A magnificent Walsall man in his flying machine!

Sidney Webster was a remarkable pilot, prize-winner, war hero and pioneer airman. Image Kindly supplied by Stuart Cowley.

About a million years ago, top pal of the blog and longstanding originator of some great articles for the blog Stuart Cowley sent me details of a Pathe News clip of Walsall flying hero I knew little about:Ft.Lt. Sidney Norman Webster.

This remarkable airman was a real son of Walsall and true adventurer, and a national as well as local hero, both in civilian years and during wartime. He was often referred to as ‘Pebbler’ or the ‘Smiling pilot’.

Wikipedia records:

Sidney Norman Webster was born in Walsall on 9 March 1900 and joined the Royal Air Force in September 1918 and trained as a pilot.[2] He was awarded the Air Force Cross in 1921. In 1927 he was selected as part of the British team to contest the 1929 Schneider Trophy.[1]

Sidney Norman ‘Pebbler’ Webster. Image from Walsall Local.History Centre.

After training Webster and the British team moved to Venice, Italy to prepare for the race against Italy, and the United States. The race was held on 26 September 1927 and was won by Webster flying his Supermarine S.5 single-engined seaplane at an average speed of 281.66 mph (453 km/h).[1] After winning the trophy Webster was awarded a bar to his Air Force Cross.[3]

Webster left the High Speed Flight and after a tour as a flight commander in 1933 he was seconded to the Egyptian Government until 1939.[2]

Webster used his experience of high speed flight as he acted as a liaison officer between the Air Ministry and various aircraft manufacturers in the United Kingdom. In 1944 he moved to the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment as commanding officer.[1]

After the war Webster had two tours of duty with Coastal Command in between he was Air Officer Commanding RAF Hong Kong, he retired in 1950.[2]

You can read more about this remarkable, overlooked local hero in a wonderful article posted on the Walsall Local History Centre blog here or the full article at Wikipedia here. The video Stuart found, which has no sound, was posted on the YouTube account of the Pathe News Archive, and can be seen below.

The film description reads:

In His Home Town. Whole town welcomes Ft.Lt. S.N.Webster who won Schneider Cup for Britain.

Walsall, West Midlands

M/S as crowds in the street wave at a car passing in a cavalcade. It stops at a building. A man in a wig gives speech. Webster, in uniform, stands on a small platform amid the massed crowd. The mayor presents the award or plaque. The crowds cheer and wave hands and hats. It looks like a sunny day. Webster poses, looking rather serious, with his mother.

Thanks to Stuart Cowley for a great spot there, and opening up a bit more of our forgotten history. If you have anything to add, please do: comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

The shed of pyrotechnical delights

The magazine and Walsall Wood Colliery would now be in the car park of the Oak Park Centre. Image from 1915 1:2,500 mapping. Click for a larger version.


Following Chris Smith’s great enquiry about his family and connections with Walsall Wood Colliery last week, I’ve had a great submission from old friend of the blog Charles Street who realised there was a fleeting image of the pit explosives magazine in a film he submitted to the blog a few years ago.

Lots of locals – lads, in particular – commented on social media that they tried to get into the building and to the pyrotechnical wonders inside. I’d wager it’s a good job they never managed it – but it has stirred some amusing and fun memories out there.

The magazine, as the map shows and you all agreed, stood on what is now Oak Park Active Living Centre’s car park and stored high explosive for use in the mine. There were similar structures at other local pits.

The explosives store as caught in a home cinefilm recorded by Charles Street’s father, Kindly supplied by Charles.

Charles said:

Hi Bob

Please find attached a picture of the old explosives store, this is a still from my Dad’s home movie taken around 1965.
Sorry the quality isn’t great but it shows the explosives store which the building in the foreground and the (then) newly built council houses along Brownhills Road in the background.
I remember the explosive stores as a kid, my dad reckoned it was in the middle of the field on the premise if it ever blew up it would do no damage other than to the shed it was stored in, as the houses were well back from the field.

If seems despite my scepticism, these things were a lot moire secure than it would appear!

This fragment from 1:10,000 mapping in 1884 between Norton Pool (Chasewater) and Watling Street shows a magazine in the fields behind what is now Highfield Farm. Click for a larger version.

You can see Chas’s original video, recorded by his father and posted on the blog some years ago blow – thanks as ever to Chas for a great, thought-provoking submission which I’m sure will provoke debate.

If you have anything to add, please do: either comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

A quiet day in the late 1950s… and some views of Norton!

A previously published image in much better quality, thanks to everyone’s favourite tat-bazaar, eBay. Click for a larger version.

A quick post of a great local postcard spotted by reader Dean, and the latest post in a series of unusual postcards spotted on everyone’s favourite tat bazaar, eBay.

For sale by postcard dealer univeralpostcards, we have this interesting late 50s/early 1960s Bourne image of the High Street, looking southeast towards Shire Oak from just opposite Brewes Shop, from outside where Aldi would be now, Station Hotel on the right.

A scan of this was featured in the book ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington – but this image is much clearer. That huge pram!

The scan is of very high quality.

Also included at the foot of the post is a lovely Norton Canes postcard, pointed out to me by a reader a few weeks ago (but I can’t now remember who, or indeed, find the auction) – it’s a remarkably high quality scan and worth clicking on just to see full size for the central image of Norton pool (Chacsewater) with the conduit slag heap in the background.

If you fancy this, you can see the original sale here where it’s offered at a starting price of £9.99. Form an orderly queue, folks.

Any observations? Please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot

A great postcard of Norton Canes. I just wish I could remember where I found it. Click for full size version.


Posted in News | 4 Comments

Walsall Wood hammer Hinckley, and other club news including a temporary home for Pelsall Villa!

Images of last Saturday’s Walsall Wood away match (th August 2017) at Cadbury Athletic, which Wood won one-nil. Images very kindly supplied by Simon Evans

I’ve a whole tranche of Walsall Wood football news today as I feature a disparate collection of submissions – photos of last Saturday’s Cadbury Athletic match from Simon Evans, a match report from Bill Shaw of Tuesday’s away victory (15th August 2017) at Hinckley and photos from last weeks Pelsall Villa – Redditch game that was played at Oak Park de to the vandalism difficulties at the Villan’s home ground.

First up, Bill Shaw enjoyed the Hinckley win…

Hiya Bob,

Saturday’s win at Cadbury courtesy of a Paul Sullivan penalty gave Wood a good start to their league programme, but last night’s hard fought victory over Hinckley was a superb performance against a side who won’t be far off the top come April.

It’s the magic of the FA Cup next with Tividale the visitors on Saturday as Wood look to claw some cash back from the FA.


Hinckley AFC 1 v 4 Walsall Wood

Wood made it three wins out of three with this hard fought victory at Hinckley.  Already three-one down the home side lost defender Dominic Smith to a second yellow in the 79th minute.  Wood already in control saw the resulting free kick by Jordan Fitzpatrick spilled by keeper Haydn Whitcombe, Tony Clarke first to the loose ball to score from close range.

Almost from the start Hinckley striker Sam Agar gave notice of his intent, he collected a ball out wide right and seeing keeper Lloyd Ransome off his line put an audacious 50 yard lob wide of the far post.

Wood’s first effort came on six minutes, Tony Clarke played the ball out wide left to Jordan Fitzpatrick, his low cross fired home by Joey Butlin to put Wood in the driving seat.

On 14 minutes James Williams got clear wide right, his cross into the centre headed behind by Chris Slater to deny Agar.

Four minutes later Butlin got clear wide left, his ball inside found Peter Till who ran on to calmly slot home Wood’s second.

Almost immediately it was two-one, Sean Williams powered in along the left byeline, crossed low into the box and Darious Darkin forced the ball over the line in a scramble.

On 26 minutes a left wing free kick was half cleared to Andrew Westwood 30 yards out to fire a first time effort wide.

From the goal kick the ball found its way to Agar on the right of the box, he cleverly turned his marker before firing in a rising drive that was well held by Ransome.

Wood had the last chance of the half, a neat move left of centre ending with Westwood finding Till who ran on only to fire wide.

Five minutes into the second half Clarke collected a ball wide left, cut inside firing wide from the edge of the box. Eight minutes later a long ball forward by skipper Darren Campion found Butlin on the right of the box, he was forced wide by three defenders but was still strong enough to fire in a rising drive that was pushed over by Whitcombe. From the corner the ball was played out to Louis Harris, his first time low drive bringing a full length save from the keeper.  On 63 minutes Harris played a ball into the left of the box, Clarke touched it on to Fitzpatrick whose first time drive was blocked.

A rare home attack on 64 minutes saw them win a left wing free kick, Agar was released wide left, he cut inside and fired in a ball for Williams on the right of the box, Ransome out quickly and bravely to save at his feet.

On 70 minutes Butlin ran at the defence before being brought down 25 yards out just left of centre.  Fitzpatrick firing a peach of a free kick into the top right hand corner. On 79 minutes a long ball forward found Clarke left of centre, he left Dominic Smith for dead only for the defender to launch a tackle from behind, he’d already been booked and didn’t wait for the red card. To do justice for the tackle Fitzpatrick fired in the free kick, Whitcombe spilled the ball, Clarke pounced to make it four-one.

Wood now content with their evenings efforts shut up shop, Agar was still dangerous but was given little space, the visitors running out well deserved victors.

Tow banana skin fixtures negotiated, six points in the bag as Wood look to bounce straight back, there will be harder games than this ill-tempered affair but they stayed calm under pressure as they warmed up for Saturdays F.A.Cup match with Tividale.

Bill Shaw.

The Teams:

Hinckley AFC – Whitcombe, J. Williams, Haines, Halil, Smith, Francis (captain), Butler, Darkin, Agar, Williams, Cooper, Tomlinson, Jackson, Rolston, Healy, Bowerman.

Walsall Wood – Ransome, Taylor, Campion (captain), Slater, Hurren, Tolley, Till, Westwood, Butlin, Clarke, Fitzpatrick, L. Harris, Taylor Boyce, McFarlane, Deakin Faultless. 

Thanks to Bill for a great report! Always appreciated.

It’s also worth noting that Walsall Wood Football Club have extended the hand of friendship to Pelsall Villa and offered Oak Park up for matches while the Pelsall side are crippled due to recent vanal attacks.

David Evans said:

I watched Pelsall play Redditch at Oak Park on Saturday, 12th August. The day after Pelsall Villa suffered the arson attack, Walsall Wood FC’s Chairman offered Pelsall Oak Park for them to lay home matches etc.

Pelsall have been immensely grateful!

Pelsall lost three-one to Redditch, sadly but their supporters were made welcome and enjoyed their visit to the WWFC clubhouse!

David supplied the following images of that match:

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.

I guarantee you’ll have more fun cheering on the local chaps than you ever will watching the over-priced prima donnas on TV…

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Your chance to meet a Great War historian! NOTE IMPORTANT UPDATE PLEASE

Sorry, it appears contrary to the information in this post, Andrew will not be at this event tomorrow due a a change of circumstances. My apologies for any inconvenience or confusion caused.



Here’s one I’m awfully late with, but you still have chance to catch the wonderful war historian Andrew Thornton at the Cannock Chase Military History Weekend tomorrow (Sunday 20th August) and this afternoon if you’re exceedingly quick to get up to Marquis Drive, Cannock Chase.

Andrew is a fantastic, knowledgable and very interesting historian who has contributed much to this blog and the area’s communal local history.

Andrew said:

I will be at the Marquis Drive Visitor’s Centre on Cannock Chase this weekend, selling copies of both volumes of my South Staffords at War books, copies of ‘Hell With the Lid Off’ and also taking enquiries regarding my research service.

Lots of Brownhills men are mentioned in both books.

The event I will be attending is The Cannock Chase Military History Weekend, which takes place on Saturday 19 August and Sunday 20 August. The event is open between 10.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m.

Andrew is also appealing for help with his next book:

Looks like a great read! Image Kindly supplied by Andrew Thornton.

I am currently writing my updated history of 2nd North Midland Field Company, Royal Engineers (Territorial Force), which I hope to have completed and published by November this year.

Although I have a lot of material on men who served with the Company during the Great War already, I am always aware that there are probably photographs, letters and other material that families still have in their possession that may help to tell the story of the Company in more personal detail.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who had a relative who served with 2nd North Midland Field Company, and I may well have information on them that their families did not know about that I can share.

If you are able to help me with my research, I would be very grateful.

Many Thanks
Andrew Thornton

You can contact Andrew via his Facebook page here, twitter account here or by emailing him here: andrew.thornton3880@outlook.com.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Be alert – power tools stolen in Brownhills van burglary

Take care on the Watermead Estate. Image Kindly supplied by Pete Hummings.

A reader living on the Watermead Estate in Brownhills (The new one between the Pelsall Road and Tesco) has been in touch with me asking to share with readers that her partner had his van broken into last night (Friday 18th August 2017).

The reader wrote:

Hello Bob

Can you post on the Brownhills Blog please?

My husband’s van got broken into last night – we live opposite B&M. The burglars took all his tools.

All drills and saws have his name ‘Adam’ engraved on them.

Please can people keep a look out. Thank you

The toolbox has been found empty – stolen were two Makita drills, a white site Makita radio and a hand saw.


My sympathies for the loss – what scumbags. Nicking a bloke’s work tools is the lowest of the low. If you’re offered cheap tools think about where they might have come from, and don’t be afraid to dob the sellers in to the police. It could be your house or car they do over next.

Anyone with information is urged to contact West Midlands Police by dialling 101 or speak to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Cheers all.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, It makes me mad!, Local Blogs, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Walsall Wood at home to Tividale this afternoon!


Walsall Wood FC have a great reputation for entertaining football, and a keen, loyal and friendly bunch of supporters! Come join in the fun this Saturday and see some cracking sport.

Saturday 19th August

The Wood are at home for the next stage of their Emirates FA Cup journey!

Walsall Wood FC versus Tividale FC

Kickoff at 3:00pm

Hopefully, a match report will follow…

For the Good of the Wood!

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here

Go on, et down there for some top footy.

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment