This page contains information on various historical studies I have carried out over the past few years, on Black Country and wider Midlands history. It will be appreciated that this is not my main discipline and I am very much an interested amateur in this field. I have three particular areas of interest.
- Detailed research of the history of the Kingswinford / Pensnett area contained in the ebook Kingswinford Manor and Parish.
- The English Midlands in late antiquity – more speculative work on the history of Mercia and the Lichfield area in the post Roman period.
- Research into the Baker Family Tree, which shows that my ancestors were not perhaps the most adventurous.
This page also contains links to blog posts and presentations in this area, and links to a small number of published articles.
Historical Studies blog posts
Kingswinford, Pensnett and the Black Country
- Cricket and Football in Pensnett in the Nineteenth Century. This was originally intended as a simple extract from Kingswinford Manor and Parish (KMAP). However when I looked at the material, I realised it was one of the first parts of KMAP that was written in around 2015, and more newspaper material has appeared on the web since then. So this is an update to what was in KMAP, which has in turn led to a revision in KMAP itself. All very complicated. The post itself is much more straightforward – a brief description of the sporting scene in Pensnett from around 1860 to 1900.
- Kingswinford Tithe Agreement. A study of the Kingswinford Tithe Agreement of 1839.
- Kingswinford parish – associations with slavery. A brief investigation of the tenuous links between the commercial activity of the parish and slave-owning organisations in the 18th and 19th centuries.
- Coal mining in the Shut End and Corbyn’s Hall area This post looks the coal mines in the Shut End and Corbyn’s Hall area, using the extensive database on the Coal Authority website
- The Earl of Dudley’s Railway – Accidents and Incidents Using material taken from a search of newspapers between 1830 and 1920, this post looks at the sort of accidents that occurred on the Pensnett Railway to both railway workers and those who lived close by, and at the nature of crime on and around the railway.Corbyn’s Hall from above A description of the Corbyn’s Hall area in the 1950s from an aerial photographic archive
- The Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel. These three posts are based on the Baptismal Register of the Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel in Tansey Green, and look at the life of the chapel in the mid to late 19th century.
- The railways of Shut End and Corbyn’s Hall A detailed look at the industrial railways within and around the iron works at Corbyn’ Hall and Shut End.
- Land exchanges in the Ashwood Enclosure Act of 1784 As well as new enclosure, the Ashwood Hay Enclosure Act of 1784 also formalised land exchanges from the previous century that consolidated plots in the old common fields of Kingswinford. This post briefly considers a few of these.
- The Earl of Dudley’s Railway This post contains material from a talk given to a dining club that describes the growth and decline of the Earl of Dudley’s or Pensnett Railway.
Lichfield and surroundings
- A historical curiosity – Fog Cottages. A brief post looking at the origins of the name of two rows of cottages at Lichfield Trent Valley and Rugeley Trent Valley stations.
- Lichfield Trent Valley 1847-1871. A look at one the earliest railway stations in the Lichfield area.
- A study of the ancient prebends of Lichfield Cathedral. A post that uses information from the Staffordshire tithe maps in an attempt to recreate the early geography of the Lichfield area
- The Staffordshire Tithe Maps. An introduction to future posts that will look at what the recently uploaded Staffordshire Tithe Maps can tell us about the Lichfield area.
- St Michael’s church, Lichfield – Landscape, Topography and Archaeology St Michael’s church in Lichfield is an ancient church site. This post brings together archaeological and historical material that enables the development of the site to be better appreciated.
- “That way madness lies” – the search for solar alignments in Lichfield The city of Lichfield lies on a rough midwinter solar alignment with the Bronze Age site at Catholme. This post investigates this further to see if this alignment is intentional or merely accidental.
- St Michael’s, Lichfield in the 19thcentury – an examination of the baptismal, marriage and burial registers for the church across the century.
- The legacy of slavery on the railways. A contribution to an ongoing debate concerning the use of slave-compensation money as railway capital in the early days of the network.
- Climate and plague – some thoughts on the effect of climate and plague on the development of the English kingdoms in late antiquity.
- More on the Tribal Hidage – a brief consideration of some issues associated with this enigmatic document.
- The Seisdon anomaly – a brief post addressing the issue of why Seisdon hundred, on a tributary of the Severn rather than the Trent, was incorporated into early Mercia.
- A policeman’s life – Samuel Hicklin (1858-1924) I first came across Constable Samuel Hicklin when I was putting together a picture of life in the Black Country Village of Pensnett in 1881 for Chapter 9 of Kingswinford Manor and Parish (KMAP). His name cropped up regularly in the newspapers of the period, mainly in the context of bringing those accused of being drunk and disorderly to court, but also occasionally for more substantial misdemeanors. At that time, I did a quick check on the rest of his career through various web sites, and it was clear that after he left Pensnett, he rose through the police force to a high level in the Staffordshire Constabulary. I remarked in KMAP that his story remained to be told. These three linked blog posts are an attempt to do just that. I hope readers find it an interesting story. In some ways it tells a very mundane story of police life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which is nonetheless punctuated by major incidents and cases that would be worthy of a crime novelist. A video presentation based on these posts is included below.
- Part 1 – A (very) young constable. This post follows Hicklin from his childhood in Marston-on-Dove through his first postings as a Constable in the Staffordshire constabulary in Tividale and Pensnett in the 1870s and 1880s, which mainly involved dealing with drunks and other minor crime. During this period he was seriously assaulted at a pub in Bromley.
- Part 2 – Climbing the ladder – from Sergeant to Superintendent. Hicklin moved up the career ladder as a sergeant at Bidulph in 1885, Inspector at Burton on Trent and Tipton, and as Superintendent back at Burton by 1896. He dealt with a wide range of crimes – from the minor to the major, including severable notable murder cases.
- Part 3 – Chief Superintendent Hicklin. He reached the highest rank that was open to him by becoming a Chief Superintendent and head of one of the three districts in the Staffordshire Constabulary in 1907. He was based first at Burslem, where he had to deal with the policing of miner’s strikes, and then later at Leek. He died in 1924, still in service.
- The oldest world record – Robert Percival’s 1881 cricket ball throw This post describes what is possibly the oldest world record in sport, from both a historical and a technical perspective.
- Some thoughts on Family Tree studies The joys and frustrations of family history.
Historical Studies papers and articles
Some material from Kingswinford Manor and Parish have been published elsewhere. These are not available on the web, so pre-publication copies are included at the links below.
- C J Baker, 2013, Pensnett – its name and origins, Staffordshire History Journal
- C Baker, 2019, An ecclesiastical affair – scandal and libel in a Black Country parish, Part 1 – Pensnett in the Nineteenth Century, The Blackcountryman, Journal of the Black Country Society, 52, 2
- C Baker (2019) An ecclesiastical affair – scandal and libel in a Black Country parish, Part 2 – Charles Atherton, Curate and Vicar, The Blackcountryman, Journal of the Black Country Society, 52, 3
- C Baker (2020) An ecclesiastical affair – scandal and libel in a Black Country parish, Part 3 – The libel trial, The Blackcountryman, Journal of the Black Country Society, 53,3
- C Baker (2020) An ecclesiastical affair – scandal and libel in a Black Country parish, Part 4 – The aftermath, The Blackcountryman, Journal of the Black Country Society, to appear
Historical Studies presentations
This presentation looks at the oldest world sporting record – that for throwing the cricket ball that dates back to 1882. Although it was originally written for a group of academic aerodynamicists and contains a little technical material, it should also be of interest to historians of sport, and to those who are simply interested in cricket. A written version is given in the blog post The oldest world record – Robert Percival’s 1881 cricket ball throw
This presentation tells the story of events in the Black Country village of Pensnett in the 1860s and 1870s that caused a considerable scandal in the locality and led to a nationally reported like trial. It should be of interest both to Black County historians and more widely to those who like a good story. It is based on Chapter 8 of “Kingwsinford Manor and Parish,
The presentation in this video describes two maps that were made of the parish of the Kingswinford, at the western edge of the Black Country, in 1822 and 1840 by the firm W Fowler and Co.. These very detailed maps, and their equally detailed Books of Reference, give a great deal of information concerning the nature and development of the parish and its people in the first half of the nineteenth century. It should be of interest to historians of the Black Country and to those investigating family history in the area. The presentation is based on Chapters 4 and 5 of “Kingswinford Manor and Parish”.
A policeman’s life – Samuel Hicklin (1858-1924). This presentation is based on the three blog posts listed above that describe the remarkable life of Sam Hicklin, the son of a farm labourer who was to progress to the highest ranks of the Staffordshire Constabulary .