A retirement, a birthday and an anniversary


Watling Street school, 1972. Retirement presentation of flowers to Mrs Craddock, with Mr Preece, headmaster. Image generously donated by Barbara Cassidy.

I always love being able to publish old local photos that have never been shared publicly before, and I have recently received three cracking scans donated to the Brownhills Blog by local Councillor Barbara Cassidy, as well as an additionally interesting historical item which I’ll detail in a future post.

Some weeks ago, Barbara commented on the blog that she had some images she’d like to share if we were interested. I was of course delighted, and David Evans kindly offered assistance. I am indebted to both.

Last week, Barbara put aside time from her busy schedule to meet with David, who wrote:

Hi Bob

I am delighted to be able to offer these three fascinating photos of events from the community of Watling Street Brownhills in years gone by.

I wonder if readers can please help Mrs Barbara Cassidy who has very kindly donated these images, to identify the people in the photos, and I extend my personal thanks to her.

Kind regards

I think readers will agree, these images are very evocative, and could well be the key to unlocking some new local history threads, or expanding upon old ones. Many folk of a certain age will remember both Mrs. Craddock and Mr. Preece, and I’m sure several readers may well be pictured in the surrounding assembly of children.

Mrs. Craddock may well be recalled with fondness by Walsall Wood folk too, as she lived in Lichfield Road, Shire Oak, for many years.

The group photo on Howdles Lane is also somewhat remarkable, not just for the people, but for the buildings in the background. David Evans explains that it’s thought to have been taken behind, or near to Doody’s Club. Does that ring any bells?

Barbara Cassidy had this to say about her family history in the Howdles Lane area:

My mum was brought up in Howdles Lane from the age of 3 years old and was a life-long friend of Andy Dennis’ mum.

I have photos of my family in Howdles Lane when it was just a dirt track in the ’50s and, although the surroundings look poor, everyone is very glam in their Sunday best. There was a real sense of community in that area then.

My grandfather, John William Farmer, was a very popular soul (1888 – 1961) and he had a close friend (Frank Howdle) as I recall who’d sit in the front garden and chat to passers-by in decent weather.

My uncle David Smith lived in a semi where the bungalow (around no.23) now sits. I was born in a house on the corner of Howdles Lane and Watling Street which was demolished around 1966 to make way for the row of shops which now exist and remember tales of my mum and her friends and neighbours hanging their washing out on the lines on the common near to the pub on the other side of the A5 which was The Anglesey Arms.

There was a row of shops which faced the A5 where the bungalows are now. The chippy was ‘Ginny’s’ and a lovely lady, Mrs. Kendrick and her son, Roy, ran the grocery store.

The club, always known to me as ‘Doody’s’ was also there and was run by Mrs Doody who, I am told, ran a tight ship – a bit like Mrs Walker in The Rover’s Return. The Anglesey Road/ Chapel Ave/Street/Hanbury estate was built in the late 1950s. I understand it was all pig farms and the farmer was paid ‘a pound a plot’.


A young gentleman’s birthday party group, Howdles Lane, circa 1950. Image generously donated by Barbara Cassidy.

The final image is possibly the most stunning. A wartime photo of the Park View Methodist Church Sunday School anniversary in 1941, it shows a time capsule of that period with remarkable clarity. There are some wonderful faces there, and I sure many  can be identified; it’s believed the father of blog contributor Andy Dennis is present on this one.

I would like to thank Barbara for a really excellent contribution, and invite readers to help with any details you may know; people, obviously, but also and details of the events or locations. This really is the stuff that makes local history such fun, and it’s wonderful of Barbara to share such rare and fascinating photos.

Please comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.


Park View Wesleyan Methodist Church Sunday School Anniversary 1941. Image generously donated by Barbara Cassidy.

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33 Responses to A retirement, a birthday and an anniversary

  1. Caroline Evans says:

    My nan, Clara Wood, worked in Ginny’s chip shop. And Mrs Craddock used to put the fear of god into me 😊 happy times

  2. Julia Price (nee Rushton) says:

    Great pics!! Welived in Bradford Road, Hussey Estate. Had Mrs Craddock as a teacher and I think she put the fear of God into everyone!! 🙂 Mr Preece was also the headmaster the whole time I was there. His wife also used to teach there along with a few others I remember: Mrs Jones Mrs Yates Mr McLennon Mrs Whitworth still remember the school so well…especially the cheese pie and prunes and semolina!! Eugghhh

    • The cheese pie was my nemesis….always last in the dining hall being forced to take a mouthful. Loved all the other food though…used to go up for thirds of green cabbage!

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    If this is Howdles Lane the gable in the background must have been the Queens Head and the fence on the right must have been behind the row on the north side of Watling Street; I vaguely remember this from visiting Barbara’s house as a child. She lived in the first house going from Howdles Lane, which would have been just off the right of the picture. AS she says it’s long gone.

    One time I asked Barbara about an accident that occurred near her house, but she was too young to remember. Dad and I were walking along the other side of the Watling Street. On Barbara’s side the pavement was very wide and there was a row of telegraph poles. The Watling Street was, at the time, the main road from London and Birmingham to North Wales and Ireland (as it had been in Roman Times) and had potholes you could drown in. On that side of the road was an articulated lorry halted against a telegraph pole. Behind it was another telegraph pole that had been sheared in two and was hanging from the wires. Stopping distance …

    Ginny. Was her name Harper?

  4. Andy Dennis says:

    In the choir I recognise a few. Don’t the children look happy? …

  5. Martin Littler says:

    Hi, what wonderful Photo’s of times gone by.
    I’m trying to work out the Photo of Howdles Lane, it could have been taken from the back of the houses on Watling Street then as Andrew says that would be the gable end of the Queens pub not sure, some of the people in the photo looks like David Smith, Is Mother, we use to call her Ma Ma Smith, John Smith who was David son ,John’s Wife Sylvia nee Mason, the two Children on the front could be John And Sylvia Children, the Lad was Named Philip, I think the Girl’s Name was Ann, could be Mr and Mrs Mason Sylvia’s Mum and Dad.
    I cannot make my mind if Barbara’s Mum And Dad are at the back Simmy And Jean.
    As already been said they were Happy times, a small but great community, Ginny Austin at Chip shop and so many more.
    I have not work out the people on the Park View chapel Anniversary as yet, I’m sure there would be Deakins, Shinglers and Dennis’s.
    these Photo’s seem to occur every 10 years, the one that I have sent Bob, was in 1954 (which I hope he can fine time to put it on Bobs Blog) I know he is a busy man, the next was in 1964, which I’m afraid I have lost the news paper cutting.
    Thanks again .

    • barbara cassidy says:

      Hi Martin,

      Sorry, just to put the party photo straight; John Smith is the son of David and my mother’s sister, May, who is standing next to him. The children are my cousin Jane Paxton and David Farmer (now 67) and yes, my mother and dad are at the back along with my aunt Edie and uncle Jack, auntie Dolly (Jack’s wife) on the front row far left next to my lovely grandad John Farmer. My mum gave me the anniversary photo and assured me it was Park View so that is all I know and it does look like Park View to me. You are right about “Mommar” Smith. All the best.


      • Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

        Are Jack Farmer and his son David the same Farmers who worked at Collins Express (United Carriers) in the 60s/70s
        I remember them well and saw David in recent years living in Burntwood and working for Tennants the bakers.
        Is it the same family
        Dave(Eddy) Edwards

  6. Martin Littler says:

    Hi Bob ,
    Looking closer at the Anniversary photo, I do not think this is Park View Methodist Chapel, something does not look right, may be wrong.
    Kind regards.

  7. Andy Dennis says:

    The anniversary picture is definitely Park View, or at least the people fit Park View. At the front of the balcony 5 from left is my father Derrick Dennis. 4 from left is his older brother Alan Dennis. 4th from right is Jessie Brotherton, who was soon to marry Alan. Second from right, back row, is Samuel Dennis, father of Alan and Derrick.

  8. Andy Dennis says:

    Oops Alan and Jessie were already married!

  9. Andy Dennis says:

    The man wearing glasses, left of the mirror atop the organ, is Jonah Deakin senior. I think the man at the very back and left of the mirror is John Court. I think the girl beneath the man with the baton (ought to be Jonah Deakin jnr, but doesn’t look right) is Jean Farmer, Cllr Cassidy’s mother.

  10. Martin Littler says:

    Hi Andy,
    at that time also Walter Deakin use to be the conductor, this was way before my time, but looking at the photo again I have to admit you are right, just looks a little different from the 1950s photo.
    kind regards.

  11. Mary McBrinn replied on Facebook:

    ‘I am on this photo I am sure – third row seventh from the left I would say it was in the 1950’s I am standing in the middle of Judith Stone and Pat Mason most of us lived on the Hussey est It is the old Chapel in engine lane at the end of Bradford road it was converted into flats years ago. Goodness me it takes me back.I never went to Watling Street school I was an ogley girl I am sure you have it wrong.’

    Is there any way we can verify the location?

  12. My apologies to Martin, this one slipped through the cracks, but this is a good time to dig it out; here’s his Park View anniversary photo from what Martin thinks is 1954.

    [caption id="attachment_19679" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Aniversary Park View 1954 courtesy Martin Littler[/caption]

    Martin said:

    I have sent you the photo as promise of Park View Methodist Chapel Anniversary, i think the year is 1954.

    Now to try and get some of the names that i can remember i am using the names as they were at the time of the photo.

    First row L/R
    Bromley, Michael Morris, Valerie Scoffham, Carol Ensor, ? , Judith Maddox, Matthews, Hilary Dennis, Joycey Cooper, Martin Littler where did i get that hair cut.

    Second row,
    Bromley, Bladen , Peggy Horton, Morris, ?, ?, ?, Martin Shingler, Frank Dennis.

    Third row
    Pauline Marklew, Marion Bladen, Barbara Shingler, Janet Scoffham, Irene Beard, Shelia Woodhouse, Jennifer Deakin,
    Jean Aldridge, Victor powel.

    Fourth row.
    Bet Hassel, Marion Woodhouse, Vera Dennis, Gladys Cooper, Matthews, Westwood, Jocey Sanders, Brian Simpson.

    Back row
    George Dennis, ?, Dennis Beard, Ron Woolley, Geoff Maddox, Johan Deakin, Fred Shingler, Ethel Shingler, Agnes Simpson,
    Herbert Simpson, and last but not least John Court, who was the Gentleman who Barry Aylett-Warner, told us of the Lily pool
    and the walking stick rescue,.

    Other names, which i can not put faces to,
    Eileen Shorthouse, Joyce Yates, And Geraldine Wittering.

    Brian Simpson is the Groom in your other photo, Park up, take a Pew.

    Sorry to the people i could not put names, or if i have spelt your name’s wrong,or given you the wrong name,i apologise,
    but Sixty years is a good while, if anybody can fill the names i have forgot please do.

    Now i am going for a cup of tea or something stronger.

    Kind Regards .

    • Now, what I’d say here is that while there’s clearly the object behind both groups in common, and the general physical layout, the decor (is that the right word for the aesthetics of a place of worship? Sorry if not) is different.

      I’m open minded on this. I went into the chapel on Coppice Lane as a very young child, but I can’t remember anything except the balcony.

      Any help here appreciated.


      • Andy Dennis says:

        Girl 3rd row 7th from left, both Martin and Frank Dennis identified separately Sheila Woodhouse.

        I suppose it’s possible for both to be wrong, but they are both in the picture and I doubt that either Martin or Frank set foot inside Coppice Lane Church. Coupled with the other names belonging to the Park View Establishment, e.g. Sam Dennis, Fred & Ethel Shingler and their children, Jonah Deakin and daughter Jenny, and Herbert, Agnes and Brian Simpson who was married there, without a shadow of a doubt it is Park View.

    • Andy Dennis says:

      Well done Martin.
      Frank Dennis told me (ages ago) that the boys you have as Bromley were John (2nd row) and Charles Bradley and the man 2nd left, back, was Brian Proud.

  13. Martin Littler says:

    Hi Barbara,
    Thank you for putting me right on your family photo’s, some times I need to have my memory jogged,
    I do remember your Aunty May, i was only very young when she past away then after David Smith Married Mary and had a Daughter Margaret.
    I will always remember Coronation Day ,I would be Three coming Four then, we went round to your Mother’s, and Grandparents Farmers Cottage to watch the Coronation, they had decorated out side the Cottages with garlands and Flags it look wonderful.
    I wish we had more photo’s around that time of 40s and 50s of Howdles Lane, but thanks a gain for sharing these photo’s of your Family I’m sure you are right about Park View Chapel, it just the Décor that put doubt in my mind.
    kind regards.

  14. Ade Reid says:

    Pretty sure the boy in the bottom right hand corner of the photograph is my brother Simon..

  15. Ade Reid says:

    Sorry,should have said the Watling St School photograph.

  16. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    It seems the chapel had been re-decorated at some time between 1941 and 1954, perhaps resulting in the loss of the “Mottos”. This was the case at the Clayhanger Chapel.
    The organ looks meaningful…I wonder who made this…and when it was installed..
    Bob, my thanks go to your good self for publishing this super article,and for all the work you put in to the presentation of every article you put on your blog.
    Kind regards

    • Andy Dennis says:

      The organ was ancient! I suspect by 1954 electric bellows had been installed, but as a boy one of Dad’s chores was to operate manual bellows in a rather dark, dusty, cramped space behind the organ, hard work during the loud bits!

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  19. Richard Buckley says:

    Hi just looking and reading and on the second photo a gentlemans birthday Barbara mentions David Smith from no23 I used to live next door at no 21 we left howdles lane in1969 and moved to Weston but I still have good memories of my child hood their. I remember cutting my wrist and David had to rush me to hospital at hammer witch for stitches we had the Jones’s at no 19 mr and Mrs and son Clive then David and Mary smith I can’t remember there son and daughters name my mom and dad were Harold and Brenda Buckley and me Richard and my brother Christopher I still have an Aunty in Chase road Mrs Edna Buckley nee Taylor also I said this befor my dad and two uncles are in the choir photo also Aunty Edna

    • Christine Bromwich says:

      Hi I am Christine Breakwell. I remember Clive’s mom and dad Lizzie and Joe ? Jones and Mary and David Smith there daughter was Margaret I lived in Anglesey Road.

      • Martin Littler says:

        Hi Christine, Charlie Jones was his name, i remember them well, with living down Howdles Lane in the 50’s earlier 60’s still see Clive in Brownhills.

  20. Michael Atkinson says:

    Enjoyed these pictures of The Watling Street area. Lived at the White Horse pub fro
    m 1940 til 1956. I was the youngest in the family.
    Frank Atkinson was the licencee and my Father.I new quite a lot of the people featured. Went to Watling St School and went to Park View Chapel and joined St.Thomas’ Church As a choirboy after the 2nd world war. The Organist then was Carlton White,son of Sergeant White who was the local Policeman.

    Thanks for the article. Regards, Mike Atkinson. (Now living in Walsall Wood)

  21. Karen Taylor says:

    So glad i came across this photo, my mom Pauline Marklew is pictured in this and as she passed away when i was only 6 months old i never knew her and have hardly any photos of her, and as i no longer live in brownhills, i don’t know anyone who knew her. So thankful i came across this.

    • Martin Littler says:

      Hi Karen i remember your Mother,she was 2 -3 years older then me,i believe she had a younger Brother,they use to live by Prince of Wales Pub, Watling Street there was an old terrace of houses attach to the pub,i remember Pauline from the Park View Sunday School and of coarse the Sunday School Anniversary they left and went down Brownhills after, we had some happy times.

  22. Steve Green says:

    Extraordinary and wonderful photos, especially the first one of the Main Hall at Watling Street Primary School.
    I arrived there in 1962 and left in 1967. I remember Mr John Preece vividly – he had some form of I think muscular dystrophy, and had a very loud voice indeed! I was only ever in Mrs Craddock’s class for a short time, but I remmeber Mr Hancock, Mr Neville and Mr Bates very well. I have often wondered if any photos exist from between 1962-67, but this is the next best thing!
    I lived at 50 Howdles Lane from 1961 to 1974, but my late mother Dorothy Green lived there for may years longer, with my brother Paul Green (who some of you may know, as he is still local and lives in Brownhills West.
    I am afraid I have no memory of any part of Howdles Lane ever looking like this anywhere along its length.
    Best wishes to all.

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