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:
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.