Aldi post images of likely new Brownhills development, ask for opinion

The view of the new development as seen from about where Costa is on the High Street. Walk would be on the extreme right, Downes Newsagents out of sight to the left. Click for a larger version. Image from Aldi consultation materials.

A very short post I’ve been meaning to do all weekend, but following on from the welcome news that Brownhills is very likely to lose it’s derelict 1960s shopping precinct Ravens Court under a larger brand new Aldi store, the supermarket chain have posted images and a consultation site so the views of the general public can be take – click here to visit it.

Flat elevations: From the High Street and from Tesco car park. Click for a larger version. Image from Aldi consultation materials.

Although Aldi are said to have bough the 12 year derelict site, they have yet to submit a planning application: However images from the consultation answer quite a few questions – but one big one remains: What will be the fate of the old Aldi store?

The suggested new site layout which fully occupies the space Ravens Court currently occupies. Click for a larger version. Image from Aldi consultation materials.

So far feedback has been enormously positive, save for the usual miseries, presumably holding out for a Waitrose. There has been some comment about the potential access from the High Street (note it’s one way – entry to the store car park only) and the fact the the Card Shop, John Taylor Hospice shop, Shoe Zone, and the empty unit next to it will be lost.

It’s believed Aldi will relocate the businesses affected, as they have done in developments elsewhere.

I actually really like the look of this, and I think it will make vacant retail units along the High Street more desirable. Obviously a final plan is yet to be submitted and it will be enormously interesting to see the finer detail of it, and how much it may depart from that suggested here.

Please take part in the consultation, whether you feel positive or critical, it’s all welcome at https://aldiconsultation.co.uk/brownhills

Posted in Environment | 4 Comments

Beware – Avian Influenza – Bird Flu – is here and affecting our wildlife

I’m sad to report that Avian Influenza – Bird Flu – has claimed the lives of several swans and geese at Chasewater and this has been confirmed by government scientists from DEFRA. There have been other deceased birds found at Stubbers Green pools and on the local canal – confirmation that they died from the same cause is not evident at time of posting, but it’s very likely.

This is devastating for local bird flocks, but sadly this is part of a larger outbreak across Europe and the UK and the mobile, social nature of waterfowl makes this disease rather virulent. It doesn’t affect humans, but can be transmitted to domestic birds and farmed flocks.

Choppy waters at Chasewater – we must weather the storm.

For the time being, please do not feed waterfowl at parks, open spaces or on the canal. as feeding causes the birds to flock around the feeder and increases social contact, potentially spreading flu between the birds.

Please keep clear of poolsides, don’t walk in bird poo which spreads the virus, and keep away from birds that have passed away or are sick (a symptom is spinning in circles in the water with head flopping from side to side).

Rescues and vets cannot treat these animals and however hard it is, they must be left alone. I know. It’s heartbreaking, it really is.

If you visit different sites, please disinfect your footwear and wash hands.

If you see dead birds – and sadly, this is very likely – report to the Defra helpline on 03459 335577.

At the moment, nothing can be done and we just watch and wait for the virus to pass through. It’s all we can do.

Staffordshire County Council issued this warning on Friday:

Public Urged Not To Touch Sick or Dead Birds – as Avian Influenza Confirmed in the County

Posted on Friday 19th November 2021
Latest news newsroom

People are being reminded to do what they can to help reduce the spread of avian influenza following confirmation of cases in Staffordshire.

 The two cases were confirmed in wild birds found dead at Chasewater Country Park last week.

Visitors to the country park are being asked not to feed any birds, to keep dogs on leads near the water and stay to the paths.

People should not touch or try to rescue sick or injured birds and should report them to the park rangers or to the Defra helpline on 03459 335577.

Visitors are asked to follow any guidance on site to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Officers from Staffordshire County Councils Trading Standards Animal Health team are also advising all bird keepers to remain vigilant and to look out for signs of ill health in their birds.

They should follow strict bio-security rules.

This includes ensuring wild birds cannot have access to any bedding, feed or water intended for use for kept poultry or birds.

In addition to this, steps must be taken to reduce the movements of people into or out of the areas where birds are kept.

Victoria Wilson, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at Staffordshire County Council said:

“We have seen first-hand earlier this year the impact of an outbreak of avian influenza so it’s really important we are aware and do what we can to reduce the spread of it.

“While the risk to the public from this strain of avian flu is very low, people visiting our country parks including Chasewater should follow any local guidance.

“People should not touch or try to rescue injured birds as they could be infected.

“Anyone spotting injured or dead birds should report them to the Defra helpline.”

 Further advice for bird keepers on reducing the spread of avian influenza is available here.

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Unexpected development in bagging area – Aldi buy Ravens Court

Well, this is the news I though I’d never share: 12 years after my first article here about Ravens Court and the then promise of Tesco’s new gold dream that crumbled to dust, it turns out bargain supermarket chain Aldi – who already have a small, 1990s era store in Brownhills – have bought the decaying shopping centre and are planning to build a larger store with more parking.

This is obviously fabulous news and very unexpected.

I had pointed out to anyone who’d listen for a few months now that something was happening. Whatever it was didn’t run to schedule, as Wendoline Morton and Charles Hawtry Street were clearly preparing for a big announcement at election time that never came, and they deleted their dystopian clockwork lemon video filmed in a murky Ravens Court where they pretended manfully they might actually give a shit about us.

Over the interceding months, items have come up on closed session council cabinet agendas relating to strategic purchases and transfer of land, and public right of way across the site was rescinded. So clearly, something was afoot – and as the precinct was boarded up last week, I knew something might be imminent. Here’s the detail – the only verified detail – released yesterday by Walsall Council.

Soon, hopefully, to be history. I salute our new Aldi overlords.

They wrote:

ALDI BUY RAVENSCOURT TO REDEVELOP DERELICT EYESORE

Aldi is bringing forward plans to rejuvenate the High Street in Brownhills by relocating their store to the derelict Ravenscourt shopping precinct.

The discount food retailer has now bought the land and is hoping to submit a planning application before Christmas.

Proposals for a new Aldi food store will bring the area back to life, and with Aldi continuing to trade here, it will outline their commitment to long-term investment and job creation in Brownhills.

A new store will provide a larger retail area (currently 850sqm moving to 1315sqm), with wider aisles and greater availability of products. There will be 100 customer car parking spaces, which is a major increase from 57 on offer at the current store.

Aldi also has a number of sustainability measures to improve the carbon efficiency of new stores, reducing emissions and the need for gas heating, which will go a considerable way to addressing the climate challenge.

Robin Williams, Aldi’s Regional Property Director said:

We are thrilled to be bringing forward our plans for relocating the Brownhills store. We have been working tirelessly alongside Walsall Council Deputy Leader Councillor Adrian Andrew and Council Officers who have been truly supportive in getting us to where we are today.

Our proposals to relocate the store will ensure we can continue providing jobs and investment into the local economy, whilst offering our range of award-winning products to our customers.

By relocating so close, we can continue to serve our dedicated customer base, but ensure the long-term future of the store and preserve our commitment to Brownhills”.

Cllr Adrian Andrew said: “Our administration has pledged to sort out the problem of the derelict Ravenscourt on behalf of the people of Brownhills and by working with the previous owners for many years and more recently Aldi we have had a fantastic outcome. I have to thank the ward Councillors, Wendy Morton MP and Mayor Andy Street for keeping the pressure on and supporting us making progress.

There will of course be a planning application and process that will follow, with the decision made by the planning committee but the purchase of Ravenscourt by Aldi is a game changer for Brownhills, and we thank Aldi for working with us and investing in Brownhills”

Well, that’s a turn I never expected.

This of course raises many questions, but I am wholly in support of this. Why? Do I particularly like Aldi? No. But it’s all we’ve got. Cling to it people. One thing I will say is Aldi don’t mess about: They will have done their research, know what return the want and expect, and will have costed it. Planning will be note-perfect, no doubt.

It’s worth bearing in mind though, the following points.

  • We are no further forward than we were in 2009: We are being promised a redevelopment, without (yet) earth being turned. This could yet go tits up.
  • We have no plans yet. As soon as some are made public, I will share here and on social media.
  • The owners of Ravens Court have played Walsall Council, and the people of Brownhills for idiots for well over a decade. Why? Because lax property law allowed them to. They will be strolling away from this happy, unrepentant for their imposed rule of misery.
    Our Members of Parliament – both Richard Shepherd and Wendy Morton – always made sympathetic faces but never actually made any move politically to stop absentee landlords screwing towns and communities like ours over. They just didn’t appear to care enough about the situation to fight to stop it happening.
  • Politicians from all over will claim involvement in achieving this. As yet, not much has changed. My suspicion is the real dealing was done by Aldi and council officers. Remember that Adrian Andrew, here credited with achieving the deal, was crowing about what a great deal we all had with Tesco.
    If I ever need a negotiator, based on his performance here for years, he’s a way down the queue, frankly.
  • There’s the question over the fate of the current Aldi. I’ve seen it said that it will be parking of some sort. But I don’t know. That will require monitoring: Should the store be left, you can guarantee Aldi will not allow it to go for anything in competition with them. That could, long term, be a small issue. But yeah.
  • The site is a very weird shape and I can’t see how they are going to overcome the steep front to back gradient (you walk in to Ravens Court off the street, yet there are a lot of steps to the car park at the back). That means there could be an interesting solution like a street level store with a parking undercroft. But that’s just speculation.
  • This still has to go through planning: Aldi have bought the land so it is stated, which must mean they’re totally confident of approval, and I cannot realistically see any obstacle in the process, but it will take the statutory amount of time. It’ll be way into 2022 before we see much action.
  • Expect Tesco to be crying into their clubcards, and to probably make impotent objecting noises, the brass neck of which will be delicious. Bet they wish they hadn’t pulled out now. We’ll always remember how they stuffed us.
  • Aldi, having bought this land is a great positive. If something goes awry, they are not the owners who abandoned us. That in itself is tremendous.
  • This must put the proposed Aldi store in Pelsall under some question. The Old Bush site has always been an interesting choice and it’ll be intriguing to see what happens there.

With the Warreners Arms currently being demolished for housing, and Ravens Court looking like history, I’ve never felt more positive about the future of Brownhills High Street, in what is an immensely challenging time for retail.

This is the first time Brownhills has had it’s tail up for years.

I’d like to thank here and now those at the council who have used every power they have as best they can, even though it was like fighting a dragon armed only with a cocktail stick and packet of Kleenex. I’d also like to thank those politicians whom I know to have been caring about this and sincere in their aims, particularly Steve Wade and Steve Craddock.

Stay tuned for more info, but I do look forward to racing to bag my buns and 2000 piece socket set in a bigger, plusher store sometime soon.

Any comment? Please feel free to opine on this post or mail: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com, or even badger me on social media. I reserve the right to edit for legal reasons on this one, of course 😀

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Environment, Express & Star, Followups, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Just plain daft, Local media, Local politics, News, Panoramio photo discussions, planning, Shared media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pictures and video from Brownhills and Walsall Wood 2021 Remembrance Sunday

Today, Sunday 14th November 2021 saw the annual marking of Remembrance Day in the UK and I’m pleased to say the local area did both themselves and the fallen proud staging a whole range of parades and events that were well supported and attended – and I was especially pleased to see the wonderful turnout and effort made in Brownhills.

St. James Church posted the above on Facebook

This is all the more heartening in the light of the pandemic and restrictions in 2020 that made a conventional Remembrance impossible, although what did happen was touchingly low key, but emotional.

A selection of images from Brownhills by various attendees

Thank you for all who organised, took part of went and paid their respects: The area did the fallen proud as it does every year – and thanks too to the people who posted all these lovely photos.

A large gallery of Walsall Wood photos by David Evans and Godfrey Hucker

We shall remember them.

Walsall Wood Remembrance Parade posted the above video on Facebook.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Council, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s not just about the lost, it’s about those that remain too

I normally post a wordy, slightly emotional essay on Remembrance Sunday encouraging people to think not just about the lost and suffering of the two world wars, but about the meaning of Remembrance, the forgotten conflicts like Korea and Aden, and reflect a little on why we do this thing we do annually.

This year, I had a memory triggered back in August, and vowed to share it today. Sadly I’m a little late today as work called. But this piece of musical poetry, from 1983, sums up the loss, devastation and grief caused by war perfectly, but without addressing it directly.

It’s utterly haunting.

It’s performed chillingly a cappella by a lady called Jane Lancaster, the then girlfriend of Manchester poet Edward Barton who wrote it. It was a minor hit in 1983 but passed into obscurity. The video, above, is remarkable.

I heard a fragment of it in late summer, remembered the original, and hunted it out.

The combination of voice, words and film here is stunning to me. Sadly, very little is known about Jane.

For all those lost to war and service of this country, we will remember you. I will continue to endeavour to share the stories of our heroes on this blog, as I always have done, people like Cecil, Levi, and Richard. It is on their shoulders we as a nation stand.

If you want to read my previous polemic on Remembrance, please click here.

Oh, and if the haunting opening words to ‘It’s a Fine Day’ seem familiar, it’s because the first few words were used to create a much bigger dance hit in the 1990s. Jane’s version should not be lost, nor should the meaning. So I share it with you today.

We will remember them.

 

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Geof Harrington’s funeral details released

Following the sad passing of respected local gentleman Geof Harrington, David Evans has kindly sent me details of the funeral arrangements to share with you all, via Geof’s old pal and writing partner, Bill Mayo.

My sympathies and condolences remain with Geof’s family and friends: Geof was a true father of Brownhills and the outpouring of grief and sympathy for his loss has been both extraordinary and touching.

The late Geof Harrington. Image kindly supplied by David Evans.

The arrangements are as follows:

Wednesday 24 November 2021, at 11 a.m. there will be a funeral service at St. James Church, Brownhills.

There will be outdoor loudspeakers relaying proceedings for those who are unable to be inside the church.

The funeral cortege led by black horses and carriage will form a procession from the Miner Island, along Brownhills High Street to Brickiln Street, turning left to Short Street and then right to Church Road and thence to the church itself.

Cremation will take place at Heath Hays Crematorium at 12.30pm.

A wake will be held at Brownhills memorial Hall following for those who have attended the funeral.

Thanks to all involved: It will be a fine send-off for a much-loved and respected man.

Rest in peace, Geof.

 

 

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Details of 2021 local Remembrance events – live list

This post is pinned to the top until Sunday – new material will appear below.

Remembrance Sunday 2011 Aldridge Remembrance Sunday 2011 Aldridge, by Andrew Watson, posted in his Flickr photo stream.

As usual in a normal year, I will try and share with readers a list of Remembrance services taking place locally this Remembrance Sunday, 14th November 2021 – this list will be updated with more info as I get it.

I’m after details of events not mentioned, or corrections on anything I have wrong – no matter how late. Comment here, message me on social media or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com if you have information to share. All welcome!

This post will remain pinned to the top of the blog until Sunday, so the information is to hand. Just click the ‘more’ link in grey below if necessary for the full details.

Please note: this is a live list – if you have any corrections, clarifications or additions, please do comment or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. I’d like to get the list as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

These functions are organised by a diverse range of organisations, nearly all outside the auspices of the local authority, so getting comprehensive information is no small task.

This may not be complete, and details are supplied in good faith. Neither I, or the named readers will be held responsible for inaccuracies in the details provided. We are all human, and this is always quite a tough task.

All events are assumed Sunday Morning 14th November 2021, unless otherwise stated –  Walsall Wood parade will be Sunday afternoon as always.

Your understanding is appreciated.

      • Brownhills:
        Memorial Hall – A parade will start to assemble at 10:00am and depart at 10:30am. It will start  at Brownhills Memorial just after 10:25am and it will take the route Lichfield Road into Great Charles Street, Short Street and Church Road, for the Service of Remembrance at St James church Cenotaph Brownhills 11:00 am, after there will be a service in St James Church.
        After the service at approx 12:20-12-30pm the parade will return to the Memorial Hall via Church Road, New Road, Vicarage Road, B5011 Ogley Road and B4155 Lichfield Road.The organisers say:Roads for closure during the Remembrance Parade on Sunday 14th November will be as follows:
        Lichfield Road. Great Charles Street, Short Street into Church Road, Bricklin Street to St. James on Church Road.
        Streets that may also be affected during this time are:-
        Hay Grove, School Avenue, Claverdon Close, Poplar Avenue, Furst Street, Vicarage Close, Mill Road, First Avenue, Barnetts Lane, Narrow Lane and Seeds Lane.
        These will commence around 9.30am and some emergency movement will be allowed by traffic up to when the Parade leaves the Memorial Hall between 10.25 and 10.35 latest.
        HOWEVER, ONCE THE PARADE TO THE CHURCH HAS BEGUN NO VEHICULAR MOVEMENT WILL BE ALLOWEDThe return Parade will be the same. The Parade is expected to leave the church after the service between 12.20pm and 12.30pm to return to the Memorial Hall
        Roads for closure will be as follows:-
        From St James on Church Road to Vicarage Road, Ogle Road to Lichfield Road Memorial Hall
        Streets that may also be affected during this time are:-
        Hay Grove, School Avenue, Claverdon Close, Poplar Avenue, Furst Street, Vicarage Close, Mill Road, First Avenue, Barnetts Lane, Narrow Lane and Seeds Lane.
        AGAIN NO VEHICULAR MOVEMENT WILL BE ALLOWED DURING THE RETURN PARADE MARCH.
        Traffic, in liaison with RSBPT, will have control over any vehicular movement in between the two halves of the Parade as usual.
        We ask for your co-operation during these times to ensure the marchers are kept safe by keeping as many vehicles off the above shown roads that are in italic and underlined.
        Thank you for helping us keep the Remembrance Parade safe for all concerned.
      • Walsall Wood:
        The format will be somewhat different this year as the service will be held solely outside from approx. 2.30pm. There will be a parade prior to, and following the service and thanks are extended to the members of the Staffordshire Band who have agreed to lead it.
        1.45 – 2.00pm Parade assembles on the former Oak Park Leisure Centre car park behind KFC2:00pm A461 is closed from Streets Corner to High Street/St John’s Close
        2:15pm Parade departs on A461 south to St John’s church Service of remembrance around the cenotaph, including wreath laying, followed by service at the church

        Unfortunately, the BB/GB band has ceased to exist, so a very big ‘thank you’ to all the Brigade members who have undertaken this prestigious honour for so many years.
      • Pelsall:
        From the Preservation of Pelsall Remembrance Service on Facebook:
        Sunday 14 November, 1050hrs prompt, our annual Remembrance Sunday service will take place at Pelsall Cenotaph.

        Unfortunately we are unable to host the usual parade prior to the service and ask that people who join together in the village for the service continue to consider social distancing and the use of face coverings when in large crowds.
        A digital download of service sheets will be available in the coming days, we encourage you where possible to downloaded onto devices to reduce the amount of printable material, we will of course have service sheets available for those who are unable to download.
      • Rushall:
        Rushall. Usually meet at the remembrance stone outside the library at 10:50, short service and silence will be held there.
      • Aldridge:
        Aldridge Remembrance Parade will start as in previous years from Aldridge Community Centre with groups assembling from 10.00 ready for the Parade to leave at 10.30.
        The Parade will arrive at the War Memorial for 10.45 for the traditional service.

        Social distancing should be observed and additional PA system is being used to cover a wider area. Refreshments and toilet facilities will be available from both the Church and on the corner of the High Street from Aldridge Social Club.
        Unfortunately due to COVID restrictions the Community Centre are unable to provide refreshments this year but the Parade will return to the Centre after the Service as in previous years.
        Road closures will be in place for the duration of the Parade and signage on affected roads is already in place.
        – Thanks to Russell Smith for info.
      • Chase Terrace:
        Heading from Ironstone Road to St John’s Community Church at 10am, travelling along Cannock Road, Water Street, Cross, Street, Rugeley Road and High Street. Thanks to Lichfield Live for this one.
      • Norton Canes:
        Remembrance Day events at 11am in Norton Canes traditionally take place in St James’s Church where Norton Canes’s War Memorial is located. Another service also takes place at Norton Canes Methodist Church on Poplar Street in the evening at 6pm.
        The War Memorial at St James’s takes the form of the stained glass window which features a wreath, the Staffordshire Knot, Poppies and a scene of Miners marching out of the colliery towards the battlefield dressed as soldiers – underneath is a book listing all of the Fallen from Norton in he First World War. The Window was paid for by public subscription in 1929 and is one of the more community focussed War Memorials that I know of.
        I don’t think the Window is a unique war memorial, but I do think it is a rather rare example of a stained glass window being used in such a way.
        St James’s have advised that this year the service cannot take place inside the Church because of expected numbers, and so will take place on the outside of the Church underneath the war memorial.
        The ceremony will start at 10,50am, beginning with a march from the Rectory comprising of uniformed groups, including Norton Canes Scouts and the Girl Guides. Anyone wishing to take part in the event is advised to arrive for 10.40am.
        Norton Canes Methodist Church is home to a plaque that also list Norton Canes’s War Dead of World War 1 located at the back of the chapel, next to the colourful window and where the wreaths are traditionally laid.
        It would be advised that anyone wishing to attend the events should consider bringing a face mask with them.
        – Thank you Councillor John Preece
      • Burntwood/Chasetown:
        To leave Burntwood Leisure Centre at 10.15am, before laying wreaths at the cenotaph at 10.45am. It will then head to St Anne’s Church for a service of Remembrance at 11.30am.
        Wreaths will also be laid at Burntwood Memorial Institute at 10.30am before a two minute silence at 11am.
        Thanks to Lichfield Live for this one.
      • Walsall:
        Full programme available here.
        The Walsall Town Centre parade will start outside the Council House at 10.05am with the service to commence at the cenotaph at 10.40am. During the service a two-minute silence will be observed at 11am to honour the service and sacrifice of our armed forces community, the British and Commonwealth veterans, the allies that fought alongside us and civilian servicemen and women.
      • Willenhall:
        Assume as previous years:
        9.30am: Muster for parade starting from by the clock tower and travelling to the Cenotaph via Market Place, Stafford Street and Field Street
      • Darlaston:
        Assume as previous years:
        9.30am: Muster for parade from King Street to St Lawrence Church via Victoria Avenue and New Street
      • Short Heath:
        Assume as previous years:
        9.30am: Muster for parade from the British Legion building down Church Road, Bloxwich Road North, A462 Lane Head Bridge and A462 High Road to the cenotaph
      • Streetly:
        Assume as previous years:
        9.30am: Muster for parade from the community centre to Streetly Methodist Church for a Remembrance Service
      • Bloxwich:
        Assume as previous years:
        9:30am: Muster for parade in Bloxwich Memorial Club in Harrison Street to the cenotaph on A34 High Street
      • Cannock:
        Assume as previous years:
        10:30am: Parade starts from South Staffordshire College to the Cenotaph for a 10:45am service
      • Chadsmoor:
        Assume as previous years:
        10:00am: Service at the Bethany Chapel before a ceremony at the War Memorial
      • Hednesford:
        Assume as previous years:
        9:45am: Service at St Peter’s Church, followed by a parade at 10.40am to the War Memorial
      • Brereton:
        Assume as previous years:
        9:00am: Parade leaves Brereton Social Club for a 9.15am service St Michael’s Church, followed by a parade at 10.40am to Brereton Cenotaph

We will Remember them.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Council, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delivering the goods

I have been proud to feature in past posts here the remarkable paintings of local artist Dave Dunkley of Rushall Station and level crossing and of Rushall Square as he remembered it from his youth.

Well, Dave’s been in touch again – Hello Dave! – with a painting he created some years ago – 1954, in fact – that he’d forgotten, but is of a scene once familiar to most people in the local area.

A lot of household deliveries were made in this way – and I know local ice cream empire the Pelari family also used to use a horse for transport. A wonderful original 1954 painting by Dave Dunkley.

Dave said:

Hi Bob,

I’m sorting out some old paintings I did years ago I found in the attic.

I came across this one I did which I had forgotten about. Milk float snow scene Birmingham Road on the Broadway, Walsall 1950’s.

It may be interesting to those who remember bread and milk delivered like this. I can.

Dave Dunkley

Dave, I really love your work, always happy to share your creations as I am doing today – your paintings evoke strong memories for people and are lovely images too, so what’s not to absolutely adore?

My thanks to Dave, then, and come on readers – what do you remember of milk, bread – perhaps coal – and other goods delivered by horse and cart?

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 | 2 Comments

Geof Harrington: A beautiful tribute by Martin Littler to an old friend

Following last week’s sad news of the passing of local historian, community stalwart, record breaking sprinter and Brownhills gentleman Geof Harrington, there has been an outpouring of sympathy and warm memories locally, particularly on social media.

I have known few pass who have sparked such warm tributes as Geof has: He was clearly a much loved and respected man. With that in mind I was contacted in the week by old pal of the blog Martin Littler, who’s compiled a lovely tribute video to his old pal and asked if I’d like to share it on the blog.

I am, of course, honoured to do that.

Martin wrote:

Hi Bob ,

I just had to put this Video together for a very special Man Geof Harrington.

He will truly be missed, a Man who live life to the full, I have always had the greatest respect for him as many in Brownhills have.

So if you could post it sometime either on your Brownhillsbob Blog or your facebook page as a small tribute to Geof only if you think it is appropriate at this time.

Kind regards
Martin Littler

Well, it certainly is appropriate Martin, and not only that, it’s beautiful, so thanks very much for this: A loving, respectful and beautiful tribute to a true and wonderful Brownhillian.

Several people have asked me about arrangements for Geof’s funeral, and as yet nothing has been announced as far as I know. If I am able I will share details here when and if appropriate.

My sympathies remain with Geof’s family and friends: Brownhills has lost a real gentleman of the old school who will be very much missed. Thank you to Martin for encapsulating that so well.

img20150504_12390919

Geof Harrington wins the semifinal of the Powderhall 130 yard professional sprint at Edinburgh on 1st January, 1951, setting a new world record of 11.85 seconds. Those faces – you can see the pain and triumph. Image from ‘Around Pelsall and Brownhills in old photos’ by David F. Vodden.

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Brownhills loses a hero and true son: In memoriam Geof Harrington

It saddens me greatly to share the awful news with readers that hugely respected elder statesman of Brownhills Geof Harrington – a record breaking athlete in his younger days – passed away in his sleep on Saturday 23rd October 2021. He was 99 years old, and a month short of his centenary.

I would like to express my deepest condolences to Geof’s family, friends and all who knew this kind, intelligent and dignified gentleman, and I’m certain that readers will join me in this. He was a great character, well known throughout the district and recognised by Walsall Council.

Geof was born here, lived in Brownhills all of his life, and was the recognised authority on local history matters.

This town and our community is very much the poorer for his passing but has also been greatly enriched by his community service, warmth and friendship.

I personally will miss seeing Geof about, will miss his jokes and messages on social media, and his warm but firm authority on historical matters. A real elder of the town has left us.

The thing Geof was probably best known for locally was holding the world record of 11.85 seconds for his remarkable sprint at the 1951 Powderhall Sprint: a remarkable run in extremely challenging conditions.

1951 Powderhall New Year Sprint – Geof Harrington setting a new world record of 11.85 seconds. Film cortesy of Geof Harrington and Chris Lawrence.

Geof was a remarkable man, an expert on local history, a true sportsman and professional referee and a keen indoor bowls competitor – but not only that, he was a noted local historian co-authoring the definitive photo history books of our area with Bill and Clarice Mayo, with whom he often gave historical talks.

If you’d like to share your memories of Geof, please do – comment on this post, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or find me on social media.

Here’s my previous article about Geof’s remarkable achievements and life, which was first posted on the blog in 2015:

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Geof Harrington from Brownhills wins the semifinal of the Powderhall 130 yard professional sprint at Edinburgh on 1st January, 1951, setting a new world record of 11.85 seconds. Those faces – you can see the pain and triumph. Image from ‘Around Pelsall and Brownhills in old photos’ by David F. Vodden.

Not many of my generation or younger would realise, but Brownhills has quite an illustrious sporting history – from the likes of top footballer Dicky Dorsett ‘The Brownhills Bomber’, to Cecil Poynton; we were home to notable motorcyclists, drivers and power-boaters.

What I wasn’t really aware of until I started running the blog was the sporting dynamo that is Geof Harrington. Geof, now in his 90s, was a top professional runner, and latterly a respected snooker and billiards referee.

If the name sounds familiar, Geof is also a noted local historian who worked on some of the best and most popular local history photo books, including “Memories of Old Brownhills’ and ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’, which he compiled with Clarice and Bill Mayo.

The young David Evans was kindly invited by Geof to talk about his sporting days, and Geof produced the following article he wrote a couple of years ago, which I’ve transcribed below, featuring images from Geof’s fascinating life.

We also have the video of Geof competing, and further archive press material to come – but at 3,000 words this article is a whopper already. The film really is something to look forward to.

I have immense respect for Geof, in his advanced years still an active member of the community and an example to us all. My thanks to David Evans, too, for pulling a whole bunch of stuff together.

Please, if you have any memories of Geof, or anything to add, please do so. Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

Geof Harrington wrote:

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Geof Harrington at home, as photographed by David Evans.

A short time ago an article about me was put on the internet concerning my running days. The article was first published in the Brownhills Gazette and was written by a good friend of mine Mr Albert Jobberns way back in the 1960s. I was born in New Road Brownhills in a small cottage one up two down and no hot water and no flushing toilet.

As quite a few people know, I have had a great life in sport.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

I won my first race when I was 4 years old, the prize was a new suit, I remember to this day going to a Mr Webb at the bottom of Chasetown for it. The event was at the Chase Miners Horticulture and Sports Day. In my school I won a great many races and helped my different schools win the Victor Luduram I was only beaten once in all my school days, that was by a lad named Norman Roberts, he was twice as big as I was, but he beat me. I shall never forget his name. The one race I remember was I ran in an hurdle race, had to give one lad that much start, they wouldn’t put him over the first hurdle so they put me back 5yds behind the start I still managed to win the race but no one could understand where I had come from. Most nights my mate Ken Green and myself would race each-other round the church walk just to help keep us fit and find something to do.

While at school I was in the school football team, and was also chosen to play for the district team.

I left school at 14 which in those days was the usual leaving age, and went to work at Birmingham, where I stayed until I was called up into the RAF, one good thing about it was I had to run to the fish shop every day, and that was one way of trying to keep fit. A lot of the time when we were on nights was spent in air raid shelter, due to the bombs dropping. I was one ofthe very lucky ones when I was in the RAF as I never saw an enemy until I came back to this Country, I was always attached to Maintenance Units. Most of my time was spent in helping to building Spitfires and Thunderbolts, which meant we were never anywhere near the action, I was pleased to say.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

When the war with Japan finished I was playing football for the station team Kankiara and the competition for the Generals cup was started again. This is a competition open to all South East Asia Command, not only did we enter, but we won it. The final was played at Calcuttta in front of a crowd of just over 6000, we won 2-1. The two things I remember about the semi final was the best player on our side broke his neck and I broke a small bone in my wrist, he had to be put in plaster from the top of his head to the bottom of his stomach, so he had to miss the final. I was lucky I played with an elastic bandage round my wrist, then after the final I had to have it put in plaster. I came home from India in 1947.

I could not get a job for quite a while due to the big freeze we had in 47-48, as everywhere was at a standstill. I did get a job in the finish, but by this time all the money I had off the RAF was gone.

It was about this time I started to take an interest in running again, told my uncle Jack about my running in India, but to this day I don’t think he believed me, and I had to prove to him I wasn’t telling lies. At this time in my life I didn’t think for one second I would finish up breaking a record that had stood for a 140 years, but I will come to that later on. The only place we could find to train was at the side ofthe railway track up by the Shant bridge by the Rising Sun, it was cinders and about l OOyds long. I ran between the end ofthe railway sleepers and the embankment, it was just over a couple of feet wide but it was ok as I always ran in a straight line.

The professional runners New Year Powderhall Sprint Handicap is the Blue ribbon of professional running. Some people may think a race on New Years day in the middle of winter as a foolish time of the year to race men over 130yds is silly, but an explanation here will put that point straight. Racing at new year calls for technique of the highest quality from the trainer and a strong spirit and determination from the athlete who is not long in finding out if he is strong in mind, physique and performance.

In 1948 my uncle Jack took me to run at Halifax, I was a complete novice and was cheated out of a £100 because I ran too fast, and the promoter said a novice couldn’t be as good as I was. So I had to go to the AAA at Birmingham, to prove I had never run as an amateur. This was when I was told by them, that no way would I be allowed to run for my country, because I had entered a profession race. And I was still pulled back 3yds. When I went back to Halifax the following week for the final, I came third. My uncle Jack was still set on me trying for The Powderhall Sprint. He took me up to Edinburgh on the last day ofthe year as the race was on the 1st-2nd January. I won my heat but I was beaten in the semifinal. This was January 1949.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

Unknown to me at the time a gentleman from Carlisle was watching me, and it wasn’t long before he sent a letter to G. Harrington Brownhills. it’s a good job the postman knew who I was, or I would never have got it. I am pleased I did.

He wanted to know if I would be interested in going to Carlisle for a couple of months with the idea of them training me to run for them at Powderhall. He came down to see me in the summer to talk about it, as there was a lot to consider, whether I could get the time off from work, how much they would give my wife for my loss of wages each week. We agreed on this and they said if I won they would give me £500, no matter how much they won, which to me way back in 1949 was like winning the football pools.

So I travelled up Carlisle at the start of November to start training for the race on the 1st-2nd January 1950. I thought I knew everything about running, until I met people who did it for a living, and I realised that I knew nothing.

First evening I was there I was taken to meet the gentleman who was finding the money, he was Chairman of Carlisle football club, Johnny Corriarie, he owned a big fish shop in Carlisle. Next day I went down to the football ground to have a look round, and met the great Bill Shankly who was the Manager at the time, but later with Liverpool became world famous, we remained very good friends with him until he passed away, most times when Liverpool were in the Midlands I would spend the Friday night with him.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

But back to what I had come to Carlisle for… From the very first day until we went to Edinburgh on the last day ofthe year, each day was exactly the same. Get out of bed at 8 o-clock, wash and dress ready for breakfast, which was always the same, Grilled lamb chop about the size ofyour hand with a small bone about the size of your thumb nail in it. We used to call them powder hall chops. Then there was a poached egg on top. After breakfast you were sent back to bed to rest for a couple hours before going to the gym to spend half an hour on a punch ball then get massaged. Then it was back to the house for a light lunch and back to bed, until it was time to go to the track to do what ever they decided was to be done that day. I have spent above one afternoon just practicingjust getting out of my holes, · as starting blocks were not allowed by Professionals in those days. Then back home for a good hot meal and way back to bed just before 6 o’clock to rest your legs, and you were there until the next morning. This was done every day, including Xmas day and Boxing day, but you really felt fit after 2 months. Sadly after all this I pulled a muscle in the Semi-final, I ran in the final, but it proved too big a handicap and I finished third.

I came home, and went back to work, but went to a Mr. Hipkiss in Birmingham who treated my leg, I have never had any more trouble with it. So I was invited to go back the following November to try again, unknown to me my sponsor and the trainer had words but it didn’t make any difference to me as I had the same arrangement as before. This time the sponsor was also the main trainer, he was also a Powderhall winner himself. The training was the same but I was massaged a lot more, which was a good job, because in the Semi-final I was drawn against the great Australian Eric Cummings, who the day before had run 9 yards inside evens. Every one thought the race was over, but he had to give me 4 yards and I proved just that bit too good for him, but I still maintain until Bolt came on the scene he was the greatest runner I ever saw in my life.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

So came the final, which was easy with Cummings out of the way, I set a new record which stood for a number of years. The record I had broken had stood for 140 years. I ran 122.5yds on an ash track covered in places by frozen water in 11.85 sec on January 2nd, which as you know is in middle of winter.

The prize money when I won was £150, today its £4000. In today’s money values I won for my sponsors very close to £250,000.

The year after I came home the Boss where I was working asked me to run an exhibition so I asked Freddy Kelly – he played centre forward for Walsall – if he would help, so we decided to run over 120yds, I gave him 9yds start, I had caught him before he had run 80yds. The comical thing about this was Alf Owen·sent Fred and myself £1 each.

A few months before I had won appox £10,000 for my two sponsors.

I ran one or two exibition races after, but never in competition.

After I finished running I turned to my old sport o f billiards and snooker. I played in the local snooker league for Ogley Hay Working Men’s Club. While playing for them I applied to for my Referees licence which I passed and became a top grade Billiard and Snooker referee.

In 1987 I was asked if I would like to referee the All England Amateur Snooker Final along with Vera Selby from Newcastle on Tyne, she was a former world champion herself. Of course I jumped at the chance, and went Bradford for a few days, which was quite enjoyable.

Later I travelled the country with The Staffs and West Midland Billiard team. To referee snooker is quite easy, but billiards is a different job, not only do you have to work with both players but have to keep two lots of numbers in your head at the same time, not just what their score is but how many different Hazards they have made.

It was just after this I was asked by Jim Chambers, a profession snooker player and Mr. John Pace another well known gentleman from Walsall if l would do the refereeing for them in Charity nights they were going to put on. They did one or two a year and this is how I got to know all the top players – Steve Davis, John Parrot, Alex Higgins, Steven Hendy, Mark Williams, Dennis Tayor, Jimmy White, Willie Thome, and lots more, not forgetting the greatest of them all Ronnie O’Sullivan, the night I refereed Ronnie he played 6 frames of snooker in 50 minutes, and had 5 breaks of between 103 and 126. My feet at the end were red hot! I also refereed John Parrot when a lad aged 10 beat him, the lad did knock in a break ofnearly 70, in fact John had my gloves of me when the lad had got up to about 30, and referee’d the game, as it was all for Charity every one enjoyed it. I can honestly say I had some great nights with them. I had finish doing it because my wife Nancy who I had been married to for 63 years had started with Vascular Dementia, so I had to help my daughter Margaret look after her. Sadly she passed away in August 2006.

I was lost for a couple of years but as we had no conversation with her for two years, I was used to the silence.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

Not long after this I was asked by a friend Alan Winters why didn’t I try the Tea Dance they held at the Memorial hall on a Friday afternoon, which I did, and thanks to Yvonne and quite a lot of other people not only did I enjoy the music but the company was great. Sadly I had to finish because my legs were causing me a lot of pain, but I still take my granddaughter Trudi on a Saturday night once a month, so I still see my old friends.

I now play Short mat indoor bowls on a Monday and Wednesday afternoon and enjoy it as I only have to hobble to the end ofthe mat to deliver my bowl then sit down again. Not only do I enjoy it, but it keeps your brain working and you still try to beat the other team.

A short time ago Mrs Noke and myself applied to the Big Lottery for a grant to start a bowling club at the Memorial Hall to help people who couldn’t get to the bowls on an afternoon to come and enjoy themselves on a Tuesday night. I am pleased to say they gave us a grant of £3,100 with which we were able to start a new club, some nights we get as many 16 to 18 people enjoying themselves.

As a youth I was always taught to try to win as nobody remembers who comes second. In 1950 at Powderhall I came third but no one remembers that. I was also taught at school to treat everyone with respect and in 99 times out of a I00 you will get respect back.

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Image generously donated by Geof Harrington.

When I came back to Brownhills after winning Powderhall, the Councillors at the time were so thrilled that someone had put Brownhills on the map they offered me the chose of having a new road named after me or having an Illuminated Address. I chose the later and it has hung on my wall for the last 64 years. The race was on the Gaumont British News – don’t forget TV had not long come out when I won, but my granddaughter Trudi got me a DVD of it a good many years later from America, in fact over 55 years later. But to me it was worth waiting for. Sadly my wife never saw it, as she had passed away but she was at Powderhall when I won.

I have been introduced to quite a lot of well-known people apart from the ones I have already told you about I met Larry Gains, boxing champion; Brian Bevan, Australian Rugby International; Ivor Broadis, Football English International; Mcdonald Bailey, Sprint champion; Barney Ewell, World and Olympic Sprint Champion.

In later years the two people I owe most to are my daughter and son-in-law who I could not do with-out, for my own safety they bath and shower me, and help me to dress, so you can see how I have managed to reach 93.

So as I have already written, I won my first race when I was four years old, and after 90 years I still try to be on the winning team even if it is only short mat bowling.

Posted in News | Tagged | 7 Comments

The final days of 4-44 Ogley Road and Seedhouse’s Farm

On the reverse: Annie Langford nee Nancy Wall -a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

On the reverse: Seedhouses’s farm – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Now I’m clearing some of the backlog and feeling much better, I thought it would be a good time to share some more of the remarkable images shared with David Evans by old friend of the blog, John Bird recording Brownhills houses marked for slum clearance in the 50s or 60s.

On the reverse: 4-44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

On the reverse: 4-44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Today it’s the turn of Ogley Road, and some real gems – including a couple of local ladies that will certainly bring back memories.

The backstory is that while I have been indisposed in recent months, David Evans has been beavering away on project with old friend of the blog and town elder John Bird: John has often sent me stuff to post here on a range of matters, both personally and in his capacity with the Royal British Legion, but what he’s given David to sort out is rather special: It’s a large collection of images of Brownhills housing due for postwar clearance.

David Wrote:

Hello Bob

Quite recently I received an amazing phone call. Mr John Bird, who is very well known locally for his fine work in the British Legion, invited me to see some photos he was sorting out.

An amazing collection of photos was presented to me. Mr. Bird had worked as Clearance Officer with Walsall Council some years ago and saw these photos that were put to be shredded. He was allowed to take them, so saving the history that they represent and document.

The images date back to the time of Brownhills Urban District Council and are original official photos, each measuring 21cm x 12cm and show properties that were due to be demolished. They also have the locations written in the same handwriting, and some have additional notes. They are a treasure in themselves, especially for the additional information on the reverse of the photos.

I would like to thank Mr John Bird for offering them and the history for us all to appreciate

kind regards
David

On the reverse: 4-44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

On the reverse: 4-44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

These images show the housing that was opposite the Warrener’s Arms, later the site of system panel-built Wimpey Maisonettes, themselves replaced 10 years ago with modern housing.

On the reverse: Arblaster’s extreme right – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

On the reverse: 4-44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

On the reverse: 4-44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

It’s so good to share mostly unpublished photos of a bit of Brownhills many will remember, but has long since gone. My thanks to John Bird for his immense generosity and to David, for scanning and documenting every image. Thanks so much to both gentlemen.

On the reverse: Margaret Holyman (later identified as her sister, Dorothy) – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Margaret in the image above is getting water from the outside tap, the only supply of fresh water for that terrace as far as I’m aware. Note the dog.

On the reverse: 4 (29 crossed out) – 44 Ogley Road – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

If you have any observations or memories, please do get in touch. Comment on this post preferably, or email me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com – or tug my coat wherever you may find me on social media.

It’s good to be back.

Posted in Environment | 11 Comments

A steamy affair… And it’s on today, too!

What makes these events is the people. The machines are just a bonus.

Yesterday (Saturday 16th October 2021) I took the pilgrimage up the A515 to the generally biannual Steam Party event at Klondyke Mill in Draycott in the Clay, home of the North Staffordshire and Cheshire Traction Engine Club – It’s an event I try to attend every year, either in the summer or the October.

It’s still on today (Sunday 17th) until 4pm, plenty of time to get up there!

Sadly, there hasn’t been an event since 2019 due to the pandemic – and indeed, this is the first such event I’ve  been able to attend since then. It’s great to see them back in action!

It’s quintessentially British, it’s a feast for mechanical geeks, people watchers and vintage buffs of all stripes. I always have a whale of a time geeking out over the machines.

There were traction engines in full steam driving around the yard, stationary engines, classic cars, tractors, land rovers and much more – it’s well worth a visit and the people are very friendly.

The twice yearly all-weekend ‘Steam Party’ is in normal times a regular event, and the next one is likely to be June 2022. It’s well worth a visit, but the entrance fee can be a shock if there’s a few of you; but the fuel alone isn’t cheap and the North Staffs and Cheshire Traction Engine Club need all the funds they can raise.

 

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost and found: The search for the war medals of a lost local hero

Some time ago I was proud and honoured to feature here the beautifully presented history of Richard Meanley Anson written by Desmond Burton, who was lost like so many local lads in the Battle of The Somme. Richard was Desmond’s Great Uncle, and Desmond has spent a great deal of time researching the history of his relative’s death. At that time, Richard’s medals were lost and Desmond had scant hope of locating them.

Richard Meanley Anson, wearing the uniform of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, British Columbia Regiment, in 1915 or 1916 – a face that could be lads today. Image from Desmond Burton.

Well, good news: The medals have been found, and are safely preserved now with Richard’s family, as Desmond Burton contacted me a few weeks ago to tell me. It seems this blog appears to have been some assistance in the finding, and for that tiny part in this remarkable story I feel a little proud.

Desmond wrote:

Dear Bob

Greetings from Anglesey! I’m sure you’ll remember the story of WWI victim Richard Meanley Anson and the help you gave me in 2016 to publicise it. Now I have managed to gather even more information.

Way back in 2002 Richard’s medals were deposited in a Cannock charity shop after the death of an elderly relative who’d looked after them for many years, and we thought they had been lost for ever. Well, with the help of fate, patience, and considerable good fortune, we have recently caught up with the medals and are finally reunited with them once again.

The medals now have a history of their own! I’ve put a few details into the article attached, which may be of some interest.

It’s a great outcome, and we’re much indebted to you for your help in publicising the story for us. This week will see the 105th anniversary of my great-uncle’s death.

Many thanks for this and for all the other good work you do for the community.  Hoping that you are now in better health.

Kind Regards
Desmond

Desmond sent the following account which is as beautifully written as ever, of how the medals were located. Thanks are due to Paul and Sandra Heath for their immense generosity and kind spirit in restoring, preserving and donating the medals back to the Burton family. I thank them personally for their humanity. I would draw attention to the footnote in Desmond’s article where he points out that the Heath family are trying to find medals for their own hero, Alfred John Heath – see below. Please help if you can.

If you can help, or have any other comment to add, please do. Comment on this post is best, but you can also mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tug my coat on social media. Thanks.

And thanks to Desmond for a great story, and the time taken to share it with us.

We have so many lost local lads. I will always endeavour to tell their stories: We will remember them.

Desmond Burton wrote:

Reunited after 19 years! – The search for Richard Meanley Anson’s WWI medals

Richard Meanley Anson was killed in September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme while serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was posthumously awarded three medals, which were delivered to his parents in Rushall. These were the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal 1914-1920, and the Victory Medal 1914- 1919. His parents were also awarded a Memorial Cross, a Canadian award intended as a memento for next-of-kin.

Richard’s medals: Image kindly supplied by Desmond Burton.

The Canadian Memorial Cross. Image kindly supplied by Desmond Burton.

After Richard’s mother Sarah died in January 1929 (his father had died in 1920), the medals needed a new home, and were passed on to his younger brother Eric and Eric’s wife Hannah. We know this because Eric and Hannah’s daughter, Sally Peltier, who sadly passed away in February 2021 in Belize, could remember very clearly seeing and handling them. At some stage, but probably after Eric died in 1973, Hannah decided that the medals should go to the family of Richard’s youngest brother Bernard. Her reasoning was that the elder of Bernard and Mildred’s two sons, born in 1923, was entitled to them because he had been named Richard Meanley in memory of the war victim. Sally was clearly very unhappy about this, and her fears were later well justified. She wrote to me in August 2020: I was just so annoyed that my mother wanted to send them to Dickie Anson; I knew none of them would care about them but she insisted that Richard Anson should have Richard Anson’s medals.

In 1966 Mildred’s husband Bernard died, leaving her and their two sons. The elder son predeceased his mother, passing away in 1994, leaving the younger son Robert and Robert’s two daughters as, we presume, the last of the line. The medals, it seems, remained with Mildred and were never passed on to Robert, who died in 2017.

In March 2002, just a few days before her 102nd birthday, Mildred Anson, having lived in Cannock for many years, passed away in Stafford Hospital. Mildred’s house in Cannock was speedily cleared out by, we presume, Robert. Much of the contents, and perhaps even the house itself, was handed over to the BHF shop in Cannock, and we believe that this was Mildred’s wish, even though no official will has been found. The contents included the medals, as well as other family items and photographs. They were very quickly sold!

By a massive stroke of good fortune, the medals were snapped up by a local couple, Paul and Sanda Heath. Paul immediately posted a short message on a family tree research site (Staffordshire Roots) asking for any information about Richard and including an email contact. Unfortunately, it was not until 9 years later, in 2011, that I started my own family research and came across Paul’s message. By that time, Paul had retired, and he and Sandra had moved to a different part of the country and also changed their email address. Hope of tracking down the medals was not so high, and it became just a matter of waiting. I continued my research, and in 2016, BrownhillsBob very kindly publicised my booklet about Richard Meanley Anson’s life.

Fast forward another 4 years to 2020, and finally Paul (sadly, not a regular BrownhillsBobber!) saw my posting, leaving a note and a new email address for me. Within 24 hours Paul and I were chatting on the phone and exchanging information and pictures! Before she passed away in Belize in March 2021, Eric’s daughter Sally was delighted to learn that the medals had finally been rediscovered, and in her very last message to me wrote: It was a nice surprise to hear from you and really amazing that uncle Dick’s medals are safe and well and well cared for! … It is really great news; I can’t really get over it. I expect you feel the same.

The framed medals and memorial to Richard Meanley Anson: Home at last.Image kindly supplied by Desmond Burton.

In August 2021, with lockdowns and travel restrictions eased, we were finally able to visit Paul and Sandra and see the medals with our own eyes. What a beautiful job of restoring and displaying them they have done, and how fortunate that the medals fell into their hands! We cannot thank them enough. But they have gone even further in their generosity by pressing us to take the medals back so that they can be kept in a branch of the family which, we trust, will never again deposit them in a charity shop! We intend to make sure they are on show to anyone who wishes to see them.

Paul & Sandra Heath, with Desmond & Porjai Burton, August 2021. Image kindly supplied by Desmond Burton.

Postscript: By finding and restoring my great uncle’s medals, Paul and Sandra have shown us great generosity. Paul is now searching for his grandfather’s war medals, and I’d like to join him in the search. The basic details of his grandfather are:

Alfred John Heath
Army No A3437
Regiment KRRC
Rank Rfn

Anyone like to join in the hunt? As Paul says: You never know, they may be out there somewhere.

Posted in Environment | 9 Comments

Boys and Girls…

Walsall Wood football team around 1959 – Image kindly supplied by Pat Ward.

As I struggle to catch up with material sent in to the blog, here’s a great post for a Sunday from Pat Ward, who’s a long term reader and lady we’ve previously helped with family history matters here one the blog.

Pat ages ago sent me some local football pictures showing local football teams containing members of her family, but also a couple of crackers from Ogley Hay Girls School, an enduringly popular topic with readers.

Brownhills West Y.C. which beat English Electric Apprentices by 1-0 in the Staffordshire Service Youth Final at Cannock Festival Stadium. Unknown date. Image kindly supplied by Pat Ward.

Pat explains the football pictures:

Hi Bob,

The 1st Picture is of Walsall Wood football team around 1959.

2nd is The  Brownhills West Y.C. which beat English Electric Apprentices by 1-0 in the Staffordshire Service Youth Final at Cannock Festival Stadium. Don’t know what date.

3rd is of Rose Villa (Locals called it the Goat) Hednesford Road, Brownhills. Don’t know that date either.

My late husband Harold Ward is on all of the above and 2 of his brothers are on the 3rd also.

The 4th Photo is 1936/7  Wimblebury White Star football team they are seen with two major trophies of the season, the Lichfield League Championship and the Lichfield Charity Cup. This photo has my husbands father Harold Ward on.

Hope the above will be of interest to you and your bloggers.

Pat Ward

Rose Villa football team – locals called it the Goat, Hednesford Road, Brownhills. Don’t know that date [I’d say 1970s from fashions and hair – Bob]. Image kindly supplied by Pat Ward.

I hat no idea Rose Villa had a football team! There were so many local teams at that time: However, it’s good to see a recent resurgence in football in Brownhills in particular recently with Brownhills Colts and Brownhills West United teams doing well.

1936/7 Wimblebury White Star football team seen with two major trophies of the season, the Lichfield League Championship and the Lichfield Charity Cup. This photo features Pat’s father in law, Harold Ward. Image kindly supplied by Pat Ward.

It would be great if someone cold locate a better quality copy of the above clipping if possible if it’s in the news archive: I believe this reproduction was a reprint from the Chase Post.

And on to the ladies…

School drama at Ogley Hay Girls School in the late 1940s – a lovely image kindly supplied by Pat Ward. From left to right is Marjorie Richards, Pat Smith, Me, Pat Ward holding the fish (I think it still had the wrapper on)  Yvonne Gough, Sheila Adlam, Madeline Westwood and Sheila Thomas.

Hi Bob,

After seeing your Blog on Ogley Hay Schools are thought I would write and tell you that I went to all three schools, Infant from 1945, Juniors then Senior Girls.

In the Senior Girls the whole school was split into teams Nightingale, Fry and Summerville I think there may have been another one but I can’t think what it was.

I have included two photos that were taken at the Senior Girls about 1953/4.

The first one was of a play that we performed on stage but they wanted us to go into the playing field attached to the school and act a scene from the play.

It was called the Bloaters this was about a family and the terrible smell in the room which eventually was found to be the fish (bloaters)  in the piano stool.

From left to right is Marjorie Richards, Pat Smith, Me holding the fish ( I think it still had the wrapper on )  Yvonne Gough, Sheila Adlam, Madeline Westwood and Sheila Thomas.

Everyone in this photo would be 82 years of age this year.

The second photo is of the whole Nightingale group of the school I think there  would be four classes in this picture the teacher on the right of the picture is Mrs. Strong she taught us needlework in the classroom behind us as for the other teacher I have forgotten her name, maybe someone will recognise her and tell us her name.

Hope this will be of interest to you and your bloggers.

Pat Ward (nee Hadley)

Have to say these are remarkable images and I hope they jog some memories. I love the one of the performance: Somehow very evocative of the period, but I can’t put my finger on quite why.

My immense thanks to Pat for lovely images and my apologies for the delay in featuring them here.

If these pictures have triggered memories or questions, do please get in touch: You can comment on this post, mail me on BorwnhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media.

The whole Nightingale group of the school I think there  would be four classes in this picture the teacher on the right of the picture is Mrs. Strong. A great Ogley Hate Girls School image from Pat Ward.

Posted in Environment | 2 Comments

Former Shire Oak Pupils Celebrate with a 6 decade reunion!

Mick Jobburns, Robert Hopcroft and Derek Broadhurst planting the Oak Sapling – Image kindly supplied by Mick Jobburns.

It’s always great to hear from folks having school and workplace reunions, and I was very impressed to see the well organised and attended celebration of the first Shire Oak Grammar School intake in 1961.

It was held on 4th September at the school, organised by former pupil Mick Jobburns and his friends and was very popular.

Mick is keen to reach out to other former schoolmates and teachers with a view to future events, who may not have been aware of this reunion.

Mick wrote to tell me about it:

Shire Oak Grammar School 60 Year Reunion

On Saturday September 4th 2021 a reunion was held at Shire Oak Academy for the initial intake at Shire Oak Grammar School in 1961.

The event was attended by approximately 60 pupils and one teacher, Mr Relph James.

Mr James came over from France and former pupils came from all over the UK. Prior to the reunion an Oak Sapling was planted in the school’s Memorial Garden to commemorate pupils and teachers who are no longer with us. Over a period of months the organising committee of Mick Jobburns, Derek Broadhurst, David Hughes and Robert Hopcroft traced as many people as they could.

The afternoon comprised a running buffet, slideshow, Zoom virtual reunion for people unable to attend and guided tours of the school. Conversation was free flowing and numerous school freindships were renewed.

Shire Oak Academy and particularly Sara Read were unstinting in their support giving us the venue, equipment and time free of charge.

The day was that much of a success that there were calls to repeat it as soon as possible.

The two photographs show Mick Jobburns, Robert Hopcroft and Derek Broadhurst planting the Oak Sapling and a group enjoying the festivities.

Regards
Mick Jobburns

Thanks to Mick for telling us all about this, and if you were in the 1961/62 intake and would like to hook up with your former schoolmates and haven’t already, please do comment here on this post or mail me at BrownhillsBob at Googlemal dot com and I’ll hook you up with the gang.

Enjoying the reunion which seems to have been a great event. Image kindly supplied by Mick Jobburns.

Posted in Environment | 2 Comments

In memoriam, Mr. Ian Pell

I have some very tragic news for blog readers that I have to share, but which has saddened me greatly: Ben Spears contacted me in the week to inform me that local rail expert and historian, many times contributor the this blog, Ian Pell, passed away at the beginning of September.

Ben said:

Many of you will be aware of Mr Ian Pell either personally or by his contributions to the likes of Brownhills Bob’s blog.

Sad to report that Ian passed away on 3rd September this year. He was, to many, simply Mr South Staffs. His research took the level of knowledge of this little known backwater from nearly nothing to being one of the best documented lines in the country.

His archive is truly immense. He was always willing to share this information with anyone who asked and was equally delighted if you found something new to pass on to him.

I have had the pleasure of knowing him for the last nine years and will no longer be able to ‘Ask Ian’ should I need to know something.

Ian will be missed by many of us.

Ian was one of the contributors here that I felt truly honoured to feature the work of: He was a brilliant, informative and concise writer, who nonetheless still filled his writing with colour, character and great warmth, as well as truly amazing levels of technical detail.

I will miss Ian greatly for another reason: His immense humility. Ian was approachable, friendly and always ready to help, often spontaneously contributing wonderful articles that must have taken hours to write.

Ian was a great rarity in local history – he was not a gatekeeper or in the slightest hostile to other historians or indeed, their opinions. He was instantly likeable and a very affable, but knowledgeable man.

This blog will be very much the poorer for the passing of Ian Pell and my heart and condolences go out to his family and friends. We truly have lost ‘Mr. South Staffs’.

Rest in peace, Ian. one day we may meet again on the up platform of Brownhills, doubtlessly waiting on a late steamer, reflecting on the signalling arrangements at Highbridge Junction.

For a measure of this immense man, I include the text of my favourite Ian Pell article, written in 2018, below.

Brnach Line Summers Fade

1938 1:25,000 mapping showing the Leighswood Branch highlighted in purple. Click for a larger version. Imagery from the NLS archive.

I always love expanding railway threads here on the blog – and it’s always great to hear from local railway historian and expert Ian Pell.

A few weeks ago I featured a request here by Simon Swain for images and memories of the Chase Line, currently being electrified. On that post, long term reader and old blog friend Fawlty commented, recalling his memories of the lost Leighswood branch.

He said:

I believe the line closed to passenger traffic in 1965. I used to travel from Pelsall railway station to Derby, via Lichfield and Burton, to go trainspotting in the early 60s. Used to spend some time in the signal box at Leighswood Junction, which was at the back of Victor Street, where the signalman lived. There was always a good coal fire in the Winter. I remember being allowed on the footplate of 70000, when it stopped at the box hauling freight. Couldn’t believe my luck! Happy days.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BR_Standard_Class_7_70000_Britannia

There was a footbridge near the signal box, near the branch to Aldridge, which ran through Shelfield and under Four Crosses Road and the Lichfield Road, via Aldridge brickworks. That branch was closed to passenger traffic a long time ago, but I remember the track still being down in 1963/4.

There was another footbridge at Pelsall Station. I remember finding a 10 shilling note in Station Road when I was walking home after one of my spotting trips! The line was closed to freight around 1984. The track lasted a while after that but was eventually lifted. Sad loss to the community in my opinion.

In response to this, Ian Pell has Kindly put together a potted history of the Leighswood Branch and some lovely memories of a childhood spend hanging around the line.

I’d like to thank Ian for yet another expert article on railway local history, which I’m flattered and honoured to feature it here. If you have anything to add to this, please do feel free: Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Ian Pell wrote:

Hi Bob

Fawlty’s comments regarding Leighswood Sidings brought some memories flooding back.  As such please find attached some observations regarding the box and the branch line.  As I’m sure you can appreciate these are only a very small amount of the detail, as the branch was exceedingly busy in its heyday with mainly bricks goning out from the clay works at Aldridge and Stubbers Green; Empire and Atlas to name a few.

Both the Chase line and the South Staffs main line lost their passenger traffic in January 1965, although the platform were retained until the 1970’s.  Occasionally, they were still used for Sunday school outings or Miners holiday trains to Rhyl or Blackpool.

While the Chase line remains open to this day with a reinstated passenger service (ironically not much freight these days) the main line was closed between Ryecroft Junction and Anglesea Sidings (Brownhills) in March 1984 and the remainder north to Lichfield City in 2005; almost four years after the last revenue traffic of oil.  In that time they did manage to build a bridge over the Toll Road!  Since, the bridge to the Lichfield South by-pass has also been completed. Totally daft if the line is never to be reinstated – but there we go.

A larger view of Leigh’s Wood Junction and footbridge at Heath End from the 1938 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey draft. Click for larger version. Imagery from NLS Archive.

Will never forget the happy times at Leighswood, whether watching the trains; playing cricket at the Cricket and Sports (right next to the line); or watching the Villa (Pelsall Villa) playing football behind the pub I believe my great, great grandfather ran.  My grandfather was teetotal, but that’s another story.

All the best
Kindest regards
Ian

Leighswood Sidings and the Branch – some milestones, highlights, losses and memories.

  • 1878 14 Nov Leighs Wood Branch opened (freight only).Inspection of completed works (ready on above date) requested by LNWR on 5 Nov 1878, accompanied by drawing from Stafford Engineer’s Office dated 10 Oct 1878, approved by Crewe 31 Oct 1878.
    ref:- mt6/236/2Leighswood Mineral Branch opened [14th November], worked by Leighswood Colliery Co.’s locomotives. L&NW locomotives commence to work the line 1.4.1880 and Colliery Co locomotives withdrawn from line
    14.6.1880 SLS

I would imagine few realise now that a busy goods railway uses to run through this triangle of gras between Four Crosses Road and the Lichfield Road in SHelfield. Image from my 365days journal.

  • 1880 13 April It was reported that from the 1st inst the London and North Western engines had worked over the Leighswood Colliery Branch to and from the Aldridge Colliery and Victoria Brickworks : the Leighswood Colliery Company continuing to work their own traffic to the junction with the main line. The line is to be worked under the train staff regulations, and a signalman has been appointed on the Branch for regulating the train staff. The wages of the man to be paid by the Colliery Company. The earnings to be reported in six months.
    LNW Minutes Off 20650
  • 1903 Nov Cabins and Apparatus completed:- Leighswood Siding – 1 cabin and apparatus with 16 levers.
    LNW Minutes LC 20624
  • 1950-60’s Richard (Dick) Burrows signalman. LNW Nameplate, central on the front of the box, has yet to be replaced by LMR one on the gable end. They were replaced as and when the box was re-decorated. Some of the longer names remained in their original positions and were not replace, i.e. Norton Junction No.3.
  • 1960 31 Dec Leighswood Branch closed to traffic
    Closed lines, 6080
  • Line through Shelfield to Aldridge brickworks closed ref.1960.098 closed lines originally to serve Leighswood colliery, Aldridge. Worked by token from Leighswood Sdgs.
    Ref 6080
  • 1960-63 WTTs illustrate workings on the branch for period June 1960 – June 1961. Branch still shown in 1961-1962 WTTs but with no workings. In 1962-1963 WTTs no longer shown in timetables.  (WTT – Working Timetables for freight trains)
  • 1964 25 July The Leighswood Branch will be taken away from a point approximately 270 yards from the connection with No.2 siding and the portion remaining will become sidings. The ‘One engine in steam’ working from Leighswood Siding box to Aldridge Brickworks will be withdrawn. (WE1:30: Saturday 25-7-1964), also clinker 208
  • 1964 Oct Leighswood Branch “officially” closed. Remaining shunt spur closed

Between the branch and the sidings, Dec 1962-3. Main line at the top of photo heading towards Pelsall. Footpath is between Heath End and Fordbrook Lane. Image supplied by Ian Pell.

  • 1965 13 May MOT objected to closure of the Leighswood Branch in a letter to GM, Euston following closure request dated 19th February 1965. The reason was that the Minister was awaiting the outcome of a report -“Transportation study for the West Midlands” – prior to receiving further advice”.Comment: Once again, while matters proceeded on the ground, the reality was that authorisation for the line to be destroyed was still awaited from the MOT !
  • 1965 26 Aug Leighswood Sidings Signal Box closed
  • 1967 1 Oct Points and crossings removed between 9 & 91/4 mp. (Leighswood Sidings).
    WE1/41 30-9-67
  • 1967 1 Oct Recovery of sidings between 9 and 91/4 mp. (Leighswood Sidings).
    WE1/41 30-9-67

Leighswood Sdgs SB 1966 – note:- signal box nameplate removed J. Haddock-ip col. Image supplied by Ian Pell.

Epilogue

Next to the “Jungle” (Norton Junction), this was the place to come. I imagine that in its heyday the line was a hive of activity, being an ideal exit route for bricks, especially those destined to be used by the railway companies along the length and breadth of Britain. For many years the ex-MR Johnson’s 0-6-0’s were the staple fare for the branch line workings; attacking with vigour the rising gradient all the way from the various brickyards to the sidings at the main line. There was a deafening roar as they charged up under the Lichfield Road and Spring Cottage bridges at Shelfield with their fully laiden loads. At Leighswood sidings the signalman often had a friendly greeting and on many occasions beckoned for us to join him in the box. There we would sit on the train register desk and watch the comings and goings. In later years this often involved condemned stock or cripples, waiting their turn at South Staffs Wagon Co. at Bloomfield Basin or the BR Wagon repair depot at Vauxhall; these being moved to and from the sidings at regular intervals. One day we were sitting on the footbridge when a convoy of very tired and weather-worn WDs approached from the Brownhills direction. It was plain to see they were in trouble with the lead WD leaking steam from everywhere. The points were changed to direct the sorry convoy into the sidings, and on reaching the safety of the sidings the WD’s boiler gave what appeared to be a large sigh and the front bogie wheels literally fell off. There these fallen work horses remained for several days before they continued on to be their fate; I believe at Arnotts in Bilston.

On many occasions the signalman would let us pull the Pelsall home starter off. This signal also had the Ryder’s Hayes distant signal attached. It was quite a way from Leighswood box and difficult to see and so a repeater in a small round box was provided in the cabin. We would often watch with delight as this returned to the danger position as its larger companion dropped in the haze of a summer’s evening.

We watched as the branch line became derelict and overgrown and enjoy adventures daring to venture down its length to the murky black holes of the clay pits; imagining we could hear a train coming towards us, but none came. Then the tracks were ripped up, leaving only the sidings at the junction. Eventually, the passenger trains were withdrawn and the signal box closed, no longer offering us a ‘home from home’, and so we gathered on the footbridge which itself was beginning to look worse for wear. Gaps in the wooden posts began to appear, rotten floor planks had to be replaced, and yet it always seemed a welcoming place to enjoy a summer’s afternoon watching the trains. Brits, such as “Flying Dustbin” and “Ruddy Kippers” passing by on afternoon parcels became all too soon memories. The footbridge was replaced with an enclosed version. We no longer visited.

Ian Pell
Jan 2017

Wd/iep/South Staffs rails/line hist-docs-Leighswood Branch – 270117 part 4
©iep-south staffs 2017

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Chasewater, Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | 6 Comments

Brownhills Canal Festival returns this weekend!

I’m so thrilled to share with you all that Brownhills Canal Festival returns this weekend for two days – today, Saturday 18th and tomorrow, Sunday 19th September 2021 – and is hosted by the wonderful Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust.

This promises to be a great event in the tradition of these at Brownhills over the years, and it’s great to have The Trust take on the mantle. Here’s all the info you need, and updates can be seen on the event’s web page here and Facebook page here – please, do send in photos of your visit. It’s so good to be advertising outdoor events once more.

Brownhills Canal Festival in 2019. Image from L&HCRT.

Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust wrote:

Brownhills Canal Festival 2021
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September

We are bringing back the Brownhills Canal Festival after a few years’ absence, with the last event hosted by the BCN Society in 2019.

We were approached by Brownhills resident (and LHCRT member) Malcolm Littler, who asked if we could help arrange the festival. As Brownhills is at the top end of the Lichfield Canal it made sense for us to help out, promote Brownhills as a canal town, raise awareness of the link the Lichfield Canal will bring to the canal network and to Brownhills, and create a fun weekend for everyone. Traditionally held in the summer, we have chosen September for the event.

There will be floating traders, historic boats, trade stalls and charity stalls and other attractions:

Trading Boats

  • Creature Comforts   Fairy houses gnome wizards witches belt key rings necklaces and bracelets
  • Wandering Snail   Hand carved wooden goods and hand woven scarves, all made on board
  • Just imagine   Personalized items and kids toys
  • Adrastea and Nebular   Pic n mix sweets, embroidered cushions and gifts, boat chandlery items
  • Senior Moment   Fudge, honeycomb
  • Lazy Daze    Painted canal ware, canalia ie, tea towels, model boats
  • That’s D’riculous   Waxed Cheese Truckles  (Printed ceramic mugs to prior orders)

Stalls

  • Candy Cabin   Fudge and sweets
  • The Royal Party   Entertainers
  • Midland International Aid Trust – WASUP Project   World Against Single Use Plastic
  • Snug as a bug crafts   Fairy houses gnome wizards witches belt key rings necklaces and bracelets
  • 5th Brownhills guides   Girl Guides car boot style things.
  • Edens Weigh   Soaps, plastic alternatives, preweighed vegan sweets and fudge, (Sunday only)
  • Bubbles & Beauty    Bath bombs, soaps, shower whips and scrubs, soap sponges, salt soaks2
  • Mindys Projects   Wire wrapped jewellery and gemstone trees
  • 5th. Brownhills Brownies   Tombola and bric-a-brac to raise funds and promote local Girl Guiding. .
  • BCN Society   Promoting canals of Birmingham and Black Country, books & maps, crafts and homemade jams
  • LHCRT     Information stall, raffle tickets, calendars and other items, all to support the canal restoration
  • Champion Pet Services   Natural dog treats
  • Lmor Creations   Paua Shell (abalone) Jewellery: Pendants, Earrings, Bangles, Bracelets, Brooches, Cufflinks Rings and Pill boxes
  • Lily creations   hand painted and hand printed original  eco friendly jute bags, mugs,slate, keyrings, other gift wear and T shirts
  • Jan’s Jewellery   Handmade jewellery
  • T.S Vigo Navy Cadet Force   To recruit new cadets
  • Clare’s Arty Craft   Pebble frames and canvases, clay hangers, resin trinkets and teddies, small keyrings
  • Hillwood Gifts   Gifts  (Sunday only)
  • Brownhills Christmas Tree Appeal in partnership with Brownhills Community Association Christmas related items and tombola to raise funds for the appeal (Saturday only)
  • The Backyard Brewhouse
  • Dan’s Ices     Ice Cream van
  • Scents So Sweet     (Saturday only)

Activities

  • Staffordshire Portable Amateur Radio Club     Listen in as SPARC radio amateurs speak live to people from all over the world
  • Royal Sutton Coldfield Canoe Club   Paddlesport sessions on Sunday 19th (only) from 10am to 2pm (last paddler on the water at 1pm). Sessions cost £5 and will be booked on a first come first served basis. Coaches and Instructors will support paddlers on the water.
    (Wear old clothes, old trainers, NO JEANS and a change of clothes plus a towel is advised just in case!)

Brownhills Canal Festival in 2019. Image from L&HCRT.

Historic Boats

  • Purton Built in 1936 at W. M. Yarwoods and Son on the River Weaver for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co. Ltd. One of 28 Town Class Boats known as Large Northwiches. She remained in long distance carrying until 1962 mainly carrying coal from the North to London area. In 1962 she went into the British Waterways maintenance fleet, in the North East. She was shortened to her present length of 57ft 6ins and she also had the National Engine replaced with the current Lister and a new back cabin.
  • Marquis Built in 1898 by Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. at Salter, Birmingham as a steam powered narrow boat. She was converted to diesel in 1927 and sold to J. Holloway of Oldbury in 1942. At this time, she was renamed SALLY. In 1957, she was shortened by the Harris Brothers of Netherton to a tug and re-named CALYPSO. In 1963, she was sold out of service. She is the oldest surviving iron motor narrowboat with an original stern. Her engine is now a Lister FR 3.
  • Darley Built by Harland & Wolff Ltd. at Woolwich in 1937. She was commissioned by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company Ltd. and named after Darley Dale and was initially intended for pairing with the butty, DENTON. She carried loads from Birmingham to London until the advent of nationalisation in 1948 when British Waterways took over and kept her until 1962. She was sold for use as a dredger and approximately 15 feet was cut from her bow. The present owner purchased the two halves in 1982 and restored her to her original condition with work on the bottom, footings and cabin.
  • Cassiopeia Built in 1935 by Harland & Wolff at Woolwich for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. She is one of 24 iron composite pairs and her class is Small Woolwich Star. She remained with the GUCCC until the British Transport Commission took control in 1947. They re-engined her with her present engine in 1958. During the years 1944 to 1963, she remained in the hands of one family. Thereafter, she passed into private ownership but continued to carry cargoes.
  • Whitby Built as a cargo vessel by W J Yarwood, & Sons Ltd, Northwich and was completed in 1938. In the 1970s, Whitby worked for Three Fellows Carrying on the gravel contract on the River Soar at Thurmaston. She was restored by the current owner in 2009, bringing her back to near original condition. Over 1000 5/8th rivets were used during the works. Following restoration in 2009, she went on to win the NBOC’s John Hemleryk Award.

Please note – all Trader and Boat spaces are now fully booked.

See also the Event Facebook Page for all the latest news.


Brownhills Canal Festival
Silver St,  Brownhills,  Walsall WS8 6DZ
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September 2021
10am to 4pm
Free admission

Posted in Environment | 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 15th September 2021, starting from Brownhills Community Centre car park (the old Annex or Central Boys School, just off the Miner Island in the heart of Brownhills) at 1:15pm for a 1:30pm departure.

Full social distancing and covid safety procedures will be observed in line with current rules.

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

Brownhills Canal Festival returns for 2021 next weekend!

Due to the nature of this strange pandemic year, I’ve held off advertising this one until I’m absolutely sure it’s going ahead, but I’m so thrilled to share with you all that Brownhills Canal Festival returns next weekend for two days – Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September 2021 – and is hosted by the wonderful Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust.

This promises to be a great event in the tradition of these at Brownhills over the years, and it’s great to have The Trust take on the mantle. Here’s all the info you need, and updates can be seen on the event’s web page here and Facebook page here – please, do send in photos of your visit. It’s so good to be advertising outdoor events once more.

Brownhills Canal Festival in 2019. Image from L&HCRT.

Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust wrote:

Brownhills Canal Festival 2021
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September

We are bringing back the Brownhills Canal Festival after a few years’ absence, with the last event hosted by the BCN Society in 2019.

We were approached by Brownhills resident (and LHCRT member) Malcolm Littler, who asked if we could help arrange the festival. As Brownhills is at the top end of the Lichfield Canal it made sense for us to help out, promote Brownhills as a canal town, raise awareness of the link the Lichfield Canal will bring to the canal network and to Brownhills, and create a fun weekend for everyone. Traditionally held in the summer, we have chosen September for the event.

There will be floating traders, historic boats, trade stalls and charity stalls and other attractions:

Trading Boats

  • Creature Comforts   Fairy houses gnome wizards witches belt key rings necklaces and bracelets
  • Wandering Snail   Hand carved wooden goods and hand woven scarves, all made on board
  • Just imagine   Personalized items and kids toys
  • Adrastea and Nebular   Pic n mix sweets, embroidered cushions and gifts, boat chandlery items
  • Senior Moment   Fudge, honeycomb
  • Lazy Daze    Painted canal ware, canalia ie, tea towels, model boats
  • That’s D’riculous   Waxed Cheese Truckles  (Printed ceramic mugs to prior orders)

Stalls

  • Candy Cabin   Fudge and sweets
  • The Royal Party   Entertainers
  • Midland International Aid Trust – WASUP Project   World Against Single Use Plastic
  • Snug as a bug crafts   Fairy houses gnome wizards witches belt key rings necklaces and bracelets
  • 5th Brownhills guides   Girl Guides car boot style things.
  • Edens Weigh   Soaps, plastic alternatives, preweighed vegan sweets and fudge, (Sunday only)
  • Bubbles & Beauty    Bath bombs, soaps, shower whips and scrubs, soap sponges, salt soaks2
  • Mindys Projects   Wire wrapped jewellery and gemstone trees
  • 5th. Brownhills Brownies   Tombola and bric-a-brac to raise funds and promote local Girl Guiding. .
  • BCN Society   Promoting canals of Birmingham and Black Country, books & maps, crafts and homemade jams
  • LHCRT     Information stall, raffle tickets, calendars and other items, all to support the canal restoration
  • Champion Pet Services   Natural dog treats
  • Lmor Creations   Paua Shell (abalone) Jewellery: Pendants, Earrings, Bangles, Bracelets, Brooches, Cufflinks Rings and Pill boxes
  • Lily creations   hand painted and hand printed original  eco friendly jute bags, mugs,slate, keyrings, other gift wear and T shirts
  • Jan’s Jewellery   Handmade jewellery
  • T.S Vigo Navy Cadet Force   To recruit new cadets
  • Clare’s Arty Craft   Pebble frames and canvases, clay hangers, resin trinkets and teddies, small keyrings
  • Hillwood Gifts   Gifts  (Sunday only)
  • Brownhills Christmas Tree Appeal in partnership with Brownhills Community Association Christmas related items and tombola to raise funds for the appeal (Saturday only)
  • The Backyard Brewhouse
  • Dan’s Ices     Ice Cream van
  • Scents So Sweet     (Saturday only)

Activities

  • Staffordshire Portable Amateur Radio Club     Listen in as SPARC radio amateurs speak live to people from all over the world
  • Royal Sutton Coldfield Canoe Club   Paddlesport sessions on Sunday 19th (only) from 10am to 2pm (last paddler on the water at 1pm). Sessions cost £5 and will be booked on a first come first served basis. Coaches and Instructors will support paddlers on the water.
    (Wear old clothes, old trainers, NO JEANS and a change of clothes plus a towel is advised just in case!)

Brownhills Canal Festival in 2019. Image from L&HCRT.

Historic Boats

  • Purton Built in 1936 at W. M. Yarwoods and Son on the River Weaver for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Co. Ltd. One of 28 Town Class Boats known as Large Northwiches. She remained in long distance carrying until 1962 mainly carrying coal from the North to London area. In 1962 she went into the British Waterways maintenance fleet, in the North East. She was shortened to her present length of 57ft 6ins and she also had the National Engine replaced with the current Lister and a new back cabin.
  • Marquis Built in 1898 by Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. at Salter, Birmingham as a steam powered narrow boat. She was converted to diesel in 1927 and sold to J. Holloway of Oldbury in 1942. At this time, she was renamed SALLY. In 1957, she was shortened by the Harris Brothers of Netherton to a tug and re-named CALYPSO. In 1963, she was sold out of service. She is the oldest surviving iron motor narrowboat with an original stern. Her engine is now a Lister FR 3.
  • Darley Built by Harland & Wolff Ltd. at Woolwich in 1937. She was commissioned by the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company Ltd. and named after Darley Dale and was initially intended for pairing with the butty, DENTON. She carried loads from Birmingham to London until the advent of nationalisation in 1948 when British Waterways took over and kept her until 1962. She was sold for use as a dredger and approximately 15 feet was cut from her bow. The present owner purchased the two halves in 1982 and restored her to her original condition with work on the bottom, footings and cabin.
  • Cassiopeia Built in 1935 by Harland & Wolff at Woolwich for the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company. She is one of 24 iron composite pairs and her class is Small Woolwich Star. She remained with the GUCCC until the British Transport Commission took control in 1947. They re-engined her with her present engine in 1958. During the years 1944 to 1963, she remained in the hands of one family. Thereafter, she passed into private ownership but continued to carry cargoes.
  • Whitby Built as a cargo vessel by W J Yarwood, & Sons Ltd, Northwich and was completed in 1938. In the 1970s, Whitby worked for Three Fellows Carrying on the gravel contract on the River Soar at Thurmaston. She was restored by the current owner in 2009, bringing her back to near original condition. Over 1000 5/8th rivets were used during the works. Following restoration in 2009, she went on to win the NBOC’s John Hemleryk Award.

Please note – all Trader and Boat spaces are now fully booked.

See also the Event Facebook Page for all the latest news.


Brownhills Canal Festival
Silver St,  Brownhills,  Walsall WS8 6DZ
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th September 2021
10am to 4pm
Free admission

Posted in Environment | Leave a comment

On islands…

Kingswood Lakeside – without warehouses or the new road in April 2002. Image generously supplied by Robert Sault. Click for a large version.

Today, I have a remarkable set of photos for readers from longtime reader, friend and contributor to the blog Robert Sault. Robert, you might remember, contributed a remarkable gallery of images, mostly old-school aerial ones, of the M6 Toll being constructed in the early 2000s.

Churchbridge showing the Chase Line (right) in December 2001. Image generously supplied by Robert Sault. Click for a large version.

Last week, I shared out Rob’s original post on social media, as I’d had some interest in the matter as I often do. That let to the response from reader Leighton Rees who was looking for aerial photos of the Churchbridge area – where the Orbital Shopping Centre and the notorious motorway interchange islands are today.

Churchbridge into Bridgtown, April 2002 – note the new Orbital centre, top right. Image generously supplied by Robert Sault. Click for a large version.

Unknown to me, Rob was reading this request and stepped forward with images for Churchbridge from the very same set, and they show a remarkable construction project that was to change south Cannock, the A5 Watling Street and Great Wyrley forever.

Robert Sault said:

Hi there,

I read that you’ve been unwell and are recovering now. I’m pleased to hear that and hope the trend continues.

I noticed someone requested older photo’s of the Cannock Orbital and remembered that some of the Toll aerial progress shots included bits of it so I’ve enclosed these, including the stretch by Kingswood and up to the compound on the Walsall Road behind the Turf.

I hope you find them useful and that your health improves.

Best wishes,
Rob Sault

Thanks Rob – I’m getting better all the time and thanks to you and other readers for your enquiries and expressions of support. It really has been appreciated. This has been an adventure I wouldn’t wish to undertake again, but at least I’m through it now. Cheers.

They images form a truly remarkable gallery. Was it really two decades ago?

The Orbital bottom, Chase Line diagonal upper left to mid right, December 2001. Image generously supplied by Robert Sault. Click for a large version.

From comments he’s posted in the past, I believe Robert worked on the construction of the motorway which was not without controversy and I’ve covered before here several times.

Chase line bottom left, orbital upper left in April, 2002. Image generously supplied by Robert Sault. Click for a large version.

There is one further image in the set that’s a bit further east: The one below, which is of the south Norton Canes/Brownhills West area, on the western edge of Chasewater.

This area now is mainly houses, but originally held a lot of open farmland, scrub, a garden centre and the former Norton Canes Greyhound Racing Stadium. At the bottom edge of the image, the Norton Canes service station would be built to serve the M6 Toll – itself not without controversy, with the original plan to put it at Chasewater. Thankfully that never came to pass.

My thanks to Robert for sharing these remarkable images – this is most generous and compliments the large contribution from the wonderful Wendy Jones in her set from the period, which remains very popular – you can see that one here.

A stunning image – looking up the A5 towards Chaswater, April 2002. The Betty’s Lane industrial area is on the left, Brownhills West extreme upper right: Of course, Chasewater is top. Image generously supplied by Robert Sault. Click for a large version.

Anything to add, or memories you’ve recalled? Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media. Lets see what we can recover!

Posted in News | 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.

The Walsall Healthy Spaces Team volunteer led walk will be approximately 45-60 minutes every Wednesday afternoon, including today Wednesday 1st September 2021, starting from Brownhills Community Centre car park (the old Annex or Central Boys School, just off the Miner Island in the heart of Brownhills) at 1:15pm for a 1:30pm departure.

Full social distancing and covid safety procedures will be observed in line with current rules.

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?

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From Toffee Roberts to Tuckleys

Hello folks – I’m still getting better and gradually catching up with things, so on this grey Bank Holiday Monday, I thought it would be a good time to share some more of the remarkable images shared with David Evans by old friend of the blog, John Bird recording Brownhills houses marked for slum clearance in the 50s or 60s.

On reverse, ‘Front of 110,112 113, 114 High St B ( Doody ) and in pencil Sunderlands fish shop, Mrs Barber, Toffy Roberts’ – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Today it’s the turn of the upper High Street, and some real gems – including the house that was the original Wheatsheaf pub before the one we all remember was built on Ogley Square following it’s own slum clearance in the 30s.

Of course, the second Wheatsheaf has now been carried to dust, too – a real reminder that time marches on.

Other familiar names noted here will be Toffee Roberts, Tuckleys and Craddocks.

On reverse, ‘Back of 110 and 112 High St B (Doody)’ – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

While I have been indisposed in recent months, David Evans has been beavering away on project with old friend of the blog and town elder John Bird: John has often sent me stuff to post here on a range of matters, both personally and in his capacity with the Royal British Legion, but what he’s given David to sort out is rather special: It’s a large collection of images of Brownhills housing due for postwar clearance.

On Reverse, ‘Front of 114 (part) High St (Doody) 116 and 118 High St (J and B Cox) and in pencil Wheatsheaf G Barbers’ – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

So, without further ado, I’ll share the nextbatch of houses, from High Street – all now lost, I think, but I could be wrong. They are fascinating. I’ll hand over to David Evans to explain:

Hello Bob

Quite recently I received an amazing phone call. Mr John Bird, who is very well known locally for his fine work in the British Legion, invited me to see some photos he was sorting out.

An amazing collection of photos was presented to me. Mr. Bird had worked as Clearance Officer with Walsall Council some years ago and saw these photos that were put to be shredded. He was allowed to take them, so saving the history that they represent and document.

The images date back to the time of Brownhills Urban District Council and are original official photos, each measuring 21cm x 12cm and show properties that were due to be demolished. They also have the locations written in the same handwriting, and some have additional notes. They are a treasure in themselves, especially for the additional information on the reverse of the photos.

I would like to thank Mr John Bird for offering them and the history for us all to appreciate

kind regards
David

It’s so good to share mostly unpublished photos of a bit of Brownhills many will remember, but has long since gone. My thanks to John Bird for his immense generosity and to David, for scanning and documenting every image. Thanks so much to both gentlemen.

On reverse, ‘Back of 114 (Doody) and 116 ( J and B Cox) High St B’ – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

If you have any observations or memories, please do get in touch. Comment on this post preferably, or email me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com – or tug my coat wherever you may find me on social media.

It’s good to be back.

On reverse, ‘Front of 122,124 and 126 High St (exors of Pool, c/o R Craddock)’ in pencil, ‘Gate to Poole’s Bakery, Tuckleys later coal merchant’ – a remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Posted in Environment | 2 Comments

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 25th August 2021, 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.

Full social distancing and covid safety procedures will be observed in line with current rules.

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

The future was bright…

From the Birmingham Post, September 13th 1977. Click for a larger version. Slightly poor quality, but should trigger some memories.

A quick one here while I prepare another post – this was inspired by Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler who spotted a different article mentioning the same firm in the British Newspaper Archive – Barbright USAM who were based on Lichfield Road in Brownhills, just near to Castings.

I have no idea what happened to the company, but they were one of those names you heard a lot and recognised as a local business and employer, like Crabtree, Carver and Co., Geometry International, Castings, Binks Bullows or Edward Rose.

They appear to have been in the building now occupied by skip fabrication company GF Fabrications, who have since fitted red cladding to the building.

I’m hoping this may bring back memories for a few folk, and perhaps of other workplaces that have slipped into the past locally.

What do you remember, or did you work at Barbright? What happened to them? If you can help, please do: Comment here, mail me on BorwnhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or pull me to onside on social media.

Thanks to Peter Cutler for reminding me of a name I’d not heard in decades!

From the Birmingham Post, September 13th 1977. Click for a larger version. Slightly poor quality, but should trigger some memories.

Posted in Environment | 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.

The Walsall Healthy Spaces Team volunteer led walk will be approximately 45-60 minutes every Wednesday afternoon, including today Wednesday 18th August 2021, 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.

Full social distancing and covid safety procedures will be observed in line with current rules.

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

Clearance – everything must go!

Well, hello everyone. Long time no post. My apologies: The ever present bad health this year has been very difficult in recent weeks, and I’ve not been able to post. My apologies. But I am backhand on the mend!

Have some great stuff to come from a range of old blog friends like Ian Bourne, Ian Broad, Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler and David Evans, to name but a few. Sorry for the dip in output, and hopefully can get back to it a bit more now. Times have been challenging, but with a following wind, I think some normality can be restored.

On with the show.

I may have been indisposed, but David Evans has been beavering away on project with old friend of the blog and town elder John Bird: John has often sent me stuff to post here on a range of matters, both personally and in his capacity with the Royal British Legion, but what he’s given David to sort out is rather special: It’s a large collection of images of Brownhills housing due for postwar clearance.

So, without further ado, I’ll share the first batch of houses, long cleared from Pear Tree Lane in Brownhills West. They are fascinating. I’ll hand over to David Evans to explain:

On the reverse, written in black, ’36 – 44 Pear Tree Lane Bhills West Grooms, Edgertons, Carters + Fosters’ and in pencil, ‘Rowley, Pegleg James, Thackers, Gillions, Wakelins front Turners back.’ A remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Hello Bob

Quite recently I received an amazing phone call. Mr John Bird, who is very well known locally for his fine work in the British Legion, invited me to see some photos he was sorting out.

An amazing collection of photos was presented to me. Mr. Bird had worked as Clearance Officer with Walsall Council some years ago and saw these photos that were put to be shredded. He was allowed to take them, so saving the history that they represent and document.

On the reverse, ’36 – 53 Pear Tree Lane, Bhills West Mr Turner (Stiffy) daughters Nell Baker May Sault Elsie Lote.’ A remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

The images date back to the time of Brownhills Urban District Council and are original official photos, each measuring 21cm x 12cm and show properties that were due to be demolished. They also have the locations written in the same handwriting, and some have additional notes. They are a treasure in themselves, especially for the additional information on the reverse of the photos.

I would like to thank Mr John Bird for offering them and the history for us all to appreciate

kind regards
David

This is really great to be kicking things off with again – previously unpublished photos of a bit of Brownhills many will remember, but has long since gone. My thanks to John Bird for his immense generosity and to David, for scanning and documenting every image. Thanks so much to both gentlemen.

If you have any observations or memories, please do get in touch. Comment on this post preferably, or email me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com – or tug my coat wherever you may find me on social media.

It’s good to be back.

On the reverse, ’36 – 53 Pear Tree Lane Bhills West Mr. Turner’. A remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

on the reverse, ’36 – 38′ crossed out ‘Pear Tree Lane Bhills West James in left 42 + 44’. A remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

On the reverse, ‘Pear Tree Lane 53 Bhills West GABLE END’. A remarkable image kindly supplied by John Bird.

Posted in Environment | 10 Comments

Get some Iron, man – the 2021 Ironman triathlon hits Chasewater and South Staffordshire this Sunday

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Care for a dip? No, me neither…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that this Sunday (July 18th 2021), the sixth Staffordshire Ironman 70.3 Triathlon will be staged, with a 1.2 mile early morning swim in Chasewater being amongst the highlights.

Since the event consists of running and cycling races too, there will be a series of road closures in Staffordshire throughout the day (details on the ebsite here).

Flyer from the event organisers. Click for a larger version.

IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire have produced road closure maps with information for local residents to be aware of the safety closures which take place on the Sunday morning of the race. This should allow residents to plan their travel and minimise any impact from the event on their own plans. This may involve using alternative routes over the event weekend or adjusting journey times slightly.

Access for Emergency Services will be maintained at all times

Maps displaying all the road closures can be found on the event website here.

Please plan any travel in advance and be prepared to use alternative routes to minimise disruption to your journey.

Flyer from the event organisers. Click for a larger version.

2021 ROAD ACCESS INFORMATION

IRONMAN 70.3 Staffordshire takes place on full and partially closed roads for the safety of both athletes and road users. The below information outlines the road closures and alternative routes available across the courses for the event day. This information allows residents to plan their travel ahead of time and minimise any impact the road closures may have on their own plans, which may involve using alternative routes or adjusting journey times to avoid delays.

There will be unrestricted access for emergency services at all times!

If you have any access questions please contact staffordshire70.3@ironmanroadaccess.com or call 03330 116600.

There’s been lots of publicity for the event, and I’m interested in reader contributions on the day – photos, reviews etc.

A quick note to those same faces who every Ironman mail me, message me and otherwise complain about the early morning disturbance in the locality: Sorry, but I can’t fix it, can’t help and I fully support the event. The inconvenience is one day a year, relatively minor and over in a few hours.

Why not go watch it, or take the opportunity to get up early and go somewhere else?

Any complaints should be directed to the organisers here, I can’t and won’t do anything.

Best of luck to any readers competing!

Swimming in Chasewater at dawn? Rather you than me, pal. Image from Ironman UK.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Cannock Chase, Chasewater, cycling, Environment, Events, Express & Star, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Just plain daft, Local Blogs, Local media, News, Panoramio photo discussions, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering the grand opening of a local icon in 1967

Today, I have a great bit of local ecclesiastical history to share with readers who will, I’m sure, be interested in the Opening and Dedication Service Programme to Silver Street Methodist Church, Brownhills, which opened at 3pm on Saturday, April 22nd 1967.

Silver Street Church’s opening day congregation. Image by Fred Booth, kindly supplied by Peter Booth.

At the foot of the post I include the set of photos below taken by Fred Booth, kindly donated to the blog in 2019 by Peter Booth, of the construction and opening of the Silver Street Church, for which this was the programme; I think if you look in one or two of the images you might see copies of it.

Guy is a great entertainer and remarkable talent. A top Brownhills lad!

This remarkable document which contains a wealth of local history information was kindly supplied to the blog by local man Guy Rowland.

Guy is a very gifted pianist and performer who’s probably best known as the Brownhills lad playing the part of the policeman at Blists Hill Museum in Ironbridge, Telford, and a talented and witty gentleman he is too!

Guy is well known to many in Brownhills.

You can peruse the program in full below – click any image to open the page full size. You can download it as a full PDF to load in your browser or ebook reader by clicking here.

Brownhills Silver Street Methodist Church was built in 1967 to replace the and combine Mount Zion and the Wesleyan in Brownhills High Street which were lost to redevelopment and it has to be said, old age; latterly, the remarkable building whose design hasn’t dated at all has accepted congregations from other churches and chapels in Brownhills like Park View, Brownhills West and Coppice Side.

The Silver Street Church is still very busy and has an active congregation and you can find out more about it at their website here and Facebook page here.

As ever, if any members of the Church would care to drop me an email I’m happy to advertise your community events. Just drop me a line.

If you have any memories of the new Silver Street Church – or indeed, the ones it superseded – please do comment or drop me an email. BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

My thanks to Guy Rowland, the young David Evans and the Booth Family for sharing and adding to the local history we share here for all to enjoy. You are most wonderful people.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Blind date

Here’s an article to ponder I really intended to post up yesterday, but problems of a technical nature prevented me, which was a shame as it’s a real belter.

The young David Evans has been given a three page, hand typed timeline of Brownhills, by a person who didn’t create the document and is unsure of the origin of it. Some of the assertions within are causing somewhat raised eyebrows, so we thought we’d post it and see what readers thought.

We asked if they were sure about the Highwayman: He said he was adamant.

I’m not going to comment on it directly yet, but I very much invite you readers to get stuck in – comment here on this post, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or tap my shoulder on social media.

My thanks, as ever, to the young David Evans and to the donor of this work.

Walsall Wood Station was on the Midland Line – hand for a train up until it’s closure to passengers in 1930, but often handy for boats and waterfowl too. Image from ‘Disused Stations’

David wrote:

Hello Bob

I was recently given a copy of this document and find it of interest. There are no sources attributed in the work so I wonder if readers might be able to confirm or correct the information given in the timeline which ends in 1974…

Gerald Reece’s book, ‘Brownhills. A walk into history‘ was published later, in 1996 and it is worth noting the observation that he includes in his first chapter;-

‘Some interesting work has been done into the history of Brownhills, but sadly most of it has not gone to press. On the other hand a lot of guesswork has been printed. The lack of written history is a boon to the serious researcher. Instead of having to read through a bibliography as most history writers do, one has instead to analyse original documents and records.’ (Page 5).

In more recent times – the years of your wonderful blog – we have seen excellent discussion and correction of local history lore.

with kind regards
David Evans

Scan kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Scan kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Scan kindly supplied by David Evans. Click for a larger version.

Posted in Environment | 3 Comments

On the Spot

Here’s a quick simple question for debate amongst the readership: Of late, the Young David Evans has given another talk to the children of Holy Trinity School in Clayhanger, about their local history.

In the course of this talk, David was asked a very interesting question by an enterprising and thoughtful young fellow, which is obvious, but I’d never considered before.

Where does the name The Spot come from?

Clayhanger Common – The Spot – as signs now proclaim it – is a beautifully landscaped open space now, but it was not always so. Image kindly shared by Steve Martin.

Most locals will know that The Spot is the name previously applied to that which these days is known as Clayhanger Common, stretching from Catshill Junction, to Clayhanger Bridge, back to the village itself, and over the course of the brook towards the Pier Street pedestrian Bridge.

Clayhanger tip was pretty grim. It was capped in the 80s with colliery spoil and landscaped into the common we know today. It was a huge operation that took over 6 years to complete. Image from ‘Memories of Brownhills Part’ by Clarice Mayo and Geof Harrington.

 

Up until the Late 1970s, most of it was a festering rubbish tip that was a blight on the area, but before that, an area of sunken farmland, rendered useless by flooding and mining subsidence. Attempts were made to relieve the flooding with a pumping station, which was built in a tiny hamlet at the end of Spot Lane, a track that went from Bridge Street, across the fields.

The Spot pumping station: Note the caption. From the mapping, it was about central to today’s Clayhanger Common. Image from ‘Memories of Brownhills Part’ by Clarice Mayo and Geof Harrington.

Several people (and the respected historians in the caption above) have told me that the name The Spot only properly applies to the pumping station and the buildings around it. It can be seen on the 1938 map below:

Clayhanger Common on 1938 1:2,500 mapping from the National Library of Scotland Archive. The pumping station and ‘Spot’ are circled. Spot Lane is highlighted orange. Click for a larger version.

But the modern signs, applying the name to the whole heathland, say ‘Clayhanger Common The Spot’. I am unaware of the term Clayhanger Common being used before the tip was reclaimed.

So where did the name The Spot come from, and how do you, or your elders, apply it?

It’s such a simple question that I can’t believe we haven’t asked it before. But it seems we have not.

If you have a view, please share it – either comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media. I’d be fascinated to hear what you have to say on the matter.

Thanks to David and the young historian for posing such a great question!

 

Posted in Environment | 5 Comments

Happenstance: Two tales of Brownhills Canal Heroism

In one of those somewhat odd bouts of synchronicity that often befalls this blog, this week I have stories of two canal heroes that cropped up within days of each other yet are complete unconnected, except by location.

A number of folk drew this story to my attention on the ever-excellent Lichfield Live: Auctioneers Richard Winterton are selling this Tuesday (15th June 2021) a Humane Society award certificate presented to Pier Inn Publican John Lamb, who risked his life on canal ice in January 1891 saving the lives of two children who had gone out onto the ice, and it had given way underneath them.

The Pier Inn stood at the bottom of Pier Street, adjacent to the Pier Street Bridge, which exists in a modern form today. The pub was also known as the Fortune of War and was lost in the 1960s.

Image from Richard Winterton Auctioneers website: Click for a larger version.

Lichfield Live posted:

Certificate honouring pub landlord who saved lives of brothers in 1891 to be sold at auction in Lichfield

A testimonial to a heroic landlord who saved two brothers from the freezing waters of a canal features in an upcoming Lichfield auction.

The vellum certificate was awarded by the Royal Humane Society on 18th February 1891 to Brownhills publican John Lamb.

A month before he had braved the frozen Birmingham Canal to rescue local boys Cecil and Francis Price.

The Ogley Hay youngsters had ventured out onto the ice but it cracked open, leaving them at the mercy of freezing water eight feet deep.

Mr Lamb, publican of the adjacent Pier Hotel, ran to help and, although the surface also gave way under him, saved the boys from drowning.

His gallantry was recognised by the Royal Humane Society, whose patron was Queen Victoria.

The testimonial features in Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ upcoming sale on 15th June.

‘It may have happened 130 years ago but the story of John Lamb and his rescue of the Price brothers still strikes a chord and such an incident would surely hit the headlines today.

‘Plunging through the ice on a frozen canal must have been a nightmarish experience and one which they almost certainly would not have survived had it not been for Mr Lamb.

‘We don’t expect the certificate to necessarily sell for a huge amount of money, it’s simply a wonderful example of the wealth of local history which can turn up at auction.’

In his mid-30s at the time of the rescue, records show that John Lamb was still the landlord of the Pier Hotel in 1914.

Now long since demolished, the inn stood on the corner of Pier Street next to the Birmingham Canal and was originally called the Fortunes of War.

The full catalogue of items going under the hammer, including collectable military medals and a wooden propellor for a Tiger Moth or Chipmunk aeroplane, is available to view online.

Scanned from the book ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geof Harrington.

Coincidentally to this, old pal of the blog Ian Bourne sent me this tale of similar canal heroics from 23 years later, where local man Arthur Fletcher jumped into the canal at Catshill Junction and saved the life of an 11 year old girl Lily May Harris; who had fallen in on Shrove Tuesday, 1914.

What was even more remarkable is that John was unable to swim.

This is a terrific story, and it’s good to see Arthur was recognised for his heroism. Thanks to Ian for passing it on.2

9 May 1914

CANAL HEROISM

A canal boatman – Arthur Fletcher of Wood House canal stop, Pelsall – is now the proud possessor of a Royal Humane certificate for gallantly saving life. A man of some 23 years and medium height, he modestly told an Observer representative on Monday evening how he rescued an eleven year old girl who had fallen into the canal near the junction bridge at Catshill, between Walsall Wood and Brownhills. ‘Me and my mate’, he said, ‘were working a boat on the canal at Brownhills on Pancake Day, and when I was leading the horse along the towing-path I noticed some little girls playing about by the junction bridge. I had gone with the horse about 150 yards further on when I heard the children screaming, and looking back saw a little girl bobbing up and down in the water. Then I ran to the bridge, jumped into the water, and managed to catch hold of the girl’s wrist and get her to the side. She seemed to be unconscious, but after I had worked her arms, she came round and was carried home’.

Catshill Junction hasn’t changed much,

Although Mr Fletcher was, to use his own words, ‘born and bred round the canal’ and has been working the barges ever since he left school (with the exception of three months spent in the Navy), he confessed that he could not swim. ‘Mind you’, he added, ‘I think I can do a dog paddle, but not properly swim’. The canal at the junction bridge he said was about 19 feet wide, and ‘where I jumped in I afterwards tested the depth with the tiller, and found it was about six foot’. Asked if he had any difficulty in rescuing the girl, Fletcher said she did not struggle, and added, ‘When I got into the water, I managed to grasp with one hand an iron casting in the brickwork of the bridge hole, and with the other hand I caught the girl’s wrist. If I hadn’t held on to that casting, I might never have got out myself, but I was able to pull the girl to the side and shouldered her up on to the towing-path’.

Fletcher comes from a family for many years engaged in canal work. Born at Clayhanger, his father was a steerer, while his brothers also earn their living working the barges. Before marrying and going to Pelsall, Fletcher lived with his parents at Daw End Lane, Rushall. He also told our representative that on separate occasions some years ago, two of his brothers fell into deep water of the canal, but he managed to pull them out with the aid of a boat hook without getting into the water himself.

The Royal Humane Certificate was publicly presented to Mr Fletcher at the Walsall Wood Institute on Monday evening by the Rev W W Boulton, vicar of Walsall Wood. Mr T Grindley (a member of the Brownhills Urban District Council), who has taken a great interest in securing for Fletcher the certificate, detailed the circumstances of the rescue, and explained that Fletcher ran a distance of 150 yards, and without divesting himself of any clothing, plunged straight into the water. The rescued girl, he said, is Lily May Harris (11), who lives with her parents at Lindon Road, Walsall Wood. When Fletcher brought her to the bank, he resorted to artificial respiration methods, and was assisted by a man named Isaac Heath.

‘When the facts of the rescue came to my knowledge’, added Mr Grindley, ‘I thought it my duty to do something in the matter. I explained the circumstances to the Vicar, who very kindly got into communication with the Society in London, and this certificate is the result’. (Applause). The Rev W W Boulton said Mr Fletcher had shown himself to be a truly brave man, and in that framed certificate he possessed something to be proud of for the rest of his life – a certificate which should encourage him if danger arose in the future. There were two kinds of bravery – physical and moral. They often found instances of physical bravery, but what about the moral – the daring to do right against all comers whatever the consequences might be. A soldier could be a bold brave fellow, knowing no fear when he faced the cannon’s mouth, yet morally he might shrink back in a cowardly way and be tempted to do the wrong thing simply because someone laughed at the right. Physical bravery was a very grand and noble thing, but they must never forget that moral bravery was something better still. After all it was no joke to get into one of our innocent looking canals. Mr Fletcher had actually risked his life in rescuing the girl, and they all admired him for his brave act. He did not say it boastfully, but he thought no person had greater admiration for true bravery than the average Englishman – (hear, hear) – and they desired to express appreciation of their friend’s pluck.

The vicar of Walsall Wood also took the opportunity to congratulate Mr Grindley on his election as a member of the Brownhills Council, adding that ‘perhaps in a short while we shall hear that Brownhills and Walsall Wood are to be provided with a good bath, where young fellows can learn to swim without getting into the muddy water of the canal’. The rev gentleman mentioned that in his younger days he greatly enjoyed swimming, and expressed the opinion that it would be well if all had some knowledge of the methods of artificial respiration. The framed certificate was then handed to Mr Fletcher amid applause, the recipient remarking, ‘I don’t think I should be doing my duty if I sat down without thanking Mr Grindley and the Rev Mr Boulton for their efforts on my behalf, and also thank the friends for coming here’, Mr Fletcher’s mother and wife were both present, and the former lady also expressed thanks. The Vicar remarked that they owed a debt of gratitude to Mr Grindley, adding, ‘He has carried out the real work, and I have simply had to write a few letters’. Mr Grindley returned thanks, and proposed a vote of thanks to the Vicar and Mr S Cotton, who occupied the chair. Inspector Needham (of Rushall), seconding, said Mr Fletcher was a credit to Rushall and the district, and they all felt proud of him because of his noble act. In addition to Inspector Needham, several other police officers were present, including Police-sergeant Lewis and Police-constables Barrett and Moore.

Posted in Environment | 2 Comments

A hundred years apart: One year on…

Old friend of the blog Ian Broad has been in touch again to reprise his hugely popular series of historical then and now photos that he started creating in 2020 as part of his lockdown exercise bike rides.

Image generously supplied by Ian Broad.

Ian sent me these images last week and as usual, I won’t say where they are – it’s so much more fun if folk can identify the locations! They are very much up to the remarkably high standard he set previously and I welcome them here: It’s a lovely project and I adore the work and thought that clearly goes into each image.

You can see the full list of ‘Hundred Years Apart’ posts by clicking here. By heck, there’s some gems there: Worth exploring if you have time.

Image generously supplied by Ian Broad.

Ian has previously supplied lots of material for the blog. including an eternally popular 1982 Shire Oak School leaver group photo outside the Royal Oak pub in Shire Oak and lots about the history of Ian’s family shop Tom’s Cabin, a fixture of Brownhills for many years throughout the 1980s.

Jill Manchester also did the now-and-then thing with great success a few years ago in Walsall Wood.

Image generously supplied by Ian Broad.

Thanks to Ian for another great post and very thought provoking set of images, and if you have any views on this wonderful work, please do comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

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In the Buffs

The man pictured looks like a fine gentleman. Any idea who it may be? A fantastic artefact from Bruce Littley.

An interesting enquiry here from old friend of the blog Bruce Littley who’s got an interesting, possibly local artefact from the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, of Buffs for short.

The Buffs (who are still a fine and popular organisation) are a friendship and charitable organisation, often considered to be the working class Freemasons. Although not as populous as they once were, they shared a benevolent, positive community passion with organisations like Rotoract and the Round Round Table.

Bruce has a badge, pictured above, from what he thinks may be a local Lodge, and wonders if any readers can shed light upon it?

Hi Bob,

This may be an unusual one, but I am optimistic.

I have in my collection, a badge, which I believe would have been worn on part of the regalia of a member of an RAOB (Buffaloes, Buffs) Lodge.

It has in its centre a photographic image of a man. The Lodge is the “George Roberts Lodge No. 2196” I have tried to get information from the RAOB HQ at Harrogate, but received no reply.

I have asccertained that the Lodge met at the Station Hotel, from at least 1931, and changed to the Hussey Arms Hotel in 1981, meeting on Tuesdays.

I do not know if it is still extant. I have not been able to find other information, and then thought could he have been one of your ancestors?

Ever hopeful.
Regards,
Bruce

Bruce feels the George Roberts in question may be a relative of William Roberts, Brownhills Victorian brewer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mischief-maker, and thinks there may be a likeness in the photos, which maybe coincides with the Buffs locally meeting at the Station Hotel as he notes.

William Roberts. A remarkable man.

William was a member of the Buffaloes, as his obituary linked above noted.

However, I was not aware of any relatives of William surviving him.

So what can readers add? If you have a view, please share it: Either comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or hit me up on social media.

Thanks to Bruce for sharing a lovely thing, and for creating a great Bank Holiday Weekend talking point!

Posted in Environment | 1 Comment

Music without peer…

What seems like an age ago, but in fact was only in 2019, I featured an article here about the Brownhills Co-Operative Society Orchestra. It was a surprisingly popular post for what I, at the time, foolishly considered a slightly obscure subject: But it drew much comment and you can read it and the original article by clicking here. I’ve featured the original article at the foot of this post for content, too.

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by reader David Book who had a photograph of the Peerless Dance Band, a notable local musical ensemble who I’ve heard referenced a good few times, but have very scant information on.

David said:

Hi,

Thank you for this photograph and for the interesting information from Derek.

I can confirm that the man in the centre at the back (glasses, tie and holding a violin) is Samuel Holford (my grandfather). I understand that he lived on Great Charles Street and later in Shire Oak.

He had a greengrocers shop before the war.

Samuel Holford, centre holding violin and the Peerless Dance Band – date unknown. An absolutely gorgeous image kindly supplied by David Book. Those expressions – Samuel and the the chap on banjo particularly – but the suits, the stance. Everything is timeless.

I’m not sure of the date or the identity of the musicians, but I have a photograph of him playing in the “Peerless Dance Band” (I’ll email the photo to Bob, in case it’s of interest)

Best Regards
David Book

Now firstly my huge thanks to David for a remarkable image, and such a beautiful copy of it too: But not just that, this potentially opens up a new avenue – who were the rest of The Peerless Dance Band? Where did they play? What dates were they around? What can people recall and contribute?

This is just such a lovely image, I’m fascinated by it: The expressions, the posture, the charm of it. It’s thoroughly gorgeous.

You know what I’m going to ask: Please do contribute anything at all – either about the musician Samuel Holford, the dance band he was in or indeed, the Co-Operative orchestra. Comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or have a word on social media.

Samuel is the man also hiding the violin in the image below, heading up my original post.

Orignal article:

A lovely image from something I didn’t know existed at all – Brownhills Coperative Orchestra in, I think, the 1950s. Image very kindly supplied by John Bakewell, who is the dashing young lad back right holding the double bass.

Something very interesting popped up in the week that I think will engage the older readers particularly, and is a lovely one for the pre-Christmas period: A photo of the Brownhills Co-Operative Society Orchestra.

I had no idea it existed at all. I of course knew about the Brownhills Co-Operative Choral Society operating from the same place – which won many awards and was famous for decades; David Evans has written extensively about that fine history here many times over the years.

Yet I don’t recall any mention of an orchestra at all. John Bakewell wrote:

I used to play double bass with the Co-op orchestra that rehearsed each week in a room above the shop. Has anyone got any memories of this orchestra?

John added:

I’m second from the right at the back with the head of a double bass next to me. The society had their own instrument which meant that I could go straight to rehearsal on the bus from Cannock after finishing work in the council offices.

David Evans also observed:

Possibly a young Ray Cooper, back row second from right… Viola player.  Isabel Cooper, his wife, front row, by the clarinet player…

So can we help John identify more of the people in the image, or share recollections of this clearly very fine group of musicians?

The musical history of Brownhills is illustrious – truly – and also remarkably diverse, so it surprises me I’ve not noticed this orchestra before.

Can you help please? If you can, comment here on the blog, find me on social media or shoot me an email to BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks, and particularly to John for shining a light on another bit of our otherwise forgotten cultural heritage.

92402502

The Co-op Hall, the upper floor used for a number of purposes, including the Labour Exchange. It stood where Farm Foods is today. A cracking 1980s image by Brownhills George, and posted on Panoramio.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Interesting photos, Local History, Local media, Local music, News, Panoramio photo discussions, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Wood stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Shire Oak to way out West: Can you help with this family history?

Hednesford Road Brownhills West – nowadays, the building on the right is the Thai Lanna restaurant, but back then was The Wilkin Inn, affectionately known as The Monkey. This is a scene Charles and Catherine would recognise. Image from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ By Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

It’s about time we got back to some local history here, so here’s a nice one for the family historians and archive diggers for a wet spring weekend. So sorry for the lack of posts lately: I am very busy with work and not possessed of the energy I was ten years ago, sadly

Reader Pat Ward has been in touch, looking for some help untangling her family tree, which has Brownhills West and Shire Oak connections.

I’ll let Pat explain:

Dear Bob,

I wonder if any of your readers could help me please.

My cousin Max is researching the family tree, but he has not been able to find anything out about the brothers and sisters of our Grandfather Charles Aldridge who was born 5th March 1882 at Norton Canes.

His father was Robert Aldridge Born 1851 at Penkridge.

My grandfather was married to Catherine Caulton who came from Shire Oaks, Brownhills.

When they married they moved in with Catherine’s mother in Hednesford Road, Brownhills where they had four children and then moved to Coventry with three of their children and leaving behind with her grandmother my mother Evelyn and after moving to Coventry had eleven more children.

Pat Ward

Nw, perhaps the old hands can help a bit here as the name Charles Aldridge sounds very familiar, and I can’t put my finger on why: So I’m wondering if any of the blog elders here can enlighten me.

It would be most excellent if we could help Pat and Max find out more about their family and I’m sure readers will do their best to rise to the challenge.

Thanks to Pat for an interesting enquiry.

If you can help, please do: Either comment here, mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com or whisper in my ear on social media. Thanks to everyone for their patience in the face of my apparent lethargy!

Hednesford Road looking into the camera from the photo at the top of the article: It was, back then, a street of dense housing and a tightly. knit community of it’s own, quite distinct from the rest of Brownhills. From ‘Memories of BrownhillsPast’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

Posted in Environment | 21 Comments

How Brownhills marked the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh

It’s always good to hear from old friend of the blog and respected elder of Brownhills, John Bird a man I’ve always respected, not just for his activities with and in support of the local Royal British Legion and Remembrance, but for his concise, sharp commentary on local matters.

St James’ Church, Brownhills: Image from my 365days journal.

This week John wrote to me touchingly of the observance of the passing of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, and how local folk from The Legion and other organisations marked the funeral of this much respected figure.

John wrote:

Remembering Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

A number of ex-service members of the Brownhills branch of the Royal British Legion expressed a desire to attend the Cenotaph at St. James’ church in Brownhills to declare their sincere sympathy for the demise of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, on the day of his funeral.

After seeking advice from the Police Authorities they attended the Cenotaph just before 3:00 pm. on the Saturday. It was a pleasant surprise when the vicar came over and asked if she may say a few words together with a prayer.

Image from BBC Online.

One minute’s silence was observed together with the lowering of the Legion’s Standard. It was at this point two uniformed members of T.S. Vigo arrived and paid their respects with one minute’s silence.

All of this was a spontaneous response by everyone present and did not exceed the limit of six people as required and not forgetting social distancing thus complying with pandemic guidelines.

This was a simple gesture that felt somewhat comforting.

John Bird
Brownhills.

That’s a wonderfully touching thing: Thank you John for sharing this with Brownhills. I trust we find you in good health at this difficult time?

John Bird has periodically written clear, eloquent and concise letters to the local press – the ones that have always stuck in mind have been the ones relating to the development and plans for Brownhills High Street, and he’s written some brilliant stuff over the years including one recently that provoked much debate on the subject of Remembrance parade funding.

John was also in touch some time ago to tell us that the Legion are there for the community and ex-service folk and that the local branch is always looking for new members.

Again, thanks to John for sharing an excellent, touching report.

Posted in Brownhills stuff, Churches, Clayhanger stuff, Environment, Events, Interesting photos, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Walsall community, Walsall Council, Walsall Wood stuff | 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.

The Walsall Healthy Spaces Team volunteer led walk will be approximately 45-60 minutes every Wednesday afternoon, including today Wednesday 21st April 2021, 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.

Full social distancing and covid safety procedures will be observed in line with current rules.

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

Sandfields reopens for volunteers today!

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Sandfields Pumping Station – a great historic building with immense history and social significance – not just to Lichfield, but to the Black Country. Lichfield Discovered and local historian Dave Moore have saved this valuable asset for the community.

Sandfields Pumping Station champion and public historian extraordinaire Dave Moore has been in touch to share the latest news for local history enthusiasts and members of the Lichfield Waterworks Trust charity, formerly the Friends of Sandfields Pumping Station group – Sandfields is reopening at last!

During the pandemic, the trust has had to suspend meetings and activities like any other such organisation, but with the tentative resumption of normality, the trust have taken the decision to open the station back up and recommence their restoration activities – from this Today, Tuesday 20th April 2021.

Dave said:

Sandfields Pumping Station – Re-opening to Volunteers

Following recent government advice issued through the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and taking into account the falling levels of new cases of Corona virus, the trustees have decided to re-open Sandfields to volunteers only from Tuesday 20th April. We shall open on a Tuesday and Friday morning from 1000 hours until 1230 hours until further notice.

The pumping station is allowed to open under Covid secure precautions and these are covered by the procedure below. This is similar to the procedure used when we opened up after the last lockdown but now includes advice on travelling and testing. For this reason I would ask all volunteers to read the procedure and determine whether they are confident to return.

We have a great deal of work to do both inside and outside the building, so if you are more comfortable working outside then this can be accommodated. It is because of the amount of work that requires progressing, that we have decided to open two mornings a week. Feel free to choose whichever is more suitable or come on both days, we shall be pleased to see you.

We all hope that we will be able to continue opening up indefinitely but we will monitor the situation constantly and implement any changes that are required.
 

Procedure for opening the waterworks during Covid 19 Restrictions
 
  1. A trustee in attendance will be nominated to check that this procedure is followed. Where difficulties arise the Health and safety officer should be informed so that this procedure can be modified if required.
  2. Open up the main access door and the sliding doors in the 60’s building to ensure maximum air circulation.
  3. Position the following signs. “Entry only” at the main entrance. “Exit only” at the sliding doors.
  4. Position tables at entrance and exit, wipe with anti bacterial cleaner and place signing in and signing out sheets on the appropriate tables. Place masks, hand sanitiser and gloves on the signing in table. It is important that everyone wears a mask when inside the building. The trustee in charge will sign people both in and out.
  5. People should be allocated jobs on the basis of one job per person unless the nature of the job allows volunteers to socially distance.
  6. Toilets should be used on a basis of one out one in. After use the toilet seat, rim and washbasin should be wiped down with the cleaner provided.
  7. No preparation or consumption of food or drink is allowed within the building. Volunteers should bring their own refreshments and store them outside. Do not take food or drink into the building. Volunteers are encouraged to take chairs outside and socially distance whilst eating or drinking. All rubbish is to be taken home by volunteers and disposed of at home.
  8. Work will be allowed in the cataract chamber and below subject to a maximum and minimum of two people working provided the small door under the main access door is open to provide a throughput of air.
  9. At the end of the session all volunteers must wipe down their work area and take all rubbish and PPE home to dispose of in a safe manner.
  10. The trustee in charge will store the signing in/out forms and wipe the tables down. They will also check the levels of cleaner/sanitiser/cloths is sufficient for the following week.
  11. Any rubbish/debris/waste not taken home by volunteers should be placed in a heavy duty plastic sack and disposed of accordingly.
  12. Each volunteer should consider their method of transport to and from the pumping station. Car sharing should not be used at the present time.
  13. Volunteers are encouraged to use the free Lateral Flow tests being provided by the government on a weekly basis.
The Trustees would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support during these difficult times.
 
If you do have any questions, concerns, thoughts, or comments, please do get in touch. Your opinions matter us.
Find Out More

Do pop over to Dave Moore’s blog and check out the history of Sandfields Pumping Station, an almost forgotten gem – the group also has a Facebook page.

Dave is, of course, one of the leading lights of Lichfield Discovered, along with Kate ‘Cardigan’ Gomez from Lichfield Lore.

It’s great to see people like Dave encourage a better attitude to our historic buildings -please do attend if you’re able, it’s sure to be enlightening and educational.

 

Posted in Environment, Events, Followups, Fun stuff to see and do, Interesting photos, Just plain daft, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, News, Reader enquiries, Shared media, Shared memories, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How you can support Baby Ciaran’s family, plus details of local church support

Sorry folks very, very late with this but following the awful tragedy at the weekend in which baby Ciaran Leigh Morris lost his life following a traffic collision in Brownhills High Street, many people are asking where they can get blue bows to help the family.

Tributes are spreading along the streets of Brownhills. Image from PA Media, via the BBC.

The town is quickly turning blue as a show of support for Ciaran’s family, which really shows the strength of feeling following this awful tragedy.

Bows are available from Caroline Watkinson, see this Facebook post here and also from Dem Darby here.

Car stickers are available from Rebecca Jayne, see this Facebook post here.

All proceeds for the above to the fund.

You can donate to the JustGiving fund that’s open here – that’s safe and easy to do.

Also, Revd Gayle Greenway from St James Church has posted that they have an open door this evening (Wednesday 7th April 2021) for those seeking prayer and support in this difficult time:

A Message for Brownhills’ Community following Easter Sunday’s Tragedy: –

On behalf of everyone at St James’, the Parish Church of Brownhills with Ogley Hay, I want to say that we are overcome with immense sadness to have heard the news about baby Ciaran, whose life was tragically lost on Easter Sunday.

As an expression of how we would like to stand in solidarity with Ciaran’s family in their grief, St James’ church building will be open tomorrow, Wednesday 7th April at the following time: –

• 7.30 – 9.00 pm.

We will have members of the church available to offer support to those of the local community who would like to use the church to say a quiet prayer, light a candle, reflect, or to receive any prayer support.

There will also be a team of Stewards to ensure that each of the open church sessions remain Covid 19 secure.

With many thoughts and prayers for Ciaran’s whole family and for all of Brownhills’ at this extremely sad time,

Reverend Gayle Greenway.

Brownhills Methodist Church in Silver Street also have an open door on Sunday as follows:

Our Church will be open for Private Prayer on Sunday Afternoon from 4pm – 5pm

Posted in Environment | Leave a comment

Ravens Court to be demolished in ambitious redevelopment plan

Readers who have been here for a while will know that one of the recurrent and most intractable stories on the blog over the 12 years of it’s existence has been the exasperating and somewhat depressing story of Ravens Court, the derelict and decaying 1960s shopping precinct at the heart of town, owned by a London-based property developer who was left with it following Tesco cancelling plans to rebuild its Brownhills store.

Why does it always rain on us? Ravens Court on a summer afternoon.

Just lately you’ll also have noticed a lot of political rhetoric and posturing from political quarters, in videos and posts on social media by our MP, Wendy Morton, and the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street.

In impassioned communiques, the two have spoken of their desire to see the situation resolved, and of the immense pressure from residents of the town, who would welcome an end to the blight on Brownhills that is Ravens Court.

It seems the end is in sight to our misery: In a press release received yesterday from the Mayor’s office, it can be revealed that Ravens Court will soon be demolished and replaced with a museum and leisure facility celebrating the history of our town.

I’m sure like me, you will welcome an end to this sorry saga. The press release said:

‘The state of Ravenscourt and the subsequent impact on my and Wendy’s popularity has gnawed away at me over recent years and I’ve been lobbying to get something done.

Wendy Morton MP and I want to see the precinct torn down and redeveloped to breathe life back into the area and I promised we’re getting closer to making it happen.

Today I can reveal that we’re going to ensure Ravens Court is bought for the public good, and transformed into a cultural asset the whole area can be proud of.

Our plan is simple: We’re going to get Walsall Council to transfer a large sum of money to the wealthy landlord who owns Ravens Court before the election, in return for which the Council will hopefully pay for the demolition and fund the construction of a new interactive learning centre dedicated to Brownhills and Walsall Wood culture, history and art.

The Street-Morton Centre will be a buzzing hive for the community, and feature the latest technology to attract tourists curious about the town’s history of mining sculpture, street food, brutalist architecture, industrial odours and agricultural football.

There will be an 80 seat restaurant with views over the canal serving the best culinary experiences the town has to offer with a choice of goose with orange or normal chips, with or without gravy, and a theme bar celebrating the history of Poxon’s Butchers, sponsored by the Black Pudding Council of Great Britain.

For the kids there will be activities where youngsters can experience life as it was in Brownhills a century ago, working underground at age 14, living without sanitation, avoiding the rent man and entering the lottery to have a real industrial accident.

We anticipate funding will be provided by Historic England, The National Lottery Community Fund and the Pork Scratching Marketing Board.

We intend to clarify all these details further when I’m elected again.’

I’m amazed at this, I must say. I had warned readers to expect some scheme or other with Ravens Court from the diminutive Mayor and his chaperone, Mrs. Morton, but nothing on this scale.

Artist’s impression of how our cultural mining exhibit could look.

I scouted quickly yesterday for opinion on the matter, and spoke to local community activist and Clayhanger Kid author, Brian Stringer. Brian was not surprised, but sceptical of the promised new dawn, ‘We had that Andy Street down in the cutting just before the last lockdown, and he was offering us a new project to work on. He said that he’d noted how much rubbish and hardcore we’d shifted on the track, and he thought we’d be best placed to knock down Ravens Court. Said he’d slip us a tenner for out trouble.

‘Bob and Mick were all for it, as they thought we could use some of the rubble to raise the track level near the bund where it always floods.  But I said we should hold out for at least £25. What with Tim’s litter picking schedule and my hassles with the wildlife down in the cutting of late it would take us at least three days to raze the site. They reckon they’d manage it in two. They’re mad.’

I also spoke to others who were not so happy with the project, either. Several wanted some form of museum for the Staffordshire Hoard, or the much loved and long closed market. Others wanted a wider spread of historical exhibits, detailing things we once had here, like shops, banks and police patrols.

I caught Wendy Morton in an unexpected moment (I’d taken my camera out to clean the lens whilst stood outside Costa and she just appeared out of nowhere) and asked her about the Staffordshire Hoard angle.

‘We approached Stoke and Lichfield about that, and they were perfectly happy to let us have the hoard, but we’d need to put down something of equal value as surity. They laughed and put the phone down when I suggested they could have Aldridge. So obviously that was impossible.

Andy and Wendy are upstaged by a confused OAP at a recent press event.

‘Anyway I think a historical centre here is crucial. With all the visiting politicians coming here from faraway places like me, the Mayor and that bloke we’ve put up for PCC, how better can they learn to integrate with the local community? When I first came here I had no idea that mooning was an ancient local greeting.’

I, of course, welcome the end to the Ravens Court saga, and look forward to experiencing interactive displays about quaint local customs such as fencing the video, getting two tenner bags of a Friday and learning about the town’s immense history of local eccentrics. But I really can’t see were the money’s coming from.

Andy and Wendy dismember an A-Z whilst trying to find The Avenues.

Time will tell.

A section 80 has been applied for, and demolition is scheduled to commence on the 31st April 2021, just before polling day.

The owners of Ravens Court have been contacted for comment on the matter, but when I called, couldn’t stop laughing long enough to say anything.

 

Posted in Environment | 17 Comments

Ravens Court – A message from Councillor Steve Wade

Trebles all round in the Mayoral office…

A couple of weeks ago I told you to keep watching the Ravens Court situation, as it looks like something is going on. Local MP and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street have been having a big social media push on the subject of late, which is remarkable as they couldn’t distance themselves from it fast enough previously.

Since then there’s been a risible video filmed in a misty, Mad-Max alike Ravens Court, mostly to local derision, in which MP Morton and Mayor Street waffle a lot, use a lot of words but don’t ever manage to get them to form anything resembling a promise, statement of fact or commitment.

You can witness this Oscar-worthy epic here (Facebook, sorry).

For those unaware of the why’s and wherefores of the rotting shopping precinct at the heart of Brownhills, please read this previous article on the matter here.

Wendy Morton has traditionally been very supportive of local Tory councillors who seem oddly absent in this current publicity binge.

One thing that has occurred to me about this flannel is the complete absence of the local sitting Tory Councillors – Ken Ferguson or Steve Craddock, or indeed their invisible candidate for this May’s elections in any of the promotion. Looks like Wendy’s gone off you, lads. Shame.

Anyway, I have a message here posted this morning by Brownhills Labour Councillor Steve Wade, who has worked tirelessly on Ravens Court, to the degree of frequently litter picking it on his own.

Steve wrote:

RAVEN’S COURT: It may have taken forever, but a victory for campaign persistence?

Well the rumour mill down the council is in overdrive regarding some good news on Raven’s Court over the coming weeks, just before an election amazingly enough. If it is the case, then I, like everyone else, will be absolutely delighted that this eyesore right on our High Street may be finally getting regenerated.

Of course, there will be those over the coming months who, if there is good news, will be taking all the credit and telling us how wonderful they are. However, if there is something to be celebrated over the next few weeks then it will be a victory for all those who have campaigned relentlessly over the last 10/15 odd years to keep this issue at the top of the council’s regeneration agenda and to keep the pressure on the council and owners to come forward with solutions.

I really want to see this shithole got forever. But questions need to be asked.

It will be a victory for all those who have continually raised it on social media and on their blogs about the state of the buildings and the need for regeneration. It will be a victory for all those who have reported it to the council when there have been breaches and danger to the public. It will be a victory for all those who have litter picked and have tried to tidy the area up on the now probably hundreds of occasions when it would have been easier to just leave it.

So yes, the council may have finally listened, regeneration may be on its way, and the local politicians will no doubt be telling us it is THEY who may have done the great deed for our people and community. But rarely, if at all, have we ever seen any of them in the last decade set foot in Raven’s Court except when an election is on the horizon and leaflets have to be filled and distributed.

So if there is good news on Raven’s Court over the coming weeks, then I salute all those who have campaigned, litter picked, reported, and used social media over the last decade to keep Raven’s Court regeneration on the agenda. After all these years, finally, all the hard work may have just paid off.

Thanks to Steve for that, which I echo 100%.

I also have some pertinent questions readers might like to consider:

  • If this is going ahead, that will presumably involve a change of ownership of Ravens Court. How much will this cost?
  • If Ravens Court is gifted, how much will it cost to raze the site?
  • If Walsall Council is left holding the baby, how much will Council Tax payers be stumping up to absolve a wealthy property owner of their responsibilities to a community they’ve taken for idiots for a decade?
  • If we are paying, on what cost-benefit basis has this been decided?
  • Why now and not eight years ago?
  • Why does this look like a cynical bid to win re-election for Andy Street locally?

It’s worth pointing out that the owner of Ravens Court is the company Lightquote Limited. You can see a list of their directors here.

This article at Opendemocray is well worth a read.

Remember, whatever happens here, you and me don’t matter a jot. It’s all about the big money.

 

Posted in Environment | 1 Comment

it’s going ahead – A5 Live is on for 2021!

Long term readers will remember the annual music and fun festival that’s taken place on the smallholding just off the A5 at Newtown, Brownhills every summer – except last year, when it was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Obviously none of us can predict the future, but things are looking good for summer right now and I think we all need a good time this tp look forward to.

For 2021 the music, entertainment and fun returns, and takes place from Friday 6th to Sunday 8th August 2021, and tickets are now on sale. It promises to be the summer event we all need.

Tickets range in price from £2.50 for a kid’s Sunday only ticket  to just £25 for the whole weekend which is smashing value I think you’ll agree – click here to browse options and purchase yours.

There are a fantastic range of bands including Fleetwood Mad, The Endings, Maxwell Avenue, Tinalien, Martian Social Club, Caroline Bella, NOT QUITE DEAD YET, One Eyed Dog Band, Those Fine Strangers, Magnalium, The Arosa, Robbie Joyce, The Fazys, Big Indie Rocks, BlackSheep and loads more.

There will be all the usual festival fun like sideshows, great food, bar and a great crowd.

Martin, the organiser, posted the following on the festival Facebook Page.

I wish everyone the best for this and it’s always good to see local music events.

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The early days of powerboats at Chasewater – a massive gallery

I am honoured today to be able to share with readers an archive gallery of images that are of Chasewater and the Speedboat Club in the earliest years, when the lake was still surrounded by the remnants of mining history and the BRD Company of Aldridge were using the reservoir to test the outboard boat engines they were developing.

Image courtesy of David Hughes.

The full story is in my original post from some some years ago, where David Hughes explains that his father, Reg, was engaged in the development of the motor:

In the late 1950s the BRD Company in Aldridge started to develop an outboard motor for powerboats.

The engine was called the Bermuda. I was told at the time that the name was chosen because it was ‘exotic’ and contained the letters BRD in order.

After the Staffordshire Hydroplane Boating Club gave their permission, most of the engine testing was carried out at Chasewater.  The Bermuda project team spent many days testing the prototype engines and entered them in many powerboat races held at Chasewater. In 1961 they were 1st and 2nd fastest in the ‘D’ class times in the boat builder trials at Chasewater.

Recently, David has found an archive of photos taken of the testing, trials and competitions of the time online, and has obtained them for me to share here. The images are naturally taken, of variable quality but it has to be said they are fascinating and a real document of the times, company and project.

David wrote:

Bob

Recently whist looking on Flickr I came across over 100 old (B&W) photographs of Chasewater. Much to my surprise I found out that they were taken by my father!

You may remember a few years ago I sent you an article about BRD in Aldridge building outboard motors and testing them at Chasewater. The photographs are of that period and mainly taken from the speedboat clubhouse area.

Many are poor quality and just show a lot of water! However there are some quite good ones.

All the photos are from the early 1960’s and relate directly to the previous information which I sent about BRD Bermuda outboard motors. Bermuda appears frequently.

There are many similar shots, but I think overall they provide an interesting view of Chasewater.

Many thanks
David Hughes

As is often the case, study the background, too – it’s interesting. This is a document of Chasewater when it was still effectively a polluted industrial wasteland, before the leisure era fully kicked in. It’s fascinating.

The gallery is massive, and to see any image in detail, click on it for a larger version.

Thanks to David for sharing it with us – it’s truly stunning and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his generosity and for completing the circle.

If you want to read the ‘Early Days at BRD’ book, you can download a copy from this post here in electronic form – and don;t forget the origins of this story below the gallery!

Image courtesy of David Hughes. Click any image for a larger version.

Original post:

chasewater-2-1

The endurance boat as it finished the 7day trial. Image very kindly supplied by David Hughes – please click for a larger version.

There are two subjects I really wish I could feature more of here on the Brownhills Blog – recent, postwar history and images of Chasewater, and more on local industry, like the BRD – well, today I get to feature both are reader David Hughes recently sent me the following article out of the blue, and it tells of a bit of local history I didn’t know: the BRD in Aldridge experimented with boat motors.

Thanks to David for a wonderfully informative article, and for highlighting the innovative nature of local industry. I nearby appeal for scans of the BRD book if anyone can manage it as I think it would be a lovely addition to the works here on the blog, and I know many readers are interested in the history of the company.

David Hughes wrote:

Chasewater and  the BRD

In the late 1950s the BRD Company in Aldridge started to develop an outboard motor for powerboats.

chasewater-1-1

Early (cold) days in the building of the powerboat club. Image very kindly supplied by David Hughes – please click for a larger version.

The engine was called the Bermuda. I was told at the time that the name was chosen because it was ‘exotic’ and contained the letters BRD in order.

After the Staffordshire Hydroplane Boating Club gave their permission, most of the engine testing was carried out at Chasewater.  The Bermuda project team spent many days testing the prototype engines and entered them in many powerboat races held at Chasewater. In 1961 they were 1st and 2nd fastest in the ‘D’ class times in the boat builder trials at Chasewater.

bermuda-2-8

Boats preparing for one of the races at Chasewater. Image very kindly supplied by David Hughes – please click for a larger version.

However, the most exciting test was the one which took place around November 1961 when a team of 20 men took turns to drive a twin Bermuda engine boat round Chasewater for 24 hour a day for 7 days. They covered around 4000 miles. This kind of endurance test had never been done before and gave the company national and international attention.

My father, Reg Hughes, was a development engineer on the Bermuda project and was one of the drivers. He drove the boat on the night shift and it was an experience he would never forget.