The home stood on the site of St. Catherine’s Crescent, off Butts Road, Penn, in an area that was known as 'The Butts', which was once part of the estate belonging to Thomas Higgins Burne who owned Penn Villa, now called The Woodlands. After his death, some of the estate including an acre of land at 'The Butts' was sold at auction, on 31st July, 1861.

St. Catherine’s Convalescent Home for woman and children was established by Miss Harriet Sparrow in 1873 on part of 'The Butts'.

In the 1881 census, Butts Road is named as Home Lane, presumably named after St. Catherine’s Convalescent Home. The name Butts Road doesn't appear on maps until just before World War One. It is marked as such on the 1913 Ordnance Survey map.

The convalescent home. From an old postcard.

The site of the home.

The Sparrow Family

The Sparrow family moved to Penn and acquired a lot of land in the area. They became extremely wealthy thanks to the profits from their coal mines, ironstone mines, and ironworks. The family originated in Wolstanton, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, and moved to the West Midlands, where in 1812, William Hanbury Sparrow and William Hanbury leased Brownhills Colliery, in order to supply coal to some of the ironworks and furnaces in Bilston.

Around the same time, William Hanbury Sparrow and his brother John Sly Sparrow purchased Bilston Mill Ironworks, which they ran with John Walker, an ironmaster. The two brothers founded W. & J.S. Sparrow & Company, and leased 120 acres of land in Stow Heath, on the western side of Stow Heath Lane, where they mined coal and ironstone. In 1824 they opened Stow Heath Ironworks on part of the site, and began producing iron. Before long there were five blast furnaces, using cold blast, producing hard forge iron.

William Hanbury Sparrow is described as follows, in Griffiths' Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain, published in 1873:

….. the Stow Heath furnaces, which so much contributed to the colossal fortune made by the late William Hanbury Sparrow, who died worth from £1,300,000 to £1,500,000. …. Mr. William Hanbury Sparrow was looked up to, particularly during the latter part of his life, with love and respect by worthy parties of standing. He was discreet, cautious, plain in his manner, with an abundance of common sense. He established the Bilston Banking Company, and lived to see it prosper, and become one of the best managed and safest banks in the district.

William Hanbury Sparrow built two large houses at Penn, on Penn Road. They were Penn House, and neighbouring Penn Court. He was born on the 6th January, 1789 and died on the 20th January, 1867. He married Caroline Mander on the 26th January, 1811. She died on the 22nd February, 1822, at the age of 33. William then married Sarah Higgs Turton on the 23rd August, 1824. She died on the 3th March, 1834.

The entry in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census returns is as follows:


The Big House, Penn
William Hanbury Sparrow, age 52, born in Wolverhampton - ironmaster
Robert, age 21, son, born in Wolverhampton
William, age 20, son, born in Wolverhampton
Louisa, age 24, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Sarah Elizabeth, age 10, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Ellen, age 9, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Mary Ann, age 11, daughter, pupil in a school in Church Street, Wolverhampton
Harriet, age 9, daughter, pupil in a school in Church Street, Wolverhampton
Four servants: Elizabeth Becks, Thomas Bond, Eliza Macdonald, and Hannah Sheldon


William Hanbury Sparrow, age 62, born in Wolverhampton - ironmaster
Sarah Elizabeth, age 23, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Mary Ann, age 21, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Harriet, age 19, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Four servants: Elizabeth Bailey, Ann Bitchan, Hannah Sheldon and John Neston.


Penn House
William Hanbury Sparrow, J.P. age 72 born in Wolverhampton - ironmaster
Sarah Elizabeth, age 32, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Harriet, age 29, daughter, born in Wolverhampton
Mary A. niece, age 20, born in Rushall.
Emma J. niece, age19, born in Wolverhampton
Four servants: Elizabeth Bedford, Eliza Raisin, Hannah Sheldon, and William Smith.

In 1853, William Hanbury Sparrow bought Albrighton Hall, Albrighton and rented it to wealthy tenants. He also gave the land on which St. Philip’s Church was erected in 1859. After his death in 1867, Albrighton Hall was inherited by his son William Mander Sparrow (1812-1881) who in 1843 purchased the Osier Bed Iron Works, beside the Wyrley and Essington Canal in Horseley Fields, Wolverhampton. He was Justice of the Peace for the counties of Staffordshire and Shropshire and a Deputy-Lieutenant for the county of Stafford. In 1870 he moved into Albrighton Hall with his wife Alice.

In 1881 Harriet Sparrow was living at Penn House, as can be seen from the following entry in that year’s census:

Penn House
Harriet Sparrow, age 49
Jessie Powys, niece
Sarah Edwards, cook
Annie Clemson, parlour maid and domestic servant
Agnes Crump, domestic servant
Lucy Clemson, under housemaid and domestic servant
George Smith, gardener

St. Catherine’s Convalescent Home

In 1873 Miss Harriet Sparrow established St. Catherine’s Convalescent Home for woman and children from the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire General Hospital. The home was situated on the site of St. Catherine's Crescent, off Butts Road. The building may have been purpose-built for the home. It is not marked on the 1830s Ordnance Survey map, which shows an empty field on the site.

The Butts, from the 1830s Ordnance Survey map. Penn Road is in the top left-hand corner and Wakeley Hill and Church Hill are at the bottom.

The home opened on the 13th February, 1873. At first, only children from the General Hospital were admitted, with girls accepted over the age of three, and boys aged between three and ten. The entry for the home in the 1881 census is as follows:

St. Catherine’s

Jane Jones, Matron, age 34, born in Llantrisant, Anglesey
Ann Corns, general servant, age 19, born in Wombourne
Emily Corns, general servant, age 16, born in Wombourne

Sarah J. Simpson, age 14, from Tipton
Annie Glover, age 5, from Tipton
Sophia Carter, age 4, from Wolverhampton
Alfred Owen, age 9, from Wolverhampton
William Hodgetts, age 9, from Wolverhampton
George Cooling, age 14, from Wednesbury
James Stevenson, age 13, from Priestfield
Thomas Rolan, age 13, from Gornal
John Thomas Homer, age 11, from Walsall
William Goodwin, age 5, from Birmingham

Harriet ran the home at her own expense until 1885, when it was presented by her to the Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Hospital as a convalescent home for women and children. In 1889, additional land was purchased from Miss Sparrow and the building was enlarged to hold 17 beds. Children and young women were admitted by subscribers' tickets costing one shilling per week.  There was a donkey and cart, and a rotating shelter that allowed respiratory patients to enjoy fresh air and the sun in any direction, without getting wet in the rain.

The home was supervised by a ladies’ committee who looked after the running of the home and raised funds. Committee members included Mrs. Mander, Miss Marston, Mrs. Thorneycroft and Mrs. Twentyman.

From the 1892 Wolverhampton Red Book.

From the 1897 Wolverhampton Red Book.

From the 1914 Wolverhampton Red Book.

By 1914, each patient had to bring with them a change of linen and a pair of slippers. A half guinea subscription admitted a patient under the age of 14 for ten days, or a patient over that age for one week.

From the 1936 Wolverhampton Red Book.

Some of the young patients.

By 1936, there were 20 beds and each patient had to pay five shillings per week. The home was now run by the hospital rather than the ladies' committee.

By the 1930s, larger premises were required and the Board of the new Royal Hospital purchased a large house on Penn Road, called The Beeches.

After making the necessary alterations and adaptations it opened in 1935, and was an ideal place for the convalescence of women and children.

The Butts Road site soon closed. It is still listed in the 1936 Wolverhampton Red Book, but not in the 1938 edition.

St. Catherine's, with Swan Bank in the distance on the left.

Harriet Sparrow, the donkey and trap and members of staff outside the home.

Harriet Sparrow, the donkey and trap, members of staff and patients. From an old postcard.

Patients and staff outside the home. From an old postcard.

Harriet Sparrow and patients and staff outside the home.

A later view of an even more ivy-covered home. From an old postcard.

A donkey and trap outside the home.

A musical session in the home.

An ambulance outside the home.

The Beeches

In the early 1930s the Beeches was owned by Henry Evers Palfrey, a sheepskin rug manufacturer, who sold the house and the adjoining land to the Board of the Royal Hospital. The house was adapted for use as a convalescent home to replace the existing St. Catherine’s Convalescent Home, at The Butts.

From the 1938 Wolverhampton Red Book.

In the Second World War, extra beds were desperately needed for wounded soldiers at the Royal Hospital and so The Beeches was converted to a children’s hospital with 30 beds. In 1948 the name was changed from St. Catherine's Convalescent Home to St. Catherine's Hospital.

After the war, children treated at the Royal Hospital were sent to The Beeches to recuperate when their condition improved. Girls who were too young to enrol as trainee nurses, lived in the top of the house, and carried out basic treatments as an introduction to nursing. There were also gardeners who maintained the grounds, and ran the kitchen garden and greenhouses to provide fresh produce for the hospital.

Hundreds of local children suffering from illnesses such as polio and tuberculosis were looked after in the house, but by the late 1980s it had fallen into a bad state of repair, and closed in 1989. In 2000 plans were made for the refurbishment of the house, and an extension of the site. The new hospital officially opened on 17th May, 2004 under the name of The Beeches Training and Education Centre.

The Beeches. From an old postcard.

A sitting room in The Beeches.

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