A strange undertaking

When we discussed a couple of missing pubs in the area, The Coach & Horses and Royal Oak, an interesting observation was made by reader Caz.

I’ve been talking to a man today who’s lived near the Blackcock all his life and he said that the Royal Oak pub was across the road from the Blackcock pub in Green Lane, Walsall Wood. There was also a mortuary there and a row of houses. Hope this jogs someones memory.

I’ve heard the mortuary thing before, and disregarded it. Talking about the map I featured in the last post about Walsall Wood Colliery, the sharp-eyed top local history buff [Howmuch?] pointed out that the morgue in question was marked at the edge of that extract. In disbelief, I checked, and he’s quite right, there’s a small building marked ‘mort’, just the other side of the canal. I decided to pull up some old maps, that better show the area, formerly known as Bullings Heath.

1938 1:2500 Scale extract of Bullens Heath: note changes in the arrangement of the Hall Lane Junction. The mortuary is marked just north of that junction, above the wharf.

Central extract showing the mortuary.

I’m puzzled by this – it was still marked on the 1956 maps, but no trace remains today. To try and clarify the situation, I overlaid the map extract on Google Earth.

It can be seen that the farmhouse still exists, and that the area where the mortuary was is clear of buildings, although the scrub shows a different coulour.

You can download the overlay yourselves and play around with it in Google Earth. I know nothing about the mortuary itself – I can find no reference on the internet, and it’s existence has quite surprised me. Whether it was a civil facility, or that of a local undertaker I have no idea, but I’d like to find out more about it. Here’s a series of maps that show the same area over time:

1888 1:2500 shows the building present, but unmarked.

By 1902, buildings had appeared alonside the canal. Note Camden Street is called Bullings Heath.

As usual, if you know anything, please do comment or mail me. I’d love to hear what you have to say…

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15 Responses to A strange undertaking

  1. CAZ says:

    Hello Bob,l have looked at the title deeds to my home which is situated in the area in question. There is a map dated 26th february 1897,and there is a building marked on it in the exact spot where the mortuary is marked on your later map. Although it isn’t marked as a mortuary on the 1897 map,l have another map,[not dated, but looks more recent] and the mortuary is marked on that one, in exactly the same spot.
    The 1879 map shows that the land/fields behind the mortuary? and houses in Green Lane belong to Edmund Arblaster.Some of the land [where the houses were at that time ] was owned by a Joseph Wright and the land where the Blackcock Pub is ,is marked as John Critch.
    From what l can understand, trying to read between the legal jargon, Edmund Arblaster purchased the land from the Earl of Bradford, who was Lord of the Manor.
    I’ve googled the names and some interesting info on Walsall Wood came up, although i’m sure you’ve probably seen it already.
    A mining report states that the last date of working in the local mine was 1960 and that, while some coal remains in the locality, the possibility of future mining is considered remote.
    I’m a novice when it comes to computers,but if l can scan the maps and send them to you, l will.
    Hope this helps

  2. Howmuch says:

    Hello Bob, with ref to CAZ, its very usfull information, as Joseph Wright was the landlord of the Royal Oak, around that period. he is listed as being a boot and shoe maker also.

  3. Paul Ford says:

    Hi Bob,

    I had a little look in the archives regarding the mortuary!

    It appears that there was no provision within Brownhills until 1904, when the UDC decided they would have one on the site of the Sewage Farm in Walsall Wood – it may have finally been built in 1907, but it may have been the adaptation of an existing building. UDC minutes are vague and the Health Sub-Committee doesn’t seem to have survived.

    Anyhow, in the early 1930s the site had a gas fire put in to make it more accommodating for post-mortems. In 1935 the UDC decided they needed a new mortuary after a survey of it’s condition and looked at a site they had purchased near ‘The Boot Inn’ (any ideas where this was) and negotiated with the Aldridge Brick & Tile Co regarding placing a mortuary on land the Council had just purchased off them.

    It is unclear as to whether anything was actually done, i guess that nothing was (possibly through objections) and in 1939 a plan was commissioned for a new mortuary in Walsall Wood (same site?)

    Of course, the war came along and it seems likely that nothing was done to the old murtuary, or in building a new one – indeed emergency mortuary provision was sought, especially closer to Brownhills. The Horse & Jockey pub seemed to have allowed their club room to be used for a while, if needed, but the Brownhills Spiritualist Soc protested at the Council seeking to use their building (ironic) and discussions with a chemical works to use a bungalow seemed to come to nought.

    In 1941, provision was secured at a site in Lichfield Rd, Brownhills after grants of £200 were received from central funding.

    In 1945, £300 was spent upgrading the current mortuary facilities – but it is inclear as to exactly where they were upgrading! I assume it is the old mortuary site at the Sewage Farm and the Lichfield Rd site was no longer retained.

    It seems that Aldridge asked for permission to use Brownhills’ site in the 1950s whilst their mortuary was being built, but in 1961, and to avoid expense, a new site was found in the Council Yard. I assume this is when the old mortuary finally closed, however, it could have gone earleir and the name retained for another edition of the OS Map (1956)

    All in all, interesting, but not definitive – but hope it was of interest. There maybe more to find, including up at the Staffordshire County Record Office, but i could only devote time for a general search.

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  15. Mrs. T. Kilbride. says:

    Hello Brownhills Bob,
    I wonder if you can help me. On a family birth certificate in 1907, the address given is:- Bullens Heath, Walsall Wood. My relation was a Farm Bailiff there. I see on one of your maps, there was a sewage farm around that area, my relation later went to work at Curborough Sewage Farm near Lichfield. Is there a connection between Bullens Heath and the Sewage Farm would you know?

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