch Committee.
"Before Judge Roberts, Albert Horton, a contractor, of Dudley Road,
Wolverhampton, brought an action against Frank York, a farmer, of Claverley, to
recover compensation for damage to his trap. A counter-claim was put in for
damages to York's trap. Evidence was given that there was a collision near
Wombourne, and one of the witnesses stated that York was "market peart." The
Judge inquired what was meant by "market peart," and Mr. Anslow, who keeps an
inn at Wombourne, said it was the state a man was in who had had two or three
glasses of whiskey. The Judge gave judgment for plaintiff for £1.14s.6d.
"A bee was the cause of a car overturning at Wombourne on the Wolverhampton to
Stourbridge road during the weekend. Douglas Breeze, 52, of Davies Street. Porth,
Rhondda, Glamorgan, was driving when the bee got between his glasses and his
face, and in endeavouring to dislodge it he brushed off his glasses and became
temporarily blind. The car turned into a hedge and then overturned. Mr. Breeze
received a crushed foot, his wife suffered severe shock, and their son was
"John Evans, labourer, Wombourne, was charged, at the County Police Court,
yesterday, with wounding John Dean, also of Wombourne, on the 13th inst.
Prosecutor stated that they had been quarrelling together, when prisoner went
into his house and fetched a table-knife, with which he stabbed him [prosecutor]
in the right hand, making three or four wounds, which had disabled him from
working. Prisoner was remanded for a week.
"At the County Petty Sessions on Monday, John Evans, of
Wombourne Common, a warehouseman in the employ of Messrs. Webb and Sons,
seedsmen, Wordsley, was again brought up charged with wounding a young man named
John Orams. The complainant was standing near his door on the night of Saturday
week with a young woman when the prisoner went to him and struck him with a
knife, inflicting wounds in his hands. He was sent to gaol for two months with
"The magistrates sitting at the Wolverhampton County Police
Court heard a summons against a labourer named Henry Crutchley, lodging at
Wombourne Common, for cruelty to his child, aged 11 months. It was stated that
two months ago the defendant hit the child on the face with his fist and
discoloured its eye. On July 3rd, when in bed with his wife, the baby began to
cry, and the defendant slapped it most unmercifully, the blows being heard by
the next-door neighbours. They opened the bedroom window and asked Mrs.
Crutchley to request her husband to give them the child. He refused, and
continued to ill-treat the child. At length his wife ran into the street in her
night dress and shouted "murder." Her brother chanced to come up, and entering
the house, a fight ensued between him and the defendant. Dr. Wolverton, of
Wolverhampton, said the lower part of the baby's neck was one entire bruise. The
defendant was sentenced to three months' hard labour, the full punishment
allowed by law.
"A verdict of "Suicide" was recorded at an inquest on Thursday
concerning William Anslow, farmer, Lloyd Farm, Penn, whose body was found in a
culvert at Wombourne. He had been missing for nine days, and was stated to have
suffered from depression.
"Benjamin Rogers , of Brook Cottage, Wombourne, and Bert
Rogers , Battlefield Cottages, Wombourne, were admitted to the Royal
Hospital, Wolverhampton, yesterday, suffering from gunshot wounds in the legs.
Their injuries were received in an alleged affray near Baggeridge Wood on the
Earl of Dudley's estate between Dudley and Wolverhampton in the early hours of
"Elizabeth Lloyd , of Giggetty Road, Wombourne, near
Wolverhampton, was fined £50 at Wolverhampton today for stealing £250.17s., and
ordered to make restitution of an unrecovered sum of £131. She pleaded guilty.
It was alleged that she took the money after laying out the body of her greatest
friend, Nurse Taylor, whom she had known for 30 years and at whose home in
Waterloo Road, Wolverhampton, she was staying. Mr. W. Woolley, defending, said
that Lloyd had previously borne an unblemished character. She was terribly
shocked and distraught at her friend's death, and could not have realised what
she was doing.