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The Lost Lanes of Stonnall

Julian Ward-Davies

June 2011, revised July 2018

The intention of this article is to identify various lost, unadopted or substantially changed features of the local landscape.

Most of the road and footpath network in Great Britain and, for that matter, around the world has come about as the result of the habitual and frequent use, based on necessity, of routes that connect points of interest. As such, roads and paths are the products of the economic, social and, we might also say, the military and political needs of the communities and organisations that they served. As these needs changed, so the network changed in response.

In certain cases, some routes have been abandoned altogether and, in that sense, are more-or-less lost to the naked eye. We will encounter a number of such examples during the course of this investigation.

In other cases, however, some routes have not been abandoned and are very much still in everyday use, but nevertheless have failed to achieve the status of a fully-fledged road and, thus, were never surfaced with tarmacadam. For the purposes of this article, such roads are considered as lost.

Finally, we will consider certain roads that have been subjected to name-changes, any road that is not named explicitly with signage and any road that has an alternative name.

Because of the historical importance of some of the routes, we will extend our investigation into the wider Parish of Shenstone and its neighbourhood, with visits to Wall, Little Aston and the village of Shenstone.

How Roads Were Maintained
Before the days of the county council and the Department of Transport, the maintenance of roads was the responsibility of the tenants and landlords who held adjacent land. This business was regulated by a legal instrument known as Statutory Road Duty.

The impact of Statutory Road Duty at Mill Lane, Lower Stonnall. Mill lane passed through the marshy area once known as the Quebb. Here we can see how the verges have been built up in an attempt to isolate the road from the marsh. Inlets and ditches were also constructed to prevent waterlogging.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Decisions relating to the exact liability of each tenant and landlord were made at court hearings. In the Parish of Shenstone, the Swan Inn at Stonnall was often used as an ad hoc courtroom where such proceedings took place.

Old Chester Road, Stonnall. Left, the Manor House, formerly the Swan Inn. The inn was used as an ad hoc court in the 18th century.
© Julian Ward-Davies

We will be referring to several maps and satellite and aerial photography.

The Tithe Map of the Parish of Shenstone
The Tithe Map of the Parish of Shenstone, which was published in 1838 and which includes a detailed survey of the whole of Stonnall, provides us with an invaluable snapshot of the village as it existed in the immediate post-mediaeval period. It will be our principal source with regard to the identification of lost footpaths and roads.

A Detail of the Tithe Map of the Parish of Shenstone, 1838.
© Lichfield JRO

Part I, Lost Footpaths

In this first section, we will identify the various footpaths that have disappeared since the time of the Tithe Map survey. Note that, for the purpose of clarity, I have marked the routes on a more recent Ordnance Survey map simply because the Tithe Map is too creased and stained for the most part to provide clear images.

A footpath connecting Thornes and Main Street
The Tithe Map records a total of three footpaths that connected Main Street to Thornes. Two of these paths still exist: the upper path from Main Street to Church Road and the lower path from Main Street to Church Lane.

A third extended from the boundary of Pear Tree Cottage and an adjoining property (now Ormside House) to Main Street. This footpath had several functions.

Thornes to Main Street. Fallen into disuse.

It was one leg of the route between Lower Stonnall and the public house called The Harp that once existed on the western side of the valley at the T-shaped building near the footpath terminus.

It was also a route to and from Thornes Hall, which was, to all intents and purposes, a kind of mediaeval supermarket. Villagers would have been frequent visitors in order to make purchases of one sort or another.

The Church Road end of the Thornes to Main Street footpath.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Schoolchildren from the centre of the village would have used this path to attend the National School in Church Road.

Three events would seal this footpath's fate. Thornes Hall was closed down and eventually demolished. The public house business was removed from that location. The village school was relocated to its present site in 1874. Consequently, the path was abandoned.

A path between Cartersfield Lane and Main Street
This path represents a short-cut to Main Street. In later maps it is shown as two parallel broken lines, indicating that it may have been, at least for a time, a cart track. Thus, even though the dominant flow of cart traffic was actually directed away from the village, as indicated in the map below by the orientation of the end of Cartersfield Lane, there was a significant, though smaller, amount of traffic actually heading to the village.

Before the path's eventual demise, which is within living memory, there was a stile at both ends, with a gate additionally at the Main Street end.*

The path ceased to exist in 1954, when housing development took place in Main Street and Cartersfield Lane. It is now built over.

Cartersfield Lane to Main Street. This footpath was closed on 27th March, 1954, following an order by Lichfield Rural District Council It had purchased the land for a council housing development. Another side-effect was the demolition of the nearby blacksmith's workshop.

A path between Mill Lane and Church Road.
This path represents a simple short-cut to Church Road, where there were more options: continuation to Thornes Hall or to the centre of the village. As far as is known, this path has not been marked on any map since the Tithe Map survey.

Mill Lane to Church Road. Fallen into disuse.

A Footpath and Cart Track from Main Street to Chester Road
This route really falls into the categories of both lane and footpath. It provided access to Chester Road from Lower Farm and thus to many of the fields in the intervening area. It may have been an indirect means of access to Fishpond Cottages. As we will see, it also connected to another lost lane.

Main Street to Chester Road, with Lower Farm and the village of Stonnall in the background. This route met another lost lane at this point. See below for details.
© Julian Ward-Davies

The Main Street end of the route was quite wide and would have been considered as a public road, Indeed, the Tithe Map indicates as much: all public routes were infilled with yellow crayon. The name of the lane, if ever it had one, now appears to be lost.

Main Street to Chester Road. No longer accessible from Main Street

A footpath between two sections of Main Street
This path represents a simple short-cut from one part of Main Street to another, crossing the Wall Long field. In later times, it was used by schoolchildren attending Stonnall School before housing developments at Thornes Croft and Westwick Close in the early 1960s. However, at the time of the Tithe Map survey, there was no school at the present location.

The area is now built over.

Main Street shortcut. Built over.

Part II, Unadopted Lanes

In this section, we will identify the various lanes and roads that have either disappeared over the past several centuries or that still exist, but have not been adopted by the Staffordshire County Council and, hence, have never been surfaced.

As already noted, because of the historical importance of some of the routes, we will extend our investigation into the wider Parish of Shenstone, with visits to Wall, Little Aston and the village of Shenstone.

Twenty Acre Lane
For what appears to be a simple farm track. it is difficult to see how Twenty Acre Lane achieved the status of a named thoroughfare. Nevertheless, it did - and it is still very much a feature of the landscape, as its picture below shows clearly.

Twenty Acre Lane, also known as Twenty Croft Lane, off Mill Lane, Lower Stonnall.
© Julian Ward-Davies

It appears from the map shown below that there was a pool at one end of the lane. Thus, we might conclude that the lane was formed as a result of the necessity for access to certain fields as well as the necessity for access to water.

Back Lane
Now little more than a farm track, Back Lane provides us with a fascinating insight into the general appearance of roads in and around Stonnall before the advent of modern road surfacing.

A, B, C - three parts of Back Lane.
D, E - Hook Lane now named Footherley Lane.
F - Lower Lane.
G - Twenty Acre Lane.
Back Lane, Lower Stonnall, as seen from Gravelly Lane.
© Julian Ward-Davies
The l Mill Lane end of Back Lane,, Lower Stonnall.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Lower Lane
Lower Lane was a route between the junction of Gravelly Lane and Hook Lane (see below) and Gainsborough Farm near Chester Road.

Lower Lane, Lower Stonnall, as seen from Gravelly Lane.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Sandhill Lane and an unnamed track
Sandhill (not the plural Sandhills, as might be expected) Lane is marked on the Tithe Map as adjacent to Fighting Cocks Farm, Cartersfield Lane. Another, unnamed, track is marked in parallel to it (see below).

Sandhill Lane, Stonnall
A - Sandhill Lane
B - Another cart track running in parallel with Sandhill Lane
From the Tithe Map, 1838
© Lichfield JRO
Route B, as shown in the detail of the Tithe Map above, that runs in parallel with Sandhill Lane.
Its name, if ever it had one, is now lost.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Wordsley House to the Lower Farm to Chester Road Route
This lane stretches between Old Chester Road at Wordsley House to the Lower Farm to Chester Road lane and path described above.

Wordsley House to the Lower Farm to Chester Road route.
In its heyday, this lane was busy with all types of traffic. Its name, if ever it had one, is now lost.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Broad Heath Lane
Broad Heath Lane, off Birmingham Road in Shenstone, is marked as a public highway on the Tithe Map. These days, it is a driveway and it is gated-off part of the way along.

Broad Heath Lane, Shenstone.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Part III, Hidden and Obscured Roads

Part of Watling Street at Wall
It is, of course, an established fact that the Romans tended to build roads in straight lines. One has only to travel the old A5, or Watling Street, between Brownhills and Tamworth to appreciate that fact - except, that is, for a curious turn in the road at Wall where it meets the Lichfield to Shenstone road.

The original course of Watling Street, Wall.
© Julian Ward-Davies

This might seem to be a strange deviation from Roman engineering practice, until one realises that the original course of the road is represented on the opposite side of the junction by a farm track. Furthermore, the course of the original route can be readily traced with the aid of satellite photography.

The original course of Watling Street, Wall - satellite view.
A - old Watling Street.
B and C - old Watling Street, represented by a farm track and hedgerow and then a lane.
D - Ricknild Street.
© Google Earth

Ricknild Street - partly obscured
Ricknild Street was the Roman road that connected the south-west with the north-east and, as such, may be compared to the present-day A38. It crosses Watling Street at Wall, passes through Chesterfield and then, as Ashcroft Lane, it meets Lynn Lane at Shenstone. It has completely disappeared between there and a point a little north of Little Aston, where it emerges as a farm track and then merges with Forge Lane. It crosses the Aldridge to Little Aston main road and then continues, very appropriately, as Roman Road.

The original course of Ricknild Street at Wall, Chesterfield and Shenstone - satellite view.
A - the crossroads at old Watling Street, Wall.
B - passing through Chesterfield.
C - meeting Lynn Lane at Shenstone.
© Google Earth
The original course of Ricknild Street, Little Aston - satellite view.
A - emerging as a farm track.
B - merging with Forge Lane.
C - its continuation as Roman Road.
© Google Earth

Chester Road - change of course
Chester Road has changed course twice. The last time was in 1926.

The evolution of Chester Road, Stonnall.
A - the original course of Chester Road.
B - an apparent attempt to by-pass the village pond and a generally waterlogged area.
C - the current route.
From an RAF aerial survey, 1945.

Hurst Lane - disappeared
The Tithe Map records Hurst Lane, which ran in parallel with Thorneyhurst Lane. These days, there is not even the merest vestige of it.

The location of Hurst Lane off Lynn Lane, roughly where the brown patch is on the hedge to the right.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Part IV, Renamed, Alternative Name and No-name Roads

As we will see, several of the roads and lanes in the vicinity have been renamed over the last 200 years or so. There is at least one road with an alternative name that is still in current local usage. Also, we will identify a road that has no road-name signage.

Main Street, Stonnall - name change
At the time of the Tithe Map survey, this road was known as Stonnall Road.

Church Lane - name change
At the time of the Tithe Map survey, this road was known as Pound Lane. This lane distinguishes itself as having not been adopted by the county council until the 1960s, even though it was surfaced long before then.

Church Road - name change
At the time of the Tithe Map survey, at the lower end, this road was known as Thornes Hall Lane and, at the upper end, it was known as Thornes Hall Road.

Footherley Lane - name change
At the time of the Tithe Map survey, this road was known as Hook Lane. See map above.

Mill Lane (from Wall Heath Lane) - name change
At the time of the Tithe Map survey, this road was known as Lower Stonnall Lane.

Mill Lane, Lower Stonnall.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Mill Lane (from Lynn Lane) - name change
At the time of the Tithe Map survey, this road was known as Quebb Lane. For an explanation of the old name (and several other road names) , see Echoes from the Past.

Mill Lane, formerly known as Quebb Lane.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Thorneyhurst Lane - no name
Thorneyhurst Lane is located opposite the former Quebb Lane (now Mill Lane). It has no road-name signage, but it was marked correctly on the Tithe Map and the name continues in local usage.

Thorneyhurst Lane.
© Julian Ward-Davies

Lynn Lane (at the Cartersfield Lane end) - alternative name
Lynn Lane is known locally as Fighting Cocks Lane at this point.

Where Fighting Cocks Lane meets Cartersfield Lane.
© Julian Ward-Davies

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© Julian Ward-Davies BA Hons 2011

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