Fact: Book Review: Stewponey Countryside by Frances E. Campbell

My current read. #history #old # fogie

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For a freebie (my mom loaned this to me after I questioned how the Stewponey acquired it’s name) this book has the potential to cost me a lot of money. You see the Stewponey is an area within our locality which used to house a coaching inn/Christmas party venue – depending on your outlook. The inn and round-a-bout have since been demolished and replaced with a swanky housing estate and complicated traffic light system. This book recounts some of the history of this area and spreads a little further afield to cover the areas of Dunsley, Prestwood, Stouton, Kinver, Whittington, the River Stour, Wolverley, Iverley, Enville, Dudley Castle, Hagley Hall and Clent.

I have to admit it’s the chapters on Kinver which have the potential to bankrupt me. This pretty little village, complete with National Trust park (Kinver Edge and it’s associated Rock Houses) has always held an idyllic charm to me. I remember as a child catching the bus to Kinver with my Grandparents. We would visit the bakery in the village and then make our way up the Edge were we would have a picnic of the freshest ham sandwiches followed by a scrumptious cake. We’d then walk to the very top of the Edge and take in the view before making our way down through the woods and then possibly playing some ball games on the open grassland there. My Nan used to recount how she once had to shield my childish eyes from a naked man who was loitering in the woods during one visit. She obviously did a sterling job of this as I have no recollection of it!

Even now I love going to Kinver. It’s quaint and maybe a little twee. Small local businesses still prosper. People know each other and make small talk as they run errands. It’s got a proper olde worlde charm about it. Yet, and this is the important thing for a townie like me, it’s not too far from civilisation, with large towns a short drive away and ample supermarkets in the vicinity. I love the place and often dream of living there. Thumbing through the pages of this book only increased that desire.

Now this book is never going to have mass appeal. To be honest you’re only likely to pick it up if you’re from the local area and curious about its history. Even then, you’re probably going to thumb through this book and only stop on pages which interest you. I would say it was written by a hobbyist. It’s also now quite old (it was originally published in 1966, with a second impression in 1979), so some of the references to ‘this is now…’ are probably very out of date. Certainly Dunsley Hall is now an exclusive hotel, wedding venue and restaurant which wouldn’t have even been dreamt of when the ink was drying in this guide.

If you are interested in the local history of the area it’s worth a glance, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to get your hands on a copy. There are some interesting stories and ‘oh I didn’t know that’ instances but often the stories appear to be disjointed and long-winded. Reading about the history of the Foley family interested me, as did the section on the now long-defunct Kinver Light Railway. There were also some interesting facts about Dudley Castle. But, alas, I’m still none the wiser as to why the Stewponey received it’s slightly odd moniker – there are a number of theories which the book explores, but no definitive answer. In the age of Google you do feel that you could find all the facts displayed on these pages in a more succinct manner.

Fabulous rating: 1.5./5

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