A Brief History of Halesowen Grange

After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, parcels of land were sold to sitting tenants by agents of Sir Robert Dudley. One such tenant was John Ive, who in 1558 bought several plots which centred around what is now know as Halesowen Grange. The Grange was a simple farmhouse with outbuildings. John’s daughter Joyce married a William Lea whose family possessed considerable lands, mainly in Kings Norton.

The Lea family built up their landholdings based on the Grange and replaced the farmhouse with a two storey Tudor building, later called the Old House, the only evidence of which can be found in the cellars. There was also a Carriage House with extensive brick barns and stabling, all long gone.

William Lea married Frances Ward, the senior co-heir to the Barony of Dudley, and so their son Ferdinando Dudley Lea became the 11th Baron, Lord Dudley and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1740, spending much of his time in London.

William built the eastern wing (now the bar) circa 1707 with a new wall to the Old House. The house now had a total of eight bedrooms, a dairy, brew house, hothouses for exotic plants, and many living rooms.

Ferdinando, Lord Dudley died unmarried in 1757 leaving the title in abeyance. His eldest sister, Anne, married her cousin William Smith of Stoke Prior in 1737, so The Grange passed to the Smith family. The Smith family built up their estates until they owned around 1250 acres stretching from Harbourne to Bromsgrove and Kings Norton to Rowley Regis as well as interest in many other trades and businesses. All but what is now The Grange house and gardens and Seth Somers Park was leased to local farmers or tradesmen.

In 1834 Ferdinando Dudley Lea Smith decided on the final structural changes up The Grange. He had the two storey Old House pulled down and rebuilt as three storey, the southern wall was demolished and rebuilt where it is today with the bay added. He had a single storey servants hall built as well as a panoramic billiards room over the stables. He employed six servants as well as a blacksmith and miller as tenants to run the smithy and the mill. The number of bedrooms had now increased to twelve with associated bathrooms and closets.

The last of the family to inherit the estate, also Ferdinando Dudley Lea Smith, died in 1905. The family moved to Worcestershire and leased out The Grange. By then the animal pound had long ceased to be used, the Tollhouse had been a private residence for many years, the smith and dog kennels demolished and the Mill was in disrepair. The last of the tenants was Seth Somers who lived at The Grange from 1911 to 1926. Under his guidance it was used as a rehabilitation hospital during WW1, and by the ATS and RASC during early WW2. The US Army Signal Corps Pigeon Company used it prior to D-Day and then it became a work centre for Italian, then German POW’s up until 1947.

in 1949 Seth arrange for the sale from the Smith family to a trust for use by the Somers Sports & Social Club. The servants hall, stables and billiard room, and the Carriage House and outbuildings were nearly all demolished as being unsafe or not required. The surrounding land became a separate trust, the Seth Somers Park.

The original plans for the Sports & Social conversion were approved on 4th January 1950 and much of the work was carried out by the employees. Beside the facilities seen today there was also a swimming pool, since filled in on safety grounds. The bar was half the size of today, the rest being a reading or committee room. The whole site was Grade 2* listed on 10th January 1950 putting it in the top 4%, in importance, of all listed sites in England. The club was opened to associate members in the 1980’s firstly from Newbank then Sandvik and then to friends of full members.