Hales-Owen (St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist)

HALES-OWEN (St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist), a market-town and parish, in the unions of Bromsgrove, Stourbridge, and West Bromwich, partly in the Upper division of the hundred of Halfshire, Hales-Owen and E. divisions of Worcestershire, and partly in the Lower division of the same hundred, Stourbridge and Dudley, and E. divisions of the county, 7 miles (W. by S.) from Birmingham, 20 (N. by E.) from Worcester, 42 (S. E.) from Shrewsbury, and 120 (N. W.) from London; containing 17,376 inhabitants, of whom 2056 are in the town. King John, in the 16th year of his reign, gave the manor, and the advowson of the church, which is stated to have been built prior to the Norman Conquest, to Peter de Rupibus, Bishop of Winchester, who founded here a priory of Præmonstratensian canons. This priory, from parts of the walls yet remaining, though concealed by brambles and weeds, seems to have been an extensive edifice, and, from the gable end of the chapter-house, in which are some fine lancet windows, to have been in the early English style. At the Dissolution its revenue was estimated at £337. 15. 6. in Salop, and at £282. 13. 4. in Worcestershire. Hales-Owen was created a borough by the convent, but does not appear to have ever returned members to parliament. It is situated in a fertile vale watered by the river Stour, which has its source in the neighbouring hills; and consists chiefly of one street, in which are some respectable houses, and of some smaller streets containing humbler dwellings irregularly built. The town is lighted with gas. In the vicinity is the Leasowes, the patrimonial estate of Shenstone, which has been deservedly eulogized for the classic taste and elegant chasteness of style with which, during his lifetime, the natural beauty of the grounds was artificially heightened and improved, but of which few traces remain. Belle-Vue House is the seat of John Meredith, Esq. The principal articles of manufacture are large horn-buttons, nails, and some few other articles of iron; the manufacture of steel is extensively carried on at Corngreaves, and there are some coal-mines in the parish. An act was passed in 1846, for making a branch from the Birmingham and Gloucester railway, to Hales-Owen, 5½ miles in length. The small river Stour runs through the town, and the Netherton canal passes within half a mile of it. The market is on Monday, but is indifferently attended; the fairs are on the Mondays in Easter and Whitsun weeks. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates; and a high and low bailiff, a constable, and headborough, are annually appointed at the court leet of the lord of the manor. A court baron is held for the recovery of debts under 40s.

The parish comprises the townships of Cakemore, Cradley, Hasbury, Hawn, Hill, Hunnington, Illy, Langley, Lapal, Lutley, Oldbury, Ridgacre, Romsley, Warley-Salop, and Warley-Wigorn. It contains by computation 11,000 acres, of which about 150 are woodland; the surface is boldly undulated, and the scenery abounds with interesting features. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £15. 8. 11½.; patron and impropriator, Lord Lyttelton: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for £900, of which £84 have been alienated as an endowment for the new church of the Quinton. The parochial church is a spacious structure, having a tower surmounted by a lofty and graceful spire: a principal part of the west end is Norman, and the body of the edifice is in the early English style: it was enlarged in 1840, at a cost of about £2000, and contains a handsome monument to the memory of Major Halliday, and an urn to the poet Shenstone, who was buried in the churchyard. At Cradley, Langley, the Quinton, Oldbury, and St. Kenelm, are separate incumbencies. There are places of worship for Wesleyans and others. The free grammar school was founded in 1652, and endowed with lands and tenements now yielding more than £100 per annum: Shenstone received the rudiments of his education in it. Contiguous to the churchyard are schoolrooms capable of receiving 600 children, built in 1838. In 1804, many curious Roman coins were found in an earthen vessel deposited at a small depth below the surface, at Cakemore; but a few only were preserved. Dr. Adam Littleton, author of a Latin Dictionary and other works, who died in 1694; the poet Shenstone, who died in 1763; and William Caslon, the celebrated type-founder, who died in 1766, were born in the parish.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.