John Bernard Whittaker, rest in peace.

Further to yesterday’s enquiry from Janet Whittaker, and my subsequent blog post, this evening I went to see if I could find the resting place of John Whittaker, Janet’s grandfather, tragically lost along with 13 other miners in the Grove Pit Disaster of October 1st, 1930. Janet had said that she thought the grave was located in Walsall Wood cemetery, and it turns out that she was right.

Up until this morning, I was under the mistaken impression that all the lost colliers were buried at the main memorial in Brownhills, but had I been more observant, I’d have noticed that the communal memorial, whilst naming all 14, holds graves for only 10 of those lost. It really is true that you learn something new every day.

I found John’s headstone near the path in the older of the two graveyards situated off Brookland Road. In the shade of several conifers and a sycamore, the grave sits in a neatly mowed plot just off the main path through the burial ground.

The location is marked by the orange box. Click on the image for a larger version.

The final resting place of John Bernard Whittaker

The memorial itself is in reasonable condition and carries the following inscription:

In Loving Memory Of John Bernard

The beloved husband of Leah Whittaker

Who was accidentally killed in the Grove Pit Disaster, October 1st 1930 Aged 44 years.

Father in thy gracious keeping, leave me now our loved one sleeping

Whilst this has been a sad post to have to write, it’s been very rewarding. In the process of the search I’ve found out much about our area that I didn’t know before, and it’s nice to be able to help a reader. I wish Janet and her family well, and would ask that if there’s anything more I can do, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will be returning to the subject of the Grove Pit and it’s notorious accident later, as the anniversary nears. It’s important that we remember those men who worked in such poor conditions just to eke a living in incredibly hard times. We’ve come a long way since those dark days.

Whist I was looking around the cemetery in Brookland Road, I came upon another memorial to a lost miner. I wonder if any readers can help with the story of Frederick Clews?

Sacred to the memory of Frederick, the dearly beloved husband of Violet Clews

Who was accidentally killed at Walsall Wood Colliery

Sept. 10 1940, aged 36 years

Worthy of everlasting rememberance

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12 Responses to John Bernard Whittaker, rest in peace.

  1. Carol Thornton says:

    Don’t know if this helps but there is a gentleman called Byron Clews who works as TPO officer Sandwell name rare so might be descendant
    intresting to read well done on research

  2. CAZ says:

    so sad that all these young men lost their lives that day.
    l have often been to their memorial in Brownhills, as my Gran is buried nearby and like you Bob, l never realised that not all the miners listed on the memorial are buried there.
    God bless them all, and all the other miners who lost their lives doing what must have been an horrendous job.
    You may be interested to know Bob,that on the right hand side of the path as you walk down to the Grove Pit memorial,is the grave of George Carpenter,a 16 year old boy who was crushed to death down the mine.
    He’s buried with his father John aged 54 and 4 year old sister Yvonne.This young man was my moms brother,and the irony of his death is that on the day he died he was late for work and only just caught the “cage” taking them down below.His father John,also a miner was not on the same shift that day.
    Apparently, he was chatting to a friend on Ogley Corner when he saw mining pals coming home and remarked that there must have been an accident down pit, not knowing that it was his own son who’d died.He had to go home and tell my Grandmother. My wonderful Gran,lived to be 90 but she often told me “you never get over losing your child”.
    His death devastated his whole family just as surely as on
    October 1st 1930 many other families lives were changed forever.
    l think the Brownhills miner is a fitting tribute.

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  4. D Evans says:

    also buried in Brookland Road cemetery is James Clews, and his wife, Martha. He died in the early 1950s and St Johns church in Walsall Wood has a stained glass window in memory of him. He, too was a miner and lived in Brookland Road. He was my great uncle. Fred may have been his brother. My great aunt Martha was one of five children whose parents moved here from Newcastle under Lime…
    One of the children was Levi whose army career is worthy of forming the basis of a novel, one day….Boer War, First World War, battle of Mons the N(?)Staffs Regiment.

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  7. Sue Luzy says:

    I’m interested in two of your discussions, the ones about Goblins Pit and the one about Frederick Clews’ tombstone.
    .I’m at present writing up my research on my grandmother’s family, the Clews, who lived in Stonnall and Shenstone in the early 19th century before moving to Walsall around 1841. I’ve only visited Staffs briefly once in 2007 so don’t know the area at all, and in fact didn’t know it’s now known as West Midlands!
    I discovered that my gt gt grandfather George Clews baptized in 1823 in Stonnall, had six brothers who all became miners in Walsall from about 1841. I assumed they were coalminers in the Walsall Wood mine but it seems that that only began operations in 1864. They were listed in the 1841 census as colliers, in 1851 as miners and finally in 1861 as coalminers.
    In 1841 one of them, William Clews, lived in what I read as Shailbank, Walsall Foreign and in 1851 at “Bullens Heath next to Goblins Pitt”. As he and his three young sons were all listed as miners I thought Goblins Pitt was a coalmine and was most surprised to discover it isn’t!. As all the men in this huge family, including sons and nephews, were miners – except George Clews who became a locksmith and moved to Barrow-in-Furness, my home town, and one other brother who was an engine fitter – can anyone tell me which mines they probably worked in before the Walsall Wood colliery began?
    Regarding Frederick Clews, I think he was the great grandson of the William Clews mentioned above, who was my gt gt gt grandfather. The tree goes as follows: William Clews bap Dec 1792 Shenstone, miner; William Clews bap abt 1821 Stonnall or Shenstone, miner; Charles Clews born abt 1855 Walsall Wood, miner, married to a Sarah; Frederick Clews, his youngest son, born abt 1894, Walsall Wood. These details are from the censuses. I haven’t yet checked BMD as they are not my branch. But I would be pleased to hear from any Clews relatives!
    I enjoy reading your very interesting blog although I have lived in France for more than 40 years, and my real attachment to England is Barrow and the Lake District!

    With best wishes to you and all your readers and contributors,


    (Just one minor little comment: the word “it’s” is short for “it is”!

  8. David Evans says:

    Sue Luzy
    please try 1911 census..James Clews..married Martha Cooper..later lived in Brookland Road Walsall Wood. There is a branch of that Clews Family in Coventry, I believe….More info on Bullings Heah in a few weeks, I hope ,which may be helpful.
    David, et bon courage.

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