Tell me on a Sunday

Watling st school

Foundation laying for a new school building at Watling Street, Brownhills – but who are the dignitaries, and when was this? Image from the Walsall Observer, supplied by top bloke [Howmuch?]

Last Saturday, I featured the above newspaper clipping, taken from the Walsall Observer reporting the laying of a foundation stone for the ‘…new schools at Watling Street’. The image, which was found by local history wonk [Howmuch?], had scant accompanying information, but since posted, he has told me that he’s fairly sure the clip dates from 1931.

This has caused a great deal of debate on Facebook and other places, as nobody recognises the buildings as being part of Watling Street School as it has existed within living memory.

There’s a very good reason for that; I don’t think this is the school generally referred to as Watling Street, but a Sunday School that existed close by. There are a couple of clues in the image, alluded to by David Evans; firstly the cleric, and secondly, the long building to the right with the arched windows looks like a church or chapel.

St. Thomas’s Mission Church, which was opposite Watling Street School. This clearly isn’t the building in the clipping, but it was a lovely church. From ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

On Facebook, some wondered if it was the St. Thomas Mission church, that stood on the opposite side of The Parade to Watling Street and was demolished around 1975. As the above photo shows, this isn’t the case.

Rehoboth 1938

1938 Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 map shows a rectangular building (unsurveyed, it’s just an outline) next to the Rehoboth, but it would be on the wrong side for the picture in the clipping.

Considering further, I looked at maps from the period. on the 1938 1:10,000 map of the area, a rectangular building is possibly marked next to the Rehoboth, where the Rising Sun island is now, and none exists in earlier 1:10,000 maps.

The Rehoboth stood where the Rising Sun Island is today – abut this wasn’t the building in the picture, either – the windows and roofline are wrong. Taken from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

However, the building doesn’t look like the Rehoboth, and if the foundation stone picture was taken as you’d expect from the road at the front, the new building would be on the right of the chapel, not the left as shown in the report.

A breakthrough came earlier today, when friend of the blog Martin Littler sent me a photo of a wedding believed to be in 1946. It’s one of those images that’s interesting for the background, as much as the foreground.

park view 2

Jack and Nancy Dennis get married around 1946, in a cracking image supplied by Martin Littler. Is that the building in question in the background?

Martin had this to say about the image:

Hi Bob

This is only photo I can find of Park View Chapel out side, it was taken about 1946 and is my Uncle Jack Dennis and Aunty Nancy’s Wedding.

With Park View and Sunday school in the background, to the far right behind the telegraph pole is the Prince of Wales Pub.

If the photo is of any use to you please feel free and use it. I have a photo of the Sunday School Anniversary around 1954 if that is of any interest to you.

Kind Regards

Martin, thanks for a wonderful and very, very interesting contribution. I’d love a copy of the other photo if possible please, it’s all good stuff. Being as this is the same area of Brownhills, are you connected with Andy Dennis’s family perhaps?

This chapel stood at the foot of  what is now Chapel Avenue, but back then was Chapel Street, at its junction with Watling Street, as Martin says, on the opposite corner to the Prince of Wales pub.

These days, all evidence of the buildings in the photo has gone and the site is modern housing.

If you look at the building on the right, it looks maybe older than the one on the left, which is lower and maybe a tad narrower. There’s a reason for that; it was indeed built later. I took a look at the 1:2,500 maps I used in the article ‘Whose fault is it anyway?‘ which cover the corner in question.

1919 chapel

Park View Chapel as shown on 1919 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey mapping. Note the building outlines.

1938 Chapel

Park View Chapel as shown on 1938 1:2,500 Ordnance Survey mapping. Note the new building marked S. Sch. – ‘Sunday School’.

I conclude, therefore, that it is highly likely that the newspaper article refers to the construction of the new Sunday School at the Park View Chapel on Watling Street. We assume that as the article says ‘…at Watling Street’ it means the primary, but the terminology would be awkward. We must also assume that the report is factually correct, since a local reporter in those days really would have known their patch. Further, the involvement of a Clergyman (note the dog collar) suggests this is a project of religious significance.

This isn’t the end of the matter, and I could well be wrong, but it’s my best guess and I’ve presented the evidence I have. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the National Newspaper Archives for the Lichfield Mercury in 1931 yet, so that came up blank, but there is reference to a new Wesleyan Sunday School and Kitchen opening in 1932. I don’t have enough knowledge to speculate if that was this one – perhaps the  Methodist readers could help here?

Please do feel free to comment, pull holes and otherwise debate this. It’s a great puzzle. Do comment here or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

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22 Responses to Tell me on a Sunday

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    Yes, all the Dennis’s are related. I think the people (standing on the common) in the wedding photograph are: (L to R) John “Jack” Dennis (father of groom), Dolly Shingler (nee Bedford), Ivor Shingler (bride’s brother, best man?), Emma Dennis (groom’s sister), John “Jack” Dennis, Nancy Shingler, bride’s sister?, Nancy Shingler (nee Jackson), Samuel Shinger (bride’s parents).

    The wedding was registered in the July-September quarter of 1944.

    You may be right about the school being the Sunday School, but others will know better than me. The building on the right could be Park View; there was a narrow passage (wouldn’t be allowed today) between the two buildings.

    • Dot Gretton says:

      Love reading about the Dennis family as I am a member through my mothers line, mom always said there was only two families in B. Hills when she was little, Dennis and Pierce, and they were related. My mom would be 109 if she was still with us bless her.

      • Andy Dennis says:

        Hello Dot. I’ve done lots of research into Dennis family history, but I’ve not previously connected with Pierce. Presumably, Dot was short for Dorothy, which was the name of my great great grandmother. I think there were at least four Dennis families, but it depends where you start from. Why not ask Bob if he would forward a message and we can exchange our information?

        • Dot Gretton says:

          Thank you for replying Andy, my mother,s father or grandfather was licences of the Station hotel, my grandfather was William, married to Clara Brown. My mother was one of twelve thou many didn’t,t make it to adulthood.

          • Andy Dennis says:

            The William Dennis who married Clara Brown was son of Thomas Dennis, who ran the Railway Tavern for many years. His father, in turn, was Henry Dennis, my great great grandfather, who brought his family from Leicestershire in about 1851-52. Thomas Dennis is mentioned in (where, incidentally, I made an appalling error, adding an extra great to John Dennis, my great grandfather).

            Clara’s family lived at The Square, which has also featured here – – and in 1891 her widowed mother Hannah was listed as Beer House Keeper, presumably The Woodman.

            • Dot Gretton says:

              So we share a gg grandfather then Andy. I have seen a legal document that Tom ( I think it was) drew up in beautiful italic writing, it was for permission for a road to cross Brown hills , we have scanned it for any mistakes and alas nothing.

              • Andy Dennis says:

                Sounds very intriguing and just the sort of thing Bob likes to post. I wonder if he bought some land with the intention of building, or maybe selling on for building. Not bad for a lowly coal miner – he only became a publican in the early 1880s.

                • Andy Dennis says:

                  Station Hotel licensees
                  A long time licensee was William Roberts. At some time between 1901 and 1911 the license was transferred to Samuel Smith. On 8 Jan 1913 the license was transferred from S Smith to Joseph Tideswell, who had previously run the Rising Sun. At some time before 9 Mar 1927 Thomas Mason took over. Then, on 18 Oct 1933, Louisa Mason, wife of Thomas and daughter of Joseph Tideswell, gained the full license. On 20 Oct 1941 Louisa – a popular licensee – married Horace Jones, but Louisa Jones still had the license on 27 Jan 1947. That is where the online Lichfield Mercury ends.

  2. Paul Green says:

    Great photo’s. I went to Sunday school in the 1960s at St Thomas’s church and my sang in the choir and occasionally played the church organ. As for Park View, I remember the last time I went in there was for a party they held for the Queens silver jubilee in 1977. I still have the little china cup somewhere they gave me 🙂

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  7. Denise Austin nee logan says:

    I went to Sunday school in the chapel that used to be on the island opposite wilkinson road,I’m sure it was a Methodist chapel ,but can’t remember much else.

  8. Denise Austin nee logan says:

    Should say wilkin road

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  11. Tracey Parker says:

    I went to sunday school at the park view chapel during the late 60’s early 70’s, I don’t recall it being in a separate hall rather in the church itself, I do recall that the houses/buildings to the left of the church were derelict (bombed in the war) and were a favourite playground of local children, perhaps the building that had been the sunday school had been hit during the wall and therefore not in peoples living memory now

  12. Andy Dennis says:

    Not bombed. Just condemned as unfit, evacuated and vandalised. I suspect the Sunday School building had fallen into disrepair, but it was still in use up to about 1968 or 69.

  13. Frank Dennis says:

    Hi all — I believe that Jonah Deakin Senior owned the land which also included a field behind Park View Chapel – I understood that he donated the land at the side of the Chapel for the Sunday School to be built. Like many Churches the congregations dwindled and the Headquarters of Methodism (which I understand was in Manchester) closed the Chapel first and refurbished the old Sunday School as Chapel. Eventually there was insufficient money and support and the site was sold for the new houses. There was a closing service held there – I will try to find out when that was. I think it was fairly common practice for Trustees to be involved in other Chapels and that, for example some of the Park View Members were Trustees of the Methodist Church in Norton Canes. As you can see I have not really become aware of this site until recently. I know Andy (who is my Cousin) has studied local history. I speak only from my personal knowledge and memories of Park View. Incidentally Martin — the older man on the wedding photograph looks to me like Sam Shingler – It does seem that the Shinglers, Deakins, Maddoxes, Dennis’s, Bentleys, Jacksons were well represented at Park View. At the “little” chapel further down the Watling Street I remember the Watersons in particular (Bert and Violet) whose Daughter has achieved fame as Jean Martyn the Organist and entertainer.

    Brownhills West Chapel was I believe on the Wilkin Estate off Hednesford Road.

  14. andkindred says:

    Hello Frank

    I hhave some news, I would be grateful if you would contact me via my blog –

    Best wishes

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