Walsall Wood, 1901: Into a new century

This article is the third part of blog reader, commentator and top contributor David Evans’ ongoing project to chart the growth of Walsall Wood just over a century ago. The first and second pieces in the series have been published in the last month, and generated quite a bit of debate and interest.

In this instalment, David finds a community still expanding and prospering, but developing more social structure and entering the modern age of communications, literacy and mechanisation. It’s good to finally see some healthcare provision, and the village also seems to be gathering pace architecturally.

As ever, a huge thank you to David for all his hard work.

The Parish Church of Walsall Wood has overlooked the community of Walsall Wood since 1837. Image by David Evans.

David wrote:

The village had grown considerably in the ten years following the previous census. Now there were 6492 people in Walsall Wood, and the census details take up four districts.

Staffordshire/Walsall Wood –  districts 12, 13, 14 and 15. The enumerators were Mr. Ford, Mr. Jackson, Rev. T Reakes and Rev. R M Burtt.

Walsall Wood now had two Church of England Clergymen!

I was interested to see what jobs are listed. Sadly, most of the brickyard workers job descriptions are unaltered from previous censuses.

Firstly I took a look at district 14 where the enumerator starts his route at the Church of St. John and walks along that side of Lichfield Road, which is still not officially known as High Street. Some names will be familiar with readers, I am sure. There is a tobacconist and hairdresser still doing well (Mr Francis Davies), John Bates is the landlord of the Red Lion pub [Now the Boatman's Rest - Bob], Mr Whitehead the chemist has still not yet moved to his later premises, George Brown is a ‘pit sinker’. Interestingly his entry has been overwritten, perhaps at a later date by someone ‘using’ the information. This feature is apparent with many job descriptions. George was the village ‘well digger’. Poor Eliza Oram’s self described occupation of ‘sweetmeat shop’ had ‘baker’ overwritten. Joseph Smith ‘model maker’ has the words  ‘pattern maker’ added. William Jackson the 67 year old chain-maker has a domestic nurse.

William Fullelove, a coalminer, is also the licensee of the Coach and Horses pub. The Horse and Jockey is listed as ‘licensed rooms’ with Thomas Allen, ‘publican’ and Highfields farm has Mr Turner living there.

Heading from Coppice Road junction up towards Shire Oak we find that William Cross is the publican of the Royal Exchange Inn, there are still three ‘back of’ houses on the site. At Street’s Corner William Jackson, ‘horse driver underground’ is living in the thatched cottage. Then, a wondrous register entry. The Ivy House off licence makes its first appearance, with John Bates the off-licence holder. In nearby Brownhills Road Mr David Oakley, aged 72 and a retired bricklayer lives in the first house, and in the adjoining two-roomed ‘cot’ lives a Mr Lakin, coal miner. Both this house and its cot have long since gone. There is only one ‘cot’ remaining in Walsall Wood today.

Some of the old houses on the right are still with us (just!)… Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

An indication of changing times is the entry of a ‘professional short hand writer’, a gentleman; the first mention of this occupation in a register for Walsall Wood. His two sons were locomotive engine cleaner and electrical engineer, at the colliery. Mechanisation and modernisation at the colliery, too.

In Coppice Road there are many hewers (colliery face workers, usually men who loaded and moved the coal) one storekeeper and  one clerk, all male. There is a ’rope examiner at the colliery’ and a ‘stoker, colliery’ There is a ‘colliery lamp cleaner’, and a ‘Commission Agent’, Mr Ellis, from Salop. There is a newsagent, Sarah Densley. She is not the only newsagent in Walsall Wood. Changing times again, and another indication of  increasing literacy, too, though not numeracy, perhaps

In the environs of the Black Cock Bridge, (Camden Street) workers are almost entirely  coalminers or canal boat workers.

The East side of the village appears in district 13, and starts opposite the Horse and Jockey pub and routes towards Shire Oak. In the Boot buildings, apart from the entertaining young ladies from Cheshire ,there is one person whose job is listed as ‘Vickers Gun factory’. Amazing.

There is a ‘teacher of music’, a mechanical engineer, The Travellers Rest pub is under the watchful eye of its licensee, Viphie (sic) Birch. There’s a fishmonger, and  Mr. Jacques the wheelwright and his blacksmith son are hard at work in their business  just by the canal. Crossing the bridge, we have Mr. Adkins, one of the village butchers, Mr. Felton, a pork butcher, Mr Milne, one of the two bakers, a greengrocers, then the Hawthorn Inn, Mr. Dalton licensee. John Cooke is the other village chemist. He is also a ‘stationer and postmaster’. Also residing in the Post Office is Miss Farmer, clerk and there is a visitor, Mrs Snape ‘retired refreshment Housekeeper’. Her ‘castrator’ son ( 1891 census) had left. Perhaps his career had come to an untimely end. Mr. Harrington is  a baker, a Mr. William Jackson is ‘architect and surveyor with Brownhills Urban District’. There is a ‘confectioner’ Mr Smith, whose son William is aged 3. He later became a baker in the village and appears in the blog article ‘In God we Trust’, where he is fourth from the left on the back row.

There is a ‘cycle agent’, Mr. Herbert Parker, near to Headley’s shop. There are two railway employees, Mr. Parr the railway porter, and Mr Albert Sage, the signalman. Another butchers shop, a tobacconist and china dealer, a coffee house and a hairdressers, then Emerys gents outfitters, at the corner with Brookland Road, which appears on the front cover of Margaret Brice’s ‘Short History of Walsall Wood’ booklet. Mr John Hands is a ‘railway labourer’ and Charles Higgs is a nearby coalminer, mentioned in one of Pedros’ wonderful newspaper cuttings. Batkins grocer’s shop  is opposite the old school.

Some of the older, and more beautiful buildings of the village often go unnoticed. Image by David Evans.

There is a wonderful entry, called an ‘Accommodation Road’. This one is opposite the Royal Exchange Inn. We have seen this term used in 1891 census, in Castle Road (Holly Bank). Five 2–roomed houses are listed. They can be seen in the 1919 map in the ‘Wood Work’ article in this blog.

Mr. Yeomans is the draper and shoemaker on the way up to Street’s Corner, past Brook Lane; Mr. Poxon’s grocer shop is opposite the Ivy House off licence. Nearby there is another railway worker, a ‘railway porter’, there’s a ‘cattle yard man’ and also a ‘bicycle repairer’.

In Salters Road there is  a ‘foreman on Urban District Council’ (he was a night-soil man), a ‘railway shunter’, Joseph Collins was an insurance agent ,and there was a gentleman who was an ‘oil dealer’, overwritten to ‘hawker’.  Near Vigo corner Joseph Bailey was the farrier.

Salters Road and nearby Vigo, Hollanders Lane area show the most interesting and perplexing  job descriptions; none of which were subsequently overwritten. This is where we find most of the village’s twelve teenage girl workers whose jobs are described as ‘ammunition factory hand’, ‘powder factory hand’ , ‘ammunition hand ‘or ‘ammunition worker’. Their ages ranged from 13 to 18 years old.

I’m not sure how much, if any at all, of the current Royal Exchange is original, or whether it was rebuilt in the great pub rebuilding wave of the 1930s. Image by David Evans.

The Vigo area also has a ‘colliery belt engineer worker’ and  another newsagent (Ada Collis), while Anne Wolley, now 51 years old, was even busier in her role of ‘letter carrier’.

Cemetery Road (Brookland Road) has 18 houses now. One house, ‘Highbury House’ is where the Reverend Richard Burtt, clergyman of the Church of England, is to be found. Rev. Reakes was still living in the Vicarage by the church at this time.  Sarah Lees was another schoolteacher and John Shingler was ‘colliery engine winder’.

Occupation Road has a doctor living there. The village ha, at last, its own resident doctor. A certain Dr. Fred Wolverson, aged 27, son of a Willenhall butcher, lived a few houses away from Beech Tree House, and near to a local bobby, PC Caleb Alcock. Edward Walkley the Station Master lived in the same road. There was an assistant schoolmistress, a schoolmaster, and the first listing of a midwife (Leander Rogers, aged 72); a ‘horse tender’ was her lodger. Another Police Constable lived in the same road. He was PC Herbert Lockley, aged 28.

Two good ‘paupers of the parish’ completed the road’s 54 dwellings and residents.

Three more railwaymen lived in Vigo Road. The village’s first listed ‘Coal Merchant’, John Anslow, lived in Hollanders Lane.

District 15 shows the Pauls Coppice/Lindon Road part of the village, and we find some glorious names for the buildings, a feature not seen elsewhere in Walsall Wood.

Friezland Lane has  ‘the Hawthornes’, Commonside has Mr Craddock living in ‘Balls’ Cottage’. In New Street (latterly Pauls Coppice) there is a ‘Pretoria Cottage’ (built by sweat, perhaps?)

Catshill Road (Lindon Road  has a  ‘Live and let Live’ villa, home of George Seedhouse (perhaps from the Fold in Friezland Lane), a ‘Good Intent Villa’, home of Enoch Pagett (featured in previous articles) a ‘Cottage Unlooked For’ a ‘The Old Stop’, where Arthur Leavesley, ‘milkman and farmer ‘ lived.

Clayhanger Road has an ‘Ivy Cottage’, a ‘May Cottage’ and a ‘Newland Terrace’. There were several ‘buildings’; Gordans, Starkeys, Stevens, Lloyds, Daltons, Hollands, and Snapes. These were four roomed houses.

We see that the only school in the village had been enlarged, but at that time, in 1901 the new school at Streets Corner had yet to be built.  Schools were to remain under the auspices of Cannock and later Staffordshire County Councils.

In the years from 1891 to 1901  the number of children aged up to 9 years of age, had increased, by a sum total of 1062. These would become the ‘First World War’ generation. In this war so many of Walsall Wood’s young men would lose their lives in the conflict. This aspect of this ‘trawl through a census’ was the most upsetting  for me to note.

David Evans

October 2012

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25 Responses to Walsall Wood, 1901: Into a new century

  1. BEV says:

    Dr Frederick Wolverson is one of my ancestors, he retired to live in Folkstone where he married his 2nd wife a French Countess Ann-Marie Madeline Houdaille-Constant who having fell on hard times was working as a governess. On a trip to France he contracted Trichinosis (caused by eating undercooked pork) which causes severe itching and he apparently relieved this by cutting his wrists whilst his mind was unbalanced, his suicide reported in the Times newspaper (a very unfortunate ending for someone whose father made his fortune as a pork butcher in Willenhall)

  2. pedro says:

    What an interesting story Bev.

    There is a short piece in the Hull Daily mail of 29th December 1949, let Bob know if you want me to send it.

    He appears to have been chairman of the Folkestone Magistrates Court, and was 75 at the time.

    There is a mention of his name in the Lichfield Mercury of 6 Feb 1914, when he was involved in a very bad case of child neglect in Brownhills. In the court he remarked that the glands on the neck of the older child were swollen, and there were abscesses on the eye-lids…result of parasitic irritation…continual neglect over several years.

    There are another couple of mentions, so if you want them again let Bob know.

    Regards Pedro

  3. pedro says:

    On the 16 Dec 1901 the White House, Walsall Wood went up for sale on the instructions of the trustees of the late Mr Stephens.

    *************************
    8 Nov 1901…the clerk (Norton under Cannock School Board) having interviewed the vicar of Walsall Wood, Rev. T Reakes, with reference to a letter from the department, calling the attention of the vicar to the fact that the National School, at Walsall Wood was overcrowded, and stating that the overcrowding must be abated, or the school enlarged. It was decided to make enquiries with a view to obtaining a suitable plot of land at Walsall Wood whereupon to erect an infant school.

    20 Dec 1901…The Clerk was directed to enquire whether The Rev T Reakes would be willing to turn over to the Board of the National school at Walsall Wood with the view to enlarging it, the best means of providing additional accomodation in that district.

    *********************************
    4 Oct 1901… The Bench granted the transfer of the licence of the Hawthorn Tree Inn, Walsall Wood, from Thomas Dalton, to William Purslow.

    *******************************
    6 Sep 1901…Rushall Brewster Sessions application…Mr Samuel Amos Cresswell, Occupation Road, Walsall Wood, for a licence to sell beer, not to be consumed on the premises.

  4. Clive says:

    Nice one Dave and Bob.

  5. Ann Cross says:

    Thank you David, a very interesting piece. I can remember going to Headleys and it looked pretty much like the photo.
    Was the Accomodation Road you mention opposite the Royal Exchange what we knew as Brook Lane? Collins Express Service was on the right corner.
    When I get my piece in about the history of the Royal Exchange there will be a picture from 1900 which will show how little the basic building has changed. I wondered if that verandah had been added to accomodate the smokers after the ban?
    Thanks to Bob and David its fascinating stuff.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Ann
    thanks for your kind comments. It is a pleasure to offer these articles. and Pedro’s notes make for a very full and informative topic, bless him! If you can, go to Wood Work article and enlarge (click on) the 1919 map. Opposite the Royal Exchange,just to the right of 492 there is a double fronted house set back a little from the road… with the others behind it..a square U shape. And by the side of the Royal Exchange is a row of three houses, called a “Fold” in a recorded incident. In the HIgh Street,opposite the Wesleyan Methodist Church and between S and T you can see the huddle of houses behind the others.. called a “Fold Yard” in one earlier census. The 1926 aero photo shows all three..Click on the photo and you will even see the young girl looking up at the plane passing overhead near Fold Yard ! I think the term “Accommodation Road” did not originate among local people.
    kind regards
    David

  7. Hilary says:

    Hello David
    Very interested in Mr Lakin, the coal miner living in the “cot”. My Gran’s maiden name was Lakin, her father was Harry Lakin, a coal miner. He would probably have been born around 1880, could it be the same guy?
    Hilary

  8. David Evans says:

    Hi HIlary
    there is record of a Harry Lakin, coalminer, born 1885/6 living in King Street, Walsall Wood, with his wife Maria, in 1901 census. The only Harry Lakin in the village at that time. Possible?
    regards
    David

  9. David Evans says:

    HI HIlary
    oops..that should be 1911 census. Two daughters, Maryann aged 3 and Violet aged 1. Now for my nap and tonic wine. Aoplogies
    David

  10. pedro says:

    “then Emerys gents outfitters, at the corner with Brookland Road, which appears on the front cover of Margaret Brice’s ‘Short History of Walsall Wood’ booklet.”

    10 Jan 1902…Prisoner sent for trial…Thomas Holmes of no fixed abode, charged with stealing an overcoat, value 15s, the property of Samuel J Emery…tailor High Street, Walsall Wood

    …Prisoner replied “I might as well plead guilty, it will be all the better for me. It only means a few more Christmas days inside for me.”

    …The Bench commented that the practice of displaying goods on the public highway ought to be discountenanced.

  11. pedro says:

    28 Nov 1902 Rushall Petty Sessions.

    Henry Wood (30), the landlord of the Traveller’s Rest, was summoned for permitting drunkenness on his premises, and selling drink to a drunken person, on Nov 1st.

    …William Jackson (46), landlord of the Black Cock Inn was summoned for permitting drunkenness

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  15. keith dowen says:

    can anyone please tell me when vigo terrace prefabs were erected

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  17. David Evans says:

    HI Keith
    Vigo Terrace? 1945, I believe..and built by POWs so the story goes. Google Earth Walsall Wood on 1945 timeline and you can see them .
    regards
    David

  18. Hellen says:

    What a wonderful site. I was actually trying to find information on The Travellers Rest Inn , Deans Road Heath Town, as my Great Grandfather was the lisensee there, but came across this site on my search and have spent an interesting hour reading through it.

  19. John bradley says:

    I hae found this site very interesting as I was a evacuee in the early forties and would love to find out more abou walsall wood I and my sister were billeted with a mrs mace and we alson had friends Barbara & Christine blakemore. I remember a cinema opposite a cemetery. And going to infant school
    John bradley

    • David Oakley says:

      Hi John,
      I well remember many of the evacuees of about my own age, but you must have been quite young if you remember going to the Infants school. Were you from Liverpool or London? Some of the youngsters from Plaistow and other parts of the
      East End, were quite tiny, often no older than three or four years old. Mrs Mace lived in Aldridge Road, they were old houses, even then, and were demolished many years ago.
      She had a son, Jimmy, who would have been a few years older than you.. If you look through the local blogs, I think you will find a photo of the old cinema, yes. it was opposite the cemetery, as you remember.. Some of the teachers at the church school infants, at the time were, Miss Kidner, headmistress, Miss Powell, Mrs Reece, Mrs Langford. Although there was a Council school infants higher up the road.
      Regards.

      • John Bradley says:

        Hello David
        Thanks for you e mail.
        My sister Pat & I were evacuated in the early 40’s I was about 3 to 4 and my sister was 3 years older.
        I am not sure if the mrs Mace you mentioned is the same one as the mrs mace i was billited with did not have a son called jimmy , she had a son called Wilfred who was in the RAF and a daughter called marion who was married and live a few miles away.
        Yes the houises werre very old and I remember at the back where i lived were allotments or gardens. Opposite the house where i lived was a small park i remember a slide there but you could not use it..
        I don not remember much about school although I do remember the girls giving me toffees to chase them.\\\i also recall I had a mate called Tommy Sparks who came from Blackwall in east london. I can even recall having my first taste of peanut butter from a shop opposie the school..

        As i saidmy sister was friens with a chriistine Blakemore and my girlfriend was her sister Barbarar I would love to know what happended to them. I am sure my sister could have told me more but sadly she passed a few years ago
        Thanks for replying Kindesr regards to you and may your god go with you John Bradley

        Th

      • john bradley says:

        Hello David
        Thank you for replying’
        My sister Pat and I were evacuates i think in the early forties i would have been 3 or 4 my sister was 3 years older than me. Thank you for the information about Mrs Mace but I wonder if it was the same one as the Mrs Mace I knew had a son called wlfred who was in the RAF and a daughter Marion who lived not to far away.

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