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History

Brewood

The history of Brewood seems to begin in earnest in Anglo Saxon times when it became established as a village in the kingdom of Mercia. There are also remains of a small Roman villa discovered close to Engleton which gives some proof towards Roman influence within the parish, perhaps to be expected given the close proximity of that great Roman thoroughfare, Watling Street. 

 

The Domesday book states that Brewood was populated by 24 villagers, 18 smallholders and a priest. It also records enough land for 20 ploughs and that the Bishop had 20 slaves working his land within the village. The value of the village in 1066 was £10.

 

One suggestion as to the origin of the name Brewood is that it comes from the celtic word Bre meaning "the hill" and the old English word wudu meaning "wood". It is known that in 1204, during King John's reign Brewood Forest was abolished. This is not however to suggest that the area was heavily wooded, the term forest relates to that of a Royal hunting reserve and it is rumoured that indeed King John had a hunting lodge situated in Brewood. 

 

In 1221 a charter for a Friday market in Brewood was granted and this was followed in 1259 by a Monday market. Brewood was also granted the right to an annual fair over the feast of the Nativity of Mary or 7th - 9th September around the same time. Despite an attempt by the burgesses of Stafford to suppress Brewood market in 1382 it continued until dying out in the 18th century.

 

The building of the church of St Mary & St Chad, easily the oldest building in Brewood, commenced sometime in the thirteenth century. The imposing nature and structure of the church along with Brewood Grammar School, founded in the reign of Elizabeth I, and the market marked Brewood out as being more of a small town than merely a village. By 1680 Brewood boasted around 60 houses rising to around 210 by 1811. William White described Brewood in 1834 as "a small but well built market town, with several good streets and a spacious market place."

 

Much of the industrial revolution passed Brewood by and from a figure of around 700 houses in the Victorian era this fell to around 615 in 1921. As the 20th century gathered pace and the end of World War 2 eventually ushered in a time of greater prosperity, improvements in transport and most notably the motor car made residential growth the main feature of the recent history of the village. Despite this downturn of the late Victorian period modern amenities were still ushered in promptly in Brewood. The community had its' own gas works from around 1872 until sometime around World War 1 and there was mains electricity by 1928, made readily available throughout the Parish by 1940.

 

Many of the buildings encapsulated in the very fabric of Brewood's history are still around to be viewed today. Take a walk around Dean Street, Bargate Street, Newport Street, Stafford Street and Sandy Lane and you'll see many reminders of Brewood's past. The village square retains a beauty and charm of it's own and is still the focal point of the village today, particularly during the bi-annual music festival, Brewood Wake and the traditional switching on of the Christmas lights. 

 

Coven

The name Coven derives from the Anglo Saxon word Cofum which in turn is the dative plural of cofa which means either a cove or a hut. It may also be translated as place at the coves or bays. The first reference to Coven is in the Domesday Book where it was listed as being held by William de Stafford. Population at this time was probably around the 40 mark with future surveys showing no real increase until sometime later.

 

By 1666 Coven was listed as having 30 households assessed for Hearth Tax with a different survey around 1680 giving this figure as 40. However, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent improvement in communications gave the village a real shot in the arm. The main route between Wolverhampton and Stafford was turnpiked in 1760 and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was built between 1768 and 1772 both very close to the village. Although much later, the railways arrived at Four Ashes in 1837 all making Coven far more accessible to the burgeoning centres of industry developing nearby. Indeed it is known that Coven did have an iron furnace itself and records show that in 1667 over 587 tonnes was produced.

 

As a result of this period in British history much of the property and population growth in the parish up to the twentieth century was focused on Coven rather than Brewood. The old school was built in 1839 but was also used as a place of worship until the consecration of St Paul’s in 1857. Until this point the church of St Mary and St Chad in Brewood had served worshippers of the village unless parishioners described as Protestant Dissenters preferred to attend the Wesleyan Chapel, first registered in 1826 but subsequently rebuilt in 1839 at a cost of £340. In July 1858 the ecclesiastical parish of Coven was formed.

 

Coven continued to develop into the twentieth century with arguably most impact being felt by the construction of the M54 motorway opened finally in 1983. Despite this upheaval Coven has maintained it’s spirit and character perhaps most notable in it’s run of success in the South Staffordshire County Council organised ‘Best Kept Village’ competition. Coven won the competition five times consecutively from 2005 to 2009 inclusive.

 

Bishops Wood

In a survey carried out in 1680 Bishops Wood was described as ‘a little vill beyond Kiddemore Green’ yet in 1724 it is remarked that the village had no human inhabitants, just a rabbit warren leased by the Giffards to John Blakemore. However, in 1844 a decision taken to enclose the land proved popular for anyone both from within and outside the parish looking to build a new home or create a smallholding.

 

By 1852 the ecclesiastical parish of Bishops Wood was formed with the cruciform structure of the Church of St John the Baptist having been consecrated the previous year. Around the same time the old school house was built to the east of the church suggesting that the development of the new village came about very quickly.

 

The name Bishops Wood possibly derives from connections with the area having been the early country retreat for the Bishop of Lichfield.

 

However, the village is most closely connected with one of the most famous events in British history even if this event took place well before Bishops Wood seemingly developed as a village. Just a short walk from the Royal Oak pub stands Boscobel House where Charles II famously hid in an oak tree, and a priest hole within the building, after fleeing from the scene of his defeat to the Parliamentarians at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Boscobel House still stands today and is open to visitors, a trip is strongly recommended.

 

Today Bishops Wood is home to a close knit community served ably by the recently refurbished and extended Village Hall. The village sits proudly just short of 500 meters above sea level affording panoramic views across to Cannock Chase.