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Local History

History of Pepper Wood

Pepper Wood is an ancient woodland which has shown a remarkable ability to heal through natural regeneration. The wood has been devastated by clear-felling twice – once during the First World War and again a few years following the Second World War, although fortunately it was not re-planted with conifers.

The name Pepper Wood has developed over the years, and its name can be traced back to 1230 AD.  Pepper Wood is a remnant of North Worcestershire’s ancient Feckenham Forest.

According to the Survey of English Place-Names (The University of Nottingham et al) the suffix, the name name Pypba or Pyppa  refers to a person and the word rod means clearing, the whole name means ‘Pypba’s clearing.’, within the forest area.

Historical Forms

  • Pup(p)erode 1230 
  • Pepperod(e) 1251 
  • Purperode c.1255 
  • Pipperod 1262 For 1275 Ass
  • Popperod 1271 
  • Pypperode 1494 
  • Pyperode Wood c.1830 

The Woodland Trust took ownership in 1981, and they handed the guardianship of the wood over to Pepper Wood Community Woodland Group whose loyal members have taken on the management of the site by reintroducing the centuries-old tradition of coppicing with standards. A past owner of Pepper Wood was the Earl of Shrewsbury (Tythe records 1840).

In 2017, The Woodland Trust acquired Gorsy Piece, and in 2022, having raised £1.5 million, the Trust purchased 120 acres of adjacent land, thereby achieve some 100 hectares of resilient continuous native woodland.

During December 2022, 20,000 trees were planted, including 250 trees plated by members of the community and children from Fairfield First School.

The newly acquired area, which once served as World War 2 Starfish Decoy Site, will also include areas of regenerative growth, species rick meadows and rough pasture for grazing.

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II


(Based on Bromsgrove Messenger Reports)

1953 was the year of our Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June.  Like towns and villages throughout the land, Fairfield set up its own Coronation Committee – chairman

Mr W Fox, secretary Miss Bishop and treasurer Mr Wilkes.  Various events were organised to raise funds for the Big Day.  Mr R Evans acted as MC at a Social and Dance, the new Drama Group put on its first full length production “The Happy Prisoner”, and whist drives were also held.

Coronation Day at Fairfield began with a short service conducted jointly by Mr Savill and Mr WH Bedford, followed by a Ladies fancy dress football match, a cold meal in the Church Hall for older residents, a fancy dress parade and decorated bicycles.  Children had a tea and were given souvenir mugs.  Sports took place until rain sent the revellers back into the Church Hall; at this point it was decided to postpone the bonfire.  Tea and sandwiches were served to all and the children had ice cream, lemonade and oranges.  On the following Saturday evening, Mr Fox lit a huge bonfire on the Rec and the evening ended with the singing of “God Save the Queen”.

Wildmoor also had a “Field Day”.  A marquee on loan from Bromsgrove Rovers Football Club was erected in Mr F Wood’s field by Money Lane crossroads.  There was a fancy dress competition and a tea.  Children i=under 5 were given a crown youngsters received a mug and 35 elderly people received a perpetual calendar.  Mrs Hingley was thanked for her energetic work in organising this event.

Fairfield Ladies Committee bore the expense of laying mains wate to St Mark’s Churchyard to commemorate the Coronation.  Two Almond trees were planted on either side of the War Memorial by Mrs Wilson of Castlebourn and Mrs Eades of The Brook, on behalf of the WI (What became of these Almond trees?  They must have looked really pretty).

The Coronation Committee decided that a clock costing £10 be put in the wall of the Church where all could see it.  A guinea would be sent to the Westminster Abbey Fund and any remaining funds used to provide swings for the children on the Rec.  Letters of thanks had been received from those locals who had been in hospital on Coronation Day and had been sent flowers.

Miss Bishop had organised 3 coach loads from the school to London to see the decorations.  The highlights had been a close view of the Queen and Prince Philip, the changing of the Guard and a visit to the Zoo.

(provided by Margaret Must)

Sadly, the clock face has parted company with the Church wall and is no longer of any benefit to villagers.  It would be good to restore it to commemorate the Coronation in May of King Charles III.

What links the artist William Henry David, Hanley Court and Fairfield?

The British artist William Henry Davis (Circa 1786 – 1865) painted “Colonel Newport Charlett’s Favourite Greyhounds, at Hanley Court, Worcestershire” in 1831. The painting sold at auction in December 2020 for £56,250.

Hanley Court, Worcestershire, was built in the early 18th century, remodelled around 1750 and demolished around 1930. 

The site of the former country house, whose stable block survives, includes a walled kitchen garden, a fishpond, a formal garden and walks.  The site is open to visitors the address Hanley William, Worcestershire, WR15 8QT. 

In 1840, Colonel Newport Charlotte owned a parcel of land adjacent to Bournheath Road that was rented out to John Pheasey who grew crops on this piece of land. This piece of land is opposite what is now 47 – 55 Bournheath Road.

Wildmoor Primitive Methodist Chapels

The First Chapel

The chapel was opened in 1851 and was located at the bottom of Middle Road (map Ref. SO 959 756. The building served the community for over 40 years.

The Primitive Methodist magazine for April 1851 gives an account by J Huff of the opening of Wildmoor Primitive Methodist chapel in the Bromsgrove circuit.

“Wildmoor is a small hamlet about a mile and a quarter north of Catshill. For want of a suitable place  of worship, our people here have long suffered materially; but during the last summer Mr. A. Rutter  built us a chapel 18ft. by 15ft. and let it to us for 50s, annually. Our friends have furnished it with  pulpit, benches, free seats, stove, etc. which cost upwards of £10., all of which has been raised. The  chapel was opened by brother Whitaker, of Ludlow; the congregations are good, and the cause is  prospering”. [Primitive Methodist Magazine 1851]

After providing a venue for worship and other activities for over 40 years, the congregation had outgrown the building, the premises were dilapidated, and it was decided to erect a building “suited to public worship and the demands of modern Sabbath school work”. [County Advertiser & Herald for Staffs. & Worcs. 24th June 1893]

Following its closure as a place of worship in 1894, the property became a dwelling (Chapel Cottage) and over the years has been modified and extended.  Between 2019 and 2021 the building, along with neighbouring Newcot Cottage, was demolished and rebuilt as a residential property.

The Second Chapel

Located on Top Road (map Ref. SO 961 759) is the “Jubilee” Methodist Chapel, which was opened 15th March 1894.

It was known as the “Jubilee” Chapel as 1893/94 was the Jubilee of the Primitive Methodist Missionary Society.

The chapel design was by Mr. Ewen Harper of Barnt Green and Birmingham and the builder was Mr. Baylis of Belbroughton. A memorial stone was laid on 9th October 1893. [Bromsgrove Messenger 14th October 1893]

The chapel opened on 15th March 1894 – “The proceedings opened with a brief service in the old chapel (see below), conducted by Rev. T. Clamp. At the close of the service the old building was formally closed and locked and the audience then proceeded to the new church where the architect (Mr. Ewen Harper) handed over the key for the first congregation to enter singing the hymn ‘Hold the Fort’. There was a large attendance, the chapel being filled.” [Bromsgrove Messenger 17th March 1894]

The Bromsgrove Messenger says of the building (in 1894) – “A neat and substantial little Gothic building, 30ft by 19ft, capable of seating 120 persons. Cost about £300 including furniture”.

In the 7th August 2008 edition of the Bromsgrove Advertiser, the paper reports that Wildmoor Methodist Church would close on Sunday, August 31. Although it still had members, none of them lived in Wildmoor.

The chapel closed with a final service on Sunday 31st August 2008 and sold to a private owner.  The building currently remains standing and empty.

The Looped Hole Walls of Fairfield

Have you ever wondered why there are holes in the wall, on both sides of the road, at the junction of Bournheath Road and Stourbridge Road?

They are known as Loop Holes.

Loop Holes were cut into garden walls during World War 2 to allow weapons to be fired through them, by the local Home Guard unit, in event of an enemy invasion.

According to the Defence of Worcestershire Project (1996), these structures are now quite rare in Worcestershire.

Fairfield Court

To the north of the village is Fairfield Court, currently a private residence, formerly farmhouse, the site has a rich history that goes back to Anglo-Saxon times.

What can be seen today is reputedly the third house on the site, originating in the late 15th to early 16th century, and stands on an island boarded by a moat. Access to the house was once obtained by a drawbridge, but all traces of this have now disappeared and the moat along the north side of the building has been filled in.

The current building is the successor of the Domesday manor of Forfeld, and in the 11th century the manor belonged to Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who was married to Lady Godiva. 

The location of the Manor was in the medieval Forest of Feckenham and the forest court for the northern region, extending from the Trent, was held at the Manor.

Records indicate that a chapel was formerly situated immediately to the south of the house. 

The house was associated with recusant activities after the Reformation; it is said that Father John Wall, one of the last Christian Martyrs, preached here in a chapel constructed in the roof of the house. 

Fairfield’s WW2 Starfish Decoy Site

A Second World War ‘Permanent Starfish’ bombing decoy site was established, on land behind Fairfield Court, in the marshy valley between Cross Coppice and Gorsey Piece (SO 938 754). It was constructed to deflect enemy bombing from Birmingham. It is referenced as being in use between 01-AUG-1941 and 08-APR-1943. Nothing remains of the decoy site itself but the stone road to it is still clearly to be seen.

Starfish sites were large-scale night-time decoys created during the Blitz to simulate burning British cities. The aim was to divert German night bombers from their intended targets so they would drop their ordnance over the countryside. The sites were an extension of Colonel John Turner’s decoy programme for airfields and factories (code named “Q” Sites). Following the bombing, and near destruction, of Coventry in November 1940, Turner was tasked with creating decoys for seven major cities.

Further ‘Starfish’ decoys were located outside Birmingham; Ballsall, Holt End, Maxstoke, Bickenhill, Peopleton, Halford, and Silvington.

All decoys for Birmingham were closed by late 1944. The bombing decoys for Birmingham had limited success, possibly because the decoys were positioned quite far out from their intended targets.

St. Mark the Evangelist and his Feast Day

St. Mark’s Day

Our village church was named to honour St. Mark the Evangelist, whose feast day is on 25th April.

Mark was an Evangelist—one of the four men who wrote the Gospels found in the New Testament. Mark’s Gospel was written first, and it is the shortest description of Jesus’ life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. Mark’s writings helped both Matthew and Luke to write their Gospels.

Mark was not one of the original Apostles, and he probably never knew Jesus. Instead, it is believed that he was a member of the first Christian community. In his writings, St. Peter refers to Mark as his “son.” Peter may have used this term to show his love for Mark, or he may have used it because he was the one who baptized Mark. It is believed that Peter was the primary source for Mark’s Gospel.

Mark travelled with Sts. Paul and Barnabas to spread the Good News about Jesus. During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul mentions Mark’s concern for him and writes about how helpful Mark is in the ministry of helping others to believe in Jesus (Colossians. 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11).

Mark founded the Church in Egypt and he became bishop of Alexandria, an important centre of trade and power during ancient times. He died there sometime between the years 68-74 AD as a martyr for his belief in Jesus.

Mark’s Gospel is a lasting treasure for all believers. He wrote his Gospel to help people know that Jesus was the Son of God who suffered and died to save us from sin and death. When we read Mark’s Gospel, we learn that to be a follower of Jesus, we, too, must be willing to make sacrifices, to “take up our cross and follow” (Mark 8:34) Jesus as he asks us to do.

The symbol for Mark is a lion with wings. That is because his Gospel begins with the story of John the Baptist, a “voice crying in the wilderness” (Mark 1:3), like the roaring of a lion. Lions are called the kings of the jungle. Mark’s Gospel tells us about Jesus’ royalty as God’s Son, a kingship we share through our Baptism.

We celebrate Saint Mark’s feast day on April 25 and he patron of Notaries, Venice, Barristers. His life and Gospel remind us to share the Good News about Jesus with others.

English Custom

‘Tis now, replied the village belle,

St. Mark’s mysterious eve,

And all that old traditions tell

I tremblingly believe;

How, when the midnight signal tolls,

Along the churchyard green,

A mournful train of sentenced souls

In winding-sheets are seen.

The ghosts of all whom death shall doom

Within the coming year,

In pale procession walk the gloom,

Amid the silence drear.’

It was the custom in villages in England, from the 17th century to the late 19th century, to sit in the church porch on St. Mark’s Eve. Those sitting had to keep silent between the bell tolling at 11.00 p.m. until the bell struck 1.00 a.m. In Yorkshire it was necessary to keep vigil for three successive nights. On the third such sitting, it was said that the ghosts of those to die during the year would be witnessed passing into the church. This practice took place throughout England, but was most prevalent in northern and western counties.

Some accounts of the custom state that the watchers must be fasting, or must circle the church before taking up position. The ghosts of those who were to die soon would be the first observed, while those who would almost see out the year would not be witnessed until almost 1.00 a.m. Other variations of the superstition say that the watchers would see headless or rotting corpses, or coffins approaching. Another tradition holds that a young woman can see the face of her future husband appear on her smock by holding it before the fire on St Mark’s Eve.

St. Mark’s Prayer

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark:

Give us grace, that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.