Madam - I was perplexed to read (Stourbridge News 17/09/20, p5) that the new decorative railings suggested for the A491 'Stour Bridge' will commemorate the town's supposed connection to the flight of Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

Setting aside the central question of whether Charles actually crossed this bridge as he fled from Cromwell's forces, his furtive passage through the region was just a transient event that, in itself, had no material effect upon the town.

Fortunately, however, Stourbridge and the site of the 'Stour Bridge' have more extensive and fundamental royal connections to celebrate. Both lie within what was once an Anglo-Saxon royal estate, at least part of which was named Swinford after a ford located where the 'Stour Bridge' is today.

Lying upon a prehistoric salt-way (now the A491 and Lower High Street), this ford was so important a place that, in a tenth-century royal charter, it was used as the starting point for a detailed boundary perambulation. King Eadred (or an immediate successor, Eadwig or Edgar) split the Swinford estate along the Stour here; and the two resulting fragments evolved into the manors of Oldswinford, in which Stourbridge developed, and Kingswinford.

If the present 'Stour Bridge' is to benefit from £34,800-worth of bespoke decorative railings, it would seem a little perverse for their design to ignore the aforementioned history of this crossing point — and, indeed, the town's ancient royal heritage — in favour of memorializing a brief, questionable and, as far as Stourbridge is concerned, inconsequential event of 1651.


Yours sincerely,

Kevin James (Dr)