Unlike the fulling mill built on Leomansley Brook in 1790, which only seems to have lasted for a hundred years or so, the nearby mill on the Trunkfield Brook was part of the landscape for a long, long time.
Up until the nineteenth century it seems it was known as Sandford Mill, but at some point became known as Trunkfields. Owned by St John’s hospital, it first appears in records in 1294, and again in 1658 when the miller got into trouble for encroaching on the highway when re-building it. Cartography wise, the first map I can see that shows the mill (just as a symbol), is the 1775 Yates one. In 1853 the Conduit Land Trustees rented it out and converted it to steam power and shortly afterwards was apparently used as a bone mill. Jame Meacham gave up the mill in 1872 and it fell into disuse. In 1883 it was suggested as a potential site for a small pox and infectious diseases hospital .The property owners and inhabitants in the area were not happy and came up with the following list of reasons why the site was, in their opinion, ‘in every way disadvantageous, not only to the immediate neighbourhood but to the whole city’.
1. The road past the pool was the only access road to a good deal of field property in the area.
2. A public footpath, much frequented, leading to the Birmingham Rd goes within a few yards of the building.
3. There are no less than eighty homes on the Walsall Rd, with a population of around 480 and there are other properties close by including the vicarage and the cottages (presumably those on what is now Christchurch Lane).
4. The site is in the midst of a large and respectable population.
5. There is a prospect of a considerable increase in the number of houses.
6. The prevalent wind on this side of the City of Lichfield is that which blows almost direct from the Trunkfield Pool to the city.
7. The site is notoriously damp and unhealthy and thoroughly unsuited for a hospital of any description
8.Many of the cottagers are in the habit of going to the pool for their water supply.
9. Trunkfield Pool is the only public place for skating within the precincts of the city.
In the end, there was no hospital on the site of Trunkfields Mill. Instead, it became a farm (and people carried on skating there for some years – an advert in the Lichfield Mercury, February 2 1917 carried an advert that simply said ‘Skating!!! Skating!!! at Trunkfields Pool, Walsall Road, Lichfield. You’d think people would have been more wary after horrific accidents like this in London 1867).
On the Burntwood Family History website there is a great photograph of Mr and Mrs David Blair (see here) who came from Scotland to Trunkfields Farm in 1890. There is a snippet in the Lichfield Mercury about a not very neighbourly spat between David Blair and fellow farmer Edward Thomas Sankey of Sandfields Farm in November 1895, when the latter summoned the former for assault. According to Sankey he was making his way home via Trunkfields when Blair stopped him and told him he was trespassing. Sankey said it was a public highway and Blair apparently took hold of his coat and collar and pushed him. Then Mrs Blair came out and told Sankey to go home via Mr Hollier’s field. Sankey refused and Blair hit him in the face and threatened to throw him into the mill pond. Blair accused Sankey of being drunk and said if he had pushed him, as he was accused of doing, he would have fallen down. Another farmer, Joseph Standley was called as a witness. He had seen part of the dispute and was ‘so amused that he ‘nearly burst himself with laughing’, although he did support Mr Blair’s assertion that Sankey was drunk and hadn’t been hit or pushed by him. The case was dismissed and Sankey ordered to pay the costs.
Several sources, including the county history and local HER records record the mill pool being backfilled in 1930. However, this seems to be a bit at odds with an article in the Lichfield Mercury on 14th February 1947, which reported that Mr Saxton, the owner of Trunkfield Mill Pond, had been thanked by the Lichfield City Council health committee for agreeing that the pond could be used for controlled tipping without rent but given back to him when filled in. I’m sure the residents weren’t quite as thankful – what about the detrimental effect on the respectable population and their winter skating?
Apparently some of the mill/farm buildings remained until the 1980s/90s, which is before my time in Lichfield but there must be plenty that do remember. What I do recall is that until recently there was a derelict modern-ish property on the site, known as Blair House (presumably after David Blair and his family). This has now been demolished with new houses currently being built on the site.
There were objections to this, based on the fact that vehicular approach to the new houses was a narrow lane used by children walking to school. I suspect this must also have been the lane that the protesters against the isolation hospital were referring to. It’s now been given a (new?) name which turns out to be Halfpenny Lane, the road I was looking for back in October last year. Now split into two by the realignment of the Walsall Road in the 1830s (the other part is known as Middle Lane) it led to Christchurch Lane (the original Walsall Road) for at least two hundred years, if not longer.
I had intended to walk down this lane, but it was blocked off due to the building work and so I was forced to negotiate the labyrinth that is the Walsall Rd estate. I eventually found my way out and was rewarded for my efforts by the discovery of an old metal gatepost in some shrubbery near to the old Conduit Lands Pumping Station cottage on the Walsall Road which may be a left over relic from those days. More info on the pumping station on Brownhillls Bob’s blog here.
I also saw some graffiti on the side of a house. I don’t condone it but I do confess to being a little intrigued…..
Lichfield: Economic history’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 109-131