Buildings of Historic interest near to Quinton

The Oak House, Oak Road, West Bromwich, B70 8HJ

The official listing with English Heritage as follows:-

Description: Oak House Grade: II*
Date Listed: 25 February 1949
English Heritage Building ID: 219328

OS Grid Reference: SO9980590851
OS Grid Coordinates: 399805, 290851

There are many wonderful buildings very near to where we live in Quinton, which possibly we are not aware of and in fact, never visited. One such building is The Oak House. Iris and I noticed that on May Day in 2016 that the house was open and was exhibiting, how the house would prepare for a wedding in 1650. So on a cold and fairly wet afternoon we visited this absolute gem, tucked away in the backstreets of West Bromwich. I intend to enlighten you with a description and photos of our experience and hope that it whets your appetite in order that you may visit in the future.

The Oak House is an historic building located in Greets Green, West Bromwich. It is thought to have taken its name from an oak which stood on the green in front of it and was burnt down around 1800, though it could have been named after the oak woodland that once surrounded the house.

The last John Turton advised William Whyley to fell the trees, and in 1768 many were used to make lock-gates for the Birmingham Canal, which was then being built through West Bromwich. Very few oaks remained in 1836.

The original owners of Oak House are not known, but the family most closely associated with it are the Turtons who were living there by 1634. The house remained in the Turton family until 1768 when it passed to William Whyley, the "natural son" of John Turton. 

John Wesley preached at the house on two occasions in the late 18th century when it was in the ownership of William Whyley. It remained in the Whyley family until 1837. Following a succession of owners, Reuben Farley (three times Mayor of West Bromwich) purchased the property.

Alderman Reuben Farley was one of the towns greatest benefactors. He purchased the Oak House with the intention of making it his private residence, but resolved to present it to the town as a museum. The leading architects in West Bromwich, Messrs. Wood and Kendrick, were employed with the task of restoring the house. Skilled craftsmanship ensured the outstanding quality of the restoration and the museum was formally opened on 25 July 1898; gardens and a bowling green were also laid out.

The English Heritage Listing SO9980590851 describes the building as:-

The house which is now a museum and is believed to be late 16thcentury with the addition, in late 1600, of the West Wing. The prospect tower and porch are 17thcentury and at the rear of the building there are brick additions believed to be in and around 1635. In 1898 the house was restored and opened as a museum. The house was then made timber framed with brick additions, including two storeys and a jettied attic at the front. The facade, as can be seen on the photo on the previous page, has three jettied gables.

The one on the right is in the same style but added much later than the other two. A restored oriel window being a feature on each gable on both floors. The prospect tower rises majestically above the ridge of the roof and directly in line with the porch. The tower has decorative framing and an oriel window. Part of the ceiling in the entrance hall was removed during alterations in the 19thcentury; in addition to this a lantern was created by removing the floor of the prospect tower. As for the interior, many of the rooms have panelling from the 17thcentury which were restored and added to in the 19thcentury. Finally, there is an open well stair adorned with elaborate fretwork balusters from the 17thcentury.

A more detailed description can be found on the English Heritage listing.

In 1949 the house was protected as a Grade II* listed building. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the gift, the corporation decided to convert the Oak House into a period house with antique furnishings; the formal reopening took place in 1951.

The opening hours on the next page; admission is free.

Easter or the beginning of April to September (closed Good Friday)

Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 2pm - 5pm (the grounds open at 12pm on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursday and 2pm on Sundays).

Last admission to the museum site is 4.30pm

October and November

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 1pm - 4pm 

Last admission is 3:30pm.

December till March


Let us now go “through the keyhole” to find out what life was like living in the Oak House.

The morning starts very early when we are woken by the cockerel. Candles are expensive, so daylight hours must not be wasted. We start the day with prayers before pulling on our clothes. The fires are lit using a tinderbox, a small metal box full of straw, a piece of steel and a piece of flint. Strike the steel and flint until you get a spark to light the straw, this is then placed in the fire.

The breakfast is simple and wholesome, a piece of bread washed down with a cup of weak ale, even the children drink the ale.

When we awake the shutters on the windows are opened to let in daylight, no glass, it is too expensive.

After a full days work there is little time in the evening for entertainment. There are holy days and feast days several times in the month. We have feasting, dancing and music at such times.The very young ones have some toys to play with, usually made of wood and bought from the visiting pedlars or the local market.

Before bedtime we may have a drink of posset, a brew made from eggs, warm milk, warm strong brown ale, ginger and cinnamon.

Members of the household entertain themselves with some board games or maybe a sing song. Bed is early at around 10pm in the summer but much earlier in the winter because it gets dark very early and light from candles is poor and they are very expensive.

Cooking is done over the open fire, usually in a very large copper cauldron. This makes the room very hot and quite smelly.

Games such as draughts, backgammon, solitaire

and Nine Mens Morris

The dining room with the oak panelling

mentioned earlier

Study room

Oak panelling

Four poster bedroom

The kitchen and laundry room

A most enjoyable visit to a treasure, quite close to us all in Quinton, so why not pencil it in your diary for a visit.

And another gem follows with the Manor House, also West Bromwich and barely 10 to 15 minutes from the Oak House.

The Manor House, Hall Green Road, B71 2EA

This building is an important,  Grade I listed, medieval domestic building built by the de Marnham family in the late thirteenth century as the centre of their agricultural estate in West Bromwich. Only the Great Hall survives of the original complex of living quarters, agricultural barns, sheds and ponds. Successive occupants modernised and extended the manor house until it was described in 1790 as “a large pile of irregular half-timbered buildings, black and white, and surrounded with numerous out-houses and lofty walls.” The building was saved from demolition in the 1950s by West Bromwich Corporation which carried out an extensive and sympathetic restoration of this nationally important building.

The Victoria County History of Staffordshire states: “There was a manor-house at West Bromwich by the early 1220s. The oldest part of the present building, however, is the hall, which is thought to date from c. 1300, a time when the Marnhams had a house in West Bromwich. It has two full bays and a short entry bay, marked by a spere truss, at the south end. Presumably it originally extended further at each end to provide both service and private rooms, but they would have been removed in the earlier 15th century when the present cross wings were built. In the late 15th century a chapel, first referred to in 1552, was added at the east end of the north cross wing. The west wall of the hall was rebuilt when the oriel was added at its north end in the 16th century, and the detached kitchen block to the south-west of the service wing is of about the same date. About 1600 a two-storeyed gatehouse range was built to the east of the hall and the service wing was extended to join it. The enclosing moat is probably contemporary with the hall.

Most of it was filled in about 1700, although the section in front of the gatehouse had been filled in earlier to make a forecourt.”

According to the will of Cecily Stanley in 1552, in the 16th and early 17th centuries, wheat and barley was being grown in the open fields, though in smaller quantities than rye and oats.

Additions and alterations were made to the hall during the 18th century, and in the 1790s it consisted “of a large pile of irregular half-timbered building, black and white, and surrounded with numerous out-houses and lofty walls” In 1823 the hall, with a farm-house, was sold and by 1836 three families were living there, including that of the assistant curate at All Saints' parish church. By the early 1880s the building had been converted into a number of tenements

In 1950 the property, by then derelict, was bought by the corporation. After much controversy restoration was begun in 1957, and the 18th and 19th additions were removed. In 1961 the building was opened as a restaurant by Ansells Brewery, the tenants of West Bromwich corporation.

It is currently in the care of Sandwell Council which is restoring the building with a view to its becoming a visitor attraction and community venue. It has recently undergone some archaeological excavations.

On the death of Richard de Offini, Lord of West Bromwich in the mid 13th century, the manor was divided between his two daughters, Sarah, the wife of Walter Devereux, and Margaret, by 1275 the wife of Richard de Marnham of Bromwich.

The hall was originally built by the De Marnham family. John De Marnham's heirs included William Freeman, son of his sister Isabel. In 1424 William Freeman settled the manor on his daughter Alice, widow of William Freebody of Dudley. Their son, William Freebody, held the manor at his death in 1437 and was succeeded by his son William, who was then aged ten. By 1515 the manor was held by the younger William's granddaughter, Cecily, born in 1502.

Through Cecily the manor passed into the hands of the Stanley family. John Stanley, born about 1482 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, was the son of George Stanley, a former High Sheriff of Staffordshire and Eleanor Dudley Beaumont, the widow of Sir Henry Beaumont of Wednesbury, Staffordshire, and daughter of the 1st Baron Dudley. On the death of his father-in-law, John Stanley acquired in his wife's right, the manor and estate of West Bromwich, holding it from Sir William Jervis by military service, and a rent of 22 pence per year. Following John’s death in 1533, the manor was then passed down through several generations of the Stanley family, including Walter Stanley (1547-1613).

Under the terms of his will in 1614, Walter Stanley, a puritan, left property situated within the parishes of Erdington, Sutton Coldfield and Aston to endow a lectureship for the parish of West Bromwich. This provided for a clergyman to preach every Sunday and on the principal feasts and to visit the sick. He was to be an Oxford or Cambridge graduate, single, and not beneficed elsewhere. Besides the lands in Warwickshire, property in Wednesbury was subsequently added to the endowment together with further assets in 1662. The trust was reorganized by Act of Parliament in 1819, and in 1845 was still providing £151 (some 27%) of the minister’s annual income. There was another organisation by Act of Parliament in 1949 and the ‘Walter Stanley Trust’ continues to support the parish of West Bromwich to this day.

In 1622 William Stanley who had inherited the estate in 1613, mortgaged the manor to his cousin, Richard Shelton (knighted in 1625) and Sir William Hewitt. Richard Shelton was made Solicitor General in 1625 by Charles I but was later pressured to resign in favour of Sir Edward Littleton. Shelton retired to the manor of West Bromwich, died in 1647, and was buried at West Bromwich. The manor eventually passed to his nephew, John Shelton who died in 1665 and was succeeded by his son, also John, a minor, whose inheritance is said to have been squandered by his stepfather. In 1713 the manor and estate were put up for sale by Chancery. John died in 1714, and his son Joseph inherited his embarrassments. In 1715 with the Sheltons in desperate circumstances all or most of the demesne lands were “neither set, mowed, nor grazed that year, but the product thereof rolled upon the ground”. In 1720 the manor was sold to Sir Samuel Clarke, a London merchant whose family held the manor for almost a century. Thomas Clarke died mad in 1809, and his property was sold under a Chancery order of 1819. The manorial rights with property worth some £580 a year were bought by the Earl of Dartmouth in 1823.

Iris and I’s day out was a visit to seethe Buckinghams Retinue who took up camp in the grounds on May Day. They will be brought to life the late medieval period, recreating the time now known as ‘The Wars of the Roses’. 

The firing of the cannon and below the archers with their longbows, show their prowess at the targets

One of the ladies in the group demonstrates the art of weaving a belt for her son and below the cook pot is on the fire and preparation is being made to make a kindle for setting fire to the cannon.

The armoury tent and the company’s standard

What a super day apart from the weather and all for about £1.50 (concessions-of course).

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