Hopwas is an ancient, alluring wood near to the coton part of Tamworth, one of its mysteries is the woodhouse. It’s a group of red brick buildings right in the middle of the spooky wood on one of the highest points. As a kid I remember getting to a well-kept path, but no closer. There were dogs or either I imagined them. Anyway it was probably inhabited at that time, talking about 20 years ago. My interest was reignited after seeing it in the midlands heritage forum, boarded up and blatantly abandoned. After a bit of armchair exploring on the internet(I was in Valencia at the time) found some very interesting info about it. it´s mentioned in William Pitt´s topographical history of staffordshire 1817´ Hopwas is a small hamlet situated at the bottom of a hill, the most remarkable object on which is a house on the summit, environed by a wood called Hopwas Hayes´
Going further back a building in the same location appears in William Yate’s map of Staffordshire, 1775(building at end of track on the lower part of the wood).
taken from http://www.staffspasttrack.org.uk
I’m saving the best to last. Looking at a sketch of a place called hopwas hayes lodge dated to 1786 from the William salt library and then comparing the sketch and a modern photo(see below, bit small) you can see it´s pretty much the same group of buildings!! What was the tower used for(I know looking out of but are there any other examples? )
It’s amazing the integral survival of a unique group of buildings in such a special place and it’s recording in a sketch from 1786! What’s more the details on the etching state the buildings go back to around 1750 and the artist behind it was J. Spyer who recorded many of Capability Brown’s projects. He has watercolors of Capability Brown’s landscaping at the nearby ephermeral Fisherwick estate, who’s owner the Marquiss of Donegall commissioned the above sketch of the woodhouse.
The group of buildings has almost no information on the internet or in print and it’s difficult to know much more about the place. From Julian Woodward at The Hopwas appreciation society/ facebook I’ve gleaned that it was probably a hunting lodge built by the ostentatious Marquess of Donegall ( 1739-1799) resident at the bling Fisherwick Hall. After falling into debt it was sold to John Levett(1721-1799). At this time Mr John Wood was living at the house working as a gamekeeper. Hopwas wood was passed to his nephew Thomas Levett and from my own finding I can afirm that it was inhabited by Joseph Tomlinson, the woodsman and his family in 1834(source, history, gazetteer, and directory of Staffordshire,W, White) . So we can surmise it was the lodging of the woodsman/ gamekeeper. We know that Hopwas Hayes dates back a thousand years to Anglo saxon times, it’s status was royal and it was a number of Hayes in the area so it would likely have had woodsmen, is the woodhouse a continuation of earlier dwellings?
In recent times(probably talking from around the 60’s-90’s) it was inhabited by entrepeuner and founder of Drayton Manor themepark George Bryan. He had a number of properties but this was one of his favourites. He was responsible for a number of modifications, he extended the tower and landscaped the gardens. He was fond of stargazing and the tower was a great place for it(source my mom)
I don’t know when it was abandoned and the reasons why, there are rumours that it belongs to the military or to Tarmak, it’s cordoned off and bricked up. It’s not mentioned in any listed building lists or any official register which is crazy considering the uniqueness of the set of buildings and its history, the mystery grows…..
Okay I’ll stop writing as I don’t think blog posts should be so long, should they? and let the photos do the talking.
main entrance, covered in oil and barbed wire, special forces training to get past or just go round the side!
notice the lawn or ‘green’ in the foreground is being looked after.
free-standing structure in front of the main buildings, was it originally a barn? It’s had modifications and the two entrances correspond to it being turned into a garage. It’s got an add-on structure with an interesting object inside, see below….
a type of stove/oven still with its wooden cover