Some history of Amblecote
Amblecote once boasted a large number of licensed houses, only a few of which remain. This section of the website covers the former Urban District of Amblecote which, through increased development of housing, boundary changes and overlap, has perhaps been forgotten. I have reproduced a map dating from 1958 to highlight the district.
The River Stour formed a large part of the boundary and continued as far as Stambermill before heading up to Amblecote Bank and Withymoor. The boundary then went westwards to Dennis Park and along Brettell Lane. Note that the boundary went down the middle of Brettell Lane so all the properties on the north side of the road were part of Wordsley and historically under Kingswinford. Consequently, despite the perception that the Red Lion is in Amblecote, it is actually a Wordsley pub. This may seem odd but I have tried to stay within the old boundary lines. Actually, I normally adhere to parish boundaries and indeed this was a little different but, hopefully, this map helps to make things clear - - ish.
Created in 1898, the Urban District of Amblecote was the smallest in England. It enjoyed autonomy until 1966 when it was absorbed by both Dudley and Stourbridge. In 1974 the whole area became part of Dudley. But what about donkey's years ago? Well, with a population of just seven people, the hamlet of Amblecote was included within the Domesday survey. During the late medieval period Amblecote could hardly be accused of going through a population explosion - in 1539 there were still only 11 people living here.
Amblecote was originally in the parish of Old Swinford, divided from Stourbridge and Worcestershire by the River Stour. The name 'Amblecote' is thought to mean 'the cottage by the river [or sandbank]' but, following its industrialisation, it is hard for the visitor to imagine such a rural scene today. However, farming took place in parts of the district during the mid-20th century.
Perambulation of Amblecote
I thought that some notes accompanying a perambulation of Amblecote would be a good way for browsers to get a handle on the place. You could follow this route on foot or on a bicycle. It might be fun and you can also nip into a couple of the pubs that are still trading. I took most of these photographs in the summer of 2007 and have added a few from other dates. The logical place to start the perambulation is the church.
Amblecote was in the Staffordshire part of Oldswinford parish in Worcester diocese until 1845 when a new parish was formed following the construction and opening of the Holy Trinity Church. Designed in the Early English style by the Birmingham-based architect Samuel Hemming, and erected on land given by the Earl of Stamford and Warrington of Enville Hall, the foundation stone of Holy Trinity Church was laid with a silver trowel on a soggy July 31st, 1831, by James Foster of Stourton Castle. The builder, J. Griffiths, was on hand to ensure he laid it properly. The rain resulted in a poor turnout for the service read by the Revd. Charles H. Craufurd, rector of Oldswinford.
A pleasing aspect of the building is that it was constructed with local bricks that only had to be transported down the hill from the Withymoor works owned by William King of Amblecote Hall. He supplied the yellow firebricks at cost, though this act of altruism may have had the hidden benefit of advertising his fine dried clay building materials. The iron master James Foster, of John Bradley & Co, provided the metal railings around the churchyard at an estimated cost of £500. When a small section of the railings were damaged by a car in 2006 the repairs by local craftsmen cost almost £30,000. I just happened to be visiting the church when the replacement cast-iron railings were being installed.
Holy Trinity Church was opened in August 1842, before which pews were advertised in the local newspapers and snapped up by those who sought to buy their salvation. The aforementioned James Foster purchased the tithes from land in Compton near Kinver from which he used the rent to maintain both the church and the churchyard on the condition that 500 seats in the church would be free for less affluent parishioners. In any case, the old box pews were removed in the Edwardian period and replaced by chairs.
There is some fine Victorian stained-glass to be appreciated inside Holy Trinity Church, notably the east window which was installed as a memorial to James Foster who died in 1853. The window, featuring scenes from the life of Jesus, is thought to be the work of Dublin-born artist Michael O'Connor, a celebrated exponent who exhibited his designs at the Royal Academy in 1846 and 1849. He worked closely with the architect Augustus Welby Pugin.
If wandering around a graveyard is not to your liking then scroll on. However, a look at headstones and memorials can help to get a handle on a town's character or identity. To be honest, I wish that there was a line or two chiseled on headstones that say a little about the person lying in the ground. This does not necessarily have to be their job, profession or trade as most people are not defined by their working life but had other characteristics or skills for which they were remembered. So, for example, a headstone could have a simple line saying "made the best apple pie in Amblecote," "always generous with her time and advice," or "nobody laid bricks as good and true." Anyway, what I have done is taken some photograph of random headstones and provided a little information on their lives. Incidentally, part of the land taken up by the churchyard had, in earlier times, been used as a venue for bull-baiting so perhaps it is surprising that a tavern commemorating this dreadful 'sport' did not emerge in the 19th century.
I did go looking for this first grave as I knew that William Fritsche and his wife Mary kept the Red Lion Inn on the northern side of Brettell Lane. Willliam Fritsche was a glass engraver born in Austria in 1853. He had taken lodgings at the Red Lion Inn which, in the early 1880s was run by James Hillman. When he died in 1881 and the pub was taken over by his daughter Jane. William Fritsche and Jane must have hit it off - or come to some sort of amicable agreement because they were quickly married later that year and he became the licensee of the Red Lion Inn. Jane probably remained in charge of the pub because William pursued his career as a glass engraver for Thomas Webb, a company with which he helped pioneer a style known as Rock Crystal. He remained in this profession when he and his wife later moved to a house in Collis Street. William Fritsche left a rich legacy of his work. Many glass connoisseurs claim that he was the finest copper wheel engraver that worked in England. His most ambitious piece, which took him two-and-a-half years to complete, is a large ewer jug now held by the Corning Museum of Glass. Symbolically representing the progress of a stream to the sea, the design of the jug includes polished spiralling convex panels that became a key characteristic in many of the pieces crafted by William Fritsche.
Adolf Zinke also came to the Black Country from Bohemia in the mid-19th century. The engraver also produced many fine pieces, some of which are displayed at the nearby Red Cone Museum at Wordsley. Perhaps less celebrated than William Fritsche, he was also a resident of Brettell Lane. He had earlier lived in Collis Street after his marriage to Agnes Humphreys in 1866 at Brierley Hill. The couple shared their house with two lodgers, both young engravers who also originated from Bohemia.
Timothy Worrall bought the Barrel Inn down the road near the canal basin and became the licensee in December 1919. He produced homebrewed ales at the pub. Born locally in 1869, Timothy Worrall grew up in a large family that lived on Brettell Lane next to the Red Lion Inn. His father Richard Worrall had a small business as a coal dealer. Indeed, following Richard's death, his mother Mary Ann took over the business with help from Timothy's elder brother John. In the early Edwardian era Mary Ann kept the Acorn Inn across the road from the family's home. It was probably this experience that gave Timothy Worrall a taste for the licensed trade. Up until then he had worked as a moulder. He married Esther Skidmore in Stourbridge in 1910. She may have been a childhood sweetheart as she lived only a couple of doors away from the Worrall household when they both attended school. Following his death in April 1938, Esther Worrall continued the homebrewed tradition at the Barrel Inn. She sold the pub to Charles Gardener during May 1939.
Joseph and Emma Wilcox once kept the Birch Tree Cottage at Amblecote Bank. Indeed, Joseph grew up in the pub run by his parents Elijan and Ann. His father died when he was very young and his mother Ann kept the house until her death. Joseph took over the pub in 1893 and secured a full licence for the former beer house five years later. Following his death in August 1900, he was succeeded by his wife Emma but she also died in the same year. The Birch Tree Cottage passed to Joseph's sister Sarah Pitt Wilcox.
The parents of Joseph Wilcox were buried in the same plot as their infant daughter Hannah who died before her third birthday. Born in 1825, Elijah Wilcox is thought to be the first licensee of the Birch Tree Cottage up the hill at Amblecote Bank on the edge of Withymoor. It is also thought that Elijah Wilcox chose the sign of the Birch Tree because a fair number of the plants were growing on the many pit and shale mounds on the hill around the cottage. He died at a young age, after which his wife Ann held the licence of the pub until 1893.
Harry Skelding is another infant buried in the churchyard. Dying before his first birthday, he was the son of Charles and Mary Skelding who owned the Gladstone Arms at Audnam in the late 19th century. A former clay miner, Charles Skelding acquired the property from the Grainger family in 1888. Following his death in 1908, the Gladstone Arms passed to his daughter Eliza who had married Joseph Pargeter. She is also buried in this plot, along with her brother Charles who died aged just 13.
Joseph Pearson may have been based in Amblecote but would have spent a lot of time away from his wife and family as a boat operator. He enjoyed a successful career and he and his wife Lucy were able to reside at Coalbourn Villa on Tobacco Box Hill, a name given to the road and locale between Collis Street and King William Street. By the early 1850s Joseph Pearson was recorded as a master boatman and employed 17 men. Consequently, he must have operated a small fleet of canal barges taking raw materials and finished goods to other parts of the Midlands. At one time Maria Nibbs, former publican of the Anchor at Mitton Gate near Hartlebury, lived with the Pearson family at Coalbourn Villa. Lucy died shorty after her husband, following which the executors of his will sold the furniture and possessions. The auction list provides a glimpse of how the couple lived : "a capital rosewood cottage pianoforte, mahogany clock, mahogany furniture and valuable oil paintings."
Edward Male was something of a loose cannon in Amblecote. He was still unruly and rowdy when middle-aged. In December 1887 the glass-maker was charged with assaulting Henry Cutler. He had kicked off in a public-house and punched Cutler so hard it smashed his lip and caused him to bleed profusely. In court Henry Cutler stated that he understood that it was a "regular rule" of Edward Male to hit people and break furniture. In 1892 he was again charged with being drunk and disorderly and, as there had been several previous convictions, he was heavily fined by the magistrates. Two years previously he was jailed for assaulting a police sergeant who had been called to his house in King William Street after a disturbance. The officer told the court that, when drunk, Male was a "perfect blackguard." Perhaps it is with some irony that, when his wife Mary died in 1910, the headstone was carved with the phrase "Peace Perfect Peace."
A resident of Laurel Villa in King William Street, Joseph Owen Kinsey was born in the village of Llanwnog in Montgomeryshire. In his latter career he worked as an agent for the railway. However, when he moved to the Black Country he worked as a waggoner to earn an income and spent the rest of his time as a Wesleyan Methodist preacher. His wife Mary also hailed from Montgomeryshire where she was born in the village of Llandinam. The headstone also records their son Edwin who worked as a goods manager at Cradley.
There is a small and simple memorial to the surgeon Francis Giles in the churchyard. He was a man of high standing in the local community and his passing was a keen loss. When he died it was reported that "Rectitude of conduct, profundity of knowledge, unwearyingly attention to professional duty, caused him to be esteemed by all who were brought in contact with him." Born in Frome, Somerset, he was educated at London Hospital, and in 1811 became M.R.C.S. [London], and in 1842 L.S.A. [London]. He practiced in Frome for a short spell before moving to the Black Country in the mid-1850s, where he took the practice of his cousin, the late Mr. Henry Giles, of the firm of Giles and Betts. He died after contracting typhus fever after attending Miss Lyttelton who also died. Another medical man, Dr. Wade, of Birmingham, who also attended Miss Lyttelton caught typhus fever. The was a walking cortège from the home of Francis Giles to Holy Trinity Church where, it was reported, "a large number of his friends and patients attended, many of whom displayed great emotion during the sad ceremony."
The headstone of Leacroft and Louisa Freer may have an ordinary appearance but this couple lived extraordinary lives. Indeed, one could devote a decent-sized website to the family. His father, also named Leacroft Freer, owned the extensive iron works at The Leys in Brockmoor and employed more than 300 men. Born in Birmingham in 1831, Leacroft Freer was educated at King Edward's Grammar School before joining the firm of his father and uncle, William Brown. He married twice - Louisa being his second wife. He was first married to the daughter of the John Davis, vicar of Saint Edmund's Church in Dudley. The couple's four children emigrated to Mexico, Singapore, Canada and the Malay Peninsula respectively. Two of the sons he had with Louisa entered the Church of England.
This headstone looks like it was quite expensive and I would hazard a guess it was paid for by the employers of William Lewis Brookes. There was an inquest held at the Birch Tree Cottage after he was killed in a clay pit. William Brookes was employed as a miner at Messrs. John Hall and Co. in Moor Lane. The evidence given at the inquest showed that about ten o'clock one morning he was engaged in propping up the roof when a quantity of clay fell upon him, killing him instantaneously. Both of his ankles were broken, his collar bone was also broken, his forehead was cut, his face badly bruised, and his chest terribly crushed. Dr. Gifford was immediately called in, but he was beyond aid. The evidence also showed that there was plenty of timber for propping, and that William Lewis Brookes was a competent and careful man. The fall, it was claimed, was entirely unforeseen, and could not have been prevented so a verdict of "Accidental Death" was returned. William Lewis Brookes, described as a "very sober, steady and well-conducted man," left a widow and five young children.
On leaving the churchyard one passes through the lychgate, erected as a war memorial for the 62 men of Amblecote who died in the First World War. The names of the fallen were originally inscribed on two painted oak panels but were replaced by bronze panels to include the 17 people who died in the Second World War. A very large crowd attended the dedication of the war memorial on November 6th, 1921. With a Guard of Honour from the Worcestershire Regiment, there was a procession from Coalbournbrook Schools to Holy Trinity Church. The dedication was performed by the Bishop of Worcester. I should not really pick out one name but that of Harry Kny stood out as he served in the Army Cyclist Corps. Before the war he was a glass engraver and lived at Pendower on the High Street. Originating from Bohemia, his father, Frederick Engelbert Kny, was a distinguished glass engraver at Thomas Webb and Sons and responsible for the celebrated Elgin Vase. Harry Kny was attached to the 43rd Remount Squadron at Salonica in the campaign against Bulgaria but contracted Malaria and died in November 1917, aged 30.
On the opposite corner of Vicarage Road stands a vet's practice occupying a building that was the last to bear the sign of the Royal Oak in Amblecote. Turning right and up the slope the parish hall stands close to the churchyard. It may not the most aesthetically-pleasing building in Amblecote but it serves a wide range of roles for the community. The hall was erected between 1921-2 and funded with the proceeds of the sale of a mission room in King William Street.
On the opposite side of the road is the Corbett Hospital Outpatients Centre, a building opened by Prime Minister Tony Blair in May 2007. I have had to visit the physiotherapy department here and they have a 'secret' balcony garden that overlooks a meadow in which cattle graze. This must benefit the mindset of those attending the hospital but, at the time of writing, it is under threat from development from the cash-strapped Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust. The Covid-19 pandemic probably resulted in a delay to any action so, whilst it is possible, have a walk around the back of the centre to appreciate an unspoilt part of old Amblecote.
There is little point in sending you up to Amblecote Bank as, apart from the Birch Tree, there is little of historical interest. Beyond the long-lost Amblecote Hall, the Withymoor Estate now covers what was once farmland interspersed with a couple of large fireclay works. And once these were exhausted the area was one vast mass of open-cast mining. It was a right eyesore so, whilst the housing estate may lack soul, it is less distressing on the visual senses. Incidentally, between the Corbett Hospital Outpatients Centre and railway bridge there was a large vicarage, roughly where Queen's Crescent is located. Built in 1860 it was sold in 1926 and the vicar moved to Harrington House next to the Rising Sun public-house. Harrington House was pulled down and new housing, including a modern vicarage, was erected on the site in 1976.
Retracing your steps or wheels to the lychgate, turn left down the hill towards Stourbridge. Just beyond the gates to the church stand a couple of old properties. Much restored in recent years, these are fragments of early industrial Amblecote. Known as The Holloway or Holloway End, this locale had cave houses dug out of the sandstone outcrop in the 17th century, a time when one of the area's earliest glasshouses was in operation here. At the end of the Edwardian period, the cottages along here were occupied by the gardener Charles Nash, fork-maker Mark Dukes, the house-painter William Kindon and the labourer Nathan Moore.
The cottages at Holloway End were only metres away from the gas works seen here in an aerial photograph captured in 1938. The ironfounder John Swift was one of six shareholders who raised the capital to build the gas works in 1835. The site next to the canal basin was considered ideal for bringing in coal to be converted into town gas. The Stourbridge Gas Company was incorporated in the mid-1850s and continued in private ownership until 1893 when the Stourbridge Improvement Commissioners successfully applied for a bill in Parliament to acquire both the gas and water works as public utilities. The gas works remained in operation until the mid-1960s when most of the site was demolished, though one gasometer remained for many years.
The gas works was built very close to the National School established at Holloway End in 1815. This early educational establishment for boys and girls was known as the Madras School as the curriculum was based on mutual instruction. When a new school was built at Coalbournbrook in 1856, the building was absorbed by the gas works.
The aerial photograph above also shows the extensive sidings and buildings of the Great Western Railway, much of which was for the transportation of coal to the gas works, though a level crossing traversed the road with the line extending to Stourbridge Rolling Mills and Stourbridge Iron Works. This photograph shows some empty coal trucks and a locomotive with the gas works on the left. The Stourbridge Canal was extended via a tunnel next to the Barrel Inn. Excavated in the 1830s it was originally cut to serve the Foster & Orme Iron Works. The building on the right was part of a large goods shed. In the 21st century the view from where the photographer was stood is roughly along Mill Race Lane on the industrial estate.
This photograph was one of a number taken following the steam locomotive accident at Holloway End in Amblecote on April 24th 1905. Often described as the Stourbridge Railway Smash, the location of the incident was, in fact, over the River Stour in Amblecote. In this photograph one can see a gasometer of the nearby gas works. Other photographs known to exist from this incident include a similar shot but with different people posing for the camera. There is also an image of the building fronting the main road in which the front of the steam engine had gone right through the offices and broken through the next wall so that the engine could be seen from the street. Local reports stated that the driver of the locomotive lost control when descending the branch line, head-first, at the head of 32 wagons. The train demolished the stop block and smashed into and through the goods office at the end of the branch. Luckily the crew managed to jump clear before impact.
This photograph was taken not long before the Roundhouse Shed was demolished at the end of the 1960s. This shed was erected in 1926 to replace an older building which could not accommodate the large number of locomotives operating at Amblecote. At the centre of 28 engine bays, the shed had a 65ft diameter turntable. It must have been quite a sight when in operation. Note the extractors above each of the pits. The shed was redundant following the withdrawal of the locomotives in July 1966 and was later demolished - ironically, in the 21st century this would have been a major attraction within a combined railway and canal museum which would have brought prosperity to the town.
Mill Race Lane does have a beer nostalgia story. It was here that Enville Brewery was established by former glass designer, Will Constantine-Cort. He had been made redundant from his job as head of design at Royal Brierley Crystal. Basing his first beer on a recipe he had used for a home-brewing hobby, he first produced his Enville Ale at the Chainmaker brewery here in Mill Race Lane.
I appreciate it is hard to get a sense of the past when all landmarks have been removed from the landscape. However, with this image it is easier to visualise and compare the past with the present because some of the buildings to the right are still standing. In the foreground is the old Barrel Inn which in more recent years has traded as the Old Wharf. Facing the public-house is the former offices of the Great Western Railway. Beyond is the old bridge spanning the River Stour and the road continues into the Lower High Street of Stourbridge.
This image was captured in the late 1920s and shows a similar scene but the photographer was stood across the county border in Stourbridge. The buildings in the foreground have gone and the ring road now occupies this land. However, the buildings either side of Canal Street are still standing. In the foreground on the right of the picture is a petrol pump, along with a sign for D & F Fellows, builders' merchants. Bank Street was opposite the premises, a short thoroughfare connecting to Bradley Road. The taller building on the left was occupied by the British Enamel Works Ltd.
The former canal company offices stand in Canal Street opposite the Bonded Warehouse. Replacing an earlier structure, this building dates from 1849 and has been restored by the Stourbridge Navigation Trust. Accessed by its own staircase, the old boardroom was on the first floor. The Chairman of the Committee at the time of this building's construction was Mr. Thompson. With a great deal of finished goods being transported along the Stourbridge Canal, the company was profitable and benefited from its cross-trade of the railway. Together with the Dudley Canal, the waterway formed a key route to take coal, glass and other finished goods out of the Black Country to the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal at Stourton Junction.
The old weighbridge outside the former canal company offices is a tremendous piece of engineering history, though to make any sense of how it works one needs to access the adjacent office in which the company's employees and clerks calculated the weight of goods and for raising an appropriate tariff. I believe that the Stourbridge Navigation Trust have retained an archive of ledgers used by the clerks. I wonder if there was any lack of integrity or bribing of clerks back in the day?
In October 1887 the manager of the canal company had a narrow escape when a bridge collapsed. A bricklayer named Elijah Pearson was killed and five others were injured when, during the construction of a new bridge, the arch collapsed when the supporting timbering was removed by the men who were underneath the structure.
The cutting of the Stourbridge Canal in 1776 [completed in 1779] enhanced the communications of the locality and attracted new industries which, in turn, established Amblecote and Stourbridge as important centres of commerce. The main hub was at the end of Stourbridge Canal Arm and, following restoration work to both canal and buildings, The Bonded Warehouse acts as a reminder of the former importance of both Amblecote and Stourbridge.
The original warehouse, thought to have been a single-storey structure, was erected in 1799. It possibly replaced an earlier building put up after the construction of the canal twenty years earlier. A second storey was added in the 1820s and a third floor further enlarged the warehouse in 1849. As the name suggests, taxable goods were held in bond within the warehouse until the importer came to collect the goods and pay the import tariff. Typically, this was for expensive or luxury goods such as tobacco, wines and spirits, tea and coffee.
This view of the Bonded Stores shows the additions to the building in which an overhang was created. Supported by large cast-iron columns, the upper two floors project over the water and this facilitated easier loading and unloading of cargo. Hoists within projecting Lucams were added to both sides of the warehouse which enabled goods to be lifted or lowered by chain - on this side from canal barges, and on the other side, onto waggons and carts.
In recent years many of the old buildings and industrial gear have been pulled down. This included a long travelling crane which perhaps could have remained as an evocative reminder of the activity that took place here on the wharf and basin. This place was a hive of activity back in the day and the noise and smoke must have been something else.
An early glass house was established near the Bonded Warehouse by James Dovey in 1790. His factory was pioneering in that it was one of the first to deploy a steam engine in the manufacturing process.
At the end of the moorings there is a small bridge dedicated to Neville Garratt. This bears the date of 1838 and was cast a few metres away at the ironworks of John Bradley. However, the bridge formerly spanned the Standhills Branch Canal which was an extension arm of the Stourbridge canal that served Brockmoor, Pensnett and Tansey Green. When the bridge was taken down it was place in storage at the Black Country Living Museum before being sited here. An earlier crossing provided access to the Old Wharf Saw Mills. Neville Garratt was the son of John Whitmore Garratt whose family, in addition to running collieries and brickworks at Corngreaves, owned the saw mills. The family lived at Wassell Grove at Hagley. The company was founded by Shelah Garratt who operated a colliery at Parkhead. His son Job Garratt served as mayor of Dudley 1881-3. John Whitmore Garratt was one of his sons and practiced as a solicitor before taking over the family business which had collieries at Corngreaves, Hawne and Timbertree. His son Arthur Neville, known as Neville, joined the firm as a director. The business also controlled the fire clay and brick works of Mobberley & Bayley based at The Thorns and Caledonia.
Further on the canal bends around to the right. The brick roving bridge has an earlier cast-iron structure manufactured in Coalbrookdale. John Bradley hailed from Shropshire so this suggests it was made at another business in which he was involved. He founded his iron works here in between 1798-1800. The key industry was the conversion of pig iron into wrought-iron plates, hoops and rods for other industries based in the Black Country. There were two basins leading into Bradley's Iron Works.
John Bradley ran the company with his step-brother James Foster, the latter taking sole charge following the death of John Bradley. In 1816 James Foster went into partnership with John Urpeth Rastrick who had patented a steam engine two years earlier. This partnership created the famous company that built two historic rail locomotives near the river. The restored 'Agenoria' is now on display in York's railway museum but it was the 'Stourbridge Lion' that made the headlines in 1827 when it earned the distinction of being the first steam locomotive to run on rails in the United States. It was purchased by the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company of Pennsylvania to haul coal and the remains of it are now housed in the Hall of Transportation at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington.
The foundry in which the locomotives were built now forms part of the Lion Medical Centre. The adjacent Riverside House, once the residence of the ironworks manager, is to be a central part of a heritage centre with gardens, restaurant, crafts shop, woodland and workshops.
There is a pleasant canalside walk northwards to Audnam and Wordsley but, on this perambulation, we retrace our steps or wheels to Canal Street and head north up the old High Street of Amblecote.
James Foster was commemorated at the building on the corner of Canal Street and High Street. For many years this has housed the White Rose Chinese takeaway but it was once the Foster's Arms. Immediately after passing the Old Wharf Inn one would be walking over the tunnel that extended the canal across the High Street. It was quite a narrow tunnel and in-filled when the industrial estate was created on the site of the old railway yard and sidings.
The former offices of the extensive Titan Works stands on the corner of Old Wharf Road. This was the factory of the iron-founders Jones & Attwood. The history of the business can be traced back to 1836 when the blacksmith John Jones started a forge in nearby Enville Street. Following his death in 1866 his 20 year-old son Walter took over the business and the firm started to manufacture solid fuel water boilers. Walter Jones was most dexterous and in an advertisement dated May 1873 he was described as an engineer, machinist and wood turner who produced all manner of goods including glass-etching machines, cutters and engravers' lathes, drilling machines, gates and palisading. Hot boilers were a key component of the business as was piping. He is said to have also invented a pipe cutter which was a catalogue item of the firm for over a century.
In 1876 Walter Jones formed a partnership with Jabez Attwood, an engineer who had previously worked at the Soho Works of James Watt and Co., and also at the Great Western Railway Works in Wolverhampton. The partnership was dissolved ten years later but the firm continued to trade as Jones & Attwood. The date of 1893 can be seen on the gable of terracotta gable of the Titan Works. Compare the contemporary image with that of 1894 [below] and you will see that the manager's office window has gone, along with the corner entrrance. It was considered to be a good place to work and some employees stayed with the company throughout their lives. Walter Jones is said to be the first employer to introduce the 8-hour working day in the locality.
Walter Jones became involved in public affairs and served as the first Chairman of Stourbridge Urban District Council, occupying the seat for four successive years. He was instrumental in the town purchasing the gas and water works - well, he made money through piping! On that note, he was also a key figure in the creation of the public baths. As a benefactor he presented the town with the bandstand in Greenfield Gardens and an extensive site for playing fields in Junction Road. A resident of The Uplands, Walter Jones died in August 1926, the funeral being a large civic affair for this captain of industry. The business had already passed to his son Mr. E. Reginald Jones and, later, to his grandson Walter Stringer-Jones.
Continuing up the hill, you will arrive at the old gates to the War Memorial Athletic Ground, though I notice that they have changed somewhat since I took this photograph in 2007. Certainly less ornate but probably more functional, I am not sure if they were even in use when I took my photograph. Certainly, the old turnstiles [see below] were defunct and looking rather anachronistic but full of period charm.
Nicknamed The Glassboys, Stourbridge Football Club was founded in 1876 and started to play at this ground in 1888. The field had been donated as a cricket field by Lord Stamford, himself a cricket enthusiast. A wide range of sports has been played here, including rugby and athletics. I have been to the ground when The Glassboys have played and it is slightly weird having one side of the playing surface open to the cricket field. Led by manager Gary Hackett, the club enjoyed success and a high profile by some good runs in the F.A. Cup, including a victory over Northampton Town in the 2016-7 season which put them in the hat for the third round for the first time in the club's history. They came close to winning against Wycombe Wanderers but lost to a late goal.
Continuing up towards the traffic lights, the recent housing [c.2014] on the left was developed on the site of the old Stourbridge War Memorial Club and extensive bowling green. The bowling club was officially opened on Easter Monday in April 1933.
Facing the former Royal Oak, is Amblecote Villa which, if I am honest, I wasn't sure if it was a Victorian or Edwardian building. However, the owner of the property was on hand to inform me that it was built in 1896. The house has a symmetrical frontage with two bay windows - note the stone heads on the keystones of the first-floor windows.
During the Edwardian period Amblecote Villa was the home of the Pitt family, an apposite name for George Percy Pitt who was a colliery owner. He and his wife Mary employed two domestic servants at the residence. He served as chairman of Amblecote Urban District Council and became a magistrate in 1911. The family later moved to Oakfield on Brettell Lane where George Pitt died in 1923. His funeral was conducted across the road at Holy Trinity Church where eight employees of his colliery acted as bearers. His eldest son Geoffrey was also a member of the Urban Distric Council. Educated at Wrekin Colliery, Wellington, he was chairman and managing director or Guy Pitt and Co., Ltd., and of the Shut End Colliery Co. Ltd., Pensnett, a director of the Stourbridge Canal Navigation, and of the Stowbridge Refractories Co. Ltd. He was also a member of the South Staffordshire Mines Drainage Commissioners and president of the Pensnett Miners' Welfare Institite which he opened.
The gates to the War Memorial Athletic Ground are generally open during the day so visitors will be able to take a look at the cricket ground and pavilion. The archway, similar to the Gheluvelt arch in Worcester, was designed by the Stourbridge Borough Surveyor, Geoffrey Ince, at a cost of £220 and unveiled in December 1928, three years after the War Memorial Committee purchased the land from the Enville estate of Lady Grey. Constructed with red Ketley brick and laid in English bond, the archway features stone dressings and a pantiled cap. The gates were manufactured by Hill and Smith of Brierley Hill.
During the 17th century the land on which the cricket field is situated was known as Gibbon's Piece. Cricket had been played on the field during the early 19th century though I believe Amblecote Cricket Club [founded 1908] played at Peter's Hill. The ground did host first-class cricket between 1905-62 when Worcestershire County Cricket Club played 61 matches here. However, the club would probably like to forget the statistic that in 1911 they lost by a record 372 runs to Lancashire. The Pavilion was also erected in 1928 and, like some of the other buildings, was paid for by Ernest Stevens, the hollow ware manufacturer and philanthropist.
On the land opposite the Vauxhall garage, used as a car park for Magnet Kitchens, there once stood the glassworks of Joseph Fleming & Co. manufacturers of table and ornamental glass, along with engraved and etched tableware. The firm were acquired by the Amblecote Glass Co. Ltd. in October 1934. A cone of the works, formerly run by Gastrey & Gee, survived until 1955.
The Holly Bush Inn stood close to the corner of Stamford Street, beyond which are some fine residences in three blocks. These were built in the Edwardian period. In the early 20th century they were the homes of white collar workers and artisans, most of whom employed a live-in domestic servant. Residents included the stationer William Levi and the librarian Henry Ridley.
These semi-detached houses were built slightly earlier than the previous two blocks. Just a quick glance and one will recognise the robustness of build and timeless design. When all the houses built in the 1960s and 1970s have long gone these will still be standing proud on the High Street. During the Second World War the two households were occupied by the Moore and Sobeck families. Julian Josef Sobeck was a chef when he came to the UK in September 1939. He lived here with his wife Florence. Harry Moore worked as a flint glass cutter when he lived here with his wife Edith.
You will notice that I am travelling along, and discussing, the western side of the High Street. The perambulation returns along the opposite side of the road later. The next modern development opposite Hill House caused a bit of a commotion when it was in the planning stage. It meant that Sankey House had to be demolished. The good news is that some of the windows from the house were moved to the Webb Corbett Visitor Centre. Towards the end of its life Sankey House was used as a dance school run by Bill and Irene Green. During World War Two it was the residence of Thomas Edward Price CBE, a member of Dad's Army. He was Second-in-Command of the 38 Bn. South Staffordshire Regiment, Home Guard. He was a director of several local fire-brick manufacturers and fireclay firms. He was also the President of the Institute of Clay Technology.
This brings us to Coalbourn Lane, a road that became a public highway in 1973 when modern housing development took place. There had been an old track here for a couple of centuries and allegedly led to a tavern on the canal bank. Maps from the inter-war years show a bowling green at the end of the track. A couple of large houses stood here until the 1960s, including Allan House and Elmsley House. But what of the unusual small building that has survived on the northern corner. I am curious what role this building with the hotch-potch brickwork served. Looking at old maps, the large house that occupied the plot has long gone. Was this a workshop or garden folly?
Further down the hill towards Fish Junction brings us to the gates of Harlestone[s] House, once the home of proprietors of the Coalbournbrook [or Colbourne Hill] glassworks, a short distance to the north-west. The works was used by John Bradley in the early 18th century for the production of flint glass. The factory, along with the Dennis Glassworks, passed to Thomas Hill. The house may been built for him or Joseph Stevens who purchased the glass works in 1837. The Grade II-listed building is stated to be early 19th century. Joseph Stevens later moved to Britannia Square in Worcester.
During the 19th century ownership of the Colbourne Hill Glassworks changed several times. Following a disastrous fire at the company's White House works in Wordsley, Thomas Webb & Corbett Ltd. took over the factory in 1914. The firm became part of the Royal Doulton Group in 1969. In 2000 The Ruskin Mill Land Trust purchased the derelict factory from Royal Doulton and the complex was converted into the Ruskin Glass Centre, Glasshouse College, the Glasshouse Arts and Heritage Centre. A photograph of the works, complete with cone, is featured on my page for the Fish Inn, a building that has more recently traded as the Ruby Cantonese Restaurant.
It is possible to walk around to the car park of the old glass works. However, I was asked to leave when I took the above photograph! Consequently, I did not get to see the old buildings that have survived. A shame, considering I am trying to discuss the history of the site. Coalbournbrook Bridge is only a few metres away. Although the old arch was retained, the bridge was widened and strengthened in 1978. The bridge was once crossed by the Kinver Light Railway but we will look at that transport system when we visit the other side of the High Street. Coalbournhill House used to overlook the bridge and canal here.
So, back to the lights and turn left up what was once called Tobacco Box Hill. The estate agent's near the corner was once the Little Pig Inn. Continuing along the road, we turn left into Platts Crescent.
The Platts is an ancient name, derived from the Platte family, among several inhabitants of the locale during the latter part of the middle ages. Platts Crescent follows the line of a drive that led to Platts House, a large 18th century mansion in which the owner of the Platts Glassworks resided. In the mid-19th century the works was occupied by Thomas Webb before he moved to Dennis Hall where he built a new glassworks.
The housing in Platts Crescent started to appear in the late 19th century, though No.32 is an early 20th century build. The road was not paved until 1910 as it was deemed uneconomical to repeatedly ashing the lane. I was attracted to No.32 because of the large double gates, perhaps a sign that some form of small-scale industrial activity took place here. However, the census of 1911 reveals that the house was occupied by the clergyman Hubert Noke. He was born in Worcester in 1886 which makes sense given that his father was a potter's modeller who later moved to The Potteries.
Growing up in The Potteries, Hubert Noke was educated at Newcastle High School, after which he worked for a short period as a bank clerk. He studied at Lichfield Theological College and was ordained at Coventry Cathedral in 1910. He was appointed curate at Holy Trinity Church at Amblecote and played an active role in the community. It was reported that following the death of the vicar, Father White-Jones, Lady Grey of Enville Hall offered the living to Hubert Noke, but on the advice of the Bishop of Worcester, the offer was declined.
During World War One, whilst curate at St. Stephen's at Smethwick, Hubert Noke served in the Royal Army Chaplains' Department and was attached to the 1st Bucks Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was included in the New Year's Honours List of 1919 when he was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry, the official line being for 'services rendered in connection with Military Operations in Italy.' Following the war, he married Theodora Murray. The couple moved to Birmingham when he was appointed vicar of Stirchley. He served for over nine years before he died of pneumonia in March 1929.
The are many attractive houses in Platts Crescent and it must have been, and probably still is, a nice street in which to live. The properties were well made and many have small details that elevated them a little above the ordinary. No.39, for example, is modest in scale but the stone dressings add a certain appeal that was decorative rather than functional. At the end of the Edwardian period this was the home of Joseph and Ada Dunn. The middle-aged couple moved to this newly-constructed residence from their house in Cecil Street in Stourbridge. In the early 1890s they lived in King Street in Wollaston. Born in Dudley in 1865, Joseph Dunn served his apprenticeship as a pattern-maker when living with his parents at Scott's Green. Employed by the aforementioned Jones & Attwood, he continued to work as a pattern-maker throughout his career. Indeed, he was promoted to head pattern-maker at this firm. His elder sister Mary was a school teacher.
No.58 was on the market when I took this photograph. I admit to looking at the substantial house online as I was curious to see if any original features remained inside the property. However, the residence had benefited or suffered from much modernisation, whichever way you view these things. The entrance and its canopy is rather nice mind you. In 1911 this was the home of the glassmaker Francis Bridge and his wife Mary. The couple had upgraded from a smaller house in the same thoroughfare. Their son Arthur was a fine athlete and won many races for Stourbridge Harriers.
Crossing the road and walking along to the High Street brings us to a house named Raybourne, a building in which much of the architectural detail was completed in brick. Cheaper than stone and still pretty effective. At the turn of the 20th century this house was occupied by the retired iron-master George Addenbrooke and his daughter Amy. They employed Leamington-born Rose Meddows as a domestic servant. She probably worked for the family when they lived in the Warwickshire town during the previous decade. In the early 1890s George Addenbrooke lived with his wife at Binswood Avenue in Leamington. Born in 1825, George was a son of Edward Addenbrooke who had married into the Pidcock family that once owned a glassworks here at The Platts.
One of George's sons, George Leonard Addenbrooke, achieved significant work and discovery in the early development of electric power and lighting. Educated at Winchester School and London University, he first worked in the office of the London agents of the British India Steam Navigation Company Ltd. However, following the advice of his friend, Sir Edwin Dawes, he followed an engineering career. He joined the United Telephone Company where, after promotion, he was appointed chief of the testing and trunk line department. In 1885, in conjunction with Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti, he was granted a patent for a new method of working double-trunk lines and, in the following year, he joined Ferranti at the Grosvenor Gallery power station, where he was given charge of the overhead lines and installations. He later spent some time in Australia where he took charge of the installation of electric light in seven large coasting steamers for Messrs. Gray, Dawes and Co. On his return to England he worked independently and was the originator of the scheme for the supply of electric light and power to the Black Country, which later became known as the Midland Electric Corporation for Power Distribution, Ltd. He spent a great number of years investigating the possibility of generating electricity by tidal power, particularly on the River Severn. He was a member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, served on the Council of the Royal Photographic Society, and he was also a Fellow of the Physical Society.
At the time of George Addenbrooke's retirement, his next door neighbour at Woodcote was the retired glass manufacturer Walter Wilkes Webb. The widower lived here with seven of his children. Walter Wilkes Webb was the son of Thomas Webb of Dennis Hall. It would appear that both he and his neighbour were living in fairly modest houses considering the wealth of both families. Walter Wilkes Webb, who had worked alongside his brothers at the glassworks, retired from the family business in 1899 due to ill health.
Arguably overshadowed by his elder brother Thomas, Walter Wilkes Webb was on the board of the company during a period when the firm became recognised as a world leader in Rock Crystal and Cameo Glass. The company, which became known as the "Crystal King of England," employed some of the greatest artists of the period, including brothers Thomas and George Woodall, William Fritsche and Frederick Kny. By the end of the Edwardian period Walter Wilkes Webb moved to Cannock where he lived with his son Noel. He died there in July 1919.
North End and Pendennis are a few metres along the road. North End, on the left of this photograph was once the home of Frederick Hipkiss, a partner in the brewery Elwell, Williams and Co. at Brierley Hill. In 1911 his next door neighbour at Pendennis was Richard Round who worked in an ironworks at Brierley Hill. The widower lived here with his daughter Edith. They employed Sarah Whitehouse as a general servant.
The other side of the High Street has few historic buildings left but we cross the road to look at the north corner of King William Street. Dating from the early 19th century, the Stuccoed house is called Dennis Lodge, though I see from old maps that the main lodge of Dennis Hall was located in Collis Street with a lane leading up to the house. This was possibly a secondary lodge for the house. The building has been enlarged and altered over the years, though a small Greek Doric pavilion remains. This is pedimented on each side and once had an entrance from King William Street. In recent times, the building has housed a dental surgery. However, it was a residential property at the end of the Edwardian period. In 1911 it was occupied by the Cornish railway clerk Francis Dunstan and his wife Emily. I was surprised to learn that the previous occupant, John Guest, was recorded as a farmer in 1901.
Jack Newman was living at The Lodge in 1934. In July of that year he had taken his fiancé, Lilian Treagust, for a day out at Kinver but she was knocked down by a cyclist and died within an hour due to a fracture of her skull. The cyclist was 15 year-old Mary Evans who, it was stated at the coroner's inquest, lost control of her bike when travelling down a hill at The Compa. When the jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death," the mother of the victim, holding a photograph of her daughter, and with tears streaming down her cheeks, said: "Look what I have lost!" As the verdict was returned Jack Newman collapsed. The Coroner said to the cyclist: "See the grief your carelessness has caused. Don't get into a mess like this again."
On the opposite side of King William Street there is Geoff Hill's Electrical Store. The founder died in November 2018 at the age of 91. I purchased electrical goods from here because part of the price went to charity. Geoff Hill was passionate about fundraising. Above is the front cover of his autobiography which tells the story of his rise from the back streets of Brierley Hill during the 1930s to the running this successful business "and then back to rags again - or the rag trade - when he founded a chain of successful charity shops."
Born in 1927 in Brierley Hill, Geoff Hill was a keen cyclist. Indeed, one of his early jobs was in a cycle shop at Wolverhampton whilst striving to forge a racing career. He won the British under-18 Time Trial title in 1944 and became a semi-pro. However, a year later he was called up for national service as a 'Bevin Boy' which put paid to his dreams of a cycling career due to a back injury he sustained in the pits. The number of jobs he took was legendary but he finally found himself by opening his electrical shop on Brettell Lane in 1960.
The business was moved to the High Street in 1981. After his retirement, Geoff was awarded an MBE in 2004 for his generosity and charity work. He had donated more than £500,000 to good causes through his own foundation, the Geoff Hill Charitable Trust, as well as personally raising more than £1m, largely through a hospice lottery.
At No.3 High Street is Dawn Crystal, a family business established in 1984 by Reg Everton and Son. The shop offers unique hand-cut and engraved crystal glass. Reg Everton went into the glass trade in 1956 and served his apprenticeship at Stuart Crystal. In 1974 he became the Cutting Shop Manager at Bridge Crystal where he gained a further nine years experience. He started his own business offering unique and bespoke pieces and his son John joined him in 1990. It is good to see that the skills for which Amblecote became famous are being continued here on the High Street.
During the late Victorian era and throughout the Edwardian period No.3 High Street was occupied by the builder Richard Guest. He lived on the premises with his family and employed a servant. The building contractor was a member of the Harmonic Lodge of Freemasons. The 1881 census records that his father, also a builder, employed 100 men and 13 boys. Richard Guest married Annie Griffiths in 1891. She was the daughter of George Griffiths of the Bell Hotel in Kingswinford. The firm run by the Guest family erected many notable buildings in the locality, including pubs. However, they are remembered for the construction of the Town Hall at Stourbridge.
During the First World War No.3 was used as a dental surgery. It was the main surgery and head office of F. Shaw who also had dental surgeries at Dudley, Halesowen and Brierley Hill. By the time of the Second World War the premises had become a butcher's shop run by Alfred and Gladys Whitehouse.
The entry between No.2 and No3. looked intriguing and I could not resist walking through to have a look at the rear of these properties. Note how the Victorian paving bricks have been laid to cope with the weight of heavy carts or waggons. This may have been used by the Guest family, though the family's main yard was around the corner in Brettell Lane. The yard could have been shared with the neighbouring White Horse Hotel, now trading as The Maverick. Certainly the pub offered stabling. A rate book compiled before the First World War shows that to the rear of these properties there was a stable, garden, warehouse and engineers' shop.
The passage was almost certainly used by John Jones who, in the 1890s, was trading at No.2 High Street as a wheelwright. He would have made or repaired wheels for carts and trundled them through the entry to and from his workshop. He continued in this trade until the end of the Edwardian period when, according to the census, he suddenly traded as a baker. I suspect that his wife Anne Marie was already conducting this business in the shop fronting the High Street.
In more recent times the shop housed Donovan's Musical Instruments run by brothers Haden and Dave Donovan. The latter was once a drummer in a 60s band called Magic Roundabout. Legend has it that Robert Plant invited him to join a new band he was putting together called Led Zeppelin but he turned it down! He did however forge a career as a drummer. After playing with Screaming Lord Sutch & The Rock Rebellion, he spent some time in the Wizzo Band, a line-up put together by Roy Wood after the Wizzard years. He later joined the Eric Bell Band. Haden meanwhile worked as a stage manager before becoming a production manager for groups, including Slade and Motorhead. Dave Donovan continued to play live music and performed next door at The Maverick.
From the corner of the street in front of The Maverick one can look across to another former public-house. The Indiluxe Restaurant was once the Old Dial Inn and marked the boundary between Amblecote and Audnam. The boundary went along the northern edge of the property. So, if you are looking for information beyond the former pub you need to visit my page for Wordsley. Same goes for the northern side of Brettell Lane as the boundary ran down the middle of the road. Only the right-hand side of the road [as you walk along from the junction] was part of Amblecote. Incidentally, the glass works after which the Old Dial took its name was originally where the Lidl supermarket now stands.
The origins of Brettell Lane's name has been the subject of much debate with local historians. Whilst it is thought that the road may be named after the Brettell family, some think it is more likely that the name is derived from the fact that it passed through Silver End which was once known as Brettell which, in turn, may be a corruption of Bredhulle - an ancient name for the hill or ridge on which Silver End stands. Certainly, the name Brettell [and Bredhulle] has existed in the area for many centuries. Indeed, it is recorded that in the reign of Henry V that a certain J. Bredhull was granted land and buildings in a field called Worthull in Swinford Regis [the parish of Oldswinford extended up to Brettell Lane which acted as a parish boundary]. The name Brettell is also thought to be of French origin and can be traced to the Norman family de Bretiuil and Bretteville. The nearby house of the Brettell family was listed in William Camden's 'Britannia' and the glass manufacturer, Thomas Webb, called his Amblecote ironworks the Bretwell Ironworks.
The first shop on the right has traded for some time as a fireworks shop. The property was once the Builders' Arms and traded until just before the Second World War. The next double-fronted shop frontage was a pawnbroker's shop in the very early years of the 20th century. No.114 has been divided into three individual shops. Then there is a large gate next to Two Wheels cycle shop. As you can see in the above photograph it is possible to see a large outbuilding at the rear of the premises. The 1901 census shows that a butchery business was operated here by the Moody family so I spoke to the current occupier to enquire if there was any trace of a slaughter house at the back but he told me that it was once a large garage. The large gates, wide entrance and extensive yard does suggest that livestock were herded to the rear of the premises - many butchers slaughtered the animals themselves [all a bit much for me to think about being a veggie!] Charles and Lydia Moody had traded from Collis Street before moving to Brettell Lane. They were assisted by their son Edwin who lived here with his wife Bertha. He took over the business and moved to the corner of Brettell Lane and Audnam - where one can see a triangle at the traffic lights next to Lidl.
Crossing Park Street, the four-bay property, recently housing a hairdressing salon, was once the Acorn Inn. The pub should have been one of the most orderly of houses because the property next door was once a police cottage. In 1901 the house was occupied by Police Sergeant Thomas Starling and his wife Eugenia.
The son of a carpenter, Thomas Starling was born in the Worcestershire village of Suckley in 1852. He first went into service as a groom to the surgeon James Somerville in Bloxwich. He married Wednesbury-born Eugenia Ellis at St. George's Church in Darlaston during July 1876. The couple moved to Rocester when he was stationed as a police officer. After his promotion to Police Sergeant he was stationed at Brierley Hill by which time he and Eugenia had five young children. They had five more children by the time they were living at this cottage in Amblecote. Eugenia died in January 1906 and, as a police pensioner, Thomas re-married to Annie Farmer in 1910 and took up residence in Bobbington. His son Clarence was killed in action May 1917 when serving with the 1/14th Battalion of the London Regiment. In later years he and his wife Annie lived further up Brettell Lane next door to the Dudley Arms.
The next cottage also housed a police officer in 1901. Thomas Starling#39;s neighbour was David Gibbs, a police constable who originated from Westbury in Buckinghamshire. He had joined the police force by 1881 when he was recorded in residence at the Holyhead Road Police Station in Handsworth. It was here that he met and married Mary Louisa Whitehouse whom he married at Edgbaston in August 1881. The couple lived here for two decades and when David Gibbs retired they moved to Shrubbery Cottage at Cookley.
The house on the left in the above photograph is numbered 105. However, the numbering along here has shifted very slightly as No.105 used to be the Roebuck Inn. The public-house was in fact one property to the left and was lost when the Amblecote Christian Centre was built on a wider plot than that occupied by its predecessor the old Methodist Church. With a dwindling congregation it merged with the Methodist Church on the High Street in 1958 and the building was used by the Christian Science church. The Full Gospel Church, which had bee meeting in the Mission Room in King William Street, took over in 1980 and the building seen today is the result of their redevelopment plans.
The perambulation now turns right into Hill Street, named after Thomas Hill who inherited Dennis Park in 1762 and later built Dennis Hall. If one was walking along Hill Street in the mid-20th century the smell of freshly-baked bread would pervade the senses as Darby's Bakery occupied the site where a car sales business operates. At the end of Hill Street, on the northern corner stood the Woodman Inn. On the opposite corner there was an infant's school. Turn right and, just before the former Greyhound Inn, turn left into Cameo Drive. It is only a short distance to Dennis Hall.
Dennis Hall was renovated in 2004 and converted into apartments. The Dennis, or Deynis, name emerged in medieval times and a large park here was named accordingly. The house was built by Thomas Hill who had inherited the Dennis estate, along with a glassworks, from the Batchelor family in 1762. The property dates from the latter half of that decade and once stood in 29 acres of grounds. Thomas Hill died in 1824 and the estate passed to William Seger Wheeley. This led to the development of the land with new streets being laid out. In the 1850s the glassworks, Dennis Hall and the remaining few acres of land was purchased by Thomas Webb of The Platts. The glassworks had, by this time, fallen into decay. Thomas Webb set about building a new works and this opened in 1855. The glass works was just to the east of the house and, as previously discussed, produced some of the finest glass in the world.
Returning to King William Street, we turn right and up the slope. The houses until Dennis Street are fairly modern but it gets more interesting after that. The former Mission Hall, later to operate as a Sunday School, has received one of the "Changing Rooms"-style conversions and is now a house with an unusual interior space. King William Street was first laid out and developed around 1846. The thoroughfare is said to be named after the claymaster William King, resident of Amblecote Hall until his death on March 16th 1850. However, it was possibly a memorial to King William IV who died shortly before development started.
King William Street has an interesting mix of housing, some clearly for the labouring classes of the period, others with the appearance of a little more affluence or status. The doorways often act as a good indicator. It is not an easy street to research with the use of directories and the census because the numbering changed quite a bit during the 19th and early 20th centuries before settling down to the pattern seen today. Indeed, mid-19th century census sheets do not provide a number for the properties. In August 1895 the parish council met to discuss the numbering of houses in the Dennis Park area and Councillor B. Wood stated that he thought it a waste of money. Councillor Corbett said "he thought it was one of the greatest of absurdities to attempt to number the houses in Amblecote." Unlike The Platts, few houses here were bestowed with a unique name. My sister used to live on the southern side of King William Street and I used to visit frequently. This side of the street has not changed too much but the opposite side of the thoroughfare is quite different to that of the 1980s.
Turning into Villa Street we arrive at the No.3 which has a good doorway and matching stone lintels on the ground floor windows. Birmingham used to have streets filled with houses such as this but, in their desperation to modernise during the 1960s and 1970s, they pulled them down when clearing the slum housing. The latter needed to addressed but, by adopting a blanket approach, they stripped the streets of all historical references. This makes walking around pockets of the Black Country such as the old Dennis Park, an enjoyable and interesting experience.
At the end of the Victorian era No.3 was occupied by the Birmingham-born window cleaner James Powell. He lived here with his wife Elizabeth who hailed from Tividale. I confess to wondering how a Victorian window cleaner afforded this property. It is not a mansion by any means but a little above the traditional 2-up, 2-down terraced housing. Perhaps he had a massive round and was out day and night attending to his clients window panes!
At the end of the Edwardian period No.3 was occupied by the nurseryman Francis Horton and his wife Ann. The adjacent house was unusual in that the householder used the rear plot to erect two cottages from which rents were drawn. This was common in more densely-populated towns but I was surprised to find this in Villa Street. The cottages were accessed by a narrow passage to the left of the house.
Set back a little from the street, Chestnut Villa is definitely a cut above the other housing stock in Villa Street. The thoroughfare may have been named after this residence. Laid out in the 1850s, the short street connecting King William Street and Collis Street did not seemingly have a name in its early years. The house may have been built for Silas Hingley who lived here during the Victorian era. He and his elder brother Levi operated a glass manufactory in King William Street. Their sons would enter the business and, trading as Levi, Silas Hingley & Sons, acquired the Albert Glassworks in Wordsley. Silas Hingley was born in 1831 at Woodside and was educated at Oldswinford Hospital School. Levi was a clerk in his early career but Silas, along with his brother Jabez, became an engraver. They lived in the same house in Collis Street during the early 1860s. He married Amelia Hill in May 1862. The couple had six children before Amelia's early death in 1880. It would seem Silas moved into Villa Street shortly after this date and continued to live at Chestnut Villa until his death in July 1918.
Following the death of Silas Hingley, Chestnut House passed to his daughter Clara Lavinia. Remaining a spinster, she lived here until poor health resulted in her removal to the Surgical Nursing Home on the Hagley Road in Edgbaston. She died in September 1934 following which Chestnut House was sold. Skelding & Boucher produced a postcard for the sale and I have one such card in my collection. This rear of the postcard details the property which still did not have a bathroom upstairs. Brrr, brings back memories of my childhood with a trip to an outdoor lavatory. Note also that the sale included a brick-built workshop opposite.
Chestnut House was acquired by the school headmaster David Guttery. Born in 1890 at Mount Pleasant at Quarry Bank, he grew up in Fenton Street in Brierley Hill. He went to London for his teacher training at Clarke's College whilst living in Battersea. He married the music teacher Edith Chambers at Stourbridge in 1916. He became headmaster of Bromley School and Chairman of Amblecote District Council.
When David Guttery died suddenly, aged 68, at Chestnut House in March 1958 the Birmingham Daily Post published an obituary that read: "the rettired headmaster closely identified himself with the area in which he lived and probably knew more about its confused history than anybody. His room at Amblecote contained a wealth of local and national historical data. He was a regular contributor to the Birmingham Post & Gazette on historical subjects and a few years ago published The Civil War in Midland Parishes, which has become a standard work. His publications included an analysis of the development of the crystal glass industry in Stourbridge and Brierley Hill and short pamphlets on Kingswlnford history. Recently he had been working on a history of the Worcestershire Yeomanry. He was a member of Amblecote Urban Council and for many years was chairman. He also served as chairman of the governors of Brierley Hill Evening Institute and on the governing body of several schools."
Down to Collis Street and around to the left is the Robin Hood Inn, next to which is a house that has all the information one could possibly need. The date of 1876 can be seen in the keystone of a side entrance and the initials JH above the front entrance. This tells us that it was built for Joseph Hill, manager of the Dennis Glass Works who lived here with his wife Isabella. Born in 1826, he had worked his way up from the lowest position, through to warehouse man, foreman and works manager. He married Kidderminster-born Isabella Myers at Holy Trinity Church in August 1858. Joseph did not enjoy many years at this house but his wife Isabella remained here until her death in 1891. Her sister-in-law, Jemimah Davies, a retired teacher who was also a widow, moved into the house as a companion. They employed Sarah Bird as a domestic servant.
The house maintained its association with the glass trade when, prior to World War One, it was occupied by John and Ellen Hambrey. Born in 1866, John Hambrey was the eldest son of Skidmore Hambrey who established a glass works at Holloway End. The business passed to him where he worked as a master glass decorator. In later years when he was winding down he became a poor rate collector for Amblecote and assistant overseer. For many years he was a member of Amblecote Church Choir.
Located between Villa Street and Vale Street, this pair of houses stand out with their arrays of tall round-arched windows. In the late Victorian era the house on the right was occupied by the retired cabinet-maker John Corbett. During the Edwardian period Robert Edwards, organist and professor of music, moved into the house with his wife Alice and two children. Born in Lye, he was the first to play the organ installed at St. Mark's Church at Stambermill in 1885. The couple's son, also named Robert, was a distinguished pupil at King Edward's School, an institution he entered from Wollaston Church of England School as an Exhibitioner in 1904. He obtained First Class Honours at both the Junior and Senior Cambridge Local Examinations, and in the Senior Examination in July, 1909, was placed first in England in music among the senior candidates. He graduated in music at the University of London. He became the organist of Tipton Parish Church, and conductor of the Lye and Wollescote Choral Society. Marjorie Edwards was also a student when living here in Collis Street. I have made a firm connection but there was a successful Marjorie Edwards who performed with the BBC Orchestra during the inter-war years.
Walking down the hill, the house on the eastern corner of Vale Street is called Overdale, for many years the residence of Arthur and Mary Horton. He was the son of the aforementioned Francis Horton and became a cashier at the nearby Dennis Glassworks of Thomas Webb and Sons. He resigned in 1921 in order to help in founding the Stourbridge Glass Company at Wordsley where he was a director until his retirement in 1950. Following his death at Overdale in August 1962, aged 89, it was disclosed that he had made generous gifts to Amblecote, Stourbridge and Brierley Hill churches. When St. Paul's Church at Hawbush was opened in 1955 it was reported that he gave £3,700 towards the building and £2,000 towards the maintenance. The local vicar blew his cover in 1954 when he made a donation to Holy Trinity Church. The Reverend Quibell told the Birmingham Daily Gazette that "it was quite a shock." The story was that Arthur Horton, who had been left £12,500 in trust by his wife to be divided between local churches and charities. So, the retired glass manufacturer wanted to give £1,000 to the parish church but, not wanting speeches, votes of thanks or a formal presentation, he wrote out a cheque for church renovations and maintenance and dropped in the offertory box.
On the opposite corner of Vale Street the two houses were both occupied by people involved in the glass trade throughout their lives. The house on the left of the two was once the home of Charles and Amy Husselbee. Charles was born in 1868 at Longport near Burslem in The Potteries where his father Benjamin worked as a glassblower. Possibly an economic decision, and with his skills almost guaranteeing employment, his father moved the family to Wollaston during the late 1870s. They lived on the High Street whilst Benjamin worked Messrs. Davies, ornamental glassmakers. He was involved in a dramatic incident on the River Severn during August 1890. Benjamin had taken a trip with a party, including John and Thomas Foley, work colleagues at Messrs. Davies. The party travelled to Holt aboard several brakes, before they embarked on the steamer Lady Foley to Worcester. When the vessel was opposite the Waterworks at Barbourne, at about half-past four in the afternoon, a small rail at the stern of the steamer, on which the three men were sitting, gave way, and the they fell into the river. Benjamin Husselbee and John Foley were able to swim, and although Foley struck his head in the fall and gashed it badly, they managed to reach the river bank. Thomas Foley [the uncle of John Foley], however, was not so fortunate, for he could not swim, and immediately sank. When the other two reached the bank, they immediately shouted for help, and a man named Teague obtained a boat and went to the assistance of the one who was drowning. He managed to catch hold of him when sinking for the third time, but the craft was too small and if he had hauled Thomas Foley up then it would have filled with water. Fortunately, Charles Webb, the bathing barge attendant, had been called and he quickly rowed to the scene and got hold of Thomas Foley. He was then conveyed to the bathing barge, where they set about resuscitating. After a while the efforts to restore him to consciousness were successful, and he was removed to the house of Mr. Greenway, near at hand, where he received every attention. He was unable to travel back to Wordsley until the next afternoon. Rather bizarrely, the steamer itself was not stopped, the men not being missed until the boat had got as far as the racecourse grandstand. The three men were apparently sitting entirely out of sight of any of the crew on duty or of the passengers on the forward deck. The proprietors of the steamer issued a statement saying: "The rail which gave way is little ornamental rail at the stern of the steamer, and is not intended for people to sit on. Indeed, there is no accommodation whatever for passengers behind the cabin. So far we have been able to ascertain, it appears that the three men in question were "larking," and they have no one to thank for the accident but themselves. No blame whatever attaches to the men in charge of the steamer. The men had been told that they had no business where they were."
Continuing down Collis Street, the high brickwork on the right-hand side was the boundary wall of Dennis Hall. Crossing the road, brings the journey to the above semi-detached houses in red brick. The house on the right was once the home of the glass designer Frederick Noke. He studied at the Stourbridge School of Science and Art where, in 1901, he was awarded a National bronze medal for a design and a wax model for a plaque in cameo work. It was reported that "the subject of the work was "The Dancers," and both the conception and the execution were admirable. The two dancing figures were nicely posed, and full of action, and the material was so delicately handled to produce the varied depths of tint." It was also reported that "much originality and felicity of conception and of arrangement is shown by the same student foe a flint-glass water set. The fishes in the lower part of the design were full of vitality, and the water-lily arrangement above was very graceful." It would seem that despite his creative flair, he elected to follow a more commercial route in the glass industry acting as both a glass merchant and agent.
Further along Collis Street is the Institute & Social Club, opened in 1908 to replace the Working Men's Club that met in the former mission room in King William Street. The latter was established in 1901 by the philandering vicar of Amblecote, Ernest Moore, a local secretary of the National Society.
The house by the chip shop close to the traffic lights was once the home of Harry J. Wharton, a popular local figure who was the first manager of the Roller Rink at Stourbridge, a building that was converted into the King's Hall Cinema, roughly on the site of a B&Q and, later, an Aldi supermarket.
At the crossroads junction, still known as the Fish Junction in the 21st century, there is the above artwork installation of a glassblower. This stands on the site of the Glassmakers' Arms. Behind the statue of the glassblower is the old sheds and depot of the Kinver Light Railway which I believe was the first cross-country tramway to operate in the UK. It was from here that trams to Kinver departed in years gone by.
It was not an easy project to get off the ground, particularly as the Kinver Parish Council did not approve of the plans. Further complications arose with P. H. Foley, landowner of much of the land needed to lay the track from Wollaston. However, the Board of Trade the Kinver Light Railway Order in March 1899 and track-laying commenced shortly afterwards. The line opened on Good Friday in 1901.
The journey was notable because it crossed the meandering River Stour at several points on wooden bridges. Such a pleasant journey meant that, on Bank Holidays, Black Country workers would head for Kinver in huge numbers. In fact, on Whit Monday in 1905, with fares at just 3 old pennies, it was recorded that 16,699 passengers were transported to Kinver, billed as the Switzerland of Staffordshire.
The Kinver Light Railway ceased operating in February 1930 - ironically, it would be a huge tourist attraction today! The depot is still much in evidence and, in the 21st century, was used by Laser Quest. The buildings had earlier been used as a greengrocery warehouse.
The perambulation now returns south-east up the High Street back towards the start at Holy Trinity Church. The gates of Corbett Hospital have thankfully survived. Indeed, following a local campaign led by ward councillor Christine Perks, around £5,000 was spent on repairing and renovating the gates in 2012. The gates were already in a bit of state before being hit by a van which bent some sections. The repair work was undertaken by Dorothea Restorations of Bristol.
The lodge, the last remant of the old Corbett Hospital, stands just inside the gates. I took this photograph in 2007 and if you think the building looks a bit tatty you should see the place as I type in 2020. The offices were vacated and the vandals and scrap metal thieves swooped on the building.
The lodge was a security measure for the hospital that was not open to the general public who could wander in willy-nilly. The hospital was originally designated for the treatment of industrial injuries and the hospital could only be accessed through the gates and a porter would check for a ticket before access was granted. This was long before the NHS and tickets were obtained via paid subscriptions through an employer or workers association. Moreover, in an age when infections could not be controlled through antibiotics, strict measures had to be taken in order to protect those who had been admitted to hospital with open wounds or facing surgery. Those who were not able to access the facilities at the Corbett Hospital were sent to the workhouse infirmary at Wordsley.
Corbett Hospital owed its origins to John Corbett who was born at Brierley Hill in 1817, the son of a canal boat operator. John Corbett earned the title of 'Salt King' after he built up a derelict brine works at Stoke Prior and turned it into the most successful in the country. As a philanthropist John Corbett offered his Georgian mansion, 'The Hill,' for conversion into a hospital and it was opened in 1893. He had bought The Hill estate for £6,500 the previous year.
The house had originally been the home of John Grove in the early 18th century and was later occupied by Thomas Rogers who operated a large glasshouse in Holloway End. He was the grandfather of Samuel Rogers, the poet famous for 'The Pleasures of Memory' published in 1792. When the Corbett Hospital first opened a large fête was held in Amblecote, the residents being awarded a special "day off" to celebrate the occasion. John Corbett died at the great house he had built near Droitwich. Built in the French style for his wife, this has been dubbed Chateau Impney.
Continuing along the main road, there used to be a long row of cottages on the left where a Vauxhall garage now stands. A shop along here was once run by the herbalist George Denton and his wife Eliza. The couple are pictured [above] on the doorstep of their premises. Perhaps local residents who did not have a ticket for the neighbouring Corbett Hospital could take their chances with one of the potions concocted by George Denton. Born in 1838 at Lavendon in Buckinghamshire, George Denton started work in the lace trade as a youngster. He moved north to the Black Country and married Eliza, a Corngreaves woman. By the early 1870s they were living in Wednesbury where George worked as a wheel turner. George Denton took his wife and returned to his home village where he found work as a shoe riveter. By this time the Denton's had four children. I have no idea how George re-invented himself but he moved north again to Amblecote and became a medical herbalist. If George took any of his own medicine he didn't do too bad. He lived to the age of 77 and died in 1916.
Harrington House used to stand in the cul-de-sac called The Holloway. The house became the vicarage in 1926 and served in this role for 50 years when it was demolished and new housing, including a modern vicarage, was erected on the site in 1976. Just after The Holloway there is an old wall to the rear of the car park for the former Royal Oak. The wall is the last fragment of a boundary wall for the Rising Sun public-house.
And so we are back at Holy Trinity Church after a look around Amblecote. I hope you found it interesting.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on Amblecote - perhaps you drank in one of the pubs in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican running one of the boozers? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I will post it here.
Related Newspaper Articles
"On Sunday morning last, as three young girls were going across the fields that lie between Amblecote church and Brierley Hill chapel,
they were overtaken by a man smoking his pipe. As soon as he had passed them they observed a quantity of smoke proceeding from the right-hand pocket of his coat,
but took no notice of it till, after few minutes longer, the smoke began to increase so much that one of them observed that the man's pocket must be on fire;
they accordingly hastened on to inform him of it, but before they could overtake him he had discovered it himself. It appeared that he had previously put his lighted
pipe in his pocket, which had set it on fire, for upon examining it the lining was all consumed, his pocket handkerchief burnt nearly to tinder, and a large hole
burnt through his pocket, which consisted strong velveteen."
"Caution to Smokers"
Worcestershire Chronicle : December 27th 1848 Page 5.
"Richard Durben, crate-maker, Coalbournbrook, and John Baker, brick-maker, Dennis Park, Brettell Lane, were charged with having
assaulted, on the 9th inst. Eliza Cooper, a shop-keeper living at Coalbournbrook. Several witnesses supported the complainant in a statement to the effect that the
defendant, on the night of the 9th inst. pushed open the door of her house, and when remonstrated with assaulted her, Baker striking her with his fist. The Bench
thought there was no evidence on which the charge against Durben could stand, and discharged him, after which he gave evidence on behalf of Baker, stating that he
stumbled against the door of the complainant's house as he was passing, and after that complainant ran out and tore his jacket. She was drunk at the time, and
inside her house were two men who were quite tipsy. The case against Baker also was dismissed."
"Charge of Assaulting a Woman"
County Advertiser & Herald : March 23rd 1878 Page 3.
"On Thursday morning a serious fire occurred at Messrs. John Hall and Co's firebrick works, Amblecote. Messrs. Hall and Co. carry on
a very extensive business in firebricks and retorts, and on their premises have a large number of brick and retort stoves. It was in one of the retort stoves that a
night watchman discovered flames shortly before five o'clock. They were confined to one end of the building, but rapidly spread. Mr. Fletcher, the foreman, and Mr.
Jackson, the manager, were called to the spot, and shortly afterwards the Stourbridge Fire Brigade, under Lieutenant Ford and Superintendent Williams, arrived, and
got to work with a steam fire engine and a manual. Meanwhile the fire had made considerable headway and it was with great difficulty that it could be mastered and
eventually extinguished. It was seen that the building in which the flames broke out was doomed, and the efforts of the brigade were directed as much as possible to
save the adjoining buildings. In this they succeeded. The damage estimated at £800 or £900. The building is insured, but the stock is not insured. The roof
and floor of the building, which was a large one of two storeys, were completely destroyed and the brigade were occupied some three hours and a half before the fire
could be safely left. The loss consists chiefly of the damage to the building, together with the destruction of a number of retorts in stock, carpenter's tools,
"Serious Fire at Amblecote"
County Express : March 28th 1885 Page 8.
"As stated in a recent issue of the County Express, the Rev. Barten Wilcocksen Allen, the popular curate of Amblecote, is leaving the parish
for Southport. On Monday evening a farewell tea party was given in the National Schools, Coalbournbrook, and the occasion was also taken advantage of to make a
presentation to Mr. Allen in recognition of his work in the parish. It is three years since Mr. Allen's advent among the people of Amblecote, and during his
sojourn here he has made himself beloved and respected by all. He has worked most ardently in the parish, especially among the poor, the sick, and needy, whom his
leaving will be very keenly felt. His mission room work was of great advantage, and the services came as blessing to many of the parishioners who were too feeble to
undertake the journey to the church. He has held himself aloof from politics, and this, no doubt, explains his happy relationship with all classes and grades of people.
He entered heartily into all harmless pastimes, and his services were always readily given any deserving object. He had provided at his own expense a football field
for the boys of the school and the choir, and he also started a fife and drum band. In token of their respect the teachers and children of the schools subscribed and
purchased a beautifully-worked brass book rest and two candlesticks. He worked most assiduously in the schools, and his removal will be greatly felt by both
teachers and children. About 130 sat down to the tea, which was provided Mr. Davis, of Stourbridge."
"Presentation to the Rev. Allen"
Dudley Mercury : April 14th 1888 Page 5.
"Mrs. Mary Melmore Moore was, in London, yesterday, granted a divorce from the Rev. Ernest George John Moore, formerly vicar of Amblecote,
because of his desertion and adultery. The case was undefended. Counsel stated that the petitioner had been granted a decree of restitution of conjugal rights, and the
order had been served on the respondent in India. He had not obeyed it, and that constituted the desertion. The respondent wrote to petitioner confessing adultery with
a young widow, in whose company he was thrown very much while abroad."
"Vicar's Wife Obtains Divorce"
Staffordshire Sentinel : January 18th 1908 Page 7.
"We regret to announce the death of Mr. William Haynes, of Derwent House, Dennis Street, Amblecote. The deceased gentleman, who was 66 years
of age, had been in failing health for some seven months, and his death, which occurred on Saturday. was not wholly unexpected. He had been attended during his illness by
Dr. Guy Grindlay. Mr. Haynes was of a quiet and retiring disposition, and did not take any part in the public work of the district. A glass cutter by trade, Mr. Haynes
only retired some eight months ago, after being in the employ of Messrs. Boulton and Mills for 55 years. The funeral was on Wednesday, at Holy Trinity Church, Amblecote."
"Death of William Haynes"
County Express : October 26th 1912 Page 5.
"Last week news reached Mrs. Bristow, of Amblecote, that her son, Pte. Percy Bristow, of the 9th Lancers, had been sent to Moss Bride Hospital
Lancs., suffering from an attack of Pneumonia. Pte. Bristow was with Captain Grenfell in the famous charge of the Lancers, and later at Messines saved the life of one of
his comrades who had been wounded. On another occasion, when Captain Grenfell called for volunteers to rescue a number of guns, Pte. Bristow was one of the number who
volunteered. The guns were rescued, but about half the volunteers were killed."
"An Amblecote Hero"
Dudley Chronicle : January 9th 1915 Page 3.
"Mr. Richard Bertrand Moore, only son of Mr. and Mrs. Rowland Moore, of Oakleigh, Amblecote, has been granted a commission as a second lieutenant,
and is now attached to the 3rd Battalion of the Somersetshire Light Infantry, stationed at Plymouth. He is an old Stourbridge Edwardian and enlisted at the commencement
of the war in the 2nd Birmingham City Battalion, and after completing his training was drafted to France, where he served for 12 months. Whilst on active service he was
gassed and subsequently wounded, after which he was sent to England at the request of the War Office. He is at present over on leave, but joins his Battalion next week.
The announcement that Mr. Moore has been gazetted will occasion much pleasure locally. It is an honour well merited, and the family's many friends will extend their
hearty congratulations to Mr. Moore."
"Commission for Amblecote Soldier"
Dudley Chronicle : February 17th 1917 Page 5.
"Amblecote residents fear an untouched piece of land which acts as an oasis for wildlife behind Corbett Outpatients Centre may be under threat
from development. The site, off Vicarage Road, is included in the Black Country Core Strategy's call for sites document which aims to identify future building land and
residents have reported seeing surveyors on-site in recent weeks. The strategy document suggests the five-hectare site, which is currently used for grazing, could
accommodate up to 130 new homes and bosses at the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust, which owns the site, have admitted the Trust is currently exploring options for the
land. Diane Wake, chief executive at the Dudley Group, said: "In light of financial challenges that face the NHS and the Trust, we have a duty to make the best use
of our resources. We are reviewing all of our non-operational assets to see what opportunities may exist for the Trust." She added: "We have a parcel of
land at the rear of the Corbett Outpatients Centre that is owned by the Trust which is carrying out exploratory investigations to understand the current state of the land
so that options can be explored. When we make a decision about the land then we will of course consult with our neighbours." Resident Nile Rickard said: "It's
very unnerving." He believes the land should be given over as a nature reserve and he added: "I have observed a lot of wildlife including families of foxes and
a wide range of birds. I'm always seeing herons down there, it wouldn't surprise me if there could be a heronry down there." Amblecote councillor Paul Bradley
said: "There is no application as yet but it's only a matter of time before the Trust put it on the open market. It's a lovely green oasis that's full
of wildlife and I would fight tooth and nail to keep it that way. We should not be building on our precious green spaces. I believe we used to have the Amblecote carnivals
on this land." The land was part of The Hill estate which was bought by 'Salt King' John Corbett for a hospital in 1892 - and in 1948 it, along with all
hospital land, was acquired by the newly-formed NHS. A previous campaign for housing in 1992 was rejected and worried residents hope any fresh bid to develop it would
again be kicked into the long grass. Historian Helen Cook, a member of Amblecote History Society, said: "This is a green field site with an important wildlife
habitat and it is just about the last piece of original Amblecote left. It's a hidden gem." She added that "the site is a home and travel corridor for all
manner of creatures including birds, owls, bats, amphibians, small mammals, foxes and badgers as well as insects" and stated that "The whole of the meadow is
food source to sustain wildlife, whether it is living on the site or passing through, especially in an environment where we are drastically losing these habitats which
are so important." Amblecote councillor Julie Baines said she would oppose any development on the site and added: "It was John Corbett's intention that
the meadow should be used to benefit the health of the community. That purpose is as relevant today as it was when the land was put into trust in 1892."
"Amblecote residents fear Corbett hospital land development"
by Bev Holder in Stourbridge News
April 18th 2019.