Early doors


Oh wow. The best photo I’ve seen of The Sportsman – formerly the Huntsman and before that, a Working Mens Club. My oh my, it was an ugly building. Image generously supplied by Shaun Treadwell.

Just a quick post here to spark a few memories for long time pub-goers in the local area. Shaun Treadwell has kindly dropped me a line with these excellent images which I just had to share.

Although it’s at a jaunty angle, that’s the best picture yet I’ve seen of the Sportsman, a popular pub that was originally built as a club in the 1950s. It stood where the Smithy’s Forge is today. I’d forgotten just what an ugly building it was.

The picture of the original George and Dragon is a cracker – that was a pub in Rushall Square, replaced by a 1960s affair, which was itself razed in the 1990s for the drive-through Macdonalds. I’d be interested if anyone could date that one.

Lastly, a great pic of the original Anchor pub from what appears to be the early/mid 1980s. – by about 1988 it had been replaced by he modern pub that stands on Anchor Bridge today. In this photo you can see it’s origin as two cottages.

Thanks to Shaun for the pics, they really have brought the memories flooding back – how about you? Comment here or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.


The original George and Dragon, at Rushall Square, looking like the 1960s. Can anyone estimate a date? Image generously supplied by Shaun Treadwell.


A cracking photo of the old Anchor. I’d forgotten the ‘house’ at the rear. Image generously supplied by Shaun Treadwell.

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Walsall Local History Fair on right now!


A great event featuring some wonderful people.

My huge apologies to Stuart, Paul and Ruth at Walsall Local History Centre. I meant to run this last night, but I was so knackered from work (to be quite frank) that I went straight to bed. My apologies. This does look great, though, and it’s on now, so pop in to the Museum in Walsall Town Centre if you get chance.

Walsall Local History Fair will take place now, today (25th October 2014)  at The Crossing at St. Pauls, Darwall Street, Walsall, between 10.30am – 3.30pm – it’s free, and a great event.

This blog wouldn’t exist without the help and goodwill of Walsall Local History Centre – please do pop along and talk to them. In these straitened times, they provide a wonderful service whose importance may not be understood by the politicians. Please show your support.

And as well as displays and the chance to talk to representatives of the centre, museum and other organisations throughout the day, there will also be special talks and other activities.

Just a reminder that Walsall Local History Fair  s this Saturday at The Crossing at St Paul’s, Darwall St, Walsall, 10.30am-3.30pm.

In addition to stalls and displays, the following activities will also be available: Children’s Craft Activities  1am‐1pm and 2pm-3pm with Ruth Radcliffe. Build an industrial scene from card!

Illustrated Local History Talks  11am-12pm: ‘Walsall – Town of a Hundred Trades’ by Mike Glasson of Walsall Leather Museum. and 2pm-3pm: ‘Whose Story? Black Country Manufacturing in Living Memory’ by Paul Quigley of Black Country Echoes.

Seats in both talks are subject to availability on the day.

Admission to Walsall Local History Fair is free of charge and all are welcome! @WyrleyBlog (Paul Ford) will be there, and he’s a top bloke!

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Walsall Wood away at Lye this afternoon

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All hands to the pump!

Sandfields Pumping Station

This is a remarkable, severe but beautiful building, now almost marooned in a sea of new development. Image from Dave Moore’s Flickr photo stream.

It’s really getting busy for top local history wonks Dave Moore, Chris Pattison and their  Freinds of Sandfields Pumping Station campaign group, who seem to be really getting somewhere with this fantastic Victorian edifice; not only has their attention prompted the fixing of the roof recently, but the listing status of the building is now under review too.

If you’d like to have a great morning out this Saturday (25th October 2014), the group are taking part in the Arts and Heritage procession through Lichfield taking place that morning from 10:30am. They’ll also have a manned stall in the Guildhall until 4pm where they’ll be talking to the public and explaining why this excellent and well-fought campaign is so important.

Dave Moore wrote:

Friends of Sandfields is participating in an Arts & Heritage Procession through Lichfield City Centre on the morning of Saturday 25th October.

In addition we have booked a table in the Guildroom (Guildhall downstairs room) and wall space in the Guildhall corridor both of which will be open to the public between 10 am to 4 pm. The table will have some display boards with photos, information about Friends of Sandfields and a few other relevant documents.

We could do with some volunteers to take part in the procession which starts at 10:30 am (muster 10:00 am onwards) in Bird Street by the Kings Head and terminates at the Cathedral around 11:00 am and/or man the display table afterwards.

Please, if you can spare an hour or two on the day please get back to me with some indication of your availability.

If you need any further information please contact Chris Pattison on chrispattison10@gmail.com or 07960 460095 / 01543 414505 who is part of the organising team.

Dave has also organised one of the monthly group public meetings, which will take place next Thursday evening (30th August 2014) at the new venue, The Cruck House in Stowe Street, Lichfield.

The Friends of Sandfields is a formalised group with a documented structure and aims, and it’s good to see Chris Pattison, the South Staffordshire Water historian involved, too. 

Do pop over to Dave Moore’s blog and check out the history of Sandfields Pumping Station, an almost forgotten gem.

Dave Moore wrote:

Dear Brownhills Bob,

The next monthly meeting of the Friends of Sandfields Pumping Station will take place on:

Thursday 30th October 2014 at 7:30pm

The Cruck House*
Stowe Street
WS13 6BP

*Please note the new venue for this meeting.

Membership of the Friends of Sandfields Pumping Station is free, however a small donation for use of the room and tea or coffee is most welcome.

Please, if you have time, do attend. This is a remarkable relic indeed and needs all the support it can get to prevent it being lost for good.

Sandfields Pumping Station

The engine is wonderful. I saw it in 2001, and it really is a gem. Image from Dave Moore’s Flickr photo stream.

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Walsall Wood Councillor Mike Flower to stand down at next election


Mike ‘Burger Boy’ Flower – if he was chocolate, you could eat him. Bless. Image from the website of. Aldridge Brownhills Conservative Association

It’s with some surprise that I noted a post on the long dormant blog of Walsall Wood Councillor Mike Flower yesterday lunchtime, announcing that at the next election, he was to stand down.

I have wondered for a while if Mike was considering stepping aside – the fact that he is will be a sad loss for Walsall Wood. As Conservative, I agreed with very little of Councillor Flower’s politics, but I have always admired his honesty and contribution to the community; he works hard not just for the voters of the ward but also the kids, for whom he was a real champion.

Elected at 22, Mike is a youngster in a field of much older folk, and his presence was refreshing and welcome.

His work to secure the Oak Park Leisure Centre replacement was appreciated, and greeted here initially with disbelief; but I have to give it to the lad, he fought and secured what will be an excellent facility for Walsall Wood.

On the blog and social media, I often gave Mike hell, but I always respected his principled stand and commitment to his beliefs. He  took my ribbings and criticism with good spirit, and even helped to get a bit of long lost Walsall Wood back on the map.

There are many Councillors in Walsall who could learn a thing or two from the example set by Mike Flower. I don’t say that lightly, particularly as politically we’re polar opposites.

I wish Mike and his family all the best, and may he be successful in whatever he moves on to next – and maybe we’ll see him again down the road.

To me, the lad will always be Burger Boy…

Mike posted the following on his blog:

Mike Flower to take a break at the next election

It has been an honour to represent Aldridge North & Walsall Wood for the past nine years. However, I have decided I will not be standing for re-election in May 2015.

I am now 31. I have a beautiful wife and a handsome baby son who was born in February this year. We had a difficult and life threatening labour and my son spent his first week in intensive care with neonatal sepsis. To say it was a period of hell is an understatement.

I have decided therefore it is time to to take a break, recharge the batteries and enjoy the time with my wife and helping my son to grow up. Life is just too short.

I was selected to stand for the Conservative Party at 22, and elected three times. To be given the chance by both party volunteers and the electorate at such a young age is something I will always deeply appreciate.

Never say never, so maybe one day I’ll decide to stand again. Then again maybe it’ll be time for a new challenge…

I look forward to supporting the new Conservative candidate who will be selected in a little under two weeks and will continue to work hard for you until polling day next May.

Thanks for your support.

Michael & family

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Breaking the ground

Brownhills Gazette October 1989 issue 1_000001

The first ever Gazette – later than I thought, October 1989. Click for a larger version.

Last weekend, I had the good fortune, courtesy of the young David Evans to be able to feature here the November 1994 issue of the long lost, but not forgotten local freshet/magazine for Brownhills, The Brownhills Gazette.

Since I posted that article, Brian Stringer, sometime Editor and contributor to the Gazette has been in touch with David, and generously allowed full access to his almost complete collection of these wonderful time capsules.

David has since been very selflessly hard at work over a hot scanner emailing me the results.

Today, I share the first issue, number 1 from October 1989. I must admit I thought it started earlier than that, although there does appear to have been an earlier incarnation also published by Baker Bond in Browhills High Street – which was actually at Laburnum Cottage, not as I previously stated, Providence House. I think I man just remember that – it could’ve been printed on glossy paper, often in blue or red. Am I imagining that?

The first issue is interesting due to the heavy local school content. I have no idea what CPVE and TVEI were. The article about crack – a moral panic of the day – also raised a wry smile.

The content would soon broaden out to local news, politics, campaigns, sport and local history.

You can check out the gallery at the foot of the post, or download the PDF version.

Brian Stringer sent me a lovely email, with some more information. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi Bob,

Just been alerted to the latest blog item, by the young Dave Evans. He said I might be interested, and was he right? Thanks very much for your kind words, as its comments like that, that make one look back and realise it was all worth while.

I saw David Evans at the match on Saturday and told him that I still have most of the old Gazettes and he is keen to have a nose, so I will look them out for him.

I read the front page article on the edition you put on the Blog and it was only at the end and seeing my name that I realised I’d wrote it. That happens a lot as you get older and I’m sure in a few years time you’ll look back on your Blog and think, ‘Did I write that?’

[I already do that - very often with stuff I wrote the week before! - Bob]

I only edited the Gazette for the first couple of years, but carried on contributing for a long time after that because I enjoyed the archives column and the ‘Out Of The Wood’ reports.

Yes, I like to think we achieved a few things along the way, but the one I was most proud of was the setting up of a ‘blood donor service’ at the Memo. Previously the nearest was at Norton Canes, so I contacted a guy called Kingsley Black in Birmingham, who set the wheels in motion provided I could find a venue. The Trustees at The Memo came up trumps with tea and biscuits etc and our first session coincided with the outbreak of the war in Iraq when blood banks were crying out for supplies. I remember Crabtrees letting the staff have time off to give blood and the Memo was swarming with donors all day, me among them.

John Sylvester was the owner of Baker Bond and I saw him too, today and he will be looking at the Blog and say’s he’ll drop you a line.

I’ll be in touch later and tell you a tale from the archives, but that’s enough of hogging the blog for now.

Keep up the good work mate,

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

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

Brownhills Gazette issue 1 October 1989 – PDF format

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Walsall Wood in Wonderland…


A great night of football at Oak Park last tuesday saw Walsall Wood beat the Pitmen 2-1.

There was a real treat for the Walsall Wood fans on Tuesday Evening last (21st October 2014) as a patchy home team were proven unexpectedly superior to their visitors, and the Woodmen fought to  a very respectable victory over Hednesford.

Bill Shaw was there, as he always is, to witness a remarkable match. He sent the following report:

Hiya Bob,

Well I never expected that, when I received the team sheet there were seven absentees from Saturday’s winning line up. Five of them occupied the bench but wonder goalscorer Scott Cooper and keeper Mario Kisiel had a night off. With the exception of Tom Evans who had started 14 games this season the other 6 newcomers to the side could muster just 7 starts between them all.

Walsall Wood 2 v 1 Hednesford Town

There was no hint of the shock to come as the Pitmen put Wood under pressure from the start. After 11 minutes Jamey Osborne had the first clear chance racing onto a ball left of the box, keeper Dale Faultless out quickly and bravely to make a superb full length block.

The sides swapped chances but the visitors should have gone ahead on 31 minutes, Steve Diggin stepped inside Lee Stretton who slipped, the striker raced for goal, his low drive bringing a brilliant fingertip save from Faultless, (Coach Ray Monaghan take a bow for all the hard work).

Two minutes into the second half skipper Darren Campion made space left of the box before curling a shot inches wide of the far post. A minute later Stretton bravely threw himself in front of a vicious effort from Alex Melbourne.

The breakthrough came on 53 minutes, a long ball forward found Leon Taylor right of centre, he out-muscled one defender and just powered away from another leaving him labouring in his wake, before firing the ball past the advancing Ryan Price.

On 63 minutes Osbourne had a shot charged down, four minutes later Jamie Crowther ran at the Wood defence before releasing Diggin into the right of the box, Stretton saving Wood with a superbly timed last ditch tackle. The Pitmen were now really ratcheting up the pressure, but couldn’t break down a resolute Wood defence, when they did on 80 minutes Faultless made a full length save from substitute Tom Thorley and again 3 minutes later diving full length to deny the ever dangerous Osbourne.

Wood sewed it up on 85 minutes, Craig Deakin fed Tom Evans down the right touchline, his neat little ball inside found Max Black on the right edge of the box, he cleverly drew players towards him before playing the ball unselfishly across the face of the box to drew Aiton who scored into the bottom left hand corner to put Wood in Wonderland, (No Alice to be seen, but visibility wasn’t too good).

With the clock showing 90 minutes, a long ball forward seemed to hold up in the wind, Tom Peers first to react, firing the ball home from close range to pull a goal back, but it was too little too late and Wood played out the last 5 long minutes of added time to record a brilliant, albeit unexpected victory that was greeted with euphoria by the rain lashed Wood faithful, deservedly so, this is what being a loyal supporter is all about.

So it’s Wood into the last 8, now wouldn’t a home tie against Chasetown be good?

It’s away at Lye on Saturday, followed by a home league cup tie against Continental Star on Tuesday night.

Bill Shaw.

Thanks to Bill for a great and thoroughly honest match report, as ever.

Walsall Wood Football Club are a top local side with a big-hearted faithful who know how to have a great time supporting their lads, and welcome all comers to come enjoy great local soccer. The boys from The Wood have been at the heart of the local community for a century or more, so please do go check out a match or two if you’re curious.

Cheers old chap. For the good of The Wood!

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