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Trafalgar hero's West Bromwich retirement home a listed building at risk

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 12, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Historic farm buildings at Hill House, West Bromwich, in the late 1970s

  • Hill House Dagger Lane West Bromwich

  • The signs say trespassers at Hill House will be prosecuted

  • Hill House has been a listed building since 1972

  • Parts of the building were still occupied in the early '70s

  • Many of the original 16th century windows have since been bricked up

  • The Tudor building was much added to in the 17th and 19th centuries but some of the original timber framing survives in the east wing

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WE are indebted to Dave Westwood of Rowley Regis for kindly loaning to the Bugle his collection of Black Country photographs that he took in the late 1970s and early '80s.

He set out to record as much of the rapidly disappearing heritage of the Black Country as he could. Many of the houses, pubs and factories he photographed have now gone. However, some have grimly held on into the 21st century, such as Hill House, a listed building in Dagger Lane, West Bromwich.

Hill House dates back to Tudor times and the early 16th century but very little is known of its history before the 1800s. It may have belonged to the Grove family in the 1600s and, according to the Victoria County History, if this was the case then it may have passed by marriage from the Groves to the Magenis family, who would have held it until about the mid-18th century.

In the late 1820s Mary Jesse was living there, the widow of William Jesse, minister of All Saints' Church in Charlemont, West Bromwich, who died in 1814. Elizabeth Jesse, thought to be their daughter, was living at Hill House in the mid 1830s. By 1845 the property had become part of local landowner the Earl of Dartmouth's estate but around 1837 James Eaton moved in.

He was a distinguished naval officer and had served as signal midshipman aboard HMS Temeraire at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805: he was the first person to relay Nelson's famous signal to the fleet, "England expects that every man will do his duty".

Eaton also fought in the Battle of Algeciras Bay in 1801, aboard HMS Hannibal and was captured by the French, and took part in the British invasion of Java in 1811. He retired from the navy with the rank of commander in 1842. He died in 1857 and was buried at All Saints' Church.

Many articles about James Eaton can be found on our website at www.blackcountry bugle.co.uk.

The original 16th century timber-framed house was much added to in the 17th and 19th centuries and it eventually ended up in the ownership of West Bromwich corporation. It has been listed Grade II since 1972 but is now classified as "at risk".

Please share your pictures of historic Black Country landmarks. Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to Bugle House, 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 54HL.

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