Soldiers on Brownhills Common in 1888?

This is local history dynamite. Top local history sleuth [Howmuch?] has been rooting through old papers again, and came upon the following article from the Walsall Observer, dated  June 16th, 1888. The image is as rough as a badger’s bum (as you’d expect for the age of the paper) but I’ve transcribed it below. People who were involved in the ongoing debate about mining and engines on the common may well be interested in this.

Anyone know what the hell is going on here? Were these troops here for long? Was it a flying visit? Was this commonly done? Is there any other record? I’m fascinated by this, and it shows just what a top bloke [Howmuch?] is. If you pass a pair of feet sticking out from below some local point of interest, they’re probably his. Say hello and thanks as you hurry past…

Boozing and schmoozing into the next morning – living it up with the squaddies in 1888. Like, wow. From the Walsall Observer, 16th June 1888. Click for a larger version – text transcribed below.

The Canteen License.- At the police court, on Wednesday, before W. F. Gordon, I. T. Birch, and A. O. Worthington Esqrs. Superintendent Barrett informed their worships that on Saturday last two officers of the South Staffordshire Regiment, part of which were then stationed upon the Common, came to him with a message from Colonel Webb. setting forth that it was the intention of the authorities of the camp to open the canteen from 2 p.m. until seven on the following day Sunday for the convenience of the friends of the soldiers visiting them. He did not wish to do anything contrary to the authorities of the corps, but at the same time he did not think the wishes of the Bench were being carried out in opening the canteen to private personas at all on a Sunday, and he thought it strange conduct to open at such hours after what had been said when the license was granted by the Bench at a former sitting. No complaint, however, had been made about it. -Mr. Gordon asked if the Superintendent knew that it was opened.- The Superintendent said he did not know as a fact, as he did not send any officer down. He only knew that if such was the case it was a breach of what took place before the magistrates. -Mr. Gordon: And you have no proof that it was open? -Superintendent Barrett: I have not. I understood that it would not be generally known about Brownhills that it would be open, and that very few persons would be there. -Mr. Birch: The conditions on which the license was granted were that it should be open to soldiers only. – Superintendent Barrett was instructed to make known to the officers that the decision of the bench at their former meeting, a keep a look out on the place in future.

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6 Responses to Soldiers on Brownhills Common in 1888?

  1. jim says:

    There was a full size military rifle range just south of Chasewater Bob apparently from around 1860 till maybe the 1890s it’s shown on the 1880s maps maybe they were making use of this too.

  2. jim says:

    In 1888 the British army adopted a new rifle the Lee-Metford the predecessor to the more famous Lee-Enfield I wonder if it’s possible the soldiers were out on maneuvers to get to grips with the new weapon?. Given the open spaces of the common and the proximity of the rifle range it would make for a good camp location if this were the case.

    I’ve found Shell casings from WW1 & WW2 and a couple of pistol balls near engine lane possibly from the civil war could there have been a military camp in the 1640s as well as in 1888? The only Victorian military artifact I’ve found nearby was a south staffs helmet plate near School Lane just past the turf island.

  3. David Evans says:

    possibility of connection with the civil war is intriguing…anything known about Frog Hall..shown on some very old maps..near the Rising Sun? Was the rifle range near HIghfields farm, do you know, please Jim.

    Engine Lane and Newcomen possibility “trail” has gone cold..Area archeologist needed funding from local authority to pursue his investigation..not forthcoming to date as far as I am aware…
    NCB presently conducting survey of unknown shafts locally and nationally with aim of filling them in….then all will be safe..and entombed! Staffs side of the common, near Grove, has possibility of becoming open workings for clay. I hope the Brownhills part of the common does not suffer the same fate but remains unspoilt. Hatherton Canal Trust very interested to learn of Slough and of possibility of becoming a future marina site when canal systems are linked..then Brownhills Engine Lane park will be an important town !
    David Evans

  4. jim says:

    Yes David the rifle range stretched from Highfields farm 600 yards roughly NNW to the butt/backstop which would be someware just opposite the little castle on the south shore of Chasewater.

    So no doubt the field directly north of Highfields farm is full of Victorian bullets as for the pistol balls they appear to be unfired so it’s possible they could have been dropped on a camp site or even cast on site which was not out of the ordinary. Being pistol balls leads me to suspect maybe cavalry could be involved as I believe pistols were mostly used by the cavalry.

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Re clay extraction: I vaguely recall a “rights-swap” agreement with the landowner to give up planning permission to extract clay (Etruria marl?) from Brownhills Common, respecting the Local Nature Reserve (then, now SSSI), in exchange for rights to extract elsewhere on the Little Wyrley Estate. I think this was part of a wider review of all extant planning permission for mineral extraction and restoration requirements.

  6. D.Evans says:

    HI Bob
    thanks, please, to Jim for the info regarding the rifle range at HIghfields farm..farmer’s grandson was completely unaware of this so was very pleased to have this piece of family history.
    David Evans

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