A lesson in local history

Brownhills Past and Present - 1985 optimised

Teastained and a bit musty, I discovered this 30 year old book in a bookshop some way from Brownhills. It’s a remarkable thing. Click to download a copy in PDF form.

A couple of weeks ago, I featured here scans of a local history book I’d unexpectedly found in a bookshop – it was a real cracker, and at the same time, a valuable and overlooked bit of Brownhills social history.

Brownhills: Past and Present was the product of a school project undertaken in 1985 by five pupils - Mark Staples, Kelth Jackaman, Alison Preece, Elizabeth Pike and Kate Wilkinson - and my featuring it here reawakened memories of this wonderful work, and the kids and environment that produced it.

Through Facebook, I was lucky to make contact with Mark Staples who was good enough to write a little about the project, and he’s also kindly supplied press cuttings and articles about it.

It’s a huge pleasure to be able to feature this material here, and to preserve a remarkable piece of work, which spoke so well both of the kids involved and of the quality of their school. I said it in the original article, and will say so again – if only such care and passion went into some of local history books that appear.

Thank you again Mark, and if any of the others would like to join the conversation, you’d be most welcome.

You can comment here, or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Mark wrote:

Dear Bob,

Below, a few words on my memories of ‘Brownhills: Past and Present’ which we wrote at the age of 13-14.

Best wishes


Remarkable press coverage of ‘Brownhills: Past & Present’ from the mid 1980s: some great period hair in their. A wonderful collection supplied by Mark Staples/

Brownhills: Past and Present

Mark Staples, Keith Jackaman, Kate Wilkinson, Alison Preece and Elizabeth Pike

‘Brownhills: Past and Present’ grew out of our desire for us to take some information about our hometown on exchange visit to Wittelsheim, near Mulhouse in France. We initially called our project ‘Brownhills: Past, Present and Future’. We divided up areas of research between us and set about gathering information. Of course, we did not have access to the Internet back then and relied on local history books and exhibitions, and interviews with parents, grandparents and other residents of the town. I recall endless trips to the Walsall Archives and remember there being an excellent pictorial exhibition in the ‘Annexe’. As a keen artist, I produced some of the illustrations in the book, and Keith and I stayed a number of nights after school to type up the group’s research.

When we returned from France, we were keen to sell our work to raise money for the school and local charities. We had the full support of our headteacher, Mr Chris Hunt. Mrs Audrey Jackson, the head’s secretary, retyped the book, Mr Dave Senior, our art teacher, gave us advice about the layout and Mrs Joan Archer of the reprographics department printed the book. We had such fun with the project; we were interviewed by the local press and even appeared on Radio WM! One Saturday, we put together a display and sold our book in Hillards, later to become Tesco. If my memory serves me well, the book cost £1 a copy!

Today I live in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, where I teach French and German. I still take a keen interest in the area in which I live; not so long back, I produced a photographic book entitled ‘Portrait of Suffolk’. As for the rest of the group, I am no longer in touch with them, but would love to know what they are all up to.

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Woodmen thrash beleagured Causeway

the grove 1

Causeway United play at the wonderful Halesowen Town club – The Grove in Old Hawne Lane. Image from Halesowen Town FC’s website.

Walsall Wood FC consolidated their domination of Causeway United with another stonking victory over them at Halesowen yesterday (22nd November 2014) beating the home side 5-1 at The Grove.

Bill Shaw submitted the following match report:

Hiya Bob,

A much changed side, a much changed attitude and it was job done against an injury affected and suspension riddled Causeway United. Wood strolled comfortably into Round 3 with this 5 goal demolition,  Shawn Boothe scoring his second goal of the season (in consecutive games), this one however a contender for goal of the season (ironically just 20 yards from the position of Harry Harris’s contender in the league game of 2 weeks ago).

Causeway United 1 v 5 Walsall Wood
FA Vase Round 2  

With less than one minute on the clock Corey Currithers cut in from wide left, went through 2 tackles as he raced across the face of the home box, before being hacked down from behind in the centre of the D, he received lengthy treatment before Harry Harris fired in a free kick that took 2 slight deflections before flying past keeper Tom Turner.

The ‘Cause’ were back on terms after just 10 minutes with Currithers the unwilling provider when he inexplicably headed a ball back into the centre of the Wood box for Nicholas Fellows to power a header home.

Walsall Wood were back in front within five minutes, a superb 50 yard left to right crossfield ball from Leon Taylor picked out Ben Evans on the right of the box, he took the ball in his stride and scored with a powerful low drive across the keeper. Three minutes later Currithers made amends for his earlier error, gleefully tucking away the rebound after Max Black’s low drive came back off the foot of the left hand post. The striker wrapped the game up as a contest when on 39 minutes keeper Turner made a full length save to deny Taylor, but could only push the ball away and the ever alert Currithers was first to react to calmly tuck the chance away.

The home side rallied briefly at the end of the half with Lee Stretton making a timely tackle to halt the run of Wisdom Machangani and then right on time Mario Kisiel comfortably saving Anthony Robinson’s header.

The goal of the game came on 53 minutes, Harry Harris delivered a right wing free kick into the box, Joey Butlin flicked a header to the left edge  and Shawn Boothe hit a howitzer volley into the top right hand corner. A strike that I don’t think three keepers would have kept out, never mind the shell shocked Turner.

There was a down side to the victory however, with both Currithers and Lewis Taylor Boyce limping off, Taylor Boyce leaving Wood down to 10 men with 21 minutes left after having used all 3 substitutes. With just seconds remaining Craig Deakin picked up his 5th booking of the season thus missing the 3rd Round game on Saturday December 6th.

Strangely enough this wasn’t Wood at their best, but to be frank they didn’t need to be much more than mediocre to see off the decimated struggling opposition.

It’s Heath Hayes away on Tuesday night in the League Cup  (weather permitting) before Wood face another really big challenge on Saturday when leaders Long Eaton United with ex Blues striker Clinton Morrisin come a calling to complete an enthralling November.

Incidentally the Stoke City Staffs Senior Cup tie, pencilled in for Monday December 8th is OFF, it would appear they forgot they have another game on that night. No comment.

Bill Shaw

My thanks to Bill for a great report – and for all those he selflessly writes and send to me after every match. They really are popular, and a credit to Bill and the club. Walsall Wood have a reputation for being a great, community spirited group of people and these reports demonstrate that – it’s an honour and joy to feature them here.

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The Pride of Brownhills, restored


A picture that was puzzling Bill Mayo showed the unveiling of a plaque – readers helped in not only identifying the event, but the plaque turned up too! Image from the Bill Mayo collection.

A couple of days ago I belatedly flagged up the wonderful installation and unveiling ceremony for the once misplaced, but now found British Legion memorial plague to the dead of two wars, located after local historian and top chap Bill Mayo asked for help with a photo here on the Brownhills Blog.

David Evans the blog roving reporter, was out with his camera at the ceremony, and took some lovely pictures and wrote a nice report for readers, which I thank him for and present here.

This whole story is an example of local community in action and it’s great to see lost history being restored to community prominence in this way. My thanks and congratulations to all the people who mad this possible and worked so hard.

You are the pride of our community. Thank you, not just for this, but everything.

David wrote:

We will remember them

Some while ago Bill Mayo, a well-known and respected local historian whose photo books have provided so many images of the local area from years ago, contacted me.

He had among the vast collection of his photos, one which showed the unveiling of the British Legion plaque in Lichfield Road, Brownhills after the Second World War and wanted to see if the people in the photo could be identified. With the generous help of Brownhills Blog readers this was accomplished.

Bill then phoned me some while later to take me on ‘a discrete mission’. This very plaque, which had been lost for quite a few years after the British Legion had vacated their club in Lichfield Road, and had subsequently held their meetings in the Goat pub, Hednesford Road, Brownhills West had been discovered lying among among other things, in a back storage room of the Goat Public House.

I was taken to see this battered and worn plaque, and to meet two of the British legion men who had resolved to restore the plaque and to reinstall it in a public place in Brownhills.

I was delighted to attend the unveiling ceremony on Saturday 22nd, 2014, and to meet those whose quiet resolve and endeavour was being honoured. Our local Member of Parliament, Sir Richard Shepherd gave a personal and moving short speech, in which he paid tribute to the achievement of these gentlemen of the British Legion and the community spirit of Brownhills that it and this plaque reflected, and then unveiled the beautifully restored plaque.

David, 22 November 2014

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A few weeks ago, I shared here a mining plan of how workings in the Robbins coal seam under Walsall Wood, Clayhanger and Brownhills affected the railway line above it, showing the coal mine excavations in great detail under the village.

After some chopping and changing, I got the plan scanned in high resolution and published it again properly. At the same time, I acquired a second, slightly earlier drawing of the workings in the Six Foot seam by the same colliery, which were above the Robbins Seam.


Over six feet long, drawn on velum, the workings in the Six Foot Seam at Walsall Wood Colliery as they affected the railway line between Walsall Wood and Brownhills. A remarkable document. Click for a larger version, or see the full detail scan below.

Download the 200 DPI high quality PDF version of the above here – 31 megabytes

Download the 400 DPI Ultra high quality PDF version of the above here – 111 megabytes

Both plans cover an identical area and clearly came out of the same drawing office.

There were a number of coal seams that the Walsall Wood Colliery worked, and the interactions between these layers were complex and labyrinthine in nature. When the plan talks about a ‘cross measure drift’, that’s an angled shaft or roadway ramping between excavations in two or more seams. You’ll see some others mentioned.

The whole mine lay in layers like this as if it had been stacked in the strata; and these plans  still only represent a fraction of the whole thing. Look out again for the exploratory digs, where miners worked chasing where new measures may lie – that they are small suggests they were not successful.

I’ve created a Google Earth overlay for readers to orient the plan. Because it’s on fabric, it’s only geometrically well aligned at the Walsall Wood end, however it’s good enough at the Clayhanger end to give a reasonable idea.

Overlay trans

The plan overlaid on Google Earth – note Walsall Wood, left, and Clayhanger, right. At the Brownhills end, the plot was so distorted, I cropped it short.. You can’t accurately maintain geometric with a fabric plan this long! Click for a larger version.

You can download this overlay to use in Google Earth by clicking the link below – it can also be used as a basemap in Garmin GPS devices. Instructions on the use of this in Google Earth can be found in this post.

Walsall Wood Colliery Plan Six Foot Google Earth overlay 19.2 megabytes

Please note that this is an indication only; this plan could be wrong, or metres out. Please don’t use it for anything serious. It’s for information only.

Note the main shafts are again marked, and one is under the building that was constructed as the sluice house for tipping the chemical waste into the mine after it’s closure in 1964.

Think about the fact that these are the workings in just one seam – there were several others – so it goes to illustrate the huge number of voids and their span that existed below our area where the black gold was dug out. Most of this was backfilled with spoil after the mine ceased production; after that, the remainder was filled with industrial waste.


I’d love to know who Mr. Thornhill & J.G. Jessop were, and the nature of their jobs. This plan was clearly modified after this date.

Consider also that this huge area would have been dug either by hand, or fairly minimal mechanisation; by the time Walsall Wood Colliery closed in 1964, it was not modernised and it didn’t employ the modern cutting machinery that other mines did.

This is local history gold – and bear in mind this is only one seam: there would e separate drawings for each one.

Please do comment or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Cannock Chase, Environment, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Shared media, Shared memories, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

August 1990 – How much longer must we wait for some action?

Brownhills Gazette August 1990 issue 11_000001

Brownhills Gazette August 1990 issue 11 – Complaints and a great campaigning piece on local foundry pollution. Click for a larger version.

David Evans, very kindly granted access to the archive held by former editor and contributor Brian Stringer, has been assiduously and conscientiously scanning them all. Every single issue. Every few days, I’m going to feature the next in the series.

Note that this issue is slim at 12 pages compared to 20 in the previous issue – suggesting maybe Brian was on holiday. There’s still plenty of good stuff, though, including Brian experiencing a dunking in Chasewater, good local history and the headline story campaigning on what remains a somewhat vexed issue today.

One thing that someone pointed out to me – not the BeeJay advert on the front page. They note they have a ‘Direct line – Vodaphone’ (sic) – these were the days when a mobile phone really was an unusual selling point. How old I suddenly feel!

The history of how the Brownhills Gazette came to exist has been detailed in this post thanks to the wonderful John Sylvester.

If other bloggers want to use this material, can you please drop me a line first? I don’t mind, there’s just sone stuff I’d like to clear about the usage, thanks.

Cheers to Brian and David for sharing a wonderful thing, that’s part of our community history.

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

Brownhills Gazette issue 11 August 1990 - PDF format

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Walsall Wood FC v Causeway United FC away match this afternoon!

the grove 1

Causeway United play at the wonderful Halesowen Town club – The Grove in Old Hawne Lane. Image from Halesowen Town FC’s website.

Saturday 22nd November 2014

Walsall Wood F.C. v Causeway United F.C.

Away at Old Grove Lane, Halesowen.

 Don’t break your Wood vows, be there, be faithful to your local heroes

3:00pm kickoff

For The Good Of The Wood!

Looking forward to the match report… 

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here.

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Hednesford Road hit and run: John Thomason sentenced

Untitled 8

The incident occurred near the Thai Lanna restaurant. Imagery from Bing! maps.

At 12:50am, Sunday 10th August 2014, there was a hit and run incident in Brownhills West, in which a white van hit two men on the pavement - it caused quite a stir locally as many readers will no doubt recall.

Court proceedings have been ongoing for a while, and the story recently made the Express & Star, when the relatives of one of the victims were concerned about the nature of charges in the case.

There’s now a full report online here.

I note this evening that Lisa O’Brien, senior reporter with the Express & Star, had tweeted the following at 7:35pm Friday:

John Thomason who seriously injured Gareth James in a hit and run in #Brownhills has been jailed for 7yrs 4months. Read tomorrow’s E&S.

I feature this here for reader information only, as I know many were interested in the outcome of this case – those wanting to learn more should buy Saturday’s Express & Star.


An awful incident. Image with thanks to David Marler.

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