The turnpike road from Stourbridge to Halesowen via Cradley, built in the 1760s
THE CRADLEY PARK TURNPIKE ROAD
by N. BIRD
Until about 200 years ago, the roads of Cradley, as in most towns and villages were in a terrible state compared with roads of today. The inhabitants themselves were responsible for their construction and maintenance, and every able bodied man had to put in six days work each year without payment for this purpose. Men who owned land valued at £50 or more were excused the work but they had to supply transport or pay someone to do it for them. The village constable was elected to see that this was done, and the periodical road reports of the Constable of Cradley to the Quarter Sessions since pre-Tudor times still exist, and are preserved at Worcester.
For roads linking one place with another there was no responsible authority for making them properly or keeping them in repair, so one can imagine what they were like. Such a highway was the main road from Cradley to Stourbridge which went via Two Gates, Wollescote and Oldswinford, thus joining the older parts of Cradley, Lye and Stourbridge. Since pre-Tudor times, however, industry had been steadily growing near the Stour, where water power, developed by water mills, was put to many uses, forging being the most important. It became apparent that a more direct road with a good surface was needed to join these developing centres of Industry, and in 1762 (GEO. III.) an Act of Parliament was passed for the purpose of making a turnpike road from Stourbridge Market House, through Lye and Cradley Park to Colley Gate, and thence to Halesowen.
At a meeting in the Talbot Hotel, Stourbridge, trustees were appointed to put into execution part of this act; the section dealing with the road from Colley Gate to Halesowen being omitted. The trust deeds which were carefully drawn up and some of the records of the subsequent meetings of the trustees are in the possession of Mr. H. E. Palfrey of Stourbridge, and through his generosity, I have had the pleasure of going through them.
Among signatures of people whose families have influenced Cradley's past, one finds Jeston Homfrey, Sen., Thomas Pargetter and Edward Hickman.
The first record relating to the Cradley part of the turnpike, was the filling up of a pool near the Hayes and making a new one for the Rev. Thos. Best (not to be confused with our first vicar) who owned the land. This done, a gate was erected in 1763 and Wm. Pardoe was paid 4/ - a week to collect tolls, apparently before the road was anywhere near completion.
In November of the same year, James Wilders was given the contract at 2/6 per yard for
Clearing the park of timber and underwood, filling up dingles, building arches, sinking ditches, making banks, and setting up posts and rails and quick [planting with hawthorn]. Also that the said road be forty foot wide and the surveyor to wait upon Lord Lyttleton's agent to assess the proper value of the trees marked.
In Jan.,1764, a record of the trustees
Ordered and agreed in consideration that the Rt. Hon. Ld. Lyttleton agreed to permit a publick turnpike road through his wood called Cradley Park, situate and being in the Parish of Halesowen in the County of Salop and for that end to give as much of the said wood as has been lately marked out by the surveyor and His Lordship's woodward. (The timber trees, samplers, and underwood growing thereon to be fallen in their proper season.)
On 2nd. Oct., 1765, the records
Ordered that a gate or rail be put across the road at the Halesowen end of the park and also a side rail upon the end of the lane leading to Netherend.
The site of the toll house was as near as possible the newly made island with the sign post on it at the end of Park Lane. John Barrar was appointed gate keeper at 5/- a week and 3d. a week allowed for candles. As an afterthought, the trustees at the next meeting rescinded the last part of the order and made the candle allowance in winter only. Whether this caused friction, it does not say, but Barrar was forcibly removed soon after and replaced by Robert Harris at 6/- a week. He must have been a very competent keeper for at the next meeting it was decided to increase his wages by another shilling.
These high wages and other expenses, it seems, reflected adversely on the profits of the trust for they found it necessary to economise. The gates were advertised in the B'ham Gazette and farmed out to the highest bidder. This was unfortunate for Wm. Raybould, the next gate keeper, for he only received 1/6 a week in wages. In order to augment his income, however, the trustees added a nail shop to his house at the cost of two guineas where he could make nails while his wife looked after the gates, or vice versa. His family must have increased too for there were instructions that "An additional room be made for him to put a bed in."
Note by Cradley Links:
This article was first published in the Cradley Parish Church Magazine, June 1952.
The author, Norman Bird, took an active interest in Cradley history, and was a regular contributor to the parish magazine. Deputy Head Master at the Cradley Church Schools for more than 20 years, he died suddenly in the school staff room in the late 1950s.
Cradley Links also wishes to thank Jill Guest for pointing out that in an appendix to William Scott's Stourbridge and its Vicinity (p.590) he describes the sections of the various turnpike (toll) roads, including the one between Stourbridge and Halesowen, passing as it does from the Lye to the Hayes, through Cradley Park, along Colley Gate, up Windmill Hill, down Drew's Holloway and on up Witley Hill to Halesowen.