Kingswinford Landowners and Industrialists in the 19th Century – some surprising names


As outlined in Kingswinford Manor and Parish, the Fowler Maps of 1822 and 1840 gave a great deal of information concerning the landowners and occupiers of the parish at those times. In the main most of the landowners were quite local, with the major ones being the Earl of Dudley’s Estate and John Hodgetts-Foley. However, a few surprising names of landowners and industrialists crop up – those who have some sort of national profile outside the immediate area of the Black Country. In this short post, I briefly consider three of these – Jonathan Stokes, Horace St Paul and Stephen Glynn and his fellow owner of Oak Farm Iron Works.

Jonathan Stokes

Jonathan Stokes (1755-1831) was an Edinburgh trained doctor, and, from 1782 to 1788 was a member of the Lunar Society, one of the intellectual driving forces of the period whose members included Matthew Boulton and Erasmus Darwin. He is remembered for his work, in collaboration with others, on the uses of digitalis. His parents were Rebecca and Jonathan Stokes, “Gentleman of Worcester”. Many of the sources say he was born in Chesterfield, although this has recently been shown to be untrue and his birth in Worcester has been established. He had a practice in Stourbridge for a number of years from 1782 to 1785. His membership of the Lunar Society ended following fierce arguments with his colleague William Withering over authorship of a book. He married Ann Rogers, a “minor poet” at Dronfield in 1784. The marriage was four months after the birth of Jonathan and Ann’s first child John Rogers Stokes (1784 – 1818), and Jonathan does not appear on the baptismal record. Their second son John Allen Stokes was born in Shrewsbury in 1786, being baptized in a Presbyterian Meeting House. They had other children. Of particular note are Anna Honora Seward Stokes (1791-1792) and Honora Anna Seward Stokes (b1794) both named after the poet Anna Seward, ‘the Swan of Lichfield” with whom they were close friends. 

In 1788, Rebecca Stokes, at that point a widow, was involved in the sale of a plot of land on which the Red House Glassworks in Wordsley was built. She clearly owned other properties in the area, and in 1822 Jonathan, as her heir, held a number of scattered plots across the parish, mainly concentrated in the area enclosed by the Ashwood Hay Enclosure Act of 1776 and the Wordsley and Brettell Lane areas. These amounted to around 200 acres in total of mainly arable land, with a few domestic properties. In 1840, these were in the hands of his son John Allen Stokes. How the Stokes came into the ownership of such extensive lands in Kingswinford is not clear. One possible route comes from a recorded marriage in 1781 between Nancy Freeman, one of the illegitimate children of John Keeling, the agent and steward of the Dudley estate who owned significant property in the area, and one William Stokes. Links with either Jonathan however cannot be demonstrated, so this must be conjectural. Keeling did however provide generously for his illegitimate offspring, and this might be another example of his provision.

Horace St Paul

Sir Horace St Paul (1775-1840) was a career soldier who became MP for Bridport from 1812-1832 and was created a Baronet in 1813. His father was

“a Northumbrian gentleman driven into exile after killing a man in a duel and was a soldier of fortune in the Seven Years’ War, who returned to England with an Austrian title and a royal pardon, subsequently distinguishing himself in diplomacy, before retiring to his ancestral home.”

The St Paul crest

The Austrian title was as a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, which his son inherited, the most impressive of all the titles of Kingswinford landowners. In 1822 he owned around 30 acres of arable land in the Kingsley Road / Mount Pleasant area of Kingswinford, to the east of Ridgehill Wood, and almost certainly came into his possession through his marriage in 1803 to Anna Maria, the natural daughter of John, 2nd Viscount Dudley whose forebears were granted the lands at the Ashwood Enclosure in 1776. Unfortunately however, the current residents of Kingsley Road and Mount Pleasant share the defining characteristics of their former owner’s title – they are neither Holy, nor Roman, nor in any sense, Imperial.

Stephen Glynne and the Oak Farm Iron works

The Glynne Baronetcy dates back to 1661, with its main estate at Hawarden in Flintshire. The 8th Baronet, Sir Stephen Glynne (1780 to 1815)  married Mary Griffin, daughter of Lord Braybrooke. After his early death, he was succeeded by his son Sir Stephen Richard Glynne, the 9th Baronet (1807-1874). He was a Conservative Party politician and is principally remembered as aa noted antiquary and student of British church architecture and writer of a treatise entitled “Notes on the Older Churches in the Four Welsh Dioceses”.

The Glynne family were also the owners of around 100 acres of land around Oak Farm in the north of Kingswinford parish. In 1822, these are in the possession of “Lady Glynne”, presumably the widowed Mary, as the younger Stephen was still a child. At this time these lands were wholly agricultural. In 1840, the same area was owned by the Oak Farm Colliery Company .The Tithe Allocation records the owners as Thomas Bagnall, James Boydell, Baronet Sir Stephen Glynn, John Hignett, William Hignett and Charles Townshend. By this time the lands were a mixture of arable, collieries, brickworks and the major industrial concern of the Oak Farm Iron Works. The latter was founded in 1835 by  Sir Stephen Glynne, Lord Lyttleton, W. E. Gladstone and James Boydell. Gladstone, the future Chancellor and Prime Minister, and Lyttelton had both married sisters of Stephen Glynne.

The Oak Farm works suffered major financial issues, and the company failed in 1848. These events that led to this are set out at some length in the Grace’s Guide entry for Oak Farm. There are conflicting views as to the causes of the financial difficulties – with James Boydell as Managing Partner described as either as being massively over optimistic and extravagent, or as being unsupported by the other owners during difficult time. One source writes

“…the brothers-in-law (Glynne, Lyttleton and Gladstone) appear to have suffered enormous financial losses, but the experience gained by W E Gladstone in dealing with the company’s debt was said to have stood him in good stead when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer…”

Thus the affairs of Kingswinford parish seem to have had a long lasting effect on the country as a whole! There is of course also a legacy of the Glynne family in Kingswinford itself with the name preserved in the Glynne Arms – the Crooked House.

Finally it is worth just saying a little more about James Boydell. He came from Denbigh in north Wales and was a prolific inventor and patent holder. He is best remembered for his “endless railway” system, From Grace’s Guide again.

“….. the ‘endless railway’ system, applicable to traction engines and trailers. A number of flat feet were attached to the outside of a traction engine’s wheels. They were hinged in such a way that as the wheel revolved each succeeding foot would lie flat in contact with the ground, thus spreading the weight of the engine, and allowing the wheels to roll on the plates. The idea was that this arrangement would be more efficient for road-haulage engines, enabling them to deal with poor road surfaces…..”

The Endless Railway System

He seems to have invented the tank!

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