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Posts Tagged ‘Hopwas’

The Woodhouse is back as the dignified representative of this latest underground themed post! UKurbex put the   pictures below on their website showing the pictures they bravely took of the cellars of the now probably flattened Woodhouse, Hopwas(see earlier posts for more details) These photos are an invaluable  testament as far as I know there was no interior inspection by English Heritage people. Without putting my neck out too much they must be the same 18th century´Ale cellars´  mentioned in 1770. It’s a double cellar with barrel vaulting complete with alcoves.

The cellars below the Woodhouse got me thinking about the fate of cellars below demolished buildings. What happened to the Woodhouse cellar? the woodhouse is probably now flattened, what I wonder happens to the cellars of these building when demolished?After having a look around at demolition procedures it seems that most are backfilled. Is this a thorough process?. I imagine that modern building regulations are pretty strict nowadays about not leaving any empty spaces below but you never know. Following this line of thought the older the demolition the more chances that the cellar hasn´t been thoroughly backfilled and erased and maybe some pitch black part of the cellars lies preserved below like an egyptian burial chamber.

Abe and Ernst entering a sealed abandoned farm cellar Tutankarmun style.

 

The chances of partly preserved cellars opens up a world of underground possibilities. Farm building where cellars were commonplace dating from the 18th and 19th centuries dot the landscape and many have disappeared for various reasons. Below is one case, Ashlands Farm  in the Tamworth timehikes area situated in the eastern part of the Blog´s area above the River Anker.Its an area that has many abandoned sites, a post apocalyptic  landscape below idyllic meadows!.

Above the location of Ashlands farm. Ploughing has left alone  the mound of rubble, leaving the disturbed ground idyll for brambles and blackberries to the delight of my hunter-gatherer father below.

Above the rubble from Ashlands farm. The driveway with it´s  soon to be fossilised trackways  still connect the farm rubble with Ashby road. From looking at old ordnance maps the farm dates back to at least the late 18th century and looked quite substantial. It became a mound of rubble in the 70´s/ 80´s for reasons unknown, maybe something to do with the economic downturn.  It´s a good candidate for an old cellar. Does it remain below partly intact, blackest black, a pocket of 1970´s air, with an assortment of antiquated farm equipment or maybe overfermented ciders in the dormant cellars? I´d like to think that’s the case! I can´t find any  literature on investigating old cellars in the UK, although in eastern USA there are people who look for dips showing where root cellars were located dating back to colonial rural houses. In the absence of any literature on investigating cellars below demolished farm houses maybe could develop a manual. Locate the cellar entrance on old plans,maps or the best location for cellars, and start digging through bricks, concrete. Sounds like hard work maybe best to leave it a couple of hundred of years until they become valuable enough or futuristic archaeological tools are developed to see below ground !

On another note I´d just to write a big heartfelt thanks for all the support and bigupping from Bob from blog of local legend Brownhillsbob. It gets a bit lonely sometimes marooned on the island of Tamworth timehikes with just a couple of made up characters(Abe and Ernst) to keep me company so much appreciated!!

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These are a collection of photos taken a few years back of the sand deposits in the quarry on Hopwas Hill behind the Lichfield Transmitter mast taken at the dawn of the digital camera age. I remember it was my brother´s great  idea to take up close up pictures of the dunes, capturing miniature desert landscapes. As quarries are constantly constructing and destroying landscapes, I don´t know what appearance it would have now but the quarry is still there in full swing.

The quarrying activity reveal and resurrect or at least evoke long dead landscapes. The sands and rounded pebbles in the area, so sought after by the quarries come from Triassic deserts and river deltas(250-200 million years ago). This is information I remember from geography lessons at school, so might not be entirely accurate but definitely made an impression on me and is now part of the story of the place for me( corrections are welcome).

Go back hundreds of millions of ago and find yourself surrounded by giant river delta in a desert setting reminiscent of pre-human Egypt maybe.

Tamworth Timehikes 250 million years ago

If you can´t do that find the next best thing and that´s taking a look and immersing yourself in the prehistoric landscapes created by the quarry. Below is a winding river in the desert created by the quarry, ideally with some large reptiles in the background.

Below are the photos of Tamworth timehike´s very own desert. There windows into a very ancient world, the oldest visible landscape in the Tamworth timehikes area, as well as some of the newest. The sands from those primordial times having  a brief second life. Triassic sands again are being exposed to the elements and set free.

Below an oasis on the horizon

Abe and Ernst couldn´t resist the  One thousand and one nights setting on their doorste.

There was  something of The Planet of the Apes, Forbidden zone about the place too

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The demolishing of the Woodhouse is happening right now(see comment on post, woodhouse 1730-2010) , so thought it was time to post the authorities decision to allow demolition.

Below English Heritage have kindly allowed me to share the  English Heritage advice report in response to my application  and the reasons for it being denied. It’s quite detailed and has some fascinating new information on it´s possible use in WWII as a look out post and that maybe the remodelling of  the tower dates from this period. For me this at least was not a reason to demolish it, but actually added historic value to the place. I understand that it was difficult case and that it was a difficult one to preserve and renovate, but if only the authorities had reacted earlier and were more open-minded in their criteria(it´s not all country houses!).

The Ministry of Culture didn´t think it was relevant to protect. I disagree, it was an impressive, highly interesting and unusual historic house, badly managed  in the middle of an ancient wood. A little piece of magic and mystery has been taken away, I repeat  this was an old historic house in middle of ancient wood= that´s special. It was a hidden treasure on Tamworth´s footstep for so many reasons .

At times it feels like some sort of Chairman Mao cultural revolution policy is in place in the area in terms of   it´s past.

Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for the views held in Abe and Ernst´s protest.

Here´s a link to UKurbanex´s photo archive on the woodhouse, many of them interior photos. There´s some great pictures there, those photos are now historic! There´s even photos of the Woodhouse cellar. Ok the place needed tidying up and there was some really dodgy paintwork  but with some imagination…..

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The first adventure for Abe and Ernst is aptly going to be to do with windmills, Don Quijote´s giants in the landscape. Ernst and Abe are not going to have much luck in finding windmills around Tamworth, as there isn´t any. Tamworth being crisscrossed by rivers was ideally suited for watermills.  There were though at least a couple of windmills nearby in the not too distant past, with one more ‘maybe’ windmill.

Windmill Hill, Whittington

This is the ‘maybe’ windmill. In the fields between the village of Whittington and Hopwas  stands Windmill Hill, at the end of windmill lane( in the above present day ordnance map its marked in orange, notice the firing range nearby…

Abe and Ernst doing the research in the reference part of Tamworth library, there´s wasn´t much out there, basically there´s just the 1899-1903  ordnance map below with windmill hill marked. Thats about it that´s all there they have to go on. It´s a great location for a windmill but its not recorded in any map dating it as far back as 1815, so either  there was a windmill here before that or it was wishful thinking when it came to naming the hill.

I wonder if Whittington History Society know more about it?

Windmill hill is at one of the highest points in the area, and would have been seen for miles around like a smaller version of the present day Lichfield transmitter mast, if it did indeed exist.

The 1899-1903 ordnance map with Windmill Hill clearly marked, is the associated windmill lane some sort of remnant path? did it once lead to the windmill?

Abe and Ernst tried to check these questions and more out on the ground. The bad news is that there´s a firing range nearby used by the military and they were caught in the cross-fire. Will they survive? you´ll have to wait…………………….

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THE WOODHOUSE 1730-2010

This is a pretty apt subject for heritage weekend with a heavy dose of bitter irony. It´s official The Woodhouse, Hopwas  is being demolished. Photos of the fenced off area appeared on the Midlands heritage forum and my spot listing application  failed at the last hurdle with the ministry of culture. Many thanks for the support and information from people within heritage and others.

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RIVER JOURNEYS

My search for ways to investigate and ultimately enjoy the surrounding area around Tamworth had led me to contemplate a while back, travelling on the areas rivers(a canoe not a yacht!). This has been held back by many things, thinking about it too much, lack of watercraft,lack of experience, the appearance of that series by Griff Rhys Jones and looking like a desperate copycat, the weather, fear, and the lack of a sancho panza to accompany me on the trip. But most of all is the doubt of whether it was legal or not. After looking at the legability issue it turns out that most rivers are non-navigable and thus considered trespassing if you venture out onto the river.The riverbed belongs to the person who owns the adjoining land. The river Tame and Anker fall into this category which is a great shame.All is not lost though as there is a heart lifting organisation campaigning for British rivers to be made navigable- The Rivers Access Campaign

They make some really good points and I´ll only highlight a few below:

i)In England and Wales unlike elsewhere in the world the public cannot assume the automatic right to access the rivers. Only 2% of rivers in England and Wales are accessible.

ii)Canoeists do not harm river fauna and English nature stated that is no significant impact to wildlife from the passage of canoes.

iii)The access situation is not a canoeing v fishing issue. All over the world fishing happily coexists with canoeing. In Scotland where access to rivers has been opened up there has been no harm to angling interests.

Tamworth and the surrounding area are particularly rich in rivers. It’s the very reason why Tamworth is situated where it is at the confluence of the Rivers Anker and Tame, and to illustrate this Tamworth derives its name from one of those rivers. Tamworth and the surrounding area like so much of lowland England is a sort of ´river-world´ it´s presence is everywhere, it shapes and defines its landscapes. Rivers were also very important economically and numerous mills were situated along the rivers, starting with the saxon watermill excavated in the 70´s on the river anker  and ending with Alders Paper mill. In Victorian and Edwardian times the Tame was an area for recreational boating, why did this stop?

The photo below shows boating on the river Tame back in the day, looks pretty appealing, taken from Staffordshire past track

Delving into Staffordshire past track archives here is more evidence of the fine tradition of  boating on Tamworth rivers

river Anker boathouse, Tamworth, 1900-1930

woodcut engraving, Tamworth 1843, notice the mill behind Ladybridge

river Tame near Tamworth, 1788-1855(c)

Canoeing down the river would be a great way to experience the landscape,the socio-economic importance of the river means many sites are along the rivers, imagine leaving alvecote pools, down the quiet unspoilt Anker, below the old railway bridges,sailing past the picture perfect castle and not  so picture perfect towers, onto the ladybank and moathouse and after somehow negotiating the ´waterfall´ onto the meadows and woods in Hopwas, Tamhorn, and Elford. All this with the right training and equipment as rivers like the sea shouldn´t be underestimated. Sounds perfect?  well you can´t do it.


one possible route  through Tamworth that a canoeist could take, journey stopped at dangerous looking  waterfall

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Continuing with the theme of an earlier post, here are a few more stories of woe from Hopwas Woods spanning six  centuries.

From Dyott’s Diary, dated january 1834:

An atrocious poaching case occurred in Tom Levett’s wood at Hopwas Hays. His keepers were on the look-out, and at two o’clock in the night of Sunday they fell in with six men, three of them armed with guns. One of the keepers in pursuit of a poacher had a miraculous escape. The fellow, finding he was likely to be taken, turned round, levelled his gun and fired. The muzzle of the gun was so close to the keeper that his neck handkerchief was blackened by the powder, and his jacket near the collar singed. A slug was discovered in the jacket, and his shoulder, or rather collar-bone, grazed. The rascal made his escape. Three of the poachers were taken and brought before me, and committed for trial.

With the title portrait of the Rev. Thomas Levett and Favourite Dogs, Cock-shooting painted by the Romantic period painter James Ward in 1811. This is a depiction of  the owner of Hopwas Woods, protagonist of the two Dyott diary stories, and avid hunter. His residence was nearby Packington Hall, could the woods in the painting be Hopwas Woods?

From Dyotts diary, dated august, 1834:

A human skeleton was discovered in Hopwas Hays by some labourers getting stone near the bank of the canal. From appearance it was conjectured to have been in the ground twenty years. A report was in circulation that a man had been murdered near the spot about that time, and that the supposed murderer had died about a year ago, but nothing authentick could be traced. Tom Levett’s man came to ask my advice what was to be done, as his master was out of the county. Knowing that Tom Levett would be naturally anxious to have proper steps taken as to Coroner’s Inquest, etc., in consequence of the Hays being 1834 extra-parochial, I caused the circumstance and particulars to be communicated to the coroner, and to have his opinion as to an inquest. He decided that as there was no evidence to inquire into, he saw no necessity for holding an inquest. The mouldering remains were therefore conveyed to the bone-house in Tamworth Church, and there deposited.
There is a disused quarry on the woodland side next to the bank of the canal which is a good candidate for the quarry mentioned in the story above

This is a story taken from Simonsplaces findings in the Herald archives, it tells the story behind the name of Knox grave lane in Hopwas:
In the latter part of the 18th century a little known young Highwayman called Knox( his first name is not known) lived in Hopwas. He came from a farm labourers cottage from very poor parents. He would lie in wait in the country lanes for the solitary traveler returning home late at night from a local inn and hit him from behind with a heavy cudgel. One story is that he lived a hermit-like existence in a cave in Hopwas Woods.

One dark night he had robbed a traveler of pistol, powder and shot and two nights later he stepped out of the bushes to hold up a coach. When the coach halted and Knox demanded the mailbox, out came for Army Officers returning from leave. In his panic to escape Knox failed to fire the pistol and he was captured, tried and hanged within three days. His parents retrieved the body and are believed to have buried it in the lane close to their cottage.


Plea rolls for Staffordshire-18, Edward II(1284-1327) from British History Online

….Hugh de Attelbergh, who stated on their oath that on the Tuesday before the Feast of St. Peter ad Vincula, during the night, one Roger de Wetewode was passing near the Haye of Hope was, by a certain path leading to the vill of Hope was, and the said William le Lou stopped him in the vill of Hopewas, and wished to attach him because he had passed by night through the forest, and a dispute being thus raised between them one Roger son of Roger de Swynnerton came up suddenly and killed the said William son of William le Lou; and the said Roger de Wetewode aided and abetted the death of the said William, and they also said that the said Roger and Roger immediately fled, so that they knew nothing respecting the harbouring or reception of them by others, nor whether the said William was killed by the procurement of anybody, or whether his death had been previously arranged by anybody. The Sheriff was therefore commanded to arrest the said Roger and Roger, and produce them coram Rege at the Quindene of Easter. A postscript states that at the Quindene of Easter, 18 E. II., one Richard de Peshale appeared in Court before the King himself “coram Rege ipso,” and produced the King’s Letters Patent pardoning the said Roger son of Roger de Swynnerton for all felonies committed before the Feast of Christmas. Dated from Winchester, 2 May, 18 E. II. The said Roger son of Roger was therefore quit of the King’s suit. m. Rex, 1.

Taken from Staffordshire forest pleas-michaelmass, 55, Henry III (1207-1272) from British History Online

A presentment was made against Alured de Moloney, Hugh de Tymmor, James his brother, William de Mulveton, and John Salveyn, for entering the Haye of Hopewas, 53 H. III., with greyhounds, bows, and arrows, for the purpose of hunting  a stag . Hugh and James were committed to prison. James was afterwards released for a fine of 20s., for which John de Tresel and Henry de Morf are his sureties.




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