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|The town and borough of Brownhills officially came into being on 29th September 1877 when a few small villages and Parishes were formed into the Local Government district of Brownhills. However the area has a history dating back over 2000 years.
Neolithic & Bronze Age
Brownhills was (and still is) a meeting point for ancient roads and trackways since Prehistoric times. It is thought that the Watling Street was in use before the Romans came, what were later called the Chester Road and Coventry Road are also thought to have been ancient trackways. There were two hillforts in the area, Castle Ring at Beaudesert, and a hill fort at Shire Oak. Both had commanding views of the local area. In Brownhills itself near where the Comprehensive School now stands on the Watling Street was a place that was later called Knaves Castle. This was a small tumulus enclosed with three ditches and an entrance. This was never excavated so there is only speculation as to what it may have been, it may have been a Neolithic burial mound, or a Roman guard post on the Watling Street. The site was flattened for building in 1902.
During the Roman occupation of Britain the Watling Street was a main route from London to Anglesey. The area was under the protection of the 14th Legion. There was a guard post at Wall near Lichfield, Roman remains were found at Castle fort at Shire oak. At Catshill there were some small earthworks, Roman coins were found here during the building of the Wyrley and Essington Canal. The previously mentioned Knaves Castle may have been a Roman guard post or fort on the Watling Street, it was situated on a hill overlooking the junction of three ancient trading routes, Watling Street, Coventry Road, and Ironstone road. The Romans also had Limestone workings at nearby Rushall.
During this time the Chester Road was a boundary between the Danes and the Vikings. Ogley Hay was a Saxon settlement at this time, it is first mentioned in 995 AD when the manor belonged to the monastery at Wolvehampton. It is mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086 as a cultivated area of 120 acres. This was the area where the Warreners arms pub stands(now McDonalds). At Catshill there were two burial mounds, although whether these were Roman or British is not known, althugh it is reported that Roman coins were found there when they were flattened during the building of the Wyrley and Essington canal. Catchill is reckoned to be the oldest inhabited area of Brownhills It covers an area from the Ogley Road to the Anchor Bridge and includes both sides of the High Street.
Not a great deal of information from this time although the Chester road and the Watling Street were still important roads, and nearby Lichfield was an important city. What is now the Wolverhampton Road was in use at this time as a route for pilgrims from Wolverhampton and beyond, to the shrine of St.Chad at Lichfield Cathedral. The area of Brownhills was still at this time part of the heathland of Cannock Chase.
Clayhanger is first mentioned in 1391 after the death of the Earl of Stafford in a list of properties that he owned.
In the 1500's the Manor of Ogley Hay was held by Lord Stafford, who later sold it. The value of the Manor at this time was £15. In the late 1600's the Co Lords of the Manor were members of the Fowke family. The Fowkes along with the Hussey family were Lords of the Manor of Little Wyrley to which Brownhills belonged for Five generations. The first mention of the name Brownhills appears on a map of Staffordshire by Robert Plot in 1680.This was probably the area around Clayhanger Lane an Birch Coppice.
During this Century Brownhills started to develop. The Hussey family came to the arear at this time when Joseph Hussey from London married Sybil Fowke who was the Heiress to the Manr of Little Wyrley. Coal mining on Brownhills Common started about this time, with what would have been shallow workings and Bell pits. The will of Phineas Hussey tells us that there was a pumping engine at his Brownhills Collieries in the 1770's. This was situated in Engine Lane, and was probably of the Newcomen type.
1730- The Shrewsbury Coach was robbed by a gang at Brownhills, six men and three women were charged with the offence.
1751- The "Shrewsbury Caravan" was held up by a highwayman in Brownhills.
1759- Chester Road was turnpiked and a toll house built near where the Anchor bridge now stands.
The Rising Sun pub at the junction of the Chester road and Watling Street is known to exsist at this time, although it may be dated earlier. The sign post that was sited here is reputed to be the oldest in England (now in the "care" of the council).
1797- The Wyrley and Essington Canal opens on 8th May.
Towards the end of the cenury Thomas Telford rebuilt the Watling Street.
1799- The dam at Chasewater bult as a reservoir for the Wyrley and Essington burst causing much damage. It was rebuilt in 1800 and has stood ever since.
1839-Cornelius Bonnel & Company Foundry and Steam Engine Manufactory in exsistence at Ogley Hay.First recorded evidence of a factory in Brownhills. Cosed by 1846.
1849-South Staffordshire Railway opens, with a station at Brownhills.
1851-St. James's Church was built. Ogley Hay was declared a Parish in 1838, although it didn't have a church until this time.
1850-Anglesey Branch canal opens.
1858- Norton Branch of the South Staffs Railway built though the Birch Coppice area.
1877-Brownhills officially created as a Local Government District on 29th September. The first Local Board were elected on 21st November.
1882-Midland Railway opens it's branch line from Aldridge to the Wolverhampton Railway line at Chasewater.
1884- Midland Railway opens a passenger station on Brownhills common at Chester Road.