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Local History

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 that was the home of Lady Godiva and Earl Leofric in the 11th century. 

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.

Amen

Fairfield Church Hall

In 1979 the old wooden Church Hall was knocked down and replaced by the Village Hall that stands today.

Back in August/September 1926 there was no Church Hall, with Village activities taking place at Fairfield School. A Church Hall “Building” committee, consisting of Trustees and local residents had been formed, and they held their meetings at the School; coordinating fund raising activities, studying building plans & commissioning a contractor to erect the building. By the end of 1926 the Church Hall had been built and formally opened.

Opening Ceremony of St. Mark’s Church Hall

The hall was formally opened on Saturday December 11th 1926 by Lady Georgina Vernon, who was supported on the platform by the Rector (the Rev. Douglas Alner Townsend), Mrs. Townsend, Messrs. W. H. Matty (Hon. Treasurer and Trustee), J. T. G. Davis (Trustee), H. S. Stevens & F. Handley (Churchwardens), J. B. Nickols (Hon. Secretary), W. S. Webb, Mrs. W. Shakespeare Webb & Mrs. W. H. Matty.

Having briefly introduced Lady Georgina Vernon, the Rector asked her to formally Open the Hall, and she proceeded to the door on the west side (veranda door), and with a silver key presented to her by the Contractor (Mr. Grosvenor Workman of Birmingham) unlocked the door, and declared the Hall open.

Speeches from the Rector and several other persons followed, and a full report of the opening ceremony appeared the “County Express” &“Bromsgrove Messenger”.

Upwards of 300 persons were present for the opening ceremony, the hall was filled to the utmost capacity. Many people had to stand as there was insufficient seating.

By hospitality of Mr. Matty the audience were served with tea, and a collection was taken for the Hall funds, which amounted to £10 10s 6d.

A concert followed the opening ceremony at 7pm, when the hall was again filled to capacity. Dancing was kept up to 11pm, and the day proceedings then terminated. Everyone being pleased with their achievements and confident of the Hall’s future success.

World War 2

The Church Hall was used by the Fairfield Platoon of the 2nd Worcestershire (Bromsgrove) Battalion Home Guard as their Headquarters during WWII and was also requisitioned for use as a first aid point.

War Memorial

On August 24th, 1914, at the very beginning of the Great War, a Branch of the Prince of Wales’ Fund was started in the Parish, which was intended to support those people affected by the war.

There quickly followed a branch of the Red Cross Fund and also a Belgian Refugee Fund, which was formed to support a family of Belgian refugees that had settled in Belbroughton.

The war ended in 1918. The Committee then in charge of the Refugees were asked to organise something in the form of a War Memorial. The Parish Council was approached and along with Belgian committee formed “The Committee of Belbroughton and Fairfield Peace Fund”, the proposition that Memorial Crosses should be erected at both ends of the Parish (Belbroughton & Fairfield), to meet the strong feeling that some permanent Memorial should be provided. It was also suggested that a Recreation Ground be established in the village of Belbroughton.

With the generous support of local subscribers, donations from the employees of Messrs. Isaac Nash Ltd, a scythe making factory in Bebroughton, the committee achieved its goal.

Belbroughton recreation Ground was opened for use in September, 1920.

Belbroughton War Memorial Cross was unveiled by General Sir H. Walker, and dedicated by the Rev. S. M. Cooke, Rector, Saturday, November 12th, 1921.

Fairfield War Memorial Cross, was unveiled by General Sir Percy Radcliffe, and dedicated by Rev. Canon Cronshaw, Sunday, May 4th, 1924.

As well as the names of the fallen from both World Wars, another inscription reads:- “To the Glory of God and in Memory of the Men of Fairfield who gave their lives for God, King and Country in the Great War 1914-1919 + Lest We Forget”. Like many memorials of this time, the ending date is given as 1919 rather than 1918.

According to the United Kingdom National Inventory of War Memorials, the memorial was designed by the Bromsgrove Guild, who were well-known in the arts & craft world. (The Bromsgrove Guild existed from 1898 to 1966.)

The War Memorial lists the following men who died in service of their country:

John Banner (son of Luke & Teresa Banner, Wildmoor)

Rank : Lance Corporal

Regiment : 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 12364

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 25th April 1915 aged 21

Buried : Commemorated on Helles Memorial, Turkey.

Stanley Charles Biddle (son of Edward & Sarah Biddle, Fairfield)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 18726

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 15th November 1916 aged 33

Buried : Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, France.

John Thomas Burton (husband of Florence of Fairfield and father of 10 children)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 36507

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 27th March 1917 aged 40

Buried : St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France

Samuel Clements (son of Henry and Emma Clement of Birmingham)

Rank : Lance Sergeant

Regiment : 1st Battalion Warwickshire Regiment

Service number : 1125

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 16th February 1917 aged 26

Buried : Fins New British Cemetery, Somme, France

Albert Crisp (son of Thomas and Eliza Crisp of Bournheath)

Rank : Corporal

Regiment : 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 26908

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 9th October 1918 aged 26

Buried : Fairfield (St Mark) Churchyard.

Clifford Vernon Darby

Rank : Private

Regiment : 13th (2nd/4th Battalion The South Lancashire Regiment) Battalion The Parachute Regiment Army Air Corps

Service number : 14520557

Conflict : WW2

Date of death : 7th June 1944 aged 23

Buried : Ranville War Cemetery, France.

Jephthah Davenport (son of Henry & Mary Davenport of Bournheath, husband of Lizzie of Bournheath)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 27433

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 11th July 1916 aged 26

Buried : Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, France.

Philip Davenport

Rank : Sapper

Regiment : 1017 Docks Operating Company Royal Engineers

Service number : 1909248

Conflict : WW2

Date of death : 11th August 1942 aged 22

Buried : Beirut War Cemetery, Lebanese Republic.

Ernest John Eades (son of John & Emma Eades of Fairfield)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 19457

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 4th July 1916 aged 22

Buried : Basra War Cemetery, Iraq.

George Eades (son of John & Julia Eades of Stoneybridge)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 2nd Battalion The Herefordshire Regiment. King’s Shropshire Light Infantry

Service number : 4038165

Conflict : WW2

Date of death : 31st July 1941 aged 25

Buried : Fairfield (St Mark) Churchyard.

Donald Evans (son of Mr. & Mrs. T.R.J. Evans of Fairfield)

Rank : Driver

Regiment : Royal Signals

Service number : 316382

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 16th December 1918 aged 21

Buried : Terlincthun British Cemetry, Wimille, Pas de Calais, France

John Hancox (son of Annie Elizabeth Hancox of Fairfield)

Rank : Private John Wallace Hancox

Regiment : 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 12386

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 27th June 1915 aged 26

Buried : Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, Turkey.

William Harbach (son of Harry & Caroline Harbach of Stourbridge)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 424th Agricultural Company Labour Corps

Service number : 460691

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 10th October 1918 aged 27

Buried : Fairfield (St Mark) Churchyard.

Samuel Harbridge (son of George & Mary Harbridge of Bell Heath)

Rank : Driver

Regiment : Royal Field Artillery

Service number : 87551

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 27th March 1918 aged 35

Buried : Etaples Military Cemetery

Walter Harris (son of Joshua & Jane Harris of Bournheath)

Rank : Driver

Regiment : Royal Field Artillery

Service number : Unknown

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 19th August 1917 aged 27

Buried : Unknown

Charles Herbert Harrison (son of Charles H. & Sarah Harrison of Bournheath)

Rank : Lance Corporal

Regiment : 14th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 25484

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 8th June 1917 aged 23

Buried : Fairfield (St Mark) Churchyard.

John Hodgetts (son of Caleb & Annie Hodgetts, Bournheath)

Rank : Lance Sergeant

Regiment : 14th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 25815

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 2nd September 1916 aged 22

Buried : Wimereux Communal Cemetery, France.

Ernest Hughes (son of Edward & Charlotte Hughes of Fairfield)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 26033

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 9th August 1916

Buried : Vermelles British Cemetery, France.

George Frederick Ivamy (of Fairfield and son of Joseph & Emily Ivamy of Winton, Dorset)

Rank : Sergeant

Regiment : 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 15670

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 1st July 1916 aged 34

Buried : Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, France.

Frederick Charles Jones (son of Charles H. & Agnes Jones of Bournheath)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment

Service number : 47597

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 31st July 1917 aged 20

Buried : Commemorated on Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

Rupert Rea (son of James Ellen Rea of Huddington)

Rank : Private

Regiment : Devonshire Regiment. Transferred to 446th Company Labour Corps.

Service number : 29625

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 1st December 1918 aged 27

Buried : Fairfield (St Mark) Churchyard

Harry Read (son of Arthur & Mary Read of Fairfield)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 27142

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 15th December 1916 aged 20

Buried : Commemorated on Basra Memorial, Iraq.

Charles W Stevens (son of Charles Henry & Myra Stevens of Bromsgrove)

Rank : Driver

Regiment : 10 Ambulance Car Company Royal Army Service Corps

Service number : 138071

Conflict : WW2

Date of death : 13th October 1943 aged 24

Buried : Johannesburg (West Park) Cemetery, South Africa.

Harry Tilt (son of Thomas & Mary Tilt of Bournheath)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 9803

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 14th April 1918 aged 19

Buried : Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France.

Charles Tranter (son of Mary A. Tranter of Belbroughton and husband of Jane of Bournheath)

Rank : Gunner

Regiment : 129th Battery 42nd Brigade Royal Field Artillery

Service number : 328

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 15th October 1917 aged 37

Buried : Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm), Belgium.

William Thomas Wilkes (son of Thomas & Elizabeth Wilkes of Wildmoor)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 19896

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 30th July 1916 aged 26

Buried : Commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, France.

Arthur Wood (son of Sarah Read of Bournheath)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 15719

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 6th October 1916 aged 22

Buried : Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers-La-Boisselle, France.

Ernest Wood (son of William & Emma Wood of Wildmoor)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 3rd Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Service number : 60440

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 19th February 1919 aged 18

Buried : Fairfield (St Mark) Churchyard.

Frederick Ernest Wood (son of Mrs. Hodgkiss of Wildmoor)

Rank : Private

Regiment : 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment

Service number : 29789

Conflict : WW1

Date of death : 12th April 1918 aged 20

Buried : Unknown