History

As early as 1836 maps of Fradley only show isolated farmhouses and farms. Although no longer used as working farms, Bycars, Bridge, Hilliards Cross and Old Hall farms can still be seen today. Old Hall Farm was built in the 16th Century, when it was known as Frodley Hall. In Old Hall Lane there also stands Lodge Croft, a three-storey house dating back to the 1750s. The Old Smithy, where farmers used to bring their horses to be shod, has also survived at the Church Lane entrance to the old village.

This is, however, only a snapshot of the history of Fradley which in many ways mirrors the development, population growth and urbanisation which has characterised the United Kingdom since Georgian and early Victorian Times.

Fradley is a member of the Alrewas Parish Church Group and has a separate Civil Parish Council, Fradley and Streethay Parish Council. The Parish Council split from Alrewas and Orgreave in 2009.

Fradley first appeared in 12th-century records as 'Frodeleye', or 'Frod's lea'. It was in the 18th Century, when the need to improve transport with increasing industrialisation, that we see Fradley enter the historical record with the building of the canals, first the Trent and Mersey and then the Coventry canal. The year 1768 is the first mention of Fradley. The renowned canal engineer James Brindley won the contract to build the canal from Coventry, to link with the Trent and Mersey at Fradley. Financial difficulties resulted in a canal which truncated at Atherstone. It was not until 1783 that a consortium called the Coleshill Agreement won the contract to finish the project, and as we see it today the Coventry canal meets the Trent and Mersey canal at Fradley Junction. Fradley is surrounded by canals and nearby Fradley Junction is a Grade 11 listed well-known local beauty spot and hive of boating activity for us all to enjoy.

The canals were superseded by the coming of the railways as surrounding industrialisation and population growth in nearby towns gathered apace. The major development for the parish was the construction of the South Staffordshire Railway Line opened in 1849. The line officially began at Wychnor Junction, north of Lichfield, and ran through what is now Lichfield Trent Valley passing through Fradley at Fine Lane and Brookhay Lane. Trains then continued through to Lichfield City itself. From there, a plethora of stations along the route were served. The line continued through to Walsall and a low-level station at Dudley Port. The line today to Lichfield Trent Valley is freight only.

James Brindley
James Brindley
Fradley Green Circa 1920
Fradley Green Circa 1920

Fradley village, in these years, grew only slowly. St Stephen's Church, built in 1861, still stands proudly on the corner of Church Lane and Old Hall Lane. A quaint Victorian schoolhouse, which had stood beside it since 1875, was demolished in 2008 to make room for modern classrooms to accommodate Fradley's burgeoning child population. Extracts from the school log book dating back to 1875 make interesting reading. - see article.

Prior to World War II the village comprised only St Stephen's church, St Stephen's school, several farms and smallholdings and a scattering of private dwellings. There were 6 small farms in the village which used to produce mainly milk including Bromley Farm. In the terrible winter of 1941 it took the Bromley farmers a full day to deliver the milk by horse and cart from their farm in Fradley to Kings Bromley.

Fradley School Photograph 1932
Fradley School Photograph 1932

World War II brought about rapid change to Fradley and surrounding areas. In 1939 RAF Lichfield was constructed on Fradley Common/Fradley Heath. It was initially built only of turf and a gang of Fradley women spent weeks stone picking to complete the task, but when the large aircraft came to use it, they soon got bogged down. As bomber aircraft including Wellingtons and the Lancaster became continually stuck the airfield was eventually concreted.

In August 1940 the Royal Air Force moved in, along with Hurricanes, Oxford and Anson aircraft. Spitfires arrived in 1941 and Wellington Bombers followed in 1942. Alongside RAF personnel training in the Wellingtons, there were a considerable number of Australians and some Canadians and Czechs.

As this is being written traces of the old airfield are gradually disappearing; some buildings, Hangers, pill boxes and some of the runway are still visible.

The Home Guard of Fradley or ‘Dad’s Army’ is still within living memory.

Fradley home guard c1940

Fradley home guard c1940

The above picture was provided by Mr George Arblaster
Back row (L-R)
Spooner, G Bates, Ted Begley, Billy Begley, W Osbourne, Hyatt Wood, Reg Woolley, Mick Hallam, Harry Yates, (?)Ken Woolley
Middle row
Charlie Arnold, Dick Williamson, Bert Kirkland, Joe Wren, Bob Brown, ?, Norman Backhouse, Jack Kean, John Grundy, Norman Watson
Front row
Philip Hancock, George Osbourne, Walter Arblaster, Ted Spooner, George Arblaster, Frank Askew, Tom Mansell, Jim Rayworth, Ted Wilson, Jack Arnold

The war’s end brought more change to Fradley with the construction of 85 houses to house RAF personnel. In 1959, these houses were sold off to the then Lichfield Rural Council to house council house tenants from around the city.
The RAF left in 1958 and the whole site was sold by the Air Ministry in 1962. They left behind a sombre and moving monument to the conflict with a considerable number of war graves in Fradley Churchyard. These include British, Commonwealth and one German grave treated with great reverence by the community. Many of the names of people associated with RAF Lichfield are commemorated in the road names, which now occupy the land where the airfield stood.

In 2000 a memorial to all who served at RAF Lichfield was constructed opposite St Stephen's church, the upkeep of which is the responsibly of the Parish Council. A formal service of remembrance and laying of wreaths is carried out each September on Battle of Britain Sunday.

Fradley has over recent years absorbed many changes, but parts of the village still retain much of their original charm and character.

There have been several housing developments built within the Fradley area since the early 1980s. The first of these developments was within the ancient village boundary creating the Statfold Lane development off Church Lane. Further houses were built in the 1990s to develop the Edwards Farm Road estate and as the RAF Fradley site was cleared for industrial development, the area to the north east side of Common Lane was also developed for housing. This phase of development was completed in 2005.
In 1998 major redevelopment started on the former airfield, with the construction of factories, warehouses and 750 new houses (with further increases planned). This included much needed retail facilities. Today Fradley Park, a 300-acre warehousing and distribution development, covers most of the former airfield.
Further housing development started to the north west of Common Lane in 2016 to develop a further 1,000 homes in time and a further 80 homes have been built on Hay End Lane during 2017-18.

Archaeology

It is important to include here information on ancient history. The area with its fertile soil and plentiful supply of water from two rivers, the Trent and the Tame must have been an excellent habitat for early settlers. The Parish also has a remarkable testament to Roman engineering - the completely straight A38 that follows the course of old Rykneld Street. This cuts straight through the parish. With Vikings reaching as far inland as nearby Tamworth their influence would be clearly felt.

Travelling back even further in time to when the gravel beds in the Trent valley where formed has resulted in some fascinating archaeology including the ‘woolly rhinoceros’.

Much of the archaeological evidence found in the parish of Fradley is in the area East of the A38 where Tarmac (previously LaFarge) are still quarrying.

Finds include:

A woolly rhinoceros
30-40,000 years old

see article

Prehistoric material
Spanning the period from the Mesolithic through to the Late Iron Age

see article (2012)

Settlement and funerary remains
An array of settlement and funerary remains from the Bronze Age to the Romano-British period

see article (2008)

Neolithic causewayed enclosure 

see article