Demolition, man


The former St. John’s School and adjacent bungalow have stood as a grim gateway to Walsall Wood for nigh on 40 years now.

Thanks to the keen eye and subsequent alert by reader, fellow local blogger and freind of the blog @thestymaster, plus the outrageous cheek, charm and loquaciousness of the young David Evans, I can present internal and external shots of the former St. John’s School in Walsall Wood, currently undergoing demolition.

Last week we managed to catch the start of the removal of a once proud local landmark.

David, who’s never reticent when it comes to matters of local history, got talking to the dismantling engineers who are currently engaged in the highly skilled process of demolishing the old school, and he has been allowed access to the site to record the structure and progress of the work. This is quite a coup.

It’s worth noting that this is a very delicate operation due to the poor structural condition of the building, and the fact that the materials are being recycled – and like those from the former Royal Oak in Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, will end up being sold for re-use at Cawarden Brick in Rugeley. They’re a fine company and their yard – just to the east of Colton – is well worth a visit. There’s even an old ROC post on the access road to the place!

That means it’s theoretically possible that bricks and tiles from both the school and old pub may end up together forming another building somewhere. I love that idea.

For those interested, I wrote an article recently about the planning history of the site, and David transcribed the log books of the school over several wonderful articles. British History Online has this to say about the history of the building:

St Johns school building,Walsall Wood from 1859 to 2014

In 1859 a larger school with a teacher’s house was opened in Lichfield Road on a site given by Lord Bradford. The old school and teacher’s house were sold and the money applied to the new buildings. (fn. 61) An infants’ school was added in 1882. (fn. 62) In 1885 men from the village who attended Sunday morning classes in reading and writing at the schools built a new classroom for the 1859 schoolhouse and altered and added to the infants’ school. (fn. 63) The mixed school was again enlarged in 1898. (fn. 64) The schools were reorganized into junior and infants’ schools in 1932 and were merged into a single school in 1974.

Thanks to everyone, particularly the demolition folk who have been so understanding and generous in their time and spirit – and of course to David. It’s rumoured he could sell contraceptives in a geriatric ward…

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16 Responses to Demolition, man

  1. Fawlty says:

    Great pictures Dave. As a former resident of the bungalow, I would be very interested in seeing any shots of the inside you can get. Well done!

  2. Mick P says:

    Excellent and important archiving work. Much appreciated.

  3. Ann Cross says:

    Great pics David, thank you, I can see you have been using that charm again!
    A permanent reminder for those of us that remember our time there.
    Best wishes

  4. Clive says:

    Nice one Dave.

  5. David Oakley says:

    An abiding memory is sitting astride the sun-warmed wall, at playtime. No unfriendly corners to this wall, just rounded, comfortable copings which seemed to welcome a child’s posterior. Smuggle me one or two out, David, to see if they’re still as comfortable to these old legs as they were, so many years ago.

  6. stymaster says:

    Wonderful photos. Great work David.

  7. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    thanks for the kind comments..only too glad to offer “something for the week-end”!
    Standing inside the derelict school was strange…two comments from the headteachers’ logs from lkate of a pupil techer being “encouraged” to leave by the serving headmistress..only to return a few years later to become the headmistress..and, seemingly a very succesful one. The entry where a young gentleman pupil techer had to support his local family and parents( pupil teachers were not paid)…a note of regret by the headmaster. A few months later another entry showing that the young man had gone to work in a local coal mine, and had been tragically killed in an accident there.
    I hope that the images of the old school building will help to give a clearer impression of the hardship of life in the community that it served….and served well .Soon all the bricks will have been removed, cleaned and taken away, just leaving the dark dusty earth on which the school stood. But, thanks to your blog we have an abiding documentary and photograhpic record.
    And, hopefully, in a while some fine new homes will stand there and become homes for the next generations.
    kind regards and my thanks for your wonderful presentation of the “snaps”.
    Most appreciated, Bob


  8. Rob Sollom says:

    Thank you so much for these pictures, they have bought a tear to my eye. This wonderful place closed only a few years after I left for Shire Oak. The teachers there were some of the best I ever came across. In particular one Mr Milgate. Tough, but a teacher ahead of his time. The things he passed on to me at the age of 9 and 10, I still refer to on a weekly basis.
    It was this place that made some of the people of the Wood who they are today. The place will always be special to me.

    • jacqueline says:

      I remember mr Milgate and his passion for history and geography,and throwing chalk at me and my friend Fay for talking..Mr Feast was headmaster then I seem to remember it was a Mr Bickley?. and Miss Glover in the infants school who before we were allowed out for lunch had us reciting the Jumblies poem, does anyone else remember that…. I think Rob that you know my sister Jill Arblaster,she went to school with you. I remember your name and think you lived on salters road.

    • David Shakespeare says:

      Rob I totally echo your comments ref Mr Millgate. He was the teacher who had the biggest influence on me too. I have never forgotten him or what he passed on to me.

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  12. j monteiro says:

    such a shame, 🙁

  13. Sharon Collins says:

    I too went to St John’s, same time as Robert Sollom. Brought back some lovely memories too. Headmaster Mr Feast, Miss Richards (married Mr Millgate). Cannon Edwards, coming take special Church Services. Walking down to St John’s Church, Easter/ Harvest Festival etc. Mr Feast had. Secretary a lovely lady but her name slips my memory. Remember putting our milk on the radiators to defrost the ice, playing British Bulldog, snowball fights, always seemed to have snow then. Thank you for these pics xx

  14. kenpaskin says:

    I remember being here from 1949 to 1955. Being taught by ‘Old Ma Scratchett….. Hitchin’ who lived in the cottages near St John’s church, where I was a choirboy; and by Mrs Beasley, who lived just past Muckley Corner Police House, towards Lichfield. That was when they made sure you left that school able to Read, Write and do Arithmetic. What a lot they had to show schools how to do it these days, no matter how poor we all were. It was such a shame to see the old place sitting there rotting away for so long, but thanks for the pictures, and the memories, especially of the old main class room that had the pot belly heater in it, in front of which the frosted up school milk bottles were thawed out. Happy Memories. There was a field at the back of the schools as well, alongside the railway on which we used to chase the newts under the gorse bushes……… Thanls again. rev Ken Paskin. (ex- Beech tree Road.

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