Hope Cottage……..some cottage!
June 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
The previous post about Eyland & Sons Limited concerned the family business but this post looks at their residence in Highgate Road.
Moses Eyland, the founder of the company lived in what is now Highgate Road but back then was known as Windmill Lane due to the close proximity of a windmill that still stands today. The windmill was built around 1770, it was worked for six years by Thomas Jennings from 1835, in 1841 it was advertised as being for sale. Moses duly bought the property and he also bought Hope Cottage. The windmill, which had been worked by James Griffiths who lived in the cottage opposite, ceased its primary function around 1866. It was around this same period that the son of Moses, Charles, who had been Mayor of the town in 1857-58, inherited the property and removed all of the mill machinery and furnished the top story where he enjoyed a quite smoke and no doubt the commanding views from his wonderful vantage point. Sometime between 1850-60 a new building replaced Hope Cottage and retained the name although this new property was as far from a cottage as one could get. The new Hope Cottage was a three storey property built-in an Italianate style with an imposing tower and extensive gardens, a very handsome property which I remember well from my boyhood days. It remained a private residence until around 1984 when this beautiful building was demolished. The criminal destruction of this handsome old house did have a positive side however, in 1988 Highgate became a conservation area so that buildings like this could be protected in the future. On the land that Hopelands occupied there now stands a block of flats, if in doubt, build a block of flats, the town’s answer to modernity!
The comment below in italics from Rebecca Lynall made me realise too just how much I enjoyed growing up around that area and how special it was. Although I grew up in somewhat less salubrious settings, actually a little terraced house at the bottom of Sandwell Street, it was a very happy childhood. I remember being taken down Gorway to watch the cricket by my granddad. Sitting there on warm summer afternoons with a bottle of pop, the hushed voices of the spectators, pipe smoke wafting around the ground, the sound of leather on willow, interspersed with the occasional “howzat”. Then the slow walk back home up Gorway Road for a crab tea, nan and granddad always had crab for tea with brown bread on Saturdays. As we walked along granddad would doff his white straw hat if a lady approached or a “good evening” to a man. Along Highgate Road, so many beautiful houses with “in out drives” as I called them, for me that was the epitome of affluence, then into Follyhouse Lane, down Vincent Street and onto Sandwell Street. If the football season was still on there was a slight detour to Mrs Russell’s paper shop on West Bromwich Street, by the bus stop, for a copy of the Pink ‘Un, the Sporting Star, with all the results, football, cricket and horses. Walking back up Sandwell Street and nearing home, a cry from the other side of the street, “how did they do today Mr Moseley” from Stanley Russell at 217 or Mr Broughton at 209, busy tending their front gardens. Up the top of the street I could hear some of my school pals playing a game of cricket with chalked wickets on the wall up by Georgie Wood’s house, not a car or care in sight.
Good days….except for when I did something wrong…..then they weren’t quite as good!
Having written and published this post a lady by the name of Rebecca Lynall made a very interesting, personal and articulate comment about the post. With Rebecca’s permission I reproduce it in its entirety below as I hope any future readers will find it as interesting as I did. I did jokingly make the comment to Rebecca “you supply the words I’ll supply the photographs and illustrations!”
I remember the Hope Cottage you refer to, or ‘Hopelands’ as I knew it, very well. I had the privilege of growing up next door to this magnificent house as I lived at ‘Sandylands’ which bordered the edge of the grounds of this property by Highgate Windmill (Our garden bordered where the glasshouses are shown on the second photograph above) Years after the Eyland’s, this wonderful house was acquired by the Shelley family. It was Jack Shelley who lived there, son of the former Mayor of Walsall. I do not know whether Edward Shelley used to live there too, I wouldn’t like to say, but I remember Jack himself, who ran Shelley’s Chemist in Caldmore, his sons Tony a magician and Jim a musician, and his beloved dog Brandy. After school, along with neighbouring children I would walk up Jack’s huge sweeping drive to Hopelands, which was painted a very pale green colour, and ring the doorbell.
It used to take Jack quite a while to get to the door. It was a large wooden door, but the interior door was stained glass. Jack would open the door, usually dressed in a three-piece suit with greased back hair and his trademark huge smile. “Can we take Brandy for a walk?” we would all chime. And off we would go round the block with the dog, who would huff and puff his/her way (I’m not sure even now whether it was a dog or a bitch!) around the block. When we delivered Brandy back Jack would say ‘wait there’, he would count how many of us there were and disappear again, this time down to his cellar, and return with a small bottle of fizzy pop each. Sometimes we would ask if we could play on his lawn, and we would be given 10 minutes. The lawns were beautiful. Jack had a grey haired gardener, I cannot remember his name but he did a good job.
On the first picture above, just beyond the croquet hoops used to be a stone-walled sunken garden. from there on the grounds fell away in a slope and I remember lying on my tummy and rolling down the lawns. The tennis courts were no longer there at this time (my recollections are late 70s early 80s), they were grown over with bushes and the driveway that extended down to the back of the windmill was adorned with millstones.
My parents were friends with Jack, but in particular my father was friends with Jim as they were both jazz musicians, Dad would go over to Hopelands to have a jazz session with Jim and the rest of the band.
Best of all was Christmas. The Shelley’s used to have an open house invitation on boxing day for friends and neighbours. I remember the inside of Hopelands, the Minton floor tiles and large wide doorways. To the right of the hall was a remarkable staircase which had an enormous stained glass window but I fail to recall now what scene it depicted.
On the first picture, the room with the bay was the lounge. In there was a grand piano, I remember playing on it. The house would be buzzing with people, drinks were poured from decanters and I vividly remember Jim’s Lagonda car parked outside.
Jack took the decision to sell Hopelands to Hardy’s builders, around mid eighties I think. I understand why. It was a large property to take care of. But I do happen to know that Jack sold the house on the understanding that Hopelands itself remained, and that 5 executive homes were to be built on the grounds. I know this because he discussed it with my parents. We know from history that this is not what happened, and that instead was built a complex of retirement apartments despite objection from the neighbours.Hopelands was demolished. My Mother sobbed when that house was demolished. The whole episode made her ill. Understandable when you go from living next to Hopelands to having 39 windows overlooking your garden. It was too much for my parents to bear and they subsequently moved out of the area.
The other person who was devastated was Jack Shelley himself. He moved to Park Hall, but after plans were passed for the apartments, he wrote a personal letter of regret to the residents of Highgate, his former neighbours which was published in the local paper. I cannot remember whether it was the Express and Star, Advertiser or the Chronicle. I am firmly of the opinion that Jack would never have sold Hopelands to Hardy’s had he have known truly what what they had intended to build.
My father died 5 years ago. Jim Shelley was too ill to attend my dad’s funeral so I paid him a visit at his home as they had been old friends. I had to smile when I walked into his house and saw a picture of Hopelands hanging on the wall and we did reminisce about the house, it is clear that it still holds very cherished memories for him too.
The article above touches upon the fact that since Hopelands was demolished, the area has become a conservation area.
In recent time I have considered moving ‘home’ and have paid a visit to Highgate. I did not see conservation in this area. I saw new build houses. I saw walls removed, boundaries gone and misused and the windmill looks in a very poor state to me, clearly nothing what so ever has been done to prevent it’s deterioration. And the houses in Highgate Road opposite the top of Belvidere Road look dreadful, cracked and missing rendering why on earth aren’t the council doing anything about it?
I note that currently both The Hawthornes in Highgate Drive and Highgate Brewery are up for sale, both of which are prominent buildings in the Highgate area. All that exists now of Hopelands is a wall which can be seen on Highgate Road, The entrance and exit of that sweeping drive remains, but that is all.
I sincerely hope it is not allowed to happen again.
Sources and credits:
We’m Gooin on Anuther Walk by Ann French.
The excellent personal comments by Rebecca Lynall.
The two images of the windmill and that of Hopelands were taken by Arthur Farrington.
Anyone interested in great aerial views of Walsall, and many other places, should visit the website shown below,