Wolverhampton's Listed Buildings

Tong Castle Gates

Marston Road, Blakenhall

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.

The photos 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 reconstruction.

An old postcard view of Tong Castle, showing the same view as in the relief panel above. 

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 Brown?

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.