Cradley is an Ecclesiastical Parish in the county of Worcestershire, created in 1812 from a chapelry in Halesowen Parish.
It was part of the ancient parish of Halesowen, but (unlike much of the rest of that parish, which was an exclave of Shropshire) was always in Worcestershire, until the creation of the West Midlands County in 1974. This meant that for civil administrative purposes, Cradley formerly had the officers which a parish would have had. In the 19th century a new settlement grew up in heathland on the other side of the river, and became known as Cradley Heath. This was in the ancient parish of Rowley Regis. Previously the residents of Cradley had the right to graze their animals on that heath, subject to a small annual payment to the lord of the manor.
Nonconformists in Cradley include: Baptist, Methodist New Connexion, Presbyterian Unitarian, and Wesleyan Methodist.
There are two villages named Cradley in the Midlands of England; the “other” Cradley lies about 30 miles to the southwest, near to the Malvern Hills in south Worcestershire, but just across the county boundary in Herefordshire
Cradley, a town and a township-chapelry in Halesowen parish, Worcester. The town stands on the river Stour, at the boundary with Stafford. near the Dudley canal, 2½ miles ENE of Stourbridge; is connected by a branch railway with the West Midland at Stourbridge; has a post office under Brierley Hill; and carries on extensive manufactures in iron and hardware. The chapelry includes the town, some manufacturing dependencies, and some rural tracts. Acres, 732. Real property, £8, 471; of which £1, 100 are in mines. Pop., 4, 075. Houses, 779. The property is not much divided. The manor belongs to Lord Lyttleton. A saline spring, called the Lady well, in much medicinal repute, is in a picturesque wooded vale. Coal and ironstone abound on the lands of Netherend. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Worcester. Value, £116. Patron, the Vicar. of Halesowen. The church is tolerable; and there are chapels for Baptists, Unitarians, Wesleyans, and New Connexion Methodists, and a national school.
Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].
Cradley, in Hales-Owen parish (Salop). P. 2686
Source: Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales; Second Edition; C. W. Leonard, London; 1850.
Cradley. A township in the parish of Hales Owen, and in the Hales Owen division of the hundred of Brimstry. 2 miles north-west of Hales Owen.
Source: The Shropshire Gazetteer, with an Appendix, including a Survey of the County and Valuable Miscellaneous Information, with Plates. Printed and Published by T. Gregory, Wem, 1824
Cradley – a township and chapelry in the parish of Hales Owen, Salop, and hundred of Halfshire, lower division, 3 miles E.N.E. from Stourbridge, on the borders of Staffordshire; containing 231 inhabited houses. Nearly the whole of the population of this place, both male and female, are employed in the manufacture of various articles in the iron trade. It is a curacy to Hales Owen, in the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry. Population, 1801, 1434 – 1811, 1521 – 1821, 1696.
Source: Worcestershire Delineated: Being a Topographical Description of Each Parish, Chapelry, Hamlet, &c. In the County; with the distances and bearings from their respective market towns, &c. By C. and J. Greenwood. Printed by T. Bensley, Crane Court, Fleet Street, London, 1822.
Cradley achieved prominence in the 19th century as a centre of iron chain making, though the most important centre was the adjacent (but distinct) Cradley Heath. The chain was made on a hearth by hammering cut lengths of red-hot wrought iron rod into oval links, one link passing through the next to form a cable. The anchor chain for the Titanic was made at Cradley Heath.
Chain making was not the first or only iron trade carried on in Cradley and the neighbouring towns. For hundreds of years nails had been made in the Black Country, and many thousands of men and women were employed in the trade. It was the staple industry until the mid-19th century. Nail making by hand went into decline after the introduction of machine made nails in about 1830 and many nail makers adapted their smiths and forges, and redirected their skills to making chain.
Cradley is less famous for coal mining than chain making, but between 1850 and 1950 the collieries were no less important than the chain works in the local economy and for the legacy they left.
The coal mining and chain making that made Cradley famous are now in the past, and most of the other iron-based trades have declined to a shadow of their former selves.
In 1770, John Wesley visited Cradley, and wrote:
“Monday, 19, March 1770 - I rode to Cradley (from Wednesbury). Here also the multitude obliged me to stand abroad, although the north wind whistled about my head. About one I took the field to Stourbridge. Many of the hearers were as wild as colts untamed; but the bridle was in their mouths. At six I began in Dudley. The air was as cold as I had almost ever felt, but I trust God warmed many hearts.”
The local Anglican church, St. Peter’s, was built by a group of Dissenters who gathered together to form the Independent Congregational Society. However, a special Act of Parliament (39 Geo. III. 1799), passed on 12 July 1799, took St. Peter’s into the Church of England.
The Dissenting tradition remained strong, and many local Unitarian, Wesleyan, Methodist and Baptist churches flourished.