A Brief History of Kingswinford

It is said that Kingswinford can trace its history back to Roman times, certainly the earthwork at Ashwood, a mile west of Wall Heath, has been recognised as a Roman Camp since at least 1686.

The ancient parish of Kingswinford, whose boundaries were probably little altered for a thousand years until the end of the eighteenth century at the time of the "Industrial Revolution" covers a wide area as shown by William Fowlers map of 1822.

In Roman times and for centuries afterwards the site of Kingswinford would have been dense primeval forest. Before the Norman Conquest the manor of Kingswinford had come into the King's hands. About the year AD 1010, King Ethelred sold the village, among others, to the Dean of Worcester. During later wars these were seized by the Sheriff of the County of Stafford on behalf of the King and for more than 100 years they belonged to the Crown.

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The name Kingswinford is the first entry in the Domesday Book (Liber de Wintonia) for the County of Stafford. The name is derived from 'Rex tenet Svinesford', The King holds (King)swinford.

The Domesday Book (1085-1086) shows little worth recording in "Svinesford" for most of the land was lying waste - five hides valued at 3.10.0d. There does not appear to have been any church in the parish at that time, but records show a priest lived there in 1186 and it was about this time that the place became "Swinford Regis."

Nothing more is known of Kingswinford till King John visited the Staffordshire manor of Kinfare in 1206. Soon after King John gave Kingswinford to Baron Dudley, Ralph de Somery. At this time and for many years afterwards only a small portion of the land in the parish was cultivated the greater part was woodland.

Records show that by 1291 coal was being mined in the area and in the 1600's there are entries to show the mining of ironstone and coal pits being sunk.

Events at the beginning of the seventeenth century made Kingswinford famous in English history with the involvement of John Littleton of Holbeche in the Gunpowder Plot. During this century entries in the Kingswinford registers of scythesmiths, colliers and nailers show some evidence of the changes which were to put an end to its rural character Though most of the men were still engaged in farming the parish was becoming industrialised.

In fact Kingswinford and several of the districts which still remain to this day can clearly be seen in the Yates map of Shropshire dating from 1775.

The population of the parish increased rapidly during the eighteenth century and from the beginning of the nineteenth century at the time of the "Industrial Revolution" the inhabitants began to regard themselves as belonging to individual townships that had been built up and in the 1840s with the division of the parish into six ecclesiastical parishes it can be said that this was the end of the old parish of Kingswinford.

The districts of Kingswinford and Wall Heath, today refer to an area approximately one mile radius from "The Cross" being the cross roads from Dudley to Kidderminster (A4101) and Stourbridge to Wolverhampton (A491).

The only railway passing through this area was opened in 1829. Lord Dudley built the line starting at Ashwood basin on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to land near Kingswinford Church. It was a standard gauge mineral line carrying coal from collieries on Pensnett Chase. The Kingswinford Railway is of particular historical interest in that the motive power was provided by the "Agenoria" the Black Country's first steam locomotive, built by Foster Rastrick & Co. of Stourbridge. In 1885 it was presented to the Kensington Science Museum and today can be seen in pride of place at the National Railway Museum in York. Can you imagine the "Agenoria" crossing the A449 by the Wall Heath Tavern?

Pictures show the progress of road transport from horse and cart to the motor car and the tram system which ran from Stourbridge and Dudley to "The Cross."

Rapid house building in the late 1950 and 1960s brought into being a large residential area and the demise of most of the old shops in Market Street and High Street. New schools at the Portway, Maidensbridge and Valley Fields were required to supplement the old Church schools in High Street, Kingswinford and Wall Heath.

The Court House in 1999

The Court House, facing the Village Green, was used as an actual court house until taken over by the brewery in 1900.

The Parish Church, St. Mary's, retains its dignity overlooking the village green where the pound can still be seen and the "Old Court House" where years ago most of the parish business was transacted. Methodist Chapels at Moss Grove and Cot Lane have been replaced by the "modern" Church in Stream Road.

St Marys Church from the Village Green

St. Mary's Church, Kingswinford, parts of the tower date back to the 11th century. It remained the church of the huge parish of Kingswinford until it was threatened by mining activities in 1831. It re-opened in 1846 to serve a much smaller parish.

As you drive (or walk) along these roads can you picture our historic past - if you get time have a look at the "Kingswinford clock", on display in the lighting shop on the corner of Market Street and Park Street, that was presented to the village over 100 years ago. What changes will the next 100 years bring?

© Kingswinford and District Historical Society