Landor (Local History) Society

View of Rugeley from the A51 bypass showing St Joseph & St Etheldreda (R.C.) steeple and the towers of St Augustines (C. of E.) and the 'Old Chancel' churches.


This page contains articles submitted by members. 

They may have been previously been published in newspapers or journals but are not to be copied or published further without the express, written, permission of the Landor (Local History) Society or the authors.


Click on the appropriate link in the list immediately below to be taken to the corresponding article:


Pushing Back the Darkness (Ken Edwards)

The Drowning of Sir William Wolseley 1728 (Ken Edwards)

The Story of Pinson's Leap (Ken Edwards)

A Stage Coach accident at Brereton 1768 (Harry Thornton)

Roadside Survivors from the Past

'Churchdale', Wolseley Road, Rugeley (Peter Everall)




If you had taken a walk on a moonless night in Rugeley Town or any of the surrounding villages in the years immediately after the Great War the only thing lighting your way would have been the pale glow of an occasional gas lamp hissing away.  You would have been well advised to carry a lantern of some kind, or better still stay indoors.

However things were about to change.  Brereton Colliery had first produced electricity on a limited scale way back in the 1890s using a small dynamo to supply lights around the pit head, pit bottom and the underground stables.  They decided in the 1920s to increase their generating capacity by building a powerhouse and installing a 500 KW steam powered generator at their Brick-Kiln Colliery, four years later the capacity was increased to 1 MW.  At first surplus capacity from these generators was used to light up Brereton Hall, the colliery manager’s house, and other houses close to the colliery but its use gradually progressed to other properties in Brereton Village including St Michael’s Church.  The expansion in the use of electricity by the colliery included carrying the supply on overhead cables alongside the colliery branch railway line to supply the Brickworks at Springhill Terrace and the Coal Wharf at Rugeley.

In 1928 this usage was again extended by the signing of an agreement between the colliery and a new electricity provider the Trent Valley and High Peak Electric Company with offices in Albion Street.  The agreement was for cables to be taken into Rugeley from Wharf Road for distribution and use by the electric company throughout the town.  This arrangement continued for some six years at which time the Trent Valley and High Peak Electric Company brought their own supply lines into the area from Stockport.

So gradually in our towns and villages life began to change particularly after dark, first the larger houses, shops and public houses converted to the new electric lighting, then over the next twenty years or so everywhere saw the gas mantles fade into oblivion to give way to the tungsten bulb.  The town centres became oases of light, they took on a new appearance with the sudden growth of poles and wires festooned along the roadways and buildings, an unfortunate but very necessary addition to modern living.  Today when approaching Rugeley from the north the glow in the sky from the built-up area can be seen from many miles away.

From that small beginning in the 1920s when the first electric lamp, powered from the colliery, flickered into life the technology improved immensely and some 37 years later one of the first large combined-colliery/power station installations (Lea Hall Colliery and Rugeley “A” Power Station) in the country was commissioned in 1961.  Rugeley “A” consisted of 5 generators each one 120 times larger than the one in Brereton Powerhouse which ironically was about to be demolished.


Ken Edwards

March 2010






In the Rugeley area floods and fires were of frequent occurrence.  On one occasion an extraordinary occurrence at Longdon, mentioned here, caused the death of Sir William Wolseley, 3rd Bart. 

Sir William was a great traveller, and on one occasion he brought four beautiful Arab mares back to England from Persia.  In Persia he had had his fortune told to the effect, that as a punishment for having consulted a fortune-teller he and his four mares should be drowned together.  To avoid this calamity he sent his mares home in one ship while he followed in another.  

Some years after, while living at Wolseley Hall, he invited the Rector of Colwich to accompany him to Lichfield and dine there, but the Rector excused himself on account of a dream his wife had had the night before.  

Sir William accordingly went to Lichfield by himself, and was returning about 8 pm on 6th July 1728 in the midst of a great storm.  He reached the little brook at Longdon, (Shropshire Brook) and at that instant the increase of water in the brook caused by the thunderstorm burst the mill dam, and a great flood of water came down carrying horses and carriage with Sir William down the stream and drowning them.  The coachman’s life was saved by means of an over-hanging tree which he clung to.  

100 years or so later one of the plates of the hammer-cloth was dug up near the spot and is now in Wolseley Hall.

Sir William was buried at Colwich St Michael’s Church on the 9th July 1728.


These notes were taken from an article written by George Marmaduke Cockin and from Colwich Parish Register.


Ken Edwards 
March 2012 







In our little town of “Rudgeley”, there occurred nearly two century’s ago, an incident that demonstrates very clearly the effect that the progress of time can have on the narrative of an event.

On this occasion the passing of time dramatically transformed an unfortunate feat of incompetence, which was likely to have been due to youth and inexperience, into a romantic heroic deed.  We all know how our Ancestors liked a good story and if one didn’t exist they were not averse to making one up.  It appears that this story threaded its way through almost a century of Rugeley folk lore. 

The story begins on Thursday the 31st August 1815, when a  (20 year) old Rugeley youth, James Pinson the son of a local Shoemaker was employed by the Rugeley Post Mistress to convey the mailbags from Rugeley to Uttoxeter, the regular post boy being either ill or otherwise indisposed.  The town was still bussing with the news of the great battle that had recently taken place just outside Brussels. 

The mail coaches passed through Rugeley regularly, on their journeys between London and Liverpool and London and Chester, leaving the Bye Mail for the surrounding districts, to be forwarded to their final destinations by the local Post Office.


Killed his Horse

Pinson proceeded on horseback with the bags of mail until he reached the bridge over the river Trent at Colton Mill, there his horse took fright for some reason and Pinson lost control, the horse and rider leaped over the parapet of the bridge and fell 20 feet into shallow water. The horse was killed on the spot, but luckily for Pinson he escaped completely unhurt.

He however was so alarmed and shocked at what had occurred, and most probably in fear of the punishment for what he had allowed to happen to the mail and not least the death of a valuable horse that he ran away. In his haste he left the dead horse and the mailbags in the river, luckily the episode was witnessed by several people passing along the Colton Road, and the mail was recovered and returned to Rugeley Post Office. The above account was obtained from a very small paragraph in the Staffordshire Advertiser published on the 2nd September 1815.

There is no record of the punishment if any that Pinson received but it didn't seem to greatly affect his future, for some 13 years later he married Martha Martin a relative of the Rugeley Postmistress, Mary Martin, at the time of his accident. 

Pinson followed his father into the trade of Shoemaker, but it appears still found time to occasionally act as postman. The Pinson family first lived in houses in Sheep Fair and King Street, Rugeley, and as they prospered and raised their family of 10 children (5 surviving into adulthood) they moved to Upper Brook Street, in the main street of Rugeley town probably in a shoe repair shop or cobblers.  By the time James Pinson was in his 50s he was more often giving his occupation as Letter Carrier than Shoemaker.  By the time James and Martha died in the 1860s they had become respected and well known citizens of the town.


No doubt over the years Pinson told the story of his leap many many times in the local hostelries, a story that we will see was modified obviously to his credit,  - more of this later. 


The making of a Hero

From later accounts it appears that sometime after James Pinson’s death and before the reconstruction of the Colton Mill Bridge in 1890, site of his youthful misadventure, a plaque had been manufactured and erected on the bridge to commemorate the event of 1815. The exact wording of this plaque, has not so far come to light, but the following extract from a letter written to the Staffordshire Advertiser by a native of Rugeley, on Saturday the 12 August, 1893 following the rebuilding of the bridge, is quite enlightening, it reads as follows: -


"The particular instance of vandalism which he desires to bring to notice is the removal of the inscription on the bridge recording Pinson's Leap. He has no desire to blame the Rugeley Local Board for having restored the approaches to the bridge. No doubt such renovations were eminently desirable for the safety and convenience of rustic traffic, but he submits that the disregard for the memory of a brave action shown by those who were responsible for the work in question is a reproach to the inhabitants of Rugeley.  He suggests that a tablet should be let into the stone coping to commemorate the brave act of Pinson, who while carrying the mails, jumped his horse into the river rather than allow the mails to fall into the hands of ruffians."

So it seems that James Pinson had managed very successfully to live down the rather unfortunate events of his youth, only to emerge a hero in later life. 

HOWEVER - The fact that no new inscription was in fact placed on the bridge may be an indicator that the authorities or elders of the town were fully aware of the real happenings on that day in 1815.


Ken Edwards 
9 March 1997

(updated 17th October 2009)






Stage coaches from London to Chester via Lichfield and Rugeley are known to have been running by 1659 and John Ogilby, who produced a large scale pictorial linear map of the route in 1675, described it as “one of the most frequented in the Kingdom

Stage coaches with galloping horses, rosy cheeked drivers and jolly passengers may bring a touch of Pickwickian nostalgia to Christmas cards, but in reality such travel could be completely different. Often it meant long journeys on bad roads in all weathers in cramped and generally unpleasant conditions, and always with an element of danger.

The danger also extended to anyone who got in the way of the unwieldy vehicles, a tragic local instance being when young William Ottey died after being run-over by a stage coach along the main road through Brereton, now the A51.

The Coroner’s report, now at the Staffordshire Record Office, shows the inquest was held on the 28th May 1768, apparently at Brereton’s Red Lion Inn, with Andrew Birch being the foreman of the twelve man jury. It was stated that: “… on the previous day six horses drawing a carriage called the Liverpool Machine along the public highway at Brereton and loaded with several inside and outside passengers, accidently, casually and by misfortune caused the death of a small boy named William Ottey”. The Coroner’s report concluded: “… the foremost horse of the three on the near side knocked the boy to the ground and the same three horses did then and there trample upon him and the two wheels on the same side of the said machine so drawn and loaded as aforesaid then and there accidentally and violently did go upon and pass over the body of the said William Ottey causing his death”.

Two years later, Andrew Birch a local landowner married a daughter of the land-owning Pegg family of Colton and they moved into the newly-built 3-storey ‘Brereton House’ (now a listed building). He was also the father of Elizabeth Birch who built the Railway Cottages and Methodist Free School at Brereton. A Red Lion Inn at Brereton existed at least by the 1540s when its owner was Richard Weston of Rugeley."

Harry Thornton




Anyone familiar with Staffordshire will know that interesting features of many of the county’s roads are the triangular-shaped white-painted mileposts with the name of the local parish on the top. They were installed from 1893 onwards by the County Council which some 13 years earlier had taken over the roads formerly run by various local Turnpike Trusts.

Many much older milestones had also been installed, under an Act of 1767 requiring the Turnpike Trusts to provide mile markers, but because many of these showed data which conflicted with the County Council’s mileposts the older ones were removed.

The road from London to the north-west where it passes through Lichfield, Rugeley and Stone was turnpiked under an Act of 1729 and along the whole of this 22 mile route, surprisingly, one of the old milestones has survived near Rugeley where it is now an item of special interest along the Brereton Road near the entrance to Newman Grove. Its cast-iron inscription plate shows miles to London as 126, to Lichfield 7 and to Stone 15. It was found buried and broken into two pieces during major roadworks in April 1965. The County Surveyor, after considering various options, decided to have the two pieces cemented together and the stone erected near to where it was found. Unfortunately, in 1997 the stone was broken again, during grass cutting, but this time the two pieces were cemented together using dowels. The stone is now ‘Grade II listed’ and maintained by the County Council with added local care by the Brereton and Ravenhill Parish Council.

However, it seems the milestone is still shorter than it was originally when compared with similar stones father north along the A51 which have survived but with their cast-iron plates removed. One is built into the brick wall of a barn near the road to Bishton, another is by a wall nearly opposite Little Haywood post office, another one between Burston and Stone shows that, although it has lost its inscription plate, underneath is earlier wording chiselled in the stone which strongly suggests the plate was added later and that the other stones also predate their inscription plates. A similar milestone in Stone High Street is fitted with a modern inscription plate.

It is known that the first stage coaches in Staffordshire were running from London to Chester by 1659 along this route, showing its then national importance. It is also the route shown by John Ogilby on his large scale pictorial linear map of 1675 from London to Chester and to Holyhead. This map, surprisingly, shows 125 miles to London at the same point where the Brereton Road milestone shows 126. It also shows a tree at a point next to today’s Ravenhill Park entrance with the words “Hangmans oake in ye Road”. Highwaymen beware!




Wolseley Road,  Rugeley


When the modern National Insurance scheme started in 1948 some odd quarters were chosen as local offices (from necessity - they were stringent times) but one which was pleasingly memorable was the Rugeley office at Churchdale.

Churchdale was a delightful old Georgian house which had seen better times.  It cried out for some gentle tlc.  The main room downstairs was heated by an antiquated coke stove; the others by uneconomic coal fires in old cast –iron grates; the toilets were antediluvian; the roof leaked.  It had belonged to the titled Littleton family, as witness the cattle trough on nearby Wolseley road, (“presented by the Revd the Honble C. J. Litttleton of Churchdale, 1909”), but by 1960 it was owned by an MP, leased to the Ministry of Works, and the lease was running out.  Soon, its grounds would be part of a large housing enterprise.  The demolish – and – burn philosophy of the 1960’s was rushing in.

On a frantic day in 1961 (Lady Day – the very day the lease expired) we moved to an excellent new Vic Hallam building in Sandy Lane (a journey from quasi- rural to unremitting urban) and said farewell to the house which had been our work place, to the fine stables and other out buildings, the unexplored timber summer – house which probably contributed to one of the many bonfires (not just in Rugeley but all over England) which then burned on building sites.   And farewell to the remaining grounds into which cattle from the adjoining farm would sometimes wander and peer curiously at us through the windows.


Today Churchdale would be protected as a listed building.  Not so in 1961.   But begone dull care!

This tale has a pleasing postscript.  Someone who has a house with a canal at the bottom of his garden (on part of the old Churchdale land, perhaps?) has his holiday- hire narrowboat berthed on the Trent &Mersey there.  She is called the ‘Churchdale’.  When not abroad, and but a short walk from the canal bridge on Station road, she may be seen, tied up at home.

May God bless all who journey in her.

Peter Everall