Saturday, 19 June 2010

Wednesbury - "the worst place in the world"(?)

Wednesbury is a small town located in between Walsall (where I currently live) and Dudley (where I grew up) and was once described by jean wearing, mullet haired TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson as "the worst place in the world" (so make of that what you will). It certainly isn’t the prettiest of places but then again the Black Country isn’t generally noted for its attractive scenery.

If the place name seems oddly familiar it may be because you’ve seen it from the M6 motorway. If you can tear your eyes away from the glass fronted RAC building or Walsall FC’s Bescot Stadium with its enormous billboard and glimpse in the opposite direction you may spot in the distance the parish church of St Bartholomew crowning the highest point in Wednesbury, possibly on a site once sacred to the Saxon god Woden. So if you are ever stuck in traffic on the M6 near Junctions 8, 9 and 10 (which is quite likely most days) here are some interesting facts (and a fair few boring ones) about Wednesbury to help pass the time.

A useful shibboleth is that the place name is pronounced “Wenz-bur-ree” similar to how Wednesday is spoken. If anyone says “Wed-nes-bury” point at them and laugh.

The town of Wednesbury is one of the oldest in the area, the probable site of an iron age fort (burgh) or hill (barrow). Wednesbury is reputed to have been fortified by Ethelflaed, daughter of King Alfred, in 916 to protect the borders of the Kingdom of Mercia from Viking raids.

The Domesday Book describes ‘Wednesberie’ as a manor consisting of ploughland and meadows surrounded with dense woodland. ‘Colepits’ are known to have been dug by 1315 and the industrial development of the town began.

With ‘Wednesbury Forge’ established in 1597 and pottery, including the renowned ‘Wedgebury’ ware, produced in bulk from the 1400s Wednesbury was perhaps the most important and wealthiest manufacturing town in the West Midlands before the Industrial Revolution

William (Lord) Paget, Secretary of State for Henry VIII and a Knight of the Garter order was born in the town.

During the English Civil War men of the Shropshire milita heading towards the siege of Dudley castle shot a local after he refused to tell them where the nearest pub was. Speaking of which, the oldest pub in the town is Ye Olde Leathern Bottel, in Vicarage Road, which is believed to date from 1510. They keep their beer well but it is surprisingly expensive for the area.

Just north-west of Junction 10 was the location of Bentley Hall where, on 9th September 1651, Charles II stayed after his defeated at the battle of Worcester. Nothing remains of the Hall but its location is now indicated by a cairn.

John Wesley, the famous Methodist preacher, was beaten up there (several times, in fact) but also preached to Francis Ashby (one of the founders of Methodism in America).

Artist and muse Kathleen Garman was also born in the town. She married the famous sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. This is one of the main reasons that the couples’ personal art collection is now in a purpose built £21million gallery in nearby Walsall.

The local museum has a very nice collection of Ruskin Pottery. The factory itself was in Smethwick. There is also a sword which belonged to John Ashley Kilvert of the 11th Hussars. It was used by him during the Charge of the Light Brigade on 25th October 1854 during the Crimean War. He was wounded at the battle and left in a ditch until nightfall, when he was discovered nearly frozen to death. He was taken to Scutari Hospital where Florence Nightingale was in charge of the nursing staff. Settling in Wednesbury after retiring from the army, he was elected Mayor of the town in 1905.

And finally, for any sporting anorak types, Wednesbury Rugby Union Club is home of the tallest posts in the world at 38.26m. Yep, that’s just over 125ft high.

I only mention all this because on one of the many day trips taken by my brother and myself during May was a visit to Tewkesbury, Gloucestshire. A definite must see is Tewkesbury Museum that contains an excellent model of the late medieval battle in May 1471. In a happy coincidence I spotted a local knight’s banner/shield - that of Sir Henry Beaumont II of Wednesbury. I only recognised the name because it was mentioned on an excellent website dedicated to the Battle of Blore Heath. I’d been looking at names of local knights that had fought alongside, or against, Lord Dudley at that battle and one of these was Henry Beaumont.

Model of the battle at Tewkesbury Museum (Beaumont's banner is the sixth from the right)

After looking at the site again I read that is believed that a Henry Beaumont may (note the word ‘may’) have fought at Blore Heath in 1459, although I assume this was Henry senior as the younger Beaumont would have only been in his early teens (approx. 13) and therefore legally too young to fight. Medieval families had the unfortunate habit of giving the oldest male the same Christian name as his father so it gets very confusing trying to trace anyone though the period, the Beaumont’s were related through marriage to Lord Dudley’s through one of his daughters.

Henry Beaumont of Wednesbury's Banner (based on information at Tewkesbury museum)
Henry Beaumont II, knighted after the battle of Tewkesbury, fought on the Yorkist side for Edward IV. Beaumont died in November of the same year, aged 25 (possibly from injuries?).

So although it definitely isn’t worth visiting for a day trip or probably even for a motorway break, Wednesbury certainly isn’t the ‘worst place in the world.’

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

ECW Covenanter Command Group

After what seems an age, I've finally completed these figures from Renegade. After painting them I looked through my growing collection of ECW flags for a suitable match. Spotting 'COV 9 - DUKE OF HAMILTON'S REGIMENT' by Body Banners from Redoubt Enterprises, I decided to use these with this set which I'd picked up at the Derby Wargaming Show back in October of last year. I saw the Hamilton description and assumed it was for the William Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Hamilton who died during the battle of Worcester, although after checking their website I realised that they actually represent the flags of his equally ill-fated older brother General Sir James Hamilton 1st Duke of Hamilton. I can only assume that his brother would have carried a similar (if not the same) flag.
As I normally prepare flags on a spare spear/pike this has allowed me to swap and change the various flags I have. In the following images I have used flags taken from the following site Dux Homunculorum.

The Covenanter flags are designed and drawn by Alan to suit his 1/72 scale figures but I think they work perfectly for 1/56 (28mm) scale and, more importantly, they're free - bargain! They are easily as good, if not even better, as several others I have bought. There are more available on the site so it's definitely worth having a look.

"It may have been the colour of Colonel Sir Alexander Sutherland."

"Another ensign captured at Preston in 1648. This was the Colonel's colour for Lord Cranston's Regiment of Foot (the Edinburgh Levies)." Coincidently this is the same battle where James, the 1st Duke of Hamilton, was heavily defeated and later captured. 

Unfortunately the 15th Duke, Angus Alan Douglas-Hamilton, died on the 5th June 2010 at at the age of 71. His son, Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, now becomes the 16th Duke.

Monday, 14 June 2010


This day in history - Battle of Naseby 14th June 1645

Looking north across Broadmoor from the Parliament positions (location of battlefield monument).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Lord Dudley's Banner

After a recent trip to Tewkesbury I have been slightly distracted from one civil war to another, this time it’s the Wars of the Roses (WotR). The figure shown below is carrying the banner (heraldic flag) of John Sutton of Dudley; Lord Dudley to his friends. One of the more influential men in the in the mid/late 15th century Sutton is now largely ignored or forgotten outside of those interested in Dudley’s medieval history but I’ll post a more detailed account of Lord Dudley’s life once I have completed the unit.

I’ve had a long interest in the period (probably dating back to a classic Ladybird book on Warwick the Kingmaker I had as a child) so I was delighted when Perry’s announced their WotR plastic range. I immediately bought three boxes on their release late last year but I hadn’t planned to paint any just yet.

This figure has been standing on my desk for a while, challenging me to paint it. I started by block painting with GW Chainmail, then out of curiosity I used GW Asurmen Blue as the main wash rather than black. I used Badab Black wash for just the mail areas. The figure’s highlights where then picked out with Mithril Silver.

The original arm held a sword but I removed this and replaced it with a warhammer. The weapon is taken from the Warlord Games plastic Civil War cavalry set.

The flag is from ‘WRF 30 Flags, Lancastrian, Lords and Knight Blore Heath’ by Freezywater flags (available from Vexillia Limited) which I purchased from those nice chaps at the Lance and Longbow Society stand at the Alumwell wargames show (WMMS) way back in March (blimey, this year is really flying by!). The flag itself is printed in two plain colours so if you want high/low-lights then you're going to have to paint them yourself.

If you are ever in Warwick then be sure to visit the church of St. Mary’s to see the Beauchamp Chantry, it is probably the finest medieval chapel in England. I only mention this because if you look up at the south wall of the chapel you will notice several flags hanging above the tombs there. Amongst these is the distinctive flag of Lord Dudley – the same two tailed green lion rampant on a yellow background as shown here (Or a lion rampant double queued vert). To me it always appears to be relatively old fashioned for the late 15th century, compared to others, but the livery colours of green and yellow would certainly have been eye catching.