Under the thatch

This is an article that’s taken an awful lot of work to prepare – the young David Evans has been toiling on it for some time now, as well as other related matters, and it ties up a number of disparate threads relating to Streets Corner in Walsall Wood, and the families who lived in the thatched cottage that famously stood there for years.

In the process, out shook another interesting clue to the possible location of the mysterious and hotly-debated Pepper Alley. I just love how these stories intertwine.

My thanks to David Evans for a truly wonderful piece of work, and of course to Paul Anslow, without whose generosity this would not have been possible.

I’m sure this article will provoke debate: comment here or mail me at BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

David wrote:

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The painting of the thatched cottage at Streets Corner, painted by Mr. Oldbury, which dates from around 1889. Courtesy of Mr. Paul Anslow.

The Street family of Walsall Wood, and some hot pepper…

The history of the Street/Jackson families in Walsall Wood has been a source of ongoing interest and no short measure of surprise for some time and through investigations, research, and above all the kindness and generosity of members of the extended family. We have learnt much about the thatched cottage that once stood at Streets Corner in Walsall Wood, and the Street family who dwelled there and gave the place it’s name.

We have also learned about the Jackson family, one of whom married Mr. and Mrs. Street’s daughter, and the link with the ‘Royal Exchange Inn’ in Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood, and the amazing revelation that this inn was the first ‘Black Cock Inn’ in Walsall Wood.

Then, quite recently, Bob sent me a request to pursue an enquiry he’d received to the blog, and the resulting telephone conversation with Mr. Paul Anslow and subsequent visit to another former nail-maker’s cottage brought more amazing revelations, which I am delighted to be able to share.

Firstly, though, my sincere personal thanks are extended to Mr. Paul Anslow, for his kindness in offering these documents and for allowing me to photograph them for publication, so that they can be appreciated and add to our knowledge and heritage.

To Paul, our sincere thanks and immense gratitude.

In previous discussions with members of the family I had been told that an oil painting had existed of the thatched cottage, and may have been lost in the mists of time. It turned out that Paul had the painting, and that’s the image at the top of this article.

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A previously unpublished photograph of the cottage from around 1930. We can see clearly the two chimney stacks, and the door to the nail-makers’ forge. Courtesy of Mr. Paul Anslow.

Perhaps the biggest surprise during that visit was yet to come. Paul mentioned a will, made by George Street and dated 1899. To my amazement this contained a reference to a house that he owned, in Pepper Alley, Walsall Wood. George Street left this to a Mr. George Twist. This intrigued me, as the articles about the Royal Oak Inn, Walsall Wood, and the census reviews of 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 made reference to Pepper Alley, but it’s exact location has remained a subject of some debate for years.

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The Last Will and Testament of George Street. Note that he gifts a house in Pepper Alley to George Twist, who appears to have agreed to buy it, but not yet paid; from the use of the term ‘of’ which seems to imply George Twist was either living in the house at the time, or close by. Image supplied by David Evans of a document kindly supplied by Paul Anslow.

The 1891 census shows a George Twist living in a dwelling in Bullings Heath Walsall Wood. Was he living in the house that George Street left him?

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This is the part of the 1891 census where George Twist’s name appears. The last house listed in Bullings Heath, the next dwelling is listed in Hall Lane. Image supplied by David Evans.

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And on this sheet from the 1891 census, we can see George Twist living in a two roomed dwelling there. Image supplied by David Evans.

In the course of the conversation with Paul, I was told of an Anslow family’s ancestor who had lived in Walsall Wood, Mr. John Anslow, a barge owner who had achieved some fame as a local bare-knuckle fist fighter. He was apparently a pugilist of some repute, who it was said had even won a fight with a man who ‘had beaten the Tipton Slasher’! He was known locally as Johnny Annah, and was reputed to be ‘…as hard as nails.’

John Anslow was born in 1817 and had married Matilda Robinson in 1845, giving his address as Marsh Lane, Walsall. He died in 1904 at the age of 87 and is buried in Walsall Wood cemetery.

The fascinating revelations continued, when I was shown a little notebook, some 8 inches by 4 inches. George Street, both senior and junior had been noted bricklayers and had kept diaries of the work they had done, and the money they had earned, from the mid 1850s to mid 1870s.

This notebook gives detailed records of jobs, places, and names that have long ceased to exist, and also money the bricklayers earned for each job.

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To complete this feast of historical documents and revelations, I was shown this photo of an elderly Mr. John Jackson and his wife outside their Street Corner Cottage.

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Mr. & Mrs. Jackson outside the cottage around 1889. Image supplied by David Evans from an original held by Paul Anslow.

The interesting thing about the above photograph is that it seems to us to be the same couple captured in the Streets Corner cottage photoset featured in a noted local history book.

We think this is the Jackson couple, featured above. What do you think? Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

I thank Paul Anslow most sincerely for his kindness and generosity in allowing me to view, photograph, and publish this amazing addition to our knowledge of Walsall Wood’s history.

David Evans
February 2014

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15 Responses to Under the thatch

  1. Clive says:

    Very intresting indeed, big thank you to Dave and to Paul Anslow, and to Bob too.

  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    My thanks to you for the excellent presentation…yet again….and for all the work you do..
    Kind regards
    David

  3. Ann Cross says:

    A big thank you to David and Bob and of course to Paul Anslow, my several times cousin! As always, fascinating stuff.
    I would say it definitely is the same couple in the photographs.
    Ann.

  4. John Anslow says:

    I was talking to Paul about these photographs by telephone last night, and a couple of things puzzle us.

    Look at the photograph of the older John Jackson. How old is he? Fifty, at least, would you say? That would make his wife forty. Now look at her face and hands: are those the hands of a forty-year-old Walsall Wood woman of the early twentieth century? I wondered if she could be one of his daughters, but Paul assures me that our grandmother, John Jackson’s youngest daughter, had told him that this was her mother.

    Turning to the published photographs, they are clearly taken on the same day; John is wearing a dark armband, suggesting mourning, but for whom? The woman in the top photograph is much older than the woman in the bottom one, and is dressed differently, in a much heavier dress. The second woman resembles, as far as we can make out, the woman with the more recent photograph, but she doesn’t seem to have aged, whereas John has.

    Next time I visit Paul, we’ll study the family albums and let you know if we come to any conclusions.

    • Peter says:

      I’m with you on this one John, I can’t imagine it is the same lady in the photographs, the appearance of difference in age is to me anyway fairly obvious, I would suggest there could be a generation, or two?, between the 2 ladies.
      Would love to hear your conclusions John, keep us informed please.
      All the best and what a fascinating article, another piece of the jigsaw…….
      All the best wishes

      Peter

  5. Ann Cross says:

    I probably didn’t make it very clear that I thought the first photo was the same couple as the third photo, but that the lady in the middle photo does seem much older. If that makes sense!

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