Up the pool

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)

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29 Responses to Up the pool

  1. Kevin Jones says:

    Lovely to read your report. I had many happy days at the Chasewater leisure park. This was a “big” day out for the family and your pictures have reminded me of some great days out. Thanks and keep you the good work!

    • AS good mate and Brownhills Blog supporter [Howmuch?] says, going to Chasewater was like a trip to the seaside. This huge expanse of water, sandy bits, paddling, ice creams and the constant spectacle and excitement of speedboats and water skiers.

      It was a major hike, really, but I have fond memories of walking up pool road, braving the vicious dog that used to bark and snal at Highfields Farm…

      Best wishes


  2. Hi Bob, I got in contact with Miniature Railway World to ask if anyone had a photo of the railway – this is the reply:

    Thanks for the email and sorry for the delay in my reply,

    I had not heard of a miniature railway at Chasewater previously, and asked friend and miniature railway historian Dave Holroyde what he had, which usually is more than anyone else. He came up with the following:

    “The line ran from c1971 -76. I don’t have any photos of it.

    Motive power was D7023 4w-4PM Cromar White 1971 New, sold 6/79 (The Hymek you mention in text below). This then went to Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park before being sold to Ireland in the mid 1980s, and it hasn’t been seen since!

    There was also an 0-4-0T (details unknown) and BEDFORD SCHOOL 4-4-0 J & W Gower 1934, now with privately owned in Hertfordshire. This arrived c1971 and was sold by 4/75.”

    I doubt the coaches were of Severn Lamb build as I own 4 of their standard design, and they seat 8 passengers or so,

    Hope this is helpful, if you have any questions on the above, don’t hesitate to contact me, and keep me posted if you do find out anymore from other sources

    Many Thanks
    The 4-4-0 Bedford School didn’t run on the railway but was kept in the Chasewater Railway Museum Coach for some time.
    Shame there’s no picture!
    All the best,

    • Thanks you, thank you, thank you.

      Sorry for the delay in reply, it’s been a hectic week for me – but I’d just like to say how grateful I am for such a great contribution.

      I can remember the tracks, I can remember seeing the train pootling along full of kids and parents, but never rode it. I recall the tracks looping round the paddling pool, and I think some kind of turntable selector thing. I think the tracks were still there in the eighties.

      I implore anyone with a picture to send it in…

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s the contributions from readers that make this blog such fun to do.



  3. stymaster says:

    I remember both the railway and the paddling pool. At the time the railway went, I’d have been a small child, but I remember riding on it. Suspect my Mom may have some pics, so I’ll see what I can turn up.

  4. Graham Evans says:

    Hi Bob,
    Its always great to find there’s someone else as interested in aerial photos, maps and Chasewater as I am! I included the aerial shot of Chasewater in my chronology and dated it at circa 1959. Its very similar to the map I’ve dated at 1960 and does show the faint outline of the karting track which was first built in 1959. The spit you refer to is no more than the present day (when there’s water!) island which appears at around 1m drawdown and becomes a spit when water levels are down by around 2.25m. These levels were right for 1959 and 1961 but they were considerably higher during 1960 when the island was completely submerged.
    All the best,

    • I was so intrigued by this I pulled up google earth and compared the outlines of chasewater in 2007 (when the current satellite images are dated) and the above photo. The water level appears similar – the spit, however, is not visible in 2007, but the island just about.

      Since the shoreline is similar in both images (differences around the watersports centre, southwest, and fly bay, middle of the upper shoreline, centre of the picture) the spit doesn’t appear much different, you’re quite right. I’m wondering, since it’s visible in the old photo, if it was a bit higher back then and was eroded away by weather, boat wake etc.

      I’d still like to know how it came to exist – was it deliberate, accidental or whatever. I’t an odd little feature.

      Looking at the housing developments, lack of trotting track I think you’re right about the date. Got to be around then.



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  8. Anonymous says:

    I know it’s only a small thing, but I wouldn’t like it be forgotten that Chasewater had a model yachting pool situated, as I remember, between where the crazy golf course is now and where the go karting track used to be.

    I have many happy memories of sailing my ‘Star’ yacht, solidly built in Birkenhead, across it’s untroubled surface.

    Simple childhood pleasures!

  9. Trying to find a map or evidence of Pool Lane which I now think is Pool Road? Can anyone assist me please? All maps from 1900 show Pool Road as the name so where does Pool Lane fit into this and what time period well before 1900???

    Anyone who can help please email me at gareth,thomas@lichfielddc.gov.uk

    • I’m not really sure what you’re after, to be honest.

      The earliest map record of Chasewater with any accuracy at the required scale would be 1884, here:


      Which shows Pool Road/Lane as an unmarked track, with a gate at the foot of the dam.

      The next map, 1919, shows the track as more prominent, and called Pool Road.


      (note the last three letters of ‘Road’ on the edge of the map)

      Pool Lane may or may not have existed, but I suspect it was a colloquial for Pool Road, which was clearly established officially near the end of the Victorian period. I do occasionally hear it called Pool Lane in conversation, but I’ve never seen it officially recorded. Back then, many unmade tracks had informal names, as they do now. Whether they reached mapping or not is often a fluke.

      Has anyone anything to add to this?

      Best wishes


  10. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    My cousin,s father grew up on his father’s farm, Highfield Farm, by Chasewater. Cousin only knows that road as Pool Road, not referred to as a lane by his father, apparently. Uncle was youngest child in large family, born 1908.

    • peggy cole says:

      david sorry that this is nothing to do with the above ,but i really need for you to contact me asap hope you still have my number

  11. chatmann says:

    Hi Bob, there was another cafe at Chasewater located just after the kart track on the left,it was pulled down but can’t remember when and also trampoline pits on the green near this cafe.

  12. peggy cole says:

    hello i have a film taken in 1964 of chasewater fairground, mini railway, and i think the go kart track .
    it is a family film the paddling pool small cafe is also on it, there are also shots of the swings and slides , my name is peggy cole

    • Hello Peggy.

      Is this cine film you have? Sounds wonderful.


    • stymaster says:

      The elusive railway? I searched *hundreds* of slides looking for pictures of that at my Mom’s (still think there is one, somewhere).
      Any chance of getting it on youtube?

    • mljmorris says:

      My family were good friends with the people who ran the fair. I used to get free rides on the waltzer in my teens,multiple rides not a good idea. Is there any way I might get a copy of your film,I am still in touch with the daughter of the family. I know she would love to see it.

  13. peggy cole says:

    0it was but fam member had it put on disc , my son then put it on my computer, if you can tell me how i will send by e mail to you

  14. peggy cole says:

    yes by all means please do

  15. peggy cole says:

    on this film is dudley zoo, trentam gardens, warf lane scramblers,also drayton manor. it is quite a long film oh and hednesford banger racing and other seaside towns.there is also racing cars and moter bike racing, and i can also get the cd back from my sister to copy if you wish.

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