June 2013 History Group Meeting – Kinver Rock Houses by David Bills.
65 members of the History Group attended an illustrated slide show on the Kinver Rock Houses.
The presentation was given with humour and many tongue- in-cheek comments and covered the social history, geological detail and industrial history of this unique local feature. Old prints, quaint old photos, documents, old postcards, maps and paintings were used to illustrate the talk, which also included a history of Kinver village.
The most notable feature of the Rock Houses at Kinver is the Holy Austin Rock House, now owned and managed by the National Trust. There is no clue to the origin of the name, but the first known sketch is dated 1837 and shows farm labourers and open countryside. Holy Austen Rock was a man- made promontory fort. It is estimated to be 2500 years old. The geological structure of Holy Austen Rock is very similar to Ayers Rock in Australia, and it is a mini ‘Ayers Rock’. The industry at Kinver Edge, near to Holy Austen Rock, was quarrying, but the work closed in 1772. The quarrying was for sandstone for building blocks; technically the sandstone is known as dune bedded sandstone.
Old prints and other documentary evidence of life in the Kinver Rock Houses were shown to the Meeting. There were many interesting details in the pictures. In particular, a painting of 1901 by Alfred Rushton showed a Mr and Mrs Fletcher in a Rock House situated by a well. The painting gave a very good illustration of the interior of a Rock house, although it appeared to be ‘only’ a typical cottage scene of the time.
The history of the village of Kinver, nearby, was also mentioned. The Foley Family’s fortunes were connected with Kinver with their heavy metal industry. Their wealth led them to purchase Witley Court, near Stourport, one of the grand country houses of the time. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and the River Stour both played important roles in the industrial success of the area.
In 1922 the Kinver Rock Houses were given to the National Trust. The Rock Houses and cottages eventually fell into disrepair and a restoration project began in 1991, which included the garden. The presentation showed before and after photos.
David Bills was warmly thanked for his amusing and very informative presentation. It has possibly stimulated members to visit this unique local feature for themselves in the near future.