A BRIEF HISTORY OF SEDGLEY
|Geology of the area||Place names and their meanings|
Population (1801-1901) and
other Miscellaneous Statistics
|Description from The Doomsday Book|
The first authenticated settlement in Sedgley was Roman (coins have been found at Hurst Hill), and it is recorded that a lane at Lower Gornal was once named "The Roman Way". Earlier settlements, immediately following the close of the Ice Age, are theoretical, but no remains of Neolithic or Brythonic man have been found. Some long disused coal borings at the Coppice Gallery, which were discovered in 1890, were first thought to be the work of early Britons,- but Hackwood effectively dismisses this theory. Hackwood believed that the borings were probably Saxon in origin and it is certainly at this time that the real history of Sedgley can be said to begin.
In the pre-Norman period the manor of Sedgley formed part of the Kingdom of Mercia. At this period Sedgley became inextricably involved with Dudley with the foundation (c. 700 AD) of a Dudley fortress, by Dudo, a Mercian general. For the next three hundred years a succession of Saxon rulers controlled Dudley, and therefore Sedgley. Probably the best know was Leofric, and his better known wife Godiva. The last Saxon earl to hold the post was "Algar Comes" the father or grandfather of Princes Edwin and Horcar. During this period Sedgley was largely comprised of a wooded solitude and probably formed part of the much larger hunting grounds of the Saxon earls of Dudley.
After the Norman conquest King William rewarded his followers by dividing the country into baronies which they were to control. The first Norman to control Dudley was William Fitz Ansculf a Picard adventurer. One of Fitz Ansculf's first tasks was the construction of one of the best preserved Norman defences that has come down to us today.
In 1086, the Doomsday Book, a national land register, was compiled by Order of William the Conqueror. The entry for the manor of Sedgley ends with a valuation of ten pounds, and gives the following description :
"There are six hides. The arable land is 12 carucates. In demesne there is one carucate, and three servants, and 40 villiens, with a priest: the two bordars have 18 carucates. There also are 16 acres of meadow: a wood one mile in length and one mile in breadth"
From 1066 onwards trustworthy records begin to show fully how the Barony of Dudley was held successively by the families of Fitz Ansculf, Pagnel, Somery, Sutton, Ward and Lea. Although the history of Sedgley is scarcely a history of Dudley Castle yet as both places were under one Lord, and, as the names of the successive tenants of Sedgley Manor are generally unknown, the historian is forced to view Sedgley as merely a province of Dudley. Sedgley begins to acquire separate recorded history in 1227 with the establishment of a law court. In 1661 a manorial probate court was established for the Manor of Sedgley and this court was finally abolished by a Public Act of 1857.
It is almost certain that the parish of Sedgley as opposed to the Manor (though the boundaries are practically identical) preceded the Norman Conquest. From the Doomsday Book it seems likely that a parish church existed. The first record of a church is in or about 1160, when it was given as part of the endowments of Dudley Priory by Gervase Paganel. A few names of the earliest priests have been preserved. The first, in 1332, was a "Walter"; in 1367 Richard Dymok; in 1377 "Henry de Netterpenne." The temporalities of the church belonged to the Cluniac Priory of Dudley up to the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, 1537. From 1558 the church began to keep parish records, one of the major sources of local history. The present church, which dates from 1826, is considerably larger than the old church. The old church seated 404 people, the present one about 1300.
Most of the earliest developments in the Nonconformist history of the area date from the latter part of the 18th century and most notably perhaps those at Ruiton and Gornal Wood.
From records kept at the time, notably parish records, a great deal of the social history of Sedgley can be found. During the latter part of the Tudor period and throughout the 17th century, nail making and coal mining were the main industries of the parish according to historians the nailers of Sedgley made plough, cart and fire irons, horse shoes and locks, bolts and hinges, bars for windows, squares for trunks and coffins, staff heads and buckles. It was also reported that during this period there were no less than 2,000 nailers in the district. Farming also occupied a prominent position and even today goes on in the area. Sedgley also became famous for the manufacture of steel pens and were the pioneers in this branch of industry, although the claim that the first pens made locally by J. Fellows in 1806 is disputed by Chitham.
Industry and commerce developed unchecked in spite of frequent outbreaks of cholera (the first was in 1832), and by the middle of the l9th century it was evident that the age old system of manorial and parochial government were no longer adequate for a district of this kind. In 1867, therefore, the vast parish was divided into two, Upper and Lower Sedgley. Twenty-eight years later Sedgley elected its first Urban District Council and this retained control until 1966 when local government was re-organised by the West Midlands Order and part of Sedgley was merged with the County Borough of Dudley.
The first know school in Sedgley proper was one attached to the parish church. A tablet over the school house was inscribed :
"These schools and buildings were erected at the sole cost of John William, Earl of Dudley, in the year 1828."
In 1876 a School Board-of nine members was formed for the whole of the civil parish and average attendances were recorded for 1897 as follows :
|501 - Daisy Bank||474 - Mount Pleasant||204 - Lanesfield|
|295 - Bilston St.||865 - Red Hall||319 - Dudley Road|
|398 - Upper Gornal||411 - Robert Street||311 - Hurst Hill|
|288 - Broad Lanes||150 - Roman Catholic||149 - St.Peter's, Upper Gornal|
|314 - St. Mary's, Hurst Hill||806 - Christ Church, Coseley||432 - St Chad's, West Coseley|
...making a total of 6,052. The Local Government Act of 1888 made possible the development of higher education and in 1894 the functions of the School Boards were transferred to the Urban District Council.
Sadly few buildings of historical importance now remain at Sedgley. Sedgley Park Hall now a residential hotel known as the Park Hall Hotel (which was greatly extended in 1961), is a large and imposing red-brick building which lies to the north of the district in the centre of the Goldthorn Park Estate. It was formerly the home of a branch of the Ward family. During the latter part of the 18th century the family moved to Himley. Fortunately, a series of drawings of most of the buildings that have been demolished was produced by Ron Baker. The thirty-eight black and white line drawings which form the collection now constitute a valuable record of interest and importance.
It is interesting to note that the relics of St. Chad., the Saxon Bishop who founded Lichfield Cathedral rested for a considerable time in the parish of Sedgley, being removed for safety at the time of the Reformation to Russel's Hall in Lower Gornal. Later still they were taken to Woodsetton House , then part of Sedgley, where they were discovered in the 17th century and they are now cushioned above they high alter in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham.
The soil geology of Sedgley consists of impure limestone shales, calcareous marls, clays, sandstones, coal seams and nodular beds of clay ironstones. The oldest rocks of the parish are the bluish 'Wenlock limestones and shales which were deposited during the Silurian period. Sedgley Beacon Hill and the Wrens Nest were once rich in fossils, indeed the area is famous for trilobites. Examples of many of the specimens still available can be seen in the Geological gallery of the Dudley Museum.
Sedgley - The first recorded mentioned occurs in a charter of Ethelred A.D 905, as Segge's League. The word "Secga" appears to have been an Anglo-Saxon personal name and it is almost certain that Sedgley means "Secga's lea" (a lea being a pasture or untilled land)
High Arcal - Ercol was the Anglo-Saxon name for Hercules which would be pronounced Arcol. Anciently Ercalewe Ercol's "law" or "burial place".
The Straits - This is from Middle-English but has root in the old French word "estreit" and means a narrow passage.
Gornal - There are two likely sources for the origin of this word: from "Gor-an-nal" meaning the sun or from "quern" - an ancient British hand-mill.
Ruiton - Said to be derived from Rewardines meaning the farm or homestead on the hill slope.
Ellowes - Ellowes, or Ellers, is a corruption of Ellenvale the ancient name for the valley which was overlooked by the Hall.
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