Wonderful Wolverhampton

On the south-west boundary of Wolverhampton the dense housing suddenly gives way to open country. This is Green Belt land, holding in the great West Midlands conurbation and the parish of Lower Penn is its first bulwark.

Springhill Lane, leading from Upper Penn, which is within the Wolverhampton Borough, towards Seisdon, changes dramatically from suburban road to country lane before plunging through a sandstone cutting (The Rock) to form the village street of Lower Penn, now designated as a conservation area. Here is a minute triangular village green surrounded by established buildings, including a one-time malthouse, several substantial houses and the tiny church of St Anne, built as a mission church in 1888. Prior to that date the folk from Lower Penn had an uphill walk of more than two miles to worship at St Bartholomew's church in Upper Penn. St Anne's is beautifully cared for and still used regularly for Sunday worship. Until Lower Penn acquired a village hall, the church served this purpose too and was used for meetings, film shows and all other village activities.

Dirtyfoot Lane leads off the green, past Lower Penn Farm, the village's only listed building to Robin's Nest Farm. Its delightful name is no doubt connected with the spring that bubbles up constantly at the side of the road.

Just below the green, in a row of cottages, is the old smithy, later used as the village shop and post.office. The shop, alas, closed several years ago and the post-office, maintained in a private house, has now gone too.

A few hundred yards on, at the bottom of the hill is a crossroads, where stand the Greyhound public-house and the Victory Hall. This latter was erected in 1953 by the villagers themselves, using 2 army Nissen huts.

It is very well looked after and in recent years has won several awards for best-maintained and best-managed village hall.

The picturesque 17th century half-timbered Walnut Tree Cottage occupies the opposite corner and gives its name to the thriving Boarding Kennels and Cattery on the same site.

Farming is now, as always, the principal land use in the parish. In medieval times it was within the great Kinver Forest and would have been partly wooded, but there is very little evidence of that nowadays.

Farms and smallholdings are dotted round this extensive parish; two of particular historic interest are both still working farms. Trescott Grange, the oldest building in Lower Penn, dates from the 16th and is the third building on that site. The land was granted to monks from Coombe Abbey at the end of the 12th century by the then Lord of Lower Penn. Unfortunately its ancient barn is rapidly decaying. Furnace Grange, now a peaceful farm, was an early industrial site in the 17th century when its water-mill drove bellows to operate a blast furnace.

In various ways Lower Penn can be said to serve the needs of the surrounding area. Its two 'pubs' are much frequented by local townsfolk, its waterworks and pumping station serve other parts of the area too and the Staffordshire-Worcestershire canal which formerly carried vast quantities of freight, is now used solely for recreational purposes, mainly by outsiders. The parish also contains cricket fields, a rugby pitch and Wolverhampton Wanderers' training ground, all of which attract people from the town.

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.