These are not well-to-do folk…

It’s always a pleasure and delight to feature contributions from Walsall Wood history experts John and Paul Anslow – yesterday they sent me an absolutely remarkable group photo following the wedding of Walter Yates from Walsall Wood to Annie Baker of Stafford in 1910.

Paul and John have made some absolutely remarkable contributions to our knowledge of local history over the years here on the Brownhills Blog; from the movers and boneshakers of times passed, to the solemn gravity of child labour.

My thanks to John and Paul, as ever. Opening their emails is always a delight, and this is an astoundingly clear picture. The groom, dapper in his suit, could have walked in off the streets today. Look at those faces. These are not rich people, but the dignity is remarkable.

I’m sure the Walsall Wood contingent will enjoy picking the bones out of this, and all comment is as ever, welcome. Comment here, please or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

John Anslow wrote:

Walter and Annie 1910

Back row, L to R: Unknown, Sam Morgan? Lizzie Jackson (married Sam Morgan 1912), Lizzie Baker, Teresa (surname unknown)
Middle row, L to R: John Jackson, Harry Newbould, Walter T C Yates (groom), Sarah Ann Baker (bride), Beattie Baker, Unknown (possibly bride’s brother, Alex),
Front row,seated, L to R: Louisa Wood? (married John Jackson 1912) Mary Jane Jackson (married Harry Newbould 1910), Eliza Baker (bride’s mother), Mary Ann Baker (aka Polly), Agnes Johnson? (née Baker) with baby May.

Hello again Bob.

Paul and I thought this photograph might be of interest to you and your readers. We’re hoping that descendants of the Walsall Wood folk in the picture might read your blog and help us to identify those whose names we either don’t know at all or else are uncertain about. You might also help us with some historical questions about the movement of people away from Walsall Wood during the early years of the last century.

The photograph was taken at the wedding of Walter Yates and Annie Baker on 1st August 1910. The groom’s guests are all from Walsall Wood, where Walter had been living and working, and the bride’s from Stafford; they are probably celebrating at the bride’s family home just off the Stone Road.

These are not well-to-do folk: Walter is a coal miner, Annie had been in domestic service; the guests, likewise, are in the boot-making trade, are domestic servants or colliers or work at the brickyard. (Stafford was at that time, I believe, a centre for boot and shoe manufacture.) Here they all are, ordinary working people, in their Sunday best for a very important day.

Some appear solemn while others suppress a smile. It was not considered the done thing to show one’s teeth: only lunatics did that; the dazzling grin became fashionable, I’m told, only after the influence of Hollywood film stars.

We do not know how it was that Walter came to lodge with the Jacksons at the thatched cottage on Streets Corner, or during which years he resided there; he had been born at Aston in 1885 and we believe he had no surviving immediate family in 1910. Shortly before this picture was taken he moved up to Yorkshire and, after the wedding, he and Annie settled there in the well-known coal-mining village of Grimethorpe.

Perhaps someone can also help us to understand why so many people moved away from Walsall Wood in the early years of the Twentieth Century. Were the coal seams becoming worked out? Was there a recession? Miners in our own family moved to the coalfields of Kent, South Wales and Yorkshire, just as their fathers had gone looking for work in Northumberland during the 1880s. Others went out to the United States, particularly around Pittsburgh, ‘the Silicon Valley of the early 1900s’. Here the men found work in the steel mills and the women in domestic service; most never returned.

Walter and Annie had three children by the time conscription for married men came into force in June 1916. Walter was conscripted into 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire regiment and was posted missing in action during the Battle of The Somme on 11th July 1916. His name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to those whose bodies have never been recovered.

Back row, L to R:
Unknown, Sam Morgan? Lizzie Jackson (married Sam Morgan 1912), Lizzie Baker, Teresa (surname unknown)

Middle row, L to R:
John Jackson, Harry Newbould, Walter T C Yates (groom), Sarah Ann Baker (bride), Beattie Baker, Unknown (possibly bride’s brother, Alex).

Front row,seated, L to R:
Louisa Wood? (married John Jackson 1912) Mary Jane Jackson (married Harry Newbould 1910), Eliza Baker (bride’s mother), Mary Ann Baker (aka Polly), Agnes Johnson? (née Baker) with baby May.

All the Jacksons were living at Streets Corner at the time this picture was taken. John, a miner, later kept the General Store of the opposite side of Lichfield Road.

Sam Morgan was also a miner, living in Brookland Road, but we’re not sure if that’s him on the back row.


John Anslow

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20 Responses to These are not well-to-do folk…

  1. ivor230240 says:

    It’s lovely to see how these people were not ashamed of or embarrassed by their surroundings in comparison with the fashion at the moment to spend enormous amounts of money on fantasy surroundings for their weddings. This family paid a high price for the freedom of this country losing their loved one and bread winner after only 6 years of marriage.

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    I had a look at censuses to see if I could find out more about Walter Yates’ circumstances prior to Walsall Wood. As you say he was born at Aston in 1885 the eighth and last child of Thomas Yates and Emma, formerly Pitchford. In 1861 the family lived at Lower Russell Street, Birmingham; in 1871 and 1881 Great Russell Street; and in 1891 at 41 Park Lane, Aston. Thomas was a silversmith.

    I tried to find them in 1901 to see if Walter was with any of them, but it appears Walter’s mother and father died in 1899 and 1900 respectively. The oldest sibling, Emma, turned up in 1891 at Bath where she was a domestic servant at the very illustrious Royal Crescent. Another sister Esther A was in service in Balsall Heath and a third, Priscilla, was a patient in the workhouse infirmary at Winson Green. Another daughter, Jessie, was a gold chain maker. The oldest son, Albert Ernest lived in Aston where he died in 1918. No Walter to be found. It looks like the family splintered after the parents died.

    There was also a large movement of miners to the Chesterfield area in the 1870s. Apparently, following the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, there was a general depression fuelled by a crash in silver prices, known in the USA as the panic of 1873. British trade was hit by the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. It is possible that the men moved to larger, more modern, more competitive pits.

    I know of some that moved from Brownhills to South Wales sometime before 1910. There was another panic in 1907 when stock prices crashed in New York. Apparently, there was a depression in trade in the UK leaving the Government short of tax revenue in 1909. I don’t know if there was a direct relationship between the two, but that seems the norm.

    • Pedro says:

      John Robinson McClean, of the South Staffs Water, South Staffs Railway, Cannock Chase Colliery, benefactor of the Church of St Anne and other interests, was also Advisor on the Suez Canal for the British Government.

    • Andy, you’re remarkable. Thank you – and Pedro, too of course. From the excellent piece by John Anslow, you guys just take it and run. Wonderful.

      This blog would be way the poorer without you.


  3. Pedro says:

    It was in June of 1914 that WW Colliery made a settlement with Lord Bradford for a new lease, which had become needed through the original workings having become exhausted, and if a failure to secure a new lease was not made, it may have meant the closing of the Colliery.

    1,200 men had been on contracts liable to be terminated at a day’s notice.

    • Pedro says:

      In 1912 the reported end to the Coal Strike…

      The strike began on February 29. It is believed to have cost no less than £20m. The losses of the railway companies alone have been over £3m, the miners have lost in wages some £5m, and other trades £2m. The miner’s funds have been depleted by £1.5m…

  4. Clive says:

    Lovely photo, big thank you to John and Paul Anslow. Just goes to show you dont need much money to look smart on the day.

  5. Pedro says:

    Lovely Photo!

    So many were taken in the back garden.

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    Huge thanks to Paul and John Anslow and to your good self. Somewhere in the blog there is the account of one Anslow leaving here and emigrating to the USA…..and certainly the census reviews showed an ongoing influx of miners to the village…and in the 1920 a move from here to find work in newer coalmines.
    the photo of the first wedding at Ebenezer Methodist church speaks volumes, as does the first christening there.
    Thanks in no small measure to the Great Gun researchers of Andy and Pedro we have a wonderfully rich and accurate treasury of local history, and Bob, your ongoing endeavour to bring all of this to light is greatly appreciated.
    I sometimes do wonder if other communities’ heritage has been so extensively researched and archived .I hope that this is the case.
    Kind regards

  7. Andy Dennis says:

    Something we tend to forget is the range of craft and practical skills that were once commonplace, but are now rare, or at least the preserve of professionals or tradespeople. Needlework and dressmaking, for example, were taught to all girls in school and many families had someone who could make a dress for everyday use and special occasions. They would recycle old fabrics to keep up with modern fashions. This was especially the case with wedding dresses where mother’s or even grandmother’s dress, veils, hats and so on, would be reused in some way. The hats might well have been stripped and redecorated with new fabric and flowers made from ribbons.

  8. John Anslow says:

    Thank you everyone for the illuminating comments. I forgot to mention that August 1st 1910 was Bank Holiday Monday. I shouldn’t be surprised if the weddings of many ordinary couples were held on bank holidays, as Saturdays would have been a working day for most people. My own grandparents (Harry Newbould and Mary Jackson) were married later that year on Christmas Day, though that was a Sunday.

  9. Andy Dennis says:

    Weddings on Christmas Day were not unusual. Despite the impression gained from Dicken’s Ebernezer Scrooge, Christmas Day had been a public festival since at least Richard II, so was one of the few days, apart from Sundays, that people didn’t work.

  10. Peter says:

    Evening all………. I can’t believe how good the quality of the photograph is !!! It is 104 years old that photograph yet looks as though it was taken a few weeks or months ago. Has it been enhanced for this publication or is this genuinely the quality of the original? I know nothing of this area and would love to hear from someone who knows what they’re talking about to offer some thoughts if time permits? A big thank you to the blog and it’s contributors.
    Thanks Peter

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