An elocution confusion solution?

I still love the drawing of the dog. So cursory. So beautiful.

Here’s a thing – it’s rare I think, that I can answer a question asked of the blog so comprehensively, but today an enquiry dropped into the mailbox from reader Glen Wootton, who posed the following question:


Hope you can help! In the late 1950’s early 1960’s I used to attend the Co-op Drama group in Walsall and every year our teacher- whose name I can’t for the life of me remember- used to enter us in this festival, where we would recite poetry singly and in teams. My family think I’m pulling their legs and fell off the chair laughing! The one year we entered our chorale team and we won. I remember carting home this enormous great wooden shield on the no 38 bus out of Walsall back home to the Pleck.

I don’t think I’m having delusions yet, so please – have you any memory of the festival being in this format? I can’t remember where they used to be held, but it was in Brownhills.

Kind regards
Glen Wootton

Well Glen, I don’t think you’re delusional. I think you remember attending Brownhills Music Festival, which I’ve noted here on the blog in a previous article, posted in August 2012. I’d been donated scans of the 1950 festival program, and I posted the whole thing on the blog (I include the whole article below).

The festival wasn’t just about music, it had ‘Elocution’ elements, and the program notes on page 2:

Adjudicator : Elsle A. Davies, L.R.A.M. (Ch.M.A.T.S.D.)

Class 1. Elocution. Under 12 years
2. Elocution. Under I5 years
3. Duologue. Open.
4. Choral Speaking

Choral speaking? That’s a terrific sounding thing. Has that died out as a practice? Are there any examples online? My interest is piqued…

Note also on page 9:

Class 4. Choral Speaking. (teams of 6 Voices). 12.30pm to 1pm.

Adjudicator : ELSIE A. DAVIES, L.R.A.M. (Ch.M.A.T.S.D.)

First Prize, Walsall Co-op. Education Committee Shield and Certificate.

Second and Third Certificates. Test : ‘The 23rd Psalm.’

(1180 marks attained).

  1. Brownhills Wesley                         Brownhills
  2. ‘Hcatherleigh’                                 Streetly
  3. Co-op. Drama Class No. I            Walsall
  4. Co-op. Drama Class No. 2           Walsall

So the Co-op Drama Group were there in 1950 – I think that’s probably the answer. What  was Heatherleigh? The name sounds awfully familiar. Anyone know?

When did Brownhills Music Festival cease to happen? Why?

I suspect the young David Evans may have more to add to all this – this is one of his great specialities.

Please, if anyone has anything to add, feel free: comment here or mail me BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Never a dull moment!

I wrote in August, 2012:

A snapshot of a lost place. Click on the image to download the whole program in PDF format(about 2 megabytes, could take a while on a slow connection).

Now, here’s a thing. It is probably the most complete illustration of Brownhills in that peculiar, post Second World War twilight hangover period I’ve ever seen. Found by local historian Clive Roberts, it’s both a sad, and joyful thing. It’s the complete scan of a program for the Brownhills Sixth Annual Music Festival, held on Saturday, October 7th, 1950.

This is a large booklet, consisting of some 36 page scans, containing both program detail, listings, participants and most interesting to me, adverts for local businesses. This is the sad part – if you read the testimonials for butchers, for example, several refer obliquely to the then ongoing rationing. Note the Poxon & Sons copy says with some ennui:

We shall be pleased when once again we can give you unrestricted quality.

Bradshaw’s similarly note:

We endeavour to please you under present conditions

And even the trusty Co-Op tailors are circumspect:

Whilst we must admit there is an acute shortage in men’s & boys’ clothing, we realise that this shortage is no excuse to be any the less courteous to our friends.

Our endeavour is to find you just what you require, and with that thought in mind we have built up our stock as far as the prevailing restrictions will allow.

Call and have a look around – we would like to help you in your clothing problems.

This is a town under the same immense pressure economically as the rest of the country, and appearing to consequently let off steam in the art of music. Scholars of Brownhillian history – and indeed local street nomenclature – will notice many names here that are familiar; Patterson, Bradbury, Roberts. Seedhouse, Simmonds, Harrison (yes, that Harrison). George Fullelove, the great Brownhills chorister, was recorded as conductor of the Brownhills Male Voice Choir.

Please download a copy and read it – it’s like a glimpse into another world. I particularly love the instructions to visitors on how to find the venue:

To make things run smoothly for all concerned, will you please note that :-

The Schools arc situate in Great Charles Street and Church Road.

Competitors arriving by train proceed down the Bridge, turn left along the Lichfield Road, off which is Great Charles Street (sharp right).

Competitors arriving by bus or charabanc from Walsall or District proceed along Main Road to Railway Station entrance ; turn right along Lichfield Road.

I thank Clive immensely for sharing this wonderful find with us, and emailing me such wonderful scans. Just when you think you must have nailed every gem the Brownhills history cannon has to offer, up pops another…

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Littleton Colliery 1912, another Battle of Orgreave?

One of the more contentious issues in the history and folklore of mining communities is that of strikes and protest – we all know they happened, but for some historical retellers and gatekeepers the actuality has always been a wee bit too raw, rough and ready for their liking, so the stories are often given a subtle cast to better align with delicate sensibilities.

Local history rapscallion Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler has again been busy crate digging in the archives and turned up this interesting bit of history relating to a remarkably tense protest at Littleton Colliery, Cannock, in 1912 – and he finds the historical coverage seems a little disparate.

Thanks, as ever to Peter who consistently ruffles feathers with his investigations into such matters. His coverage of the Old Hednesford Pit Disaster has certainly been ruffling a few feathers…

Peter wrote:


A remarkable image of Littleton just before closure. Image taken, and kindly donated by Reg ‘Aer Reg’ Fullelove, via David Evans.

Littleton Colliery 1912, another Battle of Orgreave?

Anyone interested in the coal industry around the time of the Geat War can gain a great deal from the Sankey Commission of 1919, available and searchable online. It was called by Lloyd George, probably just to buy time, and to examine the future of the coal mining industry. At the conclusion recommendations were made, but just as Cameron and Leveson it was confined to the dustbin.

Searching for anything of local interest reveals very little except a mention of Littleton Colliery. Thomas Bailey, who was a prominent adviser to many royalty owners, sited the Colliery as being an example of capital risk taken by the royalty owner Lord Hatherton; being ten years before any dividend was paid. He was of the opinion that risk like this would not be taken under State control.

To check out Littleton Colliery I turn to the ‘trusted’ publication by the Cannock Chase Mining Historical Society (CCMHS) – ‘The Cannock Chase Coalfield and its Coal Mines‘ and an occurrence under Confrontations in 1912 caught my eye.

During the strike some 6000 men from Heath Hayes, Cannock, Hednesford and Chadsmoor marched to Littleton Colliery to demonstrate against the Company with regard to their grievance about money. Thousands of pounds of damage was done at the colliery; local police facing a barrage of missiles resorted to a baton charge to disperse the crowd.

Strike breakers working underground were ordered to the surface and accommodated at the colliery for the evening with a guard for their protection. The striking miners were seen as a threat to law and order so a Company of 500 soldiers was brought in to liaise with the police. The soldiers of the 1st West Yorkshire Regiment were stationed at Whittington were only in the vicinity for a short period 26 March to 6th April.

It is obviously difficult to tell the whole story in a couple of paragraphs, and so I turned to the ‘trusted’ local papers the Lichfield Mercury and the Walsall Advertiser for more detail, and quite a story evolves.

Littleton Colliery black and white Reg

Littleton was a busy and important colliery for many decades. Image kindly supplied by Reg Fullelove.

The gathering was part of a national dispute. The crowd had gathered on learning that 80 stallmen were working underground while the management maintained that the men were only keeping the roads open, but were not believed. Several hundred women were in the crowd and they were among the noisiest. There were threats of violence and it was evident the police would be utterly powerless if the strikers got out of control. The pressure of the crowd was so great that 2000 were forced up to the pit head. A number of youths were stated to have threatened police, stones and other missiles were being hurled. The miner’s agent appealed for the crowd to be peaceful but was drowned in noise.

The Police Chief, Spendlove, said that the crowd later increased to 9000 and were armed with bludgeons, sticks, hedge sticks and stones. He advised that the men be kept down the pit as the crowd were around the pit mouth and he believed that the men’s lives were in jeapody. Troops were called the same night but within 48 hours everything was quiet. 33 policemen were injured.

It appears that 26 men were arrested but only 8 were sent to the Assizes, where one man was discharged and the remaining 7 were tried and found guilty by a jury. The jury had recommended mercy on account of their youth and the excitement that had prevailed at the time.

But Justice Horridge was having none of this, he would take no notice of character references given by the MP Mr. A Stanley, and stated that it was a terrible crime against society; it should be known throughout the length and breadth of the country that the law would not have violence and rioting accompanying any trade agitation. 3 men were given 6 months hard labour, and the others 4 months hard labour. The Mercury report that during the delivery of the sentences a young girl in the public gallery broke out into loud lamentations, and it was some time before she could be removed. But in the Cornishman the report differs by saying that it was the mother of one of the defendants who shouted out to her, ‘Don’t cry mother, it won’t kill us.’

Mr. Stanley (MP) wrote to the Home Secretary with a petition pleading for a reduction in the sentences, but the the Home Secretary found insufficient grounds for interfrence. Three of the convicted men asked for the right to appeal but only one was successful. At his appeal his sentence was quashed as the conviction had been on the evidence of one witness, and he had a credible alibi. The witness said that he had asked the defendant for a match but was told that the last one had been used to fire the cabin. It was also said that the witness had been overheard in a pub to say that he could get the defendant 5 years penal servitude!

November 1912, Chadsmoor….Two of the young men who on July 8th were sentenced to imprisonment for rioting at Littleton Colłiery, returned home on Saturday, and the occasion was made one of great rejoicing, the streets being gay with flags and bunting. At intervals of a few yards there were streamers hanging across the road, and flags were pushed out of many windows. Thousands of chrythanthemums of all colours had been used to add to the decorative effect. At Blackfords, a little distance away, were similar decorations.

[On the same page of the CCMHS publication it says that 1913 saw the opening of the Central Rescue Station at Hednesford, which had been financed by the Cannock Chase Coal Owners Association. According to the Mercury it was set up in order to comply with the provisions of recent mining legislation, and initially the cost was borne by the CCCOA]

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The forgotten Coventry bombing that blew a Walsall Wood bricklayer off his feet


A new chain and some forks and that could be good to go… The remains of the bicycle bomb planted in Coventry just before the war. Image courtesy of Coventry Police Museum.

An additional piece followed the original article I featured by John and Paul Anslow last week, on the subject of Walsall Wood and Pelsall wartime air raids – this one is about an IRA attack in Coventry right before the war that appears to have been all but forgotten.

Last week’s article was wonderfully well received and I’d like to once again thank the Anslow brothers for their time and generosity in contributing such wonderful material to the blog.

Thanks to John and Paul, and if you have anything to add, please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

John Anslow wrote:


The devastation caused by the bomb: a forgotten atrocity. Image from

Here’s another footnote for your collection of wartime memories, Bob.

In the months immediately preceding the outbreak of the Second World War, the IRA launched a bombing campaign, now largely forgotten.

The only reason I know about it is because of a bricklayer called Jackie Morgan, who had a bungalow down Beech Tree Road, Walsall Wood. He used to drink with Dad in The Hawthorn Tree and The Horse and Jockey; in fact, Jackie often drank and played cards through the night at the Jockey and left for work from there at daybreak.

Jackie was working in Broadgate, Coventry at lunchtime on Friday 25th August 1939 when a bicycle bomb exploded, blowing him off his feet but leaving him with no serious injury. The blast killed five people. There’s a very well written account of this act of terrorism here:

Subsequently, two Irishmen involved in the plot were hanged, though the person who planted the bomb was never caught. These two, Barnes and McCormick, have entered the pantheon of republican martyrs.

War was declared on the 3rd of September and the German bombing raids just over a year later have pushed the terrorist attack out of public memory.

All the best, Bob.
John Anslow

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Walsall Wood trounce Ellesmere Rangers 6-0!


Ellesmere Rangers ground, Beech Grove, is famous for it’s unusual dugouts. No shit. Image from Dovey1977.

Sorry to say Bill Shaw is still convalescing from his recent illness and was unable to attend yesterday’s (1st August 2015) away match at Ellesmere Rangers, which by all accounts was a bit of a stonker.

Bill kindly sent me the following message with some details, and pointed out that Walsall Wood FC are still in desperate need of some help in the kitchen…

Hiya Bob,

Still breaking the habit of a lifetime and being sensible by not going to football games, no information about the Ellesmere Rangers game other than the score, a 6–0 win for the Wood.

A hat trick from Joey Butlin and one each from Harry Harris, Luke Adams and Daniel Holgate completing the scoring and bringing to an end the friendlies for this term.

It’s the opening League game of the season next Saturday with Bardon Hill Sports the visitors to Oak Park, kick off 3.00 pm.

Now going back to my Perfichrome days in the 60’s can I use one of the best words I have ever heard can I make an ERJINT appeal again, for help in the kitchen, the earlier request has fallen on deaf ears and the situation is now looking desperate, so can someone out there please offer some assistance.

The appeal from June 25th, 2015 was as follows:

Is there any lady or gentleman out there aged 16 or over who would like to be involved in the ‘Wood phenomenon’? We are looking for someone to help in the kitchen on match days throughout the season which runs from Saturday August 8th to Saturday April 30th next yea. It’s mainly Saturday afternoon and Tuesday evening at present, initially on a voluntary basis, but that could change as the club moves forward.

It’s an opportunity to become an important part of the new community spirit being generated at Oak Park and have some fun in the process.

If you have a few hours to spare and think this is for you, either call into the club during opening hours or call Lynn on 07767 125582 for an informal chat.


Bill Shaw

Bill –  do get well soon, from myself and the blog readers. Take all the time you need, after all, it’s… For the Good of the Wood!

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November 1995 – Grandad’s a hero (and here’s when the story ends)

Brownhills Gazette November 1995 issue 74_000001

Brownhills Gazette November 1995 issue 74 – a 24 page issue with Ray Myatt awarded for saving the life of his granddaughter Bethany, vandals were again plaguing the High Street, there was new woodland in Clayhanger, a special on Brownhills West JMI football team, school news, crime reports, and even a pullout advertising Christmas shopping in Walsall. Click for a larger version.

Completing the scans of the Brownhills Gazette – I present the final issue – number 74 – of the long lost freesheet, from November 1995 for you to peruse and download. I’ve had an incredible response to featuring these long, lost publications here on the blog.

I’ve held back a week or two from posting this one, as this post needed to say something, and I had to think about it very carefully. I’m still not sure I can put this exactly how I feel, but here goes…

The Brownhills Gazette appears to end with this issue: November 1995. There are no more in Brian Stringer’s collection, and I know of no others; but the publication dies with no notice whatsoever. This seems peculiar, but is probably entirely appropriate.

I have no idea why it stopped so suddenly, but the writing was on the wall; production had transferred from Brownhills to Birmingham, and some contraction was evident in the final twelve months. I honestly don’t think the journalism was as good, and it felt like a collection of items around adverts, rather than as previously, a cohesive publication with opinions and features. In the last twelve months, for example, the archive feature stopped.

The Gazette seemed to be dying, or at least, losing its way.

It’s sad and regrettable we lost the Gazette here. But better to have lost it than it become some shadow of glory days, like the Walsall Observer turned into when it went to a freesheet.

Having said that, it must not detract from what the Gazette was and achieved; under the stewardship of Brian Stringer and others whilst published by Baker Bond it was a remarkable and unusual thing. It campaigned, and got things done. It covered local issues that mattered to us in Brownhills. It started conversations, and arguments. It was essential reading.

It was a true hyperlocal. Before the internet. I don’t say that lightly.

But I will keep saying this: without the Gazette, this blog would never have existed. Certain things had a great influence on me and the way I curate this blog. The Gazette, particularly in the Brian Stringer years, was a massive, massive thing, along with that other great piece of lost Brownhills media, the Dave ‘Frostie’ Frost fanzines.

Yes Brian and Dave, this is all your fault.

I pored over the gazette 25 years ago. I studied it closely. I learned not only about local news, events and politics, but it sparked my interest in local history, a seed planted that germinated into this shambling, train-wreck of a blog.

As a service to the community and honour to the Gazette and it’s creators, I long dreamed of hosting every issue but could not work out how to get the back issues. A chance find by David Evans let to one of his famous chats with Brian Stringer, the two gentlemen subsequently worked their magic and my dream came to pass.

If I was to drop dead tomorrow, I would die happy that I’d been able to record and make available this bit of obscure local media journalism that so many remember and derive pleasure from. I’ll never better this as an achievement. I know it seems silly, but I’m very proud of it and the gentlemen whose generosity of time and spirit made it possible.

I’ve previously written about how the Brownhills Gazette came to exist thanks to the wonderful John Sylvester – if anyone has anything to add to the story of it’s passing, I’d love to hear it.

To John, Brian and all those who worked on it: thank you.

Also a hat-tip to Claridges, who advertised in every single issue. A full page advert, usually on the back page – that’s provided a nostalgic technological journey all by itself.

If you have any memories, questions or observations please do comment or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Brownhills Gazette issue 74 November 1995 – PDF format

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Angie Parton: ice cream queen remembered

Jill Waters recently asked a great question in the Pelsall group on Facebook and sparked some wonderful debate and memories about a lost Pelsallian ice cream seller who made wonderful treats remembered to this day by the kids she served.

I took the liberty of posting Jill’s query here, and the memories flowed in; but also on Facebook, too. For those interested, Jill has acquired a photo of Aggie and her husband which she’s kindly given me permission to share here.

11779800_1110756688951918_1280900625109218458_o 2

Angie and George Parton: warmly remembered Pelsall characters. Image supplied by Jill Walters.

Jill said this about the image:

Well, I’m delighted to say I have a photo of the lovely PelsalliIce cream maker, Aggie Parton. Sitting on the settee, with her husband George, in the front room of the famous Pelsall artist Arthur Rushton.

She added, later:

My neighbour from when I was small found the photo, it was his uncle, Arthur Rushton, who the photo belonged to.

The whole thread can be read here – it’s well worth a read. Go grab a cup of tea and wallow in the warm, collective memory. I love this stuff.

Jill mentions Arthur Ruston, and indeed, he’s partially discussed in the Facebook conversation. What do we know about Arthur, and is his work available anywhere? I’d love to know more about him.

That ice cream research associate the young David Evans also had something to say about the ‘Wafermaster‘, the aid used by Aggie, which he realls in use by the great Brownhills ice-monger Welwyn Smith. No debt the Pelari family probably used one too, and maybe Mr. Pinchers on his round in Walsall Wood.


David said:

Hi Bob

Thrupenny and fourpenny wafers, Selwyn Smith style…

The gadget was set to one of two depths… shallow for threepenny wafer, deep for fourpenny wafers. A wafer biscuit was placed in the mould and then icecream was ladelled from the tub, using a wooden spatula, to be levelled off and a top biscuit placed to complete the delicacy.


A wafer master, from Bradford on Avon Museum.

This completed wafer was pushed on to a piece of paper and served to the dribbling young lad waiting patiently beside the ice cream van.

Selwyn Smith vanilla, served with a flourish, by Darwin.

Customer now had two choices, to lick the icecream from around the edge of the wafer…slower and risking icecream down one’s wrist or. biting atraight into the biscuit which was faster but risked a squirt from the edge of the delicacy.

Final task… licking fingers clean.

Real ice cream, 1950s style!


Thanks to David, as ever, for that! There’s plenty more memories of this, I’m sure.

You know what to do. Comment here, or mail me. BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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Walsall Wood away to Ellesmere Rangers at Beech Grove this afternoon, plus news from Bill Shaw


Ellesmere Rangers ground, Beech Grove, is famous for it’s unusual dugouts. No shit. Image from Dovey1977.

Saturday 1st August 2015

Walsall Wood away at Ellesmere Rangers
(That’s the Ellesmere near Oswestry in Shropshire, not the one in 

Kick off is 3:00pm

Ellesmere Rangers Football Club
Beech Grove

Hopefully, a match report will follow…

For the Good of the Wood!

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here.

Also, a note from Bill Shaw:

Hiya Bob,

Sorry I haven’t been in contact earlier re: the Kidderminster game, whilst I’m improving slowly I’m not back to anything like my best yet, but here goes.

Walsall Wood 2 v 1 Kidderminster Harriers

From what I’ve been told it was a cracking game with both sides playing free flowing football, Joey Butlin continued on from last season to open the scoring in the first half, Luke Adams then added the second in the second half to put Wood in the driving seat.

An unfortunate clash of heads saw play delayed as one of the Kidderminster youngsters appeared to be badly injured, play did eventually continue with the visitors pulling a goal back with 10 minutes to go to make for an interesting last few minutes but Wood held out to record a victory.

With Harriers also playing up the A5 at Shrewsbury this was the Under 21 Academy squad, but as I said about the Pelsall game, you can only beat what is put in front of you.

So it’s off to Ellesmere Rangers on Saturday 1st August for the last friendly this term, with the long awaited season opener against Bardon Hill Sports a week later at Oak Park kick off 3.00 pm.

Bill Shaw

Cheers for that, Bill – and do get well soon. For the Good of the Wood!

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