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.
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.
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.
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.
Martin had this to say about the image:
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.
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.
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.