History on the town of Cradley in the county of Worcestershire. Research is augmented with photographs, details of licensees, stories of local folklore, census data, newspaper articles and a genealogy connections section for those studying their family history.



 

Cradley
Cradley

Background Information
Cradley has lost most of its pubs. From a list of almost fifty public houses, only eight remain trading. Indeed, at one time it would have been tough going to drink in all the pubs from the River Stour, up along the High Street, to Colley Gate. Today, just the one pub is open for business. It is a similar story in neighbouring Cradley Heath. For those who don't know the area too well, Cradley is towards the northern extreme of Worcestershire, whilst Cradley Heath is across the River Stour and, consequently, was part of Staffordshire. Cradley borders Quarry Bank at Cradley Forge, Lye near The Hayes, Wollescote over Oldnall Fields and Halesowen near Lutley Gutter. But for those hunting around for their ancestors Cradley was once part of the borough of Halesowen so you may need to dig into that town's archive material which may require looking into records for Shropshire.

Map of the Cradley Area [1814]

This map extract from 1814 shows the Cradley area and it identifies parts of the town such as Drew's Forge, Two Gates, Homer Hill, Netherend, Lodge Forge, Colman's Hill and The Park, the latter being the wooded area in the middle on which the Tanhouse Estate was built in the 1960's. Though two centuries old, the map has some validity today as many locals could identify the place that they know as modern Cradley. The road layout is pretty much the same and the localities remain in place and retain some of their unique identity. Moreover, Cradley still remains on the edge of the countryside. The bottom third of the map has hardly changed in 200 years.

Cradley Children in Rag-Tag Clothing [c.1890]

Although I grew up in Cradley Heath, I have collected a decent number of old images of Cradley and I have spent many years pottering around the locality on my bicycle so I am fairly familiar with the place and many of the changes to the landscape. This photograph of three children is one of the oldest images I have seen of Cradley. The little urchins look slightly undernourished and quite filthy. I realise that children all over the industrial areas of Britain led similar lives to these kids, but there is something about the photograph that reveals what conditions were like for those growing up in Cradley during the late 19th century. Most folks were poor and struggled to get by. Just look at the footwear they have on their feet. It looks as though they have been sent out on some errands or to collect some materials for the fire.

The photograph of the three children may have been taken by the wall of the graveyard looking up towards Homer Hill House. It is possibly the building seen at the top of the hill in the image of Homer Hill Colliery [below]. The photographer of this evocative image was positoned near Lyde Green at a place known as Lane's End. This is roughly where the railway bridge is today and where the tubs were brought down an incline to be loaded onto waggons. The occupier of the house in the late 19th century was Richard Turnley, a Romsley-born colliery clerk who was engaged at Homer Hill Colliery. He had previously worked at Withymoor, another mining area and from where his wife Elizabeth originated. The term 'clerk' is something of a misnomer for Richard Turnley was more of a manager and did rather well for himself.

Homer Hill Colliery from Lane's End near Lyde Green at Cradley

Homer Hill is thought to be named after the Halmer family who settled in Cradley and worked as blacksmiths. However, there could be something in the fact that, during the late 17th century, a William Hollmer of Cradley was a churchwarden at Halesowen. It is also interesting to note that a Joseph Benjamin Homer once lived in The Chapel House. Indeed, when the Church of St. Peter first opened as a chapel, the Homer family had one of two pews next to the communion table.

Homer Hill Colliery opened in 1865 and when operated by Samuel Evers & Sons, of Cradley Iron Works, there was a disaster in November 1867 in which twelve miners lost their lives following an explosion of gas. Many more colliers were burned and injured in the tragedy that, following several inquests held in local public houses, was blamed on an individual rather than the dangerous operating conditions in which the men toiled. It is thought that there was insufficient wooden supports and a roof collapsed which released the flood of gas that was subsequently set alight. Including the manager named Foley, there were around 45 men and boys beneath the ground at the time of the roof collapsing. The cage was damaged in the explosion and it took up to two hours to get the men to the surface. Hundreds of people flocked to the scene where the injured men were attended by local surgeons.

Colliery Winding Gear and Miners in Cradley area [c.1922]

Homer Hill Colliery was in operation until 1928. It was one of several coal mines in Cradley. The Hayes Colliery was opened some 30 years before Homer Hill but ceased production around the same time. Coal working at several small mines collectively known as Netherend Colliery was another early 19th enterprise that lasted until the mid-1920's. The Cradley Park Colliery remained in use until the following decade. A little further south was the Oldnall Colliery which produced coal until 1944. Operating until 1958, the last mine to close in Cradley was the Beech Tree Colliery close to the Why Not Inn. There were other short-lived collieries such as Hill Bank, Maypole and Lydefield.

St. Peter's Parish Church at Cradley [c.1905]

This photograph of St. Peter's Church was taken from a position close to Homer Hill House. Note the industry in the Stour valley. The most obvious difference in this image and later photographs is the church tower. Colloquially known as "The Pepperpot," the turret was added to the old tower when the building was restored in 1875. It only lasted until the early 1930's when the Dudley architects, Webb and Gray, recommended its removal in order to maintain the integrity of the tower. Cracks had started to appear in the structure, a result of the coal mining in the locality.

St. Peter's Church has its origins in a Countess of Huntingdon Chapel that was originally sited in Butcher's Lane. The bricks of that building were used to lay the foundations of a 'new' chapel on the present site. Designed by the architect Mark Jones, the chapel opened for worship in 1791. By the end of the 18th century the chapel was taken over by the established church. Thomas Best, the founder of the chapel, became the first perpetual curate. The chapel was dedicated to St. Peter in June 1898.

Rev. Ronald John Beresford Irwin - former Curate of Cradley

The Rev. Ronald John Beresford Irwin, a former curate of St. Peter's Church was decorated for heroic conduct in "tending and rescuing wounded officers and men under heavy fire" during World War One. Already a recipient of the Military Cross in January 1916, he was presented with a bar later in that year. The former Cradley curate was appointed a chaplain with the Indian Expeditionary Force in 1914. He was educated at Keble College, Oxford and ordained in 1905. He served for three years as curate of Alnwick before moving to Cradley. In India he was chaplain at Benares, Allahabad, and Lucknow. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In 1922 he was appointed Vicar of Lillington and was the first Archdeacon of Dorking before he died in 1930, his passing being attributed to wounds he suffered in the First World War.

Baptist Chapel and St. Peter's Church at Cradley [c.1955]

St. Peter's Church, sans turret, can be seen here in this post-war photograph showing the Baptist Chapel that once stood close to the corner of Blue Ball Lane. The origins of this chapel go back to 1798 when a dozen members of the former independent chapel rejected the absorption into the Church of England. They first held meetings and services in houses around Cradley. Two cottages were later converted into a place of worship that opened in 1803. The chapel was the scene of an ugly fight in 1889 when two factions clashed and the police were called in. The building seen here was designed by the architect Albert Thomas Butler who, in Edwardian times, was based in Cradley Heath. Costing some £3,000 the chapel was built in the Renaissance style utilising brick and terracotta. The congregation dwindled in the 20th century and, with a building that could accommodate 450 people, there were just 17 members in 1979 when this fine edifice was demolished.

This was another chapel that provided a notable chaplain in war years. Pastor Robert Knox-Wylie served as a pastor to General Montgomery's troops and was awarded the MBE. He returned to Cradley after the war but later volunteered to serve as chaplain in the Korean War.

Cradley New Gardens [c.1919]

Cradley Baptists later moved to the former British Schools building in Church Lane. This can be accessed on foot by walking through the New Gardens - seen here around 1919 before the War Memorial was erected some nine years later. A bandstand was also dedicated in 1928 but this has since been removed. There was an earlier act of remembrance at Cradley when an avenue of lime trees were planted in 1922 with an oak cross at the top of the walk in the 'new' churchyard. Each of the trees were dedicated to Cradley individuals who lost their lives during the conflict.

Woman Chainmaker at Cradley [c.1906]

Chain and nail-making were key industries at Cradley. Nail making was largely a cottage industry and many Cradley townsfolk were engaged in this trade until the mid-19th century. It was from around 1830 that machinery replaced human endeavour. Nailmaker's who could not compete with the lower prices that automation brought, turned their hands to making chain. It is thought that, by the end of the Victorian period, 90% of all the chain workshops in England and Wales were located at Cradley, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Quarry Bank and Netherton. By the end of the Edwardian period, there were an estimated 3,500 people toiling away in the chain trade in Cradley and Cradley Heath.

Most chain shops were small outhouse buildings at the rear of a house though, in some cases, they were grouped in yards where people toiled in notoriously squalid conditions. The hot sweaty work necessitated sending a runner to the local tavern to fetch jugs of ale for hydration.

Chainmakers at work in a Chain Shop [c.1905]

In addition to small chain shops, there were a number of small and medium-sized chain factories dotted around Cradley. Only a few of these buildings have survived, and some are not in their original locations but preserved in museums! The photograph above is not in Cradley but actually in Cradley Heath but it is an important historical image showing the inside of a chain shop in the early Edwardian period. The scene is typical of the work conducted in the Cradley area. This particular chain shop is that of Harry Stevens Limited, a firm based in Oak Street between Reddal Hill and Newtown. The men and women were probably glad of a short break in production to pose for this photograph. Based on this image, it would appear that the company specialised in small chain - not that the labour involved was less strenuous. It is interesting to note that all of the women are very young. Women made up almost two-thirds of the chainmaking workforce.

The proliferation of chain shops amid the dense housing in the heart of Cradley resulted in heavy stamping forming the soundscape for local residents. One of the largest chain works was that of Jones & Lloyd Co. Ltd., a firm founded by Joseph and William Rock in 1837. The company had a 'Lower' Shop in the High Street, close to Lyde Green and a 'Middle' shop near to the Black Swan public house where heavy chain was produced. The company had a 'Top' Shop at High Town. The Old Crown on the corner of Intended Street was this chain shop's local watering hole and benefited from thirsty chainmakers seeking refreshment. The Top Shop, or Scotia Works, was also where the firm's offices were located. The chain shop closed in 1969 and was dismantled and moved to the Avoncroft Museum near Bromsgrove.

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Related Newspaper Articles
"A verdict of "accidental death” was returned at an inquest at the Corbett Hospital in Stourbridge, yesterday, touching the death of Fred Joseph William aged 26, Cradley Road. The deceased, who was a member of the firm Messrs. J. Williams and Sons, chain manufacturers, Cradley, met with an accident while motor-cycling from Kidderminster to Stourbridge on Saturday night. Evidence was given that the deceased's machine collided with a colt, which was being led along the road near the Greyhound Inn, Norton, by Samuel Shaw, shingler, Colley Gate, Cradley. The deceased was extricated from the motorcycle in an unconscious condition, and died in the hospital on the afternoon following his admission. Portions of his skull had been reduced almost to a pulp by the fall. The colt was so injured in the collision that it had to be slaughtered. The deceased's family were represented at the inquest by Mr. W. Attwood of Cradley."
"Fatal Motor Smash"
Evening Despatch : June 16th 1915 Page 5.

"On Friday, at the Asylum at Powick. Mr. W. P. Hughes held an inquest touching the death of Ellen Chambers, aged 24, a patient in the Asylum, and the wife of James Chambers, of Colley Gate, Cradley. The evidence of Dr. E. M. Cooke, medical superintendent at the asylum, was to the effect that deceased was received there as a patient in March last, suffering from melancholia and extreme depression of spirits. She continued in the same condition up to the time of her death. She generally employed herself usefully during the day, and was extremely quiet, giving no anxiety beyond the perpetual trouble of seeing that she did not make away with herself. Since her admission into the Asylum she made at least one attempt on her life, by trying to strangle herself with a skein of cotton. She was constantly watched, and on Wednesday week she seemed in her usual state. The next day, shortly after seven o'clock, Dr. Cooke received an urgent message from the assistant medical officer, Mr. Doughty, to the effect that a woman had cut her throat. He was on the spot in about 10 minutes, and found the deceased in the lavatory of her ward, covered with blood and quite dead, with a gash in her throat sufficient to account for death. The order was that deceased should not go out of the sight of an attendant. Jane Phipps, a female attendant, stated that deceased was in the ward of which she had charge. From the time deceased made the former attempt upon her life greater precautions were taken in looking after her. She got up as usual yesterday week at six o'clock, and having dressed, she was taken to the lavatory to be washed. She was subsequently removed from the lavatory by a nurse, named Florence Woodward, to a gallery adjoining the ward. Witness went to look after deceased to take her to breakfast, and going to the lavatory found her in a chair, bleeding from the throat, with the iron scraper produced in her hand. The scraper was covered with blood. It was an instrument used for scraping the old whitewash off the walls in the ward in which deceased was located, and was locked up safe on the previous Monday. Witness could not say how deceased got the scraper, or how she got to the lavatory. She had told Woodward to look after deceased, as she was called away to perform other duties. Mr. J. H. Doughty, assistant medical officer, who was first called to the deceased, said she was partly conscious when he arrived, but died in two or three minutes. The Jury found that the deceased destroyed herself while of unsound mind."
"The Suicide of a Woman at Powick Asylum"
Worcester Journal : July 28th 1883 Page 5.
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List of Pubs
Bell
Black Horse
Black Swan
Blue Ball
Board
Bridge Inn
British Arms
Broadstone
Bull's Head
Bush
Chainmaker
Chop House
Colliers' Arms
Crown Inn
Crown Inn High Street
Duke William Inn
Fish Inn
Gate Inn
Holly Bush
Horse and Jockey
Horse Shoe
Lodge Forge Inn
Maypole Inn
Netherend Tavern
New Two Gates
Old Crown
Old Mogul Inn
Old Two Gates Inn
Our House
Park Inn
Park Lane Tavern
Rising Sun
Robin Hood Inn
Rose and Crown
Rose and Crown
Round of Beef
Salt Brook
Shelton Inn
Shovel Inn
Smith's Arms
Sun Inn
Talbot Hotel
Vine Inn - Colley Gate
Vine Inn - Lyde Green
Vine Inn - Two Gates
White Horse Inn
White Lion Inn
Why Not Inn
Windmill

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Genealogy Connections
If you have a genealogy story or query regarding the Cradley area you can contact me and I will post it here in addition to including your message within the website pages for Worcestershire Genealogy.

Banks's Imperial Mild Ale [1960's]

Newspaper Articles
"At a representative meeting of chainmakers at Cradley Heath on Friday it was stated that nearly all the leading employers had conceded an advance, but there were still about 2,000 operatives out on strike owing to small employers refusing to concede the advance. It was reported that upwards of £100 had been expended in providing relief for starving families, and it was announced nearly £50 had been received from newspaper proprietors at Liverpool. It was resolved to continue the strike. During Sunday night the chain factory of Mr. Allen Beasley, Colley Gate, was broken into and ten pairs of bellows were destroyed. During the same night Mrs. Male's factory, at Cradley, was broken into, and four pairs of bellows were rendered useless. The damage is estimated at about £30. A meeting of the chainmakers on strike was held on Monday. Reference was made to the rattening which had taken place in the Cradley district, and regret was expressed that any outrages should have been committed."
"The Strike in the Chain Trade"
Worcester Journal : May 21st 1887 Page 2.

Banks's Imperial Pale Ale [c.1950's]

"The East Worcestershire coroner received information on Saturday of the death of George Felton, of Colley Gate, The deceased had been employed at Lord Dudley's Saltwells Collieries as a loader, and when engaged in a gate road the roof fell in on top him, inflicting shocking injuries. He was extricated as speedily as possible, but, although the colliers rendered first aid with considerable skill, he died on being taken to the pit top.”
"Fatal Fall of a Roof"
Worcester Herald : January 16th 1893.

Butler's Pale Ale [1957]

"On Thursday, a court martial, consisting of Lieut. Homfray [president], Sergeants Bloxham and Macdonald, and Corporals Webb and Smith, was held at the armoury, Halesowen, to investigate a charge preferred by Joseph Southall, a horse-nailmaker, Colley Gate, against privates George Potter, Alfred Webb and Joseph Gill, for firing their rifles into his cottage on their return home from a review at Wolverley, on the 10th June. From the evidence for the prosecution, it appeared that about ten o'clock on the night in question a rifle barrel was pointed through the window bars of complainant's shop, and fired, shaking and smothering the place. Southall and two other men ran out, and saw prisoners running away. They caught Potter, who pointed his rifle at them, and used profane language when accused of the charge; the other prisoners ran away. Two other shots were heard while the prisoners were running away, one being, as described by witness, fired by one the prisoners just previous to his running down an entry. Potter denied the charge, as did Webb and Gill, who said they left Potter and went home, admitting, however, that they heard a shot fired. Samuel Pillow, a member of the corps, admitted having heard a shot fired. He saw the prisoners Potter and Webb running towards him and Gill, and they all ran away together, Gill firing his rifle off in his own yard. John Meredith, bugler, proved the examination of the small pouches of the men but not of the larger pouches. He admitted seeing two rifles discharged on the road home, but he did not know for certain who the men were. At the conclusion of the case the court was cleared for the officers to "find," which will have to be communicated to the commanding officer and he in due course will make known his decision.”
"Court Martial Upon Volunteers"
Worcestershire Chronicle : July 2nd 1862 Page 5.

Frederick Smith's Star-Bright Ale [c.1950's]

"Private W. Wapp, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wapp, Furlong Lane, Cradley, who had been awarded the Military Medal, is 20 years old, and has been with the colours nearly two years. He was formerly with Mr. H. Tate, butcher, of Colley Gate and was a popular member of local clubs. Another Cradley soldier to win the Military Medal recently is Private Walter Williams, of the Worcesters, son of Mr. and Mrs. Williams, High Street, Cradley. In his case the award was made for signalling in the open in front of the German lines for three hours. He is 22 years of age, and joined the Army in March, 1916.”
"Cradley's Two Military Medallists"
Birmingham Daily Mail : October 16th 1917 P.3.

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Newspaper Articles
"An inhuman act was perpetrated on Wednesday afternoon, at Cradley, and has created the greatest excitement in that neighbourhood. The scene where the murder took place was at the Two Gates, and the house in which the wretched mother dwelt was the second of a row of small cottages, facing the road leading out of the Birmingham Road, away for Careless Green and the Lye. The mother of the little lad, whose head was well nigh severed from its body by her hands, is named Sarah Ann Liddell, about 38 years of age. It appears that some nine or ten years ago the husband of the woman left her, from what cause cannot now be ascertained, and whether he now lives or not is regarded as a matter of uncertainty. When he left her she had given birth to four children, two of whom have since died, the two surviving offspring being girls, the one aged 15 and the other 18. The child who has been so barbarously slain was an illegitimate one, and it is stated that after the departure of the husband the woman went out to service, when she gave birth to the male child whose life she has taken away. For some time past the murderess has been living with her mother at Two Gates, together with her child and her eldest daughter. On Wednesday morning, the mother of the prisoner [for she has been taken into custody], with her eldest daughter, left home at an early hour for charing purposes, leaving the woman and her child alone in the house. The little boy, aged two years and eight months, whose fair complexion and pleasing manners had endeared him to the neighbours, was seen by them playing the yard in the early part of the morning, and about midday the mother was seen to leave the house without the lad, a circumstance which it is said she was not in the habit of doing, as she appeared remarkably fond of the boy. About two o'clock, Mrs. Banner, sister-in-law to the prisoner, went to the house, and, finding no-one in the kitchen, called out, but receiving no reply, and seeing some of the boy's clothes on the grate in that room, she went upstairs, and there saw the horrible spectacle of the murdered child. The corpse was partially lying on a bed which was placed on the floor, its legs being stretched along the boards of the floor saturated in blood, and surrounded by a large pool of human gore, with its head half off, the gash extending from ear to ear. A case knife and a penknife were found in close proximity to the child. She immediately raised an alarm of murder, and the neighbourhood in a few minutes manifested signs of the greatest excitement. Police-constable Heath, stationed at Cradley hastened to the spot, and found the body as already indicated. From inquiries made he learnt that when the mother left the house she was seen walking in the direction of Lutley, and he at once set off in pursuit, overtaking the woman in a lane near Lutley, slowly walking alone in a meditative attitude with her neck bleeding, having attempted to take away her own life by cutting her throat. He took her in charge, and had her removed to the nearest public-house, where Dr. Kerr attended her and dressed the wounds, which are not regarded as dangerous, and are unlikely to result in fatally. The police remained at the public-house during the whole of the evening for the purpose of keeping her in safe custody. Rumours are prevalent that after the deed had been discovered a neighbour asked the prisoner how she could have committed such a frightful act, to which she replied, "That it was a good job, for the lad was now better off in Heaven." There is a touch of the romantic connected with the melancholy affair. For some months a widower in the district has been in love with the prisoner, and arrangements were made for the marriage of the pair to take place on Sunday last. On Saturday evening the would-be husband went to the house of the prisoner, and, after a long conversation, endeavoured to induce the mother to allow her daughter to leave home that evening, but to such a proposal she gave blank refusal. The woman Liddell did leave her mother's house, and on the Sunday morning, instead of the wedding taking place, the widower demanded that the prisoner should leave his premises, and, rumour goes, used threats to her if she entered his house again. Poverty does not appear to have been the cause of the crime, for all the neighbours testify to the kindness of the mother, both towards the prisoner and the child, and what could have induced her to destroy her child still remains a mystery. Since she has been in charge her movements have been carefully watched; and her conduct and language at times is said to be very strange and unnatural. The Coroner for the district was at once communicated with. It is now some twenty years since any occurrence of a similar kind occurred at the extreme end of Worcestershire. A man named Davies, residing at Lower Swinford, shot a woman, for which he was committed to the Worcester Assizes by the local justices. At the trial the plea of insanity was raised, and after a long trial Davies was confined in one the lunatic asylums for a short period, and subsequently remained at Worcester until liberated, after which he commenced business as a publican at Stourbridge, and died in the neighbourhood.”
"Horrible Tragedy at Cradley"
Worcestershire Chronicle : August 1st 1874 P.5.

Ansell's Good Old Mild

"At the inquest at Cradley on Monday, on Harry Price [10], of Colley Gate, who died as the result of a blow on the temple from a cricket ball on Saturday, a verdict of "accidental death" was recorded.”
"Cricket Ball Death"
Lichfield Mercury : July 22nd 1927 P.8.

Butler's Pride of the Midlands Playing Card [c.1950's]

"At the Stourbridge Police Court, on Friday, Peter Boxley, chainmaker, Colley Gate, Cradley, was brought np on remand on the charge of attempting to murder his wife, Mary Ann Boxley, on the 7th inst. The prisoner's conduct in the dock went to confirm the statements which had been made as to his insanity, and his wife gave her evidence with the most evident reluctance, her statement being, indeed, a negative one as to any incrimination of her husband. She said her husband and herself were in bed at one o'clock on the morning of the 7th of June, when he got up and left the room, and on his return he touched her on the shoulder. She was frightened, but would not say why, and went into her daughter's room. Her husband followed her. She felt something cut her hand, and she was also cut on the shoulder. She did not know what her husband had in his hand, only that it was something which cut. She denied having told anyone she saw a razor in her husband's hand. She could not tell how the cuts were caused. She could not tell what took place owing to fright. Her husband had been strange during the day, and for some time before. Her husband did not say a word to her. He never threatened her - there was never a kinder father or husband till he became strange. She had not had any quarrel with him. James Boxley, son of the accused, said he was in bed on the morning of the 7th when something caused him to get up, and he went into his sister's room. His father and mother were there. He laid hold of his father. He did so because his father had hold of his mother. He denied seeing anything in his father's hand. He did not know what his father was doing to his mother. He heard screaming before he went into the room. He did not see any razor or implement in the room. There was no light. Witness was cut on the leg; he could not tell what with. He did not know how it happened, or who did it. The Bench : Do you really intend to tell us you don't know who did it? Was your mother likely to do it? No. Was your sister likely to do it? No. The questions stopped at this point, and the Bench consulted together as to the course to be taken in the face of the absence of direct evidence against the prisoner and of his mental state. The case stood over, with a view to the attendance of the parochial medical officer to certify as to prisoner's insanity or otherwise.”
"The Attempted Wife Murder at Cradley"
Worcester Journal
: July 2nd 1881 P.7.

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