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Posts Tagged ‘housing estates’

Since writing this series on underground spaces(see  underground categories) in the Tamworth area, I´m seeing and imagining  tunnels, subterranean spaces everywhere!

Here´s a short incomplete  list of some of the places I´ve seen, read or heard about subterranean spaces the last mont; Exploration Forums like Dark places and organisations Subterranea Britannica.Queries about rumours of underground tunnels in nearby Lichfield. Blogs entries like this entry  from the  Cheltonia blog which includes  underground cellars, also the oft cited bldgs blog and it´s  fascination with some fascinating subterranean worlds. Then just when I want to get away from it all I start seeing it in films I´ve recently seen , Hellboy 2, Fantastic Mr Fox on and others I can´t remember right now.  Even when I go on to a visit of the San Miguel de los Reyes  Monastery here in Valencia where on betting that tunnels will be mentioned,  the guide overheard me and sure enough went onto to tell the story of escape tunnels excavated beneath the monastery into the fields when the monastery was used as a prison in and after the Spanish Civil war and until the 60´s.

The San Miguel monastery above where the Great escape style tunnel breakout took place. The escapees actually got away with it and were never caught! The guide mentions that he knew one of the prison guards who was there when the escape happened. The tunnel story should be an integral part of the tour because as everybody knows people love tunnel  stories.

The reasons for popularity of underground spaces are many. They appeal to our sense of adventure and  mystery, they captivate and repel us with  fear, filth, darkness. They are metaphors for other worlds, alternative worlds and in past cultures provided the gateway to the other world(s),

Whatever the reasons I´ve got to stop and move on with this  subterranean fixation, so this is the last post(for now) on underground spaces in the Tamworth Timehikes area.

It´s the new year(Happy New Year!), days are getting longer, the sun is shining(at least in Valencia) so it´s time for Abe and Ernst to step out from the shadows of  the underworld, and  onto exploring the surface world, but just before couldn´t resist  one last dip  into  the depths of the underworld of Tamworth Timehikes.

Secret tunnel in the village of Hints.

In proof that secret tunnels can even be used as a selling point, Paul Carr estate agents advertise the 1,500,000 pound  Vicarage in the village of Hints with the possibility of your very own  secret tunnel included between the vicarage known as Chadwick house and the church of St Bartholomews.

The vicarage and rebuilding of the present church of St Bartholomews  was built and paid for by the cotton entrepeneur James Chadwick. Did this building work  include a secret tunnel? Is this one of those follies that the landed gentry loved so much in pre-television days?

hypothetical route of the secret tunnel taking the shortest route between the two places.

If it was a rich man´s whim then the 50 metre stretch of tunnel would be an expensive and labour heavy whim. Sure enough I´ve enquired about the secret tunnel story and it´s source with the estates agents with no response. Rising to the challenge I´ve sent out emails to Hints forum, church of St Bartholomew and have been met with a wall of silence. This could be due to it a) being some masonic millennium old secret,b)no interest in pesky emails about tunnels(can´t be true) c)went to wrong person, or d) simply haven´t got round to answering the query. Take your pick.

Could be part of the thought that Hints is apart from being a beautifully located place is to my eyes a zealously guarded  private place. It´s long drives with houses out of view, narrow high hedged roads, lack of a public space(no pub) all indicate it, to me anyway. It´s private architecture  is so well conceived that the village seems to be almost invisible! The annual Hints Open garden festival only accentuates the privacy of the place the rest of the year. Hints is by no means unique in these characteristics, it´s in fact the norm for the affluent rural english countryside.

Old Tamworth town hall dungeon

The above picture is taken from the superb  English Buildings blog, which pays homage to the architecture of old town hall. The 1701 building with later additions is indeed a very special building but here as is becoming tradition straight onto it´s underground credentials.

The ever reliable and highly detailed  1875 The History Town and Castle by Charles Ferrers describes the underground dungeon beneath the town hall built in 1812. He describes the dungeon as small, but dry and clean and goes onto say that prisoners are usually removed to the jails in the county-towns with very little delay.

I have a very murky memory of someone talking about an entrance to an underground space at the town hall. This may have fed in part to the story of Tamworth´s ley tunnel from the castle to church. Secret tunnel stories do  seem to usually have something tangible in their origins. Most towns have these stories and could be folk  ways of explaining long forgotten subterranean spaces like long ale cellars, medieval conduits,  and in some cases real genuine tunnels!

The mining areas and coal fields of Kettlebrook,Glasgote, amington, Polesworth.


I´m showing the above 1899 ordnance map taken from Staffordshire past  track(click here for the site)to show that this area was riddled with mining activity.The disused collieries and associated shafts are everywhere and it must be a swiss cheese of mines beneath the area! Most if not all are infilled , shafts tapped but is there an abandoned underworld of old machinery, shafts and tunnels beneath the extensive housing estates that will outlive what´s above?

Underground railways from the 1950´s at the now defunct Birch Coppice colliery taken from windows on Warwickshire shows an underground world created and worked in by the miners.

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While googling info for the underground Tamworth timehikes series , came across this very Lovecraftesque information about a desolute field somewhere in Staffordshire  It just needs some ´race of half humans´ and Clhutlhu overtones and that’s it. It´s taken  from a history of Staffordshire By Dr Plot written in the late 18th century, here´s the excerpt below:

A laborer who was in a desolate field digging a trench came upon a large iron plate that lay beneath the dirt. The hatch was described as being large and oval with an iron ring mounted upon it. This entrance according to those that investigated lead to a large selection of tunnels, the field in located in a valley that is surrounded at both sides with trees.

Great introduction for any budding novelists out there.


Glascote Reservoir

Glascote reservoir 1 is located next to the 1979 reservoir in  Glascote in Tamworth. The post is about the first one as there exists  the possibility that it’s a contender for the finest underground space in Tamworth.

The covered reservoir shown in the 1899 Ordnance map taken from Staffordshire Past track

It was built at the high point of Victorian engineering or ´overengineering´ where many of the public works, especially sanitary and drainage systems were spectacular constructions that together with the description from History of South Staffordshire Waterworks could mean that Glascote reservoir has the potential to be an impressive underground Victorian remnant. Below is the excerpt from the book concerning the reservoir

The original Glascote Reservoir, built in 1880, held sufficient water for one and a half days supply. Constructed entirely in brickwork and totally enclosed, the roof consisted of semicircular brick arches springing from arched traverse walls, stiffened by subsidiary flat arches spaced at 13 feet one inch centres. Dimensions of the receptacle are 32.0m. x 31.7m x 4.78m deep. Top water level is 364.6 A.O.D. Built in a mining area, close to the North Warwickshire Colliery, for some years cracks had been observed in the roof and walls of thestructure which were gradually spreading, subsequently the reservoir was taken out ofcommission until remedial work was carried out.

Built entirely of brickwork with semicircular brick arches it could be similar to the reservoirs at Papplewick Pumping station built 1882-1882  at same time. Papplewick is the finest Victorian pumping station in the UK according to their website. Papplewick has been turned into a successful tourist centre. This photo below  is taken from their website, it could give an idea to what might  lie covered at Glascote:

BrownhillBob has a great report of his explorations(with photos) in the archives and on the ground  which do justice to the  now demolished Shire Oak Reservoir here, and is in fact where I got the invaluable link to the History of South Staffordshire waterworks.

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Windmill Farm

taken from OS OpenData showing windmill farm and windmill Close, located on outer limit of Coton Green, Tamworth, click on for larger view.

This is the best candidates for Tamworth´s very own windmill. Moneymore mill is on the outer limits of this blogs area and windmill hill, Whittington is a big maybe.  Windmill´s being the major landmarks they are, leave echoes in the landscape in the form of names. They seem to smother the immediate surrounding area with the words windmill, for example the names Windmill lane, windmill hill, windmill pub. In this case we´ve got the name of the farm itself and the nearby windmill close as reminders of the presence of the windmill. The word windmill has even totally smothered the previous paragraph and the last few posts.

Below is the 1815 ordnance map(taken from British library) with the windmill symbol. In the symbol it appears to have 4 sails, was this a standard windmill symbol or did the cartographer depict the real windmill(probably the former case)? Can´t find  no written  information on the windmill. The only mention is an entry in English Heritage´s pastscape site mentioned  as a windmill mound with the tag post-medieval, although there´s no sign of that either.  The guess is that it was a brick tower windmill like most in the West Midlands.

Below is my  (amateur)  mock-up of what the windmill would have looked like if it was still around, with the back drop of Windmill farm, coton green. The windmill stood at the crossroads of Comberford road and Coton lane

Below is the 1837 ordnance map (from vision of Britain) with the windmill again featured with four sails. The next maps I´ve seen in the area are 1888 ordnance maps and there’s no sign of the windmill. So can surmise that it disappeared at some point between 1837-1888.  In the map below you can make out its location next to the present day Lichfield road, as mentioned before there´s no sign of  a  mound in this exact location( even on Lidar images) so its been ploughed under or I´m looking in the wrong location.

Abe and Ernst wanted to have a look around to get a feel for the place and see if their were any reminders of the windmill. The problem prone pair had a run in with the farm guard dog and just managed to get on the fence.

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Continuing with the earlier post, Before Suburbia, I´m moved along the lost driveway onto Wigginton park, the great big park in the middle of the housing estates of Coton Green and Leyfields, Tamworth. It’s a great monument to the pleasure of grass. When I´ve visited Tamworth with a foreign acquaintance, I only take off their blindfold at a select group of places, including the castle grounds, library/ church and yes Wigginton park, its safe to say they are suitably impressed by the gently sloping park with it´s almost lurid greenery.

Well there´s the introduction, now in the words of the great George Clinton “let’s get deep, get real deep” For reasons of time and sanity,  I´m going to split this  into 2 posts, this one DEEP and the next one REAL DEEP, each  going deeper into Wigginton park´s  past. So here goes

DEEP

Wigginton park conforms approximately to the former Wigginton estate.The information on the estate below  is essentially a reworking of what´s on  Tamworth heritage trust site The Wigginton estate was created at the beginning of the 19th century by John Clarke and his wife Elizabeth. They let the area revert to grass and planted trees, designing the area as a pleasant park. They built a couple of lodges one at the end of Copes drive, now near the Leyfields shops and one called Waterloo  on the western side close to the railway tunnel entrance to Lichfield industrial estate. No evidence remains of them and looking at maps appear to have been demolished in the first part of the 20th century. What does remain is their main residence, nowadays called Wigginton lodge, home of Tamworth rugby club and pub! although never been in there. It´s an attractive white mansion, detailed technical information can be found on the english heritage site. John Clarke an eminent surgeon died in 1815. His brother Charles Clarke inherited it soon after. Like his brother Charles was a surgeon, specialising in children’s ailments. He went onto achieve great fame in the field and became personal physician of Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV. After his death it was sold to the Hamel family. Its auction in 1852 appears in the Solicitors journal, published online. I´ve pasted it below, giving you an idea of life in Wigginton lodge at the time, I love the bit about 3 hours train journey away from London.

Apart from the mansion (above) , and the park itself there’s number of other reminders of the estate’s past.

Above is the 1889 ordnance map with some of the places mentioned in the post pointed out in orange

A lot of the trees would have been planted at the time of it´s creation and after. There´s a particularly leafless creepy example. which seems to be some tree version of the living dead. I´ve got no pictures of it, instead I´ve got one of the tree above that’s probably judging by its age a mute witness to the Waterloo lodge that once  stood next to it.


Above is an old gateway with detail on right, situated next to the original mansion.

The evidence of gravel pits is still there as they appear on the 1884-85 ordnance map. Interestingly the biggest gravel pit as are others in Hopwas are locally known as bombholes. The connotations are a lot more interesting than gravel pits and makes you think of a Lufwaffe pilot gone astray and bombing  Wigginton park, with one hell of a bomb by the looks of the hole. It’s another urban legend in the making, so make sure to tell the kids the´re called “bombholes”


Above, Theres no evidence of the paths that crisscross the estate on the  1901 ordnance map today. Putting the clock back on the google earth image to 2003 though, the genuinely elusive paths are revealed(pointed out with orange arrows)! probably after a dry summer.

There´s more, that I didn´t get a chance to check out over summer. For example on the 1884 ordnance map, an icehouse and saw pit are indicated, is there any evidence  left now?

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This is first in a series of posts  looking at evidence of  BS(before suburbia) pasts  within the housing estate, focusing on Leyfields, Tamworth the estate I grew up in. Travelling along Comberford road in direction to Elford, you´ll come across a drive to the left called Copes drive, it’s an unkept road at the start, full of potholes, the result of some sort of impasse probably between owners and local authorities. It’s the road that I used to use to travel to school as the shortest way to school from Leyfields. Its turns out that this shortcut has  a long history. It’ s  a remnant path or elusive road(fascinating description on Geoff´s BLDG blog), an anomaly remaining from another time, stubbornly refusing to go away.  You can find these ´lost reminders of past built environments´throughout suburbia and I´ll post about other ones found.

This unassuming drive  goes back to at least the late 1700´s(its lost in the mists of time before that, to me anyway), it’s called Copes drive in reference to the owner of the land in the late 18th century Alexander Cope. Later on it was the main thoroughfare to the  Wigginton Lodge estate belonging to distinguished surgeons  the Clarkes.  After Leyfields housing estate was built in the1950´s/60´s it was begrudgingly incorporated into the housing  estate .

Ordnance survey first series, 1834 clearly showing Copes drives connecting Wiggington lodge with Burton Turnpike road(now Comberford road)

The hedge on one side at the start, and the recently sawn down tree at the start are reminders of its age. This part of the drive  with its pot holed surface , is an accidental nod to its ancient pre-tarmaced days.

1902 ordnance survey map, with the surviving Copes drive highlighted. Notice that it´s the first part of the entrance to Wigginton lodge

If you carry on down Copes drive, leave it and cross onto the green which heads to  the famed Leyfields Chippy and former hangout of the defunct Leyfields Barmy Army gang of local legend, you´ll notice a line of horse- chestnut trees. After braving the long grass perfect for hiding dog shit, the trees magically line up in two rows revealing the remnants of  the old tree-lined drive smack bang in the middle of the killing fields of Leyfields! I don´t know much about dating trees but I could imagine them being easily over a 100 years old. The fact that they are all horse-chestnut trees and all look around the same age, leads to think they were deliberately planted at the same time along the drive. Walking in the middle of the row you can see shallow holes where other chestnut trees once were. Theres no path between them now but the trees mark the spot and the walk to the shops will never be the same again.

the tree-lined remnant path.

extremely detailed 1902 ordnance map, with the  tree-lined drive highlighted.

google satellite image with evidence of tree-lined drive highlighted in orange.

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