Slatchouse Farm

By D E Yates

Slatchouse farmland was once part of the wider land holdings of Warley Wigorn and Warley Salop belonging to Halesowen Abbey, becoming after the dissolution of the Abbey the property of John Lyttelton of Frankley by 1561.

Abbey Road was formerly called Slatch Hill. While there are a number of theories of the origin of its name, the most likely is that it came from the Anglo Saxon Sleac, which as well as giving us the word Slack was a hollow dip, a dell; a bog or morass, all of which was to be found were the present day Woodbourne Road met the two downward slopes of Abbey Hill. Here an occasional stream running out of Warley Park in wet weather and water shed from both slopes to this point would certainly have created a morass.

The first possible reference to Slatchouse was probably that of the case of Joseph Chetten. By his own admission a poor man, Joseph petitioned the lord of the manor, Lord Lyttelton, through the freeholders of Warley Wigorn for permission to build a house on some wasteland on Slatch Hill. That was in 1778 and we although we do not know if Joseph was given permission to build, we can surmise that he was and that his home became known as the house on Slatch Hill later shortened to the Slatch House. Later a farm was probably added to the house or built near to its site giving us Slatch House Farm. Significantly Slatchouse Farm was the only building on the east slope of Slatch Hill (Abbey Road) until 1910, when Abbey Road Schools were built.

Rear of Slatchouse Farm in 1911-Glory Hills behind

From 1778 until the Tithe Apportionment of 1845 we have little information. This Tithe Apportionment gives the area of Slatchouse Farm as in excess of 79 acres, owned by Elizabeth Curtis of Walsall and occupied by George Tomlinson. That the farm continued in the ownership of an absentee landlord is partially confirmed by the census return of 1861, which lists Henry Clack as farm bailiff.

Around 1902 William Henry Jones, quarry and factory owner and public works contractor, purchased Warley Abbey and part of the Warley Hall Estate, probably from Sir Hugh Gilzean Reid or Harold Lincoln Tangye. It is uncertain if Slatchouse Farm was part of the initial purchase, it seems likely that it was, however, whatever the case it was certainly in his possession before 1908. The reason for the purchase was almost certainly to develop the farmland for building and by 1908 Kathrine, Pargeter and Rathbone Road bad been cut, however, World War 1 brought an end to all building activities, so that although Sydney, Hamilton and part of Norman Road had also been cut no houses would be built on them until a much later date. All of these roads were named after members of Jones's family.

Hopwood pigs at Slatchouse in 1903

1908 saw Arthur Fern Shaw farming Slatchouse Farm, now the home farm to Beechfield, a large house on Beech Lanes (Hagley Road). William Henry Jones had moved from Warley Abbey to Beechfield probably around 1905/6, employing Arthur Shaw to run Slatchouse Farm and act as estate manager, probably overseeing the houses already built on the Slatchouse estate.

The Shaws lived in some style, raising five children, Tom, Lorna, Maisie, Robert and Jim, with the aid of a nurse, two maids, little Annie and fat Annie and a daily woman who no doubt saw to other needs of the family. A laundry woman would come each week to do the family wash for 2/6d.

Mr & Mrs Fern Shaw and Lorna Maisy in 1907

The Shaws lived in some style, raising five children, Tom, Lorna, Maisie, Robert and Jim, with the aid of a nurse, two maids, little Annie and fat Annie and a daily woman who no doubt saw to other needs of the family. A laundry woman would come each week to do the family wash for 2/6d.

A number of farm hands were employed, looking after the cattle and tending the horses and fields and two drivers, one for the agricultural vehicle the other for the family's use. All were in demand at harvest time when all hands were needed to feed the threshing machine, powered by a steam traction engine.

In addition to cattle, the Shaws kept sheep, specialised in poultry breeding and bred prize rabbits. They were almost self sufficient, even making their own butter which took a quarter of an hour to churn. Only tinned food had to be bought in, from Budds, a shop on Abbey Road. The Shaws also made nettle pop purchased large quantities of cider, made at Tilt's Farm, Woodgate. which had a big old-fashioned cider press. Cider was part of farm economy generally, issued almost as part of the wages of agricultural labourers.

Ploughing in 1903

The farm supplied William Henry Jones at Beechwood, " the big house," with milk eggs and other produce, taken regularly to Beechwood through Warley Park by the young Shaws. When visiting his employer Arthur Shaw often drove through Warley Park in his pony and trap. He would take vegetable waste was kept in a milk churn at Beechwood back to the farm for pig food.

From Arthur Shaw's son, Robert, comes a description of Warley that leave no doubt as to its Rural nature.

"Woodcock and snipe frequented the marshland and it was a Mecca for skylarks. Corncrakes were regularly heard in the hayfields just before mowing time and deer grazed in Warley Woods - now Warley Park."

Arthur Shaw became part of the Warley community, so much so that in 1914 he was elected a councillor for Warley South. A Unionist, he was still politically active in 1922 as a supporter of Douglas Percival Pielou, a disabled ex-serviceman who became M. P., for Stourbridge Division, to which Warley South belonged, in that year. He also had the reputation of being a good neighbour, the only holiday the young Fletchers, children of a neighbouring poor farmer, remembered being an afternoon at Clent made possible by the loan of Arthur Shaws Governess cart and horse. Other poor neighbours were often helped by gifts of eggs and other foodstuffs.

The good life on Slatchouse Farm came to an end in 1924. Following World War I, Smethwick, like many other towns and cities, was committed to building better and more houses for its people. Having little or no land on which to build Smethwick began to look to the farmland of Warley South, Oldbury, to solve its housing problem, buying farms to develop them as a private landlord. With Smethwick so desperate to buy land it was time for William Henry Jones to cash in.

In 1924 Smethwick Housing Committee recommended the purchase of the farm, some 42 acres, costing 16,000. In May of the next year the layout of a housing estate was approved. The Public Works Committee was also able to report that with regard to Pargeter and Rathbone Road, William Henry Jones had agreed to defray the costs necessary for theses roads to be put in condition so as to be taken over by the council.

By 1926 Smethwick had built 206 council houses on the estate with others under construction. Two years later in 1928, after a hard and sometimes bitter struggle, Smethwick under an act of 1927 rested 571 acres of Warley South with a population of 10,000 away from Oldbury. Soon the district was covered by a vast rash of council houses and Warley South's rural identity lost forever.

As to Arthur Fern Shaw, he moved to a house named Wood View in Warley, finding himself another employer. When more houses were built near Wood View, Arthur Shaw moved again, this time to Dorridge. With the bankruptcy of his employer other moves followed until his death in 1965.

Ref. Memories of Lorna Maisie and Robert Shaw, Jephcott, Smethwick Telephone; Accounts, Oldbury Weekly News; OS Maps; Galton papers, BRL

Following David's article in the last issue and knowing that a lot of our members have connections with Quinton and over the border, I have included this article about Slatchouse Farm, which David wrote for my mother, who was born in Slatchouse Road. Once again thank you, David.

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