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Wolverhampton's lost village of Woundon

By rob taylor  |  Posted: November 25, 2012

Dunstall Hall, which once stood on or near the site of the lost village.

Dunstall Hall, which once stood on or near the site of the lost village.

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TO THE north of Wolverhampton city centre lies the area of Dunstall, famous for being the home of Wolverhampton Racecourse and one-time site of the Great Western Railway Engine works. Although now a myriad of houses and streets, the area was only really developed in the late nineteenth century.

Before then, Dunstall Hill, like much of the area surrounding Wolverhampton, was quite a rural place, but the following article (discovered in a Guide to Wolverhampton published in 1902) suggests that there may have been a settlement there in much earlier times ...

"In the neighbourhood of Tunstall, or to use its modern name Dunstall, there formerly stood a country village, called Woundon, the inhabitants of which have passed away without leaving behind them any remains of their homes, buildings or handiwork.

The following short account has preserved the name, and gives the only clue to the site of the ancient village of Woundon (Celtic), Ounedon, i.e. Oune's-town, Fort or Hill: "'The village is mentioned in the 28th year of Edward III. Edward, the son and heir of Philip Burnell, being then owner of it; but it hath long since been depopulated, the lands now within Tunstall, and the name only preserved by Ounehill, and the grounds called Ouen to this day. On the north-west side of a bank is a well, which, in old time, was much frequented by that noble Lady Wulfruna, as the tradition is, being yet called Wulfrun's well, the meadows below having been called from it Wolvern Meadows.' (Shaw's History of Staffordshire Vol. 11 page 175.) “If we could trace the history of this lost village, what an interesting chapter would be added to our local history.

"How, when and why was this village depopulated and destroyed? It may have been overrun and destroyed by the Danes on their retreat after the destruction of the city of Theotenhall; if so, it must have remained desolate and forsaken until after the Domesday Survey; be that as it may, subsequently to the days of the Conqueror, it was inhabited, and continued to be so, until its complete and final destruction, perhaps during the civil wars, or, one of the many pestilences that have visited this country.

"Dunstall Hill, once a beautiful suburb of Wolverhampton, probably the site of the lost village of Woundon, is rapidly yielding to the advance of speculative builders and road makers; the name Ouen or Ouenhill, transformed into Ewin, has been given to Ewin Street.

Tunstall is known all over the kingdom by its modern name Dunstall Park.

The names Ouen, Ouenhill, and Wolvern Meadows, are not mentioned in the Tithe map nor in the Award. Within the last decade, Gorsebrook and Dunstall Roads, and a network of streets have been laid across the fields; connecting Stafford Road with Whitmore Reans and Tettenhall. The locality is rapidly becoming densely populated.

Well "The ancient well mentioned by Shaw, may still be seen on the hillside, nearly opposite the Gorsebrook Road entrance to Dunstall Park Racecourse.

The legend recorded by Shaw, is not mentioned by any previous writer. Wulfruna's connection with the Manor of Tunstall and this well is extremely mythical, there is no tradition nor legend relating to Wulfruna and the neighbourhood of Wolverhampton, of an earlier date than the time of the Commonwealth, except the doubtful ascription of the origins of the Collegiate Church to Wulfruna.

"Another local well situated at Spring Vale, near Bilston, the situation of which is unknown, was thus described in an old deed related to Bilston: "'To ye South of Wolferhamtune is a famous sprynge called the Ladie Wulfrune's Sprynge, where shee usyd to come and wash. Ye legende tells us yt ye ladie Wulfrune prayed for yt God woude endue ye well wyth powers of noe ordinarie vyrtue, inasmoche as yt hath curyd manie, as it wer myraculouslie healynge ye lame, ye weake and impotent, and dyvers suffering from mortall diseases, as manie ther bee yt cann testifie.' "'In his history of Bilston, G.T. Lawley, mentions the well at Spring Vale. The same writer notices a similar legend about a well at Merridale, but the exact locality is not recorded.

April 1902. G.B.M.'" The reference to Woundon existing half way through the reign of Edward III (1327-1377 rex), is interesting, as this coincides with the time that many parts of England were suffering from the ravages of the Black Death, and it may well be that Woundon was one of the many hundreds of villages that were abandoned because of this plague, and fell into ruin. Old maps show that there was a moated manor house in the area which may have come from when the area was thriving, but this was destroyed as the area was developed in the later Victorian period.

Only the site of Wulfrun's Well on Gorsebrook Road remains as a possible reminder of those far off times, although it is interesting to speculate whether, if the village of Woundon had not disappeared, it would have developed into the major urban settlement of the region; making us all 'Woundonians' rather than 'Wulfrunians.’

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