David Evans has been busy again. I have a veritable cornucopia of articles from him queued up to use, the only thing missing being the required free time to edit them for posting. Sorry, David…
One of the things I like about David’s work of late is the way it’s developing. When he first started, David based his work on memory, conversation and interview. Of late, he’s also starting to look into more physical aspects of history and the built environment, which is really great, too. I love the fact that this blog seems to be encouraging folk to look at their surroundings maybe in a slightly different light.
Thanks, as ever to David, without whom this blog would be considerably poorer. Please join with me in thanking the author for another wonderful, thought provoking piece.
The little lane between Brookland Road and Lichfield Road, now called Brook Lane, indicates another instance of Walsall Wood’s tradition of calling parts of the village by names colloquially familiar to locals. The Vigo, the Cape, the Batters, the Castles, but, like many of the places, this popular name may be used by few of the present-day residents.
Was there a brook here once upon a time? Yes, there was. The 1884 OS map of the village shows both the lane and the watercourse.
The reference 535 shows the unmade track and the adjacent brook, to the right of the ‘N’ on the map. The brook flowed in a ditch by the ‘dirt lane’ until it mysteriously disappeared, down some sort of drain near reference 548.
The aerial photo of Walsall Wood, 1926, shows the brook and Brook lane, with Charlie Higgs bungalow.
At this time of the year one popular pastime was collecting frogspawn from the brook and taking it home, to the amazement and puzzled reaction of parents, it must be said. At other times of the year, we could be found crawling under the numerous bridges, jumping over the brook or, if misfortune occurred, landing in the water! The field shown as 539 and 536 was known as Batkin’s field, and the part of the lane, 537 and 528, became Collins Express Parcels yard (latterly United Carriers) with its high brick wall running the length of the yard.
At the corner of the lane with Brookland Road there was the Church Hall where dances were held during the last war, and GI soldiers from Whittington attended from time to time. The Church Hall, and the railway bridge have long since gone from this end of the Brook.
Very little remains to indicate that there is still a brook there… Nowadays it flows through a culvert under the roadway. Interestingly, where the stream emerged from the drains put in during the 1930s the manhole cover, where Laburnum Road meets Brook Lane, still proudly displays a faded, solitary, reference to this water feature of Walsall Wood in years gone by.
Today’s Brook Lane, in its neat and modern appearance, with St. John’s Primary School occupying part of the original brook and fields, is far removed from the unadopted track it once was.
But, the question that puzzled children then, and may puzzle children still, is, where does the water flow, after it had disappeared down the culvert near the railway, which can still be seen in the open space near Brookland Lane?
David Evans, April 2013