Kinver in 1830

Sketch of Kinver High Street

Imagine a life with no luxuries, without electric light, gas, running water or deep sewerage. Picture a village street scene without any transport except the horse or one's own two feet. Visualise a life virtually without schools, because the only regular schooling was provided by a Grammar school and that was only available to the children of the better off. The Rev. J. Halifax was the master at Kinver Grammar School when a separate building was erected to house the school in 1832, leaving the school house free for use as living accommodation.

Much of the education, such as it was, for the general populace was performed at Sunday Schools run by the various churches. Remember that children started work at an early age and the only day free for education was Sunday. The first purpose-built Sunday School appears to be that in the Holloway (now the Catholic Chapel) which was erected in 1834.

The first National School was built in 1849, originally for boys and girls. This school became more familiar to later generations as the infant's school at the bottom of Vicarage Drive.

Picture the clothes of the day, distinguishing each person's trade. Iron shod clogs of the labourers were so heavy that a peculiar swinging gait was adopted. All clothes were made of the warmest and the most hard wearing material available. Hurden was frequently used for aprons, though the blacksmith wore leather for added protection. Heavy gathered skirts with coarse shirt tops, often with thick shawls and woollen stockings, would be common with the working women of the village.

Imagine visitors to the more impressive houses in the street such as Cliffside or what is now the Pharmacy, then the home of Mary Nock who was a maltster. These people wore much more refined attire. Such would be made of finer cloth and with more delicate workmanship. Hats were a status symbol and bonnets were colourful and elaborate. This class could afford to travel in carriages to protect themselves from the elements.

The scene for 19th century life in Kinver was largely set by two events which took place in the 1770's. The first was the completion of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal in 1771, with the subsequent Stourbridge canal, which revolutionised transport in the area. The second was the Enclosure Acts which transformed all the open common land into the field patterns such as we know them today.

During the 18th century, though there was some industry in the area, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy, particularly sheep rearing for wool, some of which was processed locally. The power was provided by the River Stour and various mill pools and wheels. This source was also tapped for corn milling and to drive the various iron mills in the area. Near the turn of the 18th century the village consisted of lone long spacious street well paved with pebbles' (Shaw 1798) and the population in 1801 was 1655, which by 1811 had increased to i668. In 1821 a population figure of 1735 indicates that there had been some expansion of the iron industry.

The main document giving an insight into the 1830's is a survey performed by W. Bright of Admaston, Shropshire, which was the forerunner of the modern rating surveys. This survey of the village was done in 1829 and 1830 and published in October 1831. It gives details of the owners, tenants and values of plots of land and property all numbered on an associated map. It is possible to build up something of a picture of life in 1830 by examining the descriptions of some buildings in the High Street a--id of some known industrial sites. The general picture seems to be one of a self-sufficient community with many of the trades providing the essentials for every day life.

Much of the High Street was built up on each side, as at present, though without unsightly gaps in the building line.

Access to the numerous tenements in the land at the rear was via coachways.

Many malt houses are listed even though some of them must have been quite small. These supplied malt, made presumably from local grown barley, to the seven 'pubs' and a beer shop listed. Several of these pubs still exist, though of course they do not now brew their own ale. The White Harte The Green Dragon (now rebuilt and called The Constitutional Club), George and Dragon (also rebuilt), The Cross and The Plough still feature in the village scene. The Unicorn (where the launderette now stands) and The Swan (where Kingsfayre now is) have disappeared.

The numerous other shops in the village had an assortment of trades. The only specific food shops mentioned are a baker and several butchers, the latter with slaughter houses. Presumably the huckster's shop kept by William Davies catered for the rest of the essential foods.

Many craftsmen also had property in the High Street in which to make and sell their wares. There was a joiners shop adjacent to Clifford Cottage as there is today. Three blacksmiths, two of which were also wheelwrights. a cooper, a tailor, a glazier, a shoemaker, and a hatter are recorded.

Numerous entries (cottage and nailors shops) are mentioned for the High Street. These largely appear to be behind the facade. The density of such establishments in certain areas must have been of the typical Black Country pattern where the industry was truly a cottage industry and all the family helped. One such area was on the site of what is now Benbows Stores where a Margaret Humphries had a barbers shop (presumably fronting the street) and four nailors dwellings and shops are listed separately for the same plot of land. These dwellings must have formed a row sited at right angles to the High Street, and this situation may well have given rise to the title "Nailor's Row" which survived long after the nailors had disappeared.

John Reeve, the village doctor, is assessed for a house, surgery and a barn. This was sited alongside the road up to The Acre at what is now 116 High Street.

Thomas Parkes kept a batting shop and also a wool warehouse. This was probably where Bank House used to be, the site now occupied by number 77 High Street. This appears to be the last remnant of the once flourishing wool trade as no other references to buildings connected with the trade are mentioned.

Before moving out of the High Street notice must be made of the Baptist Chapel near the Stone Lane junction, adjacent to the Plough. This building, now a supermarket, but still retaining characteristic features is assessed at 4.16s whilst St. Peter's Church is not assessed at all! Unfortunately no person's name is given with the entry which makes it difficult to relate this Chapel to the Bishop of Lichfield's register for houses registered for Protestant Dissenters for 1802 and 1814. In "Baptism in Stourbridge" (Doctor W. Whetley 1929) there is a record of a Chapel being built in Kinver and that it lapsed in 1831 after which it passed to the Primitive Methodists.

It is believed that the early Non-Conformists came to preach to the iron workers of the Hyde and other mills in the Parish. From the population figures it would appear that these mills had started expanding and thus enlarging their workforce.

Four mills are recorded for rolling and slitting iron, Kinfare, Hyde, Whittington and Gothersley. Many entries "cottage in rock" are recorded for Holy Austin, Dunsley, and Astle's rock. Parish records indicate that many of these were occupied by iron workers.

All these mills supplied split iron for the local nailors and blacksmiths and much was exported by canal. At the Hyde also was the "tilting mill, spade and shovel manufactory and corn mill" run by Messrs. J. & T. Parkes which existed until about 1912.

It is interesting to note that iron could be worked and corn ground in the same building. All these mills were carefully sited to make full use of water power as was the water corn mill at Checkhill, but another natural power was harnessed by the windmill at Mill Lane, Enville and the entry "Windmill Piece" (near Dunsley Hall) indicates that there was also a windmill on that site.

Other odd entries such as 'Brick Kiln Piece', 'Brick Kiln Field', 'Clay Pit in Bridge Meadow' and 'Brick Kiln Close' show that clay for bricks was dug and fired locally. 'Ladder Stile Piece' is self explanatory, and adds to a picture of life. The 'publick' is listed as owning an area of land called The Publick watering place, though many wells were sunk to obtain drinking water. At one time the village pump was in Mill Lane near The Holloway and the market hall (built 1619 demolished about 1830) stood at the bottom of Vicarage Drive, once called Workhouse Lane.

In 1830, however, the workhouse was at the other end of the High Street near the top of Mill Lane. Clifford Cottage, then much larger, served as this institution which was managed by the Church Wardens and Overseers. This establishment fed and provided work for the poor who could find no other employment. The 1834 Poor Law, under which the poor became the responsibility of the Seisdon Board of Guardians, must have produced something of a social revolution and a sense of relief to the Church Wardens!

Such was the pattern of life, where the bulk of the population lived in the very densely populated "long spacious street" but the subsequent massive expansion programmes of the Hyde and Whittington Mills were soon to change all that.

© Kinver Historical Society