Rock houses

The Midlands is full of treasures unknown to me. Of them is the National Trust site of Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses. We visited the Holy Austin Rock site.

People lived in these rock houses from the late 1700s to 1963 when the last resident left. Water came from a well and eventually there was gas but never any electricity.

After some publicity in the early 1900s, people started visiting the rock houses. The residents were savvy enough to start selling tea and cakes. This tradition continues today with the National Trust café.

The houses themselves are set in the sandstone rock. Some of the naturally occurring caves were enlarged and made into houses. It is, apparently, relatively easy to work with sandstone and therefore some of the houses are quite cavernous. The houses are usually nothing more than a front door, with the inside being the dug-out (and furnished) cave. Despite some being not very spacious, they housed families with 5-10 members.

The National Trust have done a wonderful job of restoring the houses based on photos taken in their heyday. They have made or bought in replicas of fixtures and furniture. The fireplace in one (see photos) is stunning. A real statement piece! It was also the centrepiece of daily activities. The fires were usually lit all day. They warmed the houses, were used for cooking food, heated up water and injected heat into the chunk of heavy metal used for ironing.

The houses give you an insight into the lives of the inhabitants. There were no mod cons: everything was done by hand. One of the friendly guides told us that each day would be dedicated to specific housework. For example, having a bath on Sunday, washing clothes on Monday, cleaning on Tuesday, and so on. I thought it strange that for many of us there are appliances that considerably reduce the time we spend on housework and yet we don’t seem to have more free time! Our activities have expanded to fill the time available.

Around the site are three marked trails, ranging from 3-8km. We walked one that culminated in a panoramic view of the Midlands.

A walk around Holy Austin Rock

After leaving the rock houses, we went to Kinver, a picturesque village. In the centre, there were many plaques for “best village in Staffordshire”. Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) is also linked to the region.

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