Walsall Wood 1911, before and beyond

This article is the fourth – and final (at least until the 1921 census comes out…) 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 firstsecond, and third instalments in the series have been published in the last two months, and generated quite a bit of debate and interest.

In this article, David explores Walsall Wood sociologically, statistically and geographically. This is a fine piece of work, and deserves close study. Do follow the links in the article for background if you have time.

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

David wrote:

Walsall Wood now had a population of 7116, and the ward of Walsall Wood had 1427 homes. The population would rise to 8351 in 1921 and fall to 7597 in 1931. The 1911 census is the most recent of the censuses to appear online.

Since the previous census in 1901, we know that the Walsall Wood Institute Temperance Brass Band had continued to flourish. The article detailing the Fold in Friezland Lane has maps which show where the Temperance Institute was.  The village had seen the short reign of one monarch, King Edward VII, come and go.  One history online source quotes this era as being ‘marked by significant shifts in politics as sections of society that had been largely excluded form wielding power in the past, such as common labourers and women, became increasingly politicised.’

Walsall Wood High Street. The trams were relatively short lived. Image supplied by David Evans.

Certainly the ten years up to 1901 had brought major changes in Walsall Wood. Another school had opened in 1903, and a new infants school had opened in 1906. The tramline to Walsall had opened in 1907, and would stay in use until 1928. The village had been part of Brownhills Urban District for a few years, the local railway line was busy with goods and passenger traffic; the passenger service would close in 1930. Elsewherein the wider world  Marconi had succeeded in sending transatlantic radio messages, the Wright brothers in Kittyhawk had stayed airborne for a while, the Olympic Games of 1908 had been held in London. There had been a siege in Sidney Street in London. The Walsall Wood Brickworks, at the mine, had been ‘closed for some time’ in 1911. The Clayhanger brickworks, by the canal, had opened in 1904, and had closed in 1910.

The census forms show interesting additional numbers, sometimes in red ink, sometimes in green ink. The actual returns have been made public and give some amazing details. One column, blanked out, would give health details, one column asks for nationality of residents. Yet another column holds codes relating to employment. A charwoman is ‘20’, a railway guard is ‘513’, a milkman is ‘916, a teacher is ‘000’  (Full details of all of the codes are to be found online).

I was interested to note how many of the names of Walsall Wood’s families listed in the 1801 Molesley Dole also appeared  in the 1911 census. Over a century of continuity.

The Temperance Band. Probably not party people, really. Image from Aldridge History Society.

The census review.

In our ‘district 15 ‘ the census ‘travels’ along Coppice Road from its junction with Camden Street to the High Street and then down along the High Street, over the canal bridge, and on towards the Iron Dish.

In Coppice Road we find an insurance collector, a slaughterman, a grocer, a foreman plate layer (That was a railway track engineer – Bob), an elementary schoolteacher from Northumberland, another elementary schoolteacher born in Walsall Wood, a bricklayer,  a house and land agent and his three spinster daughters, and the remaining houses occupied by coalminers. In one house Mrs Harrison, aged 80, widow of Abraham Harrison the last horse nail maker in the village, lives with her two spinster daughters.

We arrive at Lichfield Road (still not yet called High Street), pass the home of Mr Lewellyn Derry, assurance superintendent, whose neighbour is a tile maker, and pass the church. Reverend Walter Boulton is the vicar whose son is aged 21 and is ‘…undergraduate at Worcester College Oxford, studying for Holy Orders’. The Reverend shares his home with his wife, their cook and their housemaid. In the next house, we find another elementary schoolmistress, a Miss Archer.

Mr Bates is the landlord of the Red Lion Inn. Living next door in the house formerly known as Yew Tree Cottage is a Mr Sadler, ’Superintendent Life Assurance’. Further along the road we find colliery foreman who is  bravely  sharing  his home with his  20 year old schoolteacher daughter, an 18 year old housemaid and a  15 year old general domestic servant.  On this side of the  street we also find a widowed fishdealer, a Mr Derry, greengrocer, a lady wardrobe dealer, three coalminer families living in overcrowded homes and a ‘house painter and decorator’ whose family rejoice in the forenames, Jessie Adelaide, Winnifred May, Doris Mabel, William Edgar, Daisy Adelaide and Nelly Irene. We find a ‘workhouse master pensioner’ sharing his home with a 24 year old elementary schoolmistress and an 18 year old  girl  servant.

Walsall Wood today is a busy, post-industrial community, but still retains a village atmosphere. Image from Google Maps. Click for a larger version.

Bless him, a Mr. Samuel Topp aged 31 is a ‘colliery pit sinker’  and coded 160.

The village has a ‘carpenter and joiner and undertaker’ aged 32, that’s Mr Arthur Woodhouse whose workshop is near the canal. The village has an undertaker at last!  There is George Lester aged 66 and ‘debt and rent collector’, his laundress daughter and brewer son living nearby.

Listed as ‘Canal Bridge’ are two homes where widows live, one of whom has six children of school age.

One house has a 63 year old man ‘on the parish’ and one home has a brickyard labourer and his family of ten people.

Further along Lichfield Road (Walsall Road nowadays) One house has a ‘colliery painter and glazier, windows’ and a tailoress boarder living there. An 18 year old girl gives her occupation as ‘chain factory’, another 18 year old girls occupation is ‘chain maker’.

Mr. Allan Fullelove is the landlord of the Coach and Horses Inn’, Mr Heardman is the nearby farmer, a widow is a dressmaker, a 21 year old lady is an ‘ammunition cap presser’.

Mr Gill is the licensee of the Horse and Jockey Inn, while Mr Allen is the farmer at HIghfields farm.

Iron Dish is listed. This row of houses stood on the same side of the A461, near the approach with Shelfield, and is visible In the 1926 Shelfields aerofilms photo. Two houses are listed.

Cycle with me around Walsall Wood…

District 16

In Shire Oak we find a ‘Singer Sewing machine agent’, a Mr. Aldridge; a Mr. Danks, Turf Commission Agent, whilst Mr Chapman is an insurance agent.  There is a ‘domestic chauffeur’ and a dressmaker nearby. Oh yes, and a ‘motor driver underground’.

The cottage in Castle Road is listed (Castle Gate , by Holly Lane) and in Hollybank we find the village’s first ‘plumber own account’,  and a gentleman aged 73 ‘past work’, a foreman wheelwright, and Mr. Price the farmer.

At the  Vigo part of the village  we see a variety of addresses. We have Aldridge Road, Vigo, Walsall Wood, Sunnyside Vigo, and The Vigo. One 24 year old lady is ‘ammunition factory capper’, coded 784.

In Brookland Road (formerly called Cemetery Road) we find 56 dwellings with a draper traveller, two insurance agents, the Rev. Evan Evans, whose wife is a schoolteacher, a police constable, PC Alfred Williams, a commission agent, along with coalminers and brickyard workers, of course. There are two railway porters, a lady harness stitcher, a boot maker, and architect, and a bank clerk (Mr Horace Cresswell) in the same road. Does this mean that  there is a bank in the village?

In Salters Road we find many coalminers, a chain maker, a herbalist, and Elijah Langford, miner stallman and his children. There’s also a colliery clerk, a brewery manager a teacher of music and another carpenter/joiner. Mr Jeffcott is a colliery blacksmith, living near to a  coal miner deputy.

In Lichfield Road leading from Brookland Road to Streets Corner, we find  two 15 year old girl sewing machinists, two railway employees, a girl who is a domestic servant. Mr John Langford living opposite the Royal Exchange Inn, Mr Batkin is still the grocer, and there is a Prudent insurance agent, a bootmaker and a painter living at ‘Herbert Place’ (not mentioned in previous censuses).

There are two White Houses in the village at that time. One is in the High Street and has been discussed in comments in previous articles, but there was also a White House whose residents include a man living  by ‘private means’, whose son is a self-employed joiner and carpenter. They have a ‘domestic’, a 16 year old girl, in their employ.

District 17

This section lists Lichfield Road, on the opposite side of the road to the Horse and Jockey Inn, walking along the A461 from the direction of Shelfield.

A Mr. Toms is the farmer here. But where was this farm? Mr Bateman is the hotel keeper of the Boot Hotel. There’s a bootmaker, a lady elementary schoolteacher, and a lady whose occupation is given as ‘basket maker at the Workshop for the Blind, Walsall’.

There is a pianist, a 14 year old girl who is a ‘factory hand leather’. Mr. John Wesley is the landlord still, at the Traveller’s Rest Inn. A 15 year old girl is working in ‘electric chain welding factory’, whilst Mr. Richard Jacques is the wheelwright (code 698). His daughter Jessie is a teacher.

The Street family gave their name to Streets Corner. It’s very hard to imagine a thatched cottage in the Wood today. Click for a larger version. Image from Bill Mayo and John Sale’s book ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’.

Crossing over the canal bridge, at last in the High Street, though it is still not called this, we find John Henry Whitehead, chemist dealer (code 789) and his neighbour is a bootmaker. The next house, is listed as ’Yew Tree House’ where a Mr. Powell, housepainter is living (code 240). Then we have Mr. Felton, pork butcher; Mr. Cherry, butcher; (code340) Mr. Hawkins, baker; a Mr. Boucher, then the Hawthorn Inn, landlord William Parslow. Three houses along we find John Cook, who is now ‘dairystores and sub postmaster’, sharing the premises with his daughter Bertha, ‘Postoffice’ and Jessie ‘PostOffice’. He is no longer a chemist, it appears.

In the same part of the road we find an assistant surveyor, a brickworks manager, Mr. Smith the baker and his 13 year old son William. A boot dealer who has a 15 year old girl servant, a fruiterer, draper, pianist, draper, carpenter, two more butchers, an ‘insurance agent industrial’, a coffee house keeper, David Birch the hairdresser and Emery, tailor and outfitter at the corner with Brookland Road.

BeechTree Road has a Mr. Groutage, who is a  commercial clerk and whose sister is a teacher, and two daughters, one a teacher the other a tailoress, aged 18. The stationmaster still lives there, one gentleman gives this job description as ’was miner when could work’ – he is 63 years old. A Miss Ethel Waltho is a teacher, a Mr. William Jackson is headteacher and aged 44. Dr Wolverson, now aged 37, seems to be living in Beech Tree House. He has Elijah and William Cresswell as near neighbours. In the same road there is a 16 year old girl ‘apprentice dressmaker’. There is also an elementary schoolteacher, Miss Guthrie Forbes who was 25 and born in Durham. Mr. Harrison is a ‘nightsoil foreman’. There are numerous coalminers living in Beech Tree Road. There is no policeman noted.

In King Street (Formerly Hollanders Lane) we find that the residents are almost exclusively coalminers of brickyard workers.

Walsall Wood Colliery made for a bleak landscape. Next time someone talks to you wistfully about the past, the days of old king coal, think of this. This, the pollution, hardship, and generations of poor education, poverty and poor health are what they’re unwittingly celebrating. Taken from ‘Coal Mining in Walsall Wood, Brownhills and Aldridge’ by Brian Rollins and Walsall Local History Centre.

It was the census for the  Hall Lane  area that caught my eye most. From the information on the census returns here we can extrapolate these statistics:

These no not relate to  the year 1911, but give an overview of the mothers’ childbearing years up to  and including 1911.

Road ‘A ‘: 39 dwellings;  178 children born 71 children died.  Infant mortality rate 39.8%

Road ‘B’: 35 dwellings; 180 children born 38 children died. Infant mortality rate 21.1%

Road ‘C’: 10 dwellings; 36 children born 8 children died. Infant mortality rate 22.2%

Road ‘D’ 28 dwellings; 134 children born; 25 children died. Infant mortality rate 18.6%

In relation to these figures, The Brownhills Urban District Council Medical Officer’s Annual Report in 1910, found in the news archives by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, is well worth reading very slowly and carefully. Dr. John Coombes Maddener lived in Coombes House, a large, elegant Victorian Mansion in Coppice Lane, Brownhills, in stark contrast to the majority of locals. The 1891 census returns show that he lived there with his wife, son, daughter, a cook, a housemaid and a groom. He died on 9th January 1911, at the age of 60. Probate records reveal that his effects were £4334 6s 11d.

There was a Coalminers dispute in 1912. Peter Cutler has kindly researched this and  has provided  a newspaper report on the 1914 Walsall Colliery Dispute.

Through the censuses from 1841 to 1911 we see  the  total transformation of a small, scattered semi-rural community to a  bustling, industrial one. There have been listed some wonderful occupations, people  and places. Bullings Heath, Snailbank,  Bulls Head Yard, Jigs Nook, Pepper Alley, Fold Yard, Hollanders Lane, Jockey Row, two Occupation Roads, two Commonsides ,two White Houses, an elusive Yew Tree Cottage, various blacksmiths,  nailmakers,  wheelwrights, pit sinkers, Accommodation  Roads, a few Folds, rows of houses and cottages with wonderful names, the Cape (still a mystery), the Irish Cemetery, The Street’s thatched cottage, the enigma that is Goblins Pit, beer houses of varying degrees of repute,  a High Street where ‘you could buy everything you wanted’, an increasingly detailed technical description of jobs in the coal mine and  an the revelation of a disturbing role and social position of girls and women, and for miners and brickyard workers alike.

David Evans

October 2012

Sources:
1911 census. Staffordshire / Walsall Wood / Districts 14, 15, 16, 17
British History online; Walsall Wood
Sue Lote’s Walsall Foreign
Aldridge History Society
Kelly Staffordshires directory 1911, pages 419, 420
 
 
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12 Responses to Walsall Wood 1911, before and beyond

  1. Caz says:

    Thank you David, Bob and Peter. Once again, another wonderful article about Walsall Wood. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it.The infant mortality rate back then makes horrific reading,so sad.
    ‘The Cape’ rings a bell. An Aunt lived in a row of 3 old terrace houses in Lichfield Road up Shire Oak hill, and from Friezland Lane we used to walk up Occupation Rd, then cut across the fields [later Shire Oak school playing fields and now part of it a housing developement ] to her back garden gate.I’m not sure if that area was known as ‘the cape’ or if it was the long cut through alley way between Commonside and Lindon Road. Back then i think the upper part of Commonside was also called Occupation Rd so ‘the Cape’ could have been all of the Occupation Rd area. And it may be significant that ‘Cape Close’ is in Commonside. Hope this jogs someones memory and they can give more info.
    best wishes Caz

  2. alvin cox says:

    re-Mr Toms(district 17) farm i am sure that it was in Hall Lane.

  3. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    since writing this article. Please add;- the two Street thatched cottage photos show old Mrs Maria Street with a Mr Jackson in one photo. The other shows the same Mr Jackson with a ( younger lady ), a Miss Street,. Mrs Maria Street’s husband George died in 1889, aged 79, Mrs Maria Street died in January1890 , which helps to date the two photos.
    David

  4. Clive says:

    Nice one Dave and all involved in this walk down memory lane, enjoyed reading about the wood and suroundings. I take my hat off to you all.

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  8. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Brownhills urban District Council GP committee meeting 26 November 1956
    minute 347;-” The clerk was instructed to write to the Poilce Authority asking that, in view of the considerable increase in population in Walsall Wood not less than three Officers be allotted to the area.”

    regards
    David

  9. Hi David

    You clearly seem to have access to the UDC minutes. Any chance of sharing more widely rather than the scattergun approach, please?

    There may be stuff there others may find of use…

    Cheers
    Bob

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