Archive for July, 2010

Below are a few incidents at Hopwas woods. All potential material for urban legends. I’ll keep adding any more incidents I find out about to this post. That will be a feature of the blog, I’ll be adding and substracting from posts, it’s not publish the post and move on.  I’ll be going back and forth like with any creation and that includes comments that want to add or take away.

>In 1999 nine limousin  cattle escaped from a farm at Hints and took refuge at Hopwas wood. There was TV and press coverage and an army of a 100 soldiers, marksmen and mounted police hunting  the cattle. Four were shot dead but there was a public outcry and the remaining five were caught and taken to Hillside Animal sanctuary

limousin cow

>>deaths at Hopwas woods. In 1814 or thereabouts; body found by canal at Hopwas Hay with the details Unknown by unknown. When I was a kid heard about a death of a boy at the disused quarry workings in the wood, I remember because my brother told me while  climbing among the disused quarry(was it just a story) I recall reading in the local newspaper someone committing suicide by hanging in the wood a few years back.

>> June 1984 police swoop in on 16 naked witches dancing and chanting around a fire in a clearing in a wood-that was how the tamworth herald reported it. The truth was more swingeresque. It was the order of the silver star a group who believe in astrology and were trying to avert a disasters with stars or something, but why Hopwas? This has settled in the local consciousness somewhat. With people talking about witches and the occult  in Hopwas.

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On way back from the Woodhouse came along what was I first thought was a gypsy caravan, the wood plays funny tricks on you, turned out to be the former Hopwas reservoir.

the gypsy caravan!

I came  across the installation years back and was surprised back then at Hopwas woods knack of throwing up surprises! I assumed it was something to do with the military. The military connection with Hopwas  veils the woods in mystery in much the same way as military sites do everywhere and even give rise to all sorts of conspiracies and theories such as at Skunkworks, USA. Haven’t come across any of military stories/ urban legends related to Hopwas yet!

While putting my timehikes google map together I noticed the existence of the covered reservoir related with Hopwas pumping station but couldn’t determine its age or more about it until I came across a  link from Brownhills Bob’s blog to a very thorough online publication  called a history of the south staffordshire waterworks which reveals a mine of information on the reservoir, I’ve pasted the relevant information about the reservoir below:

It was thought that a better supply would be given to the district and it would be more cost
effective, by pumping direct into the top of a reservoir near to the Hopwas Pumping Station
instead of into the bottom of Glascote Reservoir, through four and a half miles of pumping
main, which also served as a supply main.
Careful consideration resulted in the Committee deciding to purchase a site in Hopwas Wood,
near the pumping station, at a height of 419 feet A.O.D. and to build a reinforced concrete
covered reservoir of one and a half million gallons capacity.
Consulting Engineers for the project were L.G. Mouchel and Partners, after collaboration
with the Joint Committee’s Engineer and Manager, J.C. Radford A.I.W.E., a case was drawn
up for submission to the Ministry of Health. On November 20th 1934 an enquiry was held
and sanction obtained to construct the reservoir. Tenders were invited and Messrs. Hussey,
Egan and Pickmere Ltd. of Birmingham, were awarded the contract. Work on site
commenced in June 1935 and the structure, pipework and ancillary works finished and ready
for service on 28th July 1936, leaving only the excavated ground to be replaced and banked
around the reservoir.
This was the first reservoir of its type in this country in which the concrete was consolidated
by the vibrated shuttering system. The walls of the reservoir are seven inches thick at the
base, finishing five inches at the roof, reinforced with steel bars, one and a half to three
sixteenths of an inch thick. Total weight of the steel bars in the structure is 130 tons, total
weight of the concrete 2,177 tons. When the reservoir is full, the water is sixteen feet deep.
Total weight of the water when the receptacle is at its maximum is 6,696 tons. The cost of the
reservoir was £7,416.

to the left is the earth embankment of the reservoir, you can just make out the path sloping down  that follows the route of the pump pipe(sorry if terminology isn’t right) down a couple of hundred feet to the Hopwas pumping station.

Don’t have much to add to exhaustive description from the online publication apart from adding more photos of the covered surface of the reservoir when I can.

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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

dangerous building



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