Howdles Lane and The Marquis

When I registered ownership of my house I received the deeds (which ceased to have any legal status), a bundle of documents setting out the history of land ownership, including leases, and I decided to find out something about the people named.

this conveyance
Conveyance of Number 28 from the builder, John William Cresswell, to my father on 26 July 1960.  The Marquis and George Howdle appear in the last two lines.

Some background has already been written by yours truly and published about old roads in the area by Brownhills Bob at: and;

Alternatively you can download this PDF file:

Old Roads

In brief, my house was 28 Howdles Lane.  An ordinary three-bed semi, it was completed in 1960, when my parents acquired it.  Eventually, it came into my ownership and I have recently sold it (June 2017).  The history of the place, as for all other places, is much older.

Along the western edge of the land was a hedge and ditch boundary, the boundary between the parishes of Norton Canes, to the west, and Hammerwich.  At the north west corner was a large fallen meer stone or boundary marker.  (Think standing meerkat in a box).  This was also the ancient manorial boundary.  Beyond the hedge, mainly hawthorn with some elder, was a field where horses grazed. The field beyond the hedge was developed in about 1967, becoming Knaves Castle Avenue. The brook was culverted through the new development and the ditch filled in by owners subsequently. The boundary stone was broken up by the builders.

Marquis of Anglesey

The earliest owner mentioned in the deeds is The Most Honorable Henry William George Marquis of Anglesey who leased other property nearby to George Howdle for 99 years from 5 April 1877 at £30 per year, including land on the east side of the Lane.

HWG was the third Marquis (lived 1812 – 1880). He benefited from coal mining on and under his land, which began in 1849 when the Hammerwich pit was opened for the first Marquis (lived 1748-1854) beneath the dam at Chasewater. This was formally the Hammerwich Pit, but was also known as The Marquis, and later Cannock Chase Colliery No. 1. In 1852 a new pit was opened:  Cannock Chase Number 2 pit, aka The Uxbridge (HWG was also Earl of Uxbridge) or The Fly to reflect the high speed of the winding gear. This new employment was undoubtedly the reason my Dennis ancestors came to the area.

In 1873, the Marquis, resident at Beaudesert, owned 14,344 acres, 0 roods, 11 poles, annual gross rent £88,719 10s.1

A detailed biography of the Marquis here.

Imperial measurements: 1 rod (or rood), pole or perch = 5.5 yards, 1 square pole = 30.35 square yards, 40 square poles = 1 rood, and 4 roods = 1 acre. Therefore 160 square poles = 1 acre.  One acre also = 1 furlong (220 yards) x 1 chain (22 yards), or 4,840 square yards.

Metric:  1 Hectare = 2.4711 acres. 1 square metre = 10.76 square feet.

Hammerwich Colliery

The first pit of what would become the Cannock Chase Colliery Company was below the Chasewater Dam.

Birmingham Journal 30 November 1850, p5, col1.



THIS COLLIERY IS NOW OPEN, and a Branch of the Birmingham Canal is brought up to the Pits, and there are good roads to Lichfield and the Neighbourhood.

Boats will be loaded without delay with the best House Coals and Coals adapted for Trade and Manufacturing purposes, on the most reasonable terms.

For information, apply to Mr. F. Higgins, at the Hayes Colliery, Rugeley; or at the Hammerwich Colliery.

This indicates that the colliery was recently opened, at about the same time as the Anglesey Branch Canal. The blue plaque beside the canal indicates the mine was opened in 1849, which is consistent.

marquis pit blue plaque
Site of “The Marquis” beside the end of the Anglesey Branch Canal at Chasewater.

There is more about this mine, including a plan, and the reason for closure, on Brownhills Bob, but search as I might, I have been unable to locate it.

At the time of the 1851 census Henry William Marquis of Anglesea, 82, was living at 1 Old Burlington Street, Uxbridge House, Westminster.  His occupation was Field Marshal and Master … [I can’t make out the rest], see below.  He was born at Bloomsbury, London.  Also present were Charlotte, Marchioness; son Lord Clarence Paget, Captain Royal Navy; a surgeon, housekeeper, ladies (sic) maid, 5 housemaids, still room maid, baker, scullery maid, 3 laundry maids, house steward, cook, groom of chambers, valet, under butler, porter, footman, usher of the hall, coal carrier, and [son’s] valet.

field marshal
Field Marshall and Master … [of what?].
According to the Probate Calendar, the personal estate of the Earl of Uxbridge, as it says he was commonly known, was “under £60,000 in the United Kingdom”.

To be continued …, England, Return of Owners of Land, 1873, Stafford, p2.



1939 and all that

chapel street 43 (640x452)
Rear view of 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills, by Joan Jackson.

A while back I looked at my father’s family as war approached – also 1939 and all that.  Now I visit my mother’s family, name of Brown, who lived at 41 Chapel Street.  Number 41 is the house beyond the hedge on the right of the painting.  The artist was Joan Jackson, who lived later at 43 with her husband Les.  Number 41 was where I spent the first year of my life and where my mother grew up.

I pointed out that searching the 1939 Register, online via Findmypast, can be a frustrating exercise, as the records of many people who are long dead remain locked because they have not been updated to anything like the present.  This time it would be more difficult.  I would have to break in by the back door.

Continue reading “1939 and all that”

Hard Times At The Collieries

I found an article in the local press, one among many about parents not sending their children regularly to school, which resonated in two ways.  Most recently the debate about parents who take their children out of school for holidays, and maybe the reason from around 1875-80, why some of Andrew’s Kindred migrated to Derbyshire to find work.

Continue reading “Hard Times At The Collieries”

Now and then

This was my objective yesterday.  I wanted to take a “now” shot to compare with an image reproduced in an excellent book by Ray Shill, Wyrley & Essington Canal Through Time.  I acquired this from Alibris, which I use as an online bookshop, especially for out-of-print and second-hand volumes.  Several of Ray Shill’s books are available, including Wyrley & Essington from £3.99 plus p&p (just search by author).

The same image was featured by Brownhills Bob in The scent of jasmine.

I found it difficult to find the correct angle and I am still not sure what sort of lens the photographer was using.  The two main common landmarks, in addition to the angles in the near canal bank, are the black chutes and the tree that grew in front of Wharf Cottages.

Anglesey Wharf, from Wyrley & Essington Canal Through Time by Ray Shill (page 66).
Anglesey Wharf, 2017.

The two chutes that remain are those nearest to the cottages, not the larger apparatus in the upper image.

All that remains of the coal wharf today.

Dad used to say that in his childhood, from about the mid-1930s, they were already disused and that other structures, like the one in the top picture were used instead, as well as the screens that could fill boats more quickly, see for example Brownhills Bob’s Screen Stars.

Perhaps grandfather Sam Dennis, and certainly his father, uncles and grandfather, would have passed in front of the cottages on their way to and from work and probably exchanged greetings with the folk who lived there.

Ordnance Survey 1938 (published 1946), reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.


Going for a song

The main purpose of my walk today was to set up another “now and then” post, but as it was such a bright, sunny morning I took a more circuitous route via Brownhills Common and Chasewater.

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The common is ever-changing. The trees grow, some are cut down to help regenerate the lowland heath, saplings spring up, seasonal palettes rotate, paths are cleared. The work leaves behind some mess that necessitates more boot cleaning than normal, but this is usually short-lived. I noticed that in the pine woods beside the old Midland Railway station holly is fast becoming the main understorey plant, taking over from the unproductive brambles. I wonder if, one day, when the pines are cleared there will be a holly wood – presumably, there must have been such places in the past? Such a wood would be a good place for fieldfare and redwing and other birds that take the berries from the mature tree in my garden.

M6 Toll eastbound

To get to Chasewater I crossed the bridge over the motorway which enables a distant view of Lichfield Cathedral. Sometimes kestrel hunt along the verge and the heath beyond.

On the reservoir itself some of the more photogenic birds seem to have dispersed to find nest sites. Mallard seem often to be overlooked by birders, but the males look quite resplendent in the sunlight. A flock of about 25 lapwing flew towards the power boat club, where they often gather on the jetties. Two more flocks of similar size flew in shortly after. Chasewater is ever-changing, too. Different birds, different people, parties of grey-haired ramblers, joggers and cyclists in their garish costumes, the water itself: one day grey and choppy as the Baltic Sea, the next aquamarine and calm as a millpond.


At the outfall the water is well below overflowing. The invading birch has been cleared from the basin beyond, which it is believed was a filter bed for water pumped from coal mines, so that it could be cleaned up before release into the natural water course, Crane Brook. Today there is a subterranean outfall that I could hear running beneath the canal, so some water was being diverted into Crane Brook. At the weir below the dam water was being let out into the canal. I don’t recall the last time it was so copious.

Weir and basin at Chasewater
Weir feeding Anglesey Branch Canal

Rather than hugging the canal bank I often wander along the edge of this grassy-mossy area, atop a steep drop where the gorse and brambles meet hawthorn scrub and semi-mature birch. This is the site of the Marquis pit, the first of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company mines (1849-1856, according to the blue plaque). The flattish ground is the result of dumping spoil from the motorway construction. In the background is the dam with its little housing for the long defunct sluice control. It is all the result of industry and yet produces a surprising range of wild creatures and plants. Today my reward was the music of a song thrush. I managed this one shot before it plunged back into the undergrowth. In hindsight I wish I had set my camera to movie mode to record the sound, but alas hindsight is precisely that.

Habitat edge. Site of coal mine.
Song thrush

Eventually, I did get to the location for my “now” picture, but that is for another post.


This short excursion into family history reveals a tale of early deaths and takes in a range of questions that help to make sense of the complex relationships that can arise from multiple marriages.

Asking the right questions

This is another name that cropped up when searching Findmypast’s BMD records: Marriage of Daniel Bache to Rebecca Dennies at the Parish church, Measham, Derbyshire on 24 June 1833. Rebecca? Who was she? This was not a name associated with Andrew’s Kindred, it was the first I had found in my Dennis / Dennies ancestry. Often the first place to look is the newspaper archive as reports sometimes give age, residence and occupation, which can be especially helpful with more frequent names.

What the papers said

Sadly, there was no genealogical information, but reports involving Daniel Batch add to the story.

Daniel Batch turned up in the local press. He was an engine man at Church Pit, Church Gresley and was charged with cutting a rope with intent to cause damage at Swadlincote Colliery. He had been many years in the employ of the Marquis of Hastings at Church Gresley. At the County Assizes, 29 April 1844, Daniel was accused of maliciously damaging a steam engine, but was found not guilty.

Three years later Daniel was in the news again. This time lives were lost. Derby Mercury 7 April 1847:



On Tuesday, the 30th ult., about half-past five o’clock in the morning, fourteen colliers, men and boys, got into the cage at the Church Pit, Church Gresley, to be let down to their usual employment. Daniel Batch, the engine man, let them down, but when they had descended about forty yards, he heard one of the wheels crack, and immediately stopped the engine. He ran the pit mouth, and found the drum running fast, the spur wheel having broken, and fallen under the drum. The cage was precipitated to the bottom of the pit …

A detailed account can be found at The South Derbyshire Grave Rabbit.

Among the victims was William Chamberlayne, who died of his injuries. I think this was Rebecca’s father, in other words Daniel’s father-in-law.

Currently, there are 3,516 individuals in my tree, including nine Rebecca, but only two are in the Dennis “quarter”, and none born Dennis or variant. It was simply not a preferred name for my ancestors, so this one came as something of a surprise. What I discovered was a sad tale of early death; all too common in the nineteenth century.

Census and other records

Finding Rebecca, sometimes Back, but mainly Batch, and husband Daniel in the censuses for 1841, 1851 (Church Gresley) and 1861 (Navigation Street, Measham, which I recognised) was straightforward enough. The only other record for Rebecca was apparently in the Index of Deaths, registered Burton on Trent, in 1877, aged 77. This, at least fitted with ages in the censuses, but I could find no baptism to fit.

The back story

Samuel Batch married Jane Jewsbury 12 Mar 1827. Jane was buried 15 May 1828, aged 23, at Measham. It appears there were two children:  John and Daniel, baptised 1829 and 1831 respectively.

So, Daniel Batch was looking for a new bride and mother to his two sons:  a matter of some urgency. I was looking for a woman named Rebecca whose name was not Dennies, who was a widow and had been married to someone named Dennies. Clearly, that marriage had to have been before Samuel’s death in 1833.

The key piece of the puzzle was that there was only one record of a Rebecca marrying someone named Dennies: Samuel Dennies to Rebecca Chamberlain on 14 December 1824 at Measham (FMP image). Samuel was buried, aged 29, on 24 April 1833. I already had this Samuel Dennies in my tree, baptised 9 October 1803 at Measham – his second great grandfather John Dennis (1689-1728) was my sixth great grandfather. There were no children, which was unusual for seven years of marriage.

So, another loose end tied up. The computer-based trees I have are not great at showing these relationships, so here is a hand-drawn diagram.


Charles Boulton

Cenotaph, Ogley Hay, south face.

Charles was born about 1887, son of John Boulton and Sarah, formerly Aldridge, probably in the Wilkin area (officially Norton Canes) of Brownhills, Staffordshire. In 1891 4 year old Charles lived at “Wilkin”, where John was a coal miner, as were two older brothers; older sister Rose was a dressmaker’s apprentice.

In 1901, Charles (14) was a colliery horse driver (below ground), among the more dangerous underground occupations. Rose was a fully fledged dressmaker.

By 1911, Charles had moved to Kingsbury, Warwickshire, one of 5 boarders with widow Mrs Susannah Latham. Charles was a coal hewer.

488673 C.Q.M.S. Charles Boulton was among those most unfortunate of men who died on 11 November 1918, the last day of World War One. He served with the 466th Field Company, Royal Engineers. C.Q.M.S. stood for Company Quarter Master Sergeant, the second most senior non-commissioned officer, next to the Company Sergeant Major.

Walsall Observer and Staffordshire Chronicle 30 Nov 1918.

Charles was first deployed to France on 1 March 1915. From 12 May 1915 the 466th (2nd North Midland) Field Company (a Territorial Force formed at Cannock in August 1914) was assigned to the 46th (North Midland) Division. In 1915 the Division saw action in the German liquid fire attack at Hooge (30-31 July) and the attack at Hohenzollern Redoubt (13 October), where they “behaved with distinguished gallantry worthy of the best traditions of the British Army”. Next they were ordered to Egypt.

After just a few days in Egypt, the order was countermanded and they saw out the rest of the war in France and Flanders. In 1916 they were involved in the diversionary attack at Gommecourt; in 1917 several engagements including occupation of the Gommecourt defences (4 March), the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Battle of Hill 70 (15-25 August); in 1918 including the Battles of Cambrai , the Selle and Sambre. (1)

It appears that key roles for the 466th were the erection of telegraph poles and wiring and construction of pontoon bridges, which necessitated recruitment of many horses from Norton Canes and surrounding areas. They also assisted with tunneling, putting their coal mining experience to use. Reparing trenches was also and important role, which could be very exposed to enemy fire, especially snipers. Other work included cutting brushwood, camouflaging, clearing roots and digging firebays. Perhaps the most challenging of tasks was capturing and repairing bridges, such as those at Riquerval and Gorre, where they exposed to intense enemy fire.

“They also carried out repairs on gas blankets and making billets gas proof. These precautions were very necessary as the men of the 466th Field Company found out on the 7th May. The Staffords and two sections of the sappers had their trenches at Lievin bombarded by gas projectiles. 27 sappers had to be placed under medical supervision due to being slightly affected by the gas.” (2)

On Armistice Day, 11 November 1918 the forward units were at Sains-du-Nord. In early January 1919 demobilisation began at Le Cateau.


According to the local press, CQMS Charles Boulton died that day of influenza in hospital at Rouen, France. Charles was awarded the British War and Victory Medals. His widow, Clara, would receive £43 1s. They had married in the first quarter of 1914. There were no children. Charles is commemorated at St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France.

Image from Discovering Anzacs, reproduced under Creative Commons –

(1) The Long, Long Trail, The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918,

(2) Much more detail is given in, which focuses on soldiers from Norton Canes.