Honouring the local Fallen, an ongoing duty – help needed please

Hello folks – I have a very important request here from blog contributor, friend and historian David Evans who is helping a team from the Netherlands uncover the history of the forces that liberated their village of Dieteren in 1945. One of the lads to be lost was from Walsall Wood, Trooper Henry Hall.

‘Dieteren, Occupied by the Germans May 10, 1940 Liberated by the English January 16, 1945’ – Image from Henk Penders and the Liberation of Dieteren website to which he contributes.

My thanks and best wishes to all involved in this, it’s a stunning example of collaborative history and international cooperation, which is hugely prescient in light of the times.

I’ll let David explain:

Very recently a request was posted in the comments on Brownhills Bob’s blog for information about a Walsall Wood soldier who had been killed in action in the Netherlands during the Second World War.

Thanks to the wonders of technology – the blog primarily, the internet , the super help given by fellow reader and contributor Andy Dennis, it has been possible to complete most of the request.

In the Netherlands  there is an ongoing local history project to honour those who gave their lives to liberate the village of Dieteren, whereby local resident Mr Henk Penders and others have been compiling a book.

Following a Messenger call with Henk he sent me these links to the site detailing the history – they are in Dutch but if you open in Chrome they translate beautifully to English – they detail a remarkable military liberation operation in which Trooper Hall from Walsall Wood gave his all:

Main site – click here.

The last crossing The Story of Trooper Johnston and the Canadian Kangaroos – part 1

The last crossing The Story of Trooper Johnston and the Canadian Kangaroos – part 2

The remarkable level of detail in what is a fascinating story, both of the events and subsequent historical detective work, is a credit to Henk and those involved. It’s a touching and wonderful thing.

So here’s where help is needed from the community: What of  Trooper Hall?

A sobering document, generously shared by Henk Penders via David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Trooper Henry Hall served in the 9th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. The 1939 census confirms the military record, and that he lived in Walsall Road, Walsall Wood before enlisting.

image from the Mayo collection,. from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

David and Henk are trying to locate surviving members of the Hall family, that Henry may be honoured for his sacrifice. It’s possible that Ivy Hall may still be living locally (that would be possibly Ivy’s maiden name).

If you can help, please contact Bob by commenting here, or emailing him on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or pull him aside and have a word on social media, please.

I would like to express my personal thanks to Mr Andy Dennis for his help and to Brownhills Bob for his expertise and assistance, and to Mr Henk Penders in the Netherlands for his amazing work to honour our fallen.

David

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Fair and Square

Rushall square as Dave Dunkley remembers it from his childhood. Image kindly shared by Dave.

I featured a few weeks ago a painting by local artist Dave Dunkley of Rushall Station and level crossing that was very well received and generated a lost of positive debate about the station’s history.

Well, spurred on by this, Dave has sent me a couple of his paintings of the Rushall Square area as he remembers it from his childhood. Rushall Square today is the area around the old library, shops and Macdonalds restaurant; the Macdonalds is the former site of the George and Dragon pub in the pictures. The photographic studio there today used to be the local newsagent.

Dave said:

Hi Bob

I have attached two paintings I have done of Rushall 1950’s showing what I remember of the old police station.

Davis’s paper shop is now, or was when I lived at Rushall, Eileen Mason’s. It shows the George and Dragon, Whitehouses shop and the Congressional church in Station road.

The church in 1958 is where I attended my first year of Shelfield secondary modern. Upstairs Mrs Wilkes who taught the ”A” stream, me, downstairs in the ”B” stream taught by the dreaded Mrs Jarvis. Think every one in her class suffered a few strokes of the cane from her. Did us no harm.

The other painting is a bit of a joke illustration from another angle. I jokingly put on Lowry type people just for fun. The lad looking in the window at Davis’s could have been me looking at all the Dinky cars for sale.

Best wishes
Dave

A different angle on the same memory, complete with figures – see text.. Image kindly shared by Dave Dunkley.

Dave, once again you are most welcome, I really love your paintings. I’d be only too happy to share your work in future, as I am honoured once more to do so today.

My thanks to Dave, then, and come on readers – what do you remember of Rushall Square?

Please do let Dave and the readership know what you remember – comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at googlemmil dot com or whisper in my ear on social media.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

The crossing

Back in the end of November (what seems like an age away now) Dave Dunkley, a talented local artist and Rushall lad sent me a picture he’d painted from memory of the Rushall Station he remembered from his youth.

Rushall station closed to passengers in 1909, but the buildings remained up until  the middle of the last century, at least.

The painting generated lots of warm memories and debate – and what I hoped might happen, has – top local rail historian Ian Pell has sent me a fascinating, illustrated response.

Local historian and author Clive Roberts emailed me this lovely scan of a photo he acquired from the moving sale for Walsall Local History Centre. We think it might be by Jack Haddock, and shows Rushall Station House roof, the house itself obscured by a bus waiting at the crossing. Image courtesy Clive Roberts.

It turned out that many remembered the level crossing with fondness – it was of course on the South Staffordshire Line that used to bisect Brownhills, mostly closed in 1984 – and a few remembered the old station itself.

Local historian Clive Roberts found the above photo in his collection he bought from the Local History Centre when it closed to move. It shows a steam loco passing the station with a Walsall Corporation bus sadly obscuring the building. We suspect this is a Jack Haddock picture.

Rushall Station in the 1950s, painted from memory by Dave Dunkley. Click for a full size version.

It turns out there don’t seem to be any good pictures of the station that have come to light yet, but Ian Pell assembled the evidence in his usual precise and fascinating manner. Once again I’d like to thank Ian for a lovely contribution and apologies for losing his original email otherwise this article would have been up sooner!

It’s a joy to feature work of this quality here, as it is to feature Dave’s painting, too – I love communal, collaborative local history like this.

So, what can you add? Comment here is welcome, you can mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or pull me to one side on social media.

Ian Pell wrote:

Hi Bob,

Thoughts regarding Rushall station and crossing.

I love these drawings from people’s memories, a gentleman, Mr. Frank Allen, did several sketches and drawings of a similar nature for the Cannock line. The station building as is indicated in the 1958 photo certainly stayed the course of time, even if not used by the railway.  The platforms didn’t fair so well.  Readers may recall it was a steep drop from the back of the box to the adjacent field where cows often roamed.

There are a couple of technical notes to add – for the rivet counters – one is that the wicket gates were on the box side of the road and the other is that the window pattern on the front of the box was 2-3-2. But ,what a great effort from memory.  I only wish mine was as good.  I’m always confusing the down line with the up line!

Extract from 1912 LNW 2-chain map of the South Staffs line. Image courtesy Ian Pell.

This plan is taken from the 1912 LNW 2-chain map of the South Staffs line.  It shows the station after closure (1-3-1909) and gives an indication of a typical South Staffs station and station master’s house.  This is further borne out by the 1958’s photo below which was taken from one of those new fangled diesel multiple units.

1958 from a DMU heading north. Platelayers hut to the left, box with station building behind. Image courtesy Ian Pell.

Well Tim Spiers, it’s the best stab I have at a photo of the station house.  It was still being called this in 1958.

The station opened on 24-3-1856 along with another at Ryder’s Hays.  It closed as a direct result of tram competition and was the first station in the West Midlands to close in the 20th century.

The crossing signal cabin replaced a previous one, located slightly further to the south of  Harden Road,  in October 1899, consisting of 10 levers and a crossing wheel.  The crossing and wicket gates were replace on 9th December 1979 by lifting barriers.

Tinsley (Sheffield) to Eastleigh bound evening freight , 6 June 1975 – station site to the right. Image originally by John Whitehouse kindly supplied by Ian Pell.

In the 1960s an extensive transport depot was built to the north of the station site and at some time the station house was demolished, leaving a wedge of land which the engineer’s used.  The signal on the up line was eventually replaced with the colour light signal shown below.

Since then the transport depot by the crossing has been replaced by housing. The building had something to do with exports and imports from Ireland with some sort of bonded warehouse facility.

Kind regards
Ian

Former station site looking north, taken in the last week of the line being open for traffic, March 1984. Image courtesy Ian Pell.

 

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Remembering a Brownhills D-Day hero

Another great piece of research comes in from reader and local military historian Isaac Marklew-Brown, whose article on his relative Thomas Marklew, a victorian ere soldier was so well received here a few months ago.

This time Isaac again writes beautifully and in great detail  about a relative lost in the wake of the D Day invasion of Northern France, Lawrence Marklew, one of the many local lads to pay the highest price in that most decisive battle in an atrociously bloody conflict.

A memorial to the Normandy Landings is currently being built near the then ‘Gold Beach’, near the town of Ver-sur-Mer. Image from the Normandy Memorial Trust.

I’m always more than happy to feature reader articles here and I’m very keen to cover the stories of local service – wherever it was. We have featured many such stories here over the years from Cecil Arthur Burton MM to the fascinating story of an Anzac from Norton Canes, to the more personal recollections of the toll of war. If you would like to add to the body of such work here pleaser do get in touch.

My huge thanks to Isaac for yet another outstanding piece of local history – and it’s worth noting that his fund-raising skydive for charity is still open for donations – click here. A truly brave thing to do!

Anything to add? Please feel free: Comment here, mail me BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tap my shoulder on social media.

Isaac wrote:

Lawrence Marklew by Isaac Marklew-Brown 

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Due to the great success of the last post on a Marklew soldier from Brownhills I thought I would do another one but this time one who paid the ultimate sacrifice in one of the greatest battles the world has ever seen known as D-Day. 

I try to cover every Marklew who has ever fought in military action as I’m motivated by the quote “The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.” From Brownhills I am aware of three Brave Individuals who gave their all and sadly passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty. These are William Marklew who died in the First World War and Lawrence Marklew as well as Thomas H Marklew who died in the Second World War. These names can be seen on the Memorial in Brownhills. As an aspiring Army Officer I see it as essential to remember those who came before me and fought for our freedom.

Lawrence Marklew as pictured below which was found in the Newspaper archives was part of the 2nd battalion King’s Shropshire light infantry. 

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

The 2nd Battalion began the war in Jamaica, with a company detached to the Bermuda Garrison. The battalion would eventually join the 185th Infantry Brigade, which included the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the 1st Battalion, Royal Norfolk Regiment. The brigade was originally assigned to the 79th Armoured Division, but was then transferred to the 3rd British Infantry Division in April 1943, when the division was preparing to invade Sicily, until it was replaced by the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. The battalion took part in the D-Day landings of Operation Overlord, where they failed to capture the D-Day objective of Caen due to the presence of the 21st Panzer Division. The 2nd Battalion fought in the Normandy CampaignOperation Market Garden and the rest of the North West Europe Campaign with the British Second Army

2nd Battalion landed on Sword Beach on D-Day (6 June 1944), before fighting its way through France, Holland and Germany until May 1945. Lawrence Marklew was part of the soldiers who stormed the Beaches that day.

The following extract was written by a soldier present at the day of invasion known as Bob Littlar, he best can describe the actions in that period that both him and Lawrence were part of. This is Bob Littlar’s account of his D-Day experiences as a corporal in the 2nd Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry:

To the Continent

“At about 9pm that night the four LCAs carrying our battalion quietly slipped out of the harbour and into the English Channel. We spent the entire Monday at sea, and we could see ships from horizon to horizon, all along the Channel. We’d all been issued with French francs, and to pass the time at sea the lads were playing cards and gambling with the foreign currency.

We’d also been issued with a terrible kind of soap, it was just about impossible to wash with the stuff. At 4am on 6 June, I was trying to shave using this stuff, and it was just impossible, so I decided I would just have to invade France wearing a moustache!

It was barely light at that time of the morning, but we could see that we were among war ships of all sorts. As we got closer to the coast of Normandy we could see smoke on the shoreline, from the long range battleship assault. We were all looking at this incredible sight when we were ordered to go below decks.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

By now it was about 9am and the first brigade was already ashore and fighting. I went onto the deck to have a look at what was going on, and we were about 400 metres off shore. We could hear the sandbanks on the bottom of the boat, and we were very nervous about mines.

About 100 metres off shore we were ordered back on deck. On the front of the LCA there was a gangplank on each side of the bow, up on deck. When you get inshore they shoot these forward on pulleys, and you walk down. As the gangplanks went forward the chaps were nearly on them – it was no good hanging around because there was already shellfire coming at us. The boat on our right took a direct hit, making us very anxious.

The right hand ramp turned over with a whole lot of chaps on it, so everyone had to go down the left ramp. I think I was in the fifth section to go down. One of the naval chaps had tied a rope to the end of the gang plank, and had run onto the beach with it, so that we could all hold onto the rope to guide us onto the beach. Chaps were disappearing under the waves, you could just see their hands holding on to the rope. It was very comforting to finally get onto the sand, much better than being at sea.

We had been issued with waterproof waders that can keep you dry up to the chest, a bit like the ones fishermen wear. In theory this was great, but in practice it only worked if the water came up to your waist. Chaps were going under water and trying to wade out with these waterproofs absolutely filled to bursting.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

I got out a knife and started slicing the waterproofs of the chaps that were struggling to walk on shore wearing these things. I did this for about seven or eight blokes, the men in my group. Then I looked around and saw a sea wall, about two or three foot high, and I sheltered behind it on my own. My sergeant came up to me and said, ‘You’re not going to win this war on your own, get your men.’

I could see smoke, and smouldering tanks that had been blown up earlier. The seafront area had already been taken, but there was still some resistance and we were still being fired on.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Trying to meet objectives

We were supposed to assemble in an orchard, and I was concentrating on that. Eventually we moved off inland, on the road to Caen. We walked past what must have been lovely seafront houses in peaceful days. We were moving south towards our assembly area, and suddenly I could see a German plane coming from my left. He was dropping what I could only describe as oil bombs. I could see them bursting, and the flames going up and spreading.

We were carrying Bangalore torpedoes, and I turned to the lads and said, ‘Dump those in the ditch, quickly, and lie on the road – it’s our only hope if they explode.’ Fortunately the bomber missed the road. We decided to leave the Bangalore torpedoes behind.

We eventually got to the orchard where our battalion was gathering, and were organised into company groups. We were getting shelled, I have no idea where from. A piece of shrapnel hit my lance corporal, it cut his boot open and you could see flesh and blood sticking out through the hole. ‘That’s it,’ he said to me. ‘Cheerio, I’m off with the stretcher-bearers.’ That left me without a lance corporal.

We were meant to ride forward onto Periers Ridge with some tanks, but the tanks never showed up so the decision was taken that the battalion would move forward without the support of the tanks.

My company was to be the first one going up the left hand side of the road, and W company was to go up the right hand side. The concentration of fire on this ridge was incredible, and to this day I have no idea whether it was our boys or the enemy firing. Whoever it was, it wasn’t nice.

We left a space of at least five yards between each man as we moved up the hill, as we had been trained to do. This is to avoid a cluster of men being hit at once. The first bit was all right, but then we got closer and closer to this massive concentration of fire. I was so scared I got down on my hands and knees, and then onto my stomach. It was a baptism of fire, I had never seen anything like it. I think some of the fire was German, but some of it was our ships firing onto the ridge.

We eventually made it over the ridge and onto the southern slope, where the fire eased off a bit.

What I didn’t know at this time was that there was a German battery of six guns on the right-hand side of the road at Periers-sur-le-Dan. The brigadier had ordered our colonel to send a company to deal with that, and that reduced us to just three companies.

Heading for Beuville

We carried on towards Beuville, and in the distance I could see what I would call a wadi, with a small stream running through it. It was now coming up to midday and we had been going since 4am. I was feeling tired and decided that I would cross the stream at a bridge.

We could see the village on the other side of the river, but as we rounded a corner near the bridge, BAM! A chap from W company was hit by an incendiary, and killed instantly as the bandoliers of ammunition around his waist exploded.

I thought the fire had come from a farm on my left so I turned around and started shooting at the farmhouse. Took all the windows out. But of course, they fire from ground level. I wasn’t to know that – these things you learn on the job. I saw another company commander taking a hit in his shoulder, then tossing a grenade over a wall because he thought the fire had come from there, but in truth none of us had any idea where it had come from.

By this time three tanks had caught up with us, and one of the captains was leaning out, telling our lieutenant that he’d seen about 40 Germans going to a farm some 3,500 metres away.

My platoon commander ordered me to go across the road and around the right-hand flank of the village, to the meadows at the back of the buildings. We scrambled up the banks, heading for the back of the village. All the while we were being fired on by snipers.”

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Unfortunately after successfully getting in land and taking part in the early stage battles of the invasion of Normandy Lawrence Marklew would lose his life. On the 14th of June 1944 at a mere 21 years old Lawrence was dead. This would have been a big shock in Brownhills back home and a great loss to the area. Many other heroes from Brownhills would lose their lives as well throughout the ghastly and brutal war and may they all rest in peace. Their duty is done.

Thank you for reading this. If you want any research done then please let me know I’m always more than happy to help. 

Isaac Marklew-Brown 

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Sweet reason and the sourness of hypocrisy

An interesting contribution today from veteran blog writer and local industrial historian Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, who has once again been delving via the newspaper archives into the grizzly reality of life as a miner, rather than indulging the more airbrushed versions of the industry common on many local history fora and sites.

The General Strike of 1926 bit deeply in the local coalfields, and the ultimately unsuccessful fight against reducing wages and increasing working time was bitter and protracted – but did gain widespread local support.

The Westley Church was just over the bridge where the car workshop is today on the corner of Hall Lane and Lichfield Road in Walsall Wood. From ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo a& John Sale.

Miners children were fed by charity, soup kitchens and ‘fighting funds’ operated by churches and newspapers. They literally stopped children from starving.

Meanwhile, the mine owners – choosing to exert the squeeze downwards rather than bear the load themselves – continued their showy largesse, social climbing and glad-handing.

I thank Peter from a fascinating eating article that really reaches into the reality of life at the time, and it’s great to see his return after somewhat of a break. Great to see you, old chap: Welcome back.

I’m sure this article will generate comment: Please feel free to throw in your shilling. Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or pull me to one side on social media.

Peter wrote:

Birmingham Gazette 11 June 1926. Click for a larger version.

Hi Bob,

I came across this picture from the Birmingham Gazette of June 1926. It shows miners children in Hednesford on their way to the food depot during the General strike of 1926. It mentions the Birmingham Evening Despatch ‘Shilling Fund’ which set up in June 1926.

‘The Fund has a splendid send-off but deeper inquires showed more urgent was the need. The situation in Hednesford and district is that over 10,000 children are in need of food. Last week 5408 children were provided with from two to four meals during the week. The cost 6d per child for the week. In Pelsall District [It covered a bigger area than Pelsall – Bob] it is stated that nearly 20,000 children are going hungry. Poverty came up on miners of the Chase during the first week of the look-out. The situation today is very serious, and unless help is speedily forthcoming, it is certain that the dispute will not only involve children’s health, but may involve children’s lives.’

July 1926 it is reported, ‘Children are starving in the Cannock Chase coalfield, and a wife and child only receive 3s 6d a week, for the Lichfield Guardians have cut down relief by half.’ The Despatch asks for contributions of a shilling or a fraction of a shilling… P Goulding, Central Distress Committee of Brownhills, expressed thanks to the Despatch… Over 40,000 shillings have been donated. 

In August the Despatch says the dispute has entered the eighteenth week, and there is a greater need than ever. 66,000 has been collected.

In September nearly 70,000 shillings has been contributed. ‘The need for feeding the hungry miners children is greater than ever, and also an urgent demand for clothing. Nurse Phillips, 14 Bungalow, Green Heath, Hednesford appeals for serviceable boots, clothing, blankets, sheets etc.’

In December a small balance was used for the Christmas of the miners children, there is a picture but of poor quality in the Birmingham Gazette… ‘350 Christmas puddings sent to Hednesford, from the £3,925 13s 3d raised by the fund for the miners’ kiddies during the most disastrous stoppage in the history of British industry.

The Fund had been closed in early December and, ‘The distribution by John Baker of the Miner’s Association and by the Central Relief Committee under Rev F Cobb of St. Saviour… The men have been back at work for nearly a month but in the Hednesford area several of the larger pits are on short time and the miners are finding it difficult to make ends meet, with the barest necessities. This is typical of the rest of the Cannock Chase coalfield where it is said many can never hope to get out of debt which had to be incurred. 

It was in the January of 1926 that  WE Harrison opened the B’hills War Memorial Institute. G Cooper was Chair of War Memorial Committee and spoke of generous assistance of the Colliery Companies who had subscribed £750… ‘If the same spirit of sweet reasonableness in other coalfields, as did in Cannock Chase and Pelsall, the clouds that were hovering over the month of May would be quickly dispersed.’ He paid tribute to the character and worth of WE Harrison… ‘who never refused assistance to any good cause in B’hills, he was alpha and omega of all charitable work in the village.’

WE Harrison at this time was in possession of the Wychnor Estate, Alrewas. He would spend quite some time during 1926 at his London residence as he was a member of the Coal Commission. He seemed willing to speak freely in the public arena, but I couldn’t find many contributions within the Commission meetings.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas in this most peculiar of years…

Hi all

I’d just like to take five minutes to wish you a happy Christmas and let us all hope for a better 2021, and hopefully a return to some kind of normal when we can enjoy cafes, a pint in a sunny beer garden and the company of friends and family once more.

Lichfield, Saturday last. I still find those nutcracker things a bit creepy.

I know it’s very hard for many of us at the moment and that Christmas is not a happy time for lots of people this year. The blog remains here for all its readers and the community around it, and whilst I’ve been broadcasting on reduced power this year mainly due to work obligations, but also due to illness, I’m not in any way giving up and I have lots of great articles to come over the Christmas period for you.

Best wishes to you all, and a special thanks to the contributors to the blog who have needed the patience of a saint with me this year and my tardiness to answer email and get articles up in public.

So sorry, I will try and get more on top of it this coming year, I promise.

I will also be taking advantage of my first proper holiday in many years to catch up on 365days of biking too – so stay tuned.

There may even be the return of the New Year photo competition with a special lockdown them this year providing all goes to plan.

A big thank you again this year to Susan Forster and all involved in the Brownhills Christmas Tree Fund that worked so very hard to get us a tree at Morris’s feet for the second consecutive year.

So please, take care, have as best a time as you can in the circumstances and in this most peculiar of years, and remember, from here the nights get lighter…

Thank you for the community spirit, insights into history and fascinating contributions – and here’s to the new year and another twelve months of the Brownhills Blog.

All the best
Bob

Posted in News | 8 Comments

Let’s have a butchers!

It’s been a while since I featured a local history article by the young David Evans who’s still beavering away diligently in the background, and today we return to his home ground of Walsall Wood, where the good gentleman has been working on the history of one of the legends of the village: Batkins, latterly the home of Roadrunner.

Roadrunner, a name associated with Walsall Wood and car spares for as long as I can remember finally shut it’s doors in 2020, and the former shop is now being transformed. David has been investigating it’s older history, as a butchers.

I thank David for yet another lovely article to add to the expanding cannon of local history here on the blog.

The former Roadrunner store in Walsall Wood closed this year – a real legend has gone. Imagery from Google Streetview.

It’s nice to get time to do history again, and I also have great history articles coming real soon from Isaac Marklew Brown, and later today if possible, railway historian Ian Pell – so stay tuned!

With the ongoing lockdown and stay at home Christmas upcoming, hopefully I can provide some light distraction here on the blog for you all.

Best wishes folks – and stay safe!

David wrote:

I was intrigued to see that one of Walsall Wood’s former butchers shops is having some building work done to it.

This building, in its latter years, will be known to many as Roadrunner, a motor spares shop of repute, that stands in Lichfield Road Walsall Wood. But to local people of some advancing years it is known affectionately as Batkins the butchers.

There were several butchers shops in the Wood. Near to the canal in the High Street were two butchers, Cherry’s and Felton’s, with an abbatoir in the yard.

At Streets Corner, now a busy road junction, was Bates’ butcher’s shop. Along Salters Road was Jones’ butchers shop, a wooden hut building.

But, perhaps the oldest and possibly the longest serving of the butchers’ was Batkins

Image from Godfrey Hucker’s ‘Oak Park Runner’ blog; Original I believe from the book ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale. Image kindly shared by David Evans.

Jan Farrow’s fine local history book, Brownhills and Walsall Wood, published in 1992 shows this image with Batkin’s and the Reliant three wheel delivery van outside the shop

Image from “Around Brownhills and Walsall Wood in Old Picture Postcards’ by Jan Farrow. Image kindly shared by David Evans.

So, let’s take a look back and see what the local newspapers tell us about the shop and the people there.

From the Walsall Advertiser 24 October 1896 we see that Mr Batkin bought a shop and residence. We can see in the first image that the building was a shop and a residence:

Image from the National Newspaper Archive kindly shared by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

This is taken from the Walsall Observer, 6 May, 1916, page 1 and gives some revealing details. The business was established in 1855… Making the building perhaps one of the earliest along this part of Lichfield Road. Also there is reference to closing the grocery department. Consequence of War? Perhaps the two assistants being called up?

Image from the National Newspaper Archive kindly shared by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

What do we learn of the owner, Mr Alfred Batkin?

Image from the National Newspaper Archive kindly shared by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

From the Walsall Observer,2 April 1910, page 11. Mr Batkin was an active member of St. John’s Church. Where were the three Mission Churches? Walsall Wood, perhaps Clayhanger, but where was the third one?

Image from the National Newspaper Archive kindly shared by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Walsall Observer 25 February 1933 gives some interesting details of his association with the District Nursing Association. In later years we know that Dr Roberts, our local GP, was active in setting up a Nursing Home during the war years.

We have seen, in Brownhills Bob’s wonderful blog, Audrey Proiffitt’s childhood memories and one adventure which involved Batkins butchers, and the field behind the shop was a training ground for Cossack Riders.

What became of the shop and especially the residence? This from the Walsall Observer 27th January 1940.

Image from the National Newspaper Archive kindly shared by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

And,to end with, a ‘brush with officialdom’ made the local press, from Walsall Observer of 2nd April 1910, page 11

Image from the National Newspaper Archive kindly shared by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

 

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Check out the true spirit of Christmas – on Clayhanger Common

Hi folks – here’s a heads up to something lovely that’s very local and a credit to the creator, lovely local lady Kathryn ‘Chalk Fairy’ Grace – The Clayhanger Common Nativity Trail.

Kathryn works tirelessly for the good of the community – be it litter picking, organising lockdown-safe, socially distanced VE Day street celebrations or all manner of great community stuff.

It was with huge sadness I saw Kathryn’s post on Facebook on Friday 18th December when she lamented that vandals had attacked the nativity trail and torn it down.

After a period of justifiable anger, she regrouped, declared she would not be beaten and has restored it to it’s full glory, for which I admire the lady hugely.

So here’s a thing. If you have wee ones, and now the rain has at last stopped, why not pop over the Green bridge on Silver Street and go check out the Nativity Trail for yourself?

And please, if you have any idea who the scum are who trashed it, you can drop me an email in total confidence on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Brownhills is full of people doing fantastic stuff for the community to enjoy – and sadly, we have a few idiots, too, Please don’t let them get you down and to Kathryn and all involved in keeping us smiling, don’t be disheartened and please keep up the good work.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Rolling coal

Just a quick heads up as the great Canal Hunter Andy Tidy has posted some new episodes of a great canal history series on YouTube that I have plugged before about lost local canals – this time covering coal transport from Cannock to various locations near here, via Chasewater, Aldridge and Pelsall.

Andy Tidy is of course the proprietor of the wonderful Jam Butty, a boat selling preserves that will be recognised by anyone attending a local canal event.

The new episodes are a great study of how our still extant canals acted as trunk routes moving coal and freight to the industries that consumed them, and how they linked the lost canals that Andy has told us about in the past.

Andy has created a wonderful series that I adore, and You can subscribe here – there are already a lot of great episodes, including one on the lost Slough Arm in Brownhills and all about the Black Cock Bridge which I featured previously here. He’s also covered the Ogley Locks in a fascinating series of videos you can begin to explore here and it continues here.

My congratulations to Andy for a lovely, beautifully produced and informative series of films. I commend you to subscribe.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

West Midlands Police Statement: Illegal ‘lock in’ broken up at football club in Walsall

As a long time supporter of Walsall Wood Football Club as a historic, community institution, I’m angry and saddened to see West Midlands Police post the following statement yesterday.

I will not carry any further material from the club until this matter has been addressed fully.

People within the local community have been lost during this pandemic; it’s also deeply disrespectful to local businesses who are suffering financial hardship from the lockdown yet obeying the rules – many of whom have supported WWFC over the years – to see this.

Image of the raid posted on Facebook by West Midlands Police.

West Midlands Police wrote:

Our officers broke up an illegal ‘lock in’ at a football club in Walsall at the weekend.

We’ve received several reports since April, that Walsall Wood football club on Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood, has been secretly opening and not complying with Covid-19 restrictions.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to get into the club, and efforts made to speak to the key holders and committee members over the past few months. It’s thought that the people inside have watched us arrive on their CCTV and then quickly closed the shutters and turned off the lights and music before we can get in.

Further enquires were carried out regarding the club’s CCTV, which we discovered had been deleted.

Local officers thought the club was open at the weekend, so they surrounded the premises just before 7pm on Saturday evening (5 December). They saw the rear shutter coming down and the lights inside being switched off.

We visited the home of the chairman in an attempt to get access into the club. He was unable to provide addresses of key holders and denied having keys which would allow us entry into the club. So we were left with no alternative than to force entry.

While attempting to cut through various padlocks the people inside starting chanting, they switched the lights and music back on and continued to defiantly party. 

Officers from our operational support unit were called to assist, they had to cut the shutter doors open with an angle grinder and then force the door open.

We issued 17 £200 fixed penalty notices to the people inside and a £1000 fine to the organiser.

A review of their licence is now underway.

Chief Inspector Rod Rose, from Walsall police said “This was a blatant breach of the current tier 3 restrictions in place in Walsall.

“We believe the club have been flouting the rules throughout the pandemic and have attempted to outsmart us when we’ve previously attended.

“While they may think it’s harmless fun, their actions were reckless and are endangering lives. 

“We understand the frustrations of people who are wanting to socialise – especially in the run up to Christmas – but the government restrictions are in place to reduce the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

“We’re committed to doing that in Walsall and I’d urge anyone with any similar concerns to contact us via Live Chat on our website or by call us on 101.”

Posted in News | Leave a comment

When the sound of bikes echoed across the town

A quick one for Saturday while I’m busy – a few weeks ago reader and Facebook group member Jim Wall posted some lovely period pictures of busy days at Wharf Lane Motocross Track that existed in a quarry that’s now under Junction T6 of the M6 Toll at Chasetown, adjacent to Chasewater.

This track was nationally famous in its heyday of the 70s and 80s and the sound of bike engines being thrashed was a familiar sound in Brownhills of a weekend for many years.

Any mention of Wharf Lane Motocross always brings in warm recollections from the biking community and I recall relatives travelling a long way to see races there and enjoy the atmosphere.

The track, like the Chasewater Go-Kart track was lost with the M6 Toll construction that severed Wharf Lane permanently, and changed the topography of that area forever. We’ve covered that several times on the blog before – for galleries see the huge set by Wendy Jones here and this one by Rob Sault here.

I thank Jim Wall for allowing me to share this wonderful set and invite readers to comment – please do. What do you remember of this lost, well loved attraction? What is the actual history of it, how did it come to be there? I’d love to know. The recent piece on bike racing at Lazy Hill provoked a lot of comment, and I’m hoping this will too.

Please comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com – or tug my sleeve on social media.

As a memory jogger, I include an old post featuring video of racing at Wharf Lane too.

Old post follows:

I found the above video on YouTube few weeks ago, and it’s made me think of the Motocross events that used to take place in 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.

It occurs to me that 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?

It was posted by user Tog20 in 2008, and is entitled ‘Anthony Barrett and the Late RAY TONKS at Brownhills’, The caption says:

This was a practice day at Brownhills, I’m riding the 1998 CR250 and Ray is riding the YZ 125. RIP Ray, you’re sorely missed mate. Great days practice.

Another commentor, Gav1976 says:

Wharf lane was an awesome track.Shame the AMCA arent buying more land 2 build parmanent tracks rather than just taking our money & leaving the hard work to the clubs

So, can anyone shed any light upon this, or the track and events in particular? I don’t even know who ran them. Any contributions gratefully accepted.

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Supporting our veterans: A military historian is to skydive for charity!

A few weeks ago, I featured here a very popular article about a local late-Victorian era soldier from Brownhills from an engaging, enthusiastic and interesting man: Isaac Marklew Brown. His fascinating research and supporting material on the history of soldier Thomas Marklew who was from Brownhills was a wonderful article and has been one of the most read articles on the blog in 2020.

With that in mind I implore readers to consider giving to Isaac’s appeal – this is no idle bit of can rattling: He’s actually doing a tandem skydive, which has to be worth a donation, and the best bit is it’s for a variety of veteran’s charities who’ve been really suffering during this year’s pandemic unpleasantness.

The jump is self-funded too, so all donations got to the charities!

I’ll let Isaac explain – you can find out more by visiting the donation page here, which has the full details and a great explanation of the charities he’s splitting the money between.

The total currently stands at £195.50, and I hope we can increase that significantly amongst the blog readership. Donation through Virgin Money giving is safe and easy.

Isaac wrote:

What a brave endeavour for a fine cause! Click on image to visit the fundraising page.

Hi Bob

Although I’m not from Brownhills, my family were.

Do you think it would be possible to raise awareness and support for a two charities I am trying to help on your platform? I think the cause of PTSD and supporting limbless veterans is essential and shouldn’t just apply to my area.

You are the only person I know that has such a large audience available to you. This is totally up to you.

I’ve got 44 days left of funding time until my event. I think it’s worth sharing to as many people as I could. We all have a duty to help in these hard times.Thank you!

You can donate safely  and find out more on the event charity giving page by clicking here.

Kind Regards,
Isaac

Isaac posted on the donation page:

Our veterans are the pride of the Nation. Through your kindness today we can make a change to our heroes’ lives.

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic our veterans are struggling. This has affected many charities and has had a huge impact on veterans nationwide.

Both Blesma (The limbless veterans charity) and Combat Stress (For veterans’ mental health) are essential services to veterans helping them with their rehabilitation and a better future.

In January 2021 I will be taking part in a Tandem skydive from a height of 13,000 ft. This is a great way to raise funds for our heroes who are both physically and mentally affected by their injuries. By supporting me you can play a part in helping those who were prepared to give their lives to serve in our armed forces.

Together lets help these heroes.

I promise you that 100% of your donation will go towards helping those wounded in conflict to have a better future . These are vital services that lack sufficient funding.

Please will you assist me?

This event is self funded.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

The sands of time – another link to Old Brownhills is sadly lost

I was contacted earlier this month by old friend of the blog and frequent contributor Sheila Norris, with some rather sad news – her father, Leonard Jones sadly passed away last April. Len was the last of the Jones brothers who operated the Gentleshaw Sand company who had several quarries in the area including Clayhanger, and built the factory that became RKG pressings (itself now Bridgeside Close) as a plant workshop.

Gentleshaw Sand operated from sites both sides of Clayhanger Bridge, both by where Bridgeside Close is now, and on the village side. There was a brickworks where the new pool is now, just the other side of the road behind the big house. Taken from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

My sincere condolences and sympathies to Sheila. It has been a horrid year and I’m so sad to hear of your loss, as all of the readership will be.

I have covered The Gentleshaw Sand Company here on the blog several times, and also about the ‘Big House’ at Clayhanger where they lived for many years, thanks to the work of both Sheila and Brownhills historian Robert Webster.

With Len’s passing, another part of old Clayhanger as the original village and of wider Brownhills is lost and also, another link with past industry of the area. I thank Sheila for taking time out to help preserve the memory and the stories for future generations to learn about. It really is invaluable, particularly to the newer residents of the area, who may not realise the former industrial pst of their adopted home.

The site of this photo is now Bridgeside Close, but a large workshop/factory stood there for the best part of the 20th century – I always remember it as RKG Pressings. Image from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo and Geof Harrington.

Shelia wrote:

Hi Bob,

In the past you have occasionally given Gentleshaw Sand Ltd. a mention on the Blog.

This is to let you know, somewhat belatedly, that Leonard Jones, last of the three Jones brothers who ran the business, sadly died of Corona Virus on 30th April this year, aged 96. He had outlived most of his employees but I understand that there are one or two left who might remember him.

More than 20 years ago he recorded his ‘memoirs’ and transcripts were made of these.

One of his greatest pleasures in recent years was to have these read back to him, and ‘The Story of Gentleshaw Sand’ was undoubtedly his favourite.

His working philosophy was never to ask anyone to do a job that he wasn’t prepared to do himself and this often meant that he was indistinguishable from the rest of the workforce.

I am attaching a couple of amusing anecdotes which illustrate this. They are written on the Company notepaper but if you highlight and right click the text alone you should be able to copy them into Word.

The attached photo is a favourite of mine as they all look such a happy bunch and it is how I remember my father from when I was a small child – I must be one of very few people to love the smell of diesel because of its happy associations! His brother Eddie is also in the picture. Perhaps relatives of these people may enjoy seeing this old photo from the 1950s.

Best wishes,
Sheila Norris

PS The photo shows a very young Roy Howes. Brian Stringer was able to put me in touch with him some years ago and we had some interesting telephone conversations about his time with Gentleshaw. He later wrote out his own memories of working for the company which Dad very much enjoyed hearing. Sadly, Roy died a few years ago now.

What a lovely image – and what fantastic plant! Image kindly shared by Sheila Norris.

THE BOSS WORE OVERALLS STORIES

I was digging a ditch at Hopwas because it had been raining heavily and lots of water was running down the lane and into the weighbridge. A Rep. drew up in his car and shouted

‘Oi mate!’

So I went over and he said

‘What’s the name of the bloke that runs this place?’

‘Jones ‘, I replied.

‘Yes, I know his name’s Jones but what’s his first name? If I can call him by his first name I’m in and can sell him something’

‘His name’s Len ‘ I said.

‘Right, where can I find this Len?’ said the Rep.

‘You’re talking to him’, I replied.

The Rep. just said ‘ Ah!’

I was working in the Ready-Mix plant because one of the men hadn’t turned up. We had a big order on at the time, so it was essential for the plant to be running. I was there by myself when a stranger came up to me and asked if he could buy a bag of Ready-Mix. I explained that he was supposed to buy it from local hardware shops but he said he lived very local and could I oblige him. So I agreed and said ‘Yes all right, it’s 5 shillings a bag.’

He pointed out a bag nearby that had burst and was waiting to be re-bagged and asked if he could have that one for half-price. I said ‘Yes, all right’ but then he said it would spill everywhere getting it home on his bike, so could he have a new bag to put it in! I said ‘Yes all right!’ and he gave me half a crown saying ‘Now you put that half crown in your own pocket – those Jones Brothers have got plenty!’ So I said, ‘Yes, all right then, thank you very much!’

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Picture this: A lost local station

I was contacted in the week by local artist and reader Dave Dunkley who’s sent me a remarkable and lovely painting of something I was only peripherally aware existed: Rushall Station. And what’s most interesting is that Dave had painted it entirely from memory.

Rushall Station in the 1950s, painted from memory by Dave Dunkley. Click for a full size version.

Dave said:

Bob,

Nice of you to reply. Firstly I don’t belong to any social media sites but regularly view yours and Hednesford in old photos facebook. Both excellent sites compared with the rest.

I have replied to your site with Brownhills cricket club who I played for in the seventies, I also found a lot of interest in an article about the Walsall to Lichfield old railway line.

I was born at Rushall at the end of the war and have fond memories of the area. With lockdown I decided to paint some scenes from Rushall from memory in watercolours.

The one attached is Rushall Station from memory in the fifties.

I spent hours on those gates trainspotting, unfortunately the station got demolished and there are no photos on the net. It’s just as I can remember it.

It will be interesting if anyone can remember the station as I have painted it. Before and with lockdown I have painted scenes from Rushall, Walsall, local canal scenes. If it gets much interest I could add these later.

Dave

Dave, can I just say this is most welcome, I absolutely love it and the idea of painting it from memory. I’d be only too happy to share your work in future, as I am honoured to do so today.

My tanks to Dave, then, and come on readers – what do you remember of Rushall Station? Can we locate an actual image perhaps?

Please do let Dave and the readership know what you remember – comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at googlemmil dot com or whisper in my ear on social media.

Posted in News | 10 Comments

A very rare species: Bike racing at Lazy Hill in the 1960s

Sorry, been a bit busy this week but hopefully can get some interesting stuff up in the next few days or so,. including some gems from the Young David Evans. In the meantime, a bit of motorbike racing ephemera that points up something I knew nothing about, and would appreciate some help with: Grass Track racing at Lazy Hill, between Stonnall and Aldridge in 1964.

A modern grass track racing bike, from Wikimedia Commons. I’m intrigued by how slim the wheels are.

I found the scanned programme for an event just described as at ‘Lazy Hill, Stonnall, nr Brownhills’ on Sunday, 7th June 1964 in a junk shop a fair way from here a few weeks ago and paid very little money for it. It appears to have been run by the Midland Grasstrack Association, but several clubs and societies are mentioned including Kinver Auto Club.

When I bought the slim programme, it was sealed; but inside I found an A5 size pamphlet made from a professionally printed cover sheet and gestetnered interior pages with an amusing description of the day’s events, the club running it, and who was officiating.

I love this passage:

The grass track boys, of course, arc a very rare species. In no other sport, can spectators actually witness the phenomena of sone £275 plus of machine thrashed to destruction in a vain effort (usually) to win a trophy which could probably be purchased in almost any large jewellers for about 1/3d.

There are details of the races and notes about them scribbled by the buyer of the program – including the wonderful note ‘GOOD RACE’. There’s also a safety warning that probably wouldn’t pass risk assessment these days…

So, I’m interested in this event. I knew nothing of it: Was it a one off, or a regular event? Motorbike racing was a notable sport locally with scrambling at Wharf Lane being a nationwide attraction for years, and also a long tack event at Chasewater Stadium we’ve covered here before. But nothing about events at Lazy Hill. Can imagine it having been a bit noisy for the locals!

I scanned the program for your study: You can peruse it by clicking on the individual page thumbnails below, or download the whole thing as a text searchable PDF by clicking here. Sorry, some of the the pages are wonky or cropped, that’s how it was printed!

What do you know, or remember of this or related events, or the racing scene of the day? Please do get in touch: It’s something I know nothing about but I know we have many bike racing enthusiasts and historians of amongst the readership.You can comment on this post, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or find me on social media.

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Bogus callers preying on the elderly are about again: Be on your guard!

There have been several incidents locally in the last couple of weekss where elderly people have had money stolen by bogus callers, or have been conned out of cash by people posing as workers.

In one case reported this week, an elderly resident who clearly had her wits about her turned away a caller claiming to be there to inspect her new boiler. Since she had had no work done, this was clearly a ruse to enter her home. Thankfully, she shut the door on him.

Local police have been notified of the incident.

I feel then that this warning from West Midlands Police is timely – please care it with anyone you know who’s vulnerable: The elderly, frail or less able. 

Let’s look out for our neighbours.  West Midlands Police wrote:

Not all burglars break in. Some will talk their way in.

Commonly known as bogus callers or distraction burglars, these crooks will pose as someone they’re not; perhaps a police officer, council or ‘water board’ worker, or perhaps they’ll pose as a builder or gardener. Whatever their story, they have only one aim: to get into your home so that they or an accomplice can steal money or belongings. Their targets are usually the elderly or the most vulnerable who are more likely to believe their story and let them in. These doorstep criminals are cunning, creative, and often very convincing.

So what can you do?

Firstly, stop!
Be on your guard if someone turns up unexpectedly. Genuine callers will make appointments first.

Then, chain!
If you have a door chain, put it on before opening the door, and keep it on while talking to the caller. If you don’t have a door chain, look at getting one fitted.

Next, check!
Ask for ID from anyone who comes to your door, whether you expect them or not. Genuine callers will carry company photo ID and show it when you ask. If the caller is unexpected, ring their office to confirm their identity. Don’t use the number on their ID card, look it up in the telephone directory or a recent bill. Genuine callers won’t mind waiting. Don’t assume someone is genuine just because they are wearing a uniform or high-vis jacket.

If you have any doubts, tell the caller to come back when someone else is home. Genuine callers won’t mind rearranging. You can tell callers to contact you by letter to arrange a more convenient time. Only let callers in if they have an appointment, and you are absolutely sure they are genuine.

If you are suspicious of a caller, or feel threatened, call the police immediately on 999.

Watch out for suspicious characters in your street, especially if you have elderly or vulnerable neighbours. Try to take a note of vehicle details and registration numbers, and descriptions of anyone involved. Contact us with your information via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk between 8am to midnight, call 101 anytime or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Please tell your relatives and neighbours about these scammers, and impress upon them how important it is not to be menaced into giving money for services  at the door, no matter how plausible the people demanding cash are.. Genuine companies will always contact you by other means.

Scumbags preying on the elderly and vulnerable are lower than a snake’s knees.

Please,  if you have any further information relating to any such incident, or if you’ve witnessed something suspicious, please contact West Midlands Police by dialling 101 (999 in an emergency, obviously) or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, Local media, News, Shared media, Social Media, Walsall community | Leave a comment

Virtual Remembrance around the area

This lovely tribute video was made by old friend of the blog Matin Littler and sent to me earlier in the year. A lovely thing. Thank you Martin!

As explained in my previous post, since life under Coronavirus restrictions has led to community Acts of Remembrance being curtailed this year, so many parishes, Royal British Legion branches and other organisations have made virtual Remembrance films for those who could not attend.

Without any favour, I’ll post them here as I find/know about them. My thanks to all involved in these, as I know just how much preparation and work they take.

If you know f or find any others, please do comment on this post or mail me details: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. I’ll add them as appropriate – it’s not bias, these are the ones I could find. Any assistance welcome!

May respect and thanks to you all: In these strange and uncertain times, it’s good that we still can remember, reflect and pay our respect to those who gave their all in the service of their country.

Thank you.

Brownhills:

Brownhills and Willenhall Methodist Circuit courtesy Chris:

Walsall Wood:

Aldridge:

Pelsall:

Walsall:

Chasetown:

Cannock Chase Methodist Circuit:

Lichfield Cathedral:

St. Micheal Lichfield:

Norton, courtesy Cllr John Preece:

Green Lane Baptist Church, Walsall courtesy Sarah Bingham:

Posted in News | 5 Comments

A Remembrance Sunday unlike any other

In the remarkable and worrying times in which we now live, there are few constants remaining. One of those that has sustained, but in a very different – and somehow more starkly appropriate form – is the annual act of community Remembrance across not just our local area, but our country as a whole.

With the restrictions on social gatherings and social distance, traditional parades, wreath-laying and even poppy sales have been cancelled, scaled down or changed format totally.

The determination of our communities to honour those that served, properly and appropriately was fired, and most churches and relevant organisations have posted wreath-laying and Remembrance services online, and they’ve all been excellent.

To kick off, here’s Brownhills recorded Act of Remembrance, featuring our new Vicar, the Reverend Gayle Greenway who I’d like to welcome to the Parish. We’ve been far too long without an incumbent. Welcome to Brownhills, Reverend.

My thanks and respect to all who took part and worked hard to make this film and ceremony possible. I know readers will appreciate it. You can catch up with events at St. James and Holy Trinity Clayhanger on their website here, or on Facebook here.

There’s also an evening Reflection and Prayer Service being broadcast on Facebook by St. James this evening at 6:30pm. You can catch it if you’re quick by clicking here.

Whilst there was no public official Sunday service, at memorials across the area, people did turn out to remember and lay wreaths in respectful and careful social distance. One such spontaneous event occurred this morning at Brownhills and I was contacted by old friend John Bird of Brownhills Royal British Legion who had this to say:

Remembrance Sunday 8th. Nov. 2020.

Image kindly shared by Sara Coulson-Stobie

As we are all aware, with current restrictions due to the Pandemic, there was no Official Remembrance Sunday Parade or Service at local Venues.

However, I felt a personal need to visit St. James’ church to spend a few moments at the Cenotaph to show my respects. At almost 11-00am it was clear that quite a number of people had had the same idea, as approxiamately 200 to250 were now in attendance on the site around the Cenotaph.

Image generously shared by Richard Hinton.

I was so impressed how disciplined everyone appeared to behave, ensuring Social Distancing and respect for the occasion.

Suddenly, the whole gathering, voluntarily, fell still and silent at 11:00am without any prompting.

How moving those few moments became. This was followed by the laying of wreaths by various representatives of different organisations all of which was completely unrehearsed and spontaneous.

Image generously shared by Richard Hinton.

May I take this moment to say a big thank you to all who attended for the discipline and respect shown. One had to be present to appreciate just how moving this spontaneous event was.

John Bird,
Brownhills.

Thank you John: As thoughtful and eloquent as ever. My thanks to you for such a lovely, proud and heartfelt message. My respect to all at the Legion.

Thank you to everyone involved in Remembrance this year – it has been like no other and yet our communities have done those that gave their all proud. We will remember them, whatever restrictions we find ourselves under, because we know theirs were so much, much greater.

As I locate other community remembrance videos, I’ll post them up.

Posted in News | 3 Comments

A brief apology to readers

Hello everyone – I’d just like to issue an apology for missing the traditional Remembrance post this year – last night I have something unexpected to deal with and events overtook me. There is some coverage coming up in the next hour or so – please accept my apologies for this failure and bear with me while I get into gear.

Poppies at Lower Stonnall from my 365daysofbiking blog

 

Remembrance is critically important to me, as it is to the whole community and I would not be in this position had I any choice in the matter.

For my general view on this most important of national commemorations, please see my post from last year which can be read by clicking here.

We will remember them.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

A record for Brownhills!

A treat today for the choral music fans – the wonderful transcription of a long-lost Brownhills vinyl LP record to MP3 that’s a real part of Brownhills cultural history.

‘Choral Favourites’ by Brownhills Co-Operative Choral Society is the second album of music released by the award wing singers from Brownhills who I’ve covered a great deal on the blog. It has 15 tracks and was released in 1977.

There’s (at the time of posting) a rare chance to buy the first 1971 album on the tat bazaar here.

CA classic postcard of Brownhills was chosen for the cover of the album. Image kindly supplied by Martin Hughes.

The transcription is wonderful quality and has been shared with the blog by Brownhills Community Association’s Martin Hughes, a top man and tireless grafter for the community.

It’s difficult to overstate the local importance and musical pedigree of the Co-Operative Choral Society: They won awards up against the UK’s greatest choirs, and featured the noted local choristers George Fullelove and Deryk Langford – the latter still making wonderful music at well over 90 years of age.

You can find out more about the Choral Society in these stories here and here, and how George is commemorated, sadly unknown by many here.

This isn’t the first time we’ve celebrated the musical history of Brownhills, which is surprisingly diverse – from Jazz at the Crown in the 1970s, to postwar music festivals and lost venues for nascent monsters of rock.

My thanks to those involved in bringing this music back to a wide audience and to Martin and all at the Community Association who enabled it. I am honoured and proud to host this wonderful thing here.

If you have any comments, please don’t hesitate to comment here, email me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or buttonhole me on social media.

You can play each track individually from the embedded player, download it from the link above each player or download the whole set from Dropbox by clicking here.

There’s also a full continuous playlist at the bottom of the post.

1 Sing a Song of Sixpence

2 Come Sleep

3 Midsummer Song

4 Lovely Rose

5 Watching the Wheat

6 With a Voice of Singing

7 Eriskay Love Lilt

8 The Way You Look Tonight

9 O Hush Thee My Babie

10 The Dance

11 The Lullaby

12 Let Us Break Bread Together

13 Golden Slumbers

14 Balm in Gilead

15 The Lord’s Prayer

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, one last chance this afternoon!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since it’s the last chance before the next lockdown, it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

A forgotten hero: From the mines of Brownhills to the deserts of Egypt

As I’m getting g back on the blog bike (metaphorically and in reality) I’m picking up speed and getting down to more regular articles here which I think readers will appreciate.

Today I have an absolute gem from reader Isaac Marklew-Brown who’s researched and beautifully documented the story of a local soldier and hero of the late Victorian/pre Great War era that I had absolutely no clue about.

The Chester Road, Brownhills – where Thomas more than likely grew up to go on to great things. Imagery from Apple Maps.

This lovingly written, beautifully illustrated work lights up the life of a clearly brave and dedicated soldier in a time we don’t really think about – the many campaigns of the Victorian era are now fading into history, but in the service of The Empire many servicemen went to fight like Thomas Marklew, many giving their all.

I’m always more than happy to feature reader articles here and I’m very keen to cover the stories of local service – wherever it was. We have featured many such stories here over the years from Cecil Arthur Burton MM to the fascinating story of an Anzac from Norton Canes, to the more personal recollections of the toll of war. If you would like to add to the body of such work here pleaser do get in touch.

My huge thanks to Isaac who’s been very patient in waiting for me to get my backside into gear and post this up, and for shining a diligent torch into a corner of local history I doubt many folk knew about.

Anything to add? Please feel free: Comment here, mail me BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tap my shoulder on social media.

Isaac wrote:


Thomas Marklew – By Isaac Marklew-Brown

Thomas Marklew was born in Brownhills on the 23rd March 1878 to Joseph and Mary Marklew. For a coal miner living on Chester road his life was about to get significantly more interesting and by the time of his death we would have travelled thousands of Miles with the British Army in their Imperial conquests and fought in many hard battles. 

He would go from seeing Staffordshire to the rich deserts of Egypt and the vast Mountains of South Africa. 

At the age of 18 years and 2 months he decided that the Mines of Brownhills and surrounding areas were not the best place to earn a living. He decided to Join the Grenadier Guards on the 23rd of May 1896 in London. 

After Thomas had trained he was sent to Gibraltar before embarkation to Egypt. He was part of the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards who took part in General Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener’s campaign for the re-conquest of the Sudan. After landing from river steamers at Khartoum they fought at Omdurman on 2 September 1898. At Omdurman Kitchener defeated the army of Abdullah al-Taashi, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. Kitchener was seeking revenge for the 1885 death of General Gordon. Marklew was among the Grenadier guards who annihilated the Dervish forces. 

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Here are the Records which show Thomas Marklew’s Participation in the Sudan. 

The following photos are from Egypt and the Sudan and are of Marklew’s unit the 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards. 

Images generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

It would be only one year later in 1899 that Thomas Marklew would yet again be in heavy fighting. Thomas was now In the 3rd Battalion which sailed from Gibraltar in the Ghoorkha on 25th October 1899, and arrived at the Cape about 15th November. Along with the 1st and 2nd Coldstreams and the 1st Scots Guards they composed the 1st or Guards Brigade, under Major General Sir H E Colvile. From the Newspaper archives it has given a useful insight into this Brownhills man’s time in the Boer war and the reception he received after. In the letter we see how he says no man has ever received such heavy fire, how different that would be for the majority of young men in 1914-1918. 

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

These are Marklew’s records or participation in the boer war. His brother Joseph Marklew fought with him through the Campaign.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

The Following pictures are of the 3rd Battalion the Grenadier Guards where Thomas saw a great amount of action. The soldier in the picture is not him although identical clothing.

Images generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

These are Thomas Marklew’s Service records which have been of enormous help.

Image generously supplied by Isaac Marklew-Brown. Click for a larger version.

Thomas Marklew’s Military career ended on the 22nd August 1908 after he had completed his 12 year service. I think it’s fair to say that this ex coal miner had seen his fair share of action for the British Empire and so far I have not seen any evidence of him in the First World War. It is clear to see why.

However, During the Second World War Thomas was an Air Raid Precautions Warden so he still was getting involved in some sort of Military involvement.

After his service he resided in Dorset with his Wife Annie Major Cluett and he worked in a Prison as a Guard/Warden Officer. He is buried in Motocombe Near Shrewsbury. He died on the 26th November 1953 after an action packed and exciting life in the British Army.

I hope this story does him Justice even though there is so much more about him. A local man who at the time in Brownhills was very respected.

Posted in News | 15 Comments

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, this afternoon!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since it’s such a lovely autumn day it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

It was hall or nothing…

Images kindly shared by Chris Booth. Click any one to see a larger version.

A second set of period images here this weekend from old friend of the blog Chris Booth he’s sharing out of the Clayhanger Methodist Church collection – this time of the 1995 demolition and reconstruction of the Church Hall, situated just off Clayhanger Lane.

Last weekend’s set of the 1985 Centenary March has proven very popular.

I believe the reconstruction may have been a community benefit, or an act of beneficence of the builders of the new estate behind, but I’m not certain. The materials used in the estate are certainly very similar to those employed in the new hall.

It’s said the original wooden hut was from either the POW or army camp on Cannock Chase, but this is unproven.

In 1926, the miners above used their strike time to decorate the Clayhanger Chapel . Taken from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

The original hall was very recognisable in a 1926 photo in the Bill and Clarice Mayo Collection of striking miners decorating it. It certainly looks in better condition them but this was clearly a huge age for a wooden building.

Chris has asked me to point out that Clayhanger Methodist Church have a great Facebook group which you can access by clicking here and of course, everyone is welcome.

What do you recall of the reconstruction, or evenings in the hall? You can comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media.

I’d like to thank Chris for yet another wonderful, evocative set of images that really help us bring history of the area back to life.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Arthur John Craddock of Walsall Wood: Can you help, please?

This one has me in a bit of a head scratcher. Angie Barnett writes in all the way from New Zealand, referring to a gentleman I have apparently mentioned on the blog.

There’s only one snag. Neither of us can find the reference.

Brook Lane Walsall Wood: Location of a bit of a mystery, it would seem. Imagery from Apple Maps.

Angie wrote:

Good day!

I see that you have an account of Arthur John Craddock, my husband’s half-brother, mentioned on one of your pages. I can not find it though….

He was living at 69 Brook Lane, Walsall Wood. In 1939. I have not been able to find him anywhere before. His mother had died in 1936. He was born a BARNETT.
Any help would be appreciated.

We live in New Zealand and trying to find long lost family from here, with them living in England, can sometimes be a mission.

Thank you, for your time.
Angie Barnett

Can any of the regular family history folk or blog nerds help me here please? It may not be on this blog at all, but maybe on one linked from it. Andy Dennis, are you out there mate? Could this be for you?

There are certainly no shortage of Craddock locally

Thanks to Angie for a good enquiry and so sad I’m unable to offer immediate help. The blog search tools are lousy to be honest but this really isn’t ringing a bell. With over 6,200 posts now it’s quite hard to find stuff sometimes.

Any help appreciated – please do contact me if you can help – either mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, tug my sleeve on social media or comment below.

Cheers, everyone.

Posted in News | 10 Comments

May I make a correction?

An interesting mail winged its way in here a couple of weeks ago from longstanding reader Keith Jemison-Mills who was a pupil at Ogley Hay School and featured in a couple of the wonderful May Day celebration photos we’ve featured here over the years.

Keith has pointed out that the images he’s in were actually taken by his father, Bob in 1956, whereas they were originally thought to be from the early 1960s.

I feature the images and original post here again, and invite comment. I trust I’m right about which lad is Keith, too…

Thought to be Ogley Hay Infants in the early 1960s, courtesy of Janet Bullock, this now seems to have been 1956. Keith Jemison is the lad holding the flowers I think with the dark hair.

Afternoon Bob.

My name is Keith Jemison, brother of Bob Jemison, and I am the little chap holding the flowers in the shot of the May Day celebrations in 1956. I remember because I was just five at the time. I am at the bottom of the steps helping one of the ‘big girls’ down the stairs in the other image. (My father Bob Jemison took the shot).

It was originally thought this image was early 60s: It seems to be 1956 and taken by Bob Jemison, his son Keith left. Image Kindly donated by Kate Dixon and Linda Whitehouse.

I was also part of the ‘radio club’ which was held in Mr Morris’s class next to Mr Henstocks room down by the metal work shop. I wrote a play and performed it, went out in Mr Morris’s hillman Californian, to contact radio ham’s on the move which you could fairly describe as the first mobile communication in a car. It would have been around 1962. Not sure if there is anything else useful to tell you, Mr Massey wore steel shoe tips (to make sure we all knew he was coming down the corridors). He got me into the Staffordshire County Youth Theatre in 1962 ending up in Crossroads etc, starting in 1966. Mr Massey was tough if you got it wrong but fair as well, and he certainly had a very good sense of humour.

Amateur radio callbook log from the Central Boys School radio club, detailing activities in October 1964. Scan kindly supplied by Tony Hancock [Suspect that was a pseudonym].

If there is anything else that I can remember I will write again.Meanwhile, I am grateful for the effort you put into your blog which is always interesting and useful. P.S. I think my brother Bob Jemison, has probably passed away now.All the best,
Keith.

Thanks for writing in Keith and it’s always great to hear from readers, particularly those as longstanding as yourself. I invite comment once more on these images and hope the new date may jog a few memories – there also seems to have been very high regard for Mr. Massey over the years and the mention of him always draws positive comment.

If you can help with anything in this post, please get in touch – brownhillsbob at Googlemail dot com, hit me up on social media or comment here. My thanks and best wishes to Keith.

The original May Day post ‘Fit for a Queen’:

What a lovely photo. Linda Horobin as May Queen. Image Kindly donated by Kate Dixon and Linda Whitehouse.

Following Janet Bullock’s wonderful photo posted here a few days ago – which turns out indeed to be the May Queen celebrations at Ogley Hay Infants School in Brownhills – there was much discussion here and on social media about this traditional event, and reader Kate Dixon turned up local history gold.

Kate spoke to her mother, Linda Horobin, who is actually the May Queen in the photo and named many of the participants depicted, and not only that, supplied the above photo of the same group on the same day.

What a wonderful find and generous donation!

Kate Dixon wrote:

An absolutely beautiful school photo. from Ogley Hay Infants in the early 1960s, courtesy of Janet Bullock.

Hi Bob

My mum, Linda Horobin (now Whitehouse), is the May queen on the photo from Janet Bullock posted a few days ago.

My mum says: First girl carrying the crown is Helen Parker (I think). Then me. Behind me I’m not sure of the girl on the left. Girl on right is Anne Plumb(?) There were two more girls behind them, one is possibly Sheila Woodhouse. Can’t see the other one clearly enough (or remember!).

The previous years May Queen is Annette Wheale (not sure if spelling is correct). She had two attendants, the one on the left is Elizabeth Newman, not sure of other one.

Someone mentioned about how the May Queen was chosen. The other children in the class voted. I have other photos and will try to find them.

We have lots of other photos of this day. I have attached one here and will find out some more.

Thanks
Kate Dixon

I am indebted and hugely thankful to Kate and her mum for this wonderful contribution, and I’m sure readers will have more to say, so please do – either by commenting here or mailing me. BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Once again my huge thanks to Kate and Linda for opening up this window on the past.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Walking group sets off again in Brownhills this afternoon!

Altogether now, ‘I love to go a-wandering…’ – image from Walsall Healthy Spaces Team.

I’m glad to see that some important social activities are resuming in light of their cancellation for lockdown – and the resumption of the Wednesday afternoon walking group in Brownhills is great news.

I have checked this is going ahead with appropriate social distancing measures.

The Walsall Healthy Spaces Team volunteer led walk will be approximately 45-60 minutes every Wednesday afternoon, including today Wednesday 21st October 2020, starting from Brownhills Community Centre car park (the old Amex or Central Boys School, just off the miner island in the heart of Brownhills) at 1:15pm for a 1:30pm departure.

These great social walks will be exploring our beautiful commons and local open spaces.

This will be a great way to get some exercise and meet folk in a safe, socially distanced event that’s fun and great for a bit of much needed company in these tough times.

For more information on other volunteer led walking groups click here.

You can visit Walsall Healthy Spaces Team on Facebook here. If you attend, why not get in touch and let me know how you get on?

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Clayhanger Methodist Church Centenary Parade in 1985 – what do you remember?

Images kindly shared by Chris Booth by original photographer Ted Hassall. Click any one to see a larger version.

A remarkable collection of photos today wings its way in from old friend of the blog Chris Booth, taken by Ted Hassall of the Clayhanger Methodist Chapel Centenary Parade in 1985.

The photos were in possession of Chris’s grandmother, Lucy Dunn who was Steward of the Church from 1976 – 2012 and are a remarkable illustration of life at the time.

The march appears to have assembled on Brownhills Common, then travelled along Bradford and Albion roads before proceeding down Wallace Road, Pelsall Road to Clayhanger Lane, Past the Church and around the village before returning there.

Everything from the attending police, to the kids on then new fangled BMX bikes are an illustration of the time, and as usual, some of the backgrounds are very interesting too: Remember the substation that used to hum in Clayhanger Lane? I’d forgotten that. Shots of the village without the new housing are a memory jogger, too.

Did you take part in this event? Are you in the pictures? Can you identify any of those involved or pictured? Any memories or observations are welcome.

You can comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media.

I’d like to thank Chris for yet another wonderful, evocative set of images that really help us bring history of the area back to life.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, this afternoon!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since the rain has cleared and it’s a decent day it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Walsall Wood away to Stourport Swifts this afternoon!

1214687_a0a8e129

Walshes Meadow, home of Stourport Swifts. Image posted on Geograph by Stuart Shepherd.

This afternoon, Saturday 17th October 2020

The Wood are away on their travels again!

Walsall Wood FC versus Stourport Swifts FC

Walshes Meadow
Stourport on Severn
Worcestershire
DY13 0AA

Kickoff 3pm

Strict social distancing measures to be observed!

Hopefully, a match report will follow…

For the Good of the Wood!

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here

 

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

Why not join the Orange Army litter pick this coming Sunday morning in Brownhills?

There is a community litter pick event taking place in Brownhills this Sunday, 18th October 2020 from 10am, meeting at Smithys Forge car park in Lichfield Road, Brownhills (Just off the Miner Island)  – all are welcome to join in

The pick is being organised by local litter group The Orange Army who put a huge effort in to several litter picks in Brownhills recently – the last one attended by over 30 people – for which I and the blog readership would like to extend our thanks for a top job well done!

In light of current Covid restrictions, the group posted this response on their Facebook page:

Good evening everyone in relation to the new guidance in the fight against coronavirus the litter pick on Sunday can still go ahead!

We ask that you meet at the original place (Smithy’s Forge at 10am) and we will help to sort us into groups of up to 6 to go off and pick in different areas as we need to maintain social distancing.

The Rhino team will be there waiting in the van with all the usual supplies for you to use.

We very much look forward to seeing you all there on Sunday, thank you all for your continued support 🧡

the Orange Army – top local community spirit in action! Image from their Facebook page.

It’s easy and fun to join in with these community picks as all kit will be provided!

I like to give as much notice of these sessions as possible as so many people afterwards express sadness that they would have taken part if they’d known sooner…

The pick is being run by committed local volunteer Natalie Dawson and others for the benefit of the the town, so it’ll be a worthwhile event to get involved with and help improve the local environment.

The organisers said:

Hi everyone

Our next litter pick will be Sunday 18th at 10am.

We will meet at Smithy’s Forge car park and pick until 12 and then go into the garden at smithy’s forge for tea, coffee or squash courtesy of rhino plumbing and heating!

Hope to see you there

You can check out the Orange Army’s Facebook page here.

Previous local litter pick events have been a huge success, so let’s see if we can make this one even better!

Posted in News | Tagged | Leave a comment

Walking group sets off again in Brownhills this afternoon!

Altogether now, ‘I love to go a-wandering…’ – image from Walsall Healthy Spaces Team.

I’m glad to see that some important social activities are resuming in light of their cancellation for lockdown – and the resumption of the Wednesday afternoon walking group in Brownhills is great news.

I have checked this is going ahead with appropriate social distancing measures.

The Walsall Healthy Spaces Team volunteer led walk will be approximately 45-60 minutes every Wednesday afternoon, including today Wednesday 14th October 2020, starting from Brownhills Community Centre car park (the old Amex or Central Boys School, just off the miner island in the heart of Brownhills) at 1:15pm for a 1:30pm departure.

These great social walks will be exploring our beautiful commons and local open spaces.

This will be a great way to get some exercise and meet folk in a safe, socially distanced event that’s fun and great for a bit of much needed company in these tough times.

For more information on other volunteer led walking groups click here.

You can visit Walsall Healthy Spaces Team on Facebook here. If you attend, why not get in touch and let me know how you get on?

Posted in News | Leave a comment

An important statement from Walsall Wood Football Club

Walsall Wood FC are at the heart of the communty.

I have been asked to post the following statement by the Chairman of Walsall Wood Football club, Justin Hodgin. This is for information only and comment is neither invited, nor appropriate.

Walsall Wood FC said:

Statement From Walsall Wood FC

Following the incident at Walsall Wood FC yesterday during and after our game against Worcester City FC, we would like to make the following statement.


Firstly, we would like to apologise to all Worcester City fans, players, management and committee for the actions of the group of 30 or so youths at the game yesterday, it is not acceptable.


The club has had some issues with a group of youths over the past few games and we believe we took all precautions in assuring the safety and comfort of all fans with employing stewards for the game and also, we had two police officers in attendance.


The club has been trying to engage with these local youths by actively inviting them in the club, so they are not wondering the streets, as all local activities for them are currently not available.  We believe the actions of a few are now ruining it for the rest of them.


Any racist comments to anyone at our club will not be tolerated and if we find the person involved we will ban them for life from the club.


I spoke to the manager of Worcester City FC after the game and apologised for any issues he had personally encountered, which he gracefully accepted.


After speaking to the police officers after the game, we in conjunction with them will be going to the local schools where we believe they attend and will be hopefully holding assemblies with the footage the police have from their body cams to try and educate these youths in understanding what local community football should be about, and that their current actions are not acceptable.


We are working with the police and they will be attending our next few games and anyone causing any disturbance or racially abusing anyone with be arrested.


The club hope with the education, we can deal with this problem without any more incidents but we will take the strongest action possible if this is ignored.


We are a local community club with probably one of the most racial diverse player and management teams in the Midland Football League and want to ensure our own loyal fans, players and management team we do not take this matter lightly and we us all working together I am sure this short term problem can be solved.


Please keep the faith and together we will overcome this.


For the Good of the The Wood


Justin Hodgin
Chairman
Walsall Wood Football Club

Posted in News | Comments Off on An important statement from Walsall Wood Football Club

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, this afternoon!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since the rain has cleared and it’s such a lovely day it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Walsall Wood play Worcester City this afternoon at Oak Park

P1000426
Walsall Wood FC have a great reputation for entertaining football, and a keen, loyal and friendly bunch of supporters! Come join in the fun and see some cracking football.

Saturday 10th October 2020

Walsall Wood FC at home to Worcester City in a big-name match!

Don’t break your Wood vows be there and be faithful to your local heroes

3:00pm kickoff

STRICT SOCIAL DISTANCING TO BE OBSERVED!

Please come and get behind your local club

For The Good Of The Wood!

Oak Park, Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood. WS9 9NP.

Check out the club website here.

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

The mystery of the car in the bomb crater: Can you help with the local link?

I’ve become aware in the last few days of a remarkable history project relating to an incident during the Coventry Blitz and an absolutely iconic image of the destruction following the Second World War air raids that decimated the city.

An amazing, stunning image of the destruction of Coventry in World War Two. But there’s a mystery within. Image kindly supplied by Peter Garbett.

Peter Garbett, admin of the ‘Visit Historic Coventry’ group, is determined to find out as much as he can about this image and the car in the crater, in which one man sadly died.

There is a Walsall and Hednesford connection, too.

I’ll let Peter explain: This is stunning, both for the fascination of the project and for the wealth of information so far assembled. Real, solid community local history in action.

He wrote:

Hello.

I’m an Admin on ‘Visit Historic Coventry’ as you may remember Coventry was bombed to pieces on the 14th November 1940.

The above photo shows one car in a bomb crater. We have seen this historic photo over the years but knew nothing about the owner of the car and we just wanted to know more.

We set ourself a task of discovery which had led us to Walsall.

We have found out quite a bit of information about the owners and the driver. The Owner was the landlady of a Coventry pub the greyhound, in the old medieval city prior to and post WW11 bombings. We understand the family originally came from Walsall area and the landlady certainly retired back here. We would be delighted if we could find out and relatives or descendants or of friends who can add to this story. The information we have so far is direct from our post:

We are looking to complete the story of this iconic picture and tell the inside story of the family that surround it. We also want to know what happened to the car? A Singer Nine leMans (which we understand was driven away after), it was built between 1933 and 1937. Note the forward handles on the rear hinged ‘coach doors’ and the lack of running boards, also note the opening quarterlight on the rear edge of the drivers door, most unusual.

The story so far we have discovered that the owner of the Singer Nine leMans car in the crater was 59 year old Mrs Mable Harriet Jones (nee Hawkswood) Landlady of the Greyhound pub, 118 Much Park Street, in 1940.

Mable was the youngest of 11 children born to Charles Hawkswood, lock keeper at Great Barr and his wife Emma nee Lewis. Mabel’s husband was Clement James Jones who was a tailor (cutter) by trade who had turned his hand to the license trade in 1933 when he took over the Greyhound pub, his wife Mable took over the license after his death in 1937 who had left £100 in his will.

It was their son 36 year old Clement Jones who was a bar assistant at the pub that his mother ran who was the driver of the vehicle who was sadly killed in the incident. Clement junior was born in Walsall in 1904.

We understand there was one surviving passenger who strolled around all night in a complete daze. Who was this? Clement (son) was buried in the mass grave in London Road Cemetery under the name of C Jones (see photos).

Mrs Mable Jones died on 7th December 1968 at 7 Jessel Road, Walsall leaving an estate of £11,206. No beneficiaries are mentioned in the probate

In 1911 they were living in Hednesford.

Are there any descendants today?

Does anyone know the story of survivor? What happened to the car? Does anyone know the registration number?

Are you related? Please help complete this story.

Does anyone have pictures of Mable Jones or Clement?

We want to bring this story right up to today. Please can you help us with information?

See the more at the Historic Coventry website here.

Any help would be appreciated

Peter Garbett

If you can help with this, please do – it really has captivated me. You can contact Peter directly via Facebook by clicking here, or via the Historic Coventry website here.

You can, of course, also comment here, tug my coat on social media or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, and I’ll pass any info on.

My best wishes to Peter for a wonderful, fascinating thing.

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Walsall Wood send Selston forth

Images kindly supplied by David Evans

Last Tuesday evening (6th October 2020) Walsall Wood F.C. entertained Selston F.C. at Walsall Wood. A belter of a match and home victory ensued, that roving reporter the young David Evans clearly enjoyed very much leaving his lyricism decidedly on form, much like his beloved team:

Walsall Wood F.C. 4 v 1 Selston F.C.
Tuesday 6th October 2020

The day had brought both sunshine and heavy rain. Sunshine to gladden the heart, and heavy rain showers to dampen the spirit. In the nearby fields the wondrous red deer were rejoicing as the rutting season approached its climax.

The verdant oak trees, now burnished gold by the changing season, glistened and sparkled after the rain. With glad hearts and souls good folk made their way to The Portal of Admission at the football ground, and, their faces covered in due deference to the Constraints of the Age, offered up their gold as they entered in.

The Hall of Temptation, with its mute attendees sitting in obedience, was quickly passed through by all who had travelled from near and far to thrill at beholding the Field of Honour, magnificent and splendid .

The stage was set. The cast were ready. The two teams, in casual ‘stand easy’ mode, emerged from the Keep. The Boys in Blue – from Selston – were making a long overdue, and much- anticipated welcome appearance here at the Theatre of Dreams.

The spectators watched in appreciation as the game unfolded. The fine real grass football field here at Oak Park provides sportsmen the ideal surface on which to employ all of the skills and moves of true football [David really won’t let the 3G bugbear go, will he? – Bob].

The first part of the game presented both sides the challenge of pace and skill. Walsall Wood’s Boys in Red passed smartly and accurately… As did Selston’s Boys in Blue. Moves and counter moves were swift and well executed. This was proving to be an enjoyable game to spectate, as it patently was for the hard-working and resolute players.

At around twenty minutes the home team scored the first goal to break through the unremitting logjam of Selston’s hard-pressed and determined defence. Within a few more minutes the visitors scored a fine cracker of a goal, delivered by their number 10 ( no match day programmes were available this evening, oddly )

The half time whistle signalled a much-needed respite for the players, and a time for them to reflect and contemplate. Meanwhile the spectators, some of whom had wisely brought their own refreshments and sustenance with them engaged in polite, sober conversations.

The second half of this increasingly meaningful fixture brought a change in nature and complexion. There was a heaviness in the visitor’s challenges. One inelegant incident saw a visiting player correctly booked for a foul challenge and then within a few minutes, being sent from the pitch for an identical foul challenge. Most unfortunate.

The Boys in Blue had now given themselves a tough task if they were to achieve a positive result. But the Men in Red were now on song. Their confidence rose by the minute. They were outplaying and out-running their understandably tired opponents.

The home team, in a superbly completed move, launched a thrusting attacking move, and the resulting goal was one I will never forget. Yes, it was that good. The paying spectators who were present rejoiced and thrilled. How would the Boys in Blue respond, now that they were trailing again?

The Wood were now relentless in their surging, attacking moves, putting the brave opponents to the test. There were increasingly desperate – clumsy – moves which brought a bouquet of yellow cards. And, perhaps inevitably, a penalty was awarded to the home side, from which another goal was scored.

The home side scored a further goal from one of the numerous corners – from a loose standing scrum of players the ball seemed to trick its way in to the back of the net. Just like that. Magic. The Wood could do no wrong this evening. It was their night.

It was also a match of immense significance for both sides. The home team’s well worked choreography matured to fullness this evening. A hat trick and a goal to the Men in Red and a hard, demanding performance by the gallant visitors.

Selston, to their immense credit, accepted decisions largely with good grace, and their initial accuracy and determination in the early part of the game had made the home side sit up and take notice. The Selston team were a side who, after having worked hard all day, then travelled the fifty or so miles to play game of football. I doff my hat in due respect to them.

The match ended and the players shook hands with their opponents, and in the distance a stag was heard faintly bellowing.

David Evans

My thanks to David for a great report – and for all those he selflessly writes and sends to me after every match. They really are popular, and a credit to David and the club.

Walsall Wood have a reputation for being a great, community spirited group of people and these reports demonstrate that – it’s an honour and joy to feature them here.

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

Walking group sets off again in Brownhills this afternoon!

Altogether now, ‘I love to go a-wandering…’ – image from Walsall Healthy Spaces Team.

I’m glad to see that some important social activities are resuming in light of their cancellation for lockdown – and the resumption of the Wednesday afternoon walking group in Brownhills is great news.

The Walsall Healthy Spaces Team volunteer led walk will be approximately 45-60 minutes every Wednesday afternoon, including today Wednesday 7th October 2020, starting from Brownhills Community Centre car park (the old Amex or Central Boys School, just off the miner island in the heart of Brownhills) at 1:15pm for a 1:30pm departure.

These great social walks will be exploring our beautiful commons and local open spaces.

This will be a great way to get some exercise and meet folk in a safe, socially distanced event that’s fun and great for a bit of much needed company in these tough times.

For more information on other volunteer led walking groups click here.

You can visit Walsall Healthy Spaces Team on Facebook here. If you attend, why not get in touch and let me know how you get on?

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Why not catch some great footy this evening? Walsall Wood play Selston at Oak Park

Untitled 9

Walsall Wood Football Club’s historic Oak Park ground: heart of the community. Imagery from Apple Maps.

Tuesday 6th October 2020

The Wood entertain Selston FC at Oak Park!

Come watch the lads at home this evening

Kick off is 7:45pm

STRICT SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE OBSERVED!

Hopefully, a match report will follow…

For the Good of the Wood!

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here.

Oak Park Football Ground
Lichfield Road
Walsall Wood
West Midlands
WS9 9NP

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A credit to any sports meeting

Also, while I’m busy – a quick bit of Walsall Wood School ephemera for the Wood Massive very kindly sent in by John Barlow, who said:

Hello Bob

I came across this a few days ago and thought it might rekindle a few memories.

Kind regards
John Barlow

what a fantastic find! Thank you John Barlow. Please click for a larger version.

This is a wonderful thing and mentions a lot of names I’m sure will prompt discussion. I’m particularly heartened by the tribute to the lads competing in awful weather! This weekend, that certainly chimes with me…

Thanks to John for sharing a lovely thing. It really is most generous!

I’m sure you lot will have much to say about this, so what are you waiting for? Please do comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot Com or tug my coat on social media.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

A nice local history challenge for a Sunday…. The Kerr family

Here’s an enquiry I received in the last week from Julie Roberts, resident in Lincolnshire but with local family. I think folks might find this an interesting challenge, particularly in respect of an unfound grave in Ogley Hay (presumably St James or the nearby cemetery).

Somewhere in the environs of the the church is an unfound grave to a noted serviceman – can we locate it? Image from my 365daysofbiking journal.

I’ll let Julie explain:

Hi, I love your blog.

I would like to contact a local family history enthusiast who I could talk to about my grandmother’s family. She was Jessie Kerr, born in Brownhills but her mother was from Elgin and her father Charles Campbell Kerr was from Ayrshire.

He was an army training officer and I do have further details of addresses etc. He was a soldier of some repute and was buried at Ogley Hay church yard (I have the funeral notice from the paper) but I have never succeeded in finding it.

My family now live in Cannock, I’m in Lincolnshire but I’m keen to trace Scottish family connections.

Any help would be gratefully received

Yours
Julie ROBERTS (nee Eccleshall)

Thanks to Julie for a great enquiry and challenge for the researchers: If you can help please do comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media.

Posted in News | 13 Comments

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, right now!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since the rain seems to be clearing it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Why not catch some great footy this afternoon? Walsall Wood play Redditch at Oak Park

Untitled 9

Walsall Wood Football Club’s historic Oak Park ground: heart of the community. Imagery from Apple Maps.

Saturday 3rd October 2020

The Wood entertain Redditch United at Oak Park!

Come watch the lads at home this afternoon

Kick off is 3:00pm

STRICT SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE OBSERVED!

Hopefully, a match report will follow…

For the Good of the Wood!

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here.

Oak Park Football Ground
Lichfield Road
Walsall Wood
West Midlands
WS9 9NP

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Woodmen take swift Lye down

Images kindly supplied by David Evans

Last Tuesday evening (29th September 2020) Walsall Wood F.C. entertained Lye Town at Walsall Wood. An more even match than the final score belied, this fine game has very much impressed the young David Evans, who sent the following report:

Walsall Wood F.C. 2 v 0 Lye Town F.C.
Tuesday 29th September 2020

A beautiful  languid autumnal day had seen the sun gently set into the milky glow of evening. Oak Park’s presidential trees stood tall and proud with their naturally tanned leaves. The real grass, finely manicured playing surface of the football field gleamed to grace and welcome the visiting team from Lye.

Paying spectators waited patiently by the Narrow Door to be admitted… They signed in the Book of Names, then sprinkled precious holy water on their hands and, faces covered in reverence, passed through the Hall of Temptation to emerge, blessed and thankful in the Cloisters of Contentment.

A blurred full moon rose slowly above the Bowling Green trees to add reverence and distant mystical glow to the wonders that would unfold.

The two teams emerged in loose formation. These are Covid Times. This evening’s Man in Black, with a short sound from his Acme Thunderer signalled the start of what turned out to be a totally enthralling and heart-warming game of football .

A superb display of bright, positive and naturally exuberant play graced the evening. Lye and Walsall Wood  clearly enjoyed the contest and their joy was self-evident throughout the game. The referee’s presence was thus allowed to be more to observe than to correct, which  gave the game the quality that was so much appreciated by spectators. But that is always how Lye play the game- with good heart and fine spirit. Perhaps other visiting teams will take note this season.

Excellent ground passes from both teams, with well-worked and executed tactical approach moves  – and an evenness in both teams skills produced a captivating and thrilling game for spectators. The minutes passed quickly – always an indication of the quality and endeavour of the players – and half time arrived with neither side yet scoring a goal.

The half-time break gave spectators in the stand the chance to get their breath back, if not to get refreshments. Covid times indeed… And to reflect on the game so far enjoyed.

It was in the second half that the Wood achieved  that much- anticipated breakthrough , at last gaining the first and vital goal. This brought some fans to their feet , of course. But the game so far had been finely balanced and there were times when both goalkeepers’ skills had been  tested.

Several substitutions were made by both teams as the pace of play had been relentless and the emphasis now was to accurate short range passing following initial penetrating long kicks.   Lye had a complement of long-legged players in their side and their prowess when faced with the smart and shorter Wood players produced some entertaining moments that brought applause from spectators.

The Wood scored the second, and ultimately final goal of this evening’s floodlit match  in the latter part of the game, making the task even more difficult for Lye to draw level. But to their eternal credit, they strived hard and correctly, with very little or no frustration in their endeavour and the game remained finely balanced until the concluding sound from the man in black’s whistle.  There was instantaneous  sustained loud applause from all the spectators, and deservedly so.

Walsall Wood and Lye put on a display of excellent football this evening to gladden the hearts of home spectators and to fly the flag of honest sporting endeavour high and proud.

The final score was Walsall Wood 2, Lye Town 0 but, let there be no mistake, Black Country football and footballers have also been the winners.

David Evans

My thanks to David for a great report – and for all those he selflessly writes and sends to me after every match. They really are popular, and a credit to David and the club.

Walsall Wood have a reputation for being a great, community spirited group of people and these reports demonstrate that – it’s an honour and joy to feature them here.

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

90 years ago today: The Grove Pit Disaster

Ninety years ago today, the 1st October 1930, an underground blast killed 14 men working in a coal mine, The Grove Colliery, underneath Brownhills Common. Ten of those lost souls are buried in the Churchyard of St James, Brownhills, in a communal memorial.

Sadly, the memorial is in not such a great state lately.

If you do nothing else today, I’d like you to think of those lost lads, their families and the price they paid.

The miners who gave their lives were:

Alfred Boden aged 49
John Brownridge 34
Ben Corbett 52
John Hackett 33
Alfred Heath 27
Jack Holland 41
Richard Howdle 30
Alex Martin 32
James Malley 33
William Robbins 45
John Scoffam 50
Harry Smith 38
John Whittaker 44
William Whittaker 62

I wrote the following article exactly a decade ago to the hour. I can’t better it, so slightly modified, please remember the debt we owe to those men, below.

A turn of the century photo of a distressed shaft at Walsall Wood Colliery. Image taken from ‘Coal Mining in Walsall Wood, Brownhills and Aldridge’ by Brian Rollins.

Ninety years ago today, on the 1st October, 1930, fourteen men died underground, as a result of a gas explosion at the Grove, or Brownhills Colliery. It is thought that the men perished when a naked light was struck in the shaft. I have featured this incident as a recurring theme over the years, and much has been written by others about the dreadful events of that autumn dawn, pictured in newsreel footage posted on this blog previously. The excellent site ‘Brownhills Past’, has the following to say on the subject:

<The Grove Colliery was the> Site of the worst mining disaster in Brownhills history. An explosion of gas killed fourteen men on the nightshift on 1st of October 1930. The explosion occured in the shallow coal district, 1.5 miles from the shaft bottom. There was a public inquiry into the accident which returned an open verdict as there was “Not sufficient evidence to prove how the explosion occured”. However it was found that five of the dead men were carrying contraband materials e.g matches and cigarettes, and as electricity and safety lamps were ruled out it was stated that somebody may have struck a light. The Grove was not known as a paticularly “gassy” pit and in most parts open lights were allowed. It was also stated that 11 of the men died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 3 from injuries caused by the blast, 12 of the men may have lived for a while after the explosion.

The pit was opened in 1857 by William Harrison, who also sunk the Cathedral and Wyrley common pits.The pit closed in 1952.

A full report on the accident and subsequent enquiry, sourced from the Coal Mining History Resource Centre can be read here (.PDF).

This dreadful loss of life was a terrible blow to the town, and there are several photos of the funeral procession through Brownhills, featured on Chasewaterstuff’s blog. The wonderfully comprehensive history of St. James Church speaks of the mourning:

At 9:18 pm on 1st October 1930 a terrible explosion occurred in the Grove (Brownhills) Colliery beneath the “Fleur De Lys” public house. The funerals of ten of the miners who lost their lives in the disaster took place at St. James Church on 7th October. A solemn procession starting from the Council House made its way along the High Street into Church Road, (lined both sides by the whole of the Ogley Hay and Brownhills community), to the Church where Vicar W.E. Wibby held the funeral service. The miners were laid to rest in a mass grave divided into ten sections in Great Charles Street Graveyard with full military honours as six of the men had fought in the Great War.

These were dark events, but they were by no means unique; there were huge numbers of men and boys killed or maimed in the course of coal and mineral extraction throughout the victorian era, right through to the second world war. Conditions for these hard, determined people gradually improved – but it was not until the social and political upheavals in the early decades of the 20th century that major strides were made in either welfare, healthcare or health and safety. We have the campaigners, socialists and strikers of the period to thank for the legacy they left us, that nearly a century later, not one of us has to accept injury or death at work to be an occupational hazard.

The miners who died at the Grove pit were not unique. Many will speak reverently of their bravery, of their resilience, of their stoicism. But these were not special men, they were just ordinary working blokes, earning their living in a filthy, harsh and deadly industry. An essential industry that warmed homes, powered trains and ships and melted metal, but one which was riddled with shortcuts, dangerous practices, crooked mine owners and employee abuse. That those who died were somehow more than those who did not is an oft-repeated myth; men found work where they could, and the pits represented a relatively good living, more often than not followed by a living death from industrial respiratory diseases. Time and societal advances artificially separate us from them, yet had we been born of the period dominated by Old King Coal as they were, we’d be down the pits, too. The line we draw is thinner than ever we’d think.

Reflect on the victory that those communities fought for – an honest, safe day’s work for a living wage; democratic representation; full recourse after the unthinkable should happen. Today we relax with every modern comfort imaginable precisely because millions of workers like those lost deep under Wyrley Common fought for a better world. We must never ever forget what we are the beneficiaries of, nor the privations and hardships suffered in order that we might enjoy a brighter day.

As civic leaders and nostalgic historians erect pointless and irrelevant statuary to lost generations of the workers who fuelled both the industrial and social revolutions, politicians are hastily dismantling the institutions that those generations died in the creation of. Members of the government speak of the need to streamline the NHS, to end the perceived tyranny of the Health and Safety Executive. Our own Prime Minister talks darkly of the Welfare State. It is almost as if an opportunity has been seized.

If we let them destroy this priceless legacy, then we insult those men who today, we remember. The men below, the men of the foundry, factory floor and mill, didn’t suffer what they did to see this destroyed. We must be vigilant. Once the social state is lost, it won’t ever be put back.

Today I will raise a glass to fourteen lost men. Rest in peace, chaps. You may be gone, but you’re not forgotten.

The Grove Pit as surveyed around the mid 1920’s. It stood on Lime Lane, just where the landfill is today. Click on the image for a larger version.

The Men Below

Steve Skaith / Mike Jones

Album, tour, albumen – you’re still picking at the shell
And you know you should be glad of the living
But it seems like a living hell sometimes
And on this playing stage you play so hard
But so much harder still – is the life beneath, down deep in the seams
Where your hotel nights are the stuff of the dreams
Of the men below

Imagine, having to fight
To work two miles down from the air and the light
And imagine, having to plead
That a job that can kill, is a job that you need

Darker blue this darkness, than a pale young miner’s eyes
Who has to see the convoy lights come shining
And can’t close off his surprise
With his one poor piece of paving, pressing hard against his palm
Knowing it might be the only way he’d ever get to spend another day
With the men below

And who knows what we all owe
To the boys in the dust – to the men below?

And who knows what we all owe
To the boys in the dust – to the men below?

And who knows what we all owe
To the boys in the dust – to the men below?

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Environment, Events, Followups, It makes me mad!, Local History, Local media, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why not catch some great footy this evening? Walsall Wood play Lye at Oak Park

Untitled 9

Walsall Wood Football Club’s historic Oak Park ground: heart of the community. Imagery from Apple Maps.

Tuesday 29th September 2020

The Wood entertain Lye Town at Oak Park!

Come watch the lads at home this afternoon

Kick off is 7:45pm

STRICT SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE OBSERVED!

Hopefully, a match report will follow…

For the Good of the Wood!

Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here.

Oak Park Football Ground
Lichfield Road
Walsall Wood
West Midlands
WS9 9NP

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brownhills Central School: A 1930s mix?

A real treat here today for folks interested in Brownhills Central School and the history of education and schools in Brownhills, and a great addition to the tranche of photos from the same school some decades later sent in by Margaret Hampton: Old friend of the blog Margaret Thompson, now resident in Australia, has sent this wonderful 1930s school photo from Brownhills Central School.

‘Brownhills Central Mixed Classes I and ?’ – a fantastic image thought to be from the 1930s shared very generously by Margaret Thompson. Click for a larger version.

I had no idea Brownhills Central was at any time mixed education. Can anyone shed light on that please?

Margaret kindly sent me this remarkable image and said:

Hello

I was sent this image which includes Joyce Birch top row third from the left.  Joyce was born about 1930 so this would be mid 30s I imagine.

Joyce is my first cousin once removed.  I live in Australia but have met Joyce a number of times and also stayed with her in her family at Dartford in Kent.

Regards
Margaret Thomson

Again, one thing even at this early stage that stands about this school and its photos is the relaxed nature of the photo: A little different to the usual stiff, stood to attention school images we normally see at this time.

Thanks to Margaret for a wonderful donation which I hope will generate some debate and discussion!

If you can help with any names or memories of this class or school, please do: either by commenting here, finding me on social media or you can even mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Walsall community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, right now!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since it’s such a lovely autumn day it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment

It’s time for the rut – beware, folks – the deer are getting horny….

Time to repeat this post as I’m starting to hear stories of deer with a cob on again…

The above excellent video is a fallow deer stag filmed up on Cannock Chase by reader, contributor and top friend of the blog Peter Barker. That stag really has romance on his mind…

This is just a quick note to warn people given to exploring the open spaces of the area that over the next 8-10 weeks or so the deer population will be getting amorous – it’s rutting time for our large brown friends, and that means one thing: the heaths around Brownhills, Clayhanger, Pelsall and Chasewater in particular are likely to be host to rather grumpy, aggressive stags guarding their female harems.

Deer are normally gentle souls on the whole, but a hormonal stag with love on his mind will be aggressive and prone to attack, and such animals will, and have in the past charged humans and gored dogs.

To avoid being on the unexpectedly rather sharp end of several hundredweight of cervine cassinova with an attitude issue, please keep a respectful distance and keep your dogs under control at all times. Even if they look like they’re just loafing, these normally docile creatures can turn nasty at a moments notice. This warning applies to anywhere where deer have been spotted – from the heaths of Chasewater to the commons and woods of Brownhills, Jockey Meadows, Clayhanger Marsh and even Sandhills – and now they’re as far south as Sutton and even Brookvale Park in Witton!

Deer are not the cleverest of animals, so it might also be wise to take extra care when driving, as the biological imperative is probably outweighing their small amount of road sense at the moment. That excellent local wildlife blogger Chaz Mason posted this warning  a couple of years ago that’s still very much relevant:

N.Tipton 1
Image by Neil Tipton, originally posted on Chaz Mason’s blog.

This week I have been informed that the young male Red Deer have commenced play-fighting locally – by now you should all be aware that this is the first indication that the annual Red Deer Rut is now underway and within the next couple of weeks the older stags are likely to become more territorial.

DOG WALKERS PLEASE!

If you are over the Marsh and Mere for the next couple of months please keep your dog close and if you see any deer PLEASE put your dog on a lead.

I am not in the least bit worried about the deer. For most of the year they will see your dog and run away as fast as they can – but that ain’t now!

These stags are main-lining on testosterone and WILL NOT RUN AWAY. In fact they will not only stand their ground to protect their females they will attack your dog. Over the years I have been aware of at least three instances of local dogs being stabbed by Stags, luckily, so far with injuries-only and no fatalities.

20141001EOS-7D0866-as-Smart-Object-3
Would you argue with this? Image by Derek Lees, originally posted on Chaz Mason’s blog.

If you insist on exercising your dogs right to run free and unhindered then please exercise that right somewhere else until at least late November.

As I have tried to impress upon you –
this is not to protect the deer – IT IS TO PROTECT YOUR DOG!

I may not have a dog but I do have great affection for them and many of you know that I regularly time-share many of yours so I hope that you take this warning very seriously. Rutting Deer are a magnificent sight but if you want to watch this display, then please show some respect for the animals and also, some common sense.

Lecture over – Chaz

Of course, once the aggression is over for another year, the commons and heaths will again be given over to the disgusting and lewd mating behaviour one normally sees there. The animals, however, will be behaving impeccably.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Cannock Chase, Chasewater, Clayhanger stuff, cycling, Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fancy finding out more about local wildlife? You can, right now!

If you, the kids or grandkids are at a loose end today, since it’s such a lovely autumn day it would be an excellent chance to grab the young ones and nip up to Stubbers Green where you can chat to, and learn all about local wildlife with the Swan Patrol.

The Patrol are back there this afternoon – and most Sundays from 1-3pm and have bird books, binoculars and a wealth of knowledge to share – so why not join them? There’s so much more local wildlife than people think!

Ann Lawrence said:

Swan Patrol every Sunday 1-3pm

Please bring wild bird seed, sweet corn, porridge oats, lettuce, peas, chopped up vegetables, rice etc to feed the birds.

We have binoculars and bird books available to use. Stickers for the children

The reserve is by the pools on Stubbers Green Road, between Aldridge and Shelfield.

Posted in News | Leave a comment