The village of Kinver is situated in the south-west corner of Staffordshire and is dominated by Kinver Edge, renowned for its rock houses. Its attractive scenery earned it the description of ‘the Switzerland of the Midlands’ at the turn of the 20th century. The village has always been popular with people from the nearby Black Country to the extent that in 1901, the Kinver Light Railway or tramway was opened to provide a regular and cheaply priced link with the Black Country towns. On Whit Monday in 1903 14,000 people travelled to Kinver and 16,700 on the same day in 1905. The tramway was in existence for about 30 years. In response to its ‘tourist trade’ the village had a number of tea rooms and a few boarding houses. Kinver Edge is now owned by the National Trust. The original area of land given to the Trust in 1917 was in memory of Thomas Grosvenor Lee, who was born in Kinver and became a Birmingham solicitor.
The name Kinver is Celtic. The second element of the name means hill but the meaning of the first is unclear. The spelling ‘Kinfare’ was in use until relatively late in the 19th century.
In the Domesday Book of 1086 Kinver is called Chenevare. The manor belonged to the Crown at that time and the population was 28 including the priest. Two mills were recorded in the manor. Kinver was at the centre of Kinver Forest during the Middle Ages.
By 1327 52 people were assessed for the lay subsidy, the tax which was levied to pay for Edward III’s Scottish war. Population figures for the 17th century are relatively detailed. In 1641 421 people were listed in the village for a poll tax. By the time of the Hearth Tax in 1666, 230 households were listed. A total of 957 people were recorded in the Compton Census of 1676, an ecclesiastical census of Anglicans, nonconformists and Roman Catholics. In 1801 at the time of the first national census there were 1,665 people in the parish. By 1971 the population was recorded as 6,376.
The parish church is dedicated to St Peter. There was a church here at the time of Domesday and the present 14th century building contains some fragments of the earlier church. A north aisle was added by the Victorians in 1856-57. There is a splendid brass memorial to Sir Edward Grey who died in 1528. He is depicted between his two wives and below are 10 daughters and seven sons. The details of the knight’s armour and the style of dress of his wives are very fine.
At the time of the Domesday Book there was sufficient land in the manor of Kinver to support 16 ploughteams. In the Middle Ages and on into the 17th century, sheep farming appears to have had more significance than arable farming. Agriculture continued to be important until the 20th century with a feature of the parish being small mixed farms.
Apart from agriculture, iron manufacturing was an early industry here with a forge recorded in 1387. Later forges were to develop into ironworks at Whittington, Stourton, and the Hyde. There were also several blade, wire and slitting mills as well as nailers. Stone sand and gravel were also quarried and worked in the area.
Educational provision has a long history in Kinver. In 1511 a group of local men paid for a priest to teach grammar and this marked the beginning of a free grammar school. This school was eventually closed in 1916. The old grammar school building is now a private house. In addition to the grammar school, there were also a number of other schools in the parish during 19th century including a Sunday School, two national schools and a number of small private schools Surprisingly in view of all this provision, Kinver was to have own school board which took over the management of the national schools in 1871. The school board extended educational provision further by building new schools for boys and girls during the 1870s. Eventually the schools were to become Foley Infants School and Brindley Heath Junior School, the latter in different premises. Edgecliff High School was opened in 1951.