There are numerous suggestions for the derivation of the name Gornal. It could be from the Anglo-Saxon 'cweorn', or from Middle English 'quern', therefore Cweomhale, that is Mill Meadow, or Mill Valley. Some suggest Gor-on-al or 'sun worship'. But it could come from gorn or gwan, a small round tub with handles which was used to carry the wort during the brewing of beer. Beer has been brewed in Gornal for many generations.
This is a typical 19th century industrial landscape, between Wolverhampton and Dudley. People here are proud of their identity and the local dialect is thought by some to be descended from the Chaucerian English of the Middle Ages. The closure of the local pit in 1968 was a great blow to this close community.
St James' church at Lower Gornal was built between 1815 and 1823, and was enlarged and modernised at points throughout the century. St Peter's in Upper Gornal was built in 1840, and is the plainer and more utilitarian of the two.
In the latter part of the last century, there was much distress and hardship in Upper Gornal. An item from the parish records reads:
'January 1879. To alleviate the distress in this place, a meeting was convened by the Vicar the Reverend N. A. H. Lewis, and other influential gentlemen in the National Schools when it was proposed to have a soup kitchen. A committee was formed. Mr Jno Peacock offered his premises and undertook to make 100 gallons of soup twice a week which was accepted and has now been done to the great relief of many who appeared truly thankful for it.'
The soup and loaves were distributed at the Jolly Crispin Inn and the Green Dragon.
The village information above is taken from The West Midlands Village Book, written by members of the West Midlands 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.