In the club?

This is an interesting question from reader and friend of the blog Peter, and I’m intrigued to to see what readers make of it. We’re all aware that there’s a local tradition of Working Men’s and politically affiliated clubs locally, that now seems largely to have drawn to a close. But how early did this start?

Untitled 7

Bullings Heath – did Pepper Alley once run behind the Black Cock pub? Imagery from Google Maps. Click for a larger version.

This is a conversation I’ve been having with [Howmuch?] lately, and coincidentally, Peter has spotted the same thing; on the 1876 Inclosure Map of Walsall Wood featured here in 2012, there are several ‘clubs’ mentioned, two in somewhat unexpected spots.

Peter’s question, like mine, is what was the nature of these places, and is there any information available about them anywhere? When did they cease?

Peter also makes an interesting observation on the ongoing debate about Pepper Alley, which is seeming as elusive as ever.

I’ll let Peter explain:

enclosure-map copy 2

1876 Walsall Wood Inclosure map with highlights by reader Peter. What were these clubs, and when did they cease operating? Click for a larger version.

Hi Bob

Very interesting reading regarding the subject of Pepper Alley at Bullings Heath, not sure it was really nailed but certainly a huge amount of activity on the site itself. I spoke to a chap recently who has lived in Green Lane for the past 45 years (a few doors down from the BlackCock Pub) who when I mentioned to him Pepper Alley he immediately, without hesitation, said to me that it was the lane running behind the Blackcock pub from Hall Lane to Oakwood Close. He referred to it as Pepper Pot Alley.

I also was interested in a map that came across your site recently as attached, I’ve annotated a couple of items that may be of interest.

Walsall Wood Club, which according to the map seems to be on the other side of the canal from where there are houses today and Aldridge Club which is shown on Coppice Road.

A couple of things that seem strange, the Walsall Wood Club being on the other side of the canal, I’ve been up that area very recently and had a good scout around, with the naked eye and a big stick there is absolutely no evidence of any earthworks, bricks or anything giving any clues to it’s existence there, in comparison if you come back towards the canal bridge on the same side of the canal by a 100 yards or so it is possible to find earthworks and some evidence of the old house that stood there and is marked on some maps. Indeed a friend of mine who up until very recently lived in Barns Close does as a child remember the old house because she remembers that from Barns Close you could only see the top floor windows and roof!

Aldridge Club in Coppice Road? Would it not be in Aldridge? Or am I thinking too narrowly? The friend of mine from Barns Close does remember a large house there years ago but not as a club!

I’ve attached the map annotated, maybe it could be a point of interest I don’t know, I’ll leave it with you if I may Bob.


Cheers to Peter for a great question. What do you know? Any help you can give, please do comment here, or mail me on BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers!

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to In the club?

  1. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    I think Hilary’s articles re Pepper Alley have helped to clarify matters. Perhaps Walsall Wood “Club”/ Aldridge “Club” refer to syndicates or group of new owners of those plots? Interesting to see “The Vigo” being used in this plan…..yet no “Pepper Alley”,..or no mention of the coalmine!
    Thanks for raising the topic of the local working men’s clubs, Peter, and I look forward to the ensuing discussions with interest.
    kind regards

    • Hi David

      Far from it. I’m still inclined to agree with Andy Dennis that as a name, Pepper Alley probably moved over the years.

      I keep hearing the theory recounted above, and Sue Lote also has the feeling it’s the far end of Hall Lane.

      A case has been made, but evidence still points elsewhere, too. Open-mindedness is still beneficial, I feel.


  2. Andy Dennis says:

    I’ve had a look at the 1871 and 1881 censuses for the Bullings Heath area and nearby. Some names are common both to these and the enclosure map, but things change and people move. The key may be that the map is about ownership and does not necessarily imply residence, indeed there are several names with different plots. The two references to Walsall Wood Club could be to a base and an outlying facility. Likewise, there could be an Aldridge Club in Aldridge, but they owned some land on Hall Lane, perhaps a bequest by a grateful member.

    As regards Pepper Alley, the man Pedro spoke to is doubtless right about the local name Pepper Pot Alley during his lifetime, but he wasn’t around in 1871 or 1881 when the censuses give very different indications.

    I suggest possible explanations re the 1876 map.
    1. Pepper Alley had no status in law.
    2. It’s not on the map.
    3. Maybe it’s the stub shown between John Critch (of the Black Cock Inn) and Geo Street. This would be consistent with the 1881 census (and Pedro’s contact), but not 1871.

  3. oakparkrunner says:

    When we moved to the Wood in 1970 there was a Club in Coppice Road about half way down. I do not know the name of it but it Closed in the 70’s and the land was developed with a block of maisonettes. The club was only a small building about the size of a detached house

    • David Oakley says:

      This little club was the Coppice Road Social Club, just about large enough to hold a clubroom, plus the steward’s accommodation. The club was known locally as ‘Merrick’s’, after a former longstanding steward, although it was later administered by Mrs. Humphries.
      I was a member myself for many years. I still have an Associate card for the club, signed by S. Wooding, the Secretary at the time. Grand little club !

  4. Hilary says:

    Just a thought but the old censuses refer to canal side….could this have referred to the houses up by the canal that you refer to?

    • I’m going to try and dig some map record out there – I was talking about the wharf there a few weeks ago with [Howmuch?] – we debated what the wharf was for – it clearly had attendant dwellings – we wondered if it was used in the initial stages of the pit construction, perhaps before they hat a canal basin of their own. It seems to be quite a facility, really.


  5. Hilary says:

    There is mention of a “club” in George Street’s will in the article “Under the thatch”.
    “I give and bequeath all my money in the bank and in my club and all other my estate of what nature or kind soever and wheresoever situate unto my son in law John Jackson…….” Anything to do with anything?

  6. lynn says:

    Hi Bob
    The Coppice Road club was run by Sid & Evelyn Jackson in 60’s 70’s.

  7. Hilary says:

    Was the club in Coppice Road where the junction with Bridgwater close is now?

  8. Clive says:

    Hello Dave, my dad was a member of the Coppice road social club, in the 60s. On day they had a charity raffle, and my dad gave them a live goose (are Charlie) my dad for a bit of fun let him loose in the club, i would have loved to see the mayhem.
    If i remember correctly, was there a dirt track at the side of the club that gave you access to the meadows at the back!

  9. David Oakley says:

    Further to my earlier response regarding Coppice Road Club, it might be worth adding that clubs in those days were quite parochial in their choice of suppliers. Walsall and District Clubs Brewery from Daw End, Rushall, ruled the roost so far as beer was concerned, this was formed as a co-operative by the clubs, circa 1920, and continued as such until after the Second World War, later being taken over by Charrington’s in 1960. The blandishments of ‘outriders’ as other brewery reps were termed, was resisted by the various club committees, until, eventually, ‘guest beers’ began to make their appearance, while Jones’s Crisps were the only crisps on offer at most clubs in the locality. Mr. Jones, from his modest crisp factory in Leighswood Road, Aldridge supplied all the local clubs and did his own personal canvassing for orders.
    An interesting point about working-men’s clubs, particularly very old clubs, from the mid 1800’s, such as may well have been featured in Peter’s article, began life, not as an adjunct to public houses, but in direct opposition., and to wean working men away from the evils of excessive drinking, ideally, they were meant for ‘conversation, business and mental improvement, with the means of refreshment, free from intoxicating drinks’. This went well for a time, but ‘if men joined a club where no alcoholic drink was to be had, they continued to go to the pub for a glass of beer, and there met old companions , and frequently remained’.
    Many clubs, by then, operated under C.I.U. rules and a movement gained hold to allow alcoholic drinks to be sold within the clubs, one of the many pleas put forward ran as follows,
    ‘If the pressure of the landlord was taken off, and the salt kept out of beer, they would not be tempted to take too much and would not allow an excess on the part of others’ (Solly, 1893)
    In other words, clubs could manage their own affairs, and would do so in a responsible manner. This tide could not be stemmed, and from 1865, beer was allowed to be sold in any affiliated club.

  10. David Oakley says:

    Hi Clive,
    Just seen your comment. I was a member until the early 1960’s. Yes, there was a little lane at the side of the club, leading nowhere, but with houses at the bottom. Am I right in thinking that I went in one night in the 1960’s and found goose feathers in the beer ???
    All good fun,
    Cheers, mate.

  11. Pedro says:

    Working Men’s Clubs…

    “The issue of entry into other clubs has been an issue for female club members who were denied this mobility in membership and were only granted this right in 2007!”

  12. Pingback: Don’t disrupt the bingo! | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  13. Pingback: A tragic and unusual death | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  14. Pingback: Within and without | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  15. Ayla says:

    This is a piece of $#!+!!

  16. Pingback: The Cape crusader | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.