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A guided tour of the sights of Edwardian Kinver

By dan shaw  |  Posted: February 17, 2011

Edwardian children stroll along Kinver High Street

Edwardian children stroll along Kinver High Street

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KINVER has long been something of a ‘holiday’ destination for Black Country workers seeking an escape from the toil and grime of its heavy industry. The popularity of Kinver took off with the opening of the Kinver Light Railway in 1901. The KLR trams ran from Kinver to the Fish Inn at Amblecote, where the line connected with the main Black Country tram network.

On weekends and holidays thousands of people would pack the trams for a day out in the picturesque village or a walk on Kinver Edge.

The KLR survived until 1930, when it succumbed to competition from motor buses, but the popularity of Kinver as a destination was assured.

These photographs illustrate that Edwardian heyday of Kinver tourism and they are taken from the 1910 guidebook, ‘Stourbridge, Kinver, Hagley and Clent: The Official Publication of the Stourbridge Urban District Council’, that was featured in last week’s Bugle. The book was published by Edward J. Burrow of Cheltenham and a copy has been loaned to the Bugle by Ann Russell of Halesowen.

We have a picture looking north-west along Kinver High Street, following a large group of children. One picture shows a steam launch on the River Stour, back when the river was still navigable to larger boats. This boat may be one operated by John Timmings, who operated from the Mill Pool at Mill Lane. The weirs along the Stour collapsed and water levels dropped and today Mill Pool is the site of sheltered accommodation for the elderly.

Other pictures show the rock houses that have long been a popular tourist attraction and, under the care of the National Trust, still attract many visitors today.

We also have a view of Kinver taken from the churchyard. The church of St Peter stands high above the village but little of the Norman church survives, having been rebuilt in the 14th century. A north aisle was built in 1856-57, designed by Thomas Smith of Stourbridge, and the church was extensively restored in 1878-1887. The north aisle was found to be unsafe and was demolished in 1976, replaced with a design by John Greaves Smith of Kinver.

As well as photographs the guidebook also offers a written description of the village, describing how to get there, the principal attractions and a little of its history, although some of this is inaccurate — the fortifications on Kinver Edge are Iron Age and Wulfhere was King of Mercia in the 7th century ...

“Kinver is easily reached from Stourbridge by means of tramcar, the route being by way of Wollaston and Stewponey, at which point the visitor to Enville may alight and pursue his way on foot (nearly 3 miles) over Stourton Hill and past Stourton Castle (on the right), which was used by King John as a hunting box and was visited by him in 1200, 1206 and 1207. It was also the birthplace of Cardinal Pole and was garrisoned in the time of the Civil War. At present it is unoccupied.

“Stewponey is a name which has much puzzled antiquarians. Its real derivation is said to be from ‘Steponey Ale’. Another suggestion is that it may be a corruption of ‘Stouri Pons’ (the Bridge of the Stour), whilst Baring Gould has woven round the place a story of an old soldier who, after the Spanish Wars, brought home a wife from Estepona and, becoming an innkeeper, called his house the ‘Estepona Arms’ [Editor’s note: this refers to the 1897 novel Bladys of the Stewponey by Rev Sabine Baring Gould].

“The present hotel is a far-famed hostelry and once had a sign depicting a pony being ‘stewed’ in a hot bath.

“Kinver is an old-world village with a very good main street. Its records date back to the Earls of Mercia, and it was formerly a Royal manor and received charters from Richard I, Henry VIII, Elizabeth and Charles I. This last charter which is signed by Wolseley, and has the Great Seal of England attached, is now preserved in the vestry of the Parish Church. At the ‘Hyde’ was erected the first mill for rolling and slitting iron that was erected in England. Kinver’s iron trade has long since passed away, but the tradition remains of how ‘Fiddler Foley’ journeyed to Sweden in the guise of an itinerant musician and discovered from the Swedes their process of slitting rods for nail making, and not only founded a great business in the district but made a huge fortune. His son it was who endowed the Oldswinford Hospital referred to elsewhere in this guide.

“Nowadays, Kinver has been ‘discovered’ by tourists and holiday makers. Its ‘Edge’, or headland of new red sandstone rises 542 feet above the sea, and is a landmark for miles around. This hill was fortified by King Wulfhere in the 6th century, and there is no doubt the fortifications, which are still plainly visible, formed a stronghold against the incursions of the Ancient Britons and the Danes.

“The Rock Dwellings in Holy Austin Rock, which lies between Kinver Edge and the valley beneath, are a never-failing source of interest to visitors. The cottages are hewn out of the solid sandstone, patches of brick work reinforcing the natural rock. The modern ‘cave dwellers’, it is stated, live rent free and are only too willing to show visitors their ‘caves’ and to sell them refreshments. About a mile away from ‘Holy Austin Rock’ is ‘Nanny’s Rock’, the cave which is said to have been the hiding place of a noted band of highwaymen.

“Kinver Church occupies a lofty situation on a hill to the south of the village. The vicar is the Rev T.A. Cooper Slipper. There are also a Wesleyan Chapel and a Primitive Methodist Chapel in the village. The church contains some ancient monuments and a ‘Foley’ Chapel beneath which is the vault of the Foley family.

“Reverting to Enville, which can be reached from Kinver by a pleasant walk of two miles and a half without retracing one’s steps to Stewponey, the visitor should not miss the ‘Sheep Walks’, extensive and beautiful downs of the smoothest verdure, 665 feet above the sea, and from the top of which a panorama of extraordinary beauty is visible, embracing Clent Hills, the Gloucestershire Hills, Malvern, Clee Hills, the Welsh Mountains, as well as the heights of Dudley and Sedgley.

“Enville Hall, the ancestral home of the Greys, is at present the residence of Sir H.F. and Lady Grey, who succeeded to it upon thedeath of late Countess of Stamford. Lady Jane Grey was a member of the family, and the hall, in the days of the late Earl Stamford, was the scene of many magnificent gatherings and a ‘Mecca’ of English cricketers. The gardens are beautifully laid out and the ‘glass’ houses are a replica upon a smaller scale of the Crystal Palace.

“The Church contains several ancient carvings and many memorials to the Greys. The present rector is the Rev Alfred Winnington Ingram, a brother of the Bishop of London.”

The guidebook also contains a description of Kinver Grammar School that is more of an advert than editorial: “This ancient Grammar School was re-organized in 1879 under a new Scheme of the Charity Commissioners, and is now conducted as a high-class Modern and Classical School for boys and girls.

“The House and School stand in their own grounds on sandy soil on the slope of Kinver Hill, and parents will find Kinver a most healthy and exceptionally suitable place for backward and delicate children.

“Weekly and day boarders are received, and pupils are prepared for the Universities, the Public School and the Professions.

“All boys and girls are admitted at 7 years of age on passing an easy examination in Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. The pupils are taught in mixed classes in those subjects which they can take together. The girls enter by a separate door, have a separate cloakroom, lavatory and playground, and sit apart from the boys.

“Commercial subjects and science occupy an important place on the curriculum.

“Physical culture receives its due share of attention, the pupils taking part in drill, cricket, football, croquet and hockey.

“Fuller details may be obtained if application is made to the Head-master, Rev C.H. Cole, BA.” Rev Cole would have been keen to attract more pupils in 1910. The school closed, due to falling numbers and lack of funds, in 1913.

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