The history of Kinver was compiled by Max Bowen and first published on KinverOnline in 2004. This article has been recovered from the internet archive for August 16th 2004 and republished. Max Bowen published a book ‘A Century of Village Life: Kinver 1900-2000’
In the beginning
Kinver was called Chenevare in the Doomsday survey (note: although it was never actually called this, it was simply that the Frenchman making the note couldn’t pronounce “Kinver”). The high ground of Kinver Edge was used from early times with a settlement that developed into an Iron Age promontory fort. This is now clearly distinguishable as a result of clearing adjacent ground. Of equal importance in the early 11th century was the Royal Forest. Stourton Castle was maintained as a hunting lodge in which King John made visits in 1200, 1205 and 1206. The barons got him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, but it was downhill after that for he died in 1216 and is buried at Worcester Cathedral. Kinver Edge is now a minuscule replica of a Royal Forest but provides a lung to the adjacent Black Country. It is now owned and run by the National Trust.
The castle was also the birthplace in 1500 of Cardinal Reginald Pole, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1556. He was the last Catholic to hold that office. He died in 1558 and is buried at Canterbury Cathedral.
Stourton Castle was also involved in the civil war, being garrisoned for the King, and was captured by Tinker Fox in 1644. However, it was recaptured by Sir Gilbert Gerrard.
In the 12th century Kinver was a mere hamlet with only a smattering of buildings, but markets were popular during this period and profitable to the Lord of the Manor who reaped market dues, rents and fees.
Richard Hampton, who had been Squire first to Sir John Chandos, then to the Black Prince and afterwards to Richard II, acquired the Manor of Kinver. The White Harte was the emblem of Richard II.
But the market fell into disuse by the reign of Henry VIII when William Whorwood, his Solicitor General and Lord of the Manor, obtained a new Charter for a weekly Tuesday market and two fairs yearly. This flourished and a market hall was built in 1619 but by 1798 fell into disuse.
A lifeline was thrown to Kinver by the completion in 1771 of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and the subsequent Stourbridge canal. This revolutionised transport in the area. The second factor having an input was the Enclosure Acts which transformed all the open commonland into the field patterns we know today. Whilst there was some industry during the 18th century, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. Sheep were the dominant factor and some of the wool was processed locally. Power was provided by the river Stour and the various mill pools and wheels. This also helped corn milling and iron mills. The population at the beginning of the 19th century was 1655. By 1821 it was 1735 due possibly to the expansion of the iron industry.
Much of the High Street was built up on each side but Kinver retained a very rural landscape. There were many malt houses, though some were quite small. These supplied malt made from local grown barley to the seven pubs and a beer shop. One purpose built malt house survives at the rear of the present pharmacy in the High Street.
Existing then were the Green Dragon (now the Constitutional Club), George and Dragon (now demolished), The Cross, and The Plough. The Swan (where Kingsfayre now stands) has disappeared. There was a bakery, several butchers and slaughterhouses. There were a considerable number of craftsmen – three blacksmiths, two of which were wheelwrights, a cooper, tailor, glazier, shoemaker and a hatter.
Four mills for rolling and slitting iron flourished – Kinfayre, Hyde, Whittington and Gothersley. At the Hyde was a tilting mill, spade and shovel manufactory and corn mill. This existed until about 1912. At one time the village pump was in Mill Lane near the Holloway and the market hall (built in 1619, demolished about 1830) stood at the bottom of Vicarage Drive, once called Workhouse Lane.
The Hyde works grew in size and steam power was introduced. The peak of production was in about 1860 when the population of the village reached 3551. A recession in the iron industry forced the closure of the works in the mid-1880s and the population declined.
A considerable woollen cloth industry in the parish lasted until the end of the 17th century as sheep dominated the area. However, the woollen industry was virtually extinct by 1830.
In 1830 the workhouse was at the other end of the High Street near the top of Mill Lane. Clifford Cottage, then much larger, served as this institution which was managed by the Church Wardens and Overseers. The 1834 Poor Law transferred the responsibilities to the Seisdon Board of Guardians.
One must remember that this apparent idyllic rural life was a delusion. There was no electric light, gas, running water or deep sewerage. Indeed, the parish council was wrestling with this problem well into the 20th century. There was no transport except by horse. There were no schools, except Sunday schools and children started work at an early age.
The first National school was built in 1849 and became more familiar to later generations as the infants’ school at the bottom of Vicarage Drive (now the library).
Kinver was once blessed with a grammar school – until 1915. It started as a school kept by a Chantry Priest. A document of 1511 denotes a body of trustees appointed Sir Thomas Rondyll to say Mass. He was also to teach grammar. The school continued until under Edward VI, chantries were dissolved and their endowments seized by the Crown. There was a bit of an outcry and eventually Edward VI granted many Charters for the foundation of grammar schools such as King Edward VI schools in Birmingham, Stourbridge and Shrewsbury.
No Charter was granted to Kinver, but the local people were determined to have their own grammar school. ‘Local people’ were obviously the gentry and middle class traders and craftsmen. It is unlikely farmworkers or labourers were part of the scene.
The school was re-endowed and by 1558 there is a reference to a schoolmaster by the name of John Cole. The school went through difficult times in securing endowments, raising funds and carrying out repairs. George Wharton was appointed schoolmaster in 1834 and became Curate. He appears to have been a man of considerable energy who increased the size of the school to about 50.
Gradually over the years the numbers dropped as what industry there was in Kinver left the area and the school’s finances became even more difficult. Numbers dropped even further, even though girls were admitted in 1901. This was possibly because the tramline made it easier to get to Stourbridge grammar school. In 1902 there were only 26 pupils. In 1907 the School Inspector commented adversely on the buildings and lack of finance, although he was satisfied with the tuition. In 1913 the Board of Education heard of the death of the schoolmaster and advised the governors not to appoint a successor while the future of the school was considered.
The Trustees and the parish fought the plans of the Board and there was a public inquiry. But no one could find the money to increase the endowment. The Board ordered that the school be closed and it did so in 1915.
Whilst affluent parents could send their children to Kinver grammar school and mill owners and craftsmen could enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, the majority lived in poverty without any modest attributes of a civilised society. They lacked adequate sanitary facilities and water supplies. There were at one time two workhouses in Kinver and a glance at the church burial record show that many departed this world in tragic circumstances. There were many losses in childbirth and at an early age; several people over the years were found drowned or died in the workhouse – or were hanged.
As the 19th century turned into the 20th, residents of Kinver may have had visions of a new deal. They were to be sadly disappointed. With a population of just over 2000, Kinver was in the Kingswinford Division of Stafford County. It was a typical rural habitat and England’s green and pleasant land existed at White Hill, Stone Lane, Enville Road, Edge View Walk and many other areas of Kinver.
A brief trip round Kinver may help to set the scene.
The Lock Inn, long since demolished, was situated almost opposite the Vine Inn. Several wharves existed in the area near Kinver Lock that provided work for the weighbridge. The canal was used mainly for carrying coal and sand. The terminus site of Kinver light railway – closed in 1930 – was taken over by South Staffordshire Water Company to accommodate boreholes and a pump house. The pipeline follows the course of the railway embankment as far as the Stewponey (now demolished). The remains of the railway bridges and old lengths of rail were removed in 1979.
The Stag Inn in Mill Lane (now Stag Corner) was closed for many years and only demolished in 1975. It relied mainly on workers from Kinver mill on the opposite side of the road. This was sometimes a screw mill, wire mill and saw mill and was powered by water until 1920 when a lowering of the river level precluded the use of a water wheel. A 50-ton powered electric motor then provided power, leapfrogging completely over the steam age.
The High Street has of course altered over the century and is just about hanging on to its character. The Burgesses, an old Victorian building, was demolished in the early 1960s. The old building was sub-divided to provide several dwellings.
A national school for boys and girls was built in 1851. A separate school for girls was built in 1873. A boys’ school was later built in Castle Street and the older building used as an infants’ school. It is now the library. The post office was once adjacent to the pharmacy and the almshouses in the High Street demolished in the 1960s to be replaced with a modern shop development.
At Mill Pool in Mill Lane there was a ‘boating station’ operated by Mr John Timmings. The mill weir deteriorated and the river level dropped. Mill House now occupies this area.
There were many public houses in Kinver and the village was renowned for its variety. Sadly they are slowly diminishing. The Green Dragon was first licensed in 1718. In about 1902 it was rebuilt as an upmarket hotel, but it was not very successful. In 1936 it became the Constitutional Club. The Red Lion is now a Chinese restaurant (at Acre car park).
The Elm Tree has been sold for housing development. Gone are the George and Dragon, the Old Plough and many others. The pharmacy building was built by William Nock in 1816 as a house. It was divided into two shops in about 1856 and one part became a pharmacy soon after that date.
At the top end of the High Street there was a Coffee House, used as the ARP headquarters during the second world war. It was demolished together with adjacent cottages in 1947 and not replaced. Dunsley Road was once a lane leading down to the Vine Inn before the Dunsley Bank development. There have been further developments in recent times with two premises demolished to make way for expensive housing. Two other recent developments have altered the character of Kinver and have been generally condemned by inhabitants.
The Cliff was once a ‘playground’ for younger generations of the village and also much used by visitors – hence the footpath to the church.
But the tranquillity of Kinver was marred by a distinct lack of civilised amenities. There was frequent flooding, a lack of water supplies and lighting and hardly any sanitary arrangements – as the parish council so delicately put it. In 1901 the Medical Office of Health pulled no punches “I must again call your attention most urgently to the deplorable sanitary conditions of Kinver, each of my inspections more heartrending than the last. Is nothing going to be done until the place is scourged from one end to the other by some fearful epidemic, which will not only kill large numbers of individuals, but ruin the rest by frightening trippers from coming near. There is neither water nor drainage to the majority of homes. To have complaints of nightsoil being removed in the daytime is as music to our ears, compared with the absolute assertions that it cannot be removed for love or money by private individuals”.
He followed this up with another missive in December 1903. In 1905 the good news was that a meeting of Seisdon RDC adopted a scheme for the provision of a water supply for Kinver. The Council decided to embark on a scheme of their own and had purchased the Kinver Mill property “on condition that the water is passed by the Local Government Board”. Perhaps the clerk should have rephrased the minute! The water was to be obtained from an artesian well.
Surprisingly, Kinver parish council opposed a deep sewerage scheme. But the resistance of the parish council was gradually eroded and some improvements were introduced. Another problem was flooding – another saga that took some considerable time to solve.
Although Queen Victoria died in 1901 it was perhaps the establishment of the Kinver Light Railway that caused more excitement to Kinver residents. This innovative scheme was a major boost to the village. However, Kinver parish council, not renowned for progressive policies, opposed the scheme, but later rejoiced when thousands came to Kinver to the delight of traders. Mr P.H. Foley, a parish councillor, probably helped to sway the fainthearted. He owned the majority of the land across which the railway was to run. The land was compulsorily purchased and after much argument Mr Foley surrendered. The terminus was at the Fish Inn, adjacent to the Webb Corbett glassworks.
The first Whitsuntide holiday saw the Stewponey Hotel grounds visited by a large number of people. There were steam horses, roundabouts, swingboats, coconut pitches, shooting galleries and Punch and Judy show. “A band and a workers’ band were in attendance”. What was the distinction? There was a record stream of traffic to Kinver. All the trams were crowded. Caterers had a lucrative time and nearly every house that could supply a cup of tea had its full quota of visitors. Some larger establishments had to turn people away.
Kinver Edge was crowded and boats on the river Stour did a heavy trade. The trams were overwhelmed. The four trams could not cope and a man was at Fish Inn to supervise boarding. At the end of the day he was at Kinver to supervise the return. People walked down to the Stewponey, paid the fare to Kinver to get a seat home to Stourbridge and beyond.
With thousands of visitors flooding into Kinver and the tram being used by workers going into Stourbridge, no one had thought of providing public conveniences. The mind boggles at the number of crossed legs! Seisdon Council advised the tram company that they were legally bound to provide sanitary conveniences, otherwise legal proceedings would be taken. There was no lighting at the terminus either and representations were made to the tram company. This dragged on and even by 1910 the tram company was refusing to provide sanitary conveniences at the terminus.
The Boer War evidently kindled the interest of some residents who wanted to form a Rifle Club. A public meeting was held and this led to the establishment of a small committee. The Reverend J. Hodgson and the Reverend T.A. Cooper-Slipper (eschewing the Commandment of Thou Shalt Not Kill) were joined by P.H. Foley, W.G. Webb and E. Webb, plus several others. There was a great movement throughout England to get rifle clubs established. It was anticipated that these could be used as auxiliary forces to the regulars. This band of men said war showed the necessity of teaching manhood how to use a rifle and it was highly desirable that they could give a good account of themselves. The club was established later that year.
Postal services in those days were very frequent, but the parish council wanted times of despatch of post to be altered from 5.20pm to 7pm. The postal authorities conceded a change to 6.15pm.
The new power of electricity was gathering momentum. Following the Shropshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire Electric Power Bill of 1905, the Company sought to include the whole of the Seisdon Rural District in their electric supply area. They asked if Kinver parish council would like to arrange for electric supply cables to be taken to Kinver and whether there was likely to be any demand for electricity in Kinver for either power or lighting purposes. This received short shrift from the parish council who stated there was at present no demand in Kinver for electricity “and the council did not see why a monopoly for such a supply should be given to one company”.
How the price of property has changed. In 1901 there was a property sale on the bowling green of the White Harte Hotel that aroused considerable interest. This was the property of the late Reverend Hodgson and one is curious how normally impecunious clerics could amass such a string of land and buildings. The were 12 lots as follows:
1) Overhill – small holding of about 10 acres in Kingsford – £430
2) 21 Cottages – Castle Street – £265
3) House in James Street – £325
4) Cottage – High Street – £205
5) 2 Cottages – High Street – £205
6) Houses and offices – High Street – £332.10.0d
7) Bakers shop and premises, High Street – £347.10.0d
8) 4 Cottages – High Street – £400
9) Land at Stone Lane – £270
10) Land at Stone Lane – £160
11) Land at Stone Lane – £170
12) Land off Vicarage Drive – £140
Let’s finish the decade on a humorous note: Perhaps the reporter should have rephrased this news item in July 1906:
“On Saturday the remains of Mr John Smith, 73 Enville Road, for 35 years a faithful servant of the GPO, died after a long and painful illness, were laid to rest in the parish churchyard followed by his widow, sons, daughters, grandchildren and other relatives and representatives of the GPO”.
A somewhat crowded grave!
The impending disaster of the first world war hardly impinged on Kinver’s inhabitants, although it seemed a disproportionate number for the size of the village who ultimately gave their lives. Of more concern to traders in 1911 was the fact of “mid-week struggling parties of pleasure seekers, mostly women, who bring little advantage to caterers. It is not uncommon to see these visitors bearing upon their arms baskets crammed with provisions for the day”. Traders were concerned about loss of trade. “They even carried their pop with them”, which seemed to outweigh any concern over an impending war.
The Kinver telephone exchange was opened in 1913 with 13 subscribers.
Kinver was mainly an agricultural area and rural workers rose up to demand better pay and conditions. They formed a union and in 1919 they went on strike for a wage of £3 a week, but they had little hope due to the scattered nature of their work.
The question of sanitary matters was never far from the minds of parish councillors. In 1913 one member felt there should be no charge for the first WC. The District Council was asked to abolish this charge. Two councillors dissented. But it was unlikely the vast majority of residents had two WCs. Councillors delayed a decision on whether to install street lighting due to the war.
The most fascinating organisation – as far as its title is concerned – was the Rat and Sparrow Club founding during the war. At its annual dinner held at the Stewponey in 1915 it was reported that during the year there were received 15,575 legs, 3986 tails and 367 eggs. Farm workers (presumably those actually catching the rats) got a rise of two shillings (10p) a week.
There was no real or effective fire brigade in those days and in 1916 parish councillors wrestled with the problem of how to acquire and pay for fire appliances. Some councillors didn’t want to spend money whilst others felt there were enough people in Kinver to subscribe. One councillor said that if the parish was visited by Zeppelins and bombs were dropped, they would discover the advantage of a fire brigade. The mind boggles about a Zeppelin seeking out Kinver without a fire brigade!
Some primitive equipment was eventually purchased and a volunteer brigade formed. But not for them a shining red vehicle roaring through the lanes. The Kinver ‘engine’ was a large handcart – newly painted and gold lettered of course – with hose and equipment for connecting to hydrants.
One piece of good news was the donation of Kinver Edge to the National Trust as a memorial to the late Mr and Mrs Grosvenor Lee.
Another interesting organisation was the Lock Inn Pipe Club. They sent a postal order of 3/6d (17p) to members’ in the forces.
Floods during the early part of 1919 hit Kinver and the village continued to suffer for several years from flooding before any action was taken – and then it was half-hearted.
The parish council complained about ‘sanitary matters’ to Seisdon Council – always a popular subject on the agenda. They were rebuffed by Seisdon who felt Kinver had not been neglected in any way.
Whilst the young bloods in this decade were getting their kicks from the Charleston, a vigorous dance popular in this era, there was much poverty, hunger and unemployment.
Neither of these aspects disturbed the parish council for they were immersed in schemes involving gas, electricity, water, fire appliances and the inevitable ‘sanitary matters’.
There were complaints about the gas supply (1921) being turned on and off without warning. But they were unanimous in seeking an electricity supply. In1923 there were further complaints about the gas supply being cut off at night. Mr Timmings said the gas supply had been cut off before 10.30pm. “They might have made a mistake and put bumble bees in the pipes instead of gas”. This was due to peculiar noises emanating from the gas pipes.
This was the era of building homes ‘fit for heroes’. No trace can be found of any parish council discussion over this item, but the council did express concern about rents that would probably be 6/6d (about 33p) or 7/6d (38p) with rates.
One of the fascinating features in this decade was the convoluted discussion about fire appliances. Attempts were made to see if funds could be raised by public subscription to purchase a steam engine from the Worcester Brigade and a 3-ton lorry to tow it and act as a tender. Some £4-500 was needed.
However, all the farmers did not wish to have the assistance of a fire brigade and were against the scheme. This non-plussed the council. They persevered. In 1922 a ‘Stanley’ motor fire engine was tested and enquiries made about other equipment. The optimism of the parish council was not matched by the subscriptions received amounting to £36.12.0d. It was agreed to drop the matter.
In 1925 the Fire Appliance Committee submitted two recommendations:
1) Purchase of a Leyland or Gwynne trailer pump, additional hose and various fittings.
2) That six gentlemen with private cars sufficient to carry hose and firemen to be asked to volunteer to take roster to trail the pump and carry the necessary accessories and firemen when called up.
The scheme aroused strong opposition, saying it would be no use against a rural fire. Proposals in favour battled on. A fog siren was installed for calling members together. “This was a small bellows operated horn contained in a wooden box, energised by placing a knee on the box and frantically cranking a side handle for the duration of the alarm”.
This was later replaced by an electrically operated siren fixed to the White Harte chimney and later transferred to a chimney on the old post office. It was operated by means of a ‘break glass’ control switch at street level. On one occasion when the clerk to the council decided to test the installation, nothing happened. He communicated with the electricity authority that examined it and found that birds had built a nest in the horn part of the hooter. Wire guards were fitted to prevent any re-occurrence.
Progress was slow and there were clashes between the firemen and the parish council. It was a wonder any person volunteered bearing in mind the parsimonious attitude of the parish council. However, they did not receive any real support from villagers. Men responded to fires without any form of protective clothing. Equipment was lacking and the men received no payment other than refreshment payments by the local authorities. There was strong opposition from ratepayers in outlying districts and this short-sighted view handicapped the brigade.
The introduction of street lighting was slow but steady, although ‘sanitary matters’ continued to dominate parish council meetings. One councillor said there were premises in the High Street not yet connected to the deep drainage and several complaints about the accumulation of house refuse. Designs for public conveniences were obtain in 1926 and the Dark Lane sewerage scheme started in the same year.
The Kinver Light Railway (opened in 1901) was heading for decline due to competition from buses and although there were numerous complaints about the service and fares, it was a unique system that brought thousands into Kinver, mainly at the weekends.
Residents now complain about speeding and macho and other irresponsible types threatening the lives and limbs of citizens by their selfish actions. Even in 1922 there were complaints about speeding. The parish council unanimously resolved: “That owing to the speed of motor vehicles in the parish being excessive, that the District Council press the County Council to impose a 10-mile an hour speed limit through the village commencing at the Vine Inn, Dunsley to the top of Enville Road.
There was some light relief when two swans whom had been on the Stour for some time had to be rescued from the frozen river. One in the middle was unable to move because of the slippery surface. The other had broken the ice but was unable to get back on it. An assistant from Marsh and Baxter’s shop in the High Street rescued them. It was said to be 29 years since the river had frozen over.
At the end of the century there was a vigorous campaign to build a swimming pool. Activists in this effort will be delighted to know that in the 1920s there was a swimming pool – but this was specially built for the daughter of a former Compton resident. Locally it was called the Roman Bath because it was built in the style of such baths. It lay in a secluded spot in Compton Lane, about a mile from the village. The pool was supplied by clear spring water brought there by a brook which meandered through the hills and wooded land known as the Sheepwalks.
The parish council were evidently tough employers as in 1928 they were asked to reduce the clerk’s salary by £5 yearly for absenting himself from a parish meeting of representative ratepayers. He was not obliged to attend and after a long debate it was agreed the matter lay on the table.
The Kinver Mill property, well and pumping station and rising mains were sold to the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company for £7418. At the other end of the village, nine residents complained of language used by “a certain person who resides in Stone Lane”.
It requires a stretch of the imagination to believe the parish council was immersed in 1930 in a discussion about car parking. Evidently 10,000 tickets were printed so that an attendant could be engaged and contributions requested from drivers of vehicles for the upkeep of parking places. There was some confusion about liability and the council were anxious that Kinver would retain the money collected and not go to Seisdon Council. Agreement was reached that drivers of motor cars be asked to contribute one-shilling (5p) and motor cyclists’ sixpence.
The forerunner of the Church Hall was evidently a ‘church hut’ purchased by voluntary subscriptions and erected by voluntary labour in Vicarage Drive. The Vicar duly opened it in 1923. Another hut was also erected in 1924 on behalf of the British Legion. And it would be churlish to omit reference to Mrs J Millward who was a teacher and headmistress of Kinver Infants’ school for an unbroken period of 43 years. Staffordshire County Council regarded it as a record. She retired at the end of March 1914, having started in January 1871. She died in 1923 aged 74 years.
Whilst people faced unemployment and the rise of fascism during the 1930s, parish councillors had what they felt were more burning issues to deal with like sewers, canal bridges, council houses, road works, litter, lighting and eventually air raid shelters.
Dunsley residents were calling for deep drainage. One inhabitant said the system of cess pools was all right for a time, but they gradually became objectionable and offensive.
In 1932 one councillor thought that the sanitary inspector should be asked to inspect certain property. In Woodbine Terrace, 17 people in five houses had to share a single w.c. “and that was not decent”. There were two of these places in the yard, but one was locked up and reserved for two persons.
Mr Jenks: Do you want every house to have a w.c. of its own?
Mr Fletcher: I would like it.
Mr Jenks: If you were the landlord you would not.
Mr Jenks did not say if he shared a w.c. or not. But the mind boggles at this attitude to health matters.
The question of installing a decent sewerage system rumbled on and it was not until 1941 that some celebration was justified when engineers from Birmingham met Seisdon RDC and inspected pumping stations and sewerage disposal works at Kinver. The pumps at Mill Lane were set in motion and a visit made to works at Whittington and the pumping station at Stourton. All this was followed by lunch at the Stewponey. Mr Jenks, who had previously poured scorn on people having their own w.c., spoke of the primitive sanitary conditions at Kinver at the end of the last century and reviewed the great development that had taken place.
There was concern about pollution in the river Stour. One councillor said it was a shame that the two swans and their cygnets had to swim in such filthy water.
A Ministry of Health inquiry said it was “the most polluted stream in Worcestershire”. At one time it had been full of fish, with tubs of eels being caught. Mr H.E. Monk (Public Analyst) thought the polluted water would not be injurious to cattle. Mr Jenks said: “I have seen cattle in the river at Kinver refuse to drink the water. They turn their noses up at it”.
The other concern in this decade was housing – or lack of council housing at an economic rent. This concern was initially engendered by a complaint in 1931 of “repulsive structures” in Kinver. A letter signed by many residents owning tenanted properties circling the Garden Fields off Stone Lane stated that the present conditions existed due to a large number of “so-called caravans, tents and structures erected without any apparent plans being submitted and constituted a serious nuisance and a menace to health. The structures were a disgrace and were both repulsive and abhorrent”. The letter said conditions showed either the lack of power or supiness of the council or indifference to the decencies, health and self-respect of the feelings of a large number of residents.
It was not until 1933 that positive action was taken when three caravan dwellers and the occupier of a hut in Garden Fields were prohibited from using caravans in Seisdon rural district. They were summoned under the Public Health Act. Col. H. Taylor, prosecuting, said he had visited the site and he did not see much garden about it. The venue was more or less in the middle of the village and the land was intended for building plots. At the end of the case Thomas Bullock, one of the accused, asked where he was to go. He was peremptorily told to go anywhere outside the Seisdon area.
In the same year it was stated that Seisdon RDC had under consideration a housing scheme whereby Kinver would get 40 houses. Some three years later a letter was sent to Seisdon urging the erection of some small type houses in Kinver “as they are badly needed”. Seisdon said they would deal with this matter as soon as possible. There appears to be no record of any action being taken.
The parish council once again turned its attention to the fire brigade. As late as 1937 they agreed that the fire hooter should be removed from the White Harte Hotel and placed on the chimney of the property owned by Mr Bills and the Post Office. The hooter was to be connected to the telephone exchange and that the quote of the Electric Company be accepted for the removal and fixing at a cost of £7.8.6d. A press button for outside use was to be affixed to the post office building. On once occasion there was a poor turnout and questions were asked if the hooter failed or did some firemen sleep too soundly. Mr Massey: “Why did only four firemen turn out. We must have firemen who are not sound sleepers”.
Earlier, in 1936, the Kinver fire brigade for the first time in its history was prepared to meet any outbreak of fire with a mobile machine moving under its own power. It was a fire tender presented to the reorganised Kinver Fire Brigade by Stourbridge Fire Brigade. The ceremony was a quaint reminder of the old and the new. A warning hooter sounded at about 5.30pm and Kinver firemen responded by trundling down the High Street with their old cart and hose. As they reached the White Harte the new machine was handed over with due ceremony.
A democratically elected parish council did not really exist in this period. In March 1934 a meeting of parishioners was held to elect 11 councillors. There were about 40 people present and 13 candidates. A somnolent air pervaded the meeting as no one wished to question any of the candidates. The chairman asked if any candidate wished to withdraw his nomination, thereby avoiding the trauma of holding a ballot or vote. Mr Nisbet was prepared to withdraw provided another candidate did likewise and so save the trouble of an election. The chairman, more than dropping broad hints, expressed the hope that no person was intent on demanding a poll of the electorate. This would impose expense on the parish. He emphasised that a show of hands would have to be taken even if a poll was demanded. Mr Fletcher expressed strong disapproval of voting by show of hands. He described it as embarrassing. The chairman agreed, especially if a poll was demanded. But that’s the law. A show of hands took place.
At a subsequent meeting Mr Fletcher described a show of hands as antediluvian and it was high time something was done to give more justice at the next parish council. Mr Massey said that a parish the size of Kinver to record a top vote of 33 votes out of a total electorate of 1700 “was a bad state of affairs”. There was very little knowledge of the meeting. “If many people turned up there would be no room for them at all. If they did squeeze in it would be difficult to count the votes”. Mr Horton said the recent election had made them the laughing stock of the district. The parish council made a strong protest about the obsolete and antiquated method of electing parish councillors.
Seisdon RDC responded by saying that Section 51 of the Local Government Act 1933 would come into force in June and the parish council could apply to the County Council direct for a parish council to be elected by nomination and poll.
Arguably the keenest debate in 1934 was over the conduct of campers in the village. There were accusations against the campers for rowdyism until the early hours of the morning, wilful damage to gardens and property and – the ultimate charge – of parading half-naked, which led one person to declare that Kinver was “being turned into a nudist colony”. The parish council expressed strong disagreement about the allegations and that such statements were harming the good name of Kinver. The chairman said some residents had signed a petition complaining about the campers. If the supporters of the campers had acted on similar lines they would get about 800 signatures, he said. “Just because one or two people have come to live in Kinver, they think they have bought the place”. He agreed a few campers were rowdy but the way to deal with them was for the owners of the camp to get rid of them as soon as they became a nuisance. He had been up and down Stone Lane on several occasions and seen nothing out of the ordinary. Campers spent a good deal of money in the village.
Mr Massey looked at all this in a different light. “I think people who come here and pay rates should not be kept up until 12 or 1 in the morning by these rowdy people playing mouth organs, concertinas and gramophones”. The chairman said he got more nuisance from locals at his house than campers. Massey battled on. He wanted rowdyism stopped. “When a man has 100 people or more on his land, what are the sanitary conditions like?” Mr Biggs said that question had been raised with the sanitary inspector and he had said everything was satisfactory and in order.
Mr Williams asked what sort of reputation did Kinver get from press reports. A remark made about Kinver being turned into a nudist camp was the greatest mistake allowed to creep into a newspaper. “It made a stink in the nostrils of every self-respecting person”. Mr Fletcher said he had been asked in Stourbridge to what extent was nudism carried on in Kinver. He did not say whether this was to heap opprobrium on the issue or an eager desire to join in. All that had ultimately been seen was a man stripped to the waist and a girl in a bathing costume.
In November 1937 the parish council had the foresight to turn its attention to air raid precautions and early talks were arranged with the fire brigade and the County Air Raid Precautions Officer. Mr Chandler thought the safest places to go in the event of an air raid were the rock caves. He suggested making the caves the bases for people to collect. Unfortunately there were not many cellars in Kinver, but if it could be found where they were, they could be utilised in conjunction with the caves.
There was a public meeting to obtain volunteers as air raid wardens. In 1938 there was a concentration on first aid posts and decontamination centres. The old grammar school was suggested as a suitable venue which could also store gas masks. Seisdon RDC said it was going to have the centre at Wombourne.
Mr Horton: I don’t agree with it being kept there. If an air raid came how should we get them to Kinver?
Mr Clewes: We should have seven day’s notice
Mr Horton: How?
Mr Clewes: The secret service have means of letting us know when air raids are expected
Mr Horton: Do you really believe that?
And no, that wasn’t made up!
There was some criticism from other local authorities in the Seisdon district about having air raid shelters in Kinver. But eventually some were secured, including use of caves.
It is hard to believe that over 70 years ago the parish council was calling for Foster Street (and James Street) to be made up “provided that it does not entail any financial expense to the general ratepayers or the parish”. This issue was batted back and forwards but the majority of residents of Foster Street did not want the road made up, as they had to pay part of the cost. Attempts over the years failed. Foster Street may not still be waiting, but many Kinver residents would like to see an improvement before the end of this century.
It was not all doom and gloom at parish council meetings. Evidently a sense of humour existed as when a question of precept for the next half-year arose in March 1932 – agreed at £30. As the chairman and councillors were signing the cheques for the payment of accounts, the chairman remarked: “I wonder what this book will be worth when we are dead. It has your signatures and mine you know”. One councillor suggested sending the book to the British Museum. The chairman capped this by suggesting Christie’s. This led to another councillor suggesting the zoo. The chairman said he did not think the zoo had fossils (Laughter).
The work of District Nurse Sturgeon during this period is legendary. The Kinver District Nursing Association declared there was a problem in the nurse getting round such a large area – well beyond Kinver boundaries. The solution lay in the provision of a small car. Although the Nursing Association had an accumulated fund that might have provided a car, the receipts would not permit maintenance costs. It was decided that the whole village should be invited to share in the provision of a car. Organisations in the village were galvanised into life. Dances, whist drives, concerts, house to house collections and bridge parties were held. The climax was a carnival week. The total raised was £227.17.9d. A tribute by Dr Murphy was paid to Nurse Sturgeon who said it would be difficult to imagine anyone who could do the work better. He believed the village had a great affection for her. Nurse Sturgeon had rooms at Bank House and was in fact aunt to Peter Sturgeon, then a well-known environmentalist.
Litter was a perennial problem. It still is and the parish council was frequently asking for action. The clerk’s salary, last considered in 1923, was in 1936 raised from £21 per annum to £42 per annum. And an extra policeman was requested to be on duty at the Stewponey at weekends in view of heavy traffic, so relieving the local officer free for the village.
Those who have pressed for a pedestrian crossing in the High Street in recent years will not be surprised to learn that a request in 1937 for a Belisha Beacon was not approved. One can hardly imagine there was sufficient traffic in those days to warrant such a move. The war had only just started in September 1939 and despite the fact the Luftwaffe would find difficulty in locating Kinver, there were already complaints about motorists using headlights directly on leaving the village. The police were notified.
With Britain at possibly its lowest ebb in 1940, the parish council was engrossed in a fight against an invasion – of rabbits. Mr Jenks complained that the Dark Lane area was over run with them. Residents were unable to grow anything in their gardens. Evidently a Mr Cox was the culprit and Staffordshire County Council was asked to take steps to force him to have his land cleared. Two months later and the complaint “was receiving attention”. Shortly afterwards a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries visited the area and promised the problem would receive attention. In August 1940 another letter was sent asking for action. Some months later yet another letter. One wonders what the population of rabbits was by then. A month later Mr Wilson, Rabbit Officer of the County Council, visited the area and the culprit served with a 21-day notice to have the land cleared. No more was heard and one assumes the problem was solved and residents could get on with digging for victory.
Kinver suffered, like many others, from shortages of food and fuel. In April 1941 the parish council complained of a supply shortage of coal to the parish and the local MP was notified. Four months later the MP reported an improved supply. A food control sub-committee was set up at the Constitutional Club for an experimental period. A Food Guild was established and the Horticultural Society said they would be prepared to purchase seeds and to give advice to gardeners.
The parish council woke up to the fact that air raid shelters were required. Approval was obtained for the erection of 50-person shelters at the rear of the White Harte and for the conversion of the caves at Mill Lane with a 28-person shelter. A further 50-person shelter was authorised on land opposite the police station. Cellars were inspected with a view to converting them into shelters.
As in many shelters during the war, many nights were spent singing songs. There appeared to be a great sense of community. When the Americans were based at Enville late in the war, many of them came to both Kinver and Stourbridge for dances and other social occasions. The dances in Kinver were held in the old British Legion clubhouse. Betty Bowen’s mother used to collect her from the dance, which still causes her some amusement.
The Kinver and Enville Battalion (Enville) ‘D’ Company of the Home Guard was established. Why it had ‘Enville’ in its name is baffling as most members came from Kinver.
The Home Guard meant that men who had been divided by class in the pre-war era suddenly found themselves mixed up and working as a team. There were fitters, railway clerks, drivers, farmers, gardeners, directors, shop managers, engineers, butchers, glass workers, brewer, gamekeepers and farm workers. In all, there were about 120 men.
There were a number of duty posts throughout the village, including Pigeon House Farm (the first night duty), Stewponey and Comber Ridge reservoir. The concrete pillbox on Kinver Edge was another point and this was built by the Home Guard.
There were numerous activities, including firing practice, trench digging, grenade throwing, camouflage, signalling, bayonet practice and proficiency tests. Many exercises took place on Kinver Edge.
Whilst the headquarters was the Kinfayre Restaurant (then the Crown Inn) the unit usually met in the Constitutional Club for social activities. There was a rifle range at the back of the Crown (where the skittle alley is situated) and also a range in the Millions. An assault course existed on Kinver Edge, known as ‘Moscow’ – flat land between Kingsforge Lane and the Edge. At the corner of Mill Lane stood the Temperance Hotel, well know pre-war as tea-rooms. This became the ARP centre.
The Home Guard had detailed instructions about defence methods, dealing with prisoners of war and enemy casualties. Unarmed combat was taught as well as stalking with a rifle. There was even a written instruction about how to communicate in German from ‘Halt – who goes there’ to ‘Come back’. It gave the German phrase and pronunciation guide.
And Kinver was bombed, but unintentionally, as a cluster of seven bombs was jettisoned by a pilot anxious to get back to Germany. These fell at the top of White Hill down to the Heathlands.
There was a dramatic shortage of coal and only after many complaints was a supply sent by road direct from the pit at Cannock.
During the war years Kinver sawmills received contracts to produce timber for use in building Bailey bridges. There was also a smithy, farrier and wheelwright. Billy Bishop, who worked for Ken Wrigley, fulfilled contracts to shoe 36 canal horses belonging to T&S element and others belonging to the old LMS railway. The horses were used to pull barges loaded with coal slacks to Stourport power station and Kidderminster carpet factories. The horses were often stabled at night at two local pubs. The Lock Inn could take 10 and the Stewponey could stable 24.
Another person with vivid memories of wartime Kinver is Betty Bowen. How many citizens are aware that grenades were made in Kinver is not clear – and probably as well they didn’t know. But Betty was involved in this enterprise – and producing parts for aeroplanes – at Postewaithes. The premises were adjacent to and at the rear of Clifford Cottage in what used to be the old prison. Much had been excavated from the sandstone cliff and faced with bricks. It no longer exists.
Perhaps one of the most surprising events – particularly as parish councillors were ardent church goers – was a report in 1943 by Mr Chandler that there was likely to be a move by the government concerning the infants’ school. The suggestion was that the Church of England would take over.
The parish council was prompt in condemning this move and resolved: “This council regards the proposed taking over of the infants’ school by the Church of England is a retrograde step in the progress of education and would hereby register a protest against any such steps”. The County Council later passed a resolution not approving the transfer.
There must have some excitement when it was found American troops were to be stationed in the vicinity. The parish council formed itself into a hospitality committee to try to form a scheme for entertaining the men and providing refreshment during the evenings and on Sundays. It was also decided “that the ladies of the village to entertain men whenever possible at their homes”. This was reported in the County Express and a vigilant sub-editor today would have no doubt rephrased this item.
Kinver had its quota of evacuees during the war. There was the suggestion that the old Trysull Poor Law Institution should be made fit and available for housing evacuees. But the building was in a bad state. Mr F Jenks disagreed. He said with new windows and cleaning, even it did mean spending some money, it would be a splendid place to house 300 people. “It would be much better than upsetting people’s houses”. An early case of Nimbyism (Not in my back garden) and a clear case of social divisions in spite of the war.
No sooner was the war over than the parish council turned its attention to obtaining a playing field. But it was not until 1953 that any progress was made.
Kinver parish council seemed to have a love-hate relationship with Seisdon Council. In December 1946 they registered a strong protest at the suggestion that land between the Stewponey and the Ridge at Wollaston be preserved as green belt. They made the same mistake towards the end of the century over proposed development at White Hill.
Councillors claimed that houses were on one side with a good deal of money spent on deep drainage and installation of water and electricity. It was ideal for building on the other side of the road. At the same time they asked for 25 bungalows for old people to be erected in Garden Fields, Vicarage Drive and another 100 on various other sites.
Kinver councillors kept up the fight at a Seisdon Council meeting in February 1947 to prevent land fronting Bridgnorth Road between the Stewponey and the Ridge becoming the green belt. “We have to put houses somewhere and there is no better spot”, said Mr Horton (chairman) without specifying where it would all end. Mr F. Allen, a member of Seisdon Council, said “a scheme to build on the land had been put forward and turned down”.
But there was concern over housing and a steady increase took place after much bureaucratic delay.
Each decade saw complaints about litter. In September 1947 Kinver was described as “streets like a paper chase”. There was fish and chip and ice cream papers “which litter village streets”. The trouble seemed to be at the doors of two fish and chip shops. Evidently people “guzzled” their fish and chips in the street and then threw down the paper. If a complaint was made to the police they claimed there were no bins. Mr A Danes made the same complaint about litter at Potters Cross. “If there was heavy rain, the accumulated papers would block drains and cause flooding”. It was decided to ask Seisdon Council to have the streets swept on Sundays and to provide litter bins.
The litter problem will never be solved as we appear to be an inherently dirty nation. Except for putting the culprits on community service in the area where they dropped their litter, it is unlikely any progress will be made. Several complaints were made during 1949 about litter, not to mention a miscellaneous list involving the crossing in Chantry Road, bad smells between the saw mills and the corner of High Street, rats in Dark Lane and Mill Lane, lack of water on farms off the Kingsford Lane, fresh barbed wire obstruction on Newtown Bridge and scrap being tipped on land adjoining Prestwood Drive.
It was almost inevitable that the question of making-up Foster, James and Castle streets should be raised. The County Council inspected the streets and had considered plans and estimates of cost of making up under the Private Street Works Act 1892. The costs would be James Street: £1900; Foster Street: £1585; Castle Street: £1500. The County suggested asking residents for their views. The parish council told the County the cost would be prohibitive to the owners and asked for a revised estimate. But in August 1947 the matter was dropped once again – or rather deferred “until conditions were more normal”. Evidently conditions were still abnormal in the year 2000.
There were many convoluted discussions about creating a social centre or village hall. Two sketch plans were presented for examination, the larger of which provided seating accommodation for 450 people with stage, dressing rooms, cloakrooms and space for handicraft classes and a well laid out sports field with cricket and hockey pitches, bowling greens, tennis courts and children’s playing space. Messrs Massey and Horton expressed strong views, saying that houses should be priority especially as Kinver possessed one hall – the British Legion. Mrs Fletcher reminded Massey that he had supported the suggestion of a village hall as a war memorial and also that the British Legion had failed them. The building of a village hall would not affect housing because the council realised that no village hall could be started for at least five years. A meeting of representatives of Kinver organisations was called to find the reaction of parishioners. This was carried with two abstentions.
Attempts to get a community centre and playing fields dribbled along for some time, but in June 1949 the issue exploded into a first class row at a public meeting where considerable opposition was expressed. After a long and at times heated discussion, it was decided by 39 votes to 30 to proceed with the setting up of an organisation, representative of the village, with a view to providing a centre and a playing field. The clerk – with considerable foresight – had provided the chairman, Mr S.J. Edwards, with a wooden mallet and he had to repeatedly use it to call the meeting to order. On occasions personal remarks were made and these called for the loudest protests.
The community centre they had in mind would comprise a village hall complete with stage and dressing rooms, and be suitable for film shows and dramatic activities. Accommodation might be provided in the hall for the youth club, council chamber, library, dressing rooms for sportsmen, accommodation for handicraft classes, the sons of rest, food office, clinic, registration of births and deaths, wedding receptions and other social activities. A playing field, suitable for all types of sport and athletics would be part of the scheme. What a pity this farsighted and imaginative scheme never reached fruition.
This decade saw some major changes to Kinver. Housing continued to dominate parish council meetings and there were plenty of disputes about where houses should be built. Clashes took place with Seisdon RDC, the National Trust and, of course, builders. But Kinver gradually changed with development on various sites.
Complaints were made about bus services, fares and lack of a shelter at the terminus.
It is surprising how backwards Kinver appeared to be compared with urban areas as far as water supplies, toilets and sewerage was concerned. Several parish councillors complained in early 1950 about the water supply on the New Wood housing estate. Mr E Thomson said the water was constantly being turned off and it was scandalous that people had to wait several hours before they could get a drink. The pipes were in a bad state and the more delay in attending to them the greater the cost. He said the pressure on the tap at home made a loud noise that awoke his child and “could be heard two houses away”.
Mr S.J. Edwards said that as the water had to be carried a long way uphill, there had to be heavy pressure. Pressure reducers had been installed at considerable cost to prevent washers being forced off some taps.
Kinver post office has always been a focal point for residents. But it was not an easy life in the early and mid-20th century. The technology used today was non-existent then. Janet Avery, now living in Stourbridge, worked in the post office from 1949 to 1956. Miss J Fletcher was the postmistress and her niece, Miss May Bowen and Janet worked full time. It was also a stationers and library and busy from 9am to 6pm. Her last job of the day was to chain the mailbag on the six o’clock bus to be met by a postman at Stourbridge. “In those days I had to deliver telegrams on my bicycle as they were treated with utmost urgency”. Janet also remembers when they received notification of swine fever and she had to take the message to all the farms in the Kinver area.
The telephone exchange was above the post office “and one day we had a plague of flies. Miss Lucy Hardwick was on duty and she sprayed the exchange with DDT. Later she was leaning out of the window trying to attract someone’s attention when she was overcome by the spray”.
It’s a good job the fire brigade could turn out faster than the parish council could find a solution about where a new fire station should be situated. In January 1952 a site in Garden Fields was touted but several councillors felt it was unsuitable and asked for representatives to attend the next meeting of the Seisdon RDC.
In March the chairman said the proposed site was in a very bad position, with awkward entrances and sharp corners to be negotiated before entering the main street. It was away from the centre of the village. Councillors resolved to write to Seisdon RDC not agreeing to a fire station at Fairfield and suggesting that representations be made to the owner of the Kinema in the High Street with a view to the re-instatement of the fire service in that building.
Nearly a year later Mr Humphries asked what had happened. He reported that the firemen were bewildered at the situation. They thought the council was against the provision of a new fire station. The chairman of the District Council stated that the site off Stone Lane had been turned down on planning grounds. Several other sites had been offered and inspected and it was hoped for an early decision.
A month later the parish council resolved: “That the council are most concerned with the delay in deciding the site for the new fire station and cannot understand why the site of the war-time fire station (which is at present an eyesore in the village High Street) cannot be used. It is the express wish of this council that this site be used”.
About four months later a meeting was held at which three sites were suggested: Mill Lane, Fairfield and the Kinema. The fire authorities wanted Fairfield and the parish council suggested the Kinema or alternatively Mill Lane. The latter was turned down because of the distance from the centre of the village. The reasoning was difficult to understand, as the distance could only have been about 400 yards. During the discussion most members supported the Kinema site. The chairman stated that the council representatives had requested the fire authority to submit a revised plan to the Home Office using this site.
It was eventually decided that the new fire station should be in Fairfield Drive (off Stone Lane).
The essence of village life is encapsulated in an issue recorded in the Parish Magazine of 1951. Evidently over 300 years ago Mr William Seabright left a charity to Kinver and ordered “thirteen penny-worth of white or wheaten bread be distributed upon every Sabbath day for ever hereafter, after the ending of the mornings prayer and sermon in penny loaves to thirteen of the most poorest and neediest persons in the parish”.
This and a similar bequest had been carried out through the centuries, but now a change has been made. Writing in the magazine, the Vicar (Rev. J.C. West) state
“The two ancient bread charities did not seem to me to be as valuable as they might be especially as cases were reported of the small loaves distributed every Sunday being thrown away and found in the lane. Consequently with the approval of the wardens, I got in touch with the Charity Commissioners and they wrote back to say that they did not think we need feel ourselves bound to observe every detail of the ancient trust, especially as in one case the bread should be ‘mucorn bread’ – a mixture made from wheat and rye flour. They have permitted us to vary the times of distribution so that we have made arrangements to appoint beneficiaries for cereals from a grocer throughout the year”.
In April 1953 the parish council, following a meeting with Mr Marsh, was able to report “of the most generous gift of nearly 10 acres of the Hyde Meadows to the Parish of Kinver for playing fields. This gift from Messrs E.E. and A.R. Marsh will be a permanent memorial to their parents, the late Mr and Mrs E Marsh”.
The land in question was, of course, of no use for farming or any other agriculture purpose, but at last a permanent facility for outdoor activities was of immense benefit to residents. The following month the chairman stated that Mr Marsh was anxious that the land be conveyed to the parish.
In September 1953 a meeting was held to plan the initial stages of development and to consider how to raise sufficient money to lay out and maintain the site. Mr Tarplee said the parish council could levy a rate for upkeep and maintenance and could ask the District Council and the County Council for financial assistance. Mr Marsh had offered to level the ground, pipe the ditch and seed the field. It was suggested there be two football pitches – one adult and one junior – and a young children’s playing pitch. It was thought sheep could graze on the football pitches during the winter. There’s no record what Kinver FC thought about this idea.
Foster Street continued to burden the parish council when it was felt – yet again – that the exit from Foster Street into the High Street was dangerous for drivers. It was decided to ask the County Council to provide a mirror opposite the entrance to Foster Street. This was not accepted so the parish council asked for a strongly worded road sign at the end of the police station wall informing drivers of a dangerous road junction. A pity any proposed wording was not disclosed.
One of the impressive attributes of the parish council has been its concern for footpaths. Kinver must have one of the best maintained path systems in the country and intensively signposted. When the County Council Planning Department in 1952 asked for information, the parish obtained from the Ramblers’ Association a complete set of maps and log-sheets in all detail. So impressed were councillors they awarded the RA five guineas in recognition of their services.
But an attempt in 1952 to get the Kinver Light Railway track as a public right of way failed. Mr E.E. Marsh, on whose land part of the track ran, refused permission. He pointed out that there was a footpath in existence quite close to the one suggested and also referred to the damage along the track. There were also several bridges in a dangerous condition and he thought the scheme would be exceedingly expensive. The parish council caved in and informed Marsh that the council “do not anticipate to proceed with the idea of creating a footpath along the tram track”. One asks: Why not? Perhaps it was the Uriah Heep mentality of the era when one bowed to the rank of property owners.
When new houses were being built in the White Hill area it was time to consider the type of shops required. There was a call for general provisions, including grocers, green grocers and tobacconist. A chemist shop was suggested but an alternative would be – illogically one feels – a sweet and tobacco shop. In this case the first shop would not be allowed to sell patent medicines and hardware. Later it was reported that one shop would be for groceries. No application had been received for a chemist shop. It was agreed to advertise the vacancy for wet fish and fried fish and chip shop – a rather incongruous alternative. It was pointed out that a fish shop could not be situated next to a grocery shop. Evidently an outfitter had made enquiries and this was acceptable.
Of more serious concern was the general uneasiness among the dwellers on Kinver shack site (as it was known) at Dark Lane and Brockleys Walk. They turned out in force at a meeting to hear the county planning officer and officers of Seisdon RDC explain plans for redevelopment of the site. The land was partly served by rough roads, no sewerage facilities and no water supplies or electricity mains laid to the site which was divided into 59 plots on which many different structures had sprung up since the war.
It was expected that the Ministry would not agree to the development of the site unless it was provided with roads, sewers and services so that the land could accommodate permanent houses later. All the occupiers of shacks, caravans and other dwellings would be allotted plots on redevelopment layout. But in late 1957 the caravan dwellers received notices from Seisdon RDC that it proposed to acquire land for housing purposes in Brockleys Walk. The occupants had been warned when they went on site that it could be of a temporary nature.
Now that large scale slaughterhouses are scattered across Britain, it is difficult to believe that a slaughterhouse existed in Kinver. In 1955 Mr Thompson criticised the decision of Seisdon RDC to grant a licence for a slaughterhouse in the High Street. The existing one was most unsuitable and he stated that a new one should be built. Other members complained of cattle trucks obstructing the roadway, hides being loaded from the pavement and an increase in rates in the vicinity.
Within a couple of weeks there was a furious reaction over the slaughterhouse. It was claimed by Mrs M.J. Fletcher at a Seisdon Council meeting that blood and entrails from animals killed covered the pavement and when animals broke loose they ran along the main street, scattering children in all directions.
The Medical Officer (Dr A.R. Kennedy) said the slaughterhouse was close to food shops and he was sure there was a danger from infection by flies. All this arose from the licence granted to Mr H Morgan of 48 High Street. But Mr Bonser claimed he had not met one individual who had complained. “I cannot see why the parish council should have made such a storm about such silly piffle. Let them look after their own affairs”. Bonser moved that the council adheres to its original decision but he was defeated.
Perhaps the main event of 1959 was first an attempt to set fire to the British Legion premises. Damage was limited to a few floorboards and several smashed windows. The premises had been broken into several times in the past when goods and money were stolen. But in late November 1959 the British Legion was completely gutted and damage assessed at £7-10,000. Flames were seen coming from the building at 4.30am. As the building consisted mainly of wood there was a raging inferno. Flames shot 30-40 feet above the building and there was no chance of saving it. This was also a loss to the junior school who used the premises as an overflow for classes.
There were rumours that it was a deliberate act in order to obtain a new brick-built building. But these were never confirmed nor substantiated. In fact, a few days later Ken Wrigley, a member of the branch committee of the club and owner of a sawmill in Kinver, received an anonymous letter, which said: “It’s your turn next”. The police were notified.
In early January 1960 members of the parish council had received threatening notes and an attempt was made to set fire to the canteen of the secondary school. Hardly a schoolboy prank by someone who didn’t think much of the school dinners. Paraffin soaked hardboard had been pushed beneath the wooden sides of the building and set alight. Fortunately the flames went out before any great damage was caused.
Finally, no one turned a hair in 1954 when a local newspaper referred to a carnival and sport event with the heading: “Gay procession through streets of Kinver”.
Having no doubt seen in the new year with the usual celebrations and looking forward to a new decade, Kinver residents awoke on the last Monday in January 1960 to see the High Street filled with water to a depth of two feet in the worst flood for over 37 years. “The newspapers had to be left in Vicarage Drive”, said Mrs R Talbot, owner of Jennings’ newsagents, “and as I watched my husband wade across to fetch them, I remembered my father making the very same crossing well over 30 years ago”.
Buses and vans made detours round Hyde Lane and Church Hill. Buildings were affected in Mill Lane and the playing fields looked like a large lake. The water in Stag Meadows reached the outer buildings of the Trinity Methodist Church. But it was not until October 1960 that residents were given an assurance that immediate steps would be taken to prevent flooding caused by insufficient drains.
Having recovered from that disaster the residents could look forward to a decade of – for Kinver – substantial changes. The parish council thought it was time to have a village hall independent of any organisation. Mr H Bonser said: “We are very grateful that the British Legion allowed their hall to be used so much in the past, but we should now go all out to get a proper village hall”.
By February 1960 and subject to planning permission the parish council was ready to go ahead with plans for a community centre in full co-operation with the British Legion whose headquarters were gutted by fire. The Legion decided to re-build for their own use and the council hoped to utilise an adjacent site for their community centre.
In April 1960 a well-attended public meeting was held and it was unanimously decided that a centre should be built near the playing fields where the British Legion intended to build a new club.
In February 1961 it was disclosed at a public meeting that approval had been given to an outline application for the erection of a community centre on Marsh playing fields. Over 30 organisations were represented at the meeting. Mr H Bonser strongly supported the site. A first class job had been made of the children’s playground. It had been constructed with the idea of being under the constant observation of a responsible caretaker who would look after the community hall – a wish not fulfilled. As to fears of flooding, Ken Wrigley said Worcestershire County Cricket ground was flooded five times in one year and Kinver only once.
Amid the gloom there was one piece of good news. A new telephone exchange opened on 29 February 1961. There was equipment for 800 lines at a cost of £19,500 and it allowed for an increase of 250 subscribers. The new building was on Dunsley Hill. It was possible to dial to more than 90 exchanges within an area of 750 square miles for threepence a call (just over 1p). However, it was soon subject to Luddite attacks. Oil and creosote was splashed over the windows and frame and oily rags found near the door.
The original exchange opened in 1913 with 23 subscribers and the switchboard hung on the wall of the post office. Miss Fletcher, in charge of the post office for 50 years, was the first operator. In 1923 the exchange was moved to an upstairs room.
1961 must go down as the year when major changes to Kinver village started to take place. Amongst these were a new church hall, the community centre, housing and the development of Kinver, a new Methodist Church, a rebuilt British Legion hall, a new Kinver clinic and the intriguing case of a sacked church organist.
In January 1962 the new Methodist Church costing about £25,000 was opened by Mrs Fred Allen, a resident of Kinver for many years, but then living in Bournemouth. The building was made possible by a bequest of Mr Frank Ingham Payne, a retired grocer and tea dealer. A memorial stained-glass window to Mr Payne and his wife was installed in the new church. This new building had been erected alongside the old Christ Church, a Primitive Methodist Church. This was converted into a Sunday school to replace the corrugated iron school. The Trinity Methodist Church (formerly the Wesleyan Church) was closed.
The other dominant subject was housing and possible redevelopment of Kinver. In early 1961 provisional plans for the development of Kinver provided for the allocation of 73 acres for housing purposes and it was estimated that by 1971 the population would increase from 3523 to 5485. About 730 dwellings were envisaged.
In the same period an inquiry on behalf of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was heard into an appeal by Messrs Basterfield and Company on Stone Lane against refusal of Seisdon RDC to permit the erection of 19 houses and a new roadway on Dunsley Hill and Dunsley Drive. There were two sites – one for 8 houses and one for 11. Staffordshire County Council did not object to the smaller site. But planning permission was refused because:
1) The site of the 11 houses was in the green belt in which development was not normally permitted except where it was essential in the interests of agriculture or required for a use appropriate to a green belt.
2) The proposed development would spoil the rural character of the area. It would injure the amenities enjoyed by residents because of the elevated position of the land on the eastern site of Dunsley Drive and the removal of the hedgerow screen with consequent overlooking and the loss of quiet and privacy.
It was quite obvious – except to those more concerned with profit than the environment – that any building would totally destroy its character and residents did not want a new road. They had bought their houses for its privacy and views. The houses were never built.
The parish council was not opposed to some building but it kept a close eye on those determined to build irrespective of environmental or aesthetic reasons. In May 1961 the parish council sought the support of the County Council in preparing a redevelopment plan for the centre of Kinver. There was at that time a considerable amount of derelict property and Seisdon RDC was contemplating various slum clearance programmes. Mr H Lawley wanted to see a fair proportion of green areas, whilst Mr R.B. Williams said some would think it an ambitious scheme which would include space for car parking, green areas, lavatory accommodation and other amenities.
In July 1964 there was sharp criticism about two recent housing schemes in the village described by Mr R.B. Williams, a builder, as “shocking and horrible”. This may have sounded like sour grapes because he was not the builder, but he described the estate in Enville Road as “the most horrible thing I have ever seen in my life – nothing but a mass of brick wall”. No attempt had been made at planning. “If you look at what was done in the White Hill area, you will see massive rows of bricks running for a quarter of a mile. They should have learnt from the experience in White Hill”. Whilst his comments may have been a little exaggerated, there was an element of truth in what he said.
Kinver must have seemed like a honeypot to builders anxious to build on any green space with no thought to the future. This time (February 1966) a company from Halesowen tried to muscle in to construct 160 houses on 16 acres of land at Potters Cross. But Peter Kite and Son Ltd ran into strong opposition from several sources. Objections came from Seisdon Council, Staffordshire County Council, Severn River Board, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, over 20 residents and a firm of farming contractors who tenant the land.
But Kites appeal against the objectors failed.
Whilst a new clinic had been demanded for a number of years there was strong criticism about the final result. The new clinic and police houses were described in 1968 as “blocks devoid of character” by George Humphries, chairman of Kinver Historical Society at its annual meeting. “The clinic has been sorely needed for many years and one is pleased to see this and although the old police station may have been out of date, it is surely more in keeping with what is left of the character of the High Street premises than the new one. And we are almost at our wits’ end trying to persuade the authority to restore the almshouse, surely a fundamental part of the High Street”.
The new infant welfare centre and clinic however was near completion and was opened towards the end of 1968 at a cost of £42,000. It had a welfare food sales office, kitchen, visitor’s room, mothercraft and health education room, doctors’ room, and a considerable suite with two surgeries and ancillary accommodation.
Of intriguing interest and a talking point in the village was the dismissal in 1963 of the organist and choirmaster of the church, Mr John Grazier, who lived in Huntsman’s Drive. Mr Grazier accused the Vicar – Donald Watson – of being a “clerical dictator” after Watson had carried out his threat to stop all special singing if the members of the choir and the organist did not attend the weekly Communion Services. 13 of the 18 members of the Sunday evening choir “walked out”.
On Sunday the regular choir, in protest, either stayed away or sat with the congregation. The organist on that occasion was Mr Sam Harris, one of the church wardens.
Surprisingly, the parish council supported development at Halfpenny green airport by 7 votes to 3, little realising that this was the thin end of the wedge as further expansion was to take place at the end of the century.
Perhaps the main and most important feature of 1967 was the attempt to stop the pollution of the river Stour and clean it up. The parish council was prepared to take a tough line over pollution by effluent, a nuisance for many years. An attempt to obtain an injunction against those responsible was one suggestion. Mr H Bonser (Chairman) said Seisdon Council knew where a lot of the effluent was coming from, but they had to do something about it.
A month later the parish council was informed they would have to overcome a number of weighty legal problems. Seisdon had complained to the Ministry who replied they had very little legal standing in the matter, although they would review it in a year’s time.
Ken Wrigley said it was not a new matter. It had been going on for four or five years. “What I am perturbed about is that planning applications are turned down because our sewerage system is not adequate. But this is not our sewage. It is someone else’s”. It was decided to seek legal advice from the Parish Council Association.
In July 1967 the parish council heard Mr C Sutton, Severn River Authority, who said rivers in this country were polluted because many local authorities built houses in advance of sewage disposal units. Sewage was low on the list of priorities because, unlike schools, swimming baths and libraries, there were no votes in it. He promised an immediate investigation into the council’s complaints. Ken Wrigley commented that “the river is now running like gruel and the smell is unbearable”.
The parish council kept up the pressure. In September 1967 councillors decided to enlist the support of neighbouring authorities. Mr B Westwood (Chairman) recalled a River Authority official who told him that some fish could live in the river according to samples taken. “Frogs will not live in it, let alone fish”. Mr J.D.Walker added: “Even rats will not live in the river now”.
The council was far from reassured by a report that the plans had been completed for an extension to Wombourne sewage works. A start was unlikely to be made until the following year.
More gloomy news followed at the October meeting of the parish council when members were told a report on the state of the Stour from the Severn River Authority was most unlikely. They had earlier got the impression from the Authority that a report would be submitted to them. The Authority had replied that a survey of that nature could only be carried out over a fairly extensive period. When completed, the Authority said they might decide not to publish the report. Not a hint of ‘open government’ in that statement.
Kinver was embroiled in an acrimonious row over ‘sleeping policemen’ in the late 1990s. There was nothing new in the subject. In early 1969 motorists speeding through Kinver worried parish councillors who asked for police action. Ken Wrigley (Chairman) had seen cars on two wheels as they went over the bridge at the Dunsley end of the village. He thought at least half the motorists were doing over 30mph. The road through Kinver is quite winding and he thought it was a wonder that some drivers were able to negotiate the bends at the speed they were travelling. The only way to curb dangerous drivers was for them to be prosecuted.
Mr H Bonser said the bridge at Dunsley was one black spot. Another was at Potters Cross. At Dunsley he had seen a number of near accidents with cars reaching 60 or 80mph. “Something has got to be done about his, otherwise we shall have some fatalities”. Kinver residents are still waiting.
Those who enjoy the delights of the Anchor Hotel in Dark Lane will arguably have to thank Mr Frank Bagley, surveyor of Seisdon RDC. He said at a public meeting in 1969 that he was not in agreement with the council over their refusal to allow a disused public house to be converted into a residential hotel. Mrs P.M. Westwood lodged an appeal against the decision of Seisdon Council not to permit repairs, alterations and an extension to the Anchor Inn. The council considered the proposed development and said its position would be detrimental to the general amenities of the area. The planning committee thought it might give rise to a nuisance and possibly the very narrow road leading to it might constitute a danger.
Mr Bagley was asked if it was a good site for a hotel. He said it was not, but it complied with the regulations. The luxury hotel would cater for businessmen, but it could not have a licence for selling alcohol because the brewery company had sold the premises to Mrs Westwood with this proviso. The Anchor Hotel and its restaurant is now a thriving business – with a licence!
(Note: The Hotel has shut since the article was originally written. The Hotel has been converted to terraced houses)