Blakedown lies in the Green Belt, five miles south of Stourbridge and is part of the parish of Churchill with Blakedown. The parish is recorded in the Domesday Book.
A turnpike road linking Kidderminster and Birmingham built in 1777 ran through Blakedown. There was a toll house at its junction with the Belbroughton Road, and with the coming of the railway, the owner of the Spring brook forge at the bottom of Forge Lane, made a short cut from there to the station to avoid paying toll on his goods. He planted this with trees and it is still known as The Avenue. Then, the coming of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton railway (known as the ‘Old Worse and Worse’ owing to its unreliable rolling-stock) through Blakedown brought many changes. Churchill became a quiet rural backwater while Blakedown developed rapidly.
The village lay on the saltway and from Roman times this brought links with the outside world. It was also famous for its water and lakes, made by damming streams from the Clent hills, which brought industry to the area even before the advent of the railway. The water powered the many cornmills and ironworks (making spades, shovels, and in the world wars, bomb casings).
In the 1930s water also brought workers from Lancashire and Cumberland for two months each year. They came to cut willow and make clogs. The water and the willow are still here, but no cutters now come. Instead, the lakes are used for fishing and, weather permitting, skating. Perhaps much more important, year after year, the swans and geese are a regular sight for a few months as they fly out across the village each day to their own chosen spot, and fly back to roost each night.
From being a truly rural village the years have brought many changes, particularly since the last war, when American troops were stationed here. A new council estate for Kidderminster was built in 1950. Private estates grew as land was made available, so that the village is now almost a dormitory area for the stock-broker belt of Birmingham! Despite that it is still a close-knit community, with many newcomers bringing young families, which helps keep the Church of England School (First) active.
One of the oldest houses is Harborough Hall, built in the 1600s, and for some time occupied by William Penn (who founded Pennsylvania, USA). On part of the land has been built a fine Sports Centre. There are two active churches; one, the mother church, serving Churchill, and one, Blakedown. Lord Cobham holds the living in both cases – in earlier days, Blakedown was part of Hagley. Hagley Hall, Lord Cobham’s estate, is on the boundary and Lord and Lady Cobham and their sons maintain their link and interest.
Being so near to Kidderminster, the village has to watch its Green Belt status and the progress and growth of the motorways which surround it. The main Kidderminster-Birmingham trunk road runs straight through Blakedown, cutting the village in half and frequent repairs to the M5 mean that traffic is diverted through the village. Yet still it is surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful countryside. Steps have been taken to keep the many public rights of way fully open. There are ten pools in the vicinity, all of which are easily reached, several bridle paths, and the ‘walking is easy.
The village information above is taken from The Worcestershire Village Book, written by members of the Worcestershire Federation of Women’s Institutes and published by Countryside Books. Click on the link below to view Countryside’s range of other local titles.