A lesson in local history

Brownhills Past and Present - 1985 optimised

Teastained and a bit musty, I discovered this 30 year old book in a bookshop some way from Brownhills. It’s a remarkable thing. Click to download a copy in PDF form.

A couple of weeks ago, I featured here scans of a local history book I’d unexpectedly found in a bookshop – it was a real cracker, and at the same time, a valuable and overlooked bit of Brownhills social history.

Brownhills: Past and Present was the product of a school project undertaken in 1985 by five pupils – Mark Staples, Kelth Jackaman, Alison Preece, Elizabeth Pike and Kate Wilkinson – and my featuring it here reawakened memories of this wonderful work, and the kids and environment that produced it.

Through Facebook, I was lucky to make contact with Mark Staples who was good enough to write a little about the project, and he’s also kindly supplied press cuttings and articles about it.

It’s a huge pleasure to be able to feature this material here, and to preserve a remarkable piece of work, which spoke so well both of the kids involved and of the quality of their school. I said it in the original article, and will say so again – if only such care and passion went into some of local history books that appear.

Thank you again Mark, and if any of the others would like to join the conversation, you’d be most welcome.

You can comment here, or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Mark wrote:

Dear Bob,

Below, a few words on my memories of ‘Brownhills: Past and Present’ which we wrote at the age of 13-14.

Best wishes


Remarkable press coverage of ‘Brownhills: Past & Present’ from the mid 1980s: some great period hair in their. A wonderful collection supplied by Mark Staples/

Brownhills: Past and Present

Mark Staples, Keith Jackaman, Kate Wilkinson, Alison Preece and Elizabeth Pike

‘Brownhills: Past and Present’ grew out of our desire for us to take some information about our hometown on exchange visit to Wittelsheim, near Mulhouse in France. We initially called our project ‘Brownhills: Past, Present and Future’. We divided up areas of research between us and set about gathering information. Of course, we did not have access to the Internet back then and relied on local history books and exhibitions, and interviews with parents, grandparents and other residents of the town. I recall endless trips to the Walsall Archives and remember there being an excellent pictorial exhibition in the ‘Annexe’. As a keen artist, I produced some of the illustrations in the book, and Keith and I stayed a number of nights after school to type up the group’s research.

When we returned from France, we were keen to sell our work to raise money for the school and local charities. We had the full support of our headteacher, Mr Chris Hunt. Mrs Audrey Jackson, the head’s secretary, retyped the book, Mr Dave Senior, our art teacher, gave us advice about the layout and Mrs Joan Archer of the reprographics department printed the book. We had such fun with the project; we were interviewed by the local press and even appeared on Radio WM! One Saturday, we put together a display and sold our book in Hillards, later to become Tesco. If my memory serves me well, the book cost £1 a copy!

Today I live in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, where I teach French and German. I still take a keen interest in the area in which I live; not so long back, I produced a photographic book entitled ‘Portrait of Suffolk’. As for the rest of the group, I am no longer in touch with them, but would love to know what they are all up to.

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3 Responses to A lesson in local history

  1. Becky T says:

    What a lovely book:) So enjoyed reading it. Even more heartwarming that Mark has got in touch to share the story of the writing and publishing of the book. The photos are great too and take us back in time to the 80’s hair fashion and all 😀

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