It’s not often that I feel the need to lift an item out of the comments and publish it as a post of it’s own, but yesterday, Paul Ford, Walsall Local History Centre expert and research genius stunned me. I’ve been getting used to readers digging out some great material of late, but this one is remarkable. I’d like to here and now publicly thank Paul for his excellent contribution.
Paul chose to look into the mystery mortuary marked on maps of the Green Lane/Bullings Heath area of Walsall Wood, which I blogged Sunday last. I figured I might stir a few memories, but the subject seemed a little too left field for me to hope for anything concrete. How wrong I was.
This is a cracking example of just how important, relevant and essential Walsall Local History Centre is. Walsall Council do an excellent job of maintaining our community archives and local history, yet with reduced hours and staffing on the horizon the public access to such fascinating material and knowledgeable, helpful researchers like Paul, could be severely limited. Where else could a ragged-arsed blog like this get such a thorough, spontaneous and welcome contribution from their local archive service? Walsall as a council do some things exceptionally well and their Library, Archive and Museum service is second to none.
I’d just like to add that there is a photo of The Boot Inn in my previous post ‘The Distant Local’, about lost pubs of the area. It can be seen on the map of Walsall Wood and Stubbers Green, kindly supplied by Steve Hickman a couple of weeks ago, just on the corner of Brickyard Road and Lichfield Road, on the opposite corner to where Barons Court stands today.
Comment on A strange undertaking by Paul Ford
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 mortuary, 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 naught.
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 unclear 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.