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    Cradley Links

    Mahlah Homer - from Nail Maker's Daughter to 'Lady of the Manor'

    The Cradley Links web site has a biography of Mahlah Homer, a Cradley nail maker's daughter who married into the wealthy Scott family that owned Ratlinghope Manor in Shropshire, some 35 miles west of her home town. She enjoyed being called 'Lady of the Manor'.

    Dr J. Ian Langford contacted Cradley Links for assistance in filling some gaps in his researches, prompted by the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the parish church of Ratlinghope. An outcome of his request is that we now publish the article below on the 1905 Restoration of St. Margaret's Church, Ratlinghope.

    Ian's pursuit of the history of Ratlinghope Mill led to a study of the Scott family's involvement in the area generally. He wrote the article and read it at a special service in Ratlinghope church on 24 September 2006, conducted by the Bishop of Ludlow, which among other things commemorated the centenary of Mahlah's efforts.

    Nigel Brown

    St. Margaret's Church, Ratlinghope: April 2010. The view of the Church and churchyard today is little different from the same scene in about 1868
    St. Margaret's Church, Ratlinghope: circa 1868. The Church is a small stone building, consisting of nave and chancel, with south porch, and a wooden bell turret. The original Church erected in the 12th century was no doubt the Priory Church also
    Mr and Mrs Addyes Scott: John Charles Addyes Scott And Mahlah Homer (Shropshire County Records and Research Service, Shuker Collection, ref. SRRC 3798/5, with acknowledgement for kind permission to reproduce.)

    St. Margaret's Church, Ratlinghope

    A commemorative stone on the outer west wall of the church records that 'Mahlah Addyes Scott, patron of the living, Lady of the Manor, had this church restored to its present condition and reopened by the Bishop of Hereford, October AD 1905'; the bishop in question was John Percival.

    From Cradley to the Manor of Ratlinghope

    How did Mahlah, the seventh of the eleven children of Jesse Homer, a humble nail maker of Cradley in the Black Country, and his wife Hannah, come to be restoring St Margaret's church a century ago? The unlikely story begins in 1856, when John Charles Addyes Scott succeeded his father, Robert Wellbeloved Scott, as Lord of the Manor of Ratlinghope and patron of the living. John Charles was a merchant dealing in nails and chains. He may have been what was known in the Black Country as a 'fogger', who supplied iron sheet or rod to backyard workshops in the region and then collected, and paid for the finished product.

    Tradition has it that one day, when walking in Cradley, he heard a woman singing. Her voice was so sweet and beautiful that it tempted him to seek her out and it was Mahlah Homer, singing as she worked in her father's nailshop. She and John Charles became friends, their friendship turned to love and they married on 1 July 1863, when Mahlah was 29. Their only child, James Robert, was born on 31 October 1864.

    The Scott's main home was the Red House in Great Barr, Staffordshire, though they also had property in London and a villa in Italy; the Manor House in Ratlinghope was let to a succession of tenants. Robert Scott had also purchased estates in Norbury, to which John Charles added property in Wentnor and Snead. The Scotts built several new houses for estate workers and improved existing properties; the extent of this work can be gauged by the considerable number of distinctive iron framed 'Scott' windows that survive throughout the region. John Charles also provided Ratlinghope with a school in 1868.

    John Charles died in Italy in 1888 and Mahlah died almost 20 years later, in tragic circumstances at Bournemouth. When out driving in a coach with friends on Sunday 2 June 1907, one of the horses stumbled. Mahlah jumped out and fell, being struck on the head by the door. She died two days later, aged 73, and is buried in the churchyard at Ratlinghope.

    Church Restoration

    The major restoration of St Margaret's was undertaken by Mahlah in memory of her husband and his family and also her own parents. The main structural alteration was the replacement of all the existing windows and the provision of two additional ones in the south wall, all in neo-Gothic style. The east window is a memorial to Robert Scott, his wife Sarah and John Charles. It portrays the incident of the 12-year old Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem (Luke, 2, 41-50). The window in the south wall of the chancel, a conventional 'Madonna and Child', is in memory of Mahlah's sisters-in-law, Mary and Annie, and one in the south wall of the nave, depicting the Good Shepherd, is dedicated to her parents, Jesse and Hannah Homer of Cradley.

    A small vestry was built; previously the north-east corner of the chancel had been used for this purpose. The heavy roof covering of shingle was replaced by Welsh slate and an oak Celtic cross, renewed in 1980, was mounted on the eastern gable. Much of the appearance of St Margaret's church today is due to the work commissioned by Mahlah, the nail maker's daughter from Cradley, in memory of the Scotts and Homers.

    Death of Dr. J. Ian Langford

    We regret to report that we have been advised of the death of Dr J. Ian Langford in November 2013. Dr. Langford was perhaps best known in the "canals world". His Towpath Guide to various canals were exemplary pieces of research: the Guide No. 1 (Staffordshire and Worcestershire), No. 3 (Stourbridge) and No. 4 (Montgomery). His work on this series set the standard for describing the archaeology of a canal in great but accessible detail, and he applied the same standard to many other matters including the piece of research reproduced above. He will be sorely missed.

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