In a previous blog entry (History of Wolverhampton: The Standing Stones), I talked about how there had once been standing stones in Great Wyrley. There was a map, showing a kink in the road in Holly Lane, which was the only modern day evidence that the Landywood Great Stones had ever existed.
It was an intriguing mystery as to what they had looked like and where they had gone. One too fascinating for a mere historian like me to ignore.
The Landywood Great Stones: A Resident Recalls Their Existence
In August 2011, a resident of Great Wyrley named Bleakly wrote an entry at The Megalithic Portal website. (S)he referenced 'The Story of Bloxwich' by EJ Homeshaw in stating that a stone circle had existed in Landywood, now part of Great Wyrley. The stones had been moved, after World War Two, so that the land beneath could be turned into an open-cast mine.
Bleakly went on that there had been a photograph of it, 'in a pamphlet I have somewhere in my possession', but a copy wasn't forthcoming. There was also a personal testimony, 'I remember seeing them in the ditch along Gorsey Lane when I was a child but they were completely removed during the construction of a housing estate'.
These stones were located on the hill, near to the junction of Holly Lane and Gorsey Lane. When this area had been a forested heathland, then the Landywood Great Stones would have been visible from the Old Fort in Brownhills and Castle Ring in Cannock Chase.
Landywood Great Stones: Their Position on Maps
As the Landywood Great Stones contributed to the strange loop in the middle of Holly Lane, their original position is easy to identify on a map. This is one which dates from between 1831-1835:
Here is a close up of Holly Lane (coloured in blue) with the supposed position of the stones (circled in orange).
A pecularity, if the Homeshaw telling is accepted, is that the Great Stones are notable by their absence. This map has fine detail, marking even the position of houses, furnaces, public houses and collieries, yet no stone circle. This would be explicable if no other ancient monuments were included, but the Roman ruins of Letocetum are faithfully reproduced near Lichfield; Castle Old Fort is shown in Brownhills; and Dudley Castle is precisely where you would expect it to be. Tiny copses and brooks are named and noted, but not a stone circle in Landywood.
It would be easy to write them off as folk legend, but for the fact that they reappear again around 1888. But they aren't in Holly Lane.
In the intervening 50+ years, coal mines sprang up all over Great Wyrley, along with the railway line to serve them. If the Landywood Great Stones had ever been in Holly Lane, then they weren't moved after World War Two. They were already in Gorsey Lane by 1888. If that was due to coal-mining, then it would have happened in the mid-19th century.
A comparison between the 1830s map and that of 1888 does appear to show something marked in roughly the right spot, on Gorsey Lane, for the stones to have always been there. But the earlier one seems to be a house.
Moreover, Gorsey Lane changed course, straightening more directly between the junction with Holly Lane and the meeting with Hilton Lane. The partial levelling of Broom Hill allowed for that, as Gorsey Lane no longer had to bend so far around it.
The proposed earlier spot of the great stones, in Holly Lane, had become the Fighting Grounds of 1888.
The search was on.
Part two: One of the stones is found.