I’ve had a great email from reader Stuart Cowley, about growing up and spending summers helping his family out at the cafe in Chasewater in the 1960s. It’s a really touching, well-written piece. I remember the Chasewater of the 70s, when it was running down, but at it’s height it seems to have been a real leisure attraction.
This is a great piece, full of memory – and I know readers love it. If you have anything to add, please do comment or mail me BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.
I thank Stuart for this time and effort. I’m sure it’ll bring memories flooding back for folks far and wide.
The images in this article are available to purchase from Francis Frith.
As a young child in Chasetown, growing up in the 60s the one time of the year that I would always look forward to was the Easter bank holiday weekend because this was the time that come rain or shine, the cafe at Chasewater’s south shore used to officially open, along with the rest of the activities.
From about the age of 5, every weekend and the odd day in the school holidays I would walk along the dam wall with my mother Dorothy and sometimes my older sister Angela who both used to work in the main cafe and nearby ice cream kiosks.
The place used to be a hive of activity with about a dozen staff , including my Nan, with two main rooms and also a sun terrace overlooking an ornamental pond complete with fountain at the rear just before the pitch and put. The caretaker’s bungalow (Mr & Mrs Adcock) was attached to the cafe just by where you used to enter the main gate. The buildings are still there with windows blanked out, part of the rangers storage facility now.
Throughout the summer it was like being on constant holiday over there, the kids paddling pool, the park, boating lake, resident fun fair (complete with big dipper), go-karts, speed boats, ski boats, there was always something to do and explore but if ever I got bored I would go and help out in the cafe, taking out supplies to the kiosks to satisfy the lines of customers waiting for ice cream. One of my jobs was putting the wafers on the blocks of ice cream, another would be to restock the crisps (the ones with the blue bag inside). I would sometimes clear the tables and tidy up the room and at age 8, this was the first pay packet that I picked up, a pay bag containing a pound in threepenny bits from a very grateful Mrs Adcock.
When the park was very busy my dad Charley would help collect the entrance fees on the main gate, welcome relief from his normal work as a miner at Cannock Wood. At times, coach loads of people would visit, that was another job of mine, to run to the cafe and warn them of a coach arrival meaning that they would have to fill the tea urn again and put on more salmon and cucumber sandwiches! My Nan would sometimes have to go and open up a second cafe at times used on the road down by the kart track, coaches were often turned away because the car parks were full.
A typical scene on a sunny day would be the busy noisy fun fair, people sat on the sun terraces that circled the boating lake, the paddling pool full of kids splashing and screaming, every item on the park loaded with kids with the monkey puzzle climbing frame (now on the island by the entrance) taking prominent place on its own grass mound , people strolling along the wooden jetty that led to the lighthouse, a brass band playing on the neatly paved area that led to the park and paddling pool, and then the lake itself glistening in the sun with the rhythmic sounds of the speed boats fading in and out competing with the sound of intermittent announcements of lost children from the tannoy on the main gate .
This was how my summers were filled up until the age of about 10, resulting in a lifetime of happy memories… and I don’t ever remember it raining once!
Other Chasewater memories (since the early 60s):
- The spectacle of the 24 hour boat race and firework display
- The wildlife on the lake first thing in the morning.
- The beauty of the winter sunsets
- Local history lessons from my dad, every time we walked across the wall
- Fishing for sticklebacks in the canal with my dad
- Playing tracking at the back of the parsons [Bob: I have no idea what this is, can anyone enlighten me please?]
- Waving my Union jack at Prince Phillip when he visited by helicopter
- Riding bikes over the seven hills on the north shore
- Sense of achievement on circumnavigating the lake for the first time
- Watching the colliery steam trains on the north shore from Cookie’s hut by the end of the dam
- The armed forces practising mass parachuting in to the lake
- Local boat builders Fletchers testing boats for the film ‘Live and let die’
- Walking one Christmas day to my aunties at Watling Street seeing skaters on the lake
- Being too small to see over the dam wall
- Lake being so choppy that the water lapped over the top of the wall.
- Skimming stones on the surface at north shore
- Throwing stones across the ice
- Walking with our dog ‘Bob’ a border collie, throwing sticks for him on the north shore with dad watching from the start of the dam
- Walking with my girlfriend (now wife) every Sunday along the wall
- My children playing on the north shore watched by me and my dad from the dam wall
- Visiting the lake to look back on memories following the loss of my mom and later my dad
Great stuff. Seems only we remember the mini railway though….
I remember the mini railway. It ran along the lake between the boating pool and lake. I also remember when the track was removed they just concreted it so you could see where it had been.
Smashing! I remember seeing the Searchers there – and lots of first aid duties as a cadet at the St John Ambulance post.
i was in the st john ambulance brigade i did a lot of firt aid duties at chase water
Brings back so many memories. Such as the fairground and hearing the music played (Chris Montez, lets dance). Thanks to all involved, nice one.
I remember seeing the “Alan Price Set” play at the 24 hour event one year.
a big thankyou to Stuart, please. Who remembers the Go-karts?
i remember the go-karts my dad was gate man and care taker
yes this brings back many memories, as child and teenage, i had many happy days spent up the Pool (as we all called in those days) 50s and early 60s, we shall never see it back as it was in the 60s, fair ground open all summer, go karts speed boat racing , which sometime’s was televised, visit from Royalty, what Chasewater could have been, if it had stop been change from council to council boundaries, Brownhills Council/ Aldridge &Brownhills, then Walsall council, and that was a disaster.Lichfield, and now Staffordhire council have given some renewed hope, we can only wait and see..
Stuart,Ask your cousin Stephen and he will explain, the Old Vicarage was in pool road where Mick Miles now lives, and the field and tracks at the back of them were known as ‘the back of the parsons’
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Hi Thanks for the memories, i was a youngster on the fairground in the early 60s, bought raspberry mivis from the cafe, one of the last things i did when we left was to give a gift to a lady in the cafe but don’t remember a name. my Dad Freddie Jennings was involved in making the Funhouse and ghost train. I remember me Mam saying the sharabangs are coming meaning the coaches are coming we are going to busy so be good.
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Bring back the padling pool👌
Brilliant! Later on in the 70s I worked there too in the penny arcade to start with, then the ice cream kiosk. And I don’t remember much in the way of bad weather. In the late 60s remember going whenever family came down from Yorkshire to visit. Have photos in the paddling pool.many happy memories : )
they should do some thing to try and bring Chasewater back to some thing like it used to be when i was doing first aid also i was a junior warden for Sam , remember Sam? i had loads of fun at Chasewater i lived then on Hednesford Road not far from Chasewater
You will remember the sand holes, then, Anthony. and crossing the railway to get to the pool, or maybe you didn’t have to go that way. We did as we lived in Pear Tree Lane.
i remember the sand holes when i was old enough i used to drink in the pear tree Pete was the land lord then i lived not far from the Wilkin Post Office near Plats Cafe just by Pool Crescent there is a railway bridge i used to watch the trains go by ,
my dad worked on the grounds of the pool in the 60’s for Brownhills and Aldridge council ,myself and then my children played over the pool and my mom when it was called norton bog. Took my grandson this week to ‘the beach ‘ and had to clear a place for him to play, rubbish and dog mess all over the place
Evening, just read in the local paper that they are considering filling in the boating lake near the park and “landscaping”…..not learned anything by past mistakes have we?
Chasewater was my first ever job! I worked on the gate, crazy golf, and the paddle boats. Have many a good memory of Chasewater, especially the paddling pool, the little old castle and especially the cotton candy and toffee apples! My boss’s name was Charlie. Had some good times there! I live in California now, but I’ve heard it’s all changed. Will have to pay Chasewater a visit on my next trip home 🙂
I am a local school teacher and our topic this term is the local area. We would be really interested in people who have knowledge of local geography and history contacting us.
Would be happy to assist, I’m sure Bob would pass on my e mail address to you if you ask him nicely. There are many people associated with this blog who I’m sure would also assist. Happy New Year to you.
Oh what vivid happy memories Stuart has encapsulated for me. I always felt I was on holiday there during school holidays but played there regularly as I lived in Shannon Drive and my sister and I would walk or cycle to Chasewater. Our little bit of escapism. The fairground and ice cream stalls were fab. Loved the boating pool, joining in with the lads scrabbling to the island in the middle , then getting told off. We’d paddle in the little pool no matter what the weather was like, you just felt you were somewhere else, far away from home
did the fair come from sutton park
It was resident there. It was owned by Mr and Mrs Peace and the mother and father of Mrs peace. Can’t remember there names. I helped sometimes on the fairground and also help fill the gift boxes for the gift machines x
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