The name may refer to a tithe barn, belonging to the Canons of Tettenhall Collegiate Church, which was located here or may mean woodland cleared by burning.

An estate here was held by the canons of Tettenhall in the late thirteenth century.  Barnhurst became a family name and several members were mentioned in deeds and charters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A path between Barnhurst and Cronkhall Green (where Windermere Road now stands) was mentioned in 1419.

In 1521, Joan Milston, daughter and heir of a John Barnhurst sold the manor which consisted of a house and 70 acres of land, to James Leveson of Wolverhampton.  By the time of his death in 1547 he had more than doubled his holdings at Barnhurst.  Barnhurst field, first mentioned in the early sixteenth century, had been enclosed by 1613.

Barnhurst Farm and Dovecote. From an old engraving.

The farm later passed to the Cresswell family, several of whom are described as merchants of the staple.  This means that they were wool merchants at a time when Wolverhampton was an important centre of the trade.  In the 1720's the estate was sold to Samuel Hellier of the Wodehouse in Wombourne and the new owners continued the expansion of the property.

Three houses were noted at Barnhurst in 1780.

In 1867 Wolverhampton Corporation bought the Barnhurst estate and Little Barnhurst, in total covering about 300 acres, from Thomas Shaw-Hellier, for £27,915.

Part of the land was developed as a sewerage farm which was in operation by 1870.   An aqueduct crosses the canal south of Oxley Moor Bridge, bringing Wolverhampton's untreated sewage to Barnhurst and a barely decipherable foundation stone reads :

JULY 3RD  1868


Unfortunately the first sewage aqueduct collapsed two years later.  It was soon rebuilt and has continued its necessary task ever since.  A new aqueduct was built and opened in 2001.

The whole of the sewerage of the borough was concentrated in settling pits which were from time to time emptied onto the land.  In 1872 there was a court case involving the Borough and landowners along Pendeford Brook who complained about an almost continual overflow from the settling pits finding its way into the brook.  The narrow channel could not cope and sewage overflowed onto the land causing considerable damage and possible nuisance.

Barnhurst farmhouse in the early 1960s.

A basin was built in 1888 on the Staffs & Worcs Canal and the entire works were rebuilt and improved.  Boats delivered lime for the settling tanks and coal for the boilers of steam pumps and carried away pressed sludge "cake" for use on farms.  A light railway system operated in conjunction with the wharf until 1913 when the sludge pressing plant closed.  The basin is now the outfall for about two million litres of treated effluent per day.

Another view of the farm buildings.

By 1925 the flow of sewage into the works approached 4 million gallons a day and a new system of treating it was called for.  Two years later the activated sludge process was introduced, with biological filters, and the first bio-aeration plant in the world was set up.  It was envisaged that the new plant would deal with all the sewerage, but with the opening of Courtaulds the nature of the sewerage changed.
In 1928 the system of pumping onto farmland was abandoned and biological filters were used for all sewerage.  The cleaned effluent was pumped into Pendeford Brook.
After the Second World War, there was a movement of population from the town and so the domestic flow reduced.  Industrial wastes more than made up for this decline and were much harder to treat.  The corporation was in trouble in 1956, for polluting Pendeford Brook and later for polluting the Shropshire Union Canal. Major reconstruction took place in 1962 which increased the plant's capacity by 50% and again in 1970 when capacity was doubled. The rest of the Barnhurst land was farmed by Wolverhampton corporation until 1975 by which time other plans were afoot. 

The last Barnhurst Farm was built in 1963, replacing an earlier moated house which was demolished.  There was also a brick gatehouse with three bays, built in 1602 and demolished in 1961.  The large octagonal brick dovecote, dating back to the sixteenth or seventeenth century still remains and has given its name to the surrounding housing development.

The dovecote as it is today.

Many farms possessed a dovecote to ensure a supply of fresh meat.  The building contained spaces for roosting and the pigeons and doves had free access.

A public enquiry was held in 1980 - '81 resulting in the saving of the Grade II listed building.  As a result of work by the Dovecote Project, a group led by the Dovecotes Tenants and Residents Association with Wolverhampton City Council, a £36,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was announced in March, 2003 to develop the building as a community educational facility.

The Dovecote is not the only tangible reminder of the ancient Barnhurst.  The present writer has a memory of visiting the farm, sometime in the mid 1970's, to rescue cast iron window frames from some of the buildings for re-use at the then recently conceived Black Country Museum.

Other reminders of Barnhurst's agricultural past are in the street names chosen for the Dovecotes development as well as the public house of the same name.  Outside the latter stands a triple furrow plough once used on farmland in the Barnhurst area.

The railway line, which forms Dovecote's present southern boundary, was opened in 1849 as the Wolverhampton - Shrewsbury Railway.  It later became part of the Great Western Railway system.

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