General History

Fradley first appeared in 12th-century records as ‘Frodeleye’, or ‘Frod’s lea’. Historically it formed part of the parish of Alrewas until, in April 2009, Fradley and nearby Streethay split from Alrewas and Orgreave to form ‘Fradley and Streethay’ parish.

Some of the first historic accounts of Fradley come from the building of the canals. Fradley is surrounded by canals and nearby Fradley Junction is a well-known local beauty spot and hive of boating activity. Fradley was mentioned in 1768 when an Engineer called Brindley won the contract to build the canal from Coventry, to link with the Trent and Mersey at Fradley. Unfortunately even in those days money was a problem with him only just getting enough to allow him to build up to Atherstone, the project was put on hold. In 1783, a consortium called the Coleshill Agreement won the contract to finish the project, and so as we see it today the Coventry canal meets the Trent and Mersey canal at Fradley Junction.

James Brindley

The next major development for the parish was the construction of the railway. South Staffordshire Railway Line opened in 1849. The line officially began at Wychnor Junction, north of Lichfield, and ran through what is now Lichfield Trent Valley passing through Fradley at Fine Lane and Brookhay Lane. Trains then continued through to Lichfield City itself. From there, a plethora of stations along the route were served. The line continued through to Walsall and a low-level station at Dudley Port.

St Stephen’s Church, built in 1861, still stands proudly on the corner of Church Lane and Old Hall Lane. A quaint Victorian schoolhouse, which had stood beside it since 1875, was demolished in 2008 to make room for modern classrooms to accommodate Fradley’s burgeoning child population.

Though no longer used as working farms, Bycars, Bridge, Hilliards Cross and Old Hall farms can still be seen. Old Hall Farm was built in the 1500s, when it was known as Frodley Hall. Also in Old Hall Lane stands Lodge Croft, a three-storey house dating back to the 1750s. The Old Smithy, where farmers used to bring their horses to be shod, has also survived at the Church Lane entrance to the old village.

Prior to World War II the village comprised only St Stephen’s church, St Stephen’s school, a number of farms and smallholdings and a scattering of private dwellings. There were 6 small farms in the village which used to produce mainly milk including Bromley Farm, in the bad winter of 1941 it took the Bromley farmers a full day to deliver the milk by horse and cart from their farm in Fradley to Kings Bromley.

In 1939, RAF Lichfield was constructed on Fradley Common/Fradley Heath. It was first built of turf and a gang of Fradley women spent weeks stone picking to complete the task, but the large aircraft that used it soon got bogged down, so as the Wellingtons and Lancasters continued to get stuck the airfield was eventually concreted.

In August 1940 the Royal Air Force moved in, along with Hurricanes, Oxford and Anson aircraft. Spitfires arrived in 1941 and Wellington Bombers followed in 1942. Alongside RAF personnel training in the Wellingtons, there were a large number of Australians and some Canadians and Czechs.

Fradley Home Guard c.1940 Provided by Mr George Arblaster

Back row (L-R): Spooner, G Bates, Ted Begley, Billy Begley, W Osbourne, Hyatt Wood, Reg Woolley, Mick Hallam, Harry Yates, (?)Ken Woolley

Middle row: Charlie Arnold, Dick Williamson, Bert Kirkland, Joe Wren, Bob Brown, ?, Norman Backhouse, Jack Kean, John Grundy, Norman Watson

Front row: Philip Hancock, George Osbourne, Walter Arblaster, Ted Spooner, George Arblaster, Frank Askew, Tom Mansell, Jim Rayworth, Ted Wilson, Jack Arnold

Soon after the war Fradley was to change, houses went up on the airfield to house RAF personnel, 85 in total were built. In 1959, these houses were sold off to Lichfield Rural Council to house council house tenants from around the city.

The RAF left in 1958 and the whole site was sold by the Air Ministry in 1962. In 2000 a memorial to all who served at RAF Lichfield was constructed opposite St Stephen’s church, which is home to the war graves of the Australian aircrew and one German Luftwaffe pilot who lost their lives. Their graves continue to be treated with great reverence by the community. Many of the names of people associated with RAF Lichfield are commemorated in the road names, which now occupy the land where the airfield stood.

Fradley has increased it’s housing numbers significantly over recent years, especially since the 1990’s. Fortunately parts of the village still retain much of their original charm and character.