The Old History of Quinton (or should it be Ridgeacre?)

By Peter Beck-QLHS Conservation Officer

We are fortunate to live in the most historic part of Quinton and to look out over the so called ‘Nailer’s Cottage’, a Grade II listed building at 497 Ridgacre Road West.

Many will recall the idyllic whitewashed appearance of the cottage (photo above). However, whilst this was aesthetically appealing, rainwater was seeping behind the rendering and damaging the fabric of the building. Worse still, because a previous owner had installed concrete flooring upstairs, the building was in danger of collapsing.

Now the cottage’s appearance has been transformed (photo above). The removal of the rendering and extensive, sensitive repairs have revealed the historic nature of its stone and brick walls. The building has been reinforced, and its interior is now much closer to its original state.

As far back as 1988 ‘The Birmingham Historian’ revealed the following:

The Cottage, 497 Ridgacre Road, Quinton (Halesowen Parish) SO 993847

The building was formerly known as “The Old Nail House of Quinton’. It consists of a two bay, two-storey brick unit parallel to Ridgacre Road, with a single storey brick extension of one bay to the west on the corner of High Street. This lower range continued the line of the front wall but was not as deep as the main unit. On the north there are modern single storey extensions. At the time of the property’s sale in 1976 it was claimed that the original “Old Nail House” still existed in the garden as a detached brick building. However, on examination this was found to be a comparatively modern structure with an insubstantial fireplace and a flat roof. It is far more likely that the nail shop is represented by the single storey western range which is now used as a reception hail and has internal dimensions of 10’ 4” x 10’ 6”. Its roof is not celled and has exposed heavy purlins set in the gable walls, rafters and a ridge. A modern fireplace between this area and the present sitting room on the east appears to be on the site of the original hearth. Its chimney still rises against the western end of the two-storey range, which has its own domestic hearth of generous proportions against the eastern gable. The walls are unusually thick due to internal stone cladding of recent date.

Following consultation with Nick Reading (Architect and Historic Buildings Consultant, West Midlands Architects Conservation Group), his conclusion was that the bottom half of the Nailer’s Cottage walls were 17th century and the top half 18thcentury. It is now clear that the cottage can be dated back at least to the 17thcentury.

As stated in the Birmingham City Council’s Monument Full Report of 11.5.2007. However there is no evidence yet of it being a nailer’s cottage. The ‘outhouse’ (photo next page) at the rear of the cottage and the extension which contains the present front door may in fact be 20thcentury.

Building to the rear of the cottage believed to be a nailers workshop

Mike Hall’s “Dark and Wicked Place – Quinton in the mid 1800’s” shows that the occupants included a wood turner, a carpenter, dressmakers and scholars but no nail forgers. Evidence of such can be found in the Census Returns of both 1841 and 1851, of which the society now has copies.

Occupiers of the cottage in the 1900s were the Round family, and a transcription of John Round’s oral history in 2000 reveals the following:-

It was a hard life though, Shepherds in the High Street bought the cottage in 1947 for £ 400 and we bought a house up Lightwoods Hill. Mr Shepherd then sold that on to Arnold Parkes for £500 the day after, so he made 25% profit in a day. Arnold put the windows out of the tollhouse in there. Mom was happy with £400; she’d never seen that sort of money.

Inside the cottage was a dining room, the two out houses or brewhouses, where mum would do her washing in the big copper, where we used to light the fire underneath, every Monday morning. The other outhouse, this side, with the gas stove in there. Inside another room with the old grate, with a frying pan hanging over it. The stairs were stone; eventually mom had them covered with wood. The stairs have moved now, not in the same place. A solid big room, with a little room next to it, a little passage along, then into the front room, which was in the High Street. The front room was very rarely used. The door that exists now was there but never used, there was another door on the right in Ridgacre Lane, now blocked off. People used to shelter under the yew when it rained, the one that has been chopped down.

There were beams upstairs, they say it is solid floors but I am sure it was timber. But the walls are all false inside; it is all plastered nothing like it was inside. The walls were about 2’ 6” thick. Next door to us always wanted to buy 4’ to 5’ of the garden but. The two lots each side were built on, where the porch is was just waste ground in High Street. Two big rooms upstairs with a door in the middle. Mom had the one big room divided for the girls and boys; if you were cold you’d put another coat on the bed. It was only a lane then, no houses, just a bank and fields up to the old churchyard.

A couple of cottages, where the Guests were, the laundry. Down to the bottom of High Street, there was a brick wall with a hedge in front; they’ve widened it now. Straight opposite were four cottages joined together. Alf Horton had the one on the right, he used to keep pigeons and grow white and red Michaelmas daisies, which he sold. Where the snicket is now called “The Green”, there was two or three cottages there, occupied by the Baggotts and the Whyles. The three houses are still there to the left of the park entrance; Fred Clay had the house built on. To the left of the cottage was the New Inns and at the back of there were two other cottages.

Where there is a small piece of land now was a small cottage, the lane ran down. Highfield Lane, Heber Rose had the farm there, I used to take his horses into Blackheath to be shoed”.

John Round outside the cottage in the 1930s (Notice the front

door is in a different place to where it is today)

There is much more to learn about the cottage. We have therefore embarked on a programme of research. We think it is older than 17th century, but we will need the help of an architectural historian to verify this.

We were given permission in 2000 to photograph the interior of the property, the photos that follow are from the society website under the “Conservation” banner.

Entrance Hall with wooden panelling from Witley Court and the rear of the cottage

showing the windows purchased from the demolished Toll House

Fireplaces possibly built in the 20thCentury and the one on the right showing

another wooden panelling and tapestry from Witley Court

Stained glass window depicting Brangäne (left) and the roof (right)

added decades after the original cottage was built

At the same time we are looking at life in Quinton, especially Ridgacre and Warley (Wigorn) before the 19thcentury. At present we are consulting with local historians Roy Burgess and Ken Gregory of Halesowen Abbey Trust, and building on the work of Quinton historian Tony Rosser. Chapter 25 of Tony’s “Quinton Round and About” is entitled ‘Halesowen Abbey and the Rule of Law‘ and provides some glimpses of life in Quinton from the 13thto the 18thcentury.

Roy and Ken are helping me to look in depth into the Halesowen Manorial Court Rolls. They begin from 1270 after Halesowen Abbey was given extensive ownership of land including Quinton (then mostly known as Ridgacre [Ruggacre]) in 1214.

I hope to keep you updated regarding our findings.

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