Cartographic Sources

Yates’ Map of Staffordshire 1775

The map, enlarged by 200% shows quite clearly the arrangement and use of the watercourse of the Bourne Brook between Weeford and Drayton Bassett.

A take off point south of Weeford church supplies the slitting mill. The building above the mill is reached by a track from the church.

At Hints mill a small header pond is shown upstream of the ford, and below Hints Hall the brook divides, both lines crossing ?below the track to Greasley Hall. The header pond at Forge is supplied by the lower branch, and returns the water via a tail race to the east.

Yates’ map marks and names Greasley Hall, evidently a building of some importance at the intersection of two roads a short distance south of Force. These roads are now footpaths, and no surface indications of Greasley Hall were noted. No mention is made of such a place in the Tithe Award but the Staffordshire Doomsday records Nigel de Stafford as a tenant in chief and from him were descended the Gresley family.

The Tithe Award Maps of Hints and Weeford

The Weeford tithe map of 1844 is drawn at a scale of 9 chains to the inch (1 chain = 66’); it is very faint and faded and individual portions of land are without either names or numbers. The relevant section, however, is actually quite detailed. South of the church the take off point for a watercourse is clearly shown, with the line of this leat running parallel to the Bourne Brook and towards a group of four small buildings. Below this group two outlets are shown returning the water to the brook. A track, seemingly fenced to the south, leads in the direction of Weeford church but is lost after 2-3 chains.

Hints tithe award map of 1847 is a very much more impressive piece of work at c.8 chains to the inch. Fields, meadows, woods etc, are numbered and the ownership, occupancy, use and area clearly tabulated. Of direct relevance to the present study are:

Field No.156 Mill meadow

Field No.144 Mill field

Field No.146 Site of water mill and road (occupied by Mary Littleford)

Field No.133 Pool meadow

Field No.69 Oven meadow

Field No.73 Pool meadow

Field No.70 Plantation

Field No.61 Forge and upper meadow

The forge itself, no.71, is listed as cottages and gardens occupied by Thomas Finney, Richard Harris, John Holmes and John Rooker.

1st Edition OS Map 1830s, 1" to 1 Mile

Again, Figure 8 has been enlarged by 200%. The channels at Weeford are shown, and a vague impression of a wheel might be discerned at the slitting mill. Hints mill would appear to be still in use.

Below Hints Hall the Black Brook flows undivided below the bridge and, with a great deal of indeterminate meandering indicative of flat meadow land and no great fall, flows past Old Forge. Small, angular enclosures are marked at the forge but no evidence of industrial activity is apparent. The Bourne Brook cut downstream of Forge may have altered the water level and flow from this date.

The overall landscape is remarkably little different from that of the 1847 tithe award.

OS Map 1902, 25" to 1 mile

At Hints ford the water dammed back is clearly labelled as a fish pond and, although both the mill and the cottage which stood there fifty years earlier, west of the weir in Mill Field, have gone, three sluices and two hydraulic rams are shown on that portion of the retaining bank previously used as meadow.

A rectangular structure to the north-east in Mill Meadow is marked but not named. Pool Meadow, to the south, has apparently lost the pond marked in 1847.

Downstream, where the lane from Hints to Lower Bangley crosses the brook, a weir is marked on a bend in the stream, with a footbridge immediately below it. The previous course of the brook lies a short distance to the north and parallel west to east.

Downstream the Oven Meadow (Tithe Award field No.69) is now shown as boggy ground, the eastern portion being wet, deciduous woodland, whilst the Plantation (Tithe Award field No.70) is deciduous woodland and rough grass. Note the line of the footpath running along the north edge of the plantation.

Hints forge is named and consists of one row of seven cells facing north across a lane to a larger building; neither can be recognised from the tithe.

To the south and north of the brook are small watercourse. At the eastern extremity of the area of study the natural course of the brook swings south from a sluice which diverts water north-east to supply a Bleach Works, now demolished, at Bonehill (NGR SK 194 023).

OS Map c.1909, 1" to 1 mile

No watercourse supplies Weeford slitting mill, or its site, at this time. The mill pond above ford may be discerned. Below Hints Hall the track to Hints forge, along the south bank, is clearly no more than a footpath or unmade lane.

The great extent of emparkment around Hints Hall is clear, and covers much land now under the plough. Hints Park is a product of late eighteenth century and later landscaping, but mediaeval deer parks were enclosed in the vicinity at Drayton Basset, Shenstone, Weeford and Bangley. The park at Weeford centres on SK 1415 0150 and is outside the area of study, but Bangley park was enclosed by earthworks which still survive to the south-west, where they follow the parish boundary line, and extended north to the banks of the Bourne Brook. The park was first recorded in 1397 and was a property of the Earl of Warwick.

OS Map 1920s, 6" to 1 mile

Weirs are shown at Bourne House, also a hydraulic ram. The fish pond at Hints is clearly silting up from the west, but south of the Hall and east of the village on the north bank of the brook, once more the extent of the park is shown. The ground south of the brook upstream of the site of the forge is now covered by scrub, woodland and rough grazing.

Modern 25" OS Map - from a map supplied by NRA

The fish pond is now shown as infilled, and the portion of land below the dam is wooded. The sluices are marked but no hydraulic rams. A new pond has been excavated in the north-west corner of Pool Meadow centring on SK 1560 0280. This draws water from a local well or spring and supports a stock of trout.

Documentary Sources

Relevant SMR entries:

PRN 01122 SK 1561 0291 Water Mill

This is Hints Water Mill, shown as a mill on Yates’ late eighteenth century map and as the site of a mill on the tithe award 1847.

PRN 01123 SK 1577 0289 Mediaeval Cross

Substantial remains of mediaeval cross base, 3m square, in cemetery of St Bartholomew’s.

PRN 01124 SK 1578 0278 Hints Hall

Early post-mediaeval mansion house with eighteenth century additions (demolished).

PRN 01125 SK 1669 0234 Metal working site/water mill/forge

Reputedly shown on Yates’ map of 1775 as a pasture called floyer of Hints and Thomas Lawley of Cannell.

PRN 01699 SK 1547 0286 Metalworking site/forge

The source for this entry is a Stoke-on-Trent museum card index reference. However, no evidence for the siting of this is given. It would appear that there has been a misinterpretation of a documentary reference, from 1694 over use of water from the old water course through a new watercourse ‘channel’ to the ‘forge and hammer mill called Hints forge’ for which Sir Robert Lawley now pays £20 per annum, £2 for the watercourse of the slitting mill. This goes on to say that here is likewise a cornmill erected in late years in the place of an old one. Here has been taken too literally, the locations and uses confused, and one forge too many appears on the SMR.

VCH II, 112-18

Hints forge, charcoal fired, was one of ‘numerous’ smithies, forges and bloomeries in the area in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Cornmills were on occasion converted to hammer mills. In 1592 Hints forge was rated at 120 tons bar iron capacity per annum. Between 12th May 1592 and 23rd November 1593, 104 tons and 13 cwt of iron were produced. Hints forge was still in production in 1717.

History and Antiquities of Staffs, II, Shaw 1801 p.14 ff

On 7th November 1545 Thomas Basset, his heirs and assigns, held the manor place of Hints, with common for 400 sheep and 40 beasts, and free fishery’ ..... except the fishery of the floodgate and mill dam there....’But, in April 1601, the manor was lost. The loss included the ‘...old mansion house...envyroned on the south by the old watercourse or stream of Bowrne...’ together with ‘...Hynt’s Mylne...’The forge producing the bar iron features in an indenture of 1607 in which divers lands called ‘Brockhouse Moor’ (?Brockhurst SK 1530 0150) and a pasture called ‘The Hollyes’ alias ‘Hammer Mill Close’ are sold for £500.

More detailed information is contained in an agreement dated 11th January 1694 between Mathew Floyer of Hints and Thomas Lawley of Cannal (Canwell) whereby the latter should use and have the water from the old water course through a new channel, to the forge and hammer mill called Hints forge for a yearly rent of £11. That this is an established manufactory is clear from the next part of the agreement: ‘...for this Sir Robert Lawley now pays £20 per annum and £2 for the watercourse of the slitting mill.’ Following this is mention of the corn mill erected by the late Ralph Floyer.