Curious George…


Lisa id convinced the larger lady with the bread is her relative Louisa Holden in this 1926 image of a soup kitchen in Walsall Wood at the long-gone Wesley Church that stood just on the Sheffield side of Walsall Wood canal bridge. Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

Sorry folks – a bit of a reduced service the last few days while I did Christmas, researched the New Year Quiz and chased after some suspension bridges (more on that later). Anyway, on with it…

Old friend of the blog Lisa Ashby (nee Downes) is still carefully researching her Holden family tree, and could do with a little help – she’s come across a Walsall Wood gentleman called George Colley, who passed away in 1940, and she’d like to know a bit more about his history if possible.

Lisa wondered if anyone knew him pr his family, and could fill in any gaps.

She wrote:

Hi Bob,

Remember I was looking for information regarding my great grandfather William Holden? He married a woman called Louisa Johnson and they lived in Walsall Wood. Well, the ongoing saga  continues…

In the course of my research, I’ve come across a gentleman called George Colley (also from Walsall Wood)… Does the name Colley ring a bell, my mum is from Walsall Wood and remembers hearing the name George Colley, but can’t remember where. He seems to have passed away in 1940.


Thanks for the enquiry Lisa – always welcome. I’m hoping that some of the Walsall Wood contingent can help with this, or maybe some of the other genealogists out there.

Please do comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

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16 Responses to Curious George…

  1. Linda says:

    George Albert Colley
    Colleys of Bilston
    Birth: Q1 1878 – Staffordshire, England
    Marriage: Q1 1899 – Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
    Death: Q3 1940 – Cannock, Staffordshire, England
    Parents: Jonah Colley, Isabella Gittins
    Spouse: Kezia Fairlow

    • Lisa says:

      Hello Linda,
      I saw this on a recent search but didn’t know if it was the same person who appears in my tree. Thank you, I will check again and see what turns up 🙂

      Lisa x

  2. david oakley says:

    Hi Lisa,
    There was a family named Colley living in Salters Road in the 1930’s-40’s, between Laburnam Road and Oak Road. Don’t know the first name of the male members of the family, as in those days, children addressed adults as ‘Mr’. There was a daughter, Greta, who would be in her mid-eighties, now. Walsall Wood was a comparatively small village, then, and I cannot remember the name anywhere else in the locality.

    • Lisa says:

      Hello David,
      It’s possible that the family were related in some way, possibly even one of them being the same person I’m researching. Thank you 🙂


  3. Andy Dennis says:

    George Colley is a surprisingly frequent name. The only death in 1940 was registered at Cannock as Linda points out, implying birth about 1878-89.

    The 1901 census has George Colley, age 20, lodger, with wife Fanny and son George 4 months, but in 1911 they were at Oldbury, so I suspect a red herring.

    In 1920 the Lichfield Mercury reported that, among others, George Colley (and a certain Jonah Deakin), both of Brownhills, passed his first year mining exam. Jonah was born in 1906, so would have been 14 or 15 at the time.

    And of similar age in the 1911 census is a George Colley, age 5, at Hope Cottage, Church Street, Brownhills, with parents William and Laura.

    Presumably, Lisa, you found the marriage of George Colley to Louisa Holden, 1937, Walsall? Without the actual record, with age and father’s name it cannot be known whether this is the same George.

    Birth of a Greta P Colley is registered 1937 Walsall (which would be right for Walsall Wood), mother’s maiden name Darby. There is only one Colley-Darby marriage that looks at all plausible: Thomas to Ethel, 1915, Cannock (which could include western Brownhills. George, of Church Street, above, had an older brother named Thomas.

    • Lisa says:

      Hello Andy,

      Yes, I did find the marriage and I’m waiting for the certificate to arrive. But I will check out the other leads you have posted.

      Thank you 🙂

  4. Lisa says:

    As Andy mentioned in his post, George Colley married Louisa Holden, who was my step-great grandmother. She married William Holden his son, also William, was married to Ruth and they lived in Walsall Wood before moving to Brownhills. The strange thing is that my granddad never mentioned the marriage of Louisa and George, not even to my mum who was always asking questions about the family. It was only while doing a random search on the 1939 war register that I found that my granddad was living in the Colley household.

    Thanks everyone for your help, even a little bit of info helps 🙂

    Lisa x

  5. lynn says:

    I always thought the large lady with the bread was Martha Price my great great auntie she lived in Hall Lane, Walsall Wood. There are photographs of her in a book about Shelfield and the area around New Street not sure if the book was written by Bill Mayo its in the same format as the Walsall Wood book (I do not have a copy of book only a copy of the photograph).

    I’m interested to find out if anyone on your blog can recognise anyone in the photograph particularly the Anslow, Richards and Price families.

    Thanks for your help.


  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    possibly another piece of this jigsaw
    Iris and her sister Greta Colley- called Cowley by my source – confirmed as living on two houses on Salters Road, between Oak Road and Laburnum Road, implies in houses built around mid 1930s.
    A thanks to Audrey Proffitt for this info, and for the cup of tea!
    Best wishes to Lisa

  7. Gill Sweet says:

    You mentioned that the old Wesley Church was on the Shelfield side of the canal bridge. I used to go to Sunday school there in the early 50s and church was near to Ecobs Chemists approximately where the turn in for Beech Tree Road now lies rather than on the Shelfield side of the bridge.Gill Sweet (Rogers). There was a Colley family who lived in Fort Crescent in the 50s/60s. There was also a Martha Colley who I think lived on Salters Road.

  8. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    The image in this article is the first Wesley Chapel which stood opposite today’s Screwfix, and is on the Shelfield side of the canal bridge. the second, larger Wesley chapel stood opposite St Johns Medical centre and was, indeed, next to Ecobs chemists, in the High Street at Walsall Wood. The first chapel was used as a Sunday School once the larger one opened, and later was the Hawkins Organ makers workshop.
    But the first chapel is unusual in that it was made out of stone, and, thanks to excellent research by Pedro, we know that it cost £400 when it opened in 1862, when £300 had already been promised.Quite amazing! It opened a year before the Primitve Methodists’ chapel which was built next door to the Royal Exchange pub.
    kind regards

    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for the info David, I always wondered where this photo was taken and I always assumed it was St. John’s.

  9. David Evans says:

    Happy new year Lisa
    blog articles, wood work, sept 16 2012 has three excellent maps which show both chapels
    Mystery solved, may 25 2011 has two images of the old chapel, and travellers resting place,,Dec 6′ 2015 colour image shows the orange colour factory unit
    Lynn asks if readers can help to identify the ladies in the photo..would be a super start to the new year if this can happen!
    Best wishes Lisa

  10. John Anslow says:

    One of the reasons I regularly sing the praises of this blog and recommend it to my friends is that it records the lives of our forebears when many people now have no sense of the past. Sorry if that sounds a bit sententious but I’ll try to I’ll try to elaborate.

    Dad, who passed away four years ago, knew most of the people in this photograph; sadly, no one thought to note down the names. My brother, Paul, thinks there might have been a Sue Beddow and a Polly Butler, but he really is grasping at straws.

    Dad would have been about 5 years old at the time of the picture and one of his slightly younger contemporaries and good mate, Sam Dingley, could well be on there: there are a couple of lads who appear to be about three years old.

    Sam remembered being there and always said that he had a jug in one hand and a hunk of bread in the other, and that the bread was taken off him after posing for the photograph! Paul is convinced that there was another picture taken at the same time, with Sam posing at the front.

    It is hard for us to imagine conditions in a mining village during the desperate years of the mid 1920s, but they happened barely a lifetime ago.

    Sam became a bricklayer and, I believe, served in North Africa during World War II; he later lived in the blue brick house next to the Red Lion. Tragically, he was killed in a road accident on Anglesey in 1978.

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