Wombourne (also spelt Wombourn) is a large village and civil parish
located in the district of South Staffordshire, in the county of
Staffordshire, 4 miles (6 km) south-west of Wolverhampton
and just outside the county and conurbation of the West Midlands.
Local affairs are run by a parish council. At the 2001 census it had a
population of 13,691, increasing to 14,157 at the 2011 Census. Due
to its proximity to the county and conurbation of the West Midlands,
it is, to some extent, an urban fringe settlement or dormitory village
for the conurbation, although it also has a distinctive centre and a
1 Etymology and usage
2.2 The medieval village
2.3 Industrial developments
2.4 The modern village
4 Walks and Local Countryside
Wom Brook Walk
4.2 The South
Staffordshire Railway Walk
Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal
4.4 Surrounding Area
9 Around Wombourne
12 Further reading
13 External links
Etymology and usage
Old English word burna signifies a stream, and a stream is a
notable feature of the village. Formerly the village name was thought
to mean "Womb Stream", or stream in a hollow, because this is a
reasonable description of the situation. However, more recent
scholarship explains the name as meaning a Crooked Stream, which is
at least as good a description.
Burna was one of the terms for a stream used in the earliest
Anglo-Saxon place names, and the stream was presumably itself called
the Wom Bourn. However, today it is always distinguished from the
village by the name Wom Brook, from another, slightly later, Old
English term for a stream: brōca. The Wom Brook, which has required
considerable work to ameliorate its flooding, originates on Penn
Common and is a tributary of the Smestow Brook, which it meets just
south of Wombourne.
The spelling "Wombourne" is now preferred for official use. However,
the village is marked "Wombourn" on the 1775 William Yates Map of the
Stafford and as late as the 1945–48 series Ordnance Survey
maps. There has been considerable feeling about the issue and road
signs were regularly amended unofficially with spray paint until the
1990s at least.
Flint axehead, likely neolithic, found at
Wombourne in 1943. Now in
the collection of
Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
The village has
Anglo-Saxon origins, and was part of the large central
kingdom of Mercia, which was settled by Angles. The whole region was
wooded when the Germanic settlers arrived, and hamlet names like
Bratch ("newly-cleared-land") and Blakeley ("dark clearing") attest to
the need to clear land for settlement. The settlers reared large herds
of pigs, which were easily fed in the beech, oak and birch woods,
which are the naturally-predominant vegetation in the region. Local
Kingswinford ("royal pig crossing") and Swindon ("pig
hill") confirm the importance of pig rearing in
The medieval village
Wombourne is mentioned in
Domesday Book and was clearly a medium-sized
village by the standards of the time. Before the Norman Conquest, it
was owned by an
Anglo-Saxon nobleman called Thorsten. By the time of
the survey, probably 1086, William, Fitz Ansculf, held seven hides of
land, some of them let from him by one Ralph of Wombourne. William was
an important landowner throughout the West Midlands, the son of
Ansculf of Picquigny, a Picard baron who came to
England with William
the Conqueror and built a castle at Dudley. William's total holding at
Wombourne supported 8 ploughs and was worth £3. There were 13
villagers (probably not including dependents, so perhaps thirty to
forty people in total); a priest, and so perhaps some sort of church;
as well as two mills, the first evidence for the importance of water
power in the area.
Wombourne was part of the
The Priors of
Dudley built or rebuilt the Parish Church of St.
Benedict Biscop around 1170, the only parish church dedicated to this
Anglo-Saxon cleric. The building as it is seen today, however, is the
result of numerous reconstructions and refurbishments, particularly in
the 18th and 19th centuries. The parish of
Wombourne extended far from
the village, taking in Orton and Swindon.
The former Heath House, a residence of the Foley family attached to
their industrial complex at Heath Mill. Today it is an apartment
block, known as Mansion Court.
For most of its history
Wombourne was mainly an agricultural village.
However, its involvement with industry began unusually early. From the
Middle Ages, the
Smestow Brook and the Stour were lined with small
iron bloomeries and forges, using local reserves of charcoal and
Industrial Revolution brought coke-fired furnaces. In 1772,
Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was opened, with major
canal locks at the
Bratch and Bumble Hole, integrating the area more
closely into industrial Britain. Iron production concentrated in a
smaller number of centres – at Swindon, in the southern part of the
Wombourn parish, at Gothersley, at the Hyde near Kinver, and
increasingly in the nearby
Black Country – using the canal to bring
ore, coal and limestone to the works. Other villages, however,
remained centres for smithing, with cheaper and more available iron
greatly increasing the number of workers. Increasingly, Wombourne
became a centre for nail-making. The Wom and the Smestow continued to
provide both power and cooling water, with several large mills along
each stream by the late 18th century.
Perhaps the largest water-driven forge was to the west of the village,
where, an 1817 history remarks, "has been erected an iron-work called
the Heath-forge, with genteel mansion". This works had a large mill
pool, supplied by the Merryhill Brook and by a contour canal from the
River Smestow. Water fell thence in several stages to the Wom, which
then joined the Smestow a short distance to the west. The forge mill
was later converted into a corn mill, which functioned until the
1930s. The Heath Mill industrial estate on the main
preserves the name of the complex. The mansion building, now converted
into flats, is still to be seen in the Poolhouse estate, itself named
after the poolhouse that stood at the dam. The water mill is clearly
marked on the 1775 Yates map of Staffordshire, along with one at the
Wodehouse, and another just south of the village centre, the remains
of which are now the Pool Dam.
It was around the same time that the Hellier family reached the peak
of their influence in the area. The Helliers lived at the Wodehouse,
on the Wom Brook, to the east of the village. It was the fourth Samuel
Hellier, knighted in 1762, who turned the Jacobean house into a centre
of culture. He had the grounds laid out in fashionable style, with a
hermitage, a temple to the memory of Handel, and a music room. He
spent a fortune on musical instruments and books of music, building
up a private collection and endowing both the church at
St. John's, Wolverhampton. The family collection included the
Stradivarius named after them. Dying without issue in 1784, he left
his property to a family friend, the Reverend Thomas Shaw, on
condition he change his name to Hellier. One of his descendents spent
years as commandant of the
Royal Military School of Music
Royal Military School of Music at Kneller
Hall. It is claimed that the Wodehouse has not been sold for over
Wombourne was described by William White as a large village,
"occupied chiefly by nailors, who work for the neighbouring
manufacturers". Nail-making remained important into the 20th
century. As White implies, it was mainly the preserve of outworkers,
who operated small-scale machinery in, or attached to, their own
homes, fetching iron sheet or rod from the foundries and returning the
White tells us that the main landowners in the area in the mid-19th
century were John Wrottesley, 2nd Baron Wrottesley, a notable
astronomer, and Lord Ward – at this time the Reverend William Humble
Ward, the tenth Baron, a relative of the Earl of Dudley. The Wards
made their wealth not merely from land, but what lay under it: the
coal and limestone of the West Midlands. Another important landowner,
the Reverend William Dalton, was an Evangelical clergyman from Ulster,
but he owed his wealth to marriage to the widow of a
The modern village
Although the parish had a population approaching 2000 by the mid-19th
century, the village itself remained quite small – essentially
confined to the area around the present village green. The hamlets of
Giggetty, Blakeley, Ounsdale, and the
Bratch were quite separate from
the village and were only absorbed into it as suburban housing spread
from the mid-20th century. This changed the whole character and
structure of the village.
The area around the green, the original village of Wombourne, evolved
as the commercial and cultural centre. The green was surrounded by
small, independent shops, which remain a distinctive feature of the
village's commercial life. A new civic centre, housing local council
services, was constructed near Lower End, just south west of the
centre. Suburban housing grew to form a wide ring around it, absorbing
most of the hamlets.
In the 1950s, several hundred council houses were built around
Wolverhampton council as part of an overspill rehousing
programme for residents of the large town's slums.
Large housing developments of the 1960s and 1970s around Giggetty and
Brickbridge, to the west, were followed by a still larger westward
extension in the Poolhouse estate of the 1980s, which absorbed the
former Heath Mill. Meanwhile, light industry developed along the canal
and the River Smestow, particularly beyond the main
with industrial estates replacing former foundries. A new bypass was
driven through to the south of the village in 1988, carrying
Telford traffic around
Wombourne and Himley, and
clearly separating much of the industrial area from the residential
section. Housing development continued into the new millennium, with
building to the west of the canal between Ounsdale and the Bratch.
In 2011, Westfield Primary School pupils Gabriel (Gabo) Knight and
Will (Wilbo) Evans created a series of comics called Very Random, and
started a YouTube channel called eminemfan12367 and they gained around
300 subscribers until 2013, when Will moved away from the village,
leaving the channel in the hands of Gabriel Knight and Jake Morgan.
Sadly, there has been little to no activity on the channel since then
and Gabriel and Will are now living their separate lives happily.
Today the village population works partly locally, and partly in the
larger centres of Wolverhampton, the Black Country, Birmingham and
The Vine, a pub on the edge of
Wombourne village opposite the police
Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal runs north-south through
the western side of the village and
Bratch Locks are located just to
the north-west. Another popular local spot is the South Staffordshire
Railway Walk, which follows the path of a now disused railway (it
served as a goods railway prior to the 1960s and as a passenger line
for a few years between the two wars).
Wombourne Village Green is
considered to resemble an archetypal 'English village', as it is in
the centre of the village and opposite St Benedict's Church. It
regularly plays host to local cricket matches.
The main commercial area is around the village green and on the
neighbouring streets. This contains a considerable range of small,
independent shops, as well as banks, cafes and other services. There
are also small developments of shops and services in the outlying
areas of the village, particularly at Giggetty and Blakeley.
Wombourne has a retained fire station, run by
Staffordshire Fire and
Rescue Service, which is currently being refurbished. The station
houses one pumping appliance and is located on Giggety Lane next to
Wombourne Ambulance Station. The ambulance station was run by West
Midlands Ambulance Service and was manned full-time. The west midlands
house builder Kendrick Homes acquired the site for residential
development in June 2014, it has planning permission for 9 dwellings.
Wombourne Police Station can be found on the High Street and is part
Staffordshire Police. Police officers work from the police station
24 hours per day, however staff of the enquiry office are only
available at certain times.
The village is served by a wide variety of churches, many based around
the village green, which do much in the way of maintaining village
traditions and in serving the more needy people in the parish. There
was considerable volunteer support for the mental health centre in
Planks Lane before it closed. The Hand in Hand Centre is
well-supported by Christians and a number of activities for older
members of the village are run and paid for by volunteers.
Walks and Local Countryside
Lower End Bridge, just south-west of the village centre, marks the
eastern edge of the Ham Meadow section.
Ham Meadow, south-west of the village centre, through which flows the
Wombourne Railway Station on the South
Staffordshire Railway Walk.
A number of important footpaths cross Wombourne, constituting an
important leisure amenity as well as providing safe access to the
village and surrounding countryside for walkers and cyclists.
Wom Brook Walk
Main article: Wom Brook
Signpost for the Wom brook Walk at Wombourne, Staffordshire
Wom Brook Walk is a
Local Nature Reserve entirely within the
boundaries of the village. It stretches for about 1.5 miles
(2.6 km) along both sides of the Wom Brook, traversing the
village from east to west. It contains a mix of meadow and woodland.
It was established after some years of work by a local conservation
group, the Friends of Wom Brook. There has been great excitement over
the arrival of Wombourne's very first Little Egret in October/November
2010. It was seen hunting and roosting around the Wombrook on a number
of occasions and Daniel Traynor captured the very first image of the
bird which was later shown in the Parish News.
Staffordshire Railway Walk
Main article: South
Staffordshire Railway Walk
Staffordshire Railway Walk is another Local Nature Reserve.
It follows the course of the former
Wombourne Branch Line, traversing
Wombourne from north to south, before swinging east towards
Dudley. It intersects with the
Wom Brook Walk at the western end of
Ham Meadow. To the north, it connects with the
Walk, affording a pedestrian route into
Wolverhampton via the Smestow
Valley LNR. The former
Wombourne station at the
Bratch has car parking
facilities, as well as a café and information.
Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal
The tow path of the
Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal also runs
north-south through the western part of Wombourne, roughly parallel
with the South
Staffordshire Railway Walk and intersecting with the
Wom Brook Walk at Giggetty. It forms part of a conservation area and
can be followed as far as
Stourport on Severn
Stourport on Severn to the
Stafford to the north. It is said that
once a year the phantom ghost train runs through Wombourne, with many
of the local residents claiming they have both seen and heard
As well as the walks in or passing through Wombourne, there are also
many country parks and places to walk in the surrounding area
including: Baggeridge Country Park, Highgate Common,
Himley Hall and
Wombourne is part of a two-tier local government structure, typical of
rural county areas in England.
It is situated within the district of South Staffordshire. This is
based in Codsall, to the north of Wombourne, although it has district
offices locally. It was established in 1974 by the merging of Seisdon
Rural District, to which
Wombourne had belonged, with
Wombourne consists of three district council wards, each
represented by three councillors:
Wombourne North and Lower Penn;
Wombourne South West;
Wombourne South East.
Staffordshire itself is contained within the county of
Staffordshire. This was established as an administrative county in
Wombourne constitutes a single division in County Council
Staffordshire – Wombourne.
Wombourne also has a parish council. This was originally established
in 1894 and took its present form in 1974.
Wombourne is part of the South
constituency, which is not coterminous with the district of the same
name. It is also part of the large West Midlands, which has seven
Before the local government reforms of the 19th century, the local
parish or vestry was both a civil and an ecclesiastical unit within
Seisdon Hundred of the historic county of Staffordshire. In
Victorian times, it became part of the
Seisdon Poor Law Union.
Wombourne's Member of Parliament is Gavin Williamson, who represents
Staffordshire constituency in the House of Commons after Sir
Patrick Cormack stepped down in the 2010 general election . He is a
Conservative. In elections to the European Parliament,
part of the very large West Midlands constituency which is represented
by a total of seven MEPs: 3 Conservative, 2 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat
and 1 UK Independence Party. All nine of Wombourn's district
councillors are Conservative and the district council is
National Express West Midlands
National Express West Midlands bus routes 255, 256, 255s and 256s all
serve Wombourne, with the 255s and 256s serving Ounsdale High School
Staffordshire CC sponsored route 584 (operated by Arriva
Midlands. Timetables for these buses can all be found on the internet.
A bus route 254 served
Wombourne until it was discontinued in 2010.
There used to be a railway line but this closed to passenger
services in 1932. Also, this area is near the main A449 road.
There are four primary schools in Wombourne; Westfield, St.
Bernadette's R.C., Blakeley Heath and St. Benedict Biscop. There is
also a secondary school, Ounsdale High School, that takes many of the
local primary schools pupils on. Students also come from local areas
on coach and bus services to the school. There is also Cherry Tree's
special school and Adult Education centres operating in several
locations around the village, including
Ounsdale High School and the
A small Sainsbury's supermarket was completed in spring of 2010,
following a fierce campaign by villagers, led by Anna Owen, a resident
in the village for all of her life. Along with major road adaptations
to the B4176 and community investments such as a local free shuttle
bus. This was preceded by a long contest with Tesco to secure a site
and planning permission near the village. The supermarket is located
to the south of the village centre, just off the main road to
Bridgnorth, in an industrial estate.
Wombourne V.C. was founded in 1995 and currently competes in the West
Midlands Volleyball Association. The club has recently moved to train
and compete at the brand new Evolve building near
Dudley town centre.
At the conclusion of the 2015 season the club was named "Volleyball
England Club of the Year", topping competition from across
Civil parish population 2011". Retrieved 5 December 2015.
^ W. H. Duignan, Notes on
Staffordshire Place Names, Henry Frowde,
^ Margaret Gelling, Place-names in the Landscape, Dent, London, 1984,
ISBN 0-460-86086-0, p.17-18, 325
^ Viewed at
Staffordshire Past Track
^ William Pitt: A Topographical History of Staffordshire,
Newcastle-under-Lyme, 1817, p.187.
^ Catherine Frew and Arnold Myers, Sir Samuel Hellier's 'Musicall
Instruments', Galpin Society Journal, vol. 56, June 2003.
^ "Friends of Broadfield House". From the Stourbridge News, 18 May
2007[permanent dead link]
^ William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire,
^ Peter Hickman, The Remarkable Story of the Reverend William Dalton,
Wolverhampton History and Heritage Web Site, accessed 9 February 2014.
Staffordshire Council Web site,
Wom Brook Walk Friends Group
page, accessed 1 June 2009.
^ By rail to Wombourn, J. Ned Williams and students of Wulfrun
College, Uralia Press, 1969.
May Griffiths. Around
Wombourne in Old Photographs.
Wombourne What Was. 1990
Wombourne History Group). Made in Wombourne. Ellingham Press,
Wombourne History Group). "
Wombourne Worthies and those who were
not". Ellingham Press 2016
° Images of England:
Wombourne Compiled by Derek Thomas and John
Bowler (Tempus 2000)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wombourne.
Wombourne.net Local Website for Wombourne
Wombourne News Local Digital Newspaper for Wombourne
Staffordshire Past Track Maps, photos and historic documents for all
areas of the county.
Genuki page for Wombourne, with links to local history resources.
Staffordshire District Council
Wombourne Online Community Website for Wombourne
Ceremonial county of Staffordshire
Boroughs or districts
Burton upon Trent
See also: List of civil parishes in Staffordshire
Birmingham & Fazeley
Staffs & Worcestershire
Trent & Mersey
Wyrley & Essington
Grade I buildings
Grade II* buildings
Civil parishes of South Staffordshire
Staffordshire District Council
Acton Trussell, Bednall & Teddesley Hay
Blymhill and Weston under Lizard
Brewood and Coven
Lapley, Stretton and Wheaton Aston
Pattingham and Patshull