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Stonnall History Group


Evidence of Ancient Placename Uncovered

The Tithe Map of the Parish of Shenstone from the 1830s records property A2 as a small meadow known as Kesterton Croft. Owned by John Stubbs and occupied by James Robinson at the time, the enclosure was situated next to the canal at Catshill (now better known as Brownhills).

If we look closely at the name Kesterton, we can see that it is made up of two parts: the second, -ton, is the well-known Anglo-Saxon element that denotes a settlement; the first, kester, must be the somewhat thinly-disguised Latin word castra, which indicates a fortification. This must surely be a reference to the hillfort at Stonnall on the other side of Shire Oak Hill. Thus the placename means 'the settlement near the [hill]fort'.

The placename Catshill may also be related. Could its original form have been something like Casterhill? In other words, was Casterhill an earlier name for Shire Oak Hill, with the meaning 'the hill where there is a fortification'?
Comments on this item
Andy Dennis
Two things: Catshill is clearly a misnomer for the current place at one of the lowest points in the area; and place names migrate and change as settlement patterns evolve (a notable local example is Brownhills). Apparently, the oldest settlement in the area was at Castle Fort, which is a relatively modern name. So, did Catshill (or its predecessor) once refer to the hill in general or specifically to the ancient settlement? If the ancient settlement it would not have had a Latin / Roman name. If, as implied, the current name derives from Roman times, the ancient hill-top settlement must have dropped out of folk memory and a new name adopted. But if that occupancy had been so long abandoned, why would the name persist and migrate to the foot of the hill? Why not give it a new name to better reflect its position in the landscape, such as Kesterton's Hollow?
Julian Ward-Davies
I agree with most of what you have said and in fairness I did point out in so many words that it is probable that Casterhill was once the name of Shire Oak Hill and that Kesterton was the name of the settlement on the Brownhills side. I would also say that, when contemplating placenames, we sometimes have to imply meanings such as by, near to, next to, etc, which would account for offsets with regard to the landmarks that they are named after. Where I disagree with you is this: the hillfort never dropped out of folk memory. When Dr Plott visited Stonnall in the 1600s, Mr Brown informed him that the hillfort's ancient name was Castell Hen (I have given it modern Welsh spelling). How did Mr Brown know that? Had the name been passed down locally through countless generations since the Welsh-speaking Iron Age? Or had Mr Brown been informed by Welsh travellers who regularly passed through the village? Either way, the ancient name of the hillfort, which translates as Old Fort by the way, had by no means been forgotten.
The White Family, c1908

The White family pictured in around 1908 behind 95 Main Street, Stonnall. From the left, Elizabeth, John, Mrs Elizabeth White (Pryce), Gwyneth, Frances, Grace, Frank.
Stonnall Artist Commemorated

Desmond Burton has shared this remarkable painting of Wordsley House and Old Chester Road, which was the work of Victor Nicholls, late of Stonnall. The artwork was commissioned in 1969 by Des's parents on the occasion of their Silver Wedding Anniversary.

Vic was an accomplished artist and received the following notice from Rev Ward-Davies in the November 1969 issue of St Peter's Church Magazine:-

"Some of us were privileged to attend recently an exhibition of paintings at the Bull's Eye Gallery, 17 Dean Street, Lichfield, presented by Victor Nicholls, Jackie Gottschalk and John Parfitt.

"Mr Nicholls of Cartersfield Lane is a self-taught artist, who paints mainly landscapes. The strength of Mr Nicholls's work is his deep love for the countryside in which he has spent his whole life, and seen it change around him, but his memory vividly recaptures youthful impressions.

"He is an inspired artist who would like to be able to paint full-time. Having exhibited in London and at the Paris Salon three times (where he was awarded the Silver Medal in 1967 for his landscape 'The Stranger'), he deserves more recognition in the Midlands. We are very proud of him and hope in the near future his work will be more widely appreciated."
Comments on this item
David Hill
My parents have a lovely painting by Mr Nicholls from about the same period. He painted some horses waiting at a gate in the snow. I recall it being taken somewhere by him for display elsewhere around the country.
Julian Ward-Davies
Is there any chance of us getting a photo, or better still, a scan of the painting David?
Adam Nicholls
I have a few paintings too passed down from his daughter Jennifer, my aunty.
A Stonnall Excursion to Rhyl, 1945

Four young men on a day trip to Rhyl in 1945. From the left, Ivon Wright, Ron Harris, Gordon Mycock, Ray Platt.
Season's Greetings

Happy New Year to all members and visitors.
A Photo from 1925

Dot Smith, aged 18 months (now 90), pictured in Moor Lane, Footherley, with Mrs Gill in 1925.
New Article: Stonnall Women's Institute in the War Years, 1939-45

With the co-operation of Stonnall WI, we now have a new article about the activities of the group during the Second World War. Their logbooks from the period have brought to light a number of interesting facts, such as the date of the arrival of evacuees from Margate.

You can read all about it with this link to the article, Stonnall Women's Institute - The War Years.
Hoeing the Spuds

Alan Ramsell doing a bit of hoeing in a Cartersfield Lane field in the early 1960s. I wonder who those kids were.

You can read all about Alan and Pamela's recollections of Old Stonnall with this link to their article, Stonnall in the Old Days.
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