Air borne

I’m very encouraged today to note that positive action is being taken by English Heritage and its partners in Scotland and Wales to conserve and make available the Aerofilms archive of aerial photography of Britain from 1919-1953. Aerofilms, as the leader in such imagery for years, jealously guarded their work and getting hold of it has always been difficult and expensive – they did, after all, make commercial hay with the coffee table books of Britain from the Air for the last four decades.

It seems sense has prevailed and this remarkable resource is now partially available online. It’s searchable, but very slow at the moment due to public loading. The creators say that more images will be added over time, and I hope that includes the long sought-after pictures of Walsall Wood from the same period as those below.

I spent some time capturing the following images before the server finally went for a lie down. All remain property of their owners and I encourage you to visit the Britain from the Air site and check them out yourselves.

My hat is doffed to English Heritage. Nice work, chaps, never thought I’d see the day…

(a hat-tip is due to reader Steve Hames, whose link on twitter led me to the project. Cheers, Steve!)

Brownhills high Street and common in 1926. Note the building with the large chimney centre left is the William Roberts Brewery, long since gone. Click for a larger version.

This is interesting as I used the image below – a cropped version of the one above – unknowingly in my post from last Sunday containing the Maddaver report from 1910. The caption on the version I used, from the Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington book ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ suggests it to be early 1900’s. I suspect it may have been a later image than the authors imagined. Interesting crop, too.

Cropped. Wonder why? From ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington.

A great image looking down Brownhils High Street toward where Morris Miner stands today. Pelsall Road is upper left. Centre left is what I think is Pier Street. The two houses, if that is the case, would be ‘Pike Helve’, the Fortune of War pub being just out of shot on the left. Image dated 1926. Click for a larger version.

St. Matthews and Church Hill – then surrounded by a notorious slum – from the south in 1928. Click for a larger version.

This is Shelfield from the west, captured in 1926. The Four Crosses pub is just left of centre. The railway – now long gone – ran where the greenspace is now. Few realise that it was ever there. Click for a larger version.

This one has me a bit confused – it’s described as ‘Pelsall town centre’, and is dated 1926. Can anyone place it for me? Click for a larger version.

Rushall Square, 1926. Station Road running to Bottowm Right, Lichfield Road diagonally central, Almshouses middle right. Click for a larger version.

Aldridge village, 1226. Note the church upper right centre, The Croft adjacent. Click for a larger version.

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23 Responses to Air borne

  1. Barry Carpenter says:

    I also picked this up today from the Kite Aerial Photography forum, it took ages to register and is currently very slow. The server is simply not quick enough to cover a very large need from the public. Give it a few weeks to catch up and it should be a great resource.

  2. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    many thanks. Aeroflims are known to crop ..annoyingly so. !
    The Walsall Wood HIgh Street image loses Hall Lane if you buy the cheaper, smaller print, bless them!. I wonder if the RAF 1945 recon. photos will be easily available one day….please..
    kind regards

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Bob
    I saw this on the bbc yesterday and had intended to send you a link, but someone beat me to it. The top picture you can just see chase water in the distance and the Triangle? Seeing Brownhills common with no trees !!
    Can you do your google overlay party trick from an angle?


  4. stymaster says:

    Could the Pelsall one be Ashtree Rd running away from the camera, Chapel St parallel to it, with High St and Norton Rd running left-right across the frame?

    • Yes it is Stytmaster

    • dave cowley says:

      It is Ash Tree Road because I have lived there for the last 80 years and still do so if you wish to have any more information get in touch with me, I hope you noticed that Norbury avenue had not been constructed there is also another photo taken the same day from over Pelsall Church in Church Road from which I have a very poor copy I would a better copy Please?

  5. Pedro says:

    It is to be expected that a site like this is inundated with views when first announced, due to the incredible number of people now interested in Local History, but patience is rewarded!

    Bob raises an interesting, if not a disturbing question, concerning the cropped version of the picture used in Memories of Brownhills Past by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington. (2003)

    It looks like it may have been cropped to remove the light bit in the right hand corner, but it seems to have been lightened up to the detriment of detail. It is described as early 1900’s which to me would suggest much earlier than 1926.

    Now this may seem a bit pedantic, but taken with another instance mentioned in Bob’s Blog…A Gruesome History…where the wrong man is named as the murderer it begs the question as to how many more inaccuracies are taken at face value just because it has been written in what is an excellent book.

    In another post…The Truth will out…in another excellent book (2006) the cause of the 1861 mining disaster was incorrectly given as a rockfall and not suffocation, as can be seen here…

    Also in this book it says that William Harrison was involved in limestone mining in the Black Country during the last two decades of the 18th century. I cannot find any involvement until 1824 and believe that, as Andy Dennis has discovered, he was born in Middlewich in Cheshire where his family had interests.

    Thanks to BrownhillsBob’s Blog for a platform to challenge and put the record straight!

  6. David Evans says:

    HI Pedro
    many thanks for your ongoing fascinating research ! Most appreciated.

  7. Ian Carr says:

    beaten to it! Ive spent a long time looking at the pelsall picture and have come to the same conclusion.The large building at the top of chaple street is the old chapel.On the norton rd there are two white buildings the first i think is the queens hotel. The track in the background is the one running towards Railswood Farm. I think so anyway!

  8. Barry Carpenter says:

    Unfortunatly, its all to easy to repeat others mistakes when doing research and writting it up as being genuine fact. The one thing that I did learn when I did my own family tree, always look for the original matterial, even if that means getting your hands dirty in the records office. The Internet is a great research tool, but only if the writter has take the time to do the leg work.
    How many times have you Googled a subject, only to see that every hit is just copy and paste?

  9. Barry Carpenter says:
  10. Clive says:

    Nice one Bob and friends, I know what I will be doing tonight…hi.
    I`m with you 100% Barry, the internets ok to get you started, but always back your info up with the “real” documents. There`s so much cut and paste on the internet of facts and errors. and if the same error is repeated enough it becomes fact!

  11. Steve Hames says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the mention. The site appears to be a lot quicker tonight and I’ve been browsing it all day, some really interesting photos on there.

  12. Andy Dennis says:

    Great stuff again!

    I think stymaster is right about Ashtree Road. It looks like the railway in the background, where thepoplars are and exiting top left just eblow the aicraft motif, with Railswood Drive (now) curving around the wood. Bit of a chimney fire going on in Chapel Street!

    Looks to me like the first 1926 shot of Brownhills is the same as the Mayo-Harrington picture.

    I can remember the common without trees, Dave. From about this time of year onwards it used to be black as some locals would set fire to it. The Fire Brigade would be there on and off for days. Best thing the Council ever did for Brownhills was to replant it.

  13. Hi folks.

    The question of veracity in historical media on websites and blogs like mine has long troubled me, and was largely why I wrote this a few months ago.

    Accuracy and source referencing are very important to me. I do, however, understand how easy it is to make simple mistakes with this stuff.



  14. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    the photo of Walsall Wood was taken on 12/4/1926 and has two references, no 45098 ( struck out) and C12399 Symonds Aeroflims are in Boreham Wood, Herts.
    The Brownhills (Pier Street and Lemore House)photo is ref 15101, also taken on that date. The 1950 Brownhills photo is ref 14156

  15. Barry Carpenter says:

    Bob, your link is right on the mark and I missed this blogg the first time around.
    Many years ago I encounter a retired Doctor who made a name for himself as a local history buff, published a number of locally high profile books. The more I got into the original records for the town in question the more errors in his “Work” I came across. These errors then started to be taken as red by a number people mildly into their own local history.
    And yes I am just as guilty as the next man in assuming the written word as possible fact. Its only by continually correcting these errors that we will get nearer to the truth of our past. Keep it up Bob, as I do enjoy reading your work.

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  20. Julie says:

    Hi Bob the Pelsall one is Ashtree Road in the foreground, to the right, Church Road, at the top Norton Road. I lived in Ashtree Road many moons ago

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