Watchers of the night?

The roof of the old reservoir… was it host to watchers of the night? Photo taken just before demolition in June 2009.

Interesting question here from reader David Evans. I have my own views on this which I’ll go into later in the week, but it’s a very intriguing proposition, and thought I’d formally toss it out to you readers. Anyone know anything more?

HI Bob

I wonder if your readers can help.

Gordon Mycock’s wonderful notes mention Shire Oak junction roadway having blocks set in holes , to be turned into a road block and vehicle trap in the event of an invasion in the last war, and that possibly, these blocks are still in place, under the present roadway!

The South Staff Home Guards memories in their article written very shortly after the end of WW2 contain a brief reference to Castle Fort ridge becoming a ‘strong point’.

Again I have heard mention of ‘something’ on top of the reservoir , some vague recollection of a structure there at the time, seen by a passenger aboard the Lichfield to Walsall Bus. I wonder what it was? Your photos taken shortly before the reservoir was demolished show a brick stairway down into the empty reservoir. A possibility, of course, but, given the panoramic view of the skies from that point I wonder if there was an Air Observation Point situated there during the war?

Gordon has confirmed that there was very probably an Anti-Aircraft gun somewhere along the Chester Road…perhaps near the Plough and Harrow

I met a former SSWW reservoir superintendent, then owner of a café in Walsall..who confirmed that a few pieces of ordnance were stored in the reservoir at that time. I wonder if your kind readers can help solve this conundrum.

I think there could well be quite an interesting piece of unrecorded local history to surface!

kind regards


The access stairwell - internally, lots of steps and very steep. If anything was stored down there, unless it was light it would have been a ball ache to get it in & out. Picture from 2009 exploration, just prior to demolition.

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2 Responses to Watchers of the night?

  1. David Oakley says:

    Hi David,
    Intriguing questions regarding Shire Oak Reservoir and perhaps a fitting sequel to its history. This reservoir was beset with problems throughout its comparatively short life, beginning in January 1900, a mere three years after building when the bottom was found to be cracked. In 1924 a complete new bottom was constructed, but problems still persisted and it was taken out of service in 1938, so from the start of the war in 1939 it could have provided valuable and secure storage space. Access could have been difficult for larger
    pieces of ordnance but reservoirs were built with a provision for periodic emptying and cleaning, in which tools, lights, hoses, etc had to be safely carried down. I think I have been in every working reservoir in what was then the SSWW area, both North and South and no difficulty was encountered by the cleaning personnel in getting necessary equipment down in even the deepest reservoir, even under stringent Health and Safety regulations, so although I never heard of the reservoir being put to this wartime use I would not discount it.
    Regarding the Air Observation theory on the reservoir roof, my father was an Air Raid Warden in Walsall Wood during the war and took regular turns in nightly fire-watching and “roof spotting” All good vantage points in the village were utilised for this purpose and where better than Shire Oak Reservoir? although I never heard mention of any more formal set-up than this “Dad’s Army approach, the wartime maxim of “Careless talk costs lives” could mean that it would not become common knowledge.

  2. David Evans says:

    HI David
    my father, too, was an Air Raid Warden in Walsall Wood during WW2 and, as you say, did not talk about the times. “They had got something up on the top” above the reservoir, visible from the bus stop by the side of the reservoir, was the actual phrase used by a relative recently who during the war used the bus to go to her piano lessons every it was not a “one off” sighting.
    The known local air-raid mentioned in the Hermann series of articles on this blog, gave locals too little time to get into their shelters from the time of the alarm sounding to the dropping of bombs , suggesting a local alarm, one off. emergency .
    My mother and another lady used to talk of hearing “the big gun”..Gordon has clarified what this was, and where it was..for a time..during WW2
    Many thanks for your note, David, and a Happy Christmas

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