This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in January 2013.
A favourite walk for many living in Belbroughton, and for visiting ramblers, is the footpath which runs from the south side of the church, alongside the graveyard, out across the fields and into open countryside. The views from the path towards Broomhill on one side and Brookfield on the other are beautiful. The sudden emergence of the sewage beds beyond the first stile comes as something of a shock in the midst of this rural idyll! But the whole area, between the stile and the Belne Brook a little further on, once played a very important part in the industrial scene of Belbroughton. It was occupied at one time by three forges:- Weybridge Upper, Middle and Lower. Since early times, and for centuries since, the site has been utilised and developed for various manufacturing functions.
It is recorded that in 1576 William Pagett, of Church House, inherited an estate from John Lygon. It is probable that included in this were two corn mills, then standing at Weybridge. In 1638 a descendent of William, Leriott Pagett, ‘heiress’ married into the Wylde family. She inherited the estate from her father but as a woman would automatically forfeit her rights to the property when she married. The mills at that time had been used variously for blade making and fulling.
The middle of the 18th century brought substantial investment into the district when Farmer and Galton, a large firm of gun manufacturers from Birmingham, leased the site and converted part of it into a forge for plating and boring gun barrels. Farmer and Galton were involved in the slave trade, selling cheap muskets to African tribes in exchange for hostages who were then transported to America and sold as slaves. An indenture, dated May 1750, gives a description of the mills:
…………..All that messuage …sd. John Wylde doth now inherit …. all that meadow or parcell of meadow ground and called or known by the name of Weabridge meadow … and also all that Mill called Weabridge Mill heretofore used as a Fulling Mill or Mills and part thereof lately converted into a Blade Mill or Mills for grinding of scythes and now used for boreing of Gun barrels and the other part thereof hath been lately pulled down and a Forge for plating of Gun barrell Skelps erected in the place thereof. Together with all that pond or pool called Weabridge pool And the pool dam Brook Stream Watercourse and current of Water to the said Mill and pool belonging…” (WRO 5467/140 705:659)
Later in the 18th century and into the 19th the site was leased to various occupants and for various purposes. In 1840 it was taken over by Messrs Waldron, local scythe manufacturers. In 1866 Issac Nash absorbed it into his growing monopoly of the industry and in 1868 he purchased the freehold. It is believed that in the late 1940s work ceased.
As part of the ongoing project by the Belbroughton History Society to commemorate the Mill sites it is intended to place a plaque near the Weybridge site in the early part of 2013.