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    Cradley Links

    The Story of Spirit Hole - Norman Bird

    Although Cradley has no rare buildings or monuments showing the course of its growth through the ages,it is rich in place names. One such name is Spirit Hole or Hollow. This one-time beauty spot gets its name from a romance which took place nearly three hundred years ago, about 1660, in the reign of James Il. It was recorded by Timothy Burley, who kept a small farm near what was recently called Cuckoo's Corner.

    Caroline Vendor lived on this farm a hundred years before, when most of Homer Hill was common land adjoining the Park on the south and Pensnett Chase on the west. Her father, it appears, was a sheep farmer and took weekly supplies of wool, meat and other farm produce to the market at Halesowen, which at that time was held on Sundays. He also exercised his right to hunt in the park and graze his sheep on the common.

    Carrie fell in love with a shepherd named Harold, but her father was bitterly opposed to the match, because Harold's prospects were none too good. Her good looks and vivacious manner also attracted the attention of the squire's son, who lived with his father in a mansion near by. When the squire became aware of his son's intentions, he tried to steer the boy's affections towards a lady nearer his own station in life.

    Carrie's father, on the other hand, seeing the possibilities for the apple of his eye, encouraged the young gallant, making him welcome whenever he called. Consequently the real lovers did their courting in secret, and this would not be too difficult owing to the semi-woodland nature of the neighbourhood at that time.

    The squire was a business man, and by some adjustment to his machinery, had improved the output and quality of his wares (nails?) to such an extent that he began to export them to North America, which was still a colony.

    Indeed, he needed a representative there to get new orders and explore the possibilities of starting a business as well, so in order to separate his son from the girl of his choice, he sent him abroad. The youth travelled extensively in the New World and was so busy that he forgot the farmer's daughter for twelve months. When he had more leisure, however, his mind travelled back to the girl he loved.

    He wrote a letter asking her to be his wife and settle down with him in the New World. Carrie and Harold were now courting openly again and she declined.

    One moonlight night they were taking one of their favourite walks round Homer Hill when, between the trees, they saw the absent squire's son approaching, and he appeared to be in pain. So vivid was the apparition that they fled to Carrie's home in terror.

    A few weeks later the squire received a letter with the sad news that his son had been set upon by footpads in a lonely part of North America and he had died from the wounds. The date of his death happened to coincide with the night the apparition was seen, and for many years afterwards the spirit appeared annually on a certain date just before the Christmas festivities.

    Norman Bird (April 1951)

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