Reader Tim Chilton commented here the other day on one of my very first local history posts, raising the question of a local author, Coombe House and pole-sitting daredevils. I thought his comment was worth making an article from, as it raises a piece of history I’ve neglected, and another that shows how far this blog has come in five years or so.
Unusually, I’m going to break down Tim’s comment into sections.
A few questions.
Has anyone read the book The Face by john Petty as a description of the area in the very early 1950’s?
Yes, I and several other readers are John petty fans – I commend his work to anyone who wants to see the true postwar Black Country, but it’s hard going; John himself had a turbulent relationship with the town, and sometimes said he was from Stoke.
John is a great, under appreciated local author who really points up the lie of ‘The Good Old Days’. However, his work can be hard going; like Thomas Hardy, there’s not much light in there; it’s any colour you want, as long as that’s black.
I irritated Walsall Local History Centre on Twitter once, when they broadcast the news that they’d had lead stolen from the roof, and I asked if it was as part of a John Petty tribute.. but seriously, if you haven’t, at the very least bag a copy of Five Fags a Day and The Face and read them.
Dave Hodgkinson, one of the most longstanding local history writers is also a massive John Petty fan.
I can confirm that Coombe House was used by the Engineers in the early 1950’s. My father worked there, and at the weekends gleaned coal from the gardens, Mother claims the seams surfaced there.
Yes. We found out quite a bit about Coombe House, and it’s featured in the Brownhills Cinefilm Club’s film that Brian Stringer kindly donated to the blog last year – for those that don’t know, it stood on Coppice Lane, just after the old, removed railway bridge on the left.
Coombe house was demolished in the early 70s after a period of dereliction, before which it had been a short-lived nightclub, the Brownhills Urban District Council’s Engineers Offices and before that, the home and surgery of Dr. Bradford.
In the Brownhills film, we see engineers at work. Clearly, smoking at work was not the taboo then it later came to be:
It’s perfectly feasible that there was coal in the grounds; the seams were shallow here, and the clay pit behind (now landfilled) opencast coal in the late 70s. Shallow seams right over the common were bellpitted in the earliest stages of Brownhills industrial history.
Tim concludes with a belter:
But my question, in around 1950-2 as a stunt did someone live at the top of a pole? Odd and maybe distorted childhood memory?
Short answer: no idea – can anyone help?
Something rings a bell about a polesitter either outside the Arboretum or near Bloxwich. Can anyone help?
There was, of course, the redoubtable and larger than life Brownhillian Reg ‘Sam’s Son’ Morris, who was a noted daredevil, stuntman and pole sitter who raised thousands for charity over the years via a variety of madcap and brave feats from the 70s-90s.
Reg sadly passed away around 2004, I think.
Reg was a well loved man locally, and was regularly to be found lying on beds of nails or broken glass at the carnival, fire eating or other stuff for charity. Once, he even pushed a ball bearing the length of Brownhills High Street with his nose – he was featured on the local TV news for that!
In 1984 (I think), he undertook a long pole-sit in a barrel outside the Spring Cottage in Shelfield, the tales of which are somewhat legendary. But I think there was an earlier pole sitter, and Reg isn’t who Tim was thinking of.
If you have any ideas, or memories – of Reg too, as I’ve sadly neglected him in the past – please do comment. Either here on the post, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.