Barnfield Sandbeds – a history

Charles Henry Deacon, was the owner of the original Sandbeds site. His daughter, Helen Anderson, has kindly provided us with some historical information about the background to Barnfield Sandbeds:

Born in 1899, Charles Deacon trained as a turner and fitter at Guy Motors and Sunbeam in Wolverhampton and lived in Springfields. As a young man, he was in the habit of taking long walks, which one day took him to Brewood. This led to the discovery of the Sandbeds; while walking around the area he noticed that underneath the soil was pure sand. His discovery was to change the course of the area and his own life.

He began quarrying the site in 1930 – all hand-loaded by a team of men with shovels. The Sandbeds covered an area of around 40 acres between Horsebrook Lane and Engleton Lane and sand was quarried from around 26 acres of that. By 1936 Mr Deacon was fully established and had his own office and yard in Nine Elms Lane, Wolverhampton, employing at least eight men at his peak.The sandstone in Brewood actually originates from Iceland, with long, unrounded grain.  It was completely pure, needing no screening or washing. It was referred to as ‘fat sand’ because it was easy to mix and absorbed the water.

Mr Deacon employed his younger brother David and together they dug down vertically as far as the water table. Mechanical loading was introduced in the 1950s and the plan was to fill in the quarry by tipping, and then replace the top soil to return the land to agriculture. Unfortunately, Mr Deacon died suddenly at the age of 62 from a heart attack and the work came to a halt in the 1970s.

For various reasons the plan was not able to be brought to fruition and the area naturalised and became overgrownwith weeds. In 1994, South Staffordshire Council approached Mr Deacon’s daughters Helen and Margaret about the site and it was eventually taken over for informal public use. Both sisters were able to contribute to the improvements which have led to the wonderful, natural area we can all enjoy today.

Helen Anderson says: “I think my father would be pleased to see the site as it is now. He was a real country man and he would have been interested in the wildlife.”

Barnfield Sandbeds – a criminal hideout…

As a large, overgrown area, the Sandbeds proved the perfect hideout for a man on the run from police – until villagers began to get suspect something…

Retired Detective Constable Angus Parker recalls that in the 1980s, a man was wanted in London for a number of warrants in connection with burglaries. He managed to evade arrest for some time by making his way to Brewood and hiding out in the Sandbeds where he built an underground den.

Villagers had become suspicious after milk and newspapers started going missing from nearby houses and a man was seen acting strangely around the village.

“He had drawn attention to himself on a number of occasions. A local man tried to follow him once but he disappeared,” says Mr Parker.

Although the offender was arrested and handed over to the Metropolitan Police, eventually receiving a custodial sentence for his offences, it was some time before the den was discovered.

Mr Parker was investigating a burglary in the village several years later and received information that contents were hidden in the Sandbeds. “We found a hinged door in the ground which led to the underground den. Inside were two compartments lined with newspapers where someone could quite easily have slept.” The stolen property was recovered and MrParker deduced that this was where the man on the run had lived.

“He was living in Brewood for months and had constructed it himself. Years later, some other offenders discovered it and used it to hide their stolen goods.

“When the site was developed and diggers went in, they found a wooden structure in the ground and didn’t know what it was – it was actually his criminal lair. He obviously thought Brewood was a safe place to hide away.”

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