Where you go, Vigo too…

It’s been a bit disparate here of late. I’m sorry if things are a little disjointed. I’m very busy at the moment, I’m working through the usual backlog of posts, and new stuff keeps cropping up all the while. I know I’ve got articles in the bag from David Evans, Pete ‘Pedro’ Cutler, Richard Burnell, and a great contribution on the mystery structure behind the Brickmakers Arms in the Wood, all the way from Steve Turner in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t be downhearted if your post hasn’t been covered yet. They all will be, but at the moment, I’m tailoring the output to the time available. Thanks to everyone for their patience.

In the mean time, one of the things David Evans has been working on is the area of Walsall Wood known as The Vigo. I must admit, I’ve always been mystified by the name, after spotting another ‘Vigo’northeast of Bromsgrove as a kid, and a Vigo Village near Chatham, in Kent. The name clearly has some significance, but what exactly?

Here’s what David found out… my thanks to him for his wonderful work, as ever.

The Vigo Stores, image and text supplied by David Evans and Marjorie Hadley.

The above is a photograph of the V1go Stores, corner of Brooklands Road and Vigo Road, Walsall Wood taken in 1963.

This shop was a typical shop of the day selling groceries, bags of coal, paraffin, cotton and needles, buttons etc. Mr. Matthew Whitehouse took over the shop in 1962 firm two ladies (Miss Bayliss and Miss Gill). It was previously owned by someone called Knight.

The local post box was in the wall of the shop facing Brooklands Road. Under the shop were large cellars, which had been used as air raid shelmrs during the Second World War. The shop was compulsory purchased by the council in 1974 to make way for a traffic island. This has never happened, probably because when the shop was demolished, visibility was very much improved

Previous to owing the shop Mr. Whitehouse had started a business in 1950 with a van selling fruit and vegetables. At this time ordinary people did not own cars and a staple part of the British diet was potatoes; these were mostly bought by the stone (approximately 7 kilos), so this provided a valuable service. When the business grew to include groceries as well, Mr. Whitehouse purchased a coach from Mr. Owen who lived in Lichfield Road, Shire Oaks. Mr. Owen had a contract to take the workers from Walsall Wood to the plastics factory at Streetly Works.

Marjorie Hadley

The Vigo, Walsall Wood

‘By 1805 the southern common (at Walsall Wood) was known as Holly Bank Common and the settlement on its south side as Vigo’, British History online, Walsall Wood introduction, paragraph 5.

But it is known by locals as ‘The Vigo’. An important use of the definite article? And why is a part of a village in the middle of England blessed with such an unusual name at all? Is it named after a long-lost feature? I have yet to mee any local who can say why this part of the village was called this.

A merry little trip through the census returns may hold the answer. Or not. In any case we may gain another glimpse into this area through the recent past. But first I was helped immensely by a good-hearted local lady’s first-hand knowledge of the locale. She grew up here and kindly offered some fascinating materials.

But perhaps a reverse-timeline through the census returns will take us further back and may shed some light.

1891 census lists Hollander’s Lane  becoming ‘Vigo’ with the first entry being the farm house (later known as Vigo Farm on maps) and uses ‘Vigo’ reference up to the corner of the road, at Vigo Corner and includes houses up to Kings Hayes farm. A total of around 35 dwellings. ‘Holly Bank Road’ (today’s Castle Road) and page 61 of the records shows an ‘Accommodation’ with two families, a tent with a Stevens family of hawkers, another tent with a Sharlott family of hawkers/travellers, and a caravan with Rogers family of 8 people; hawkers. Salters Road at this time had 12 houses. ‘Vigo’ residents were mainly brickworkers and coalminers.

A remarkable map drawn by reader Majorie Hadley, of the Vigo Corner she knew. Some incredible details on this… I’ll leave the Wood Massive of Messrs. Evans, Oakley and others to pick the bones out of it. Wonderful. My thanks to Majorie, and for David’s work in bringing it to the blog. Click for a larger version.

1881 census ( Walsall foreign, Aldridge, district 2) shows

‘Vigo’ with 40 dwellings and 493 residents. An important settlement! At this time Vigo farm , 30 acres, was the residence or Hannah Stokes who had previously lived in Saredon( near Cannock ) with her miller husband Charles in 1851 census. One of the children was a ‘waggoner’ at the time.

1871 census (Staffs/WalsallWood/district 10) is interesting. It shows a

‘Vigo Commonside’ with 5 dwellings and 32 inhabitants, mainly brickworkers, and also a

‘Vigo’ with 7 dwellings and 22 inhabitants, mainly agricultural labourers, nail-makers,brickmakers, and a waggoner.

1861 census  (Staffs/Walsall Wood/district10) shows

‘The Vigo’ ( the definite article !) with 2 dwellings with Mr Whitehouse, nailmaker and his family in one home, and a Nutting family next door. This record may be incomplete;part-damaged.

1851 census (Staffs/Walsallforeign/Aldridge/district 1B) shows

‘Vigo’ with 2 dwellings; one of which has 10 inhabitants , some of whom were tile makers; 1 with 5 inhabitants, brickmakers.

Other dwellings’ addresses are shown as ‘Common’

1841 census (Staffs/Walsall/Aldridge/district 5) shows

‘Vigo’ (page5) with 7 dwellings and 38 residents; one lime miner, others mainly nailers and brickmakers

There is a ‘lime burner’ listed in ‘Walsall Wood Common’; Hollanders Lane at this time had two dwellings with Joseph Hollander, lime burner living in one house and a nailer living in the other. Another entry for ‘Walsall Wood Common’ includes a lime burner

It has been suggested that Vigo refers to a naval battle. But which one?

1719 Battle of Vigo when a Spanish fleet from Vigo had attempted to invade Scotland in support of the Jacobites?

1702 Battle of Vigo Bay. A victory by British and Dutch navies over French and Spanish fleet, on 23 October of that year?

But Francis Drake attacked and had briefly occupied the town, twice in fact; in 1585 and 1589.

But can we go further back than the census records, to add to British History Online information? The website ‘Aldridge Residents’ Association’ quotes these  two sources;-

K. Bonsor’s 1970 book, ‘The Drovers’, and Jim Gould’s 1957 book ‘The Men of Aldridge’

‘Drovers avoided the newly-introduced toll (in 1769) along the Watling Street at Brownhills and the Chester Road near Stonnall on their route from Newport Salop, at the Rising Sun (junction of Chester Road and Watling Street, Brownhills West) they turned southerly direction towards Aldridge’

‘this route also gave softer ground ‘

‘there was pasture in the common ground at Walsall Wood Road Aldridge’

I think this would take the drovers past ‘Vigo’, and along the track which became Salters Road.

What would waggoners and drovers need as well as pasture?  Water.

By Kings Hayes farm there is a spring (and my thanks to David Oakley for his detailed information on this spring) which became the stream that flowed across the present day road, and in the shallow valley that is now Coppice Road….

But, more questions than answers. Can we go further back than this? ‘The Vigo’..a corruption of a word from another language? We may never know, but one historian has suggested that Vigo is a corruption of a Latin word ‘vicus’. I would add another contender; ‘via’.

Vicus                        village, farm-house, hamlet, lane

Via                             path, road, way, right way, journey

David Evans, July 2012

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36 Responses to Where you go, Vigo too…

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    I wonder …

    “The Village of Vigo may not be as modern as some would think. Although the existing village originates with the first planning consent in 1962, a hamlet of Vigoe is recorded on an early 18th century map and it may well be that this hamlet took its name from the Vigo Inn. The Inn, dating from 1471, is reputed to have been renamed by a local man after he purchased it with ‘prize money’ from his time under Admiral Rooke at the battle of Vigo Bay during Franco/Spanish War in 1702.” From http://www.vigo-kent.org/History.htm

    But what would there have been at Vigo corner to have been renamed in 1702?

  2. Pedro says:

    Searching the Archives the only mention of Vigo in relation to Staffs brings up details of the place Vigo, and mostly in a military connection. But as Andy mentions Admiral Rooke I came across this anecdote in the Staffs Advertiser of May 1801…

    In the days of Queen Anne, Captain Hardy and his ship were stationed in Legara Bay. He received intelligence of 17 men of war at the harbour in Vigo, and set sail. He came up to Sir George Rooke and gave him the intelligence; all ships were destroyed or taken.

    After the battle the Admiral called Hardy on board and said “You have done sir a very important piece of service to the Throne, you have added to the honour and riches of your country by your diligence, but do not you know, that you are liable at this instant to be shot for quitting your station?”

    “He is unworthy of bearing a commission under her Majesty (replied the Captain), who holds his life as aught; when the glory and interest of his Queen and country require him to hazard it.”

    He was dispatched home with letters of recommendations, and was instantly knighted and later made Rear Admiral.

  3. Barry Carpenter says:

    Like wise Almar is another Spanish place name transplanted to a number of UK places, taken from the same Franco/Spanish War. I used to live not that far from the Bromsgrove Vigo, a small country lane with a hand full houses.

  4. Julie Le-Moine says:

    this is lovely to read…Joseph Hollender was my great grandfather ( or great great !) and the bridge at the end of Hollenders Lane was also and still is I believe called Hollenders bridge. Its great to read a little bit of my family history…..thank you x

  5. David Evans says:

    And a very big thankyou to Bob for putting this article into shape and collating the materials..and for his tireless efforts which make this blog an exceptional publication. Well done BB.

  6. david oakley says:

    Nice to see a picture of the Vigo stores, looking just the same as in the ’30’s. The shop, at that time, was owned by Sam Knight and his wife Daisy.
    Dicky Knight, Sam’s father, lived with them, running the off-licence situated in the same building. As a young teenager, in the war, I spent many an uncomfortable night in the cellars during air-raids. The cellars were approached from the Vigo Road side of the building and were so roomy, in comparision to the building that I recently wondered if it could originally be one of the “lost Beerhouses” recently mentioned by David Evans. The building was certainly there in 1901. The off-licence entrance was in Brookland Road.
    A childhood delight, well remembered, was the spending of the “Saturday ha’penny, a coin worth less than a quarter of 1p in today’s currency. This was always spent at Knight’s who had a better selection than Basford’s on the opposite corner. In the summer a white canvas blind was hung on the outside of the shop window as a partial protection against sunlight. To squeeze under the blind deliberating what to buy, was the ultimate weekly joy, even though the ha’penny would only buy
    one ounce. Most sweets being tuppence a quarter at the time. I did, I must confess, feel a little disloyal to Tommy Basford who as his part-time errand boy I felt something of a bond. Tommy, in the quiet time in his shop, would light up his pipe and tell me fragments of his life before the shop was built, when he made a good living selling lamp- oil by horse and cart around Stonnall , this would be from 1880 onwards.
    The Vigo was quite a well-defined area, bounded by Vigo Road, Aldridge Road, Coppy Lane and the Walsall Wood Branch railway line. Aldridge Road becoming Walsall Wood Road at the boundary by King Hayes Farm. The main feature in this little area was Vigo Farm, like the Vigo pub in Kent, could this have been acquired and renamed as a result of prize money from the battle of Vigo Bay ?

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi David
    what caught my attention was Marjorie’s reference , during our conversation, to the “Pot Boilers” and where they had been “a long time ago”. She added that they believed stones sed to be heated up over a camp-fire and put into the pots to heat the water in the pots.
    She recalled seeing lots of cinders at that site when she was a young girl.


  8. david oakley says:

    Hi David,
    The part indicated on the map for the “pot boilers” was in my time, a site where some old cottages had been demolished years ago and the site only partialy cleared, leaving old clumps of masonry between the nettles. There had been some attempts at brick dressing over the years, with the resultant brick remnants and masonry dust scattered about the site.
    The idea of conserving heat in this way had other, similar variations for Vigo inhabitants. A brick was often placed in the oven during winter months to heat up during the day while the fire was alight, to be taken out, wrapped in newspapers to warm a child’s bed at night. If you had the misfortune to kick it our, they would know, three doors down !!

  9. las artes says:

    This was closed in 1959 and demolished as part of the bridge and road development.

  10. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    this site shos Walsall Wood cemetery records (part ) and one reference is interesting in this context;-
    20 Feb 1842, Samuel Harrison aged 40, lived at ” The Vigo ”
    Most distressing to see the incidence of child mortalitiy in Walsall Wood in those days, too

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  16. FIONA says:

    Interesting read on ‘The Vigo’.
    my dad the late Ron Birch pasted 1989, had a brass foundry/scrap metal yard down Coppice lane on the right hand side before the bridge.
    we lived on the premises in a mobile home,happy memories.

  17. Shaun jose says:

    Hi, just a heads up really the structure behind the Brilckmakers arms is a tug of war training facility and was erected by my self and team members around 15 years ago and can be seen being used Wednesday evenings during season.

  18. Tina Hill says:

    Thankyou for this,so that is where some of my Nutting family lived. brill read

  19. malcolm clarke says:

    I remember Mr Whitehouse and his bus he lived in Grange ave near Maurice Birch [another prolyfic contributer] then he bought a house in Castle rd.

  20. Chas Chaplin says:

    Hi, I lived in Walsall Wood Rd from 1951 to 1966… many memories, including Mr Whitehouse and his coach, I got the odd lift (at great excitement). I remember he had at least one son, who was going off do his national service… i probably didn’t know what exactly what that was, but for some reason, it frightened the life out of me!!
    I was fascinated by the Vigo, for me a very evocative place, the pre-fabs, Cooks ironmongers in Walsall Wood High Street, but more than anything, the tall chimney with ‘Vigo’ painted on it…. was it to do with the vigo brickworks? I’ve searched online and found nothing, I’m starting to doubt my sanity, can anyone help?

  21. Chas Chaplin says:

    Was there a tall chimney with ‘Vigo’ painted on it, situated at the end of Walsall Wood Rd?

  22. David Evans says:

    Hi Chas

    you are not losing your marbles! As you walked down Coppice Lane from Walsall Wood Road and on the left hand side of the lane there was a tall square topped chimney with the word Vigo in white bricks. Not sure, but it may have been at the works there…please can readers help. I have not seen any images of the chimney to date….again, please can readers help . Did the works make bricks or tiles ? Perhaps some readers worked there.
    thanks for your excellent question, Chas!
    kind regards

  23. David Evans says:

    HI Sandra and Chas
    Bob’s super map is very revealing.. Under the “L”in Coppy Lane..the tramway..I believe the loading bay..low wall, blue bricks, is still there- and just above the “L” you can see the infamous oblong Vigo Pool…irresistable and near fatal attraction for local youngsters.I wonder if readers have memories of “adventures” there!
    Bob’s blog is tremendous and we owe a huge debt of gratitude for all the work Uncle Bob puts in. Compliments of the season and best wishes

  24. Sandra & Chas Chaplin says:

    Hi, The map is 1925, from The National Library of Scotland…. There are so many there to choose from. A very useful resource.
    It seemed to me, as a kid, that the area was one giant adventure playground… We started off in the sand pit, (the other side of Walsall Wood Rd), tunnelling or sliding, or playing in the pond close by, referred to as ‘The Bog’. We then graduated to rafting on the large ponds around the brickworks, moving on to ‘The Dynamite Hut’ allegedly used at some time previous to store explosives, (though we were never really sure what it was, other than it was extremely robust). The rafting caused concern to some parents, often telling us that those ponds were bottomless!

  25. Andy Malbon says:

    Hi Chas, I have photo’s my father took of Vigo Brickworks if you are interested.


  26. Andy Marshall says:

    Wasn’t this the shop that had the Blue Mobile grocery van??

  27. Eldyne Cooper says:

    I was born at 12 Vigo Terrace, the prefabs, in 1954. Mom and Dad had been given one when they were built and he was demobbed after the war. Mom and my two older sisters had lived with her Mom in Brownhills while he was away. I remember all the old buildings over the field where we flew kites, the derelict farm buildings and the brick works, the flooded quarry pools and the railway line where I walked our dog. It was like a giant adventure playground, all the places we knew we weren’t supposed to go, but did. It’s a wonder we weren’t all killed.

  28. Roger Evans says:

    Yea my brother Stuart Evans and his mate. Robbed Vigo stores twice in 1961

  29. Roger Evans says:

    I’m roger Evans. Floss and billy Evans young lad My sister Linda And bro Stuart. We were born next to the travlers rest pub Down the wood over the bridge. Me and Andrew rollingson set fire and sank his dads large blue house boat that was moored on the cut back of our house

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