A blog by an historian, Pagan and fanfiction writer, with left-wing leaning politics. In short, I could be waffling on about anything.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Hunt for the Landywood Great Stones Part Seven

In part six, we worked out what seemed like the definitive position of the Landywood Great Stones in the 19th and early 20th century. However, something is bothering me about it.

Where Does the Evidence Place The Landywood Great Stones?

Somewhere between the end of the 18th century and the early years of the 19th, Essington Forest was felled. It was so drastically cleared for charcoal (then the land used for coal-mining) that all that remains of it is now called Essington Wood.

It is currently believed that where Essington Forest met the modern day Holly Lane, the Landywood Great Stones originally sat. But they were moved under this industry to be dumped alongside Gorsey Lane.

19th century maps and an eye-witness from Great Wyrley all place them at the modern junction of Poplar Road and Gorsey Lane. Here is that view from Poplar Road:

View Larger Map

This position would make sense too, as it's downhill from Holly Lane. The stones could easily have been loaded behind a horse and dragged there. This 19th century position doesn't need to have any major relationship with the landscape. It was little more than a rubbish heap, from the point of view of those taking the stones there.

It appears cut and dried. But I still have my doubts.

Why the Landywood Great Stones Might not Have Been on Gorsey Lane

My problem is the photograph, which was produced by EJ Homeshaw and used in The Story of Bloxwich.

If the Landywood Great Stones were arranged in that arch position facing Gorsey Lane, then two aspects are immediately wrong. The first is that it's too close. The junction space touches Gorsey Lane itself, but that row of houses in the photograph is further away. Secondly, Poplar Cottages, just over the road, would have been there in the 1950s. They aren't shown in the photograph.

Moreover, the caption reveals something else very wrong. We are supposed to be able to see Barr Beacon, Druid's Heath and Cannock Chase from that position. Cannock Chase - check! There are few places in Great Wyrley where that forest can't be seen on the horizon. The sheer elevation of Wyrley Bank itself ensures that. This is also true of the junction of Poplar Road. By looking straight down Gorsey Lane, there is Cannock Chase in the distance.

But even accounting for the presence of modern housing, anyone standing there would struggle to see Barr Beacon or Druid's Heath. The slope of Broom Hill is in the way. Gorsey Lane was built to go around much of this hill, while also climbing into Landywood. By placing the Great Stones down there, much of the view described by Homeshaw is lost. Yet this is what he was seeing in 1951.

Problems with the Landywood Great Stones Facing Wharwell Lane

I puzzled this out, particularly what I had been told by Steve. He had seen them roughly at the junction of Poplar Road, before the Tower View council estate had been built (and therefore before Poplar Road even existed). I had duly noted that without asking one pertinent question of him: which junction of Poplar Road?

I had made a huge assumption, based on the fact that the 1888 map clearly places the Landywood Great Stones alongside Gorsey Lane. They are roughly in the position where it now meets Poplar Road. I thought that Steve was just confirming this.

He could well have been. That map does show a kind of arch motif, but facing towards Wharwell Lane. If so, then the terraced houses in the background would certainly be those houses. The photographer would basically be standing on Gorsey Lane, with their back to Poplar Cottages. There would be a slight elevation, from that angle, so the background of the photograph would match everything else that we know.

Except that we still wouldn't be able to see Barr Beacon and Druid's Heath from there; and we're assuming that the houses in Wharwell Lane were terraced then, because they aren't now.

Were the Landywood Great Stones Were at the Other End of Poplar Road?

Poplar Road starts halfway down Broom Hill and climbs to its summit. There it meets Fairoaks Drive and the view is impeded by a lot of mid-20th century houses. These did not exist when Homeshaw was taking his photograph.

View Larger Map

Steve had said that a patch of land had not been built at the junction where the Landywood Great Stones stood, because the original plan was for them to be replaced. The bungalow, on the right-hand corner, has a much bigger garden than any home in that area. It's also in an arch shape.

This junction, between Poplar Road and Fairoaks Drive, would have afforded a view of Cannock Chase to the north and both Barr Beacon and Druid's Heath to the south-east. That's not possible now, because of the houses on the east side of Fairoaks Drive.

Moreover, if we leapfrog over these houses and visit the Walsall Road, directly behind them, we find precisely the terraced houses for which we were looking.

View Larger Map

In short, a position at the other end of Poplar Road fits perfectly with the view that Homeshaw was describing and photographing in 1951. Neither does it contradict what Steve told me (and how I'm now kicking myself for not clarifying that at the time!). However, this position contradicts that given in the 19th century maps.

Were the stones moved twice before being scattered? Or are we simply looking at Wharwell Lane; and there was a view through Broom Hill, that isn't obvious when it's covered with houses? If any Wyrley people know, I would love to hear from you!


  1. I reckon that they should be "exumed" and placed where they originally stood, with a small plaque of information, for the rest of eternity

  2. I would be right behind that one. But the arguments would rage about where they originally stood, on account of them being moved so often. I'd love to see them in Holly Lane, but the farmer would be unhappy about them in his field.