Wonderful Wolverhampton

Situated about ten miles north of Wolverhampton, the land on which the village stands was given to the Bishop of Lichfield as a private hunting reserve in 1153 by King Henry II. The wood, predominantly oak, was still producing timber up to 1538. In the present day all that remains are four small woods or copses with names, Paradise Wood, Cream Pots, Pit Graves Hill, and Wet Hayes.

The Benedictine priory was established at Black Ladies by the Bishop of Lichfield, Roger de Clinton, in 1130. This was dissolved by King Henry III in 1538, and one year later purchased by the Giffard family of Chillington Hall in whose hands it remained until 1919. The original Norman buildings were replaced with a new priory in the early 16th century, and much of the fabric of that building is incorporated in the present house. In 1651 Black Ladies was garrisoned by Oliver Cromwell's men, who were searching the surrounding areas for King Charles II after the Battle at Worcester. Piercing the ricks of hay with their lances in their search they gave rise to the present day name of Pearce Hay Farm. The chapel at Black Ladies was in use for services until 1944.

In documents of 1680 Bishop's Wood was described as a little village consisting of a few scattered cottages encroaching onto the common land. This common was not enclosed until 1844. It was mainly a farming community with carpenters, blacksmith, wheelwright, shoemakers and other associated crafts. The area has long been noted for its damsons which were used for not only jam but also for dye in the First World War.

In the early 19th century, Miss Evans of Boscobel started two schools, one for Protestants and one for Roman Catholics: these were held in cottages at Park Pales and the common. In 1854 the first church school was built, three years after the church of St John the Evangelist. The present day altar was carved by a local craftsman Harry Onions in around 1950.

Bishop's Wood stands on what was once known as the highest tableland in the Midlands, and the base of the church is the same height as the spire of Brewood church. Uninterrupted views across to Cannock Chase to the east are enjoyed, and to the west can be seen the Wrekin. On the outskirts of the village is the Belvide Reservoir, widely recognised as a major bird reserve.

The present day village has changed in character, and with the building of some 200 houses in the early 1960s the population has increased to approximately 600. This necessitated the building of anew school, which was opened in 1969. There are still a number of working farms, although it is now more of a commuter village.

The Church Farm, originally called Church Stud Farm and Livery Stable, now has an arena which is on the National Show Jumping Circuit, and frequently sees top international riders, including Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

The village information above is taken from The Staffordshire Village Book, written by members of the Staffordshire Federation of Women's Institutes and published by Countryside Books. Click on the link Countryside Books to view Countryside's range of other local titles.