Aerial view (of part)
The manufacturing base here for Caterpillar Inc.
Great Wyrley shown within Staffordshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||South Staffordshire|
Great Wyrley // is a civil parish and large village in the district of South Staffordshire, England, at the extreme south of the Staffordshire border with the metropolitan borough of Walsall, West Midlands. It had a population of 18,353 at the 2011 census.
The word "Wyrley" derives from two Old English words: wir and leah. Wir meant "bog myrtle" and leah meant "woodland clearing", suggesting that Great Wyrley was at genesis sparse woodland or marshland. "Great" merely refers to its dominant size over Little Wyrley.
Great Wyrley is mentioned in the Domesday Book under the name of Wereleia, and as early as 1086 is said to have been indirectly owned by the Bishop of Chester St John's as part of the "somewhat scattered holdings" of the Church of Saint Chad in Lichfield. Some 480 acres of farming land were, assumingly, evenly distributed between Wyrley and nearby Norton Canes. However, all six dependencies of Saint Chad had been labelled as "wasta", which meant they had been abandoned by the time the Domesday Book was made.
- Lord of the Manor
Manorialism continued for a long period and the current holder of the rights to the feudal title of Great Wyrley Manor is the freeholder of Sneyd Farm, Essington, Staffordshire, having acquired the title deeds from the Duke of Sutherland in 1989. There is considerable documentation (dating from 1397) relating to this very large manor in terms of land currently in the safekeeping of Staffordshire libraries.
In former times the town was a mining village — The Great Wyrley Colliery — with metalworking (such as for nails, agricultural implements and horseshoes) in outlying areas. The Wyrley and Essington Canal passes nearby.
In 1848 Samuel Lewis included the settlement in his gazetteer and stated it had:
- 799 inhabitants and 1600 acres, of which the Duke of Sutherland owned part;
- Several collieries[n 1];
- The road from Walsall to Cannock passing through the village, long, and consisting of detached houses;
- In 1844, Great Wyrley it formed with Cheslyn Hay a new ecclesiastical district, having a population of 1,753;
- A church (St. Mark's), a highly finished structure in the early English style, built 1845, at a cost of £2430, of which sum £1200 was given by the Rev. William Gresley, prebendary of Lichfield; the remainder was raised by subscription, aided by £333 from the Diocesan, and £250 from the Incorporated Society;
- A perpetual curacy; patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield;
- A school, purchased from the Independents (Nonconformists), was opened in 1843 which cross-references the gazetteer entry Cannock.
In 1876 Shapurji Edalji was appointed Vicar of Great Wyrley; he served until his death forty-two years later. A Parsi convert to Christianity from Bombay, he may well have been the first South Asian to become the incumbent of an English parish.
The 'Great Wyrley Outrages'
In 1903 the place was the scene of the "Great Wyrley Outrages", a series of slashings of horses, cows and sheep. In October a local solicitor and son of the parson, George Edalji, was tried and convicted for the eighth attack, on a pit pony, and sentenced to seven years with hard labour. Edalji’s family had been the victims of a long-running campaign of untraceable abusive letters and anonymous harassment in 1888 and 1892-5. Further letters in 1903 alleged he was partially responsible for the outrages and caused the police suspicion to focus on him.
Edalji was released in 1906 after the Chief Justice in Bahamas and others had pleaded his case. But he was not pardoned, and the police kept him under surveillance. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame was persuaded to "turn detective" to prove the man's innocence. This he achieved after eight months of work. Edalji was exonerated by a Home Office committee of enquiry, although no compensation was awarded.
Local myth remembers the Outrages to have been enacted by "The Wyrley Gang", although Conan Doyle believed that they were the work of a single person, a local butcher's boy and sometime sailor called Royden Sharp. Ironically, Conan Doyle’s suspicion was based on circumstantial evidence. It was an over-reliance on this type of evidence which had resulted in Edalji’s flawed conviction.
Poison pen letters in the name of the "Wyrley Gang" continued for another twenty-five years, but these were subsequently discovered to have been posted from outside the town by Enoch Knowles of Wednesbury, who was arrested and convicted in 1934.
In popular culture
This case has been related or retold:
- Conan Doyle's The Story of Mr. George Edalji (1907, expanded re-issue in 1985).
- 1972 BBC anthology series The Edwardians: Arthur Conan Doyle (one episode) centres on his involvement in the Edaji case. Written by Jeremy Paul and directed by Brian Farnham, it stars Nigel Davenport as Conan Doyle, Sam Dastor as George Edaji, and Renu Setna as the Reverend Edaji.
- Arthur & George by Julian Barnes (2005), nominated that year for the Man Booker Prize. In 2010, Arthur & George was adapted for the theatre by David Edgar.
- A comprehensive non-fictional account Conan Doyle and the Parson's Son: The George Edalji Case by Gordon Weaver (2006).
- In Roger Oldfield's book Outrage: The Edalji Five and the Shadow of Sherlock Holmes, Vanguard Press (2010), the case is set within the context of the wider experiences of the Edalji family as a whole. Oldfield taught history at Great Wyrley High School.
The village has the unusual attribute of being within the historic "Metropolitan Borough of Walsall" which has wider boundaries than those of the administrative Borough of the same name, however this grants it certain rights and privileges not enjoyed by the administrative district South Staffordshire: chiefly the possibility of ceremonial visits of the mayor and the right for local honours, such as to become an honorary freeman or alderman of Walsall to be awarded to residents of Great Wyrley.
There are two representatives on Staffordshire County Council, conservatives Kath Perry and Mike Lawrence whose physically large ward is called Cheslyn Hay, Essington and Great Wyrley. There are five representatives on South Staffordshire District Council:
|2005||Brian Bates||Great Wyrley|
|1987||Janet Johnson||Great Wyrley|
|2007||Raymond Perry||Great Wyrley Landywood|
|1995||Kathleen Perry||Great Wyrley|
|2007||Kathleen Williams||Great Wyrley Landywood|
Great Wyrley can be divided into two South Staffordshire wards: "Great Wyrley" and "Great Wyrley Landywood," the latter being home to the slightly more southern area of Landywood. However, the settlement of Little Wyrley lies within the parish of Norton Canes — a nearby village.
Great Wyrley has three primary schools and one high school.
- Landywood Primary School
- St Thomas More Primary School
- Moat Hall Primary School
- Great Wyrley Performing Arts High School
Great Wyrley economically is largely a dormitory for commuters to Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and as a midpoint between Birmingham and Stafford, or Walsall and Cannock more locally; by the parish boundaries are junctions T7 on the M6 Toll motorway and 11 of the M6.
- Railway History
- Arriva Midlands route 1
- Arriva Midlands route 2
- Arriva Midlands route 68 and
- Arriva Midlands Route 69.
||Wedge's Mills, Saredon||Bridgtown, Cannock||Norton Canes|
|Cheslyn Hay (contiguous)||Little Wyrley
|Essington||Newtown (small hamlet in Essington parish)
|Pelsall Wood and Pelsall|
Notes and references
- "largely employing the population around." Per Lewis, below.
- ward and town populations Staffordshire County Council, retrieved 2013-04-02
- Etymology and History at Roman-Britain.org
- Etymology and History at Roman-Britain.org
- Wyrley - entry in translated Norman script Domesdaymap.co.uk. Great and Little are suggested by the text and this historical maps specialist to be one.
- Samuel Lewis (editor) (1848). "Wyke - Wyvill". A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
- Weaver, Gordon. "Conan Doyle and The Parson's Son". The Plebeian. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
- The Times 7 November 1934
- Info on the stage adaption of "Arthur & George" at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre's website
- "Council Members". South Staffordshire District Council. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Staffordshire County Council website showing South Staffordshire ward boundaries
- Results on "Google Maps"
- Arriva Bus Routes 68, 69 and 70
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Great Wyrley.|
- Conan Doyle and the Parson's Son: The George Edalji Case
- The Parish of Great Wyrley
- Wyrley Wide Web (community site)
- George Edalji
- Great Wyrley Community Band