Early last month I continued my exploration of National Trust properties and took a trip to Kinver Edge and Rock Houses. I drove through Birmingham out through to Stourbridge and skirted around Kinver village.
I pulled up on the country lane that runs along side the grounds surrounding the Kinver Rock Houses. There is a lot of woodland and if you park in the official car park you would see more of it. I took the easy route and didn’t have far too walk to reach the path that leads to the Holy Austin Rock Houses.
There are three levels, to the Rock Houses, and you enter on level one. I met with Mike who manages the property and who was to be my guide during my visit. He filled me in the the history of the Holy Austin Rock Houses and the people that would have lived here. The last of which departed in the 1950s.
The National Trust acquired all the properties in the mid 1960’s but owned the land, since 1917, through a legacy. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the restoration we see today started. And it wasn’t until 2012 that the final restoration was finished. There’s only one part which still hasn’t been completed but this is due to current inhabitants, which are lesser horseshoe bats. This is of great significance as it is the farthest North they have been known to be.
The first record of someone living in the Rock Houses is from 1777. A man walking from Hagley to Enville took shelter with a family he met in the rocks. It is also believed that a monk called Austin may have lived here in the 16th century. Roll onto the 19th century and there were 46 people living 11 houses. In 1903 families such as the Fletchers and Reeves lived in two rooms, which consisted of a kitchen and bedroom. Depending on the size of the family there would have been anything from two to six people living in the space.
The Kinver Rock Houses are made from sandstone, a soft rock, which made the houses cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The families who lived here would have enjoyed a relatively idyllic life. They had allotments to grow fruit and vegetables and also kept livestock. Most would have worked at the nearby Hyde Iron Works , so a two mile walk each day would have kept them fit.
As time passed and different people inhabited the Rock Houses they made renovations. In 1920 a passage was made to create another dwelling. And on the other side of the rock the Reeves house even had a porch and a storage area. The original path to the Kinver Rock Houses was in front of the Reeves House.
All the houses had fires to heat them as well as for cooking. I can imagine this would be quite cosy in the winter, much the same as a small cottage with a log burner would be today.
The middle level has not been used since the mid-late 19th century and it is here where a Hobbit hole, which many believe my have inspired Tolkien’s Hobbit houses.
I couldn’t make a visit without trying the tearooms and a rock cake. There has been a tea room on the plot previously, with a tradition of serving tea to walkers which continued into the 1960s. The current tea room has been rebuilt entirely as the previous property was nearly falling down and beyond repair. The Trust built a newer build but it is still in keeping with the Kinver Edge site.
From here you can see as far as Dudley and on a clear day you can see across three counties.
What struck me as I wondered around the Holy Austin Rock Houses are the similarities to modern living. More and more people are choosing to have kitchen/ diners where all the family can be together and where entertaining is easy. Many are choosing to heat their homes using wood burns and grow your own has never been more popular. Although there is one aspect that I don’t think we will be going back to and that is having outside conveniences.
Thank you to Mike and Cat for the invite to explore Kinver, also thank you to Mike’s wonderful team of volunteers