This is a bit of an epic past pictures post this week, all about Clayhanger Common, locally known as the spot. I wrote an extensive article about the history of this open space some time ago, and now, I’m interested in some of the engineering changes that made Clayhanger a better place to live in the last 40 years. The Spot today is certainly a pleasant place to be, but it was not always thus, formerly being an area of unused, unloved marsh and then a refuse tip.
I’d like the readers who remember the landscape here in the fifties and sixties to reflect on events that changed the character of Clayhanger so much. I can’t, for example, nail down when the spot was first used as a rubbish dump, who decided that it could be so employed, or indeed, who owned it. Clayhanger – as I documented – used to flood regularly, despite the pumping station. In fact, the village has always been surrounded by low swamp and higher ground, such that drainage has always been a problem. It makes me wonder why folk ever settled there.
The problem persisted until some time in the fifties or sixties. A new drain was built. The flooding stopped. Who built it? It must have been a massive project. Were there other reasons for the construction, such as contamination of groundwater by the tip? I’d like to know what people remember about this project, about The Spot and what was done to make Clayhanger a much better place in which to live.
I’m going to post in detail about this tomorrow, but in the meantime, I’d like readers to reflect on what they remember of those bad, polluted times. Lets see what we can assemble about the history of our frequently waterlogged near-neighbors in Cla’nger.
The usual hat-tip to Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington, without whose dilligent and loving research, this post could not have been written.
The pumping station was never really a success by all accounts, as the village regularly flooded. I just about remember the ruins of it before the common was landscaped. Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.
Gentleshaw Sand & Gravel operated from sites both sides of Clayhanger Bridge, both by where Bridgeside Close is now, and on the village side. There was a brickworks where the new pool is now, just the other side of the road behind the big house. Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.
This would be where Bridgeside Close is now, site of the former RKG pressings factory. The embankment behind being the canal. Beyond that, the rooftop is that of Dutton's House that stood near the canal overflow where there now exists a large embankment. Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.
RKG pressings was demolished in 2004. This desolate old factory was a dismal landmark, the art-deco clock in the frontage having been stopped at twenty to ten for as long as I could remember. Bridgeside Close was built on the site. Taken from my Panoramio gallery.
Dutton's House. Long gone when I was a kid, when the tip operated, this was a cutting, like a bund around the refuse mounds, full of brackish, filthy water and a lone, decaying telegraph pole tilted at 45 degrees. I have several reasons to doubt the claims about such excessive subsidence. One sees this claim bandied about a huge amount, and subsidence locally remains a massive problem, but there isn't 'twenty feet' of house below the embankment there, more like ten, and large buildings dont generally subside evenly, yet the roof is still die straight. Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.
One of the reasons for the flooding on The Spot was that the canal overflows - one by Clayhanger Bridge, the other seen here, opposite where the canoe centre is today - apparently coursed into open channels to the Ford Brook. There's a bit of a mystery here, as I seem to recall a sluice gate here as a kid, beyond the overflow (seen just on the left bank here where the canal disappears from view), just round the bend, that also used to drain into a channel that still exists in the copse today. I cannot now find a single trace of that sluice gate. Was it removed, or am I going mad? Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.
This sluice gate still exists on the canal bank above the big house by Clayhager Bridge. I'm sure there was one like it near the overflow opposite the canoe centre. Image from my Panoramio gallery.
Although not a success, the pump itself was clearly a thing of beauty. Taken from 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.