History of the Town
The origins of Hales Owen date back to Saxon times when a clan chief led his people through Midlands forests searching for a favorable settlement and found the area, surrounded by the River Stour, to be ideal. The first known record of the name Hales Owen is in the Domesday Book when a Norman scribe, writing in Latin, referred to the settlement as Hala. Hales Owen takes its name from a settlement named Hales, which added Owen when it was given to the then Prince of Wales, David ap Owen, by Henry II towards the end of the 12th century.
The present charter of the Borough was granted in 1936. Hales Owen sacrificed its own borough title again in 1974 when it came under the Dudley Metropolitan Borough wing following local government reorganisation. Until the end of the last century, the town’s staple trade was the manufacture of nails. It was a domestic industry as it was carried out in the backyard and usually involved the whole family.
Earlier this century, there were over 700 underground and surface colliery workers in the area. Coombes Wood was by far the largest colliery, dating back to 1893, and the peak was reached in 1919, with over 130 working mines. Even in modern day Hales Owen, several firms have their roots in the 19th century and go back five generations.
The proximity of Hales Owen to the expanding motorway network has, in recent years seen some major national organisations come to the town which was previously hard to reach. These include the regional headquarters of the AA and Barnardos. Some of the architecture in Halesowen, notably the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, date back to the early 13th century and the Norman period respectively. William Shenstone is buried in the parish churchyard, where the remains of an ancient cross are also kept. It used to stand in the Great Cornbow. Today, the town has a population of around 48,000 people.Leasowes Park
St John’s Church
The Leasowes is a landscape garden of national and international importance and is listed as Grade I by English Heritage. It was laid out as a garden by the poet William Shenstone between 1743 and 1763 and visitors to it from all over the world included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Wesley. Shenstone built temples, ruins, cascades, pools and waterways to highlight views in the park and the surrounding countryside. At the time The Leasowes was created, gardens elsewhere in Britain were still being laid out in formal designs with rigid lines of trees or hedges. The Leasowes, off Mucklow Hill, has been given a £1,306,500 Lottery grant to restore it to its original beauty and make it an international attraction again.
The parish church of Hales Owen was built in 1083 and was founded by Earl Roger de Montgomery. The building of the spire at St John’s Church started at the end of the 1th century and is shows evidence of Norman origin even though there have been many alterations to it. Several extensions were made to the church in the 14th and 15th centuries which account for the unusual position of the tower near the west end of the church. The chief interior features are the west doorway, Norman arches and the font under the tower. The Queensway church has a charity shop where it sells goods from developing countries including handicrafts, recycled paper, books and cards, The shop is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10.30am until 3.30pm.St Kenelm’s Church
An ancient tradition at a Romsley church is still believed today with people hanging ribbons near a well that is thought to have healing properties. St Kenelm’s Church is said to have been built near the site where the King of Mercia, Kenelm, was martyred. After his death he was buried under a thorn bush where later a spring of water sprung. The water had healing properties and the spot became a place of pilgrimage. The custom comes from the time when drinking and washing brought about physical healing. Bandages were left behind as a token of thanksgiving. People still believe in the custom today and hang ribbons to say a prayer for someone who is unwell. The water nowadays is not recommended to be drunk, applied to the eyes or to open wounds.Lapal Canal
Lapal Canal, in Leasowes Park was first built 200 years ago and acted as a thriving link to connect Halesowen to Birmingham and beyond. The 60 feet tall man-made earth embankment was originally the largest in the world. The five-mile long Lapal Canal tunnel from Manor Way to Selly Oak was one of the longest in the country. But when the scheme was first proposed at the end of the 18th century, more than 13,000 people wrote in protest. The canal tunnel, near Manor Way collapsed in 1917 and in 1960 an accident caused the water to flow out and flood nearby factories on Mucklow Hill below. This prompted the Lapal Canal Trust to be formed which aims to once again link the 11 mile stretch with the rest of the nations canal network.Haden Hill Park
Haden Hill Park, Cradley Heath, is being given a major facelift to be restored to its former glory thanks to a more than £2m lottery grant. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s urban parks programme awarded £2,151,000 to the park which will help restore the Victorian listed buildings and protect the park’s long term future. The cash will also go to repairing footpaths, water features and working on the woodland. The historic 900-year-old estate was presented to Sandwell Council for public use 60 years ago. Sandwell’s education chairman cllr Bill Thomas said: ‘‘The park can now be restored to its former glory for the benefit of people in Sandwell and beyond. ‘‘We are looking forward to working with the users’ group and the friends of Haden Hill to give future generations a wonderful inheritance.’’Hales Owen Abbey
Hales Owen Abbey dates back to 1215, the site being granted by King John to French monks For over 300 years, the monks controlled around 4,000 hectares of land around Halesowen and ruled the area with a rod of iron. An uprising was staged against the Abbot who forced Halesowen people to pay a series of taxes. The site, in Manor Way, acted as not only a place of worship, but a court, a fish farm and mill. It was also a money spinning stop off point for pilgrims to the neighbouring St Kenelm’s spring. The comfortable lifestyle was only ended by the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century, leaving the buildings in ruins. The abbey ruins are open to the public at weekends in the summer by Hales Owen Abbey Trust.
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