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

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Hunt for the Landywood Great Stones Part Four

In part three, we explored the relocation of the Landywood Great Stones to the Streets Lane estate area. Now a reader has supplied some extra evidence from their original location.

Landywood Great Stones in History of Bloxwich

In 1955, Ernest James Homeshaw published his The Story of Bloxwich. It since went out of print, but was republished by Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council Library and Museum Service. The 1988 Reprint of The Story of Bloxwichis difficult to find and expensive to buy, though there is a copy in Walsall Library.

However, thanks to Paul Ford of Walsall Local History Centre, we can see an original picture of the Landywood Great Stones from Homeshaw's book.

In case that caption is a little small, it reads: 'The Great Stones of Landywood. From the top of the hill where they lie, Barr Beacon, Druids' Heath, and the panorama of Cannock Chase may be viewed.'

Where Were the Great Stones in Homeshaw's Photograph?

Ernest Homeshaw wrote that the Great Stones of Landywood were on a hill. The place beside Holly Lane, where they reputedly originally stood, is flat. However, the area beside Gorsey Lane, where they were moved, was called Broom Hill.

This undoubtedly had the kind of view which Homeshaw described. In 1642, the Roundheads camped upon Broom Hill, during the English Civil War. They were there long enough to dig a well, which still remains, hidden under foliage, in Wharwell Lane (War + well). It can only be expected that an army would take the higher ground. However, the hill itself has now been flattened to make way for a council estate there.

Moreover, it has already been established from old maps that the stones had been moved to Gorsey Lane by 1888. This is probably where Homeshaw's photograph was taken, with the houses in the background belonging to either Gorsey Lane, Wharwell Lane or, at a push, the Walsall Road.

In part five, I will attempt to match the stones in the historical picture with those confirmed or suspected to be on view in Great Wyrley today.

With thanks again to Paul Ford for all of his assistance.

Returned from Cuba

Let the blogging commence!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

AWOL for Two Weeks

I'm off on my holidays, so won't be near a computer for two weeks.

See you all in early November.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Hunt for the Landywood Great Stones Part Three

In part two, we learnt that the Landywood Great Stones had been buried beneath Weston Drive, on the Streets Lane estate. There should have been nothing to see up there, but was this strictly true?

Landywood Great Stones: Intriguing Rocky Outcrop in Streets Lane

Weston Drive exists as a horseshoe shaped road, linked at either end by the long Streets Lane. It is on the Cheslyn Hay side of the railway track, but part of the Great Wyrley parish. This is a kind of No-Man's-Land, where all rates, bills and voting render the estate part of Wyrley, but the address states Cheslyn Hay. Just to confuse matters further, the roadsign welcoming visitors to Cheslyn Hay is half a mile up the road.

Until the dawn of the 1980s, this area was given over to coal-mining. A map from 1888 shows it strewn with shafts. It was infamously one of the sites of the Great Wyrley Outrages of 1903, when a pit pony was found slashed, roughly where Chillington Close meets Streets Lane. It is also at this point that an unusual feature can be found today - a scattered pile of large rocks.

Mining debris or more survivors from the Landywood Great Stones?

Local residents say that they've been there for at least as long as the housing estate. They are bigger than they look, as they are partially buried in the ground and covered in the fallen leaves of autumn. These stones are scattered now, but they used to be piled more completely on top of each other. Twenty years ago, children used to climb all over them, so it can only be assumed that the health and safety conscious last decade saw them separated into their present position.

Nobody I spoke with seems to know what they are. Though they are positioned at the head of a ditch, they don't appear to be anything to do with drainage. But if they are more survivors of the Landywood Great Stones, then those were much smaller than has been mooted.

For the moment, a question mark hangs over them, while I do a bit more research.

View Larger Map

Coming up in part four: An historical photograph of the Great Stones emerges.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Hunt for the Landywood Great Stones Part Two

In part one, I examined old maps of Great Wyrley looking for the legendary Landywood Great Stones. They had apparently existed, but where were they now?

Landywood Great Stones: Asking the Council

By now convinced that the Landywood Great Stones had existed (albeit still unproved in their original position), I sought out Councillor Kath Williams. As Great Wyrley's current local government representative, she should have access to its historical records. She asked me to leave it with her.

Good to her word, Councillor Williams returned my call a few days later. Conferring with a colleague, Kath Perry, she had discovered that the Landywood Great Stones had indeed once existed. They had been moved because of coal-mining and they had been scattered at the side of Gorsey Lane right up until the middle of the 20th century.

But this was a time of building, when council estates were being constructed all over Great Wyrley. The great stones were in the way, when houses were built on the north side of Gorsey Lane. They were removed to the Old Colliery, on the other side of the railway track. Then the Streets Lane council estate was created there. The Landywood Great Stones were too large to simply cart away again, so they were buried. They are believed to be underneath Weston Drive, off Streets Lane.

"We're not talking small here," Cllr Williams told me. "These were big, massive things."

Short of persuading every resident of Weston Drive to allow us to demolish their homes, the Great Stones will remain hidden.

Landywood Great Stones: The Sole Survivor on the Surface

However, one stone had survived on the surface. Much smaller than the rest, this had been used as a feature at the gate of Landywood Enterprise Park, on Holly Lane.

Cllr Williams was keen to emphasise that the size of the Landywood Great Stones could not be judged by this sole survivor. This one was chosen simply because it was relatively tiny.

It sits on Holly Lane, directly opposite to that large loop in the road, which is the supposed original site of the stones. If they were still there, then its narrower side would be pointing right towards them.

Update: WyrleyWolves has commented that he was told by his father that this was a 'gypsy cooking stone'.

View Larger Map

Coming up in part three: did more of the Landywood Great Stones survive?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Hunt for the Landywood Great Stones Part One

The spot around which Holly Lane loops.

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.

Gorsey Lane today (with no Great Stones)

The search was on.

Part two: One of the stones is found.