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.
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.
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.
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.