The lost hall of Fisherwick

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Magic and loss: Fisherwick Hall Orangery, a warning echoing down the generations, Image from Kate Gomez.

Kate Cardigan Gomez, irrepressible wonder behind Lichfield Lore has organised a walk and tour around the remains of the incredible Fisherwick Park estate with her other project, Lichfield Discovered – it takes place tomorrow, Saturday 27th September 2014.

The story of Fisherwick hall and park is remarkable – a reputedly handsome house built in the lowland of the north Tame Valley between Whittington and Elford by the Marquis of Donegal, the grounds were laid out beautifully by Capability Brown. Sadly, it was all lost to pay gambling debts when the whole estate was sold to the Howards of Elford a few short decades later, who ploughed up the grounds and felled the hall and most of its remnants.

However, some parts of the estate and grounds remain – an Orangery, gateposts at Hademore, landscape features… it’s a remarkable tale.

Kate has written lots about it..

She had this to say about the walk:

A reminder that this Saturday, 27th September 2014 at 2pm we have a walk at Woodhouse Farm just outside Whittington (WS13 8QG) for anyone interested in discovering the remains of the lost estate of Fisherwick Hall, one of Staffordshire’s most lavish but short lived country houses.

We recently took a walk around the site with an expert who was delighted at just how much of Capability Brown’s landscape, created for the Marquess of Donegall, has survived!

It’s also a fantastic wildlife haven so the autumn is a perfect time to visit and you can also buy meat and other produce while we’re there.

These events are increasing in popularity, and I can see why; this is a collection of dedicated but offbeat local history enthusiasts who really know how to make their subject engaging and entertaining. And it’s absolutely free to attend. What’s not to love?

Please do attend, it’ll be great fun!

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These gateposts stand in Hademore, and were moved from nearby when the railway was widened. Note the commonality in design with the Orangery.

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Due south

Following the recent interest in the Red, White and Blue pub in Springhill, near Sandhills, the wonderful Gareth Thomas from Lichfield District Council has been true to his word and gifted some fascinating aerial imagery of the area, and south to Mill Green and Aldridge.

Unlike the previous aerials, taken in 1963, these images were taken 8 years later in 1971 – at 2:56pm, Wednesday, 8th September to be precise.

As usual, please take a good look, and comment on anything you find. Gareth has supplied an embarrassment of riches, of which this is but a small selection. Please join with me in thanking him – it’s thanks to donations like this that we’re slowly but surely building up a record of our community history.

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Central and east Aldridge, Castlefort, Lazy Hill and Mill Green taken on 8th September 1971. Image kindly supplied by Gareth Thomas of Lichfield District Council, and reproduced with their permission. Click for a larger version.

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Shire Oak, Castlefort, Lazy Hill and Stonnall taken on 8th September 1971. Image kindly supplied by Gareth Thomas of Lichfield District Council, and reproduced with their permission. Click for a larger version.

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Shire Oak, Castle Hill, Springhill, Stonnall and Lynn taken on 8th September 1971. Image kindly supplied by Gareth Thomas of Lichfield District Council, and reproduced with their permission. Click for a larger version.

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Shire Oak, Springhill, Summerhill, Muckley Corner, Lynn and Warrenhouse taken on 8th September 1971. Image kindly supplied by Gareth Thomas of Lichfield District Council, and reproduced with their permission. Click for a larger version.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Very hard to build up, easy as hell to tear down

This is just a note to flag up a remarkable piece of writing by ex-Walsall resident, blogger and new dad Rich Johnstone, a chap who I’ve always found to be an excellent writer, thoroughly decent human and good online pal.

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Rich Johnstone, marooned on a sofa in Northampton, the TV remote just out of reach, his progeny lulled to sleep by his tales of Walsall…

This weekend was very hard for me, for a number of reasons. I found the blog, and the social media around it difficult. One of the things you become accustomed to when you write about and for your local community is just how relentlessly negative some people can be.

Sometimes, in the wee small hours when a post won’t come together, or inspiration sneaks out the window, it’s tempting to rip it all down and take a torch to it all – never more so than when something you see, and break news of as a positive is torn to shreds by others.

I won’t go into detail, because it’s just not worth the energy, but those who know my passion for this well will know what drove me downwards so much.

There are people in our communities, working hard to bring and share stuff (I don’t mean me here, I’m just a mirror for them) – sport folks, the socially minded, the artists, the wildlife people, those who arrange events, stage campaigns, fight their corners, try for something better for their bit of the world.

And yet there are others who can never create, never find a good word, or celebrate anything except failure.

Walsall, Brownhills or anywhere are far from perfect. I’d be the first to admit it. But there are real jewels glinting in the everyday dust.

This was also reflected in the local online community in the last week or so by a buzz over a thoroughly unpleasant bit of writing about Walsall. Written a long time ago and recycled by another site, it was, and remains nasty, prejudiced and ignorant. The essay wrote Walsall off and was celebrated by those who would find dog shit in the Garden of Eden. The whole snide reaction proved my point.

Then Rich Johnstone got hold of it.

Rich is one of the very finest people. A man who’s had tough times, and come through them to find peace, dignity and pride. A pride reflected in his wonderful counter-essay on just why Walsall is special.

It’s worth a read. Please do. It’s as easy as anything to slag stuff off – people, places, events and groups. It’s so much harder to create. Creating stuff is tough, and leaves you vulnerable.

Which is why so many never take the risk.

Thank heavens some people still do, like Rich, despite the negativity. Rant over.

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Rich Johnstone is a great writer, for whom I have immense regard. Click on the screenshot to visit his blog.

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Spurrells: was this a local company?

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We believe Spurrells may have been in the industrial area around the south end of Hall Lane, where it meet the Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood. Any ideas? Imagery from Google maps.

A quick one for the Walsall Wood contingent: I won’t say exactly why, because it’s a little bit unusual – but was there once a factory or business in the Hall Lane area of Walsall Wood or nearby called Spurrells (or something like that?)

What did the company do, or make? Was there an Italian chap who maybe owned the company, or was in charge or some other prominent position?

If you remember this company or the chap in question, please comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Thanks, everyone. More will be revealed if any info is forthcoming…

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Fun stuff to see and do, Local History, News, Reader enquiries, Shared memories, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Walsall Wood take Dunkirk again

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The Woodmen were back to form at Nottingham’s Dunkirk FC last Saturday. Image from Accidental Groundhopper.

Walsall Wood FC returned to form in blistering style on Saturday afternoon (20th September 2014) as they beat Dunkirk FC 4-1 away – the 4 up against Dunkirk thing seems a bit of a running theme, as last time Wood were away to the Nottingham boys, they crushed them 4-0.

Walsall Wood are a good team and an excellent, community-spirited institution. They need our support.

It seems roving sports correspondent Bill Shaw has not been in the best of health, so best wishes to him from myself and all the Wood fans who read his work here on the blog and elsewhere.

Here’s to a speedy recovery, old chap! Rooting for you.

Hiya Bob,

Apologies for the delay but I was stuck in hospital from Thursday until 8.00pm last night so all I can tell you is that we won at Dunkirk on Saturday!

Dunkirk 1 v 4 Walsall Wood

After a delayed start due to the match officials being stuck in the horrendous A453 traffic, the game finally kicked off at 3.30.

The delay didn’t worry Wood who were 2 – 0 up at the end of the first half with goals from Joey Butlin and Craig Deakin giving them the lead.

The home side put up more of a show in the second half, when early on Zico Grinion reduced the arrears. However, 2 goals in the last 12 minutes from Leon Taylor made sure of the points for the Wood.

Wood host Coleshill Town on Saturday 27th, with Town sitting one place above Wood with two games in hand it should be an entertaining encounter.

The Staffs Vase game against Hednesford Town at the Wood has been pencilled in for Tuesday 21st October, so the away game at Westfields on that night has been postponed to a later date.

Sorry for the poor quality of this report, hopefully everything will be back to normal for next Saturday.

Rambling Sid Rumpo, or if you prefer ‘Report as told to Bill Shaw’

As ever, thanks to Bill for the report – always appreciated, and as I say, do get well soon – for The Good of the Wood!

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stepping out – can you help Chasewater Strollers grow?

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Never a dull moment with Chasewater Stollers – doesn’t that wee one bottom left look happy? Image from the group’s Facebook page.

You folks will probably remember that I’m very keen on plugging a parent and toddler walking and social group that takes place weekly at Chasewater – Chasewater Strollers – who meet every Monday morning at 9:30am at the Innovation Centre.

From there, they generally go for a gentle social walk around the park,followed by tea and chat afterwards – parents and grandparents with buggies are welcomed warmly into this gentle, supportive and fun group.

Chasewater Strollers are going from strength to strength, and a couple of days ago they recently made a rather wonderful announcement on their Facebook page:

Great news! Staffordshire Council have given us a community grant.

So from the beginning of October we will be moving to a new start venue for our walk and having a stay and play group afterwards with lots of special activities.

If anyone has any old baby toys for under ones that they don’t need anymore we would make great use of them, also seats like bouncer chairs and bumbos etc.

When I asked if I could help, they replied:

We could definitely do with some baby bouncer chairs – somewhere safe to put the smaller babies when we are having hot drinks. That would be lovely thank you!

If anyone has any they can email chasewaterstrollers at outlook do com and I will arrange collection [Or you can contact the blog and I'll pass the message on - Bob].

More details about the new group coming soon….

Please folks, help if you can; but if not, and you just want to take your wee one out for a change, do pop along. I’m so huffed for this great group: this is a perfect example of people seeing a need, doing it and supporting each other. Community in a nutshell, right there.

If you can help, either contact the group directly, comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Longstanding friend of the blog Rose Maria Burnell (mum to top ginger chap Ed) was interested, and she popped along to check it out, writing a wonderful review of the morning, which I include below.

The Chasewater Strollers ameet every Monday at Chasewater Innovation Centre, and tomorrow  (Monday, 22nd September 2014) will meet at 9:30am.

Rose wrote:

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A great atmosphere for parents and their kids… image from Chasewater Strollers.

Chasewater Strollers Launch

On Monday 14th April I went along to the launch of the new Chasewater Strollers walking group. We met at the Innovation Centre at 9.30am and set off for a walk around the reservoir at 9.45am.

I have to be honest and tell you that I really wasn’t expecting much from this event, but how delightfully wrong I was! It’s a beautiful thing in life where the effort and thoughtfulness of someone is met with the response from the community that it deserves. This is exactly what happened on Monday. Esther Allen who formed this group is passionate about creating something positive both for the parents in the local area and for Chasewater. She has thought very carefully about the whole venture, completing risk assessments and getting the backing of local councillors, the support of staff at the Innovation Centre and has even secured a grant from Staffordshire Council to help fund it. There was a great turnout with 18 babies and over 20 adults!

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‘Hope you’ve got my best side!’ Ed goes for no publicity. Image from Chasewater Strollers.

When we arrived, we were welcomed by Esther’s husband (in his Chasewater Strollers high viz vest!) into a room where there were beautiful displays of colourful balloons, cakes and hot drinks! The walk was very good exercise as well as being a brilliant way to make new friends. We strolled along in the sunshine chatting happily and enjoying the wildlife. It wasn’t just all mums either – there were two dads and a grandmother. Any parent or carer is welcome with a baby in their buggy and there is no charge to join in. Esther had the keys to the gates which were opened wide for us all to go through. This enabled a lady with a double buggy to enjoy the walk, too.

Afterwards we enjoyed cakes, coffee and Esther gave out balloons to all of the babies. Most people stayed for another hour enjoy each other’s company and when we left we each were given the details to a Facebook group where we can keep in touch.

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All the fun of Chasewater and the outdoors with a great social atmosphere, too. Image from Chasewater Strollers.

I would highly recommend a walk around Chasewater to anyone and with this new group you have the added bonus of making great new friends, too. Esther’s vision is that they will have a play session after the walk for children to socialise whilst the adults have a chat and refreshments. Chasewater Strollers will be there every Monday at 9.30am. (On Monday bank holiday there will be a slighter later meet of 10am.) Anyone would would like to give it a go would be made to feel very welcome indeed.

Contact details:

Search for Chasewater Strollers on Facebook
chasewaterstrollers@outlook.com
Chasewater Innovation centre 01543 370737

Chasewater Country Park is signposted from the A5 near Cannock and Brownhills, just south of the junction with the A452 (Chester Road). The postcode for satnavs is WS8 7NL.

Any questions please send us an email or facebook message. Otherwise just turn up and you will be made very welcome!

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When the engines roared at Wharf Lane

There’s an interesting sale currently up on eBay – I’d go for it myself, but suspect the film that’s up for sale would probably be better going into the hands of enthusiasts of motorbike scrambling.

The 8mm cinefilm is described as a ‘Scrambling motocross motorbikes 1974 Brownhills etc.’ and is being sold by user ‘Digital_steptoe‘. At the time of posting this, it currently has no bids at a fiver.

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Click on the image to go to the sale on eBay

The seller has also uploaded an example of the footage to YouTube, from which it does indeed look like Wharf Lane, and the clothing does suggest the 1970s.

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Seems to be Wharf Lane.

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Anyone recognise these folk on a day out to watch the scrambling? Certainly looks 1970s to me.

This all used to take place in and around the old quarry off Wharf Lane in Brownhills. The sound of the bikes used to colour many a Brownhillian weekend, but all was ended by the construction of the M6 Toll, which destroyed the course.

Here’s the uploaded section of film:

People travelled from miles away to come to these races, and it was a very popular activity. Does anyone out there have memories of this, or can shed more light on the above video?

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

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Chasewater, Environment, Events, Fun stuff to see and do, Local History, Local media, News, planning, Shared media, Shared memories, Spotted whilst browsing the web | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment