Coronation Street: a Centenary History

The centre of Highley is dominated by 3 brick terraces: Coronation Street, Orchard Street and Barke Street. These were built at the turn of the Century to house miners at the local pits. Coronation Street was built in 1901 and was named after the Coronation of King Edward VII. It shares many features with the famous fictional TV street (for example a pub on the corner and a shop. Like the TV street, it has been the home to many characters including, for many years, an Annie Walker!. What follows is a brief history of the Streets.

Coronation Street was built on a patch of land called Corbett’s Meadow. At the bottom end of the Street both the pub (the Bache Arms, originally called the New Inn) and the shop (Glen Cottage) predate the street and may have been built in the late 18th Century, although they are now much altered. There may also have been a large medieval or Tudor farmhouse behind the Bache and Glen Cottage but this vanished by about 1820.

With the coming of the Highley Mining Company in the late 1870s, the village grew rapidly in size. By the end of the 19th Century more houses were desperately needed by the Company. Via a subsidiary called the Highley Land and Building, they purchased land in the village centre. Orchard Street was built first, then Coronation Street, then Barke Street. A large tank at the top of Coronation Street supplied water to standpipes for the houses; beneath the tank there was a property repair workshop. (The tank was secondhand, having been made in 1866).

The houses in Coronation Street had a front room, a kitchen and a back kitchen downstairs. Upstairs were bedrooms. The front room was usually the best room. The back kitchen was where most work took place; it had a cooking range and a boiler for heating water. The kitchen also had a cooking range with a built-in boiler. The front room and (some) bedrooms had fireplaces. Outside was a (large!) coalhouse whilst at the far end of the yard was an earth privy with a seat made of polished pine. There was one ash pit per two houses. As turn-of-the-century workers’ houses, they would have been considered quite reasonable; certainly much better than the old agricultural labourers' cottages that made most of the rest of the villages housing stock. Water was fetched and stored in enamel buckets covered with wooden lids. Although only a single standpipe served the whole of the north side of Coronation Street, this was probably more convenient than a walk to a well to draw water of uncertain quality. Keeping the fires going for heat, warm water and cooking would have been hard work but the miners got plenty of concessionary coal. The privies were emptied once a week by the horse-drawn "chariot". The houses were lit by candles or oil lamps. There were no gardens but within a few years many men had allotments. The houses were rented to miners.

Although life in the streets was comfortable enough when the houses were first built, they were made to look primitive by houses built before the Great War elsewhere in Highley. Modernisation had to wait over half a century. Piped water indoors did not arrive until the early 1950s and water closets were a later still innovation.

The New Inn/Bache Arms and Glen Cottage

The New Inn seems to have been rebuilt around the turn of the century. Under the long tenure of the Bache family it became one of Highley’s institutions. In the back yard the late Dr Wilkins built a wooden hut to serve as surgery for the village; previously his village patients had had to use a hut behind the present chip shop. Dr Wilkins’s surgery remained in use until the 1970’s.

Glen Cottage was also extensively rebuilt and became a grocer's shop owned by the Whittle family. When the coach business started, the yard at the back was used as the garage, as well as serving as the stables for the horse for grocery business’s delivery float. Subsequently the shop passed to Bernard Price before becoming part of Bob Cowley’s garage. Many will remember the petrol pump that stood outside the shop.

The Highley Family

If you are called Highley, then there is a good chance that you came from Highley in the Middle Ages. The name of Highley itself has changed over the years. In the original Anglo Saxon, it would have been something like Hugesleah, meaning the woodland clearance belonging to Huga. Huga is thought to be the name of a Saxon who first controlled the village (although this is largely supposition); the woodland clearing makes sense as even today Highley is on the edge of the Wyre Forest. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it is “Hugelei”, this passes through Huggelegh and Huggeley to Higley by the 16th century. Highley only appears in the middle of the 19th century.

Surnames as we know them did not become common until the 14th century. Most people with the “Highley” family name would have been individuals who moved from Highley to another village and then were referred to as “so and so of Highley” as a nickname. Nicknames have a habit of passing from father to son and eventually “Highley” (or its medieval equivalent) would stick as a surname. In medieval records we can occasionally glimpse individuals originating from Highley. In 1203 Alexander de Hugeley was fined half a mark for giving false evidence in a court case. In 1303/4 John de Huggeleye left his estates at Clunton in the west of Shropshire to fight with King Edward I in Scotland. However, he was accused of robbery, imprisoned and assaulted in Clun Castle and the corn from his estates stolen.

The village of Highley was owned by the powerful Mortimer family for most of the Middle Ages, but for a period they granted Highley to one of their retainers and his family. This family took their name from the village. We first hear of them in the reign of King Stephen, at the end of the 1140’s. William de Hugeley was Lord of the Manor and owned the church; it had probably been not long before, perhaps by William or his father. William was provided to donate the church to the Abbey of Wigmore, newly founded by Hugh de Mortimer, William’s overlord. William had at least one son called Elias and four daughters. In 1175/6 Elias owned land along the Welsh borders but he was dead by 1203. At least part of Elias’s share of the manor passed to his youngest sister, Sybil on his death. One of the other sisters was called Ceclia and her son was William de Wudeton (or Wootton); her grandson was Robert de Wootton. The names of the other two sisters are unknown, but one had a son called William de Burley and the other had two daughters called Christiana and Margery de Chabbenore.

When Sybil de Hugeley died in about 1220, civil war appears to have broken out in the family, with her nephews and nieces all claiming her share of the manor. It fell to Hugh de Mortimer, the overlord of Highley to try and sort out the problem. He sent a knight to Highley to hear the case but this achieved nothing. He then gave the entire inheritance to Robert de Wootton on the understanding that Robert would divide it amongst the rest of the family. Robert went to fight in Ireland for a year and made no attempt to give anything to the rest of his family. On Robert’s return from Ireland, Hugh forced him to subdivide the manor as originally agreed. In 1225, Hugh alleged that both Robert and his cousin Margery had not paid their services to him for their shares of Highley and he threw them both out. They took Hugh de Mortimer to court and were restored to their lands.

By 1228 the whole of Highley was owned by Robert de Wootton and another knight, Roger be Burwardsley. The manor later passed entirely to Alice, daughter of Robert, but by 1300 it was directly controlled by the Mortimer family and this remained the situation for the rest of the Middle Ages.

Today in Highley, the chief surviving monument from these times is the church; large parts of this structure date from the period when William de Huggeley granted it to Wigmore. The Manor House is close by; although the present building is probably Tudor it is probably built on the site of William’s dwelling. There is also a medieval vicarage next to the church. Another link with the past is the village mill; probably granted to the White Ladies of Brewood by one of Huggeley sisters.