Archive for the ‘Hopwas’ Category

The subject of the woodhouse, Hopwas everyones favourite abandoned house in the woods has flickered back into life on the internet after photos were published on the Hopwas Appreciation society Facebook page of the empty space where the Woodhouse once stood. I don´t want to sound like a broken record though and wallow in despair at what could have been.  Instead I´d like to take the opportunity to quickly review  my desperate last-ditch attempt to save the Woodhouse last August(view previous posts)and see what lessons can be learned from it, what I did right, what I did wrong and hopefully make  a small contribution to  other people bent on saving a piece of integrity in the landscape from the jaws of uniformity  and soulless sanitisation.

Believe in what you´re doing

Starting off with an obvious one, but fundamental as it´s hard work, trying to save stuff, especially starting off by yourself!

Take action quickly

As soon as I got the news about the imminent demolition from Midlands Heritage Forum, my first thought was “sneaky bastards trying to demolish this amazing place behind everyone’s back, I´ll show them,” they demolished it anyway, I made them sweat though. Use that anger as an energy, but be clear-headed about your strategy, I didn´t do the last bit.

Have clear argument

Before shouting your mouth off, have an argument, why shouldn´t they destroy the place, what are the alternatives, . That was pretty easy with the woodhouse  (remember to back argument up when you can with  examples, expert advice)

Get expert support

This was the bit I did best, sending out emails to experts found through authors, university departments I managed to start a conversation with Dianne  Barre, expert on historical  garden landscapes  in Staffordshire, who gave me invaluable info, and was equally angry about the situation. This has the benefit of validating your campaign, and the experts using their contacts.  Also got support from the Georgian society, who even went down to see the place, and the advice from SAVE Britain´s heritage . Expert advice should help in the next bit,  spot listing with English Heritage.

Apply for spot listing with English Heritage

After contacting various people in the council, this was the only course of official action I could really take to try to protect the buildings. The application was done online, the people at English Heritage were helpful, they take cases seriously. By indicating that it was going to be imminently destroyed the application process went quickly and the decision took a couple of weeks after inspections at site and written reports were made. Deep down though I felt I was too comfortable about the whole process, trusted in it too much, in the end the decision was taken by too few people…. really you should..

Make noise to get support

This should be a key part to get more people involved, put the pressure on the decision makers, and share the campaign, you can´t do it all by yourself, the idea is to get the juggernaut rolling, then  share the pain and hopefully joy at the end! Of course nowadays with so many online facilities and so much info, so much to care about, this is the age of campaigning for a good cause! This is the bit where I failed I think, of course I didn’t have much time, it was all last-minute, but admittedly I wasn´t savvy enough in creating that noise, this is what I should have done:

Local media campaign

Otherwise it´s hard that people are going to know about it,  this includes physical local newspapers down to their online versions and the profusion of very active blogs, sites,community pages. My efforts consisted of a letter to the Tamworth Herald and a piece put together by the guys at Lichfield Blog.  A good start but should have been more sustained. Should have talked  to editors, try to include article, could have even gone regional, spice things up a bit with ghost stories, etc. Again though can´t do it all by yourself so important to get people involved by:

social media

Start Facebook group get friends signed up to it,  use twitter(got to get round to this) uses comments on blogs, forums etc. Apart from a call out on the Hopwas Appreciation Society facebook page and Midlands Heritage forum I failed miserably in this part, never again!

Use what you´ve got already, copy, repeat, modify.(above a picture used before of abe and ernst campaigning)

Get in touch with famous people

Don´t laugh, this is the  celebrity age, it could be good for their PR and apparently Sir Bob Geldoff visited the woodhouse! really. Obviously the idea would be somebody with a link with the area and who gives a shit about the subject!

On the ground activity

Don´t get entranced by the media buzz, a lot of social media makes you imagine small nations are behind you, but the online noise has to be accompanied by action on the ground, in the local area, phoning and meeting local movers, connecting with local associations/ initiatives which could share the same objectives. This is really important and something I didn´t do much of apart from trying to contact the enigmatic Friends of Hopwas association! This time though  I´ve got an excuse, I live hundreds of miles away!


I don´t know if any of the above would have saved the woodhouse but taking the above approach would have done it´s bit to increase  awareness among people of whats around them, what people are losing, get people involved and go a small way to creating a sense of place in the area. Social media is creating  a real chance here for another more informed democratic approach to our surroundings  and making  collective connected decisions about it ,     now  for me that would be progress.

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Which witch´s woods

Hopwas Woods always draws me back, it’s the wild mysterious part of the Tamworth area. As Henry David Thoreau said in Walden ” Our village life would stagnate were it not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.”

People in industrial estates produce objects whereas people in Hopwas produces myths and news stories. Hopwas legend estate! A couple of months back Hopwas was back in the local Tamworth Herald news. The front page  stories ran for a couple of weeks on evidence unearthed for occult activities found in the form of engraved copper tablets and Egyptian style statues.

The first reaction from the scientific, rational community  is usually one of dismissing it out of hand, sometimes angrily,calling them  wild stories, children’s pranks to sell newspapers. Another reaction is to ridicule and belittle the stories and people with the resulting bitchiness on both sides.  Take a look at the heated exchange on the Tamworth Herald article comments page for example. I think though it´s more interesting than that.

Hopwas Hayes as one of the most ancient woodlands in the area together with being on a prominent hill is a prime area for goings on. It´s literally an island of wildness surrounded by thousands if not hundreds of thousands people  in largely urban space and productive agricultural land. Woodlands did once play an important economic role in the landscape, they provided fuel, building material, charcoal, hunting areas. Now it´s  an anomaly, what the hell is it? where does it fit in the modern world, even the army don´t use it anymore?? A place for walking the dog or is more than that
? It´s a non productive space, there´s no museums, woodland trust initiatives, it´s truly a wild place. Maybe even an affront, insult or even frightening unproductive space to some people, but to others could be  the ideal place to  act out  different non-conventional part of their lives from new age beliefs to tree hugging!

Myth becomes reality becomes Myth

My effort to describe the full circle story of the occult and Hopwas below:

prominent point, ancient  woods, thought of as source of energy = pagan practitioners attracted and start performing  in woods =  witches are caught by local police =  local media frenzy = gets lodged in local conciousness= mysterious wood becomes more mysterious = attracts, pagan practitioners, kids messing about, stories, ravers, writers = some people as result may  avoid scary wood = current day news story, occult objects are found, firm solid ´archaeological type´evidence is found, Staffordshire hoard style.

The process has produced the situation today, a  highly charged place full of rumours, attracting and likely to attract certain people from far and wide.

This is all good

This is not a bad thing though this means the wood has become a fascinating place full of meaning  for an increasing number of people. Stories of the occult are extremely attractive they help sell a lot of books, films and as the Tamworth Herald has found out, newspapers. They also help though enquiring minds, people want to find out more. People want to know more about this mysterious place, they´ll add stories to the place.  Also there will be people who want to debunk these mysteries by trying to proving them wrong and providing the evidence for the  history of Hopwas, thus getting to know the history of Hopwas better. People like me will try to use the interest in the strange happenings in Hopwas as a launchpad for my discoveries and encourage exploration of the area. Others like the West Midlands Ghost club have their own research agenda and will keep adding mystery to the place. Witches and non-witches alike will keep dancing.

This is all good, this means Hopwas woods becomes alive with enquiry, exploration for all sorts of people with different approaches and views.  This is not something to be scared of there´s enough for everyone,  what we should be scared of is the places being ignored. By being ignored it could be condemned, the Woodhouse was a victim of being ignored and looked what happened to it.By being ignored, by not being talked about, and leaving it in the hands of a few, the council, English Heritage, Tarmac, whoever, a lot has been lost over the years and a singular view of history encouraged; all country houses, castles and churches!

Adding more to the witches brew

i) Egyptian occult objects in the Hopwas area, whatever,  Tamworth´s used to them. 19th and early 20th century philanthropist Tamworth resident Reverend William Macgregor(nice link and research here) was also a highly respected Egyptologist, he also had one of the most important collections of Egyptian collections in the United Kingdom. He had the collection quartered in his residence at Bolehall Manor, Tamworth with solid rumours that there are Egyptian mummies buried beneath the Palace cinema, now Mcdonalds(this together with Rev William Macgregor warrants a post or blog of it´s own) !  Tutmania right there in  Tamworth! Here´s a video of some strange Egyptian goings on from the great Sun Ra in a place in a forest space somewhere

ii. Mysterious ephermeral cottage in Hopwas woods.

This bit of historic map detective work on my part could add to that whole Blair witch theme going on in the woods, I´m justing putting out the material evidence, do with it what you will. Use it in novels, campfire stories,……

1924 Ordnance survey map showing the cottage and grounds next to the canal

Between around 1920 and 1940, the Woodman´s cottage appears on ordnance maps. It´s close to the canal and bridge  and adjacent to a well trodden raised path parallel to the canal. After WWII it disappears, from maps and from any record, woooooooooooooooooo. (cue me wandering off in white blanket)

The cottage appears to have some type of enclosed land, haven´t inspected it in person, but on this Lidar image of Hopwas you can clearly make out the cleft out piece of land on the hillside where the cottage probably once  stood, is there any more evidence on the ground? what´s the story behind this place?

Lidar image of Hopwas and canal, with cleft out piece of between path and canal

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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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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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Just when I was trying to move on from the woodhouse, having done everything I could without  chaining myself to the place, news comes that the place is even more interesting and older than thought. This has reignited my indignation and campaign fervour and has sucked me back in(It seems to have this uncanny ability).  It all came about from receiving  a fascinating, informative email from Dianne Barr telling the real story about the place, taken from her phd thesis on C18 landscape gardens in Staffs. She´s the co-author of Historic gardens of Staffordshire together with Tim Mowls. Below is the copied and pasted details from the email:

The house  dates from 1730 and was built by one Zacchary Babbington, who lived locally. It was known as ‘Babbington’s Folly’ by the locals at the time. Presumably it was intended as a summerhouse/retreat, with a tall lookout tower, being situated in the highest part of Hopwas Wood., giving wonderful views over the countryside. The house was then let out with a three acre garden to a Benjamin Shipton, who was given permission to extend the land to make a new garden, build outhouses and stables.  By 1770 the property was leased as ‘lodge house, stable, dovecote, outbuildings, garden walks…the garden to be kept in good order and the trees skillfully pruned.’ ie it was in effect a little country house, with a hall, best parlour, little, parlour, best chamber, upstairs rooms plus kitchen, scullery, pantry, brewhouse, ale cellar, stables land dovecote. A long formal avenue led to the house. Babbington  died in 1745, the estate went to his 3 sisters, one of whom married John Levett of Lichfield, who bought out the other sisters. It then passed at sometime into the Fisherwick estate of Lord Donegal, where it is described in the sale particulars of 1808: ‘situated adjoining the turnpike road from Lichfield to Tamworth, on the Banks of the Tame,… with an excellent dwelling house, commanding the most picturesque views over the adjacent country to Tamworth and stabling for 6 horses and Servants’ Rooms over. etc. garden and orchard.’ Spyer’s lovely watercolour is in the William Salt Library- but I doubt if there is any connection with Capability Brown- in fact it’s more interesting than him and earlier! Probably the most intriguing thing about the woods is that the map in the 1808 sale indicates that the woods have been converted into a Switzer type woodland with curving rides and paths, several of which converge on ‘Sale Oak’.  So ancient paths along old contours, had been developed to follow the latest gardening theories of the 1730s when the house was built. I assume all this has long since gone. Unfortunately I never managed to get to the house as the owners had left by the time I wrote in the early 2000s and I never fancied walking in the woods by myself. I’ve always thought that the house and surrounds must have been important, but I’ve never managed to work our why Babbington built his folly simply to let it out, and why he took so much trouble to layout the woodland walks- there isn’t much documentary information about him. However that doesn’t make his most unusual house any less important, ruined though it may be.

So this place that there about to destroy turns out to have close to 300 years of history, to be a unique piece of architecture, regionally and nationally,potential great local landmark  and be directly connected to a long line of important local characters and they are about to destroy it-What the !!!????

Some of the famous owners of the woodhouse, on left we have the ´bling´ Marquess of Donegal, on the right ,John Levett, important figure in the area. I´ve got no pictures of  Zachary Babington, High sherriff of Staffordshire(you can imagine him with just his name) or Vera and George Bryan founders of Drayton Manor Theme Park

I´m going to get on a soapbox for a moment. I get the feeling that  this place is a victim of snobbery, from people who should be defending the place.   If this place was in a ´quaint village´ in the Cotswolds and not in a dark, unnerving, ´witches and weirdos´ woods it wouldn´t happen would it? Likewise it´s location in the woods making it a focus of the ´rif-raf´doesn´t appeal to some  people in the country does it? They don´t want the country bliss spoilt by the hordes of ´townies´ nosing around do they, so lets keep quiet and it will get swept away. I´m doing a lot of accusing here and I hope I´m wrong, so its only fair that people make their defence so please lets hear it.

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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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Below are the two reasons  the woodhouse has been given a demolition order and my counterarguments:

1st reason:The buildings are a focus for vandalism and ‘goings on’ and are in a state of disrepair.

Speaking with former members of ‘friends of Hopwas Woods’ who know a lot more history about the site than me, they  have given me some interesting information about its history of vandalism and  abandonment, with Bob Geldoff and badgers included!

The source is reliable as the person is a  lifelong supporter of Hopwas Woods, I’ve received the news second hand and a lot of the information is cloudy and I take all responsibility for the information given but it does gives the general gist. The entrepeneur George Bryant sold the property to Tarmac at a date interdetermined date probably 80’s/90’s. It was then used by an employee of Tarmac for a time, after which time it was abandoned although still under the ownership of Tarmac. The buildings were brought to local attention by the report by a local person that badgers had entered and were in the  cellars of building. This reached the attention of Tamworth’s newspaper, The Tamworth Herald. After this brief media exposure the buildings were more known in the area and people entered the grounds(abandoned atmospheric buildings in atmospheric woods:it’s going to happen!) This came to a head when news reached local authorities that  a ´suspicious person´  was staying there, and there was a response by police.  Since then people from around the country have visited the site and it has appeared on some exploration forums. Apparently, this is crazy but I’m just reporting what I was told by a reliable source, Bob Geldoff, sorry Sir Bob Geldoff visited the site!!! I know crazy. Looking at the current state of the exterior buildings it has suffered from vandalism, ( hole put through back wall) and equally damaging  counter measures, bricking up of windows and doors. Apart from that the building survives surprisingly  well in its integrity(the interior state is unknown) and has not had any graffiti or major damage. The outbuildings present little interference.

Even if the buildings are a focus for ‘goings on’ this is not a reason to demolish buildings of potential  great historic and architectural interest. If you apply that same logic to say an abandoned Stonehenge. Does that mean we should demolish it if it had been abandoned for 20 years and had become a focus of ‘goings on'(pagan rituals, swinger parties, raves, the mind boggles!) Also and more important than my counter-argument is point 16 in English Heritage’s principles of selection for listed buildings ” the state of repair of a building is not a relevant is not a relevant consideration when deciding whether a building meets the test of special interest.” pretty conclusive I think

2nd reason: The buildings have been altered, there is a lot of modern brickwork and they are of not sufficient interest.

Although I’ve worked within archaeology abroad I’m no expert on 18th century architecture and brickwork in Staffordshire but I think I can make a sufficient case for it to be worthy of at least re-examining by the competent authorities. The sources available are sparse but based on what there is and local knowledge as well as my own analysis I can make a number of statements. As mentioned in previous post, the buildings were probably built on orders of the Marquess of Donegal around 1750 for use as a hunting lodge and retreat, being close to his Fisherwick estate. Local hearsay reports that there was a site here as far back as 1540, from the wife of the earl of Comberford, I cannot confirm any of this but its worth investigating. Also Fisherwick estate and buildings were designed by the infamous ‘Capability Brown’ As the woodhouse was commissioned by the Marquess of Donegal, did Capability Brown have a hand in its design? It’s pure conjecture but I think it’s more than worth investigating.

There is a watercolour of the woodhouse, called painting of Hopwas Hayes Lodge, done by J. Spyers in 1786. I’ve compared  the painting and a modern photo in the previous Woodhouse post and its undeniably very similar (I´ve included it again below). At least the integrity of the building set are still there. The two attached cottages, the two porches and unique tower structure are all still there, as well as side wall, with entrance(not in photos) It can be seen that the main roofing has been altered and there’s been tinkering with  the tower. I haven’t personally seen a building type quite like it and wonder if it conforms to a type of 18th century hunting lodge or is it unique?

There is not much available information on subsequent use of the Woodhouse, apart from what I have in my original post. The building was used throughout the 19th century as a gamekeepers lodge and was  remarkable enough  to be included in William Pitt’s topographical history of Staffordshire 1817 with the following description:´ 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´ Thankyou William Pitt for putting the case for the Woodhouse so eloquently!

As mentioned the building was in the hands of George Bryant  from around the 1950’s. He apparently was responsible for some landscaping and may have been responsible for alterations to the property as there is brickwork present from the 1950’s.

Present state of buildings

There is aforementioned watercolouring showing the integrity of the original form of the present building but the question is how much is original? As said before I’m no expert but there is a presence of brickwork which I consider could perfectly be 18th century brickwork, the percentage is at least 50% The roof has been changed at what date I don’t know and the tower, at least the top part has been altered. Are any of the alterations reversible?

The best evidence are photos so I’ve provided a few photos below with arrows pointing out what I consider different types of brickwork. brick type 1 looks the best candidate for 18th century brickwork. The porches on the front of the building  appear to have slate roofing. Also there is number  of blocked 18th/19th century windows, but the window arches(sorry about terminology) are still there( altering of windows is very common in old buildings) It´s a rough guide and hopefully not too confusing but  I believe demonstrates that there is at least 50% possible 18th century brickwork(brick type 1) and is worthy of further investigation.

Front of building, with rough indication of different brick types

right hand side of front of building

southern side of building,

back of building, with detail on right

tower from the back


The interior is an unknown quantity and understand that there has been no inspection of the interior. Information from the reliable source from Friends of Hopwas apparently states that there is a well inside!(common in buildings before modern water supply), the survival of a double cellar,  fireplace and wooden cladding.I think anyone would agree that the interior warrants inspection.


There are a number of outbuildings 3-4 ranging in types and age. In front of the main woodhouse is a barn-like structure converted into a garage of undetermined age(probably pre-20th century) it has attached a sidebuilding with the evidence of an old laundry(see first posts comments)

Well there are my counterarguments, I hope I’ve put across the historical and architectural value of the place and a valid counter counter argument to the often used reason of abandonment and vandalism. What has to be concluded by the experts is the level of altering  to the exterior and INTERIOR of buildings and if it´s reversible. So I will be putting the case forward to the relevant authorities and english heritage. What I don’t think can be denied is that it’s worthy of further investigation before potentially making the tragic mistake of  demolishing it. I hope it’s not too late!

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I’m momentarily going to turn the blog into a campaign to save the 18th century historic Woodhouse, Hopwas. It’s historic significance can be seen in this earlier post. I’ve recently heard that the Woodhouse has had a demolition order go ahead, so it’s demolition could happen any day now! Here’s the post below :

Hello all ,I have just joined this forum as I was looking into the History of Wood House and came across you all.

This evening (Sunday 15 August 2010) my wife and I and our 2 border collie dogs went for a walk in Hopwas woods as we have done now for 30 years . When we got to the gate for Wood House we were suprised to see that the barbed wire that covers the gate (along with some very oily sticky black crud) had been cut on the right side giving  access to the drive to the house . What an amazing place it is . The building is in a sorry state now even the Opel Manta car has been burnt out by some scum chav shits. Such a shame that this very historical house and out buildings are to be demolished. Tarmac who own the building and land have been granted a demolition order by Lichfield District Council on 25/06/2010. The work has already started as the rhoderdendrons that used to encrouch onto the drive have been cut back using a brush cutter .This has happened very recently and I presume work will now progress at a swifter pace. So if you want to see this house in all its glory, I would do it very soon as I am sure when the demolition boys get in ,the access will definately be closed off forever.I just thought I would update you all regarding Wood House .I am sure we will become regulars on these forums now we have found them . I am just sorry that my first post should be so gloomy.

Regards  Snooper/ her indoors/ Finn& Pogue ( the woof woofs)

Midlandsheritage forum

I’ve confirmed this with Lichfield council and I’d like to make  a case to save if it’s not too late. I urge anyone reading this who cares about our shared heritage to make as much NOISE as possible about this. It’s a unique set of buildings, I don’t know how many 18th century gamekeepers lodges in their original settings exist in the UK but I’m guessing you can count them on one hand.

I will be putting the case forward for it’s defence, applying for listed status with english heritage, etc over the next few days so I will be putting updates and info on the blog over the coming days.

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