Made of Stone

During the last couple of weeks, if you’ve walked along the path that runs along the top of Beacon Park (between the A51 and the football pitches), chances are that you might have spotted this pile of moss covered stones. A lot of the vegetation in this area has been removed recently, making their presence much more obvious than when I first came across them in Spring last year.

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Back when I first noticed them, I did a bit of asking around and I was given three different stories regarding their provenance. The most likely explanation came from someone at Lichfield District Council who said that the stonework was a section of the balustrade which runs around the park at the Beacon Street/Bird Street entrance, which had been removed to make a new corner entrance (near to the Chandlers kiosk/public toilets) sometime in the 1980s. However, someone else thought that the stones were what remained of a structure belonging to the farm which once occupied this area of the park and another person suggested that they were part of some sort of tower which was at Stowe Pool until it was dismantled after becoming structurally unsafe.

Last week, Bob Houghton, from the Burntwood Family History Group and Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust noticed them and sent me an email to say that some of the people who work at the park had told him that they were from the old post office which once stood on Bird Street, where Ego now is. So now we have yet another explanation!

To be honest, I’m torn between the truth and enjoying the ongoing speculation about what the stones are and how they came to be in a patch of woodland in the park. As the moss grows fat on these old stones, I hope that the stories keep growing too.

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The last time I walked past the stones,  I found a handful of bits and bobs scattered around them.  I’m pretty sure these are jigsaw pieces to other stories and nothing at all to do with this little puzzle. However,  if you want to include a scrabble tile, some pottery, a piece of tile and an old clay pipe into your version of the story, then please feel free!

 

Pillars of the Community

Back in April, I found what I thought were moss covered stone pillars in the undergrowth at Beacon Park, and asked if anyone knew what they were, or where they had come from. Well now, thanks to members of Lichfield District Council and the Beacon Street Area Residents Association, we have not one possible solution but three!

Could they be:

a) a section of balustrading from the Bird St/Beacon St side of the park, removed in the 1980s to create a corner entrance to the park over by the new Chandlers kiosk and the public toilets?

b) part of a structure used by a dairyman to shelter in during bad weather? There was once a farm in the vicinity of the Bunkers Hill Car Park, and a dog walker remembers that before the war, dairy cows were kept on the land that is now the football pitches and woodland.

Beacon Park map. Source: Gareth Thomas and his excellent blog – http://allaboutlichfield.blogspot.co.uk/

c) part of a “tower” that was originally at Stowe pool?  Apparently, after it became unsafe, the tower was dismantled and some of the stonework was put in the woodland.

d) None of the above?!

It’s great how by trying to uncover the story behind the stones, it’s also uncovered other things – the memories of cows on what’s now the football pitch and the possibility of a tower at Stowe Pool for starters! It’s also a good reminder that the version of a story we’ve been told, or the one we remember, might not be altogether correct. That’s not to say that such stories don’t have value, it’s just we need to be careful about accepting things at face value.

By the way,  if I was betting woman I’d go for option a….

Family Trees

Standing in a small area of woodland on the edge of a field in Leomansley is a stone with the inscription ‘Greville’s Belt W.W.W 1923‘. It isn’t a gravestone, although you can see why some have mistaken it for one, but a marker erected by the then owner of the Maple Hayes estate, William Worthington Worthington, to commemorate the planting of this small belt of trees, named after his eldest son (William) Greville Worthington.(1)

In 1918, William Worthington had inherited Maple Hayes from his father Albert Octavius Worthington, a partner in the Burton brewery that carried his family name, who had originally purchased the estate in 1884. However, Greville Worthington would not inherit the estate from his father. In the early hours of 17th March 1942, whilst serving as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve at Dover, Greville drove through a restricted area. Although the sentry on duty ordered him to ‘Halt!’ twice, he failed to stop.The sentry opened fire and Greville was fatally wounded, dying in hospital ten days later. A verdict of accidental death was recorded. In the October of the following year, there was another family tragedy.  Lady Diana Worthington, Greville’s former wife, went missing from her home Weston Manor in Olney. A scarf and a coat were found on the banks of the River Ouse and after a week of searching, Diana’s body was recovered from the water.

Greville and Diana had four children together – Caroline, Anna, Charles and Benjamin. I have not yet been unable to find out much about what happened to the children following the deaths of their parents. However, we do know that when William Worthington died in 1949, nineteen year old Charles was his heir. (2)  William’s death brought the Worthington era at Maple Hayes to an end and in 1950, the estate was sold. The house and around twenty three acres were acquired by Staffordshire County Council for educational purposes. Since 1981, the site has been occupied by the Maple Hayes Dyslexia School. The remainder of the estate, some 1,500 acres including farms, cottages and agricultural land, was sold to a trust.(3)

As well as Greville’s Belt,  other areas of woodland were named after Worthington family members. Lady Muriel’s Belt, Herbert’s Spinney and Fitzherbert Firs still appear on maps of the area, as mentioned in BrownhillsBob’s recent post on Leomansley. Are there more stone markers to be found in these places?  I also noticed a house on the site of the old playground of Christ Church School, near to the church, which has a plaque saying ‘W.W.W 1920‘. Surely another reference to William Worthington Worthington, although exactly what the connection is I don’t know as yet.  The Worthington family may no longer reside at Maple Hayes but their names still echo in the landscape that surrounds their former home.

Notes

(1) I have seen similar stones marking ‘Parker’s Plantation’ and ‘The Roundabouts’ at the Pipe Hall Farm, owned by The Woodland Trust.

(2) W.G.W had a younger brother Albert Ronald Worthington, born 1904 and died in 1951. but according to the County History, it was grandson Charles, eldest son of W.G.W that was W.W.W’s heir.

(3) Until last year, around 360 acres of the former Maple Hayes estate was still owned by the trust. However, in April 2012 it was sold to new owners The Crown Estate for just under three million pounds.

Sources

Burntwood: Manors, local government and public services’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 205-220.

The Lichfield Mercury archives

Nottingham Evening Post archive

 

Tree following: Tree Routes

As far I understand it, the path running past Christ Church was at one point the old Walsall Rd, ‘realigned under an Act of 1832 with the new Queen Street and Walsall Road bypassing the route along Lower Sandford Street and what was later called Christchurch Lane. That lane takes its name from the church opened in 1847, and by then it had been continued south-west from the church to the new Walsall road, the old line from Lower Sandford Street having been turned into a drive for Beacon Place’.(1)

The path is surrounded by trees that I believe were planted in the mid-19th century by the Hinckleys of Beacon Place, the estate that occupied most of what is now Beacon Park between 1800-ish and 1964, when the house was demolished.

So that’s a bit of historical scene setting, now what about the tree!

There’s one along this path in particular that seems to attract attention. Several people have commented on it in the past. I even heard a girl refer to it as ‘The Skeleton Tree’! I’m not even sure what kind of tree this is but how could I resist following it?!

How do holes like this form in a tree? As usual, on nature matters I can’t offer any upfront answers (though rest assured I shall be trying to find out, part of the reason I’m doing this is to learn things!) but I can give you a peep into the hole nearest to the ground.


And a close up of the one at the top…….


Nearby, the snowdrops are looking very shabby now.

I love to see these little flowers at the end of the winter, but I have to confess I’m even happier when I see these…

Not quite a host, but enough to signal that spring has arrived in this part of Lichfield! The wild garlic has also made an appearance. The aroma from the leaves is incredible, I’m sorry I can’t share it. No pretty white flowers yet though, let’s see what April brings for the Old Walsall Road!

Talking of Walsall, I’ve just found out that the brilliant & enthusiatic Morgan, a Walsall Countryside Ranger has started a Walsall Wildlife blog. She’s one of the most knowledgable people I know about nature and I’ve learnt loads from her (although clearly this is very much an ongoing education 😉 ). I really recommend that you check out this and the Walsall Wildlife flickrstream.  I bet Morgan even knows how those holes in the trees got there……!

Sources:

(1)’Lichfield: The 19th century’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 24-32. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42338  Date accessed: 25 March 2012.