Paul Ford, researcher at Walsall Local History Centre and top blog contributor has once again excelled himself and ferreted out a top piece of local history from Walsall’s extensive archives. Paul has kindly offered to make this a reasonably frequent occurrence as he notices things we might be interested in. This is a fantastic thing for readers of the blog, and a true act of generous felicity. I’m sure readers will join with me in thanking Paul for his time and keen eye for historic detail.
In the following piece, Paul highlights the unsavoury history of an area covered in the recent posts referring to the Green Lane/Bullings Heath area. I’m interested in the history of local drainage and sewerage too, so this article covers several angles.
I saw the recent piece on the toxic land and thought of this – which is collection Acc1399 in the archives.
This collection relates to a court case, held at the Birmingham Assizes on the 30th November 1921, between Emma Snape, Arthur John Snape and William Thomas Edwards, the executors of Albert Henry Snape deceased, farmer of Grange Farm, Walsall Wood (plaintiff) and the Brownhills Urban District Council (Defendant).
The case may have sprung from an earlier case, dated 1913, between Snape’s neighbour, Samuel Brawn and the UDC. The essence of the action taken by the plaintiff was that the Ford Brook, which flowed through Grange Farm, was, since 1920, being polluted with sewage from the Council’s sewage works just up-stream, which was then being imbibed by plaintiff’s cattle and horses, causing sickness, a reduction in milk output and a depreciation in their value.
Grange Farm had been offered to the Council in 1904 (see plan and schedule pics) at a cost of £80 per acre. The sewage works had opened in 1882, I believe.
Albert Paley, the veterinary inspector for Walsall inspected the animals and found them in poor condition and the stream clearly polluted. Indeed, the UDC had tests at the County Analyst’s Labs in Birmingham and Public Analysts Lab in Wolverhampton on the stream water (see picture), which proved it was heavily contaminated.
The defence put forward by the UDC (see picture of defendants brief), championed by Sir John McFadyean, principal of the Royal Veterinary College, London, was that the pollution would not harm the animals, but that his tests showed that one animal died from Johnes’s disease, also called paratuberculosis, which is a contagious, chronic and sometimes fatal infection that affects primarily the small intestine of any hooved animal that digests its food in two steps, first by eating the raw material then regurgitating and eating a semi-digested form known as cud.
The plaintiff claimed £788 in damages, but although the judge found for the plaintiff, he only awarded costs and damages of £150. The UDC also cleaned the stream, as tests at the County Analyst’s Labs in Birmingham showed, as by 1923, the stream was far less polluted.
I thank Paul for his remarkable contribution to the blog, and I’d like to draw readers attention to some of his other great contributions, on the subject of the local mortuary, Yates Map of Staffordshire, The great Walsall Wood subsidence mystery and last week’s Billy Daft autograph.
Paul is just one of the team at Walsall Local History Centre who provide a largely free service to everyone interested in the history of their area and the history of the wider Walsall Borough. Staff there are highly trained, knowledgeable and ready and willing to help both the novice and experienced researcher alike.
If you haven’t popped in yet, the centre is in Essex Street in North Walsall. Details of opening hours and facilities are available of their web page. You’re assured a warm welcome.