We know that the various 'gate' names of Worcester indicate the positions of the gates leading into the city when it was surrounded by a defensive wall.One might well ask what the Cradley 'gate' names signify.
Besides Colley Gate and Two Gates, there used to be Maple Gate, Lozells Gate and Gap, Oldnall Gate and probably others.
We were never surrounded by a defensive wall so what purpose did these gates serve? They were in existence before the turnpike road system began, so they were not toll gates, although we had two such gates; one the Turnpike or Toll Bar at the end of Park Lane and the other at the Hayes.
If we turn back the pages of history about three or four hundred years we find that Cradley was made up of two or three very extensive open arable fields and a few hay meadows and paddocks; the rest was common and waste land on which the local residents had grazing rights.
There also developed clusters of cottages on the common near the Stour at Netherend, Maypole Hill, Lodge Forge and Overend where there were fords, near each of which was a mill or forge.
The fields (about 100 acres each) were fenced only round the outside, although within the perimeter there was a pattern of acre and half acre strips of land separated by grass baulks and which were cultivated by different people. It was because there were public roads and rights of way through them that gates had to be erected to prevent animals straying from the common land or an adjoining manor to the cultivated areas.
Stray animals were a perennial source of income to the Lord of the Manor, whose parker put them in the public pound. They were proclaimed by the constable at the Court Baron which met every three weeks. If an owner proved his claim he was fined; if not, the animals, after a year and a day, became the property of the Lord of the Manor.
To give an idea of how far animals strayed, the constable of Northfield in 1439 reported that there were 41 bullocks and heifers besides sundry sheep and swarms of bees impounded. Some of the animals wandered from Dudley, Coventry, Henley in-Arden and Bromsgrove.
Those of us who remember the layout of Cradley Fields before it was "built up’ can understand why a gate was at one time necessary opposite the top of Tanhouse Lane, especially on Monday evenings, when cattle being driven from Hagley Market often bolted up the 'Fields', and after doing much damage would find their way to Drews Holloway or back again to Foxcote Lane.
The Maple Gate was at the "Gate" end of Maple Tree Lane, while Lozell's Gate was probably at the entrance to Beecher Road, the Gap being the footpath to Fatherless Barn. My guess is that the Colley Gate was somewhere near the Talbot Hotel, but the Oldnall Gate seems to have been a manorial boundary gate.
If the Cradley enclosure maps come to light someday, they will no doubt supply us with the information we need to prove, or disprove the abovesuppositions.
Norman Bird (July 1955)