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 four 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.
- The history of St. Michael-on-Greenhill church in Lichfield.
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
Kingswinford Junction 1949. A post describing the train movements through and around Kingswinford Junction in the Black Country and the associated marshalling yard in 1949, just post-nationalisation. (April 15th 2021)
The OWWR Kingswinford branch 1854. A post based on a set of drawings that showed proposed changes to an OWWR branch line before it had been built, possibly to accommodate the travel needs of Baron Ward, and incidentally gives early information about the layout of Oak Farm Iron Works (April 14th 2021)
The Pensnett Saxhorn Band. A post describing the life and times of the Pensnett Saxhorn Band in the mid-nineteenth century, giving a snapshot of some aspects of Black Country cultural life at the time. (March 30th 2021)
The Tiled House Estate. More extracts from Kingswinford Manor and Parish describing the development of the Tiled House Estate in Pensnett from a large arable farm to a centre of coal mining and then to a large estate of council houses. (March 29th 2021)
Kingswinford Landowners and Industrialists in the 19th Century – some surprising names. A short blog post on some notable (and unexpected) 19th century landowners and industrialists in Kingswinford parish – a member of the Lunar Society, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, and a future prime minister. (March 9th 2021)
Over the next few months I will add blog posts here that are edited extracts from Kingswinford Manor and Parish – I have found that many prefer short posts to downloading the entire document, which is understandable enough. The first three such posts describe the major families that dominated the life of Kingswinford Manor from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries – the Corbyns, the Bendys and the Hodgetts.
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. (November 21st 2020)
Kingswinford Tithe Agreement. A study of the Kingswinford Tithe Agreement of 1839. (October 14th 2020)
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. (July 11th 2020)
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. (May 19th 2020)
Corbyn’s Hall from above A description of the Corbyn’s Hall area in the 1950s from an aerial photographic archive. (April 21st 2020)
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. (April 18th 2020)
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. (March 21st 2020)
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. (March 2nd 2020)
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. (February 3rd 2020)
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. (January 24th 2020)
Lichfield and surroundings
- The seventeenth century graves of St Michael’s churchyard. A brief examination of some of the older grave monuments in the churchyard of St. Michael-on-Greenhill in Lichfield (June 10th 2021)
- Lichfield St. Michael’s – pictures held by William Salt Library. Links to late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century drawings and paintings of St. Michael’s church in Lichfield held by the William Salt Library in Stafford (May 20th 2021)
- Lichfield’s First Station Master. A post that follows on from my posts on Lichfield Trent Valley Railway Station of September 28th and November 28th 2020, that looks at the career of Lichfield’s first Station Master, William Durrad. (January 15th 2021)
- The St. Michael Chalice of 1684. A very brief blog post with a photograph of a 1684 communion chalice from St Michael’s Lichfield, sold in the 1850s to pay for something more modern. (December 30th 2020)
- 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. (November 3rd 2020)
- Lichfield Trent Valley 1847-1871. A look at one the earliest railway stations in the Lichfield area. (September 28th 2020)
- 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. (August 12th 2020)
- 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. (August 12th 2020)
- St Michael’s, Lichfield in the 19thcentury – an examination of the baptismal, marriage and burial registers for the church across the century. (June 17th 2020)
- 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. (April 12th 2020)
- “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. (April 12th 2020)
- More Black Country pictures of John Louis Petit. Some more musings on the industrial paintings of John Louis Petit (18th May 2021)
- The Midland Tornado of 1545 – a discussion of a major historical storm in the UK. What were the likely windspeeds involved, and was it really a tornado? (14th April 2021)
- John Louis Petit was a notable landscape painter and architectural critic of the19th century. His artistic work is discussed elsewhere, but in these three blogs I examine the sources of his very considerable wealth that allowed him to pursue his artistic activities, the nature of his main land holding at Ettingshall Park in Sedgley, and the location of two of his paintings of Black Country mines and iron works.
- 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. (July 8th 2020)
- Climate and plague – some thoughts on the effect of climate and plague on the development of the English kingdoms in late antiquity. (June 30th 2020)
- More on the Tribal Hidage – a brief consideration of some issues associated with this enigmatic document. (June 30th 2020)
- 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. (June 30th 2020)
- 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. (May 28th 2020)
- 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. (May 18th 2020)
- Some thoughts on Family Tree studies The joys and frustrations of family history. (March 29th 2020)
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 .
A presentation I gave in September 2021 at St Michael’s church on the life and times of the 19th century clergy,