Early days in Foxes Row

In the sea of technical chaos I’ve been bobbing in in the last few days, I have somehow managed to find time to edit up the beginning of a new series of memories of life in Brownhills. This serious of pieces, based on a booklet of memoirs by local lady Mavis Woodhouse, which she had professionally produced for her family, she has very generously allowed David Evans to use as a basis for a series of articles here on the blog.

I’m very grateful to Mavis for such generosity, and to David, who’s done a huge amount of running around on this one. So, get a cup of tea, cut yourself a slice of cake and disappear into the area around Newtown, Brownhills, in the 1930s and 40s.

David wrote:

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Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 scale plan with locations of prominent places and buildings. Map supplied by Burntwood Family History Group/Walsall Local History Centre.

Introduction by David Evans

It was whilst I was enjoying a friendly chat over a cup of coffee in Silver Street Methodist Church one Saturday morning that Mrs Mavis Woodhouse mentioned the names of local places that caught my attention. Foxes Row, and The Fault.

Mavis is a kind local lady who was born in Foxes Row and has lived her life in this hamlet along the Watling Street in Brownhills and now lives in Castle Street (formerly known as The Fault). Very little has been written about this mining community up on the Watling Street, its Mount Pleasant Primitive Methodist Chapel or its local pub, the Anglesey Arms, so I was interested to learn more.

Mavis has kindly offered some of her personal memorabilia and has allowed me to use materials from her recently produced family history booklet she had produced for her relatives, which describes her childhood memories. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Mrs Mavis Woodhouse, nee Fairfield, for this generosity, and so enable me to bring memories of her childhood and that mining community to a wider audience.

I thank also the Burntwood Family History Group for allowing me to use the location map shown above, which represents the community of Newtown, Brownhills including showing Foxes Row, Deakins Building, Castle Street and this stretch of the Watling Street, Brownhills where Mavis grew up, and still lives.

Also my thanks to Bill Mayo for the use of his photo of the Anglesey Pub and adjoining Foxes Row.

David Evans
January 2015

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The Anglesey Arms – a popular pub, haunt of Ralph Ferrie and local home to the lost sport of Pdestrianism, was about where the new houses are today by Deakin Avenue. This image was reproduced from ‘Memories of Old Brownhills’ by Clarice Mayo and John Sale.

Early days in Foxes Row 

I was born on 29th October 1933 in Foxes Row, Watling Street, in Brownhills. When I was a child Watling Street was a border between Brownhills to the south and Hammerwich, Lichfield to the north. Foxes Row was in Brownhills; Deakin’s Buildings to the north in Hammerwich. In the 1930s and 1940s we were separate communities with our own identities –Pelsall, Walsall Wood,Norton Canes, Brownhills, Chasetwon, Chase Terrace, Watling Street and Brownhills West.

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Mavis as a girl, with Foxes Row in the background. Image courtesy Mavis Woodhouse.

Each of these communities had its own Main high street. All the shops specialised in shoes, ladies wear, menswear, harden corn shops for the chicks, funeral services, children’s wear and a barber’s shop. In one mile along Watling Street there were two clubs, five pubs, one church and three chapels – and that was just on Watling Street. No women were allowed to have hire purchase – only a man’s signature would do – otherwise she had to pay cash. This would not change until the 1960s. She could pay weekly in advance until what she wanted was paid for – anything, clothes or furniture or the likes.

On Watling Street we had Deakins grocery and butchers, but also had quite a few corner shops that sold everything from knitting needles and wool to sweets and almost everything you could think of.

There was Watling Street School, and also fish and chip shops; all these were the front rooms of ordinary houses. As a young girl every Monday I fetched the fish ‘n’ chips; to feed all four of in our family cost 10d. We would then listen to Monday Night at Eight on the radio.

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21 Responses to Early days in Foxes Row

  1. Dave (Eddy) Edwards says:

    Thanks all, this is great.
    Cant wait for the next part.
    Dave(Eddy) Edwards

    • J T Downs says:

      Wonderful to read these memories. My Nan lived in Chapel Street and we often went to these shops for her. I seem to remember a butcher called Horace Breese with an apprentice called Peter. We often used Ginny’s for fish and chips. Alice Prior also had a small shop at the top of Chapel Street which was a child’s delight.

  2. The fish and chip outlet here was, I believe, run by my great aunt Florrie and her husband. I wonder whether anyone remembers them? Edwin Hodgkinson was “Uncle Tom” to the family, and until lately I didn’t know his christened name. Now I realise that my father was named after him. My Granny Horton also named a daughter Florence after her sister , and another after their mentally disabled sister Ethel, who died in her teens. Lizzie, Florrie and Ethel were brought up in their father, Enoch Blann’s shop in Walsall Wood High Street in the early 20th c…and Granny Horton also supplemented the family income selling fish and chips (and wet fish) from the house in Vigo where my father was born in 1925. The girls’ mother was Elizabeth Shingler – and for this reason I looked in the records for a potential family connection with Wallace at the Anglesey Arms. No connection – but I find that his father George ran the Chase Inn at Newtown, and inn keeping ran in the family. I am related twice over to my great aunt Florrie – my grandfather was first cousin to his wife and so also to her.

  3. Martin says:

    I’m not sure how far you are going back, but in the 1950s, 60s Ginny Austin use to run the fish and chips shop on certain days other time it was just a Fruit and Veg shop, there use to be another one that was a bit high up Watling Street past the Prince of Wales Pub and that was run by a Mrs Parker but, that was early 1950s but again it was only on certain days.
    kind regards,
    Martin.

  4. Malcolm Case says:

    Great stuff again – and thanks to both David and Bob for their unstinting work on publicising these older parts of the Brownhills area. My wife’s family spent part of the early 1900’s in Howdles Cottages and this is the first map I’ve seen with them on. Thanks.

  5. Andy Dennis says:

    Ginny Austin’s shop was surely on the opposite side of the road from Fox’s Row?
    Wallace John Shingler married Selina Catherine (aka “Kitty”?) Yates, daughter of the landlord at Anglesey Arms, and temporary license for Anglesey Arms transferred to WJS, miner of New Town, Brownhills – Lichfield Mercury 24 Jun 1921 p4 col 5.
    Wallace’s parents were George Shingler and Elizabeth, formerly Bradford. George was related to the Shinglers involved with Park View Wesleyan Chapel, but I asked a relative and she didn’t know of “the pub Shinglers”. Not an unfamiliar story!

    • Gill Gaiser says:

      Oh yes, they were definitely related – I have all the info in my family tree! And Ginny Austins fish shop was across the road from Foxes Row and almost opposite Fred & Ethel Shingler’s home.

  6. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    in a phone-call from Mavis this afternoon. Ginny Austin’s fish..home-made crisps and chip shop was indeed opposite Foxes Row, and next-door but one to Doody’s club.(mentioned n previous posts) Washing was hung on the common near Foxes Row. Round the back of Parkers fish and chip shop was “the Lamb” pub , which seems to have closed down before 1939 or so.
    my thanks to Mavis for this additional information
    kind regards
    David

    • Andy Dennis says:

      I can remember washing hung out to dry on the common, opposite the row above the chapel, going from Chapel Street towards Whitehorse Road. With all the traffic thundering by it seems a less than salubrious spot!

    • Andy Dennis says:

      The Lamb was nearer to Whitehorse Road, left of the buildings you can see in the video of Ethel Shingler (red coat) on the common. It stood back a bit from the road and was a whitewashed building. Dad told me it was Maddox’s shop, but it disappeared in about 1966-67, when all of the other places went.

  7. Malcolm Case says:

    Wallace Shingler was the uncle of an Emily Shingler, who married a Fred Parker. I wonder if this is the same Mrs Parker who ran the Fish an Chip shop?

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  9. barbara cassidy says:

    Fascinated by the film. I was born
    in a house on the corner of the A5 and Howdles Lane which I think was bought by the road people in 1966 meaning we had to.move. I believe the road was widened in 71 or 72? When I go to Castle st now I feel sad because as Mavis will confirm it was a lovely community and most people have long since passed away. In fact Mavis` parents were known as auntie Elsie and uncle John to me throughout my childhood – happy days. So pleased that part of Brownhills is remembered so fondly as it was where life began for me.

  10. Peggy Williams says:- What a grand read so far as I previously knew virtually nothing having only lived in Brownhills for 13 years. What a grand historian you are Mavis. Keep up the good work, I look forward with great interest to learn more. Thank you.

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  16. Reg Fullelove says:

    wowsjust been reading about the old foxes row only last week we past the site of the rest home where anner pased away in lichfield brendas aunt and uncle mr mrs birch lived in that row anner used to spend hours in their house so many memouries have been gone through my mind a number of my father in laws families came from up the fort ginnys fish and chip shop etc jonah deakin shinglers the litle chapel stevey coopers pig farm later years my old friend harold walker took over joanahs shop thank you so mutch for many many lovety memories god bless

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