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 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.
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.
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