History of Franche

Talk at Franche

There was an excellent turnout on Friday evening 3rd December 2010 for Nigel Gilbert’s talk on the History of Franche to raise funds for St Barnabas church. Despite freezing temperatures and treacherous pavements, over 60 people crammed into St Barnabas community hall in Wolverley Road opposite the church. Well over £400 was raised for the church.

This shows the appetite for local history in the community. Nigel is continuing to work on the history of Franche, and hopes to publish a book in the next few years. He would welcome contacts from anybody with knowledge of the area.

His first work on Franche was in 1999, when he published a book called “The Rise and Fall of Franche Hall”. This book is out of print. It told the story of the historic mansion, first documented in 1681, and pulled down in 1924 in one of Kidderminster’s many acts of civic vandalism. Franche was mentioned in the Domesday survey in 1084. It is now a suburb of Kidderminster, but it is still an area of great character.

There were two homesteads at Franche in the Domesday survey of 1086. By far the most likely sites are in Lowe Lane at Franche Court and Franche House. The former was a large working farm until 1835, when it was transformed into a gentleman’s mansion, ultimately owned by the brewer William Bucknall. Franche House was also occupied by a farmer, John Crane, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It still exists, fronting Wolverley Road.

The main route to Bridgnorth, therefore, was probably once along Marlpool Lane, which is mentioned in a deed of 1646 as Meerepoole Lane, into Lowe Lane, before bearing left into Honeybrook Lane and on to the existing Bridgnorth Road. The building of the turnpike roads around 1760 changed this. A crossroads was formed by the development of one turnpike up Franche Road cutting through a sandstone cliff just beyond where the Three Crowns was to be built and on to Bridgnorth, and another turnpike from Bewdley to Wolverley. The original Three Crowns and Sugar Loaf pub was built soon after the turnpikes came.

For more information on Franche’s history see Nigel’s essay, A Short History of Franche.

The Kidderminster Civic Society website on www.kidcivicsoc.org.uk has many historical reports on Franche buildings.

Please contact Nigel if you have any old pictures of Franche or any other documentation. He is particularly interested in the lost 19th century mansion Franche Court, for which no photographs have been found. The last occupant was the brewer, William Bucknall – if you are descended from him, he would like to hear from you.

Another house for which there is no known photograph is Berrow Hill House, built by Joseph Nickson.