A his­tory of the house in the park from all an­gles

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - By JOHN WORK­MAN

YOU could call Word­s­ley Manor House an enigma, a build­ing of mys­tery that hides be­hind a shield of trees for most of the year only to re­veal it­self from the main road af­ter the leaves have laid the branches bare.

For those will­ing to step off the beaten track and take a closer look at the glo­ri­ous image of this Grade II listed 18th cen­tury Ge­or­gian mas­ter­piece, the ex­pe­ri­ence can be very re­ward­ing. It is of course still some­one’s home and they de­serve their pri­vacy, but you can still get close enough to ad­mire the house in the park, as it is of­ten called, with­out up­set­ting folk. It is worth the ef­fort as turn­ing the cor­ner of the for­mer drive­way re­veals a won­der­ful sur­prise. Al­ter­na­tively you can stand on tip-toe on the nearby canal tow­path and peer over the hedge to see the house in all its glory.

Aerial

These days it stands at the cen­tre of one and a half acres of land, but in years gone by fields and open spa­ces would have stretched as far as the eye could see. The aerial view at the bot­tom of the page shows just how much hous­ing de­vel­op­ment has nib­bled away at the grounds com­par­ing it with a sec­tion of an OS Map dated 1901, where the manor called Word­s­ley House has only the old Word­s­ley Flint Glass Works as a struc­tural neigh­bour.

The ar­chi­tec­tural jewel in the crown in Word­s­ley is the Red House Glass Cone which was built circa 1790, stand­ing proudly as it does cush­ion­ing the Stour­bridge Canal on the main A491 Stour­bridge to Wolver­hamp­ton road. But Word­s­ley Manor House is at least thirty years older than this iconic in­dus­trial struc­ture. It is also older than the canal which was cut in the late 1770s. The navvies who were em­ployed to build the canal would have had the Manor House in their sights as they dug down deep. It must have ap­peared in a rel­a­tively pris­tine con­di­tion, the trees as small saplings, and the gar­dens neatly laid out both at the front and the rear.

No­table

The Manor house is said to have been built in the year 1757 and ini­tially was the home of a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man and in­dus­tri­al­ist John Holt. 1757 wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly no­table year in his­tory, although it did come with­ins the pe­riod of the Seven Years’ War, a global con­flict fought be­tween 1756 and 1763 which has been dubbed World War Zero. King Ge­orge II was en­joy­ing his thir­ti­eth year on the throne, and in terms of fa­mous peo­ple who were born in that year Thomas Telford the Bri­tish En­gi­neer and the poet Wil­liam Blake are prob­a­bly the most no­table.

Af­ter the Holt fam­ily had va­cated the premises it was oc­cu­pied by Wil­liam Fos­ter, brother of iron­mas­ter James Fos­ter, fol­lowed by Wil­liam Rolin­son Hod­getts, glass­mas­ter of the Red House Glass­works. Upon his death in 1845 own­er­ship passed to his daugh­ter Alice Mary Hod­getts who mar­ried iron­mas­ter Henry Longville Firm­stone in 1866. The Manor House has been in the Firm­stone fam­ily ever since.

Word­s­ley Manor House has a di­rect con­nec­tion with many of the in­dus­tries that made the Black Coun­try great and is un­doubt­edly an im­por­tant ed­i­fice that de­serves promi­nence in the over­all his­tor­i­cal ta­pes­try of the area, which­ever way you look at it.

The mag­nif­i­cent Ge­or­gian fa­cade of Word­s­ley Manor built in 1757

Aerial shot show­ing the Manor House sur­rounded by modern hous­ing

Old map of Word­s­ley Manor House and sur­round­ing park land circa 1901

Word­s­ley Manor in har­mony with a Stour­bridge Canal lock

Two in­te­rior views of of Word­s­ley Manor circa 2017

In the win­ter the Manor can be seen from the main road

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