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Posts Tagged ‘woods’

Below are a few more underground bits and pieces in the area. They all share in common, the fact that they are, as it says in the title, underground spaces beneath country houses and religious places. Country houses as well as religious institutions had the money, influence and power to do things on a grander scale than farms. So it makes sense that the artificial underground spaces are more spectacular and substantial.

So below are the candidates, followed by some likely candidates. For purposes of the post and the series, I´m just focusing on their underground nature and some I´ll be coming back to in later posts with different approaches. I suppose it´s all about how you approach material things, even the most mundane things can become interesting, so much so that sometimes you have to take a step back!

Polesworth vicarage

According to the  historic landscape survey on Polesworth the existing cellar in the 16th century vicarage, I quote, possibly occupies part of the former undercroft of a north-south monastic building to the west of the cloister(Palmer 2000). It looks very possible that part of the cellar dates back to the monastic period. Considering that very little of the once powerful and well-known Polesworth abbey survives, (apart from church and gatehouse) this makes this possible medieval underground space all the more important.

Above photo of  privately owned Vicarage, click on photo to see original flickr source

The cellars of Packington Hall

Packington hallis an intriguing 18th century country estate just outside Hopwas to the west which I´m going to almost totally ignore to go straight into details of it´s dark underbelly. A  structural survey commissioned by the new owners who want to turn the place into flats reveals that the 18th century country house has two cellar areas beneath the main building and rear wing which are in ´sound condition.´Packington hall was designed by famous  18th century architect James Wyatt so maybe those cellars are all the more worth having a look at. By the way no interior inspection by English Heritage people!

In the grounds there was an Icehouse, is it still around? They were common feature in country houses and used for food storage. Icehouses could qualify for an underground feature and icehouse entrances in out of the way places  and forested areas have probably been influential in creating more than one  secret tunnel story.

Comberford Hall

Click the link above to go to the Comerford Family History site, where the plan of the basement and storage room of the late 18th century Comberford hall is taken from. Underground spaces under private residences are enveloped in a double wall of secrecy. What´s underneath we might never know unless Mr Comerford decides upload some photos to his site.

Likely candidates

Deanery

Between the 14th century ragstone walls surviving from  the deanery, immediately to the east of St Editha´s, Tamworth  must lie the soil  infilled vaulted medieval deep cellar belonging to the deanery mentioned in Charles Ferrer´s  history of  town and castle.  Future archaeology studies enjoy!

Site of Fisherwick Hall

This was the site of the very bling bling  but ephemeral Marquess of Donegall´s rebuilt Fisherwick Hall. It was demolished in the early 19th century leaving the coach house and stables. What if the demolishing wasn´t that rigorous and the housekeeper’s room, the servants’ hall, the kitchen, and other offices mentioned in the history of the county of Stafford as located in the basement partly survived.

Above is a  photo taken over summer  in Fisherwick wood. It´s a bridge of expensive stonework hidden in the undergrowth, part of Capability Brown´s landscaped estate. Although not strictly underground, it offers a tantalising glimpse into the potential black  marbled,richly moulded, opulent underworld of Fisherwick Hall

Lastly on the mentioned county of Stafford link there´s a mention of I quote, “access to the house from the lawn in front was by a tunnel under the carriage road. “

What happened to this tunnel? Here´s Welbeck Abbey a  well-known and extensive, somewhat crazy example of tunnels built at the whim of aristocrats beneath a country estate.


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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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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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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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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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There seems to be only two alternatives for the woodhouse(see previous post)  demolish it, leaving a pile of old bricks in a clearing or letting it rot and continuing to be an atmospheric ruin for exploration forums. In a different world there would be another alternative doing something with it! So below are a few ideas for a future for the Woodhouse. They all share parking problems, a very unique access route, 15 minute walk through dense forest and respect for surroundings and people. I don’t have the resources so I’ll just let the ideas float out to space to be caught by a budding entrepreneur in another place and time.

1) I’ll quickly wade past  the usual stuff, craft centre, centre for marriages, events, hotel (b &b or luxury), private housing.

2)tree house exhibition and shop:  the house surrounded by treehouses of all types in the surrounding land. A sort of treehouse exhibition, play area and sales area for tree houses. It’s a bit of a niche market but what better location than the atmospheric settings in the centre of england. Possible combination with tree house hotel.

taken from environmental Graffitis 5 incredible Treehouses

3) eco- hotel: some sort of luxury camping site. It’s all the range according to the media, its called ‘glamping’, I know. There’s all sorts of luxury camping experiences you could do in this place. Star gazing no light pollution nearby, woodcraft workshops, horse riding, woodland dishes, treasure hunting, tales for the kids, whatever Islington types want is possible here.

glamping it up

4) Related to this, is the restaurant in the midst of forest, imagine the unforgettable access route, atmosphere in woods, large open terrace, badger a la carte,  served by people dressed in woodland animal costumes, ok that’s enough

5) Scary house for weekend adventures,etc. No investment apart from conservation of buildings, just leave it as it is, and hey presto you’ve got one spooky place. potential side earner as  filming location.

6) This one is dedicated to Tarmac: how about a museum on quarries. We are going to have to use the imagination on this one. But could include the geological history of the land, history of quarrying and mining, starting point for  visits to historic quarries in areas(quarry of the cathedral of lichfield,)etc, quarry landscape art, organised quarry activities, abseiling, endurance tests(not sure what health and safety would say about this)

7) museum and workshop on woodlands and woodcraft. centre for the study and appreciation of woodlands, invited speakers Ray Mears, Yanomamo Indians.

8 ) My favourite, How about a space for Afro-funk explosive performances called the Mothership, complete with a light beam pointing skywards, dedicated to the improvement of funk in this little corner of the universe: just remember – you’ve got to wear your sunglasses, that’s the rule round here, so you can feel cool. Naked dancing witches are welcome. Special Considerations will be taken with the  wildlife and they will be duly instructed in the groove. Suffice to say I love this idea and is my secret agenda for wanting to save the woodhouse or should I say the mothership

Parliament relaxing in Hopwas woods

Any other ideas are welcome….

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