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Tom King was by no means the only one to ply his trade on the neighbouring heaths of Barr, Pelsall, Brownhills and Aldridge.  Aldridge Heath, lying on the old road between Birmingham and Stafford, was particularly notorious.  It is recorded that on January 30th, 1703, the Shrewsbury coach was robbed there and three attorneys later the same day, though one of them managed to retain a refresher of twenty guineas by stuffing it into the toe of an old boot he had in his bag.  Next month two drovers, returning from Newcastle Fair were robbed and killed, and two days later the High Sheriff himself, returning from Lichfield, was robbed of sixty guineas.  That sealed the gang's fate, for the Sheriff had them hunted down and strung up just to "larn 'em".

In 1746 came John Wesley, on horseback across Aldridge Heath on his way from Birmingham to Stafford.  It was raining when he left Birmingham early one morning and by the time he had reached our perilous neighbourhood, always a tough nut for the "invader" to crack, it had turned to snow.  A cheerful native told Wesley it was a thousand pounds to a penny he wouldn't reach Stafford that day, for even on a clear day he was "not sure to go right across" the common.  But Wesley was no ordinary paratroop and at following a trail he must have been real hot stuff, for he records in his diary: "However we went on and I believe did not go ten yards out of our way till we came to Stafford".  No doubt he passed his map-reading proficiency test first time.

 

 

Brownhills Common and Pelsall Common are all that is left to remind us of those spacious days, and we are very glad to have them in our slice of Staffordshire.

Of notable buildings still standing, perhaps Rushall Hall is the most interesting.  The present hall, or a large part of it dates from 1402, though the site seems to have been occupied continuously since Anglo-Saxon times and in Domesday Book the Manor of Rushall was valued at ten shillings a year.  (Aldridge was worth fifteen shillings).  Rushall Hall played a lively part in the war between Charles and Parliament.  Both sides occupied it in turn, but the Royalists seem to have held it most of the time and used it as a sort of base depot for storing plunder taken from convoys passing between London and Lancashire.  Anyway when it was finally taken for Cromwell's side by the Earl of Denbigh, ably assisted by the then 32nd Battalion (!) and their Walsall comrades in arms, in May 1644, the recovered property was valued at 10,000.  No doubt the respective Comforts Funds benefited accordingly.

And so one could go on - about the Blue Hole and Linley Caverns (from which the Romans took limestone to build their fort at Wall on the Watling Street), about Frank James, Hobshole, Little Aston Hall, Shire Oak, Catshill, Bourne Vale - but perhaps I've said enough to convince all reasonable men that we of the 32nd have cause to be proud of the ground we defend.

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