Industry and Transport
Hagley can never claim to be an industrial centre although its position just south of the Black Country industrial conurbation has turned it from an agricultural village into a dormitory of some 5,000 persons.
The road and rail systems within the parish have provided access to larger centres and for a brief period enabled a cattle market to thrive.
The earliest roadway that can be given a slot in history is the Roman saltway from Droitwich to the fort at Greensforge and on to Uriconium (Wroxeter). The ordnance survey maps indicate major stretches of the route, aerial photographs confirm part of it showing the drainage ditches as soil marks and the writer has also observed part of it in a newly ploughed field, again showing as a distinct soil mark. Reference is made to it in the Anglo-Saxon boundary charter of AD 951 for Oldswinford parish, where it goes north from Hagley and forms the boundary between Staffordshire and West Midlands (formerly Worcestershire) for over 1600m (1 mile).
The same charter discussed by Della Hooke in “Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds”71 is supposedly the description of the post-conquest Oldswinford. The writer suggests, however, that between AD 951 and 1086 Pedmore manor, lying to the south of Oldswinford, had been carved out of Oldswinford as a reward to some Saxon gentleman. If this idea is correct, then the first street referred to in the charter is the A491, which, for a short distance, forms the modern boundary between Hagley and Pedmore.
Two turnpikes traversed Hagley from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century. They were the modern A491 mentioned above and the A456 Birmingham-Kidderminster roads. The trust that operated the latter included the Lord Lyttelton of the day. Originally the road ran from the top of Hagley Hill, past the church and the old Hall via the crossing with the Bromsgrove road and on to Blakedown. It is reasonable to assume that this route was on the outside of the medieval park. With the building of the new Hall it was deemed desirable to re-route the road to miss the Hall and to follow the extended boundary of the park to the north. Looking for tollhouses in their traditional style is a waste of time. It would appear that people whose houses or farms happened to be more or less in a convenient position manned the tollgates. The only exception is on the A491 6 km (3.5 miles) south east of Hagley on the approach to Fairfield.
The turnpike roads were the major routes linking important centres and had been in existence for many centuries. The creation of the turnpike trusts was a method of ensuring that they were maintained at some sort of uniform standard over their total length. The previous method of making parishes responsible was rather hit and miss. With the creation of the County Councils, the responsibility for the roads was given to them.
Canals as a route for the transport of goods do not pass through Hagley but, looking at J.Cary’s map of Worcestershire72 published in 1787 it was a near miss. Mr. Cary, wishing to be up-to-date, actually jumped the gun on a proposed scheme. The canal, which runs from Worcester to Birmingham via Droitwich and Bromsgrove, is shown turning north west at Bromsgrove and not north east as it does today. The route actually goes from Bromsgrove through Fairfield, Bell End, Clent and Hagley to join the Stourbridge branch of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal (completed in 1771) at Wollaston.
It is interesting to note that in 1791 an Act was passed for the Worcester-Birmingham Canal, so Cary was nearly right, apart from the last 16km (10 miles).
The railway line through Hagley was first mooted in 184473 and the Act of Parliament was approved in August 1845. As the proposed line was planned to link Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton, it was considered a good idea to match the gauges of the line with those at each end i.e. 7’ 0”** (2.13m) for the G.W.R. at the Oxford link and 4’ 8½” (1.44m) for the Midland Railway at the northern end i.e. three rails. A commission was already debating the question of gauge widths and came down in favour of the 4’ 8½” (1.44m) size for all future lines and a recommendation that broad gauge be converted. However, Parliament decided to allow the G.W.R. to continue using the broad gauge at the discretion of a Select Committee.
The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company had hoped to work with the G.W.R. but much time was wasted while they wrangled over both money matters and the gauge width.
The stretch of line between Droitwich and Stourbridge finally opened on 1st May 1852. The link between Stourbridge and Dudley opened in November 1852 but the final link to Wolverhampton took another two years.
The original station buildings lasted into the British Rail (B.R.) era. They were clad with corrugated iron sheet. One was the stationmaster’s office, approximately 3m (10’ 0”) square and the other was the waiting room 9m (30’ 0”) x 3m (10’ 0”). In the 1940s they were used as the porters’ room and the parcels store. The footbridge, reputedly the basis for the Hornby Gauge 0 model, was built in 1884 and it is probable that brick buildings on both up and down lines were constructed at this time. The waiting rooms on the line to Stourbridge were replaced fairly recently by an open shelter. Originally the building housed a general waiting room and ladies waiting room plus toilets. The building on the other line to Kidderminster was built to house the stationmaster’s office, the ticket office, two waiting rooms and toilets. The brickwork, as with the majority of railway and canal structures, is in English bond.
Hagley Station, originally part of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway opened in 1852. The footbridge is dated 1884.
The staff, pre-B.R., consisted of the stationmaster, a booking clerk, three porters plus another one who delivered parcels and personal luggage. Away from the station were three signalmen and a gang of maintenance workers responsible for the track, the grass on adjacent banks and the hedges between Pedmore Bridge and Blakedown.
Business done from the goods yard north of the station included six distributors of coal and the receipt and despatch of animals, mainly sheep and cattle, for sale at Hagley cattle market. This was located in the area now known as Market Way but an earlier site74 existed in 1902 on what is now the car park for the Lyttelton Arms public house. The animals were driven from the station to the market on Mondays and it was advisable to keep the front gates properly latched. Modern open plan front gardens would not have been a sensible concept.
The goods yard had several sidings for the coal trucks and the closed animal wagons, which were unloaded into pens on their own platform.
On the south side of the station was the longest siding75. It was 425m (465 yds) and during the 1939-45 war often contained goods trains parked during air raids on Birmingham and the Black Country, until they could continue their journeys.
The story of industry in Hagley is very much a case of what might have been. The examples that follow developed in other localities very successfully.
John Gowan76 died in October 1644, and in the inventory that lists all his worldly goods describes him as a locksmith. However, from the inventory it is obvious that he was also a farmer growing grain and keeping cattle, pigs and hens. In his workshop were two bellows, two vises, three anvils and four “hubbins”. Also a grindstone, a tin pan, shop tools and iron and steel. The iron was almost certainly wrought iron and the steel would probably have been spring steel.
The next example relates to the glass industry. The tithe schedule lists Glasshouse Close and five fields called Brettle or Brittle Pits. The meaning of Brettle or Brittle is an enigma. They are probably derived from the O.E. “breotan”, meaning to break. Brettle Lane at Brierley Hill, on the edge of the main glass making area, has a very different geological base. Therefore if the names are linked it is not by any raw material. One possibility is the disposal of the waste from the glass house. The fields in question lie to the west of the Bromsgrove-Stourbridge road, near to the Lyttelton Arms public house.
A Paul Tysack77 died in 1690 and left a cottage, workshop, barn etc. Earlier he is described as being in partnership and the glasshouse was worth £60 and a stock of bottles values at £30. A William Tysack died in 1716 and is described as a glass maker but it is not known where he practised his craft.
Two fields bearing the name brick kiln also indicate brick making. These existed prior to 1838 and were probably associated with specific building projects. A family named Hart were bricklayers and there were at least five of them between 1787 and 1827. They gave their name to a field close to Brick Kiln Field, near the crest of Hagley Hill on the A456 and it is probable that there was some connection between the family and the kiln.
Hagley is on the extreme southern edge of the South Staffordshire coalfield and in the 19th century Wassell Grove colliery was opened in the north east of the parish. In 1866-7 Henry Johnson78 sank a shaft 240m (262 yds). Best results came at 144m (158 yds) and a gate road was driven some 400m (440 yds) in a northerly direction. The quality and quantity of the coal was disappointing and the undertaking was abandoned. Two shafts, one capped and the other plated over, and waste banks are all that is left on the site.
At the other end of the old parish, i.e. pre-1933, the stream79 forming the boundary with Kidderminster was used to fill Springbrook Pool, alias Wheatmill Pool, Ladies Pool and Swan Pool. The water was used to power water wheels on two sites. It is understood that Springbrook Forge started life working glass in some form and went on to forge axles for wagons in South Africa. 150 men were employed on this site at one time.
On the other side of the A456 road was a foundry which went out of production in 1920 when the road was widened.
Apart from the Blakedown ventures, it cannot be said that any of the other industrial projects were either large or sustained.
There is no doubt that a number of cottage industries were carried out like blacksmithing, nailmaking and shoemaking but, as was said at the beginning of this section, industry came close but never really got a foothold in Hagley.
71D.Hooke. Worcestershire Anglo-Saxon Charter Bounds p.165
72J.Cary. Worcestershire county map 1787
73 R.Christiansen. A regional history of railways of Great Britain Vol. 7 pp.92-94
74 Ordnance survey 25” scale 1902
75 Ordnance survey 25” scale 1947
76C.R.O. inventory for John Gowan d.1644
77*H.J.Haden. The Stourbridge Glass Industry in the 19th Century p.6 and note 4
78W.Matthews. Proc. of Philosophical Society of Birmingham. Vol V 1886-7
79Pagett et al. Water Mills of North Worcestershire p33,35
*See Don Tyzack “Glass, Tools & Tyzacks” 1995 for details of the Tyzack family and their activities
** In Imperial measure ‘ means feet and ” means inches; 12 inches = 1 foot; 1 inch = 2.54 cm