"Mountains, on whose barren breast The lab'ring clouds do often rest."
To Dudley, in Worcestershire, through Oldbury, distant nine miles.
Having passed the Sand-pits and Spring-hill, you cross the Birmingham canal and enter upon what was Birmingham heath, which being inclosed in the year 1800, was found to contain 289 acres, which land now lets from thirty to fifty shillings per acre.
On the right hand is a boat-builder's yard, and on the left a glass-house, belonging to Messrs. Biddle and Lloyd. Proceeding towards the windmill, you perceive at a short distance on the right hand another glass-house, belonging to Messrs. Shakespear and Fletcher. Ascending the hill, there is on the right an extensive view over the adjacent country, including Barr-beacon, Mr. Boulton's plantations, and Winson-green, a neat house, in the possession of Mrs. Steward. On the left is Summerfield-house, late the residence of John Iddins, Esq. but now of James Woolley, Esq. and beyond it, a neat white house, occupied by Mr. Hammond. Over an apparently wooded country, you have a windmill in full view, and when at the foot of the hill, on the right is Smethwick grove, the residence of John Lewis Moilliet, Esq.
* * * * *
You now enter Smethwick, which is in Staffordshire, and ascending the hill, a neat brick house makes its appearance on the right hand, where John Reynolds, Esq. resides, who, by succeeding to what was considered by Mr. Lane, his predecessor, to be a worn out trade, accumulated a considerable fortune, and has retired from business to enjoy it near twenty years. At the summit of the hill on the left is Shireland hall, which is now converted into a seminary for young ladies, under the superintendance of Miss Marmont.
There are in Smethwick some works of considerable magnitude, viz. Messrs. Boulton and Watt's manufactory for steam engines; an extensive soap work, belonging to Messrs. Adkins and Nock; a manufactory of brass, under the denomination of the Smethwick brass company; and also one of British crown glass, belonging to Thomas Shutt and Co. There is a house called the Beakes, where Wm. Wynne Smith, Esq. resides.
The place of worship is a chapel of ease to the parish of Harborne, and is a neat modern brick tower building, of a single pace, lofty and coved, about sixty feet by twenty-four, and well paved, with a gallery at the west end. The present incumbent is the Rev. Edward Dales, who resides in the neat parsonage-house on the south side of the chapel yard.
Leaving Smethwick, you proceed towards Oldbury, upon which road the trustees are making great improvements, by widening the road and turning the course of a brook, over which they are building a bridge, which when finished will be a great accommodation. This village is situated in the county of Salop, and is a chapel of ease to Halesowen. A new court-house was erected here in the year 1816, where the court of requests is held once a fortnight. The protestant dissenters have here a neat place of worship, as have also the methodists. Close to the village are several coal mines, and a blast furnace, belonging to Mr. Parker.
[Footnote 7: From this place you have an excellent view of Rowley hills, the ruins of Dudley castle, and the fine woods in Sandwell park.]
About a mile distant, on the left of the road is the Brades, where Messrs. William Hunt and Sons have established a considerable manufacture of iron and steel, which they form into scythes, hay knives, trowels, and every kind of hoe now in use. This road from Birmingham to Dudley is at least one mile nearer than going through West-bromwich, and in my opinion will be sufficiently commodious for the traffic there is between the two towns. The distance is only nine miles, and in travelling that short space of ground you are in four different counties; Birmingham being in Warwickshire; Smethwick, in Staffordshire; Oldbury, in Shropshire; and Dudley in the county of Worcester.
N. B. Since writing the above, the bridge is completed, and the whole line of road improved to a considerable degree.
To Hockley-house, ten miles, on the road to Stratford-upon-Avon and also to Warwick.
You proceed through Deritend, up Camp-hill, and when near the summit, there is on the right hand an ancient brick building, called the Ravenhurst, the residence of Mr. John Lowe, attorney, who is equally respectable in his profession, as the house is in appearance. A short distance beyond on the left is Fair-hill, where Samuel Lloyd, Esq. resides, and on the opposite side of the road is the Larches, the abode of Wm. Withering, Esq.—This house, when it belonged to Mr. Darbyshire, was known by the name of Foul Lake, but when Dr. Priestley resided there, he gave it the name of Fair-hill; afterwards, being purchased by Dr. Withering, he altered the name of it to the Larches. Having passed through the turnpike, on the left is Sparkbrook-house, John Rotton, Esq. resident. At the distance of one mile and a half the road to Warwick branches off to the left, and on the summit of the hill is Spark-hill-house, inhabited by Miss Morris. Opposite the three mile stone is a very neat pile of building, called Green-bank-house, where Benjamin Cooke, Esq. has taken up his abode. A little beyond, at a place called the Coal-bank, there is a free school, which is endowed with about forty pounds per annum.
At a short distance on the left is Marston chapel, which is usually called Hall-green chapel: it was erected and endowed by Job Marston, Esq. of Hall-green hall, with about ninety acres of land, and other donations.
At the distance of five miles, you pass through a village called Shirley Street; and at the distance of another fire miles, you arrive at Hockley-house; a place of entertainment, where travellers of every denomination are accommodated in a genteel manner, and on reasonable terms. About one mile from hence, on the road to Stratford, is Umberslade, or Omberslade, where the Archer family were used to reside, but it is now untenanted.
From Hockley-house to Warwick, ten miles.
At the distance of one quarter of a mile, there is on the right a view of Lapworth church, and on the left is Pack wood-house, which is at present unoccupied. At Rowington, the Warwick canal is carried at an immense expense over a deep valley, and also through a tunnel of considerable length; on the left is the village church, to which you ascend by steps cut in the solid rock, and near to it is the handsome residence of Samuel Aston, Esq. from hence you proceed through Hatton to Warwick.
To Warwick, twenty miles—Leamington, twenty-two miles.
You proceed through Deritend and Bordesley, continuing upon the Stratford road for one mile and a half, when you turn to the left; and at the distance of two miles there is a view over a well-wooded country, with the spire of Yardley church on the left. At Acock's-green there is a prospect nearly similar; and in a field, opposite the five mile stone, there is an extensive picturesque landscape, with a sheet of water in front, which covers about thirty acres; in the midst of which is a small island, with some trees upon it, that adds considerably to the scene.
[Footnote 8: This sheet of water is the reservoir of the Warwick canal.]
Solihull, distant seven miles.
This beautiful, neat, and clean village had at one time a market, but that has been discontinued for a long time. There are still three fairs annually; one on the 29th of April, another on the 11th of September, and the third on the 12th of October. There are here several genteel and commodious houses; the vicinity being very respectable. The, church is an ancient gothic pile of building, with an elegant spire. The Rev. Charles Curtis is rector.
Leaving the village, on the right you pass by Malvern-hall, the residence of H.G. Lewis, Esq. and afterwards arrive at Balsall Temple, which in former days belonged to the knights templars, and at their dissolution the knights hospitallers became possessed of it, in whom it remained till the general dissolution of the abbies. It was afterwards converted into an hospital, for the reception of indigent women, either unmarried or widows, to be selected from Balsall and Long Itchington, in Warwickshire, Trentham, in Staffordshire, or Lillenhall, in Shropshire. This institution is now in great prosperity, the annual income amounting to near L1500; the number of its alms-women is at present thirty. The buildings are extensive and substantial, forming a complete square, and healthfully situated on the verge of a spacious and fertile green. The trustees are the bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, together with the Earls of Warwick and Aylesford, assisted by other respectable gentlemen in the county, who have placed the whole institution under the immediate charge of a master, with a salary of L150. per annum, who is at this time the Rev. J. Short.
To those who admire antiquity, Balsall church will be a pleasing object, as it now remains nearly in the same state as it was when first erected, about seven hundred years back. Its dimensions are one hundred and two feet long, thirty-eight broad, and fifty-seven high. At the east and west ends are lofty windows, extending from the roof nearly to the ground, and on each side are three noble windows. The heads of all the windows are ornamented with beautiful tracery, and no two of them resemble each other. There are no divisions withinside, and what distinguishes the chancel from the body of the church is an ascent of three steps. The walls are very substantial, and so clustered with ivy, that it forces its way through any small fissures into the interior. Over the west door there is a low turret, and below the cornice is a row of ten heads, in a good state of preservation, which are considered to be of excellent workmanship.
Near the church is the ancient hall of the templars, formerly a splendid apartment, but now it is converted into a barn, which is represented to have been one hundred and forty feet in length.
A little farther is Springfield, the elegant and delightful mansion of Joseph Boultbee, Esq. and at a short distance is Knowle, which is a small old town, on elevated ground, in the midst of fertile fields. This church is of considerable size, and exhibits marks of antiquity in its remains of stained glass and grotesque carved work.
Not far from hence is Baddesley-Clinton-hall, the seat of Edward Ferrers, Esq. and about one mile beyond is a small inn, known by the name of Tom o'Bedlam, near to which is a venerable oak tree, supposed to be two hundred years old, measuring in girth twenty yards, from which one branch extends across a road thirty feet wide. You next come to Wroxhall abbey, the residence of Christopher Wren, Esq. a descendant from the noted Sir Christopher Wren, who erected St. Paul's cathedral, in London. The church of Wroxhall is an ancient structure, forming one side of a square, the buildings of the abbey forming the other three sides. The windows, which are ornamented with stained glass, are remarkably fine: the two figures of Moses and Aaron are admired, not only for the drapery, but also for the splendid colours.
About one mile before you arrive at Hatton, there is to the left a pleasant view over a well-wooded country, in the midst of which the ivied towers and magnificent battlements of Kenilworth castle present themselves to view. Hatton is a small village over which the celebrated and learned Dr. Parr presides. At Hatton-hill, near the two mile stone, there is an extensive and diversified prospect over the fertile tract that surrounds Warwick; in every part highly cultivated, and adorned with woods, encircled by gently-rising hills; and in the back ground are seen Shuckburgh-hill on one side and Edge-hill on the other.
Warwick. This ancient town is seated on a rock, to which you ascend in every direction, there being four avenues; one from Birmingham, another from Stratford, a third from Coventry, and a fourth from Banbury. The eminence on which the town is erected is itself encircled by hills at the distance of from two to three miles, which bound the prospect in every direction, except to the N.E. where you may see into Northamptonshire, and to the S.W. where the eye ranges over an extensive country, backed by the hills in Glocestershire and Worcestershire. The surrounding country is very fruitful, being cultivated with great care, and the enclosures separated by beautiful hedges, which are richly adorned with trees in a flourishing condition, and also by the river Avon, which meanders here in a considerable stream, and near Warwick is augmented by the junction of the Leam. The town being seated on a dry eminence, is exposed to the genial influence of the sun, which rarifies the air, and renders the atmosphere so salubrious and warm, that in its vicinity the seasons are frequently earlier by a fortnight than they are at the distance of twenty or thirty miles. The four principal streets cross each other at right angles, and lead to the cardinal points.
Great improvements have of late been made in them, by the introduction of culverts, repaving the carriage roads, and laying the footpaths with flags. Lamps are lighted during the winter months, at the expense of the corporation, who have in a commendable manner widened the narrow parts of some streets, and removed numerous obstructions; which gives an air of liveliness to this once sleepy town, and the inhabitants, being rowsed from their lethargy, are now become active and industrious.—The canal from Birmingham comes to this town, from whence it is continued to Napton, where it unites with the Oxford, and by means of it, with the grand junction canal.
The town is governed by a mayor, twelve aldermen, and twelve principal burgesses, with a town clerk and a recorder, who are empowered to make laws for the regulation of the borough, and upon all offenders to impose reasonable fines and penalties. Here are two manufactories of cotton, one of lace, and one of worsted, all of them upon an extensive scale, which contribute considerably to the cheerful activity and increasing population. There are here held twelve fairs annually; the market, which is well supplied, is on a Saturday; the quarter sessions for the county, and also the assizes.—The horse races take place in September, and a second meeting of the same kind is held in November. This borough sends two members to parliament, who are elected by those who pay scot and lot; the number of electors being about five hundred.
Here are two churches; one dedicated to St. Mary and the other to St. Nicholas: there, are also places of worship for presbyterians, quakers, independants, baptists, and Wesleyans.
In the vicinity, the following places are deserving of attention:—Guy's cliff, the ruins of Kenilworth castle, Stoneleigh abbey, Charlcott-house, and Combe abbey. Passing over the new bridge, on the road to Leamington, there is a grand picturesque view of Warwick; there being in the foreground the rich meadows, with the Avon meandering through them, the church of St. Nicholas, and the trees behind, which form a dark shade. Near to it is the castellated entrance into the castle, and the elegant tower of St. Peter's chapel. On the right is the priory, with its beautiful woods. The town is perceptible in the centre, with the tower of St. Mary's, which rises above the variegated and extensive groves of the castle. On the left is the principal object, the castle, which raises its lofty embattled towers over the shady groves with which it is surrounded. The elegant bridge, whose span is 105 feet, is a prominent feature in the landscape.
On the road leading to Tachbrook, about one mile from the town, the eye is gratified with a rich and luxuriant landscape, wherein appears the church of St. Nicholas, the priory, the hospital of St. John, the tower of St. Mary's church, and, to crown the whole, the castle.
The walks and rides in the vicinity of this town present innumerable objects deserving of attention, and whoever takes delight in rural scenery, may here be amply gratified.
In addition to these works, there is a considerable manufactory of hats, and an iron-foundry; to which may be added a corn mill, wherein are five pair of stones, and three of them constantly in motion, by which means they are enabled to grind and dress three hundred bushels of flour every day.
The County Hall.
This is an elegant pile of building, with a stone front, ornamented with pillars of the Corinthian order, to which, the ascent is by a flight of steps, through folding doors, into a noble room of just proportions, being ninety-four feet in length and thirty-six in breadth. At each end are semicircular recesses, surmounted by cupolas, and fitted up with convenient galleries, where the two courts of justice are held; the criminal court being on the right, and that for civil causes on the left; between which there is accommodation for the servants and attendants upon the court. Above there is an apartment where the petit juries occasionally retire, and adjoining it is the room where the grand jury assemble. The quarter sessions for the county are also held in this hall, and in it all county meetings are convened. During the races there is a temporary boarded floor laid down, and the hall is converted into a ball-room, the two recesses being fitted up for card parties: the pillars with which it is ornamented are encircled with wreaths of lamps, and what was before the solemn court of justice, is now converted into a brilliant and sportive scene, where gaiety and fashion take place of their predecessors.
The Court House.
This spacious and elegant pile of building is appropriated to the use of the body corporate, there being two rooms on the ground floor; that on the right is where the mayor and aldermen hold their assemblies, and the other is fitted up as a court, where the sessions are held for the borough. On the second floor, there is a commodious, well-proportioned apartment, sixty feet by twenty-seven, which is fitted up in an elegant manner with superb cut-glass chandeliers of large dimensions, at one end of which is an orchestra and also a card room adjoining. In this room annual entertainments are given by the mayor, and public meetings for the borough are convened. In it public lectures upon any particular subject are occasionally delivered, and it is also sometimes used as a ballroom.
The Market House.
This substantial building does credit to the town; it being very convenient for those who bring the produce of their farms to market. The upper apartments are made use of as store-rooms for the arms and accoutrements of the military within the county. From its summit there is a fine view of the town, and also a prospect of the surrounding country.
The Stone Bridge.
This elegant structure, which is erected across the river Avon, consists of one arch, measuring 105 feet in the span, at the expense of four thousand pounds: one thousand was contributed by the corporation, and the remainder was defrayed by the Earl of Warwick.
The Iron Bridge.
The rock whereon this town is erected being cut away, to make a road into it twenty-four feet wide, Charles Mills, Esq. one of the members for the borough, caused an iron bridge to be erected at his expense, across this road, and thereby formed a junction between the marketplace and the Saltsford.
The town not being very extensive, this building was erected to correspond with the population: it is no ways remarkable in its external appearance, but it is fitted up in a neat and convenient manner within, and is always opened during the races.
This ancient pile of building is of considerable size, and in it the native children of the parish, who think proper to take advantage of the institution, are educated free of expense; but as the course of instruction is prescribed to the learned languages only, its utility as a free school for general education is very contracted. The salary of the master, who must be a clergyman of the established religion, is seventy-five pounds, and he having but little employment, has an assistant, who receives annually thirty pounds, exclusive of other emoluments. To this school two estates were left in trust, to provide two exhibitions of seventy pounds each, for two young men, natives of the town, towards defraying the expense of their education, at Oxford, for the space of seven years.
There is also a public library, wherein is a considerable collection of well-chosen books, chiefly of modern literature; but the building that contains it is not deserving of notice.
The charitable donations and benefactions that have been left to this town are very numerous, and amount to a large sum of money.
Here are six different alms-houses, one school wherein thirty-nine boys are taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and thirty-six girls are instructed in reading, writing, sewing, and knitting. There is also a school of industry, and four sunday schools. A lying-in charity is also established here, for the relief of poor married women, residing within the borough, who each of them are accommodated with a set of child-bed linen for one month, one pound of candles, one pound of soap, and during the winter months, with two hundred weight of coals. They are also provided with a sufficient quantity of caudle, together with proper attendants, and all necessary medical advice. In addition to the before-mentioned there are two poor-houses.
There is also a very ancient building, denominated Leicester's hospital, for the reception of twelve indigent men, who are termed brethren, together with a master, who must be a clergyman of the established church, and in preference to all others, if he offers himself, the vicar of St. Mary's. It is endowed with land, which at the time was valued at L200 per annum, but now amounts to near L2000, exclusive of the vicarage of Hampton-in-Arden, which is in the gift of the brethren, who usually bestow it upon the master. It had long been ascertained that the clear annual rental of the estate far exceeded all that could be required for the support of the number of brethren in the hospital, and that the salary of the master was fixed at fifty pounds per annum.
In the year 1813, this important business was brought before parliament, when it appeared, that each of the brethren received, clear of all deductions, about L130 per year each, which sum the act leaves them in the possession of; but it provides, as vacancies occur, either by death or otherwise, on the admission of every new member, his annual income shall not exceed L80, and that the surplus L50 shall one half of it go to the increase of the master's salary, until it amounts to L400 per annum, and the remainder is to form a fund for the support of ten additional members. The qualification for admission being now fixed at L50 per annum: no candidate is to be possessed of an income exceeding that. Adjoining to the hospital is a chapel, which is neatly fitted up for the use of the brethren, the master, and his family, who daily assemble there for morning and evening prayer, except on those days when service is performed at St. Mary's, where their attendance is then required.
St. Mary's Church.
This stately building taken altogether makes a very respectable appearance, particularly the tower, wherein are eight bells and a set of chimes; what is very remarkable, the principal entrance into the church is under the tower; therefore it admits of a grand view down the middle aisle, which being terminated by the east window, is seen to great advantage. There is in this church an excellent organ, and numerous monuments, but none of them any ways remarkable. From the south transept of this church, you descend by a flight of steps to St. Mary's chapel, and enter therein by folding doors, which, when opened, the eye is astonished upon viewing the interior of this beautiful and magnificent structure, which is considered to be as fine a specimen of gothic architecture as any in the kingdom, it being in the pointed style of the middle order. This chapel, having been twenty-one years in building, was finished in the year 1464, and including the monument erected to commemorate the Earl of Warwick, cost L2481, an amazing sum at that period. In the chapel there are five sumptuous monuments.
St. Nicholas's Church.
This incongruous pile of building is of modern date, being opened for divine service on the 17th September, 1780.
This extensive, substantial, and commodious pile of building is of solid stone, and in all respects so complete, that every purpose it was intended to answer is fully accomplished. The area of this prison contains near an acre of ground, which is surrounded by a wall twenty-three feet high, and of proportionate strength.
This building is of stone, and contains numerous apartments, in every one of which there is a glazed window and an iron door, the sleeping rooms being furnished with iron bedsteads and chaff beds, with two rugs to each. A donation is made to every prisoner, on being released, according to the distance he is from home and behaviour during confinement. One or two shirts or shifts, a pair of shoes, or a jacket, are presented to those who have been in prison six months.
The necessary limits to which this work is confined, will not admit of describing that magnificent and sumptuous pile of building; therefore those who are desirous of seeing a description of it, are referred to the local historian.
This ancient edifice is in the immediate vicinity of Warwick: it was originally a complete square, three sides of which still remain, the fourth having been removed.—The western side appears to have been part of the ancient chapel, there still remaining part of the baptismal font, which is of stone, richly ornamented, and is highly deserving the attention of an antiquarian.
It is situated on a pleasing eminence, embosomed in the ancient and majestic groves, surrounded by delightful gardens and an extensive park, and presents such a beautiful sylvan scene as is rarely to be met with. The undulated surface of the ground, intermingled with numerous sheets of water, are richly adorned with trees of various kinds, of vigorous growth and the most beautiful forms, among which the elm and the chesnut are particularly conspicuous. Through this park there are several footpaths open to the public, and are the most rural and delightful walks imaginable.
Leland, the antiquarian, who wrote in the time of Henry 8th, speaking of this delightful and romantic place, says, "It is the abode of pleasure, and a place delightful to the muses: there are natural cavities in the rocks, small but shady groves, clear and chrystal streams, flowery meadows, mossy caves, a gentle murmuring river running among the rocks, and to crown all, solitude and quiet, friendly in so high a degree to the muses."
The approach to this romantic place is from the Coventry road, by the side of shady plantations, until you arrive at a lofty stone arch, through which you enter the court yard, the whole of which is hewn out of the solid rock, and underneath there are subterraneous passages and cellars, wherein the atmospheric air produces so little effect, that during the heats of summer or the colds in winter the thermometer only varies one degree. In this court there are numerous stables excavated out of the solid rock, as are some of the lower apartments of the house, which is an elegant modern mansion, and near to it is the ancient chapel, with its embattled towers and gothic windows, as it was originally built in the reign of Henry 6th, and is still in good repair. Those who admire the productions of early genius will here be highly gratified, there being great numbers of original paintings, and some copies, executed by the only son of the worthy proprietor of Guy's clift, whose premature death at the age of twenty-two, caused inexpressible grief to all who were honoured with his acquaintance. Exclusive of these, there are others by artists of the greatest celebrity.
The ancient pleasure grounds exhibit a great variety of pleasing objects, and also numerous curiosities; among others, a mill that was in being before the Norman conquest, it being mentioned in doomsday book. There is also Guy's well, where this renowned champion was accustomed to slake his thirst, which is described by Leland as follows, it still remaining in the same state as it was then—"The silver wells in the meadows were enclosed with pure white sleek stones, like marble, and a pretty house, erected like a cage, one end only open, to keep comers from the rain." The apartments under the chapel, where the chantry priests were used to reside, still remain entire, without having undergone any alteration. Near to this spot is Guy's cave,
"Where with his hands he hew'd a house, Out of a craggy rock of stone, And lived, like a palmer, poor, Within that house alone."
This bears the appearance of being a natural eave, for the upper part does not exhibit any marks where the tool has been made use of, but the lower part does; and here, tradition says, this mighty warrior was interred, and also his wife, fair Phillis. Over this cave is fair Phillis's walk, who, it is related, was accustomed to resort here, whilst her husband, though not known to her as such, was performing his devotions in the cave below. From these delightful and romantic walks there are numerous opportunities for an expert draughtsman to exercise his abilities.
The distance between Warwick and Leamington is only two miles, and there are two distinct roads, both of them excellent; and whether a person rides or walks, if the mind is susceptible of pleasing ideas, neither time nor fatigue will be thought of. The roads about Leamington are in excellent order, and present numerous delightful and picturesque views, which are fully described by Mr. Field, and also by Mr. Moncrief in his Guide to Leamington, wherein he has introduced some appropriate, entertaining, and amusing poetry. Whoever resorts to these saline springs in search of amusement, if he has money and time at command, cannot fail, during the season, between May and November, of being highly gratified, except the mind is entirely depraved. To every visitant, the guide of Mr. Moncrief will not only be useful but entertaining. The poetical epistles of Miss Fidget are not only descriptive but very humorous, and the poetry of Mr. Pensile is very appropriate.
Before Leamington rose into esteem, there was a facetious man resided there, named Benjamin Satchwell, by trade a shoemaker, who, when any differences arose among the villagers, he was in general the mediator; they not being at that time cursed with either a wrangling lawyer or an hypocritical methodist. He was also the village poet, and frequently exercised his talents in praise of the waters, and likewise of any respectable person who came with intent to derive benefit from them. He is said to have kept annals in verse of its rise and progress, and also cases of cures performed by the virtues of the saline spring, and that he let them out to the visitors for their amusement, on certain terms. Admitting this to be true, is it not very singular that Mr. Bisset, nor his predecessor, Mr. Pratt, should neither of them introduce these jeu des esprits, for the entertainment of their readers, or why did not Mr. Moncrief collect them together; they certainly would have increased the sale of his work? As they are overlooked by the local historians, it is not likely that a casual visitor should stumble upon them.
This village having for a series of years been celebrated for a spring of saline water, it has for some time become fashionable to resort there. The first baths were erected in the year 1786, now called the Centre well, by Mr. Thomas Abbotts, a native of the place; the beneficial effects of the water having been noticed and recommended by Dr. Kerr, of Northampton, and Dr. Allen. At this time there were two baths, one of them hot and the other cold, which for several years afforded sufficient accommodation for all invalids who resorted there, and were in general lodged at the adjacent cottages, there being no more than two small inns, the Bowling Green and the sign of the Dog.
Dr. Edward Johnstone, of Birmingham, having recommended the use of these waters to several of his patients, the number of visitants increased annually, so that in 1790, Matthew Wise, Esq. caused another well to be opened, now called the Road well, where he erected a range of baths, more spacious than the others, to which was annexed considerably more conveniences, with some pretensions to elegance; but as yet no additional apartments were provided for the accommodation of strangers, except a few more of the cottagers fitting up additional rooms, it being no more than a rural and retired village.
In the year 1794, Dr. Lambe, a physician of eminence, who resided at Warwick, published in the fifth volume of the Memoirs of the Manchester Philosophical Society, an accurate analysis of the Leamington water, by which it appears to possess the same genial influence on the human frame as the water of Cheltenham, which was then rising into celebrity. There was one very material difference between the waters of Leamington and those of Cheltenham, there being at the former place an abundant supply of the mineral water, not only for drinking but for hot and cold bathing; whilst, on the contrary, the saline spring at Cheltenham scarcely produced a sufficient quantity for drinking. The influx of visitors to Leamington now increased with such rapidity, that every cottager exerted himself to fit up lodgings, and every house to which lodgers resorted improved their appearance; in short, new wells were opened, new houses erected, and not only new streets formed in the old town, as it was now called, but a plan was drawn for the erection of a new town, which has within a few years increased in a most astonishing manner.
The Dukes of Bedford and Gordon, attended by their Duchesses, having visited and remained at Leamington for some time, it induced the Earl of Aylesford, who is lord of the manor, and of course, proprietor of the spring, to visit Leamington, where, having made the necessary enquiries, he gave orders that the spring should be properly inclosed, at his expense, securing to the poor the benefit of the waters, and had he lived, it was his intention to have erected baths for their accommodation. The visitants increasing in number, Mr. Wise has augmented the number of his baths, there being one cold bath, four hot for the use of gentlemen, seven for ladies, and one for children, all fitted up with Dutch tiles, or Derbyshire marble, and furnished for the convenience of invalids, with hand rails: to each of the baths is attached a dressing room, with a fire-place in it. Adjoining these baths there is a small but elegant pump-room; the water being raised by a horse engine.
In 1810, a fourth well was opened, which is called the Bridge well, and is situated near the bridge, close to the river: it belongs to Mr. Robbins, who has erected one large cold bath, three hot baths, and one for children.—These, with the exception of the last, are accompanied by convenient dressing-rooms; the water being raised by a horse engine.
The South well, the property of the Rev. Mr. Read, was opened in the same year, (1810), where there are one cold bath, formed with Dutch tiles, three hot baths, one of them being marble, and one for children: these baths are very neat, but they have not the convenience of dressing-rooms.
During the same year, (1810), a sixth well was opened on the north side of the river, where a magnificent suite of baths and a spacious pump-room are erected, at the expense of twenty-five thousand pounds; there are twenty in number, hot, cold, tepid, vapour, and shower; one of them being a chair bath, which is an admirable contrivance to immerge the invalid, on the chair where he was undressed, into the bath, in a secure and easy manner.—These baths are spacious, and admirably constructed with Dutch tiles, and most of them have the accommodation of dressing-rooms. The water is raised by a steam engine of two horse power; and to the great credit of the proprietors, they have devoted one hot and two cold baths to the use of the poor. This extensive building exhibits a noble front, the central part being one hundred and six feet in length and thirty in height, to which there are two wings, each of them extending thirty-feet and in height twenty. A spacious colonade, formed by double pillars of the Doric order, encompass it on three sides, all of native stone, makes this building rank among the first and most magnificent structures in the kingdom. It was designed and executed by Mr. C.S. Smith, architect of London. The baths for the use of the ladies are nearest to the river, and those at the other end are for gentlemen, the entrance to them being from the two wings. The entrance to the pump-room, which is extensive, lofty, and of exact proportions, is through folding doors at each extremity of the central building.—The ornaments of the ceiling, the cornices, and in fact, the whole interior embellishments, are chaste and simply elegant. On one side the light is introduced through seven windows, and on the opposite side by one window of large dimensions, composed of stained glass. Underneath this window there are two elegant chimney pieces, formed of Kilkenny marble. At the western extremity of the room, on an ornamental pedestal of Derbyshire marble, there is the pump, if it may be so called, it having a bason in the centre, which is enclosed by a neat mahogany ballustrade. The visitors receive the water in glasses from beautiful damsels, and to whom it is usual to give a gratuity. The terms for drinking the water at these baths is 3s. 6d. per week, exclusive of the gratuity. At the other wells it is 2s. 6d. per week, and the gratuity. The terms for bathing appear to be in general, 3s. for a warm bath, 2s. for that of a child, and 1s. 6d. for a cold bath, with a gratuity to the attendant.
In the year 1816, a seventh well made its appearance in Clemens-street, which bears the pompous title of the imperial sulphuric medical font, and ladies' marble baths. There are here four baths, with a dressing-room to each, and also an elegant pump-room.
Lest seven wells and fifty baths should not be sufficient to accommodate the visitors at Leamington, preparations are making for the eighth well, near Ranelagh gardens, where the baths are intended to be more splendid than any of the former, and also the pump-room, under the title of the Spa.
From the hour of seven to nine in the morning is the accustomed time to promenade and drink the water, though numbers defer it till after breakfast, and bathe in the evening before they retire to rest.
When the warm baths are not in use, they are invariably kept and shewn empty, being filled in presence of the visitor, or during the time he is preparing to use them; the process of filling not requiring more than three minutes. The cold baths are in general emptied and of course filled every day, or more frequently if required; but of late they are not much resorted to, the warm or tepid bath being preferred. The prevailing opinion among medical men is, that the latter is by far the more efficacious in most disorders, and more conducive to health than the former; because, where a person continues immersed in saline water for some time, it enters into the pores of the skin, and by that means is more likely to be of benefit in cutaneous or other disorders for which it is usually recommended.
The houses in Union-parade, Upper Union-street, Cross-street, and others, being erected, some public-spirited gentlemen, in order to attract the attention of the public, in the year 1813 resolved to erect an assembly-room that might vie with, if not excel those of Bath and Cheltenham.
This, at the expense of ten thousand pounds, was carried into execution by a pupil of the celebrated Wyatt. The spacious front of this beautiful edifice is constructed with native stone, wherein no superfluous ornaments are admitted. In the central part there are a range of seven windows, supported by light pilasters of the Ionic order, surmounted by a plain entablature. Two handsome wings project from the main building, and judiciously relieve it; they contain those apartments that are usual and necessary appendages to a large assembly room.—There are two entrances into this building; one on the eastern side, from Union-parade, through a small porch, supported by four Ionic columns; the other, the principal entrance, is from Upper Cross-street, through a pair of large folding doors in the right wing, into the hall. The hall is spacious and well-proportioned, the refectory being opposite to the entrance. To the right is a billiard-room, containing a massive mahogany table, made by Fernyhough, of London, said to be worth one hundred guineas, and to the left a flight of stairs conducts you to another billiard-room, which, although it is not quite so spacious, is equally commodious as the other. On the same side you enter the ball-room through a pair of folding doors: this magnificent room measures in length eighty-two feet, in width thirty-six, and in height twenty-six. From the ceiling, which is beautifully ornamented with stucco, three superb chandeliers of cut glass are suspended, which with those in the other apartments are said to have cost one thousand guineas. The range of windows aforementioned are furnished with curtains of crimson moreen, edged with black fringe. On the opposite side of the room there are two fire-places, the chimney pieces being formed of Kilkenny marble, highly polished, over which are two ornamental mirrors of large dimensions. At the upper end is the orchestra, to the left of which is a door leading into the card room, which is a spacious and elegant apartment, and beyond it is a reading-room, well provided with the London and provincial newspapers, to which are added some of the most esteemed periodical publications. On ball nights, this room is appropriated for tea. From the month of June till November balls are held every Thursday night, at eight o'clock, and card assemblies occasionally throughout the season. The whole concern is under the direction of a committee, the master of the ceremonies being C. Stevenson, Esq.
Mr. George Stanley, mason, of Warwick, laid the first brick of the first house erected at new Leamington, 8th October, 1808. This first house was built by Mr. Frost, of Warwick, and stands at the corner of Upper Cross-street, opposite the assembly rooms; in honour of him there is now a street bears his name, (Frost-street.)
This neat building, upon a diminutive scale, was erected in 1814, immediately in front of the Bath hotel, the exterior appears to be coated with Parker's cement, and the interior is ornamented with views of Leamington, Warwick, Guy's Clift, &c, and fitted up with some taste.
The Post Office.
This necessary and convenient place for all descriptions of people to resort to, is situated about two hundred yards east of the church, where there are gardens, kept in neat order, for the accommodation of those who wait with impatience for their letters; or they may promenade from the office to Gordon house.
Are regularly improved every season, and with their various amusements, are deserving of attention.
Is an ancient pile of building, dedicated to All Saints, which, from the great influx of visitors, being found too small for their accommodation, an entire new wing was constructed in 1816, and it still requires to be farther extended, or a new one erected. A moderate subscription from the wealthy visitors would do much towards it. The officiating minister, the Rev. E. Trotman, is only engaged to do single duty on a Sunday, but to accommodate the visitors, he performs a second entire service, and to remunerate him for his attention, subscription books are opened. During the season of 1818, another hotel was begun, upon which twenty thousand pounds being appropriated to the completion of it, is a sum sufficient to render it equal to any other house of entertainment in the kingdom.
An elegant suite of rooms have recently been opened, entitled the Apollo, where assemblies were held every fortnight, during winter. Boarding houses are continually opening every week, and in every quarter of the town there are good houses in a state of forwardness, against the present season.
A Hint from the Editor.
From the rapid manner in which the buildings encrease at Leamington, it is evident that there is a superabundance of money, and as soft water is a scarce article within the town, could not a portion of that superfluous money be advantageously employed in conveying that useful and necessary article to the respective houses, by means of a steam engine, there being a powerful spring at no great distance?
To Meriden, twelve miles, on the road to Coventry.
You proceed through Deritend and Bordesley, when you take the left hand road, and having crossed the Warwick canal, the ruins of Bordesley house are in full view; they having continued in that state ever since the year 1791, when the house was demolished by an infuriated mob. The land by which it is surrounded has been parcelled out, and advertised to be let for building. On the left is a farm-house, denominated the Garrison, from whence there is an extensive view over the town of Birmingham; and on this eminence it is supposed that Oliver Cromwell planted his artillery to overawe the town; but the majority of the inhabitants being favourable to his cause, there was no necessity to make use of it; and what gives weight to this supposition is, that this spot being about one mile and a half from Aston hall, it is very probable that from thence the artillery played upon that mansion, as a ball penetrated into the interior of it. At the distance of three miles and a half, there is a road on the left, which leads to the village of Yardley.
Having passed the four mile stone, you ascend a gently rising hill, and when at the summit a delightful and extensive view presents itself; there being a windmill in the front, and on the left the tower of Sheldon church is seen, and also the steeple of Coleshill church.
The seat of A. Spooner Lillingston, Esq. is an elegant modern pile of building, on the right of the road, at the distance of six miles. It is situate in an extensive lawn, interspersed with shrubberies, from whence there are variegated and extensive prospects, the churches of Birmingham, Solihull, and Yardley being distinctly seen, backed by Barr-beacon, the Rowley hills, &c. and withoutside of the lawn the spire of Coleshill church is a pleasing object. The church, which is a neat stone building, was erected by Abraham Spooner, Esq. the entrance is under the tower, which admits of exhibiting to great advantage, an elegant window composed entirely of stained glass. In the centre is a representation of the last supper, delicately executed in a circle, about nine inches in diameter, date 1532. There are also three ovals, representing Faith, Hope, and Charity, executed in a masterly manner, apparently about the same period. There is also a neat organ, of a size suitable to the place.
At a short distance farther, there is on the right a church upon an eminence, with a delicate spire, at a place called Church Bickenhill; and a short distance beyond is an extensive and variegated prospect, with Coleshill church on the left. Having crossed the river Cole at Stonebridge, at the distance of half a mile on the left is Packington hall, the seat of the Earl of Aylesford, which is a substantial modern stone building, situated in a park, wherein are some of the most noble oak trees that are to be found in the kingdom. There are also numerous sheets of water, and the church, which was erected by the late Earl, after a plan of Bonomi's, which is an immense arch, both interior and exterior, after the manner of the Italians, and is nearly in the centre of the park. The organ was made by order of Handel, and presented by him to the late Earl; it being esteemed a very fine toned one.—The altar-piece represents angels paying adoration to the Saviour, and is painted in a masterly style by Rigaud.
The archery ground made use of by the woodmen of Ardeu is bounded by a plantation on the left of the road, about one mile before you arrive at Meriden. The members of this society hold several meetings each summer, when they shoot for various prizes. On the ground there is an elegant building erected, where the members dine, or take refreshment, and at other times it serves as a general deposit for their bows and arrows. This is almost the only society of woodmen now in the kingdom. At Meriden there is a commodious inn, adjacent to which are delightful gardens, and the accommodation for travellers are excellent.
To Sutton, distant eight miles, on the road to Lichfield.
You leave Birmingham, through Aston-street and the adjacent buildings in the parish of Aston, which extend for a considerable distance along the road. Having passed the buildings, you soon after cross a small stream of water, that has performed its office of turning a corn mill, which you perceive on your left hand. This mill was within memory a forge, for the making of bar iron.—There is another mill upon the same stream, a short distance above, known by the name of Aston furnace, which was a blast furnace for the purpose of making pig iron to supply the forge below, and must have been made use of as such for a prodigious number of years, the slag or refuse from it forming an immense heap only a few years back, which has been conveyed away to make and repair the roads, and in some instances to erect buildings. This mill has been considerably enlarged, and a steam engine erected contiguous to it, and is now used as a paper mill. From an adjacent hill there is a good view over the town of Birmingham.
[Footnote 9: See Hockley abbey, on the road to Wolverhampton.]
A lofty brick wall now presents itself to view, by which the park belonging to Aston hall is surrounded: it being by computation three miles in circumference; within which there is a great abundance of valuable timber, and it is also well stocked with deer. When the wall recedes from the high road, keep by the side of it, which leads you to the parish church, and also to the mansion house or hall, which is a brick building, erected by Sir Thomas Holt, about the year 1636, at the same time that he enclosed the park. He also erected alms houses, for five men and five women, which he endowed, with eighty-eight pounds per annum, out of the manor of Erdington. The hall has of late years been in the possession of Heneage Legge, Esq. but is at present unoccupied, and the whole estate is upon sale.
[Footnote 10: Since writing the above, the mansion of Aston, together with the park, has been purchased by Messrs. Greenway and Whitehead, of Warwick, who have converted the house into two tenements, disposed of the deer, turned the park into enclosures, and fallen the timber.]
The church which is dedicated to St. Peter and Paul, is a stone building, with a lofty spire, and contains several monuments of the Holt family; it is also ornamented with two windows of stained glass, by Eginton. In the church-yard there is a remarkable grave stone, which is fixed east and west. The present incumbant is the Rev. Benjamin Spencer, L.L.D.
Sir Lister Holt, the late proprietor of this estate, not having any children, and being at variance with his only brother, (who succeeded to the title), he entailed the estate upon four different families, none of whom had or are likely to have any children, although they have been in possession of it for the space of near forty years.
[Footnote 11: It is a thick stone, about two foot in height, on which is the following inscription:—
HERE LIETH THE BODY OF REBECKAH PEMBORTON WIF OF ISAAC PEMBORTON BVRI 27 OF DECEM 1660
HERE LIETH THE BODY OF ISAAC PEM- BERTON HE DEPARTED DECEM 4: 1697 AGED 76
THO I AM HERE LAID LOW IN GRAVE THINK ON THE COVNSEL WICH I GAVE THO TRO VNLES MAY TO Y DECEND: A GRAC LOVS BLESSIN IN THE END
THE FIRST STONE SET VP IN THIS YARD THO OTHERS SINCE MORE FINLY CARVED WAS IN REMEMBERANCE OF SHE AN OBJECT OF MORTALITY]
Returning into the main road, you perceive on the left a double row of lofty elms, that extend about half a mile; and at the termination of the vista, Aston hall and the lofty spire of the church produce a grand effect. On the right there is a sheet of water that turns a mill for the use of the Birmingham manufacturers. You soon after cross Salford bridge, to the right of which is an aqueduct that conveys the Birmingham canal over the river Tame. The village of Erdington does not contain any object deserving of attention, but a little beyond on the right is Pipe hall, an ancient seat of the Bagot family, now occupied by the Rev. Egerton Bagot.
In the vicinity there are several neat houses, which are chiefly inhabited by wealthy people, who have retired from Birmingham. A short distance from hence Mary Ashford was found drowned on the 27th May, 1817.
About the fifth mile stone, the eye is gratified on the left with an extensive view over the country, which continually varies for a considerable distance, until a most beautiful and picturesque landscape presents itself; a white house belonging to a mill and an extensive sheet of water being in front, Barr-beacon in the back ground, and the woods in Sutton park on the right.
This remarkably neat and clean town is situated about midway between the town of Birmingham and the city of Lichfield; lying south from the latter place, its name is supposed to be derived from South Town, and by corruption, Sutton. There is a very considerable portion of land near this town, where travellers say the air is equally sharp and cold as it is upon the highlands of Scotland, and from this circumstance the latter part of its name originates. Independant of this tract of land, there is another contiguous to it, which is denominated the park, wherein a part of the Roman road, called Icknield Street, still remains perfect; there is also a spring called Rounton well, whose water is remarkably cold and produces a very copious stream, to which numerous people who are afflicted with cutaneous disorders resort, and derive considerable benefit from drinking and bathing therein. It cures the most virulent itch in the human species, and also the mange in dogs, if sufficient care is taken to wash them well in the stream, but a slight washing will not produce the desired effect.
The church is an ancient stone building, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and the present rector is the Rev. John Riland, who is also patron of the living. Within the church there is an organ, and some monuments deserving of attention; there are also three vaults, two of which having been opened, the coffins and their contents were mouldered into dust, although they had been deposited there within the memory of man.
This town was incorporated by the eighth Henry, at the solicitation of Vesey, bishop of Exeter, who was his chancellor, and a native of this place. It is denominated a corporate body, by the name of the warden and society of the king's town of Sutton Coldfield, and consists of twenty-four members besides the warden, with a grant to them of the whole manor and lordship of the parish, together with a tract of waste ground, called the park, containing about 3500 acres, wherein is great abundance of valuable timber, on condition of paying into the exchequer a fee farm rent of fifty-eight pounds per annum.
The said Bishop Vesey erected fifty-one stone houses in the parish and also a free grammar school, which he liberally endowed with land, and ordained by the statutes, that the master should be a layman, which is strictly adhered to. He also procured for the inhabitants a market, and the extraordinary privilege that every person who erected a house in Sutton, should be entitled to sixty acres of land in the park.
Here are two fairs annually, for horses, neat cattle, and sheep; the one on Trinity Monday and the other on the 8th of November; when, for every horse that is sold, a toll must be paid of four-pence, and a reputable voucher produced by the person who sells it; the marks and age of the animal being registered. By the same charter, the inhabitants of Sutton are exempt from toll in all fairs and markets. The deputy steward or town clerk holds a court of record every three weeks, for the trial of civil actions, and holds to bail for forty shillings and upwards.
Sessions, court leet, and other customary courts are held, and the charter expressly says, that they shall have and exercise as much privilege and power as the city of Coventry; but this they do not practise, for they commit felons to the county gaol. Every inhabitant is a landed man, which is drawn by ballot every four years; and no county officer can enter this franchise, to arrest, &c. without especial license.
The town of Sutton is seated on such an eminence, that although there are fourteen large pools of water within the parish, and some of them very extensive, there is not the smallest stream runs into it; the town being supplied with water by springs within it. The air is very salubrious, the water in general soft, the situation delightfully pleasant, the neighbourhood genteel, and accommodations in general very excellent. In the vicinity is Four-oaks hall, the seat of Sir E.C. Hartopp; Moor hall, the residence of —— Hacket, Esq. and Ashfurlonghouse, which is at present unoccupied.
To Halesowen, seven miles, on the road to Hagley, Stourbridge and Kidderminster.
You proceed up Broad-street and Islington, through the five ways toll-gate; when the road inclining to the right, there is a double range of respectable houses, denominated Hagley-row, which have been erected by the opulent inhabitants of Birmingham; where they not only enjoy fresh air, but the parochial taxes of Edgbaston do not bear any proportion with those of Birmingham. On the right hand is an observatory, a lofty brick building, seven stories high, which bears the name of the Monument: it was erected by John Perrot, Esq. about the year 1758, from whence there is an extensive view over the adjacent country in every direction. The house adjourning is the residence of John Guest, Esq. Having passed the one mile stone, the admirer of nature will proceed with solemn pace and slow, every step he takes varying the scene; one object being lost to view, which is succeeded by another equally beautiful. On the left there is an extensive and picturesque prospect, which continues without interruption for a considerable distance; and when the scene closes on that side, turn your eyes to the right, where there is a landscape equally fine; which, over the inclosures, takes in Smethwick, with Shireland hall in the front. A very short distance farther on the left there is an extensive and variegated landscape, with a house called the Ravenhurst in full view; the prospect being bounded by Bromsgrove Lickey and Frankley Beeches. At the three mile stone is the Lightwoods, a neat brick house, the property and residence of Miss Grundy, from whence there are some enchanting prospects. In these woods there are small shrubs grow in great abundance, which produce black fruit, known by the name of bilberries, of which during some years the poor people make a plentiful harvest.—Ascending the hill there is a delightful view over the enclosures, commanding the villages of Harborne and King's Norton; the two parish churches being conspicuous objects. From the Beech-lane there is a fine view, having the hills of Clent and Cofton in the distance.
At a place called the Quinton, near the five mile stone, there is a grand prospect, and from this eminence there arise two springs, one of which flows into the Severn and the other into the Trent. On the left is Belle Vue, the residence of James Male, Esq. from whence, as its name imports, there is a grand panoramic view of the country, that fills the mind with the most sublime ideas, such as cannot be described either by pen or pencil. In descending the hill opposite some cottages, there is a road leading to The Leasowes.
Wherein the inimitable Shenstone took so much delight, and decorated in such a manner, that in his days they were spoken of and resorted to by all people of refined taste, who came within a day's ride; and not an individual ever left them without expressions of astonishment at what they had seen and heard from the worthy proprietor, who warbled forth his verses in such a melodious manner, and on such subjects, that delighted every ear, as his diversified shady walks did every eye.
His remains were interred in the church-yard of Halesowen, to whose memory, some years afterwards, a small stone pillar, with an urn on the top of it, was fixed near the vestry door, within the church, but has since been removed within the chancel, to make room for a magnificent marble monument, to the memory of Major Halliday, executed by Banks, for which he received about one thousand pounds; there being on each side of it a figure, large as life; one representing Patience and the other Fortitude.
On the pillar to the memory of Shenstone is the following inscription:—
Whoe'er thou art, with rev'rence tread These sacred mansions of the dead. Not that the monumental bust, Or sumptuous tomb, here guards the dust Of rich, or great,(let wealth, rank, birth, Sleep undistinguished in the earth.) This simple urn records a name, That shines with more exalted fame. Reader! if genius, taste refin'd, A native elegance of mind; If virtue, science, manly sense; If wit that never gave offence; The clearest head, the tend'rest heart, In thy esteem e'er claim'd a part; Ah! smite thy breast, and drop a tear; For know, thy Shenstone's dust lies here,
R.G. and J. HODGETS. A.O.P.
The Leasowes are now in the possession of Matthias Attwood, Esq. and these delightful walks, although their beauties have been curtailed to a considerable degree, by conveying the Netherton canal across the valley, close by them, are still highly deserving the attention of all persons who take delight in rural scenery; and for the accommodation of those who are inclined to meditate and contemplate, numerous seats are affixed, in different directions. Such scenes as these walks afford are very seldom to be met with in any part of England; therefore those who are in pursuit of amusement, will not regret if they devote one day to view them; and as they consist of hill and dale, it will of course cause some fatigue, which may with ease be alleviated, there being close at hand a neat and comfortable house of entertainment, kept by Betty Taylor. The source of the river Stour is in these grounds.
When near the bottom of the hill, the road divides; that on the right leads to Stourbridge, and the other to Halesowen, in Shropshire.
This place has been considered as a borough, by prescription, from time immemorial, and is supposed to have been represented in parliament at a very early period; but what ancient writings they were in possession of, being (as I am informed), conveyed to London and never returned, they have now none to exhibit. A court leet is held annually, when two officers are appointed, under the appellation of high and low bailiff; but I cannot understand that they enjoy any emolument, or are in possession of any jurisdiction. In the reign of King John, he founded a monastery here, and the church is supposed to have been erected about the same period; it being an ancient building, dedicated to St. John; with a lofty spire. The present incumbent is the Rev. —— Robinson. Near a mile distant there are still some remains of the monastery, and to the professed antiquary there is probably something deserving of his attention. In digging two holes to fix a gate, a short time since, there was found a considerable quantity of stained glass, in small fragments, some few of which are preserved, as are also some square tiles or quarries, about five inches broad and one thick, with curious devices upon them. It is now denominated the manor farm, and is the property of Lord Lyttleton. Dr. Nash, in his appendix to the history of Worcestershire, gives the following extract from the papers of Bishop Lyttleton.
This ancient structure was situated about half a mile south of the town, on what is now called the manor farm, near the road leading to Northfield. King John, in the 16th year of his reign, granted a charter to Peter de Rupibus, bishop of Winton, by which he gave the manor and advowson of the church of Hales, with its chapels, to found a religious house in this place. In consequence of this grant, a convent of Praemonstratensians was established A.D. 1218, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. John the evangelist, and furnished with monks from the abbey of Welbeck, in Nottinghamshire. This religious order were canons, who lived according to the rule of St. Austin, and afterwards reformed by St. Norbet, at Praemonstre, in Picardy. They were called white canons, from their habit; which consisted of a white cossack, with a rotchet over it, a long white cloak, and a white cap. They continued under the jurisdiction of the abbot of Praemonstre, who received contributions from them, till the year 1512, when they were exempted by Pope Julius 2d. The churches and a large proportion of the tythes of Walsall, Wednesbury, Rushall, Clent, and Rowley, were granted to this convent, by successive monarchs, which was also richly endowed by opulent individuals. The abbot and convent held ten large farms in their own hands. In the reign of Henry 8th, the clear income amounted to L380 13s 2d. a large sum, considering the value of money in those days. In 1489, when the whole number of religious amounted only to seventeen, there were every week consumed in bread 20 bushels of wheat and rye. And in the course of the year, 1110 quarters of barley, 60 oxen, 40 sheep, 30 swine, and 24 calves; a proof that great hospitality and charity prevailed here at that time. The monastery consisted of an abbot, prior, sub-prior, sacrist, chanter, cellarer, and custos infirmorum: the monks never exceeded twenty in number.
At the visitations of their superiors, punishments if requisite were inflicted for immoralities. The house and church appear to have been stately edifices; the chancel, if not the whole of the choir, being paved with flat tiles, painted in a curious manner, some of them being now occasionally found; and the few ruins still extant cover an extensive plot of ground, exhibiting fine specimens of Saxon and Gothic architecture.
Several persons of note have been buried in the church, particularly John, Lord Botetourt, baron of Weoleigh castle, near the high altar, under a tomb of alabaster; Sir Hugh Burnell, also baron of Weoleigh; Sir William Lyttleton, of Frankley, and others, about the year 1507.
This monastery was dissolved A.D. 1558, by Henry 8th. The common sigillum, or chapter seal, was in the reign of Henry 4th, a representation of the blessed Virgin, in a sitting posture, with the infant Christ on her left knee, and in her right hand a sceptre. The arms of this abbey were, azure a chevron argent, between three fleur de lis.
The situation of Halesowen is in a deep valley, and the surrounding country presents the most majestic appearance; being diversified with hills and dales in such a manner, that at every step you take new beauties arise, and the scene varies so much, that the eye is unceasingly delighted, without dwelling upon any particular object. This district cannot, properly speaking, be described, either with pen or pencil: the innumerable varieties of similar objects that present themselves to view, must be seen before any person can form the least idea of them.
To Bromsgrove, in Worcestershire, distant thirteen miles, on the road to Worcester, Glocester, and Bristol.
You proceed up Smallbrook-street, when a spacious road opens to the left, and being clear of the buildings, the spire of King's Norton church, which is six miles distant, forms a pleasing object.
On the left you have a picturesque view of the country, which continues without any intermission nearly the space of three miles. There is in this valley, what is very unusual to be seen in such a situation, a windmill; and as you proceed, there are in the same valley several water mills, that are made use of by the Birmingham manufacturers. This view is skirted by buildings erected on the road to Alcester, and when near the two mile stone, you perceive among the trees, Moseley hall, which is a modern stone building; the residence of Mrs. Taylor. Exactly, opposite, on the right hand, is the parish church of Edgbaston, and also the hall, which is surrounded by a park, wherein are some lofty trees, and an extensive sheet of water. This mansion house, or hall, is now occupied by Edward Johnson, M.D. a person of considerable eminence in his profession.
A short distance beyond the three mile stone the road crosses the Worcester canal; from which bridge, if you look towards Birmingham, there is a rich and variegated landscape, consisting of hill, dale, wood, and water. At the four mile stone there is a most extensive view on each side of the road, and also in front; the spire of King's Norton church, Frankley Beeches, and the Clent hills, being prominent features.
Having passed the five mile stone, there is on the right a beautiful view over the enclosures, backed by the beeches, at Frankley. Before you arrive at the six mile stone is Northfield, from whence there is on the left a beautiful landscape; the elegant spire of King's Norton church being distinctly seen. From hence to Bromsgrove is seven miles, in great part over the Lickey, where the eye is gratified with numerous extensive views, from one of the highest spots of land in the kingdom. This is ascertained by two springs that issue from it, one of which, flows into the Severn and the other into the Trent.
To Coleshill, distant ten miles, on the road to Atherstone.
You leave Birmingham through Coleshill-street, and having passed by Ashted-row, you perceive the lofty trees in Vauxhall gardens, which must be left on the right hand, and a few hundred yards afterwards, keeping the right hand road, you pass by, on the right, Duddeston, an elegant pile of building, the residence of Samuel Galton, Esq. but it is scarcely discernable, on account of the shrubberies by which it is surrounded. You now pass through the village of Saltley, and at the extremity, on the left, is Bennett's hill, where Mr. William Hutton, the venerable historian of Birmingham resided, and ended his days. This residence, so denominated by the proprietor, was originally a very small house, with the entrance in the centre, and a small room on each side, to which has been added two wings, or rather rooms, being only one story in height: there is a wall by the road side, five feet high, the top of which is on a level with the top of the parlour windows; the entrance to it having been altered from the front to the side. The eccentricity of the owner appears, by terming that a hill, which on inspection will be found in a low situation, on the side of a hill. This is noticed, because his peculiar manner of writing, his quaint expressions, and the tales he relates of himself, have caused a considerable sale for his productions, and numerous people, when they are taking an excursion, will travel some distance to view the residence of their favourite author.
A short distance beyond, on the summit of the hill, commands an extensive view of Birmingham, the venerable trees in Aston park, the spire of that church, and Barr-beacon. As you pass along the road, this delightful prospect varies every step you take for a considerable distance. These lands, formerly known by the name of Washwood heath, being inclosed in the year 1803, now let from forty to fifty shillings per acre. At the four mile stone, there is on the right a cheerful prospect over the country, with the lofty spire of Yardley church in full view. About half a mile farther, on entering a small common, the eye is delighted with an extensive and variegated view; the spire of Coleshill church being very discernable.
Castle Bromwich, distant five miles and a half.
Here is an ancient venerable mansion, where that eminent statesman, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, used to reside. His successor having been honoured with the title of Earl of Bradford, the eldest son of the present Earl, Lord Newport, has fixed his residence here. In the village is a neat place of worship, erected by Sir Orlando Bridgeman, who endowed it with the tythes of the parish, it being a chapel of ease to the parish of Aston.
About half a century back, when there was considerable traffic between London and Chester, the road passed through this village, and supported two respectable inns, but the mode of conveyance being changed, one of the inns is converted into a farm-house, and the other has very little custom; for the road from Birmingham to Coventry also passed through here; but it is totally deprived of that also, and is now little more than the road to Coleshill. On the road you pass by Coleshill park, an ancient seat of Lord Digby; within which there are numerous hawthorn trees of unusual magnitude: one of them produces five stems, each equal in size to a moderate man's body. Time, that devours every thing, has here made great havoc among them, and also destroyed some oaks of large dimensions.
Yew trees being of slow growth, and the wood of close texture, are little subject to decay; yet there is in this church-yard, the remains of a yew tree, still alive, three parts at least of which is mouldered away, and only a small part of the trunk remains.
The architecture of the church is the decorated gothic or English style: it is erected on a considerable eminence, from whence there is an extensive and variegated view over the adjacent country. The interior of the church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, is spacious, and contains some monuments that are well executed; among others, there are two recumbent effigies of cross-legged knights, supposed to be of the ancient Clinton family, and those to commemorate the Digby's are numerous. It has a beautiful tower, from whence there arises an elegant spire, which being injured by lightning, it was of course taken down, and the present erection is not so lofty by fifteen feet as the former.
Coleshill has a weekly market on Wednesday, and five annual fairs, where there are numerous horses and cattle exposed to sale. Before the establishment of mail coaches it was a very considerable post town, but that is not the case now, the route being changed. The town is situated on an ascent, and in the valley flows the river Cole, from whence its name is derived. The domestic buildings are in general of a respectable appearance, and there are some modern erections that unite ornament with spacious dimensions.
This village is situated three miles from Coleshill, on the road to Atherstone, and is noticed as being the birthplace of that celebrated antiquarian, Sir William Dugdale, whose father being a clergyman, he was born at the rectory house, and dying at Blythe hall, his remains, and those of his lady, were deposited in a vault on the north side of the chancel in Shustock church.
Is situated about one mile east of Coleshill, and is erected in the form of a parallelogram, encompassed by a moat. At each corner is an hexagonal tower, with embattled parapets. The entrance is by an august and machicolated gateway, strengthened on each side by a tower of hexagonal form. The gates are covered with plates of iron, and the marks of the useless portcullis are yet visible. A portion of this edifice was accidentally destroyed by fire, but the greatest part of the ancient building still remains, and is an interesting specimen of the architectural arrangements in the 14th and 15th centuries. Among other apartments, are the spacious hall, an extensive dining room, with a door and chimney piece, which are carved in a very curious manner, and also the chapel. In the walls of the great court, there are yet remaining the caserns or lodgments for the soldiers. This venerable pile of building is now the habitation of Mrs. Dilke. A short distance from the castle are the remains of a priory, whose ruins are rendered mournfully picturesque, by the varieties of ever-green foliage with which they are cloathed in almost every direction.
To Hat-borne, in Staffordshire, distant three miles.
Passing up Broad-street and Islington, when you are through the Five-ways toll-gate, the centre road leads to Harborne. On the left is a neat white building, called Greenfield-house, the properly and abode of Hyla Holden, Esq. and a little farther on the same side of the road is the parsonage-house of Edgbaston; the resilience of the Rev. Charles Pixell.
[Footnote 12: There are now six ways, Calthorpe's road being opened in the year 1845.]
Passing by Harborne heath cottage, when you arrive at the summit of the hill, is an excellent house, where Mr. Richard Smith resides; from whose premises there is an extensive view over the adjacent country, particularly Edgbaston and King's Norton.
A short distance beyond, on the right, there is a delightful view of enclosed ground, and the Lightwoods; with a white-fronted house, called the Ravenhurst, in the centre, the residence of Mr. Daniel Ledsam, which altogether forms a beautiful landscape. Where the roads divide pass on the left, leaving the village, called Harborne Town, which is principally inhabited by men who obtain a livelihood by forging of nails, and proceed down the road which leads to Bromsgrove, where on the left is a preparatory school, for boys under ten years of age, which is conducted by Mrs. Startin. This house commands a pleasant view over the grounds that have been laid into a paddock by Mr. Price, whose neat and elegant residence, with its beautiful undulated grounds, are also on the left.
A few paces below Mr. Price's, you arrive at a small triangular grass plot, which is called the cottage green, and is surrounded by cottages, superior in neatness of appearance to what are usually met with. From hence there is a most delightful landscape of Mrs. Careless's house, which is surrounded with verdant meadows, having a considerable sheet of water in front, and in the back ground are Frankley Beeches, with the adjacent hills of Cofton and the Lickey.
There are in this vicinity some most delightful prospects, which are seen to great advantage from the handsome houses of Mr. Green Simcox, and also of his father, George Simcox, Esq. the former on the right hand and the latter on the left, as you proceed towards the church. This is an ancient tower Structure, the body having of late years been rebuilt in a neat and commodious manner; consisting of a single pace, well pewed, with a modern gallery at the west end and another at the north east corner; it is a vicarage, dedicated to St. Peter; the present vicar being the Rev. Richard Robinson.
From this church-yard the eye is again delighted with extensive and beautiful prospects; and from thence, proceeding towards Northfield, a bridge has been lately erected by subscription, which separates the parishes of Harborne and Northfield, and also the counties of Stafford and Worcester. The stream of water gives motion to a mill, belonging to Mr. Price, and feeds the mill pond, which is a fine sheet of water covering twenty-four acres. Not far from hence there is a delightful shady walk, which extends through the grounds of Mr. Price and Mr. Simcox for near a mile, and at intervals commands delightful and romantic prospects.—Within a few yards of the aforesaid bridge, the counties of Stafford, Worcester, and Warwick unite.
Returning towards Birmingham, at the sign of the Golden Cross you pass up Mitchley-lane, which separates the counties of Stafford and Warwick; the land on the right being in the parish of Edgbaston, the property of Lord Calthorpe, and on the left in Harborne, belonging to Theodore Price, Esq. About half a mile up this lane, on the left, at Fulford's farm, there is an interesting view over Mr. Price's paddock, of King's Norton, with its lofty spire, Cofton hills, Bromsgrove Lickey, Frankley Beeches, Cleat hills, &c. &c. Passing by a neat cottage belonging to Mr. Frears, you come again into the Harborne road, at Mr. Smith's.
In this village there is a free school for the children of the inhabitants, and also for those in the hamlet of Smethwick; but the endowment is slender. Here are also three Sunday schools, which are equal to any in the kingdom, the children being cloathed in a very neat manner, by each of them subscribing one penny per week; and as all the respectable inhabitants are honorary members, they subscribe one penny each also. Formerly this was a very poor village, and the roads leading to it were in all directions very bad, until the late worthy Thomas Green, Esq. having purchased the manor house and a large estate there, he afterwards improved the roads, and was at all times anxious to improve this his native spot. A monument in the church describes his character.——The old manor house was the residence of Judge Birch, and the only respectable building in the parish; which is now a common farmhouse, where there are some vestiges of old village elegance, and some comfortable apartments: it is the property of Mr. Simcox. Harborne being situated upon very high ground, and the soil light, renders the air very salubrious; instances of longevity being very numerous, particularly one couple, James Sands and his wife, one of whom; as is recorded in Fuller's Worthies, lived to the age of 140, and the other to 120.
To King's Norton, in Worcester shire, distant five Mile.
You leave Birmingham, either through Alcester-street or up Camphill, where there is a half-timbered house, inhabited by Mr. John Simcox, an attorney. In a field nearly opposite there is perhaps the best view over the town of Birmingham that can be taken. A short distance beyond, on the right, is a row of houses, to which is given the name of Highgate. A little farther, on the left, is a tan-yard, upon an extensive scale, the property of Mr. Avery Homer.
In a field near the two mile stone, there is a grand panoramic view of Birmingham, and the adjacent country for several miles on each side of it, which is seen to the greatest advantage in an afternoon. A little beyond is Moseley hall, an elegant stone building, erected about twenty-five years since, by the late John Taylor, Esq. and is now the residence of his widow.
The village of Moseley has nothing to attract attention. The place of worship is a chapel of ease to King's Norton: it has an ancient stone tower, but the body of it has been rebuilt of late years with brick; the officiating clergyman being the Rev. Edward Palmer. In this neighbourhood William Villers, Esq. resides, who has for a number of years been an active magistrate for the town of Birmingham. A little beyond Moseley hall there is on the right an extensive and picturesque view over Edgbaston and the adjacent country, with the monument on the right. Proceeding only a few yards farther, the scene varies in a considerable degree; the monument being on the left, a glass-house in the centre, and the front of Moseley hall in full view; over the roof of which is seen some of the buildings in Birmingham.
Upon a turn of the road, the eye is gratified with a fine view over Bromsgrove Lickey, Frankley Beeches, and the adjacent hills; with the spire of King's Norton church on the left. You next pass through the village of King's Heath, and about one mile before you reach King's Norton, there is on the right a most noble, picturesque, and variegated view over an extensive country, diversified with wood, hill, and dale; the Worcester canal being in the valley. When you arrive at the finger post, the eye is delighted with a grand view over the country; the village and church being in front..
The land for a considerable distance round this village being the property of the crown, as King's-heath, King's-wood, etc.; denote, King Edward 6th founded a free grammar school on the north east side of the church-yard, and endowed it with the sum of fifteen pounds per annum, (the inhabitants at that time preferring money to land), for a master and usher; which still remains the same to the present day. In the time of King William 3d, when the land-tax was first established, the inhabitants, to express their loyalty, gave an account of their estates, at the full value, and on that account they have ever since been rated in the same manner; this district paying four shillings in the pound, at the same time that Birmingham did not pay four-pence. This being the case, the stipend allowed for the master and usher was of course reduced in that proportion. The Worcester canal passing through this parish, and the land being considerably elevated, it enters a tunnel sixteen feet wide and eighteen feet high, which continues for the distance of two miles, and is so accurately formed, that it is said any person may look in at one end and perceive the light at the other end; and in this parish the Worcester and Stratford canals form a junction.
The church, is a richly ornamented gothic building, with a lofty spire, although only a chapel of ease to Bromsgrwe. The officiating-clergy man is the Rev. —— Edwards.
To Barr-beacon and Aldridge, on the road to Stafford.
Proceeding down Walmer-lane, otherwise Lancaster-street, you pass by a small portion of Aston park wall, keeping it on your right hand, and some time after cross the river Tame over Perry-bridge, when there is a road to the left which conducts you to Perry hall, an old moated mansion, within a small park; the property and residence of John Gough, Esq. who is an eccentric character. In the winter he courses with his tenants, who are all of them subservient to him; and during summer, having some deer, he disposes of the venison. If any of the neighbouring gentry send him an order for a haunch or a neck, he waits until further orders arrive; and when the principal part is engaged, he then kills a buck, and executes his orders; the inferior parts serving for self and family, although his annual income must be at least ten thousand pounds. He is said to be in possession of some valuable paintings, but there are very few people indeed who can obtain a sight of them.
At the distance of five mites, when the roads intersect each other, proceeding on the right hand, at the distance of three quarters of a mile is the catholic college, at Oscott. About one-mile farther is a place called the Quieslet, where the left hand road conducts you to an elegant lodge, the entrance into Barr-park, which is described on the road to Walsall, that being a turnpike road. You soon after arrive at a clump of trees, on the summit of a hill, which is Barr-beacon, from whence there is perhaps a prospect equally extensive and beautiful as any in the kingdom. From hence there is a view over great part of the following counties, viz. Warwick, Leicester Derby, Stafford, Chester, Salop, Worcester, Nottingham Northampton, Oxford, Glocester, Hereford, Monmouth, Brecknock, Radnor, and Montgomery; whilst the scene to the south west commands a view of Birmingham and its most populous vicinity of mines, manufactories, &c. This beacon, being the property of Sir Joseph Scott, when he is at home, a very large flag is hoisted, and upon any public occasion several pieces of cannon are fired, which produce a grand effect. The adjacent ground, for a very considerable extent, lay waste, until an act of parliament was obtained in 1798 for its inclosure. This land now lets from five shillings to twenty shillings per acre.
Aldridge, in Staffordshire, nine miles.
The principal road from Birmingham to Stafford lay through this village, until of late years the turnpike road through Walsall and Cannock having been considerably improved, this road to the county town is nearly if not quite abandoned; yet it leads to Hednesford (usually pronounced Hedgeford), where numerous horses are annually trained for the turf, upon Cannock heath. To Edgbaston, in Warwickshire, distant one mile.
Having passed up Broad-street and Islington, when you are through the turnpike, the left hand side of Ladywood-lane, the whole of Hagley-row, the road to Harborne, Calthorpe's road, and the right hand side of Islington-row, are all of them in this parish. Indeed the lands hereabouts are almost exclusively the property of Lord Calthorpe, whose ancestors purchased this estate, early in the last century for L25,000, and he will not permit any manufactories to be established upon his land which tends in a great degree to make the neighbourhood respectable and genteel.
The first Houses in Calthorpe's-road were erected in the year 1815; the establishment for the deaf and dumb being erected about two years before. This asylum is under the superintendance of Mr. Braidwood, and is described among the public institutions in Birmingham.—(See page 39.)
There were, in former times, within this parish, three parks, Edgbaston-park, Mitchley-park, and Rotten-park, but the two latter have many years since been thrown into inclosures. The park of Edgbaston remains entire, and the mansion within it is now the residence of Edward Johnson, M.D. who is very eminent in his profession.—The church is an ancient gothic tower, the body having of late years been very much modernized, and fitted up withinside in a very neat and commodious manner. The officiating clergyman is the Rev. Charles Pixell. There have been within the last three years a great number of genteel houses erected by the opulent inhabitants of Birmingham, who not only enjoy fresh air, but the parochial taxes of this parish do not bear any proportion with those of Birmingham. At this toll-gate, which bears the name of Five-ways, there are now, by the opening of Calthorpe's road, six separate and distinct roads. About half a mile from the toll-gate, there is on the right of the Hagley road, an observatory, a very conspicuous pile of building, seven stories high, which is usually called the Monument: it was erected by John Perrot, Esq. about the year 1758, from whence there are extensive views over the adjacent country, in every direction. The adjoining house is the residence of John Guest, Esq.