A gentleman in his Sunday best

Joseph Edgar0002 (2)

Joseph Edgar Headley, clearly a man who enjoyed his pipe. A fine picture from Richard Starbnuck.

It’s always good to hear from Richard Starbuck, who’s an old friend of the Brownhills Blog. Richard, you may recall if you’ve been here since the beginning, reminded me of Starbucks Butchers with an excellent picture of the family shop, that stood roundabout where The Coffee House is today.

Last week, Richard sent me these two smashing pictures of the Headley family, and had this to say:

Hi Bob

Joseph Edgar Headley was my Great Grandfather, I’ve received the pictures below from my family and wanted to share them.


Readers are to share what they know of the Headleys – where the shop stood (although I have a good idea), what they sold – the store appears to be a grocers – and any other recollections that may be relevant. My immense and sincere gratitude to Richard for sharing such wonderful images.

If you have anything to add, please comment on this post of mail me at BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Headley pic

I’m not sure where Headley’s shop was, and exactly what it sold. Hoping readers can hep – I’ve done my best to enhance this picture. Image kindly shared by Richard Starbuck.

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33 Responses to A gentleman in his Sunday best

  1. Ann Cross says:

    Hi Bob, this is surely Headleys grocers shop “down the Wood” on the left of the High Street. We used to often walk down there with a shopping list and watch Mr Headley cutting bacon or ham on the old slicer and cheese from a large round. Hard to imagine now! I think there were counters on both sides as you walked in and one at the back where the bacon slicer was, and the shop was full of packets, tins and things! Fascinating to us kids.
    Best wishes Ann.

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    a big thank you to Richard for these wonderful photos. The shop building is stll there.Drool-time…Bacon when it was “the real thing”. ..and crunchy bread from Smiths bakery nearby.
    kind regards

  3. David Oakley. says:

    Difficult to describe the range of goods available in this small shop. As well as the grocery side, well remembered by Ann, there was a thriving business run by Harry Headley, son of Joseph, which sold corn for chickens, poultry meal, etc,. a corn chandler, to use an old-fashioned term.
    Harry also sold battens of straw, and bags of chaff, which were stored in an outbuilding in the yard.
    They were kept on the first floor so that when Harry opened the door to heave one out, they hit the floor with a satisfying ‘Thunk’ ! A batten of straw was sixpence, and in the early days of the war, rabbit keeping was popular, so straw was much in demand. Headley’s kept a good line in pet goods, so whether you wanted a Bob Martins powder for the dog or a Caperns preparation for the budgie, or even a bell for his cage, Headley’s was the place to go to.
    old Mr Headley seemed to run the grocery side. By the 1930’s/40 his moustache had whitened, but was still as luxuriant. In the quieter moments in the shop, he could be seen in the doorway, having a few moments with his pipe. Everyone in the Wood knew ‘Headley’s’.

  4. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    What a picture…brings back memories of wandering down the Wood in short trousers and sleeveless pullovers…

  5. John Anslow says:

    You can see the shop on Google Street View of Walsall Wood High St. It’s the one to the left of the block containing the Mermaid Fish Bar, almost opposite St. John’s Close.

    My brother Paul, who is much more knowledgeable than I am on matters concerning the “Walsall Wood Strain”, tells me that our grandfather, Abe Anslow, used to get his poultry and pig food from this shop in the 1920s. He apparently had a bartering arrangement with Mr Headley who would supply corn and meal to him without charge, then, when Abe killed a pig, he would settle the debt in bacon.

    Abe was a miner, but he kept livestock such as pigs, goats, geese and hens, and grew vegetables. This must be how he provided for his family during the Strike and in the following years when wages were cut.

    • Ann Cross says:

      Hello, might you be related to Dennis Anslow? I believe he was a friend of my father’s and used to come into the Royal Exchange. I remember him ( I think ) as being tall and dark haired.
      Best wishes
      Ann Cross.

      • John Anslow says:

        Hello Ann,
        I don’t know of a Dennis Anslow, but there used to be so many Anslows in Walsall Wood, probably all descended from my great-great grandfather, Johnny the Boatman, that even Dad didn’t know how they were related.
        Oddly enough, if you are a descendent of Will Cross, who kept the Royal Exchange, you and I are probably related through my mother’s mother’s family, the Jacksons.
        Best wishes,
        John Anslow

        • Ann Cross says:

          That is probably true John, and like the Anslows there were many Jacksons in Walsall Wood. I am still trying to sort them out.
          All the best,

        • Pat Wilcox says:

          My Mother always said that my dads family were boat people. He was Dennis Anslow son of Thomas Anslow and Annie Creswell. They lived at 110 Lichfield Road Brownhills. My dad married Beatrice Hall from Walsall Wood, daughter of William and Eva. Regards Pat.

      • Pat Wilcox says:

        My dad was Dennis Anslow 6foot one inches tall with dark hair. I know he used to go into the royal exchange . Lived on lichfield road married beatrice hall and his mother was Annie. Is this who you were thinking of. Patricia

        • Ann Cross says:

          Hello Patricia, yes it must be, the description is right and I know he lived ‘up the road’ on Lichfield Road. I remember him as one of my Dads friends and a nice man.
          Best wishes Ann.

          • Pat Wilcox says:

            Are you the daughter of the Cross who ran the Royal exchange who then went to the Swan at Coleshill. I think i remember dad taking us there..
            Regards Pat.

            • Ann Cross says:

              Yes when we left the Royal Exchange we spent two years at The Werrington Hotel in Bucknall, Stoke on Trent (now sadly demolished) before moving to the Swan in Coleshill. My parents retired in 1976.

              • Pat Wilcox says:

                Hi Ann
                Can i contact you by email if so my email address is pat.wilcox@btconnect.com
                I don’t use Facebook much but was trying to find out more about when dad went to war. This was when i came across the Brownhills Blog. Dad wasn’t a great talker about his past and I am trying to piece together the bits i know.
                He obviously made an impact on your family for you to remember him after all this time
                Regards Pat.

                • Ann Cross says:

                  Hi Pat, sorry for the delay, I have emailed you as above.
                  Best wishes Ann.

      • Paul Anslow says:

        I believe you may be referring to my Uncle Dennis. I am Paul Anslow, son of Thomas Anslow, who now resides in Australia.

  6. Hi Bob,
    There is a nice image of the shop in “Memories of Old Walsall Wood” by Bill Mayo and John Sale. As others have pointed out, this building is strikingly recognisable still! Will mail you the photo.

  7. Richard Starbuck says:

    Hello, I forgot to say who the children are in the picture.
    Joseph had 3 girls and 2 boys, from left to right – Harry, Mary, Nell and Annie. William was there eldest son and isn’t in the picture. From their dates of birth I think the picture is from around 1912.


    • Joe Headley says:

      Hi Richard,
      I think you’re spot on with the date of the group photo. I have a photo of Harry taken in 1910 and it would seem comparable with the group one.Did you know there was a sixth child? I only mention it as I saw posted somewhere else that you had the family back to 1755.
      The sixth child was Mary’s twin and I’m sorry I can’t tell you if it was a boy or girl but it died very soon after birth.

      best regards

  8. Pingback: More than just a grocer… | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  9. Joe Headley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Came across this completely by accident but what memories it has evoked. I am Joseph Edgar too, grandson of the pipe smoking gentleman and son of Harry in the group photograph. I was born at the house behind the shop.
    To Ann Cross, I remember the Royal Exchange being kept by the Cross family and being allowed to visit when my Dad went to British Legion meetings there. I remember Mr Smith the Chemist was a regular attender at these meetings and Les Gossling was another name I remember with affection. He had a great sense of humour. I also went to school with two of the Cross sons. If I recall I think one was Stephen but if I’m wrong please forgive me.
    The Anslow name also rings many bells and of course now after all these years I’m desperately trying to put faces to names but the old memory is not what it was!
    I still keep in touch with Betty Cox (nee Marshall) who used to work for my father and had the dubious honour of escorting me to my first day at school! Not a place I particularly relished!
    Much to my embarrassment and I don’t suppose there is anyone still alive who remembers it but father ran me to school one morning brandishing a horse whip, much to the delight of all the tradesmen who’s premises were passed on route.
    I’ve rambled on enough and have no wish to bore anyone but I have absolutely scores of memories of the old place and the many people who used to shop with the family and the many businesses that thrived in the village. Grinsells ( butchers), Feltons (butchers) Smiths the bakery mentioned in a previous post. Slaters (news agents), Cook’s (iron mongers), Archers (green grocers) Browetts (green grocers), Woolastons ( barber), Whitehouses (gents outfitters) Smith’s Chemist, Ecobs Chemist, Holmes green grocers and many more.

    • Joe, thanks for a wonderful comment. Other rreaders will love it – it’s wonderfull, and the stuff this blog is made of.

      Please, please recount any memories you have. You’re most welcome.

      Cheers and welcome


      • Joe Headley says:

        Hi Bob,
        I’ve dug out some old photos from the early 1930’s showing a good view of the High St., one of JE in his pony and trap looking like he’s about to hit town! Plus others. I tried to e-mail a copy to you last Sat., but as I haven’t heard from you I take it I got the e-mail address wrong. If you would like to see these old prints perhaps you can e-mail me, I’ll then send them and if they are of interest use them as you will if not no offence will be taken.
        Best regards

        • Hi Joe

          Sorry old chap, I received the images fine thank you!
          Mail is on a slow turnaround at the moment, my apologies – my intention is to use them this week. They really are excellent.

          Sorry for not replying, it’s been a rather hectic weekend.

          Best wishes, and thank you,

          • Joe Headley says:

            Thanks for your response Bob, No problem, I just didn’t know the score and I know the subject is really Brownhills. if any others would be of interest just let me know and I’ll fire a few off to you at least that way you can decide if you want to use them and if not, as I said certainly no offence at this end.
            Very best wishes

            • Hi Joe – no, not at all – we cover The Wood too. We like to look after our … southern brothers.
              I’m interested in, and will use anything you have. Please, bring it on. All welcome.
              Cheers for your interest, and thanks for taking the time.
              My apologies for the tardy response!

    • Pedro says:

      Bore us as much as you like Joe!

    • Ann Cross says:

      Hi Joe,
      Great piece! I remember so many of those names, especially now that you have reminded me! Mr Smith the Chemist had a son Michael (pretty sure) and I can picture them both now. I will pass this on to the brothers, if you were at the junior school with both of them I had probably moved on by then.
      Best wishes

      • Joe Headley says:

        Hi Ann,
        Thank you for the nice comment. Yes Mr Smith’s son was Michael and like you I can picture both. I have to-day “unearthed” some really old pictures of my family and the High Street in the 1930’s but lack the skill to post them. I’ve tried sending them as an e-mail to Bob but I haven’t heard from him as yet. Just hope I got the e-mail right and the “case ” correct.
        Yes I was at school for a short time with the brothers and I hope they are both well..

        Best regards

  10. David Evans says:

    Hi Joe
    Many thanks for your wonderful notes. Do you remember Chas Hales special attraction?

  11. Joe Headley says:

    Hi David,
    I most certainly do. He was one of Dad’s great friends. I had my first cowboy outfits from Chas’s sort of store . It was located just past Blakemore’s and I can’t for the life of me think what the building was called. Hell, was it Castle building? Infact, I’ve still got the the five shilling piece that Chas gave me when he came in the shop one Christmas Eve worse for ware! I also remember taking Dad to see him in Cannock where he had a stall in the market just when that was I don’t know exactly but would guess about the mid eighties? Do you remember him appearing on the Dave Allen show swallowing raw eggs? Thanks for bringing back more great memories
    I can only say finding this link has done me a power of good. Only recently I recalled to my siblings a trip from the Hawthorn Inn ( now I believe called the dirty duck) to a pantomime in Wolverhampton, can’t remember what the actual show was but it was the annual big night out. I came home from school itching and scratching and mother applied the age old remedy of a good ducking in vinegar. Needless to say we were late for the coach And I was shy for that reason but I needn’t have been because Dad apologised as soon as we got on the coach saying that I’d come home from school with Knits!! End of embarrassment! The evening was further enlightened when the dame or who ever threw to the audience rubber hammers. I never got one,woe, woe and thrice woe! In the row in front of us was Tom Painter who worked for Dickie Jaques the blacksmith, just over the canal bridge towards Walsall. Tom promised me he’d make me a Hammer and peace ensued. I still have that hammer to-day


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