Listing: by Capability Brown. Moved from Tong, 1977
||These red sandstone gates came from Tong Castle and are
about all that is left of that remarkable house.
They were rescued from their
original site and re-erected here as an entrance to the Villiers works.
This was an odd gesture at a time when Villiers were on their last legs.
|The photograph above shows the gates in their
original position at Tong Castle and probably at about the
beginning of the 20th century when they were still in use.
opposite and below below by Bev Parker show the gates in their
original position, but when the castle itself was long gone.
||This relief panel, in the wing wall to the right of the
entrance, shows Tong Castle itself.
The other panel on that side, and
the two on the other side, seem to have been omitted from the
|An old postcard view of Tong Castle, showing the same view as in the relief
Thanks to Gary Tong for the photo.
There seems to have been some sort of castle at Tong since at least the twelfth
century. It passed through various hands (including those of the curiously
named Adeliza de Belmeis and Juliana Zouche)But in 1746 the whole estate was
purchased by one George Durant. He pulled the old place down in 1765 and
built the architectural mongrel seen in the picture above. He engaged
Capability Brown to make over the gardens and Brown designed these gates as a
suitable entrance. The castle later passed through various other
hands, including those of the great Colonel Thorneycroft, but after the death of
Emma Throneycroft in 1909 the place fell into ruins and was demolished in 1954.
The Villiers company bought these gates and erected them here in 1977.
Originally the gates were re-erected with the piers the same distance
apart as they were at Tong. But they proved to be too narrow for lorries,
which were damaging the piers. Listed Building Consent was therefore given for
the piers to be moved slightly further apart - which meant that the gates no
longer met when in the closed position. This was supposed to keep them
safe but in 2001 the left pier and part of the wall has been demolished,
apparently by a lorry. Since then nothing has been done to make repairs.
It is important to keep these gates for their own historic and architectural
interest; and how many other working towns have anything built by Capability
George Durant, who was a son of Lord Lyttleton of Hagley, had made his fortune
in Havanna in some sort of government post. Exactly what he did is not
known but it must be highly likely that his fortune was not made from his
government salary but largely built on some trading activity or other which was,
almost inevitably in that time and place, related to the slave trade, whether
directly or at one remove. It is sometimes argued that the financial drive
behind the whole industrial revolution was based on the slave trade and that
therefore all our old industries, including Wolverhampton's, are indirectly
complicit in that incredible trade. But it may be that these gates are our
most direct remaining association with it.