Local History

Local History

Places of historical interest in Beacon Street and its surroundings

The Hanch Tunnel

posted 20 Dec 2014, 05:34 by Andre Hefer   [ updated 20 Dec 2014, 05:54 ]

Hanch tunnel, Angel Croft Hotel
Have you ever wondered why there is a patch of grass in the Angel Croft car park, which is surrounded by green metal railings? It turns out that this land is owned by South Staffordshire Water and is the site of one of the 32 inspection shafts that enter into the Hanch Tunnel. This Victorian, partially brick-lined tunnel is the property of South Staffordshire Water and was built between 1856 and 1886. It connected Seedy Mill (Bourne Brook) with Sandfields pumping station and allowed clean drinking water to be pumped into the Black Country (where cholera outbreaks were a common occurence). An incredible 4 million gallons of water, a day, flowed through this tunnel, which sounds to me like a lot of water! This, and many other fascinating facts were revealed to me when I joined the local (and very worthwhile) history group, Lichfield Discovered, on a walk following the route of the Hanch tunnel. A group of 30 people congregated in late June, at the top of Grange Lane/Eastern Avenue at the site of shaft 13 of the tunnel. We then spent the next three hours walking towards Sandfields pumping station learning about the importance of the Hanch tunnel, understanding how it was built and even having a peep down an inspection shaft see what lay beneath! Not only did I learn that the tunnel is 5.6 km long, 1.5m high and 1m wide but part of its route lies right under Beacon Street! The tunnel enters Beacon St near the old Tuke and Bell factory (having come down Grange Lane and into Wheel Lane) and runs along Beacon Street as far as the Angel Croft Hotel. Two of the 32 inspection shafts are in Beacon Street; one on the pavement opposite the old post office and the other in the middle of the road near the Cathedral Lodge Hotel, which has unfortunately being tarmacked over. From the Angel Croft, the tunnel crosses Beacon Park and on to its final destination at Sandfields Pumping station. A detailed map of the tunnel, with all the inspection shafts can be viewed on the Friends of Sandfields Pumping station website. This map also highlights the fact that the tunnel was built in two stages; the first stage connected Stowe Pool to Sandfields pumping station and this was completed by 1858. The second stage involved building the tunnel directly to Sandfields pumping station and this was completed by 1867.
Cross section of the Hanch tunnel, Beacon Street
In recent years, the tunnel has been extensively surveyed in order to check the fabric and general condition of the tunnel. A fascinating article by the engineering company that carried out the survey (on behalf of South Staffs Water) is attached at the bottom of the page (Shoreline.pdf 511Kb) and it highlights some of the problems and safety issues that had to be overcome. Photographs taken on these surveys, show that the tunnel overall is still in a good condition and is still full of water. This can clearly be seen in one of the photographs taken on the survey. This is in fact the tunnel as it passes under Beacon Street - between shafts 18 and 19. So next time you walk along Beacon Street, think what is right underneath your feet!

Another fascinating detail that I learnt is that the tunnel was built in the same horizontal plane i.e. is at the same horizontal level, all the way from Seedy Mill to Sandfields pumping station. What does change is the depth of the shafts that were sunk, depending on the topography of the land. So, for example, shaft 13, at Grange Lane/Eastern Avenue, is just over 100 ft deep, whilst the shaft at the Angel Croft is only about 30 ft deep. This can clearly be seen on a cross section view of the tunnel in attached document (Shoreline.pdf 511Kb) . I also learnt that as the tunnel lies below the water table and is only partially lined, water is still able to enter into it through the sandstone rock. Because the tunnel is now blocked at Sandfields pumping station, the water now flows in the opposite direction and can even be seen entering the brook by the Seedy Mill waterworks!

The walk ended at Sandfields Pumping Station. Unfortunately, the fabric of the building has deteriorated in recent years, but an enthusiastic and dedicated group of volunteers are now trying to improve the future of this iconic building. For more information visit the Friends of Sandfields Pumping Station

There were two things that I learnt from this walk; firstly there are a number of knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly people interested in the history of Lichfield and surrounding area. In particular, Lichfield Discovered offers a wide range of interesting walks and talks on a variety of topics and is well worth supporting. More details can be seen on their website or on facebook. Secondly, I learnt that there is more to Lichfield than meets the eye and some of its most fascinating history lies below the ground!

12/Dec/2013 – Erasmus Darwin & the Lunar Society

posted 12 Dec 2013, 05:48 by Andre Hefer   [ updated 12 Dec 2013, 21:56 ]

View of pinfold from Stafford Road

12/Dec/2013: Happy birthday Erasmus Darwin, 282 years old today

Erasmus Darwin was one of the key thinkers of the English Enlightenment, was a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham. A brass rubbing — see image to the left — has been placed near the Erasmus Darwin statue in the Museum Garden. This forms part of the recently created Swinfen Broun history trail, a series of eight brass rubbing posts located in Beacon Park and on Minster Pool Walk.

Thank you to Erasmus Darwin House for contributing materiel to this website.

The entire history trail can be viewed here.

The exceptional Erasmus brass rubbing, some historical information and details of Erasmus Darwin House can be viewed here.




Image to the right courtesy of Wikipedia. Portrait of Erasmus Darwin, 1770, Joseph Wright of Derby.

24/Nov/2013 – Lichfield's Pinfolds

posted 24 Nov 2013, 06:10 by Andre Hefer   [ updated 24 Nov 2013, 06:15 ]

by Kate Gomez, author of the Lichfield Lore local history blog.

View of pinfold from Stafford Road

Pinfolds were used to impound straying animals, which would be released to their owner on payment of a fine. In the Lichfield Mercury, November 7 1890, the following notice appeared in the ‘Found’ section,

Found straying in this City, on Sunday morning last, and now in the pinfold. Eleven Yearling Beasts, ten of which are red and white colours and one a light roan.

In Lichfield, the maintenance and administration of the pinfolds were the responsibility of the pinners, two officials elected at the annual St George’s Court. One represented St Michael’s parish and the other St Chad’s. Pinfolds stood at various entrances to the city, although their location did change over time. One stood at Greenhill, from the fifteenth century to the early nineteenth century, when it was moved to the junction of Broad Lane and Boley Lane. In June 1896, one of the city pinners, James Smith, a market gardener living at Greenhill was summoned by a farmer from Fulfen whose cows had been impounded at the Boley Pinfold. The farmer accused Mr Smith of charging his farmhand 2s to release his animals, which Mr Smith denied. The pinner for St Chad’s parish, William Round, was called and he stated that he always charged 1s 4d to release stray cattle. The case dismissed, although Mr Smith was warned not to charge more than the legal fee in the future.

Sign on wall of Stafford Road pinfold

The Boley pinfold was demolished sometime between 1955 and 1966 (according to old maps). However, the pinfold at the junction of Beacon Street and the Stafford Rd is still in existence. Originally located near to where Anson Avenue meets Beacon St, the pinfold was moved here in 1809. According to the listed building description, the walls of the structure date to the eighteenth century but were heightened in the nineteenth century. The gate, steps and paving are twentieth century additions as is the information plaque, added when the pinfold was restored in the 1990s, with money from the Conduit Lands Trust.

Unsurprisingly, some owners would try to remove their animals from the pinfold illegally, to avoid paying the fine. According to Mr William Russell’s account of the Manor of Lichfield, appearing in the Mercury on January 26th 1894, this offence of ‘pound breach’ was very common. He includes a bill of the charges claimed by one time pinner John Bancks for the repair of the ‘pindfould’ in Beacon St after one occurrence. Mr Bancks charged 1s 4d for his own two days work whilst masons received 2s for the two days. The pound was also fitted with ‘2 staples for the gate and a clip and a lock, and other ironwork about the gate’ at a cost of 1s 8d. Mr Bancks noted that, “This time I cannot prove who broke it. It is supposed they were ‘souldiers’ who took lock and staples away, and let out a cow of Nevills”. Unfortunately, no date is included.

Rear view from Pinfold Road

Writing about Beacon Street in 1943, City Librarian and local historian, Mr J W Jackson recalled how “the old pinfold still remains, but is rarely, if ever used for its original purpose though in our younger days it frequently contained horses, cattle or sheep which had been caught straying on the road and ‘penned’ by the official pinner old Watty Bevin". Pinfolds may have fallen out of use by the mid-twentieth century but it seems there may have been the odd occasion when they would have come in useful! On the evening of October 18th 1950, a police officer was astonished to see a cow coming towards him as he patrolled Wade St. With assistance, P C Adderley managed to drive the animal to the Smithfield where it was impounded. Its owner, Mr Boston of Brownsfields farm, pleaded guilty to allowing a heifer to stray on the highway and was fined 5 shilling. The following August, PC Hughes was called to Station Rd in Lichfield where he’d received a complaint about a stray black and white cow. After chasing the beast through several Lichfield streets he managed to impound it in the sales yard. Once again the escapee was from Brownsfields Farm. Although the owner blamed local children for opening the gate to his field he was again fined 5s.


Sources:

  1. Lichfield Mercury Archive
  2. Lichfield: Town government, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp 73-87
  3. www.poundsandpinfolds.co.uk

BSARA's Autumn/2013 newsletter, featuring an abbreviated version of this article is available for download below.

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