The huge lake – now drained for repairs – to the north of Brownhills started life at the end of the 1700’s as a feeder reservoir for the nascent canal system. It has variously been termed Norton Pool, Cannock Chase Reservoir and is now known simply as Chasewater. Grimy, wind blown, hugely polluted and surrounded by spoil heaps for the majority of it’s life, it’s now a clean green haven with little to indicate an industrial past. A site of special scientific interest, those wonderful volunteers at Chasewater Wildlife Group keep watch over the many rare species in the area. This week, I’ve been looking for good images of Chasewater from the past – particularly from the sixties and seventies. Nada. Zip. Bugger all. Apart from a grainy Francis Frith image, I have nothing to recall the days as a ‘pleasure park’, the paddling pool, amusement arcade, brick shelters or little train. Amongst the readership of the blog we must have a photographic record of this period, so come on chaps, what have you got?
Despite ages searching, this is about the only decent picture of the leisure era at Chasewater; available as a print from Francis Frith. I remember a little people-carrying train that ran on narrow tracks, a playground, paddling pool and cafe with bingo and amusements.
Francis Frith – dominating any given local history search since time in memorial, which isn’t at all annoying. Oh, no.
Where the trotting track stood (and now remains and can be found by the curious explorer), was the Cox Pit. The shaft was said to be so shallow that people on the surface could hold shouted conversations with miners down below. From 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.
Chasewaterstuff’s Railway Blog and Oakparkrunner have great, in-depth articles about the industrial history of Chasewater and surrounds.
Over Pool Lane, now obliterated by the M6 Toll, was quite a popular go-kart track. Many accounts and images from this fun attraction can be found on the web. Image from Walsall Local History Centre's flickr stream.
Go-Karting at Chasewater – an affectionate history from Dave Clark
As coal economics changed, the Wide Pit was reopened, which was near Highfields Farm. If the area of the common north of Coppice Site is carefully explored, sinks and associated mounds can still be found. Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.
I'm unaware of the date of this aerial image, but it must be quite old. The shape of the reservoir - whilst generally that of today - differs quite a lot. I'm intrigued by the 'spit' on the railway shore to the west. Note Cannock Chase No.2 pit at the northern tip of the dam, mid upper right. Taken from 'Memories of Brownhills Past' by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.
One of the great aspects of Chasewater is it has a huge mythology. Oft repeated tales include second world war bombers dropping excess ordnance into it on their return (utterly false), a bomber crashing into it (false), cars driving into it to sometimes fatal result (indeterminate), it being effectively 'bottomless' (I think we can put that one to bed), gold having been found there (nailed as a prank by the E&S in 1978) and there being a sunken paddle steamer under the surface. The last has some basis in fact, as in 1898, a local publican started a waterbus service using a steamboat, to take the curious across the water. It was a commercial failure, and the boat left to decay in the water. Image from the excellent 'Chasewater History' files by Graham Evans and Chasewater Wildlife Group.
Read the Chasewater History files from Chasewater Wildlife Group:
Volume One (Pre-history to 1850)
Volume Two (1850-1920)
Volume Three (1921-1969)
Volume Four (1970-1990)
Volume Five (1991-2005)