This large, impressive church contains work from the Norman to the Victorian eras. The original tower collapsed towards the west in the fifteenth century, taking with it the whole east part of the nave, which was then rebuilt quite differently. This explains why so much Norman work remains and yet the Church is not really Norman in character. The west and south doorways are Norman, the tower Perpendicular with a fine spire and the outer south aisle was added in 1883 by John Oldrid Scott. Inside, there is an excellent Romanesque font, and also a monument to William Shenstone of the Leasowes.
As you pass through the churchyard look at the former headstones which have been used to edge the footpaths. Many are more than three hundred years old and display interesting carved details and inscriptions.
The walls to the Churchyard are of local New Red Sandstone, built in the late nineteenth century with good wrought iron gates.
The medieval cross used to stand in Cornbow until it was blown down by a gale in 1908. It was rescued from a rubbish tip by Job Garratt, a civic minded local industrialist. It consists of a tall, cylindrical, stone shaft, much fractured and weathered, topped by a ball finial and small cross.
William Shenstone was a minor poet but a major figure in English landscape gardening. He began work on The Leasowes off Mucklow Hill in 1743, turning it from a grazing farm into a model of Romantic landscape design that was visited by many famous people of the time and was a considerable source of inspiration to others.
He devised a circuit walk around the farm and set up monuments, urns, statues, seats and follies at appropriate points to encourage visitors to appreciate the essence of the many different views.
Shenstone died in 1763, buried in the ancient churchyard in the shadow of the spire, which featured in several of his famous views. The Leasowes is now a Grade I Historic Garden.
Standing now rather alone, miraculously spared by the bulldozer, Ivy House, listed in 1950, is a pleasant, early 19th century, three storey house. Its doorway is particularly attractive, with a Tuscan cornice hood and shell pediment. It retains its original iron railings to the forecourt.
The George was built in the late eighteenth century. Its prominent position, by what is now a busy roundabout, show off well its quoins (the corner stones) and its pleasant red brick with sash windows upstairs. From this point, known locally as ‘Townsend’, you can see the impressive building of EarlsHigh School, formerly HalesowenGrammar School, which has occupied this site since the 17th century.
These imposing early 19th century buildings were formerly Halesowen Borough Council offices. The later canted bay window on the left of the main entrance to numbers 25 and 25A, still bears the Halesowen Borough coat-of-arms marking the position of the former Mayor’s Parlour. Numbers 25 and 25A also include such features as a stuccoed Tuscan doorcase and crow-step gables.
26 Great Cornbow is a handsome 3-storey building which still retains its original sash windows with rubbed brick arches and recessed panel door.
These buildings represent a welcome oasis of older character and indicate how Hagley Street used to look. A map, 200 years old, shows the name “Cornbow” confined to a short stretch of track beyond the River Stour, alongside a building identified as “Corn Mill”. What is now Cornbow was then High Cross, probably because the market cross, now in the churchyard, was here until 1908. The area at the top of Cornbow, the Bull Ring (opposite number 24), was probably the market centre in early times.
There was a Queen’s Head in Peckingham Street as early as 1675. The present pub, now in Birmingham Street, is older than it looks, and despite its Victorian trimmings, could itself be seventeenth century.
A pleasant Victorian cottage, at the bottom of what used to be Dog Lane. Remains of a structure under the bridge and several inlets under the cottage suggest that this was once a small watermill, one of many mills situated along the River Stour. The River Stour played a significant role in the industrial development of Halesowen providing the power for iron foundries and the manufacture of edge tools, vices, anvils and gun barrels.
This sixteenth century, or earlier, timber framed house was once a group of cottages. Threatened with demolition in the sixties the owner fought hard to save them, and was ultimately successful. Whitefriars beautifully compliments the view up or down Church Lane.
These two buildings, formerly numbered 30 and 31 High Street, though modest in scale, represent the sort of building which made up most of central Halesowen before it was redeveloped.
The late 18th century front of number 75 (now Eastern Interiors) hides a well preserved 15th century timber framed Merchant’s house with a particularly fine roof structure. The timber frame is still exposed at the rear which you can reach via the service road at the back.
Number 77 (now Dixons Estate Agents) is a red brick building with a hipped roof, moulded wood eaves and a late nineteenth century shopfront. The interior of the building is also of interest as at still retains many of the original chemist’s shop fittings and display items.