Kinver is a large village in South Staffordshire district, Staffordshire, England. It is in the far south-west of the county, at the end of the narrow finger of land surrounded by the counties of Shropshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands. The nearest towns are Stourbridge in the West Midlands, and Kidderminster in Worcestershire. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal passes through, running close to the course of the meandering River Stour. According to the 2001 census Kinver had a population of 6,805.
The village today
The village has three schools: Foley Infant School, Brindley Heath Junior School and Edgecliff High School. The Infant school rings the home time bell 15 minutes before the Junior or High Schools. This is to allow the parents collecting children from both sites to cover the three quarters of a mile journey.
Kinver Edge comprises 280 acres of land owned by the National Trust and open to the public. To the south of this (in Worcestershire) is Kingsford Country Park. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal which runs through the parish is popular with boaters, particularly in the summer months.
Kinver has, at various times in the past, been spelt on maps and documents as: Kinfare, Kynfare, Chenfare, Chenevare and Cynefare. It is thought likely that it is a corruption of Cefn Fawr - a Welsh phrase meaning Big Ridge, featuring, as it does, a big sandstone ridge.
The hilltop church is on a very ancient site, and the current church, dedicated to St. Peter dates from the 12th century. The village High Street was laid out as the burgages of a new town by the lord of the manor in the late 13th century and was administered by a borough court, separate for the manorial court for the rest of the manor of Kinver and Stourton (known as Kinfare Foreign).
The main pub, The White Hart, dates from the 14th century, and the Anchor Hotel (now developed as housing) from the 15th Century. The Grammar School, although it closed as a school in 1915, is 16th Century.
Kinver was known for making sturdy woollen cloth, using the flow of the Stour for fulling mills and dyeing. The village also profited from being a stop on the great "Irish Road" from Bristol to Chester (until the 19th century, the port of embarkation for Ireland), the 'White Hart' being the oldest and largest inn.
Later, the river was used to power finery forges and from 1628 the first slitting mills, including Hyde Mill which has been claimed (incorrectly) as the earliest in England, though it certainly was among the earliest. There were five slitting mills in the parish by the late 18th century, more than any other parish in Great Britain. These slit bars of iron into rods to be made into nails in the nearby Black Country.
Stourton Castle figured notably in the history of the English Civil Wars.
In 1771 the area was opened up to trade by the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, built by James Brindley.
In Victorian and Edwardian times it was a popular Sunday day out for people from Birmingham and the Black Country, via a 1901 pole & wires tram extension that ran across the fields, the "Kinver Light Railway".
The nailshops and forges ceased work around 1892, and local ironworks are thought to have all closed in about 1912 or 1913.
According to local eye witness accounts, a panther may roam the woods and fields of Kinver. It is believed this so-called 'Beast of Kinver' was once kept as a pet but was released into the wild when new laws restricting the keeping of wild animals were introduced in the 1960s.
The larger Witch's Tree at the base of the Edge is also renowned for various visions and sightings. This was believed to be the central location for the Witch trials in the area and several women were believed to be hanged for witchcraft and heresy.
Other myths and legends include the sightings of many ghosts and spirits, especially around the area of the Scout Camp which is situated between the Edge and St Peter's church. Ghosts here include the mysterious Lottie who was kidnapped from the nearby village in the mid-1850s but escaped her captors only to be chased over the Edge before her footprints mysteriously disappeared from the snowy track.
There are also rumors of a girl who roams the local streets for drink and narcotics. Name unknown, the girl is thought to be in her early 20's and has a serious injury to her left leg.
According to local claims, the Whittington Inn was formerly Whittington manor house, built in 1310 by Sir William de Whittington, a knight at arms and grandfather of Richard Whittington, upon whose life the pantomime character Dick Whittington is based.
These claims are in fact unfounded: Dick Whittington (q.v.) came from Gloucestershire. The Whittington Inn was merely a farmhouse belonging to a freeholder of the manor of Whittington. The 18th-century manor house was undoubtedly Whittington Hall (now Whittington Hall Farm). This belonged to the lords of the manor, and probably had done so since the medieval period.
A note on the above: Though Richard Whittington was born in Gloucestershire, his grandfather came from Staffordshire where he was a knight-at-arms. It was only after William de Whittington's marriage to Maud/Matilda de Solers (heir of Pauntley in Glouc.) that the family moved to Gloucestershire. Therefore it is entirely possible that the Whittington Inn was indeed a home built by William de Whittington.
Kinver Light Railway
Kinver Light Railway, an innovative electric light tramway opened on the 4th April 1901 and helped establish the local tourism industry. However, as buses became more popular during the 1920s, it was eventually closed on the 8th February 1930.
Kinver Edge rock houses
The National Trust-owned beauty spot of Kinver Edge lies to the south-west of the village at at . There are notable rock or cave houses on Kinver Edge, carved from the sandstone, some inhabited as late as the 1960s. Some of the rock houses have been restored to their former inhabited states.
Such rock houses were the setting of a silent film, Bladys of the Stewpony (1919, Sabine Baring-Gould), but most of this has since been lost. The "Stewponey" refers to an ancient inn (now demolished and replaced by flats) at Stourton in Kinver parish.
Kinver was the birthplace of the distinguished stage and screen actress Nancy Price who appeared in such films as I Know Where I'm Going!. She was born at Rockmount House in Dark Lane. See letter from Nancy Price written in 1959 to the owners of Rockmount House.
Drakelow tunnels / Drakelow RGHQ
During the Cold War the tunnels were turned into an RGHQ (Regional Government Headquarters). In the event of Nuclear War Government officials, VIPs and heads of the regional military and emergency services would be housed here safely away from falling bombs and the effects of radiation and nuclear fallout.
Currently the site is disused, but a special trust has been set up to turn the site into a tourist attraction and to preserve a part of a 'secret military history' of the United Kingdom that few people knew about. Visits are sometimes arranged for interested parties. For more information on the tunnels visit Kinver Online.
Victoria County History, Staffordshire XX (1984), 118-60.
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