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Jim Fisher's Genealogy and Family History Pages

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Lower Gornal, Staffordshire

Contents

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Introduction

This page is devoted to the village of Lower Gornal, Staffordshire, England, and covers, so far as I am able, the origin of its name, an outline of its history and geography and genealogical resources relating to the village.

My interest in this village stems from the fact that my wife's paternal grandmother was born here, and her great grandparents were married in Lower Gornal church.

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Origins of the Name

I have a number of books describing the origins of British place names, but none mentions Lower Gornal. However, David Sutheran kindly tells me the name Gornal comes from the Anglo-Saxon Gwynel, meaning "place of two windmills". He further points out that Gornal indeed had two windmills, the remains of one of which still exist at the top of Ruiton (which is effectively part of Upper Gornal). My thanks to David for his assistance.

However, I have had an interesting message from Christine Buckley, wife of the vicar of All Saints, Sedgley, and I quote here the whole of her relevant paragraph (other extracts below under other headings):
Meaning of Gornal - the most recent dictionaries of place-names have decided that the second element of Gornal is a 'halh', a 'nook' (which can mean a bowl-shaped dip in the geography, or a place where a boundary sticks out into another land unit). The first is 'mill', or quern, but it's difficult to decide in what context. A quern is usually a hand-mill. It's been suggested that millstones were made from local stone, but in my view it's too soft. The name has to go back to the Anglo-Saxon period, at any rate, when there weren't any windmills, as far as I know. Has to be a watermill, if it's not a hand-mill.. My thanks to Christine for her help on this and on the history of the church

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Geography

There is a short ridge of limestone hills, rising to a maximum height of nearly 900 feet above sea level, running from north west to south east across this part of Staffordshire and the adjacent detached part of Worcestershire. Sedgley, Upper Gornal, Lower Gornal and Dudley all lie along it, in that order. Lower Gornal is on the south-west facing slope of the hill overlooking the larger village of Gornalwood, about two miles north-west of Dudley. This map (4,264 bytes) of the south and central parts of the Black Country shows the location of Lower Gornal (near the north-west corner).

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History

The village of Lower Gornal, which had a population of about 6,000 in the mid-nineteenth century, was dominated by the nail making industry for much of the 19th century, whole families working at the trade, sometimes in their own homes but more often in tiny, poorly ventilated workshops, in terrible conditions of over-crowding, heat and atmospheric pollution. The other major occupation was in the large coal mine located in the village.

St. James's ChurchLower Gornal was not been elevated to the status of a parish in its own right until about 1871, but was a chapelry within the large parish of Sedgley. St. James's Church (picture 73,357 bytes, taken 13th February 1991 after a snowfall), built of local stone in early English style during the period 1815-1823, came into use in 1817 but was not consecrated until 1823. It was enlarged in 1837 and further improved in 1849. Its registers begin in 1823 except for marriages, which by law had to take place in an Anglican parish church until 1837 (except for Catholics and Quakers).

Christine Buckley (see note above on the origin of the name Gornal) tells me In the 1810s, Ruiton had a minister named Theodosius Theodosius who wanted Ruiton to become an Anglican church. When the members refused, he himself moved over to the Anglicans and promoted the building of St James's, becoming its first priest, although it remained a chapel of ease to All Saints' for many years. (The wardens of All Saints' then realized that they had to get a posh new church, what with competition from St James and also a new RC church down the road.)

Independent Chapel, Ruiton, StaffordshireThe local Independent Chapel is variously referred to in old documents as being in Ruiton or Upper Gornal (its location close to their undefined boundary accounts for the ambiguity). It is now called Ruiton United Reformed Church. This photo (79,778 bytes) was taken 28th July 2000. Despite being in the heart of a heavily industrialised area, its fairly large graveyard has a quiet, rural feel about it, in marked contrast to many other local churches.

Lake Street, Lower Gornal, StaffordshireThis photo (55,169 bytes) shows a typical street (Lake Street) in Lower Gornal today.

 

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Genealogical Resources for Lower Gornal

The original registers for the chapelry (1823-1899 for baptisms, 1838-1911 for marriages and 1823-1905 for burials) are deposited at Dudley Archives & Local History office. Bishops Transcripts for 1823-1847 are at Lichfield Joint Record Office.

Lower Gornal, like the rest of the parish, became a part of the Dudley Union as a result of the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, so relevant workhouse and other poor law records from that date will be found with those of Dudley.

Lower Gornal was part of the ancient manor of Sedgley, which had the right of probate of wills. The wills and inventories from 1614 to the early 19th century are in the Sedgley Manorial Court Books held at Dudley Archives & Local History office. A transcript of Sedgley Wills and Inventories by JS Roper & NW Tildesley is also held there.

Ian Beach has published the 1912 Kelly's Directory details for Lower Gornal on his Sedgley web site.

Christine Ellis informs me that there are Bishops Transcripts for the chapelry of Lower Gornal which have been filmed: 1823-1847 LDS film number 0426549 Item 1.

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Other web pages about Lower Gornal

Martin Reeves has set up a new and growing interesting site of general interest about Gornal (called Yampy) which is worth a visit.

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Surnames and Local History in Gornal

I would be happy to include here details of anyone else who may be researching either their family history in, or the local history of, Lower Gornal. This can include web site links, email addresses, possibly lists of surnames of interest in the village, and any resources in which you may be willing to do lookups for others (but no commercial advertising). If you would like a mention, please get in touch.

The entries requested so far, with a surname index and including my own interests, are now given on a separate page.

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