by Dr. A. C. Mulvaney, Clark's Green, Studley
One often hears of secret societies but how often about secret ancient industrial processes, hidden away in rural Warwickshire? Of the following story I know only a few facts and gossip. Perhaps other readers could provide more interesting clues.
At the turn of this century there was a man with the name of Lon Harris. One can still see this name on the front of a pair of cottages at Clark's Green, with the date 1906. His real Christian name was intriguing - Alphonso - at least, that is the name the priest uses when yearly we pray for his eternal soul in the Studley Catholic church.
Lon must have prospered because not only did he build the farm workers cottages but also a splendid extension to Gattax Farm, Outhill. The local lads, the Cures, from Pheasantry Farm, also enjoyed a little of this wealth each Sunday. When the Harris family returned from Mass the Cures were there to open the farm gates, to be thrown a sixpence.
What did Lon Harris do to generate his wealth? The facts are few. There are still isolated foundations of an old cott age a few hundred yards back from the Lon Harris cottages and there is still a Studley man alive who was born there. There is a farmer who fondly boasts that as a little boy he and his big brother walked home across the fields each day from their private Ullenhall school to Clark's Green with his father's stern command 'Don't go near that cottage near Gattax'.
In the fifties the Studley charities trustees retrieved a complete metal vat and half of another, showing the signs of intense heat on the surface, a 'bubbly texture'. I use the word 'vat' for want of another - perhaps 'crucible' would be better. It was about 31" high, 2" thick, cylindrical, with an internal diameter of about 6". Once a week Lon took his load of semi-precious ? metal to the top of Gorcot Hill, where he transferred it to his brother's cart, which took it on to the Birmingham jewellery quarter.
At the turn of the century the Studley College Estate was finally broken up at auction. I am sure that this would be hot gossip for the Harris brothers as they downed their pints in what was then a very smart pub the 'Hollybush'. One can imagine that the story was quickly disseminated among the jewellery fraternity in Birmingham - 'There are some nice country building plots around Studley to be auctioned from the new Castle (the college). Probably as a result of this gossip three plots were acquired by members of the jewellery trade and developed, two in Mappleborough and my own, which was knocked down for £38
Summer 1990 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991